I cannot believe we are starting a new school year again - where has the time gone?
I caught up with my reading over the holiday - not just a few thrillers, but also some reading on teaching that I had put to one side until I had time to look at them. It struck me as interesting how much is being written and discussed around children's rights - their right to be heard; their right to be forgiven; their right to play. I welcome the movement that is happening around the holistic needs of children and building awareness that, in order to our job properly, we need to educate children in far more than the National Curriculum subjects.
With this in mind, we have planned a strong focus on social, emotional, spiritual, cultural and moral education this year; awareness of mental health and values education. What we teach in school; along with how you are bringing up your children; influences how they will act as citizens in our community when they are older. A strong foundation when they are young leads to well embedded values and good life choices.
In addition to these curriculum changes, we have looked at our behaviour policy and developed this into restorative practice based on a child's right to have their voice heard and their right to forgiveness. The practice is based on nurturing relationships and maintaining positive relationships in school. Children learn how to assess their role in a given situation and understand the consequences that arise from their behaviour. We no longer have sanctions, but children receive reminders about how to be a positive member of our community and may have consequences related to when they make mistakes.
Already we are seeing improvements in school with the calmness of the learning environment and the caring relationships being built. Come to one of my parent meetings to find out more.
We've been chosen to be a beacon school for Barnardo's Positive Identities
What does this mean?
This year we have been working with Barnardo's to tackle several issues around diversity and inclusion. Staff training included understanding LGBTQ issues and bullying; providing safe spaces for children; support for families and considering how inclusive we are as a school.
Y6 buddies and children's leaders have received training to become BEAM ambassadors to help celebrate diversity and to support children who may be experiencing bullying in school.
We have created a diversity action plan to look at our PSHCE (personal, social, health and cultural education) curriculum to ensure that our children are well prepared to live in a diverse community.
I have attached a copy of the latest Barnardo's newsletter so you can see the range of work that they undertake.
One of our actions moving forward is to have a meeting for parents to introduce the work we have been doing and to get advice on what would be useful for the future.
I am very proud of staff and children for achieving this status as only 10 schools have been chosen.
What happened to February?! It seemed to flash by and we are now heading towards Spring.
One of our focuses for this academic year has been resilience - for children and adults. We had training on resilience in January and teachers were provided with advice and strategies they could use to help build children's resilience. But what does this mean for your child?
Primary school - particularly early on in a child's education in Early Years - is the first time they have been one of a big community and have to cope with making friends, learning new things, playing with others, leaving a parent/carer to be on their own. This is a lot to ask of a 3 year old which is why the curriculum for Early Years includes areas of learning for personal, emotional and social development. But we still see a lack of resilience in some of our older children; maybe they get upset if they make mistakes; they can be reluctant to take risks; they can find changes in routine a challenge for example when a supply teacher is needed or we are off timetable.
We are working to help children face these challenges in a resilient way:
1. We are embedding Growth Mindset into our interactions with children so that they think of mistakes as steps to new learning, not too negatively. Mistakes made because they are trying challenging work are useful learning tools; if they are always doing work that they always get 100% correct means they are not being stretched. Growth Mindset also encourages thinking about the power of 'yet' - I can't do it becomes I can't do it YET - a much more positive view of learning
2. Taking turns and recognising that there are up to 29 other children in the class who equally need attention can be hard. We support children in this by praising them when they have participated well in group work; when they have celebrated another child's success; when they realise that they are not always going to get chosen but they keep trying.
3. We are doing some work around children's wellbeing where we are looking at elements of self esteem, confidence and emotional wellbeing. We have worked with teachers to recognise the reason behind a child's behaviour and emotional responses so that they can support children if they are worried, angry or upset. Not many negative behaviours come from a child being 'naughty' there is usually an underlying reason and when this is recognised the child can become more emotionally resilient.
4. We are improving our curriculum so that we include sufficient time to develop emotional literacy - at a basic level this is understanding how you feel and why and what impact these feelings are having on ourselves and others. Part of the work we do is to enable children to develop the language related to emotions - at first we hear just 'sad' or 'happy' - but we need to enable children to use more complex language as they experience more complex emotions. By being able to describe how they feel children can receive the help they need.
As parents/carers you already know the importance of your child being emotionally strong so that they can get the most out of their learning experiences be they in school or not. In school we embed a lot of this work in how we talk to children and work with them, but we also use our curriculum related to personal, social and emotional development to support this work.
With various staff off sick and other activity in school it is a good time to mention why a teacher may not be with their class at some point in the week.
Illness - obviously staff will be off sick occasionally - especially working with children who very kindly share their germs and bugs! We have a couple of members of staff in school who cover the class if a teacher is off. If this is not possible then we go to an agency for cover - we use the same agency all the time because we work closely with them to make sure that anyone they provide will follow school policies and provide a high quality of teaching.
Training - it is important in teaching to keep up to date with initiatives, new policies and ensuring we meet national standards at the end of each year. We like teachers to have access to training provided by the Local Authority so that we are in line with what Wakefield expects. Some teachers are also responsible for the teaching of particular subjects across school and they need regular training which they then share with staff.
Meetings - some meetings have to happen within school time so that all the people we need are in the meeting. We try to avoid taking teachers out of class for meetings, but at times this is unavoidable. Our leaders have a regular fortnightly meeting which they have to attend and these are covered by other staff in school so the children have a familiar face to work with.
Teachers are willing to meet with parents, but this does have to fit in with their responsibilities and is not usually possible before school as they are setting up the learning for the day. If you want to meet your child's teacher please make an appointment through the office.
I am hoping that soon we will have got through this period of sickness, I know many of you have also suffered with the bugs and want to see everyone feeling better.
School is beginning to look festive today as December arrived with a thick frost. It is a happy and exciting time of year in a primary school with carols being learned and art and craft projects starting. However, we still run a full timetable of learning as we ensure that children's progress continues apace.
Next week will be assessment week in school. Teachers use a combination of test results and work carried out across the half term to make a judgement on how each child has progressed this term. I know from talking to teachers that we have seen some good progress since September and when you walk around school you can feel the calm and focused learning atmosphere.
After assessment week, we have a week of moderation - this is where teachers compare their judgements with fellow teachers to make sure that we all have the same understanding about how well children are achieving.
After the moderation teachers enter their data on our tracking system and I use this to create a data report for teachers, governors and other professionals.
This 3 week process means that we can keep a very close eye on how children are learning and teachers can make sure they are planning effectively for the following half term.
At Christmas parents will receive a pupil profile - this is a one page document created by our tracking system that shows you how well your child is doing so far this year.
As a benchmark we would expect children to be beginning (b) or beginning + (b+) by the end of the Autumn term. So, if your child is in Y1, we are aiming for them to be 1b or 1b+ at Christmas, if they are in Y2 it is 2b or 2b+; Y3 3b or 3b+ etc.
There is no need for panic if your child is not yet there, there is plenty of time to help them make up the gap. We meet with teachers in the first week of the new term to discuss all the children, but especially those who may not be making the progress required and how we can support the teachers in working with these children effectively.
Our assessment processes are robust. We still have things to work on, obviously, but I am happy that the data we are producing now is secure. This means we can identify things to work on in each class and help children progress rapidly.
So although we are all looking forward to Santa's arrival in a few weeks, we are also focused on ensuring our children achieve everything they can across the curriculum.
This week I had two meetings with parents to discuss assessment in readiness for the parents' evenings next week. We discussed where the curriculum comes from, how teachers deliver the curriculum and how they assess it.
This year every child in school will have a target so the teachers know what is expected for each child by the end of the year. These targets relate to how well they were doing last year as well as what we have observed of their potential for more progress.
I have attached the powerpoint that went with the meeting for those who could not attend. Please have a look at the last slide so you can see what will be discussed at the parent meeting next week.
Education changes all the time, so we will continue to have meetings to try and ensure that parents know all they need to to help their children.
We aim to have an information event every term on key issues. This is in addition to any workshops we might offer - for example the phonics workshop that Year 1 parents/carers attended recently. As well as information giving, we will also continue with the parents' working group meetings to continue the development of a partnership with parents.
SATs results are in - how should we feel?
There have been tears of joy and sadness this week and so much pressure is put on everyone to make sure SATs results are good ones. So how should we feel?
This year's Year 6 have made tremendous progress this year - not just academically, but socially, in confidence, in leadership. I will be sad to see them go in a couple of weeks as they move on to their next stage of education.
We try in our annual reports to capture something other than the purely academic side of the children and I love reading teachers' reports demonstrating how much they have enjoyed watching the children grow and develop. They are excited about their classes for September, but there is always a mixed feeling about July.
No one in Year 6 should be sad about their outcomes - the exam process is just an indication of how they answered questions in one day in May - we have seen the whole child and we are lucky to have that opportunity. One of our Year 6 boys was in tears the day after the results because he felt he had failed. But the teachers and I feel privileged to have seen him develop in Year 6 - this is a child who cares for his friends, has taken on a children's leadership team role with seriousness and dedication and, when I look at him, I see a success story. The skills he is going to need as an adult he already possesses and he is going to go far. I know the staff who spoke to him helped him see some of this as they tried to put his results in context.
I picked up my older son from college today. He is 20 and he goes to the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. It took us 4 years to get the funding for Jack to go to college, so he is doing now what we had imagined he would do at 16. However, the experience of waiting 4 years has demonstrated a lesson for me that I would like my Year 6 children to recognise. We are not all going to be successful at everything but if they work hard and keep trying things will work out. They might have to wait and learn more before they see their journey through, but the wider skills we have tried to teach our pupils will help them here. Jack is coming into school next week to help with sports days and to work with some children who have been learning about people who are blind. I will be very proud to see him working and to see that he wants to share his story with others.
I hope that all of our Year 6 children remember all those people who have shared their expertise with them and have been part of their journey through primary school. I'm lucky because I get to see all classes at work and to see the dedication of the teachers. As our Year 6 children look back I hope they recognise the skills of independence and having a go that they learned in Foundation Stage; being a good friend and celebrating their early reading and maths skills in Key Stage 1 and the importance of being a good role model and tackling harder tasks from Key Stage 2. We all have tears in our eyes as we see the children perform in the Y6 production and at the leavers' collective worship and, trust me, it is conversation about the personality of the child we talk about, not who got their SATs.
So congratulations to Year 6, for their results, but even more so for what they have taught us along the way.
Reports go out this week with end of Key Stage assessment results for some year groups. What is success at the end of the school year? How do you know that your child is doing well?
There are so many aspects to learning that you shouldn't be focusing on just one part of the report or comments. The report lets you know how your child socializes in school, how they are doing academically and what their targets are. No two children are the same so you must resist the temptation to compare your child to another one. The report will say whether your child is at the expected stage for their age, but also how far your child has progressed this year. So even if your child is not yet at expected levels they may have made strong progress and are closing the gap.
In the next steps section there are ideas that you can help your child with at home so that you can become more involved in their learning.
Finally the children have had a say about what they liked in school this year and the things they want to work on next year.
We are very proud of our children and the amount of work they have done this year. It is just as exciting to us to see a child grow in confidence to the point that they are willing to share their ideas as it is to see children pass all their assessments. Learning is a whole child process and teaching is about nurturing the whole child. It is challenging, but one of the joys of teaching is looking back to September and realising how far the children have come since they first entered this class. There is always a bit of sadness once a class has passed through our hands until we are fully immersed in learning with our new classes in September.
Over the next 3 weeks our Y2 and Y6 children will take their SATs papers in school. We have tried this year not to have a stressful build up to these external assessment tools. We value the progress children are making from across the whole school and believe firmly that children in Y2 and Y6 should not be 'drilled' on test technique or content. So how do we make sure they are ready?
We introduced a new learning, teaching and assessment policy in May 2016 based on personalising work and keeping children challenged and stimulated by their learning. We are not 'training' children, we are educating them and if we are successful they will become lifelong learners.
Our primary years are very precious and many of us really hate the idea that Y6 children would leave primary with a label of success or not based on a week of testing. So we focus on maintaining our learning, teaching and assessment approach throughout the school. We can embed in that the practice children need for the SATs, we can use past papers as part of our everyday teaching; but we can also excite children about learning so they want to achieve their best.
It is impossible to go a week without hearing on the news that teachers are leaving the profession in their droves. I have been teaching for 22 years and I have seen many education policies come and go. I love teaching, no two days are the same, you get to see children light up with new knowledge and confidence, you celebrate their achievements together and you have a valuable role in the life of the local community. It makes me sad to see the stress that is placed on teachers today and we are doing our best to nurture the talent that we have in all of our staff in school.
All the staff at St Peter's are very special people; everyone comes into school with an ambition to do the absolute best for the children. Children are nurtured and guided towards successful futures by professional and very able staff. We make mistakes - we're human - but the intent is always to encourage the children and help them become valued members of society, pursuing interesting careers of their own.
So, whilst we pray that our Y2 and Y6 children do really well in the SATs, we also pray that they are aware that there is far more to education than external assessment papers, and learning is vital to a successful future.
Thanks for your ongoing support of the school, we value our relationship with all our stakeholders.
What do parents want for their children at school?
Recently I asked parents to tell me why they chose St Peter's for their children and what their aspirations were for them. The responses were very informative and they are going to be used in our creation of a mission statement - we have asked children and staff to contribute as well so that all stakeholders have an input.
Parents chose St Peter's because it was community focused, it treated children as individuals, it was inclusive, teachers knew the children, they were creative, it demonstrated good moral values and a Christian ethos. We are working hard to ensure that these same reasons inform parents' choice of school today and into the future.
The values parents would like to inform their children's education include:
They said that successful children will be:
Parents are keen to be involved in their children's education and we aim to support this through the topic celebrations, open events, parents' evenings and reports. Parents can see when these are taking place on the curriculum letter, which will go out to families in the first week of term. We will have parents' forum in the next few weeks for parents to ask any questions or raise concerns directly with the headteacher and governors - there won't be an agenda for this meeting, it will be led by parents' interests.
All staff at school have children's success at the core of what they do. We want the children to succeed and be ready for their secondary school journey, with lifelong learning skills and aspirations to do as well as their potential suggests.
What is on a teacher's 'to do' list?
Everyone knows teaching is a challenging job, but it is also extremely rewarding, which is why many of us went into teaching in the first place. But what does a typical day look like for a teacher?
First of all, there is no such thing as typical! There have usually been a few surprises within minutes of arriving in school - someone away, a visitor, the photographer is coming, a special Collective Worship ... It is half the fun of being in a primary school, but also a lot of the challenge.
There are so many variables in a class of children that planning is the most time consuming part of teaching. We don't have a particular structure for planning, but it is not possible to teach all day without having given various things some thought - what resources do I need? what am I going to do for children who are struggling a bit? what about those who found this easy last time? are the children going to work on their own or in groups?
Our teachers are very good at what they do, even though we have changed the way we teach in the last year. Teaching works in 4 stages: 1. an initial stimulus in groups to see what the children already know, 2. next comes splitting the children into groups based on what they need in order to understand the topic better, 3. now the teacher introduces new learning, taking the children who are ready on to the next stage and 4. reflecting on the learning that has taken place and next steps planning. We try to respond to what we are seeing developing in front of our eyes so that all children continuously make progress.
After teaching comes marking and feedback. We use a blend of deep marking and target setting and 'checking in' marking. When children open their books the next day we see how much of their work has been highlighted in pink - this is something they can improve, so they are given time to do that.
All of our teachers are responsible for an area of the curriculum. As well as their teaching, teachers are responsible for developing the whole school's awareness of their focus subject. With so many subjects in the National Curriculum it is important that someone is checking how each subject is doing in school.
One of the favourite parts of my job as headteacher is going into classes. I love to see the relationship between the teachers and the children. Our children are always keen to show me what they are doing, they are proud of their achievements. Our teachers work hard and the school is making good progress now.
If you ask at the end of the day when you pick up your child 'what did you do today?' and they say 'nothing' you are being misled!
We are starting to ask the children about their targets, we talk about how we are learning as well as what and why we are learning. Try having these conversations at home - it will help with your child's learning, but you will also find out more about what we get up to during the day.
A teacher's 'to do' list then is usually quite long, but the vast majority of it will relate to how they can work more effectively with your child and how we can continue to offer a good level of education for our children together.
What do we do to reward children?
The root of any good behaviour management policy is positive praise and clarity of expectations. We have been working hard, since we introduced our new behaviour policy in Summer Term 2016, to promote both of those things.
Everyone wants praise - it is encouraging and motivating to know others appreciate what you are doing. This is the same if you are 3 years old or 93 years old!
So our behaviour management policy starts with a Rewards Ladder - this is displayed in every class so that children can see what they have the potential to achieve. At the lowest rung of the ladder is simple, verbal praise. Teachers can quickly reinforce good behaviours through praising those who are doing the right thing: 'I like the way ... is sitting' is much more powerful than ' .... sit up straight'.
On the next rung of the ladder is team points. Our children belong to one of four coloured teams and we award team points so that one of these teams can have golden time at the end of half term. So far this year the winners have received a film and popcorn afternoon; party games and, last half term, badge making. The ideas come from the School Council so that we can make sure we are offering an experience that children want as a reward.
After this comes certificates. Each week in collective worship teachers award 2 children in their class a certificate. One certificate is related to success in work and one for meeting the school values. Certificate winners have achieved things like a great piece of writing; trying hard at maths; persevering with their work. Our school values are perseverance, friendship, forgiveness and courage.
On the next rung of the ladder is stars. Stars are rewarded to individuals as opposed to teams. Children earn stars for exceptional behaviour, demonstration of our school values and for their work. At the moment, while the coloured wristbands are being introduced, children just have to earn 20 stars to move up the bands from green to bronze to silver etc. These are awarded at the end of each half term in collective worship. When a child gets to gold we will be inviting parents in to collective worship to see them receive their badge/wristband.
The next rung of the ladder is headteacher award. One child from each class is chosen by the class teacher to receive a headteacher's award each half term. These can be awarded for anything that means the child has stuck out as a success for that half term. Reasons offered so far this year include: a child who has made great progress in reading; a child who is always kind to their friends; a child who has managed not to get sanctions when their behaviour previously had been a cause for concern etc. The reward for the HT award is a surprise and can vary from afternoon tea to dog walking!
Hopefully your child will experience positive reassurance on a daily basis even if they find it harder to gain stars etc.
Do you like the new website? Let us know what you think and if there is anything missing for you.
Our focus this week is how do schools know they are doing it right?
This week we invited a local headteacher and a school improvement advisor in to school to help us evaluate how we are doing.
We were delighted that they said we are going in the right direction and that all of our plans are beginning to make an impact.
The children at school are wonderful and they deserve the best education we can offer. We have worked hard this last year to make a difference to the quality of teaching and learning and we are really happy with how hard the children are working.
External scrutiny is vital - other professionals have tried different things in their schools that we might benefit from, their schools might be outstanding in areas that we need to develop, other professionals may have experience from different events eg. Ofsted inspection, lead practitioners for particular skills.
We are not competing with other schools, but ultimately we do want parents to choose St Peter's for their children and to have things to shout about in our school. We want Ofsted to recognise our strengths and to help us celebrate our successes. In order to do both those things we need to be continually evaluating ourselves and making ongoing progress. Other professionals can help us with this. We cannot be precious about being offered advice and constructive criticism.
Our governing body also need the opinions of other professionals to help them challenge the school to improve further. Governors receive reports from various self improvement activities in school and use them to help me evaluate what we can do next to make further progress. They are active in school to make sure they really understand the setting and know the strengths of the school as well as the targets we have set ourselves.
It is never easy to be observed, but our teachers do well to open their classrooms to visitors of all sorts across the week. We share good practice with teachers from across school and they are always willing to try new things to help their children. Visitors always comment on the positive ethos in school and the strong relationships between the children and the adults in school. These relationships are vital if we are going to challenge ourselves to keep improving.
Education is constantly changing and there are new initiatives all the time. We work with professionals from across education to help us meet these new initiatives and enable children achieve their potential and help them be ready for secondary school and beyond.
Why is it so important that parents and school work together?
There is a lot of trust involved in dropping your child off at the school gates in the morning. They go from being one of a small family unit to being one of 380 children in a school community. How can schools work effectively with parents to ensure that this trust is justified?
Schools are not families, but all those who work within our school have the best interest of the children at heart and St Peter's is a genuinely caring community. As a community there are values, rules and relationships. Our values are: courage, friendship, perseverance and forgiveness. These guide the work of the staff and the behaviour of the children. The school rules also guide the whole community:
There are 5 school rules which are linked to our Christian Ethos:
Relationships are at the root of an effective community and it is imperative that relationships are strong at all levels. Even our learning, teaching and assessment policy is rooted in relationships between staff and children - it only works effectively when teachers know the children well and can adapt learning to suit their individual needs and interests.
I'm a parent and my children have attended several schools as they've grown up. I have not been able to control everything that has happened with them in school and I understand the frustration that parents can feel when something happened that hurt my child or seemed to negatively affect their education. I have always tried to see the schools' perspectives as I knew they meant the best for the boys, but as a parent I know it can be difficult at times. I know my children best - I know they are no angels and I know when they are not giving school their best efforts - but it is easy for me having been with them throughout their lives to read their needs and concerns although I have a natural inclination to defend them even when they have been in the wrong - they may not agree with that, though, it's not easy being children of a teacher! Their schools do the best they can, but it is not the same as when they are at home. However, they have to learn to function in society, to follow customs, rules and expectations of communities outside the family and that involves all of us adapting to each other.
I respect and welcome the interests of parents in their children's education. Your knowledge of your children can help us immensely in our desire to meet their educational and emotional needs. We cannot provide a totally individual education, but we can tailor it to a child's needs and your feedback on how school is going for them can be helpful for future planning. We all know that how well children are, how tired they are, how happy they are, impacts on their learning. So that communication with parents where we find out if any of their social, emotional or health needs are going to impact on their day can be imperative to us in accommodating their needs. In return, we will be open and transparent and we will provide you all the information you need to understand our curriculum, policies, practice and policy.
There will be times when things go wrong. Staff are human and we do make mistakes; but we operate in an atmosphere of accountability and we will be honest when we get things wrong. Equally, there may be times when a child acts in a way that goes against our values or rules and we have to talk to parents about it - it can be very difficult for children and parents when things have gone wrong, but an open relationship allows us to work through these times together.
Parent input in school is important. At St Peter's there are opportunities for you to take part in discussion of school policy and initiatives. Parents' forum runs every term on a range of topics that impact on families - so far the topics have been bullying and attendance. This term, the topic will be special educational needs and a time for the meeting will be sent out soon. At parents' forum parents offer advice to school about how to improve practice and also ask questions about how things are carried out in school.
I also hold regular meetings for parents when there is information that I think you should know. Last term meetings were held on the learning, teaching and assessment policy. This term, I will be offering meetings on how we teach in Early Years - Nursery and Reception. Hopefully you have seen that we have invested a lot of money in new resources for Early Years and the learning environment is vibrant and stimulating for our youngest children.
Contact with your child's class teacher is important in the first instance. They know the most about how your child is doing in school, their friendships, their progress and their learning behaviour. However, there are other adults that you can talk to - the age phase leader, a deputy head or myself.
Communication is very difficult to get right between such a big community as a school, parents and governors. Very soon we will have a new website and all of our letters and information sent to parents will be on there. Classes will have their own pages and there will be advice on the curriculum, our policies and any new initiatives.
We are lucky at St Peter's that our parents have such an interest in their children's education. We are working hard to make sure that we are engaged in swift and effective communication so that your interest has a positive impact on learning. If we can trust that we all have one thing in common - the desire for our children to do the best they can academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually - then we can work together to ensure that our school serves the children the best it can.
What can schools do about children who misbehave?
What does misbehave mean? It may seem obvious, but when you bring 380 children together from different homes you are bound to have differences in what parents believe is good or poor behaviour. What a school has to do is enable these children to come together as a community with shared rules and values. This can be a challenge - children are not fully formed when they come to primary school, they can act spontaneously, they can find it is difficult to express their feelings and act in frustration - the tricky bit is making sure that the children feel safe and have sufficient supportive boundaries to function in this large community.
By misbehaviour we normally mean a lack of compliance - an act or actions that have led to the breaking of the rules or a forgetting of our values. The important thing is to find out why this has happened and enable the child not to do it again.
The first step is to find out why the behaviour happened in the first place - children aren't just naughty, there is a reason behind what they do. Some of the reasons could be:
Often one off behaviours are to do with a child not having considered the consequences of their actions - they haven't intended to be naughty but their actions lead to a unforeseen consequence like another child gets hurt or there is damage of some kind. This can happen when a game such as 'catching zombies' leads to over zealous capturing. The child needs to learn to think of the 'what ifs' of their actions, but they had not intended to cause harm. We would sanction this behaviour so that the child has a reinforcement that it is not acceptable and often this is enough.
But what about those children whose behaviour is frequently non compliant or harmful?
Parents of those who are hurt are obviously worried that their child is not safe in school and we take this concern seriously. However, we also have a responsibility to the child who is causing the harm to enable them to control their behaviour. How do we do this?
As I said before, we have to find out why. Often it is a challenging mix of reasons that the child does not fully understand themselves and causes them to act in frustration or uncontrollable anger. Children often lack what is called 'emotional literacy'. Emotional literacy is the ability to recognise what one's feelings are, to describe one's feelings and to recognise the impact of one's feelings on others. Our children are very young to have mature emotional literacy, so we have to work with them to develop it. Our Learning Mentor works with a child like this to provide them strategies for handling themselves when they feel angry. If this is not enough, we have access to a range of external agencies who can help - for example school nursing to see if there is anything medical causing an issue, the BEST team who work with children and school to offer behaviour management strategies, CAMHS if the child is experiencing emotional difficulties that is causing the behaviour, educational psychologists to help us identify underlying causes and suggest ways forward with individual children, social care if there is a home element to the issue - perhaps parents who are divorcing etc.
We will always act. Parents may not always see how we act, but we need children to engage positively with school or their education - and the education of others - will suffer. It is very rare that a child intends to do something that causes another child or adult harm, this is usually an unfortunate side effect of their behaviour. So whilst it is unacceptable that children get hurt in school due to the behaviour of another child, we have to balance our response against the circumstance in which this happened and the needs of both children.
If we provide children the understanding and strategies to manage their behaviour, they will have a life long opportunity to engage positively with their community.
Do we treat children differently?
The simple answer is Yes. The more complicated part is why and how.
Children have the right to access to high quality education.
However, how they access it is different for different children. If you examine the pupil population you will see many differences between the children: age, gender, culture, language, development, life experience, preferred way of learning, concentration, emotional response to each situation, social confidence ... the list goes on. We have to ensure that, despite these differences, children learn the same curriculum to the same standard if possible. So, we do this in planning for learning by a process called differentiation or personalisation. This means that work is adapted or the way it is taught is adapted to make sure that all children can learn the curriculum for their year group. There are lots of ways to do this: teachers use different resources with different children - so you might see one group of children using cubes to add up and another group using a number line, the end result is the same but the way they get there is different. Other personalisation strategies may include grouping or pairing the children with good role models, having more open ended tasks for some children, working with an adult, having some 'clues' available, working with different class groups etc. One of the things that worries parents is when we approach behaviour differently for different children - this is often seen as unfair, or even rewarding the behaviour of children who do not evidence behaviour that is as good as the majority of the class. We look at behaviour in two ways: behaviour that is chosen and behaviour that cannot be helped due to a special educational need. If a child chooses to behave in a way that does not meet the school rules, then warnings followed by sanctions will be given. If a child cannot help their responses eg they are on the autistic spectrum and are in an environment that is over stimulating or stressful, then we respond appropriately, but it is not right to punish this because it is not the child's deliberate choice to behave in that way. However, we will always discuss with a child the consequences of their behaviour, because they can learn from this. Some children have behaviour plans - these are a positive way to support a child to behave better. A behaviour chart has targets related to the behaviours the child demonstrates that we would like to change and the child earns smiley faces every session that we see those behaviours. We prefer to reward good behaviours and have a positive behaviour management approach because it is more likely to attract children to behave well. If a child on a behaviour chart has a whole day, 2 days or a week of smiley faces they get rewards - a few minutes on an iPad, stars, time with the learning mentor. Generally the other children in the class understand the process because they have experienced the disruptive behaviour and are happy when this stops so are equally happy with the fact that the child might be earning a reward. Children who are always good are rewarded in other ways - stars, badges, headteacher rewards etc. - so they are not left out of the positive reward system, it is just done in a different way.
Children are different, our job is to know the children as individuals and work with them as individuals. This is not an easy task - with 30 children in a class you cannot teach or manage behaviour 30 different ways - but we do review children regularly as individuals and it is the aim of all teachers to ensure that each child's needs are met, whether these are academic, personal and social, physical or emotional/behavioural.
What are British values and why do we have to teach them?
Part of the National Curriculum is to teach the British values of:
It doesn't mean that British are better than other cultures, it just means that children need to know what these concepts mean for children living in Britain as they may mean something else in other cultures.
So how do we teach them?
Embedded in our curriculum is the opportunity to teach SMSC - this is spiritual, moral, social and cultural education. This is not a separate subject, although often the values appear explicitly in subjects such as Religious Education or PSHCE - personal, social, health, cultural education. But we also teach topics that may include the history of our political set up or the legal system; we may look into Remembrance Day and what it means to Britons. It also means that we look at the rich make up of our communities and the range of cultures that now form our society. We teach personal rights within our circle times, part of our need to show children how to accommodate each other and value each other. When the mayor came this week, he talked to the children about the work that he does and they got to ask him questions. Although we had 'what is your favourite food?' and 'do you have pets?' the children also asked some deep questions about what the most important jobs that he does and how he is chosen to be the mayor. This meets our British values intentions for the children to learn about politics and history. He has offered to come back and talk more about the civic role that he has.
British values is not about saying being British is best, it is about understanding the history, morality, culture and politics of Britain so children understand where they live .
Do we or don't we become an academy?
You may have noticed on the news that the government is no longer going to place into law the requirement for all schools to become academies. Does that mean that the academy programme is finished? No, all it means is that the government want schools to voluntarily become part of groups of schools who would become academies together. - these are known as MATs or Multi Academy Trusts.
What does that mean for us?
As a Church of England school, we cannot join just any group of other schools because the Diocese requires Church schools to be in the majority of any Multi Academy Trust. It doesn't mean we can only join in with other Church schools, but it does mean that any group we do join have to be comfortable with a majority of Members being Diocesan choices.
So where are we at this point in time?
We are currently finding out everything we can about what becoming an academy entails from the Department for Education, the Diocese and other national figures. We are also talking to the schools who we currently work with in partnerships - the All Saints group (who are 6 local Church of England schools) and Outwood Together (7 local community schools who are not part of the Outwood Grange Academy group). We are not going to make any decision that affects this school so fundamentally as becoming an academy without having gained as much knowledge as we can about what that means for our children. Then we are going to take our findings to the governing body for further discussion about what would work best for us. By the end of this academic year we are hoping to have made a decision about the best path to follow.
Do parents have a say?
When we are clearer about what we want we will consult with parents. Any decision made will be in the best interests of our children, but we know that parents will have many questions about how it, so we will include parents in discussions.
How do we help our children at this difficult time?
We have had a lot of advice this week
CAMHS mentioned the following points which could be useful to know:
· Reconfirm to the children their point of contact if they feel worried or are upset so they can talk about it, as children will be affected in different ways and not all will feel the same, so this will be really helpful
· Young children, especially 8-9 year olds sometimes worry more about something similar happening to them for example what if we had a fire, what if my parents died – so offering practical advice to the children and their families ie about having a free fire safety check through the fire service can help to alleviate these anxieties
· 8-9 year olds can in most cases generally move on quite quickly from loss
CAMHS directed us to the following grief cycle (Elisabeth Kübler Ross) There are different emotions involved and often you can bounce between them even when you think you are ok (acceptance). Grief isn’t a cycle it is much more dynamic and its ok to feel each of these things but we need to tell people how we feel so they can help.
Five stages of grief - Elisabeth Kübler Ross
1 - Denial
Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned. It's a defense mechanism and perfectly natural. Some people can become locked in this stage when dealing with a traumatic change that can be ignored.
2 - Anger
Anger can manifest in different ways. People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with others, especially those close to them. Knowing this helps keep detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset.
3 - Bargaining
Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever God the person believes in. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it's a matter of life or death.
4 - Depression
It's a sort of acceptance with emotional attachment. It's natural to feel sadness and regret, fear, uncertainty, etc. It shows that the person has at least begun to accept the reality.
5 - Acceptance
Again this stage definitely varies according to the person's situation, although broadly it is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity.
What are children expected to achieve at the end of each year?
Two years ago the DfE introduced assessment without levels. It was difficult to imagine how much it would change the expectations for children initially as many schools tried to change levels for something similar. However, there were important principles underlying the changes - the most important being to add depth to the curriculum, not just have children race through levels. This means that we set children more problem solving activities, applying skills to everyday tasks and use information in more than one way. The expectations have risen significantly, but the scope to offer a creative curriculum has also been offered.
So what is expected?
By the end of Reception, children are expected to reach a Good Level of Development (GLD). There is a foundation stage curriculum for Nursery and Reception which is based around the things a child should be able to do and know according to how old they are. It is based on child development, so the skills develop gradually across all areas - speaking, relationships, number, shape, understanding the world, art etc.
At the end of Year 1 children have a phonic screening test. Although using sounds alone is not possible when learning to read, if children do know their sounds and can break words into sounds and put them back together again, reading will come much quicker.
At the end of Year 2, children have the first of the Statutory Assessment Tests (SATs). Schools are provided with a framework to judge whether a child is working towards or at the expected standard. Some children will also be working at greater depth. These judgements have replaced the levels that used to be given at this stage.
At the end of Year 6, children sit the second set of SATs. These are more formal and are sent away to be marked. Again we find out if a child is working towards, at or greater depth.
To help us plan for progress through all of these stages we use a tracking program in school called Target Tracker. It has split the National Curriculum into bands - each year group has one band. So if your child is in Year 1 they will be working in band 1 up to Year 6 working in band 6.
You will find this information on your child's report that is coming out this week. We also check half termly how children are doing to make sure everyone is on track.
Why are headteachers not in school every day?
The role of the headteacher has changed a lot in the last few years and schools are now accountable for many more aspects of the business of running a school. In addition, schools don't work in isolation any more, so there are times when heads get together and discuss strategy for their future progression. All of these things can mean that the headteacher is not always available in school.
Let's have a look back over my diary since September and find the reasons I may have had to be out of school:
Data meeting in Wakefield - this meeting was about us finding out the data about school and comparing it to Wakefield and national figures - this influences our standing in the Department for Education so it is important that I have a good understanding of where we are positioned as a school.
Outwood Grange - I need to make sure that transition for our Year 6 children when they go to secondary school is smooth and I had a really useful meeting at Outwood Grange discussing this
Leeds Trinity University - we have started to take on trainee teachers in school as it is important for us to contribute to the next generation of teachers. Student teachers add capacity to classes and when they are good, they can release teachers to focus on individuals or groups. We have 3 great students in at the moment.
Jerry Clay Academy - we are part of the Outwood Together alliance and one of our aims is to support each other as heads, but also to contribute to teacher development. I went to Jerry Clay Academy to see how they teach Early Years as it is an area of development for us. The head there is very happy for us to send teachers over to see what they do. We are also going to develop a Year 6 transition project with them helping children to develop the skills they will need to do well in Year 7.
St Mary's: we belong to the All Saints group of schools, which is 6 of the Church of England primary schools in Wakefield. Last week I went with the other heads to St Mary's where we carried out an inquiry day as a team. We focused on different areas in the school like questioning, challenging children, the learning environment and provided feedback to the headteacher. It was extremely useful to see how another school tackles everyday challenges. In Spring term it will be our turn to learn from these other heads on topics of our choosing.
Finance: last Friday, Mrs Bostock and I attended a finance conference in Wakefield. We learned new law related to school finances, tax issues, leasing and health and safety. It may not sound like the most interesting of days, but it is vital that we manage our budget well for the benefit of children.
In the next two weeks I have a day out to study the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers, a day's meeting with the Outwood Together heads and half a day learning how to more effectively use a program called Aspire, which helps with analysing data and setting targets for Year 2 and Year 6 children.
It is really important that headteachers don't miss the latest information and, although we get lots of emails, sometimes it is better to learn something face to face. I believe our school is improving daily and we can continue to do this by learning from others as well as evaluating ourselves.
Why do we have training days?
As a parent it can be frustrating when teachers have a training day, particularly shortly after the holidays like we did this year in September. However, there was a good reason for having the training in September. We work with two groups of schools - Outwood Together, which is a group of 7 local schools that are not part of the Outwood Grange academy chain and the All Saints group, which is 6 local Church of England primary schools. We did our training in September with these schools.
The first day, we had a nationally renowned English expert - Ros Ferrara - visit our school with the other All Saints schools to do training on writing. Our teachers threw themselves into the day and were very happy that it mirrored and enhanced the work we are already doing with our new learning and teaching policy. We've taken this training and developed a new timetable for the teaching of English and new ways for teachers to plan English teaching based on stimulating books.
The second day we joined the other Outwood Together schools at Wrenthorpe where another national figure - Hywell Roberts - offered training on how to engage children in learning, particularly those children who find it difficult because of learning needs or behaviour issues. This supports our work on the behaviour policy and on using challenging and interesting ideas for teaching.
The benefit of having training in September is that we can apply what we learn to our practice as soon as possible and it can have the best effect on the children. Another benefit of doing training with other schools is that we share information and we can invest in training as a group of schools so can afford to bring in high calibre trainers.
The rest of our training days this year are focused on curriculum development and on a new report writing approach that is designed to provide you with more information about your child's learning. We firmly believe that teachers need training and development not just to keep up with what is happening nationally, but also reflect on what is working well in school and share good practice. All of that impacts positively on children's outcomes.