Thursday Thought - 17th December 2020

the magic of christmas never ends and its greatest gift is family and friends

Well 2020 is nearly over and I’m sure that many of us won’t be sad to see the back of it. It has been a year of social distancing, face masks and hand washing. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve clapped. The events of 2020 brought new challenges no one was prepared for, changing the way we live and how we connect with each other. COVID-19 has had undeniable and horrific consequences on people’s lives and the economy but we also mustn’t forget what we have gained. Carbon emissions are down globally and with manufacturing and air travel grinding to a halt, the planet has had a chance to rejuvenate. There has been a renewed sense of community and social cohesion. People all around the world are finding new ways to address the need for interconnectedness and COVID-19 has given us a greater sense of appreciation and gratefulness. It has offered us a new perspective on everything we have taken for granted for so long – our freedoms, leisure, connections, work, family and friends.

But the pandemic is far from over, leaving many families wondering what Christmas will look like this year and how they will be able to celebrate with loved ones during such a strange time. However, just because we might not be able to venture far from home or even mingle with other households, doesn’t mean that families can’t have a wonderful festive time together.

The joy of Christmas for many is the time spent together with loved ones, sharing some happy memories and a few laughs. Christmas is a magical time that brings back happy memories of family gatherings and charming traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Christmas carols, gift exchanges and family feasts are just some of the enduring traditions that make the season one of the world’s favorite holidays. This year though will be tricky for many, as families and friends face hard decisions because they have too many loved ones they want to see over the festive period than Christmas Covid restrictions allow.

But Christmas can still be enjoyed with loved ones even when apart. We need to embrace that it will be different rather than try to make it the same and everyone be sad because it's not really the same.

When life gives you lemons, make lemon meringue pie - because who likes Christmas pudding anyway? Caitlin Logan

Games can still be played across Zoom. Gifts can still be opened whilst the grandparents watch. The whole family can wear matching PJs. It will be different, but it will still be happy and full of excitement. After such a difficult year, we need to embrace happiness wherever we find it.

Unfortunately though, not everyone is lucky enough to have close family and friends to share this special time of year with. We have been talking to the children about loneliness over Christmas though our assemblies this week and how it might feel for the approximately 4 million people in the UK, who spend Christmas day alone. This Christmas is set to be the loneliest yet: more than half the older population are concerned they won’t see friends and family this Christmas. Winter is always a tough time for older people - dark nights, short days and cold, often wet weather make it harder to get outside. These challenges combined with pandemic restrictions mean that chance encounters - like catching up with neighbours on the street or friendly chats at the supermarket - are less likely right now, yet they can make a big difference to those who are almost always on their own, or feeling lonely. So we’ve been encouraging the children to think about the small acts of kindness they can show for someone they know might be spending Christmas alone. Maybe they will make a video call to a relative that can’t come and join in the family Christmas this year, write a letter or post a card to an elderly neighbour or leave a little homemade gift for someone. Simply checking in on an older neighbour regularly, popping a card through someone’s door or having a chat with someone at the shops, at a 2 metre distance of course, only takes a moment and can make a real difference.

Making someone feel loved at Christmas is far more rewarding than any present we may receive. Time spent with our family, our friends, the lonely and unfortunate is more important than the presents under the tree. Time spent together, whether in person or virtually, is the greatest gift.

Wishing you and your loved ones love and peace this Christmas season. Take this time to get away from your busy lives and enjoy time with your family and friends. My best Christmas wishes to you.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 14th December 2020

when zesty jolliness may be in short supply

Christmas is a joyful time and it is expected that we all greet the season with zesty jolliness. 2020 has tested zesty jolliness more than usual but the lovely thing about children is they are just as excited and looking forward to it just as much they do every year. I envy parents of young children at this time of the year, even being woken at the crack of dawn on 25th - I love Christmas but it's extra special with young children about.

At this time of year there are appeals from newspapers, radio stations and football clubs to support people less fortunate who will not have the happy holiday I hope you will all enjoy with your families. Lockdown has hit people living alone incredibly hard. Not all people who live alone are old. For students away from home for the first time and young people living alone lockdown and covid restrictions have taken their toll on mental health. Many of those experiencing loneliness and isolation this year have been older people, for who keeping in touch online does not come naturally. With day centres closed and chats and cups of tea with neighbours outside the rules, what can be a sometimes lonely life has become intolerably so. Loneliness is amplified at Christmas with all its messages about families and belonging.

Assembly today told the story of Mr Hegarty, an old man, living alone in a city with the world changing fast around him. His Christmas Day might not be one we'd wish for but it has its own joy nonetheless. Wellbeing is as much about our state of mind as it is about what we experience. I know some of the children have been thinking of our elderly neighbours in particular. In Key Stage 1, as part of their Dilemma led learning, children are writing letters to elderly neighbours. As well as bringing real joy to others and build bridges across the generations, his will help children's own mental health, their wellbeing too: when we hear sad stories it can be depressing and we can feel the weight of the world is upon us and that we are small and helpless. When children (and us adults) do small act of kindness, the weight is lightened a little; the world may still be sad and lonely for many people, but in our small way we have made a difference. We have tried in the run up to Christmas to focus on things other than FC and what you want on Christmas morning. With carols, the story of the Nativity, stories and how to accept with grace something that may be dreadful but that was gifted with love.

Today I am wishing the older members of your families in particular a happy Christmas: grandparents, great aunts and uncles, I hope you have a wonderful day on 25th. We have planned for our musicians to play tomorrow, outside for wind instruments and indoors for Cuckoos (who are all one class) and strings (who it's hard to hear outdoors and aren't blowing anything). Performances will be available via Google Classroom and perhaps if you are online with GPs etc. over Christmas they might enjoy seeing their younger relatives have been up to in school.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 10th December 2020


I love Dr. Seuss's ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’ story and it is a firm favourite in the Rutter-Brown household. I can’t help but love this iconic tale of a green ogre who lives on a mountain, seething while the Whos in the village below celebrate Christmas. The happier they are, the angrier he gets, until finally he can't take it anymore and hatches a plan to crush their joy like a glass ornament. To ruin Christmas, the Grinch knew he had to steal EVERYTHING, every last speck from the Whos’ houses. But what he didn't realise was that they didn’t care that everything was missing, because they knew that the material things were not the point of Christmas. Christmas may come once a year but the essentials of the season, like coming together as a community and giving back to those in need, should stay with us all year long.

The story overall is one that conveys a world in which we all want to live; one in which we are all loving, cooperative, empathetic beings. We can learn so much from this story. The message is clear; people can change, no matter how mean they may seem. But in order to do so, they need help from others. Not in the form of lecturing and berating, but to be shown by example. To be shown kindness and understanding.

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The change that the Grinch undergoes gives people hope. Hope that the bad things and people in the world can be better. Hope that given the right circumstances, things can change. The Whos further this hope by showing us the warmer side of human nature, especially in response to someone so heinous. Instead of fearing, or hunting down the Grinch, they simply live with him, accepting him and learning to live alongside him.

The Grinch teaches us that we should care more for people than things. We need to adopt the attitude of the Whos whose Christmas had been stolen and celebrate life itself and the people in it. Not the things we fill it up with. Christmas will be different this year and we may feel that many aspects of our ‘normal’ Christmas have been stolen from us but let us enjoy the time we can spend with our families, sitting down and having a delicious feast with your family is the best part of Christmas. The gifts are quickly opened then often as quickly forgotten. Even with those standout toys, eventually the sparkle fades. Christmas isn’t about “stuff” — it’s about the childhood memories that never fade. The joy children get from making memories and in turn as parents, the joy we get watching them. When the memories of the toys they received have faded, it’s more than likely they could still tell you about the tree, which family members visited, what games they played and the foods they ate until they were stuffed. We all remember the feelings and experience of Christmas, more than any gifts we received.

The Grinch is, undoubtedly, an unsavory creature with virtually nothing to like about him. However, that didn’t stop the Whos from welcoming him into their lives with open arms. They knew he was a bad character in the past, but they empathised with him and had compassion for him.

How much better of a world could we live in if we chose not to hold grudges? If instead of getting mad or upset, we try to understand what might be going through the other person's mind?

So many times, what might just be a bad day or a misunderstanding gets blown out of proportion. Often it ends with people not liking each other, not getting along, or being unable to work together. But if we all take a little extra time to understand and show compassion, it can make everything run so much more smoothly.

We can also learn to respect one another’s cultures and traditions. The Grinch didn’t celebrate Christmas, he wasn’t part of the community, and their joy drove him crazy. But there is absolutely no reason why we can’t accept, and treasure, various cultures and traditions within our community. One tradition doesn’t kill another. We should all be tolerant and accepting of everyone celebrating their own things in their own way.

Sometimes people find it hard to accept others with vast differences, unless we understand them. There are some differences that many of us have grown to understand. But there are still so many that we don’t, or that some people don’t. Rather than tearing each other down and fearing those differences, we should embrace them and let go of the fear. Despite their differences, the Whos welcome the Grinch into their festivities, their homes, and their lives. He is very different from them. He is three times their height, furry and green, and doesn’t celebrate Christmas but it didn’t matter to them. If he was willing to change and wanted to be a part of their lives, they were more than happy to bring him in and accept him.

This Christmas let’s all allow our hearts to grow three sizes and: spread more love and joy in our world; prize our loved ones and not our possessions; practice respect, compassion, and empathy even when we’re inclined to think somebody doesn’t deserve it.

Let’s change our world for the better, one Grinch at a time.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 7th December 2020

strange gifts

It's been a long, hard term and for sure Christmas will be quite different this year. But I do envy you parents and carers at this time of year; Christmas is never quite the same once your children are grown up. But whatever our age, this is a time to reflect and think, count our good fortune, and notice what is meaningful, outside of ourselves and our own desires.

Every culture has festivals for giving and receiving of gifts. When we think of gifts we tend to thing of things you can't touch. But the longest lasting are often gifts that can't be touched, are not owned and are something that other people, as well as the recipient, can enjoy.

Mrs R-B was talking last week about the less tangible gifts we can give - a smile, a random act of kindness: a gift doesn't always have to be a physical object and many of the best ones aren't. Today's thought, here and in assembly, is about less tangible gifts we receive: gifts of praise, recognition for achievement, positive relationships.

Whether amount of time, certificates, praise or reward, equity isn't about giving everyone the same. It would be unfair to have a single standard for praising children's work for example. For one or two children the reward would be meaningful but for many it would be for something that was simply not achievable for them. For many others, it would be praising or rewarding something that had come easily to them. When recognition is beyond your ability to achieve it, disaffection sets in, you become an outsider. Something we don't always appreciate is the flip side of the coin: that when recognition and reward come too easily it is just as bad. It does a child no service to receive praise or recognition for something they completed, say a test, when they didn't make much of an effort, whatever their ranking against classmates. What this praise tells them is that their teacher, parent or carer doesn't think that much of them; 'I hardly made any effort! That wasn't my best. They think that's all I'm capable of?'

It's exactly the same with pro-social behaviour. There are some children I'd not entertain having to thank for not shouting or arguing with me. It would be an insult! They'd not in their wildest dreams think of shouting at me or any other adult. For others, I have very much noticed when they have remained polite and respectful in times of difficulty - it was a big step for them.

This can leave many parents and some children wondering 'So what about the people who are useful, kind and ready to learn all the time? What do they get?' I will tell you! They get less tangible but continual daily rewards from their experience in school. When they answer a question they hear a teacher's response using their thought, their understanding to take the whole class into deeper thinking. Wow! When they approach an adult for a conversation they get to talk about the world, art, culture, science, to share a laugh about something strange - they get a conversation without hierarchy. In every look and interaction they get affirmation of themselves as an important member of our community; someone who useful, kind and ready to learn; affirmation that they really do care for themselves, other people and the environment; affirmation that they really do belong. Just a few times over the years, some of the children who hardly ever put a foot out of step have asked me about this. I have discussed the above with them and asked if they would like to swap their experience in school for a few more certificates or stickers. None of them have ever said yes. It seems the rewards of learning: of knowing more, doing something better and understanding more deeply, are greater and more meaningful than the peripheral stuff of dojos, stickers, even certificates.

Peter Senge, a systems analysis at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) puts it beautifully:

“Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life”

Now of course most children, being children, do need peripheral rewards and we all like praise and recognition. Which is why we have them. Just as most children are not, 100% of the time, useful and kind and ready to learn (which is why we have the rule!). But it's worth remembering that children and adults alike experience self-esteem and a feeling of belonging to their school or workplace differently. Some people at work need their work to be noticed, held up as an example and admired. Others are just quietly happy to do a job really well so it works and makes things better, so it shows the very best of what they can do. People are just different.

And just occasionally these children, who enjoy the deep but less visible rewards of learning and achievement, do get something really visible. Early last week, Jess asked me about Christmas jumper days in the last week of term; she looked so excited at the thought of wearing her's, just for one day. I asked if she thought it might be an idea to allow them for the last week of term. No words were needed - her face told me the answer! So, to thank Jess and all those other polite-all-the-time, work-hard-every-day, read-at-home-without-arguing children, the last week of term has been designated Christmas Jumper Week. We are not collecting for any causes (you have plenty of opportunities to give to good causes elsewhere). We are recognising those children who are just a joy to be with, unlimited.

Even better - everyone, those who need more tangible recognition, those who find it hard to be unlimited in their usefulness and kindness will all get to wear their jumpers too! If you don't do the jumper thing or don't celebrate Christmas, children can wear any warm jumper from home and if they would like, to bling it up and celebrate the Winter Festival of Light with us! There are no outsiders at Kingsmead!

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 3rd December 2020

a single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.

Amelia Earhart - American aviation pioneer and author.

2020 has been a difficult year in so many ways. Many families have suffered with uncertainty, anxiety, isolation and challenges to their financial situation, health or relationships. Then add into this the festive season. The lead up to Christmas can be a stressful time for many families. The lack of time and money and the pressure of gift giving can contribute to this stress.

In assembly this week I talked to the children about advent and how ‘good things come to those who wait’. Waiting can be extremely hard for children, especially at such an exciting time of year. Children can often be focussed on the gifts they hope to receive, but I have asked the children to use this advent period to think about using their time to give to others, by providing a daily act of kindness. Research shows that helping others can be beneficial to our own mental health. It can reduce stress, improve our emotional wellbeing and even benefit our physical health.

When you spend excessive time thinking about what you want to receive it can create selfishness and expectations that may set you up for disappointment. However, kindness promotes empathy and compassion; which in turn, leads to a sense of interconnectedness with others. When we practice acts of kindness, it releases positivity: We feel better and the recipients of our acts feel better, which then makes them more likely to be kind to other people. Helping others in need, especially those who are less fortunate than yourself, can provide a real sense of perspective and make you realise how lucky you are, helping you to achieve a more positive outlook on things that may be causing you stress.

Wikipedia says that a random act of kindness is: "...a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual... There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile, or be happier."

Teaching kindness is so valuable. Research says teaching kindness has a positive influence on a range of academic, health and social outcomes for children. Studies also show children who engage in random acts of kindness are more likely to be accepted by their peers. Their good deeds improve their well-being and help them develop positive perceptions of their world.

While your child may pick up a few lessons on kindness by observing their peers, they'll also learn from the example set by their parents. Perform random acts of kindness with your child to teach them how to be generous, compassionate, and giving.

"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." - Scott Adams

Can you imagine a world where no one gave to each other? Where we all just looked after our own needs but ignored everyone else's? This would surely be a miserable place to live, for ultimately, whether spontaneous or planned, we cannot be happy without being kind, by giving and caring for each other.

Random acts of kindness are essential to our wellbeing, as they liberate us from self-obsession, selfishness, and isolation. True generosity is giving without expectation, with no need to be repaid in any form. This is the most powerful act of generosity, as it is unconditional, unattached, and free to land wherever it will. Whether we give to our family, friends, or to strangers, it is the same. Giving enhances our "prosocial reputation" and strengthens our sense of connection and belonging to the community.

If you’re stuck for inspiration when it comes to acts of kindness over the festive season, have a go at completing the kindness calendar for December with your child. Discuss how it makes you feel completing these tasks, or perhaps make up your own ‘kind’ acts. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself too, treat everyone with kindness today, including yourself!

Kind hearts are the gardens.

Kind thoughts are the roots.

Kind words are the blossoms.

Kind deeds are the fruits.

Kirpal Singh

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 30th November 2020

december is upon us - reflections on Christmas

With December's arrival children will be turning their thoughts very much to Christmas. I am mindful that this winter festival in the 21st Century has both a Christian and secular side to it. In music we are learning carols but instrumentalists are also grappling with Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Snowman and Rudolf. Living up in the North, through long winters of rain, dark nights and less and less snow, people of all religions and none need something to cheer us up and keep us sane - an even more so this year!

As in every other year, we will emphasise the New Testament story of the nativity and related Christmas stories in assemblies and Friday Fables through the month. Christmas, to Christians and all the rest of us who put up trees, light lights and bake food that is only made in December, this time of year is about more than presents and getting stuff. Over attention to what FC might be turning up with can so quickly turn to greed and disappointment if we are not careful. I have a very early memory as a girl in primary school, when it dawned on me that Father Christmas doesn't distribute the presents equitably. I wasn't impressed with FC being something of a reverse Robin Hood - giving so much more to the richest children in my class! Now, we can't help that some will get more than others at Christmas but we can help children appreciate for more and want for less (as it says in our ethos and values). The stories we share will share the universal messages of Christmas: care for those who have less than us, seeing family (albeit maybe more online this year), appreciating all the gifts we will receive, including those scratchy knitted items that may turn from relatives who love us but whose understanding of style we don't share.

Friday Fables will include stories like Tolstoy's Papa Panov - a Russian story about the message of Christmas; its message is to be useful and kind to everyone we encounter, unlimited. Poems like Can It Be True and the true story from World War 1 of the football match on the battle fields across Flanders remind us that Christmas is, like Diwali, a story celebrating peace. A time for people, whatever their differences, coming together. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a focus on Christianity and the themes of the Christmas story that so chime with our own ethos and values. We will teach that in the story, Jesus' first visitors were 'poor shepherds' and that carried a message about how we should regard and respect those who have less than us. We learn that Mary, a woman, was 'highly favoured' by God (not usual at the time) and that Jesus is called 'The Prince of Peace.' I adore the Christmas story, a story where some agricultural workers, an unmarried mother, artisan craftsman and three foreign intellectuals find they have much more in common than that which divided them.

However, be assured, we are mindful that we serve equally children from families of no religion and many others as well as Christianity. We are careful in the language we use. We do not not expect children to believe but rather to know this story, one that has been so important in our culture. Staff will use the term 'Christians believe...' and no child will be told 'Jesus was the son of God' but rather, that 'Christians believe Jesus was the son of God.'

I would like families of all faiths and none to know that here, in our community school, we do not promote any one faith above any other or above the absence of religious belief. We learn more about Christianity in RE because this is what the agreed syllabus (which we are required by law to follow) sets out. Also, we live in Europe, a country where almost every provincial art gallery will house art depicting a Christian story and where Christianity has, historically, been the most influential religion since it took off more than a thousand years ago. I want each and every child at Kingsmead to feel very at home in an art gallery!

As in every other year, children will share that in Islam, Jesus and Mary are revered. We will share how indoor trees, holly, ivy and mistletoe have ancient pre-Christian origins when ancient Britons who knew nothing of Bethlehem, like us, longed for the Spring. We hope very much that our respectful approach, one that aims not to dumb down Christmas to tinsel and gifts but celebrate and teach about it without promoting a particular religion, means that all can take part.

Just a few families choose to opt out of Christmas and we respect their wish and right to do so without reservation. We just ask that they let us know so teachers can ensure their children don't remain in class when Christmas stuff is happening. It would be really helpful too, as we will have planned for the learning taking place in class, if they could provide some alternative learning from home, perhaps some reading or from their faith.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 24th November 2020

i follow three rules: do the right thing, be the best you can, and always show people you care

Lou Holtz - Former American Football Player and Coach

Just like us, children behave differently at different times. Feeling upset, sad, cross, frustrated and lots of other kinds of emotions is a normal and healthy part of their life. Many children go through phases of testing boundaries, and they are likely to behave in ways that are harder to manage when they are tired, ill or stressed. It is normal for younger children to have tantrums sometimes, while older children may sometimes shout, storm out or lash out. For children, and adults, it can often seem that our whole life is dictated by rules. We are all currently waiting for the next set of ‘restrictions’ to let us know what we can and can’t do, what rules we need to follow. In assemblies this week, Ms Stewart and I have talked to the children about why we have rules and acknowledged that it can be hard to always follow these. I’m sure some of us are struggling ourselves with this at the moment.

Sometimes we mess up and some children like to push the boundaries and see what they can get away with! But how we treat children when they make these mistakes is really important. I really like the phrase ‘Be curious, not furious’ as often your child's behaviour is a communication about how they’re feeling. When your child is having difficulty, following the rules, it can be useful to think of an iceberg. The difficult behaviour is the tip, but there are likely to be a range of emotions hidden under the surface.

Children need and respond well to high boundaries but these need to be delivered with high warmth. This style of parenting is called Authoritative parenting and it is where adults set firm boundaries but they also take the time to explain why. Research shows that parents who create an environment with firm rules and consistent consequences generally tend to raise children who understand what rules are and why they’re in place. If a child breaks a rule, they understand that it’s their decision and are prepared for the resulting consequence. Discipline should not be seen as giving children punishments, as a punishment is punitive in nature and involves little communication between parent and child. In contrast, discipline is educational in nature. It involves open and direct communication between the parent and child.

By opening up a conversation with your child, you can find out more about how they’re feeling and what’s going on for them.

  • It’s important to make it clear that the behaviour is the problem, and not them and let them know it’s okay to feel sad, angry or worried but that you can work together to try and find new ways of managing these feelings.

  • Explain to your child why the behaviour is not okay and how it may have impacted on someone else.

  • Being a curious parent will help you gather an understanding of your child’s behaviour, which in turn will help with acceptance. Try using questions that will demonstrate curiosity such as “I wonder why….”, or “What do you think was happening to make you do that?”.

  • Reassure them that you love them and want to help them feel happier and enjoy things again.

Children need boundaries—without them they might lose their way. They need clear rules and consistent consequences. But they need them to be delivered with love, understanding and kindness. Talking about the reasons for both rules and consequences helps children understand why they need to follow rules.

Children eventually grow up and leave the nest and to adequately prepare them for life as an adult, children need to have a solid understanding of rules and consequences. Because that’s how society works. Out in the world, those rules become laws. And everyone knows they come with serious consequences. Children who have a solid understanding of these life fundamentals will have a good chance at successfully negotiating the wonderful challenges and opportunities that life presents every day.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 23rd November 2020

Told Off!

Punishment, Restoration and the most interesting thing about an ABC? The D!

Firstly I hope you have noticed 'Space Flower' that has landed in front of the school today. Artist Joanne Callaghan has been siting her piece and it will be joined soon by 'Astro Pod' and 'Pollen Bomb'. With art galleries closed it is a real honour and privilege for the Art to come to us. Kingsmead Sculpture Park will enhance our environment and we hope children and adults alike will enjoy being up close to some original art works. In assembly I talked about the work and how it is not for touching or climbing on. And if people are climbing on it, they will be told to get off, which leads conveniently into to 'telling off'!

Assembly today asked children to think about what 'telling off' is. Of course none of us likes having our behaviour challenged and children often think it is unfair when they are told to stop doing something. Our website has a page dedicated to behaviour principles and our policy for supporting pupils' social and emotional development can be found on the policy page.

We reflected how each family is different: some live with with two parents others one; some live with their adoptive or foster parents, others with their birth parent or parents; some in small households and others have extended family living together under one roof. Not good or bad, just interesting. As we all live in different families, each one has slightly different rules and routines: bedtimes, meals, what children are allowed to do. Again, not good or bad, just interesting.

School is like a very large family; the adults here take over from their parents and carers at home, this is called 'loco parentis'. As children learn that different rules may apply at their grandparents' house or at a friends place, so they need to learn the ways of being here in school. And just like your family, we in school have our ways of doing things. Our family is diverse with members of different shapes, colours and sizes, our family members speak different languages their beliefs and backgrounds differ too. Now and then this can challenge some children's willingness to let everyone join in, to be useful and kind unlimited. In our school family we ask our children to not only tolerate but to value others and, not in spite of their difference but because of them.

Most adults are 'told off' or have their behaviour challenged a lot less than they did as a child. I wonder if this is less to do with adults being more powerful and more to do with them having learned, through the discomfort of childhood tellings, to self-regulate better, to be more pro-social. Whatever you like to call it: a telling off, not following instructions, inappropriate, we will challenge children's behaviour for one of two reasons:

  1. Safety - behaviour that risks harm to themselves, other people or the environment

  2. Anti-social - behaviour that is not helpful, it may be unkind or prevent other children, and indeed their staff, from learning and working as well as they might.

We challenge children's unsafe or anti-social behaviour to keep everyone safe and also because we want all our children to grow up well, to be the useful and kind citizens their families, school and our society need.

Most unsafe and anti-social behaviour is managed well, informally in class. However some is deemed outside of usual class misdemeanours and this results in an ABC. I have heard some interesting things about ABCs lately, 'fake news' that has failed the fact check so I though it a good idea to bring some clarity. An ABC is an internal record of a conversation. It links to a restorative approach. Contrary to some fake news doing the rounds, no one gets expelled for three ABCs (we'd be a much smaller school if that were so ;-). Nor do they get sent to the police, other schools or anyone else for that matter. They would not be shared outside of the school without informing and consulting with adults at home and, like any other record we keep, parents and carers have the right to see them (with any information relating to any other child redacted of course).

So why do we write them? I can tell you one thing. It's a much bigger workload for the adult than doshing out lines or detentions. But their value is greater; through talking and writing we and the children better reflect, learn from and remember. Adults can be fairer too. Adults will know if this is repeated behaviour or a first time mess up. Adults are better able to make an informed decision on whether to involve you at home. Parents and carers don't need to be bothered by us with every misdemeanour in school and children appreciate this too. Most children, when asked 'Do we need to talk to your folks at home or can we sort this out between ourselves?' not surprisingly tend to opt for 'I think we can sort it out between ourselves, Miss.' ! We'd record this so if it turned up again, 'Miss' would then know she would need to talk to parents or carers and ask for their support.

An ABC is not a 'punishment' like writing lines or detention. Punishment looks back with the child atoning or paying for wrongdoing. The focus is on what they did wrong. We are not so much interested in paying children back as in them becoming usefuller, kinder and readier to learn. We will then then enjoy a happier future - together. The ABC helps children and adults reflect on an event and consider better ways of being. And the most interesting bit, why I like them, is... the D!

A (antecedent) would tell us what happened before and give a context.

B (behaviour) would tell us the behaviour looks like

C (consequence) How did other people and the child feel? Did it take time out of learning or playtime to get things sorted? The impact of the behaviour on people is far more important than any punishment or sanction.

D (desired alternative). This is where the child, perhaps aided by the adult, articulates what might have been, a positive, pro-social alternative for a more successful outcome.

That's why I prefer ABCs (plus the D) to any punishment; they look forward to a more useful and kind future, the best your child can be. I hope that sharing this information might dispel some of the fake news to Facebook or wherever it is hanging about at the moment and reassure you that, like nurture and warmth, expectations and discipline are also part of caring for each and every child in school, just as they are at home.

Happy Monday,

Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 19th November 2020


Franklin Roosevelt U.S. President

In assemblies this week, Ms Stewart and I have been talking to the children about anti-bullying week. The theme this year is about being ‘united against bullying’ and this year, more than ever, we have seen the power that a society can have when they come together to tackle a common challenge. Families have been ‘united’ with simple pleasures in life being rediscovered - family walks became a precious time of the day that everyone looked forward to, something many families may never have enjoyed before. Neighbours became more ‘united’, taking time to chat to someone who they hadn’t had the time to before. Communities have come together to make sure everyone has their shopping, key workers continue to work despite the risk to their and their loved ones lives and people have endured a solitary lockdown to try and save others. Communities have worked together to be ‘united’.

Historian Richard Polenberg believes: ‘To a large extent, participation in a common cause tends to enhance feelings of comradeship and well-being.’

We see this at school, when children work together to stand up and speak out when they see unkind behaviour. It is really hard and often scary to be the one to speak out but when children do they feel a real sense of pride for doing the right thing and it also encourages others to make that same stance the next time. A bystander is someone who sees bullying happening and chooses to react by laughing, giggling, pointing, staring, doing nothing, whispering to other people about it and/or gossiping about it. Very often bystanders don’t know what to do. They’re afraid of retaliation or fear that their own group will exclude them for helping an outsider.

The impact of someone intervening to stop bad behaviour or to support a target of it, can be profound and positive. So we are encouraging the children to be ‘upstanders’ not ‘bystanders’. There is strength in numbers. Every school and every community has more caring childen than children who engaging in bullying behaviour.

If we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. We need to be ‘united’ to be empowered to speak out against bullying. We can encourage our children to: tell the bully to stop; help the victim; tell an adult who can help; notice if someone is being isolated; and be leaders in their social group, helping others to recognise ways to get along and be supportive to others.

If children are able to implement these actions in school they will help create a culture that doesn’t tolerate poor behaviour and where everyone works together to stamp on it when it occurs. And that is something that everyone wants.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 16th November 2020

anti-bullying week (again)

A bit like Oxfam, Save the Children and UNICEF, the Anti Bullying Alliance doubtless look forward to the day they are all made redundant. A day when their work is done, when their zombie websites languish in cyber-space, unsearched for on Google. Well, we are far from there and I expect, human nature (the good, the bad and the interesting parts) probably mean organisations working for fairness, kindness and caring for ourselves, others and our environment will be kept busy for the foreseeable future.

Like Black History, Gypsy/Traveller History and LGBT History months, organisers of events like Anti-Bullying Week look forward to when the contribution of everyone is valued and we no longer need a special week or month to be reminded.

Bullying is something we talk a fair bit about in school and in November, more so in line with the National Anti Bullying Week where schools, colleges and workplaces are more mindful of this part of human nature, and the flipside of human nature: our bravery, courage and ability to speak truth to power (bullying involves an imbalance of power), to stand up for what is right. The theme of Anti Bullying Week this year is "United Against Bullying" and this will be the theme in assemblies and discussions with children. Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jnr said, speaking of racial prejudice in the United States said

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies ... but the silence of our friends."

It is hard to stand up for a victim of bullying: to challenge the group, friends, a powerful, popular or unpredictable classmate. But being hard doesn't make it something we won't expect (like division in maths, it's hard but we still expect you to learn). Psychology tells us that in academic learning, finding something difficult means we have to think harder. Difficulty actually helps us learn and remember more deeply; it is no different with social learning. Of course no one expects children to actively stand up to anyone in a way that puts themselves at risk of harm. Passive ways of standing up to bullying can be just as effective, especially when we are frightened of someone. Adults might call the police or seek help, children might tell an adult, walk away, or ask the victim to come along with them. What is not acceptable is standing by, if you 'don't take sides' when there is bullying you are standing with the imbalance of power, you stand with the bully. Bishop Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape Town during South Africa's apartheid years put it brilliantly:

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen to stand with the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of the mouse, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

When children take courage and stand up for what is right, they become better and stronger people; their self esteem is raised and they earn respect from their peers more and feel safe to be with them. They do something else too, something really important: they teach and model for everyone better ways of being. All children might bully at some time or other in their young lives. In KS2 assembly there was an opportunity to think about what happens when people are unkind to others. How should we treat them? No one learned to be kind by being isolated or ignored and so when people make amends and apologise, we all have a responsibility to accept their apology and welcome them back in. The other person has a responsibility too: to not repeat the same unkind behaviour, to be the best of themselves in future.

Children's characters, which will still be being formed into their mid-twenties (and harder to change afterwards) will be more pro-social; they will become more useful, more kind, unlimited. 'Unlimited' means we don't pick and choose who we treat well - our usefulness and kindness is for everyone. And if we really are united against bullying, as we are asking everyone to be, no one will have to do it on their own.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Our website Behaviour Principles page has information on the high expectations we have for members of our Kingsmead community.

Thursday Thought - 12th November 2020


Suzy Kassem - American writer, poet, philosopher

Yesterday we all stood together to remember the sacrifices people have made during wars. We paid tribute to the men, women and animals who have served to defend our nation and secure our freedom. Standing out on the school field yesterday, I felt proud, as we all stood together, united in our gratitude to the people who had the courage to fight for peace.

Standing up for what you believe can be difficult at times. Sometimes children might find standing up for what they believe in easy when it’s for their own benefit but more tricky when they don’t perceive the benefit to themselves.

In school we teach the children to not be passive bystanders when they see or hear something they know is wrong, but to stand with the victim of the injustice and take constructive action. It’s natural to feel nervous about ‘sticking up for’ or defending a person or even larger group and much easier to just blend into the background. But like anything it is just a skill that needs to be practised.

When standing up for something we believe in we need to ensure we are well informed on the subject matter, whatever side we are on. To be the most effective in conveying our message, we must always consider how the other person or the other side relates and where they get their logic from. Being empathetic allows us to improve our own views by expanding our ability to see past our own life and broaden our thoughts and emotions to the circumstances of others. To do this, we must be a listener, be open enough to imagine a life that we may never experience personally. Being empathetic is a choice. As hard as it may be, it can benefit how you stand up for what you believe in.

Acting with courage takes practice and doesn’t mean you are fearless. But we can often find courage by remembering our cause and who will be helped by it, thinking of the difference you are making. Winston Churchill said “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Always seek to understand another person’s views. It is really difficult to take a stand, and stand up for what you believe if you don’t really understand the other side or opposing perspective.

Our world can be so terribly turbulent at times, and even violent and with many humans looking away from so many of the indignities, cruelty and inhumane actions, it is up to each of us to take a stand. Speak up for others. Speak up for kindness and goodness.

Let us stand united in creating a world filled with acceptance, love, kindness and respect for differences so that we leave a legacy that our children and grandchildren will be proud of and most importantly that we lead a life that we can feel proud of for ourselves too.

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 9th November 2020

many coloured poppies - remembering together in our own ways

Mrs R-B led assembly today about the importance of remembrance and how remembrance poppies come in four different colours: red, white, black and purple. The different coloured poppies rather than dividing us, enable Remembrance Day to be fully inclusive with everyone able to join in and see and remember the 11th November through a slightly different lens. Remembrance Day is about remembering past wars to better understand the human cost of warfare - it is primarily an event that advocates peace. Those wishing to think of the service men and women who have died in war will mostly choose to remember with a red poppy, the one everyone knows best. People wearing white poppies are choosing to emphasise peace and the importance of avoiding war. A black poppy remembers those service men and women of colour who fought with us and died alongside white soldiers; not because they are more important to remember but because in the past their contribution has not been noticed or remembered as it should have been. The purple poppy remembers animal victims of war, from pigeons and dogs to the horses in Flanders in the First World War. I knew about the white and black poppies but the purple one was new to me. My uncle Basil rode a horse in battle during World War 1, listening to Mrs R-B made me wonder what happened to the horses he rode. People who get into petty arguments about one poppy being better than another miss the point. The Royal British Legion welcome poppies of all colours because the important thing is that we remember, together in our different ways. In remembering the cost of war we can better imagine the future those who died fought for.

We have just celebrated bonfire night but lighting fires and gathering together before the winter sets in has been part of life in Northern Europe since pagan times and well before Guy Fawkes (a relatively modern twist to an Autumn bonfire). This Saturday is Diwali, the Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness. On 10th December Jewish people will be celebrating their festival of light, Hanuka. Later in December Christians and people of all faiths and none will enjoy the lights of Christmas for the Christian festival where believers describe the baby Jesus as the 'light of the world'.

Children notice difference at a young age. They will be interested, curious and intrigued by others who think, look or practice differently to their home, or suspicious and fearful. They will take their lead from the adults they trust. This is why celebrating not only diversity but also making explicit links and connections across culture has always been and always will be, an important part of education at Kingsmead.

Thinking of November 11th, November 14th, December 10th and December 25th I am minded of the words of MP Jo Cox in her maiden speech to parliament. An MP who was prepared to work closely with politicians from all political parties, she always spoke up against the division that can turn to hatred and I leave you with her words:

'We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than that which divides us'.

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 5th November 2020


Henry Kirke White - English Poet

As we go into another national lockdown, never has there been a better time for us to be more ‘sanguine’. In assembly this week, Ms Stewart talked to the children about a difficult situation a past pupil had been in and how he had dealt with this had taught him a lot about being more sanguine and sometimes having to accept that life can be tough.

I know in my house I often heard the phrase ‘That’s not fair’, well no one ever promised that life would be fair. In fact, life is often unfair and our ability to accept that life isn’t meant to be fair can go a long way when it comes to getting us through tough situations in life.

We all want the best for our children and often shower them with praise at every opportunity but perhaps we should stop telling children how wonderful they are and instead teach them to accept life’s injustices and help them become resilient adults. I certainly don’t mean that we should just ‘throw them to the wolves’ and tell them to get on with it, but maybe there are times when we can be over-empathetic. Some parents want to be their children’s friends, which is fine, but insufficient. We also have to be their parents, too, and that means making them do things they don’t want to do and, more crucially, exposing them, sooner or later, to truths that they won’t find comfortable.

Life can be difficult and even disappointing at times. The shock of this may account for the emergence of the “snowflake” generation and the fact that adolescent mental illness is going through the roof. The roots of this fragility run deep in modern culture. To help combat it, we need to take a Buddhist approach to the world. “Life is wonderful, you’re special, and if you are a good boy/girl, life will be amazing for ever” is not a message designed to aid bouncing back from failure or confronting catastrophe. Buddhists believe that life is both endless and subject to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. It is impermanent because no state, good or bad, lasts forever. Our mistaken belief that things can last is a chief cause of suffering.

This doesn’t mean that we should be telling our children that life is terrible because life can be wonderful, when it’s wonderful. We just need to make it clear to our children that life isn’t always going to be fair. There is the unfairness of genes, of poverty, of looks, of health, of accident. The world we are born into is incurably skewed and accepting this can go a long way to getting us through life’s tough situations.

We need to teach our children to acknowledge these difficult situations and face them head on. We can talk to our children about how they might deal with the situation and even if they can’t fix it, develop a plan to cope with it. We need them to know it’s ok to ask for help and support, as this is a sign of strength and courage. Encourage the children to think about what they can change and that just changing the way they view a situation, can lead long term to creating a change. Some things though we just can’t change and spending too much time wishing and thinking things were different won’t do any good, so instead we could encourage our children to accept that the situation is unfair or tough. And just because children can acknowledge when something is unfair, doesn’t mean it won't hurt, so we need to help them cope with those difficult feelings. Dealing with sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment is tough. However, let’s also teach children that something good can often come out of a bad situation. Try to focus on what they might have gained and view it as a learning experience that will help them in some way in later life.

When facing a difficult situation we can: accept what’s happening, see the positive, and be optimistic; or fight against it, be miserable, and struggle against the universe. Part of the real beauty of life is that it’s unpredictable and life will bring many challenges. We need to encourage our children to start cultivating acceptance in their lives so they can cope with future crises in a different way and view them from a different perspective.

Mrs RB

Thursday Thought - 22nd October 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 19th October 2020

you can control nothing but your thoughts

Bebasish Mridra - Physician, Philosopher, Poet and Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 15th October 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 12th October 2020

world mental health day and showing racism the red card

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

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

  1. by talking about it and

  2. by thinking about and helping someone else.

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 8th October 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 5th October 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday

Mrs RB

Thursday Thought - 1st October 2020

The naked truth is always better than the best dressed lies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 28th September 2020

being honest and truthful

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 24th September 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try to:

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

  • Use open body language to connect with the speaker

  • Repeat back the message that is being expressed

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

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

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 21st September 2020

listen up!

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thought - 17th September 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs RB

Monday Message - 14th September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday :-) Ms S

Thursday Thought - 10th September 2020

FACT, OPINION, MYTH - covid information

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

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

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

FACTS from the June data shared by Dr Butler yesterday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thursday, Ms S :-)

Monday Message - 7th September 2020

Working hard and enjoying success

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

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

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

Happy Monday, Ms S :-)

Thursday Thoughts - 3rd September 2020

reflections on returning

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

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

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

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

Happy Thursday, Ms S :-)