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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 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.

 

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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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30 Nov 2018

Why, it's almost like we planned it that way

Last Sunday, the last before we all start getting excited in school about Christmas, the Sunday before Advent, is known as ‘Stir-up Sunday’.

Its secular tradition is that it is the day that the Christmas Pudding should be mixed and stirred, and have it first steaming. The pudding gets reheated on the big day. The Anglican Church, however, uses words from the book of common prayer, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people," in services that day. The people of the Church are asking to be whipped up, to be filled with energy, to be turned up in the fervour of their faith. They are asking for faith that gives them the confidence to proclaim their beliefs, encourage each other and seek a better world for all. ‘Ah, go on, go on, go on,’ as Mrs. Doyle would say.

In School Assembly this week I brought back out a poem I have used before, and used to have on display. It begins, ‘Be warmly angry. Be hotly angry, but do not boil away’. And it concludes with, ‘Keep on making a difference until things are different’. I was stressing to the children how we should not be deterred from a passionate belief just because others might disagree, discourage or misunderstand. I explored this sort of anger, and how it is not a violent emotion. It is a passion that drives action, and a determination that campaigns until just change is brought about. I suggested that, in such circumstances, we should keep on either until we are convinced or we have convinced. (As Vic and Bob would say, we shouldn’t let it lie.)

And then on Tuesday afternoon (in lesson time, because we invest properly in it, giving time for sixteen children and two members of staff to attend) we had our first School Council of the year. These wonderful, energetic, junior campaigners have ideas, and a list was made that will become the agenda for future meetings:

Notes about playtimes:

  • Playtime rota - is it fair? Some say that they have only had 2 go's on something, when others have had more.
  • Cover for the slide so that they can use it when it rains.
  • Not being allowed to run on the boat.
  • Have whole year groups on bottom yard so that you can play with your friends.
  • A way of controlling the slide so that people don't push or go down the slide too soon.
  • More play equipment.
  • An inside space to go when its cold outside.
  • Y5 quiet area near the hall/music room stair doors.
  • Resurfacing around the boat.
  • Playtime and lunchtime buddies. Inspired by Harry Banks' 'Fun Patrol'

Notes about lunches:

  • Have a pasta pot option, where you have plain pasta then add a sauce (3 options) and add a topping (2 options).
  • Somewhere to queue for lunches because it gets cold standing in the winter.
  • Outdoor shelter for eating packed lunches.
  • Many, many food suggestions (and complaints) – to talk to the man from Taylor Shaw who has been in to talk to Governors.

Sir Humphrey might suggest that, allowing the School Council to choose its own agenda, and to invite adults to attend to be quizzed, is, ‘very courageous, Head Master’. I think it is enabling the conversation to match the manifestos of the candidates.

I hope that they will be stirred-up with passion, and be warmly angry on the issues that matter to them. Here comes the next generation and their issues, for, eventually, the youth will inherit the Earth and they might as well have a voice that is heard as soon as they can put words to their thoughts.

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26 Oct 2018

The Three Fish Finger Puzzle

Friday is Fried Fish (and Chips) Day. It is the one day per week when fried food is on the school dinner menu and it is the day when most children take the school meal option (rather than a packed lunch).

So, Fish and Chips is popular, obviously.

The mystery is this: why would anyone take the full three fish fingers on offer and not eat a single bit of a single one of them?

I have been stationing myself at the return trolley for the last couple of weeks at lunchtime, asking why certain things have not been eaten, helping to clear plates and trying to drop the queues (no-one likes a queue really). Whole jacket potatoes get thrown away, untouched. Puddings not started get binned; entire portions of beans get scraped away.

Now what you have to know is that nothing gets forced on to a child’s plate; if they do not want peas they do not get given peas. If they want ketchup they get it but if not, then not. And if they do not want the full portion of three fish fingers then they are not given them.

I stood at the trolley and at least ten children brought back plates that held three slices of crumbed and fried fish, totally untouched. They had not cut them open and been put off by texture, colour, smell or taste. They had not been tried at all, so no claims of ‘soggy bottom’ are valid. They could not tell me they didn’t like them because:

A)     they chose them, and

B)      they hadn’t actually tried them.

It is ridiculous, and baffling and wasteful.

I asked each child, in a nice not a threatening way, why they hadn’t eaten any of the fish fingers. I am also worried by the sudden loss of articulacy shown by our normally talkative and observant children. I was told, ‘I don’t like them’, ‘I don’t like fish’, ‘They aren’t nice’, ‘Sorry’ and a lot of shrugs.

In conversations about what I want my school to offer I will normally say that I want to see a school that produces every child engaged all of the time. We are failing to engage these children in thinking about their food - what they want, what they like, how much they will eat, how much to take. We are failing to develop stamina and resilience if the children stop too soon or find it too hard to cut and eat. We are failing to fully promote and develop respect for the environment if children do not do something themselves to reduce their waste.

Some data to put this in context:

  • Hallam (our Parliamentary Constituency) has the 11th highest average earnings per family, and the highest outside London and the south east.
  • Only 4% of our pupils are on ‘free school meals’, against a Sheffield average of 21%.
  • Our school meal uptake is above average for Junior Schools.
  • We throw away an average of 22kg of unwanted but served food every school day.
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26 May 2018

School Meals - to sit in or take out

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.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0305764X.2016.1158783

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.

 

 

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09 Feb 2018

Quick! Hide that fruit and veg

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 …

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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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