Autumn term - 2019
in the Autumn we focus on caring for ourselves
Friday 20th December 2019
Thank you to all the kind people who donated to our Christmas Appeal. An amazing £550.95 was raised which we will share between the two NGOs chosen by children. Shelter supports homeless people in the UK and increasing number of whom are young people under the age of 18 and UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, will be doing it's best for the millions of displaced people around the globe, many of them children.
And if any one hasn't dealt with the 'something to read' bit of Christmas gifts for their children yet, here's a great recommendation from Eliana and myself, who decades apart have both loved this one. When I read to my daughter back in the 90s, it had me both laughing out loud and crying and Eliana was grinning from ear to ear when we discussed it on the way up to St Wilfs (Eliana and I find we have quite a few books and authors in common). The Bear Nobody Wanted is a tale of pride, decline and fall with plenty of opportunities for schadenfreude (a German word for laughing at the misfortune of others). After an epic journey comes a delightful, moving, uplifting conclusion. For older children the book gives wonderful insights into the world of the 1940s, when the book was set. It also provides amusing opportunities for thinking more deeply about character traits like superiority and snobbery. I remember the bear's wondering about Father Christmas. Who was Father Christmas anyway and did he have anything to do with God? Younger ones will enjoy it read to them and older ones shouldn't be put off by the fact of it being about a teddy bear. I know adults who rave about this tale of degradation and ultimate redemption.
Children in Upper Key Stage 2 had a proper full on life design and make job this term. The oldest children designed and made teddies for the youngest. It was Quite a Thing knowing that your product was a gift for someone, raising stakes somewhat and children being extra bothered and invested in designing and making their bears as beautifully as they could. The project culminated yesterday with a teddy bears picnic in EYFS where the younger children were given the bears. I have noticed, talking to the older children this year, that many are more excited about the presents they'll be giving than those they'll be getting: a real sign of growing maturity and understanding the nature of gifts.
All this talk of gifts brings me on to a final book review for 2019 - and one for adult readers this time. The Gift by Lewis Hyde is a book I return to over the years and at this particular time in our planet's evolution it is even more relevant.
'In the season of rampant materialism, this classic exploration of the value of giving over receiving has lost none of its power'
Guardian reviewer Anita Sethi
While Lewis Hyde is best known for his writing on the nature of Art (Trickster Makes This World is great if you're into Art, it's place and purpose in cultures) The Gift was written, he said, with 'all thinking humans' in mind. Which I hope has us all pretty much covered!
Wishing you all a peaceful and wonderful holiday. As Fletcher in Key Stage 1 pointed out in assembly yesterday, Christmas is mostly about spending time and being with your family; that's the real gift and something that people of all faiths and none can enjoy. I hope you all manage to make the most of it before we welcome you all back in 2020, and whatever that may bring us.
Very happy holidays, and a happy new year, Ms S :-)
Monday 8th December 2019
elections, voting and democracy
Children today were led in assembly by Tom and Maia in Year 5, our Junior MPs who represent Kingsmead in the Northwich Education Partnership Pupil Parliament. Tom and Maia are a bit like the House of Lords in that they weren't elected; we were asked by the NEP to choose two children who were articulate and confident to work with children they didn't know. We chose Tom and Maia as two (among many to be fair) who are not only confident and articulate but also are two children who really do support and live up to our ethos and values. Our MPs took the children through how an election works and why they are having a day off on Thursday. The children found out that our constituency is Weaver Vale and a number of them had met our current MP, who visited the school for Divali in 2018 and who met a few of our pupils while out campaigning in Northwich the other week.
In assembly today we contemplated the value and importance of our democracy. Therefore our election will take place after Christmas when children won't be distracted and can give the important business of improving our small society their full attention. I told the children about Select Committees where people from across the political parties work together to make the UK a better society. There are select committees for Health, Public Accounts and Education among other things and MPs who serve on them do sterling work.
One thing I think we can all agree on in these difficult times is that our society is very divided: rich and poor, leavers and remainers are just two of a number of fault lines in our society. A confrontational and aggressive electoral system doesn't help build community cohesion but without a cohesive society we will all be sadder and poorer off. The majority of politicians I listen to and have met (a fair few) do genuinely want to make the UK a better country. However in a system that has not caught up with cultural shifts such as the impact of unaccountable social media, some let themselves down badly with intemperate, divisive language and economy with the truth. I came into primary education to make a difference. I don't want our children to inherit the same divided society and ill tempered politics that we are experiencing in 2019. This is why we are using the notion of the Select Committee: something in our democracy that is effective and makes a real difference. And by encouraging children to work together we are embodying the words of an MP who was respected right across the House of Commons, the late Jo Cox, who reminded us in her maiden speech that "we are far more united and have more in common than that which divides us."
I hope your children will be talking about a policy they can put forward to school, one which will care either for themselves, other people or our environment. The Select Committee will forward to reading them and drawing up a shortlist.
Happy election ;-) Ms S
Friday 6th December 2019
SPREADING SEASONAL GOODWILL
My huge appreciation to our oldest children and Mrs W this week. On Friday we had three opportunities to share seasonal goodwill in our community. Elderly neighbours at Anderton Place (where Year 5 sang carols and some secular Christmas songs) and Davenham Day Care (temporarily relocated to Leftwich and where year 6 have been an annual visitor since our first Christmas in 2004) enjoyed sharing the festive season with our children. The children were a real credit to you; they sang beautifully and then went and shook hands with the audience, wishing each in turn a happy Christmas. On the way back I was walking with them and they told me how they too had really enjoyed sharing goodwill and making other people happy.
After school it was lovely to see so many families at Busy Bees for the Parish Council Christmas market. Again, playing in Regency Square is a long tradition in the school and something the children both look forward to and take seriously. It was lovely to see some older pupils back from Leftwich High. I suspect parents' and children's memories of experiences at special times will outlive tenfold the memories of presents bought in shops.
Priceless! Ms S
Thursday 5th December 2019
CHRISTMAS with children
Is delightful and exhausting in equal measure, for parents and teaching staff alike. Our children are getting excited, starting with fun and some fantastic Christmas music in the KFA fair. Art Club have been busting a gut to get angel and king costumes ready before the Angels and Kings need them on 17th. Massive thanks are due to Mrs Helliwell who, despite a really nasty and painful injury to her hand (acquired on a mission to rescue a sheep) has been sewing away like the Tailor of Gloucester, making twelve gender neutral angel costumes, with Art Club hot on the tail providing collars. Inspired by Gustav Klimt, these will make quite a statement when unveiled at St Wilfrid's. Also, made from recycled curtains (thank you family Baines), saris (thank you Mrs Gajjar) and other reclaimed fabric (thank you Mrs Rocke etc.), we have cared for the environment too. Children love making and contributing; making a positive contribution was one of the five outcomes in the Every Child Matters agenda (which while dropped by the government nationally, lives on here in our vision and ethos). I suspect that the fact that our costumes have been made by pupils will be appreciated by children for many years to come, just as the delightful God Dollies that make our Nativity, on display in the hall and whose makers are now at University, College or in work, are brought out and admired annually. Thanks too to Mrs Whitham who has rearranged the pieces we play, so that the children who play them can rise to the challenge without parts being too easy or too hard and Mrs Cocker, Mrs Nelson and Mrs Lonsdale who, by playing with us in ensembles, show children that music making is the stuff of the adult world and can enrich a life way beyond primary school. Like Mrs Helliwell, a really good teacher helps children achieve more than they thought they could or find they knew stuff they didn't know they knew through a mix of skilled instruction, belief in their capacity to rise to occasions and sometimes a whiff of cunning! Thanks and appreciation to all our wonderful teaching staff, for helping children get their Christmas performances, a gift from them to you, a gift that hopefully you will remember fondly.
Opportunities to create and participate make for warm, happy childhood memories. My daughter, nephews and nieces are mostly grown up and I notice that the things grown up children remember and are grateful for can be unexpected and not by any means about things that have parted their parents from large amounts of cash and forced them into January penury. Take heart! Most of you will have seen on social media the Christmas pledge encouraging us to enjoy and appreciate more and consume less (also in our vision and ethos). Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. I hope, in what should be a time for families to be together happily but which can be a time of much pressure on parents, you can take confidence that time spent making food together, singing and playing games and a few gifts to give and receive will give children a joyful holiday and that the more spent doesn't equate to enjoyment had. For all we know this to be true, it will probably not stop children badgering and nagging but at least you can resist with a clear conscience! You can feel virtuous that your parenting is in mind of your offspring's future. And, who knows, they might even thank you for it one day!
Rev Iveson came in on Monday to lead an assembly as he does at times throughout the year. We're a community school and don't promote any religion (or absence of one). Nevertheless, we value the friendship and relationship we have with our Parish Church. Rev Rob is always mindful and respectful of the fact that we come from many different faiths and none and his Christmas assembly was relevant for everyone living in Britain. Whether a practicing Christian or not, December brings the biggest festival of the year, a winter festival where some traditions (trees and evergreens in houses and lights) hark back to earlier, forgotten, pagan times. Winter is long, cold and hard up here at the top end of the Northern hemisphere. A festival, involving food, bright light and jollity is somewhat necessary to get us all through it! Rev Rob's assembly was on the theme of gratitude and what we have to be grateful for. Being appreciative, noticing what we have or 'counting our blessings' as Rev Rob might say, brings to us a sense of wellbeing and that we're OK. Children listed the many things they appreciate about Christmas: family, lunch, lights family were all mentioned. Presents were appreciated too, but just as they should be: just one thing among many.
For those in the market for something to read, here's a book recommendation that I and a little boy enjoyed sharing today. It can be enjoyed on one level by the very young while for the older reader there is lots of opportunity to read between the lines and ponder some big philosophical questions. Children will wonder on ownership; can you own a living thing? A great one for reading together.
I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow at Busy Bees where from 4.30pm we'll be playing Christmas Carols and Seasonal Secular music to welcome in the festivities for everyone.
Happy Thursday. Ms S :-)
Friday 29th November 2019
sleep - chief nourisher in life's feast
But first Shakepseare. The Young Shakespeare Company returned for their annual visit today with another superb workshop on Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth. We were treated to well scary witches (one with a beard!), some gruesome deeds and a super exciting fight scene. It was a fantastic opportunity to see the play performed live, with skilled and talented young actors stopping to explore and clarify the difficult vocabulary and language. Children remembered the play from last year and were proper excited to see the YSC back. It's great that so many of our pupils, when they study Shakespeare in High School, will be taking with them the positive attitudes, curiosity and desire to embrace the difficulty and challenge that is inevitable with anything in life that's really worth bothering about.
Shakespeare is most enlightening on the human condition. Which brings me on to sleep, a theme in the play. The root of Lady Macbeth and her husband's insomnia is guilty consciences from the murderous path they have chosen. The sleepless nights and nightmares take them to the edge of insanity and lead to the death of Mrs Macbeth. That these two have consciences at all prevents them becoming pantomime villains and is one reason why Shakespeare is a great writer and not just a good one. A good writer will write good and bad characters well; a great writer can make us empathize with the bad as well as the good and explore the fact that, however terrible their deeds, even the worst of us can have redeeming characteristics.
Parents will know from bitter experience how a lack of sleep affects their well-being and clarity of thought. I found it the single most difficult aspect of bringing up my daughter but was able to meet out karma in the teenage years when young people need a lot of sleep. Adolescent brains go through massive development, not dissimilar to babies and sleep is important for this. Sleep is also an opportunity for us to process learning and thinking; the formal and informal stuff of the day gets packed off and interpreted as much in our unconscious mind as when we are awake. Sleep is essential for both mental and physical well-being and enables us to thrive in our learning, our labour and leisure. It is self evident that children who come to school well rested will enjoy and achieve better in school. For anyone struggling with their children getting a good night's sleep the following tips for a healthy and happy bed-time routine may be helpful.
Avoid screens (TV, compute, tablet, phone - anything lit from behind!) in children's bedrooms; the blue light makes the brain think it's daytime and it's harder to get to sleep. A book is much better (a real one not on an I-pad). If children have phones and devices in their room they will be able to stay awake far later and find getting off to sleep more difficult.
The same bed time will (eventually) reduce arguments and teach children that resistance is futile!
A warm bath and brushed teeth sets children off to sleep feeling comfortable.
A bedtime story and a cuddle sets them off feeling loved.
You can read more about sleep and children on the NHS website where by happy coincidence it seems in education and health the advice is much the same!
I would like to thank the KFA who fund this event every year. Without the contribution from funds that you, the friends and parents of the school, raise we would be having to ask for more parental contributions. Hopefully a little bit of help before the expense of Christmas will help you sleep easier too ;-).
Happy Friday, Ms S
Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.Macbeth
We both loved this show.
It was very exciting,
engaging and great!
Thank you Emily and Georgia for your Haiku, written in response this afternoon.
Tuesday 19th November 2019
KFA Kindness at christmas
Our KFA raise money for your children, enabling visitors like Young Shakespeare, trips to the Liverpool Phil and so on to be subsidised or provided without the need for voluntary contributions from families. They are also fully committed to our school's mission of caring for other people and Christmas is an important time to remember people less fortunate. The first visitors to Jesus were rough and ready Shepherds, Jesus was born in a stable and not a palace. When children sing 'As Joseph was a-walking' they are reminded in each verse of Jesus' humble beginning. The KFA have decided to use the School Christmas tree to support the Toy Appeal which you can read about by clicking on the flyer. Christmas can be stressful and with adverts and glitz everywhere we can all be prey to those wanting to get rich at our expense. Sparing some thought and effort on those less fortunate is good for our own wellbeing and will help some less fortunate children know they are not forgotten at Christmas.
Thank you, KFA, Ms S :-)
Monday 18th November 2019
thank you for noticing - appreciation for our lovely children from mrs g
Mrs Ghader sent me a lovely text last week. She has broken a finger and is strapped up and in some discomfort while it heals. She has been bowled over by the kindness and consideration children have shown her.
"I don't really need a reason to say that we work amongst the best people but every now and then it helps to see it at play. The number of year 5 and 6 children who have expressed genuine concern for me today has been overwhelming. There have been lots of examples of being useful and kind today from people offering to carry things for me and asking if I was OK. Staff have been equally concerned and helpful but coming spontaneously from a child melts the heart."
And while Mrs Ghader wanted to thank the children and staff for their kindness, I'd like to thank her for coming in and soldiering on. Staff will be unwell and have accidents from time to time and will need time off. What I know from my work as a teacher and in private and public sector work before my teaching career is that teaching staff are incredibly reluctant to take time off.
Happy Monday ;-) Ms S
Friday 15th November 2019
REMEMBRANCE DAY, ANTI BULLYING WEEK and human kindness
Below are the slides we used to link Armistice Day with Anti Bullying Week. Children in Upper Key Stage 2 are well into their study of conflict, war and peace and have been immersed in the subject and some of their work will be showcased in the December newsletter. We used the opportunity to learn that there is a very special army, one that is only ever used for peacekeeping. The United Nations Peacekeepers wear blue berets and go into some dangerous places to protect people from conflict. It was fantastic to find that one of our parents has served the UN as a blue beret which he brought in to show us.
I have enjoyed two opportunities to share the book, Kind, with children this week. Hen-Harriers and Ladybirds both engaged well with this really beautiful book, illustrated by many illustrators and with a lovely introduction by Axel Scheffler of Gruffalo fame. Children are no more born kind than they are born good or bad, but as a very sociable great ape, we are born with great capacity to learn great kindness, huge empathy and have the potential to put others before ourselves. We humans are not born kind but are born helpless, reliant on adults from whom we learn it. We learn it when those we love show absolute disappointment and disapproval should we do or say unkind things. We learn it when those we love or respect do not allow us make light, offer excuses or mitigate our unkind actions. We learn it when those who love us will bear our upset, remorse and sadness - not by saying 'never mind, it doesn't matter,' but by knowing that it does matter, that through our upset and remorse we are becoming better people, and support us in making amends by saying that we are sorry and showing we mean it by being kinder people in future. And of course we learn it from books, as Axel Scheffler says in the introduction to Kind,
'... children's books are full of kindness, it's one of the main values we adults want to pass on to them. ...Whether it's the small acts of kindness that brighten our daily lives, or the bigger questions of how we help those in real need, we know that a kinder world is a better world.'
And as I told the children I read to today, kindness is kind of magic - the more you give it away the more you get back. More people will like you, will be kind back and you'll never be short of friends.
Wishing you a happy weekend and hoping you are all on the receiving end of kindness, Ms S :-)
Sunday 10th November 2019
the joy of email
is not a phrase you'll hear from me and as a rule of thumb I avoid them out of work hours. This Sunday I failed to heed my own advice and was very glad I did. A parent had emailed
"Following on from today's blog I would like to highlight some lovely behaviour I witnessed yesterday at home time.
As you know it was atrocious weather. The children were in the winter garden. (a girl in year 6) had put her coat and rucksack on and was about to walk out when 2 boys (I think from Mrs Vine's class) stopped her and said *** your rucksack is undone. It was loaded up with some folders from the looks of it and had she walked outside the contents would have been soaked through. Between the two boys they managed to zip it up whilst *** stood there. I commented to my husband last night what lovely kind behaviour it was."
So, whoever the boys are, thank you so much, not only for helping someone get home with her belongings and books safe and dry, but for showing your care for her and being such A* Ambassadors for the gift of usefulness and kindness. I have been headteacher here since 2004 - before any of our current children were born! Now and then someone will ask me why I have stayed here so long and not gone on to lead a bigger or different school. Well, it is people like these boys and kind parents who let me know about our lovely children who play a massive part in why I love working at Kingsmead and after fifteen years of rolling up to work of a morning, still get a buzz at the sight of our lovely school and about being one small part of it!
Happy Sunday, Ms S :-)
Friday 8th November 2019
Apologies to those (probably very few people) who have noticed that I've been a bit dilatory on the blog last month ;-). In my defense it was very busy and when you're caught up in busyness there's less time for thinking and writing. Which is not to say when I do write a blog I've been sitting about in blissful idleness!
anti bullying week
Next week is Anti-Bullying Week across the UK. While I'd love to be able to tell you there's no bullying here I am afraid that human nature and over 300 people means that there will be oppressive and unkind behaviour from time to time and some of it will meet our definition for bullying.
Reading about human evolution and psychology tells me that bullying is something deep within human nature, possibly something useful for survival to our ancestors living in caves and needing the spot closest to the fire and furthest from sabre-toothed tigers! So, if we want a society of useful and kind citizens, we have a responsibility to teach our children pro-social ways of being and they have a responsibility to learn them. Of course, all children are different and have different natures; this doesn't make them 'good' or 'bad' - we don't have good children and bad children in school, just a bunch of nippers, all of them with loveliness, and a range of (not always quite so lovely ;-) things they do. Some are just uber useful and kind to everyone, they may need some support in asserting themselves now and then. Others may be more dominant and want to control, they may be super leaders at times but can need support in allowing others to take a lead or take a role.
Many years' experience tells me that policies and practice don't operate in isolation. We are having a big push on manners this term and I have to say it makes life so much pleasanter when the people we meet, instead of pushing past, say 'after you.' People who are polite, say 'please', 'thank-you' and 'after you' are walking the useful and kind path and treating everyone they meet with kindness and respect. It's hard to bully someone you've just held a door for!
I have today had a playtime conversation with three children who had remembered that I wanted to catch up with them as before the holiday there had been some unkindness, leaving people out and name calling going on. They told me very nicely about all the U+K things they'd done, how they'd let people join in and looked out for folk on their own. They were also smiling widely and commented on how being useful and kind makes you feel happier yourself. When we let others join in and treat everyone with kindness and respect, we look after ourselves too. Which they did as I treated them to snack!
Happy Weekend, Ms S :-)
Our leaflet explains how we deal with bullying. You can read more in our policy for supporting social and emotional development and behaviour.
Our definition for bullying:
Intent to harm - always (without intent behaviour may be wrong and needs dealing with but it is not bullying)
Imbalance of power - several children being mean or leaving one out, ridicule of difference with someone in a minority group or someone older, stronger or more articulate using their relative strength to oppress someone weaker
Persistent - usually bullying is persistent which is how we know it's not just falling out and arguing, very occasionally a single act is so unkind with such imbalance of power and intent to hurt that we do call it bullying.
Friday 8th November 2019
TRIPS And visitors to school
Taking children out of school requires much preparation including costing the trip per person, risk assessing the visit, booking coaches, and arranging for adequate adult pupil ratios. There is a long electronic form to complete in the office and generally for ninety children. Therefore there is a lot of very necessary workload with every trip out.
Please help us avoid unnecessary workload by completing permission slips and making voluntary contributions promptly if you agree to do so. The office is very busy and we just don’t have time to be calling up and sending repeated emails to individuals. I am afraid that children without parents or carers permission will be unable to go on the visit. Please note that we will be taking no responsibility for a child missing out because we don't have permission for them to participate.
The KFA do a fantastic job helping us keep costs to families to a minimum. They have contributed £700 to the Lower Key Stage 2 trip to the Lion Salt Works next week and have kindly agreed to pay for the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra tickets for the LKS2 Art trip in March. Please bear this in mind when we you just to cover the cost of travel to Liverpool for a day trip to the Walker Art Gallery and a concert at the Phil. The KFA are once again funding the cost of the Young Shaekspeare Company for Upper Key Stage 2; please bear this in mind when making a decision as to whether you are willing to contribute to the World War 2 workshop.
We know times can be hard for some families and need to balance this alongside providing the enrichment to the curriculum that so improves the quality of education we can provide. We simply could not sustain the level of enrichment to our curriculum without the support of parents and carers and for this we are always grateful. Our charging and Letting policy explains more about charging for activities and making applications for bursaries.
So a big thank you to:
Parents and carers for making the voluntary contributions without which the curriculum would be poorer and less exciting
The KFA for funding so much enrichment in school, meaning costs are heavily subsidized or offered without a request for parents and carers to contribute
Office and teaching staff for the additional and very necessary workload involved in enriching our curriculum for your children.
Happy Friday, Ms S :-)
Monday 4th November 2019
parliament, a general election and keeping safe
We had an assembly today about Bonfire Night and bonfire and firework safety. Children also learned about why we celebrate Bonfire Night - a celebration begun by King James I of England and VI of Scotland after the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament (with him in it) was foiled and plotters arrested. We thought about how things have moved on somewhat, with our Parliament representing the voters and how men and women in the UK can have the vote regardless of family or wealth. It was a good time to make a link with the role of parliament today; a big part of British Values is respect for our democracy and how our MPs in Parliament represent the interests of the their constituents in the House of Commons. Which brings me on to...
As you may have guessed, we will be closed on 12th December for the General Election. We keep open where we can on polling day (small elections that can use the staffroom) but a general election is a different matter. The hostile and divisive language being used is not something any of us would want to risk young children being exposed to and I am mindful that it was only in 2016 that Jo Cox was murdered for going about her work representing the people of Batley and Spen. So I apologise for the inconvenience that the school closure will cause to working families and hope that you will all come out and make your voice heard at the ballot box.
When we have had reasonable notice of an election we are able to move INSET days which can help. However this year, as they will be next year, INSET days are being used to enable our teachers to work together to apply their learning from the Zoo project last year into the coming term's plans. This achieves much better value for money for staff training as professional development is only effective when the professionals are given time to use and apply their learning. Teaching is an intensive occupation without downtime in the day (I know this as I have done a range of jobs before teaching) and it would not be productive to expect our teachers to think deeply and embrace intellectual challenge after six hours teaching thirty odd children, as I am sure any parent will appreciate!
Again, apologies for the late notice about the election and thank you in advance for your forbearance.
Happy Monday ;-) Ms S
Tuesday 8th October 2019
A big shout out to the year six pupils who volunteered to show prospective families around school for Open Day. Over the years we have tried a number of formats but the last few years have seen year 6 taking the starring roles. Rather than a prepared presentation from me, containing information that is on the website and easily available I invite our oldest children to volunteer to show parents the school on a normal day. I am proud to say they need no more than a quick chat about the role of a tour guide and I am confident to leave it up to them to show the classrooms and outdoor spaces in school. I am then able to respond to individual parents' questions and not have the toddlers have to sit through an adult talk. Upper Key Stage 2 and Year 6 in particular is so much more than SATS and getting ready for high school, important as those things are. It is also about taking a more grown up role in school, leading and participating and being a role model for younger children. The children who volunteered did a cracking job and the parents who came along were full of compliments and admiration for their showing off the school. We are looking forward to seeing the parents who came for open day back in the Summer and welcoming their children to Kingsmead.
Happy Tuesday, Ms S :-)
Friday 4th October 2019
There's no such thing as bad weather...
... only the wrong clothes. Being outside is good for us, children especially. This is why we play out in all but the very worst of weather. Please ensure your child has a showerproof coat and enough layers to stay warm and dry through lunchtime. Normal parts of play like falling over are doubly painful in the cold. The smaller the child the more rapidly they lose body heat; a vest will help keep in the warmth they generate and make for a happier, more comfortable lunch break. Lots of heat is lost through the head too so a hat, gloves and a scarf on wintery days will keep your child's lunch break happy and restorative. A cold winter has been predicted and hopefully that will mean snow - fantastic! A primary school on a snowy day is a place of wonderment and joy!
Happy weekend, Ms S :-)
Tuesday 1st October 2019
respectful relationships in angry times
A glance at the media tells us we're living in increasingly angry times. Dentists report an increase in cracked teeth and tooth guards for those grinding teeth in their sleep. Road rage too has increased and I notice this on the bike or on foot when drivers haven't remembered that the Highway Code states pedestrians and cyclists have the right of way over cars coming out of a side road. Public sector staff like police, social workers, school and health care professionals are often on the front line of anger in society. Northwich is a lovely place to live and work but it is not an island and we are no exception.
Just as all parents experience exasperation with the children in their family, so school staff find frustrations multiplied with thirty or so children in a class or 300+ in a hall. Fortunately, our staff are consummate professionals and useful and kind people who adhere to a high bar in the school's code of conduct. Their ability, willingness and good natures in remaining calm and solution-focused in what can occasionally be the most challenging of circumstances, makes me very proud to work with them. Angry interactions, be they with adults or children, are intimidating, always upsetting and detrimental to mental health and well-being. Angry emails, emotive or threatening language, complaining about incidents that haven't happened as reported (or sometimes just haven't happened at all) are replied to usefully and politely, if also on occasion, clearly and firmly.
Children can be upset or indignant if they have been in bother in school which is perfectly OK and natural. It is also perfectly natural and OK for staff to be firm and clear when behaviour is not acceptable. Feelings of guilt, shame and fear are never healthy when caused by things you can't help or your personal characteristics (disability, race, religion, gender or sexuality for example). However, these same feelings can, in proportionate amounts, be helpful to children and adults alike. Today I discussed an incident with a couple of children who I am sure would have rather not been having the discussion. Nevertheless they took responsibility and showed genuine remorse because 'I know it was wrong.' This enabled us to restore happy, positive relationships very quickly; their owning what had happened and consequent feelings of remorse and being sorry showed me their good characters - which I told them and which left them feeling that mistakes can be made, rectified and relationships restored.
Our school website has a wealth of information including a Prospectus, school policies and a home school agreement which sets out what children, parents and our school can reasonably expect from one another. Meet the teacher sessions and parents evenings also provide information during the year. If families choose not to read information, attend events or make time to speak to the school, we respect that choice. What we do know, from over 15 years experience since we opened in 2004, is that when queries or questions are raised politely and respectfully, they are resolved happily for everyone. We also know that relationships, however difficult, can always be repaired and restored. Nevertheless, it is much better for the emotional health and well-being of children, their parents, carers and school staff alike if relationships don't require repairing because they are useful, kind and respectful from the outset.
Which of course, in fantastic Kingsmead, is what the overwhelming majority are. Here's to bucking the zeitgeist (spirit of the times) and being the makers of society, not the followers ;-)
Happy Tuesday, Ms S :-)
Monday 23rd September 2019
an uncertain world and reciprocity
We are sending all our wishes and kind thoughts to those affected by Thomas Cook going into administration today. Compulsory redundancy will always hit families hard, emotionally as well as financially, and our thoughts are with all the parents and children affected.
I would like to remind our families of some things we can do in school to support no child missing out because of family hardship. Our policy for charging and letting spells this out in detail. We have a hardship fund in school and also can provide a bursary for children to participate in things usually charged for. The hardship fund, like food bank vouchers, if for anyone experiencing signficant hardship and if this is the case, please come and see me for a confidential chat. The hardship fund is administered by the school but the monies are provided by the local church for which we are very grateful. Governors and leaders in school work to the principle that we won't provide anything in school that is not accessible to each and every child. This is why we won't do trips abroad - we would be unable to fund bursaries for large amounts. Bursaries have supported many children throughout the years: those from families who are hard up and on low incomes as well as those caught in temporary difficulties when things like redundancy affect their income.
I would also like to thank our parents and carers. A school can only provide high quality enrichment to the education they provide (before and after clubs, school trips and visitors) because so most families support through the voluntary contributions asked for. Whenever you make a voluntary contribution, pay for a club or music or language lessons, you support your school in providing an enriched education for everyone and ensuring that these activities continue. While we never use the voluntary contribution or lesson costs to directly fund other children (you are only ever paying the cost for your own), whenever you have paid for a trip, club or class outside the school day, you make a positive contribution to equity for all children and which you know will be there for your child, should they need it. Many families who have been supported by bursaries also support the school by making voluntary contributions and funding their child's clubs when they can afford them. This is the principle of reciprocity - societies are happier, more useful and kind when their citizens give willingly when they can and so people can receive when they need it.
If you have been affected by redundancy or are experiencing hardship which we may be able to support please come for a confidential chat. We can offer support with some practical things in school as well as services in the community such as the Mid-Cheshire Foodbank. Foodbanks are used these days by working families as well as those in receipt of benefits and I know in the cities teachers and nurses are among those needing support. Please just ask, there is no shame in needing help. Perhaps the shame lies with one of the richest countries in the world having people needing to use a foodbank at all.
Not so happy Monday, Ms S
Friday 20th September 2019
three british values AND participation in the world's biggest PROTEST with friends around the globe
Today has seen the world's biggest protest in history. In every continent children took the lead with the school strikes started by Great Thurnberg; it would have been a dereliction of duty to let this event pass unnoticed and unmarked. Teachers have shared a short film by Greta and climate activist and journalist George Monbiot. This afternoon we considered how we might participate in Climate Protests while we are still far too young to just walk out of school and join a protest!
We reflected on how democracy is about participation; one way of joining is is by voting and as well as elections we can have our voice heard all year round! I have been writing, talking and using social media on an issue with our own MP, Mike Amesbury - even when voters disagree, politicians still prefer an interested and informed voter who is bothered.
It is not easy to respect or care about what we don't know or understand and a big part of knowing something is being able to name it (hence I have been working hard at learning the names of new children). We won't care about global climate change and mass extinction if we haven't learned to know and love nature, to be Naturally Smart (as Professor Paul Clarke who visited the school in 2018 writes about in his book, Breathe). So after assembly we enjoyed some Autumn sunshine and learned to name some trees: Oaks, Rowans and Willows abound in school, as do Silver Birch. I hope you might find your child pointing these out to you if walking in woods or by the river - if they do please show you are impressed! Children will know and think about trees differently when they identify different species and notice their diversity. A bit like people really.
Which brings me on to the fourth British Value: respect and tolerance, with a day celebrating Diversity in Deva (the Roman name for our capital city of Cheshire). This Sunday is Chester Pride and I'll be there with a couple of groups I'm a member of, one being Chester Humanists. Perhaps I may bump into some of you there.
Finally a thank-you to the useful and kind parent who emailed me this week to share her thoughts on the Fun Run attended by children in Key Stage 2 this week. Although she was pleased her child had enjoyed participating in a large communal running event she (quite rightly in my opinion) questioned the sponsor of the event, given our school's commitment to the environment which she and her children so fully support. As a member of the steering group for the Vale Royal School Sports Partnership (VRSSP), I have asked Chris Storey, our Partnership Development Officer, to put sponsorship on the agenda for our next meeting. Chris does a great job, promoting sport, supporting our own fantastic Mrs McHugh, enabling our children to participate in sport beyond the school, enhancing provision in school and keep us healthy in body. Chris says 'I do understand why there may be concern around this - of the overall cost of this event (c£20k), much was funded by INOVYN (as the local employer, previously ICI) and not INEOS directly, indeed employee contributions paid for the medals.' We live in a difficult world. Lack of funding means public services like health and education and the Arts seek sponsorship from businesses. Businesses sponsor for various reasons: a) altruism and a belief in what they are funding; b) access to politicians and other people in power who they might lobby and c) to provide a halo for their industry. One day, perhaps, the MoD might be seeking sponsorship or having fairs to raise funds for a new tank while health and education are fully and adequately funded from taxation. Now there's a thought ;-)
Happy weekend, Ms S
Monday 16th September 2019
Assemblies this term are about caring for ourselves. I have noticed children being beautifully mannered around school and the atmosphere is calmer, politer and more mutually respectful. Today we pondered how we can care for ourselves through reading regularly for pleasure.
the real rewards of reading
Today we celebrated those children who completed the Northwich Library Summer Reading Challenge and you can see a picture of most of them on the Google Classroom (not here because of GDPR). Reading for a pleasure is a right for every child and to help families we have recommended reads and support for reading at home here on the website. Children were proud of their medals and certificates but we reminded ourselves that the real reward of reading is the pleasure you get and that you will be smarter and know more stuff. So I shared a couple of books I have been reading.
‘I don’t want them to have American childhoods. I don’t want them to say ‘Hi’ to adults, I want them to say ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good afternoon.’ I don’t want them to say ‘Good’ when somebody says ‘How are you?’ to them. Or to raise five fingers when asked how old they are. I want them to say ‘I’m fine thank you’ and ‘I’m five years old.’ I don’t want a child who feeds on praise and expects a star for effort and talks back to adults in the name of self expression. Is that terribly conservative?’
I have learned a lot reading this Summer: to remember to think more deeply when responding to children, consider my own unconscious bias and so make sure I respond to our boys and girls equally as leaders, writers, readers, carers, good listeners, fashionistas, fantastic talkers, adventures and peacemakers. I will continue to notice and acknowledge children's best efforts, encouraging children to see how this benefits them in deeper, if less tangible ways than a sticker or other 'reward'. I hope our Summer Reading Challengers have enjoyed recognition and celebration but hope and expect they'll enjoy even more the more things they know and understand as a result of reading for pleasure over the Summer. I too have learned a few things from my reading this Summer; including that I am a little bit more conservative than I'd have thought!
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday 12th September 2019
philosophy or ideology?
Too often ideas are framed as two sides, set in opposition to each other and often from conflicting ideologies, cutting out listening, discussion and thinking. In politics it has been Left V Right - although current events show us these no longer apply and the oddest of bedfellows can be found sharing platforms and working together on shared values. This has required listening to one another and being open to new ways of thinking: a more philosophical mindset. Many of our elected politicians have found that they have more in common with some of their opposites across the house than they might have imagined!
Education is no exception, has been beset with ideologies and is something of a political football. One of the worst culprits has been the 'Progressive' V 'Traditional' schools and classrooms. Another recent one in the media has been 'parent power', sometimes portrayed as in opposition to the education professionals who care for children in school. This has proved to be damaging in some of our cities and has sometimes been fired up by self appointed representatives of the community with no actual relationship to the schools concerned. It stands to reason that pitching parents against headteachers and staff in schools teaching the Equality Act is not going to help children thrive. In the world where most of us live, thank goodness, the overwhelming majority of parents and education professionals all understand that children's best interests are served in a culture of respect for each other, even on those occasions when opinions and views differ.
'Traditional' and 'progressive' ideologies of education have been much touted on social media and in the press with respected professors of education, teachers and other professionals who held progressive views being labelled 'The Blob' by a not so long ago education minister and his special adviser. On social media (it was ever thus) it has become quite nasty! Therefore, it was so refreshing to hear on Radio 4 last night, two figures in education, women often cited by opposing ideologies, talking and listening to each other and learning they have more in common than might have been thought. Katharine Birbalsingh (headteacher of the Michaela School in London) and Dr Debra Kidd who has written widely on education and led training for staff as part of the Chester Zoo Project are well worth listening to in the BBC Radio 4 programme Across the Red line which this week asked 'Is discipline the enemy of learning?'.
Teachers are professionals and the best ones are pragmatic: rather than peddling a preferred 'style', good teachers will consider the learning that needs to take place and choose methods and practice best suited to helping children achieve it. Sometimes children need to be given new knowledge and by listening and looking attentively they use this to achieve in practical or other tasks. Other times learning is more open ended and allowing them to discover something through more playful tasks or by careful questioning and dialogue will make it more inspiring and memorable. Some learning is best achieved with pairs and groups discussing and working together, other things require a classroom where people are able to think and work independently. Classes of children too require that we are more philosophical than ideological. I once taught a class in a very disadvantaged school, 25% of whom had statements for what was then called emotional and behavioural difficulties and many others with special educational needs. These children would not have thrived with my generally more informal, discussion approach to teaching. We started off the year in rows, in silence and I taught from the front. Children earned the right to sit at a table, with a plant to care for and more opportunities to talk and work collaboratively. Tables and rows fluctuated throughout the year and some of the most memorable teaching I did as a class teacher was with this class. Children from one of the most disadvantaged estates in the country learned that Shakespeare, Homeric verse and their other learning was the stuff of life. By the end of the term they could discuss, listen and share and I could use a more informal style but would, if required, revert to the much stricter and formal teacher I had been in September. Pragmatism and philosophy meant I finished the year exhausted but alive, and I remember this class with much pride and fondness. Incidentally, some of these have gone on to university, almost all being the first in their family to do so, and one now has a PhD in Mathematics.
We revisited our policy for supporting social and emotional development and behaviour in Autumn 2018. It reflects the sensible principle of a state school's duty to support and value diversity, respect for the minority as well as the majority and understanding that children have different starting points. We hold dear the value of each and every child and that for some reasonable adjustments must be made for them to be included and thrive. Our policy also reflects the equally sensible principle that each and every child has the right to learn and teaching staff to teach in a safe, calm and purposeful environment; that a child's education is, to quote Malala Yousafzai, a 'precious diamond'. If over twenty five years in education have taught me one thing, it's that there is no place for ideology in education practice or policy. While a philosophy of education will frame and guide the ethos and values of a school, ideologies and fads can fly in the face of new thinking, proper peer research and very often, common sense.
We have found the writing of Debra Kidd an inspiration and delight. Her work, along with that of Hywell Roberts, is cited in our new Curriculum document (page 7). Listening to Katherine Birbalsingh is also compelling to hear and while Kingsmead is very different to Michaela, an inner city secondary school in a challenging area, we too only have policies and rules that are for the benefit of children. Uniform and Appearance and Food in School pages on the website explain the why as well as the what of school policy in the hope and expectation that families will understand, respect and comply with our expectations. So while we're not going full on 'silent corridor' (we are in a different context and don't need to), we do expect all children to walk in school in a quiet and calm manner, clean up after themselves at lunch, say please and thank you and do as they are asked. When the environment is calm and safe, when we are polite and considerate to others, learning time is maximized and each child can care for themselves by making the most of that 'precious diamond', their education.
Happy Thursday, Ms S :-)
Wednesday 5th September 2019
a warm welcome
to children, staff, parents and governors to Kingsmead Primary School's fifteenth academic year! In particular a special hello to those new people joining us this September. As well as 45 delightful children in Ladybirds, we have new children in several classes in Lower Key Stage 2, three new co-opted governors and some excellent new staff to boot.
In Ladybirds, Mrs Natalie Plumbley has joined the Early Years team. In Lower Key Stage 2 Mrs Natalie Hill is joining us as a teaching assistant and Ms Jess Tweedie is the new class teacher in Cuckoos. We have been very fortunate in being able to cover a full year for Mrs Roberts' maternity so children will have consistency and the post was far more attractive for an excellent candidate - so everyone's a winner! Up in Upper Key Stage 2 Mrs Angela Gordon has joined us, sharing the Red Squirrels with Mrs Vine. We also extend a very warm welcome to Rachel Houston who has joined the Mid-Day team. Some other staff have moved classes and phases and you can find out who is in what class and new support staff and governors by using the drop down menu in About Us on the website.
The teaching team have met over the two INSET days when we have revisited supporting children's social and emotional development and the excellent behaviour that results. INSET training on School Emergency First Aid from St John's Ambulance means we have kept up to date with a high percentage of staff with at least a basic understanding in First Aid, additional to more qualified first aiders at work and paediatric first aiders.
Meet the Teacher sessions are coming up next week. We have listened to those who have told us how, with several children, it can be rushed and hard to be in two places at once. Therefore they are on different days over the week. We hope this has been as useful and helpful as we intended!
Some of our School Improvement Priorities this year
The School Improvement and Development Plan is well underway with priorities identified. It will be considered for approval by the Governing Body this term. The plan combines the particular needs and context of the school alongside national priorities which may nor may not be similar.
All headteachers and governing bodies have been asked to consider workload of teachers; recruitment and retention is a national concern and we are fortunate that we're able to recruit excellent new staff and retain excellent experienced and existing people. Wellbeing is not just for children as I am sure their parents will appreciate as they return to school after six weeks off! This is a priority for us as well as politicians as while we have not been beset with some of the recruitment and retention difficulties in other schools we are always mindful that a great teacher is a precious gift and we are blessed with a very high quality and quantity of excellent and dedicated professionals in our teaching and support staff.
We will continue to develop our professional practice, building on the work we undertook with the Ignite Teaching School Alliance with the Chester Zoo Project. This year we will be looking at continuing to develop our curriculum and I hope you may be interested in the revised curriculum document which replaces all subject policies. With links to the website and other documents, it reduces duplication of information and, I hope communicates not only what we do, but our passion for the importance of the breadth and depth of learning that a child needs to be well educated and a lifelong learner.
Reading, writing and the development of vocabulary will be developed within all subjects and in phonics we will build on the excellent impact of our work last academic year.
In developing children's behaviour and attitudes and personal development we will continue to develop and nurture the notion of 'we' not 'me' and children's participation in different aspects of school life: their learning and achievement, lunchtime conduct, support for one another and that being useful and kind is indeed unlimited. Early this term the Upper Key Stage 2 children will be learning how they can support our youngest, their buddies, to eat with a knife and fork, cut their food, eat over their plates and not talk with food in their mouths. Basic manners leading to a greater sense of participation, contribution and belonging. While we all eat in different ways, I hope every child will have opportunities to eat in a restaurant, with workmates or college friends one day. Basic table manners and eating independently should be a right for every child.
A massive well done to Mrs McHugh and all the staff, children and great parents who support us, in achieving Gold in the School Games Kitemark. A fantastic achievement. Although we have sustained a good silver standard in sport over many years, it's nice to back with a gold and a super way to start the new academic year!
Happy Tuesday, Ms S :-)