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....
To make a change this year (change being necessary or children hear the same themes and the same assemblies each year for the four years they are with us) the Collective Worship themes for the spring term will ignore the 'special days' and festivals, and ignore any Church or faith cycle.
The overall theme will be, 'Famous People and Faith Leaders'.
We will ignore Valentine's Day, even though it falls in the last week of the first half term, and not need to worry about Easter because it falls AFTER the Easter holiday (if you can get your head round that one). St. David's Day and St. Patrick's Day will be passed over, as will the season of Lent.
The weekly focus will go like this:
- Rich and Famous (Actions, not words)
- Louis Braille (from humble beginnings)
- Eureka! (Problem solving)
- Louis Pasteur (Using talents wisely)
- Go Compare! (comparison may not be helpful)
- Tea with me? (Fantasy Dinner Party)
- Who? Me? (Isiah)
- How you cut it – a star inside us all
- Humpty Dumpty – help from all the King’s men
- A Day for Special People (not just mothers)
They will allow us to look at the contributions of scientists, celebrities and ourselves. The assemblies will include stories, discussions, role play, visual presentations and contributions from the children.
There are opportunities in the plan to demonstrate equality - using examples across gender, faiths, age, ethnicity and nationality.
At this point we have no visitors booked to lead these sessions, though we do have other speakers for other purposes and times.
I think they will be engaging and enjoyable sessions.
First Parent Evening of the year done today. It seems, from everything I could pick up, that it has gone over really well. Just seven parents from 477 children have not contacted us to make an appointment (a hit rate of 98.5%). All bar three parents were pleased or satisfied with what they heard from the class teacher and just three wanted to see me later (a success rate of 98.7%). Books were available everywhere. Class share teachers who are part-time and do not work Tuesdays came in anyway, so five sets of parents got ‘two for the price of one’. In one class, where we have had a supply teacher for most of the half term, the temporary teacher provided the consultations, and to an overwhelming positive reception. Maps and signs worked fairly well, but staff on site showed people round where needed. The mood and atmosphere was warm and friendly wherever I went.
We experimented last year with altering the timings of the four Parent Evenings but reverted to the tried and tested format for this week’s sessions. Here’s why.
We tried starting a little earlier on two of the four evenings, and a little later on one of the others. The intentions of the early starts were two-fold – to offer more early appointments, which are always in greatest demand, and to partly address staff well-being issues. We then put in a later start in the spring term in response to a counter demand, mostly by parents with work commitments that would suit a later appointment. (This meant a later finish for staff who still had to work the full day the next day, of course.)
There was no gushing ground-swell of approval for either scheme.
There were, however, plenty of arguments against both:
- Staffing the pupils when teachers were in early consultations before the end of school,
- Housing the pupils at that time if it was wet outside,
- Securely transferring children to the right adult when they were with staff who might not know the arrangements and personnel so well,
- Safeguarding concerns around site security and unescorted visitors on-site while children were present,
- Clashing with the end of Lydgate Infant School’s day,
- The limited number of additional early slots actually provided,
- The observation that some parents still selected deliberately, it appeared, the final slot so that they could take more time than allocated (and thus causing staff to still finish later than on a normal working day,
- Coordinating multiple appointments (for siblings) was made no easier (or harder),
- Staff did not really get a break between school and the start of the ‘late’ session, so it really extended the working day,
- Preventing an early start to the later start was difficult as some parents did not leave the premises in-between,
- We still weren’t going late enough to satisfy every request,
- and so on.
Since then we have been adopting, adapting and developing the online booking system. This has been this year’s ‘innovation’. What we aimed for was a quicker, smoother, paper-free, joined-up, accessible, transparent system that would allow parents to book across multiple classes swiftly, and would free teachers from a paper-chase. The technical issue came about because we did not anticipate the scale of instant response, and did not have server space that could cope with so many parents accessing the system at once (without logging out when done). It was fixed pretty quickly though.
We reviewed last year’s trials, and considered a further extension and option. What about just one, super-long, Parent Evening each term, with all 30 appointments in one run? 3:40 to 8:40 would give 10 minutes per child, but with absolutely no gaps and no margin of error. Add on 10% wiggle room and we have a finish time of 9:10. This might be just what some parents would prefer as it would fit very well around their working hours. But Staff haven’t eaten since lunch, have been at work since 7:30 am, haven’t marked any books or set up for the morning, and have to be in and on top form ten hours later. It didn’t strike me as a sensible option, and so it was rejected.
My problem, shared I think by many others, is that the ten minutes we can allocate per pupil is often not enough, or as much as might be useful. It derives from class size, partly, and subsequent workload. Cash cost prevents us from releasing teachers during the day to make time. A moral standpoint on what constitutes a school session prevents us from closing early and forcing the children home at, say, 1:30 so we could free up four hours extra (8 more minutes per consultation). Cash again prevents us giving teachers extra cover in return for working beyond their directed time contracted. And we remain full to admission limit because parents keep on sending their children to us. Coming full-circle in the piece, back to the variants we tried last year we could see how an earlier start could allow extra time for each discussion, but the cost of implementation tipped the balance against.
By the end of Thursday’s sessions we will have seen 98% of parents and provided good, useful, information to 98% of them. We will be trying to meet, and meet the expectations, of both 2% in future.
The definition of Safeguarding most widely accepted is: ‘the action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm’. From this you can see that the subject is much wider than recruitment checks.
We think we have a safeguarding culture, based on being ‘risk aware’. This last week we have:
- engaged in a behaviour audit with an external consultant,
- managed tree damage following the annual tree survey,
- ordered safety knives for kitchen use by children,
- arranged wasp nest removal,
- contacted Capita HR services (for clarification and guidance to help us recruit and manage correctly),
- attended Children In Need meeting,
- listened to concerns about children lifting heavy boxes,
- risk assessed several trips,
- checked for a personal health care plan, and reviewed the one we use,
- discussed a concern about alleged bullying, and agreed actions,
- reported former pupils on roll as ‘missing education’,
- ensured a new Supply Teacher had all necessary checks and qualifications,
- reissued national guidance on keeping children safe to all staff,
- reissued, to Governors, the Code of Conduct,
- attended Sheffield’s Primary Inclusion Panel that works to prevent permanent exclusions,
- listened to individual parents’ concerns,
- sent a policy on the acceptance, vetting and placement of volunteers to Governors for discussion and approval later this term,
- held review discussions with admin staff about ‘signing in’ procedures,
- repainted the zebra crossing and white lines in the car park,
- arranged some ‘Friends’ training for our pastoral support staff.
And this was not an unusual week, really. This surely suggests we have a live culture of safeguarding at a realistic, reasonable, sustainable level that keeps the children safe.
The annual PTA UK survey of parents shows that what appears to be a rising concern about the expectation to contribute to school funds. The AVERAGE donation reported was £8.90 a MONTH!
At least 47% knew nothing about how schools used their Private Fund, and a fifth of parents thought it was spent on teacher salaries.
I think it might be time for some clarification:
Salaries, premises costs, curriculum resources, utilities, insurances, services, subscriptions, broadband, grounds maintenance and photocopying all get covered by our delegated school budget. This comes via the local authority from your taxes. The amount we get each year is formula-driven. It is accounted, reported, budgeted, monitored, audited, and regularly scrutinised. Our delegated school budget amounts to nearly £1,700,000 a year. 80% or so goes on the salaries of the nearly 60 staff, a similar percentage to pretty much every school. At the end of this financial year we expect to have about £19,000 left over to help us through the next.
Buildings’ improvements and purchasing new IT hardware can be covered, in part, by a separate ring-fenced allocation know as DFC, or devolved formula capital. This year we received £9,600 DFC funding, which might sound a lot until you consider the size of the plot, the buildings and their condition, and the amount of hardware needed in a school with 480 pupils.
We also get Government funding for Pupil Premium and Sports Premium, both spent as intended and reported on our website.
And that leaves income from other sources, donations and voluntary contributions. Our only major income source each year, as we do not rent out spaces or hire out staff, is the commission earned from school photographs. We do get a few donations each year, and last year these added up to £130.
Private Fund is the vehicle, principally, for us to collect voluntary contributions for activities that do not carry a charge. We only ever ask for voluntary contributions towards the cost of activities and trips that will enhance the children’s learning. We never ask for more than the actual cost of the activity and we never seek to cover any staffing costs this way.
Last year we received a little over £29,500 in voluntary contributions, and spent a little over £29,500 from Private Fund on the activities these contributions supported. We added in some more to cover the shortfall, as we won’t let a shortfall stop really useful activities or visits taking place. We, effectively, subsidised some trips, clubs, sports activities and other events from budget share or using that commission from photographs. The commission came to £1,127.90, or £2.34 per pupil.
Every single penny that went in to Private Fund from a charity collection (£2,648.60) went back out again, with a little bit added (£2,683.33).
We also use Private Fund to receive income from clubs that are ‘chargeable’. These are what the policy calls ‘optional extras’, and are after school or before school clubs with a cost. Again they are money in, money out, but supported via budget share with Sports Premium funds. We could try to raise funds by charging more for clubs and making a profit, but we choose not to.
Private fund raises less than 2% of our income. We spend the income on only the things we have stated. It makes no surplus over time. It is independently audited annually. It has the same financial safeguarding systems in place as the much larger school budget share, including separation of roles and multiple signatory requirements on spending. We report to Governors on the standing of the Private Fund, and give hen copies of the annual statement and audit report.
We do not ask parents to make a regular or non-specific contribution. No pupil is ever excluded from an activity or visit because their parent does not make a voluntary contribution.
Now, the income from last week’s BBQ at the autumn fair, that went to FOLA (the parent teacher and friends group) direct. And if you want to decide how it gets spent you’ll have to join in their meetings. They announce them on their Facebook page.
Here are two examples of the sorts of things we discuss, dissect, deliberate at school at senior leader level on a weekly basis. They probably demonstrate nicely the way that we work both practically and theoretically, wanting to assist children to reach their absolute potential and to make sure that nothing hinders that progress.
The Thousands Comma
What goes between the hundreds and the thousands digits? Is it a space (in what we think is the American style), a comma (traditional British style), or nothing (European, so as not to confuse with their way of indicating values in money)?
Over time it has been all three, or a combination of two from three. This week, on a walk round school, we happened to observe two different representations, in different year groups. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can help children if they happen across different representations later on. However, in one class a child struggled to read aloud a four digit number while another child read a four digit number easily enough in the other class.
We discussed this minutia – imagine; seven adults discussing the various possible ways to record number, and deciding on what school should adopt as ‘policy’. We took account of the end of key stage assessment content, of course, but were not dictated to by it.
From now on it’s 6,435 or 2,008.
Actually, the change was quicker than this – the very next day, in the very next maths lessons across school, with each year group engaged in number topics, numbers were shown consistently with the ‘thousands comma’ in place.
Alongside the very specific was some work on this more general policy development. It would be easy to think that we simply welcome all offers of help as many hands make light work after all. A quick online search brings up many school policies, and they seem to suggest all are welcome. But perhaps these schools struggle to attract partnership with the community, or have more capacity to support and direct teams of volunteers.
Any reader who works in other sectors or industries might take a very different view about volunteering. You can’t just rock up to Rolls Royce engineering and expect to walk in as a volunteer, or to a prison, or a pharmacy, or a utility company. Even where they do offer placements for work experience they limit numbers, control access, limit periods, risk assess like crazy, and keep volunteers away from any sort of sensitive or essential activity. Why should schools be different? (And why does no one ever volunteer to support the admin function or the premises team?)
We had a couple of experiences at the very start of term where people simply assumed they could turn up, sign up, and start the very next day. They can’t.
They can’t because:
- We don’t know their motives,
- They may need a DBS check,
- They need, if accepted, an introduction and induction,
- They will need to be managed and directed,
- We will need to find a role for them to undertake,
- We will want to match skills to need,
- We will need to find a member of staff willing or keen to accept the volunteer,
- We haven’t ‘interviewed’ them or taken references, something we would clearly do for a staff appointment,
- We may be ‘full’ already,
- We will want them to sign a few things, such as a Code of Conduct, to be sure that they understand the trust, confidentiality and discretion we will expect,
- And finally because having a volunteer requires my staff to put in some extra work. I want my teachers to be able to teach well, and if having a volunteer, a student or a trainee negatively affects this beyond the initial period then I am not keen on hosting the extra adult.
This is one of those areas where the Headteacher really does get to have the final say. I, or my delegate, get to decide whether we offer a volunteer a placement or not, and also whether one has to be terminated. A formal policy is in hand, to be presented to Governors for approval later this term. In the meantime we will work assuming it has been agreed. It will be published on the school website as a draft shortly.