The Headteacher's Blog
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.
Welcome to Year 3!
The Y3 teachers are Mrs Dutton & Mrs de Brouwer (3D/deB), Mrs Holden (3SH), Mrs Noble & Mrs Finney (3N/R) and Miss Wall (3AW). We have three Teaching Assistants who work within the team: Mrs Allen, Mrs Dawes and Mr Gartrell.
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.
Welcome to the Year 5 Blog page.
The Year 5 teaching team includes our class teachers, Mrs Loosley (5NL), Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (5RJ), Mrs Webb and Mrs Ridsdale (5WR) and Miss Cunningham (5EC). Many children are supported by Mrs Hill, Mr Swain and Ms Kania (the Year 5 Teaching 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
We are the children in Y6 at Lydgate Junior School. There are 120 of us and our teachers are: Mrs Shaw and Mrs Watkinson (Y6S/W), Mr Bradshaw (until Mrs Parker returns) in Y6AP), Mrs Phillips (Y6CP) and Miss Norris (Y6HN). Also teaching in Year 6 is Miss Lee (Monday - Y6AP, Tuesday - Y6HN and Wednesday - Y6S/W) and Mrs Grimsley (Tuesday -Y6CP).We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Ainsworth and Mrs Biggs. 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....
One of the things that can exasperate parents is staff absence. We have had a little staff absence to deal with this week even though it is the first week of term. With fifty six members of staff it is unsurprising that some colleagues will be out of school in any one week. This week we have had colleagues undertaking training prior to their classes starting swimming lessons next week; developing Governing Body Clerking skills; attending a family funeral; keeping a hospital consultant appointment (in a part-time hospital department); continuing their maternity leave and being off sick. All of these are totally justifiable and unavoidable. (They add up to around 9.75 days, or 4% of working days this week. Pupil absence this week was around 4% as well.) On the plus side we saw part-time staff in school on days they do not work, to get set up for their own start of term.
We do have to accept that no-one wants to be ill, incapacitated or absent due to resolving some family crisis. And absence does, pretty much, have to be authorised, just as it mostly must be when pupils are absent.
We apply the same levels of justification for both – a pupil’s absence due to illness will be authorised, and so will that of a member of staff. The difference is most marked in the detail provided as guidance to Headteachers for the two groups – we have a full HR Model Policy for staff leave of absence whereas the Government simply said that Headteachers have discretion around authorising pupil Leave. I try to maintain a similar set of criteria and grant leave for the same reasons and durations.
We have, alongside the policies on granting Leave of Absence, parallel policies on managing attendance. Pupil absence can lead to Attendance Service (part of MAST) intervention. Staff absence can lead to discipline or capability proceedings. Both are formal proceedings and both have trigger absence levels.
While I am writing this. Radio 2 is playing ‘We’re in the Money’, which school certainly isn’t. Yet the financial cost of cover is not the first priority in making decisions about covering staff absence; quality and continuity are our top considerations. There are many cheap options we simply rejected a long time ago and do not even consider seriously, such as splitting classes, using teaching assistants to stand in for teachers, removing teachers’ entitlements to release, study leave, only engaging the cheapest possible supply staff, never training in school time, refusing all staff absence, misusing student teachers on placement and leaving them without supervision.
Instead, we make use of regular, trusted, supply staff who know the school and the children well, or our own staff who may be willing to work additional hours on top of their part-time contracts. The children will recognise these occasional supply staff as school staff because we use only a core few to meet the vast majority of our needs. We aim to make this seamless, whether we know about an absence well in advance (something like a professional development opportunity) or that same morning (something like staff illness). I believe we do a really good job of this.
When asked, ‘Do you enjoy being a teacher / Headteacher?’ I could just tell folks about the Friday just gone. It was a privilege, a delight and an eye-opener to take part in the brilliant range of activities such as I did.
I spent half an hour before school setting up for the day, writing up some notes from the day before, and using the freedoms of Headship to have my daily fun when writing up the notice board in the staffroom. (I choose to post something quirky / me each day, often based on the news or an anniversary.)
A few brief chats followed, with staff back from absence, students on how their week is going, and colleagues with a need for an answer.
I watched, with a colleague, a colleague teach a maths lesson using the ‘mastery maths’ approach. Watching others at work is something that never loses value or disappoints, and allows us to make a difference. We find talent in unexpected areas at times and can then recommend the sharing of really good practice. Our knowledge increased.
After a review with the colleague who shared the observation I went to set up for the lesson I was teaching in Year 3 – RE lesson two, understanding that Christians are told to love their neighbours. I was to be watched, incidentally, by one of our teacher training students, so I needed to be good having watched her earlier in the week. Turns out that the children have heard and seen the story of The Good Samaritan a few times before – no surprise, and so I was ready for this. The children were delightful, amusing, keen, happy, engaged, on form and great to work with. The lesson used video, autobiography, pictures, pupil talk, question and answer, drawing, writing, modelling and me eating a few pre-dunked malted milk biscuits (instead of sharing them or giving the whole lot away). I enjoyed the lesson, the children enjoyed the lesson, the observer enjoyed the lesson, and the children told me exactly and articulately the learning from the lesson.
I spent lunch with a pupil, ensuring he had a safe time and could return to class ready for the afternoon. We ate, we chatted, we played a couple of games of Connect Four, we talked about my Easter Egg Maths Challenge. It worked just fine.
I rushed across to give feedback to the colleague I watch teach in the morning before she was due back in class for the afternoon. It is the best form of training we have available, perhaps, and certainly the one most easily available to us and most affordable. It makes a difference directly.
Then it was off to our Learning Partnership (S10LP) half-termly Headteacher meeting, at one of the other schools. We talked admission numbers, national funding formula, high needs crisis funding, Ofsted and Pupil Premium, the impact of local moderation working, suggestions for combined funding for lead Headteacher work in SEN, the PE Pledge, mental health training opportunities, a request to join us from another school (not in S10), Tracking data systems, vacancies and the coming retirement of two of those present. Frank, funny and friendly conversation with one or two decisions (rather than just a moan and groan session). Plus there were strawberries and chocolate pieces.
It was back to school by 3:30. I spent 30 minutes or so with one of the teacher training students who has an interview next week. We practiced a q & a session, helping her to explore her ideas, preferences and experiential learning. We talked through the possibilities of the practical task she has to do at interview, and how to make the best impression of her skills and abilities as a teacher by NOT talking all the time available. An enjoyable and fulfilling activity this one – the greatest thing we get to do is appoint staff, and when we do we change lives.
Finished off back in my Office, filing, sorting, wrapping up a few things, and dealing with a few of the in-box of emails. It was pleasing to see how much had been achieved in one week.
As I left (5:45 p.m.), changed and ready for a run up the hill to Ringinglow, I saw a colleague loading the boot of her car with the cross country team flag and vests. Saturday morning saw the Y3 & 4 team at Hillsborough Arena for the relays – another totally free and totally brilliant sporting event. And so Friday becomes Saturday, and on Sunday I bought rhubarb crowns for our soon-to-be-planted rhubarb triangular bed. Love it.
What follows here is some detail behind the decision to reorganise teachers for some of our classes for the summer term. Some parents and children may have concerns about the plan and its implementation. I hope that what I have written here allays any fears.
All the children will remain in the same classes, in the same classrooms, and, in most cases, with exactly the same teachers.
Which classes are affected?
Y3D/D - The class will be taught, as currently, Monday to Thursday by Mrs Dutton. On Fridays, Mr Jones will teach the class.
Y3CW – The class will be taught, as currently, Monday to Wednesday by Mrs Wymer. Mrs de Brouwer will teach the class on Thursday and Friday only.
Y3CT – The class will be taught, as currently, by Mrs Tierney all week, until Mrs Webb’s return from maternity leave. Mrs Webb will then teach the class on Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday to Friday being taught by Mrs Tierney.
Y4F/R – Mrs Smith, who currently teaches a different Year 4 class, will be teaching the class on Monday and Tuesday. Mrs Ridsdale will, as currently, teach the class from Wednesday to Friday.
Y4S/S – Mrs Shaw will teach the class on Mondays and from Wednesday to Friday, as currently. Mrs Noble will teach the class on Tuesdays only.
Y5AR – Mrs Farrell will take over the teaching of the class on Mondays. Miss Roberts will continue, as currently, teaching the class Tuesday to Friday.
All other classes are unaffected by teacher movement.
Why is this change necessary?
School leaders became aware of a serious risk of budget deficit for 2016 / 2017 during the summer term of 2015. The gap between income and expenditure, if no steps were taken to reduce costs, was forecast to be as high as £76,000. Schools are expected to set a balanced budget, and as we only planned on a £24 surplus at March 2016 there is no carry-forward or contingency fund to call upon. Governors take seriously their responsibilities to manage school resources and so steps were and are being put in place to address the deficit.
How has a deficit come about?
There have been some unavoidable increases in expenditure at a time when there are also unavoidable decreases in income. Employer’s contributions to pensions have increased, and this is set to cost school an additional £24,000 each year. A public sector average pay rise of just 1% is costing school an additional £13,800 each year. Councils have agreed to implement the ‘Living Wage’ at a level above the national minimum wage. Several low paid staff will have a pay enhancement because of this.
One element of school funding, towards the cost of provision for ‘High Needs’ pupils, is set to disappear from April 2016. We will lose £23,400 from this one action. We are a happy school with low staffing turnover and so we have a more expensive than average staff, and a few colleagues have received an incremental pay rise within their pay range. The Chancellor of the Exchequer promised only ‘flat cash school funding’ in the election campaign. None of this was known at the start of the current financial year or in any detail at the start of the academic year.
How is the deficit going to be addressed?
Put simply, we will spend less. There are few ways in which we can increase income, and the main route, by increasing pupil numbers, has been rejected by Sheffield LA and school Governors. We have started by taking advantage of opportunities as they have arisen. The staff turnover we had in the summer allowed us to reduce teacher staffing levels. Governors have agreed to three requests from teachers to reduce their working fte. Our full-time equivalent number of teachers will drop from 20.5 to 18.3. We already had a relatively high pupil : teacher ratio, and this will increase the ratio further, to 26.2 : 1. We have not refilled the Assistant Headteacher role. We are engaging new staff in the role of Higher Level Teaching Assistants to provide teachers’ PPA cover. We are removing the vast majority of teacher-led intervention work, reducing the weekly availability from over 500 minutes per week to just over 100 minutes per week. We have accepted other hours reductions and left some support role posts unfilled. All expenditure has been thoroughly questioned and prioritised, with some service purchasing reduced or removed. We have addressed most of the deficit by these measures.
Why in the middle of a school year? Why not wait until September?
Because a delay for one term would cost around £15,000. Due to the nature of the academic and contractual year, and the way the financial year is aligned, there would be a five month wait (April through to the end of August). Making that £15,000 saving in just seven months (September to March 2017) would need us making cuts worth £25,700 over a full year, nearly twice as much. Those reductions would clearly have a much greater impact. We are taking smaller actions sooner, rather than greater actions later.
Won’t it affect my child?
Possibly so if they are in one of the six classes with some teacher change, but not in the other ten classes, and much less so than if we put off all change until the summer. And it is only ‘some’ change – every class has the same class teacher(s) as before for at least three days each week. It is, in total, just 10 days per week change out of 80 days per week taught.
We will manage ‘transition’ well, as we would at the end of year. I am confident that the children will not notice any negative outcome.
Will this change mean no further changes later?
Not necessarily. Teachers and other staff may leave our school either permanently or temporarily, and we may be required to make subsequent changes. The changes we have made so far do not cover the entire forecast deficit and so we will have to form and implement plans to address this. And changes made for 2016 / 2017 financial year may not be enough to address issues for the year after that. At our recent Budget Interview with the LA Finance team we found out that, with all known costs and income accounted for, we still have a £39,000 projected deficit to cover in the coming financial year.
Is there a positive way to look at this?
There are many positives:
- Qualified teachers lead all classes,
- There is no class teacher change at this point for most classes,
- ‘High Needs’ provision will be maintained,
- Judicious budgeting limits the impact of changes,
- The vast majority of teaching support remains unchanged,
- Low staff turnover provides for maximum consistency and continuity,
- Low staff turnover also leads to experienced staff in place, and so on.
Are there other options?
There are always alternatives, but they are either no more palatable or much less so, or simply impossible. The £76,000 that was the original budget deficit forecast would be more than all our utility services costs combined – we could not operate with no water, gas or electricity. It is more than we spend on books, paper, learning resources and pens in five years. It is four times our annual maintenance budget. It is double school’s contribution to the Catering contract that provides free school meals and the entire school meals management system. With 82% of our expenditure going on staffing it is inevitable that most of our saving will have to come from that area. We have already cut our swimming provision, left vacant posts unfilled, withdrawn from some service contracts, decided not to renew some insurance provisions (for staff absence), brought all teaching of Spanish 'in-house' instead of employing a Secondary School teacher specialist extra, and used Capital funding to maintain the buildings rather than improve them.
Is this happening at other schools?
Yes, at pretty much every school. A few will be able to draw on reserves built up over time. A few will be expanding and so receiving increased income. Most schools, however, will be addressing a growing gap between income and costs in much the same way as us.
I still don’t see why, if there are no new teachers, change is necessary or saves money. How does it work?
We employ 18 teachers part time and 8 full time, including the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher. The 18 part time teachers have a range of full-time equivalent contracts; 0.4, 0.44, 0.5, 0.56, 0.6 and 0.8 fte. What the movement allows us to do is to make the most cost efficient placements – 0.4 with 0.6, 0.5 with 0.5, 0.44 with 0.56 and so on. A class needs 1.0 fte in total, plus the teachers’ PPA cover.
Previous teacher placements created overlaps that we used well and effectively, but could be removed to reduce expenditure. We will use more of the teacher complement that was used for leadership, management and intervention work in class teaching. By making internal appointments for our new Deputy Headteacher (Mrs Farrell) and Year 4 Leader (Mrs Shaw), and seeking to appoint HLTAs (Mrs Grimsley and Miss Lee), we have dropped both the number (head count) and fte of teachers.
Can we talk to someone?
I will be available during each of the coming Parent evenings to see any parent who wants to talk about the arrangements.