The Headteacher's Blog
Welcome to Lydgate Junior School.
We aim to ensure that all children receive a high quality, enjoyable and exciting education.
We feel that our school is a true reflection of the community we serve. Lydgate children are well motivated and come from a range of social and cultural backgrounds. Within the school community we appreciate the richness of experience that the children bring to school. This enhances the learning experiences of everyone and it also gives all pupils the opportunity to develop respect and tolerance for each other by working and playing together. We want your child's time at Lydgate to be memorable for the right reasons - that is, a happy, fulfilling and successful period of his/her childhood.
Welcome to Year 3!
The Y3 teachers are Mrs Dutton & Mrs de Brouwer (3D/deB), Mrs Holden (3SH), Mrs Noble & Mrs Finney (3N/R) and Miss Wall (3AW). We have three Teaching Assistants who work within the team: Mrs Allen, Mrs Dawes and Mr Gartrell.
We will use this blog to keep you up-to-date with all the exciting things that we do in Year 3, share some of the things that the children learn and show you some of their fantastic work. We hope you enjoy reading it!
The Y3 team.
Welcome to the Year 5 Blog page.
The Year 5 teaching team includes our class teachers, Mrs Loosley (5NL), Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (5RJ), Mrs Webb and Mrs Ridsdale (5WR) and Miss Cunningham (5EC). Many children are supported by Mrs Hill, Mr Swain and Ms Kania (the Year 5 Teaching Assistants) who work with children across the 4 classes. Our Year 5 teaching team aims to create a stimulating learning environment that is safe, happy, exciting and challenging, where each pupil is encouraged to achieve their full potential.
As a parent or carer, you play a massively important role in your child's development and we'd love to work closely with you. Please feel free to make an appointment to see us if you want to discuss your child's attitude to learning, their progress, attainment or anything else that might be on your mind. We'd also love to hear from you if you have any skills that we could use to make our Year 5 curriculum even more exciting. Are you an avid reader, a talented sportsman, a budding artist, a mad scientist or a natural mathematician? Would you be willing to listen to children read on a regular basis? If so, please contact your child’s class teacher. Similarly, if you have a good idea, a resource, a 'contact' or any other way of supporting our learning in year 5, please let us know.
We are working very hard to ensure your child has a successful year 5, please help us with this by ensuring your child completes and returns any homework they are given each week. If there are any issues regarding homework or your child finds a particular piece of homework challenging, then please do not hesitate to come and speak to us. In order to help improve your child’s reading skills, increase their vocabulary and develop their comprehension skills, we also ask that you listen to your child read and ask them questions to ensure they have understood what they have read.
We look forward to keeping you up to date on the exciting things that we do in year 5 through our year group blog.
The Year 5 Team
We are the children in Y6 at Lydgate Junior School. There are 120 of us and our teachers are: Mrs Shaw and Mrs Watkinson (Y6S/W), Mr Bradshaw (until Mrs Parker returns) in Y6AP), Mrs Phillips (Y6CP) and Miss Norris (Y6HN). Also teaching in Year 6 is Miss Lee (Monday - Y6AP, Tuesday - Y6HN and Wednesday - Y6S/W) and Mrs Grimsley (Tuesday -Y6CP).We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Ainsworth and Mrs Biggs. We use this space to share all of the great things that are happening in our classrooms. Join us each week on our learning journey....
Are there any? any schools like ours?
You’d think, like I did, that schools in our local area would be pretty much the same as us. Being in the same postcode area, S10, and in the same Parliamentary Constituency, Hallam, and in the same city, Sheffield, surely seven schools nearby have more in common than separates us?
We do have an interest in finding similar schools, and we are in fact urged to do so by bodies such as Ofsted and the DfE. By looking at a ‘similar’ school, how it spends its money and then its school performance, we can ask questions about whether we are efficient and effective, or not.
In the olden days (aka the 1990’s) Ofsted made a simple judgement in Inspection about ‘value for money’. It sounded a bit too commercial for most of us, like comparing schools with a loaf of artisan bread, perhaps, but it did say something both profound and simple at the same time.
Last week we got notice about the publication of the most up to date (but still a full year old) dashboard, the ‘Benchmarking Report Card’. It gives a few headline scores on the ways schools spend their resources – things like percentage of funds spent on teachers, and pupil : teacher ratio.
Schools like ours, then.
The Report Card finds five schools most like Lydgate Junior School; English Martyrs’ RC Primary School, 35 miles away in Leeds; High Ham C of E Primary School, 168 miles away in Somerset; Saint Alban and St Stephen Catholic Junior School, 123 miles away in St Albans; St Luke’s Halsall C of E Primary School, 63 miles away in Liverpool and Warrender Primary School, 133 miles away in Ruislip, Middlesex.
Normally we compare ourselves with schools just a mile or two away, and that’s how the national performance tables like to present things. Parents make informed choices based on information presented geographically based on a search point centered round a postcode. Yet what the DfE’s own Benchmark Report Card suggests is that our Division of the League table should be much wider spread!
So here is our own league table, formed round these five schools and our point of interest this year, greater depth writing scores:
Percentage of pupils achieving at a higher standard in reading, writing and maths
Lydgate Junior School
English Martyrs’ RC Primary School
High Ham C of E Primary School
Saint Alban and St Stephen Catholic Junior School
St Luke’s Halsall C of E Primary School
Warrender Primary School
The Report Card suggest we question why we spend 55% of our budget on teaching staff (above the average of our statistical neighbours, while running a pupil : teacher ratio above all bar one) but the school performance tables suggest we are doing rather well, even in an area where we are looking to improve further. Whoever we are like, we really do appear to be doing rather well by our pupils.
There's a public version of benchmarking available here. https://schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk/?utm_source=BRC_maintained_19&utm_medium=email
How do Headteachers get held accountable for what their schools do when Ofsted only visit so rarely? (If your school is rated Outstanding then you can have gone ten years and more since that last Inspection.) Once in post is it all very safe and sound and unquestioned in a position of ultimate power?
These last three weeks have seen me challenged more effectively and thoroughly than ever before in over 14 years as a Headteacher in three schools.
I have had Governors grill me during three meetings for well over five hours on issues as diverse as school academic performance, attendance, staff absence, school security, staffing appointments, communications, development planning priorities, pay awards and progressions, progress made by every different group, and school meal improvements.
Parent after parent has demanded time with me to question practice and policy, and each has been met and listened to and debated with.
Staff have used appropriate and proper routes to question and challenge, sometimes with Trade Union support, decisions made and plans proposed.
My peers, Headteachers from local schools, have set dates to visit our school to undertake a review day that will lead to shared feedback and staff development activity in January.
Children have talked to me, asked me questions, written to me about concerns and stood in great number for election as School Councillors. (Their contributions this week include the Tuesday school meal menu, wanting to start a fingerboard club, and a petition to retain a temporary member of staff.)
There has been one official written Complaint received in that time after the parent’s concern could not be resolved informally. This will now be handled by the Chair of Governors, and she will start by questioning me about the substance of the Complaint.
The Annual Staff Census has been completed and data submitted to DfE on the correct filing date. This will, eventually, form part of the contextual information provided to Inspectors prior to Inspection.
I was quizzed by a local authority officer after he heard the school was featured in an online news story (that I hadn’t heard about).
We have arranged a site visit for next week from the LA Health & Safety team (at our request) to check on our site security. We are voluntarily completing an audit on the same subject so that Governors are fully informed at their next relevant Committee meeting.
The Chair of FOLA (Friends of Lydgate Association –better known perhaps as The PTA) visited to talk about what we wanted money for from the group. He wanted to know our real needs and what impact the money would have. We explained the difference between need and wish.
We have been reminded to update our annual statement about our use of, and effectiveness of, the Sports and PE Premium. This grant is intended to help us get the inactive active. The statement has to be prominently published on our website. The statements are moderated by the Sheffield Sports Partnership.
It was payday today – I really do think I earned it all this month.
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.
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.
Many school staff report an emotional hang-over post-Inspection.
The Inspection visit itself is not the only time or source of tension and anxiety – there’s the three to five year build-up, the readiness period of a year or two, the interim self-evaluations, self-review, local authority interim evaluations and visits, target setting, getting and missing, annual performance tables, data, change in data formats, the wait for publication, the anticipated reception and response by stakeholders to the report, the action planning, the discovery that nothing new or unknown comes out, the need to teach the next day and every day, the dawning realisation that nothing has changed, the expectations that we can and will improve further, and the killer which is the instinct to focus on areas to improve rather than the heaps of praise given.
I guess it’s the same as ‘the day after the Lord Mayor’s Parade’ – we build it up, we ready ourselves, we adopt the brace position, we put in massive effort and additional time, we lose sleep, we are often not even observed, we almost anticipate a massive shift based on the make or break nature of the Inspection process.
Research by nfer for Ofsted have shown that, not surprisingly, more staff in schools with good outcomes are happy with the process than in schools judged to ‘require improvement’. More Headteachers report being happy with the process and outcome than teachers do. Schools with negative outcomes from their Inspection report increased staff absence and turn over shortly afterwards. Staff morale can drop and workload simply increases. Yesterday I watched our Support Staff be underwhelmed when we shared the report - they got hardly a mention having been hardly noticed during the one-day Inspection. They clearly hoped to see something about the impact of their work.
I experienced a huge fatigue following our recent Inspection, lasting a couple of weeks. Work was not enjoyable, negativity invaded my thoughts on everything I reviewed, and I was certainly grumpy and irritable.
But now here we are. Fewer than 20 school days from the next set of end of key stage tests and again everything depends on the outcomes, or so it seems. I have caught myself at times and had to give myself a reminder that the scores are not what we are about. These are children who are learning, not numbers being boosted. It must be about promoting children’s learning, not stressing over what a future Ofsted might think about the eventual aggregate number on a chart.
And so we are back at. We are teaching, intervening, boosting, training, redirecting staffing, ‘gap filling’, applying for special arrangements, practising, and children are learning, playing and enjoying school.