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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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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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30 Oct 2015

The real gap in school funding

My Governors are about to start on the annual unpleasantness of finding areas where we can cut spending. Two years ago we cut out around £12,000. Last April another £26,000. We are staring at a deficit of £60,000 for 2016 / 2017 if we do nothing different or less, and all our skilled, experienced, dedicated and wonderful staff stay at our school.

Such a deficit must mean poor financial management, surely? Well, the easy, simple and honest answer is, ‘No’. All our monthly returns are approved by the local authority as accurate. Audit has no problems with our methods or accuracy. Governors get updates every seven or eight weeks. Our Finance Officer is a trained and qualified accountant. HR reports show we do not employ any superfluous staff or having excessive staffing levels. (In fact, a quick survey via publically available data shows that we are way under neighbouring schools – our TA / pupil ratio is a staggering 1:53 compared with Lydgate Infant's ratio of 1:31 and Broomhill Infant's at 1:15. http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/index.html ) Our budget plans are checked over by centrally employed, and therefore independent, council finance staff and they never have any problem with our reports or plans.

So not mismanagement, then.

Spending on personal fads and ego-boosting 'vanity' schemes, then? I do have personal passions, such as outdoor learning, girls’ football, equality, inclusion, mental maths, 3d art, drama and performance, running, polite assertiveness. Have I overly funded them in the last three years? Well, we only ran the full Forest Schools scheme for one year, and that was from Private Fund. Our allotment is at no cost to school whatsoever. We are looking to FOLA (the parent / teacher group) to raise the capital to build a bike ramp entrance.  Sports Premium funds to some extent some of our sports programme, but we no longer have girls’ football, and it was never at the exclusion of anything else. Cross Country runs on Saturdays with no staff cost whatsoever, and lots of parental support. My own office has had nothing spent on it in the two and a half years I have been in post – no carpets, no furniture, no lighting, no fancy phones, no new shelving or chairs. One replacement PC is all, in that time, apart from my own spending not claimed for. The list of things that we would like to do, or could really do with doing, is considerably longer than the list of things we have had done.

So not self-pleasing schemes, either.

Could it be higher costs? Does the school break the bank to pay staff ‘over the odds’? Again the answer is, ‘No’, though not quite as simply. We use the same national and local pay scales and ranges that other schools use. We use the Council’s Pay Policy. We have fewer posts that carry additional pay for additional responsibility than the average Sheffield school, though. And on the other side, we have more experienced staff who are paid at or towards the top of the appropriate pay ranges than the average. This brings advantages but does ‘cost’ us every year. As we have relatively low staff turnover this is not a new factor and so does not explain the continuing and growing funding / spending issue. And the school in Chesterfield has a higher average teacher salary than us, so we aren't really profligate. If anything we should be benefitting from economies of scale, one would think, being one of the larger Primary sector schools in Sheffield.

So not higher costs, really.

It couldn’t, could it, be some sort of funding disparity? Funny you should ask. Headteachers at all the schools in this part of the city, and across the city as well, have long complained about unfair, unequal funding for Sheffield schools against those in other cities, and for schools in the south-west in particular. My wife, also a teacher (Deputy Headteacher at a Rotherham school), is applying for Headteacher posts. She just sent one in for a vacancy at a school in Chesterfield; much smaller than Lydgate Junior School, and with considerable more disadvantage in the local area, and amongst the pupils on roll. But a quick bit of research about its context threw up a staggering funding difference. The DfE’s own data shows that per pupil funding at LJS was £3,447 in 2014. At the Chesterfield school it was £5,162. Per pupil! Multiply that up and the difference / gap / loss for us is over £750,000 a year – nearly half again on our total annual income. Some of this can be explained away, based on that ‘disadvantage’ – Pupil Premium at the Chesterfield school accounted for a lot of the gap, and the effect of ‘base funding’ being shared between fewer pupils there raises the income per pupil. (Every school in Sheffield gets £150,000 to start with, no matter its size – the smaller the school the more income per pupil because of the size of the share being larger.) Even after we have removed these two factors there remains a gap in funding per pupil - £495 per pupil per year, or a total of £240,000 per year.  And £240,000 looks like six full-time teachers or ten Learning Mentors or 480 hours a week of TA support, or 24,000 times our capital (premises improvement) income, or enough to double our EAL, Pastoral, lunchtime AND admin staffing.

So unequal funding, then, seems a likely culprit.

Governors will make strategic and uncomfortable decisions. Things will have to go, or be allowed to go as opportunities arise. It is a familiar story, I suppose, but no easier for all that. The decisions will ultimately impact on our pupils because of reduced provision. You could help by raising the matter wherever you can. My Trade Union does, and the City Council does, too.

The ‘gap’ in school funding does not seem to be one that Government has done much to address, when it continues to press schools to work to close ‘gaps’ in pupil performance.

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04 Sep 2015

No Such Thing as Nine Free Dinners

Nine children went through the school meals' servery at lunch today, and took a dinner that had not been ordered or paid for. Might not seem much out of 480 odd children, but just consider:

  • with exact portion control the last nine (who were not the nine who had not had meals ordered or paid for) would have had no dinner,
  • those nine portions served had to be paid for - is everyone else subsidising these meals?
  • we have a member of staff conducting a dinner register check everyday (at school's expense) to find out which children, if any, are going through without ordering or payment; what else would they be better doing?
  • admin staff have to chase up proper payment, and sometimes face argument with parents or denial; is this staff time being used to benefit children?

I'm thrilled that our school dinners are so popular - so is the cook. I'm rather troubled by the implied cost of unpaid meals - let's 'do the maths':

Nine meals x £1.98 per meal x 190 days = £3,385.

How does that amount shape up in our school budget, I hear no one ask.

Well, its twice our annual spending on reading books, twice our spending on staff training, it would send an extra class swimming for a term, it would allow 25 children to go to the Year 6 residential for free, we could buy a whole class set of mini iPads, it would pay for 7 hours of teaching assistant for every week for a year, or pay for a sports coach to run lunchtime sports every single lunchtime of the school year.

Next time the kitchen may not be able to provide something pleasing, satisfying and healthy to the nine at the end of the queue, and that would really not be fair.

 

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