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....
Oftentimes it’s the little things that give truth to the story, that provide all the back-up evidence you need to reach a conclusion on a service, a school or a person.
We took the infrequent but regular step of bringing the whole school together twice this week, both in the Hall and on the playground. It takes an age, and is a squash, so we don’t do this often, but we had two good reasons to do so.
As that last, drawn, note slipped away the children, quite spontaneously, did something that was unexpected and in its way also respectful – they applauded her playing. And then they stood silently for a minute: another moment to make us proud of our school community.
It is difficult to outdo Wednesday's highlight, Year 6 enthralled by a performance of Macbeth, but Monday and Friday possibly have done.
And today, Friday, was the annual celebration, bun-fest, and organised daftness that is Children In Need. ‘James Pond’ was the official fastest duck, and all who had backed him to win then took part in events to find our £20 winner. Children raised more cash by Sponsored Silences, walking three-legged all day, paying to wear RRS colours, buying badges and wristbands, and running the cake stall. We watched some heart-breaking stories and laughed at Pudsey’s techno dancing. Back out on the playground we formed our annual rainbow-coloured heart and later swapped a promise – to respect other’s rights, and to ask that they respect ours.
I believe school has raised at least £1,500 to pass on to the fabulous cause.
We heard from one of our own Y5 pupils who is on a personal ‘Kindness Crusade’, and is, by himself, helping ‘children in need’ right here at our own school. That makes us all very proud.
Elections are won by those that turn up. Issues heard are only those that are raised. The best learning is active and engaging. Those who do not vote do not get to complain about the outcome. This last week, across school, included electioneering, manifesto production, hustings, advertising and polling in our School Council elections. We boosted it a little this year by having one week across school, culminating in children using real polling booths and ballot boxes (borrowed from Election Services in the City Council).
I was a sceptic about School Councils for a long time, not because of process or passion but due to the lack of power invested in them. I had worked in many contexts were all but the important things could be delegated, but once the topic needed a proper budget or would impact on the adults in the system then senior management claimed the discussion and decision making. School Councils became a Junior Parliament, playing at debate and decision, delegated an insignificant budget of a couple of hundred pounds, and staffed by dedicated but non-empowered colleagues.
It is inevitably true that children in school cannot possibly know the complex context and background to how school is structured and directed. There are too many extraordinary and subtle pressures at work for them to grasp or imagine. (Typically, younger children struggle to infer as they cannot imagine motives or outcomes beyond their concrete experiences.) This does not mean that they, the consumer, do not have valid opinions on what is presented for and to them daily. Maybe school should think more their way – and try to cut through the bindings of red tape, inertia and vested interest to produce rapid, simple, positive change.
All the candidates promoted their personal qualities to appeal to the voters. About half the candidates (self-nominated) had policy stances that they put on their literature. It is at this point that we have to shape School Council so that those interests and concerns (their manifesto pledges) are discussed and given serious consideration. With teachers running the meetings it would be simplicity itself for the adults to select the agenda for the whole year – back to hackneyed favourites such as healthy snacks and food waste, perhaps.
Those manifestos promised exploring longer playtimes, revised or removed playtime rotas, school meal choices, toilets and toilet access, respecting all members of school, lunchtime clubs, learning outdoors and more. These have to be the agendas for the first meetings (and possibly the next set, too). If we (school leaders) are really to listen actively we have to make sure we do not dismiss questions without serious consideration and balancing possible gains against real costs. And we have to attend – nothing says we think an activity is important as much as actually attending.
Well done each victorious candidate (to be announced next week) and equally well done to each defeated candidate. Thank you for taking part in the process and offering your involvement.
Children have that right to be heard. We have a duty to listen. We have to give them the chance to talk on the issues that matter to them and to the people with power. A micro-budget is a little condescending, I think, but having our ear is not if we actually listen and consider..
(The Y6 blog has a little more on how they ran the process.)
Well-aware of the risks, we are teaching our pupils how to protest, campaign and raise their opinions, as we believe that they have the right to a ‘voice’ and the right to be heard. Quite a few are there already, as parents will be only too aware, and one this week has amused me greatly with an anonymous contribution. Read on ...
For World Book Day last week I made and put up a few things round the school and site – ‘Do Not Feed the Hippogriff’ signs, signposts to Hogwarts, potion collections and a fair few of Professor Umbridge’s Education Proclamations banning such things as music in study hours, girls and boys in close proximity, wizarding wheezes and the like. I used a blank Proclamation poster to set a challenge that many children took up.
But having all these banning orders on display was clearly too much for one child. Blu-taced to the wall beside my display was a handwritten poster, in thick blue felt-tip:
‘Proclamation 48,’ it said. ‘Children should ignore all other Proclamations.’
This individual already knows their own mind, is following ‘the path less-trod’ and took a chance to join in.
Is this kid in trouble? No. In fact, if I found who the author was I’d award 10 points to the appropriate house, because that is the sort of school we have and how we roll in the Muggle world.
Staff completed their third and fourth training days of the year this week, while the school’s pupils had an extra-long Christmas and New Year holiday.
There are long-established reasons for placing the training days like this, always up against the start or end of holidays. We hope it makes it easier for parents/ carers to arrange childcare, that it gives greater opportunity to take a vacation out of term time by increasing the length of break and number of possibilities, and it keep s the term time itself intact as one block. We always synchronise with our feeder school, but cannot do so with the many Secondary schools that our pupils’ siblings attend. Too many Secondaries and far too many feeder schools unless all would take the same days. And as many are now Academies with full freedom to select their own arrangement of five training days there really is no way to insist on coordination.
We used these two days to concentrate on:
- The next stages of Rights Respecting Schools work – how we cover all the Articles in our cross-curricular teaching,
- Moderating writing within and across year groups, leading from the annual John Lewis TV advert - using writing specifically produced by all the pupils for assessment to develop further our own understanding and recognition of ‘working at greater depth’ and ‘meeting the expected standard’,
- Planning for the teaching of English in year groups, and for mastery maths lessons – so that we share planning skills and roles, ensuring quality provision is continuous,
- Interventions available in school including Lexia, First Class at Number, Catch up Reading and others – what they can provide, who they are aimed at, what can be expected from them, what they need in order to be most effective,
- Staff well-being – so that we are fit and well in order to look after our pupils as best we possibly can and as they undoubtedly deserve.
Our fifth and final training day closure is in June, fitted alongside the May half term holiday. This year we will have been able to have one on each of the five days of the working week – helping our part-time staff and hopefully inconveniencing each part-time working parent / carer a little less.
For a year now we have been working on the school’s Behaviour Policy, to bring it up to date with best practice, to reflect our children’s needs and to ensure that it meets the approval of the Headteacher. (I’ll tell you at the end why that sentence disappoints me so much.)
Why so long?
How can best practice change?
How do children’s needs change?
Why should it meet the Headteacher’s approval?
The first and fourth questions are actually linked directly. A school’s Behaviour Policy is actually, according to DfE regulation, the Headteacher’s Behaviour Policy. It is one of the ways in which a school is certainly the Headteacher’s school. However we write or formulate it, whoever we might involve in consultation or in providing wording, it is the Headteacher’s Policy, so I have to approve.
But in an organisation with more than 50 employees, 480 children, their parents and carers, a full team of school Governors, outside stakeholders with an interest such the local authority and other schools, there are obvious strong vested interests that surely deserve and require consultation and participation in the process. The Policy requires them (the people) to do things, to behave in certain ways, to avoid certain behaviours, to report, and manage; it should set the aim and define the standards sought and give a level of assurance that means parents, pupils and staff feel confident that good and astounding behaviour will be developed through working in line with the Policy.
Many readers (assuming this blog gets ‘many readers’) will know about leadership styles and the different characteristics and drawbacks of each. My first formal introduction and study of leadership styles was during learning for the NPQH, the National Professional Qualification for Headship) in 2000-2001. In a project that seeks to build commitment from all parties to an agreed Policy I chose to take a path that would be as inclusive / distributed as possible. So the discussions and consultations have included all those parties in one form or scale or another. The idea is to give some ownership to each contributor, with an implicit agreement and an undeniability of the imperative – no-one can argue with the expectations or the sanctions included because they contributed to the writing of them.
The obvious problem of such an approach, whether described as ‘democratic’, ‘participative’ or ‘moral’, is that it takes a long, long time. The risk is that, in taking such a long time, the context may have changed before a final outcome is produced or staff and others may become disillusioned by seeming lack of progress.
How do things change? Research redefines issues. New language, new definitions and new responses are developed. Health issues change (do you remember when asthma was the big thing and almost every child seemed to have one?)and currently the high profile issue, rightly, is mental health. Gradually pupil intake changes, and the pressures placed on them morph continually. The acceptability or otherwise of a certain sanction changes, with the banning of corporal punishment being the most obvious of these changes. There are plenty of other strategies that might be used that may well be legal, but would not pass any acceptability test in our / my school – full-time internal exclusion or isolation, humiliation, disproportionate response, perpetual sanction with no end date, not being allowed on trips etc. We have been deeply involved in a healthy minds pilot these last twelve months. It builds on building up children and adults, not breaking things down. It suggests that there are root causes for poor behaviour and a little understanding wouldn’t be amiss.
Our decisions, repeated, to not simply ban the latest craze and the related paraphernalia might seem odd to some. We consequently accept the inevitable issues that arise when things go missing, or when a swapper wants to swap back but the swapee doesn’t. We encourage children to drink across the day, and happily allow children to have snacks at morning (and some at afternoon) break. Keeping children’s energy levels up means a better focus on learning, and less distraction by tummy-rumblings before lunch. After two incidents this week where snacks ‘disappeared’ from a child’s bag in her cloakroom I had to act – the child deserved protecting and the person or people taking things needs to learn not to. So I took the opportunity of teaching the relevant class on Friday to spend some time exploring the relevant rights of the child, and getting the class to consider how I could guarantee no repeat. They were all horrified at the idea of simply banning all snacks. They saw immediately the problems with bringing them into the classroom at the start of the day for distribution at break. They thought having security on site would be cool, but understood the costs. They could see the difficulties for having a member of staff in the cloakroom every time a child went in. They really didn’t like the idea of not going to the loo during lessons. They wanted cctv and other tech solutions, but did see the cost implications, particularly with our nine cloakrooms. They weren’t coming up with practical solutions that had a realistic chance of success, but something in the way Ben had his hand raised told me I should ask him. Ben’s answer was simple, cheap, realistic, reasonable, achievable, and has a possibility of working. Ben simply said I should ask them to stop taking other people’s things, and expect them to do what I ask. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I want our Behaviour Policy to be built upon.
In a couple of weeks the school’s full Governing Body has its autumn term meeting; the Behaviour Policy is an agenda item. As we do not have the finished document to present (yet) I am going to construct another conversation and consultation so Governors can appreciate some issues and areas that cause conflict of opinion. I plan to get Governors to discuss the idea of mandatory minimums or tariffs – someone misbehaves in a particular way and so a specific sanction is automatically applied. There have been some involved in the process of consultation who favour such an approach, as it is transparent, can be applied uniformly and takes away any risk of bias or favouritism. The list of reasons why I disapprove of this approach is extensive, but lack of consideration for context, the likelihood that actions won’t feature on the ‘banned list’ and the focus on the negative are three big ones. Are you convinced to such a methodology?
We should be done soon enough. In the meantime I still believe that behaviour in general is excellent at our school and that individual children’s behaviour improves markedly over time (for children who present challenges with their behaviour to the level that exclusion is a serious risk). It is not perfect – we do not claim this, but behaviour is astounding at times and we often see the most generous, charitable and thoughtful conduct.
The disappointment of that opening sentence? As I was mentally preparing this week’s blog-post I had set myself the specific task of avoiding the technique I overuse, of composing sentences using ‘the power of three’, where three adjectives or three reasons are listed to increase the power and impact. Failed.