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....
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.)
In an exercise on our training day a colleague asked about the development of an email policy.
In ‘Feedback’ some parents raised questions about communications between senior leaders and parents.
One stage of the response to both has been senior leadership-level discussion about the range, purpose, place, timeliness and effectiveness of the communications strategies we use.
This one week we have used telephone calls, home visits, a newsletter, direct personal email, booked meetings, drop-in meetings, informal conversations, focussed letters, ‘bump’ notes, the school website, being visible, the FOLA ‘End of Summer BBQ’, the front desk, and all our electronic and physical interfaces to share information and enhance contacts. We know we have not seen everyone and not shared everything, nor answered all the unspoken questions but we certainly have continued to ‘reach out’ and to be available.
Conversations have provided insight into cycle storage, private school admissions, school start times, lost property, before school activities, homework, accessibility, and a myriad of personal issues.
We are honestly happy to meet, listen and talk as much as we can, and we will continue to do so.
As the vast majority of our pupils leave school through the ‘top gate’ towards Manchester Road, and there are far more parents there, I made the change some time ago to be at that gate rather than on the top playground within the site at 3:15.
The literature on discipline, parent views, trust, happiness of staff and pupils and pupil academic progress all points towards school leaders being highly visible.
Professor and Dame, Alison Peacock (CEO, Chartered College of Teaching) references key leadership practices that build trust in her book Learning without limits. She lists visibility as sixth in her top ten ‘Leadership Practices’. She says that, ‘Headteachers have to be omnipresent and regularly seen in and around school by the whole school population’.
Visibility is a big issue in any school and Headteachers should not be noted for their absence at key points in the day when being seen really matters. Everyone notices this; parents, pupils and staff. If a Headteacher is rarely seen first thing in the morning or is office-bound at home-time then these are valuable missed opportunities to build trust, inspire confidence and communicate.
And so we, my Deputy and I, are at the gate as often as we possibly can, at both ends of the day.
By being at the gate we can welcome children, calm issues, assist parents, answer queries, and give an assurance to parents that we are in school, working hard each day to help their children’s learning and promoting the best behaviour and discipline.
All very well-intended and purposeful, well-thought out and researched.
Except some people read other things into our actions. Our being at the gate has been seen by some parents as a deliberate barrier and an obstacle to their talking to teachers.
Not sure what we are to do, but I have put a short piece in the Newsletter trying to allay this fear.
Spinning the positive message
Obviously we say it our way, and put news out in a positive light. We do dress things up a bit, choose to keep quiet about less favourable elements of what we do, and talk up the positive.
The cynical or negative-minded might look at what any organisation claims as successes and turn over the facts and put the negative. I guess they might see how we talk about the school’s work and outcomes as ‘spin’. Wikipedia wouldn’t – its definition says it needs experts to ‘spin’, and we aren’t that! And we don’t charge!
We do structure what we put out to the public of course, we choose the order we talk about things, and we stress parts we want to.
- When we talk about test outcomes we stress the high percentage that achieve the standard and do not focus on the percentage that misses it,
- When we talk about the opportunities of clubs and activities we do not talk about how many children cannot access them due to capacity limits,
- When we talk attendance we do not talk absence,
- When we talk about provision that meets needs, we do not talk about unmet needs and missing provision,
- When we talk funding we do not talk about what we have dropped to save money,
- When we talk about engagement we do not talk about children who do not participate in extra activities (though it might be implied).
I received notice this week that our HR-provider advisor was moving to a new post. The email recognised the much-appreciated support and advice she had given to schools, and wished her well in her new job. What did it not do? The email did not say who, if anyone, was picking up that work, and did not talk about a replacement process. Perhaps this was a clever way of telling schools that a quiet cut was taking place.
There are things that I simply avoid writing about, in Newsletters or here on my blog, partly because I fear the reception and perception of what I might discuss and describe. The newly-appointed Minister for Administrative Affairs (Yes, Minister) was told that his decision was ‘brave’, by which the staff meant wrong or foolish or naïve. For me to talk openly about staff reductions and how they reduce what we can offer to children and families, or about behaviour incidents and how they impact on overall safety, relationships and learning, or on-site conditions and how they present an image of poor security, would undoubtedly be ‘brave’ unless I really wanted to make a political point.
For me the problem of ‘spinning’ is loss of trust – if we overly positively present news that is clearly not that good we lose face, lose trust and lose respect. We are, perhaps, less likely to be believed in future. This may be one element of disillusionment with the politics.
I have looked many times at data and shown how selective presentation can skew the message and interpretation. The same goes for using selective quotes.
I was thanked at our most recent Governor Committee meeting for presenting a succinct report on staffing issues. Not ‘the whole truth’ though all true. Is being selective in what is presented okay because there isn’t time to present it all? Is there trust so that you know we are presenting the important stuff and in an honest way? Does trust require that we sometimes give the negative news as well so you can see we are not sugar-coating everything?
Anyway, to finish in a typically flippant fashion, here’s a picture that represents spin:
(Those light-up spinners that are sold all along the promenades on your summer holiday abroad.)
Before we even get to close the gate on the current survey of parent opinion we are seeing interesting responses. We may have more questions than answers ultimately.
Like last year, we will share the collated results and our proposed key actions in the next Newsletter.
Here are a few things that strike me already about the process, and some underlying meanings that are possible.
We’ve had fewer responses (so far), but a faster response rate this year compared to last. The first responses were back within 7 minutes of the email out to parents, and we were glued to the counter, fascinated by the rapid growth in numbers that first evening last week. But overall, with one day to go, we have had 22% fewer responses. You could draw diametrically opposed conclusions from this: parents are so content they do not feel the need to respond, or parents feel we do not listen and so there is no point in responding.
143 responses so far is (just) a 30% turnout. This could be seen as stunningly poor, or stunningly brilliant. The EU referendum had a turn-out of 72.2% nationally, so we are doing poorly against that figure. However, regional elections for Police and Crime Commissioners in 2016 averaged 23% to 26%, so we are doing better than that already. In five years out of seven the response rate, despite our Newsletter carrying adverts, to Ofsted’s ParentView web-based survey is so low (or zero) that results cannot be published. Less than 3% of parents responded to that, official, survey in the last 365 days. Ofsted Inspection does massively raise the rate of response in almost all schools, but only to around 33%. In which case this is a good turn-out, and perhaps we can draw conclusions from the data.
‘Don’t Know’ does not mean either ‘Don’t Care’ or ‘Disagree’. In response to one question the ‘Don’t Know’s have it – it is the largest response. It is one of the most pleasing interim results. The popularity of the ‘Don’t Know’ answer to the question about our response to bullying suggests two things; 1) the children of most parents are not being bullied, and so they have no first-hand experience of how we deal with bullying, and 2) we do not broadcast details about allegations, investigations, outcomes or sanctions. And so it should be.
We designed the survey to be anonymous so that respondents were totally free to answer however they see fit with absolutely no fear of come-backs. This may boost the numbers who respond, but it totally removes any chance we have of dialogue with selected groups of those respondents. I want to ask follow-up questions directly to those who felt they could not recommend the school and those who felt the information we provide about their child’s progress is not valuable. I cannot ask as I do not know who they are. Our theorising and postulating over reasons for such a response may be accurate, or a mile off-track.
In a certain recent referendum a margin of 4% has been described as a ‘clear majority’. By a margin of 93% we can say that parents believe their children to be happy at our school. Now that is a strong, clear majority all right. One might suggest it means we do not need to consider the 3.5% who were not positive, but we disagree. We will want to ask why 5 respondents said the opposite. We will ask ourselves whether we can do anything to help those children and families enjoy this school in the same way as the ‘clear majority’. To quote Joey Lucas, a pollster in The West Wing, we may just need to ’dial it up’, to explain our message and make sure we get it across, without necessarily changing our direction at all. She said, “You say that these numbers mean dial it down. I say they mean dial it up. You haven't gotten through. There are people you haven't persuaded yet. These numbers mean dial it up. Otherwise you're like the French radical, watching the crowd run by and saying, "There go my people. I must find out where they're going so I can lead them." TWW Series 2, episode 14, ‘The War at Home’
As in comedy, the most important thing is timing. We opened the survey prior to Parent Evenings this week. Perhaps parents rushed in, all eager, before the meeting with the teacher and so have responded too soon. Perhaps next week we would get a different response to Q. 11. And then again more might be unimpressed, with teacher or books or some aspect of what we did this week.
We will take the data seriously, and dismiss not one thing out of hand. We will not, however, simply bend with public opinion. Our conclusion may be that we need to do more to persuade the parent body that we are doing the right thing, or that our actions are the best practice they would expect.