Catriona Stewart - headteacher since we opened in 2004
Our work in primary school carries great responsibility. We pass on to our community, country, and the wider world, young people who we hope will be useful and kind, who care for themselves, others and their environment. Future generations will inherit the planet and communities we leave to them. Responsibility for the developing characters of future citizens is a shared one, between families, schools and communities. We hope sharing our thoughts and work in education, in our local, national and global context will be of interest and inform you about this work.
Catriona Stewart, headteacher Tuesday-Friday, and Lisa Rutter-Brown, headteacher on Monday.
Real winners do not compete
This is an interesting quote I found on a website about the Finnish education system, one of the highest performing nations in the world. In a week where Year 6 SATS are again in the News and I have written to the Secretary of State for Education and Shadow Minister, I thought I'd share some thinking in what will be my penultimate blog as Kingsmead's headteacher. As headteacher I'd rather hoped I'd outlive the 'Quizzes' (as Mrs Whitham calls the Key Stage 2 SATS). It was not to be, but I am hopeful that a more intelligent approach to state education might be something I live long enough to enjoy reading about in retirement!
As with the English system, Finland prioritises the 'basics.' But there are some differences.
In England the 'basics' are: mastering phonics by the end of year 1 and all times tables by end of year 4. Spelling, punctuation, grammar, reading and writing and Mathematics arithmetic and reasoning are priorities for end of year 2 and 6.
Finland's basics are different: education should be an instrument to balance out social inequality; all students receive free school meals; the state provides easy access to health care; psychological counseling and individualised guidance are all considered basics in Finland.
Interestingly, Finnish young people are less susceptible to misinformation and disinformation online, are less vulnerable to being drawing into crime and anti social behaviour. Even more interestingly they achieve better as a population in traditional subjects including Mathematics and Reading.
As a population, the fact is tha Finns are more highly educated than us British. This is not about Finns being more intelligent, it is about the choices that Finns have made as a society. On every measure, Finland outperforms the system we work under here in England. I love Britain, I love our humour and varied landscape, our literature, music, art and culture. I want the best for our children not so much from sentimental feelings of affection than because I want our society to be the best it can be. For this it needs an educated population with good character. I can't think of anything that marks faith in a country's future more than what it's government spends on the education and care for its children.
You can read more about the Finnish education system at the World Economic Forum. It shows that being useful and kind to children (and teachers and school leaders) is not a soft option; it wins on every measure. Without league tables and high stakes accountability, teachers and schools are free to work in genuine cooperation rather than in the climate our country has chosen, one of competition and comparison.
But we live here in the UK. What can we do to help our children as they navigate the high stakes testing that bedevils their enjoyment of learning and achievement? Perhaps it's as simple as gently discouraging the competition between them that ranked tests so encourage. If a child has worked hard and done very well, celebrate, be proud and invite them to think of someone who might not have done as well but who had some real challenges to overcome. If your child doesn't do as well as some of their peers, celebrate their best efforts and offer some useful advice if efforts weren't their best. Because the truth is that facility for academic learning is not distributed equally; some children are able to remember and recall with more ease than others; some acquire English with as much ease as others experience difficulties. Adults can help by not judging schools on league tables which give no information on the children who sat the tests. Schools ranked on the government league table and newspapers include nothing about the numbers of children with additional needs, who speak English as a second language. They are silent on the number of children who are fortunate in being able to learn concepts with greater ease or those who have enjoyed more parental support.
We have the high stakes testing system we have; that doesn't mean we have to feed it.
What do I think is essential learning for children in 2023? A love of story, literature and reading for pleasure for sure (some things never change). A sound grasp of Mathematics of course. A curiosity for the Arts and Humanities and Natural Sciences to bring the knowledge and understanding that can bring awe and wonder to all our lives. The critical thinking that will enable them to be intelligent users and understanders of information, misinformation and disinformation. How to be and stay healthy in body and mind. And, for me, above all of this, a deep knowledge and understanding of our humanity, our place within the natural world ~ one species among many but on whose shoulders the future of all life on earth will depend.
Ms S :-)
YOU MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT YOU GET. YOU MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT YOU GIVE
At Kingsmead our ethos is all about ‘caring for ourselves, caring for others and caring for the world’ so the upcoming King’s Coronation is a perfect time to really put this into practice in our local community and beyond.
A coalition of major charities has officially launched a massive volunteering drive that will take place on the weekend of the King’s coronation. The initiative, which has been developed by the Scouts and the Royal Voluntary Service, is being organised by the Together Coalition, a charity that aims to build a kinder society. The Big Help Out is an opportunity for us all to do something amazing. Join in, lend a hand, make a change.
Through our assemblies we are going to be considering the benefits of volunteering, not only for ourselves, but for others and the world. Helping the children to understand that giving back is important and is more crucial than ever as they are living in a generation highly influenced by consumption. Research has indicated that giving back works wonders for the physical and mental health of volunteers and that people derive a huge sense of purpose and fulfilment from performing good deeds and helping to improve the lives of others. Spending time enriching your community is a great way to broaden your perceptions of the world. By immersing yourself in a community and surrounding yourself with people who are dedicated to bettering the world, you can learn so much about how the world works. Without volunteers, many of the services and events we enjoy in our communities would not be so readily available. Giving back to the place you call home helps to unite the community and bridge some of the social, economic and political gaps.
Just consider the amazing volunteers on our KFA who give up their time and energy to provide exciting events for our children to enjoy, whilst raising vital funds for the school. With such busy lives, it can be really hard to find time to volunteer, but every bit, no matter how small, is always appreciated and valued. So, as well as encouraging the children to consider what they can give back, we would really like all of our parents and carers to give consideration to putting aside some time to help out at a KFA event. With the new academic year approaching, now would be a perfect time to get involved and be part of a dedicated team of volunteers. Whilst being part of the KFA might seem like too big of an ask, perhaps consider whether you could volunteer to support one event over the course of a year, because if more people were able to do this, we could continue to provide the many events the children love.
Giving to help others has been shown to reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.
And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you'll show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help other people and enact change. It's also a valuable way for you to get to know organisations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family.
With most of us leading super busy lives, the idea of volunteering – giving your time and energy to a cause without financial reward – may seem an impossible task. How can we possibly fit anything else into our already jam-packed schedules? However, volunteering is important for many reasons and doesn't have to take up too much time. We could all start off small and the King’s Coronation would be the perfect time to do this. If you can only spare an hour … fantastic.
Hopefully the children will be coming home with lots of ideas and enthusiasm for carrying out some small acts of kindness and we would love for them to share them with us back in school. The Big Help Out will put volunteering centre stage for a day and give people who want to volunteer easy ways to join in. Please find out more about how you can help here.
"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."
Elizabeth Andrews - an anthropologist by education and profession
There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
With World Book Day almost upon us, this blog celebrates the importance of reading for all our children, unlimited.
A very short internet search revealed that "Studies have shown that those who read for pleasure have higher levels of self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with difficult situations. Reading for pleasure was also associated with better sleeping patterns. Adults who read for just 30 minutes a week are 20% more likely to report greater life satisfaction."
Studies also show that the amount children read for pleasure outside of school will have a bigger impact on their success in education and work than their family income or the school they went to.
Once they are well fed, well rested and experience love and security, there isn't anything much better than a love of reading you can give a child. Around a quarter (20-30%) of children find learning to read difficult and with parents and carers being their children's first teachers and biggest influencers, very few children who will develop this love without support at home.
World Book Day is one day when schools and families can join in celebrating reading. Staff are sharing their favourite books from their own childhoods and this is something every family can do at home. The books parents and carers have enjoyed when they were children will resonate deeply with children as the sharing will be rooted in love and shared family life.
In school the focus for the teaching of reading begins with learning to read. This is underpinned with short phonics sessions in the morning where children learn to crack the code of letters and their sounds. Children take home phonically decodable books with words using the sounds they know.
Children then move to reading to learn; this is when the reading really becomes joyful and where the pleasure is to be found. Children then move to reading to learn - in stories and poems they learn about human nature, themselves, other people and characters and visits faraway and imaginary lands. In non fiction they learn about our human history, our planet's geography and the scientific principles and laws that govern the natural world. They will learn about artists and inventions and find inspiration and role models for their own paths in life.
Around 70% of children stop being read to at home by loved adults once they bring home a book from school. It is important that children are heard read; cracking the code and reading for yourself is vital if children are to become readers and enjoy the happiness and success reading will being now and in the future. However, the majority of younger children will have phonic knowledge that is far lower than their ability to understand concepts and ideas. Decodable books are chosen for their phonic content before their interest and the ideas they contain. The 20-30% who find reading difficult will find that into young adulthood, they will be able to enjoy and understand more read to them than they could alone. Having to focus on challenges with decoding words and sentences can make comprehension of characters and ideas more limited - it just becomes too much to think about; this is called cognitive overload.
Reading not only makes you cleverer and more successful; it can make you kinder too. In his book 'The Better Angels of Our Nature' (a very long read but worth the effort, a book about why violence has in fact declined), cognitive psychologist, Steven Pinker says that
“Reading is a technology for perspective-taking. When someone else’s thoughts are in your head, you are observing the world from that person’s vantage point. Not only are you taking in sights and sounds that you could not experience firsthand, but you have stepped inside that person’s mind and are temporarily sharing his or her attitudes and reactions.”
People who read, Pinker argues, are better able to understand and empathise with others. It is easier to show kindness and care for those you have empathy for and can understand. This is fundamental to growing up - understanding the world through eyes other than your own narrow viewpoint. The more people whose minds and worlds we have inhabited, the less likely we are to be selfish and self centred in our attitudes to our own life, other people and the world.
So if we limit our children's 'reading' to only what they can read for themselves, we can limit the most important reward of reading. Adults reading to children mean books can be 'read' without reading words. My daughter really struggled to learn to read; this wasn't an excuse for not reading but it was a reason for daily sharing reading. She read a page, I read a page. We read stories and books she couldn't quite understand without having them read aloud. I read and we learned and understood together, past GCSE and into higher education. I learned a lot!
Reading can be thought of as a solitary activity but it can be even more rewarding when it has a shared element. Observing the verve and excitement in Mrs Buzzard's Friday Book Club brought this home to me. Reading outside of school is what makes the biggest difference to children's futures. I can't think of a better way to nurture this than in a loving embrace and a book at bedtime.
Ms S :-)
happiness, freedom and the necessity of others
This term we shift the lens from caring for ourselves to caring for others. But perhaps the lens doesn't shift so much. The more I reflect on care for others, from refugees seeking asylum, to those who might think and believe differently, be less economically advantaged, disabled, sick or old, the more it seems that in supporting the welfare of others, our own lives can benefit as much as those we care for.
I have just read an interesting book on freedom by philosopher and Holocaust survivor, Hannah Arendt. For Arendt the notion of freedom is something less about individual liberty, to do as we wish, as something that can only be enjoyed in the context of other people. This is why, throughout our term of focussing on care for others, we will return to how in care for those others we continue to care for ourselves.
We all, and certainly children, value happiness. Who of us wouldn't want to be happy? Who doesn't enjoy happy times? This can lead us to think it's happiness that matters most in our lives. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher says that every virtue, pleasure and reason we choose is for the sake of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness does not mean a path of selfishness, self importance and greed. We try to teach children the opposite, that greed, disregard for the welfare of others and self obsession will never bring us happiness. Selfish people who put their needs first will have far fewer real friends to help them on their life's path and when times are tough will find fewer people ready to stop and help. Self obsessed people will struggle to make good friends and sustain true friendships where support is something both offered freely as well as received gratefully. As for greed, the wanting for things can never bring us happiness. All of us parents who have given into a nagging child for a toy or something (often against our better judgement) knows just how quickly the desire is satiated and quickly replaced with a new want.
The English philosopher John Stuart Mill said we're happy when we see our desires met or when things we care about flourish. By caring for others we are much more likely to enjoy seeing our own desires met, and those of others around us. And when the things we care about flourish and include many people rather than just a few friends, I believe we will all have far more to be happy about.
Ms S :-)
mental health is not a destination, but a process. it's about how you drive, not where you're going.
This half term in assemblies we have been focusing on Caring for Ourselves. If we can’t care for ourselves, how can we possibly care for others and the world? Having an awareness of our own feelings and emotions is the foundation upon which empathy can be developed. This can enable us to act in a way which supports the mental health and emotional well-being of others, as well as ourselves.
We have been using well-known saying to get the children to think about themselves, such as ‘what goes around comes around’, ‘what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts’ and ‘fear makes the wolf bigger than he is’. Through using these sayings the children have thought about how our kindness doesn’t just help other people, but it also improves our own physical and mental health. Whether we’re giving kindness, receiving kindness or even just witnessing kindness, it can have a great effect on us!
As part of these assemblies we have been talking to the children about their mental health and considering how we can build resilience and promote good mental health. The 10th October was World Mental Health Day and talking about mental health with our children is more important than ever. Currently 12.8% of children and young people aged 5 to 19 are diagnosed with a mental health condition. Children’s emotional well-being is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health helps them develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults. It helps children build positive social, emotional, behaviour, thinking and communication skills. It also lays the foundation for better mental health and wellbeing later in life.
But raising a child can be challenging. Even under the best circumstances, their behaviours and emotions can change frequently and rapidly. All children are sad, anxious, irritable, or aggressive at times, or they occasionally find it challenging to sit still, pay attention, or interact with others. In most cases, these are just typical developmental phases. However, we need to teach children how to manage these ‘big’ emotions and accept that ‘stress’ is a normal part of life and learning to deal with it in a healthy way now will set you up for success in the future.
All children will experience stress at times. Stress is a normal response to changes and challenges. However we tend to think of stress as a bad thing, caused by bad events. But upcoming good events can also cause stress. Children feel stress when there’s something they need to prepare for, adapt to, or guard against. They feel stress when something that matters to them is at stake. Change often prompts stress, even when it’s a change for the better. Stress has a purpose. It’s a signal to get ready.
Nature gave us the ability to spot danger and respond to it. When faced with dangerous situations, our bodies and brains kick into fight-or-flight mode. But we don’t like to stay in that state for long. We like to deal with danger quickly so we can feel safe again. Our body’s ability to deal with stress helps us do just that. Our stress response system gets our brain and body ready to solve problems and tackle challenges. And when we overcome the problem, our brain “feels good” and remembers our successes. In small amounts, and when children have the right support, stress can be a positive boost. It can help children rise to a challenge. It can help them push toward goals, focus their effort, and meet deadlines. This kind of positive stress allows children to build the inner strengths and skills known as resilience. Learning to cope with positive stress can teach children to deal with bad stress when it happens. Getting to know how our mind and body react to stress under good circumstances can help us create strategies for when we need strength.
Children are bound to have disagreements with friends and have times where they feel they have failed at a task, so we need to give the children the skills to deal with those circumstances in order to build their mental strength. We have talked in assembly about how it’s important to talk to others about what is bothering or troubling you, whether that is a trusted friend, an adult in school or a parent. We have also thought about different activities that may help us manage our stress, such as writing a diary, drawing, mindful colouring, playing a game, the list goes on. What works for one child might not work for another. It’s about finding out what works for you that is important. We have also talked about not catastrophising. Often, children respond to stress with catastrophic thinking. “If I fail this test, my whole life is ruined!” When this occurs, we need to validate the child’s emotions so they feel listened to and understood then get them to think about the ‘worse case scenario’ and how likely it is that that will happen. Then we need to help the children think of a potential solution so they will feel more in control of their stress. The purpose of this is not to dismiss a child’s fears but to help them realise the “worst thing” is probably not as catastrophic as they initially imagined.
We can't completely eliminate stress for our children. Plus, shielding your child from the difficulties of life won’t do them any favours. It’s far more powerful to raise a resilient child who can bounce back from hardship and challenges. As parents and teachers, we are important role models to our children, helping our children recognise and talk about their feelings and emotions by giving them glimpses into our own feelings. If you have a headache, explain why you’re not your usual self and need the children to be quiet. Tell them when you’re feeling better and thank them. If something really good has happened to you, share brief details with the children. Children who are optimistic, and resilient, have some control over their lives and feel like they belong are more likely to have good mental well-being.
Here's a quote by Lawrence Downey.
A school teaches in three ways:
By what it teaches, by how it teaches and by the kind of place it is.
I have shared it before but it is always relevant and very much echoes our thinking and learning in managing children’s behaviour. Culture beats strategy. The relationships we have matter more than the particular routines and processes we follow.
It is the whole school community who determines the kind of place we are which was the purpose of yesterday's meeting and this post. Because the kind of place we are relies on partnership. Partnership between the children and adults in school and partnership between professionals in school and adults at home.
Thank you to the parents and carers who came to meet their child’s teacher and those who stayed on to hear our response and thoughts about the parent/carer survey on behaviour and personal development (at the end of Spring term). You came not only to listen but to share some great thoughts and ideas. Thank you to everyone reading the post too.
At the start of a new school year, and following our survey before Easter last year, I thought it might be helpful if I share our thinking and practice in supporting exemplary behaviour by everybody, our aim for everybody in our school community.
Given the news it might also be helpful to share some initial thoughts on school and home working together over the coming year to navigate the cost of living crisis, together.
Supporting behaviour - unlimited and for everybody
Behaviour is how we are, how we “be” in our community, and our community is school. Our support and management includes all antisocial behaviour from small unkindness, carelessness with the environment, poor work ethic and inattention right up to serious incidences of deliberate vandalism, disruption to learning and bullying and oppressive behaviour. Our behaviour policy is called Supporting Children’s Emotional Development and Behaviour. It’s a more long winded title than Behaviour Policy but is more accurate. Because that's the purpose of our behaviour policy; to benefit all children who (being children) all have characters which are are not yet formed.
Effective policy and practice supports everybody, unlimited - all our children and all the adults working with them.
Effective policy and practice supports a calm and orderly environment where all children can learn. To do this we should:
Enable every child to have every opportunity to be their best self and when they fall short, to have the challenge and guidance to enable them to make amends and develop the good character we believe is for everyone, unlimited.
Be fair (we all need to know what is expected and what to expect).
Be relentless: to notice and if necessary challenge is every adult’s responsibility (and this includes being picky, noticing the small stuff).
In Spring 2022 the parent/carer survey showed an overwhelming majority of families (over 90%) supported the decision to increase expectations of behaviour following what needed to be a gentle return to everybody in school after two lockdowns. Thank you.
I’d be surprised if any school did not have work to do in respect of pupil behaviour, focussing on it does not mean poor conduct is a big or deep rooted problem. In the survey last Spring, comments were largely positive but as we would expect from a survey of everybody, some views expressed disquiet. These are no less important for being a minority and indeed, help us reflect and tweak practice.
The poor behaviour of other people’s children and the question of rewards for the children who were “good all the time” emerged as the key themes with some parents and carers.
Here are my reflections
First, there is a circle to square. This and previous parent/carer surveys have told us that a minority of people are concerned about the impact of other people’s children on their child’s enjoyment and achievement in school. This might be a perception that children are ‘let off’ or 'punishments' not hard enough. I certainly don't want to overstate this, but if a small minority tell us this, it’s worth reflecting on and responding. We are a state school, for everybody, and so this matters to us.
While a feature of parental surveys, it is interesting that it has only very rarely featured in our day to day communication with families about behaviour incidents in school. In our day-to-day communication around behaviour, when parents contact us to query how something was managed, most parents who are unhappy are unhappy not because we have been too soft or let folk off but that we have been too hard or too picky. On their children. This is the context through which we need to chart a useful and kind path for everyone.
This is unsurprising and understandable. Children come home, telling parents and carers about the events of the day. Just like us adults, children remember things which carry emotion more vividly and so disharmony and challenge from others is remembered more vividly. And whenever we recount tales of disharmony, it is human nature to see the situation from your perspective and not others’. We adults do this and it is doubly the case with children. Youngsters need a fair bit of maturity to learn to step out of their own experience to empathise and see another point of view.
How do we help them develop this maturity? We believe maturity is developed by challenging unkind and unhelpful behaviour and exploring and understanding better ways of being.
We have reflected on our practice of PIP and RIP (praise in public, reprimand in private) and how this might lead children to think that people who had not been useful and kind were getting away with poor behaviour. We PIP and RIP because this is more effective than telling children off, particularly in front of peers. Children are more likely to take responsibility for their own actions and make amends and so develop good character than if the management of their behaviour becomes a performance in front of others. Also, whenever our behaviour is challenged there should be some discomfort or embarrassment, a conscience pricked (hopefully). If this is public, it can lead to resentment. Resentment of the person you were unkind to or the adult managing the incident does not support children in taking responsibility for their actions and making lasting amends. Resentment does not nurture good character.
Reprimand and discussion of repairing and restoring being in private does not mean children get away with it. Conversations happen at playtime and lunchtime so children are missing play; we’re just not making public announcements to that effect.
I can’t promise we will notice absolutely everything but I can promise that things I notice and know about will always be dealt with. We do not accept any unkind or disruptive behaviour.
Firstly, this would be unkind and unhelpful to the children who have been hurt or whose education has been disrupted. This is why we are pedantic that there are consequences to any anti-social behaviour.
Secondly, it would not be useful or kind to children who have been involved in anti-social behaviour. Ignoring unkind, anti-social behaviour means that we do not believe that the child could have a better self, be a better them. Children are children and may say and do unkind and anti-social things without being an unkind and anti-social person (in the way an adult might be). If we want our children to become adults of good character who are respected, it is in their best interests that there are consequences for their behaviour as children.
Any discipline, when you’re on the end of it, won’t feel great. But that doesn’t mean it's not in your interests. When children face consequences for wrongdoing, I see this as kindness, it says that they are better than some of their behaviour showed and offers a clear nudge to be their pro-social, not anti-social self.
I have been thinking quite a bit about the notion of apology in making amends. These days I avoid asking children to say sorry; rather I ask how they might put things right. If a child then suggests apologising, that’s their gift, their agency, their choice. I might make a suggestion about words if they’re struggling and check up on whether they did it but whether an apology is written or verbal (and the words used) is their choice. This avoids the false apologies of ‘I’m sorry if I upset you’ (a 'politicians apology' where responsibility for feelings of upset is handed back to the injured party!). I'd hope a big part of making an apology is a personal commitment not to repeat a wrong-doing and this is far more likely to have impact when the locus of control, the agency is with the child: their choice, their decision.
What of children who make no choice to apologise? Well, they will still miss the playtime and will need to persuade an adult how their future conduct will be different. What they won't have is the sense of relief or pride about having put something behind them that a genuine apology brings. And that's their choice too.
We adults can help. In school we will try to be more explicit when children are upset; “We are taking this seriously and we will be talking to them. Are you OK with that?”. Parents and carers can help us by, if children come home with tales of people getting away with stuff and adults doing nothing, talking about PIP and RIP. Or if adults in school did nothing because they may not have noticed (unkindness is rare when people think they’re being noticed), encouraging children to tell if someone has upset them.
So, what about the children who are good all the time?
We expect children to be useful and kind and ready to learn (it’s our one school rule). We expect them to care for themselves, others and their environment (our mission statement). This isn’t a massive ask and it is quite right to have high expectations for children’s characters.
Should we always expect praise or ‘reward’ for simply doing the right thing? Or what is expected in a kind and helpful society? Whether a job description, school code of conduct or the law of the land, compliance with rules is the bottom rung of the good citizen ladder. What is nice is when compliance and contributions are noticed and appreciated. Therefore, I routinely thank children for considerate walking in corridors, listening nicely and contributing well in lessons or assemblies. I wonder if that might be enough?
This term we’re looking at old sayings; this week it's been 'What goes around comes around.' It even got into our assembly about the Queen this morning! The Queen showed respect for everybody she met and had little choice over most people she encountered. Consequently she was one of the most respected public figures in the world, her passing saddening monarchists and those opposed to monarchy alike. Similarly, children don't choose classmates, schoolmates, teachers or neighbours. I hope children might have thought about respect being for everybody, not just those we choose to like.
Another one coming up this term is ‘Virtue is its own reward'. We feel good when we donate to charity, pick up some litter, are kind to someone who's upset. Our small acts of kindness are rewarded by a positive self image and good feelings about our actions. Children who are consistently useful, kind and caring (not perfect - there aren’t any!) enjoy a more equal and deeper relationship with teachers, other adults and peers. These children find their interactions with others are thinking about concepts, discussing and sharing ideas, jokes and stuff. These children don’t spend their friends' attention sorting out unkindness and fall outs. They don’t spend the adult attention they have on behaviour which has fallen short, discussing how they might do things differently next time and the consequent discomfort that goes with that.
We will be using these phrases, and others, with children following their introduction through the SMSC (social, moral, spiritual and cultural) curriculum in assemblies. Perhaps they might come in useful at home too!
It’s well known in education circles that the children who receive most public extrinsic rewards (stickers, marbles in jars, certificates) are invariably those who haven’t yet developed intrinsic reward of learning and relationships with adults. Though on a higher plane of consciousness than a dolly mixture, the certificate is an extrinsic reward. Even a GCSE or A level is one, an extrinsic reward that does have some currency. A grade or certificate or praise is surely less important than what you know, what you have learned, the thing you have done. We may well use certificates and notes on google classroom for children going over and above what we expect and over and above the good character and effort we expect. But these are peripheral - the real reward is virtue itself and the relationships that come from it.
Perhaps to be among the best of our school, to contribute the best of yourself is enough. Your reward will be more positive self esteem, more good friends and friendly interesting relationships with adults. And if someone notices, and shows their appreciation - well that’s a bonus!
Ms S :-)
The cost of living crisis
Rising costs, hitting schools and families hard mean tough decisions for everyone.
We have been thinking about our daily work and how we can help.
Uniform - the uniform exchange in the entrance hall means there should be low and no cost uniform available. Thank you to everyone who has donated.
Access to books - books of their own should be a right for every child. The book exchange means every child can take home books to keep. And if you have ones in good condition, they can donate them for younger children.
Referrals for help - foodbanks and online at https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/information/financial-hardship
Trips and visits - thinking more carefully before we ask for a contribution and giving folk more time to pay.
Early Birds and Night Owls - although demand is high, we are keeping costs as low as we can and retaining the morning later drop off and evening early pick to help some families.
KFA events - the KFA are considering events, for example this Summer there was no entrance charge for the fair.
There are also things families can do to support their children’s school maintain provision in these challenging times.
Great attendance - children who attend regularly, enjoy and achieve better than those who don’t. Missing learning can lead to insecure concepts and children needing more help. While we wouldn’t begrudge any child who needs additional support extra help, it is a shame if the help is only necessary because they haven’t been attending as much as they could.
Supporting children’s learning at home - reading to and with them daily gives children the best support for their reading and language development. Then, additional support can be targeted at those who really need it rather than those who are behind their peers simply because they have read fewer books and listened to fewer stories.
Dressing children for the weather really helps. It is perhaps a little odd that we would expect a building, our home or workplace, to be the same temperature all year round. We need to think of a bell curve of acceptable temperatures for successful learning and working. Children with bare legs in cold weather have less happy playtimes. Vests may be old fashioned but are great for keeping children comfortable. We’re not saying school needs to be so cold its unhealthy, we are saying we need to use less energy if we can.
Donating books and uniform in good condition to the U+K exchange helps other families and school.
Having high but realistic expectations of what school can do - bursaries help every child participate with equity but only work if those who can make a contribution do so.
Claiming free school meals if you think you're entitled. It's important that everyone eligible applies even when meals are free to everyone (Reception-Year 2). Pupil Premium funding for FSM brings in funds that support trip and visit bursaries, a one off uniform grant and additional tuition and support for children who need it.
Making voluntary contributions, when you can afford to. We face some tough choices with trips, visitors and things like swimming lessons all costing money. While we recognise the huge value of residential and other visits and enrichment in school, these may quite simply become unviable. Voluntary contributions are for the cost per child and so any not made are a cost to the school. By law we cannot charge for anything other than music lessons in the school curriculum and can only request a voluntary contribution. 'Voluntary contribution' doesn’t mean we don’t need the funding for a trip or activity to be financially viable.
If needing to request a bursary to support a trip, club or activity, thinking whether you could afford to contribute something. Last year saw last year a big increase in folk requesting bursaries for voluntary contributions or choosing not to make a contribution. This means school budget is increasingly under challenge to subsidise trips to a greater and greater degree. Year 4 and 5 will be going on a residential to the Conway Centre in Year 5/6 (next year) but we will be giving families the opportunity to start paying much earlier. We will be thinking of minimising what we ask over a year, for example limiting school trips where we ask for a contribution to two a year.
Asking if we can help.
Parents and carers at the meeting yesterday had some great ideas.
Asking families if their workplace supports community action and contributions to support visits and trips. Please do come and chat to myself or Mrs Rutter-Brown if this is something the business or company you work for might be able to help with.
Changing wording on visit forms to 'minimum voluntary contribution to cover the cost of the trip for every child' and offering the option to make a further donation, like some cafes have for buying someone a free cup of tea. These additional contributions could help subsidise children for whom we don't receive pupil premium but whose family is unable to make the voluntary contribution.
Asking the KFA and individual year groups going on more costly trips like the Conway residential, to undertake some fundraising to support bursary costs.