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 & Miss Roberts (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....
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.
I want to write detail on the announcement this morning from DfE and phs of the plan to address school-age period poverty by providing free period products in every school in England.
Except that the content of the press release is all I have. I have scoured the usual main news feeds and only picked up rehashed versions of the same story, all built on the press release and an older DfE feed:
What I am told is that we (schools) will receive an email on Monday inviting us to sign up for the scheme (as if we would say ‘no’ to an opportunity to provide what, on surface at least, appears to be a Universal Benefit).
How it will work if we don’t contract our sanitary disposal with phs I don’t know.
Whether it will actually be ‘Universal’ I don’t know.
How we will overcome anticipated resistance I don’t know either.
And, crucially, some sources are quoting some numbers that throw huge doubts on the scheme’s intended reach – an annual cost of less than £18 million and an uptake by 1.1 million ‘students’.
These are far, far too small to indicate ‘Universal’ uptake or access. There are around 720,000 pupils in each school year group in the UK; approximately 9 million ‘students’ in total in England’s schools. Half of them are girls and we might assume we need to make provision from Years 6 to 13 – leading to a total of at least 2.25 million children. How is the target of 1.1 million derived?
Are we about to see some screening and in a very well-meaning scheme some sort of block installed that becomes the next barrier to overcome? Is it actually going to be funded at the rate of free school meals in the schools, perhaps? Just under 20% of pupils in Year 3 and above are eligible nationally for FSM (only 4% in our school), and that equates to around the 1 million mark nationally.
So if this is how it works (the free part of provision), how will schools manage this? There is simply no way we are means testing children or holding period products in First Aid or the Office or in the teachers’ drawer and then applying a FSM test to distribution. Surely all schools will want to make access simple and possible or they will be working contrary to the whole idea of the scheme. What we will then be pushed to do is to provide, at school cost, free period products for all. It’s that, ‘at school cost’ bit that troubles me, as we will receive no funding top-up to do it (and what a wasteful money-go-round that would be anyway; give us money for us to give to a company the Government has selected to run the scheme).
I absolutely agree – period products ARE too expensive and VAT charging on them, even at the current 5% rate, is outrageous. The single most effective way to deliver a benefit though is to make it universally free at the point of access. Want to eradicate period poverty? Make access to period products free for all.
I’ll raise it with School Governors at the earliest opportunity (the Thursday after the invitation email arrives in school).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- 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:
- Why do the children run to the dinner queue if they are not so hungry that they want to eat all they are served?
- Why choose it and then throw it?
- How is it that on a Friday, when meal uptake is the highest in the week, we still get the same level of waste?
- How does any / so much get on the floor?
- What is the situation at home?
- 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, …