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 & Miss Roberts (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....
pka (or ‘properly known as’) School financial value standards
Following on from last week’s Blog, we are about to present the annual SFVS self-evaluation to Governors. Nothing stays the same for long as it is in a new format this year. Front section is all Yes / No / In part answers to question. These are all worded slightly differently to previous versions and so a simple ‘copy and paste’ will not do.
The back provides (another) set of comparative data fields. These will allow or encourage Governors to discuss their aims in setting and targeting a budget. It will allow us to consider if we spend our income where we want to in order to achieve what we are after.
The problem is that anomalies are not easily removed, income cannot be easily or significantly raised and some data is simply contradictory. It is all true, no doubt, but not at all simple.
That we spend 55% of income on teacher costs puts us in the top 10% of ‘similar’ schools. Two points here – who says that that’s a bad thing, seeing as we get results in the top 20% of schools? And how are we to reduce teacher costs by 5% to get to average; by losing two teachers?
The number of senior leaders (two) for a school of our size (480 plus pupils) puts us in the very low end of things. But to increase the team would certainly increase that percentage spent on teachers!
There is a novel calculation, an expression of pupil contact for each teacher, made by dividing the number of classes by the full-time equivalent number of teachers. Our figure is so high it is flagged as a risk, and requires investigation and action. So we either need fewer classes (bigger classes if we have the same number of pupils) or more teachers, and we know what that would do to the percentage spend on teacher costs!
Our average class size puts us in the top 20% as well (which is not where you want to be, in fact, but it does suggest financial efficiency) but with the ludicrous figure of 30.2 pupils per class. 0.2 indeed! To reduce the class size to the average for ‘similar’ schools we would need to have 4 fewer pupils or 0.13 classes more. Both of these are impossible – I try my best to avoid the admission of any extra pupils over admission number but Appeal Panels sometimes place children with us. How would we run a class for just 4 hours a week?
This odd state of affairs comes about really from two factors: we are currently the lowest funded (per pupil) school in Sheffield, and we have a very, very stable staff who are, me included, at the top of the pay range. Recognising the issues does not make a solution any easier – it is no simple thing to increase our income by £100,000 per year, nor to suddenly employ eight newly qualified teachers when we have none currently.
It’ll make for an interesting discussion when presented, but won’t lead to any significant changes: we have no vacancies to fill cheaply, and we have no room for extra pupils.
General Election campaigning has started, and I can only hope that education will become a central issue for all parties.
Neither school nor school staff will express any preference, of course, leading up to the election itself. Children are likely to ask colleagues which way they vote, because they always do, but staff will avoid saying what they intend to do. As we champion 'pupil voice' you would expect staff to participate and vote, and possibly enable discussions in class but we do not put forward our own views or seek to persuade.
There are actually guidelines on the proper use of maintained school premises, and that they should not be used to promote a particular political stance or party. I am never sure how politicians get away with visiting schools accompanied by hosts of cameras and journalists, but there you are. In our attempt to stay strictly neutral we once turned away a request to use the school hall as a venue for an MP's public meeting.
Obviously one issue will be front and centre in 2019, but education is too important not to feature in debate and in the choices voters make. We should assume that the next Parliament will last for five years and that the Government elected will therefore be responsible for school funding, special needs direction, curriculum reform, school inspection regimes, national standards, teacher training provision, school building programmes and Local Authority powers to support and challenge schools for five years also.
Every pupil in our school in December 2019, at the time of the general election, will still be of compulsory school-age at the end of the next Parliament. The education stance of the locally elected Member of Parliament and the education policy of the new Government will directly effect our pupils. I urge every elector to think carefully about the education policies of each party appearing on the ballot paper where they vote and to make it one of the key factors in how they vote.
'Purdah' (or purda) is the period between the calling of an election and the polling day itself. During the period civil servants, who always supposed to be impartial, are not allowed to make political statements or to initiate actions that might favour a particular candidate or party. This effectively means a further six weeks this time round without any of the urgent issues being addressed other than in words and promises.
The new Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, promised something new in his first Downing Street speech. He promised to ‘level up school funding’ and during his campaign talked of schools receiving at least £5,000 per year for every pupil, immediately doing away with every differential.
Wonderful news, as we got £3,604 per pupil in 2018.
Obviously we won’t spend this before we get it (or get official notice of when we will receive it) but for a school like ours we had better have a plan ready to spend such a huge amount. Because, if it turns out to be for real and as stated - £5,000 per pupil per year into school (not averaged across the country or county and to include DfE costs) – then we have to have a plan to spend an extra 37% of our current budget – a total of £647,000 extra EVERY year!
My Fantasy Funding Spending List looks like this:
Carpets, curtains and cupboards; blinds, bookcases and borders; wall coverings, water fountains and Wi-Fi; tables, tiling and temporary building conversion; playgrounds, paintwork and PE equipment; ceilings, security and staff facilities.
In the recent parent survey a few contributions said that the school looked a bit of ‘a state’ and hadn’t changed in twenty years. New buildings and smart buildings do not improve academic standards but they do give a more pleasant experience for all school members.
Instead of the £10,000 we spend each year now we could increase this to £60,000, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!
Premises Team increase
And then we’d like to make it shine and keep it shiny, showing that is cleaner and healthier and better looked after. This won’t improve standards and is unlikely to improve attendance (at nearly 98% there is very little absence occurring because illness or accident at school causes children to be off and so very little difference will be made in this way), but it may improve pride and a feeling of well-being.
We could add an extra full-time, full year, cleaner to the team at a cost of £25,000, including some for materials, training, equipment and support, and make a second ‘Wow’ difference!
In-class teaching assistant increase
All the research says that having a teaching assistant in class does very little for pupil outcomes. What it does do is make people feel better, and allow classes and lessons to work differently. Jobs get done, messages get delivered, bags get found, displays get changed, readers are heard read, spellings get practised, attention can be given, supervision increases, opportunities to run interventions increase.
If we increased our TA numbers from 4.2 full-time equivalents to 16 fte, so that we had, like parents think we should have, one per class full time, we would need to spend about £207,000 extra, but make a ‘Wow’ difference!
Dedicated Special Needs support
The level of SEND in our school is much lower than national or local average, but it is an area in which it seems impossible to ever meet demand. We have unmet calls for meetings, assessments, advice and learning, pastoral and behaviour support. We already provide one to one and other direct support and intervention for these pupils from our budget, but we recognise that, as a group who probably shouldn’t be grouped together, they have outcomes lower than their year group peers both in attainment and progress scores.
We probably need better skills, more hours and increased management.
To double our SEND provision would cost £55,000 per year, making a ‘Wow’ difference!
Teacher release to improve planning and outcomes
Teachers at this school all get at least 10% release, known as PPA, each week. International comparisons with some of the highest achieving countries show that this may be totally inadequate. Some systems have it at nearer 50%.
Doubling PPA for every teacher, with a focus on planning even more effective lessons, would cost £45,000 if we used Higher Level Teaching Assistants as we do now. It might reduce teacher stress and workload, improve teaching and learning, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!
Management and leadership of above staffing increases
Having just taken on 18 new staff we should probably put in some, limited, management capacity to support and direct them. This could be done, perhaps, by increasing senior leadership time by two days per week, and appointing an HLTA post (from within the posts above) with responsibility for line-managing TAs.
Total cost: £20,000, with the difference actually being made by the people listed above, but accounted for by these post holders.
We spend so little on continuing professional development that it rounds to 0% of the annual budget, and comes to something like £8 per pupil per year. (Schools never account for the staff time involved in daily mentoring or management activity, so it really is a false figure – it tends to reflect course and consultant fees only, and not attending weekly professional development meetings).
But we should be developing staff better, making the most of their talents, interests and abilities, and gaining sustainability for the school.
If we gave every member of this newly expanded staff two days of training each year, it would only cost £20,000 in releasing a trainer and a trainee.
Curriculum support (including specialist teaching)
We do have areas of the vast Primary curriculum that we struggle to deliver well, and could really do with training (see above) or support with areas such as a Modern Foreign Language. PE and school sport has benefited from dedicated funding for three years, now at nearly £18,000 per year. Computing, MFL, Science and Music might all benefit from similar input, through staffing, training and resources. We could probably increase the quality of teaching and learning though such work. £36,000 should do it, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!
Reducing the costs to parents via voluntary contributions
Like most schools, we have effectively passed the costs of many school activities to parents, either through charging, fund-raising or voluntary contribution collection. Using increased school funding to meet these costs would have absolutely no direct impact on pupils. Parents would be less annoyed by being asked for so much, perhaps, and a little bit better off so they might be able to afford more at home.
What could we afford to do? The Edale Residential for Year 6 pupils (deposit of 20% just paid by school for 2020 even though we haven’t advertised it to parents yet and so have received absolutely no compensating income) costs £20,000. If we put that much into each year group (massively more than we actually ask for, for Year 3 to 5) it would cost £80,000.
Adding up all the above, and subtracting from the Fantasy Funding increase, we are left with:
£647,000 – £50,000 – £25,000 – £207,000 – £55,000 – £45,000 – £20,000 – £20,000 – £36,000 – £80,000 = £109,000!
We would be left with £109,000 every year!
Fun as that that bit of Fantasy Finding spending was, I really will be waiting to see it in black and white from DfE before actually consulting on how to spend any windfall or permanent increase in funding. I also wonder how it can be achieved for the estimated £50 million a year, as there are 22 Primary schools within 3 miles of this school that are funded below £5,000 per pupil per year. The lowest funded six will need to gain £2.98 million between them. In Sheffield 3 out of 4 Primary Schools are funded below £5,000 per pupil. There are more than 14,000 Primary Schools in the country. My knowledge is incomplete but I estimate it might cost £350 million per year.
Dare to dream, but don’t hold your breath - I assume someone will do the maths and realise the problem with what has been said. I suspect 'clarification' will follow sooner than the money does.
This will, likely, be the last year that we manage to set a budget that balances and keeps us in the black. Governors agreed a spending plan for the financial year ahead that just about allows us to continue with the current staff set-up and other spending, but it uses every last penny of the carry-forward to do so. There will be none left in 12 months.
It is true, I agree, that we have more income than ever before. It is also true that we have higher outgoings than ever before.
We got a grant to help cover the unexpected cost of the national increase in teachers’ pay. Not surprisingly we’ll be using it to cover the cost of our teachers’ pay rise.
We expect another grant to assist with otherwise unfunded increased employer contributions to pensions. We’ll use that to cover the rise in contributions to pensions.
We will be getting a windfall sum of £4,115 of Healthy Pupil Capital. It has to be spent on premises works that will improve the ‘availability’ of health and activity equipment or provision (but not on people to staff it). We will spend it accordingly, but not without difficulty.
The full implementation of the Living Wage across the Council has resulted in many support staff getting an extra, utterly deserved, pay rise to maintain some differential. That was unfunded.
The PE & Sports Grant is staying at its high level of about £20,000 for the year. We will spend every penny on the purposes set. You can read our statement on the school website.
Pupil Premium income will be down next financial year against this year as we now have fewer ‘disadvantaged’ pupils than we did 12 months ago. We also updated that Statement this week. You can again see the report and intentions on our website. We will spend slightly more than the specific income on provision to assist these pupils in achieving their best.
I also presented a brief report on Financial Benchmarking. Not a ‘sexy’ topic in any way, but highly illuminating. You can make your own comparison by visiting the gov.uk website (click here).
If you select Lydgate Junior School and let the site select 15 ‘similar’ schools you’ll find we have:
- the lowest income per pupil,
- the smallest senior leadership team,
- the smallest spend on occupation charges per pupil,
- the smallest revenue reserve per pupil.
I do not want to finish this piece in a negative way so I’ll put the prediction here: this time next year we will have to decide what provision to cut and what charges to increase.
We make fantastic provision based on these factors. I know I have written this before but we do provide excellent value for money. We will try our hardest to keep doing so.
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.