Friday 22nd September 2017
I woke up last Friday morning to the news that the Government were going to make even more changes to our assessment systems. We are constantly managing Governmental changes in school but I am pleased that this is happening because the current system has not been great.
There will always be some form of testing in primary schools as the Government needs to try and measure the impact of the funding that is given to us. Unfortunately the most important elements of primary education cannot be measured in this way. The Government only test what can be measured easily. We are constantly assessing and testing children in school and adjusting our teaching according to the outcomes of this assessment. The problems occur when this testing is published and this pressures the teachers and at times, the children.
I still worry about the impact on our children of this testing regime, especially when we are experiencing a significant increase in the number of children with mental health issues. We try to approach all external testing in a balanced and appropriate way and as a school we are focusing on improving the mental health of our children throughout the year.
We also believe that it is vital that we offer our children a balanced and relevant curriculum. Our children need to learn to read, write and compute but must experience and learn in the other subjects also – music, art, science, computing, DT, PE, history, geography and modern foreign languages. This is why we have a topic each term for our classes, many educational visits and visitors and our special days. An example of this is our DT day next week. Dyson and many other visitors will be working with our children for the whole day on scientific and technological projects. We have been really lucky that Dyson are travelling down to work with us – not many primary aged children will get this opportunity.
So, the main elements of change for the next few years are:
· there will be a slightly more flexible approach to assessing writing – we can take account of some specific issues the children might have and reflect this in the assessment (eg dyslexic tendencies, a significant spelling issue).
· from 2020 our reception children will be subject to a Government baseline assessment. This will not be a significant change for our children as Mrs McClelland does assess the children when they start with us. This data will a starting point from which the progress in school will be measured (eg how much progress have our children made from EYFS to year 6?).
· the KS1 SATs tests will be abolished from 2023.
· KS2 teacher assessment in reading and maths will not be required from 2019 onwards.
· an online multiplications tables check will be taken by our year 4 pupils from 2019. We do not think that this data will be published.
If any more changes are announced I will let you know and if you have any questions or concerns about how our children are assessed and tested please do pop in and see me or Mrs Loxton.
Friday 15th September 2017
The Carnival Committee approached us last term to ask if our children would like to take place in the carnival this year.
We were delighted to have been asked and each child has made a Mere School flag. They will be coming home with their flag tonight along with an invitation for them to take part in the carnival. Details are below:
We are really keen to support the carnival so it goes from strength to strength.
If you have any queries we can put you in touch with Mr Nick Beale.
Hope you have a great day.
Friday 9th September 2017
I don’t know how many times I have heard this holiday how lucky teachers are to have such long summer holidays. I have to agree that this is a positive aspect to the profession.
However, it is not until you live with a teacher that you understand that the 6 weeks of holiday is not quite what it says!
The teachers have to spend a lot of time finishing off the school year and making sure that everything is ready for the receiving teacher. They then have to start planning for the new academic year ensuring that no time is lost at the beginning of the new term and learning starts straight away.
There are also constant e.mails and queries to deal with when the school is closed.
Teaching is a very rewarding but exhausting profession. You have probably heard in the media this week that there are more teachers leaving ‘the trade’. It is essential that teachers have time to relax and ‘wind down’ after the academic year.
As a parent I used to find the T D days a real nuisance, particularly when organising childcare. A long time ago the Government took away a week of the school holiday so that 5 days could be allocated for training and as a result of this we now have the 5 TD days throughout the year. These days are extremely valuable for schools.
So, for people who do not have links to teaching I understand the comments about the school holidays. However, in reality things are quite different!
Thursday 20th July 2017
It is always good to end the year with some good news!
The results of our formal testing this year have been extremely good and I am using my Weekly Message to share this with you.
We were delighted that 80% of our children achieved success in the Phonics Screening test. Mrs Tavenner worked extremely hard with this group of children as our predictions had been much lower than this. This group of children made incredible progress.
Our KS1 SAT results combined with our teacher assessment showed a significant improvement on last year:
Writing – 68% at expected standard, 1% achieved greater depth
Reading – 79% at expected standard, 12% achieved greater depth
Maths – 82% at expected standard, 24% achieved greater depth.
Our KS2 SAT results were equally exciting!
Writing – 80% at expected standard, 16% achieved greater depth
Reading – 80% at expected standard, 28 % achieved greater depth
Maths – 88% at expected standard, 36% achieved greater depth.
These results are significantly higher compared to the national results last year. We anticipate that our progress scores will be very strong.
It is worth noting, however, that the majority of children who did not achieve the expected standard had attendance rates of lower than 95%.
I would like to congratulate the staff and children on such a good set of results. We aim, at Mere School, for our children to achieve high standards in English and maths but also to give the children a broad, balanced education.
The staff have met this week to discuss the outcomes and decide how we are going to work with every child to ensure even greater success next year.
Friday 14th July 2017
I thought I would make my Head Teacher message all about heath this week.
The Government will be offering the flu vaccination programme again for children in year 1, 2 and 3 (at the moment) and they plan to do this at our school on Thursday 7th December 2017.
This vaccination programme is in place to help protect your child against flu. Flu can be an unpleasant illness and sometimes causes serious complications. Vaccinating your child will also help protect more vulnerable friends and family by preventing the spread of flu. The vaccination is free and recommended for young children, and will be given by a quick and simple spray up the nose.
This vaccination is not compulsory and you will receive a consent form and a leaflet explaining the vaccination programme nearer the time.
This is also a good opportunity to remind parents to ensure that your child is up to date with important vaccinations which protect them against potentially serious infectious illnesses. It is particularly important that a children is up to date with their vaccinations before they start school as this is when they come into contact with many more children and potential sources of infection. There is lots of information on the NHS Choices website – just search ‘vaccination’ but if you are in doubt contact your GP to check your child is protected.
Friday 7th July 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed my Head Teacher lunch last week with a group of children – 2 children from each class (apart from Blue). I asked the children lots of questions and we chatted about what questions they might have about the school or how they think we could make our school better.
One of our year 6 girls asked a very sensible question. She asked why her parents have to pay for the Leaver’s Disco. This event is run independently to the school but I thought it would be worth me trying to talk about school trips and payment in general in my message to you.
We do try to make the curriculum exciting for our children, and this was identified as a feature of our school during our recent OFSTED inspection. Our teachers try to organise a visit every term for their classes and the vast majority of parents are delighted that we do. We do our best to keep costs to a minimum but unfortunately, as we are a rural school, transport costs are high. We are also extremely grateful to the generous members of our community who donate their time, premises and businesses for the benefit of our children.
If you read our ‘Charging Policy’ it does state that we ask for a ‘voluntary contribution’ towards our visits in school time (which support the curriculum). Unfortunately if we do not receive these contributions visits cannot take place. I would dearly love to pay for all of our trips out, as I believe they are very important, but we are in the middle of a school funding crisis and there are not enough pennies left, after we have paid staff and paid the running costs of the school.
Trips are regularly discussed at our Class Parent meetings and feedback from them is that our trips are highly valued by parents. This time last year they suggested we let parents know the likely costs for the coming year, which we do through the Welcome Letters. The children always talk about the wonderful visits they have experienced and they remember them for years to come.
Organising a trip is a huge task for a teacher. There are numerous risk assessments and a huge amount of paperwork and organisation to consider. Mrs Rawlings spends a lot of time in the office helping as well. However, because we believe these visits are so important to the education of our children we consider the work well worth it. The children look forward to their termly visits.
I am extremely grateful to the parents who spent the time giving us feedback and thanking the staff for these valuable, rich learning experiences. One mum found me at the Friend’s Fete on Saturday to tell me what an incredible experience Gold Class had had when they went to ‘Ready to Climb’ last week.
Mere School is a very special school and one of the key features of our success here is the fact that we are able to offer our children rich, exciting learning experiences. The OFSTED inspector commented on the outstanding attitudes to learning our children have. It is important that our children read, write and compute to a high standard but it would be a very sad day for us if we were not able to continue to deliver these unique experiences to our children which give them an all-round education so that they are well prepared for the future world that faces them.
Thank you all for continuing to support us with this.
Friday 30th June 2017
We had our final Class Parent meeting a couple of weeks ago and I have decided to use my Weekly Message to update you on what we discussed.
I started the meeting by thanking the whole group for working so closely with me. I find the meetings invaluable and any worries and concerns are discussed at this forum. I also use the opportunity to seek views from this group – the governors regularly ask me to consult them. There was a special thank you to Mr Nick Beale and Ms Sarah Cope. Their children are moving onto Gillingham School so will not be with us in September. Also a thank you to Mrs Louise Graddock who will not be continuing as a Class Parent next term.
We had a couple of issues arising from the last meeting:
KS1 Loos – the teachers spoke to their classes about appropriate conduct in the loos.
Active Tokens – Miss Beckwith is currently selecting things from the catalogue. Thank you to
Mrs Bella Guy for counting them for us.
Lost property – this is now put out on the last Friday on each term with a text reminder.
Life skills – it was decided that there was not enough room in the school curriculum for this
and it was felt that these responsibilities should be with the parents.
Representation for 2017/18 was finalised and will be as follows:
BLUE – to be decided
YELLOW – Mrs Sarah Elliott and Mrs Michelle Ings
SILVER – Mrs Steph Smith and Ms Chloe Parker
GOLD – Mrs Bella Guy and Mrs Emma Cummins
GREEN – Mrs Lynne Dimmock and Mrs Lisa Gray
RED – Mrs Sharen Jones and Mrs Claire Barton
PURPLE – Mr Simon Richardson and Mrs Pat Manning.
Frequency of meetings – it was decided that meetings would take place 3 times/term on a
· Concerns over the theatre trip to London were discussed.
· I confirmed that teachers would be remaining in their year groups in September 2017.
· Mr Rich will organise for the year 4 children to change separately from now on.
· Miss Beckwith will be organising a special assembly for all of our children about Pencelli.
· House PE t-shirts were discussed but it was decided that we would continue with the white ones.
· The school has been unable to appoint a Catering Manager so Mrs Corbett has agreed to stay in post until we have managed to fill this post.
· I will put a note in the newsletter about our Achievement Assembly.
· PE time in Red Class has been limited this term as the children completed so much of their PE curriculum when they were at Pencelli.
· Mrs Bella Guy will be organising a charity shoe collection at the end of term.
Our next meeting will be on Friday 13th October 2017 – please do let your Class Parent have any of your ideas.
Friday 23rd June 2017
Our new menu for September 2017 will be coming out very shortly. We are incredibly proud of our school kitchen and the delicious, nutritious meals that are available for our children.
Despite our best efforts we have, at present, been unable to appoint someone to replace Mrs Corbett as our Catering Manager and she has very kindly agreed to continue in her role until the governors have managed to fill this position.
Unfortunately we have had to increase the price of our meals from September to £2.00. I am sure you agree that this still represents extremely good value and our meals will still be significantly cheaper than most primary schools.
The administration around our school meals is very complicated and time consuming and as from September meals will have to be paid for when they are ordered. We will no longer be able to offer any credit – no money, no meal! Our ordering system remains the same – please place your child’s meal order by Friday before the week they would like the meals.
At the moment we will be continuing to provide a free school meal to our KS1 children (Blue, Yellow and Silver Classes). We are not sure how the Government plans to continue with this initiative but I will keep you up to date with any information we are given.
We hope, in the very near future, that parents will be able to pay electronically for their meals – watch this space!
Please do contact me with any concerns or queries.
Friday 16th June 2017
There has been much media attention over the last year regarding Leave of Absence (holidays in term time) where the term ‘regular’ has been considered at some lengths by the courts. On 6th April 2017 the Supreme Court released its judgement that the term ‘regular’ means ‘in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school’, ie to attend for all the sessions that the school is open.
The Local Authority is currently revising its position regarding Penalty Notices and will be informing us of their position on this ready for the new academic year (September 2017).
They have asked me to release the following information to parents:
“When a child is absent from school where this has not been authorised a parent/carer can be held accountable for an offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1966 – failure to secure the regular attendance at school of a child.
It is the responsibility of the head teacher to consider whether absences are authorised or not dependent upon the reason provided by the parent/carer. Therefore, if the school advises a parent/carer that unauthorised absence has accrued or that a Leave of Absence will be marked unauthorised there would be evidence of the child failing to attend school regularly.
Where there is evidence of unauthorised absence the school has a duty to notify the Local Authority for the consideration of the issuance of a Penalty Notice to each parent/carer.
As retrospective authorisation is not permitted for instances of Leave of Absence (holidays in term time) prior permission should be sought direct from the school prior to any Leave of Absence being taken.
There is no automatic right to authorised absence from school and it remains the responsibility of the head teacher to determine whether or not authorisation is permitted.”
As soon as I have clarification about the threshold for a Penalty Notice to be delivered I will let you know.
Friday 9th June 2017
Another valuable Class Parent meeting to report on!
Matters arising from the last meeting:
After some governor monitoring there was a suggestion that the school might set up an Internet Safety Forum. It was decided that any internet safety issues would come through this group rather than have a separate group.
The snack issue seems to have quietened down after 94% of parents and 94% of children were happy with our current provision.
We chatted about the following issues in our AOB section:
I am extremely grateful to this group of parents who liaise closely with their classes and come with such good ideas and feedback to these meeting.
We meet again on Friday 16th June 2017. Please do let your class parent know if you have anything you would like them to raise.
Friday 26th May 2017
I have decided to delay my Class Parent report to you until after half term. I would like to use my weekly message to talk about the dreadful attack at the Manchester Arena earlier this week.
The current threat level in the UK is critical and we will consider this when completing our risk assessment – particularly for out-of-school trips (our theatre visit to London especially). When we go to London we will undoubtedly see heightened security and we will speak to the children about this so that they are not frightened but reassured.
There is no specific guidance, at the moment, from the Government to schools but the London Borough of Havering offered the following advice for keeping children safe on school trips:
“In the event of a terrorist incident, it is likely that there will be road and transport closures, and this may lead to delays being able to return home. It will be sensible to ensure that the children have a bottle of water and a small snack in their bag in case of delays. There is no need to tell the children why, just way that they need to save it for the journey home.”
In the case of a major event we will keep you informed by text and alerts on the website.
The following are good resources for helping our children cope:
· BBC Newsround,
· Supporting Children Worrying about Terrorism (NSPCC),
· Responding to Children and Young People affected by the Media Coverage of the Incident in Manchester (Winston’s Wish),
· How to Explain the Horror of Terrorism to your Children (Telegraph).
We have no plans to cancel our trip to London at the moment, but we will be assessing the risk continually and taking advice from professionals.
The victims of this appalling tragedy are in our thoughts and prayers at all times. We must hold everyone dear to us tighter.
Friday 19th May 2017
The school and governing body are delighted to announce that Mr Jim Ashlin and Mrs Pat Manning will be our new parent governors, replacing Mr David Rich and Mr John Littlewood.
Jim has two children in the school – one in Silver Class and one in Yellow Class and currently works for the Royal Navy. Pat has one child in Red Class and another child who will be starting school with us shortly. Pat also brings a range of skills from publishing to book-keeping. We are thrilled that they will be working with us. Both will undergo a period of induction.
Please remember, if you would like to find out what our governors do, the website is the place to look. There are also copies of the meeting minutes for you to look at as well.
There will be other vacancies in the very near future. The governing body, in the longer term, is looking to recruit expertise in finance and law.
I would also like to use my weekly message to thank our governing body for all that they do for the school and our children. This group of volunteers support and challenge our school so effectively, for which I am extremely grateful.
Friday 12th May 2017
I know that you are all aware that we are currently running an election for 2 new parent governors at Mere School and we spent some time at our meeting this week discussing the issue of governor recruitment. Mr John Littlewood has emigrated and Mr David Rich’s governor designation has changed. I would like to thank John for the support and help he has given to our school.
There will be quite a change in September in our governing body as 2 of our long serving governors have children moving on to Gillingham School. We will be looking to co-opt governors from the community also.
So … if you are interested, or know of anyone who might be interested, in being a governor, please could you let Mr Jordan or myself know. As Mr Jordan said in his letter – “Please don’t think that you do not have the expertise; the governing body work together to train ourselves better to help the school. What we need are parents with the desire to help Mere School be a place where children enjoy, learn and achieve.”
The school is run on a daily basis by the staff and is guided by the governing body. Governors work with the staff team to keep the school developing and improving. I’m afraid there is no financial benefit but there is the pleasure of knowing you are helping your children, and the children of Mere School. There will be some work to do – attending meetings, reading papers, meeting with staff etc and you will learn new things and sometimes there are difficult decisions to be made, but I can promise you the work is satisfying.
If you would like to know more please do pop in and see me or contact John – email@example.com
Friday 5th May 2017
We were very upset to receive the news at the beginning of term that Mrs Corbett has resigned from her post with us as Catering Manager.
Mrs Corbett is not sure what she is going to do in September but needs time to consider different career options and we all respect and understand her decision – even though we are very sorry! She has very kindly given the Governors a whole term’s notice to advertise and appoint a suitable candidate.
Mrs Corbett has developed our catering department while she has been with us and she, and her team, have produced delicious, home-cooked, high quality meals for our children. She also caters for 2 other schools and we have a waiting list of local schools who would like her to cook for them also.
Preparing our lunches has only been part of the job though. Mrs Corbett has catered for staff and the Local Authority during courses/TD days, created special menus for the special days we have in school, produced thousands of cakes for various events, worked with the School Council to perfect our Christmas lunch arrangements, provided breakfast during SATs week and resourced our KS2 snack trolley. She has done this with good humour and enthusiasm – even when times are challenging.
On behalf of the whole school community I would like to thank her. This post is going to be very difficult to fill.
We will be advertising the post shortly in the Blackmorevale Magazine. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please could you pop into the office to get an application pack.
Friday 28th April 2017
The Friends have again been busy during the holidays. The new quiet area has been completed with the seating. We are now going to let the children use this area before we decide if we would like to add anything more. The Friends are considering some large outdoor cushions and quiet games but before we invest in this we would like to speak with the children and observe how they are using the space. Thank you so much to Mrs Sally Ashlin and Ms Rachael Hansford for co-ordinating all this work. The Yellow Class play area is the next project for The Friends.
Kingsmere Surfacing and Fencewise have completed their work on the side gate and the new fencing. This has made this side of the school much more attractive and offers our children and families a safer entrance into school. I do realise that the end of the path onto White Road poses a danger, but we need to train the children to be vigilant and keep themselves safe. All children must learn how to manage risk. A huge thank you to Mr Simon Richardson who applied for a grant from the Local Authority. He was successful in his bid and the money allocated has covered some of the costs. Simon and Mr Nick Beale will now be turning their attention to the car park and liaising closely with the Parish Council about the proposed zebra crossing and longer term extended car park. THE SIDE GATE WILL BE OPEN FOR USE NEXT WEEK.
Our school grounds look tremendous at the moment and this is due to Mr Cannon and the hours he devotes to our school. He clears up, tidies, blows and collects leaves, weeds, cuts the grass, nurtures the plants, checks the equipment is safe, manages contractors, paints … this list goes on. He is working closely with Mrs Tavenner and the children to fill our planters and produce plants and vegetables for sale. We are extremely fortunate that we have someone on our team who genuinely cares about our school and promotes his desire to create a wonderful environment for our children. My sincere thanks to him. Our school grounds are the envy of other schools!
Friday 7th April 2017
What a way to end our Spring Term! Attached is our OFSTED letter stating the outcomes of the inspection just over a fortnight ago.
We are officially a good school and we are delighted that the inspector has noted how well behaved our children are, how well our children are learning and progressing and how the school continues to improve. The inspector highlighted what a skilled team of staff we have at Mere School, “consequently, teaching is strong and pupils are engaged in their activities and enthusiastic about what they do”.
A copy of the letter has been sent home and is attached to this message.
A huge thank you to the staff, governors, children and parents for making this school a very special place to be.
Friday 3rd April 2017
Our KS2 snack trolley survey certainly caused a lot of debate and I appreciate all of the feedback and responses from parents and children. It is clear however, from the outcomes that there is a definite message coming through.
Parents need to be aware that the trolley is non-profit making and it takes Mrs Corbett a huge amount of time in an already very busy kitchen environment. I think, if she had voted, it would be easier for her if the trolley did not continue!
It is also essential to note that the trolley is voluntary. The children are more than welcome to bring a healthy snack from home or to take a piece of free fruit from the trolley.
The majority of our homemade snacks are carbohydrate-based and many parents appreciated this as their children do not eat much breakfast and it is a long time for them to go without something to eat from early morning to lunchtime.
As a school, we value the opportunity for our children to handle and be responsible for their money and our year 6 children benefit from the experience of being snack trolley monitors.
Based on your responses and considering national nutritional advice, Mrs Corbett will be changing the rolls offered to the children to brown/wholemeal. The flapjack portion sizes will be reduced and we will investigate using honey in the recipe. We plan to offer the children yoghurt and bottled water and increase the amount of fruit on offer.
We had 114 responses from our KS2 children and 67 parental responses. 94% of our KS2 children were in favour of keeping the KS2 snack trolley in its present form and 94% of our parents.
I appreciate your support in finding a democratic outcome to this issue.
Please remember that our School Nurse is always available for parents who would like to discuss individual dietary issues.
Friday 24th March 2017
Perrys Recycling have been to visit the school to thank us for having the Charity Paperbank.
This big, blue bank is sited just near the bike shed and anyone can use this – the more we collect the more we can raise for charity.
The Charity Paper Bank Scheme raises vital funds to support local charities in Wiltshire. Perrys Recycling donate £10 for every tonne of paper collected to the Wiltshire Community Foundation.
This paper bank also saves the school a significant amount of money. As you can imagine, most of our rubbish is paper and if we put this in the normal Wiltshire Authority bins we have to pay for its collection. We put all of our paper waste into the recycling bin which saves us money and helps the Wiltshire charities.
Please help us to keep recycling paper at our school.
Friday 17th March 2017
I thought I would dedicate my Head Teacher Message this week to our lunchtime supervisor team.
Being an MDSA (Mid-day Supervisory Assistant) is, I believe, the hardest job in a school. They arrive 20 minutes before lunch is served and prepare the hall for our children. At 12 noon they supervise the children, with a teacher, ensuring that every child is ‘fed and watered’ and encourage good table manners and good behaviour. At 12.20 pm Mrs Simmons (our Senior MDSA) gradually sends the children out to play. A team of MDSAs go into the playground and courts with the children while 2 are left in the hall supervising the remaining children and tidying up. They are also responsible for administering first aid. The MDSAs and the school office are all linked with a walkie-talkie system.
I meet officially with our MDSA team every half term. They are a committed group of people who endeavour to ensure our lunchtimes are fun but safe for the children. They are constantly thinking of new ideas to enrich and improve our lunchtime provision.
Lunchtimes are a period of time when the children need to relax and ‘burn off’ some energy. There can be behavioural issues that our MDSA team need to deal with which are challenging. They are constantly watching the children to make sure they are happy and often children do chat to our ladies if they are upset or worried about something. Liaison between the class teachers and our MDSAs is crucial but we also have to ensure that no learning time is lost in the afternoons. A senior member of staff is always available should there be a problem.
Our MDSAs have completed a lot of training for their role from Child Protection to First Aid to Managing Behaviour. Training needs are constantly addressed. Our MDSAs will be attending a couple of T D days next year with teachers and TAs.
Being an MDSA is also a privileged position. Our ladies form strong relationships with our children and they enjoy this special time with them.
We are always looking for casual MDSAs for absence cover. Many of our TAs started their educational career as a lunchtime supervisor. If you would like to know more about this position please do contact the office.
A huge thank you to our MDSA team who do an incredible job for our children.
Friday 10th March 2017
Following an incident of cyber-bulling towards one of our children I wanted to use my Weekly Message highlight this issue.
Technology means that bullying is no longer limited to the playground. Cyberbullying occurs when a child uses the internet, e.mails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms or other digital technology to harass, threaten or humiliate another child. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying does not require physical strength or face-to-face contact and is not limited to just a handful of witnesses at a time. Cyberbullies come in all shapes and sizes – almost anyone with an internet connection or mobile phone can cyberbully someone else, often without having to reveal their true identity. Cyberbullies can torment their victims 24 hours a day and the bullying can follow the victim anywhere so that no place, not even home, ever feels safe, and with a few clicks the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, it is important to remember that you are not alone. If your child is targeted by cyberbullies, it is important not to respond to any messages or posts written about them, no matter how hurtful or untrue. Responding will only make the situation worse and will provoke a reaction, which is what the cyberbullies want. Instead respond to the cyberbullying by:
No matter how much pain it causes, children are often reluctant to tell parents or teachers about cyberbullying because they fear that doing so may result in losing their computer or phone privileges. While parents should always monitor a child’s use of technology, it is important not to threaten to withdraw access or punish a child who has been victim or cyberbullying. We need to help our children prevent cyberbullying before it starts by helping them to stay safe with technology. We need to teach our children to:
As a school we have a duty to provide a safe environment for children and this includes protecting them from cyberbullying. We have worked very closely with the parents of the child who has been subject to cyberbullying and the police. It is a credit to the children of this school that they reported the cyberbullying to us so that we were able to offer immediate help and advice.
Please see the huge amount of information on our website offering advice.
Friday 3rd March 2017
Our Class Parents met last week and I like to use my Head Teacher message to let you know what was discussed in the meeting. It was, as ever, a very useful session and I am so grateful to the parents who contribute so fully to our meetings.
ZIP-UP PE HOODIES – the school can only stock pull on or zip up hoodies.
HEALTHY SNACKS – the staff have spent a lot of time discussing this and the school has to rely on parents to make their own decision about what a healthy snack is. However, there should be no crisps, chocolate or crisps as a snack. Our School Council will be producing a fact sheet for parents around what a healthy snack is.
MANAGING EMOTIONS AT HOME – the Class Parents were asked to promote the workshop and surgeries for parents.
CLUB CAR PARK – the school contact the police about the dangers for our children and they promised to patrol this area. Mr Richardson explained to the group that the work on the side gate will be starting soon.
CLIMBING TREES ON DUCHY FIELD – something has been published in the newsletter about this.
SATS/Phonics Information Talk for Parents during Bedtime Story
The Class Parents were asked to publicise this.
Pancake Race Event
This will be taken to The Friends meeting.
Friday 24th February 2017
Sadly we are witnessing an increase in the number of children who are struggling to manage their emotions and feelings.
This is evident in school and we are offering increasing support to these children but parents are also, at times, struggling to manage their children at home. I speak to many parents over a whole range of issues from eating to sleeping to behaviour. I know that being a parent is a very tricky job and there are no right answers or a special manual to help us!
The Class Parents asked at their last meeting if the School Nurse could offer a workshop for parents but unfortunately the nursing service is overstretched and our school nurse is already working with a lot of individual children at our school.
After much research (and arm twisting!) the Behaviour Support Team at the Local Authority has been able to find some time to support our school. Mel and Karen will be at Mere on WEDNESDAY 1ST MARCH at 9 am to run an information workshop for parents. On WEDNESDAY 8TH MARCH from 9 am they will be offering a surgery for parents so you can speak individually and confidentially to them. Please ring the office to make an appointment.
We are extremely lucky to secure the services of these ladies and it is important that we make the most of their time. Please do come along to benefit from their expertise – if you can’t make the workshop please made an individual appointment.
With the squeeze on budgets and the shrinking of the Local Authority this opportunity might not arise again – we look forward to seeing you.
Friday 10th February 2017
At the beginning of last term Mrs Loxton launched our Growth Mindset initiative. Some information was in the newsletter and a leaflet was available for parents in the entrance hall.
It is really important, when something new is introduced into school, that we evaluate what we are doing to see if it is having a positive impact on learning and the children.
Mrs Loxton spent last Wednesday afternoon interviewing groups of children and asked the following questions:
Are you born clever?
What do you know about Growth Mindset?
Do you think having a Growth Mindset makes a difference?
Is it good to make mistakes?
How do you feel if you persevere and make mistakes?
How do you know having a good Growth Mindset helps you improve?
How does having a Growth Mindset help you at school?
Are there any phrases that help you have a Growth Mindset?
Is it good to struggle with work? What do you feel like when you succeed?
What do you do if you get stuck?
Who is the best person to motivate you?
Children across the school were aware of what Growth Mindset is. The children in Blue Class were a little too young to comment.
All of the children believed that making mistakes would help them to learn and the children said that the atmosphere in their classes made them feel safe when they made mistakes. Our older children could recite some phrases that the teachers use to reinforce a positive Growth Mindset.
The teachers also talked about Growth Mindset in the staff meeting this week and it was agreed that this approach was helping children to learn more effectively. We shared phrases that we could use across the school and we will continue to develop a culture of perseverance and resilience. Miss Beckwith is going to incorporate Growth Mindset into our PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum and we are starting to investigate how we can use Growth Mindset during play times and lunchtimes.
We hope that you are starting to see some of the effects of this strategy at home.
Friday 3rd February 2017
There were a series of governors meetings last week – Curriculum, Finance and the full body, with the usual full agenda (minutes can be found in the Governor Section on our website).
The group regularly discuss class organisation and there has been some anxiety for a while over the number of children in our current year 4 class (Green). Mr Rich is doing a fantastic job but it has always been an aspiration to split this class, if finances allow.
The Finance Committee have been making plans for the new financial year and with careful management the full governing body have decided that we can afford to employ an additional teacher in the mornings from September 2017 until this group move on to their secondary education.
The school has advertised for this teacher this week and Mr Jordan, Mr Rankin and I will be shortlisting and interviewing during the last week of February.
We have decided to employ an experienced teacher who will focus on English and maths during the mornings. How the children will be organised is subject to further discussion. Miss Beckwith will work very closely with the new teacher. It is hoped that this new teacher will then move with the children into year 6 (Purple).
We will keep the parents of Green Class fully informed but please do contact me if you have any questions.
Friday 27th January 2017
My meeting with the Class Parents a couple of weeks ago was extremely useful. We discussed the following:
As you can see it was quite a busy meeting. Please do use your Class Parents to share your views and opinions – they are very keen to help.
Friday 20th January 2017
Clarification of School Pupil Tracker Gradings
After a year of trials we now happy, that we our using Pupil Tracker effectively to monitor children’s attainment and progress, however, we have adapted the interpretation of the grades that Pupil Tracker uses to better suit our needs. This means you may have been surprised that some of the assessment outcomes shown, if you logged into Pupil Tracker, did not reflect your conversation with us at parents’ evening.
The colour coded grid below therefore shows how we are interpreting the colour gradings. We apologise for this oversight but hope this clarifies things for you. As always, if you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Colour code for attainment
Mere School Attainment Grade
School Pupil Tracker differences
Greater depth level - working above year group expectations– children can apply their learning in different situations.
Mastery level- working at year group expectations – this is the broadest band – most children nationally will be here.
Above year group expectations
Working slightly below year group expectations- needs a little support to reach year group targets.
Working at year group expectations
Working below year group expectations - but with support is working towards the year group targets.
Working significantly below year group expectations and is working on lower year group targets.
Friday 13th January 2017
PARENT INTERNET SAFETY EVENING – Monday 16th January 2017 at 7.30 pm.
There was a lot of press coverage last week about children in England signing over their digital rights ‘regularly and unknowingly’. England’s Children’s Commissioner stated that children are being left to fend for themselves in the digital world, regularly signing over their rights to their private messages and pictures, which means that children are unwittingly giving away personal information with no real understanding of who is holding that information, where they are holding it and what they are doing with it.
This report stresses the fact that we, collectively, are not doing enough to equip our children with the skills and knowledge to stay safe online. Sarah, Champion, the labour Shadow Cabinet Minister commented:
“We have to recognise children are growing up immersed in a digital world. We owe it them to do all we can to educate and support them to the risks they face in the virtual world, just as we do in the real world.”
Following some real e.safey incidents at our school and parental demand, we have arranged for Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert, to spend all day on Monday working in each class. He will then spend an hour in the evening talking to parents and taking any questions. I really need to stress the importance of attending this meeting – we need to work together to keep our children safe.
We all know that children should not be accessing most of these sites until they are 13 but in reality they do. We have to give them the strategies to ensure they are as safe as possible, just as we teach them to cross the road. Over the last couple of years we have had an incident of a child being ‘followed’ on Instagram by an unsavoury character and an innocent incident of sexting. Neither child realised the danger they had put themselves in and fortunately we were able to work closely with the child, parents and relevant authorities to educate the children try to prevent this from happening again. It is also essential that our children feel that they are able to share any worrying experience they might have had on line.
We look forward to seeing you on Monday – Mrs Corbett’s homemade cakes will be available throughout the evening!
Friday 6th January 2017
School league tables showing the performance of 11-year olds at primary schools across the country were published at the end of term.
‘The Daily Telegraph’ have produced an interactive tool allowing us to search these results and others by specific school or region and compare schools of our choice against one another – www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/12/15/primary-school-league-tables-2016-compare-schools-performance/
If you want to search by specific school or postcode you can type it into the search box. Alternatively use the interactive map to search by region. You can then add schools to your comparison list by checking the ‘add to compare’ box or clicking the ‘add to compare’ button. The compare page shows you the headline measure, alongside the percentage of pupils achieving the ‘higher standard’ in reading, writing and maths, and a school’s average scaled score and progress made in each subject.
The overall picture for Mere School is extremely positive. Our school is first or second locally in every ordering of the tables and indicates that our teaching and support staff are succeeding very well for our children.
The governors and staff look at this data extremely closely to see how we can improve outcomes even further for the next round of testing.
Please do take a look.
Friday 15th December 2016
I am sure you have heard in the media that Greasley Beauvale Primary School is now grading parents on how much they support their children. They are marked from A to D based on their involvement with their children’s education. Parents are categorised in the following way:
A GRADE – The actively involved, ‘go above and beyond, highly-supportive parent – can be a bit demanding in a negative way.
B GRADE – Involved: these parents attend parents’ evening, work effectively with the school and understand its work.
C GRADE – Do little to support their child’s learning and very little to support the school but will attend events occasionally.
D GRADE – Does nothing to support their child’s learning or the school; is rarely in school.
This system is intended to improve the children’s performance at school by encouraging their mothers and fathers to attend events, such as parents’ evenings and plays, and help with learning at home. It has been in place since 2011 and has become public knowledge thanks to an OFSTED report recently which commended the school for its ‘startling’ results. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of OFSTED commented:
“Telling a parent what the impact their lack of engagement is having on the life chances of their child is not easy, but for many children at this school, it is making a huge difference.”
This approach is causing huge debate and I have to admit that I was a little shocked when I heard about what this school is doing. However, on reflection and reading about the initiative in more detail the school is trying to educate parents as to how important it is for parents to support their children in school. A little regular help from home will pay dividends for the rest of that child’s academic life.
I often chat to parents about how they can help their children. Hearing the children read every night will have a massive impact on educational outcomes for our children as this has an impact across the curriculum. Helping the children to learn their spellings and tables is also very important. One of our TAs commented this week that if parents could do this at home she would be able to support the children with deeper learning at school.
It is also essential that parents show an interest in what their children are learning and talk to them about their day at school. This provides a positive message about school and the importance of learning.
I know, when you have been at work all day and you are tired, hearing your child read is probably not at the top of your ‘to do’ list but I cannot stress how beneficial this will be for your child. We have your children in school for a relatively short period of time and if we all work together in this way our children will make good progress and reach their full potential.
Friday 9th December 2016
A couple of years ago I used to complete a questionnaire with the children about the school and each term I used to talk more formally to a group of children. This was an interesting exercise but I found some of the responses from the children were rather stilted and I wanted to explore a much wider range of topics. The younger children also found the questionnaire quite difficult to navigate.
At the beginning of the last academic year I introduced my Head Teacher Lunches. I invite 2 children from each class every half term to join me for lunch. We sit together, enjoying a delicious meal, and chat about the school. I am hoping that I will meet every child after a couple of years. Blue Class do not join me as they are a little young.
I ask the children a wide range of questions:
Do you feel safe at school? Can you tell me why?
Can you tell me what bullying is? Do we have any bullying at our school?
If you felt someone was being bullied at our school, what would you advise them to do?
If you had a problem, who would you ask at school for help? What would you expect them to do?
How would you welcome a new child to our school if they were different to us – a Muslim, someone from Poland, a Syrian refugee?
How would you treat someone at school who had views different to yours?
Why do we have rules at school?
How would you treat a child who started at our school who was born a little boy and became a little girl?
What is the best thing about being British?
What kind of person would Mere School like you to be in 10 years’ time?
If there anything else you would like to tell me about our school and how we can make it better?
These questions provide valuable information for school improvement but also prepare our children for our impending OFSTED inspection. I report the outcomes to the staff and governors.
I have been genuinely amazed, and hugely impressed with the mature and thoughtful responses our children give. Mrs Smith observed the last lunch and was spell-bound listening to the children. It is very clear that our children, without exception, are compassionate, empathetic and mature children. You should be incredibly proud of them.
Friday 2nd December 2016
The KS1 (Blue, Yellow and Silver Class) afternoon performance starts at 1.15 pm on Tuesday 13th December. The doors will not open for seating until 1 pm as we have to clear up from lunch and set out the chairs. The performance will finish by 1.45 pm. If you would like to take your KS1 child home after the performance please leave school by the side hall door (into the playground) and walk round to their
classroom door to collect them.
The KS2 (Gold, Green, Red and Purple Class) afternoon performance starts at 2 pm on Tuesday 13th December. The doors will not open for seating until 1.45 pm. The performance will finish by 3 pm and your children can be collected at the normal time. All children will remain in the care of their class teacher throughout the afternoon.
Children will come home with their costumes after the afternoon performance.
We ask that the KS1 children return (in their costume) to school for 5.45 pm on Tuesday 13th December and go to their classrooms (through the main entrance). The main entrance will open at this time so you can take your seats in the audience – the play starts at 6 pm. We anticipate that the KS1 performance will end at 6.30 pm. If you would like to take your KS1 child home after the performance please leave school by the side hall door (into the playground) and walk round to their classroom door to collect them.
We ask that the KS2 children return to school (through the main entrance) for 6.30 pm on Tuesday 13th December and go to their classrooms. The main entrance for the KS2 performance will be open at this time so you can wait in the corridor to take your seats in the audience until the start of the play at 6.45 pm.
All teachers will be in their classrooms for the evening so if you are coming to see both performances the children will be in the care of their class teachers when they are not performing. KS2 children can stay in their classrooms while the KS1 children perform and the KS1 children can stay in their classrooms while the KS2 children perform. No KS1 children will be permitted to watch the KS2 production, and no KS2 children the KS1 production, due to space and the fact that they have already seen their friends perform.
There will be one way into the main hall – through the main entrance. Please do not come into your child’s classroom. Exit from the KS1 performance will be through the side hall door into the playground and for the KS2 performance will be down the corridor and through the main entrance. Please meet your children after the performance in the corridor.
There will be no tickets and the numbers of seats per family are not limited. Please consider how many families will be needing seats before asking too many people to come and watch!
If you plan to watch both performances please remain in your seats after the KS1 performance.
It would be preferable if pre-school children did not attend the performances. Local pre-schools have been invited to attend our dress rehearsals so younger brothers and sisters have had the opportunity to watch.
Our children and staff have worked extremely hard to produce these plays and a noisy toddler can distract and destroy an
enjoyable entertainment for our children, staff, parents and visitors.
In the extreme circumstance of you having to bring your pre-school child we ask that they are taken out immediately if they start to make a noise. There will be no room for push chairs in the hall.
The school council will be arranging a collection after each performance and are raising money for ‘Make a Wish Foundation for Christmas’.
If you can walk to the performance, please do! It is really important that people park responsibly and our advice is for local residents to phone the police if their drives have been blocked. THERE IS NO PARKING IN THE DENTIST’S CAR PARK AS THEY ARE WORKING DURING THE EVENING.
We do appreciate all the work that has gone into producing such wonderful costumes – thank you.
This is a very special occasion for our children and I hope that this strict organisation will result in everyone having an enjoyable, memorable evening.
We look forward to seeing you.
Friday 25th November 2016
Last week was our Action Against Bullying week in school and the children were involved in all sorts of activities relating to this. We had a particular focus on internet safety and ‘cyber bullying’ with our older children. Mr Rich and Mrs McClelland spoke with groups of our children about internet safety and it is clear that they have a good understanding of how to keep safe on-line.
However, this is a fast moving area and being on-line is a feature of everyday life for our children. This makes it very challenging for us, the parents and school, to keep up. I am speaking to more parents about issues that have occurred when their children have been on-line.
Children spend a lot of time online. It can be a great way for them to connect with friends and make new ones, to browse the internet for information, chat and play games and we need to work with you to keep the children safe online. There are risks, but by understanding and talking about the dangers, we can help keep the children safe.
Talking to your child is one of the best ways to keep them safe. Parental controls can be used that filter or monitor what your child can see. Preventing your children from using the internet or mobile phones will not keep them safe in the long run, so it is important to have conversations that help them understand how to stay safe and what to do if ever they feel scared or uncomfortable. Some hints from the NSPCC:
1 Have the conversation early and often
Children spend an average of 12 hours a week online and it becomes part of their routine in early life. That is why it is important to start talking to your child about keeping safe online at an early age. It is easier to have conversations about online safety little and often, rather than trying to cover everything at once. As your children get older and technologies change, make sure you keep talking about what they are doing online and how to stay safe.
2 Explore online together
Ask your child to show you their favourite things to do online and show an interest in what they do – just as you would offline. This will give you a much better idea of what they are getting up to and it gives you a way to support and encourage then while learning what they know.
3 Know who your child is talking to online
Children do not think of people they have met online through social networking and online games as strangers – they are just online friends. So, it is important to keep track of who your child is talking to. Explain to your child that it is easy for people to lie about themselves online. Agree your child will ‘friend’ a trusted adult on their social networks or online games. Your child could also become ‘friends’ with you so you can see their profile and their posts.
4 Set rules and agree boundaries
It is useful to agree some ground rules together. These will depend on your child’s age and what you feel is right for them, but you might want to consider:
If your child plays online games:
5 Make sure that content is age appropriate
You know your child best, so check that the websites, social networks and games they are using are suitable for them. Online games, movies and some websites will have an age rating or minimum age to sign up. Age limits are there to keep children safe, so you should not feel pressured into letting your child sign up or use websites that you feel they are too young for.
6 Use parental controls to filter, restrict, monitor or report content
You can use parental controls to stop your child seeing unsuitable or harmful content online. Remember that if your child goes away from home the same controls might not be in place.
7 Check they know how to use privacy settings and reporting tools
Check the privacy settings on any online accounts your child has, like games, and remind them to keep their personal information private. Talk to your child about what to do if they see content or are contacted by someone that worries or upsets them.
There is a lot of information on the NSPCC website and if you would like advice please do contact them – 0808 8005002.
On Monday 16th January 2017, Mr Karl Hopwood, an online safety expert, will be working with the children in school. He will return to school in the evening at 7.30 pm to run an information evening for parents. Please do come along, hear what he has to say and ask any questions.
Friday 18th November 2016
I had the pleasure of meeting with our Class Parents last Friday and it was another useful and productive meeting.
Matters arising from the last meeting:
The Homework Policy was circulated and discussed. As expected homework generates lots of discussion and varying opinions – some parents do not feel that children get enough homework and others feel there is too much. There was a general agreement that we have got it about right at Mere and parents highlighted that teachers direct children and parents to various websites if they would like to do more. The quantity of homework once the children start Gillingham School was discussed.
The provisional dates for events next term were shared and discussed.
Mrs Loxton asked the group about our sex education programme. She wondered whether the parents would like us to start puberty talks earlier, particularly with the girls. It was decided to leave the programme as it is. Parents would like Miss Beckwith to explain to the year 5 boys why the girls have a special talk with the school nurse at this time.
I find these meetings so valuable and appreciate the time our Class Parents spend making contact with you to canvass your opinions and take any concerns you have. I am extremely grateful and all issues raised are considered and many positive changes have been made as a result of our meetings.
Friday 11th November 2016
Last term Purple Class attended a Countryside Learning day at Cranborne Estate. They had a fantastic time learning all about country and when they returned to school they created some art work for the Countryside Learning competition. Two of our year 6 girls were successful!
Sarah Jayne Walsh and Evie Rich have been presented with personal copies of the 30th Anniversary Book, “Once Upon a Farm”. We also received a copy of the book for our library. The competition was open to schools from across England and Wales that had attended a Countryside Learning Day in the summer term 2016.
The book creator, Sandra McNeill said:
“We were astounded by the number of fantastic entries submitted for the competition, choosing the winning entries was incredibly difficult. The book was designed to provide schools with follow up work after attending a Countryside Learning Schools Day, enabling children from any age range and ability level to produce a unique piece of work to be published. Many thanks go to our supporters for their help in the production of this book.”
Gary Richardson, Chief Executive of Countryside Learning said:
“Our job is a very special one, we get to visit the most wonderful parts of the country and meet some amazing people, none more so than the children who benefit hugely from experiencing life outside the classroom and not connected to an electronic device. We have always known just how much the children benefit from the days, but I was still amazed at the skill, creativity and knowledge that they put into the work which goes into making this amazing book. This amazing collection of stories, art and literature is a great way to celebrate our 30 years as a charity and the impact we have on our children up and down the country.”
The mission of the Countryside Learning is to educate, inform and inspire. They work with children, parents and teachers so that they can enjoy and appreciate the countryside whilst having a greater understanding of the wide range of issues that surround it. Countryside Learning works as a national infrastructure whereby teachers and pupils can visit and study a variety of skilled workers in their natural working environment, using the knowledge gained to take back to the classroom to enhance their learning within the school curriculum.
Well done to Evie and Sarah-Jane and I know Purple Class and looking forward to their visit next year.
Friday 4th November 2016
In the newsletter this week there is a small paragraph on ‘Developing a Growth Mindset’.
We are working with the children to develop a Growth Mindset at the moment. The new National Curriculum, introduced in 2014, has much higher expectations for teaching and learning and this represents a challenge for all of us. Research has shown that almost all children can reach the new standards set by the Government. This can be done through effort, practice and resilience, which are some of the features of a Growth Mindset.
Extensive research, especially by Dr Carol Dweck, has shown that where schools and parents foster a ‘can do’ approach, children’s learning improves and standards rise. Having a ‘Growth Mindset’ can improve children’s progress and attainment – they can grow their brains and intelligence!
At Mere School we strongly believe that, working closely with parents, all of our children can develop a Growth Mindset. A Growth Mindset is the belief that we can develop our abilities, including our intelligence, which is our ability to think. It is distinguished from a Fixed Mindset, which is the belief that abilities can’t change, such as thinking that people can’t improve in maths, creativity, writing, relationship-building, leadership, sports and the like. The Mindset that we adopt leads to very different behaviours, attitudes and achievement. Lots of research has shown that children with a Growth Mindset seek more effective learning strategies, work harder, persevere in the face of setbacks and achieve higher competence.
If you have a Fixed Mindset you believe that intelligence is static. This Mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily when things get difficult, see effort as fruitless, ignore useful feedback and be threatened by others’ success.
If you have a Growth Mindset you believe that intelligence can be developed. This leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist despite obstacles, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and be inspired by others’ success.
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence’.
If you would like to know more please do speak to Mrs Loxton. There is a leaflet in the foyer for parents or on the website.
We look forward to working with you to help our children develop a Growth Mindset.
Friday 21st October 2016
You will notice, when we return after the half term break, that our Friends Association have been hard at work.
Mrs Ashlin and Ms Hansford have been meeting and planning with various companies to create a quiet area in the corner of the playground. Their ideas have been developed over a significant period of time fuelled by their desire to make the best use of the money raised from our Auction of Promises last year. There will be some final touches to make until we can have a grand opening. I am really grateful to them for the hours they have spent creating this for our children.
One parent kindly donated a beautiful playhouse and I expect you have seen a team from The Friends painting it over the last few weeks. The Friends are now turning their fundraising efforts to developing a much improved play area for Yellow Class. They are hoping to roof this area and buy/make some new resources.
Another team of parents kindly donated their time to repairing and repainting the fence around our Blue Class Play area.
During the last half term a group from The Friends worked with Mr Drake to tidy up the pond area – there is more work to do here also.
There are too many people to mention to say thank you to. The Friends are ‘on a mission’ to give our children amazing conditions to work and play in and our grounds are already the envy of many local schools. Not only have this group of people given time to these projects, they have worked tirelessly to raise the funds to complete the work. The children, staff and governors are immensely grateful.
There will be a Christmas Bingo and Christmas disco this term. These are regular events which raise significant sums of money for The Friends. There are also plans for a jumble sale and a ‘Bags to School’ collection. While you are Christmas shopping please do go through the ‘Giving Machine’ website as this has raised nearly £1000 for The Friends already.
Christmas cards will be designed and sold during the next month and Father Christmas will be inviting all of our children to visit him in his grotto, where they will receive a present, funded by The Friends.
An action packed half term! Please do come along and support The Friends at their events or come to a meeting on the first Friday of every month at 2.15 pm. They would love to see you there.
Friday 14th October 2016
It has taken me a few weeks but I can now use My Weekly Message to tell you all about our last Class Parent meeting.
We welcomed several new members and picked up on some issues from the last meeting:
SPORTS DAY – Mrs Schofield will try to have a plan in case it rains halfway through this event next year.
BEHAVIOUR POLICY – the teachers have now put ‘Worry Boxes’ in their classes so that the children can post any concerns confidentially.
LUNCHTIME ISSUES – our MDSA team do ensure that all children are offered a drink but I have reminded the teachers to encourage the children to take their water bottle down to lunch.
SPORTS TEAM SELECTION – Mrs Schofield has published something in the newsletter about this.
SPORTING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – it was decided that our current awards systems are adequate.
Issues raised at the meeting:
YEAR 3 RECORDER/BRASS ASSEMBLY – I will ensure that parents understand that they are invited to come and watch and I will also add this to the Year 3 Welcome Letter.
CLASS PARENTS/OPEN MORNING – some parents are confused about these events. I will endeavour to make this clearer in the newsletter.
PENCELLI – it was asked if parents can set up a standing order to pay monthly instalments. We are currently investigating this.
SPONSORSHIP – strategies were discussed to try to boost sponsorship for Carla’s half marathon.
TIMETABLES – teachers have now put a class timetable on their class page of the website so that parents know what their children will be doing on a certain day.
We plan to chat about the following at our next meeting:
homework and dates.
I am really grateful to this group of parents who continue to help us. If you have anything you would like them to raise please do contact them.
Friday 7th October 2016
I understand that there is quite a lot of chatter on Facebook about our KS2 snack trolley. If anyone has any questions or queries please do come into school so we can help.
Our snack trolley was introduced after a request by the children. Our year 6 children enjoy the responsibility of organising this and collecting the money.
The trolley has a selection of healthy snacks for the children to buy and each snack costs 40p. Parents can send their children with a snack from home – BUYING FROM THE TROLLEY IS VOLUNTARY. We do have a rule that the children can only buy one item, whether it is a drink or some food.
THERE IS FREE FRUIT ON THE TROLLEY EVERY DAY AND THE CHILDREN ARE WELCOME TO HAVE THIS.
Mr Corbett is very careful about what is on the trolley. There are usually bacon/sausage/cheese rolls, homemade pizzas (with a vegetable based tomato topping and cheese), flapjack and a selection of drinks. WE NEVER SELL COKE OR UNHEALTHY FIZZY DRINKS. We have Just Juice (100% pure juice), flavoured milk and Suso (a sparkling, multi-fruits juice drink – ‘one of your 5 a day’). These drinks are available in the office for you to look at.
Our School Council is going to produce a fact sheet for parents and design something for the website.
For parents who are worried please be assured that we want to provide the healthiest options for our children. It is a long time from breakfast until lunch time and children do need some carbohydrates to keep them going.
The children love the option of our snack trolley but if a significant group of parents are concerned we can return to children bringing in their own healthy snacks. Please do let me know if you would like us to do this.
Friday 30th September 2016
You have no doubt noticed that we have had a large number of children start at Mere School recently right across all age ranges. The school is extremely popular at the moment and we seem to be enrolling new pupils every week.
I received a lovely e.mail from one family thanking the staff for making their children feel so welcome. They commented on how their children have been energised, by starting this school, and how well they have settled in. They commented “a few days in it’s clear to me that we made the right decision to move them to Mere”. We do appreciate this feedback.
Popularity does come at a cost though and I know that parents, staff and governors are concerned about the size of classes – particularly Green Class. I would like to reassure you that the governors will be discussing this at their meeting next week. They will be considering what might be done within the confines of the school budget. I will keep you posted!
Admission forms are now available for children due to start with us in September 2017. I would be grateful if you could ‘put the message out and about’ – it is really important to get the applications in as soon as possible.
Friday 23rd September 2016
Now that the ‘dust has settled’ after the KS2 SATs I thought that I would use my ‘Weekly Message’ to let you know how our children had performed and what might happen next year.
As a school we were extremely proud of the performance of our children. The tests were challenging and stressful for the children (teachers and parents!) and they performed emotionally and academically extremely well. We were warned that these tests were going to be harder than previous years but schools nationally were taken by surprise as to how difficult the tests would be. Many adults would have struggled. In the tests our children collectively exceeded national age related expectations. Huge credit goes to these children, Mrs Loxton and their parents for preparing them so well.
There was no test for writing and this was assessed by Mrs Loxton and a team of teachers in school, supported by the Local Authority and cluster school colleagues. Writing expectations were close to what were recently GCSE expectations. Our teaching team followed the guidance for the assessment of writing ‘to the letter’ and were extremely strict about our children achieving every component of the expected curriculum. As a result of this our writing outcomes were below national age related expectations but we are not confident that other schools followed the guidance as rigorously as we did here. Mrs Loxton is in no doubt that our children’s writing this year was significantly better than the year before.
Preparation for these KS2 SATs was blighted with a succession of administrative errors and many schools felt that they were ‘operating in a fog’ that showed little sign of clearing before, during or after the SATs but schools did their best in difficult circumstances.
It is difficult to anticipate what will happen next year. The unions have made it clear that they will take issue with the government over the SATs but the Department for Education does not look ready to make an about-turn. With feelings so high I think we should expect some conflict in the coming year.
We will, as ever, continue to ensure our children master the basics of reading, writing and maths combined with an education that is about breadth and depth of learning and I will endeavour to keep you informed of any changing which might occur.
Friday 16th September 2016
I am delighted to let you know that Mr Michael Cannon (Jessica and Daniel’s dad) will be our new Handyman, taking over from Mr Drake.
He will be working with Mr Drake for a week so that he knows all the routines and systems and becomes familiar with all the health and safety requirements.
Mr Cannon will be working every day apart from Monday and will, in time, also be taking responsibility for our school grounds. He has very generously been looking after the flower tubs over the holidays.
In the past Mr Cannon worked at Sherborne School for Girls so has some experience in this field.
As ever, some of our handyman duties require extra help so if you know of anyone who might be able to help at various times we would be very grateful.
A huge thank you to Mr Drake and best of luck to him in his new post and a huge welcome to Mr Cannon.
Friday 9th September 2016
I thought I would use my message this week to bring you up to date with some future staffing changes.
The advert for Mrs Symond’s post will be published next week and the process has been planned. We have several enquiries already.
Mr Craig Drake has resigned from his post as Handyman with effect from the end of this month. We are going to miss him and he does such a good job meeting the health and safety requirements and making sure our building is cared for. We wish him every success in his new job.
We have interviewed for this post and we are in the process of appointing the successful candidate. I will let you know as soon as all the official paperwork has been completed.
Congratulations to Mrs Edgar who is expecting her second baby. She will finish work early in the new year and has promised to return before the end of the academic year. We are extremely lucky that Mrs Wilson has agreed to take responsibility for Silver Class while Mrs Edgar is on maternity leave.
Friday 2nd September 2016
The summer holidays have, as usual, passed very quickly but we have been lucky with the weather.
It seems very strange that the children have returned to school for one day before the weekend and I can understand why some parents are frustrated by this.
Unfortunately we do not have any control over our school holidays. Wiltshire Council do allow Mere School to decide whether we follow Dorset or Wiltshire holidays and our governors always select Dorset holidays so that we coincide with Gillingham School. Imagine how difficult it would be if our holidays were different to Gillingham School!
Some schools decided to have 2 T D days so that the children started on Monday 5th September. I was unwilling to do this as our T D days are so precious. I wanted to ensure that these training opportunities are well spaced during the year so that the training we have on these days has the biggest possible impact on learning.
We plan the content of our T D days over a year in advance. This is what we will be doing for this academic year:
Thursday 1st September – planning and preparation for the new school year
Monday 17th October – science. Dr Tom Robson will be working with us, and some of our neighbouring schools. We will be considering assessment in science. Ideally we like to ‘tag’ T D days onto a holiday but we have been lucky to secure a day this year with an international expert.
Tuesday 3rd January 2017 – Talk4writing and i.pads
Monday 20th February – teachers will be visiting other schools in the morning and will return to Mere in the afternoon to discuss what was seen.
Friday 21st July – appraisal.
Please make a note of these days in your diary.
Tuesday 19th July 2016
It seems strange for me to be writing about a teacher leaving us at this point in the term.
Mrs Symonds will be leaving Mere School at Christmas. She has been appointed as the Reception and year 1 teacher at Stour Provost taking up the appointment from January 2017. We will be really sorry to see Mrs Symonds go but wish her every success with this new challenge.
Mrs Symonds completed her teacher training with us, was appointed as our Reception teacher, then moved to Green Class and has spent the final few years with us in Yellow Class - she has been here a long time! Mrs Symonds is also a Leading Early Years Teacher and Early Years Moderator for Wiltshire and they are going to miss her as well.
In September the staffing panel of governors will be advertising and interviewing for a new teacher. This is a lengthy process but as soon as we have made a decision we will let you know. We have to advertise the post for a period of time, then shortlist, take up references then interview. We are fortunate that the financial position of the school will allow us to appoint any range of teacher, from a newly qualified teacher to a very experienced teacher.
The new teacher must have the same values of the school community, be willing to grow and develop with us and have the personality to get on with our wonderful team. We are a popular school and I am confident that we will find a teacher who is keen to come and work with us all.
Friday 15th July 2016
Mrs Loxton and a team of staff had the privilege of taking a large group of our older children to London on Wednesday to see Matilda.
This is an incredible visit for our children – an opportunity of a lifetime. We manage to secure heavily subsidised tickets and organise transport for just over £40. I know when we, as a family, go to a West End show, tickets cost £120 each with transport an additional cost.
Given a choice we would like to take the children to London by train but they have increased their costs so significantly this is now not an option. The bus drives around the main attractions in London so that the children see the sights.
I do remember the London visit 4 years ago (the London Olympics year), when we took the children by train to London. I received several e.mails from passengers on the train about the conduct and behaviour of our pupils. These passengers were so impressed with our children they took the time to contact me on their journey (they ‘Googled’ the school from our children’s sweatshirts). This only reinforces what I am constantly saying about what a credit the children are at Mere School, to the school community and to our parents. They value the opportunities we offer them, grasp them and have a thirst for learning and new experiences.
This visit to London was no different. Mrs Loxton was proud to be leading the visit.
Mrs Loxton has been investigating what we might go and see next year. The tickets have been released for ‘School of Rock’ for next July and we are considering this as a possible option. The letter to apply for this trip will be coming home at the beginning of next term.
Friday 8th July 2016
You have no doubt seen in the media that the National Union of Teachers called a strike last Tuesday and many local schools and classes were closed as a result of this. We do have members of this teaching union in school but their decision was not to strike.
This illustrates what a committed and professional staff we have. Whilst we all agree that education is under-funded we all also agree that not teaching for a day will have a negative impact on the education of our children.
My Weekly Message gives me the opportunity to thank our staff for everything they do for our children. They all work way beyond expectations ensuring that every child has a very special all-round education at Mere School.
I frequently come across people who claim that we have an ‘easy life’ because of the short days and long holidays and I just smile! These people show their ignorance of what is involved in being a teacher. We have had people train to be teachers with us, believing that they have made a ‘life-style’ choice. They thought that teaching would be so much easier than other jobs – how wrong they were! They are no longer in the profession – it was too much like hard work!
I am so proud of what our teachers do and what they achieve and I know our parents and governors are too. Our children demonstrate their gratitude through their positive approach to learning. Working at Mere School is a real privilege.
Friday 1st July 2016
Throughout the year we have done a huge amount of work with the children on keeping safe on the internet. Every year we increase the content of our curriculum in this area as the children’s skills are developing so quickly – we find it hard to keep up!
We are lucky at school because we have a sophisticated filter on our system, ensuring that our children can only access appropriate material. At home this is not as easy and when we had our last Parent E.Safety Evening with Mr Karl Hopwood (international e.safety expert) he was adamant that we should be teaching our children how to use the internet safely – just like we would teach them to cross the road. We need to understand that they will come across material that is inappropriate but we need to teach them what to do in this situation.
As a parent there were occasions when I stopped my children from using the internet but I now understand that this just encourages then to access the internet in secret. We must get our children to talk to us about what they are looking at, share sites with us and tell us if they are worried about anything they have found or experienced.
Unfortunately we have recently had an e.safety incident in school. The NSPCC, police, CEOP and Social Care were involved and together we managed to resolve the problem. The school policies and procedures were judged to be robust and appropriate, but this is the reason for my message this week.
Mr Rich has put a lot of leaflets in the Entrance Foyer for parents and our school website is full of useful and informative websites for parents and children. We have also organised another evening for parents with Mr Hopwood in January next year (he was booked up until then!) and he will be working with the children that day also.
Please can I urge you to be vigilant when your child is accessing the internet – on the computer or on their phones. Children under the age of 13 should not have a Facebook or Instagram account. As a school we are doing our utmost to keep your children safe and, working in partnership with you, we can offer the best possible protection for our children when they access the internet.
Mr Rich is our expert in this area and if you have any worries or questions he would be more than willing to help. Please have a look on our website – www.mereschool.co.uk for guidance and support.
Friday 24th June 2016
We had our final class parent meeting last Friday and I am so grateful to this group of mums and dads who come every half term to meet with me so we can work together for the benefit of our children. This initiative has been one of the most powerful things I have ever done in school – I cannot recommend it more highly to my colleagues!
I have been asked to clarify how our class parents are selected. When we initially set up the group each class teacher was asked to identify parents who had the time and who would be able to contribute to the meetings. They also needed to be people who could liaise with the other parents in the class. We are really lucky that these identified parents have decided to stay as part of this group and continue in their roles.
Mrs Lu Berry and Mrs Donna Tallis have been part of the Class Parents since the group was established but they will be leaving at the end of this academic year as their children are moving on to Gillingham School. Thank you to them both! Mrs McClelland has asked 2 mums, Mrs Michelle Ings and Mrs Sarah Elliott, to join us in September for Blue Class.
Some issues raised from our meeting:
Class Parents for the next academic year will be:
Blue Class – Mrs Elliott and Mrs Ings,
Yellow Class – Mrs Sayer and Mrs Barry,
Silver Class – Mrs Guy and Mrs Graddock,
Gold Class – Mrs Gray and Mrs Dimmock,
Green Class – Mrs Barton and Mrs Jones,
Red Class – Mrs Manning and Mrs Richardson,
Purple Class – Mr Beale and Ms Cope.
Friday 17th June 2016
I expect you are sick of me putting messages in the newsletters about the play equipment in the school grounds!
We are extremely lucky to have such wonderful facilities and The Friends are currently planning to develop the decking area outside Yellow Class and the far corner of the playground, near the football changing rooms. They hope to improve the outdoor play area for Yellow Class and develop a quieter area for the children to use during playtimes, or indeed during lesson time.
The play equipment is extremely inviting for our children and their younger brothers and sisters but we are only able to supervise this for our children during school time. Responsibility falls to our parents/carers at this time.
We frequently see children who are unaccompanied or children with their parents who are not using this equipment safely and this does cause us some concern. We would be very grateful if you could watch and supervise your children at all times when they are playing.
It is also important that children do not arrive too early in the morning as they are waiting in the playground without supervision – we do have some keen ones who arrive just after 8 am!
I do not want to stop the children enjoying themselves but I am keen to avoid an unnecessary accident.
The Friends are hoping to display some of their ideas for the playground development and would value any of your ideas. We would like to hear from any of our families who might be able to offer building or carpentry expertise.
Friday 10th June 2016
Invitations for specific children and their families will be coming home from school for our annual ‘Achievement Assembly’. This is due to take place on Monday 18th July 2016 at 9.15 am.
This special assembly was introduced several years ago as the governors and staff wanted to recognise and reward children for their academic achievements. We celebrate so many different things in school (sporting, musical, artistic, behaviour, out of school activities etc) but it was felt there was a gap in recognising children who consistently perform well in their academic work or who have made significant progress during the year.
The teachers will be selecting 2 or 3 children in each class who have particularly high achievement in English and maths and 2 or 3 children who have made excellent progress in English and maths throughout this year. They will make this decision based on our School Pupil Tracker computer system, their professional judgement and work in the child’s book. It will not be an easy task! There will be less children receiving an award this year than in previous years.
Mr John Jordan (Chair of Governors) will be presenting the awards and our Glee Choir and recorder groups will be performing. Parents of these children will also be invited to attend.
We will also be giving out Madame Jacob’s annual French awards.
This ceremony is based very much on the Founders Day Awards at Gillingham School.
Friday 27th May 2016
You will no doubt have seen the paperwork inviting nominations for a new parent governor for our school. Ms Melissa Berry has kindly been one of our parent governors for a couple of years but due to work and educational commitments felt that she could no longer fulfil the responsibilities of the role. We thank her for all that she has done for the school and wish her every success with her studies.
Ms Clark (Clerk to the Governors) organised the nomination process and as we only had one nomination there was no need for an election. Mr David Rich, dad of Evie (year 6), George (year 4) and Sonny (FS) has been appointed as Parent Governor for a period of 4 years. David is also our year 4 teacher and English subject leader but his role on the governing body will be that of a parent. We are grateful to him offering to support the school in this way and look forward to working with him.
Being a governor is quite a commitment and responsibility. Governors have to be supportive of the school but also have to act as a ‘critical friend’ ensuring that we are providing the best possible education for our children in a safe environment. You will see from the minutes on the website that the meetings are robust and challenging and all of our governors contribute their skills and significant amounts of time to Mere School.
If, in the future, you might be interesting in becoming a governor, please do make contact with Mr John Jordan (Chair of Governors).
I would like to thank our governing body for all the work they do for us – it is much appreciated.
Friday 20th May 2016
There has been so much debate in the media very recently about the testing arrangements in primary schools and I have had discussions with parents and children about the SATs. Indeed, we spent a lot of time debating the issues at our last Class Parent meeting.
As you are aware we introduced a new, much harder national curriculum several years ago and these harder tests are designed to assess pupil attainment in line with this. The tests are significantly more challenging and it was very interesting when the staff compared one of the KS2 maths SATs with a GCSE maths paper – there were not huge differences! The KS2 reading SAT was extremely hard and I know that this has caused much national unrest.
Our year 2 children have also started their KS1 SATs this week and again these are much more difficult.
I have been so proud of our children and they have tackled the SATs with resilience and perseverance. Our teaching team have also worked hard to ensure that our children are adequately prepared so that they can do their best. Lots of mums and dads have supported the children effectively at home also and our year 6 children loved their breakfast butties! We have also tried to explain to our children that these tests are important but all we can ask of them is for them to do their best. We believe it is so important to deliver the tests in a calm and supportive manner so we do not have children traumatised by the experience.
Personally I begrudge the time and effort spent in preparing the children for the SATs. This is valuable learning time wasted to drilling the children to take a test. We are constantly assessing the children and our teachers have a very good knowledge of where the children are, what they can do and what their next learning steps are. I understand the need for a national benchmark and would be happy for the children to take a national test where the results can be used to aid pupil progress.
Despite my views I am certain that testing is here to stay. We will continue in our determination for our children to perform well in these tests but to also deliver an all-round education resulting in our children being well prepared with the skills needed for their future lives.
Friday 13th May 2016
No doubt you have heard in the news that the government have dropped their plans to force all schools to become an academy by 2022.
The governing body have discussed the pros and cons of becoming an academy annually for the last 3 years and each time it was decided that the school would not be moving in this direction. However, this is reviewed on a regular basis.
We spoke with the Department for Education 2 years ago about joining with a small group of schools with a similar ethos to ours but it was decided that the distance between our schools was too great. Mr Jordan, Mr Gristwood and I met with a secondary head teacher of a local school very recently but again it was decided that there was little benefit to us joining their academy.
The governing body are quite clear that they need to be convinced of the merits of becoming an academy. There are no financial benefits and whatever is decided in the future it has to impact positively on the education of our children, ensuring improved outcomes.
We are a good school and do not believe in being ‘pushed’ into something that would be wrong for Mere School. We will continue to build and strengthen bonds with other schools that will be essential for survival in the predicted tough times ahead.
Whatever the journey of travel for our school, parents and stakeholders will be consulted and we will keep you updated and informed. I am sure there will be many more changes to come!
Friday 6th May 2016
It is always lovely to hear from past pupils and their families and I was delighted to receive an e.mail last week from a family who moved away from Mere when their daughter was in Green Class with Mrs Symonds. The family made contact to wish all of our year 6 children the very best of luck with their SATs next week. This is what they said:
“As the time is drawing nearer for you and your team to say goodbye to yet another group of young people … here are 2 that got away!!!
Both of the girls are doing very well; studying hard for their up and coming SATs.
We shall always miss Mere, it’s people and it’s school. The girls often reflect when they are together on the happy memories and times they shared at Mere School: the friends made, the inspiring, kindly teachers, the many clubs, inviting special person to lunch dates and the wonderful discos; all of which make the school such a happy place to be. So proud to have been part of it.
With our best wishes for the current year sixes and their SATS, wishing you and all the team every continued success.”
It is so good to know we are missed and appreciated and we have our fingers crossed for Purple Class next week!
Friday 29th April 2016
Our Class Parent meeting last week was very productive – as usual. Thank you to this group of parents who continue to help us.
We chatted about the following things:
Friday 22nd April 2016
I was really interested to see one of our parents, Mrs Justine Womack, on our local ITV news several weeks ago, in her professional role. She was discussing childhood obesity with the presenter because some statistics had been published about 22% of children in the South West starting school that are obese or overweight. Please see:
We send a letter home from the school nursing team about children being weighed in Foundation Stage and year 6. Parents are able to opt out of this programme but if they do not the school nurse will be weighing these children. We are then sent the collated results and I report this to our governing body.
The letter I received said:
“Thank you for participating in the NCMP programme (National Child Measurement Programme), now in its eighth year in Wiltshire. The NCMP provides invaluable information on child growth trends. “
The data from our children stated that the position of our school was:
“not different to Wiltshire as a whole.”
This is something to be celebrated as we like to work very closely with you to ensure our children have a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
Friday 15th April 2016
I understand that there has been lots of great publicity about Mere during the holidays in the Sunday Times. Mere was highlighted as one of the best places to live in the South West – the link is below:
http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/style/homes and gardens/article1679202.ece?shareToken=71061589a3747171d8b3bdb45f681c93
“Mere, Wiltshire. You’d be forgiven for thinking that not much happens in Mere, off the A303, which is making its debut in Best Places this year. Union Jacks flutter from casement windows, and the church bells and chiming town clock do their baleful duty. The odd reveller falls out of a half-timbered pub, and the town’s latest council report reveals that there’s progress with the new model railway, and that the Mere Meander trail is a great way for explore its historic gems. OK, high-octane this is not, but its residents absolutely love this place, where the Blackmore Vale meets the chalk downs that extend westward from Salisbury Plain, and the community spirit is strong. There’s something for everyone here, cat-lovers and quilters alike. Large farmhouses with land on the outskirts of town cost £600,000, but quaint terraced houses near the market square (which, er, doesn’t have a market any more) cost less than half as much. For proper shopping, locals have to head north to Warminster or south to Shaftesbury; the nearest secondary school is in Gillingham, where there’s also a direct rail link to London. What the locals say ‘don’t rush me’. Why we love it – Merely the perfect country town.”
The Sunday Times used our school’s performance when they made their judgements on Mere also.
I am sure we all knew this but it is good to have it recognised in print!
Thursday 24th March 2016
I have spoken to so many parents this week about their child’s report and how proud they are of their child’s achievements and I read every comment that comes back to school on the acknowledgement slip.
Parent Interviews will take place on Wednesday 20th April from 3.30 - 7 pm for all classes apart from GOLD. MRS SCHOFIELD WILL BE MEETING PARENTS ON MONDAY 18TH APRIL 2016 FROM 1 PM - 5 PM. Please ring the office after Easter to make an appointment.
There should be no surprises on the annual report as, if teachers had concerns about your child’s progress, they would have made contact with you but if you have immediate worries we can always arrange an earlier appointment.
We have created our reports so that they give you a very clear picture of your child’s progress and attainment. As a parent I used to get so frustrated with the narrative of what my children had learnt rather than what they had achieved and I wanted to avoid this at our school.
From reading Mrs Loxton’s letter you can no doubt see that it is challenging for schools to make a judgement on how well our children are doing compared to national expectations. The current government seem to be making daily changes and we will continue to ensure we keep up to date and adjust accordingly. We are however, recording the progress of our children in great detail and I report this to our governing body every half term.
We have been considering the times of our Parent Interviews for the next academic year – they do not seem to be well ‘spaced’ this year! We are proposing Parent Interviews next year in November and March, reports at the end of the academic year (July) and our tracking programme being open to parents at the end of each term. Your views on this would be appreciated and I will be taking opinions from the Class Parents at our next meeting.
We do appreciate all the support and help you give to your children, enabling them to make the very best progress they can. Hearing your child read regularly and helping them learn their tables over the Easter break will start the new term off well. I hope you have a restful break and we look forward to seeing the children on Monday 11th April 2016.
Friday 18th March 2016
I spend a lot of my time reading about the new OFSTED inspection and what will be expected. Mrs Loxton and I were lucky to listen to 2 HMIs (senior inspectors) at a conference we attended recently. They said that one of their favourite questions for schools was ‘How would you describe the culture of your school?’
We have a clear view inside school on this but I thought it would be useful to ask several visitors their opinion. The Senior PE Lecturer from Winchester University made the following observations:
“I have been a visitor at Mere School since 2013, where the head teacher, staff and pupils have always been very welcoming. It is the little things that make you feel welcome, colleagues remembering you by your first name, asking if you would like a drink or something to eat, chatting to you as part of the team when you sit in the staffroom and inviting you to events that have been part of (year 6 leaver’s event), or other events the school are proud to celebrate. Being at one of Mere’s teachers book launch was particularly special, seeing how the whole school came together to celebrate the achievements of a member of staff. I have never witnesses anything like that before.
Having worked with colleagues in physical education specifically, the time committed to all staff to place the health and well being of young people at Mere has been remarkable. There is a distinct culture of sporting achievement as well as participation that has been clearly nurtured by all staff from physical education lessons right through to individual/team accomplishments in extra-curricular provision. Teachers and teaching assistants have been genuinely keen to learn, asked questions and contributed to ideas which has ensured working together has always been very productive. A real team approach. As a visitor you no longer feel like a visitor .. but part of the wider team.”
Our new School Improvement Advisor also wrote:
“It has been a pleasure visiting Mere Primary School in my role as School Improvement Advisor. On entering the school it is clear that the atmosphere is calm and orderly. The children are confident learners and take pride in all they do. This is demonstrated in the class work and their involvement in a range of activities, for example, playing musical instruments in assembly. The school has a culture of purposefulness with staff and children having high expectations of themselves and each other. Adults talk about the school with professionalism and are focused on continuing to develop and improve. Children, staff and governors respect and effectively support each other in striving to build on their achievements.”
If you have any observations on the culture of our school please could you e.mail them to me?
Friday 11th March 2016
“Research says students make additional 2 – 4 months’ progress when small groups get structured help from assistant”, The Guardian, Friday 26th February 2016
This was music to my ears! At Mere School we invest heavily in Teaching Assistants as we strongly believe they make a huge difference to the progress of our children.
The educational value of TAs has been called into question in recent years but Sally Weale, the Education Correspondent from The Guardian, drew our attending to the latest research:
“The latest research, however, shows that when TAs are used in a focused way – to deliver structured, high quality support to small groups or individual children – pupils make an additional 2 – 4 months’ progress."
Evaluation of the 2 studies was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) charity, which says there is compelling evidence that should help shape the way TAs are used in schools to ensure they improve pupils’ results.
Sir Kevan Collins, EEF chief Executive, said, “Teaching assistants have been much maligned in recent years and many schools have scaled back on their employment to cut costs. But today’s results prove that when they’re used to deliver small-group interventions, they can have a great impact on pupils’ attainment. With so many teaching assistants employed across the country, schools now have compelling evidence to make sure they’re using their own TAs in ways that really improve results.”
In the past 5 years the EEF has commissioned evaluations of 6 TA-led interventions, with more than 2,000 children in just under 150 schools. In all of them, TAs are training to deliver structured sessions to small groups or individual pupils; all 6 trial show a positive impact on learning.
We have been employing all of our TAs in this way for a number of years now and our own monitoring indicates that our TAs are having a significant impact on the outcomes of our children. We are extremely lucky at Mere, to have a dedicated, highly trained and knowledgeable group of professional TAs who work closely with the teachers, contributing to the learning journey of every child.
Friday 4th March 2016
Another really productive meeting with our Class Parents! Thank you so much to them for helping the school in this way.
We chatted about some issues raised at the last meeting:
The Class Parents approved the updated ‘Action Against bullying’ leaflet for parents and this will be distributed with the newsletter and copies placed around the school. The group also approved our ‘Singles Equalities Policy’ – which is now available on the website.
Mr Jordan (Chair of Governors) came to talk about our Achievement Awards, which have been held for the last couple of years at the end of the summer term. Mr Jordan explained that the awards were established to recognise children who work hard and achieve well and he explained that all children have the opportunity to work for this recognition (very much like the Founders Day Awards at Gillingham School). It was unanimously agreed that this event would continue and the parents were keen that it was an invitation only event. I need to make sure that I explain clearly to parents the principles behind the awards in my newsletter. I also need to encourage teachers to use the school postcards more frequently as parents and children really appreciate this recognition.
Other things we discussed:
If you have anything you would like your Class Parent to bring to our meetings – please do let them know.
PARKING – an update
We had an extremely useful meeting just before the holidays. Mr Beale (governor), Mrs Ashlin and Mrs Guy (parents) and I spent a lot of time walking around the car park discussing various options.
We have some agreed actions which we will share with the Parish Council and other users of the site:
For such a short meeting I feel that real progress has been made. However, a lot of these actions are interconnected and reliant on all of the site users agreeing. It might take a little time.
If you have any comments or suggestions we would really value your input.
Again, please can I reiterate that there is no parking in this area for parents/carers. Please work with us to keep our children safe.
PARKING – again!
Our current ‘bollard policy’ has certainly caused some debate and it has definitely resulted in the issue of parking on our school site rising to the top of our discussion list.
I know that the vast majority of our parents/carers are fully supportive of our mission to ensure our children are safe at all times. Our school car park is regularly highlighted as an unsafe area by children, staff, visitors, governors and parents and it is my duty to ensure everyone is safe in this area.
The governors and I have tried to implement a quick solution, enabling us to have time to consider longer term options. However, the bollards are having a negative impact on our immediate neighbours so we have suspended this for the time being.
The Governors, Friends and Mrs Ashlin (one of our parents, who has experience in this area) are starting to investigate our problem. They are starting the process by considering the following:
· extending the ‘Bowls Club’ car park,
· creating a pick-up zone,
· erecting a barrier across the entrance to the school car park,
· a walking bus,
· penalty notices/site bans,
· encouraging more families to walk to school.
We are also liaising very closely with the Police, Wiltshire Council and Mere Town Council. We would appreciate an input from you so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute. We don’t have a magical answer!
So, in the short term I need your support to keep our car park safe until we find a solution. Our short term approach was not implemented to upset our neighbours but through a genuine desire to protect everyone in this area.
Please do pop in or e.mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.
Friday 5th February 2016
I am aware that there has been some Facebook discussion about our school meals so I thought this would make a good theme for my weekly message.
Our school meals are the envy of many local and not so local schools and we are extremely lucky that our Governing Body have chosen to invest in our school kitchen over the years. We provide meals to 2 local schools with a waiting list of several others who would like to purchase our services. We currently have the highest uptake of school meals that we have ever had – high praise indeed!
The Governors believe that there is nothing more important than to provide our children with a high quality meal at lunchtime. Our ingredients are locally sourced (eg meat from the butchers in Shaftesbury) and the meals are prepared ‘from scratch’ (not reheated) by Mrs Corbett and her team. We offer the children a dining experience where they eat around a table with cutlery and proper crockery (not an aeroplane tray!) and we encourage good table manners at all times. Our older children are ‘servers’ and take responsibility for the children on their table.
The children regularly speak with Mrs Corbett about the lunches and offer her feedback about the menus and lunchtime in general. They have recently made a request for napkins so this has been actioned. Mrs Corbett spends significant amounts of time planning the menus taking account of the national Food Standards and ensuring the meal is well balanced, appropriate for growing children, delicious and popular. We offer daily vegetarian alternatives and cater for a significant amount of food allergies. Jacket potatoes and various fillings can be ordered in advance and fruit is always available instead of the planned pudding, for the children.
At £1.80/day I consider our school meals to be outstanding value and new parents to the school find it hard to believe how much cheaper compared to other schools our meals are. They are also delighted with the quality of the food.
All of our KS1 children are offered a free school meal and the majority of children take advantage of this. School meals at KS2 are optional and parents are able to decide if and when they would like their child to have a school meal. We ask for meal orders to be with Mrs Rawlings on the Friday, ready for the following week, and payment on the Monday. We are increasingly finding that the children (and parents) are going through the menus on a half termly basis and ordering in advance.
Of course, we are always willing to talk to parents about our meals and Mrs Corbett is regularly considering changes based on the feedback from the children. We are so lucky to have such a dedicated professional striving to provide our children with the best possible meals.
Friday 29th January 2016
We are looking forward to the next Friend’s meeting on Friday (5th February) at 2.15 pm. Please do come along.
The Friends are a very important organisation for our school. They primarily raise money for the ‘extras’ that our school budget cannot afford.
Their fund raising pays for our annual visit to the pantomime in Salisbury. Tickets for this are in excess of £20 each, quite often beyond what a lot of us can afford at this time of year. It is such a special event for our children – one they remember for years to come. The Friends have also bought for example, i.pads, computers, wet play time equipment, and they are currently trying to find match funding for a covered outdoor classroom, at the side of Yellow Class.
The Friends are also eager to offer the parents the opportunity to meet with each other socially and some of the events they organise are not for money raising purposes, but giving parents and friends of Mere School the chance to get to know each other.
On Friday 4th March 2016 at 7 pm in The Walnut, The Friend’s Auction of Promises will be taking place. There are a huge number of lots for auction and this event will be the main fund raiser of the year (as well as being an opportunity for friends and parents of the school to meet together). Tickets are on sale in the school office for £10. This ticket includes a meal.
Other events ‘in the pipeline’ include discos, bingos and a Summer Fete. The ‘Blue Bags to School’ collection also raises a lot of money as well as the ‘The Giving Machine’.
We noticed at our last meeting that the parents who attend are mums and dads (and grannies) of the children in our older classes. We have very few parents who attend from the younger classes and this is going to be a problem for this organisation in the very near future. We need to recruit so that there are people to fill the vacancies that are going to be there.
We would love to welcome any parents to the meeting at the end of the week. We need new ideas and fresh input so that The Friends of Mere School go from strength to strength. If you can spare some time please come to the meeting and bring a friend.
We look forward to seeing you.
Friday 22nd January 2016
We had yet another very productive Class Parent meeting last Friday. A huge thank you to the dedicated parents who continue to help me.
We chatted about the following:
At the next meeting we plan to chat about our Achievement Awards. Please let your class parents know your views.
Friday 15th January 2016
The Governors are in the process of updating the information on the website about holidays in term time and I thought it would be a good idea to use my Weekly Message to remind parents all about it.
The Government have implemented rigorous procedures around term time absence and SCHOOLS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO AUTHORISE ANY HOLIDAY ABSENCE. However, the governors are able to consider a 'Leave of Absence' in 'exceptional circumstances.' Family holidays do not fall into this category.
If a child has an unauthorised absence of more than 9 sessions (4.5 days), schools should pass the paperwork to the Fixed Penalty Officer at the Local Authority - in this case, Wiltshire Council. Follow this link to read more on the Wiltshire Council Website about fines for term time holidays.
Mere School's policy is that if a child's attendance is above 95% and their attainment and progress measures are good or above, we will not forward the paperwork for a fine. However, if the child's attendance, progress and attainment measures are satisfactory or below, the paperwork for a fine will be submitted if an absence is unauthorised.
We have high expectations for every child, and to achieve the best possible progress the children need to be in school. To get on in life it is important that children have a good education behind them and a child’s chances of a successful future may be affected by not attending school regularly. If children have a poor attendance rate they may not be able to keep up with school work. Not only do children miss the academic work, poor attendance can also affect your child’s ability to make and keep friendships.
Fortunately, the number of unauthorised holidays in term time is decreasing and I am extremely grateful to parents who avoid taking children out of school. Working in a school we have an acute understanding of how much more expensive it is to holiday during the school breaks and we can only hope that there might be some work completed with the holiday companies to eradicate this problem.
Friday 8th January 2016
You have probably noticed from the newsletter that Parent Interviews will take place on Wednesday 13th January 2016 from 3.30 pm – 7 pm.
Please can I encourage all parents to make an appointment to see their child’s teacher. If this day is not convenient we would be more than happy to arrange an alternative.
We are very keen to speak to every parent to celebrate their child’s progress and to consider how we can work together to secure even greater improvements. A successful education relies on a good partnership between home and school and when this relationship is strong the children achieve very well.
Mrs Loxton has written to you to explain about how our computer tracking system will be open for parents to access their child’s progress, attainment and attendance data. This is very easy to use but if you have any problems please contact us so we can help. This letter is available to download from this website.
During the meeting the teachers will be offering suggestions as to how you might help your child at home. Hearing your child read regularly is absolutely vital and this regular support has a positive impact across the curriculum. You have probably heard in the media during the Christmas holidays that the children in year 6 will be completing a national tables test, starting in 2017, so the constant revision of the tables at home is really important. Learning spellings and completing any given homework is also a ‘must’. Your teacher might also have other suggestions and of course, we welcome your observations and feedback.
Mere School prides itself on its ‘open door’ policy and if, at any time, you are concerned about your child at school please contact us. We were will do our best to meet with you quickly. The class e.mails are a quick and easy way to contact your teacher:
BLUE - Mrs McClelland - email@example.com
YELLOW - Mrs Symonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
SILVER - Mrs Edgar/Mrs Wilson - email@example.com
GOLD - Mrs Schofield - firstname.lastname@example.org
GREEN - Mr Rich - email@example.com
RED - Miss Beckwith - firstname.lastname@example.org
PURPLE - Mrs Loxton - email@example.com
We look forward to seeing you on 13th! If we do not hear from you it is likely that your class teacher will make contact with you.
Friday 18th December 2015
The final day of term has been a very happy and a very sad one!
Mere School said goodbye to Mrs Lynn Taylor, who has been part of our school since before September 2003. I say before, as Mrs Taylor completed her final teaching experience with us while she was studying for her teaching qualification at university. Mrs Taylor was a very competent student in the class that Mrs Warmington and I taught.
As a school we knew we had a teaching vacancy and were very keen that Mrs Taylor applied for the post. It took her a long time to decide as she would have a lengthy journey to and from school, but fortunately, she did apply and was successful and has been here, in different roles ever since.
Mrs Taylor started as a newly qualified teacher in Yellow Class (year 1) and taught in there for several years. After this we made the brave decision for her to move to Purple Class (year 6) and she taught there for quite a long time. She was also appointed as Literacy Subject Leader.
On Mrs Bundy’s retirement we were delighted to appoint Mrs Taylor as our new Deputy Head Teacher and she was instrumental in the success we had raising standards across the school. She became our data and teaching and learning expert.
During this time Mrs Taylor embarked on a further training course – National Professional Qualification for Headship. This is an onerous and difficult qualification, but she passed this and she was prepared officially to take on the headship of a school.
We have been lucky that she has remained with us for so long but an opportunity came along at Shrewton Primary School and she will be starting there as head teacher in January 2016.
As disappointing as it is for Mere School, it is only right that Shrewton should benefit from her many skills and talents and we wish her every success in this new post. Our loss will be Shrewton’s gain!
Friday 11th December 2015
I have decided to write about the dreaded ‘P’ word this week – PARKING!
All schools have issues with parking and we are more fortunate than most, in that we have a drop-off zone and access to the Bowls Club car park.
Our main car park is for the sole use of school staff, pre-school staff and Children’s Centre staff. There is no parking at all for parents/carers during the day – especially at the start and end of the school day. There is a sign strategically placed and the school and pre-school regularly remind parents/carers about this. The disabled bay is for anyone who might have a ‘Blue Badge’.
We now have several taxis and mini-buses that pick up children – adding to the collection of vehicles in this area.
I do understand how frustrating it is for parents, when they are in a rush, as there are empty parking spaces. However, during one of our OFSTED inspections parents raised a concern about safety in the car park and this has made us even more determined to ensure that our children are safe. Our risk assessments state our arrangements for this area and are regularly scrutinised and approved by the Local Authority.
We have daily feedback from parents with issues around the car park and the governors have discussed the problem. A willing band of governors and parents will now be on duty in the car park after school to ensure there is no unauthorised parking and that our children are safe. I am very grateful to them for helping us with this. We cannot use members of staff at this time as they are still working with the children.
There are also added problems with parents/carers parking around by the swimming pool and the Parish Council are going to consider this. With the high hedge on the corner is it so difficult to see anyone walking. We also continue to have a group of parents who park in ‘The Prince of Wales Club’ car park and who drive along this narrow road when so many of our families are walking. Unfortunately I have no control over this and we encourage parents to report their concerns to the police.
A huge thank you to the majority of parents/carers who are helping the school to keep our children safe. Unfortunately there have been individuals who continue to ignore our pleas and this may result in a site ban.
The ‘P’ issue is consuming a huge amount of my time and I am hoping that, by working together, we can keep our children safe in this area. The governors and Parish Council are working together to consider the possibility of extending The Bowls Club car park – it might be worth canvasing the support of your local parish Councillor!
Friday 4th December 2015
Mr John Jordan and I were delighted to appoint Mrs Sam Wilson to the position of job share teacher in year 2 and cover teacher for a variety of classes. Congratulations to Mrs Wilson and Mrs Edgar is looking forward to working closely with her and Silver Class. Mrs Wilson will also teach either Silver or Green Classes on a Wednesday morning while Mrs Edgar and Mr Rich have their subject leader time. Mrs Smith will take Purple Class on a Wednesday afternoon while Mrs Loxton has her Deputy Head Teacher planning time.
The Class Parents asked at their last meeting how the recruitment process works so I thought I would use my Weekly Message to explain.
Once a teacher has handed in his/her resignation, I have to acknowledge the resignation, then the recruitment process starts.
I prepare an advert for the Wiltshire Bulletin (a Wiltshire publication which goes on the Wiltshire Council website – available to everyone nationally). I have to consider the timing of the advert, a shortlisting date and an interview date. I also have to ensure that a selection of governors are available to help with the shortlisting and interviewing.
Once I have a timeline in place I can then prepare an application pack. This consists of a letter with details about the job and interview, a person specification, a job description and an application form. Candidates often access this online.
The potential applicants are encouraged to come and meet me and have a look around the school before they apply. This gives me the opportunity to meet people in a more relaxed situation.
After this the applicants return their application form and letter of application to the school and a team of governors and I will shortlist the candidates for interview. Once we have a shortlist I send for 2 references for each candidate.
A timetable for the interview day is drawn up during the shortlisting meeting, usually this will involve the candidates teaching, showing us some work and answering a set of agreed questions (one of which must be a Child Protection one). One of us on the interview panel must have successfully completed the ‘Safer Recruitment’ course. I have this qualification at the moment and Mr Jordan and Mr Rankin are in the process of completing his.
After all of the tasks have been completed the interview panel meet to decide on whom to appoint. If there is not a suitable candidate we will not appoint and the process starts again.
Recruitment for other posts in school are similar. TA and administration posts are usually advertised in the Blackmore Vale Magazine and MDSA and cleaner posts in the Post Office and school newsletter.
As you can see, the process is rigorous and time consuming but the governors and I strongly believe that we must take recruitment very seriously so that we get the best possible staff at Mere School.
Friday 27th November 2015
It has been a particularly busy and worrying time in school with the potential diarrhoeal illness doe to e.coli infection. Mrs Taylor and the office team have worked tirelessly to ensure we follow the requirements of the Public Health Team at Public Health England.
To date, there has only been one confirmed case and this child contracted the illness while they were abroad.
This type of diarrhoeal illness can be very infectious, especially in very young children who may not always have good hand hygiene. We have organised for our cleaning team to return after lunch to give our loos and sinks an extra clean and all teachers have discussed the importance of careful hand washing with the children. We have also organised for our water to be tested to double-check that our school environment is free from the bug.
The advice we are still receiving is that it is important not to bring your child to school if they have any type of diarrhoeal illness, and to ensure they are excluded from school for 48 hours after their symptoms have completely gone and they are feeling better. You also need to arrange to see your GP to arrange for a stool sample to be taken. Children should not return to school until it has been confirmed safe to do so by the Health Protection Team.
The procedure to follow is:
Thank you all so much for your calm and measured approach to this situation – it is much appreciated.
Friday 20th November 2015
The Class Parents and I had another very productive meeting last week and I am so grateful to this team of parents who have ‘their fingers on the pulse’ and bring many relevant issues to discuss. I am also able to share ideas with the group and ask for advice. We discussed the following: