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....
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.
A point of tension in reviewing our Homework Policy is what ‘supporting’ or ‘encouraging’ children to complete each homework activity looks like. Would the correct synonym be, ' offer', 'reward', 'challenge', 'prompt', 'help', 'enable', 'make', 'require'...?
We have had initial conversations at Senior Leadership level. Our collective view was that we should be expecting parents to support their child, us and the Policy, ensuring each piece is at least given a reasonably good effort.
The way School Admissions work came into the discussion: parents express a preference to have their children admitted to our school. We are always over-subscribed and never have children allocated places here other than as a choice of the parents. If parents chose to send their children here, can’t we assume they are ‘buying in’ to what we offer (and, by association, what we expect)?
We (the SLT) think that, if our published Policy on homework states that we give homework each week, including a minimum amount of reading time, then this should be supported by parents.
I have since wondered if we do not need to re-institute the ‘Home – School Agreement’ (H-SA), a contract of sorts that states what school will provide by level of service, ethos and commitment, and that parents also sign to show their commitment to their responsibilities. With our interest in ‘pupil voice’ we would have pupils sign it, too.
Would a separate contract be necessary, though, and could it potentially confuse and dilute agreements if an H-SA also covers things like attendance, uniform and behaviour?
The government scrapped a requirement for home - school agreements back in January 2016. First introduced in 1999 for governing bodies of schools in England, the H-SA set out a school’s aims, values and responsibilities, and expectations of pupils and parents. The obligation to publish and collect was removed in order to “cut red tape” and free schools of a “one-size-fits-all, prescriptive approach to engaging with parents”.
The change did not mean schools could not continue with home-school agreements if they wished to. (One of those situations where being told ‘you do not have’ to is not quite the same as ‘do not’.)
Before rushing into a process of writing, sampling, testing and approving, I thought maybe I should carry out some reading round an obvious question – did they work?
The definitive, published, national research is locally-sourced, coming from four academics at Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of the, then, Department for Education and Skills.
It is not a very positive report:
Bastiani, 199, saw it as a "no nonsense approach to sorting things out" and as a government attempt to deprive parents of their "freedom... to do things on their own terms and in their own way."
The contract was seen as a statement combining expectations and demands without much consideration to families' disagreement with expectations.
Schools (in the study) thought HSAs had had a positive impact on communication of school expectations and responsibilities, and 30% or more thought it had had a positive impact on parents and teachers working together, parents supporting their children’s learning at home, communicating the school role, pupil behaviour and homework.
Over three quarters of schools reported that at least 75% of parents signed the agreement.
70% thought it made no impact on homework.
The Report measured perception of impact, not actual impact. The researchers acknowledged this, but said it was impossible to isolate this one factor and its impact, when so many changes in system and curriculum have happened over the same period.
So I now hold a number of questions, and possibly one answer.
- What if parents don’t sign? Or pupils?
- What, then, if they do not carry out every expectation?
- Are there to be rewards and sanctions?
- Does supporting each Policy really have to be made explicit?
- What about each year, when we admit new pupils and their parents; do we have to go through the consultation process annually?
- What about things that change once you have ‘bought in’ (such as online behaviour in new forums)?
- If we can boil down all that School is about to one, one-page, document, why do we have all the 42-page ones?
- How do we accommodate the deeply-held, committed, view points of the dissenters? Are they not allowed to disagree?
- Is there a difference in how we support a child’s learning due to parents’ reasons for their behaviour? (The parent who chooses not to support the H-SA and the parent who cannot.) Does that not limit the child’s learning for something they have no control over? Is that fair to the child?
We (I say, ‘we’ when I mean I delegated) recently ran a toolkit check on our ‘website compliance’ and it threw up a few things to sort out, one of which was reviewing and re-approving Policies that had reached their review dates. We might just start by engaging parents and their representative Governors in reviewing the Homework Policy and sharing it over and over in an attempt to inform and persuade and to build commitment. Expect this to be the focus of a survey, the topic of a ‘Round Table’ and something we ask pupils about through School Council.
Let’s call a spade a shovel, shall we, and just talk about the problems we have in ‘the dining room experience’?
It is too loud, too much food is wasted, the Hall can be cold in poor weather, some children are behaving poorly despite repeated warnings, shocking amounts of food are dropped on the floor, cutlery joins it too often, little fruit or vegetable is taken, fingers are often the chosen implement for feeding, and the whole thing is rushed.
Despite a defensive tendency, I will happily argue that anything and everything is possible. We could surely address every one these problems, as long as we accept the costs involved?
To reduce noise we could carpet the Hall, use acoustic-engineering to dampen echoes, have individual tray return stacks instead of a single collection trolley with a piles of plates, bowls and trays, and cutlery lobbed in a tray, have far fewer children in the Hall at one time, use more spaces for eating (such as the IT suite or a classroom), or build an extra dining space on-site.
To stop food waste we reduce portion sizes, or increase the quality of food, or ban playtime snacks outright, or force every child to clear their plate at every meal.
We have a one-way movement scheme in place due to numbers and space, so the rear door of the Hall is used as the exit. It is a single barrier and heat escapes and cold enters every time it is opened. The solution would be a ‘heat curtain’ of sufficient strength or an extension beyond the Hall to act as an air lock.
This month’s Behaviour Incident reports from lunchtime staff show four occasions on which (Year 6) pupils have been admonished for throwing food, and a couple of taking someone else’s food and throwing it around, a couple for shouting in the Hall. Solutions include closer supervision of those children, reminders about behaviour expectations, sanctions including not sitting with their friends, separate eating time for those children, or exclusion at lunchtime, hoping it goes away, and not allowing these children in the Hall at all.
We had one incident where a pupil was standing on the seat and shouting across the Hall. I could simply exclude that child at lunchtimes (each lunchtime exclusion counts as a half day, and as I can exclude for up to 15 days without making it permanent the exclusion could last most of the next half term.)
Food on the floor includes whole pieces of fish, chips, grapes, slices of bread, sandwich filling, new potatoes, slices of fruit, crackers, sliced cheese, potato wedges, … As well as the waste and carelessness / selfishness of the act it means that the floor has to be washed each day after lunch and so the afternoon access for PE is delayed. With only the one Hall we could do without the delay. We try to spot it happening but very rarely do. Any attempt to persuade a child to pick it up is met with denial that it is theirs. Possible solutions include: eating in silence, facing the table squarely, having a place inspected before permission is given to leave, wearing pelican bibs, spoon-feeding, or children responding to our repeated requests to be more responsible.
Cutlery gets dropped all along the way, from the trays in the servery right through to the collection and disposal point, ‘Rosie’. It just doesn’t seem to get picked up by children – they perhaps do not notice it on the floor. Perhaps we need pots of cutlery on the tables, or wider trays so plate, bowl, cup and cutlery have a bit more room, a ‘count them out and count them back’ approach to issuing cutlery, or just to accept some spillage as inevitable when 477 are passing through for dinner.
School dinners have a 100% record of meeting the school food standards. It’s part of the contract with Taylor Shaw. But what is on a child’s plate, and what they actually eat, is not the same as what is on offer, because we do not ever force a child to take from the full range available. If they didn’t want any from the baked beans, green beans, cucumber, sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes, salad leaves, mandarin orange slices, fruit salad or fresh whole fruit on offer yesterday we did not make them take any. I do and will comment to children as I notice ‘no fruit, no veg?’ but it draws little more than a wry smile. We think that putting it on a plate regardless will simply create waste and friction, so we don’t. What’s to be done: accept it as inevitable (a recurring option), put veg / fruit on every plate, insist at least one portion is selected, do away with the School Food Standards, continue to prompt, advertise the offer to parents and see if generational pressure might work, educate, hide veg / fruit in pies, biscuits, sauces, custard, yoghurt, pizza topping, try to enforce buy in or opt out (take the full offer or do not take it at all), model by adults taking a school meal.
I do acknowledge the global creep of Americanisation in all things, including how we eat, and the rise of Street Food. But schools are supposed, and are expected, to teach more than just the core curriculum. So, old-fashioned as it may seem, we will continue to distribute knives and forks and expect children to use them. Not as ‘lollipop sticks’ either, with a whole sausage skewered onto the fork, but to cut up into bite sized pieces, and eat neatly. The ever-popular baked potato seems to defeat many attempts at using a knife to cut up food, with just the inner soft potato spooned out. We could go all-out on Street Food and finger food menus I suppose, and alleviate the problem of dropped cutlery at the same time, but it does little for manners. We could remind, expect, cajole, reward, praise, teach, demonstrate, assist, engage the support of parents, make food softer / liquid, not serve anything that is begging to be picked up in fingers (chips, wedges, biscuits, pizza, sliced bread, carrot sticks, pasta salad) and only serve broth, and soup and stews and casseroles.
An academic study by a leading nutritionist showed that children typically spend very little time at the hatch choosing their meal. The Sheffield School Meal Study (The School Food Plan and the social context of food in schools: Caroline Sarojini Hart, Mar 2016) wrote: many children preferred to eat quickly, or not eat the whole meal, in order to have more time to play. Time to eat was limited by the need to get many children in and out of dining spaces that could not cater to all pupils at once. (The photo of a ‘well-stocked, large, self-service salad bar’ (Figure 3) is from our school, by the way.) We could build a second dining area, spread lunch break over two hours, making eating and playing separate times so all of one period was in the Hall, have a formal Breakfast Club then Snack Break and have lunch at the end of the school day giving a limitless period to go play, or continue to persuade children not to queue if they are on second sitting – they could go play first and be called when needed.
We will be working on this. Some are simply in the category of unacceptable and will be directly challenged. Some will go to School Council to get pupils support that way. Some will be part of discussions with Taylor Shaw, and others will go out to parents.
I have put out a call for parents to come and sample a school lunch and lunchtime, and then participate in a Round Table conversation on their thoughts and observations. That may also produce some alternative insights. In the meantime we have a legal duty to provide a hot meal every day, and to provide free meals for those that qualify. We will continue to work with children to try to make the experience of every child better than it has been recently.
So a study published this week in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) shows that Primary Schools’ efforts to help cut obesity, and improve physical activity, don’t work.
More than 600 primary school pupils in the West Midlands took part in a 12-month anti-obesity programme.
But the study found no improvements in the children's diet or activity levels.
This was despite the involvement of the local Premier League football team, cooking classes and clubs, 30 minutes of exercise each school day, and advertising local family exercise.
My observation in school is that some children simply do not take up what is on offer:
I counted the numbers of children who took no fruit, vegetable or salad from the range on offer with the regular school meal over the last two days. Logic would suggest that, in our affluent, middle class, well-educated, advantaged area, our pupils would be familiar with all that we have on offer and keen to sample green beans, sweetcorn, peas, apples, pears, baked beans, melon, tomatoes, cucumber, salad leaves, couscous and so on. Yesterday one half of all the meal takers had no fruit, vegetable or salad on their plate. Chilli and rice, wraps, jacket potato, but no veg, fruit or salad. Today, with the most popular menu of the week, over one third had none of the three (but only if I count baked beans as a vegetable). Fish, chips, and sometimes just chips, no veg, fruit, salad and sometimes no pudding.
We have trained pupils to act as Playground Playmakers. They organise and run games and activities on the top playground every day. They are keen – they volunteered for the role, and always turn up. What is striking is how few children join in the games they arrange. Today there were often no more than five children participating, out of the 342 in school!
Ask a child who does participate and what you find is that it is just one of the many things that they do each week – tomorrow’s cross country runners will then be off to skate, swim or dance, for example. To coin a phrase, ‘Those who do, do. Those who don’t, won’t’. It could be a dispiriting and difficult hill to climb, but we find ways to address the issues.
What the recipe for the menu does is slide in under-cover fruit and vegetable. The chilli had carrot and tomato, the wraps had peppers. The sponge included apple puree in the recipe, and the chocolate crunch bar had orange in the blend. If we can just make sure that they do eat what they choose to take …
Is a simple outright ban on ALL playtime snacking the only answer to unsuitable, sugar-loaded, snacking?
I wrote about my concerns around snacking at school back in June and July 2017, (see Blog posts: http://www.lydgatejunior.co.uk/the-headteachers-blog/a-weighty-issue and http://www.lydgatejunior.co.uk/the-headteachers-blog/not-a-healthy-snack ) and about food waste in November 2017 (http://www.lydgatejunior.co.uk/the-headteachers-blog/love-food-hate-waste ).
This week we have seen announcements from Public Health England encouraging parents to limit children’s snacks to 100 calories and to no more than two a day. (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-launches-change4life-campaign-around-childrens-snacking )
One third of Primary School aged children are over-weight or obese. 28% of pupils in our school are over-weight or obese, from Year 6 height and weight measurements by Health professionals. Schools should safeguard their pupils' health and well-being, and so this IS an issue for schools to take up. We could clearly do more than we already have in place, even though this includes:
- All school meals meet the national school food nutrition standards,
- We teach cookery and baking,
- We host a cooking club,
- We provide drinking water for free,
- We have physical activities before and after school almost every day,
- We have signed up to the PE Pledge to offer two hours per week PE,
- We take longer swimming lessons than required,
- We offer MAST access through school drop-ins,
- We target some of our physical activities to less-engaged pupils,
- We have introduced the Daily Mile sustainably,
- Our PE Premium report shows how we are improving ‘outcomes’ through tr=argeted spending,
- We have removed our Snack Shop,
- We do not use sweets as rewards,
- School meals provide for many dietary needs and are fully allergen-compliant,
- School meals offer a salad bar every day, additionally and free.
I will not institute a rule that limits all snacks to a maximum of 100 calories – simply for the practical reasons of unenforceability.
We will not be searching lunch boxes, or turning out coat pockets, and confiscating snacks with ‘too much sugar’.
But with what appears to be direct links between snacking, unnecessary calories, food waste and obesity, we surely should be doing something effective.
An absolute ban would be the simplest thing to invoke, if it got full support and backing from parents and pupils. I wouldn’t want to see snacks being snuck in and sneakily snaffled in secretive scenes; that promotes rule-breaking and sets us on the path of conflict.
Would you, then, support a total ban on playtime snacks?
As I like to do, I have set up the simplest SurveyMonkey questionnaire (other web-based survey engines do exist) to collect opinion. Should take about 60 seconds from clicking this link: