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/dB), Miss Hayden (3RH), Mrs Holden (3SH) and Miss Wall (3AW). We have several Teaching Assistants who work with Y3 children at different times through the week: Miss Mahon, Mr Bartholomew, Mrs Dawes and Miss Kania.
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 consists of: Mrs Loosley (5NL), Miss Cunningham (5EC), Mrs Ridsdale and Mrs Webb (5W/R) and Mr Bradshaw (5BB). The children are also supported by our teaching assistants: Mr Swain, Mr Jenkinson, Mrs Hornsey and Mrs Allen. We have help from Mr Jones, Miss Lee, Ms Grimsley and Ms Reasbeck too. What a fantastic team!
Our PE days are Tuesday (indoor) and Wednesday (outdoor): the children need to wear their PE kits for school on those days.
Spellings are sent home every Monday, to learn ready for a spelling dictation each Friday.
Homework books (maths and SPaG) will be sent home once a week - the days will be decided by the class teachers who will let their classes know. They will have a whole week to complete the homework tasks.
In our weekly blogs, the children will share some of the things they have been doing at school. Check in each weekend for the latest Y5 news!
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); Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (Y6R/J); Mrs Phillips (Y6CP); and Miss Norris (Y6HN). Also teaching in Year 6 are: Miss Lee (Thursday in Y6R/J); Mrs Farrell (Thursday in Y6HN); Mrs Grimsley (Thursday in Y6CP); and Mr Jones (Thursday inY6S/W).We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Hill, Mrs Mulqueen and Mr Gartrell. 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....
I turned down the invitation to send colleagues on a training course, even though the title was exactly on the topic at the heart of our school development planning this year; boy’s greater depth writing.
Partly my reluctance was based on cost – at £265 per person for the one day course, transport to the nearest venue (Manchester or Leeds), and a day’s supply cover, the course would cost school in the region of £500 per person, and we’d want at least two colleagues to attend.
I’m also reluctant because it only directly impacts on one or two colleagues, and when they try to impart their learning back at school the effect becomes less and less at each tier - maybe only 10% as effective. The trickle-down or cascade approach has accepted law of diminishing returns built-in inefficiency. Combine that with the challenge of covering all 28 of our teachers, many of whom are part-time and we would have accept next-to-no impact in places.
Then there’s the lack of prior knowledge of the trainer, and their expertise and skills. With no ‘CheckaTutor’ or ‘Tutor Advisor’ app available, with ratings provided by precious trainees, it is not easy to tell whether the training will be that good.
And finally I don’t like the implied put-down on our own staff, that we have to get someone to tell us how to improve because presumably we don’t know ourselves or have expertise in-house.
So what we do instead is confidently, happily and with commitment take part in a school peer partnership programme with our local colleagues. All seven local Primaries in our S10LP (Sheffield 10 Learning Partnership) group signed up two years ago to a scheme that research (there’s a thing!) supports as effective in developing school effectiveness. EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) research has shown that using coaching principals, outside eyes and trusted colleagues, but without giving answers, continues, in a sustained manner, to help schools find the answers themselves.
It draws on an unstated fact – in the teaching staff body there is vast experience. Our 28 teachers share about 600 years of teaching between us. We probably have seen it before, and we probably do have possible answers to most problems within our experience or our ‘skill-set’.
It absolutely requires us to demonstrate ‘vulnerable trust’. We have to be open and honest with our colleagues outside our own school, and to be willing to accept that the problem may be ourselves. How we teach, how we organise, what we teach and the order in which we teach it, the behaviour management methods we choose, the curriculum arrangements and so on are the choice of professionals and so changes are in their capacity also. We have to open up so that colleagues can see what we really do and the outcomes we really get.
Earlier this term two Headteachers and a Deputy Headteacher visited us for a day and went full-on into an investigation on boys’ engagement in lessons and how that might be impacting on the percentage of boys attaining higher writing levels. This week the Deputy Head and another middle leader from a further school came to run an improvement workshop for our teaching staff, following on directly from that day of review. The two colleagues in this role are known as ‘Improvement Champions’ – they come to enable and encourage, presenting research that might help and then challenge us to choose a pathway and commit to action on it.
So far, at no cost to us. This work is quid pro quo, as they must have said in Roman schools back in the day. I have been on a review day at one of the partnership schools as lead, and will do another next term. Our Deputy will be the second reviewer at yet another local school next month. Two of our class teachers will act as Improvement Champions before the summer. Total financial cost about £1,000. But ALL our teachers have had training and inspiration, two teachers have been able to visit other schools and to develop leadership skills and experience, Head and Deputy have been challenged skilfully and able to learn from practice elsewhere.
The simplest measure of whether the group thinks it works is that all seven schools were at a review meeting this week. Two years in and we are training more staff in the various roles so we can ensure sustainability. The very next morning after our workshop I kept coming across colleagues talking about the issues raised and covered. We have booked two further activities because we have committed to actions. I think it is more effective than sending one person (or two) on a more expensive day out course. If we didn’t think it worked it would have faded away by now and we would be spending our time and (limited) money some other way.
Sadly this week I have had to consider replacing some signs on our school front doors.
Long ago I successfully argued that the red notices informing visitors that ‘Smoking Is Not Allowed On These Premises’ were superfluous as everyone knew the fact and no one ever tried to smoke on the school site. I made the point that we did not have a separate poster for all the other things that were not allowed – the trading of sheep, the grazing of cattle, laundering money, stealing school’s resources, selling cigarettes to children, and so on. I also won the day over removing the sign provided by the City Council that said aggression or verbal abuse shown to staff would not be tolerated.
After a week that contained some overly emotionally-charged exchanges I am going to examine my previous stance and consult on what we should overtly declare and expect. It seems it may be necessary to spell out once more what will not be either accepted or tolerated. I completely understand the emotional capital involved in being a parent, but I also understand the vulnerability of the teacher to abuse.
Many Health Centres and Practices have policies on display, and many are available to read online. More than one or two schools have similar ‘zero tolerance’ policies published online. Sheffield City Council has revised what was a customer care statement into the current ‘Customer Commitments’ statement. Now this is a well-worded and balanced document because it spells out what the customer can expect from Council staff while also saying what Council staff need from customers. Communication in meetings, on the telephone and via electronic media is a two-way thing after all.
I will take a measured approach to introducing a code or statement of expectations. I will start by discussing reasonable expectations for professional school staff and school functions before discussing what school expects from parents and other visitors. It is absolutely fair that all staff understand and agree the reasonable expectations that can be placed on our behaviour before we try setting expectations for others.
This discussion will start with Sheffield City Council’s ‘Customer Commitments’ because I think they can be applied to every sector of the Council’s work. School staff will look at both sets of expectations and I hopefully accept the expectations of them as much as they will back expectations of school visitors.
I want to be sure that we are neither hypocritical nor elevating our needs above any other groups – why should my staff be any more protected than the children we work with, for example? And if we state that all staff should be free from aggressive behaviour directed towards them shouldn’t we ensure that the same is true for all children?
Finally, I turned to the RRS Charter and looked for appropriate Articles that say what rights the children should enjoy. Article 12: Every child has the right to have a say in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously. Article 19: Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment. In the original form (adult-speak) these two Articles ensure that a parent can give us their views on their child’s education but also that they do so in a way that does not abuse or mistreat the employee.
If that all sounds rather negative I will just mention that SCC’s Customer Commitments give eleven promises to customers while having only three requirements of customers in return. We will, likewise, promise more things than we expect in return.
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.