Hill West Primary School Issue 10, February 2014
Pedagogical Newsletter – February 2014 Parent Questionnaire Findings Thank you for recently completing our parent questionnaire. As a consequence we have been considering how we can better share your child’s strengths and weaknesses with you. We have decided, after lengthy discussion with Parent Council, that we will invite you in at regular intervals for open evenings. You can come along with your child to look at and celebrate their work. The first one will be held on Wednesday 7th May 3.30pm – 6.00pm
In this issue: Parent Questionnaire Findings Changes to SEN Parent View Governance Ofsted – no prescribed style Redefining Homework Working Memory Parent Consultations Infant Free School Meals
Changes to SEN The Government are proposing to replace the current special educational needs (SEN) Code of Practice categories of School Action and School Action Plus with a new single early years and school-based SEN category, providing clear guidance to settings and schools on the appropriate identification of pupils with SEN. These changes will be set out in the new SEN Code of Practice to be published sometime this year. This will not change the Legislative duties on schools to use best endeavours to secure special educational
provision, to have an SEN coordinator, to notify parents of such provision or to publish information on how it is implementing its policy on SEN and Disability. The Government believe that nationally the current system with two categories can lead to children being unnecessarily labelled as having SEN. For example, at the end of KS2 nationally, August-born pupils are 60% more likely to be identified as having SEN than September – born pupils. At Hill West we track the progress of our summerborn pupils carefully and take account of their age.
Parent View Reminders: We break up for half term on Friday 14th February. Mrs Pardo will then begin her maternity leave Letters / Emails offering Reception places issued on 16th April. Places must be accepted by 2nd May
In more recent pedagogical newsletters I asked parents to access Parent View to register their thoughts about our school. We would really appreciate it if you could spare the time to complete this survey. So far 28 people have responded with their views. Parent View was launched in October 2011 and includes 12 multiple-choice questions. It is used by Ofsted prior to their inspection to gather your views about our school. Our inspection is due at some stage this
academic year. With only one afternoon’s notice, it is likely that some of you will be busy on the evening preceding any inspection and so completing it early is a sure way of them hearing about your views. We know that many of you think our school is fantastic (many more than 28) so please spare us 10 minutes to complete it in the comfort of your own homes. www.ofsted.gov.uk/schools/forschools/parent-view/parent-view
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Glossary of Terms Pedagogy – the craft of teaching
Parent view – gives parents the chance to tell Ofsted what they think about their school
SEN – Special Educational Needs
Ofsted – the
Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills
Multi-academy trusts or MATs are an increasingly common part of the school landscape. By summer 2013 the Department for Education reported that across England 1,235 academies were part of 391 MATs. They are a legal entity, with a corporate governing body usually led by a chief executive governing all schools in the group or chain. There are many benefits to converting to an academy as part of a MAT. MATs can provide schools with unique professional development opportunities and access to work in other schools across the partnership; a chance to share support services reducing overall costs. As you know we are part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership and Academy Trust. We joined the Trust as a convertor academy in April 2013 and the trust consists of six schools; four primaries and two secondary schools. In our case the Trust Board is made up of seven directors plus the Chairs of Governors at each of the schools. The Trust Board and the individual school governing bodies (our Local Governing Body) have separate but complementary remits. The focus of each school’s Local Governing Body (LGB) is on teaching and learning, achievement and progress and our school curriculum. The Trust Board has an overarching strategic focus which includes staffing, finance, premises and health and safety. There are many elements of our work such as policy, procedures and processes that are common across all six schools and so this is the best forum for discussing these. The Department for Education has just published (January 2014) The School Governance Regulations 2013 that clearly defines the remit of ‘the board of governors’. It clearly states that the board should avoid its time being consumed with issues of secondary importance, and focus strongly on three core functions
Setting the vision and strategic direction of the school; Holding the headteacher to account for its educational performance and Ensuring financial resources are well spent.
Our LGB is now ably supported in these functions by the Trust board that is working to support and challenge the six schools in our partnership. TES – Times Educational Supplement
INFANT – Reception, Year 1 and Year 2
Ofsted: No prescribed Teaching Style Ofsted have recently revised their framework for judging the quality of teaching and teachers are no longer to be judged against a prescriptive style. “Inspectors must not give the impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style” the new guidance states. For example they should not criticise teacher talk for being overlong or bemoan a lack of opportunity for different activities in lessons unless there is unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time. Ofsted were keen to point out that it is unrealistic too, for inspectors to necessarily expect that all
work in all lessons is always matched to the specific needs of each individual. Neither should inspectors expect to see independent learning in all lessons, making the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable. The guidance also advises inspectors not to focus on lesson structure at the expense of its content or the wide range of other evidence about how well children are learning in the school. At Hill West we welcome these new recommendations as we believe that teaching is not a prescriptive doctrine; it should not always be made up of 3 part lessons that each last an hour. Teaching and learning at Hill West takes many forms but is always based on the needs of the learners and the context of the learning.
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Working Memory Poor working memory skills are relatively commonplace in childhood, and have a substantial impact on children’s learning. Working memory is a term that is widely used to refer to a memory system that provides a kind of mental jotting pad storing information necessary for everyday activities such as remembering telephone numbers, following directions and instructions, and keeping track of shopping list items while in the supermarket. Working memory has two properties that are extremely important for a child trying to learn in school. First, it is limited in capacity: there is only so much information that can be held in working memory, and it is rapidly lost when our attention is turned away from it either due to an unrelated thought springing to mind or through an external distraction. Moreover, there is substantial variation in working memory capacity between individuals, with some children and adults able to store much less information than others. Second, overload or distraction leads to complete and catastrophic loss of information from working memory. This mental workspace is therefore not only useful and flexible, but also very fragile. Most children who fall in the lowest 10% in terms of their working memory appear to be inattentive, have short attention spans, experience problems following instructions and make slow academic progress in reading and maths (Susan, E. Gathercole, 2008).
Redefining Homework In a recent article by Jon Severs (December 2013) he points to an article published in the TES in January 1929 about homework. He suggested that this 1929 article would sit comfortably in the pages of the TES today, nearly 85 years on. This is because we seem to be “putting homework on trial with the same defence and prosecution arguments that have always been used”. Susan Hallam, professor of education at the University of London’s Institute of Education suggests that educationalists and researchers rarely take into account the quality and type of homework set when assessing its effectiveness. Hallam suggests that rather than ask whether homework is effective, a better question would be: What does effective homework look like? To find the answer it is necessary first to define what homework is. Hallam’s definition of homework is “any work set by the school which is undertaken out of school hours for which the learners takes the primary responsibility”. But it is also important to ask what homework is for? Hallam suggests its purpose is to promote academic learning and family communication. For us at Hill West, this last point is of fundamental importance. We see homework as an opportunity to share learning together with family members. For us it is a special time when parent / carer and child can work together to consolidate and accelerate progress. We have worked hard at Hill West to get our homework right for all leaners. In a recent survey the vast majority of our children (+90%) said they were proud of their home learning and they enjoy completing it. Many thanks go to our parents who support our policy at home.
These will take place during the week th commencing Monday 10 March. Evening appointments will take place on the Monday and Tuesday evening that week.
Universal Infant Free School Meals As you may be aware, there are important changes on the way for school lunch provision in schools in England. The Government has announced that, from September 2014, every child in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, in state-funded schools, will be offered a free school lunch. This follows a recommendation in the School Food Plan, an independent review published in July 2013, which aims to bring about a significant increase in the numbers of children eating good food in schools. This has obvious implications for all schools with infant classes and means we need to prepare for the logistical challenges associated with feeding more children. We are therefore already beginning to consider the implications of this policy not only at a leadership team level within school but also with our Parent Council and Local Governing Body. Potentially the introduction of free school meals for infants may result in a greater take-up of school meals in other year groups too. We need to be prepared for every eventuality. We will of course update you when decisions are reached and our early considerations are exploring a number of options including a staggered lunch for KS1 and KS2.