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 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.
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
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....
Pupil Mobility is a measure of pupil movement during the academic year. The calculation is simple: add all the movements in and out and express that as a percentage of the number on roll. Our Pupil Mobility measure is at its lowest level in 7 years, at just 2.3%. It is now less than one sixth of the Sheffield average. There were just 11 pupils leaving or joining our school during term time in the last 12 months.
Parents can be worried about a negative impact on their children if they move during a key stage. They should be assured by the research evidence that shows that any negative impact is actually due to other factors, such as EAL, economic disadvantage and SEN. When simply accounting for prior attainment at the end of key stage 1, there is no negative impact on attainment due to moving schools.
The gross impact is much harder to measure. The schools with the highest levels of pupil mobility are also those with highest levels of disadvantage. There are correlations and coincidences in the data groups, but not necessarily any causal link. Pupil movement may be driven by four causes and circumstances and we can easily see how each might lead to both disadvantage and lower attainment:
- International migration — Children joining / leaving schools as a result of families moving from / to countries overseas
- Internal migration — Children joining / leaving schools as a result of families moving home within the UK, whether over long or short distances
- Institutional movement — Children changing schools without moving home, including exclusions and voluntary transfers
- Individual movement — Children changing schools as a result of moving alone, such as moves between separated parents or to live with foster parents.
Conversely and positively we can look at each of these factors as a factor likely to indicate aspiration and hope for improvement. International migration may be to escape hardship but is also a movement towards better, and presumably betterment. Which parent ever wanted less for their child than they enjoyed? Moving home and city (or just catchment area) can be as a result of new careers, career advancement and ‘making it good’. With it comes the chance to enjoy the schools offered in the new area. The vast abundance of data and other information about schools is supposed to allow parents to state their preference of school, and if they feel one is not right for their child then they have the right to seek a move to another. (This does require spaces to be available of course.) In an urban area parents often have to choose from many nearby schools, and they do do so for many reasons. Almost always it is sought for the child’s best interests. A child moving home does not mean a school move will have to happen, but hopefully the home change is also a positive one, and supports the child’s growth and development.
So, very few children leave Lydgate Junior School mid-year (maybe 5 or 6 in any 12 months), and a similar small number join us (coming in from a waiting list or via and Admission Appeal Panel decision). I remain convinced that the reason so few children leave is because we do provide a very good school experience for every pupil. We look after each well, and we promote very good standards of learning. That we always fill vacancies is for the same reasons: it is recognised that we do a good job for families and children. Sheffield is a great place to be. S10 is a great area within that city, with vibrant, welcoming, communities. People want to be here; they have made choices and, possibly, sacrifices to do so. When someone wants to move into the area, or get their child into a school in the area, it is because they want all these good things for their families.
Pupil Mobility can be used an indicator of other things. When it is low it indicates stable communities with all the advantages that brings. It is hard to find a downside to low Pupil Mobility in fact.
Social mobility is the movement of an individual or family between social strata relative to their current position. This is often linked to educational achievement and income. Unless all schools can give the same outcomes for all pupils, and then this lead to equality of opportunity at the next stage, parents will continue to look for a school that does better than the other so that their child has a better chance on life. Research suggests that we aren’t doing so well – children of rich parents stay rich and children of poor parents stay poor, by and large. The educational achievement gap can be as much as three years’ worth by the age of 15 between children from different advantage backgrounds.
That low mobility then seems to get in the way of the aspirational, ambitious parent. They perhaps see admission to a good school with good results as a passport to social mobility, but with no places available the door is simply closed. We are full, and at 120 pupils more than the school original design. We cannot simply take more pupils to support a social mobility goal as we have no room to take them into.
I do not have an answer other than the same line that has been stated over and over by politicians and education leaders at all levels for as long as I have been a school leader – every child deserves good school, every community should have a good school, and every school should be a good school. (I actually suppose that they mostly are just that already.)
I was struggling yesterday with some wording in the draft of the latest Newsletter around our ‘policy’ on smartphones at school.
Why the struggle?
- Because Governors have not been asked to write an agreed formal Policy.
- Because I do not want to ban them outright from the premises.
- Because I want to avoid conflict with pupils or parents.
- Because, most importantly, the problem at our school does not exist.
- Because I do not want the wording to suggest a change in policy.
This morning the news broadcasts, news websites and some newspaper front pages have a story featuring statements from the school standards minister, Nick Gibbs, saying that, in his opinion, schools should ban children taking smartphones to either school or classroom.
Our practical, and we think proportionate, sensible, approach is to allow them to be brought and not allow them to be used on site at all. So they are handed in first thing in the morning and given back at the end of the day. This avoids any misuse, deliberate or accidental, and any claims of misuse. It avoids damage or loss. It avoids something of value being taken without permission.
What we get is total compliance – we simply do not have incidents of children abusing this trust and application of a rule.
Schools have the power to ban smartphones.
Headteachers have the authority to decide if it appropriate to implement a ban.
Smartphone misuse can be a (very limited occurrence) problem.
Children are given increasing independence by the parents over the years of Key Stage 2.
The technology already exists and cannot be un-invented.
Active travel is seriously promoted, and that means getting children to walk, ride or scoot to and from school.
Parents want assurance that their child is on the way home of has a means to contact them.
Children have phones – households have more than one phone per family member.
We don’t need deceitful, underhand, underground, furtive, or complicit undermining of a rule that we cannot easily enforce by having parents and children sneaking a phone into school.
I’m not having every child turn out their pockets or bags so we could enforce a total ban – life’s too short and a ‘problem’ (if there even is one) is too small to need this action.
While we reserve the right to make the decisions (particularly because we are, ultimately, responsible for the outcomes of them), and want our professionality to be respected, we really do listen to the valuable opinion of ‘stakeholders’.
This week I met with a small but well-informed set of parents in a ‘round table discussion’ on school’s response to what is known as adverse weather. As a result of comments made by them, and in emails contributions, I will be changing the wording of some elements of our published scheme of working. They asked that I clarify authorisation of late arrival if a sibling’s school is opening later than us. So I will. And other points raised will be similarly explained.
I have been partly responsible for whipping up a little passion and idealism in our pupils, partly around School Council but also linked simply to them having a mind and speaking it. When one pupil decided to propose some environmentally-aware action she was not content to be told ‘no’ on the first request. She came back with a really coherent political and ethical argument. I admire the commitment and I have yielded to her request and told her (and her mum) how much I admire and respect her campaigning. School visitors will shortly see the outcome of her talking and talking to me until I agreed with her request.
Four Year 6 pupils have spent a good slice of each day’s playtimes with me (at their own choice) this week to discuss their request that they be allowed a ‘den’ to play in. They have not been put off but have responded positively and thoughtfully to every point I made, to every objection I raised. They ‘got’ the legitimacy of my issues and sensibly argued back, and conceded where it was obvious they had to. Five days later they are nearly there – I am just one sticking point away from conceding to their request (and possibly causing myself a lot of difficulty with colleagues and other pupils). They have moved me from a straight out ‘no’.
Colleagues have argued the case for staffing increases and supply cover. They are well-aware of financial pressures but critically aware of risks from under-staffing and the pressures on colleagues from the same. And so we have covered absences we previously haven’t, and are about to advertise to refill a vacancy we have run with for half a year.
Governors considered the normal range of issues at their committee meeting. While they recognise there are sensible and practical limits to what we can, they are still keen to continue to improve, and so small steps forward in site security will happen, and communication and challenge over school meal quality will continue.
The Local Authority, through the Schools Company ‘LearnSheffield’, offered us access to a website audit tool. This highlighted things we should improve to ensure full annual compliance and an up-to-date set of information. Reports, Policies, Strategy documents and links have been reviewed and improved as a result.
If we were rigid, unsympathetic and un-listening none of these changes might happen. We won’t promise to always agree with an opposing or even a novel view but we will continue to listen and consider.
A point of tension in reviewing our Homework Policy is what ‘supporting’ or ‘encouraging’ children to complete each homework activity looks like. Would the correct synonym be, ' offer', 'reward', 'challenge', 'prompt', 'help', 'enable', 'make', 'require'...?
We have had initial conversations at Senior Leadership level. Our collective view was that we should be expecting parents to support their child, us and the Policy, ensuring each piece is at least given a reasonably good effort.
The way School Admissions work came into the discussion: parents express a preference to have their children admitted to our school. We are always over-subscribed and never have children allocated places here other than as a choice of the parents. If parents chose to send their children here, can’t we assume they are ‘buying in’ to what we offer (and, by association, what we expect)?
We (the SLT) think that, if our published Policy on homework states that we give homework each week, including a minimum amount of reading time, then this should be supported by parents.
I have since wondered if we do not need to re-institute the ‘Home – School Agreement’ (H-SA), a contract of sorts that states what school will provide by level of service, ethos and commitment, and that parents also sign to show their commitment to their responsibilities. With our interest in ‘pupil voice’ we would have pupils sign it, too.
Would a separate contract be necessary, though, and could it potentially confuse and dilute agreements if an H-SA also covers things like attendance, uniform and behaviour?
The government scrapped a requirement for home - school agreements back in January 2016. First introduced in 1999 for governing bodies of schools in England, the H-SA set out a school’s aims, values and responsibilities, and expectations of pupils and parents. The obligation to publish and collect was removed in order to “cut red tape” and free schools of a “one-size-fits-all, prescriptive approach to engaging with parents”.
The change did not mean schools could not continue with home-school agreements if they wished to. (One of those situations where being told ‘you do not have’ to is not quite the same as ‘do not’.)
Before rushing into a process of writing, sampling, testing and approving, I thought maybe I should carry out some reading round an obvious question – did they work?
The definitive, published, national research is locally-sourced, coming from four academics at Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of the, then, Department for Education and Skills.
It is not a very positive report:
Bastiani, 199, saw it as a "no nonsense approach to sorting things out" and as a government attempt to deprive parents of their "freedom... to do things on their own terms and in their own way."
The contract was seen as a statement combining expectations and demands without much consideration to families' disagreement with expectations.
Schools (in the study) thought HSAs had had a positive impact on communication of school expectations and responsibilities, and 30% or more thought it had had a positive impact on parents and teachers working together, parents supporting their children’s learning at home, communicating the school role, pupil behaviour and homework.
Over three quarters of schools reported that at least 75% of parents signed the agreement.
70% thought it made no impact on homework.
The Report measured perception of impact, not actual impact. The researchers acknowledged this, but said it was impossible to isolate this one factor and its impact, when so many changes in system and curriculum have happened over the same period.
So I now hold a number of questions, and possibly one answer.
- What if parents don’t sign? Or pupils?
- What, then, if they do not carry out every expectation?
- Are there to be rewards and sanctions?
- Does supporting each Policy really have to be made explicit?
- What about each year, when we admit new pupils and their parents; do we have to go through the consultation process annually?
- What about things that change once you have ‘bought in’ (such as online behaviour in new forums)?
- If we can boil down all that School is about to one, one-page, document, why do we have all the 42-page ones?
- How do we accommodate the deeply-held, committed, view points of the dissenters? Are they not allowed to disagree?
- Is there a difference in how we support a child’s learning due to parents’ reasons for their behaviour? (The parent who chooses not to support the H-SA and the parent who cannot.) Does that not limit the child’s learning for something they have no control over? Is that fair to the child?
We (I say, ‘we’ when I mean I delegated) recently ran a toolkit check on our ‘website compliance’ and it threw up a few things to sort out, one of which was reviewing and re-approving Policies that had reached their review dates. We might just start by engaging parents and their representative Governors in reviewing the Homework Policy and sharing it over and over in an attempt to inform and persuade and to build commitment. Expect this to be the focus of a survey, the topic of a ‘Round Table’ and something we ask pupils about through School Council.
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.