I do hope you enjoyed the VE Day celebrations last Friday, despite the difficulties surrounding social distancing. We had planned to mark this event in school until the enforced school closure took hold. A week on from the last time I wrote and we are still no more the wiser as to when the current situation will end. We will be anxiously watching Boris Johnson’s announcement this evening for more news. However, in spite of this announcement, no matter how long the current situation continues, hopefully the celebration and reflection of the last few days will all support us to move forward – there are many lessons which we can take from the great war effort.
Let’s start with the art of perseverance – one of our school words. I am so proud of all our children and families for how they are coping with the current situation – not one single person will tell you that this situation is easy – it is incredibly difficult. Painful in fact. In my welfare calls to parents this week, it has been great to hear how each individual family is effectively managing the current situation and what they have been doing to get through. There is no right or wrong way and not one single person will say it has been ‘plain sailing’ but we are not giving up and we keep on going until we know more. This level of determination is exactly what we wish to foster in all of our children around school – whether it is coping with Power Maths, writing that extended piece of writing that a teacher has asked for or simply getting through the day without seeing Mummy or Daddy. Perseverance was a quality held by everybody during the war.
As I did my daily bout of exercise last Friday, I saw many families and neighbours gathered at the end of their gardens, surrounded by red, white and blue bunting, union flags a-plenty and the presence of those who they love the most. One of the blessings with this current lock-down is the time it has afforded us with the people who matter. During the war, families had to make the most of the time they had together, make the most of what they had and be thankful for the simple things. Let’s remember – many families didn’t see their loved ones for such a long time as they went off to defend the country or to contribute to the war effort. Some children had to be evacuated from where they lived and go to another school – where they didn’t know anybody. I speak from myself when I say that sometimes today, we can be plainly dedicated to the quest of finding our ‘ideal’ or a level of perfection that doesn’t exist. We strive and we aim high, we want better than the best – an admirable quality that is handy to hold at times as it means we don’t get complacent. However, it can be quite easy to forget everything that there is to be thankful for at the same time and to appreciate just how lucky we all are. Sometimes the green grass of home is more than good enough and we don’t realise this until we’re away. Jayney (Terrific Turtles) knows that one of my favourite sayings is; ‘The grass is as green as you make it!’
Let’s not forget just how adaptable and how flexible everybody who lived through wartime had to be. Take many of our Grandparents and Great Grandparents. Maybe they had to be evacuated to another place in the war? Maybe they had to be away from the people they loved – not knowing when they would see others again. And every citizen had to adapt – even our wartime leader, Winston Churchill, and the King. The approach to the war effort kept changing, as did the strategy, many things didn’t go to plan and our leaders didn’t get everything right as is often the impression. However, it is often reported how well they responded to every challenge that was presented, showing real resolve and courage to face things head-on and get through it all. Adapting is something we are all going to have to do more of, as the time goes on. Whether it is staying in lock-down for a bit longer or coming out of the lock-down and returning back to school after such a long time away. Getting used to being away from our parents, getting used to sitting down in a lesson for an hour at a time, re-establishing relationships with our teachers and seeing our friends again. Covid-19 is a ‘moving target’ and the situation is evolving daily – such is our response to it all.
Speaking of evolving – the same can be said about resources that have been communicated for use by the children at home. One of our challenges at this time, has been ensuring that all children have the capacity to continue some learning at home and that we can provide some access to useful materials for the time they are away. It is true that many Primary Schools were simply not set up for home-education and we were unfortunately in this position ourselves. We have been trying since the Easter break, to secure access to our Power Maths resources for parents and children at home. Frustratingly, until today, Power Maths didn’t have these resources available and we had advised Primary Oak Academy or White Rose as a suitable maths resource to be used at home. Sure – many of you could buy the exact same Power Maths books that we use in school excluding the lesson plans, guidance, physical apparatus and online teaching materials, but we would never advocate this and a home-edition of Power Maths – written specifically for out of the classroom use, away from teachers, hasn’t been available. Well, I am happy to report that this morning, Mrs Weston and I received a notification that Power Maths have finally launched their summer lock-down editions of workbooks. Next week, we will be emailing every parent with a link to the relevant Power Maths Home Edition for their child’s year group. Please make sure you check your inbox in the next few days! Each Power Maths Home Edition workbook will have a contents page, split into weeks and we would advise all children to take a week’s learning ( 4 lessons) at a time. This leaves one day left each week for either Primary Oak Academy or TT Rockstars – much like we have in school. Power Maths replaces our suggested use of White Rose. All topics covered in the Power Maths workbooks are a consolidation of what the children learned prior to the enforced closure of March 20th so they are specially written for this current period. It will mean that every child can practise what they have already been taught and not lose the Power Maths habit. All activity pages can be printed out too. Given that this resource has only been made available TODAY – we’d ask all parents to bear with us. Aside from sending you an email with the relevant link, we will also be amending the suggested timetable for home-learning, replacing White Rose with Power Maths. We very much advocate focusing on Power Maths moving forward as this is what the children are used to and what they’ll be using in next year also.
Focusing for when the children do come back into school, I have had quite a few questions from parents about what will happen and it is quite understandable given the situation. In keeping with what I said above, we are all going to have to take the time to adjust and adapt when the children return. It is going to take time for things to go back to how they were. Last week, Mrs Weston, Mrs Smith and I met to discuss some of the approaches that we may take, when our children do eventually come back in. Whilst we have yet to be given any concrete information on a return date – and this may change by this evening – the three of us talked about which areas of learning would need to be prioritised in English and in maths, to account for the time away from the classroom. Often the areas of maths with the most importance placed upon them are place value, calculation and number. Reading and comprehension was cited as a huge priority for English also. Last week I had a look at just how many children had logged onto our new reading program – Bug Club. I found that a total of 29 children have not yet logged on. This may mean that other reading is going on in the home of course but one needs to be mindful just how important the art of reading is in breaking down deprivation barriers and enhancing the writing of our ‘middle achievers.’
Our leadership team also talked about how we could support every child’s emotions and mental well-being on their return. What we would do first thing in a morning for instance so children ‘looked forward’ to coming in after being at home for so long. We explored the changes that we might make to the school day so life at school is suddenly more manageable and how this would taper up to the old ‘normal’. We ‘touched’ upon lunchtimes also and whether they’d need to be some role-modeling by older pupils or a ‘buddy’ system. At my Governor Finance meeting last Thursday evening, we looked at our school budget and how this could be carefully calibrated in response to Covid-19. Our move to have 5 full time classes instead of 4 (3 single year group KS1 classes) next year is certainly going to help but we also talked about the setting up of a Nurture Group. Whatever the situation, please keep the faith in us – you know that we will do what we can and we always take a pragmatic approach.
It has been great to see many Year 1 and 2 children beginning to upload photos and videos onto Tapestry in the coming days. Again, in the spirit of evolution, this is something that parents requested a few weeks ago. Although the content and usage of Tapestry is bound to vary in these year groups, compared to EYFS where the curriculum is very different, it now means that we can see all the wonderful things that our Year 1 and Year 2 children are getting up to at home. On the subject of Tapestry (or Bug Club in fact) should you wish to know how to log on and how to use these programs, Mrs Cresswell added a page under the ‘Parents’ tab on the school website last week. It has guidance for how to use both online platforms and is there if you are unsure.
Thank you to the 4 families who contacted the Learning Support email last week, requesting tailored activities for their children on the SEND register. Please remember to let us know if you need something more tailored to help your child meet the targets on their SEND Learning Passport.
This week in school, I am busy with recruitment. On Monday and Tuesday, myself and our governors will be shortlisting for our KS1 teacher vacancy and also a job-share partner for Mrs Smith. We are also looking appoint a permanent teacher for KS2 Maths every morning. We’ve had a great many applications for these positions and we are keen to get yet another member of staff who fully embraces our school vision and ethos. It is so essential that we find the ‘right fit’ for our school after working so hard to build a great team of staff in recent times. Every staff member that we appoint must hold our values – supporting families, being kind to each other and being pragmatic to the needs of every individual child. We will of course let you know who have been appointed in the coming weeks.
Finally, I am going to be starting work on our plans for transition come September. We are interested in getting another booklet made – a social story for the children – to support the jump from EYFS to Year, Year 2 to Year 3 and then Year 5 to Year 6. We hope to outline the changes that will occur in the new year groups and what this means for parents also. I am going to be asking a few parents to help us out on this and to provide their thoughts on what information could be usefully shared at each transition point. Please keep an eye out for an announcement on this next week.
Have a great week ahead – please remember to stay positive and look to last Friday’s VE celebrations. There is so much to take from 1945 and all that!
P.E.A.C.E. be with you!