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 our regular volunteers, 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....
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.
I once failed spectacularly at an interview for a Headteacher post, shooting myself out of contention with my honest answer to a question about the role of business in Primary Schools. The school in question was in the wealthy and leafy western part of Hartlepool and the Governor with the question was, it turned out, a ‘prominent’ local business owner. It said I thought business should have little or no role to play at all.
According to DfE research 96% of Primary Schools offer some sort of tailored careers education currently. Damian Hinds has announced £2 million for a quango to share with partners to further develop career-related learning in Primary Schools.
It astonishes me that the figure could possibly be so high. It baffles me that this is higher than the percentage of schools that offer effective swimming lessons that meet national curriculum requirements – just 94% in the same year!
Aged 10, when you struggle to calculate the simplest percentage of a whole (say, 20% VAT on an item costing £140), do you really need to know that Tax Inspectors exist, what they do or what qualifications you need to become one?
At the Primary Stage I would still suggest that 100% of schools are teaching tailored career-related learning: we teach every child literacy and numeracy skills which will be pretty vital whatever their future holds. We teach music which will help future composers and producers. We teach IT which will help future programmers and planners. We teach science, surely a future benefit for budding food producers. And when we teach languages we help possibly every child in an ever-widening global workforce.
I just don’t think children’s needs are best defined by the owners of factories.
I issued a challenge today to a specialist in PE, and waved the carrot of over £4,600 in fees if he could come up with a viable solution to a persistent problem.
We have been informed, as I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, about our one-off income from the Health Capital Grant (Sugar Tax) - estimated at £4,623.
The source and the title suggest areas we should be spending it on, though there are few strings attached. We could have a go at Mental Health provision improvement, but we do have a lot of evidence about other basic health issues, such as obesity and inactivity.
Though we provide out-of-hours activities every day, analysis of the attendance registers shows that only a small percentage of our pupils are involved. Many children involved are engaged in more than one of the things we put on. And that means that an awful lot are not involved in any.
Of course many of those may be engaged in activities outside school, with parents or in local clubs and at local centres. However, the annual height and weight checks keep on telling us that 40% plus of our Year 6 pupils are overweight and worse. Observation shows that those same children tend to be less active at play times (and possibly so during our 2 hours a week PE sessions).
So the challenge I issued was this: formulate a plan for getting those currently unengaged and less-resilient children active on a regular basis and the £4,623 is yours to pay for the work in making it reality.
Sadly the national review of impact of years of health and education spending on children’s physical activity and associated health indicators shows it has not worked. I think what happens in creating a new opportunity is that they get taken up by children and families who are already engaged and active.
If we are to make the intended impact, with this money and with funding such as the Sports and PE Premium, we need to target it much better, and we need a better appeal to those children.
We have a spare slot for an extra out-of-hours activity – Tuesday before school because indoor athletics has had its season. I want to fill it with something that will attract and inspire a different demographic.
We’ve done the obvious – increased the range, used experts, connected with Clubs, asked the children, consulted School Council, improved facilities, narrowed who we make offers to, worked on Saturdays, started a mile a day, participated in every inter-school event, worked across partnerships and locality – but still the negative statistics linger. It seems to need something radical (as we won’t accept that the question is impossible to beat).
‘Those who can, do. Those who don’t, won’t’. I want to prove this wrong.
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.
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.