Thursday Thought - 22nd October 2020


'The biggest challenge to self control is emotional regulation. Successful people know how to make their emotions their servants rather than their masters.' Paul TP Wong

In assemblies this week we have been talking to the children about self-control or self-regulation. This is the ability to manage your emotions and behaviour in accordance with the demands of the situation. Self-control may seem simple, but it’s really a complex skill. It’s part of a group of skills that allow us to manage our thoughts, actions, and emotions so we can get things done. There are three types of self-control: impulse control; emotional control; and movement control. Having self-control helps us in all areas of life. But it’s especially important when it comes to socialising. It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, to calm yourself down when you get upset, to adjust to a change in expectations, and to handle frustration without an outburst. It is a set of skills that develop over time, starting to build when we are very young and continuing into our 20s.

When children share, listen to others, or wait their turn, they are practicing self-control. Self-regulation is a foundational skill of early childhood, it allows children to grow into adults who can manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. If we give children strategies to stay calm in stressful situations, they develop strong habits that they can apply in the future.

As children grow, having good self-regulation will help them: to learn well at school as they will be able to sit and listen in a classroom; behave in socially acceptable ways as they will be able to control their impulses; makes friends because they have the ability to take turns in games, share toys and express their emotions in an appropriate way; become more independent as they are able to make good decisions about their behaviour; and manage their stress as they are able to cope with strong feelings and calm themselves down after getting angry.

Self-regulation is partially genetic, some children will naturally be better regulated than others, however, self-regulation is very teachable as well. We all want our children to have good friends, to be able to learn, to be good at solving problems, to enjoy life, and to savor the good moments, which is why it is such an important life skill. To help children develop good self-control we need to teach children that controlling our impulses help us reach a higher goal. The higher goal is usually about empathy, social relationships, or learning (being productive). The first step is helping children recognise the higher-goal of the situation and providing the time and space for their impulses too — it’s not that all impulses are bad, its that they have to be regulated to the right time and place.

There are many naturally occurring situations that help us to teach self-regulation, like waiting to open a present, being quiet when listening to a story or waiting your turn with a toy. These situations are truly challenging for younger children so we need to give them the strategies to regulate their impulses. Acknowledge that waiting is hard and provide visuals, like a timer, to show them how long they need to wait.

Games are also great as they present all kinds of challenges that are important for self-regulation. The basic definition of a game is to control impulses to meet a higher-goal (win the game!). And it’s fun so it doesn’t feel like you are practicing self-regulation.

But let’s not forget, that like The Good Egg, there are some occasions where it’s just as important to let go of control. As parents, we spend a lot of time trying to teach our children to control impulses. Ultimately, we want our children to have the ability to control impulses when needed and to be able to let loose when they can. So, if you notice your children being pretty controlled and tending towards anxiety make it your mission to help them learn that sometimes it is okay to let go.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 19th October 2020

you can control nothing but your thoughts

Bebasish Mridra - Physician, Philosopher, Poet and Author

For assembly this week Mrs R-B and I are sharing with children how to be useful, kind and ready to learn we must live up to an important responsibility, to treat other people with kindness and respect. The theme of this week's assemblies is self-regulation - the ability (and willingness) to control how we think and act. Self-regulation is key for anyone of us to be kind, useful and respectful.

The two stories shared in assemblies this week can be enjoyed at different levels of meaning and both approach challenging subjects with gentle humour. The Bad Seed is probably the best book I have read about the impact of trauma and also the power of learning to self-regulate. When the Bad Seed learns to self-regulate with politeness and courtesy, it's life is transformed in how it is treated and regarded by others. The Good Egg is an equally wonderful book, letting children know that being perfect is not good for anyone's mental health. I've read the book many times but talking and thinking with Mrs R-B about self-regulation this week, it struck me that this too is a feature in this story. When the Good Egg is bent on perfection, not only being perfect itself but noticing and trying to fix all the wrong things its fellow eggs are doing, it starts to crack up (being an egg - literally). The story illustrates that focusing our attention on the negative leads to less happy times than being more accepting, sanguine, tolerant. Human beings really are the one species who by changing the inner workings of their thinking can change the outer experience of their lives.

There's a cracking quote from the bible on this very subject. In Matthew's gospel , Jesus has this to say about looking for fault and judging others:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Universal truths transcend individual cultures, religions, time and place. Ancient Chinese philosophy ascribes this saying to Lao Tzu, six centuries before the birth of Jesus:

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America was also a fan of self-regulation in his advice to adults raising and educating children.

“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.”

I asked the older children today, before telling an adult about someone else's wrongdoing to self-regulate first: if you are telling an adult to keep yourself or someone else safe then it's really important to tell. But if you are telling an adult because you want someone else to be in trouble or because you don't like them, then exercise some self control and look for the good in that person. Then we and everyone around us is happier - everyone's a winner!

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 15th October 2020


'It is not our differences that divide us but our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences.' Audre Lorde

In assemblies this week we have been talking to the children about celebrating differences. Tomorrow is Wear Red Day and children can come into school dressed in red clothes. Show Racism the Red Card is the UK's leading anti-racism educational charity and their Wear Red Day is a national day of action which encourages people to wear red and donate £1 to help fund anti-racism education for young people and adults across the UK. Every penny raised during Wear Red Day enables their education and campaign workers to work with more young people and adults across the UK to challenge racism in society.

It can be hard to talk to your children about racism. Some parents worry about exposing their children to issues like racism and discrimination at an early age. Others shy away from talking about something they themselves might not fully understand or don’t feel comfortable discussing. Yet others, especially those who have experienced racism, simply do not have such choices.

Conversations about racism and discrimination will look different for each family. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, the science is clear: the earlier parents start the conversation with their children the better.

Babies notice physical differences, including skin colour, from as early as 6 months. Studies have shown that by age 5, children can show signs of racial bias, such as treating people from one racial group more favourably than the other. Ignoring or avoiding the topic isn’t protecting children, it’s leaving them exposed to bias that exists wherever we live. Children who encounter racism, can be left feeling lost while trying to understand why they are being treated a certain way, which in turn can impact their long-term development and well-being.

Race is relatively simple to address when a young child notices skin color for the first time. Racism is understandably harder to talk about. Few parents would consider themselves or their children racist, with its connotations of intentional, angry, or mean behaviour against different groups of people. But intention isn’t always part of racism. Though most people don’t intend any harm, they’re still making judgments based on race. Often those judgments come from implicit racial bias, something we might internalise through everyday interactions and social messaging, resulting in beliefs that we might not even realise we have but can still cause unintentional racist behaviour.

Developing empathy, compassion, and a sense of justice at an early age helps childrens grow into adults who want to help make the world a better place. For parents, that often means taking a deep breath and having those tough conversations about race and racism.

Try to find ways to introduce your child to diverse cultures and people from different races and ethnicities. Such positive interactions with other racial and social groups early on help decrease prejudice and encourage more cross-group friendships.

Be conscious of racial bias in books and films and seek out ones that portray people from different racial and ethnic groups in varied roles. Consider stories that feature minority actors playing complex or leading characters. This can go a long way in confronting racial and discriminatory stereotypes.

Explore the past together to better understand the present. Historical events like the end of apartheid in South Africa, the civil rights movement in the United States and other movements for equality around the world remain symbols of a traumatic past that societies are still recovering from. Understanding them together can shine a light on how far we’ve come and how much further we still have to go. These shared experiences can further help your child build trust and openness to different perspectives.

Children may have lots of questions about race and racism so here are some tips from The British Red Cross on how to approach these discussions and respond to questions about race and racism:

  • Positively acknowledge questions about race and racism. Even if the question is a difficult one to address, encouraging them to be confident enough to ask questions is important.

  • If the comment is negative, it is important to investigate it. Ask them why they think this. Encourage them to think about how they might feel if someone said this about them.

  • It’s ok not to know the answer. Be honest about your own knowledge and understanding. If the question requires a definitive answer, you can use trusted sources on the internet to research the answer to the question together or you can offer to come back to it after you have researched further.

  • Keep a note of the question. You could start an anonymous question box and set time aside to review and answer them. Open up the question to discuss together if they are comfortable to do so.

  • Ask why they asked the question or what they or others in that space think about the topic – encourage them to unpack their own ideas and thoughts.

  • Be willing to listen and encourage an environment of active listening where people can share safely, and others listen and reflect on what others say.

These conversations will begin to lay the groundwork for your child to accept and respect everyone's differences and similarities, leading to a culture of inclusivity.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 12th October 2020

world mental health day and showing racism the red card

Today Mrs R-B's assembly will be linked to World Mental Health Day and the notion of accepting and valuing difference. I will be following this up in Thursday's assembly to share wear red day this Friday (16th) to show your support for Showing Racism the Red Card. It has been quite a thing, watching our football players up and down the English league, taking the knee before a match. I remember when John Barnes came over from Jamaica to score goals for Watford, Liverpool and England know that racism in English football has a long and shameful history. The experience of players like Raheem Sterling today, tell us that it remains a blight on the sport and that the battle for equality isn't won yet.

Northwich and Cheshire are less diverse in some respects than many places and we may wonder about the relevance of marking events like this. In the Friday Fable last week when I read Ruby's worry, we thought how Ruby dealt with her worry to two ways:

  1. by talking about it and

  2. by thinking about and helping someone else.

We know that experiencing racism is impacts badly on the mental health and wellbeing of victims. Like similar types of abuse or discrimination (e.g. disability, sex or gender), it attacks the very core of you as a human being. It might be just moments in a person's life but the effect can and does remain with the victim long after perpetrators have moved on. Racism hurts us all and blights every society where it exists. Small acts of being able to participate and help improve things is also known to be good for mental health.

It is up to us all to show racism the red card. We hope everyone will enjoy wearing red on Friday to show and the funds raised will be used to tackle racism. Children can dress down and wear red on Friday and it would be great if they bring in £1. This event is a fundraiser for anti-racism work in the UK, training teachers and working directly with young people so the next generation can continue the work and improvements made since the days when John Barnes, a black player in an English club, was something for the 6 o'clock news to a premier league as diverse as our global family. If you want to join in at home and on social media you can use the hashtag #WRD20. In the words of Angela Davis:

'It is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.'

On a separate matter, Radio 4's Bringing Up Britain starts up again at 9am tomorrow (also on BBC sounds with previous series and episodes as a podcast). Parenting must be the most important role that anyone who takes the decision to have a child takes on in life. Taking responsibility for bringing another human being into the world is a massive undertaking yet is one of the few roles in life we have preparation and education for. Without evidence informed guidance, for good or ill, we tend to rely on our own childhood as a model and guide. This can be helpful but the world is a very different place from when we were young and our child a different person. The programme is insightful and helpful and I only wish we'd had it when Maggie was young!

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 8th October 2020


Rough-and-tumble play is when children do things like climb over each other, wrestle, roll around and even pretend to fight. Rough play is probably a basic human instinct, a phenomenon that occurs naturally in all cultures that helps children develop many skills – but mostly children like this kind of play because it's fun!

It’s a normal, developmental stage for many children. While there are some children who aren’t interested in this kind of play, those who do engage are not necessarily any more aggressive or a cause for concern. Many children simply respond to the physicality and role playing involved in play fighting.

The benefits of young children and their parents engaging in some rough but safe play has a variety of benefits, from bonding to aggression management. A parent who is trying to play fight with their child to build long-term skills and to bond should consider conveying several messages to their child, either verbally or nonverbally to set expectations.

Let them know you’re having just as much fun as they are, but also let them know that — while they’re free to test them — you’re the final say on the limits and the rules. These discussions help to set the tone for positive play fighting experiences.

With proper precautions, such as a safe place to play, and both parties being aware and willing to stop if it starts to go too far, it can be extremely fun for your child. However, it’s important to recognise what real fighting looks like versus play fighting. I’m sure you’ve all seen a play fight get a little too physical, which can sometimes happen quickly and pose a danger to children.

In assembly this week I have been talking to the children about ‘playing safely and considerately’ as I had noticed on several occasions ‘rough play’ going too far and leading to physical hurt and upset. These ‘games’ had all started off with good intentions but led to other children getting hurt, intentionally or unintentionally. Fighting at home often differs from fighting in school because, as a parent, if you weren’t there when the fight started, the reality is, there’s no way to tell who’s telling the truth—or if in fact there is a truth. When children with distorted perceptions get into a physical fight, there may not be a truth; there might just be their distorted perceptions. In school we do not allow fighting or aggressive behaviour and I have asked the children to think about how they can create ‘safe’ games to play with their peers, to help avoid the unavoidable fall outs that result from rough play.

As a parent, it can be upsetting when your child comes home with an injury and cause you to worry whether they are being bullied in school. But it is important to remember that while many actions involving aggressive behaviours, not all are bullying incidents. Rough play or pretend fights: usually occur between friends; there is not an imbalance of power; and the intention of the play was not about hurting. Bullying is an involuntary experience, where one individual carries out interactions that another individual doesn’t like or agree to. And it is usually done repetitively, without remorse, with intention to hurt.

Research has shown that some rough play is actually good for children, but in school the line between this play being ‘safe and considerate’ and ‘dangerous and unkind’ is certainly blurred at times. Play should be enjoyable for all parties with no major injuries. But when play involves the victory of one and the loss of another, it will be nipped in the bud.

Our discipline system in school aims to cultivate in pupils an acceptance and recognition of responsibility for their own decisions, their actions and their consequences. Good discipline practices create the conditions for effective learning and help to develop children’s responsible attitudes and values for life. We would like to thank parents for their support when incidents occur in school as by working together we can ensure children understand what is natural and human needs adapting and moderating according to where we are.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 5th October 2020


In assembly this week we are thinking about another one of our seven responsibilities in school: we play safely and considerately. Today, we found out about some true sportsmanship between Jesse Owens and Lutz Long in the 1936 Summer Olympics, but for many children at the moment, the opportunity to take part in sports is more limited. Children and young people’s lives have changed dramatically because of coronavirus, with them spending more time at home and online, playing and competing in a virtual world.

And while the internet is a great way for children and young people to stay in touch with their friends it can also bring risks. Now more than ever it’s important to talk to your child about staying safe online and about the apps and sites they’re using. Many of the Apps can appear safe initially but worrying content can be shared. Ensure you work through safety and privacy features on the apps that your child is using and use the NSPCC Net Aware site to check the suitability of each App.

It can be difficult to know how to start talking to your child about what they’re doing online or who they might be speaking to. But talking regularly, like you would about their day at school, will help your child feel relaxed and mean that when they do have any worries, they’re more likely to come and speak to you. In a mobile age, children can’t be completely protected, even by the best privacy controls.

Encourage your child to think carefully about the way they, and others behave and play together online, and how they might deal with difficult situations. Consider:

  • People may not always be who they say they are online: how can this create problems?

  • Why is it unwise to meet anyone in the real world that you’ve only ever met online?

  • Even if you think your messages are private, remember that words and images can always be captured and broadcast.

  • People present themselves differently online - do they really look like that? Are they always having that good a time?

  • Be aware that screens, and especially being anonymous, can lead people to say things they wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

  • What does being a good friend and a likeable person online look like?

Happy Monday

Mrs RB

Thursday Thought - 1st October 2020

The naked truth is always better than the best dressed lies

Children learn to lie from about the age of two. The first lies children learn to tell are denials of wrongdoing. From the age of three they also learn to tell “white” lies. These are lies that are told to benefit other people or to be polite. This is when children start to realise that you aren't a mind reader, so they can say things that aren't true without you always knowing. These intentional attempts at deception may worry parents, who fear their child will become a pint-sized social deviant.

But from a developmental perspective, lying in young children is rarely cause for concern. Lying is often one of the first signs a young child has developed the awareness that others may have different desires, feelings, and beliefs to oneself. While lying itself may not be socially desirable, the ability to know what others are thinking and feeling is an important social skill. It’s related to empathy, cooperation, and care for others when they’re feeling upset.

As the primary role models in children's lives, parents play a vital part in showcasing honesty. They also have the most influence when it comes to instilling a deep-rooted commitment to telling the truth. As children mature and acquire a more sophisticated understanding of social etiquette, parents must help children differentiate between little white lies told to spare people's feelings and downright dishonesty.

Once children are old enough to understand the difference between true and not true, it’s good to encourage and support them in telling the truth. You can do this by emphasising the importance of honesty in your family and helping children understand what can happen if they lie. Spend time talking about honesty and what it means to help influence their behaviour.

Differentiate between fantasy and reality. This doesn’t mean minimize fantasy; it simply means help children begin to distinguish between them . Around age four or five, children are cognitively able to think this through. You don’t have to reveal the real tooth fairy, but when you see a play together or your child spends the afternoon pretending to be a dog, you can use it as an opportunity to talk about what’s real, what’s not real, and how to tell the difference.

Try to find out why your child felt the need to lie. Punishing a child for lying without understanding why they did it can be ineffective. Depending on your child’s age, blurred lines of reality, wishful thinking, experimenting with boundaries or all of the above can be reasons why children lie.

Be a role model. For good and for bad we are our children’s role models. If you lie, they will too. If you cheat, they will too. If you tell the truth even when it’s difficult, they will too.

And finally, relax and know that in the long run, it’s probably no big deal. Continue to teach, model, and reward honest behaviour and they’ll catch on. A few dogs might eat some homework in the meantime, but children will eventually learn the difference between truth and lies and understand the complicated social rules around them.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 28th September 2020

being honest and truthful

Mrs R-B and I split assemblies this week as we have moved on to our responsibility to be honest and truthful. In planning and by Take 4 of KS2's assembly I was thinking of being honest and truthful somewhat differently. I have often said, when I see children's eyes whirling round thinking how to minimise any blame or trouble when they have been taught being unkind or playing dangerously that telling the truth is easy - you don't have to make anything up, you just say what happened. However thinking about Nelson Mandela and Truth and Reconciliation today and an event last week has got me thinking quite differently about telling the truth.

For younger children, Mrs R-B used the Tale of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. This timeless tale reinforces how first and foremost, being honest and truthful benefits oneself. If someone is known for telling lies they may not be believed when they really need it. The story tells us that we have some responsibility for whether or not other people believe us. Truthful and honest people tend to be believed more readily than known liars.

Assembly for older children reminded them of the story we have used in the past to illustrate honesty and truthfulness. Funnily enough, the story of George Washington and the cherry tree is not thought to be true which is ironic. It does show how Americans valued truthfulness in their leaders back when their country was newly independent... !

Today, I used a story about another president, an African one and a true story. The first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela used a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for people who had suffered under apartheid to tell their stories - to speak the truth. We thought in assembly how the truth is simple - it is what happened. But it is not always easy to speak it. Last week, speaking to someone about some name calling, it was apparent that speaking about wrongs done to us are not always easy to speak of. When I was bullied (ginger hair and free school meals were not easy in the 1970s!) I didn't tell anyone until well into middle age. When someone has been ridiculed or ostracised there can be feelings of shame and embarrassment. Telling the truth when you have been the oppressor is equally hard; we should be feeling guilty and shame for our wrongdoing but this feeling which is our conscience, also makes it hard to speak about. We thought how without truth there cannot really be forgiveness. Forgiveness resets our relationships, we become equals again and can let go of shame, embarrassment and guilt.

There is something I often say in school when children mess up and things escalate - 'It's not what you did, it's what you did after you'd done it.' Better to be in bother and put it right than be in bother and then even more bother for lying about it. Children can be incredibly unkind and nasty to one another. They also put us adults to shame with their capacity to forgive, reconcile and move forward together peacefully without a grudge. Being truthful and honest makes our lives simpler, easier and will earn the respect and trust of others - how better could we care for ourselves?

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 24th September 2020


For many of us, listening is the communication skill we use the most. Yet, many people listen poorly, and they rarely think to improve this important skill. Poor listeners "hear" what's being said, but they rarely "listen" to the whole message.

They get distracted by their own thoughts or by what's going on around them, and they formulate their responses before the person who they're talking to has finished speaking. Because of this, they miss crucial information. Good listeners, on the other hand, enjoy better relationships, because they fully understand what other people are saying.

In assemblies this week we have been talking to the children about what good listening looks like as we have noticed that since school closures, children are finding this increasingly difficult. Our children also need us to truly ‘listen’ to them. It is so important, especially in these challenging and rapidly changing times, to show our loved ones we are listening. But how good are we at it? We learn how to speak as children, and we learn how to read and write at school, but we seldom get taught how to listen. Rather than just hearing what we want to hear, and quickly talking about solutions, we need to be aware of how others words are being said. We need to be mindful of body language. To truly hear the detail and depth of what is being told. We all know as busy parents, trying to get all of our household chores done, we rarely have time to listen carefully to what our children say. I know myself, when my girls are talking to me about their day whilst I’m making lunches for the next day, putting the washing away, running the bath, I make all of the right noises, nod my head encouragingly, but am I listening to understand?

When you listen actively, you not only make a conscious effort to hear the other person's words, but, more importantly, you try to understand their whole message. Active listeners show verbal and nonverbal signs of listening. Positive reinforcement, remembering, and questioning are all verbal signs of active listening. Non verbal signs include smiling, head nods, posture, and avoiding all distractions.

Active listening also involves encouraging positive conversation. This means acknowledging the other person’s point of view and being able to repeat back what was said in your own words.

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be a better listener. Practicing active listening techniques will help us all become better communicators and build listening skills we will use for life.

Active listening is more than just paying attention. It is a technique that’s used in counselling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It’s an important interpersonal skill that requires that the listener fully concentrates, understands, responds and then remembers what is being said to them.

Try to:

  • Use eye contact and facial expressions like smiling to show you’re listening

  • Use open body language to connect with the speaker

  • Repeat back the message that is being expressed

This will help the speaker feel they have been heard, and may encourage them to talk more openly.

Our ability to listen has a direct effect on our ability to understand and empathise with others. Having good listening skills isn’t only important in deep, meaningful conversations about our wellbeing. Active listening can be used in day-to-day chats to show we care about what our friends and family are talking about. Feeling as though someone is interested in what you have to say, is a good feeling no matter what you are communicating.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 21st September 2020

listen up!

Today's assembly shares another one of our seven responsibilities. These are seven things that children, staff, governors and parents decided, many years ago, were needed for us all to enjoy our right to work and learn well and in safety. We emphasise responsibilities alongside rights. Rights and responsibilities are like two sides of a coin - for the coin to be worth anything you need both sides clear and visible. Our seven responsibilities also flesh out our single school rule: we are useful and kind and ready to learn. Today we moved from working hard and enjoying success to another: we show good listening, a responsibility without which we cannot work hard or succeed.

Our five senses: hearing, taste, sight, smell, touch are necessary in varying amounts for different jobs and activities. For a footballer, shop assistant, chef, actor or teacher, some are more vital than others and no one wants a doctor who doesn't listen or touch you kindly! Each sense has a place in learning and most of us are fortunate enough to enjoy all five. There is an interesting question though - which would least want to lose? I have never met anyone who chose hearing. Hearing and listening to understand and make meaning is fundamental for our human use of language. Good listening is more than sitting quietly, it is active and engages the brain, from toddlers listening and repeating back single words to a parent to us listening to the news to a student studying astrophysics in a lecture hall at university, listening is about making meaning from what someone else is telling us. Children who show good listening will thrive in school.

How do children learn to be good listeners? Well, their first educators are of course their parents and carers at home and their learning starts in infancy. When you read a book to your child they can understand a more complex text or story than they could if reading alone or aloud to you. When you have a conversation at home with your children, watch Newsround with them and discuss the world we share, you are developing their unique general knowledge and understanding. These things are important in their own right and make children's and family life more rewarding (if they had zero impact on children in school at all I'd still recommend them). But they do also play a big part in how children learn, enjoy and succeed in school. Today's story is about good listening and shows just what amazing things can be achieved with a good ear and lots of hard work and practice! The story is used to illustrate our responsibility to show good listening.

A young woman now at Sir John Deane's told her mum that up at High School in year 7, the English teacher had wanted to know what a 'fronted adverbial' was. The student (having just passed the spelling, punctuation and grammar test in year 6) had quite forgotten but on the upside, she remembered a story in assembly about how Mozart snuck a piece of secret music out of the Vatican which is how we have it written down and can hear it ourselves. What is relevant, entertaining, intriguing and surprising is always memorable. Fronted adverbials (useful as they are and which most of us will read and use in our writing without naming them - though few outside primary school know what one is) less so. Think on Education Ministers and their special advisers ;-)

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 17th September 2020


In assemblies for the last two weeks, myself and Ms Stewart, have been talking to the children about ‘working hard and enjoying their success’. We have shared stories of people who have done just this but without the belief that they ‘can’, children may avoid pushing themselves, experiencing failure and trying out new things.

We all have beliefs about our own abilities and potential. These beliefs are part of our mindset, which is so powerful it can fuel our behaviour and predict our success. Mindset shapes our everyday lives, helping us interpret our experiences and future possibilities.

Dr. Carol Dweck identified two different types of mindsets. A growth mindset occurs when we believe our intelligence and abilities can be improved with effort and the right strategies. A willingness to confront challenges, a passion for learning, and viewing failure as a springboard for growth are all characteristics associated with a growth mindset. Not surprisingly, this type of mindset is strongly linked to greater happiness and achievement in life.

In contrast, those with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and abilities cannot be altered in a meaningful way. As a result, mistakes are often seen as failures rather than opportunities to grow and learn. When stuck in a fixed mindset, we may fear new experiences, avoid risks, and feel the need to repeatedly prove ourselves over and over again.

Has your child ever said to you ‘There’s no point, I’ll never be able to do it’ or avoided doing something because they’ve failed at it in the past?

Feelings like this can be related to what children believe about what makes them ‘good’ at something – whether it’s school work, sport, or even their ability to manage their emotions and behaviour.

Some children will tend to give up on challenging tasks easily, or avoid tasks they’ve failed at before. They tend to believe that being ‘good’ at a particular activity is a fixed state, and is something they can’t control. In psychology, this way of thinking is called a ‘fixed mindset’.

Others might bounce back quickly from failure and be more likely to explore how they can get better at doing something. They tend to be children who believe that you can improve your abilities by practising, or by finding a different way to achieve your goal. This way of thinking is called a ‘growth mindset’, and developing it can help make children more resilient for life.

Children (and adults!) with a growth mindset believe that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort, persistence, trying different strategies and learning from mistakes.They think very differently. They believe that they can get better at something by practising, so when they’re faced with a challenge, they become more and more determined to succeed, wanting to persevere and overcome knockbacks. They tend to feel as if they’re in control, and are not threatened by hard work or failure.

Although no one likes failing, children with a growth mindset do not let failure define them; instead, they use setbacks to motivate them. Children encouraged to adopt a growth mindset enjoy challenges and the sense of achievement they get when they succeed.

Researchers have found that building a growth mindset helps children at school; making them more motivated, more engaged in the classroom and likely to receive higher marks and greater rewards from their work.

The exciting thing about the growth mindset approach is that it is not just about ability. It focuses on what people believe about ability – and there are lots of ways that we can help our children to develop a growth mindset.

Research has shown that Mindsets can be changed relatively quickly and there are plenty of things that parents and families can do to help.

It is commonly believed that lowering our expectations promotes self-esteem in children (e.g. “never mind, let’s try an easier one”), but this is not the case. Having high expectations works like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It shows that you believe they can do it, which in turn has a positive impact on their own beliefs, behaviour and outcomes.

We need to encourage children to be resilient and not give up, even when they find something difficult or frustrating. The brain adapts to new information and practise by creating new connections, so help your child to believe that challenge is a positive thing because it means they are growing their brains! This can help them to be comfortable with the times that they struggle and means that they see this as a sign of learning.

We need to celebrate mistakes! The fear of making mistakes and associated shame can stop children from giving something a go in the first place. We all make mistakes, so try to embrace these mistakes and use them as learning opportunities, rather than feeling embarrassed about them. If we are not making mistakes then we are not stretching ourselves. It is important for children to not see failure as an endpoint, but rather as a beginning. A place from which to grow. They need to view challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow and become a stronger person.

Think about your child’s favourite athlete, musician or teacher and talk about their journey to success. We have shared several though our assemblies. We call this unravelling the talent myth. If someone has done well we have a tendency to think they were born that way. We need to show our children that this is not the case. Rather than focusing on somebody’s ‘natural talents’, focus on their early efforts, strong work ethic, and the mistakes and learning that led them to where they are now.

It’s important to understand that a growth mindset isn’t just beneficial to children, it’s equally applicable to adults as well. It’s important to extend the same kindness to yourself as you do to your children when they make mistakes. Developing a growth mindset isn’t always easy, so remember that you too will make errors. It’s just as important to learn from your own mistakes as it is for your children to learn from theirs.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 14th September 2020

instrinsic reward - another way to think about working hard and enjoying success

I have a dream about education. How a school could be a place without rules, without certificates and awards, without grades and exams. A free school in the real sense of the word. Children would come because they wanted to, they were curious and wanted to learn, know and understand more. Teachers' would spend their time planning for children's next step in learning about the world, its cultures, nature and how it works and there would be no expectation of ranking children, indeed it would be frowned upon. Parents would await their child’s return home from school, eager for a conversation about the day's learning, looking forward to sharing the book together and having a conversation about the day in school. This is the intrinsic reward of learning - joy inside yourself, satisfaction of knowing, understanding and being able to do something.

Of course this is a pipe dream and our schools are attended and staffed by human beings with our infinite variety of strengths, talents, foibles and flaws. But there is something in the notion of the joy of intrinsic learning for its own sake. Watching a baby slitter about with bubbles and water in the bath, a toddler in a sand pit or a child constantly asking you ‘Why?’ and you can see that our human hunger for learning and understanding starts from our very earliest days.

I know, from my experience as a teacher, that the most successful and happy learners experience this intrinsic reward more often. These are the students who would much rather have a conversation about a concept than a smiley face, a positive comment or even a certificate for a piece of work. These students are to be found among every group of children I have taught; from the most academically proficient students who go on to Russell Group universities to those with great barriers to learning. There are children who like to discuss an idea and whose face lights up when they ‘get’ or master something they couldn’t do before.

Schools are full of extrinsic rewards. These are the rewards that are separate from the business of learning: at the lower end of the spectrum, a marble in the jar or sticker all the way up to certificates and grades in exams. When I inspected for Ofsted you often noticed that the worst behaved children could often be found with the most stickers, jumpers buckling under the weight, for something or other given by well-intentioned adults offering rewards in an attempt to build self-esteem and secure engagement. Some Kingsmead children, now grown up, once asked me about why they had to do something so much better to get a certificate than some other children. So I asked them if they’d like to swap. This group would come and play cards, talk about evolution, books and ideas but I didn’t give them certificates for it. I asked them whether they would swap their more equal relationship with adults for more badges and certificates. It didn’t take them long to decide.

Assembly today was about Ada Lovelace, mother of coding - two hundred years ago. It was a good two hundred years before anyone took much notice of Ada but that didn't stop her enjoying learning and success.

This is not to say we should get rid of all extrinsic rewards, rewards outside the learning itself. They have their place but I think too much of place much of the time. I remember from teaching my class that the best lessons were the ones when no one got a marble in the jar or even much positive praise, no one was told or asked how they'd scored against their classmates. This was not because no one had been ‘good’ or working hard but because we were just too interested, working too hard and enjoying ourselves too much to be bothered; we'd look out the window and notice we'd missed playtime and everyone was coming in. And those were the lessons where the work in books was their very highest standard. Happy days!

Happy Monday :-) Ms S

Thursday Thought - 10th September 2020

FACT, OPINION, MYTH - covid information

In the current world of an abundance of information and misinformation it is important that we know the difference between a fact, an opinion and a myth. This formed a big part of a planning discussion with Mrs Roberts about Upper Key Stage 2 learning about the Ancient Greeks. What is it about studying Ancient Greece that is relevant to our youngsters in 2020? Well knowing the difference between a fact, an opinion and a myth is, in my humble opinion, probably The Most Important Thing when learning about Ancient Greece. This knowledge and understanding will make our children more intelligent citizens who are able to make good choices for themselves, other people and the environment when they are 18 and voting day comes around!

This week’s Thursday Thought will share some of what I learned yesterday in another online meeting with Dr Matt Butler. Dr Butler is the consultant geriatrician at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge who is leading on COVID. He has been helping headteachers in my union, the NAHT, work together. I have attended a number of meetings with Dr Butler and his insight and factual knowledge and professional opinions have been useful in my communications with folk at home as well as risk assessing for reopening for more children back in June and more recently September. He has also dispelled some unhelpful myths!

Back in June people working in public health and schools had very little data on what was a new disease and how schools are affected and impact on their local areas. With schools being, in Dr Butler’s words part of our nation's ‘mass experiment’ with 1.6 million children back in education since June, we now have much more data and our knowledge of the disease is better too.

FACTS from the June data shared by Dr Butler yesterday:

  • We know categorically that children are not super spreaders of COVID. Transmission pupil to pupil is rare and the risk much lower. This changes as children get older which is why the disease is currently spreading more among adolescents and young adults. This is why our expectations for our older year 5 and 6 children must be much higher, especially indoors and is why we are happy should they wish to use face coverings (see September document) page 11). We can't guarantee children won't pass the disease on to one another or to adults but the risk is much lower than in other sectors and age groups. Also, children are very unlikely to become seriously ill (though some sadly do, as with other conditions like the flu).

  • Children may often by asymptomatic (have no symptoms) while this is a risk, these children appear far less likely to spread the disease and be contagious than those with identifiable symptoms.

  • Since June all age groups have seen a rise in cases, especially people aged 20-29. We won’t see the impact on deaths and health for other age groups for a few weeks.

  • Schools have performed better than the community as a whole in limiting spread. Schools are not driving spread and follow rather than lead rates in the community. Where community rates are higher, schools in that area are higher but, and this is important, the data shows that school spread is consistently lower than that in the community. This is why it is important for us all to play our part and maintain distance as far as possible and not flout the advice and guidance once outside school.

  • Being outside is lower risk than inside and inside. This is why we eat outside and why we are less pedantic about children touching one another outside.

  • Staff to staff spread is a higher risk than pupil to pupil, pupil to staff and staff to pupil. This is why we have significantly limited access to and use of the staff room and is why when outside their usual working are we are encouraging the use of face coverings.

  • Indoors, ventilation and cleaning regimes are key, including children’s hand washing.

  • Soap and water is as good as an anti-bacterial agent and is less harmful to skin and furniture.

  • We do not know how COVID will spread in the winter. Only China has experienced a winter with COVID and they had stringent lockdown measures throughout.

  • Children are not super spreaders of COVID but they are super spreaders of flu and other virus’ like Norovirus (sickness and diarrhoea). Flu kills many thousands every year. This is why we will be strongly advocating that all families take up the offer of a flu vaccine for their child and consider one for themselves too. We must cooperate and work together to ensure the NHS won’t be overrun this winter as it is most winters.

  • Many people have no symptoms of COVID. There could have been tend and hundreds of cases that had no or few symptoms and went undiagnosed. Many of you reading this will have had COVID-19 already as for most of us it is thankfully a mild illness. For this reason, health agencies are moving from thinking ‘Do you have it?’ to ‘Are you infectious?’

  • People with symptoms spread COVID more than a-symptomatic people (this stands to reason when you think of coughing which however hard you cover your mouth will spread droplets of saliva over surfaces and other people). Viral load is important and people with symptoms probably have more and therefore spread it more.

  • The main symptoms in children are temperature and/or a cough. Fewer children report loss of taste and smell (they may not notice). 60% of children who test positive for COVID have a runny nose. 10% have abdominal pain and diarrhoea. From this you can see how we will rely on families cooperating and being cautious, making good decisions for the rest of our community as well as themselves when deciding whether to keep children at home).

  • Thanks to great medical research, much here in the UK, health professionals know better and more effective treatments those with more serious symptoms: use of steroids, how to incubate and treat the condition.

OPINIONS shared Dr Butler - even better, these are professional judgements built on many years training and experience:

  • “It is the right time to open [schools] but we are not out of the woods.” Dr Butler told us that for children a return to their friends and learning was important for their mental health and wellbeing (as well as that of parents) and especially given the small risk to their health and that they are not super spreaders.

  • Dr Butler’s supports the wearing of face coverings including in schools. They don’t harm and will help others, catching droplets from our breath that could contain the virus. He does not take his off between shops even when outdoors as he wants to avoid touching it on the outside and can’t always wash his hands before putting on and taking off. Face coverings are better than Perspex shields but a shield is better than nothing. This is why we encourage staff to wear them whenever indoors and outside their usual working area). Shields can be used in addition to a face covering when working 1-1 with a child and, if for learning to be effective, the adults face needs to be seen on their own. It is also why we appreciate those of you who are choosing to wear face coverings to school – normalising something is important to change cultures. People who feel a bit uncomfortable about them will be encouraged and more confident if they see friends and neighbours in them.

  • School staff and children may well be very low priority for vaccines. The high risk groups and people working with high risk groups will be prioritised. There is unlikely to be enough vaccine for school staff this year.

  • Head teachers and school leaders know a lot more about COVID through keeping up with lots of guidance, huge amounts of information and reading than most people in the community and we have a responsibility to lead. This is why we are advocating face coverings for adults coming on site, asking that only one adult brings children on site and urging you all to take up the flu jab this winter.

  • Public Health England have done a really good job with the data they had, the guidance given and the conditions in which they work.

  • Normality should be hoped for in 2020-21. This is not a quick fix and we are not out of the woods by a long way.

MYTHS – Dr Butler didn’t share any myths but I have heard some right corkers!

Facebook and social media (as well as some of the less scrupulous ends of national media) offer a plentiful supply for those interested! In different times we might laugh but they have caused distress and worse, inhibit people making good decisions for their family, I have spoken with oncologists (cancer doctors) who bemoan people turning up later than they should have and with more advanced conditions because they have read about 'alternative' or 'miracle' cures on the internet. Here are a couple of COVID-related myths that have done the rounds recently.

  • If a child has symptoms in school they will be taken away. No they won’t! We will call you and ask you collect ASAP and take them home.

  • Schools will test without parents’ permission. No we won’t, it would be unlawful, just as it would for us to give them a hay-fever tablet or look for a head louse. Check our FAQ page!

So, to sum up this Thursday Thought. Leading a school since March 2020 has involved a lot of new learning and much hard work. As a result, Mrs Rutter-Brown and I know a lot more and are better informed about COVID than we were and very probably more than many of you out there in the community. This helps us care for ourselves here in school. I hope the time we have spent, reading ever changing guidance, reading reams of new information and listening to people like Dr Butler, gives you confidence that our decisions have been and will be rational, well thought out and that your children are in the care of people you can trust and who make their best endeavours to keep us all thriving as well as surviving! Thank you to each and every one of you who has taken the trouble to read our communication, stay informed and understand that our risk assessment is as good as everyone cooperating for the good of us all.

Happy Thursday, Ms S :-)

Monday Message - 7th September 2020

Working hard and enjoying success

Quite often when we hear the term 'hard work' we get a sinking feeling, dread. However experience often challenges feelings and I generally find, no matter what I feel beforehand, that when I do a job as well as I can, I get a really good feeling and sense of fulfilment. Whether it is cleaning the bathroom, cutting the lawn, writing to you folks or delivering assembly, I always enjoy most that which I have worked hard at.

This was a theme of Mrs Rutter-Brown and my assemblies today. When children work hard and enjoy success they thrive, are happy and curious in their learning and enjoy their time in school. Our responsibility as teachers and educators is to provide a curriculum which is interesting, one where, with hard work, all children can achieve success and have a thirst to know, understand and be able to do more. Young children don't have the same responsibilities as adults but they do have some. Our view of education is that it is not a product or commodity that children receive but an activity and entitlement (mental, physical and spiritual) that they participate in and that education can only be successful where the student is working at least as hard as their teacher. Enjoying and achieving in school really are as much about what you offer, what you will bring to the table as what you take. Part of this involves risk and failure and we talked to the children about mistakes and getting stuff wrong because our attitude to this plays a huge part in our enjoyment of life and success in it.

Children's author Michael Morpugo was on Point of View on Radio 4 this week. His point of view on the exams this year and how this has shone a light on what that might be better for all our children are well worth a listen. Whether a young person's exam grade went up or down, what they know, understand and can do is unchanged by the allocation of a grade. Education is not a simple algorithm, it is not even a complex one. Education is a multi-facetted collection of interesting stuff: a complex mix of time and place, relationships and curriculum, culture and imagination, experience and motivation. And everyone who is part of it, be they pupil, teaching staff, parent or carer will find the more they put in, the greater the success and deeper the enjoyment.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thoughts - 3rd September 2020

reflections on returning

Unprecedented has become something of a cliche but truth be told, just like last year, this school year is also set to be 'a year like no other.' When myself and Mrs Rutter-Brown were studying and working for our NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headteachers) providing quality education in a pandemic, online and in school, was not on the list of modules we had to study. Opening to all children has been very different to the rapid planning and provision we had to make for online learning and child care for Key Workers back in March and, since June, the new planning for small groups of 15 children in years Reception, 1 and 6. Over Summer I looked at the previous 80 page risk assessment from June and thought how this might be adapted for September and all children back in school. How wrong can you be! In the event most of the previous risk assessment was redundant with greater numbers and so while not exactly back to the drawing board we were very much back to preliminary sketches.

With the collective thoughts and wisdom of staff and governors and Mrs R-B in particular, I was able to publish, before school closed for Summer, a shortened risk assessment document for parents and carers, September 2020. By 10am this morning this had been updated twice since we reopened yesterday. You should have had an email about this so check the in-box if you haven't seen it. This is partly due to our experience on the first day and also in response to some useful, kind, polite and helpful suggestions from parents and carers. I spoke to Early Years leader Mrs Cotton last night on the phone and Mrs Miller who leads Key Stage 1. We are therefore now having a longer opening time so siblings of older children can go into class at 8:35, leaving the later time less congested.

Uncertainty and fear bring out the best and worst in people. The kind comments and useful feedback have far outweighed any disappointing comments we have received or heard about on Facebook (we don't a have a school Facebook page and for all the usefulness of it for you helping each other stay informed I can't say I'm sorry we don't use the platform and have no plans to start!). Thank you so much to the very kind dad who has cut the hedges at the entrance to the side gate. We have had such a lot on yesterday and today and the hedges outside the fence aren't part of our grounds maintenance or responsibility.

So the first two days? Overwhelmingly joyful and thank you to everyone who has been part of bringing the joy back to school. Personal highlights have been seeing our lovely children back where they belong, enjoying some super conversations with them at lunchtime and, last but very far from least, meeting some Most Marvellous Ladybirds in Reception this morning. They were an absolute credit to you and their teachers were beaming from ear to ear when I went in to see how they were getting on. In preparing for children coming back we revisited our trauma informed practice so we can best support any children who have experienced a difficult lockdown. However, I had read about how in Denmark, teachers had found that most children returned being absolutely fine and it has been important to be open to this possibility! I know lockdown has been such a challenge to families and it is humbling to see so many children, optimistic, hopeful and appearing very much unscathed and just as interested in learning and their world as ever before. I guess that's our responsibility as adults: think of the risks, plan for different possibilities, teach children what they should know (catch it - kill it - bin it and wash your hands properly) and not burden them with stuff they don't need to worry about while they are young.

Happy Thursday, Ms S :-)