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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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01 Nov 2018

Patronising, insulting, condescending – tautological maybe, but how it makes me feel. The Chancellor’s ‘little extras’

In Monday’s Budget statement to the House of Commons, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a one-off £400 million grant to schools for ‘little extras’. Ignoring all the difficulties over defining ‘pupils’, (Nursery-aged? Pre-school? Sixth Form colleges? Special Schools? Alternative placements not called ‘schools’?) it is about £40 per pupil, assuming it is shared out equally per pupil. So Lydgate Junior School may stand to receive a bonus of £19,000 in the next financial year. Why such a churlish, ungrateful, response from Headteachers, then?

A             I don’t know what ‘little extras’ are – it has been a long, long time since we bought anything simply because it would be nice.

B             We are forecasting a budget deficit by the next financial year unless we make further cut-backs. And we are expected to spend this windfall on ‘little extras’ when I may have to cut still further into staffing to balance the books?

C             The unbelievably crass, 1950’s, pin-money language of it – the man-of-the-house handing down the good wife something extra to buy herself a treat so she looks good / feels good on their Friday night out.

D             Because it is, in reality, so little compared to what we have set aside, undone, these last five years. The repairs delayed, the improvements not even seriously planned, the corners cut, the staffing reduced, the services trimmed, the charges levied for things done for free previously and the impossible cost of the massive jobs needed still cannot be addressed with this one-off grant.

E              Priorities and professionalism and care for pupils will mean we spend it on essentials, not ‘extras’, anyway. High level (low incidence) SEN/D support is massively expensive but essential for individual pupils and their peers (and the class teacher). In our case we are about to admit a new child with needs that will cost us an additional £18,000 a year. It is preposterous to think we will allow our budget to overspend by that much because we spend the grant on ‘extras’. Meeting the needs of a child with visual impairment is not an ‘extra’, nor is supporting children with diabetes who need frequent blood sugar checks, and nor is supporting a child who has mobility issues round our building and site (with its fourteen sets of steps / stairs and six ramps). We cut sickness absence insurance for support staff this year to save budget costs. The actual cost is lost provision for children who find learning harder. That is not a 'little extra' even if it is not legally essential.

F              Improving IT hardware so it meets the curriculum requirements and challenges in, say, science, is not an ‘extra’. Mr Hammond suggested we buy a couple of (interactive) whiteboards or some extra laptops. He assumes, perhaps, that what we have works well as it is and meets needs. Ask your children how long it takes for the PCs in the suite to logon and open a document. Ask staff how often the Hall laptop loses network connection. Ask the Pastoral Team where their laptop went.  Ask your children how many iPads we have to use in class, and how often they get to use them. Kit has become obsolete and incompatible with newer operating systems. We cannot meet the points for improvement in the last but one Ofsted report (2012) if we do not do this.

G             I keep going back to that language – it smacks so much of ‘here’s five pounds; go and buy yourself something nice’.

H             Michael Gove, when Education Secretary, sent every school a copy of the King James version of the Bible on the 400th anniversary. ‘Gove’s Bible’ many called it. Where is it now? What difference did such an unsupported, unrequested, action make? It was waste of time and money. This doling out of money seems to be a sop, and without plan. What noticeable difference does the Chancellor actually think will come about?

I was telling my Y5 class about an encounter with a family on Parents Evening. They were coming the opposite way through a doorway, and I held it open for the little child who was with them. I asked the class what the mother had said, and everyone chimed, ‘Say thank you’, and they were right. We say ‘thank you’ because it is polite, and because our mothers taught us to.

So, thank you, Mr Hammond. We will spend however much you might give us on something nice for the children in our school. We will send you a nice ‘Thank You card’ once we have the cheque you have promised, and we will let you know what we spent it on. But, please, do not think that adding just 1% to my school’s income for the year will make any sort of noticeable difference.

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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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04 Mar 2016

A kind and thoughtful gesture

Do you know the story of the widow’s mite?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0OE3FL0Atw

Two young pupils handed me an envelope this morning. They told me they wanted to make a donation to help the school. I could buy some things with the money, they said, for lunchtimes or whatever. The envelope held 76p.

The size of the contribution is immaterial, really – it comes from the heart and from their money-boxes. And it is probably an amount that has some significance for two young boys.

The cash will be added to our Private Fund and will, therefore, support some hugely enjoyable activity that we provide later in the year.

Thank you, boys; sincerely, thank you.

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01 Mar 2016

Teacher placement changes for the summer term

What follows here is some detail behind the decision to reorganise teachers for some of our classes for the summer term. Some parents and children may have concerns about the plan and its implementation. I hope that what I have written here allays any fears.

All the children will remain in the same classes, in the same classrooms, and, in most cases, with exactly the same teachers.

Which classes are affected?

Y3D/D - The class will be taught, as currently, Monday to Thursday by Mrs Dutton. On Fridays, Mr Jones will teach the class.

Y3CW – The class will be taught, as currently, Monday to Wednesday by Mrs Wymer. Mrs de Brouwer will teach the class on Thursday and Friday only.

Y3CT – The class will be taught, as currently, by Mrs Tierney all week, until Mrs Webb’s return from maternity leave. Mrs Webb will then teach the class on Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday to Friday being taught by Mrs Tierney.

Y4F/R – Mrs Smith, who currently teaches a different Year 4 class, will be teaching the class on Monday and Tuesday. Mrs Ridsdale will, as currently, teach the class from Wednesday to Friday.

Y4S/S – Mrs Shaw will teach the class on Mondays and from Wednesday to Friday, as currently. Mrs Noble will teach the class on Tuesdays only.

Y5AR – Mrs Farrell will take over the teaching of the class on Mondays. Miss Roberts will continue, as currently, teaching the class Tuesday to Friday.

All other classes are unaffected by teacher movement.

Why is this change necessary?

School leaders became aware of a serious risk of budget deficit for 2016 / 2017 during the summer term of 2015. The gap between income and expenditure, if no steps were taken to reduce costs, was forecast to be as high as £76,000. Schools are expected to set a balanced budget, and as we only planned on a £24 surplus at March 2016 there is no carry-forward or contingency fund to call upon. Governors take seriously their responsibilities to manage school resources and so steps were and are being put in place to address the deficit.

How has a deficit come about?

There have been some unavoidable increases in expenditure at a time when there are also unavoidable decreases in income. Employer’s contributions to pensions have increased, and this is set to cost school an additional £24,000 each year. A public sector average pay rise of just 1% is costing school an additional £13,800 each year. Councils have agreed to implement the ‘Living Wage’ at a level above the national minimum wage. Several low paid staff will have a pay enhancement because of this.

One element of school funding, towards the cost of provision for ‘High Needs’ pupils, is set to disappear from April 2016. We will lose £23,400 from this one action. We are a happy school with low staffing turnover and so we have a more expensive than average staff, and a few colleagues have received an incremental pay rise within their pay range. The Chancellor of the Exchequer promised only ‘flat cash school funding’ in the election campaign. None of this was known at the start of the current financial year or in any detail at the start of the academic year.

How is the deficit going to be addressed?

Put simply, we will spend less. There are few ways in which we can increase income, and the main route, by increasing pupil numbers, has been rejected by Sheffield LA and school Governors. We have started by taking advantage of opportunities as they have arisen. The staff turnover we had in the summer allowed us to reduce teacher staffing levels. Governors have agreed to three requests from teachers to reduce their working fte. Our full-time equivalent number of teachers will drop from 20.5 to 18.3. We already had a relatively high pupil : teacher ratio, and this will increase the ratio further, to 26.2 : 1. We have not refilled the Assistant Headteacher role. We are engaging new staff in the role of Higher Level Teaching Assistants to provide teachers’ PPA cover. We are removing the vast majority of teacher-led intervention work, reducing the weekly availability from over 500 minutes per week to just over 100 minutes per week. We have accepted other hours reductions and left some support role posts unfilled. All expenditure has been thoroughly questioned and prioritised, with some service purchasing reduced or removed. We have addressed most of the deficit by these measures.

Why in the middle of a school year? Why not wait until September?

Because a delay for one term would cost around £15,000. Due to the nature of the academic and contractual year, and the way the financial year is aligned, there would be a five month wait (April through to the end of August). Making that £15,000 saving in just seven months (September to March 2017) would need us making cuts worth £25,700 over a full year, nearly twice as much. Those reductions would clearly have a much greater impact. We are taking smaller actions sooner, rather than greater actions later.

Won’t it affect my child?

Possibly so if they are in one of the six classes with some teacher change, but not in the other ten classes, and much less so than if we put off all change until the summer. And it is only ‘some’ change – every class has the same class teacher(s) as before for at least three days each week. It is, in total, just 10 days per week change out of 80 days per week taught.

We will manage ‘transition’ well, as we would at the end of year. I am confident that the children will not notice any negative outcome.

Will this change mean no further changes later?

Not necessarily. Teachers and other staff may leave our school either permanently or temporarily, and we may be required to make subsequent changes. The changes we have made so far do not cover the entire forecast deficit and so we will have to form and implement plans to address this. And changes made for 2016 / 2017 financial year may not be enough to address issues for the year after that. At our recent Budget Interview with the LA Finance team we found out that, with all known costs and income accounted for, we still have a £39,000 projected deficit to cover in the coming financial year.

Is there a positive way to look at this?

There are many positives:

  • Qualified teachers lead all classes,
  • There is no class teacher change at this point for most classes,
  • ‘High Needs’ provision will be maintained,
  • Judicious budgeting limits the impact of changes,
  • The vast majority of teaching support remains unchanged,
  • Low staff turnover provides for maximum consistency and continuity,
  • Low staff turnover also leads to experienced staff in place, and so on.

 

Are there other options?

There are always alternatives, but they are either no more palatable or much less so, or simply impossible. The £76,000 that was the original budget deficit forecast would be more than all our utility services costs combined – we could not operate with no water, gas or electricity. It is more than we spend on books, paper, learning resources and pens in five years. It is four times our annual maintenance budget. It is double school’s contribution to the Catering contract that provides free school meals and the entire school meals management system. With 82% of our expenditure going on staffing it is inevitable that most of our saving will have to come from that area. We have already cut our swimming provision, left vacant posts unfilled, withdrawn from some service contracts, decided not to renew some insurance provisions (for staff absence), brought all teaching of Spanish 'in-house' instead of employing a Secondary School teacher specialist extra, and used Capital funding to maintain the buildings rather than improve them.

Is this happening at other schools?

Yes, at pretty much every school. A few will be able to draw on reserves built up over time. A few will be expanding and so receiving increased income. Most schools, however, will be addressing a growing gap between income and costs in much the same way as us.

I still don’t see why, if there are no new teachers, change is necessary or saves money. How does it work?

We employ 18 teachers part time and 8 full time, including the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher. The 18 part time teachers have a range of full-time equivalent contracts; 0.4, 0.44, 0.5, 0.56, 0.6 and 0.8 fte. What the movement allows us to do is to make the most cost efficient placements – 0.4 with 0.6, 0.5 with 0.5, 0.44 with 0.56 and so on. A class needs 1.0 fte in total, plus the teachers’ PPA cover.

Previous teacher placements created overlaps that we used well and effectively, but could be removed to reduce expenditure. We will use more of the teacher complement that was used for leadership, management and intervention work in class teaching. By making internal appointments for our new Deputy Headteacher (Mrs Farrell) and Year 4 Leader (Mrs Shaw), and seeking to appoint HLTAs (Mrs Grimsley and Miss Lee), we have dropped both the number (head count) and fte of teachers.

Can we talk to someone?

I will be available during each of the coming Parent evenings to see any parent who wants to talk about the arrangements.

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10 Jan 2016

The Numbers Game - or what happens if you spend too long looking

Can I start by saying that his Blog Post has been produced at no cost to the taxpayer? I have done all the research, all the reading, and calculating, processing, sifting, questioning, comparing, writing and editing in my own time, on my own PC, using my own electricity, telephone line and broadband. I wouldn’t want you to think I was wasting school’s income on trivia and blind alleys.

I have written before about how our school’s income compares to that of other schools, and as we get closer to setting a new budget I am going there again. Successive Ministers for Education have talked about the issue for the last 20 years, and the Chancellor announced a consultation to happen this year, so it clearly isn’t just me.

So, as it has been a topic of conversation and deliberation for so long, how are we getting on?

There are some differences that are really hard to explain and to justify, and the differences between school types within the Primary sector baffle me. In Sheffield we have a mixture of Infants, Nursery and Infants, Juniors, Primaries, and Nursery, Infant and Juniors (sometimes known as ‘through Primaries’). There will be some individual school differences in funding level due to social deprivation (Pupil Premium), size (pupil numbers), rates, buildings ownership arrangements and so on. So I removed those factors, and then added them up and averaged them out. Surely, across a city as big as Sheffield there should be parity between these three parts of one sector of the education system?

Well:

The average income per pupil for Sheffield Infant (including Nursery and Infant) Schools was £3,909.87.

The average income per pupil for Sheffield Junior Schools was £3,596.08.

And the average income per pupil for Sheffield Primary (including through Primaries) Schools was £3,969.68.

I understand Infant Schools’ income being higher due to staffing ratio requirements in Nursery and capacity guarantee issues around provision for 2 and 3 year olds. But shouldn’t the figure for Primary Schools then be between Infant and Junior?

I am aware of the potential impact of the flat sum given to each school regardless of pupil numbers. This ‘small school protection’ payment allows each school to carry out the statutory duties that apply regardless of how many pupils you have. In Sheffield it is £150,000 per school. (No idea what it is elsewhere in the country as local authorities do not have to publish the detail of their school funding formulas.)

When you remove the £150,000 from each Sheffield school’s income and recalculate the average income, we get:

Infant - £3,111

Junior - £3,068

Primary - £3,483.

That £415 per pupil per year difference would increase our income by 13% or by £235,608 a year.

My data set is limited, however, and I acknowledge the fact. Getting to the funding schemes for Academies is really difficult. They are not funded via the local authority and so the funding formula used to derive their income is not shared with us. According to the DfE, Academies should publish this on their websites. I’ve just spent 20 minutes trying to find it from five Primary Academies in Sheffield and failed. On the DfE’s site you can get the Academy’s funding report, but these are usually about an Academy chain or ‘umbrella’ and so income for single schools is impossible to extract.

In days gone by Ofsted made a judgement about ‘value for money’ in their school inspections. So I had a look at this. The Performance Tables let us compare our school with 150 ‘similar schools’, selected by algorithm on the DfE Tables site. Not one that performs better than us is within 75 miles of our site. We rank joint 18th in pupil performance against these 150 ‘similar schools’. If you select all those ahead of us, and level with us, and then click on compare, and then on the 20 schools button, then finance and finally sort by clicking the top of the income column in the finance page, you find we were lowest funded per pupil. That’s got to be ‘VFM’, surely?

(Am I being selective in my use of data? Try the next twenty schools, those twenty who performed below us - we got less income per pupil than every one of them as well.)

The next lowest got £88 per pupil more than us (£42,240 per year for our school size). The two highest funded are both within the M25 and so do need to be able to meet the higher costs of outer or fringes of the capital. One is similar in size to Lydgate Junior School. Its income per pupil is 65% higher than ours. Costs aren’t that much higher near London, are they? (In fact, the Tables pages allow us to see the average salary of the teachers, and theirs is just 17% higher than ours. Class sizes are no smaller – 23.1:1 against 23.3:1, so it’s not that either.)

The finance report for one Academy in Sheffield has not downloaded in the time it has taken me to compose this Post. That’s not on purpose, is it?

I have not moved my school forward on any front in this study, nor changed any public or political opinion. I should, perhaps, resolve to stop considering irrelevant, immovable, unequal numbers. It could ’do my head in’, as the youth of today have probably stopped saying.

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