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/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.
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
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....
When Lydgate Middle School was opened, in 1974, it occupied only what is now our main building, and had a pupil capacity of 360. It was in the style of the time; open-plan, fluid, with support or withdrawal spaces, and a space allowance for cultural activities that might make noise.
In response to two pressures – the impossibility of teaching three classes in each open-plan base, and local needs for more Primary school places - we now have 485 pupils and so-called ‘mobile’ classrooms for 8 classes.
All schools have what is known as an ‘Indicative Pupil Number’ – this is the number of pupils at which the school is most efficient; any more pupils and each we have will suffer a little of what is called ‘prejudice’. It is not a legal limit (unless the school is open just for Key Stage 1, because they are limited by Infant Class Size rules) but does lead to admission numbers and the need for both Admission Policies and Admission Appeals.
Once we are full (at 120 or more in a year group) any new applications are simply refused by the Local Authority. But as we live in a fully-functioning democracy parents get to use the appeal process if they wish. An independent panel of three hears the LA case (basically ‘we are full’) and then the parents’ case. They, the Panel, make a decision that is binding on both parties – if they award a place then we have to admit the child and make no fuss about it.
Should I argue at all to try to prevent extra admissions at appeal; after all it is rather flattering that parents want to send their children to our school, isn’t it? Each extra child admitted will, eventually, bring extra cash into school’s budget, and a local need will have been met. A local family will have been supported, and the local community will have been strengthened. A parent’s wishes and preferences will have been met. Travel and transport issues are likely to be reduced. Our school’s own future will be sustained.
I ‘lose’ about 40% of appeals – children are admitted over our admission number in about 4 in 10 appeals. The school does not fall apart as a result of an extra child being admitted; we carry on much as before and outcomes remain remarkably high. So why do I try so hard to prevent extra admissions?
I submit a statement in advance of each appeal hearing that runs to 9 pages. I still attend the panel hearings even though I know many Headteachers do not. Successive panel chairs have complimented me on the thoroughness, honesty and accuracy of my statement. They say it pretty much removes the need for them to ask me any questions, and parents very rarely do ask anything.
Though I do sympathise with the parent appealing for a place here I argue in favour of protecting the provision for the children we already have. I know that admitting one more pupil does impact on every one we have in school already, child and adult alike. School classrooms are simply not the same as a lecture theatre – the interaction is vastly different and ratio is hugely important in allowing it to be positive and tuned to individual need. (I do remember when the ‘new’ lecture theatre was opened on the Collegiate Crescent site of Sheffield City Polytechnic, in about 1986, and it being too small for the BEd (Hons) course – in every lecture some students sat on the steps in the aisles. Same lecturer, same notes, same lecture.)
This is where Franz Kafka comes in. You’d think that I would be learning from the 60% I ‘win’, and from the 40% l ’lose’, and improving my average over time. Once I hear what it was about a particular argument that won a place I should be able to counter that next time, and so continually shut off avenues of approach. I’d do that if only I knew why one parent wins and another loses. You see, we only get told the outcome of the appeal and not the reasoning behind it.
There is an obvious absurdity in Kafka’s The Trial when the protagonist is arrested by unidentified officers of an unidentified authority on unspecified charges, and told to appear at an unspecified time before an unidentified court in an un-named room. Not being told why we won or lost feels a little like this. I have to reconcile that I do not need to know on this particular occasion because the decision is final, and as each appeal is separate; one outcome in one appeal is supposed to be irrelevant to the next appeal. We have, indeed, had multiple appeals in one day, winning some and losing others, but never we assume on the grounds that having given a place to the first one the school is now too overfull.
I question whether I should be honest, but I strongly believe that there is a simple moral imperative here. I cannot truthfully say that my school will be in crisis if we accept another pupil into any year group, because it will not be. We will continue to manage and teach well and school will continue to be highly successful. If my being honest is one of the reasons we lose some appeals (when the question is asked about whether we could cope) then we must accept that we will continue to lose.
I do ‘get’ parents’ frustration – they buy an expensive house in the catchment for a highly successful school and then find once they move in that no places are available. They get offered a place at a school a couple of miles and two bus journeys away, where getting there will pose family care problems and getting to work on time problems. Some will be choosing us for the feeder school status (we aren’t so blinkered as not to realise this) and will hate that moving into S10 does not guarantee their preference. All this I note and understand, but how do we ensure the quality of what we must provide for the 485 that we already have? Space is the final frontier, and we have precious little of it with 125 children more on site than school was designed and built for in 1974.
I will keep on arguing against further admissions and hope to maintain a win / loss ratio of 1.5 to 1 or better.
The next Admission Appeals for our school (two children, two different year groups, no idea about the context as we don’t get told and it’s none of my business) are in a couple of weeks. I have tweaked my submission having been asked a novel question at last week’s Panel (and ‘lost’) and I will appear again at the Panel hearing.
There may be hearings after Easter about September admissions into Year 3 if we are over-subscribed and parents push for Appeals. I’ll appear there, too. It is an unseen part of the Headteacher’s role.
School's current average attendance: 98.4%
National average for Spring term 2018: 95.8%
That difference is just plus 2.6%, hardly anything it might seem, but it means a huge amount.
It is 2,390 extra days of school for our pupils in a year.
That's the equivalent of 12 pupil school years extra attendance and learning.
- No wonder our results are good - we teach each child an average of 5 more days each year.
- No wonder we use this to justify our judgement as providing valued and valuable education - didn't like and value school and children would be off more.
- No wonder school feels full - because of that average extra 12 children each day.
- No wonder staff have to work hard and long - more marking and prep than in the average school.
- No wonder our resources are stretched - schools get paid whether pupils actually attend or not.
I choose to assume we are not seen as cheap and legally required child-care, but as the silver bullet to overcome poverty and the key to success. I choose to assume parents see us as doing a good job by their children. And when combined with the incredibly low 'mobility rate' (the number of moves in and out of school, on and off roll) - one fifth the Sheffield average - and we can see that parents and pupils like being here, value what we provide and are happy to stay.
Obviously it is far more complicated than that - parents work and need child care, parents who are well-educated and qualified themselves see the value of education, relative wealth brings better health, alternatives are actually limited in an area where all schools are full, and so on.
But daily attendance is very high - well done everyone who makes that happen.
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 2.6%. It is now less than one fifth 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 a good school, every community should have a good school, and every school should be a good school. (I suppose that most are just that already.)
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.
Would a negative Ofsted outcome at our next Inspection directly lead to a fall in pupil numbers? Would it threaten the stability of school’s budget, staffing and provision because of the subsequent loss of income?
Would a positive outcome lead to increased demand for places? Would it mean even less pupil, and staff, movement, and ensure a stable income?
Confidently predicting the future is near-impossible in even the simplest situations, with limited factors at play. In this sort of situation there are far too many factors involved for us to begin guess, or even to know what might happen.
I am already involved in meeting, and touring school with, parents of prospective pupils for Y3 in 2018. The closing date for applications is 15th January 2018, just nine school weeks away. What do these parents look for? There is a mass of information available for parents to use, and some interesting research on what actually influences decisions about which schools to put as 1, 2 and 3 on the application form.
The British Social Attitudes Survey ( http://natcen.ac.uk/our-research/research/british-social-attitudes/ ) reveals a great deal, and some of its findings are quite challenging.
School Performance (league tables) data has been published for many years. Ofsted reports for each school and setting are readily available on-line. ParentView is an online database that shows the views of current and past years’ parents to a short series of questions. Local communities have opinion. School admissions services can tell parents which schools are over-subscribed and which, typically, have spare capacity (a possible ‘empty pub’ phenomenon example for selecting a school). School put on open-evenings, tours, visits, handbooks, sessions for pupils to visit for lessons and experiences. Older siblings probably have tales to tell, and thus many parents have prior personal knowledge. In areas with very stable populations some parents may have attended the local school themselves.
One ‘make or break’ fear ahead of an Ofsted Inspection is that a negative outcome might lead to parents voting with their feet (or application for admission) and take their children elsewhere. The research suggests that parents aren’t actually that shallow.
NFER research, using that Social Attitudes Survey data in 2016, suggests that Ofsted grading was only the fourth top factor in their choice, after:
- A school that suits my child (48%),
- Location (46%),
- Behaviour that promotes learning (43%).
Examination results were a distant sixth factor, only influencing 32% of parents.
Because the Survey holds data in detail it also reveals much about differences in attitudes linked to income. With ‘disadvantage’ (generally meaning eligibility to Fee School Meals) very low at our school, around a third of the national average, we can assume that mean household incomes for our parent body fall above the ‘Lower Income’ bracket. ‘Higher Income’ parents are less influenced by location, the qualifications of teachers or a school’s reputation for taking parent views into account. They are more influenced than ‘Lower Income’ parents by discipline, exam results and the effectiveness of the school’s senior leadership team. ‘Lower Income’ parents are slightly more likely to let the child decide (a difference of 7%), and ‘Higher Income’ parents are far more likely to discuss choices with other parents (a difference of 19%).
A negative Inspection that nonetheless says learning behaviour is sound may have little or no impact,
A negative Inspection that highlights examination results that are not as good as they should be may have impact on the parents of the majority of children at our school,
A negative Inspection that says behaviour is negatively affecting learning would be the outcome most likely to trouble our parent body.
A positive outcome from an Inspection that nonetheless highlights some attainment or progress shortfall might still have a negative impact on the majority of our parents,
A positive outcome from Inspection that says that leadership and management could improve might still concern the majority of our parent body, and
A positive outcome that highlights good grades, good behaviour and a leadership team that are aware of the school’s strengths and weaknesses is possibly the only outcome that satisfies all sections of the parent body.
Realistically, however, it simply isn’t as simple as that. An Inspection grade can only impact on admission numbers and pupil on roll numbers when the parents have a real choice and available alternative option. When the nearest school with spaces is at least two buses or 2.5 miles and a couple of Sheffield’s hills away moving school is not really an option for more than a very few children and parents.
The only option, and the one we embrace, is making sure that we provide that good school locally that every family wants and every child deserves.
Our next Inspection will, we expect, lead to a positive outcome. It will not, however, lead to an increase in pupil numbers because we are full already, have been full for years, and our feeder school is full in the next three years. We do not expand to accommodate every application. Next week, at the Autumn Term meeting, I am sure the Governing Body will once again confirm the Indicative Admission Number at 120 pupils per year group for 2018 admission.