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 several Teaching Assistants who work with Y3 children at different times through the week: Mr Jenkinson, Mrs Proctor, Mrs Hill, 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 will try to tie together these two seemingly disconnected sub-stories, with one common theme.
Last night, as I waited in my local supermarket to be directed to a till, I noticed a shelf-stacker’s trolley on my right hand side. On it were brown paper bags, and on each was a handwritten price. Reading the sign on the trolley, I discovered that this was a simple way of collecting, paying for, and depositing contributions for one of the city’s Food Banks. You picked a bag, it was scanned at the till, and after paying you just walked a cross to a collection point beyond the tills and left the bag.
Sheffield Food Banks has become one of my charities of choice in the last few weeks; I cannot live comfortably when I know that (last week) one household in every one hundred in Sheffield relied on a Food Bank to feed themselves, not when I could afford fennel, basil, plums, strawberries, ‘selected nuts’ and the rest of my shopping with such financial ease.
I was tired, hot and hungry as I shopped, nearing the end of another difficult day, but here I was - able to easily help. I scooped into my trolley as many of those brown paper bags as I could lift as I reminded myself of that truth that we are well off, and probably better off than we think.
I got to spend twenty minutes or so with one of our new ‘bubbles’ this morning as they had been talking about their experience so far, had an idea and had written to me. I wanted to go and chat with them about their complaint and ideas.
What they were saying was that they felt rushed by us when eating their lunch and weren’t getting enough time to play out afterwards. Lunchtime, they said, was not long enough and as Year 6 got longer it wasn’t fair.
I told them how it is at two neighbouring schools where the children in ‘bubbles’ are eating in their classrooms and staying there all lunchtime every day (and we use the dining room in very small numbers then play out for 35 minutes, on one or other playground, or out on the field). I told them how, at one of those schools, the children are getting one 10 minute outdoor playtime each day (and we still, by stagger, get two f 15 minutes each). I asked them to think about how things are when we have 480 pupils in school – the hall is packed, and loud and pressured. I got them to think about how rushed they are then, and how relaxed they are this week. I told them about the typical Y5 boy with a packed lunch who wolfs it in 4 minutes to get out to play football - and the 13 minutes they take now being luxury. We talked about eating the fridge and how much bigger their lunches are now than they used to be before spending twelve weeks at home.
They agreed, after we’d laughed about cakes and biscuits and snacking, that maybe we had it really good already.
We can, in wanting better or bigger or newer or more, forget that what we have is a good deal, and that what we have is oftentimes a much better thing than others may be enjoying.
We are operating in school in ways that protect pupils, families, staff and the wider community, but we are not forgetting to make the experience of being in school a really good quality, and we are not forgetting those who are not getting this experience at all. Yes, we’d like this to be better – but we want that to be much better, too.
From Monday we will have 132 children back at school – nowhere near as many as we would all like even if it will be treble the national average attendance in Primary Schools (9% nationally on Thursday 18th June).
They will be organised in 12 separate, closed, ‘social bubbles’ of 11 children in each, working with as few adults as we can arrange safely and practically for the week.
Where we can it will be the same teacher, the same teaching assistant (where there is one) and the same lunchtime supervisor. (If there is a job-share arrangement then two teachers, plus an extra for one day for PPA and making phone calls home to children not attending.) So we have constructed a closed group of 14, and we then try to maintain that group’s integrity all day and all week.
The purpose is simple enough; to limit contacts and mixing, one of the four most important steps schools can take to protect children, families and staff from passing an infection. (The others are avoiding contact with anyone who may be infected, using good personal hygiene of hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and enhancing cleaning.)
How we are doing it:
- Spreading out arrival at school over a fifteen minute period and through both gates,
- Using the same classroom for only one ‘bubble’ each week,
- Minimising staff movement between groups,
- Keeping the children in the same groups from week to week,
- Not having any rotas for attendance; neither daily or weekly,
- Sitting for lunch in the ‘bubbles’,
- Stretching lunchtime a little,
- Splitting playtimes into two slots morning and afternoon,
- Splitting the playgrounds in three, one per ‘bubble’,
- Using Tapton field, the top playground, the lower playground and the area round the Y6 mobiles at lunchtime, one per year group,
- Holding no assemblies, clubs, before school activities, lunchtime clubs or sports clubs,
- Timetabling in year groups to spread activities wider than usual (even the Daily Mile is timed apart),
- Using controlled entrances and cloakrooms,
- Not allowing visitors to work with two ‘bubbles’ consecutively,
- Building temporary routes and walkways through ‘bases’ that will hold two ‘bubbles’,
- Stopping collective activities such as singing assemblies, parent assemblies, parties and discos,
- Limiting the number of children (and adults) in each and every space on the school site – 4 in a cloakroom, 1 in an office, 14 in a classroom, 40 in the hall, 12 in the servery, 6 in the teaching kitchen, 3 in the toilets and so on,
- Having just 33 children at most sitting to eat lunch at one time (when we might have 144 normally),
- Having the doors open and staffed at the start of the day so there is absolutely no queuing to get in,
- Walking the children out, having got ready in advance, at the end of the day,
- Using the yellow dots outside the top gate to spread out (to 2m) while waiting
- Halting almost all pupil monitor roles, so they do not need to cross school and meet children from other groups accidentally,
- Halt all small group work that would pull children together from more than one class,
- Not host any peripatetic musical instrument teaching, so rooms aren’t used successively by children from multiple groups,
- Use pack after pack (after pack) of antibacterial wipes on any shared resource (such as a computer mouse or a telephone handset),
- Washing tables before and after use,
- Maintaining the same level of cleaning even though we do have only 27% of the children attending,
- Keeping other adults off-site unless they really are essential.
If we can ensure that no-one exhibiting symptoms of the virus attends school then it cannot get passed around, going from ‘bubble’ to ‘bubble’. Even if it does come to our school, perhaps through someone who is ‘asymptomatic’, only 14 people might be exposed (and even then not greatly at risk, with social distancing in class, and as much time outside as we can manage, and doors and windows wide open, and good hygiene routines in place, and enhanced cleaning).
Often, when we show round parents of prospective children, they comment how big a school we are. I explain how, through four year groups, in separate accommodation, with separate cloakrooms and so on, it never seems that way except when we try to hold a whole school assembly (maybe twice a year); it is basically a class with a teacher and maybe a TA. And that’s how the ‘bubbles’ are – a small, closed, secure group with their teacher and TA and an MDSA.
Next week, I am really pleased to say, we will have 12 ‘bubbles’, each full of children from each of the four year groups in single-aged groups. They will be led by teachers they know, each from the corresponding year groups. They will each be using one of their year groups’ classrooms. This huge normality is one crucial factor in making it work so well so far, and in ensuring that every child who was anxious at their return rapidly remembered how good it felt to be at school.
So we will be open the full week, for our normal hours, in our normal year groups, with our normal staff, up to fairly normal things. We will deeply miss the children not yet with us and we will, in the background, keep working to support them, at home, and read the next guidance document to see how we can move towards the target of full opening.
It should go on one of those yellow and black chevron bordered signs: ‘Wash your hands; Two metres, please; Stay with your ‘bubble’.
I got a text one evening this week telling me I was in the paper, and asking if I knew.
I had to say I was a little surprised; when the Sheffield Star had phoned earlier that day, looking for a quote, I had declined. They were running a story about ‘wider opening’ and the shortage of places for children who either wanted to return to school themselves or whose parents needed them to.
As a rule I don’t comment – the City Council has a publicity team for just such a purpose, and I have no intention of ever stepping out of line. I did not know what side, if any, the newspaper was going to take, whether I would be directly quoted, used slightly out of context, quoted in full, or what. I have a suspicion, perhaps wrongly and unfairly, about the motivation of the printed media (sensationalism, the need to sell copy, the limited space to tell the full story in a banner headline and three paragraphs, and cynicism borne of being a Liverpool Red by birth and upbringing). No comment was given, with a reason provided as simply not having the time.
I did go online to read the article the next morning: https://www.thestar.co.uk/education/key-worker-parents-told-children-cant-return-sheffield-primary-school-monday-2880713
Basically they had a full story from one letter I sent out to parents. It is published also on our website (because we post letters to parents there for reference and easy location) so it is freely available. We don’t slap a big copyright sign on it so they were free to use the text, I suppose. What amused me, though I suppose I could have been cross, was that the article makes it sound like I have provided a host of quality quotes.
They don’t have chapters 2 and 3, because they haven’t checked back, either with me or I guess with whoever provided the story initially – there is more to tell already and I imagine there will be more to come yet.
Since then we have put out a survey to parents asking, effectively, for applications for places from 22nd June. We are open for responses for another 21 hours as I write this. I imagine we are going to be impossibly over-subscribed.
This I already presumed when I completed a return to Sheffield City Council on Wednesday, explaining the peculiarity of our situation – we have no shortage of children to place but a lack of places to put them, and all of them children of critical workers or others in the priority group. On Wednesday I had a telephone conversation with SCC Commissioning, Inclusion and Learning Services on what we need, in terms of premises and staffing, to meet need. I suggested a minimum of 8 classrooms, a hall or two, a second kitchen, about 9 teachers and guaranteed funding to cover the costs for a term – say £150,000. That would only allow us to house the current critical workers’ children demand. To bring all of Y6 back as well we’d need 50% more of everything again.
So the story ‘printed’ in The Star was fair, and I think my writing was fairly good. Only one sentence was manufactured, which I felt wasn’t bad in one whole article. Sadly, incredible as it seems, we cannot safely accommodate all the children in the priority groups – we simply have an very large number (and proportion) of critical worker parents, which combined with our non-expanding classrooms and high pupil : teacher ratio means we do not have the capacity to hold the required number in groups of the size dictated. Yes, austerity has compounded the problem, as has years of relatively low funding, expansion of pupils on roll way over the original design, losing admission appeals, and the lure of a fabulous local community that means so many professional people live in the catchment area.
I shall end on an upbeat note: we have been open ever since schools were ‘closed’, through the holidays as well as the term. We have had more children attend than the average, a greater percentage attend than the average, a greater percentage of ‘vulnerable’ children attend than the average, a greater increase in numbers attending since Sheffield schools were told not to expand than the average increase in Sheffield (I know that seems to make no sense, and yet it is true), and we planned for the second earliest expansion date. Our website has experienced a 300% increase in traffic – year group blogs are as popular as ever, and the Covid-19 FAQ is also popular. We will safely expand further in a week’s time, having learnt from a two-week period with an extra 44 attending. We remain hopeful of another, small, expansion in numbers before the end of term.
I do not know how they do it, but the quality of newly trained students that we see at interview is astonishing.
On Thursday this week we interviewed to fill a teacher vacancy in Year 3. The whole process was conducted via the internet, including devising the process, shortlisting and interviewing. I have never done it this way before, and we had our doubts about what we could discover via video:
- We could not see teaching,
- We might not pick up on relationships,
- How would we assess warmth?
- What planning and teaching skills could we watch?
But it was a revelation and the four candidates were extraordinary.
I could make this blog post into a test of ordering comparatives and superlatives: the four young teachers we saw were incredible; engaging, inventive, empathetic, confident, warm, witty, open, honest, self-aware, capable, reflective, and about ten years’ experience better than I was at that stage of my career.
That we could attract applications from four so talented people is nice, and perhaps says something good about our school. Maybe it says that we write a good advert, run a decent-looking website and have a fair local reputation. The way each shone during the interview might reflect well on the way we put each at ease and set up the process. Their warmth possibly reflected ours. It was, whichever way round, a fabulous way to spend a day at work and left us feeling quite in awe, honoured to be setting someone on their way in their teaching career, and thrilled for our Year 3 pupils in September.
That all four are so good, at the very start of their careers, says a huge amount about them, their colleges, their secondary schools and all the people who have worked to develop such great people. I am grateful for all you have done, as I know my pupils are about to gain a great deal from their new teacher’s skills, knowledge and enthusiasm.
It is easy to say, yet on this occasion it really is true: we would very, very happily have appointed all four candidates. The first phone call I make after we reach a decision is to the person we have selected, just in case they turn us down at the offer. I always ask and hope.
We are certain that every child will love Miss Hayden and be very proud to be in her class.
The letter I wrote to parents at nine this morning was overtaken by other events at ten.
But when I read it again just now I realised that most of it is still very relevant. Here are two small sections:
Health protection and preventative steps
The best four things we can all do to protect each other from infection are:
- If you have coronavirus symptoms, or someone in your household does, do not attend school – get a test
- Clean your hands more often than usual - wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap and dry them thoroughly
- Ensure good respiratory hygiene by following the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach
- And we will continue cleaning frequently-touched surfaces often, using standard products, such as detergents, antibacterial wipes and bleach.
Changes to classrooms are not the same as changes to the school
The children will see how classrooms have had to be laid out differently. They will not have access to everything as they usually do. Certain activities cannot take place for now. We have removed things like cushions and blankets. There will be very little, if any, coming together in celebration just now.
However, buildings and classrooms and tables do not make a school – schools are communities and shared ideas, they are shared triumphs and the joy of learning. Schools are about friendships and growth, they are about knowing you‘ve done well and celebrating when someone else does, too. Schools are essentially about the people that make them up, and so school will be here on Tuesday, as strong, as warm, as confident, as fascinating and as fun as ever. I reckon, that after an initial quiet ten minutes, we will soon see smiles, hear chatter and laughter, and each and every child will enjoy a great day.