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....
Thompson’s Law (of kitchen utensils) states, quite accurately, that kitchen utensils expand to fill the cupboard space available.
If you have ever moved house, or had a kitchen refitted or even had a kitchen extension you will know at first hand the literal truth of this observation. You go from one food cupboard, one for crockery and one for pans and maybe three drawers to the full catalogue kitchen with a central island and push spring opening doors and at least three cupboards for each area. You unpack, sort, place carefully in the swing-out baskets and well-positioned internal shelves, and lo! The cupboards are full.
Thompson’s Law is a specific extension of that classic, Parkinson’s Law, that says work expands to fill the time available, but I like to start with Thompson. It’s the same sort of principle, though with a kitchen it’s more about laying things out neatly and giving easy eyeballing on each item. With time management it may be about either getting the job done as well as you can, given the limited time available, or avoiding getting allocated any new task!
We have yet to hear numbers for how many people are out of work, how many are ‘furloughed’ and how many are confined to ‘working at home’ as a result of the current crisis, but judging solely on the impact on the school’s workforce, and the ease with which I can commute each day, it must be a very sizable slice of the adult population.
As the senior leader in school one thing I am intrigued by is what managers in other schools and other sectors might expect from their employees when they work from or at home. A single person in their own home, used to workplace employment, is going to find it quite a challenge to stay focussed on work-related tasks for a full 8 hour shift at keyboard or on the phone. And that’s to assume that you can find work-related, reasonable and useful tasks for them to do at a distance. With schools closed it must be becoming increasingly difficult for working at home parents to continue to produce significant work outcomes each day if they have their children at home to entertain, feed and possibly educate.
Teachers are not unused to working at home. There are few in the profession who can get it all done at school in normal times, even if they take advantage of the often extended site open hours. (Our school site is open to staff from just after 7:00 to just before 18:00 – a possible ten and a half hour day on site – and yet for many weeks of the year this would not be enough to complete the full set of duties.) A good chunk of planning, communicating, assessing, recording, reporting, researching, reviewing, preparing and sharing can be done away from school. But the essential contact with the class cannot. Flipped, it is the same for the children – without the classroom experience, it is not the same at all.
But what we are finding is that those elements of our role that can be done AFC (away from classroom) are simply, massively expanding to fill all the released time. We have never read and sent do many emails. We have never received some much briefing. We have never known a period of such intense updating, refreshing and clarifying. We are asking more questions and being asked more questions. We are working harder than ever to stay connected. We are preparing for all foreseeable eventualities, and getting caught out be the unforeseen ones.
I will be adding new tasks in for staff over the next three weeks of school closure – making more contacts with some children and families, starting Reports and transition arrangements, training online, contributing to planning for September changes – but we will find time for these quite easily, I think (if our own children at home allow us screen time and thinking space).
We are missing our day jobs. Every member of staff who comes in to support provision for the children of key workers is delighted to be in school and having some ‘normal’ work to do, but none are reporting a lack of work. None have asked what to do next because they have finished everything. Kitchen utensils have expanded / work has expanded to fill the time and space available.
Stay safe – we will see you soon.
First Parent Evening of the year done today. It seems, from everything I could pick up, that it has gone over really well. Just seven parents from 477 children have not contacted us to make an appointment (a hit rate of 98.5%). All bar three parents were pleased or satisfied with what they heard from the class teacher and just three wanted to see me later (a success rate of 98.7%). Books were available everywhere. Class share teachers who are part-time and do not work Tuesdays came in anyway, so five sets of parents got ‘two for the price of one’. In one class, where we have had a supply teacher for most of the half term, the temporary teacher provided the consultations, and to an overwhelming positive reception. Maps and signs worked fairly well, but staff on site showed people round where needed. The mood and atmosphere was warm and friendly wherever I went.
We experimented last year with altering the timings of the four Parent Evenings but reverted to the tried and tested format for this week’s sessions. Here’s why.
We tried starting a little earlier on two of the four evenings, and a little later on one of the others. The intentions of the early starts were two-fold – to offer more early appointments, which are always in greatest demand, and to partly address staff well-being issues. We then put in a later start in the spring term in response to a counter demand, mostly by parents with work commitments that would suit a later appointment. (This meant a later finish for staff who still had to work the full day the next day, of course.)
There was no gushing ground-swell of approval for either scheme.
There were, however, plenty of arguments against both:
- Staffing the pupils when teachers were in early consultations before the end of school,
- Housing the pupils at that time if it was wet outside,
- Securely transferring children to the right adult when they were with staff who might not know the arrangements and personnel so well,
- Safeguarding concerns around site security and unescorted visitors on-site while children were present,
- Clashing with the end of Lydgate Infant School’s day,
- The limited number of additional early slots actually provided,
- The observation that some parents still selected deliberately, it appeared, the final slot so that they could take more time than allocated (and thus causing staff to still finish later than on a normal working day,
- Coordinating multiple appointments (for siblings) was made no easier (or harder),
- Staff did not really get a break between school and the start of the ‘late’ session, so it really extended the working day,
- Preventing an early start to the later start was difficult as some parents did not leave the premises in-between,
- We still weren’t going late enough to satisfy every request,
- and so on.
Since then we have been adopting, adapting and developing the online booking system. This has been this year’s ‘innovation’. What we aimed for was a quicker, smoother, paper-free, joined-up, accessible, transparent system that would allow parents to book across multiple classes swiftly, and would free teachers from a paper-chase. The technical issue came about because we did not anticipate the scale of instant response, and did not have server space that could cope with so many parents accessing the system at once (without logging out when done). It was fixed pretty quickly though.
We reviewed last year’s trials, and considered a further extension and option. What about just one, super-long, Parent Evening each term, with all 30 appointments in one run? 3:40 to 8:40 would give 10 minutes per child, but with absolutely no gaps and no margin of error. Add on 10% wiggle room and we have a finish time of 9:10. This might be just what some parents would prefer as it would fit very well around their working hours. But Staff haven’t eaten since lunch, have been at work since 7:30 am, haven’t marked any books or set up for the morning, and have to be in and on top form ten hours later. It didn’t strike me as a sensible option, and so it was rejected.
My problem, shared I think by many others, is that the ten minutes we can allocate per pupil is often not enough, or as much as might be useful. It derives from class size, partly, and subsequent workload. Cash cost prevents us from releasing teachers during the day to make time. A moral standpoint on what constitutes a school session prevents us from closing early and forcing the children home at, say, 1:30 so we could free up four hours extra (8 more minutes per consultation). Cash again prevents us giving teachers extra cover in return for working beyond their directed time contracted. And we remain full to admission limit because parents keep on sending their children to us. Coming full-circle in the piece, back to the variants we tried last year we could see how an earlier start could allow extra time for each discussion, but the cost of implementation tipped the balance against.
By the end of Thursday’s sessions we will have seen 98% of parents and provided good, useful, information to 98% of them. We will be trying to meet, and meet the expectations, of both 2% in future.
‘Confirmation bias’ is the tendency to read into data and research what you want so as to confirm your previous belief or prejudice – this can be seen most clearly when new, more powerful and more precise information contradicts earlier evidence but people still refuse to accept it. It leads to that that well-known phrase about lies and statistics.
The problems with data and the collection and analysis of it are that it doesn’t always tell you what you want it to, or what you think it will, or necessarily come in in reliable, useful forms.
Having asked parents (well, some of them) their preference for the timing of a parent consultation I have received 44 responses on paper and 43 online. IF these are unique responses from one parent per child it represents an 18% response rate. IF they are particularly vexed parents who took advantage of the opportunity to reply on paper in person and online it could be only 9% of the parent body. If I let ‘confirmation bias’ take a strong hold then I question whether 9% is a representative sample, and can then choose to ignore what the data tells me.
As the cloakroom areas of the mobile classrooms are rather cramped, I chose to display the invitation to the consultation in the entrance to the main building used on consultation evenings and online only. So the sample group is limited to those parents who have children in Years 3 and 5 (who are in the ‘bases’ and those who read my online blog. That might be random enough in itself to make the sample group useful and sufficient, but it certainly limits the number of responses as not all parents will be aware that the question was being asked. ‘Confirmation bias’ would have me say that a return of just 9% is insufficient to work with or on.
Not one respondent indicated a preference for an appointment between 08:01 and 14:00. This appears to contradict an assumption we make about parents wanting convenience around the start and end of the school day – by taking an appointment then they can avoid making another trip out. One theory why no-one wants a day-time slot is that all the respondents work during the day, and they want to avoid inconvenience for their workplace. But it may also be that they want to avoid interruption to the school day – if the teacher is holding consultations throughout the day, who is teaching the class their child is in? Or one parent works in the daytime but both parents want to attend in a show of unity and commitment.
The returns show that the most preferred slot is 18:01 to 19:00, with a total of 35 responses out of 87 opting for that hour. If this is matched across the entire parent body it would lead to a demand for 197 appointments between those times. With 16 classes and two evenings available, each appointment would have to be limited to 9 minutes in order to accommodate the demand. It seems it is impossible to actually please all the people, but that may be the ‘confirmation bias’ kicking in again.
The change to timings we brought in for the recent parent consultations actually extended the available hours and pulled back the close by just half an hour – they finished at 18:00 rather than 18:30. With slots of 10 minutes duration we removed 96 after 6 pm, which is, it seems, nowhere near enough to meet indicative demand. There would have been unmet preference under our previous, regular, arrangement.
Outliers are a statistical anomaly – they are the data points that sit so far away from the norm that they are rejected as being false through some unexpected fault in the experiment or research structure. I got two responses only for 06:00 to 07:00 and one for 21:01 to 22:00. To reject them as outliers may be to ignore the very real and significant reasons for those parents’ preferences. To argue that there is insufficient demand to fill the hour is more sensible – it becomes an inefficient use of time and resource to set up a system that will have so little demand (multiplied up it indicates only one parent per class, so the teacher(s) gets to sit around for 50 minutes unoccupied in meeting and discussion, and very much in unsocial hours.
An amalgamation of all the preferences for times after our regular previous arrangements (3:30 to 6:30, with last appointment to start at 6:20) gives 32 out of 87 responses. To borrow a phrase misused in wake of the EU referendum, there is a clear majority (55 to 32) in favour of the status quo. (I don’t understand how you can have anything other than a ‘clear’ majority – what is an unclear one?) I could use this, with a dollop of confirmation bias, to argue for no change or a reversion to 3:30 to 6:30 (with last appointment to start at 6:20). A shift towards later start and finish times, accepting that teachers do not work any additional hours (just later ones), of 17:01 to 20:00, would mean 21 responses (24% of sample) do not get what they asked for. The inertia produced by confirmation bias would elevate that figure over the 33% (29 responses) that indicated the hour between 6:01 pm and 7 pm.
So, what’s to do?
- There’s a series of blogs to write on stakeholders, but I haven’t asked the thoughts of two rather important groups – staff and Governors. They deserve to be and will be consulted this term, before plans are set for next term’s Consultations.
- I’ll put out the data and associated graphs.
- I’ll publish this blog, with its partial analysis and interpretation.
- We will look at attendance rates – did altering the start and finish times lead to any significant change in uptake?
- And we’ll ask how other schools do it, to see if there are useful, reasonable and possible ideas out there.
There’s many a saying used in politics – one of the best, I think is, ‘a good day to get out bad news’. In the education business it’s quite surprising how many announcements of fundamental importance are made when schools, and therefore the staff, are on holiday.
You’ll find that pay and conditions changes are announced in the summer break, or a new curriculum change is slipped out over Christmas. And last week there was a quiet announcement of yet another change to the arrangements concerning end of key stage assessments. It is a bit technical, and I have written about the matter before, but here goes. I have been trying to establish what I am supposed to put out with Year 6 children’s Reports, preferably from someone who should know and preferably before we send the Reports home to parents. I wanted to know what we are supposed to use as ‘comparable data’ – I argued it could not be last year’s data as it simply won’t be comparable – we are measuring different things in different ways and reporting success under a different scoring system. There would be a whopping inconsistency to give a scaled score around 100 for this year to place alongside last year’s percentage who attained Level 4, say.
So I asked other Headteachers – they didn’t know, or hadn’t thought about it.
I asked the local authority, who thought we had to give nothing.
I asked the Standards and Testing Agency, who passed the buck to the Department for Education.
I asked the DFE and they didn’t answer the question that I asked.
So I asked again, but more loudly.
They did not say they were thinking about it. They did not say that the Schools’ Minister was thinking about it.
They did not say they had a specialist group considering the matter.
They just said, ‘we’ll get back to you in good time’.
This week I got an email telling me about an announcement made on June 3rd (that’s in the half term holiday). Apparently, they said, an announcement was made on the DfE’s website, and gave me the link: http://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education/about/statistics#announcements
When Headteachers and teaching Unions have been complaining about the late delivery of information about changes to assessment systems, this is what we mean. I am about to start the, mammoth, task of reading 481 Reports before they go home to parents. I could have done with the insight on what to include in the Year 6 Reports before we designed the pages to hold the data, to be honest. Government has tried to tell us that changes were announced last year and we have plenty of time to prepare. This shows the truth – the tests have been sat and yet we still have to see the whole plan for implementation, marking, checking, appeals, validation, reporting and comparison to ‘floor targets’ (the minimum expectation for each school on aggregate scores).
So quiet was this announcement that when I passed the news to the local authority advisers it was the first they had heard of it.
When I got home this evening I wanted to find the announcement, just for personal reading. I had mislaid the link, and my email wasn’t open so I foolishly thought I could just go the DfE website and find it under ‘announcements’ or ‘communications’ or testing and assessments. You try it and see where you end up. I found announcements about funding of water drainage projects along the A1 and overseas aid expenditure successes in Nigeria, but not this.
I’ll close with a kindly thought – maybe the Government is operating to the Japanese manufacturing ethos of JIT – just in time. Because ‘just in time’ is still in time, and seen as efficient – why produce something early and have it sitting around unused for a long time? Perhaps it’s all part of an efficiency drive, this releasing information at the last minute.
I’m also going to wonder all weekend if it was my emails alone that caused the change to happen – had nobody but me thought of this? The legislation and regulation is unchanged by the way – the DfE website still references an Order made in 2005.
Ah, well – I’m sure our parent body will be very understanding if we get it wrong, incomplete or late.
Ofsted thought that an online method for sampling parent opinion about their children’s schools would be far more 21st century and a good example of using IT effectively and efficiently. Their previous method had been a paper questionnaire sent out once schools had received the six-week notice of pending Inspection.
As the notice period reduced (now standing at same-day or next-day) it was obvious that the paper-based method was no longer going to work. It was also information held internally to the school in the most part (it was buried in the body of the Report from Inspection) and so not visible to the browsing public wishing to hold the school to account.
The first on-line methods were arguably flawed as passwords were not necessary. Non-parents could enter (multiple) responses to the set questions. And so Parent View came about. You register, receive a password and URN, and then go back in (at earliest the next day) and give your responses. Once ten or more responses are received each year, the website starts to draw graphs and charts. Visitors to the site can then compare responses from parents whose children attend any other school.
Except, when there are fewer than ten responses in any one year no data or graphs are ever published. It is seen as good practice to test the water with parents and seek their opinion on school’s provisions and effectiveness. We, therefore, and in the same 21st century spirit, reminded parents about Parent View in the Headteacher’s Newsletter sent monthly to every parent of every pupil in our school. Three times.
No data was published last year, or this, on Parent View for our school. We, therefore, got a less than 2.1% response rate, which is even lower than the turnout for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.
When I inserted a one-issue ‘Survey Monkey’ survey on to my blog earlier this month I received a total of 23 responses. In 11 days I have had more than double the number of responses that our Ofsted Parent View questionnaire received in a whole year. Not sure what it tells me, other than not needing to register and await a password makes for easier access and more access. There is no way for me to know if the response group is in any way representative of the parent body – it may reflect smaller interest groups, for example, rather than the majority who simply trust us to make decisions.
And the outcome?
74% of responses said I should be in class, which is with what I chose to do anyway. 13% each went for ‘tour with Mr Clegg’ and ‘go to the Locality Headteachers’ meeting’.
I saw one Year 6 class using ‘Survey Monkey’ within their RE work – they want to ask opinion through questionnaires on an RE theme. I believe the efficacy of my survey inspired the class teacher to use this method, but I may be wrong.