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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 teachers are Mrs Dutton & Mrs de Brouwer (3D/dB), Miss Hayden (3RH), Mrs Holden (3SH) and Miss Wall (3AW). We have several Teaching Assistants who work with Y3 children at different times through the week: Miss Mahon, Mr Bartholomew, Mrs Dawes and Miss Kania.

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. 

The Y4 team consists of the following teachers: Mrs Purdom in Y4JP, Mrs Smith and Mrs Smith (yes, that's right) in Y4SS, Mrs Wymer in Y4CW and Mrs Drury in Y4JD. The children are also supported by our teaching assistants: Mrs Proctor, Mrs Cooper, Mrs Mulqueen, Mrs Allen, Mrs Hill and Mr Gartrell. We have help from Ms Reasbeck, Miss Lee and Mrs Grimsley too. What a team!

We know that the question children are mostly asked when they arrive home is 'What did you do today?' The response is often 'nothing'! Well, here is where you can find out what 'nothing' looks like. In our weekly blogs your children will share with you what they have been getting up to and show some of the wonderful work they have been doing. Check in each weekend for our latest news.


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Introduction

Welcome to the Year 5 Blog page.

The Year 5 teaching team consists of: Mrs Loosley (5NL), Miss Cunningham (5EC),  Mrs Ridsdale and Mrs Webb (5W/R) and Mr Bradshaw (5BB).  The children are also supported by our teaching assistants: Mr Swain, Mr Jenkinson, Mrs Hornsey and Mrs Allen. We have help from Mr Jones, Miss Lee, Ms Grimsley and Ms Reasbeck too. What a fantastic team!

Our PE days are Tuesday (indoor) and Wednesday (outdoor): the children need to wear their PE kits for school on those days. 

Spellings are sent home every Monday, to learn ready for a spelling dictation each Friday. 

Homework books (maths and SPaG) will be sent home once a week - the days will be decided by the class teachers who will let their classes know. They will have a whole week to complete the homework tasks. 

In our weekly blogs, the children will share some of the things they have been doing at school. Check in each weekend for the latest Y5 news!


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 Shaw and Mrs Watkinson (Y6S/W); Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (Y6R/J); Mrs Phillips (Y6CP); and Miss Norris (Y6HN). Also teaching in Year 6 are: Miss Lee (Thursday in Y6R/J); Mrs Farrell (Thursday  in Y6HN); Mrs Grimsley (Thursday in Y6CP); and Mr Jones (Thursday inY6S/W).We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Hill, Mrs Mulqueen and Mr Gartrell. 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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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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05 Dec 2015

‘Stakeholders’ vs. ‘Customers’ vs. Children

A couple of times recently I have been challenged by parents over the time it has taken to respond to their initial contact. We try to answer calls quickly, we open post promptly and we read emails throughout the working day (and often times well-beyond it and over weekends). I wondered whether we shouldn’t have some sort of ‘Customer Services Standards’ that would mark just how quick we aim to be.

Sheffield City Council published theirs in 2013. You can find their ‘Charter’ here:

https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/your-city-council/how-to-contact-us/complaint/customer-charter.html

I suppose, as a maintained school, we could follow that lead. That would be:

  • Try to answer straight away,

  • If not, try within 7 days,

  • And if not then certainly in full within 28 days.

It would mean us not having to reply in full to a written enquiry for anything up to 28 days. I can’t imagine that that service would satisfy many of our ‘stakeholders’. A request to authorise a child’s absence that will start in four days (a typical time-scale for requests I receive) gets a response 24 days after the absence started! Not going to be good enough, is it?

I went looking, via a popular web search engine, for a school’s published ‘service standards’ and found only one within my boredom threshold period.

http://www.corsham-pri.wilts.sch.uk/sites/1/media/files/Customer%20Service%20Standards.pdf

The school pretty much repeats the requirements of the relevant legislation, the Freedom of Information and the Data Protection Acts. And if we kept to those limits we would really disappoint a great many people who want or need to talk with us, meet with us or want an answer to something. That school promises 10, 20 or even 40 days to respond.

Here’s what we could do:

  • We could answer every call, never mind 90%, in five rings (if every one goes to an answer-phone recording).

  • We could respond to every email we receive within five minutes, never mind five days (if we simply set an auto-reply message).

  • We could meet with every visitor in person (if that meeting is less than 30 seconds).

But none of these is worthy as ‘service’.

As you’d expect they have an association in the US of A devoted to professionals working in schools’ public relations. The former President of the NSPRA, Jackie Price, “To gain and maintain strong customer support, we must excel at the business of teaching and learning, make sure our current and potential customers know that, court our customers by anticipating and complying with their needs and desires whenever possible, and look at ways we can be doing an even better job in the future”. So, who are our ‘customers’?

A friend of one of my sons has started working for the DfE. His professional language is sprinkled with the word ‘stakeholders’. It is a term we got used to a few years back. It indicates anyone from any group who has a interest, vested, personal or pecuniary, in education’s outcomes. It covers parents, Governors, local authorities, central government, the tax payer, employers, local residents, neighbours of schools, employees, contractors and, oh yes, children. Each ‘stakeholder’ might be a customer, but surely, please, the one that really matters is the child?

So, surely, our customer service standards should be about the provision we make for children? Imagine if we only aimed to answer a child’s question fully within 20 working days? Or if we promised to be in class on time, but if we couldn’t do that then we’d tell the children why not? Or if we aimed to respond to homework within 10 days if it was lengthy? Do we really need to make a Charter to promise to be friendly, respectful and polite towards children? Do we really need to promise to be prepared in advance of any meeting (that would be a lesson) we have booked with children?

Now we could promise to be more ‘customer facing’ in our staffing and activity, and address the concerns of people who contact us through any or all of the various methods open more quickly. To do so we would need, at times, to ignore the child in front of us, to ignore the class waiting for us or ignore some of our statutory responsibilities. The problem all businesses face with conflicting demands is that we will always disappoint someone when we do not prioritise their need or request.

So the truth is:

  • We cannot see, straight away, every parent who cold-calls us.

  • We cannot answer, immediately and fully, every question.

  • We cannot give everything first priority.

  • We cannot respond in full, within one day, to every email or letter received.

  • We cannot promise that the person you want to speak to will always be available when you want to speak to them.

The first rule of all the Customer Service Charters I’ve read this week seems to be that the organisation should listen to its customers. I must ask, then, for the children’s voice on what matters to them.

What do you, the ‘stakeholders’, think would make for a good level of customer service in terms of dealing with enquiries and visitors to school?

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