Friday 22nd July 2021
I always use my final message of the year to reflect on what has happened. When I wrote this last year I never imagined that we would be closed for such a long period of time. We are all looking forward to September and to the start, of what we hope will be, a normal year.
As ever, our children have responded magnificently to the challenges of the year. They have been adaptable and flexible and have shown great resilience swapping between on-line and actual learning. We have been so impressed with the way the children have worked extremely hard to catch up with any lost learning and endured the constant cancellation of all the special things we like to do in school.
Home learning was a challenge for all of us. Our parents demonstrated a determined approach to learning about TEAMs so they could access remote learning with their children. The children produced some careful work of a high standard and, with your help, managed to submit it remotely for the teachers to mark. The staff really appreciated parent messages of support and thanks as well as the suggestions to make things even better.
I know that the staff are exhausted. We would normally be involved in many more extra-curricular activities but I think it has been a long year with lots of new things to learn and many adaptations to be made.
Our governing body has been an immense support to the school. They have challenged and supported in equal measure to ensure that educational standards remain high but our staff and children are cared for and coping.
Mere School is an extremely special place and I would like to thank everyone who contributes to its unique nature. We are all part of a highly effective team enabling our children to achieve their potential emotionally, socially and academically.
We look forward to working with you next year in normal circumstances I hope!
Friday 16th July 2021
We are really sorry that Miss Hanby will be leaving us at the end of this term.
Miss Hanby’s ambition when she came to England was to train to be a teacher. She knew that she had to gain some experience of education in a primary school and volunteered with us every day for over a term. She learnt such a lot in a very short period of time and was successfully appointed as the TA for Yellow Class.
Our school community has benefitted so much from Miss Hanby being with us and she is a great example to us all, showing determination, resilience and hard work – all the attributes we are trying to develop in our children. Miss Hanby said “it is with deep regret that I am leaving Mere School to start my career.”
I would like to share with you part of an e.mail Miss Hanby sent to our Chair of Governors about what it is like working in our school. Unless you are part of the team here it is difficult for you to understand how special our school is:
“Working at Mere School with such a united and supportive team has made me more confident and resilient. Mere School has amazing values and an amazing culture. I have been amazed to see how everybody works together in total transparency in order to help the children in the best way possible. I couldn’t have wished for a better experience before starting my teaching training in September.”
So, a huge thank you all of our staff who make Mere School a very special place to learn, train and work and we wish Miss Hanby the very best of luck for her training. I hope she might come back to Mere School as a teacher in the future!
Friday 9th July 2021
We have always been so proud of the way our children conduct themselves at Mere School. Many visitors comment on the high standards of behaviour and how keen the children are to learn in school.
We have a comprehensive Behaviour Policy, which is on our website for you to read. It is designed to promote good behaviour and underpins our ethos of kindness and co-operation.
We teach appropriate behaviour through our curriculum (respect, fairness, empathy, care) and endeavour to provide a stimulating environment where children will be more likely to engage in acceptable behaviour.
Our Golden Rules are:
We are kind and helpful
We work hard
We are gentle
We are honest
We look after property.
In addition to these Golden Rules ‘Class Charters’ are negotiated with each class at the start of the new school year.
There are occasions when a child might break these Golden Rules. We have a warning system across the school (colour clouds in KS1 and coloured cards in KS2) and there are a series of consequences should this happen.
At Mere School every member of staff adheres to this policy and we all model appropriate behaviour for our children. We aim to maintain our high behavioural standards by positive reinforcement rather than negative censure and this seems to be working for us!
Friday 2nd July 2021
Learning first aid is an invaluable life skill. It helps children become more risk aware and equips them with skills to keep themselves safe and help themselves or others if involved in a medical emergency. It could save their life.
From September 2020, first aid training was a mandatory part of our PSHE curriculum, however, first aid training is not new to Mere School.
A couple of weeks ago a paramedic from the Wiltshire Air Ambulance team came to work with every class. He taught our children basic first aid in a hands–on way. The children loved the practical nature of this training and the wealth of experience the paramedic was able to share.
Please chat to your child about what they learned – they might save a life with this information one day.
The children will have first aid training every year.
Mrs Cocker will be in touch early in the new term to share our new PSHE curriculum with you, inviting any comments of observations.
Friday 25th June 2021
The Local Authority is now moving forward with the expansion of our school building and the car park improvements. We seem to have been waiting for ages but there are lots of processes that need to be followed.
The main contractor has been approved and the design phase will be completed by the end of August.
There will be a series of meetings before this time to finalise the plans. It is really important we liaise closely with the Town Council and other users of the site.
It is hoped that the work will start in October 2021 and will be completed by March 2022. There will be limited impact on the school building but we will need to plan the car park works very carefully. This is advanced notice that there might be some disruption for a short period of time.
The plans are for the school to take control of the whole first floor of the building. Green Class will be remodelled and the 3 rooms along that wall will be knocked into 2 large classrooms. We will also have the 2 smaller rooms at the end of the corridor. All of this area will be refurbished so that the environment matches that of our school currently – new windows, blinds, re-decoration, carpet, wi-fi, telephones etc. There will also be some additional toilets created. It is unlikely that we will use all of this space initially but the governors wanted us to be ready!
The car park will be significantly expanded with many more parking spaces. The area in front of the school will be gated off ensuring a safe walkway for the children. The additional spaces will be between the Bowl’s Club car park all the way up to the side of the MUGA. A drop off zone will also be created in this area. It is hoped that this work will ensure the approach roads to the school are less congested and safer to walk along.
There is a lot of work to be done but it is very exciting for our school! I will keep you regularly updated.
Friday 18th June 2021
Our children thoroughly enjoyed working with our visiting e.safety expert a few weeks ago and he was very impressed with our children’s knowledge. He said that the best advice he can give parents is to have a conversation with them about their internet use – particularly our older children.
A simple but effective way to get involved with your children and their lives online is through discussion. By maintaining an open dialogue with your child and encouraging them to talk to you about their internet use parents can help children access the amazing resources the internet has to offer whilst keeping them safe online.
Conversation starter ideas:
Parents are the best people for children to talk to. There is lots of help on our website – please do take a look.
Friday 11th June 2021
Even though we have not been able to meet face to face, our Class Parents have been busy during this term. We have been keeping in touch by e.mail.
We have made some decisions about school photographs for the next academic year. Mr David McGirr will be taking our photos again – everyone seemed very pleased with the quality of his work. He will be coming on Wednesday 22nd September to take individual and family group photos – COVID permitting. He will then return in June to take class photographs.
Some parents have asked whether the children can wear Fitbits/iwatches during PE lessons so the children can monitor their performance. We have decided that we will follow the policy of Gillingham School. They do not allow the children to wear these items during their lessons so we will be following their decision.
I had no more expansion information to share with the Class Parents. I think the Local Authority are gathering quotes and completing planning applications.
I shared class information with the group for September 2021. The classes will be as follows:
Blue – spring and summer born EYFS with Mrs Catherine McClelland/Mrs Sarah Shinar and
Mrs Carrieanne Sayer
Yellow – autumn born EYFS and spring and summer born year 1 with Mrs Mel Tavenner and
Mrs Claire Peck/Ms Kelly Glendenning
Silver – autumn born year 1 and summer born year 2 with Mrs Sam Wilson/Mrs Sophie
Edgar and Mrs Louise Rainford
Orange – autumn and summer born year 2 with Mr Rich and a new teaching assistant
Gold – year 3 with Miss Sarah Santry and Mrs Carolanne Barry
Green – year 4 with Mrs Debs Shannon and Mrs Lisa Cripps
Red – year 5 with Mrs Sarah Cocker and Mrs Mandy Green
Purple – year 6 with Mrs Paula Loxton and Mrs Michelle Read.
Letters will be sent home at the end of June informing parents of which class their child will be in.
We managed to consider who would be Class Parents in September 2021. We have 2 parents for every class and Mrs McClelland is approaching 2 parents for our new Blue Class.
A huge thank you to all of our Class Parents for all the work they do for the school and for helping us to keep in touch with all of our parents – particularly during COVID.
Friday 28th May 2021
We are starting to put plans together for the next academic year. We hope it will be one full of normality!
Some parents have been asking about school photographs and whether there was the opportunity for family groups to be taken before the summer. Unfortunately sibling group photographs will be a COVID victim this academic year. As we are unable to cross bubbles in school (despite siblings being together at home) it will not be possible for us to organise this.
We have booked for Mr David McGirr to return in September. Parents seemed universally pleased with his photographs and we will work with David to try and improve the administration.
Individual and sibling group photographs will be taken in September (COVID-permitting) and he will return to take class photographs in June.
Friday 21st May 2021
We were delighted to welcome Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert to school on Wednesday. His visit was postponed from January but we were determined that our children should get the benefit of his expert advice. Our governing body put money aside every year to ensure that our children are informed and supported when using the internet.
Children regularly use different websites and apps and it can be hard to keep up in this ever-changing digital world but the things that help keep children safe online are often similar to the things that keep them safe offline.
Talk to your children about what they think is normal online and what behaviour to expect from others and from themselves.
Encourage them to think critically and question what they see online. Talk to them about where they can go to get information they trust, talk about fake news, fake followers and scams. Help them develop a healthy suspicion of whether people are who they say they are.
Share your knowledge and experience of relationships. For example, sometimes people seem nice at first and then they turn out to be mean. Let them know that you know this, they can talk to you about it and that you will not panic or punish them if they do.
Show them how to report any worrying behaviour they see online.
We are helping prepare our children for their futures if we help them go online safely and responsibly. Many people worry about amounts of screen time, but there can be lots of positives about what your child is doing – entertainment, keeping in touch with friends and researching homework, so quality screen time is important.
There is a lot of information on our website – please do take a look.
Friday 14th May 2021
At least we have managed to hold one event for the children – our book fair and the Mere School book day.
The Travelling Book Fair arrived in school on Wednesday which was stocked with all of the latest books as well as the old favourites. This year though, due to COVID restrictions, the cases of books were only for the children and staff to look at (not touch). We have sent the catalogue home and parents are able to order by using the order form and contacting the company directly, either online or by phone. We usually manage to stock our books up in school through the commission from this event.
We held our COVID-secure Book Day on Thursday and the children were involved in many exciting activities linked to their favourite book. They were invited to come to school in warm, comfortable clothes – like our KS1 Snuggle Up story day.
The children had the opportunity to guess who the Masked Readers were (teachers and TAs recorded themselves reading their favourite children’s stories) with their identities hidden. They all enjoyed a Snuggle Up story time with hot chocolate and biscuits from our school kitchen. We welcomed children’s book author Pippa Goodhart virtually and she launched our book day with an assembly and had a session with each class.
A huge thank you to Mr Rich for organising this special week and to our parents for supporting the book fair.
We hope that we can have a normal one next year!
Friday 7th May 2021
I am sure you are aware of the huge media coverage relating to child on child sexual violence. This has resulted in the setting up a website called ‘Everyone’s Invited’.
A lady called Soma experienced a rape culture in her early teenage years. Conversations with friends throughout her time at school and u
niversity began to reveal to her just how widespread the issue is for young people. While finishing her English degree at UCL, she began sharing her experiences of rape culture on Instagram. In light of the overwhelming response from those that resonated with her story Soma founded Everyone’s Invited in June 2020. Everyone’s Invited is a space created for survivors to share their stories. Since the 8th of March 2021, over 15,000 anonymous testimonies have been submitted and shared on Everyone’s Invited, sparking a conversation about rape culture with millions of people. Soma is hopeful that this conversation will help lead to the global exposure and eradication of rape culture.
The Government have asked OFSTED to review the safeguarding policies in schools, when they visit, to look at the severity and extent of the issue and to ensure that schools are following appropriate safeguarding processes and procedures.
Whilst this issue relates more to older children I wanted to use my message to reassure you that safeguarding continues to be the utmost priority for Mere School. We are constantly reviewing policies and procedures to ensure our children are safe at all times and as part of this staff and governors have received additional training and information.
Friday 30th April 2021
We are hoping that you have managed to make an appointment to see your child’s teacher on Tuesday 4th May 2021. This will be a T D day and the school will be closed for the children. We look forward to when we can return to our ‘normal’ parent interviews.
We must ensure that these interviews are conducted in the safest way possible. Please see details below:
· Appointments can be made between 9 am and 3 pm
· We strongly discourage children from attending with their parents. We have given you the date early so that you can find childcare. In exceptional circumstances, if your child has to come with you, we ask that they sit quietly (the teacher will show you where).
· Appointments will be held in the following places - Blue Class - in Blue Class; Yellow Class - in Yellow Class; Silver Class - in Silver Class; Orange Class - in Rainbow Room (where the children come in and go home from); Gold, Green, Red and Purple Classes in the main hall.
· Please access these rooms from the external doors - from the playground/side of the school. The gates will be open.
· There will be no access through the main entrance.
· Please wait outside the relevant doors, observing social distancing and any queueing systems.
· The teacher will collect parents from the relevant door - please leave space for the exiting parents to leave safely.
· We ask parents to wear a face mask.
· There will be no toilet facilities available.
· Please use the hand sanitiser on arrival.
· It would be preferable for just one parent to attend.
· Windows will be open for good ventilation - please wrap up warm!
· If you are showing any COVID symptoms please stay at home and we will organise a phone appointment.
· We will be keeping a record of attendance for Track and Trace purposes.
· We are not able to show you the children’s work at the interview.
We are sorry if this seems ‘bossy’ or unwelcoming but we are endeavouring to keep our whole community safe. We do feel that it is important we meet you so that you can work with us to minimise the impact of the lockdown. If you are unable to come we will try to make a telephone appointment with you.
Friday 23rd April 2021
I am sure that many of you are aware but it is with great sadness that I am using my Head Teacher Message to inform you about the death of Mrs Amy Nugent. Amy was mum to 3 of our children at Mere School and died from cancer.
Most of our children are aware of Amy’s death and we have reassured them that this is something that does not happen very often. Your child may or may not want to talk about it, but it is likely that they will need more care, attention and reassurance at this time.
We are all deeply saddened by Amy’s death, but we are trying, for the sake of the children, to keep the school routines as normal as possible, whilst allowing the children opportunities to talk about it if they wish to.
We are receiving a lot of support from the Local Authority Education Psychologist, the Salisbury Hospice Social Worker and the Charity, Winston’s wish to help us through this difficult time. If you have any concerns or feel that your child needs extra support, please let us know.
Winston’s Wish is a Childhood Bereavement Charity and there are lots of resources and good advice to support parents. Please have a look – www.winstonswish.org
Our thoughts are with the Nugent family at this difficult time and the whole school community sends them our sincerest sympathy and support.
Thursday 1st April 2021
We are always trying to improve systems and routines in school and to make life in school more efficient.
With this in mind we are going to try the booking system on our website for our parent interviews on Tuesday 4th May 2021.
On Monday 19th April you will be sent an e.mail inviting you to make an appointment with your child’s teacher. If you follow the instructions on the e.mail you will be able to log in and choose a convenient time.
The appointment slots are 10 minutes long and you will be able to select from a list of available times. You will receive an on-screen reminder of the date and time you have chosen followed by an e.mail confirmation.
For parents who do not have the App the office can log on and book a slot for you – please ring Mrs Rawlings and she will be more than happy to help.
If you forget to book an appointment you will receive a reminder 3 days before.
For parents who are unable to attend you can click on the ‘Cannot Attend’ button and your class teacher will make contact with you to arrange an alternative time.
We hope that this will make booking easier and more convenient for parents and the office. Please do contact us if you are having any difficulties.
Friday 26th March 2021
We have been having huge debates in school recently about our KS2 snacks. Our children love them but given the research and publicity about childhood obesity we feel that it is time to change our approach.
Statistics state that one out of every 5 British children is already overweight or obese when they start primary school. Worryingly, that number has risen to one in 3 by the time they leave. The number of youngsters receiving treatment for type 2 diabetes has risen by 40% over the past 6 years while weight loss surgeons report operating on morbidly obese patients as young as 12.
We introduced snacks a few years ago so that our older children were able to take responsibility for distributing the snacks and collecting the money. Given the COVID-19 situation we have organised the snack ordering differently so our children are not now getting this opportunity.
After Easter there will be no KS2 snacks from Monday to Thursday. Fresh fruit will be available to all the children at no charge or the children can bring in a healthy snack from home (no crisps, chocolate, biscuits etc).
On Fridays (our PE afternoon days) the children will be able to buy a snack, as they have been doing. At the start of the day the children can order one of the following for 50p:
sausage in a roll
cheese and tomato pizza
Fresh fruit will still be available at no cost.
I know that this new approach will not be popular with the children as they enjoy their morning snacks but it is important that we promote a healthy lifestyle in school. The teachers will explain the new arrangements to their classes and I am pleased that we can still offer a treat on Fridays.
Friday 19th March 2021
I have just been discussing dates for next term with the staff and we are all longing to hold the very special events with the children as we would during a normal term.
It is clear that while the school is required to work in bubbles, very few school events can take place.
In the newsletter at the beginning of next term there will be the usual list of dates but these need to be viewed with extreme caution as the likelihood of the planned events taking place is not great.
Clubs cannot resume after Easter as we have to remain in our bubbles.
The Class Celebration morning, Recorder and Brass Assembly, Friend’s Disco, visit to new classes, Sports Day, Friend’s Summer Fete, year 6 production, inter-school sporting events, Achievement Assembly, Leaver’s Assembly and some school trips are not looking promising but I will keep you updated.
We have planned to hold our Mere School Book Day on Thursday 13th May when we are hoping to have a Snuggle Up Stories day in our bubbles with a hot chocolate and biscuit treat. The COVID-secure Book Fair will be arriving for a week on Wednesday 12th May. The children will be able to look at, but not touch the books, and parents can order online.
It is our hope that swimming will resume when the pools are open on 12th April and our Internet Safety day with Mr Karl Hopwood will be on Wednesday 28th April.
We are still uncertain about Pencelli. The Government categorise this outdoor centre under their leisure umbrella rather than an educational establishment. Pencelli and Wiltshire Council are lobbying the DfE to change the classification. We will be informed by 31st March 2021. If this visit cannot take place we will be organising a week of special activities for Purple and Red Classes.
Parent Interviews will take place on Tuesday 4th May, when the school will be closed for the children. These meetings might be held as we did last time or over TEAMs – watch this space! Reports will be coming home as normal towards the end of the term.
It is too early to make a decision on our EYFS induction programme or the transition day to Gillingham School for our older children.
Our Multicultural Day might have to be organised in a different way but we know we are going to focus on France, making the most of Miss Hanby’s expertise before she leaves us to complete her teacher training.
These special events create many lasting memories for our children and staff. Here’s to a fresh start in September when we can operate as normal.
Friday 12th March 2021
We are all smiling and happy that school has returned to some form of normality during these very challenging times.
At Mere School we have always been proud of the curriculum enrichment and special activities we offer to our children.
It has been our pleasure to support special charity days like Children in Need and Comic Relief.
Red Nose Day is approaching – Friday 19th May 2021 but unfortunately we are not able to sell red noses but we do have some special activities planned. You can read all about these on the School Council Page.
Our aim is to cheer up our communities.
We are inviting children to come to school wearing red clothes in return for a small donation towards Comic Relief.
The children can also bring their favourite joke to school and we plan to create class joke books for us to look at when we need a chuckle!
We also want to cheer up our home communities too and we are asking our children to do a ‘Share a Smile’ poster which can be displayed in a window at home. The poster template is on the School Council page as well.
Friday 5th March 2021
I hope we are approaching the end of a very strange period in school and we have all missed the many volunteers who come into school to help our children and teachers.
Our volunteers help us with all sorts of things, mostly hearing the children read but we like to make full use of our volunteer’s talents and skills! One of our volunteers is a retired teacher and she was spending one morning a week helping our children in years 3 and 4 with their learning. Another runs our after school Kwik Cricket Club. A local artist worked with one of our teachers and Gold Class to produce some beautiful Henry VIII portraits. Many help on school trips. Lockdown has meant that our children have been missing our much appreciated team of volunteers.
Any volunteer in school needs to complete a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) with our office team to check that they are safe to work with children. This takes about 15 minutes to complete and we ask you to bring some evidence to help us complete the process (driving licence, passport, recent utilities bill, National Insurance number). Once we have received clearance we ask our volunteers to complete some school paperwork and reading and then we introduce them to a class. The class teacher and teaching assistant will then welcome and induct the volunteer. As there is a cost to the school of completing these checks we do ask that our volunteers help on a regular basis. In these difficult financial times it is important that we are spending our school budget wisely.
We have a lot of parent/grandparent helpers who like to help in their child’s class but we do like to welcome volunteers who are unconnected to the school. These volunteers add a different dimension to school life and the children thoroughly enjoy talking to them and asking them questions about life outside school. I know that our volunteers also enjoy talking to the children but there is the added magical feeling that we all get when a child learns something new from the help they have been given or the opportunity we have to make a child’s life a little easier. Our teaching staff have a hectic day but our volunteers have time to chat with our children.
We are hoping, when school life gets back to normal, that we can welcome back our volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering please give the school office a ring – 01747 860515. We would welcome you ‘with open arms’!
Friday 26th February 2021
Despite the lockdown I have been working closely with our governing body, the Town Council and the Local Authority considering the expansion to our school, as a result of the housing developments in Mere.
It is taking a long time for house purchases to be processed but our governing body have asked the Local Authority to move forward with the modifications to the school building, so that we are prepared for when these additional children arrive.
We are hoping that the builders will move in to complete the internal works first. We will be taking the remaining top floor of the old Children’s Centre. There are 3 classrooms along the car park side that will be knocked into 2 (Green Class might have to move downstairs for a little while). The 2 smaller classrooms at the end and the corridor will be renovated as well. There will also be a small toilet block created. The heating system will be reconfigured, new windows put in and carpet laid and it will all be decorated.
The only alteration that needs to be made in the main building is the installation of an additional KS2 girls’ loo so we are hoping that the disruption to the school will be minimal.
The car park is slightly more complicated. The Local Authority need to obtain land owner permission then submit a planning application. The planning process will take longer.
My understanding is that the Local Authority, once they have completed all the necessary procurement processes hope that the work will start in October.
Once all is completed we will then need to think about whether we ‘moth ball’ this new area until we need it or enjoy the increased space while we have it!
I do have the plans in school if you are interested in having a look.
Friday 12th February 2021
There is a bit of a tradition at Mere School now, when each class has the opportunity to select a book for me to read.
I put a picture of it outside my office so that the children know what I am reading.
I have just finished reading ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ by Michelle Macgorian. This was one of the best books I have ever read – I feel quite ashamed that I have not got around to reading such a classic children’s novel.
Ciaran, from Green Class, chose the book for me and he has become quite frustrated at how long it has taken me to finish it but it was well worth the wait.
As well as being a positive role model for the children, they can read the reviews I have written for each book that I have read. I can also make recommendations to the children or talk about the books we have mutually enjoyed. It also gives me the opportunity to keep up to date with new children’s books, now that my own children are older.
If you have a few spare moments why not read a book that your child have enjoyed?
Friday 5th February 2021
There is mounting pressure to put school staff at the ‘front of the queue’ for COVID vaccines so that our children can return to school as quickly as possible.
A coalition of schools have drawn up a plan to vaccinate all of England’s teachers and education staff during half term.
The plan, which has been presented to the Government, proposes to vaccinate all of the 453,000 teachers employed in England’s schools and nurseries, along with 493,000 teaching assistants and support staff, including lunchtime supervisors, caretakers and cleaners.
This would mean that all schools could open fully, safely and sustainably, as soon as possible.
Former OFSTED head Sir Michael Wilshire said:
“It’s a good idea. What is absolutely essential is that we get schools back open as soon as possible.”
The children’s tsar has said that primary pupils must be allowed back in class after the February half term and has backed calls to prioritise COVID jabs for school staff.
Research indicates that 75% of parents believed that the school closures had been harmful to children’s education. 90% said that their children’s social live had suffered, with 78% saying school closures have been harmful for pupil’s mental health.
At Mere School we are all keen for school to return to ‘normal’ so that our children can start to make up some of their lost learning time. An initiative like this seems to be innovative and exciting and I hope the Government give these plans serious and urgent consideration.
Friday 29th January 2021
All school staff have been undertaking rapid, COVID-19 home testing this week. This home testing is to try and identify staff who might be carrying the virus without displaying any symptoms.
This is a lateral flow test which we will complete twice weekly and send the results to the Government. This test is easy to use with no need for laboratory analysis and we have the results in 30 minutes.
If a member of staff has a negative test they come to school as normal. If they have 2 void tests or a positive test they have to book a PCR test and self isolate until they receive a negative outcome.
The staff will be given 3 – 4 weeks of tests and we all plan to test ourselves on a Monday and Thursday.
We are all very keen to do our best to bring this virus under control and get back to a normal life.
Friday 22nd January 2021
I was flabbergasted when I saw the following headline in the paper a few weeks ago:
“The astonishing claim of some teachers as survey reveals millions of state pupils get no live online teaching while private schools provide a full timetable.”
This tabloid newspaper claimed that “As schools closed under the new coronavirus restrictions, some teachers took to social media to complain it was off-putting having parents observe them at work.”
A mother told the newspaper “They need live lessons otherwise they are going to fall behind and may never be able to catch up.”
Headlines like this are particularly unhelpful when our staff are doing their utmost to provide a high quality education for the children attending school, for the children who are accessing remote learning and for the children who have no internet access at all.
We have considered and continue to consider ‘live’ lessons at Mere and we have taken advice from many different sources. We feel that ‘live’ lessons can be particularly successful at secondary school but for younger children this is not the case. There is also the huge problem of families not having enough devices to access them.
The Education Endowment Foundation after some Rapid Evidence Assessment stated:
“Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered…. There was no clear difference between teaching in real time and alternatives.”
OFSTED stated that it was an unhelpful myth that:
“the best way to deliver remote education is always through live lessons.”
So, at Mere School, we will be continuing to deliver our lessons remotely through TEAMS with work packs for those children who do not have access to a device. Our weekly class meetings are proving to be a great success as well.
The good news is that we have managed to order 15 new laptops from the Department for Education – we are not sure when they will be arriving in school. We are however, starting to distribute donated laptops to families.
Friday 15th January 2021
You are probably aware from all of the press coverage that there are huge numbers of children attending school despite the lockdown as their parents are classified as key workers or the children are vulnerable.
At Mere we are fortunate because our parents are taking a very sensible approach to school attendance and are keen not to undermine the impact of the current lockdown. During the previous lockdown about 20 children attended but during this one we are welcoming between 50 and 60 children.
The Government guidance is that there is ‘no limit’ on the number of key worker children the schools should be accepting and that schools are ‘expected to allow and strongly encourage’ vulnerable children to attend. However, we do not want to undermine the impact of the lockdown measures and run the risk of extending school closures.
Parents are being urged to send their children in only if ‘absolutely necessary’ and some schools are having to prioritise which children can attend:
Priority Group 1: NHS Workers
Priority Group 2: Wider Health and Social Care, Educational Professionals and
Priority Group 3: Key Public Services, Local and National Government, Food and
Other Necessary Goods, Transport and Utilities, Communication and Financial Services
We ask parents to consider the following when thinking about sending their child to school:
We appreciate the supportive and effective relationships we have with our parents and our parent‘s willingness to help with the challenges in school at the moment.
Friday 8th January 2021
Home learning is now via TEAMs and feedback is that parents and children are coping well. I have included the relevant section from our COVID-19 newsletter below as a reminder. If you are having any difficulties please do contact us – we are here to help!
Microsoft Teams – a platform for home learning (for year 1 – year 6)
The Department for Education now expects that all children will continue to learn at home. Your child will be asked to complete work and submit it to their class teacher with support from you, so that they can be given feedback on their learning.
In order to do this safely, securely and efficiently, we have decided to use Microsoft Teams as a learning platform for Mere School pupils learning from home. This learning platform is safe, secure and simple to use. It is used by pupils at Gillingham School and will be used by Mere School pupils more in the future in order to ‘blend’ learning between home and school.
On Microsoft Teams, your child has been set up with a username, a password and a class team. In KS2, the child’s team is their class name. In KS1, Year 1 pupils are in the Year 1 team and the Year 2 pupils are in the Year 2 team. Home learning for your child will be set in the form of assignments created by your child’s teacher which may include links to online lessons. These will not be daily live lessons but three activities set at the start of each day; one English lesson, one maths lesson and one ‘foundation subject’ lesson (history, geography, RE etc).
In terms of uploading your child’s work to TEAMs, this can be done easily via Microsoft Teams using a smartphone camera. Children will be expected to ‘turn in’ their work and feedback will be given to your child where appropriate. Your child’s teacher will be logged into Microsoft Teams from 10am until 3pm each day and will respond to answer any questions you and your child might have within those times via the class email address. Please note that the ‘chat’ function is for work purposes only.
The username and password needed for your child to access Microsoft Teams are both located below. Please follow the instructions to log your child into their class team.
If you have any questions regarding Microsoft Teams, please contact your child’s teacher.
When you have entered your child’s username into the ‘Sign in address’ box on Teams, you will then need to enter your child’s password in the next box that pops up.
Your child’s username and password are as follows:
Username: child’s full firstname.lastname@example.org (for example: email@example.com)
Team: class name or year 1 or year 2
Please note that once your child is logged into Microsoft Teams on a particular device, you won’t need to log in every time you open Teams.
Friday 18th December 2020
When we approach the end of term I spend some time looking back at what has happened, what has gone well and what we might do differently.
This autumn term has probably been the most challenging any of us have ever experienced in our entire careers.
The children started back so well. They have enjoyed being back in school. When you talk to them, they are just happy to be back with their friends and in a routine. Our children have been remarkably resilient and confident about returning and they are enjoying some of the temporary changes we have had to implement. Our attendance rates are significantly better than normal.
It has been a challenging and tiring term. The staff are juggling and spinning so many plates and managing their own anxieties. We have set up new systems, implemented catch up plans for our children and prepared for so many COVID senarios.
This extraordinary period has reminded everyone that education is a front-line service. We have accomplished so much under a huge amount of pressure and I would personally like to thank our staff team for their dedication and commitment to ensuring our school is open for ‘business’, the governors for their tremendous support, the parents for working with us so closely and last, but not least, our wonderful children.
I live in hope that next term will be easier with us moving towards a sense of normality.
Friday 11th December 2020
Our Governing Body met a couple of weeks ago and one of the items being discussed was the expansion of the school building, in the light of the housing developments in Mere, and the impact of children moving to our school.
The original plan was that the work would take place during the summer holidays but the Local Authority halted all non-emergency building works due to COVID. The housing market also slowed during this time and the expected number of new children to the school did not materialise.
However, the Local Authority are holding a significant amount of money from the developers which must be used to expand the primary provision in Mere and this money can be kept for 10 years otherwise it has to be paid back.
The governors decided that they would like this work to be completed as soon as possible. It might mean that we have a building that is too big for us currently, but it was felt that this could be ‘moth-balled’ without costing the school too much money. If the building is ready, we would be better prepared for any additional children.
The Local Authority have been informed accordingly and it is hoped that the works will be completed during 2021. The architects are currently considering the utilities as the building has gas and oil central heating – this is quite a problem to resolve! This will then be followed by the conversion of the upstairs of the previous Children’s Centre into 2 large classrooms, 2 smaller ones and a set of toilets. The windows will be replaced and the rooms redecorated and new carpet put down. Following this the work on the car park can start. The governors and Parish Council have worked closely with the Local Authority to try to create a much safer, user-friendly car park.
This is an exciting time for the school and I am grateful for the feedback on the provisional plans we have had from the staff, governors and Class Parents.
I will keep you informed of any progress!
Friday 4th December 2020
Despite the COVID crisis safeguarding our children at Mere has continued to be the highest priority.
I am the Designated Safeguarding Lead for the school and Mrs Loxton is the Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead. Mrs Barry is the governor responsible for safeguarding. We have all completed rigorous on-line training this term to ensure we are fully updated and competent. All staff have received training and there is a comprehensive induction package for new members of staff.
The staff discuss safeguarding issues every week and the Governing Body Behaviour & Safety Committee at each of their meetings. I write a brief report for governors 5 times/year. I also have to complete a Safeguarding Audit and submit it for scrutiny to the Local Authority. Every volunteer receives information about safeguarding.
Our Safeguarding Policy is on the website and our procedures are based on this and are designed to make sure our children are safe and feel safe.
Safeguarding is not just about protecting children from deliberate harm but includes:
health and safety
all aspects of behaviour (including bullying and racist and homophobic abuse)
harassment and discrimination
use of physical intervention
meeting the needs of pupils with medical conditions
drug and substance misuse
Our aim is to ensure there is a culture of safeguarding at Mere School and we all work together to ensure that our children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care enabling them to have the best life chances.
Friday 27th November 2020
COVID-19 has thrown up many challenges for us at Mere School and I am so proud of the way the whole school community has come together to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in.
I strongly believe that there is always something good that comes out of any situation and our staff and governors have put together a list of positive things we have as a result of the pandemic and what we will continue with after everything is back to normal. I thought I would share our lists with you
When the pandemic has ended and school is back to normal we are planning on continuing with the following:
So …. every cloud has a silver lining!
Friday 20th November 2020
I regularly receive very positive feedback about Mere School and how we are doing but we can always get better. That is why I value the feedback from our Class Parents so much.
It is interesting to understand what parents expect from schools. Most parents hope that their children are safe, happy and learning. It is interesting to see what this selection of interviewed parents wanted:
“As a parent I need to feel connected to the goings on at school. Communication is key to my child’s well being and education. I want my child to have fond memories of these early school years and it is his teacher that will be shaping these.”
“I want a teacher to spot my child’s potential in different areas and lead them to achieve the best of their abilities.”
“I want their teacher to be the one they still remember as an adult. We all have memories of those teachers who really caught our imagination and taught us to think for ourselves. I want my son’s school to facilitate creativity and independence within a supportive and nurturing environment.”
“For me it is great when I can see that my child’s teacher is excited and passionate about their job. When the teacher is enjoying what they’re doing I think it shows in the excitement and learning of their students. I love going to collect the girls and seeing them happy and excited to tell me about their day.”
“Home-school communication is so important in helping me to support my child effectively. I can’t always get a full picture of what is going on in the classroom and in the playground from my child alone, I need to hear from the teachers and staff to fully understand. If there is a problem I want to know that the school make me aware and include me in the discussion about how we can move forward.”
“Academics are important, but so are the wider values and skills that my children are learning at school. I look for their school to support growth in social skills and to promote values of respect and tolerance.”
There appears to be a lot of agreement about what parents want from their child’s school/teachers and I also agree with these parents.
Clear communication is key to the above and we are constantly striving to let you know what is happening in school. Parental input also helps teachers to be more effective.
A sense of positivity, support and enjoyment within the learning environment is also important. We hope to let you know about the amazing things we are doing as a school and the fantastic achievements of your child.
Our website contains a wealth of information.
Working closely together will ensure our children achieve the very best they can, academically and socially.
Friday 13th November 2020
Christmas if my favourite time of year in school and sadly, the majority of our normal Christmas activities, will have to be cancelled due to COVID-19. It is certainly going to be very strange and I am sorry that we will all be missing such special activities.
Our Christmas productions, Carol Service, visit to the pantomime, grotto and community visits have had to be cancelled.
We will put up our new Christmas tree (kindly donated by Mrs Nell and decorated by Mrs Sayer) and our nativity tableau will be on display for the children.
Christmas lunch will take place in a different form! We will continue with our popular Christmas lunch bags and the children will eat them in their classrooms. They will make a hat and Father Christmas will wave from the door and drop a sack of presents into the classroom. The Friends have kindly decided to pay for Christmas lunch for every child.
The children can only send Christmas cards to children in their ‘bubbles’ and the teacher will put up a class post box on Monday 7th December.
We are still determined that there will be some festive fun though! Thursday 17th December will be our class Christmas fun day. The children can come to school in a Christmas jumper and the teachers and TAs will organise a day of games and Christmas activities. The Friends will provide prizes and popcorn and pay for every child to have lunch that day.
The Friends will also be organising a Christmas Raffle – one for the children and one for adults. There is a non-uniform day on 26th November in exchange for a donation of chocolate/confectionary for the raffle prize. The raffle for the children will be drawn on our Christmas fun day.
These plans are not perfect but we will do our best to make Christmas at Mere School as special as we possibly can.
Friday 6th November 2020
We have had a very different Class Parent meeting this term! As we were unable to get together we have communicated via e.mail and I have appreciated all the comments and views that our class parents have gathered.
Overall the feedback has been very good and parents have been positive about the quality. One parent wanted a more formal class photo but we felt it was safer to take the photograph in this way. Unfortunately we were unable to cross bubbles in school so we could not take siblings together unless they were in the same class. Parents appreciated the smaller selection of photographs available. The request to have a digital image of the class photo was refused as one copy could be bought and circulated around the class. This would not be fair on the photographer. The children thoroughly enjoyed the experience as well. We realise that these photos were a little more expensive but the Class Parents thought that it was better to have a photograph of quality.
Our new policy has caused some confusion and frustration. We appreciate that this was a sudden change of policy and have appreciated your feedback so we can make adjustments to it. Clarification has been sent out in our most recent newsletter.
Pick Up Times
We do our utmost to encourage parents to use the 10 minute slot to pick up children. It is safer for all of us for parents to come nearer to 3.25 pm as the playground is empty. Please do not think you are late if your child is the only one left in their class. The teachers are delighted that you are making the most of this opportunity.
We have decided that a staggered drop off/pick up is logistically not possible and we have decided against a one-way system. We are most fortunate that we have so many doors in our building, a lot of entrances to the site and a large playground.
We are constantly striving to ensure staff and children are working in a safe environment in these challenging times. If I am given information about a COVID situation I seek advice from Public Health Wiltshire and follow the very strict guidelines from the Local Authority.
Our main communication tool is our app system linked to our website. Mrs Rawlings is always willing to help if parents are having difficulties. Our system refers parents to our website and all apps are titled.
Again I have appreciated all the feedback. Clarification has been published in our most recent newsletter.
Quality of Letters
Some parents have expressed concern about the amount of errors in letters. We apologise! Five members of staff check the letters but we will endeavour to do better in future.
A huge thank you to our Class Parents for spending the time to liaise so closely with me. Please do contact them if you have concerns, questions or positive feedback. We will always listen.
Friday 23rd October 2020
Please see below the contents of a letter from Public Health Wiltshire:
As we head towards the half-term break, which I’m sure many of you are looking forward to, we thought now would be a good opportunity to thank you for your continued support in playing your part to help keep the virus rate as low as possible in Wiltshire.
After what has been a difficult six months or so, we want you and your family to enjoy the half term break. However, we would hate to see you and your family having to spend it self-isolating due to COVID-19 and all the disruption that brings with it.
We’re at the stage now that if you or your family imminently contract the virus then you would have to spend the majority of the half-term break, if not all of it, inside and self-isolating. Therefore, now more than ever it’s vital to follow the national advice.
We know there’s so much information available and it’s hard to keep track, particularly on when or when not to get tested for COVID-19, so we thought we’d re-iterate the main messages.
If you have the following COVID-19 symptoms you must self-isolate and get a test done as soon as possible:
You can book at test at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
We want to use this as an opportunity to reminder you that you should only get a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been asked to get tested.
The easiest way to prevent getting COVID-19 is to keep following the guidance and continue to play your part:
And while in normal circumstances the half-term break would be a time for your children to enjoy playdates and sleepovers, we’d encourage you to limit these as much as possible, as this will help reduce the likelihood of more cases emerging.
While the number of people who have COVID-19 in Wiltshire is comparatively lower than other parts of the country, our rates are unfortunately rising, so we can’t allow ourselves to get complacent.
We know this has been a difficult year for school communities up and down the county and thank you once again for your support and understanding during this time, we really appreciate it.
Friday 16th October 2020
I was rather relieved to read a headline in the paper a few weeks ago:
“It’s better for your children not to have a perfect parent”.
As parents we constantly ‘beat ourselves up’ because we think we are letting our children down – we might be late picking them up or make our children wait while we chat to someone.
Business woman Karren Brady said in an article recently that she thinks being a parent is far harder than going to work. I think she is right! Raising children is exhausting and so there are going to be times when we ‘mess up’, when things don’t go to plan. I often chat with parents who are stressed that they are failing, racked with guilt that they aren’t the perfect parent, feel like they are making it up as they go along. This is perfectly normal.
Leading psychiatrists reassure parents that it is good for children if you are not perfect. By not always being perfect in the day-to-day aspects of life parents help children to make their children more independent and resilient. Many young people who have developed issues ranging from eating disorders to depression, struggle to take responsibility and live in a perpetual state of adolescence, never quite able to deal with the difficulties and setbacks of real life. In wanting to ensure they have the best start in life, parents can unwittingly do harm; creating damaged children with limited experience and initiative, who are unable to solve problems themselves. We know how important these skills are for later life.
Every parent worries that they are not good enough but professionals claim that being imperfect is actually perfect. It is not just OK to mess up now and again, but it is necessary to ensure our children develop properly.
What a relief!
Friday 9th October 2020
I thought I would use my message this week to explain about our change of policy regarding hand sanitiser.
One thing this crisis has taught me is that we constantly have to make adjustments to our plans – nothing seems to be ‘set in stone’ for long!
The catalyst for our decision was lunchtime. We have been really lucky with the weather but now that it is not as pleasant we cannot expect our KS2 children to eat or play on the field. It is also really important that our older children have the opportunity to run around at lunchtime. We now have our KS1 and KS2 children eating in 2 sittings so we can make full use of the playground with our older children hand sanitising before they eat.
We have debated the sanitiser issue in school on many occasions. We were keen to protect those with allergies to it and our preference would have been to continue with hand washing as this is the Wiltshire Council’s Health and Safety team’s preferred option. However, logistically, we had to start to use hand sanitiser, as many schools do. Those children with allergies will continue to wash their hands.
Handwashing is consuming many minutes of teaching time and this has been a worry for me. I am hoping that a combination of sanitiser and hand washing will ease this. We are also, understandably, using vast amounts of soap and paper towels, which are expensive. The paper towels cannot be recycled either.
Every class now has an alcohol free, Local Authority recommended hand sanitiser which is dispensed in a foam. We also have additional dispensers dotted around the school (entrance hall, main hall, near key doors).
The children cope with the ongoing changes so well – we are so proud of them.
Friday 2nd October 2020
We are hoping that the school photographs will be coming home very shortly.
In consultation with The Class Parents we have tried a new photographer.
He spent the day with us and more time with each child or group hoping that we achieved the very highest quality of photograph. He took photographs of all children individually (if siblings were in the same class we managed to take them together as well) then children in small groups from which he has created a class photograph. There was no ‘cross-bubbling’!
Unfortunately we were unable to offer younger siblings the chance for a photo or family groups, due to the COVID-19 situation.
The costs are below:
1 copy 10 x 8 - £10
2 copies 7 x 5 - £13
1 copy 10 x 8 and 2 copies 7 x 5 - £21
3 copies 7 x 5 - £18
Digital files (of at least 6 images) - £35
Discount on multiple orders will be considered by negotiation with the photographer (details will be on the pack that comes home) and the school is benefitting from 10% commission.
We hope that these photos will make good Christmas presents and any feedback would be appreciated.
Friday 25th September 2020
The testing chaos has been blamed on the rush by parents seeking COVID tests for children. We are told that typically, coughs and colds spike every September when children head back to school and become even more common during the winter.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health advises that children with simple cold symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throat without fever should not be tested.
We are told by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock:
“It is so important that we ensure that the tests are used for the people who really need them.”
I know that parents are extremely anxious about the possibility of their child bringing the virus into school and want to do the responsible thing to keep us all safe. The chart below might help:
Cold, Flu or COVID? How to tell the difference.
Loss/change in taste/smell
Aches and pains
Runny or stuffy nose
Shortness of breath
It’s so tough being a good parent!
Friday 18th September 2020
We have received some really useful advice from a local GP surgery as we have seen a rise in calls from parents regarding the usual start of term colds and sniffles, which are inevitable a children come together in the ‘bubbles’.
This is the advice they are giving:
This is a very challenging time we find ourselves in and there is understandably a lot of anxiety in the community around school age children, their risk from COVID-19 and the potential impact of school absence both for that child and the family as a whole. This advice it to try and help you access good, up-to-date information to help schools, the GP and family work together over the next few months.
The main symptoms of Coronavirus are:
Please be reassured that if your child has symptoms of the usual winter bugs, eg runny nose or sore throat but DOES NOT have any symptoms listed above then they can still go to school.
What to do if your child has the above symptoms
If your child has any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:
What you can do to decide if your child needs to see the GP
If you are worried about your child please click on the link below to an excellent website called ‘Healthier Together’ where there is lots of very useful information about managing illness in children:
There is also a page dedicated to COVID-19 in children. It is important to remember that COVID-19 appears to generally cause mild illness in children. Only 1 in every 100 cases diagnosed in the UK have been in children and infection is generally far milder in children than it is in adults, although we do not yet understand exactly why this is the case. Once you have looked at your child’s symptoms if you are still concerned and think they need to be seen then please either:
Friday 11th September 2020
There has been some extremely negative press coverage over the past few months which our children have been subjected to when the message that the lives of our children ‘have been devastated’ by the COVID outbreak through the closing of schools.
It has been a difficult time for us all – children, staff and parents but I would feel much more comfortable if we were hearing more positive messages. I believe we need to teach our children that disruption can be difficult but it is part of our lives.
A recent paper published in the Journal of Educational Psychology studied 969 school children who were given questions about changing or uncertain situations and ask how effective they were in responding to them. The study found that youngsters more comfortable with change are more likely to participate in class, enjoy school, be more satisfied with life, have higher self esteem and have a more concrete sense of meaning and purpose in life.
This is not surprising – if change is part of life, the capacity to deal with it could hardly be more important. The author of the study suggested the following strategies to help our children cope with our changing lives:
It is natural for us all to feel anxious, particularly when returning to school after a long period away and I hope that, working together with the right messages and encouragement, our children will flourish as much as previous generations – a little dose of positivity would really help!
Friday 4th September 2020
I have used my Head Teacher message to remind you of some of the precautions and changes we have had to implement this term.
HANDWASHING WILL CONTINUE TO BE ESSENTIAL IN SCHOOL.
The updated risk assessment is on the website – please do take a look.
We will be having class-sized bubbles and it is our aim to keep these groups apart from other groups where possible, including break and lunchtimes.
Equipment and Resources
Break and Lunchtimes
Start and End of the Day
The key is that we are adaptable and flexible and I know that you will work with us if we need to make any changes.
We look forward to normal times – if they ever come back!