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The Headteacher's Blog

Introduction

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.

Yours sincerely,
Stuart Jones

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Introduction

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 the School Governors, 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.

 

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Introduction

Welcome to the Y4 blog. We know that the question that children are mostly asked as they leave school is 'What did you do today?' The response is often 'nothing'! Well, here is where you can find what 'nothing' looks like. In our weekly blogs we will share with you what your children have been getting up to and all of the wonderful work that they have been doing. The Y4 team consists of the following teachers: Mrs Shaw and Mrs Drury in Y4S/D, Mrs Smith and Mrs Smith (this is not a typo!) in Y4S/S, Miss Norris in Y4HN and Miss Wall in Y4AW. The children are supported by our teaching assistants too, including Mrs Biggs, Mr Jenkinson and Mrs Tandy. We also have help from Miss Lee, Mrs Cooper, Mrs Flynn and Mrs Wolff. Some of the children are lucky enough to spend time in The Hub too with Mrs Tandy. What a team!

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Introduction

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

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Introduction

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....

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26 Jan 2018

https://visual.ons.gov.uk/shrinkflation-and-the-changing-cost-of-chocolate/

In the next two months Governors must decide what to do about the forecast school budget deficit. I have to find suggestions and work on recommendations, given their strategic guidance.

Governors will either set priorities for increased and protected spending (and by implication what we might cut) or make the bold decision to run with a ‘licensed deficit’ assuming that the Local Authority will allow us to carry a deficit from year to year if we can present a reasonable, realistic plan to reduce it in time. Carrying a deficit then costs interest on the ‘loan’ or overdraft, only serving to add to the debt over the next year.

In previous years Governors have asked senior leaders to simply trim, gently, everywhere, as and when cautiously possible.

It has felt a lot like ‘shrinkflation’, the process where manufacturers avoid putting up prices by reducing the size of products. Toilet rolls have fewer sheets, tins of chocolates are smaller, juice cartons hold less fluid. Toblerone, famously, has increased the gap between its mountains. Costs go up and companies cannot make a loss so they either have to raise prices or reduce costs. ‘Shrinkflation’ allows cost savings. Can schools use the same process?

  • We employ fewer teachers than three years ago, but have exactly the same number of classes and pupils.
  • We have fewer senior posts than three years ago –two from three.
  • We reduced direct staffing for pastoral work when a colleague retired.
  • We collect money, but no longer pay for a cash collection (we use online payment systems instead).
  • We send out more newsletters, letters and communications to parents than ever before, but only 20 each time on paper, cutting our printing costs (and possibly increasing the same for the end-user) by using email and text.
  • We no longer provide a crèche at Parent Consultations.
  • We have the grass cut less often.
  • We give out fewer physical prizes and awards to pupils.

Not much shrinkage there, is there?

The bold, challenging, out-of-the-box approach might be to shrink the length of the school day, or parts of it. The law only requires school to open to pupils on 380 ‘sessions’, but does not say how long a session is. There is no legal minimum length of a school day. We could therefore shrink the school day and employ staff for fewer hours and thus save wages. You think this is unrealistic? Many schools are already doing just this!

On Friday this week, despite it being the day with the highest school meals uptake, all the children were finished in the Hall by 12:55. We could simply shrink the lunch break by 15 minutes and save 16 hours on supervisor contracts each week, around £7,500 per year.

If we shrank the teaching day we could employ fewer teaching assistant hours – anyone engaged in 1 to 1 work for supervision or direct support purposes would not be needed for that time. We could save another £2,500 by finishing 15 minutes earlier.

This would save us cash on utilities as we use less energy and water.

We could provide additional support only to those pupils with recognised additional needs and cut support staff.

We could increase class sizes by accepting more pupils or losing more teaching staff.

We could drop another senior leadership post (we have only two) and by less available to parents and agencies.

We could freeze our involvement in staff training and thus freeze our practice and knowledge.

We could stop all free extras, and either save the cost, charge for them or redirect the staffing resource. This would include choir, cross country, inter-school sports in school time, forest school, art club, orchestra in school time, golden time, providing counter signatures on official forms and photos, providing spaces for instrument lessons and all after school clubs…

International comparisons on length of lunchtimes are fascinating - up to two hours in France, and as little as twenty minutes in the United States. There is, generally, still no lunch break in German schools, and an hour and ten minutes for lunch in South Korea. The average and norm in the UK is around an hour but 1/6 of Secondaries have reduced their lunchbreak in the last 20 years, and 96% of the same schools now have no afternoon break! Hampshire Local Authority is so concerned it has launched a toolkit for a successful lunchtime and called it ‘the fifth lesson’.

And ask children (like in this study in Ireland: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/parenting/what-children-say-about-school-lunch-time-1.2079949 ) and they tell you they simply don’t have a long enough break to eat, talk and play.

The only conclusion I reach from all this is that I can see both (all?) sides of every debate, but not always come to a clear conclusion. Something is going to have to give, or we are going to have to change a long-held practice of balancing the budget.

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01 Jan 2018

A Mathematical puzzle, the funding of Universal Infant Free School Meals, and How Funding Gaps Come About

Junior Schools do not provide the Universal Infant Free School Meal; obviously.

Primary Schools offer the UIFSM to just 3/7 of their pupils, the ones in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

Infant Schools obviously offer the UIFSM to all their pupils.

The funding stream is interesting.

Junior Schools get no funding for or from it.

Primary Schools get funding for and from it for 3/7 of their pupils, potentially.

Infant Schools get funding for and from UIFSM for all their pupils, potentially.

Even though it is free to all Infant pupils there is not a 100% take-up, and the Department for Education, in designing the annual funding stream, recognised this. But the methodology chosen has a few interesting quirks and potentials for securing funding that Junior Schools cannot access.

This is how it works:

Instead of a daily report on UIFSM uptake, submitted electronically to a central point, meal uptake on two Census days each year produces an ‘average’ and this is used as the root number.

Multiply that number of pupils by £2.30 for each of the 190 days of the school year and you derive that school’s UIFSM income for the year.

The cost, in Sheffield, with our preferred provider, is actually £2.27 per day.

If the number of meals taken is less than that taken on Census day then the school keeps the difference. Any higher and school pays, I think.

I set myself a bit of a logic number problem and have tried to calculate the potential for schools to improve their income, based on data released on city-wide whole-school meal uptake, free school meal eligibility, Key Stage 2 meal uptake, and our own individual school data for the same factors.

It all makes a potential, for an Infant school of our size, to make £26,900 a year from the way UIFSM is funded IF they promote the meal on census day and get a full take-up.

And if our 480-pupil school were a through-Primary, then 206 would be Infants, and we could be £11,523 up each year, just for running a very successful couple of day’s school meals promotion.

Neat.

Our kitchen asks me each year if I’d like them to run a special promotion on Census day. While I’m all in favour of every child taking the balanced, up-to-school-meal-standard-standard meal, a successful promotion at a Junior School does absolutely nothing to aid income.

Strange.

Junior Schools also missed out on one-off capital investment to improve and prepare facilities ahead of the implementation of UIFSM; obviously.

This all goes some way to explaining differences between our provision and that our children may have enjoyed at their previous schools.
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14 Nov 2017

Love Food, Hate Waste

Love food, hate waste

Boy, do I do both. I could do a full A to Z of food I love, asparagus to zucchini, apple pie to zatar (a mixed spice from Egypt).

But I detest waste – we just don’t do it in my house. An empty plate at the end of a meal is the norm, and we very rarely throw anything away. It is a waste of money, a sad waste of resource, and it does not sit well alongside support for feeding those in need in the community through supporting food banks. Three million meals were supplied by Britain’s Food Banks last year. How can we have some going without and others throwing away as they have too much?

At lunchtime on the last two school days I have been in the hall wiping tables, clearing plates, doing door duty, helping the odd individual child. Both days I have been troubled by the amount of waste – the volume that is thrown away despite being chosen by the children themselves. By 12:45 today the bin was (discretely) full.

I weighed it, using some bathroom scales. 23 kilogrammes of food was thrown away by 460 pupils.

If each meal weighs about 500g (see First Steps Nutrition Guide 2013), that was 46 complete meals thrown away, or 10% of children taking a meal and throwing the whole lot in the bin.

It wasn’t lack of choice leading to food on a plate that children did not want – chicken curry and rice, Mexican bean tortillas, jacket potato with any of three fillings, and a choice from three desserts.

It wasn’t too much on a plate – no-one ever complains of that, and far too few take the vegetables or salad on offer to all.

It wasn’t quality –we are the second-most popular meal provider amongst Sheffield’s Primary Schools, and many staff regularly take the same school meal (and pay for it every time). Some children try to be last in and persuade the Cook to serve them extra if there’s ‘left-overs’.

It is not being rushed – no-one ever gets forced to rush or harassed if lunchtime is running out.

It is not to be with their friends – the children have full choice about where to sit and who to sit with.

It is not lumpy / cold / unusual / made off-site / ugly / off / ready-made / unknown / not as ordered.

I totally accept the NHS advice on portion sizes, that we should not force children to clear their plates, especially if, as research suggests, we tend to serve children with adult portions instead of the 75% portion-size appropriate for the age of the children we have in school.

 

But scary calculation time:

23 kg each day?

This becomes 4.37 tonnes or 8,740 meals of waste each school year!

 

I cannot accept that without challenging what is going on.

  • So should it be a campaign?
  • Smaller portions?
  • No play-time snacks?
  • Insisting on trying to eat more?
  • Acceptance?
  • Education and practising how to cut up baked potato skin?
  • Inviting parents in and enlisting their help?
  • Longer lunchtimes?
  • Different serving arrangements? (mains and dessert separately, perhaps)
  • More pandering?

It does raise some weird questions from observation:

  1. Why do the children run to the dinner queue if they are not so hungry that they want to eat all they are served?
  2. Why choose it and then throw it?
  3. How is it that on a Friday, when meal uptake is the highest in the week, we still get the same level of waste?
  4. How does any / so much get on the floor?
  5. What is the situation at home?
  6. Why do more than half our children take a school meal if, as it appears from the amount of waste, they dislike them?

So I’m asking School Council for their opinion. I’m asking Taylor Shaw what they think. I’m going to put up a display asking the dinner queue for input. I’m going to weigh and publish every day for a month. I’m going to stand by Rosie (ask the children) and see if I make any difference that way. I’ll ask the Cook and kitchen staff, and the midday supervisors. I’ll display some ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ posters. I’ll ask the children directly why they are throwing away.

I suspect that I’m about to make myself highly unpopular with a campaign that challenges habits, choice, personal behaviour and something that might be considered selfish ignorance. Some people will think I’m telling them off. Some will think I should have better things to do. I’m doing it anyway.

 

Apple pie, bread, cheese, dates, eggplant, fried onions, green beans, hummus, ice cream, jam, kidney beans, limes, mince pies, Nice biscuits, olives, peanut butter, Quorn roast, roast parsnips,  sausages, toasted crumpets, upside-down cake, veggie pizza, watermelon, Xacuti, yogurt, zucchini, aubergine, broad beans, carrot cake, Dundee Cake, Éclair, French Fancy, Gateaux, Hot Cross Bun, Iced Bun, Jumble, Kuglehopf, Linzer torte, Madeira, Parkin, Queen’s Pudding, Rock Buns, Scone, Treacle Tart, …

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22 Sep 2017

Putting the ‘Private Fund’ into the public domain

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.

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07 Nov 2016

Shibboleth – the password or magic word

It is much to our embarrassment, but undoubtedly true, that some children’s needs are not met as fully or as rapidly as some others. We respond to the high profile, the loud, the distracting and disturbing, the risk of wider impact much quicker, for longer and with greater resource than the quietly stated, even where the quiet need is persistent and undeniable.

Parents will recognise this in the way schools operate, some from personal experience, in relation to special needs or behaviour concerns. It can lead to claims of unfairness, inequality or inequity, with the ‘in your face’ stuff getting instant, urgent and considerable response. In a finite resource context this can (and does) easily lead to unaddressed, unanswered, unresolved needs.

Schools are aware of the problem and the failure in the system, but find that addressing this effectively and fairly is incredibly difficult to do. We feel guilty about failing to meet even one child’s needs and we have, for many years, been aware of the risk of overlooking the ‘quiet’ one. We use analogies from emergency first aid to prompt our thinking – at the scene of an accident should you first attend to the injured party that is screaming in pain or the one who is silent?

The ‘noisy’ problem may impact directly on the teacher’s ability to teach the whole class, or on the ability of the whole class to learn, and so it often gets immediate address. The ‘quiet’ problem may involve only one child who appears to be managing to cope anyway, and has no wider implication immediately. To not address the ‘noisy’ one would fail everyone. But to not address the ‘quiet’ problem helps no one either, and is not a proud position to take.

The Bible's Book of Judges (12:4-6) tells the story of the Ephraimites, who, after they were routed by the Gileadite army, tried to retreat by sneaking across a ford of the Jordan River that was held by their enemy.

The Gileadites, wary of the ploy, asked every soldier who tried to cross if he was an Ephraimite. When the soldier said "no," he was asked to say "shibboleth" (which means "stream" in Hebrew). Gileadites pronounced the word ‘shibboleth’, but Ephramites said "sibboleth." Anyone who left out the initial "sh" was killed on the spot.

When English speakers first borrowed "shibboleth," they used it to mean "test phrase.”

We accept ‘noise’ too readily as the ‘shibboleth’, the password to intervention, support and provision, and we do not use ‘quiet’ anywhere near enough, but what are we to do when the ‘noisy’ need can be so demanding and potentially disruptive?

I have been humbled this week by a child who has written to me to make a simple request concerning their personal need in school. The child should not have to do this in order to give the password; they should not have to say, ‘please’, and they certainly should not have to raise their need themselves when we have been well-aware of this for some time.

That the circle cannot be squared, in terms of making provision easily available, that resource is finite, that the child is one of a very small group with a similar need, that the fact of being in a school of 480 pupils built for 360 only aggravates the problem, does not make me feel any less guilty at not meeting this child’s needs.

Kirk and the Enterprise return to search for Spock (Star Trek III – The Search for Spock). Spock, ever the logical thinker, asks Kirk why he put so much at risk for his sole sake. “Because,” says Captain Kirk, “the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many," (neatly reversing Spock’s line from the end of the previous storyline where he sacrifices himself to save the rest of the crew).

The grossest difficulty of operating in this finite resource context is that we have to choose which essential to do, and the risk is that we fail to do any fully.

SEN/D is both a black-hole and ‘the third rail’. We might never be able to fund it so as to address fully and successfully all needs, and it is evidently true that the more we can provide the more demand increases. At the same time it is simply not an area that anyone will ever suggest cutting or trimming, as it is the education equivalent of touching the live rail that powers the underground train – touch it and die.

I expect we will make some provision to help this child and a few others, and that we will do it for no or minimal financial cost. I’ll continue to worry about other ‘quiet’ problems that we are potentially not seeing and not addressing. The cost will be either extra workload or colleagues having to let something else go – and that risks either touching the third rail or not providing someone else’s ‘essential’ provision.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYvlhHPLzCA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqkaBEWPH18

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVIt0DYKssI

 

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