Head teacher’s Blog June 2018
Today parents received a copy of the report written following the school’s recent inspection. Firstly I would like to state that the leadership team and the governors agree fully with the overall judgement made by the Lead Inspector – Westwood, in OFSTED terms, “requires improvement “.
Requires improvement as outlined in the OFSTED School Inspection Handbook April 2018 -states “A school that requires improvement is a school that is not good but provides an acceptable standard of education. The judgement of requires improvement is not a formal category of concern …”
An acceptable standard of education is not good enough for your child and as the report highlights both governors and leaders are very aware of the strengths and areas of development of the school and are striving to improve it. This was the case long before OSTED came to visit; with governors and leaders seeking out support from external agencies and looking for ways to sustain improvement through our academy conversion. The reasons behind our decision to convert to academy have been explained previously to parents and it can be summarised by stating the school cannot get the support it requires from the local authority to move forward at a pace that is acceptable to you and us.
It might seem to some of you that the school has gone backwards since our previous inspection as Westwood Juniors in December 2014: that the school grew too quickly; I, however, strongly believe that we made the right decision for our community. March is growing, and children have a right to be educated in their local school; parents have a right to be a part of their local community. We could have closed our doors and refused to expand, but in these days of severe teacher recruitment and retention at all levels who would have taught your children?
As Westwood Primary we have been able to forge links with our neighbouring outstanding pre –school, establish relationships with our families much sooner, introduce and embed strategies to improve teaching and learning at a quicker pace. I often walk between to two sites at the beginning and the end of the day, greeting parents who I know well and who know us, waving to pre – school children who know me by name and are excited about starting “big” school; stopping to say hello to past pupils who want to share their success and I know that we made the right decision for our families. During the school day I see older children working with the younger ones, reading buddies, year 5 and Year 6 supporting the little ones in the library, children confidently crossing the road to perform on the stage and I know we made the right decision for our children. Westwood has not gone backwards. We have supported a transition that ensured that our children receive an adequate early years and key stage 1 experience that is rapidly improving, and it is important to remember that at the time of its closure Maple Grove was in the Ofsted category “special measures”
And now to the narrative of the report. I would urge you to read past the front page and note the many many positives highlighted in the report: the determination of leaders and governors; the effectiveness of the teaching across many areas; (the report highlights the progress that was evident in the children’s books – progress you have seen on parents evening , and open school events - parents do need to be aware that each teacher was only observed once during the two day inspection for a period of up to 30 minutes and although I agree that not all teachers performed to their best, inexperience and nerves played a great part in this) the work of our Inclusion team, the snug and SENCOs to ensure that we are a truly inclusive school; the focus that the school has on personal and social education, and that pupils achievement is improving. Rest assured as stated in the report “staff are keen to work together and share the leader’s determination to improve outcomes for all pupils.”
Finally, although the report was as expected, it has to be said that the inspection was a very challenging time for staff. For many of my young teachers this was their first experience of an OFSTED inspection – and this inspection was particularly rigorous. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them, on your behalf, for their continued commitment to your children. When the inspectors left on the final day many of my staff felt demoralised and defeated, however they were all here the next day ready to face the challenges ahead and excited about the next stage of Westwood’s road to outstanding. As parents you know how hard my staff work; you know and share our belief that education is not only about what OFSTED measures. You know that Westwood is continually striving to do the best for each and every child in an increasingly difficult landscape and I ask you to show your support for your school – smile at us in the playground tomorrow – that’s all it will take!
A very personal thank you to my governors, under the leadership of our chair- Natasha Hardy, who have worked tirelessly to do what is right for the children, families and staff. I am so pleased that the report recognises their commitment to school improvement. A public thankyou to my senior leadership team, Mr Abey and our assistant Heads who not only share my vision but help shape it; middle leaders whose commitment to the school was recognised in the report, and the teachers and support staff as the report states – “There is a tangible sense of teamwork in the school” and of course a thank you to the many parents who shared their views of the school with inspectors.
I remain very proud to be the headteacher of Westwood Primary school. I see this report as a starting point – the benchmark by which we can judge the success of the next phase of Westwood’s history and I look forward to leading the school to continued and rapid success.
Monday 19th March 2018
On Tuesday 13th March myself and Caroline Oliver, the regional director for the Elliot Foundation spoke to staff and parents concerning the governors’ proposal to join the Elliot Foundation. I would like to thank parents and staff for attending and take this opportunity to answer questions posed in more detail.
At the meetings it was explained, that the governors have made the decision to covert to academy status and parents and staff are asking to consider whether they feel that the Elliot Foundation is the most appropriate academy trust.
Firstly I would like to say how proud I am to be headteacher of Westwood Primary School. Westwood is a great school! After 30 years in education I still smile every day going to work and the faith the children, parents and staff put in myself and the governing body to lead them is not taken lightly. The governors, like all governing bodies have been discussing the academy agenda for a considerable time. We have visited a number of academies both in Cambridgeshire and further afield and we have spoken to a number of CEOs of academy trusts. The reason we chose to approach the Elliot Foundation is that we strongly believe that they share the same values as we do.
“Where children believe they can because teachers know they can“– Elliot Foundation website
Westwood is a good school. Since converting to a primary school in September 2015 we have gone from strength to strength and this is supported by the views of parents. Leadership and teaching and learning is strong, so I can understand why parents are confused by our decision to convert. For me, it is not about the strength of the school, but about the capacity of the Local Authority to support us and ensure we become more than good. Your children deserve outstanding and this I feel can be achieved though joining the Elliot Foundation.
When I first began working in Cambridgeshire in 1988, I worked for the Local Education Authority and over the years I have worked with and for a number of inspirational educationalists, however the political landscape has changed. The government has reversed its commitment that all schools will become academies, however it firmly believes that school improvement is achieved through academies and the capacity of the Local Authority to support good schools has been diminished. The Elliot Foundation is a multi-academy trust which concerns itself entirely with primary education; it is judged by the success of its schools. As one parent who communicated to me stated “Local authorities have a lot of plates to keep spinning, academies only have education to focus on and specialise in”
Questions posed by parents:
If we join the academy does it mean we may not be inspected by OFSTED for up to 3 Years?
This is in essence true. When a school converts to academy status it keeps its previous OFSTED judgement but the clock is reset on the inspection timeline. OFSTED risk assesses all schools regularly, using data, parent views and other measures and it could be 3 years before we receive a full OFSTED inspection. However if we remain a LA school there is no certainty that we will be inspected in the near future[HG1] . The Elliot foundation will complete a review of the school on conversion and this will be placed on the school website for parents to view. I have led Westwood school thorough three OFSTED inspections during my headship and on all occasions leaders’ ability to evaluate the strengths and areas of development of the school has been highlighted as a strength. This is one of the reasons I support the conversion, we are not an outstanding school – I don’t need OFSTED to tell me this – but with support and challenge we can be.
What level of contribution to back office functions will the school need to make versus what we make to the Local Authority now?
The school will pay 5% of our budget to the Elliot Foundation. At the moment we pay this 5% to the LA. The Elliot will provide professional development for all staff and the performance management of the headteacher from the levy. At present the school pays additional costs to support professional development of staff.
What experience does the Elliot Foundation have with such a large school as ours?
Although we are at present the biggest school in Cambridgeshire, if we joint the Elliot Foundation we will not be the biggest school in the trust. I have visited two Elliot schools this term that compare in size to Westwood. This gave myself and my business manager, Mrs Goakes, an opportunity to look at systems to support administration in the office.
Will the school continue to grow by a class each year?
Yes – the school is committed to becoming 4 form entry school and as long as those places are needed by the Local Authority and the town of March we will continue to grow.
What is the 3 year business plan for the school? What plans does the Elliot Foundation have for us?
Although the school sets a 3 year budget it is very difficult to outline a business plan as we are not sure of our funding, or the needs of our pupils. Our strategic plan is written for the year, available on our website, and reviewed termly. The Elliot Foundation’s plans for us are that we become an integral part of the trust - receiving support and challenge and giving support and challenge. Caroline Oliver made it clear at the consultation meeting with staff - “you get out what you put in”
Will you (Headteacher) be expected to support other schools?
As an experienced headteacher I already support other schools for the Local Authority, as do other members of my leadership team who are specialist leaders of education. I mentor two head teachers new to headship who work for the LA and I sit on two Local Authority boards - The Safeguarding Board and the Newly Qualified Teachers Appropriate Body. In addition to this I am also a member of the Partnership Board for the Eastern Opportunities Funding. I am very aware that the Elliot values school to school support and I feel sure I will be asked to work with other leaders and other leaders will be asked to work with us. However I have always strived to be visible to the pupils, parents and staff at Westwood. I know how important it is for the headteacher to be available and this will not change.
What investment will the school get by joining an academy?
There is no additional investment by becoming an academy, however as previously stated the school will make savings as we will not have to purchase additional CPD and there will be some savings with The Elliot being able to negotiate prices of services for a trust rather than a school buying alone.
Will there be an impact on funding from looked after children?
There will be no change in funding for children with additional needs. Children who are looked after; children with ECHP plans; children entitled to pupil premium.
What is the need to convert to an academy at this time?
As previously stated Westwood is a good school. We are not under any pressure to convert, however the capacity of the Local Authority to support us to outstanding is a concern. I do not want us to be left alone because we are doing ok. Our parents, better than most, know how quickly standards can fall in a school and I welcome the support and challenge that the Elliot will bring.
What is the guarantees against financial mismanagement?
It is important to note that the academies movement has been associated with a number of instances of mismanagement and fraud. When I challenged the CEO of Elliot about this he said:
“There are no guarantees. You can only make a decision about the qualities of the MAT that you are choosing to join. That is why I make such a fuss at the beginning about how important this decision is. One of the reasons that these stories are attached to academies is that there is much greater financial oversight and control on them than on the public sector. Academies have to meet Public Sector standards but also comply with company legislation and the requirements of being a charity. In terms of addressing the question behind this which is, “Can I trust the Elliot Foundation?”, I would direct you to all of our schools and invite you to ask them. You will also find a whole host of transparency documents on our website”
What happens if it doesn’t work out?
Once a school becomes an academy it cannot return to Local Authority control. As Hugh Greenway, the CEO of the Elliot Foundation is fond of saying “this a marriage without the prospect of divorce” – this is why the governors have been considering this decision for so long. We are committed to being part of the Elliot and making it work for the good of pupils, parents and staff.
Are other children at a disadvantage because I've heard that there are more special needs and children with behaviour problems at a local academy?
The school’s admission policy will remain the same. Academies do not take more or less children with additional needs. The Local Authority will continue to have the authority to place looked after children and children with special educational needs at the most appropriate school, irrespective of its’ academy status. The Elliot Foundation supports full inclusion, as does Westwood Primary School.
The letter seemed to be bias to the positives, what disadvantages are there? VAT? Unqualified teachers?
The disadvantages as I see it is that we cannot reverse the decision. The governors and leaders have to sure that this is the correct decision and we are. As with LA schools, academies can claim back any VAT paid on services. Academies can appoint unqualified teachers, as can Local Authority schools. As it is now, I as headteacher will be responsible for appointing teaching staff and the school is committed to appointing the best; qualified teaching staff. Being part of the Elliot with its commitment to good quality professional development will help us not only recruit but retain the best staff.
Will parents hear what the teachers are thinking about the proposal?
Yes – all responses to the consultation will be published on our website and feel free to ask them.
What about the fact that the curriculum doesn't need to be followed by academies?
Elliot Foundation schools all follow the national curriculum. At Westwood we follow the national curriculum and we continue work to improve our curriculum and make it relevant to our pupils. This will continue.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me by email or through the school office. I am very aware that parents have seen a number of changes in recent years please be assured that as always, at the heart of every decision we make is the well-being of your child.
12th February 2018
As we are half way through the year, I thought it was a good time to review what the school has achieved this year and keep parents up to date.
The school has been trialling Friday closure for our foundation and key stage 1 for a term and a half now. Feedback from staff, both teaching and teaching assistants, is very positive. Staff feel that they have a greater understanding of learning and this is impacting on children’s progress. The majority of parents whose children are impacted by this change are in favour of the shorter Friday and I was very pleased to read the comments about the Friday club. I have been really impressed with how the Friday staff have worked to provide quality and enjoyable child care for our children. Governors need now to consider our next steps and a real consideration is the cost to our working parents. We have made a commitment that the cost of child care will be kept at a minimum and we intend to honour this, and with constraints on our school budget, full implementation may not be possible. Governors will be considering a number of options – continuing as we are with foundation and key stage 1 finishing on a Friday; extending early closure to include year 3; full implementation to all year groups. The decision is expected to be made before the end of the spring term.
As the school grows in size, we continue to work hard to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice. We have enjoyed a number of open sessions this year – phonics and English in the autumn term and maths this term. I do hope that you as parents find these informative. I know that a number of our working parents have commented that they felt giving the dates out in September for the whole year has been useful and we will continue to do this. This academic year saw the introduction of two schemes to support teachers with planning – Maths - No Problem and Story time Phonics. Senior leaders, external advisors and governors have been involved in monitoring the impact and we have seen real progress, particularly in teacher knowledge.
The school strongly believes that for children to learn they must feel safe and secure. This term we have collected the views of our children about how they feel at school. It was very pleasing to note that the vast majority of children feel safe at school. They feel safe in their classrooms, feel safe to make mistakes, and feel that teachers listen. However an area that does concern some children is lunchtimes. Many felt the halls are very noisy and this can make them feel unsafe. I and my senior leadership team monitor the lunchtime halls daily and the behaviour remains good, however there are a lot of children eating and chatting. To make lunchtime a more enjoyable experience for all, from the 19th February, packed lunch children in foundation to year 5 will be eating their lunch in classrooms, picnic style on large blankets. I feel sure that the children will enjoy this experience and thus lunchtimes will be the social time it should be. Another concern for some of our younger children was the cloak rooms and the amount of children using them. Building works during the February half term has alleviated this, as individual cloakrooms are now in place for most of the classes - it may even help with lost property.
I know that the building work has caused some upset to parents and neighbours. The traffic lights were an unavoidable inconvenience and I can only apologise. The building work does appear to be on track and the school will benefit so much from our new improved building. Thank you for your patience.
It was with real sadness that at the beginning of the year I took the decision to disband Friends of Westwood, however I do understand that we are all busy and it is difficult for parents and staff to commit to a whole year of fundraising. I do feel that the current system where we ask parents and staff of each year group to support one fund raiser is more achievable. The school works very hard to ensure that extra -curricula activities are accessible to all and we do not feel any child should miss out because of cost. School trips, after school clubs, residential, leavers parties and lots more are funded by the school, and our fundraising activities make this possible. With this in mind I look forward to seeing lots of you at our Year 3 obstacle race and car boot sale on Saturday 24th February. Year 3 parents we need bottles and cakes for the day – thank you.
As stated in my last newsletter, the school governors will be consulting on academy status. Senior leaders and governors have thought long and hard about this decision. We have met with a number of academy chains and visited a number of schools both within Cambridgeshire and further afield. We now feel that to ensure that the school continues to move forward the time is right. We will be applying to the Secretary of State for Education to join The Elliot Foundation Academy Trust. We strongly believe that the Elliot Foundation shares the school’s ethos – that the child comes first. The Eliot Foundation works solely with primary schools and we feel that they have the expertise to support us. Our colleagues at Cavalry Primary School work within the Elliot Foundation and we are looking forward to working more closely with them. There will be parents consultation meetings in the near future (dates will be given out week beginning 19th February). Rest assured the school believes that this is the right move for us and will only benefit your child. If our aim is successful, in the immediate future, parents and children will not notice a difference – the school name will remain the same; the uniform will remain the same and the senior leadership will remain in place. However staff will have access to high quality professional development, support and challenge and this will serve to ensure that your child receives the outstanding education he /she deserves. I am very happy to discuss this further with individuals on request.
Looking forward to seeing you all at our forthcoming parents evenings.
Best RegardsGill Thomas
Headteachers blog: October 2017
The first half term has been an eventful and successful start to the year. Memorable events include our year 6 Caythorpe trip, Insane Terrain and our open day events. We have lots to look forward to, with Read around the campfire and our Christmas events. I am particularly looking forward to our remembrance service and the return of our ceramic poppies, which the older children have been busy making.
Reception have settled well. We altered our procedures this year; with our youngest children beginning school first and children beginning in small groups. Our reception staff are reporting that they feel because of this, they know the children better and thus can support their learning. During our forthcoming parents evenings we will be providing a questionnaire for our reception parents asking for their opinion on their experience of starting at Westwood.
A number of parents have commented positively about the introduction of story time phonics into our reception and key stage 1 classes. The children love it and much of this is to do with the enthusiasm of staff who are not averse to dressing up! I have notice cave women and men, princesses and bears in the school playground.
Our key stage 2 open events were concerned with reading this term and it was a real pleasure to present our first half a million word reading certificates to four young men in our celebration assembly.
For our early years and key stage 1 pupils, school had been ending at 1:15 on a Friday for half a term and both the senior leadership team and governors are monitoring the impact on learning. Governors have met with staff and in November a local authority advisor will visit the school to observe in classes, looking specifically at the contribution of adults to the learning. Our governor newsletter and governor minutes, published on our website will keep parents informed. Please be aware we are expecting to move to early closure for all pupils in September 2018.
We are expecting the building works to begin on our oak site in December. The extension will include 4 new classrooms, new offices and meeting rooms at the front of the school, an extended school kitchen and long awaited individual cloakrooms for each class. The building works will inevitably lead to some disruption for all but we will do our best to keep it to minimum.
Despite the size of our school I believe we work very hard to ensure that we retain our family feel! As a parent wrote on our Facebook page - we are "team Westwood”. If you have a concern or worry about any aspect of your child’s education, please feel free to contact me directly through the school offices or through email,
And finally a plea.
Early this week a letter will be sent home concerning fund raising. Unfortunately this year there were not enough parents at the AGM of the friends of Westwood to form a committee and therefore it will not run. The funds given by the Friends of Westwood have supported your child in so many ways. The friends have paid for the cost of buses for all trips. They have paid for theatre shows enjoyed by all. They have provided for equipment for our foundation and for our year 6 they pay for the leavers party, entertainment, tea and make a contribution of £5.00 towards leavers jumpers. I understand that we are all busy and that although we get lots of help at events many of you don't have time to sit on a committee. However without some fundraising, parents are going to be asked to pay considerably more for the "extras" and our children will miss out. In addition to this fundraisers can be social events helping parents meet each other. The proposal I am suggesting is that each year group organises one fundraiser a year, with parents coming together in each year to work together. I feel sure we will have enough volunteers to support one fundraiser a year.
As always, I thank you for your continued support and look forward to seeing you at the forthcoming parents evenings
Headteacher Blog August 2017
As the holiday draws to a close it is time to look forward to the year ahead.
Summer holidays have been a busy time for staff. A number of classrooms have been painted and a telephone intercom system has been installed in all oak classrooms they now enjoy a similar communication system to the one being used on our Maple site. Our focus on Foundation and year 1 continues and both year groups have had an injection of funds which has allowed teachers to redesign classrooms – with more suitable furniture and resources. Come in and have a look next term – they look great!
Work on the extension to our Oak site is due to begin early in the autumn term. We will work alongside the builders to keep disruption to our parents and children to a minimum. The benefits of the extension will however outweigh any disruption in its building. I am particularly looking forward to the redesigned entrance which will make it easier for parents at the end of the school day.
This academic year we welcome 5 newly qualified teachers to Westwood. In a climate where it is difficult to recruit, Westwood continues to attract teachers new to the profession who are entusitiaic and committed to development. Our size supports this as there are opportunities for progression within the school. In addition to this we have a very experienced and skilled senior leadership team, including 3 Specialist Leaders of Education who are able to support professional development, both within the school and within the locality. From September we will also being employing an early year’s specialist teacher to support in Foundation. Her brief will be to work with children identified with communication difficulties to support accelerated progress. As I say every year at our new parent’s events – the foundation is called foundation for a reason – it is the foundation that all future success is built upon.
This year sees the establishment of an additional classroom – “The Snug” led by Miss Kelly Patterson. The Snug will be a classroom designed for those children, who, for a variety of reasons, are not managing in the traditional classroom setting. In the Snug their educational and emotional needs will be met in a very small group supported by teachers and TAS The benefits for the children within The Snug are of course apparent, however we also envisage real benefits for the whole school community, as adults in the remaining classrooms concentrating on the needs of the class, and not the complex needs of a minority. Additional information about our Nurture policy will be posted on our school website.
The academic year 2016 -2017 the governors and leadership sought the views of parents on a number of the issues. The parent questionnaire completed in March, although very positive, highlighted the issue of communication. To support this, from September on our school website will be Yearly calendar containing all the salient dates for the forthcoming year. Dates include parent’s evenings, information evenings, sports days, productions. We will update it as necessary and you will be informed through texts, email and Facebook. Homework was also raised as an issue and a big thankyou to the parents who worked with Mrs Jones to review our homework policy. Both Topic and Maths homework has been reviewed and will begin in its new format in the autumn term. Spelling homework is still under review.
Following or consultation on changing the school day – the school week will change for our Foundation and Key stage 1 pupils from September. School will end at 1:15 for these pupils and Friday Club will begin on Friday 8th September for children of working parents and those in full – time education. Please be aware that, as this is being paid for out of the school budget this year, it is exclusively for parents who need it for the reasons outlined above. If any parents would like to visit Friday club in action, please feel free to contact myself to Miss Sidaway through the school offices.
Another aspect of communication we feel we need to improve this year is to ensure that parents understand the role of the governing body in monitoring the school. This year the chair of governors will be producing newsletters outlining their work. I feel sure that parents will find this useful and informative.
Our priorities for this year are outlined in re school’s strategic plan, which will be posited on our website. Our key priority remains phonics teaching in Foundation and Key stage 1 and we will be introducing Story time phonics to all year groups. Parents of our younger children will, I am sure, hear lots about this, with their children telling stories and learning actions to support developing their phonic knowledge.
I look forward to meeting you all personally over the next few weeks, and as always if you have any questions or concerns I can be contacted through the school offices or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday 12th May
I realise that the proposal to change the school week has led to lots of discussion. I am very pleased with my photo in the Cambs Times – it is quite old and I look young!
A parent handed me a list of questions yesterday which I am delighted to answer. The parent obviously thought carefully about the proposal and has kindly agreed that I can share on our website.
Q Will there be a crèche for the meeting on the 23rd May?
A There will be a crèche for the 2.30 pm meeting, if parents require one for the 6.30 pm meeting then please let me know and I will organise.
About the Proposal
Q How do other schools manage PPA time?
A PPA is a statutory obligation, so all schools have to implement it. Schools do so in a number of ways – supply teachers, sports coaches, teaching assistants. A number of schools have implemented a 4½ day week for pupils, including schools in Cambridge and Peterborough.
Q Is the change driven by budget/increase in number of classes per year?
A Absolutely not! I can understand why parents may think this, particularly with stories in the news about education cuts. Westwood is a large school and schools are funded per pupil. In addition to this we manage our budget very well. This proposal is driven by one thing only. The school’s commitment to continue to improve the education your child receives. If implemented it will actually cost the school – teaching assistants, including part-time, will be asked to work Friday afternoons and there will be an increase in hours for catering and lunchtime staff to cover the staggered lunch time.
Q Are the teachers on board with this proposal?
A Teachers and teaching support staff are being consulted formally and I will be able to share their views at the meetings on the 23rd May. Informal discussions with staff indicate they are very supportive of the proposal and believe it will have a real impact on teaching and learning.
Q Will this proposal mean class time currently lost to PPA will stop or is this additional to current levels?
A PPA in its current format will end. The children will still receive a broad and balanced curriculum and receive their entitlement of PE, music and art, but they will be taught by class teachers. Our art lead, Miss Allen, will continue to support art in years 3 – 6, however class teachers will have responsibility for the class.
Q Will you ensure that it is mandatory for teachers and teaching assistants to stay for the full PPA time (until 3.15 pm)?
A Yes, but this is something I know I will not have to ‘police’. I was very disappointed to read comments on social medial about “teachers having afternoons off”. You only have to drive by Westwood at 7 o’clock in the morning or 6 o’clock at night to see how hard my staff work. As I write this 8 members of staff, teachers and teaching assistants are preparing to give up their weekend to take year 4 to Kingswood. There are no overtime payments for this! Westwood organises residentials at the weekend as the cost to parents is so much cheaper than in the week and we do not want children penalised because of cost. With summer camps, Easter camps, family learning days, read around the campfire etc. the school is virtually open 52 weeks a year.
Q Can the proposal be implemented by the school or does it need higher authority to approve?
A The governors of the school will make the decision. That’s why it is so important that parents share their views with governors through the questionnaire that will be sent out following the meeting and through discussions with our named governors, Natasha Hardy and Rebecca Amps, who can be contacted through the school office either by telephone or email (email@example.com) As a local authority school we have a duty to consult with the local authority, however the decision remains that of the school governors.
Q The 15 minutes lost from lunchtime for year 1 – 6 doesn’t sound like a lot but I am wondering if dawdlers or slow eaters will have less social / exercise time which could be detrimental to their learning (and disruptive for class). Has this been considered / will it factor into the restructure of teaching time?
A We believe that the proposal will help our dawdlers or slow eaters. All children will go into first seating. Children will not have to queue, and therefore playtime should be longer. There will be less children in the hall but the same amount of lunchtime staff and therefore they will be able to support children more effectively. Many, many children find an hour too long – our colouring club, nest and library are full to overflowing. We work very hard to ensure our classrooms are social environments. The best part of the day shouldn’t be lunchtime. We are teaching children to collaborate, discuss, compete and this supports social skills. PE and sport supports the school’s aims and we will ensure that the children’s entitlement to these important aspects of the curriculum continues.
Assuming implementation of the proposal
Q How will you measure if this change has been effective?
A The proposal is to support the improvement of teaching and learning. Monitoring of this is continuous. We do this through lesson observations, ‘drop-ins’ into classrooms by members of the senior leadership team, work scrutinies, discussions with pupils and staff and, of course, data analysis. Teaching in this school is good – very good, we are going for outstanding – it’s what your child deserves! Ultimately the school is judged by OFSTED. The school was last inspected in December 2014 and as a good school we are expecting an inspection during the academic year 2017-2018. If the proposal is implemented we are confident that we can justify our reasoning and show results.
Q Would there be parent input into this assessment?
A Parent questionnaires, given out yearly, include questions concerning quality of teaching and learning – progress of pupils. This is an excellent vehicle to gauge parents’ views as they are completed at parents evenings and the vast majority of parents attend. If the proposal is implemented, a specific questionnaire about the school week will be circulated at the end of the spring term 2018.
Q What time scale would you give it before assessing the change?
A We would expect to see an almost immediate impact in the classroom. Our already trained teaching assistants, will have a greater understanding of learning intentions and expected outcomes and thus will work to an even greater effect. The long term effect will be in the data analysis, at the end of the year.
Q What is the plan if the change isn’t as effective as hoped? (e.g. additional PPA still needed, or not financially viable to continue)
A I was very very aware that in the first instance this proposal was going to be controversial and I would not have suggested it if I did not believe that it would significantly enhance the education of our children. Those of you who know me well, hopefully know that, although I am not always popular, my commitment to your children is steadfast and this is shared by my staff. I am fully committed to making this work. Additional PPA is not an option. Children progress when taught by teachers they know. My staff will do what they do now – work longer – until the job is done. As previously stated the school manages its budget well. I cannot envisage a time when it is not financially viable. However schools communities evolve, educational thinking evolves, if changes need to be made parents will be consulted as always.
Q Drop off / pick up times – how will these work for dual site parents?
A Very much as it does now. When we changed Maple Site hours from 3.00 pm to 3.15 pm, some felt that this would be an issue, however there hasn’t been any problems. Our year 5 and 6 pupils are let out independently at the end of the day (unless parents state otherwise) and staff remain on the playground until all pupils are collected at the end of the day. In the mornings classrooms will open at 8.30 am and register is at 8.45 am, so there is plenty of time to drop off on both sites and the early start may well support our working parents.
Childcare on a Friday
Q Who will be looking after the children?
A The ultimate responsibility for the children will stay with myself. A number of lunchtime supervisors have expressed an interest in this role. All lunchtime supervisors receive regular training on child protection and positive play as well as first aid. Some lunchtime supervisors are already supporting the school day through our very popular “Time to Move Programme”. If the proposal is implemented, once staff are in place, we will ensure that play leader training takes place.
Q What will they be doing during this time?
A This is a ‘club’, a chill out time – art activities, sporting activities, opportunity to use ICT. Children can do homework if they want to. It will be dependent on the children’s interests.
Q Will the child care be run on just one site?
A Ideally yes, as this would make collection easier, however the final decision will be made when we have numbers. Yes, medications will be transferred.
Q Will there be segregation of years?
A No – we want to develop a family atmosphere – the older children and younger children gain a lot from being together and this is why we mixed the year groups over two sites. Primary schools run from 4 to 11, why should your children miss out because the school is a split site? However, the children will choose their activity and it might well be that at times they segregate themselves according to age and interest, e.g. football.
Q Offered to ‘working parents’ – how are you going to assess this?
A Friday Club will be offered to any parent that requires it. My assumption is that working parents
will require it. Please note my answer to the question below; we do need to ensure that there is a
distinction between Friday club and school.
Q How flexible will childcare be? Will booking be weekly / termly in advance?
A We will expect parents to book termly. That does not mean we expect parents to use it every
week, however it is imperative that staff are in place to run the club, and this can only be achieved
if we know in advance. It would impact on the education of your children if staff had to be taken
from planning meetings as there had been an influx of children to Friday club.
Q How much will childcare cost? When will this be due to you?
A There are two reasons the school is asking for payment for Friday club.
As part of the parent questionnaire that will be circulated following the meeting on the 23rd, parents will be asked about payment for Friday club. If the majority have strong views on this issue, I feel sure the governors will take this into consideration. The cost is dependent on the number of pupils that, on average, sign up to use the club. The school has no overheads - building, lights, heating resources are all here. We only need to cover staffing. I do not want, as yet, to put a figure on the cost, but it will not be above £3.50 a session and the likelihood is, it will be considerably less. Parents will be expected to pay in advance, but as always the school will discuss individual needs.
Q Will there be a discount for siblings?
A No – the staff costs remain the same, however I am expecting the cost to be minimum.
Q Will childcare vouchers be accepted?
A This is something I know little about. If needed we can investigate.
Q What will you do if a child is not picked up on time but no payment for childcare made, and how will this differ for persistent offenders?
A The school is very aware that sometimes things happen, stuck in traffic, cars break down etc. This can happen whether the school closes at 1.30 pm or 3.15 pm. Procedures are in place for this and will continue. If a parent contacts the school to say they are running late, we hold on to the child. If a parent is late and does not contact the school, then we hold onto the child and use the emergency contact numbers held by the school. Persistent offenders are very rare and the school works closely with individual parents to understand issues.
Q What plans do you have for the deficit /excess monies resulting from the childcare?
A As previously stated the school will not make a profit from a school club. Parents will be charged the bare minimum to cover the cost.
I do hope that these questions and answers have helped you understand in more detail the thinking behind the proposal. I am more than happy to answer any further questions, either in writing or through a private meeting.
Thank you, as always, for your continued support.
22nd February 2017
Well we are half way through the year and I thought I would remind you of some of the successes Westwood Primary school have experienced this year: Our new build is well and truly established and our foundation children now have a purpose built outside area (a little less muddy than last year). At the beginning of the year we introduced a new uniform for our reception which included polo shirts and tracksuit bottoms. We also presented every child with a jumper with their name on it. The fundraising for outdoor coats was a great success and thank you for your support. Our year 5s are firmly established on our Maple site and this, we feel, has been a great success. The year 5s have risen in stature as the eldest on the site. The year 5 house captains do a sterling job and all Year 5s can be relied on to support their younger peers.
The school has enjoyed a number of sporting successes this year. Neale Wade Academy has organised many sporting events for the local primary schools and Westwood has attended the majority - we did particularly well in the cross county and the football. Our links with Neale Wade remain very strong and Miss Jackman our Year 6 lead has attended a number of meetings with Neale Wade staff to support transition. Visits to Neale Wade for some children, will begin this term and Year 6 have the careers convention to look forward to on 15th March 2017.
Our two choirs go from strength to strength, under the direction of Mrs Greenwood and Mr Abey. We have performed at community events, including the Mayor’s Christmas Service and Voice in a Million is fast approaching.
Our links with parents continues to be a real strength of the school and it is a pleasure to see so many of you at our weekly assemblies. Family learning activities continue to be well supported and this term we are opening them up to pre-school parents. We enjoy a very good relationship with our neighbouring pre-school, with Mrs Bidwell sitting on our governing body and myself being part of the management committee for Maple Grove Pre-school. This works towards ensuring smooth transition into school for our youngest pupils.
This year we continue to develop our curriculum. Mrs Grant and Mrs Lansdell Hill are taking part in a cluster project concerned with developing enquiry based learning in Key stage 1, and years 2 and years 5 have been trialling a new maths scheme, based on the Singapore method of maths – this is to be introduced to all years in the summer term.
One of the highlights of the year so far for me has to be the read around the campfire. One of the school’s priorities this year is to support a love of reading for our children. In an era of testing and outcomes for children, it is important that we continue to encourage them to see the joy we can get from books – to read for pleasure. With this in mind I do hope that our Read before Bed evening will be just as successful and I look forward to seeing many of you there.
Governors and senior leaders are beginning to think about organisation for next year. Building work is expected to begin on our Oak site in November - 4 new classrooms are to be built and the offices and kitchen are to be refurbished. The cloakrooms are also going to be updated and FINALLY every class will have their own cloakroom. This will make such a difference to our children’s well-being. As many of you know the years 3 and 4 cloakrooms are a little like Bermuda triangles - with 90 children sharing the space it is inevitable. Whilst the building works is going on the school will lose the Oak nest, as this will be needed for a classroom, however this is only an interim measure and the lunchtime club will take place in our art room.
I look forward to seeing you at parents evening on Tuesday 28th February and Thursday 2nd March on our Oak site, parent questionnaires will be given out on these evenings to gauge your views.
As always thank you for your continued support.
22nd August 2017
The new term is nearly upon us and we are looking forward to welcoming the children back to school. The summer break has been a busy time for the school. On Maple Site building work has continued and we will be opening with 4 new classrooms for our Year 5; a new senior leaders’ office for myself and other members of the senior leadership team; a refurbished front office and a purpose built Nest, for lunchtimes and breakfast club. On Oak site, a path has been added to allow easy access from both sites and an Art room has been established in the small hall. There is still lots to do and teachers and support staff will be busy moving furniture and setting up classrooms on the 1st and 2nd September. School starts for pupils on Tuesday 6th September, with Years 1 to 6 attending full time and a stay and play day for our Reception.
We are welcoming a number of new staff this year and open mornings for each year group will be organised for early in the term, to give parents an opportunity to meet class teachers, see the new classrooms and hear about the curriculum. Dates for the term will go out with the first school newsletter.
Just to clarify the school day –
On Maple Site doors will open at 8:35, and children will come straight in from the playground. On the first morning teachers will be in the playground to ensure everyone knows where they are going, however as a rule of thumb Year 1 classrooms are at the front of the school, and the children will enter through their class doors. Year 5 will enter either through their classroom door or the year 5 corridor door and the reception pupils will be escorted around the back of the school, where they will be met by their teachers. DON’T WORRY STAFF WILL BE THERE TO HELP.
We are hoping that all children will be in school for 8:45 and the register will closed for Year 5 at 8:45 and our Reception / Year 1 Pupils, 9am. At the end of the day the children will be dismissed at 3:10. If you are picking up from both sites, pick up from Maple first. Foundation and Year 1 pupils will only be handed over to an adult named on contact list. Year 5 pupils are dismissed independently, unless parents inform the class teacher otherwise.
Oak Site, as Maple, doors open at 8:35. Year 2 and Year 6 pupils walk down the side of the school (by the cycle sheds) to enter the school. Year 2 will come through the side door and year 6 will enter through doors in their classrooms. Year 2 teachers / TAs will be monitoring the path every morning and will be available for a quick chat with parents. Year 4 pupils enter through the main entrance and Year 3 come in through the Year 3 door, at the edge of the playground by the cycle shed. All children are expected to be in school by 8:45 am and the register is called for years 3, 4 and 6 at 8:45 and Year 2 at 9.am. The school ends at 3:15. Please do not worry – we will not allow younger pupils in Years 2 and 3 to leave the school if an adult is not present.
And Finally Uniform – the school strongly encourages all children to wear uniform. It supports a feeling of belonging to the school and it ensures that children’s “best clothes” are not ruined. In all year groups, but in particular in Foundation the children are exploring the world around them and their clothes and shoes will get dirty – paint, mud, sand, pen - to name just a few stains. The school makes no apology for this – this is your child’s place of work and learning can be dirty work.
To support parents and to help with the washing, we decided to change the uniform slightly for our youngest pupils. We felt that blue t - shirts would hide the stains a little more and jogging bottoms / legging could be bought very cheaply, however if you would like to put your child in traditional uniform – then that is absolutely fine with us – we just ask you to understand that it will come home dirty. I do hope that has made the school’s positon clear.
Looking forward seeing you on Tuesday 6th September
4th May 2016
Thank you to all who took the time to comment when completing parent questionnaires. The results have been shared with you and I am sure you will agree the statistics are very positive however there are some comments that I would like to respond to:
The question concerning homework generated the most comments. Some parents feel we set too much and some that we set too little. The government expects schools to set homework and sets guidelines which we adhere to. The children appear to enjoy Mathletics and the after school clubs are very popular, however teachers do need to ensure that Mathletics is accessible for all children and that feedback is given. Spelling homework is less popular and we will be reviewing this. The aim of Topic homework is to provide a vehicle for parents and children to work together and it remains voluntary. The project homework must capture the children’s imagination and the senior leadership team is in the process of reviewing the school’s curriculum for September 2016. Project homework will be part of this review.
It is very pleasing to note that 98% of respondents recorded that their children feel safe at school, and only 5% felt that the school did not deal effectively with bullying. 5% is too many children! As a parent myself I am very aware of the impact bullying can have on our children and we hope to make it clear to pupils and parents that we will tackle all types of bullying, both inside and outside of the school gates. I strongly believe that we are preparing children for life and that our pupils will meet people who will try to bully them long after they leave Westwood. We must prepare our children by ensuring that they are resilient and self confident. The school’s anti-bullying policy supports this by admonishing perpetrators and empowering victims. I am quite happy to discuss our policy through a parents evening or with individuals. It does sadden me to note that a very small minority of parents continue to comment on the school’s policy on social media sites, particularly as the school will not comment in a public forum.
Communication between home and school generated some comments. I recognise that there have been some teething problems and I do hope you are now seeing some improvement. I know that the Foundation Link books have been greatly appreciated.
It is pleasing to note that only 2% of respondents felt that the school did not ensure children behave well. The school prides itself on its inclusive ethos. However we endeavour to ensure that the behaviour of an individual does not impact negatively on the learning or well-being of others . That said, we are aware that some children face challenging times, due to a number of issues beyond their control, such as concerns about transition, bereavement, family upheaval. In these circumstances we work with parents and children to provide a “safe place” and draw up individual behaviour plans which reward and reinforce positive behaviour, whilst we are supporting the child's emotional well-being . I am very happy to discuss the thinking behind this in more detail.
A school split over two sites has some positives, not least the amount of space it generates for our children. However it does generate some challenges. Assemblies take place on Oak site because of space restrictions and because we can use the stage. A risk assessment has been completed to ensure the children safely cross the road. I strongly believe that the blending of the key stages across the sites will be of great benefit to our children and I know the Year 5 pupils are looking forward to their new purpose built classrooms.
Thank you one again for taking the time to complete the questionnaires. This is your school and your views matter. I can, as always, be contacted through the school office and as one parent commented – we respond quickly to emails.
A great end to the term with an excellent turn out on for Parents' evening. I do hope our Key stage 2 parents enjoyed getting to know Maple Site. Thank you to all who completed questionnaires. The office are busing analysing the results and these will be shared with you early next term. I do hope that you found the target sheets useful, feedback from parents would be welcomed
The Easter holidays will be a busy time for the school. The office will be open every morning, except Bank holidays, and many of our Year 6 pupils will be at school in the second week, preparing for SATS., and of course the building work continues.
Wishing you all a Happy Easter , let's hope the weather is kind to us
The Summer term begins on Monday April 11th, with a staff training day and the children are back on Tuesday 12th April
17th March 2016
As we draw to the end of the Spring term it is a good time to think about how far we have come this year. Westwood Primary school is well established and , even though we are over two sites we feel like one school. It has been a very exciting term for the children , - our World Book Week gave the pupils an opportunity to work together over the two sites , Voice in a Million for our choir was a wonderful experience, our Reception began their assemblies, and this week we have enjoyed the brilliant Year 4 Production of Robin Hood - thank you to all involved.
in addition to this the building work continues . I am very aware of the disruption that this has caused, to parents , staff and children, however the builders are progressing well and it is expected to be completed, on Maple site, for the new academic year, and over the Easter break they are working on the Foundation outdoor area.
Senior leaders are in the process of redesigning parts of the curriculum to support our aim to continue to raise standards and we will of course keep you fully informed . This will include bringing the times of the day on both sites into line, and looking at mixing key stages across both sites. Governors and staff have looked at the school aims and we will be sharing them with you in the summer term.
Our year 2 and Year 6 pupils will be taking the Interim statutory assessments in May , in light of the changes to the national curriculum in 2014, An information evening for parents will take place on Wednesday 13th April. There s lots of information for parents on this site to support understanding of the changes.
I am very much looking forward to seeing you all at parents eveing next week. All appointments will be on our Maple Site, with Year 6 pupils on hand to guide parents. A Parent questionnaire will be distributed at parents' evening, asking for your views of the school .
Thank you for your continued support
15th October 2015
This week we have continued to encourage the children to work across both sites . Year 6 pupils are taking it in turns to help the younger children on our Maple site , during lunchtime and our Infants have been enjoying going to Oak site for assembles. This week a Year 5 class use maple site's hall for PE.
Our Reception have settled well and are enjoying staying all day. it is a real pleasure to visit them in their classrooms. I realise that they come home very dirty and at times wet, however we make no apologies for this - the children are exploring , creating and learning.
Many of you know we are part of the Fenland Teaching School Alliance. As a part of this alliance we work with other schools in the area offering and receiving support. We also play our part in developing teachers in training. This term we have Miss Lee and Miss Page working alongside Mrs. Talbolt and Mrs. Crosskill "learning their trade". We very much enjoy being part of this professional development and feel the children benefit from the enthusiasm and commitment these teachers show, however of course the class teachers remain responsible for their class.
Just a reminder about behaviour - the school works very hard with parents to support positive behaviour. I am aware that many of you know that there was a serious incident of unacceptable behaviour this week,. Be assured the incident was dealt with quickly and effectively. I really do thank you for your support in this matter. If you have any concerns please see me through the Oak office .
Looking forward to seeing lots of you at the Family Learning festival next Saturday 17th October.
Four weeks into term and all is well! I have really enjoyed the class assemblies this term and it is great to see our younger children from the Maple Site coming over to perform on our stage . They set a very high standard. The Reception are in all day from this week , and they have settled well. Some of our Year 6 pupils are kindly giving up their lunchtimes to help out in the Maple hall and in the playground and this is greatly appreciated.
After school clubs start this week - I do believe there is something for everyone. Please ensure that if your child signs up for a club he/ she attends regularly and the office staff are informed promptly if you child cannot attend. It can be very time consuming and even worrying when a child doesn't show up for a club and we are ringing round trying to find out where that child is.
Finally I just want to take the time to reiterate the school's policy on attendance. Regular, prompt attendance is a vital factor when seeking success at school. The school curriculum is very full; children do not have time to catch up! Children who are absent a lot find it difficult to maintain friendships with their peers and fail to make relationships with staff. This perpetuates the problems - they don't come so they don't want to come. The government has made it very clear that it supports full attendance at school for every child and this year has raised the bar- a child is now identified as a persistent absentee is his/ her attendance drops below 90%. If your child 's attendance drops below 90% you will receive a letter from myself, informing you that attendance is being monitored . Of course children should not be at school if they are ill and at times children are ill, the school will of course exercise some common sense! Please, please note Westwood school does not authorize term time holidays unless EXCEPTIONAL circumstances. I do understand the arguments about cost and I also understand that some holidays are a experience of a life time and children learn so much by going to different countries, however I also see the impact absenteeism can have on the child that misses the same two weeks in September every year and has to step into a class that has already settled .
A great big thank you to all parents and friends who have signed up for reading buddies - Miss Cliss will be in touch
The end of a very good week and the Year 6s have set off to Caythorpe for the weekend - lets hope the weather holds out for them.
This week years 1 to 6 enjoyed a live performance of Alice in Wonderland over on the oak site. This experience was then used as a stimuli for writing and displays of children's work are being put up in the corridors as I type. Our Year 2s have had a visit to "Westwood forest", our little wooded area on the oak site.. The children sat on the story telling circle to listen and tell stories.
Our reception intake have settled well and teachers and support staff have been busy participating in home visits. They will be staying for lunch next week, how exciting.
I am very pleased that a number of parents have shown an interest in the parent governor vacancies. Being a governor is challenging , but very rewarding, so please see Mrs. Tansley , the clerk to the governors, if you would like more information .
Have a lovely weekend and I hope to see many of you at the Friends of Westwood meeting on out Maple site on Monday at 3:30pm
Tuesday 1st September.
It has been a very busy summer for staff and governors this year. Lots of work has gone on to ensure that the school is ready for the children on Thursday 3rd September. Our Maple site has been painted, new signs have been installed and a new library has been sited in the glass room. The site is open to parents and friends after school on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th September.
We have also been busy on our Oak site , with new carpets in Class 8, a brand new fence and new playground markings .
We are very much looking forward to welcoming the children back this week .Our reception have two taster sessions an our Year 3s will becoming to our Oak site for breakfast on Thursday 3rd September. there is , as always, a busy term ahead of us and I am looking forward to working alongside you all.