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 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.
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
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....
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.
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.
How many of our pupils do you think would be overweight or obese?
Do you think it would be so many that we might want to focus on it as an issue?
Recognising that we have reasonably affluent parents, the majority of whom have an active lifestyle themselves, an educated parent body, the majority of whom have ‘professional’ status in employment, the great outdoors on our doorstep and no end of sporting and active opportunities freely available locally and in the city, and parents who are willing to put in the effort needed to support their children’s involvement in regular clubs and groups, we might expect a low figure, certainly lower than national and city-wide averages.
Would 28.2% of our Year 6 pupils reported (National Child Measurement Programme outcome 2016) as overweight or obese surprise you?
That’s 33 children in each year group, or 132 across the whole school.
The list of sporting activities we put on or provide access to is pretty extensive. We promote many local clubs and other opportunities. We are signed up to the PE Pledge of 2 hours per week PE as a standard. Our school meals hit every nutritional standard. Your packed lunches are sound. We host a cooking club. We grow fruit and vegetables on site. Children are health-aware and conscious.
But we still show 28.2% as overweight or obese.
(A quick bit of balance – Sheffield city-wide average is 33.9% and the national average is 34.6%.)
Might we want to focus on this as an issue? It depends, doesn’t it, if we are content to be just better than average.
So here’s a heads-up on things we are already talking about:
- • The Daily Mile
- • Inclusive activities targeted at specific groups including Pupil Premium grant attracting pupils, out of catchment, non-engagement, sports averse, over-weight
- • Cutting out play time snacks
- • ‘Banning’ certain snacks from school,
- • ‘No cake, No sweets’ policies,
- • Weight management programs such as Alive and Kicking (http://www.whyweightsheffield.co.uk/children-and-young) and the school-based STOP,
- • Family information interventions such as ‘HENRY’ and ‘Start Well Sheffield’ (https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/education/information-for-parentscarers/care-support/childcare/start-well-sheffield.html)
- • Including cooking in the formal curriculum,
- • Fit Bit challenges,
- • Man v Fat Football (https://www.manvfatfootball.org/Home/Registration),
- • Issuing Pedometers to count steps / movement during the school day.
Have you ever played that 'oh that's good / oh that's bad' game, where you take turns to downplay or play up the circumstances of an event? Here's what we thought about this week...
When reviewing the Pupil Premium Statement and Plan we collated some data on access to extra-curricular activities.
We have 18 (at least) activities going on that children can join in with before, during or after the school day - gym, more gym, orienteering, table tennis, karate, fencing, netball, cricket coaching, French, Spanish, Art, HA Art, hand bells, choir, wind band, cookery, coding, card games and so on. This list is current, and doesn't include things like peripatetic instrument tuition or orchestra (as it is in lesson time).
We have 480 or so pupils with a range of interests and ability (and desire) to attend.
If each activity can accommodate 20 pupils then we have capacity for only 360 pupils. Who is attending, we wondered? Who attends more than one? Are all groups equally represented? Are we missing something? Is cost an issue? Is the inability to pay preventing some children from taking part?
A register check revealed that 309 individual pupils are taking up at least one activity each week here at school, some 65% of the pupils (a figure that impresses me). Some children attend more than one each week - in Y3JD for example, the 30 children take up 32 activities, and impressive 107%!
What does it hide?
Girls take up far more activities than boys, and far more girls take up activities than boys. In fact 74% of girls are involved in at least one activity each week against 'just' 60% of boys. The two most involved pupils (at four a week each) are both girls.
72% of Year 4 pupils are involved in extra-curricular activities at school, against 'only' 61% of Year 3 pupils and 64% of Year 6 pupils.
We started by asking about the engagement of pupils attracting Pupil Premium (PP) funding (due to 'disadvantage' such as entitlement to free school meals at some point in their school life). This is where the sharpest difference emerges:
67% of non-Pupil Premium pupils are involved in one or more out of hours activity (294 out of 437 pupils).
Just 38% of Pupil Premium pupils are involved in those same out of school hours activities (15 out of 40 pupils). For the two groups' engagement to match there needs to be a further 12 of this group involved in activities each week.
How does this gap occur, and what are we doing about it?
It isn't as simple as it seems at first sight. It would be easy to suggest it's a cost thing - those families with low income can't afford extras. But the vast majority of these activities are free to all or heavily subsidised, or we make them available for free to the PP pupils. Some are charged as they are run by private providers, but we actively seek to support access for those who couldn't afford to pay. We have happily and directly supported, through the school's Charging and Remissions Policy, the cost of attending the Year 6 residential, and the Friday Cooking Club, for some individual pupils. We help parents access music lesson subsidy of needed, or provide it ourselves. It may be cultural, and so we try to be inclusive - choir sings all sorts of songs and is most definitely not 'stuffy', for example. It may be about travel arrangements to and from school - perhaps parents have shift work patterns that make later pick up or early drop off at school really difficult. This one is much harder to solve. It is not as if activities require much kit - orienteering needs a pair of trainers and nothing else, cricket and table tennis just need the same PE kit they wear at school. Choir is just your voice. We have instruments in stock at school that we lend for free to children whose parents don't want to or can't afford to buy their own. Have PP children already acquired a negative or disengaged attitude to opportunities? Maybe they have experienced some failure and haven't yet got the resilience needed to stick at it until they improve and feel successful. We work on this with many children each day in school. We could certainly look to see if the group in question matches this description, and provide some additional work on raising their horizon. Perhaps children are involved in enough already outside school - we know we have dancers, trampolinists, horse riders, footballers, runners, Brownies, Cubs, Scouts, sailors, swimmers, choristers, crafters, and so on and so on. It seems unlikely, though, that PP children are in this category.
Later this term we are hosting the first of a short series of sports activities for Infant Schools in the immediate area. (Yes, Infant schools - it's a collegiate, partnership thing.) Dodge ball. Our Y6 pupils as coaches and organisers etc. The aim is only participation and enjoyment, not style or winning, and the target group at each Infant School is the children who do not otherwise take part in additional activities. It will run during the school day to overcome all the access barriers, and we hope it might change an attitude or two.
Our target, stated in our Pupil Premium Report and Plan, is to get equal uptake and engagement.
If you would like to suggest a barrier, and offer a solution to overcoming it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.