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....
- how well a person, machine, etc. does a piece of work or an activity
- the action of entertaining other people by dancing, singing,acting, or playing music:
a performance (mainly uk informal)
- an action or type of behaviour that involves a lot of attention to detail or to small matters that are not important
DfE has published the annual ‘Performance Tables’ this week for end of Key Stage 2 assessments in 2018.
All the usual caveats must be applied when you read the data – are you comparing like with like, is it progress or attainment that matters, reading or maths, funding – does that matter, disadvantage levels, what does the data hide, why publish average teacher salary, what about the private sector, why are so many Academies excluded, how can you tell if small schools do well if their data isn’t published, Infant Schools have no data, is this a one-year snap shot or a three year average?
Dig back through this blog series and you will find me writing about a question at interview (how would you place the school) and about more important things than scores and gloating.
Well, we still are not top of the table, but we are doing very well, thank you. Out of Sheffield’s fourteen Junior Schools (surely a sensible comparison set) we have the:
- second lowest absence
- third highest percentage meeting the 'combined' (reading, writing and maths) expected standard
- second highest reading progress score
- third highest writing progress score
- second highest maths progress score
- fourth highest percentage for higher standard for 'combined'
- fourth highest average score in reading, and
- fourth highest average score in maths,
- AND all with the fourth largest pupil to teacher ratio.
Year 4 thrilled a hallful of parents with the annual pantomime this morning in a demonstration of a different definition of ‘performance’. Huge applause and appreciation was heard and felt because it was brilliant. The story was ‘Cinderella’ but with plenty of twists included. Cinderella was forced to change her life goals once she saw how shallow and desperate the Prince was, and found happiness somewhere else entirely.
The singing was amazing – harmonies and split parts, solos and choruses, actions and dancing. Words were clear as a bell, and jokes were delivered with comic timing.
This was the sort of performance I really wouldn’t mind being judged on.
I hope we didn’t make too much of ‘a performance’ in our organisation and control around FOLA’s Christmas discos. These are run by the volunteer parent team, with a good slice of staff support. They want to be safe and sure and confident they have all the bases covered, and so felt the need to have booking tickets available, and to put out an indicative limit on attendance numbers.
We had two very busy events in the one evening and a whole lot of fun was had, but the volume of email, text and message must have added enormously to their stress leading up to opening the doors.
I think they did an excellent job.
It’s been another really good week.
In an exercise on our training day a colleague asked about the development of an email policy.
In ‘Feedback’ some parents raised questions about communications between senior leaders and parents.
One stage of the response to both has been senior leadership-level discussion about the range, purpose, place, timeliness and effectiveness of the communications strategies we use.
This one week we have used telephone calls, home visits, a newsletter, direct personal email, booked meetings, drop-in meetings, informal conversations, focussed letters, ‘bump’ notes, the school website, being visible, the FOLA ‘End of Summer BBQ’, the front desk, and all our electronic and physical interfaces to share information and enhance contacts. We know we have not seen everyone and not shared everything, nor answered all the unspoken questions but we certainly have continued to ‘reach out’ and to be available.
Conversations have provided insight into cycle storage, private school admissions, school start times, lost property, before school activities, homework, accessibility, and a myriad of personal issues.
We are honestly happy to meet, listen and talk as much as we can, and we will continue to do so.
The annual PTA UK survey of parents shows that what appears to be a rising concern about the expectation to contribute to school funds. The AVERAGE donation reported was £8.90 a MONTH!
At least 47% knew nothing about how schools used their Private Fund, and a fifth of parents thought it was spent on teacher salaries.
I think it might be time for some clarification:
Salaries, premises costs, curriculum resources, utilities, insurances, services, subscriptions, broadband, grounds maintenance and photocopying all get covered by our delegated school budget. This comes via the local authority from your taxes. The amount we get each year is formula-driven. It is accounted, reported, budgeted, monitored, audited, and regularly scrutinised. Our delegated school budget amounts to nearly £1,700,000 a year. 80% or so goes on the salaries of the nearly 60 staff, a similar percentage to pretty much every school. At the end of this financial year we expect to have about £19,000 left over to help us through the next.
Buildings’ improvements and purchasing new IT hardware can be covered, in part, by a separate ring-fenced allocation know as DFC, or devolved formula capital. This year we received £9,600 DFC funding, which might sound a lot until you consider the size of the plot, the buildings and their condition, and the amount of hardware needed in a school with 480 pupils.
We also get Government funding for Pupil Premium and Sports Premium, both spent as intended and reported on our website.
And that leaves income from other sources, donations and voluntary contributions. Our only major income source each year, as we do not rent out spaces or hire out staff, is the commission earned from school photographs. We do get a few donations each year, and last year these added up to £130.
Private Fund is the vehicle, principally, for us to collect voluntary contributions for activities that do not carry a charge. We only ever ask for voluntary contributions towards the cost of activities and trips that will enhance the children’s learning. We never ask for more than the actual cost of the activity and we never seek to cover any staffing costs this way.
Last year we received a little over £29,500 in voluntary contributions, and spent a little over £29,500 from Private Fund on the activities these contributions supported. We added in some more to cover the shortfall, as we won’t let a shortfall stop really useful activities or visits taking place. We, effectively, subsidised some trips, clubs, sports activities and other events from budget share or using that commission from photographs. The commission came to £1,127.90, or £2.34 per pupil.
Every single penny that went in to Private Fund from a charity collection (£2,648.60) went back out again, with a little bit added (£2,683.33).
We also use Private Fund to receive income from clubs that are ‘chargeable’. These are what the policy calls ‘optional extras’, and are after school or before school clubs with a cost. Again they are money in, money out, but supported via budget share with Sports Premium funds. We could try to raise funds by charging more for clubs and making a profit, but we choose not to.
Private fund raises less than 2% of our income. We spend the income on only the things we have stated. It makes no surplus over time. It is independently audited annually. It has the same financial safeguarding systems in place as the much larger school budget share, including separation of roles and multiple signatory requirements on spending. We report to Governors on the standing of the Private Fund, and give hen copies of the annual statement and audit report.
We do not ask parents to make a regular or non-specific contribution. No pupil is ever excluded from an activity or visit because their parent does not make a voluntary contribution.
Now, the income from last week’s BBQ at the autumn fair, that went to FOLA (the parent teacher and friends group) direct. And if you want to decide how it gets spent you’ll have to join in their meetings. They announce them on their Facebook page.
My Governors are about to start on the annual unpleasantness of finding areas where we can cut spending. Two years ago we cut out around £12,000. Last April another £26,000. We are staring at a deficit of £60,000 for 2016 / 2017 if we do nothing different or less, and all our skilled, experienced, dedicated and wonderful staff stay at our school.
Such a deficit must mean poor financial management, surely? Well, the easy, simple and honest answer is, ‘No’. All our monthly returns are approved by the local authority as accurate. Audit has no problems with our methods or accuracy. Governors get updates every seven or eight weeks. Our Finance Officer is a trained and qualified accountant. HR reports show we do not employ any superfluous staff or having excessive staffing levels. (In fact, a quick survey via publically available data shows that we are way under neighbouring schools – our TA / pupil ratio is a staggering 1:53 compared with Lydgate Infant's ratio of 1:31 and Broomhill Infant's at 1:15. http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/index.html ) Our budget plans are checked over by centrally employed, and therefore independent, council finance staff and they never have any problem with our reports or plans.
So not mismanagement, then.
Spending on personal fads and ego-boosting 'vanity' schemes, then? I do have personal passions, such as outdoor learning, girls’ football, equality, inclusion, mental maths, 3d art, drama and performance, running, polite assertiveness. Have I overly funded them in the last three years? Well, we only ran the full Forest Schools scheme for one year, and that was from Private Fund. Our allotment is at no cost to school whatsoever. We are looking to FOLA (the parent / teacher group) to raise the capital to build a bike ramp entrance. Sports Premium funds to some extent some of our sports programme, but we no longer have girls’ football, and it was never at the exclusion of anything else. Cross Country runs on Saturdays with no staff cost whatsoever, and lots of parental support. My own office has had nothing spent on it in the two and a half years I have been in post – no carpets, no furniture, no lighting, no fancy phones, no new shelving or chairs. One replacement PC is all, in that time, apart from my own spending not claimed for. The list of things that we would like to do, or could really do with doing, is considerably longer than the list of things we have had done.
So not self-pleasing schemes, either.
Could it be higher costs? Does the school break the bank to pay staff ‘over the odds’? Again the answer is, ‘No’, though not quite as simply. We use the same national and local pay scales and ranges that other schools use. We use the Council’s Pay Policy. We have fewer posts that carry additional pay for additional responsibility than the average Sheffield school, though. And on the other side, we have more experienced staff who are paid at or towards the top of the appropriate pay ranges than the average. This brings advantages but does ‘cost’ us every year. As we have relatively low staff turnover this is not a new factor and so does not explain the continuing and growing funding / spending issue. And the school in Chesterfield has a higher average teacher salary than us, so we aren't really profligate. If anything we should be benefitting from economies of scale, one would think, being one of the larger Primary sector schools in Sheffield.
So not higher costs, really.
It couldn’t, could it, be some sort of funding disparity? Funny you should ask. Headteachers at all the schools in this part of the city, and across the city as well, have long complained about unfair, unequal funding for Sheffield schools against those in other cities, and for schools in the south-west in particular. My wife, also a teacher (Deputy Headteacher at a Rotherham school), is applying for Headteacher posts. She just sent one in for a vacancy at a school in Chesterfield; much smaller than Lydgate Junior School, and with considerable more disadvantage in the local area, and amongst the pupils on roll. But a quick bit of research about its context threw up a staggering funding difference. The DfE’s own data shows that per pupil funding at LJS was £3,447 in 2014. At the Chesterfield school it was £5,162. Per pupil! Multiply that up and the difference / gap / loss for us is over £750,000 a year – nearly half again on our total annual income. Some of this can be explained away, based on that ‘disadvantage’ – Pupil Premium at the Chesterfield school accounted for a lot of the gap, and the effect of ‘base funding’ being shared between fewer pupils there raises the income per pupil. (Every school in Sheffield gets £150,000 to start with, no matter its size – the smaller the school the more income per pupil because of the size of the share being larger.) Even after we have removed these two factors there remains a gap in funding per pupil - £495 per pupil per year, or a total of £240,000 per year. And £240,000 looks like six full-time teachers or ten Learning Mentors or 480 hours a week of TA support, or 24,000 times our capital (premises improvement) income, or enough to double our EAL, Pastoral, lunchtime AND admin staffing.
So unequal funding, then, seems a likely culprit.
Governors will make strategic and uncomfortable decisions. Things will have to go, or be allowed to go as opportunities arise. It is a familiar story, I suppose, but no easier for all that. The decisions will ultimately impact on our pupils because of reduced provision. You could help by raising the matter wherever you can. My Trade Union does, and the City Council does, too.
The ‘gap’ in school funding does not seem to be one that Government has done much to address, when it continues to press schools to work to close ‘gaps’ in pupil performance.