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....
Sadly this week I have had to consider replacing some signs on our school front doors.
Long ago I successfully argued that the red notices informing visitors that ‘Smoking Is Not Allowed On These Premises’ were superfluous as everyone knew the fact and no one ever tried to smoke on the school site. I made the point that we did not have a separate poster for all the other things that were not allowed – the trading of sheep, the grazing of cattle, laundering money, stealing school’s resources, selling cigarettes to children, and so on. I also won the day over removing the sign provided by the City Council that said aggression or verbal abuse shown to staff would not be tolerated.
After a week that contained some overly emotionally-charged exchanges I am going to examine my previous stance and consult on what we should overtly declare and expect. It seems it may be necessary to spell out once more what will not be either accepted or tolerated. I completely understand the emotional capital involved in being a parent, but I also understand the vulnerability of the teacher to abuse.
Many Health Centres and Practices have policies on display, and many are available to read online. More than one or two schools have similar ‘zero tolerance’ policies published online. Sheffield City Council has revised what was a customer care statement into the current ‘Customer Commitments’ statement. Now this is a well-worded and balanced document because it spells out what the customer can expect from Council staff while also saying what Council staff need from customers. Communication in meetings, on the telephone and via electronic media is a two-way thing after all.
I will take a measured approach to introducing a code or statement of expectations. I will start by discussing reasonable expectations for professional school staff and school functions before discussing what school expects from parents and other visitors. It is absolutely fair that all staff understand and agree the reasonable expectations that can be placed on our behaviour before we try setting expectations for others.
This discussion will start with Sheffield City Council’s ‘Customer Commitments’ because I think they can be applied to every sector of the Council’s work. School staff will look at both sets of expectations and I hopefully accept the expectations of them as much as they will back expectations of school visitors.
I want to be sure that we are neither hypocritical nor elevating our needs above any other groups – why should my staff be any more protected than the children we work with, for example? And if we state that all staff should be free from aggressive behaviour directed towards them shouldn’t we ensure that the same is true for all children?
Finally, I turned to the RRS Charter and looked for appropriate Articles that say what rights the children should enjoy. Article 12: Every child has the right to have a say in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously. Article 19: Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment. In the original form (adult-speak) these two Articles ensure that a parent can give us their views on their child’s education but also that they do so in a way that does not abuse or mistreat the employee.
If that all sounds rather negative I will just mention that SCC’s Customer Commitments give eleven promises to customers while having only three requirements of customers in return. We will, likewise, promise more things than we expect in return.
In the early days of my first Headship (Lydgate Juniors is my third) a well-meaning parent came to see me to alert me to a potential health and safety concern. She worked as a freelance gardening service and so was sharing professional knowledge when she told me that we had poisonous plants growing on site. ‘Was I aware of this?’ she asked.
At the risk of sounding smug, I told her I was, and that I was not concerned. We discussed the way school dealt with any risks involved in having Foxgloves growing wild (and wildly attractively) in a few flower beds. Foxgloves provide digitalis, and were the original source of this drug, used to treat certain heart conditions. It is potentially fatal, even in small doses.
How could I accept this on the school site? How could I rationalise away the risk to health?
I explained that we had many potentially harmful plants growing on-site, but all being acceptably managed. We were encouraging classes to grow fruits and vegetables in raised beds. There were tomatoes (poisonous leaves), potatoes (green skins can cause sickness), rhubarb (toxic leaves) and asparagus (posh, but the bright red berries are toxic).
We managed the risks and reduced them to an acceptable level by teaching the children not to eat the parts they shouldn’t and not to pick berries or fruit unless someone with expertise told them it was safe. And we kept on growing at the school and no children ever got poisoned.
This week the Sheffield Star has published a list of schools that have Asbestos on their premises, as listed in their respective Asbestos Reports. Lydgate Junior School is on that list. https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/revealed-the-schools-in-sheffield-containing-asbestos-and-the-plans-in-place-to-protect-pupils-1-9370131
If anyone had asked me directly I would have told them it was so, and it would not have needed a Freedom of Information request to find out. The design of our main building, erected in the 1970s used asbestos to provide insulation and fire protection, and the design is fairly common.
Asbestos is not good, of course, but its management is easy enough and good practice makes it safe to remain. Put simply, we do not disturb it. Anywhere where the substance may be is marked and recorded on our site report. Anyone who intends to knock even a nail in a wall is required to consult the site report and seek ’permission to work’. If there is a chance that even the minutest piece will be disturbed then the work is not allowed to proceed. As and when possible and sensible, asbestos-containing material is removed, and so the risk continually reduces over time.
Are the children and staff safe? Yes they are.
We ‘teach’ them not to touch or disturb, just like we teach the children not to eat things they shouldn’t, such as rhubarb leaves and unidentified seeds.
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.
It is that time of year, nearly, but it is so sad to see this in schools up and down the country:
The guidance for administering the end of key stage 2 tests tells us we have to cover up or remove anything that might give the children an advantage that is not on the approved (very short) list - dictionaries, spelling lists and rules, grammar prompts, tables facts, 'learning' and 'working' wall displays, number lines and so on. So 17,000 or so Primary Schools will look like this for the next week.
The photo above is actually just a Collective Worship display in the hall, where 63 pupils will take the tests (and do very well, no doubt) - but what if one of the spellings in the test is 'worship'? Sometimes, it is said, the law is an ass.
Here’s the thing:
Should I, a week on Friday, teach my regular class all day, attend a ‘Locality’ Headteacher meeting or be released from class in order to escort Nick Clegg MP on a tour of the buildings and site?
I mean to ‘walk the talk’, as they say, and put my words into practice. So when I want my staff to be committed to their job then I obviously have to be that, too. I want every class teacher and every teaching assistant to enjoy working with children, and to be as engaged in the process as we want our pupils to be. I obviously have to be that, too.
As you may know, we have changed around some of the teacher placements from after the Easter holidays; six classes will be affected in total. Part of that change sees me swapping PPA work in Years 3 & 5 for a day each week in Y3D/D – I’ll be teaching them all day every Friday. Some parents have been quite worried about possible disruption and loss of continuity because of these changes. It’s pretty obvious that this is something we want to avoid and are taking steps to reduce any negative / step up any possible positive impact. Personally, I want to commit to my Fridays at least as much as I did to the parts I taught earlier in the year. The class deserve my devotion to their learning as I expect commitment and engagement from them. As a week on Friday will be only the second of the term I really should be there to teach the class.
Local Authorities are gradually being dismantled and local arrangements, whether through ‘Learning Partnerships’, ‘Federations’ or ‘Multi-Academy Trusts’, put in their place. Our Locality (from Sheaf to Rivelin) meets just once per half term, and this next meeting, a week on Friday, will discuss plans for high needs SEN support (and its funding). As we could lose up to £23,500 through the changes proposed it really is an important one to attend. It’s also the route by which schools get briefed on many developments, and where networks are developed. As it is only one of two meetings this term I really should be there, or my Deputy in my place. To attend costs supply cover and to not go costs potential loss of income through not knowing the system.
Our Deputy Headteacher is also teaching that day, covering for a colleague so we save supply costs and provide quality and continuity of provision, so she cannot simply attend on my place.
Mr Clegg is paying us a return visit: he was last here to open the slide and tour the site to see what amazing things a school can do with limited space but a creative mind. As a constituency MP who is very active in Parliament, his constituency work is almost always conducted on Fridays.
This time we have invited him to come and see the state of our buildings and site, to try to get his support for additional premises improvement funding. You may know of roof leaks, power outages, the lack of full coverage in our fire alarm system, site security issues, deterioration of mobile classrooms, the difficulty faced by disabled visitors to the site in accessing the main building, the difficulties in teaching in open-plan spaces, signage deficiencies, and so on and so on. We are not considered a priority for additionally funded works for many reasons – one of which is that our buildings are not the worst around, a reason that does not reduce the needs of our building. Mr Clegg is our local MP, the former Deputy Prime Minister, and his voice and support might be very helpful. Purely out of respect for the position he holds, I really should be there to show him round (along with premises staff in school).
And there’s the problem: I should do all three of these things. The day of the week for all three is Friday, and none is movable. All three need to happen. We want to avoid supply teacher costs wherever we can. We want support in finding premises improvement funding. We want to access the best provision to support pupils with ‘high needs’. We want to demonstrate our commitment to teaching every single day.
The options are very limited: Mrs. Dutton (of Y3D/D) doesn’t work on Fridays so she cannot step in for me for a while. The HLTAs are teaching other classes and do not work Friday afternoons. Mrs. Farrell (DHT) is teaching elsewhere in school. We have no 'spare' teacher complement to provide cover for me or Mrs. Farrell. Mrs. Buck (Finance Officer), who invited Mr. Clegg to visit school, has retired and so won’t be here to show him round. And whichever I choose not to do, it sends a signal that I think that aspect of my work and responsibility is less important or not important at all. This is one subtle impact of budget constraints, and shows what we are doing so as to avoid yet further staff reductions.
So which do I do?
I’ve set up a one-question survey, if you’d like to suggest what I should choose to do a week on Friday. Click on the link below:
(I’ve not given a ‘Boaty McBoatface’ option; sorry.)