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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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09 Feb 2019

Easy come - easy go

Started the day thinking setting a balanced budget for 32019/20 was going to be difficult.

By 10:30 things were looking rosy – we were more than £74,000 up with more to be announced and detailed. The National Funding Formula is set from March for just a push towards completion rather than a single giant step, and so we haven’t to hit that wall (just yet). For April we are told there will be a slight shift in Primary School funding, with less coming as a set block to each school (currently £150,000 and dropping to £130,000 next financial year) and more by way of the charmingly known AWPU, or 'age-weighted pupil unit'. In other words, income per pupil. The same money but handed out by a different algorithm. Small schools lose out, larger school gain. Secondary Schools pretty much all gain, as money new to the city is going to that sector to increase the ratio (a euphemism for ‘disparity’) of funding.

By midday this had gone down to a less-celebratory £30,000 because of pay awards being properly factored in (over the full financial year), inflation costs rises, and staffing costs not previously known. The previously forecast deficit also had to be covered. £30,000 is less than 2% of annual income and so we would not have to register a plan or excuse for holding so much.

The projected balance rose a bit when we added in the ‘Sugar Tax’ income. This Health Capital is a one-off – who knows how much if anything will be raised in the second year. £2,500 to £3,000 will not be turned down, even if strings are attached as long as we can use it to effectively impact on the healthy habits of the less physically active in school (and outside). Back up to close to £35,000 surplus being forecast.

A change in Employer Pension Contributions for teachers is out for consultation right now, with expected implementation in September. A 3% increase took a huge slice off the projected surplus. We tried to get detail on a quietly announced Grant to schools to support them in delivering this pension change, but without detail we guessed at an income figure. It could put 3% to 3.5% into budget. These ideas cancelled out.

While the teachers’ pay grant is greater this time, because it covers the full year, the budget also has to cover the cost for the full year; budget neutral.

I was still pretty happy with all this at the start of the afternoon – we certainly wouldn’t need quiet so much restraint as I had feared.

Then, after a bit of quiet working, Office staff pointed to the obvious impending cost of (temporary) staff replacement (one teacher is pregnant and we assume will take some maternity leave), the obvious drop in income from having fewer children attracting Pupil Premium than a year before (£1,300 per pupil and six fewer) and extra costs from covering longer term staff absences that we guessed at. In all it brought the forecast down to £3,000 surplus.

While Mr Micawber might be happy with any kind of surplus, no matter how small, it really isn’t enough for us to plan anything new – it is one electricity price rise and gone, or one larger than hoped for repair bill and gone, or a second maternity / paternity leave and more than gone.

My dreams of expansive expenditure plans and sweeping improvements evaporated in a few hours, leaving ‘stability’ as the bye-word.

Finished the day thinking that setting a balanced budget might well be difficult for 2019/20.

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01 Nov 2018

Patronising, insulting, condescending – tautological maybe, but how it makes me feel. The Chancellor’s ‘little extras’

In Monday’s Budget statement to the House of Commons, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a one-off £400 million grant to schools for ‘little extras’. Ignoring all the difficulties over defining ‘pupils’, (Nursery-aged? Pre-school? Sixth Form colleges? Special Schools? Alternative placements not called ‘schools’?) it is about £40 per pupil, assuming it is shared out equally per pupil. So Lydgate Junior School may stand to receive a bonus of £19,000 in the next financial year. Why such a churlish, ungrateful, response from Headteachers, then?

A             I don’t know what ‘little extras’ are – it has been a long, long time since we bought anything simply because it would be nice.

B             We are forecasting a budget deficit by the next financial year unless we make further cut-backs. And we are expected to spend this windfall on ‘little extras’ when I may have to cut still further into staffing to balance the books?

C             The unbelievably crass, 1950’s, pin-money language of it – the man-of-the-house handing down the good wife something extra to buy herself a treat so she looks good / feels good on their Friday night out.

D             Because it is, in reality, so little compared to what we have set aside, undone, these last five years. The repairs delayed, the improvements not even seriously planned, the corners cut, the staffing reduced, the services trimmed, the charges levied for things done for free previously and the impossible cost of the massive jobs needed still cannot be addressed with this one-off grant.

E              Priorities and professionalism and care for pupils will mean we spend it on essentials, not ‘extras’, anyway. High level (low incidence) SEN/D support is massively expensive but essential for individual pupils and their peers (and the class teacher). In our case we are about to admit a new child with needs that will cost us an additional £18,000 a year. It is preposterous to think we will allow our budget to overspend by that much because we spend the grant on ‘extras’. Meeting the needs of a child with visual impairment is not an ‘extra’, nor is supporting children with diabetes who need frequent blood sugar checks, and nor is supporting a child who has mobility issues round our building and site (with its fourteen sets of steps / stairs and six ramps). We cut sickness absence insurance for support staff this year to save budget costs. The actual cost is lost provision for children who find learning harder. That is not a 'little extra' even if it is not legally essential.

F              Improving IT hardware so it meets the curriculum requirements and challenges in, say, science, is not an ‘extra’. Mr Hammond suggested we buy a couple of (interactive) whiteboards or some extra laptops. He assumes, perhaps, that what we have works well as it is and meets needs. Ask your children how long it takes for the PCs in the suite to logon and open a document. Ask staff how often the Hall laptop loses network connection. Ask the Pastoral Team where their laptop went.  Ask your children how many iPads we have to use in class, and how often they get to use them. Kit has become obsolete and incompatible with newer operating systems. We cannot meet the points for improvement in the last but one Ofsted report (2012) if we do not do this.

G             I keep going back to that language – it smacks so much of ‘here’s five pounds; go and buy yourself something nice’.

H             Michael Gove, when Education Secretary, sent every school a copy of the King James version of the Bible on the 400th anniversary. ‘Gove’s Bible’ many called it. Where is it now? What difference did such an unsupported, unrequested, action make? It was waste of time and money. This doling out of money seems to be a sop, and without plan. What noticeable difference does the Chancellor actually think will come about?

I was telling my Y5 class about an encounter with a family on Parents Evening. They were coming the opposite way through a doorway, and I held it open for the little child who was with them. I asked the class what the mother had said, and everyone chimed, ‘Say thank you’, and they were right. We say ‘thank you’ because it is polite, and because our mothers taught us to.

So, thank you, Mr Hammond. We will spend however much you might give us on something nice for the children in our school. We will send you a nice ‘Thank You card’ once we have the cheque you have promised, and we will let you know what we spent it on. But, please, do not think that adding just 1% to my school’s income for the year will make any sort of noticeable difference.

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01 Jan 2018

A Mathematical puzzle, the funding of Universal Infant Free School Meals, and How Funding Gaps Come About

Junior Schools do not provide the Universal Infant Free School Meal; obviously.

Primary Schools offer the UIFSM to just 3/7 of their pupils, the ones in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

Infant Schools obviously offer the UIFSM to all their pupils.

The funding stream is interesting.

Junior Schools get no funding for or from it.

Primary Schools get funding for and from it for 3/7 of their pupils, potentially.

Infant Schools get funding for and from UIFSM for all their pupils, potentially.

Even though it is free to all Infant pupils there is not a 100% take-up, and the Department for Education, in designing the annual funding stream, recognised this. But the methodology chosen has a few interesting quirks and potentials for securing funding that Junior Schools cannot access.

This is how it works:

Instead of a daily report on UIFSM uptake, submitted electronically to a central point, meal uptake on two Census days each year produces an ‘average’ and this is used as the root number.

Multiply that number of pupils by £2.30 for each of the 190 days of the school year and you derive that school’s UIFSM income for the year.

The cost, in Sheffield, with our preferred provider, is actually £2.27 per day.

If the number of meals taken is less than that taken on Census day then the school keeps the difference. Any higher and school pays, I think.

I set myself a bit of a logic number problem and have tried to calculate the potential for schools to improve their income, based on data released on city-wide whole-school meal uptake, free school meal eligibility, Key Stage 2 meal uptake, and our own individual school data for the same factors.

It all makes a potential, for an Infant school of our size, to make £26,900 a year from the way UIFSM is funded IF they promote the meal on census day and get a full take-up.

And if our 480-pupil school were a through-Primary, then 206 would be Infants, and we could be £11,523 up each year, just for running a very successful couple of day’s school meals promotion.

Neat.

Our kitchen asks me each year if I’d like them to run a special promotion on Census day. While I’m all in favour of every child taking the balanced, up-to-school-meal-standard-standard meal, a successful promotion at a Junior School does absolutely nothing to aid income.

Strange.

Junior Schools also missed out on one-off capital investment to improve and prepare facilities ahead of the implementation of UIFSM; obviously.

This all goes some way to explaining differences between our provision and that our children may have enjoyed at their previous schools.
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28 Jan 2017

More Funding Cuts Ahead

Government has reached the second stage of a consultation on introducing a national school funding formula. It is just 15 months away from implementation. I urge you to read and respond to the consultation – it has immense potential impact for this, and all, schools.

https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/

The annual school performance tables reveal how we did at the end of Year 6, and also on what level of resource.

https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/compare-schools?phase=primary&for=Performance&&schoolTypeFilter=allSchools&dataSetFilter=prov

We were funded, in 2014 / 2015, at £970 per pupil UNDER the national median average for Primary schools. £970 per pupil. That’s £465,600 a year below median for the whole school, or about 27% of our annual income.

Compare our ‘performance’ to other schools and you see how well we do on our below median funding per pupil:

There are three mainstream Primary or KS2 schools with ‘Lydgate’ in their name across the country. The other two are funded at more than £1,220 per pupil per year more than us (or £585,000 when scaled up). We beat both on maths and reading attainment, on attainment at higher levels across all three assessed areas, and on progress in reading. We were level on all other measures. Good value for money, then.

 It could be argued, I suppose that we are a great model of how well a school can do with a lot less than average funding. But imagine what we could do with extra? Median level funding could fund an extra two teachers in every year group (reducing class size to 20), quadruple our teaching assistant provision, build permanent classrooms or more rehearsal space for music, increase our curriculum spend nine-fold, or provide a free school meal, free fruit and free milk each and every day for every child and make all after school activities free of charge permanently.

The introduction of a national funding formula is intended to address historical geographic differences in per pupil funding to schools. Schools and teachers will, says the Secretary of State, receive a consistent and fair share of the funding available, so they can help every child to reach their full potential. Fairer funding should ‘equip all schools to play their part in an education system that works better for everyone’. ‘Areas and schools across the country that have been underfunded for too long will begin to see increases that will help them achieve more for their pupils.’

We have been funded at £970 per pupil below the national median. (I cannot tell you about a mean average because that figure is not available.) So we might reasonably expect to begin to see increases in funding from April 2018 when the formula is introduced.

The second-stage consultation comes with illustrative charts and interactive spreadsheets that show the actual forecast impact on individual schools.

https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/supporting_documents/Impact%20of%20the%20proposed%20schools%20NFF_20161220.xlsm

Schools across Sheffield 10, or the Sheffield Hallam constituency, are presently funded below average per pupil. They might all have reasonable expectations for increased funding.

Under the national funding formula Lydgate Junior School will LOSE 1.7% of its annual funding, down £23,000 in the first year and then a further £3,000 in the second year. So we start under the average and go lower!

£23,000 is more than half a teacher – reducing teaching or leadership capacity, increasing class size in a year group, removing music provision or reducing our ability to manage SEN provision, for example.

£23,000 is more than a full-time teaching assistant, and could lose us 50 hours per week of support time. That’s two year group’s worth of classroom support.

£23,000 is all our telephone, email and text service, all grounds maintenance, all photocopying services, and all cleaning materials.

£23,000 is half our annual curriculum spending, so half the pupils get no exercise books?

£23,000 is eight times more than we spend on training staff.

£23,000 is more than we spend on IT purchasing and leases in any one year – so collective procurement is not going to make that scale of saving.

There is no way in which a £23,000 ‘saving’ can be made without cutting provision. Governors have chosen in the last three years to trim at all areas in order to keep the budget in balance. We have reduced teaching and support staffing alongside reducing expenditure on contracts and services. We may be forced to always choose the cheapest option, rather than the most cost-effective, reliable or best. I am not sure we can ‘trim’ this amount, and so we may have to select areas of our current provision that we have to drop. That is not going to be a popular decision whatever we choose. Governors have to choose, though, and I have to recommend – Governors are required to set a balanced budget each year, or to have a plan to return to balance of a deficit accidentally arises through unexpected situations arising.

I will be contributing my thoughts to the consultation:

  • I do not see why deprivation feeds into school budgets three or four times over – it is a factor in the formula, it leads to lower prior attainment (which is another factor) and it drives Pupil Premium (which is a separate funding stream).
  • I do not see why a pupil in Key Stage 3 (who is just six weeks older than when in Key Stage 2) gets funded by a whopping £1,200 a year extra than one on Key Stage 2.
  • And I do not see how Primary Schools in Hallam constituency can be faring so badly when they are already funded so far below the national median.

Please, read the plan, consider the impact, contribute to the consultation. If you think it is okay for both our neighbouring Secondary schools to gain (by 1.1% and 9.9%) but for us to lose (and for Lydgate Infant School, St Marie’s Primary, Nether Green Infants, Nether Green Juniors, Greystones Primary, Hallam Primary and Broomhill Infants to lose also) when we teach and support the same children and families then tell them so. If you are cynical about consultation I still urge you to contribute as there is only one opportunity here to be heard. It is billed as an historic change, a one-off. We had better try to get it right.

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02 Apr 2016

Prioritising my Fridays

Here’s the thing:

Should I, a week on Friday, teach my regular class all day, attend a ‘Locality’ Headteacher meeting or be released from class in order to escort Nick Clegg MP on a tour of the buildings and site?

I mean to ‘walk the talk’, as they say, and put my words into practice. So when I want my staff to be committed to their job then I obviously have to be that, too. I want every class teacher and every teaching assistant to enjoy working with children, and to be as engaged in the process as we want our pupils to be. I obviously have to be that, too.

As you may know, we have changed around some of the teacher placements from after the Easter holidays; six classes will be affected in total. Part of that change sees me swapping PPA work in Years 3 & 5 for a day each week in Y3D/D – I’ll be teaching them all day every Friday. Some parents have been quite worried about possible disruption and loss of continuity because of these changes. It’s pretty obvious that this is something we want to avoid and are taking steps to reduce any negative / step up any possible positive impact. Personally, I want to commit to my Fridays at least as much as I did to the parts I taught earlier in the year. The class deserve my devotion to their learning as I expect commitment and engagement from them. As a week on Friday will be only the second of the term I really should be there to teach the class.

Local Authorities are gradually being dismantled and local arrangements, whether through ‘Learning Partnerships’, ‘Federations’ or ‘Multi-Academy Trusts’, put in their place. Our Locality (from Sheaf to Rivelin) meets just once per half term, and this next meeting, a week on Friday, will discuss plans for high needs SEN support (and its funding). As we could lose up to £23,500 through the changes proposed it really is an important one to attend. It’s also the route by which schools get briefed on many developments, and where networks are developed. As it is only one of two meetings this term I really should be there, or my Deputy in my place. To attend costs supply cover and to not go costs potential loss of income through not knowing the system.

Our Deputy Headteacher is also teaching that day, covering for a colleague so we save supply costs and provide quality and continuity of provision, so she cannot simply attend on my place.

Mr Clegg is paying us a return visit: he was last here to open the slide and tour the site to see what amazing things a school can do with limited space but a creative mind. As a constituency MP who is very active in Parliament, his constituency work is almost always conducted on Fridays.

This time we have invited him to come and see the state of our buildings and site, to try to get his support for additional premises improvement funding. You may know of roof leaks, power outages, the lack of full coverage in our fire alarm system, site security issues, deterioration of mobile classrooms, the difficulty faced by disabled visitors to the site in accessing the main building, the difficulties in teaching in open-plan spaces, signage deficiencies, and so on and so on. We are not considered a priority for additionally funded works for many reasons – one of which is that our buildings are not the worst around, a reason that does not reduce the needs of our building. Mr Clegg is our local MP, the former Deputy Prime Minister, and his voice and support might be very helpful. Purely out of respect for the position he holds, I really should be there to show him round (along with premises staff in school).

And there’s the problem: I should do all three of these things. The day of the week for all three is Friday, and none is movable. All three need to happen. We want to avoid supply teacher costs wherever we can. We want support in finding premises improvement funding. We want to access the best provision to support pupils with ‘high needs’. We want to demonstrate our commitment to teaching every single day.

The options are very limited: Mrs. Dutton (of Y3D/D) doesn’t work on Fridays so she cannot step in for me for a while. The HLTAs are teaching other classes and do not work Friday afternoons. Mrs. Farrell (DHT) is teaching elsewhere in school. We have no 'spare' teacher complement to provide cover for me or Mrs. Farrell. Mrs. Buck (Finance Officer), who invited Mr. Clegg to visit school, has retired and so won’t be here to show him round. And whichever I choose not to do, it sends a signal that I think that aspect of my work and responsibility is less important or not important at all. This is one subtle impact of budget constraints, and shows what we are doing so as to avoid yet further staff reductions.

So which do I do?

I’ve set up a one-question survey, if you’d like to suggest what I should choose to do a week on Friday. Click on the link below:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WJQY5HV

 

(I’ve not given a ‘Boaty McBoatface’ option; sorry.)

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