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The Headteacher's Blog

Introduction

Welcome to Lydgate Junior School.

We aim to ensure that all children receive a high quality, enjoyable and exciting education.

We feel that our school is a true reflection of the community we serve. Lydgate children are well motivated and come from a range of social and cultural backgrounds. Within the school community we appreciate the richness of experience that the children bring to school. This enhances the learning experiences of everyone and it also gives all pupils the opportunity to develop respect and tolerance for each other by working and playing together. We want your child's time at Lydgate to be memorable for the right reasons - that is, a happy, fulfilling and successful period of his/her childhood.

Yours sincerely,
Stuart Jones

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Introduction

Welcome to Year 3!

The Y3 Team includes Mrs Dutton & Mrs de Brouwer (3D/deB), Miss Cunningham (3EC), Mrs Webb & Mrs Watkinson (3W/W) and Miss Roberts & Mrs Noble (3AR). We have three Teaching Assistants who work with small groups and help across the four classes: Mrs Dale, Ms Kania and Mr Swain. Mrs Proctor, one of the School Governors, also helps out in all four classes.

We will use this blog to keep you up-to-date with all the exciting things that we do in Year 3, share some of the things that the children learn and show you some of their fantastic work. We hope you enjoy reading it!

The Y3 team.

 

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Introduction

Welcome to the Y4 blog. We know that the question that children are mostly asked as they leave school is 'What did you do today?' The response is often 'nothing'! Well, here is where you can find what 'nothing' looks like. In our weekly blogs we will share with you what your children have been getting up to and all of the wonderful work that they have been doing. The Y4 team consists of the following teachers: Mrs Shaw and Mrs Drury in Y4S/D, Mrs Smith and Mrs Smith (this is not a typo!) in Y4S/S, Miss Norris in Y4HN and Miss Wall in Y4AW. The children are supported by our teaching assistants too, including Mrs Biggs, Mr Jenkinson and Mrs Tandy. We also have help from Miss Lee, Mrs Cooper, Mrs Flynn and Mrs Wolff. Some of the children are lucky enough to spend time in The Hub too with Mrs Tandy. What a team!

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Introduction

Welcome to the Year 5 Blog page.

The Year 5 teaching team includes our class teachers, Mrs Parker (5AP), Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (5RJ), Miss Reasbeck and Mrs Ridsdale (5RR) and Mrs Holden (5SH). . Many children are supported by Mrs Hill and Mrs Allen (the Year 5Teaching Assistants) who work with children across the 4 classes. Our Year 5 teaching team aims to create a stimulating learning environment that is safe, happy, exciting and challenging, where each pupil is encouraged to achieve their full potential.

As a parent or carer, you play a massively important role in your child's development and we'd love to work closely with you. Please feel free to make an appointment to see us if you want to discuss your child's attitude to learning, their progress, attainment or anything else that might be on your mind. We'd also love to hear from you if you have any skills that we could use to make our Year 5 curriculum even more exciting. Are you an avid reader, a talented sportsman, a budding artist, a mad scientist or a natural mathematician? Would you be willing to listen to children read on a regular basis? If so, please contact your child’s class teacher. Similarly, if you have a good idea, a resource, a 'contact' or any other way of supporting our learning in year 5, please let us know.

We are working very hard to ensure your child has a successful year 5, please help us with this by ensuring your child completes and returns any homework they are given each week. If there are any issues regarding homework or your child finds a particular piece of homework challenging, then please do not hesitate to come and speak to us. In order to help improve your child’s reading skills, increase their vocabulary and develop their comprehension skills, we also ask that you listen to your child read and ask them questions to ensure they have understood what they have read.

We look forward to keeping you up to date on the exciting things that we do in year 5 through our year group blog.


The Year 5 Team

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Introduction

We are the children in Y6 at Lydgate Junior School. There are 120 of us and our teachers are: Mrs Purdom, Mrs Phillips, Mrs Loosley and Mrs Wymer. Our Monday and Thursday morning teachers are Mrs Farrell, Miss Lee and Mr Jones.We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Ainsworth, Mrs Cooper, Mr Jenkinson, Mrs Biggs and Mrs Dawes. We use this space to share all of the great things that are happening in our classrooms. Join us each week on our learning journey....

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12 Jan 2019

When schools choose to increase their workload

Not long ago the DfE introduced a new assessment check for ‘proficiency in English’.

Schools had to assess EVERY child for their early English language acquisition and assess where they were on the journey towards competency so they could access the full curriculum. The assessment focused on children who are indicated by parents as having EAL, are bilingual or have dual nationality. Their English was graded A to E (plus possibly N – not yet assessed), from 'New to English' to 'Fluent'. We recorded this in SIMS and reported it in the spring term census.

Not one penny of extra funding was given to run assessments or as a result of assessments.

We did experience some resistance from a small number of parents, as there was suspicion over the motives for the assessment.

Now the HMI for EAL, Mark Sims (nice coincidence), has told schools that this collection of data 'is no longer required’ and it will not be collected in the census this term.

You would think that this would be seized on as an opportunity to reduce workload for all schools’ administration teams, except there is seen to be value in the assessment and data. Our LA, in-line with others, has urged ‘schools to continue to use these codes to assess EAL pupils’ levels of language acquisition, followed up by a more detailed EAL assessment framework, such as NASSEA, where appropriate’.

I come across these situations where I see the difference between being told that we 'do not have to do something’ and being told to ‘not do something’ too often.  Only one will reduce workload demands. The other means we continue, but it is our own fault.

Acronyms:

DfE          Department for Education

SIMS        School Information Management System

HMI         Her Majesty’s Inspector (of Schools)

EAL          English as an Additional Language

LA            Local Authority

NASSEA   The Northern Association of Support Services for Equality and Achievement
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11 Nov 2018

Article 12 of the UN Declaration on The Rights of The Child – the right to be heard

Elections are won by those that turn up. Issues heard are only those that are raised. The best learning is active and engaging. Those who do not vote do not get to complain about the outcome. This last week, across school, included electioneering, manifesto production, hustings, advertising and polling in our School Council elections. We boosted it a little this year by having one week across school, culminating in children using real polling booths and ballot boxes (borrowed from Election Services in the City Council).

I was a sceptic about School Councils for a long time, not because of process or passion but due to the lack of power invested in them. I had worked in many contexts were all but the important things could be delegated, but once the topic needed a proper budget or would impact on the adults in the system then senior management claimed the discussion and decision making. School Councils became a Junior Parliament, playing at debate and decision, delegated an insignificant budget of a couple of hundred pounds, and staffed by dedicated but non-empowered colleagues.

It is inevitably true that children in school cannot possibly know the complex context and background to how school is structured and directed. There are too many extraordinary and subtle pressures at work for them to grasp or imagine. (Typically, younger children struggle to infer as they cannot imagine motives or outcomes beyond their concrete experiences.) This does not mean that they, the consumer, do not have valid opinions on what is presented for and to them daily. Maybe school should think more their way – and try to cut through the bindings of red tape, inertia and vested interest to produce rapid, simple, positive change.

All the candidates promoted their personal qualities to appeal to the voters. About half the candidates (self-nominated) had policy stances that they put on their literature. It is at this point that we have to shape School Council so that those interests and concerns (their manifesto pledges) are discussed and given serious consideration. With teachers running the meetings it would be simplicity itself for the adults to select the agenda for the whole year – back to hackneyed favourites such as healthy snacks and food waste, perhaps.

Those manifestos promised exploring longer playtimes, revised or removed playtime rotas, school meal choices, toilets and toilet access, respecting all members of school, lunchtime clubs, learning outdoors and more. These have to be the agendas for the first meetings (and possibly the next set, too). If we (school leaders) are really to listen actively we have to make sure we do not dismiss questions without serious consideration and balancing possible gains against real costs. And we have to attend – nothing says we think an activity is important as much as actually attending.

Well done each victorious candidate (to be announced next week) and equally well done to each defeated candidate. Thank you for taking part in the process and offering your involvement.

Children have that right to be heard. We have a duty to listen. We have to give them the chance to talk on the issues that matter to them and to the people with power. A micro-budget is a little condescending, I think, but having our ear is not if we actually listen and consider..

(The Y6 blog has a little more on how they ran the process.)

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10 Dec 2017

Cross Country as an indicator of social cohesion

Mapping the schools present at Saturday's Primary School Cross Country event (Longley Park - a real gem and perfect for the event) suggests that some gradual change around inclusion and participation is happening.

These are brilliant mornings. Saturday was cold, the ground was firm but giving, and the course was brilliantly planned to give ascent and descent, great views and enough distance to separate out the runners. We are a bit light on numbers currently, but we'll give it a bit of a boost and see if we can't get back to high twenties and teams in each age group for the next round.

As the photograph shows, schools huddle together and make a village of flags. By showing the flags it is easy to see where, from across the city, the runners are coming from. I used to tut sadly, as this revealed the sad, obvious, almost inevitable, massive majority of schools present were in the south west of the Sheffield. Yet anyone can run, and this simple, accessible sport is not elitist. It does need someone, or a team, in a school to give some time on a few Saturday mornings, and that is crucial. The children are always keen, no matter where they go to school. It has looked as though parent income or 'disadvantage' directly impacts on participation when the majority of schools taking part are from the better-off areas of the city.

So it was good to sit with a city map on Saturday afternoon and actually plot the school locations, count the A61 split (it runs north-west / south-east), and see that change is happening.

Dobcroft Juniors had the first four finishers in one race, which is fairly stunning. I was just as impressed by the growth in numbers of children running at schools that we didn't see at all a year ago, and by the involvement of schools from as far west, east, north and south as Sheffield's boundary stretches; Stocksbridge, Bradway, Mosborough and Ecclesfield.

I wonder if this is an outcome of Sheffield's Outdoor City initiative, or the Sports Premium in schools, word-of-mouth promotion by the already-convinced, or just a bit of random variation over time.

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20 May 2017

Trained Teachers Fail Test

Last week I wrote about the statistically unlikely (third in five years) external check of our end of key stage 2 test processes and system. This checked on the security and proper administration of reading, punctuation, grammar and spelling, arithmetic and mathematical reasoning tests. Clean bill of health, you might remember.

This week we have heard that we will also have external moderation of our Year 6 teachers’ assessment of writing.

We again have no worries about this, because:

  • We have focussed on this for two years,
  • We have led in the local school cluster on moderation,
  • We have taken external training for our literacy team on writing at ‘greater depth’,
  • We have kept aware of interim guidance,
  • We have a colleague involved in city-wide moderation training and locality moderation work,
  • We have continually given staff time to work on this area,
  • Senior leaders have stayed involved in the process and showed how it important to them,
  • Resources (including staff and time) have been given as fully as we can,
  • Our colleagues have agreed with colleagues across the local cluster of schools,
  • We have joined activities across the cluster in all four key stage 2 year groups.

However, there has been some doubt, ever since the changes to assessment expectations from the ‘new’ curriculum and the ‘new’ assessment system itself, about anyone’s ability, confidence and accuracy in reaching judgements.

The process as it currently stands is that teachers have to identify enough evidence across the curriculum that a ‘pupil can’, independently, meet all the required statements at a stage in order to be said to ‘meet the expected standard’ or to be ‘working at greater depth’.

The moderators were, at last this year, provided with some nationally provided training materials (and a very short timeline). They got to undertake some briefing and then work through three portfolios from three pupils. They had to decide if there was sufficient evidence to award one of the judgements, or if to say that a child had not yet met the expected standard. You’d hope, like I would, that, after training, all the moderators / teachers (all Year 6 teachers or literacy leads in schools, and all put forward by their Headteachers as knowing what they are doing) would take the test and pass. All they had to do, after all, was score 3 out of 3.

Oh, if only it were so simple. The TES website this week broke the following story of how the training hasn’t actually led to that outcome

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/exclusive-more-sats-chaos-two-thirds-moderators-fail-assess-pupils

‘Data uncovered by TES suggests the government has failed to ensure the “more consistent, reliable approach” to moderating teacher assessments of writing it promised following last year's Sats chaos.

Two-thirds of moderators trained for this summer incorrectly assessed pupils’ work when tested earlier this year’.

And it gets worse:

‘Responses from 101 local authorities also revealed large variations in the proportions of moderators managing to correctly assess all three portfolios of pupils’ work – ranging from 6 per cent in Sheffield to 100 per cent in 13 other authorities.’

If trained moderators cannot get it right, what possible hope is there for the rest of the profession?

2,547 team moderators were trained nationally. There are around 11,000 Primary schools in England. That’s at least 8,500 without a trained moderator in-house.

I do like to explain the theory of cognitive dissonance to colleagues and student teachers. It explains how, immediately after teaching in a Higher Education setting, knowledge and understanding of a taught topic was found to have regressed in comparison to before a lecture or teaching session. Psychologists suggest that it takes a while for learners to internalise new learning, especially where it challenges previously held belief and comprehension. Maybe the moderators were simply tested too soon after training – it was a rush job by all accounts, and the re-test with a new portfolio even more so (over one weekend in term time so it was on top of normal workload).

One wonders what score untrained Y6 teachers would get.

I am, typically, highly respectful of colleagues’ knowledge, position and role. But, if I don’t like the report after our moderation visit in June, I might just challenge on the grounds of, ‘do you actually know what you are talking about?’

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12 Nov 2016

Behaviour Policy – The Lydgate (Junior School) Way

For a year now we have been working on the school’s Behaviour Policy, to bring it up to date with best practice, to reflect our children’s needs and to ensure that it meets the approval of the Headteacher. (I’ll tell you at the end why that sentence disappoints me so much.)

Why so long?

How can best practice change?

How do children’s needs change?

Why should it meet the Headteacher’s approval?

The first and fourth questions are actually linked directly. A school’s Behaviour Policy is actually, according to DfE regulation, the Headteacher’s Behaviour Policy. It is one of the ways in which a school is certainly the Headteacher’s school. However we write or formulate it, whoever we might involve in consultation or in providing wording, it is the Headteacher’s Policy, so I have to approve.

But in an organisation with more than 50 employees, 480 children, their parents and carers, a full team of school Governors, outside stakeholders with an interest such the local authority and other schools, there are obvious strong vested interests that surely deserve and require consultation and participation in the process.  The Policy requires them (the people) to do things, to behave in certain ways, to avoid certain behaviours, to report, and manage; it should set the aim and define the standards sought and give a level of assurance that means parents, pupils and staff feel confident that good and astounding behaviour will be developed through working in line with the Policy.

Many readers (assuming this blog gets ‘many readers’) will know about leadership styles and the different characteristics and drawbacks of each. My first formal introduction and study of leadership styles was during learning for the NPQH, the National Professional Qualification for Headship) in 2000-2001. In a project that seeks to build commitment from all parties to an agreed Policy I chose to take a path that would be as inclusive / distributed as possible. So the discussions and consultations have included all those parties in one form or scale or another. The idea is to give some ownership to each contributor, with an implicit agreement and an undeniability of the imperative – no-one can argue with the expectations or the sanctions included because they contributed to the writing of them.

The obvious problem of such an approach, whether described as ‘democratic’, ‘participative’ or ‘moral’, is that it takes a long, long time. The risk is that, in taking such a long time, the context may have changed before a final outcome is produced or staff and others may become disillusioned by seeming lack of progress.

How do things change? Research redefines issues. New language, new definitions and new responses are developed. Health issues change (do you remember when asthma was the big thing and almost every child seemed to have one?)and currently the high profile issue, rightly, is mental health. Gradually pupil intake changes, and the pressures placed on them morph continually. The acceptability or otherwise of a certain sanction changes, with the banning of corporal punishment being the most obvious of these changes. There are plenty of other strategies that might be used that may well be legal, but would not pass any acceptability test in our / my school – full-time internal exclusion or isolation, humiliation, disproportionate response, perpetual sanction with no end date, not being allowed on trips etc. We have been deeply involved in a healthy minds pilot these last twelve months. It builds on building up children and adults, not breaking things down. It suggests that there are root causes for poor behaviour and a little understanding wouldn’t be amiss.

Our decisions, repeated, to not simply ban the latest craze and the related paraphernalia might seem odd to some. We consequently accept the inevitable issues that arise when things go missing, or when a swapper wants to swap back but the swapee doesn’t. We encourage children to drink across the day, and happily allow children to have snacks at morning (and some at afternoon) break. Keeping children’s energy levels up means a better focus on learning, and less distraction by tummy-rumblings before lunch. After two incidents this week where snacks ‘disappeared’ from a child’s bag in her cloakroom I had to act – the child deserved protecting and the person or people taking things needs to learn not to. So I took the opportunity of teaching the relevant class on Friday to spend some time exploring the relevant rights of the child, and getting the class to consider how I could guarantee no repeat. They were all horrified at the idea of simply banning all snacks. They saw immediately the problems with bringing them into the classroom at the start of the day for distribution at break. They thought having security on site would be cool, but understood the costs. They could see the difficulties for having a member of staff in the cloakroom every time a child went in. They really didn’t like the idea of not going to the loo during lessons. They wanted cctv and other tech solutions, but did see the cost implications, particularly with our nine cloakrooms. They weren’t coming up with practical solutions that had a realistic chance of success, but something in the way Ben had his hand raised told me I should ask him. Ben’s answer was simple, cheap, realistic, reasonable, achievable, and has a possibility of working. Ben simply said I should ask them to stop taking other people’s things, and expect them to do what I ask. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I want our Behaviour Policy to be built upon.

In a couple of weeks the school’s full Governing Body has its autumn term meeting; the Behaviour Policy is an agenda item. As we do not have the finished document to present (yet) I am going to construct another conversation and consultation so Governors can appreciate some issues and areas that cause conflict of opinion. I plan to get Governors to discuss the idea of mandatory minimums or tariffs – someone misbehaves in a particular way and so a specific sanction is automatically applied. There have been some involved in the process of consultation who favour such an approach, as it is transparent, can be applied uniformly and takes away any risk of bias or favouritism. The list of reasons why I disapprove of this approach is extensive, but lack of consideration for context, the likelihood that actions won’t feature on the ‘banned list’ and the focus on the negative are three big ones. Are you convinced to such a methodology?

We should be done soon enough. In the meantime I still believe that behaviour in general is excellent at our school and that individual children’s behaviour improves markedly over time (for children who present challenges with their behaviour to the level that exclusion is a serious risk). It is not perfect – we do not claim this, but behaviour is astounding at times and we often see the most generous, charitable and thoughtful conduct.

 

The disappointment of that opening sentence? As I was mentally preparing this week’s blog-post I had set myself the specific task of avoiding the technique I overuse, of composing sentences using ‘the power of three’, where three adjectives or three reasons are listed to increase the power and impact. Failed.
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