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....
Today's round of Primary Schools Cross Country was at Bradfield School. We have had two weeks of Marti Pellow weather and Bradfield is out of the city. The course, largely on the school field, hosted the Secondary Schools version the weekend before.
Brilliant route; there are a couple of banks across the field so of course the route goes up them, twice each. There's a pond off to one side so the route skirts the edge so that the route is really wet. As it is still the football season the course hugs a straight line between two pitches in the middle of the field. And the field outside the school that the Y5 and Y6 runners lapped was described as 'heavy'.
Get 500 or so children to run a path about 5 metres wide on waterlogged grass and it quickly looks like a festival field. The corners were churned, the edges were filthy, the finish was gloopy. There were dirty legs and faces and bottoms and hands - you could easily tell how fast each child had run by how high up their backs the mud splashes reached.
If ever a sporting activity is going to test resilience it is this. Cross Country like this is sapping and hard. There is huge achievement but not so much fun while you are actually running. The hot chocolate afterwards is good and the stories are told for hours - of lost shoes, and muddy legs, and falling over. There was a course inspection at 8:00 on the morning of the racing and we knew it was perfectly safe (and set to be very tiring). The race distances are kept relatively short because the children are young and because we want them to want to come back next time (two weeks - Longley Park). One of our runners was thrilled with his performance and proudly told me of his 133rd place - he'll be back for more, and he'll become a stronger and stronger person because of it.
I was a Marshal - I get there about 8:00 to help set up, mark out and test the route, and get the first flags up.
I was tasked with keeping adults off the fields, and I was, as expected, rather a failure - you cannot keep a determined parent from following their child across a muddy field to cheer them on. We wanted to limit the squelch by reducing the foot traffic on the field; Bradfield School had instructed us to do so; I hope they are understanding.
It is the simplest of sports and literally anyone can participate. Ability ranges are huge and applause is given from first to last runner in every race. In fact, the best reception was for the very back marker in the Y5/6 boys race (and he had the biggest smile). Kit requirements are minimal - some run in fancy spikes but many wear football boots or trainers or even walking shoes. These are 'events' and new runners are always able to simply turn up and join in.
First race in a fortnight is at 10:00 and will be Y3/4 girls. Make sure you have some soap powder in at home and bin sacks to cover the car seats, and come and join in.
An extra Blog this week - Coat Pegs (a burning issue) coming up as soon as I can find the photos I took on Friday.
Now that is what anyone would call a busy week!
The list and range is extensive, and if I try to name everything that school put on this week I would be sure to miss something important, but we had:
A concert with over 170 pupils from across school taking part,
A play from the 120 Year 3 children attended by a hall overflowing with audience members,
A swimming gala at Ponds Forge, with our fabulous inclusive team winning bronze medals in the first division,
An exploratory planning session with a social enterprise entrepreneur about establishing a new STEM offer,
An afternoon of visiting children from other schools enjoying sport on our carpeted lower playground, supported by our own Sports Leaders,
Four days of Forest Schools outdoor cooking experiences for every Year 6 pupil,
A Class assembly from a Year 4 class, to showcase their learning to parents,
A day of cricket coaching for Year 5,
Samba Sport for Year 6,
A visit to a local Church as part of RE learning for four classes,
Assemblies led by a local Church leader,
A campaigning demonstration and march, raising concerns about plastic pollution,
An appearance on Look North, BBC Radio Sheffield and in the Sheffield Star,
And lessons and learning across the curriculum, of course.
This could be why a large portion of responses in the parent opinion survey, run by Governors, shows a positive reception for our rich and broad and active curriculum.
I issued a challenge today to a specialist in PE, and waved the carrot of over £4,600 in fees if he could come up with a viable solution to a persistent problem.
We have been informed, as I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, about our one-off income from the Health Capital Grant (Sugar Tax) - estimated at £4,623.
The source and the title suggest areas we should be spending it on, though there are few strings attached. We could have a go at Mental Health provision improvement, but we do have a lot of evidence about other basic health issues, such as obesity and inactivity.
Though we provide out-of-hours activities every day, analysis of the attendance registers shows that only a small percentage of our pupils are involved. Many children involved are engaged in more than one of the things we put on. And that means that an awful lot are not involved in any.
Of course many of those may be engaged in activities outside school, with parents or in local clubs and at local centres. However, the annual height and weight checks keep on telling us that 40% plus of our Year 6 pupils are overweight and worse. Observation shows that those same children tend to be less active at play times (and possibly so during our 2 hours a week PE sessions).
So the challenge I issued was this: formulate a plan for getting those currently unengaged and less-resilient children active on a regular basis and the £4,623 is yours to pay for the work in making it reality.
Sadly the national review of impact of years of health and education spending on children’s physical activity and associated health indicators shows it has not worked. I think what happens in creating a new opportunity is that they get taken up by children and families who are already engaged and active.
If we are to make the intended impact, with this money and with funding such as the Sports and PE Premium, we need to target it much better, and we need a better appeal to those children.
We have a spare slot for an extra out-of-hours activity – Tuesday before school because indoor athletics has had its season. I want to fill it with something that will attract and inspire a different demographic.
We’ve done the obvious – increased the range, used experts, connected with Clubs, asked the children, consulted School Council, improved facilities, narrowed who we make offers to, worked on Saturdays, started a mile a day, participated in every inter-school event, worked across partnerships and locality – but still the negative statistics linger. It seems to need something radical (as we won’t accept that the question is impossible to beat).
‘Those who can, do. Those who don’t, won’t’. I want to prove this wrong.
A point of tension in reviewing our Homework Policy is what ‘supporting’ or ‘encouraging’ children to complete each homework activity looks like. Would the correct synonym be, ' offer', 'reward', 'challenge', 'prompt', 'help', 'enable', 'make', 'require'...?
We have had initial conversations at Senior Leadership level. Our collective view was that we should be expecting parents to support their child, us and the Policy, ensuring each piece is at least given a reasonably good effort.
The way School Admissions work came into the discussion: parents express a preference to have their children admitted to our school. We are always over-subscribed and never have children allocated places here other than as a choice of the parents. If parents chose to send their children here, can’t we assume they are ‘buying in’ to what we offer (and, by association, what we expect)?
We (the SLT) think that, if our published Policy on homework states that we give homework each week, including a minimum amount of reading time, then this should be supported by parents.
I have since wondered if we do not need to re-institute the ‘Home – School Agreement’ (H-SA), a contract of sorts that states what school will provide by level of service, ethos and commitment, and that parents also sign to show their commitment to their responsibilities. With our interest in ‘pupil voice’ we would have pupils sign it, too.
Would a separate contract be necessary, though, and could it potentially confuse and dilute agreements if an H-SA also covers things like attendance, uniform and behaviour?
The government scrapped a requirement for home - school agreements back in January 2016. First introduced in 1999 for governing bodies of schools in England, the H-SA set out a school’s aims, values and responsibilities, and expectations of pupils and parents. The obligation to publish and collect was removed in order to “cut red tape” and free schools of a “one-size-fits-all, prescriptive approach to engaging with parents”.
The change did not mean schools could not continue with home-school agreements if they wished to. (One of those situations where being told ‘you do not have’ to is not quite the same as ‘do not’.)
Before rushing into a process of writing, sampling, testing and approving, I thought maybe I should carry out some reading round an obvious question – did they work?
The definitive, published, national research is locally-sourced, coming from four academics at Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of the, then, Department for Education and Skills.
It is not a very positive report:
Bastiani, 199, saw it as a "no nonsense approach to sorting things out" and as a government attempt to deprive parents of their "freedom... to do things on their own terms and in their own way."
The contract was seen as a statement combining expectations and demands without much consideration to families' disagreement with expectations.
Schools (in the study) thought HSAs had had a positive impact on communication of school expectations and responsibilities, and 30% or more thought it had had a positive impact on parents and teachers working together, parents supporting their children’s learning at home, communicating the school role, pupil behaviour and homework.
Over three quarters of schools reported that at least 75% of parents signed the agreement.
70% thought it made no impact on homework.
The Report measured perception of impact, not actual impact. The researchers acknowledged this, but said it was impossible to isolate this one factor and its impact, when so many changes in system and curriculum have happened over the same period.
So I now hold a number of questions, and possibly one answer.
- What if parents don’t sign? Or pupils?
- What, then, if they do not carry out every expectation?
- Are there to be rewards and sanctions?
- Does supporting each Policy really have to be made explicit?
- What about each year, when we admit new pupils and their parents; do we have to go through the consultation process annually?
- What about things that change once you have ‘bought in’ (such as online behaviour in new forums)?
- If we can boil down all that School is about to one, one-page, document, why do we have all the 42-page ones?
- How do we accommodate the deeply-held, committed, view points of the dissenters? Are they not allowed to disagree?
- Is there a difference in how we support a child’s learning due to parents’ reasons for their behaviour? (The parent who chooses not to support the H-SA and the parent who cannot.) Does that not limit the child’s learning for something they have no control over? Is that fair to the child?
We (I say, ‘we’ when I mean I delegated) recently ran a toolkit check on our ‘website compliance’ and it threw up a few things to sort out, one of which was reviewing and re-approving Policies that had reached their review dates. We might just start by engaging parents and their representative Governors in reviewing the Homework Policy and sharing it over and over in an attempt to inform and persuade and to build commitment. Expect this to be the focus of a survey, the topic of a ‘Round Table’ and something we ask pupils about through School Council.
In the next two months Governors must decide what to do about the forecast school budget deficit. I have to find suggestions and work on recommendations, given their strategic guidance.
Governors will either set priorities for increased and protected spending (and by implication what we might cut) or make the bold decision to run with a ‘licensed deficit’ assuming that the Local Authority will allow us to carry a deficit from year to year if we can present a reasonable, realistic plan to reduce it in time. Carrying a deficit then costs interest on the ‘loan’ or overdraft, only serving to add to the debt over the next year.
In previous years Governors have asked senior leaders to simply trim, gently, everywhere, as and when cautiously possible.
It has felt a lot like ‘shrinkflation’, the process where manufacturers avoid putting up prices by reducing the size of products. Toilet rolls have fewer sheets, tins of chocolates are smaller, juice cartons hold less fluid. Toblerone, famously, has increased the gap between its mountains. Costs go up and companies cannot make a loss so they either have to raise prices or reduce costs. ‘Shrinkflation’ allows cost savings. Can schools use the same process?
- We employ fewer teachers than three years ago, but have exactly the same number of classes and pupils.
- We have fewer senior posts than three years ago –two from three.
- We reduced direct staffing for pastoral work when a colleague retired.
- We collect money, but no longer pay for a cash collection (we use online payment systems instead).
- We send out more newsletters, letters and communications to parents than ever before, but only 20 each time on paper, cutting our printing costs (and possibly increasing the same for the end-user) by using email and text.
- We no longer provide a crèche at Parent Consultations.
- We have the grass cut less often.
- We give out fewer physical prizes and awards to pupils.
Not much shrinkage there, is there?
The bold, challenging, out-of-the-box approach might be to shrink the length of the school day, or parts of it. The law only requires school to open to pupils on 380 ‘sessions’, but does not say how long a session is. There is no legal minimum length of a school day. We could therefore shrink the school day and employ staff for fewer hours and thus save wages. You think this is unrealistic? Many schools are already doing just this!
On Friday this week, despite it being the day with the highest school meals uptake, all the children were finished in the Hall by 12:55. We could simply shrink the lunch break by 15 minutes and save 16 hours on supervisor contracts each week, around £7,500 per year.
If we shrank the teaching day we could employ fewer teaching assistant hours – anyone engaged in 1 to 1 work for supervision or direct support purposes would not be needed for that time. We could save another £2,500 by finishing 15 minutes earlier.
This would save us cash on utilities as we use less energy and water.
We could provide additional support only to those pupils with recognised additional needs and cut support staff.
We could increase class sizes by accepting more pupils or losing more teaching staff.
We could drop another senior leadership post (we have only two) and by less available to parents and agencies.
We could freeze our involvement in staff training and thus freeze our practice and knowledge.
We could stop all free extras, and either save the cost, charge for them or redirect the staffing resource. This would include choir, cross country, inter-school sports in school time, forest school, art club, orchestra in school time, golden time, providing counter signatures on official forms and photos, providing spaces for instrument lessons and all after school clubs…
International comparisons on length of lunchtimes are fascinating - up to two hours in France, and as little as twenty minutes in the United States. There is, generally, still no lunch break in German schools, and an hour and ten minutes for lunch in South Korea. The average and norm in the UK is around an hour but 1/6 of Secondaries have reduced their lunchbreak in the last 20 years, and 96% of the same schools now have no afternoon break! Hampshire Local Authority is so concerned it has launched a toolkit for a successful lunchtime and called it ‘the fifth lesson’.
And ask children (like in this study in Ireland: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/parenting/what-children-say-about-school-lunch-time-1.2079949 ) and they tell you they simply don’t have a long enough break to eat, talk and play.
The only conclusion I reach from all this is that I can see both (all?) sides of every debate, but not always come to a clear conclusion. Something is going to have to give, or we are going to have to change a long-held practice of balancing the budget.