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 teachers are Mrs Dutton & Mrs de Brouwer (3D/deB), Mrs Holden (3SH), Mrs Noble & Mrs Finney (3N/R) and Miss Wall (3AW). We have three Teaching Assistants who work within the team: Mrs Allen, Mrs Dawes and Mr Gartrell.
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 Loosley (5NL), Mrs Rougvie and Mrs Jones (5RJ), Mrs Webb and Mrs Ridsdale (5WR) and Miss Cunningham (5EC). Many children are supported by Mrs Hill, Mr Swain and Ms Kania (the Year 5 Teaching 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 Shaw and Mrs Watkinson (Y6S/W), Mr Bradshaw (until Mrs Parker returns) in Y6AP), Mrs Phillips (Y6CP) and Miss Norris (Y6HN). Also teaching in Year 6 is Miss Lee (Monday - Y6AP, Tuesday - Y6HN and Wednesday - Y6S/W) and Mrs Grimsley (Tuesday -Y6CP).We are also very lucky to be helped by Mrs Ainsworth and Mrs Biggs. 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....
I want to write detail on the announcement this morning from DfE and phs of the plan to address school-age period poverty by providing free period products in every school in England.
Except that the content of the press release is all I have. I have scoured the usual main news feeds and only picked up rehashed versions of the same story, all built on the press release and an older DfE feed:
What I am told is that we (schools) will receive an email on Monday inviting us to sign up for the scheme (as if we would say ‘no’ to an opportunity to provide what, on surface at least, appears to be a Universal Benefit).
How it will work if we don’t contract our sanitary disposal with phs I don’t know.
Whether it will actually be ‘Universal’ I don’t know.
How we will overcome anticipated resistance I don’t know either.
And, crucially, some sources are quoting some numbers that throw huge doubts on the scheme’s intended reach – an annual cost of less than £18 million and an uptake by 1.1 million ‘students’.
These are far, far too small to indicate ‘Universal’ uptake or access. There are around 720,000 pupils in each school year group in the UK; approximately 9 million ‘students’ in total in England’s schools. Half of them are girls and we might assume we need to make provision from Years 6 to 13 – leading to a total of at least 2.25 million children. How is the target of 1.1 million derived?
Are we about to see some screening and in a very well-meaning scheme some sort of block installed that becomes the next barrier to overcome? Is it actually going to be funded at the rate of free school meals in the schools, perhaps? Just under 20% of pupils in Year 3 and above are eligible nationally for FSM (only 4% in our school), and that equates to around the 1 million mark nationally.
So if this is how it works (the free part of provision), how will schools manage this? There is simply no way we are means testing children or holding period products in First Aid or the Office or in the teachers’ drawer and then applying a FSM test to distribution. Surely all schools will want to make access simple and possible or they will be working contrary to the whole idea of the scheme. What we will then be pushed to do is to provide, at school cost, free period products for all. It’s that, ‘at school cost’ bit that troubles me, as we will receive no funding top-up to do it (and what a wasteful money-go-round that would be anyway; give us money for us to give to a company the Government has selected to run the scheme).
I absolutely agree – period products ARE too expensive and VAT charging on them, even at the current 5% rate, is outrageous. The single most effective way to deliver a benefit though is to make it universally free at the point of access. Want to eradicate period poverty? Make access to period products free for all.
I’ll raise it with School Governors at the earliest opportunity (the Thursday after the invitation email arrives in school).
I shall apologise right now for this blog – it probably will sound a little ranty.
This week all schools got a letter from Nadhim Zahawi MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families. He wanted to draw our attention to the food situation of disadvantaged children, and to highlight three things in particular. These points were:
A positive lunchtime experience
Avoiding stigma, and
Access to free drinking water.
He called for examples of outstanding practice in these areas.
I felt compelled to write, not because I think our provision is ‘outstanding’ but because I think the vast majority of schools already do their utmost to address these points and because of the limiting factors that make a very uneven playing field.
Addressing those points in reverse order, we can demonstrate how they are simply not relevant to our school because we have eliminated the problems.
Water, in jugs, is provided on every table at lunchtime. The four cloakrooms in the main building have fresh water fountains (installed this year to replace old facilities). Children are encouraged to bring a water bottle that they can refill at school. We provide cups (reusable) that they can otherwise use. Sorted.
Even before the introduction of an on-line payment system there was no distinction made between paid for and free school meals, at either end. The choices on offer are entirely the same. No reference is made, or even available, to FSM entitlement on the dinner register. No child is aware of the distinction, the lunchtime supervisors are not aware and neither is the kitchen. All the children who take a school meal are free to choose from the full selection on offer. When teachers take the dinner register, to record that day’s choices, there is absolutely no information displayed or available to staff or children about who does or does not pay for their meals. The children do not sit separately, queue separately, or get served separately. I say this because Mr Zahawi’s letter suggests that in some schools things are not so.
Success in providing a ‘positive lunchtime experience’ is not so straight forward. The relevant research says that, ‘Children place a high value on affordable healthy choices, avoiding queues and having enough time and space to eat with their peers’. If we pick that apart we could easily say that all three elements are met.
Our school meals cost £2.00, as simple as that. It matters not one bit what choices or quantities children take, whether they use the salad bar or not, or take a dessert, or have vegetables, or street food on a Wednesday, or what filling they put in a jacket potato, the daily cost is £2.00. The meals for a child who qualifies for FSM cost £2.00 as well.
Every meal OFFERED meets the national School Food Standards. The menus have been developed by a professional team of nutritionists, who do take children’s input and preferences as part of the design process but the restrictions of legislation can over-rule these desires. Then, of course, it very much depends on what children actually take and then subsequently eat. I have written many times about this: many children do not take a vegetable or salad choice, and many restrict their choice of dessert to something similar each day. The amount we later pick off the floor or that goes into waste bins is frustrating, baffling and troubling. It does demonstrate the gulf between offer and uptake. The answer to this is far from simple: when I asked parents whether they would support school in placing restrictions on what could be sent in as snacks the overwhelming response was to reject the idea of me being the arbiter of what was ‘healthy’. I cannot imagine a good level of support if I wanted to enforce taking and eating the full offer of fruit and veg with each meal. Money, what a surprise, would help, but it would need to be substantial. A purpose-built and extra dining room would benefit the lunchtime experience, but our annual capital funding of less than £10,000 is never going to provide that. The Government’s grant of £24 million is only actually supporting 1,700 breakfast clubs – I say ‘only’ because there are more than 32,000 Primary Schools in the UK – and they are targeted at disadvantaged areas. The chance of our pupils benefiting is close to zero.
We avoid queues as far as absolutely possible by having an unusual staggered lunch break. The school was built for 360 pupils and having 485 means we would have 125 children queuing for a long time if we just kept the one start / end time. Effectively we save 240 children a day from queuing for 20 minutes each – a staggering 15,200 hours a year saved! We do not force ‘second sitting’ classes to queue – but they do anyway! We have tried to improve this further when we investigated a portable servery arrangement to go in the hall, but the physical layout and logistics simply make it impossible. We are concerned a little by the shortness of time children spend at the servery hatch; it is here that staff might be able to introduce something new, fresh, healthy or extra. A second servery might help that. We support the return of trays and plates through staffing to reduce or remove queues at the back end of things. Daily observation tells us that all children are out of the hall and outside playing for at least 15 minutes each day, and that the last ones out are last because they choose to stay and chat in the hall.
Governors, in discussion with our school meal provider, recently asked if we could increase the cost of meals if it led to an improvement in quality of ingredients or the quality of meal provision by increasing staffing. We were told they is no mechanism for this.
What made me reply to Mr Zahawi’s letter was not a self-evaluation as ‘outstanding’ but the idea that a blanket letter is appropriate and that the answer (to a not necessarily significant issue) is within the school’s control. I suspect that many of the issues are Secondary School based, so why write to Primary Schools at all? And with our one-hall-does-all what exactly can we do to improve the place children eat?
A copy of the letter from Mr Zahawi is available from this link:
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.
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.
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.