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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 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.

 

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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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25 Jul 2019

Fantasy Funding – Spending the Dream

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:

Premises improvements

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.

Staff training

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.

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22 Mar 2019

Spending Every Penny

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.

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15 Mar 2019

A Career in Education

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. I 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.

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01 Mar 2019

Moving Mountains - quite a challenge

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.

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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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