Friday 27th March 2020
I regularly tell you what a wonderful team of staff we have at Mere School – how dedicated, resilient and innovative they are but this has been really evident during the last couple of weeks.
I have been astonished at how deep this goes as they responded at speed to the Government’s call. Through that response came huge selflessness and willingness to go above and beyond knowing that our work is essential at this time of national crisis.
We have tried to steer a clear course through confusion, frustration and fear that requires the highest levels of physical, social and emotional energy.
The full weight of what is happening is only just sinking in and it is not like anything we have known before.
I would like to thank you all for your kind messages of support and I know, with you alongside us, we will get through the current difficulties and come out stronger at the end.
Take care everyone.
Friday 20th March 2020
Wiltshire & Swindon Road Safety Partnership are running a child seat safety campaign throughout March.
They are promoting these key messages:
Please see http://www.carseatsmarter.co.uk/
The school does report incidents of children not being properly restrained in the car to the police.
Friday 13th March 2020
We are looking forward to The Friend’s Easter Bingo next week – please do come along and support it.
The bingo raises a lot of money for the school and our children really benefit from the ‘extras’ that our Friends Association manage to buy us from their events. We are the only primary school I know who have VR Headsets, thanks to The Friends, and they do enjoy their annual trip to the pantomime.
A very easy way for the group to raise money is through The Giving Machine and The School Lottery.
The Giving Machine enables you to raise free donations for the school. There is no catch and all that you need to do is click via TheGivingMachine every time you shop online. If you set up at Giver account on TheGivingMachine and then click to the shops via TheGivingMachine website any purchases generate a donation for the school. Every year online shops pay millions in sales commission to other websites that direct shoppers to them. TheGivingMachine turns these commissions into donations for our school, AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU! Once you have registered you can download a desktop reminder and there is also a mobile app.
The School Lottery also raises significant funds for us and you can benefit from this for £1/week. There is a guaranteed cash winner for our school every week and the chance to win a £25,000 jackpot (one of our families have won this jackpot). The draw takes place every Saturday and the winners are notified by e.mail. Match all 6 numbers and you can win the Jackpot! For every ticket you play 76% comes to Mere School.
Please do sign up to these fund raising initiatives. They are easy ways to raise money for our school. TheGivingMachine costs nothing and The School Lottery is a small contribution with the chance of winning back your money and more.
Friday 6th March 2020
A group of our year 6 children have successfully completed the Bikeability course. This is a difficult programme for children and I was delighted that they all passed.
I was also pleased to read in the press that the Department for Transport has pledged that every child will be offered cycle training. The Bikeability programme is to be expanded under Government plans to boost ‘active travel’ – such as walking, scooting and cycling.
An additional 400,000 training places will be offered on the scheme each year. Since its launch in 2006, more than 3 million children in England have taken part in the programme.
Cycling minister, Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“Extending Bikeability training will inspire the next generation to take to the roads as confident and proficient cyclists, and will play an important role in helping us to meet our net-zero emission target.”
I am hoping that this training will be funded for schools as it is expensive for parents. However, anything that keeps our children safe on the roads is to be celebrated.
Friday 28th February 2020
I wanted to share some more good news with you!
A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from the Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, the Minister of State for School Standards. It said:
Dear Mrs Williamson
I would like to congratulate you, your staff and your pupils on the very high standard of achievement demonstrated in the mathematics Key Stage 2 assessments last year.
Your school’s results, as published on 13th December, show that 100% of your pupils reached or exceeded the expected standard in mathematics, Mere School is in the top 2% of primary schools in the country.
The Government wants to ensure that every child has the fluency in mathematics necessary to prepare them for a successful secondary education and beyond, which is why I was delighted to see your results.
Thank you for your work in continuing the drive towards higher academic standards, and congratulations again to you and your staff for your commitment and success.
The Head of School Improvement from Wiltshire also commented:
This is just brilliant – well done, such a fantastic achievement down to your persistent hard work. You should be standing up shouting all about all that you are doing at Mere.
Friday 14th February 2020
We are in the process of developing some ‘Lockdown Procedures’ for our school. This is not a statutory responsibility but is recommended by the Local Authority. We consider the need for such procedures as a sensible and proportionate response to any potential threat to the safety of staff and children at the school.
These procedures, I hope, will reassure you that the school is doing everything possible to ensure your child’s safety.
Lockdown procedures enable a school to close down and protect itself and those within it from an identified and urgent risk very quickly, such as the following:
Lockdown is the ability to restrict access quickly, prevent staff and pupils from moving towards danger, or frustrate or delay the identified risk from entering the school.
As soon as these procedures have been agreed by the staff, governors and class parents I will send details home in the newsletter.
Friday 7th February 2020
Our children (and teachers) had a fascinating day with Mr Karl Hopwood (international on-line safety expert) talking about online safety. He worked in every class and was very impressed with our children’s knowledge. He commented on their exemplary behaviour and how eager they were to learn. Mr Hopwood visits lots of schools around the country so I was delighted that he was able to make these observations.
Attendance at the Parent Online Safety Information evening was disappointing but the parents who did come found the information they were given invaluable. Mr Rich has put the presentation on the website so you can see what was discussed.
Next year, so more parents can access the on-line safety messages, we plan to invite parents to come and sit in their child’s class while he is working with the children. This will give parents the opportunity to talk to their children at home about what they have learnt.
The governors are committed to regular visits from Mr Hopwood as it is such an important and fast growing part of growing up for our children.
In the workshop for parents Mr Hopwood helped parents to consider what their children are really doing online as opposed to what they might say they are doing. He explored some of the risks and benefits of using the internet and online communication and tried to provide some possible solutions for parents. Please do take a look at the Computing page on our website to read more details.
Friday 31st January 2020
More good news to share with parents – and this could not have been achieved without fantastic parental support.
As you are well aware, attendance is a key issue for us at Mere School and I spend a lot of time tracking attendance and speaking with parents.
If the children are not in school we cannot teach them but the vast majority of our parents are willing to work with us to ensure the best attendance possible for their child.
Our overall absence rate in 2018/19 decreased from 4.03% to 3.02% giving us an average for the last 3 academic years of 3.70%. These figures are better than national averages. In 2018/19 our overall absence figure was 0.87% lower than the national average. It is worth noting that our school has been better than the national average 3 times in the last 3 academic years for overall absence.
As a school we have an improving trend for attendance for which I would like to thank you.
My priority will still be on attendance for the coming year and I value the time working with parents.
Friday 24th January 2020
Some of you might a read in the press that the Government are changing the PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum in primary schools and making this area statutory.
Mrs Cocker is our PSHE subject leader and she has been doing a lot of work on the new curriculum and there will be few changes as we are already covering the vast majority of what is expected – and more.
One of the key areas in the new PSHE curriculum is the introduction of life saving first aid. For the last 2 years our year 6 children have completed a certificated first aid course as we would like all of our children to be equipped to know what to do in a crisis and to try and save a life, if necessary.
I have been working with the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and they explained to me how several very basic actions can improve the life chances of critically ill patients and if we can train our children to do this it would make their jobs much easier when they arrive, and potentially save lives.
We have decided at Mere School that every child in every class will be trained in appropriate life saving first aid, from being able to dial 999 in Foundation Stage to CPR in year 6. The medics will come and work with every class in the summer term and we hope to do this every year so that when the children move on to Gillingham School they are very well trained.
Friday 17th January 2020
The Government have been celebrating the fact that there has been a rise in the KS2 SATS results boosted by an improvement in maths scores, with a larger proportion meeting the required standards. This is good news but my feeling is that the teachers are getting better at preparing the children for the tests.
We are celebrating at Mere School. The performance tables were published by the Department for Education just before Christmas and our progress scores in maths were above the national average and well above in reading and writing.
91% of our children achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths compared to 64% in Wiltshire and 65% nationally.
These outcomes indicate that we are one of the most successful schools locally and in Wiltshire (coming 4th in the league tables).
We pride ourselves not only on the formal data, but on the rich experiences we offer our children.
None of this would be possible, of course, without your support and the excellent team of staff and governors we have at Mere School.
Friday 10th January 2020
We are still working very closely with the Local Authority and Parish Council to finalise plans for the expansion of our school.
We have agreed the internal alternations that need to be made. We will be taking over all of the top floor of the building and (at the suggestion of the children) some toilets will be created upstairs as well. There will be 4 classrooms upstairs and the school will be secured at the top of the Children’s Centre stairs so that we are all safe. The biggest headache is sorting out the heating but there is now a specialist company involved in looking at the options.
The Parish Council are hoping to take over the additional offices on the ground floor and the old Duchy Manor foyer will remain redundant with the Parish Council and school having access to it when needed.
The car park plans are very exciting but subject to finances. We are hoping to create many more spaces and make the staff parking much safer so that children coming to school and walking through this area are not in contact with any vehicle. Our overall aim is to get as many cars off the local streets in Mere as possible.
The initial plans are for an electric barrier to be put up the school side of the dentist’s car park which will be closed during the school day – there will be an intercom so it can be opened from the school office for deliveries. The road in front of the Parish Council Offices will also be closed and removed.
The entrance to the Bowling Club car park will be widened and landscaped car parking will be created from this entrance to the edge of the bowling green right up to the public footpath and covering over the current, unsightly filled-in swimming pool. There will also be a drop-off zone here and safe areas of pedestrians.
I must reiterate that these are currently plans and subject to planning and permission from The Duchy of Cornwall. I hope that they can be afforded as it will ease congestion and create a much safe environment for the children.
If you would like to see the plans of the building and car park please ask in the office.
Friday 20th December 2019
It is the end of an era! Mrs Ings retired today after over 30 years of loyal service to Mere School.
Mrs Ings started her life at Mere School as a Teaching Assistant and was an active member of The Friends while her children came here.
She then moved on to run our school office, which is a role that is so different now to when Mrs Ings started. The School Secretary’s role all those years ago involved answering the telephone and collecting in dinner money. Now, Mrs Ings is responsible for managing a team of people and keeping a very close eye on the school budget. She raises invoices and pays bills, keeps an eye on health and safety, manages the Single Central Safeguarding record, liaises with governors, shows visitors around the school, organises tradesmen … the list goes on and on. The Finance Officer’s role is complex and comes with a high degree of accountability and responsibility.
Most importantly for me though is that Mrs Ings has been a trusty assistant to the Head Teacher. We have been through some challenging and exciting times but I always knew that I could rely totally on Mrs Ing’s skills and integrity. She has been a loyal employee and a friend.
From the bottom of my heart I would like to say a huge thank you and wish Mrs Ings the very best for her retirement. I know we will be seeing her in school – the teachers already have her ‘lined up’ for a whole host of different jobs for her!
Friday 13th December 2019
I am following my Head Teacher Message from last week with another safeguarding edition!
As part of our wider safeguarding responsibilities we do have policies and procedures in place around the dropping off and collection of children to and from the school site. These policies are shared with parents when a child joins the school and we ask for the following:
We ask parents to update this information whenever there is a change and we use a secure system to store it.
There is no law on what age children may travel to school unsupervised. Parents may make their decision based on their child’s maturity, ability and the safety and distance to the route to school. There is also no law determining the age at which a sibling can accompany a child to school.
We do have procedures if parents are late to collect their child – contacting the parents/carers on the given phone numbers or calling emergency contacts. If parents or an authorised person cannot collect the child and someone else is coming instead parents do need to notify the school. As a school we do our utmost to work with parents if they are genuinely held up but we do keep records of late collections and in the event of frequent late collections a letter may be sent home advising parents that the school will contact the children’s social care team.
If parents fail to collect their child we will make every effort to contact the parents/authorised adult but if this is unsuccessful we will apply child protection procedures and contact the children’s social care team and police.
There may be times when the school is worried that it is not safe for the child to go home with the adult collecting the child (we might be worried that the adults is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or their behaviour otherwise suggests that they may not be in a fit state to safely look after their child). If this is the case the school may contact another family member to collect the child or speak to the children’s social care team.
These measures all sound very formal and only have to be used in very rare circumstances. We have strong relationships with parents and we are usually able to find a good solution to these problems when they occur.
Friday 6th December 2019
Schools are one of the front-line organisations for protecting children and this underpins all that we do at school. We aim to have a safeguarding culture where every member of staff is responsible for keeping every child safe.
I am the Designated Child Protection Leader, Mrs Loxton is the Deputy Child Protection Leader and Mrs Barry the Governor Responsible for Safeguarding. Please do take a look at our website for our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy.
As a staff we discuss safeguarding issues every week formally and many informal discussions take place as well. I am also responsible for making sure the governors are well informed as well.
All staff receive regular training and updates and our governors have all received training as well. Any new members of staff or students receive an individual briefing and all our volunteers receive an information pack. They have to sign to confirm that they have read and understood this information.
As you all probably know, anyone who will be working with the children has to have completed a DBS check with Mrs Ings. Until we receive this clearance these members of staff or volunteers cannot work in school.
It is important that staff and friends of the school do not feel afraid to pass on concerns. The information may be a small piece in a bigger jigsaw and may help to get a better understanding of a child’s predicament. Any concerns, however, seemingly trivial, should be passed on to Mrs Loxton or me.
If you have concerns about a child in the community please do report them to the MASH team on 0300 456 0108.
Working together we can work towards our aim of keeping every child safe.
Friday 29th November 2019
This is my favourite time of year in school. I love how excited the children are getting about Christmas and all the special things we do.
I thought I would use my message this week to give you the ‘heads up’ on all the things that are happening in school, so you can make a note in your diaries.
The Friends Christmas Bingo is on Friday 29th November – details have been in the newsletter. Our non-school uniform day (in exchange for a bingo prize) is on Thursday 28th November.
We are busily rehearsing for our Christmas entertainments – ‘The Bethlehem Star’ (KS1) and ‘Countdown to Christmas’ (KS2). These productions will take place on Tuesday 17th December, 1.15 pm and 6 pm for KS1 and 2 pm and 6.45 pm for KS2. There will be a letter coming home at the beginning of December explaining the arrangements. We do ask for costumes to be in school by Friday 6th December – thank you for your help with this.
We are looking forward to our visit to Salisbury Playhouse on Wednesday 11th December. Huge thanks to The Friends for organising this for us.
Red Class will be visiting Fives Court and Green Class Bramley House on Tuesday 10th December. Residents from Bramley House will be coming to watch our dress rehearsal on Friday 13th December.
The Friends Christmas Disco is on Friday 13th December, 6 pm for KS1 and 6.45 pm for KS2.
We have a busy day on Thursday 19th December when all children will visit The Friends Christmas Grotto followed by Christmas lunch, when we hope Father Christmas will be coming as well. The children are invited to wear their Christmas jumpers for the day. At 2 pm that day we will be holding a tea party in the big hall for Mrs Ings and it is her penultimate day. You are invited to come along.
As we normally do, we will be holding our annual Carol Service in St Michael’s Church at 9.15 am on Friday 20th December. This is a very relaxed service (the children and staff are usually exhausted!) – please do come along. During the afternoon the children will be watching and Christmas film together and sharing some special leaving cakes to say goodbye to Mrs Ings.
At 3.15 pm on Friday 20th December the school term will end and school will be closed until Monday 6th January. This day is a T D day so it is only the staff in school and the new term starts for the children on Tuesday 7th January 2020.
I will keep reminding you in the newsletters about the dates.
Friday 22nd November 2019
We had our first Class Parent meeting of the new school year last Friday and I am so grateful to the group of parents who come along and help us.
The Class Parent group was set up quite a few years ago. I was not very keen on the idea initially but the governors at the time wanted me to ‘give it a go’. They were right as this is one of the most powerful things I have ever done in school.
The class teachers invite parents to work with them as their class representatives. They select parents who they can work with and who are supportive of the school and relate well to other parents.
We now meet every term and have an agenda for every meeting – for instance last week we had a specific look at our new Policy on the Use of Video and Photography and spent some time discussing the companies we use for school photographs. The most useful part of the meeting though is the ‘AOB’ section when the representatives from each class are able to bring up any issues that other parents may have. We chat about these things, see if there is anything we are going to do about them and sometimes I have to take back issues to discuss with the staff. Our governing body are also very keen to hear about issues raised at the meetings. It is great when we receive positive feedback as well.
The class parents also liaise closely with their class teacher and help to organise reading rotas, help for school trips and pass on any messages that are relevant to that particular class. Many class parents have set up a Facebook Page for their classes.
Unfortunately our last meeting was before the Local Authority decision to expand the places here. Had I been given the time to discuss this with the class parents I think the process would have been much smoother for the school and parents!
Please do use your Class Parent if you have any ‘burning issues’ or something you would like to have discussed at the meeting. They are a highly valued group of people who help us hugely at school.
Friday 15th November 2019
Top doctors are saying that children as young as 9 should be taught CPR and other life-saving skills in primary school. I know we already have a jam-packed curriculum expectation but I do agree with them.
Around 30,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside hospitals in the UK every year, but fewer than 1 in 7 survive. Doctors believe introducing basic life saving skills at a young age will improve survival rates. They claim that very few people know how to carry out CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), which means that when paramedics arrive to treat a heart attack it is often too late.
The new PHSE (Personal, Health and Social Education) to be introduced in September 2020 will make it compulsory for all children to be trained by the age of 16.
At Mere we have in the past run voluntary first aid courses for children but last year we funded a 2-hour course for all of our year 6 children. They thoroughly enjoyed this and came away with some very useful first aid skills as well as being able to carry out CPR. Our plan is for this to happen every year.
As well as this a significant group of our year 4 children are completing a basic life saving course in their swimming lessons.
It is so important that our children achieve well academically but as a school we are determined that our children will also be equipped with the skills they need for life.
Friday 8th November 2019
I came across a very disturbing headline in the paper a couple of weeks ago:
“one in 8 schools don’t even have a library.”
This amazes me as we are so lucky to have a purpose-built, well equipped library in school and a marvellous library in Mere.
We are very grateful to Mrs Clements who runs our library so efficiently and our children have the opportunity to take a book home every fortnight. They love their time searching the library for a book to share with their parents!
Reading has the highest priority at Mere School as we believe it is the most crucial skill for life as well as providing great pleasure.
We re-launched our ‘Snuggle-Up Stories’ initiative just before half term to encourage the children’s early reading skills.
If a child can read fluently by the end of KS1 their journey through KS2 is so much easier. Reading impacts on all of the other areas of the curriculum.
When I do my New Entrants talk to parents I encourage them to try to hear their children read every day and to share a story at bedtime. It really does have a massive impact on your child’s learning. We can see in the children’s work those who have read regularly at home.
Please work with us to make sure your children are making the most progress possible in school.
Friday 25th October 2019
I have been reading a very interesting article by an NHS Psychiatrist, Dr Max Pemberton about autism. The headline of the article was:
“At this rate we’ll ALL be classed as autistic.”
He has noticed over the past 3 years a disturbing trend in referrals to his clinics for patients diagnosed with autism and he is baffled by this.
He is very familiar with the condition and has worked with people with profound autism but he says:
“ …what many of the new cohort of autistic patients complain of – vague feelings of not fitting in, feeling socially awkward, having perfectionist and/or obsessive traits etc, bear no resemblance to what I would describe as true autism.”
He feels that the problem is with the reclassification of autism as ‘autistic spectrum disorder’ and believes that there is a ‘diagnosis creep’, meaning the criteria for diagnosis are increasingly broadened to include more and more variations of symptoms and behaviour. Dr Pemberton suggests that this means the diagnosis becomes meaningless and if it continues then, within a decade, there will be no clear distinction between someone with autism and the average person.
These comments are controversial but for some parents with a child who is a little bit different or who is showing behavioural problems, it might be easier to accept this diagnosis rather than just part of who they are.
Dr Pemberton has also seen more adult patients with this diagnosis after paying for a private assessment.
This situation, Dr Pemberton highlights, makes it very difficult for those with profound autism who are disabled by their condition and for their families, because it causes widespread misunderstanding of how serious it can be. He continues:
“That’s not to say that those with autism can’t lead happy, fulfilling lives. Of course they can, but many need intense support and resources to achieve that. What’s more, in those who are wrongly diagnosed, the label of autism can discourage them from trying to change or adapt or improve their social interaction and behaviours.”
Food for thought I feel.
Friday 18th October 2019
As well as coming to school there are lots of things we need to teach our children at home, preparing them early for grown-up life. Campaigners are keen that schools should give children lessons on how best to save and spend their money. Unfortunately our curriculum is ‘jam-packed’ and I feel that this is my responsibility as a parent.
Some finance experts have given some advice in the press about how they taught their children valuable lessons about money:
I am not sure I would use all of these suggestions but there are some good ideas in the list to think about.
Friday 11th October 2019
I am really delighted to write about some good news and to thank you for all your help with this outcome.
The governors have been interrogating our attendance figures and they are very positive. We are above the national average for every group of children in the school.
Monitoring attendance and completing the necessary paperwork around this issue takes up a lot of my time, but it is important, so that I can be confident that every child is in school for the maximum amount of time possible. Any time out of school means that the children are missing valuable learning experiences.
I do realise that illness means that the children cannot attend but I think we have been particularly successful in managing these ailments and ensuring that time away from school is as limited as possible.
We also appreciate parents making arrangements for holidays and medical appointment out of school time.
The children still enjoy the excitement of the Attendance Cup and receiving 100% certificates. I have removed the Attendance Fact from the newsletter.
The focus on attendance will still remain and I will constantly monitor every child’s attendance but it is good to know that what we are going is being successful. Thank you for your continued support. I know my nagging can be frustrating at times!
Friday 4th October 2019
Our children in year 4 last term took the new Government times table tests as part of a trial, before it becomes statutory.
A group of Head Teachers have branded these tests as a ‘waste of time’ claiming in a survey, 94% of those who took part in the pilot scheme said the tests (set to be introduced next year) fail to tell teachers anything new about the ability of 8 and 9 year olds.
The Government is launching the multiplication tables check in June. It will be conducted using computers or tablets and consists of 25 questions, with pupils given just 6 seconds to type in each answer.
The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said that the tests would:
‘make sure all pupils leave primary schools knowing their times tables by heart.’
I agree with this sentiment. It is essential that all children know their tables as it is a fundamental skill for mathematical learning. However, we do not need a Government test to make sure that this happens. I also know from working with my own children, that you do not learn tables for one test. We have to keep on going over and over the tables so that they are not forgotten. My poor children were bombarded with ‘tables’ questions every time we got in the car so that they did not forget them!
We do spend a lot of time teaching and learning the multiplication facts in school but need your help with this as well. On-going help with learning and revising the times tables would be much appreciated. All of our children do have a log-in for ‘Times Tables Rock Stars’ and the children enjoy learning and practising their tables this way.
Friday 27th September 2019
We are hoping to bring the school right ‘up to date’ by introducing a school app powered by our website.
We are exciting to announce that to improve communication with our entire school community we will be launching a smartphone app which is free to download and works with iPhones and Android phones. Please visit theschool.app for more information.
As a school, we believe it is essential to work in partnership with parents and carers and part of this is achieved by ensuring that you receive clear, relevant and regular communications.
Benefits of the app for Parents and Carers
Benefits of the app for the school
Setting up the app
A letter will be coming home shortly with all the information you will need.
It is important that we have the most up-to-date parent/carer contact details and emergency contacts for your child. If any information changes throughout the school year, please notify us immediately.
Looking forward to working with you!
Friday 13th September 2019
Our Friend’s committee met last Friday to start to organise the year ahead and we are so grateful for everything they do for our school.
With your support they raise a lot of money for the school and they are in the process of ordering some VR headsets for us – I do not know of any school that has a set of these.
Unfortunately the running of the events usually falls to a small group of willing parents.
I stumbled across an article in the holidays written by a lady who had been chair of her parent-teacher association and her children’s school. It was titled:
“Why do all mums hate the head of the PTA? – by a writer who learned the hard way it’s a poisoned chalice.”
This mum says that she has helped to raise around £30,000 which has gone towards paying for books for the classroom, playground equipment and ice creams on school trips but she feels that she has paid the price in friendships, career, finances and event her marriage! She says:
“in fact, I can honestly way it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”
This mum says that most parents, while wanting their children’s school to be a vibrant and engaging place, cannot think of anything worse than having to actually get involved.
One massive upside to the job is all the lovely people who do help who she has got to know really well. As for those who do not she just keeps on smiling as she cannot risk alienating anyone in case they change their minds about helping!
Mrs Ashin will be continuing in her role of Chair but please can I encourage all parents, grandparents and family friends to try and get involved and support our Friends Association in some small way.
Many hands make light work!
Friday 6th September 2019
We were delighted again with our KS2 SATs results with our children achieving very highly again.
I understand from the media that more than a third of youngsters have left primary school this year failing to reach their 3 Rs targets. Nationally 65% of these children achieved the expected standards in all their reading, writing and maths SATs. It was 91% at Mere!
The proportion of children reaching the expected reading standard was 73% nationally and we achieved 94%. 79% of children nationally achieved the expected maths standard but 100% of our children achieved this.
There were also a significant amount of our children that achieved the greater depth standard – 43% in reading, 26% in writing and 20% in maths.
These results are the outcome of strong teaching across the school with good support from parents at home.
We managed to achieve these outstanding results as well as offering our children a rich and exciting curriculum.
Well done to everyone involved and all their hard work!
Friday 12th July 2019
Another newspaper article to share with you!
Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education says that:
“parents should put their smartphones down and take every opportunity to talk to their children face to face.”
He believes that keeping up with social media and work e.mails often prevents mums and dads from chatting to their off spring and in the worst cases, he states, research shows that children who do not get enough contact with their parents can fail to learn the key vocabulary they need for school.
To help Mr Hinds is launching a campaign to help parents put aside distracting technology and build up their children’s literacy skills. He wants more families to teach children new words by reading road signs, and how to count while on the bus, in the street, at the dinner table, in the shops etc. He stressed that it was not his role to dictate to parents and that many were doing a great job of educating their children.
This campaign offers parents video tips, advice and games to help with early learning to encourage more parental interaction. His Hungry Little Minds campaign has been designed to show parents how to incorporate fun and educational activities into their daily routines. He says:
“What hungry Little Minds is about is about is giving some hints and tips, not telling anybody what to do. There are all sorts of opportunities to use everyday interactions to develop language and communication skills and early learning.”
Research by Oxford University Press has found that half of five year olds in some schools are behind in their language skills. The researchers found that when pupils arrive unable to understand basic phrases, they find it much harder to follow commands, make friends and learn to read. In the long term this can lead to low confidence, underachievement and poor behaviour.
We all lead busy lives and it is so tempting to have our phone with us at all times. I will try to learn from this article, even though it will be extremely hard!
Friday 5th 2019
I was chatting to a mum last week who had ‘discovered’ out website!
I wanted to use my Weekly Message this week to remind you that our website is a full of information about the school and we are constantly updating it.
There is the usual, statutory information on there but some really useful bits and pieces ranging from information to help you to keep your child safe on the internet to the dates for the term. Copies of any letters that have been sent home are also on here.
If you go to your child’s class page there are photograph albums of the children learning in school and Mrs Read keeps the site updated with photos of all of our school events. You could spend hours looking at how busy we have been. Events for the week are running along the home page.
We are hoping to develop our website even further in the new year with the introduction of a Mere School app .. more to follow at a later date!
Friday 28th June 2019
There was a very interesting article in the paper last week with the headline:
‘The ‘outstanding’ schools that aren’t as good as they think…’
OFSTED inspectors have warned parents that they cannot have confidence in some outstanding-rated primaries and secondaries because they have not been assessed for so long.
OFSTED launched a crackdown this academic year on 305 outstanding schools that had not been visited by the inspectorate for more than a decade. Of those visited between September and arch, 84% were downgraded. Among them 54% went down one rating to good, 25% were found to require improvement and 5% were rated as inadequate.
OFSTED does not routinely inspect outstanding-rated schools because of a government-imposed exception aimed at letting them ‘get on with their good work’.
Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Schools, wants this lifted. She said:
‘These figures should set alarm bells ringing. The fact outstanding schools are largely exempt from inspection leaves us with real gaps in our knowledge of education and safeguarding.’
This article reinforces my view of outstanding schools. Several years ago Mere School supported an outstanding school that had got into difficulty. I believe that these schools should be inspected in the same way as good schools so that these situations do not arise and negatively impact on children.
Friday 14th June 2019
Wandering around Mere you can see how much building work is going on. This obviously is going to have an impact on schooling in the town.
The governing body has been working very closely with the Local Authority over the past few months to look at how the town will cope with an increased number of children.
It has been decided that there is no need to build another primary school as there is so much space in our school building. An architect has been commissioned to look at how our building can be expanded into the Children’s Centre (which will be closing down in August). Once these plans have been drawn up the governing body will be consulted. We are promised that these plans will include increased parking and a much better traffic management system for the site.
So that we have capacity to expand our class provision the governors have decided to employ an additional teacher in KS1 from September 2019. We have enough capacity at KS2 at the moment but it is important that we are flexible with our planning so that we can respond appropriately to any families moving into Mere.
We plan to organise our classes in the following way from September:
Blue – reception
Yellow – reception and year 1
Silver – year 1 and year 2
Orange – year 2
Gold – year 3
Green – year 4
Red – year 5
Purple – year 6.
Over the next academic year the staff will be working closely with the governors to look at class organisation and the curriculum delivery so that we can ensure that we are offering the best standards of education for our children. Ensuring that every child achieves their best emotionally, academically and socially will be our top priority.
Please do contact me if you have any questions or queries. We are in the early stages of planning and as soon as we have any further information we will let you know.
This is an exciting development for the school.
Friday 17th May 2019
I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from the Local Authority Health and Safety Team stating that they had received an anonymous complaint about the amount of tummy bugs we have in school.
On the day of the phone call there were 5 children off with various ailments but the situation could not be described as ‘an epidemic’ – as this parent described it. The children were all in different classes and had a variety of illnesses.
I know it is frustrating when your children are ill and all the necessary arrangements that need to be made. When I was a child a tummy bug lasted for a maximum of a day then we were back to normal. These new bugs seem to last for a few days and many have a tendency to return.
Our attendance data indicates that our illness absence is better than most schools nationally (at the moment!) and I appreciate all the efforts you make to get your children to school.
We are constantly encouraging the children to wash their hands and the teachers give regular instruction on how to do this.
Our cleaning team are meticulous when cleaning the loos and do their utmost to ensure there is a constant supply of soap – there are times when children need to be reminded about respecting the toilets and the fact that other children will be using them.
I am concerned though, that our KS2 boys loos are still out of action and the governors and I continue to chase the Local Authority about the work that needs to be completed. We have been told that they will be completing the necessary drainage work during half term and the redecorating shortly after this.
We would be grateful if you could discuss the importance of handwashing with your children to reinforce the work we are doing in school so we can keep illness to a minimum.
As ever, if you do have concerns about anything in school, please do contact me – 01747 860515 or email@example.com.
Friday 10th May 2019
It is KS2 SATs week next week and Purple Class are eager, anxious, well prepared and looking forward to getting them ‘over and done with’.
I really do not like putting our children and staff under such pressure but these tests have become part of our school lives now.
The outcomes are really important for the school as we are judged on how well our children have performed. OFSTED make a judgement on this and prospective parents. If the results are poor our OFSTED rating will reflect this which will ultimately result in parents not selecting to send their children to our school which will impact negatively on our funding.
It is important as well that our children start secondary school with the best results possible. Secondary schools do use the children’s test results to group the children and make predictions for their GCSE exams.
There has been a lot of negative press about SATs (there usually is at this time of year) and the pressure the children are feeling. Some schools have been running revision classes during the Easter holidays and even rewarding these children with Happy Meals! It is worth noting that in England we have a high-stakes accountability education system and this does impact negatively on schools and children and research indicates that this does not improve teaching and learning in schools. The Government, however, can use this data to compare and judge schools.
Whilst these tests are important it is vital that we approach them in a balanced manner so that the children still receive a rich curricular experience. It is important that we prepare our children adequately so they are not surprised by anything in the papers but we must still deliver other areas of the curriculum (PE, music, art, DT, science, computing, geography, history, PSHE,). If our children are happy and engaged at school they will perform well in the tests.
I regularly chat with our children about the SATs and they are looking forward most to their bacon butties in the mornings!
So, I would like to wish our children the very best of luck for next week and encourage them to do their very best but also look forward with them to their remaining weeks in school when they will be doing lots of exciting activities – Leaver’s production, various trips, a business project with the Brush Factory, sporting events, first aid course, swimming, induction days at their new schools … the list goes on.
Friday 3rd May 2019
Our art exhibition at the end of last term was a huge success and I would like to thank Mrs Loxton for the hard work that went into organising it.
Our children were given the opportunity to produce a high quality piece of art work and have it professionally framed and parents were delighted to buy their pictures.
We managed to raise over £300 for the school but most importantly the children enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to work on a piece of art for a sustained period, developing and enhancing their work over a period of time. They were thrilled to see their pictures beautifully presented and valued.
The children also had the chance to look at their friend’s work and that of professional artists who joined us during the afternoon – a real community event!
One of the artists who joined us during that afternoon e.mailed to say:
“Thank you for the invitation. It was great to see the children, they had a real sense of pride and excitement when they found their paintings. A very positive attitude to art.
The children were a credit to the school when they went around the room looking at the artwork and asking appropriate questions.
A lovely afternoon.”
Whilst reading, writing and maths are very important we believe, at Mere, that we must give our children a rounded and balanced education and events like this help us to do this.
Friday 5th April 2019
This headline ‘caught my eye’ several weeks ago in a national newspaper:
Call for resilience lessons to beat the old boys network
The article went on to say:
“State school pupils must practise debating and public speaking to compete against Eton old-boys in the workplace, the education secretary will say.
Damian Hinds wants to ‘call time’ on the concept of ‘public school confidence’ and make sure pupils from all backgrounds can hold their own.
In a major speech today, he will point out that character and resilience are just as important as qualifications for future success.
And he will urge schools to help children take part in confidence-building activities such as debating and team sports to develop skills for the future lives.”
I am not sure about ‘the old boys network’ but at Mere School we do strongly believe that we must develop these crucial life/social skills alongside strong academic success. If we manage to do this then our children are very well prepared for their future.
We offer our children a broad, balanced and exciting formal curriculum supplemented with lots of other opportunities, eg art exhibitions, drama productions, music lessons, sports matches, engineering days .. the list goes on. Our Growth Mindset work also contributes significantly to ‘the rounded’ child and we encourage our children to grasp every opportunity that we offer.
As a school community we recognise the balance and combination of these attributes and it is encouraging that the proposed new OFSTED framework will also do this. Our long-standing approach to education is now becoming officially recognised.
Friday 29th March 2019
I was delighted to read an article in the paper about the well being research project we are participating in run by the Anna Freud Foundation on behalf of the Department for Education.
Thousands of pupils are practising mindfulness at school for a couple of minutes a day to help them deal with the pressures of the modern world.
370 primary and secondary schools are testing different approaches to improving children’s mental health. The trial, which runs until 2021 will be one of the largest of its kind in the world. It will teach students ‘innovative techniques’ such as mindfulness, relaxation and breathing exercises to help children regulate their emotions.
Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education said:
“As a society we are more open about our mental health than ever before … but the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse. Schools and teachers don’t have all the answers – nor could they – but we know they can play a special role, which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools.”
We were very keen to take part in this research as we know how important it is that our children have healthy minds and bodies. Working to support the mental health of our children has been a school priority for us this year. Mr Rich and Mrs Cocker have been on some specialist training in Bristol and are now using these special techniques for a couple of minutes each day with Green and Red Classes. They will they evaluate the impact of this are feedback to the Anna Freud Foundation.
As a school we believe that it is important that we help to make our children’s lives better and we hope that the outcome of the research will be for the Government to allocate more funding to this important cause.
Friday 22nd March 2019
I wanted to share this very special poem in my message this week, written by Tyler Ohuanbor:
A Teachers Poem
Everyday you greet your students with
A smile upon your face,
Though paperwork the night before
Seemed like a gruelling face.
Money’s not your motivation
It’s the love for what you do.
You hear that special calling,
To which you always stay true.
Your students are your dedication,
Devotion is to them.
To you each child’s unique and special,
A beautiful little gem.
Some days are just demanding
And frustration takes its course.
Then you see those little faces,
Their inspiration is your force.
Each day you’re in the classroom
It reminds you why you’re there.
Making a difference in children’s lives
With your heart that you share.
There’s a special pride in teachers,
And a love that isn’t seen.
Appreciation’s always shared
Between those little lives.
This sums up what being a teacher at Mere School is all about.
Friday 15th March 2019
Our Class Parents met just before half term and I wanted to use my message to update you on their discussions.
Matters arising from the last meeting
School photos – a new company will be coming in to take class photos in the summer and the school would welcome any feedback.
Snuggle up story bags – any help with material donation or sewing would be appreciated.
Club information – this information is already on the website and a note has been made to include this in the next batch of Welcome letters.
Subsidiary letters for Blue Class – Mrs McClelland will do this to ensure that new parents understand our key events.
Help at lunchtime – the MDSAs and teachers are helping the children at lunchtime.
Snack trolley change – Mrs Ross will try to keep a closer eye on this.
Consultation on new Government Relationships and Health Education proposals
The changes to the PSHE curriculum were shared with the group. Mere School are covering the expectations currently.
KS2 Pottery Club – This is a club for KS2 children only. We do not have the staff capacity to extend it to other year groups unless a parent volunteer comes forward.
Temperature of the school – all classrooms have a thermostat and teachers control the temperature of the room – it is usually extremely cold in the KS1 classes. Mr Drake will adjust the thermostats in the common areas to reduce the temperature if it is too warm.
Sickness – there has been a bug going around (very common at this time of year). The staff continually emphasize the need for good personal hygiene and every termly newsletter mentions the 48 hour recommendation.
Lunchtimes – the school has been trying a new system which has now been withdrawn. KS2 children can sit where they like (apart from the helpers) and KS1 children do have allocated places which they have chosen. The younger children are much happier now knowing where they are sitting and the start of lunchtime is much calmer.
School disco – one parent noted that it took a long time for the children to enter the disco. This will be rectified for the next one and has not happened before. The time will not be extended as the younger children cannot cope with a longer session.
Toilet monitor role in Yellow Class – the reasons for this were discussed and it was noted how the children enjoy this responsibility and the class are responding well.
TD days – Mrs Williamson explained that these are very important days for the school and its development. We endeavour to attach them to a holiday so there is the minimum disruption to learning. They are planned in advance according to the needs of the school and availability of professionals who will be attending.
Attendance messages in newsletter – this information is to keep parents informed and to ensure that a priority for the school is being shared.
Nut allergy – it was confirmed that the child in school with a nut allergy has an allergy to all nuts not just peanuts.
Bramley House Fete – this will be in August and will be raising funds for our school.
KS2 SATs – there will be bacon butties for the children taking the tests.
Music at lunchtime – it was suggested that playing music at lunchtime might have a calming effect. This will be discussed with the teachers.
Snack trolley – parents were very happy with the changes that the new catering manager has implemented.
French – Mrs Jacobs is must unwell at the moment and the school is looking for some temporary cover for French.
Safer internet use parent meeting – it was suggested that this might be alternated between just after school and the evening.
Mere School’s Got Talent – parents would very much like to come and watch this – CW will ask the teachers.
Drum teacher – parents are delighted with our new drum teacher.
The next meeting will be on Friday 17th May 2019.
Friday 8th March 2019
I am delighted to use my message this week to share some good news about our school. The new Director of Education has written to us congratulating us on our recent KS2 SATs outcomes. Below is what she said:
Congratulations on your school’s performance
As present, the responsibilities for educational excellence as set out in section 13A of the Education Act 1996, remain with the local authority. That duty states that a local authority must exercise its education functions with a view to promoting high standards. As well as taking swift and effective action when underperformance occurs in a maintained school, local authorities should encourage good and outstanding maintained schools to take responsibility for their own improvement and to support other schools to access such support.
I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the recently validated outcomes achieved by your pupils in 2018, which are amongst the best primary schools in Wiltshire.
It is very positive to see that you have risen to the challenge of higher expectations with 88% of your KS2 pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics combined. It is also good to see that pupil progress is well above the national average for mathematics and above for reading and writing.
We appreciate that these very good outcomes are due to the sustained commitment, hard work and success of your staff, governors and pupils and recognise that they could not have been achieved without your effective leadership and determination to remain focused on school improvement.
I would like to offer my thanks to you and all at school for your pursuit of the highest standards of educational achievement.
Director or Education and Skills
At huge thank you to the whole school community who have contributed to these outcomes.
Friday 1st March 2019
Please see below advice from Mr Hopwood (our international internet safety expert) and Mrs McClelland regarding the latest internet dangers for our children. This has been well publicised in the press.
Seeing and Sharing Scary Things Online
Keeping children safe is a top priority at Mere School, whether on school premises or beyond, and this of course extends to the online world (although actually our online and offline lives are so blurred that it's not always helpful to use this distinction).
Online safety or digital resilience is a whole-school effort: it is embedded throughout the curriculum, explicitly in subjects like PSHE and Computing, but also taught in all subjects and topics throughout the year (we use the 'Education for a Connected World' framework from UKCIS), and, of course, it is very much part of our safeguarding focus given the real risks and dangers which exist online.
In all that we do, however, we like to focus on the positives of the online world. We recognise that technology is here to stay and pupils at our school, live, love and learn through their tech.
If you want to find out more about the realities of life online for young people, which includes a lot about the risks, you may wish to read the results of a survey of 40,000 UK school children at hopesandstreams.lgfl,net.
What we would like to encourage you to do though is to talk to your children about what they get up to online. The survey showed us that they want to talk to you and trust your life experience and advice, so it doesn't matter if you've ever played their games, hears of their apps or got a virtual reality headset!
Please take time to talk to them over the next few weeks about what they do on their devices and with whom, what they love, and what worries them. Why not get them to show or teach you how to use their apps, sites or games? The key thing is to stay positive, be real about the risks and make sure they know who they can talk to if they are unsure.
There are plenty of things to be aware of online, but if you are warning them about risks and dangers, please don't show them scary images or tell them the names of 'bad apps' (all apps can be good or bad) or challenges/dares to avoid. If you do, that can scare them even more or encourage them to go and Google it later.
Here are a few links that may be helpful to you:
In the past week there have been many press stories about a particular nasty challenge circulating with a scary image on social media. These stories are based on an urban myth/hoax which circulates every few months. Whether that is the case or not, please do not show scary images from the newspapers to your children in order to talk about it, and do not mention the challenge by name. Instead, as above, talk about what to do if they see something scary or someone else dates them to do something stupid or dangerous; ask them is they would tell someone and who; make sure they know never to forward these things to classmates.
Let's work together to avoid unnecessary sleepless nights.
Friday 15th February 2019
Whenever I speak to groups of children about how we could improve life at Mere School there is always one who would like to stop wearing school uniform.
We were delighted to welcome the Littlewood family back to school a couple of weeks ago, after their emigration to Sweden and they told our children how they do not have to wear a school uniform in Sweden. Our children were most envious!
The Education Secretary, Mr Damian Hinds believes that school uniform is “an ‘important leveller’ which helps prevent disadvantaged pupils from being bullied for not having expensive gear”.
He said that he supports all schools which enforce a strict clothing code as it stops children wearing expensive designer lines. Mr Hinds also called on parents to ‘back up’ headteachers in enforcing good behaviour – and complying with uniform is a key aspect.
He also added that the problems were worse if schools allowed children to come in wearing trainers of their choice rather than standard black shoes.
I am very proud of the standards of school uniform at Mere and value all the support we get from parents ensuring that our children are well-turned out in the correct uniform.
Friday 8th February 2019
Following our highly informative day with Mr Karl Hopwood on internet safety I spent some time reflecting on how the internet has revolutionised education. When I started teaching we did not have a computer in school!
E.mail has significantly improved parent-teacher communication and it is hard to imagine a life without it. When you sit and think about how much of our day is spent reading or replying to e.mails it is quite worrying – not just at work but at home as well!
There is a difficult situation to be managed and we have to balance up reducing teacher workload and parent accessibility to the teacher. Some teachers are replying to parental e.mails in the evening on top of marking and lesson preparation.
I do have a personal rule that I do not look at school e.mails after 5 pm (unless I have been out of school all day or it is the holidays). I do encourage the teachers to adopt the same approach but I know some of them do check e.mails in the evening.
In a bid to reduce teaching workload (and to make our profession more attractive) I would be grateful if you could work with me to try not to contact teachers by e.mail in the evening unless it is absolutely necessary. We need our teachers to be refreshed for the new day ahead!
It is worth noting that I am in school from 8 am every morning and I check my e.mails at this time as well. I usually pick up anything urgent at this point.
Friday 1st February 2019
You have probably been aware from the press coverage that there is a new OFSTED framework coming into schools.
Amanda Spielman, The Chief Inspector for Schools, has set out her eagerly awaited new OFSTED Education Inspection Framework, due to be implemented in September this year.
In a nutshell, these changes will move OFSTED’s focus away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving their results, and whether they are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep. The new system plans to reward school leaders who are ambitious for their pupils, rather than those who jump through hoops and simply teach to the test.
As you can imagine there has been a mixed reaction to these proposals. Some head teachers are delighted that teachers will be treated as experts in their field, not just data managers, and that this new framework will recognise and reward the good work done by schools in areas of high deprivation. Mrs Spielman is convinced that it will also ease the teacher recruitment crisis.
Other schools are very concerned over the new proposals and cannot see that they will reduce stress or increase the reliability of judgements that the inspectors make. They are worried that some inspections will be increased to 2 days, and that it is proposed that inspectors prepare for the inspection on school grounds (resulting in them inspecting as soon as they arrive!). Schools are nervous because it is believed that reliance on data will continue, but with added judgments on the curriculum – increasing the pressure on schools.
I have been head teacher at Mere for 20 years, and during that time there have been several changes to the way schools are assessed. We will ‘keep calm and carry on’ with business as usual, confident in the fact that we are doing what works and what we know to be right. We have always believed in getting the very best outcomes for our children in the basic skills, and are proud that their SATs results reflect that.
However, despite the apparent OFSTED obsession with data in recent years, we have maintained our belief that children should have a rich, exciting and diverse curriculum and school life, and that they are well prepared for the world that awaits them. Our children have long enjoyed competitive sport, art, music, foreign languages, whole school theatre trips, and numerous class trips.
We need to remember that this is still a consultation document, so a lot can change and head teachers and governors are being urged to take part in the consultation. I will let you know if there are any changes and we look forward to being inspected under this new framework in the near future.
Friday 25th January 2019
During our Safeguarding T D day we were given some really useful information for parents if their children attend ‘out-of-school settings’, helping them to understand that a safe environment looks like.
Out-of-school settings might be Gymbuds, Karate Club, Rainbows/Beavers, football club etc.
These are safeguarding issue awareness for parents of children who attend out-of-hours settings.
If your child does attend out-of-school activities and you are worried about any of the above please call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
Friday 18th January 2019
We are really proud of our school meals at Mere School and the relatively new appointment of our Catering Manager, Mrs Julie Gulliver, has given us the opportunity to look at our provision and see how we can improve it further.
Our main aim is to provide our children with a high quality school meal at an affordable price. At £2.00/meal they do represent extremely good value, and are significantly cheaper than schools locally. Having a school meal is definitely cheaper than filling a lunchbox but it is very likely that prices will have to increase soon.
We are also keen to provide a meal-time experience for our children. We do have high expectations of table manners and behaviour at lunchtime and we want to make this even better. Mrs Edgar is working closely with Mrs Simmons, our Lunchtime Supervisor team and School Council to implement a new set of rules. We are particularly keen to work on the noise level as it does echo in the room. Good table manners are an extremely important skill for life.
Mrs Gulliver is also going to meet with the School Council to discuss the menus. The children are going to share their favourite meals with her and make suggestions for new ones. It is really important that we have a balance of meals that are healthy and popular.
We have also been working hard to reduce waste. Portion control is a priority now for us and Mrs Gulliver only cooks what meals are ordered – we cannot afford to prepare ‘extra’ food and this is why we have to be extremely strict about the ordering of meals.
It is good to note though, due to the School Council’s intervention, that we rarely use disposable plastic items.
We are one of the few schools that cook meals on site (for our own use and we supply 2 other schools as well). I am delighted that our governing body believe that this provision is extremely important for our children and continue to support our kitchen.
Friday 11th January 2019
As our Internet Safety Day is approaching I thought it was an appropriate moment to remind parents about how to keep our children safe.
Early use of digital technology has been shown to improve language skills and promote children’s social development and creativity. However, it is not without risks for young children, who may come across inappropriate content or begin to copy what older children do online.
Be clear what your child can and can’t do online – where they can use the internet, how much time they can spend online, the sites they can visit and the type of information they can share. Agree with your child when they can have a mobile phone or tablet.
The best way to find out what your child is doing online is to ask them to tell you about what they do and what sites they like to visit. If they’re happy to, ask them to show you. Talk to them about being a good friend online.
Some experts recommend that you install parental controls on your home broadband and any internet-enabled devices. Set up a user account for your child on the main device they use and make sure other accounts in the household are password-protected so that younger children can’t access them by accident. Our Internet Safety advisor gives different advice to this – it would be worth coming along to hear what he says.
Use airplane mode on your devices when your child is using then so they can’t make an unapproved purchases or interact with anyone online without your knowledge.
Encourage them to use their tech devices in a communal area like the lounge or kitchen so you can keep an eye on how they’re using the internet and also share in their enjoyment.
It’s also a good idea to talk to any older children about what they’re doing online and what they show to younger children. Encourage them to be responsible and help keep their younger siblings safe.
Use safe search engines such as Swiggle or Kids-search. You can save time by adding these to your ‘Favourites’. Safe search settings can also be activated on Google and other search engines, as well as YouTube.
The age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child.
Our ultimate aim at school is to keep our children safe at all times and our governing body made the decision some time ago that we needed to invest in internet safety. This is why we have an Internet Safety Day (as well as the on-going safety work) every year. Please do come along to hear an international expert in this field – Mr Karl Hopwood. He will also be working in every class that day.
Thursday 31st January 2019, 3.30 – 4.30 pm
We will be running a crèche so you can concentrate on his advice!
Make a note in your diary and we look forward to seeing you.
Friday 21st December 2018
I like to finish the term with some good news.
Last week the school performance tables were published by the Government based on our KS2 SATs results from July 2018.
We are absolutely delighted with how well our children performed and you can have a look for yourself online at:
The headlines are that we have above average progress scores in reading and writing and well above in maths. 88% of our children met the expected standards in reading, writing and maths compared to 63% of children in Wiltshire and 64% nationally. Our average scores are rising year on year.
I am particularly pleased that our absence rate was 3.6% compared to 4% nationally.
Our overall performance at the end of KS2 in 2018 ranked us 21st out of 239 Wiltshire schools.
These results are testament to our hard working teachers and support staff across the school who work tirelessly to ensure that every child at Mere School achieves their personal best. I would also like to thank our team of committed governors for supporting and challenging the school so effectively. Educating a child is a team effort and all the help and support you parents give your children is much appreciated in school and contributes significantly to this superb set of results.
We are not ‘resting on our laurels’ and are striving for even better outcomes next year as well as providing a rich and balanced curriculum for your children.
I would like to share an e.mail I received from a parent last week:
“Just wanted to drop you a short note to congratulate you and the staff at Mere School on the recently published results in primary level achievement… I appreciate it’s not all about numbers and benchmarks but I’m not sure how many people realise and appreciate all the hard work that goes into such achievements … I was lucky enough to join my daughter recently as she travelled back from the Opera visit with her classmates. It really brightened up my commute to see the children enjoy a big day out to London and I’m sure all these extra-curricular activities drive a greater engagement for learning in the children … Many thanks to you and your team.”
Friday 14th December 2018
Our whole school focus for improvement this year is writing and I have been delighted to see some high quality examples of writing throughout the term. I love celebrating the successes the children are having and rewarding the children for their hard work. Examples of particularly good work can be seen in our Achievement Book in the entrance foyer.
Mr Rich, Mrs Edgar and Mrs Loxton have also completed a writing book scrutiny. This is when they take a selection of books from each class to look at the quality of writing. They were really impressed with the standard of work seen, particularly some WW1 writing from Purple Class and some snowman writing in Red Class. The children were described as ‘assessment literate’, which means that they can look at their work and improve it – for example, correcting spellings or making better word or phrase choices.
We are going to try to give the children more opportunities to write for longer periods of time so that their creative ‘flow’ is not disturbed.
Not only have the staff been impressed with the quality of writing but our new Chair of Governors spent some time with groups of children talking about their writing. Mrs Godfrey is an English graduate, qualified secondary English teacher and trained OFSTED inspector. She was overwhelmed with the discussions she had with our children. She noted that the children clearly ‘loved writing and spoke with enormous enthusiasm.’ She thought that the children’s attitudes to learning were ‘exceptional’ and all children talked about ‘challenging themselves to even greater achievements. They looked forward to receiving feedback from both peers and teachers as a way of improving the quality of their writing’.
Mrs Godfrey asked the children how she might persuade other children in another school who might not like writing that actually writing was a good thing. Apart from being very shocked by the possibility the children said ‘they need to do it and see that writing is fun’ and ‘if they work on their writing they will see that learning is infections – everyone will catch it!’
Mrs Godfrey also commented on how much standards have risen since she was teaching in a secondary school. She felt that our year 6 children were producing standards of work that a year 8 child might have been doing when she was teaching. I know that I am very pleased that I have an ‘A level’ in English when I am teaching our older classes.
I am so proud of what our children are achieving and I am delighted to share this with you.
Friday 7th December 2018
With Christmas in mind, I am aware that for some families this is a challenging time.
The role of being a parent or carer can be a difficult one and it’s often hard to know if we’re doing the right thing.
To help your child stay healthy, try and ensure that they:
If your child is struggling with any of the above then it may be an indication that something or someone has upset them, or that they are finding things difficult to cope with.
Support is available from your GP, school, the school health nurse, and or health visitor/Children’s Centre (for those with under 5s).
For help that is more targeted towards understanding positive mental health and wellbeing contact
Young Minds Parents’ Helpline 0808 802 5544
Friday 30th November 2018
The source of great confrontation in my house is when my husband and daughters are glued to their phones! It was interesting to read about the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, who is appealing to mothers and fathers to cut back on their screen time, saying it was a ‘scandal’ that many children ‘are starting school unable to communicate effectively.’
He told parents that spending ‘one-to-one’ time without gadgets’ and ‘playing with numbers to songs and poems’ would reap dividends for their youngest children.
Last week there was a summit in London with major companies, including Lego and Disney, to address what he called ‘the last taboo’ of tackling educational disadvantage – advising parents on how best to educate their young children at home. Mr Hinds said:
“As the vast majority of children’s time is spent at home, we need to think about how we support parents with learning in the home environment. This could be seen as the last taboo in education, and certainly no one wants to be lecturing parents. But, it is a persistent scandal that too many children are starting school unable to communicate effectively, and we know that what happens at home makes a big difference in that.
Working with businesses and organisations, we are looking to support parents with practical help and advice. This includes the development of a set of easy, everyday activities for all families, from playing with numbers to songs and poems, in order to support children’s development.
As a parent, I’m conscious that while we think about screen time limits for children, we find it harder to limit ourselves. But, that one-to-one time without gadgets getting in the way is so valuable. The pressures of work and the modern world means putting phones away is far from easy. But I think it’s an important area to talk about, particularly as we consider ways to support parents with children’s learning at home.”
He stressed that technology was not ‘the villain of the piece’ and that well used, it would ‘actively support a child’s learning.’
It is worth noting that more than a quarter of children finish their reception year without the basic early communication or reading skills they need to thrive at school.
Communication skills across the school is a priority for us at Mere also. We have an exciting new initiative that will be starting in KS1 after Christmas – Mr Rich will be contacting you shortly.
Friday 23rd November 2018
When thinking about what to write this week I came across an older article in ‘The Independent’ newspaper based on some research conducted by the University of California and they discovered, unsurprisingly that:
“the expectations parents hold for their kids have a huge effect on attainment.”
Ever since I have been teaching this has been a fundamental belief of mine but it is good to have it validated by research.
The research states:
“Any good parent wants their kids to stay out of trouble, do well at school, and go on and do awesome things as adults. Unsurprisingly, much of it comes down to the parents.”
Here is what parents of successful children have in common:
Having attended my daughter’s graduation ceremony last week I was struck by what the Vice-Chancellor said. He stated that we have to encourage our children to ‘reach for the sky’ and with high aspirations and belief in themselves this will result in them having a successful life. I could not agree with him more. We have a responsibility to prepare our children and ensure they have the skills to cope with a world which we do not know what will look like when they are adults.
Friday 16th November 2018
I received a lovely letter from the Mere Town Council Chairman which I would like to share with you:
"There are a lot of thank yous going about after what was a very memorable Remembrance Day and I would like to add one more. I wanted to say to you and the staff and children at the school how pleasing it was to see the way the children of Mere responded to the centennial. I saw it first hand when I came in with the vicar to do assembly. Hands were raised with keenness and understanding to any question about what the centennial meant.
When I saw pupils, with their parents, about Mere looking at the mementos I could tell they were often leading the conversation. Some pupils took part in the service but others were also there, in attendance. The vicar pointed out, in her service, the poppies that had been created by pupils. The librarian remarked on the fact that pupils were coming into the library on their own to gather up maps of where the mementos were positioned.
It was very heartwarming for me, having worked with the school, to see from 'the outside' how good the school is in the way pupils are such a part of the community.
A big thank you to Mere School for being what I know it is - an outstanding school."
Friday 9th November 2018
I stumbled across a very interesting article at half term written by one of the UK’s most successful interior designers, Kelly Hoppen. The headline was:
“Your weakness can be your strength”.
Kelly Hoppen said that she had a miserable time at school. She was bullied and could not spell or read properly.
Now she realises that she was probably dyslexic, which was diagnosed when she became a mother and recognised the same struggles in her daughter.
When she looks back she is pleased that her condition was not diagnosed. She believes that it is important to understand that dyslexia is not a disability but a different way of thinking.
Kelly Hoppen believes that dyslexia has shaped who she is and what she has done in her life. She has a highly developed visual imagination and heightened intuition. Both skills have served her very well in life. She has run her highly successful business on these skills. When she interviews for staff she likes to meet people and through this she knows whether they are right for her business. She says, “whenever I’ve ignored my instincts, I’ve made mistakes.”
She sums up her thoughts:
“I wish I could tell my schoolgirl self that one day I would be proud to be the odd one out – and that what seems to be your worst weakness can actually be your greatest strength.”
I found this article most refreshing and I often have conversations about not labelling children. All children have different strengths and weaknesses and they will ultimately have to cope in the big wide world. We need to work together to find the best way for children to learn in school and ensure that they make as much progress with us as possible so that they are prepared for adult life.
Friday 2nd November 2018
Over the last 3 years primary aged children have been offered the flu vaccination in a national roll-out of the programme.
This year the flu vaccination is being offered to all children in our reception class through to year 5. Pre-school children will be offered the vaccine through the surgery. This will take place on Wednesday 19th December 2018.
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children, with serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The programme is designed to provide both individual protection to children who receive the vaccine and to prevent the spread of flu to their family and the community
Evidence from the children’s programme indicates that there has been a positive impact on flu levels, both for the vaccinated children and the wider community. This has meant less illness in the community, and fewer GP consultations, hospital admissions, and emergency department attendances. Flu vaccination of school aged children also helps to promote a healthy school environment and may reduce absenteeism amongst pupils and staff.
The programme will be delivered by a healthcare team which may include nurses, healthcare support workers, administrative staff and other associated professions. Staff will have appropriate qualifications and training, including safeguarding training.
Parents need to provide consent for their children to be vaccinated by following the link below to Virgin Care’s secure electronic portal:
Virgin Care are requesting that consent is provided as soon as possible as the link closes 5 days prior to the session in school. This link is secure and unique to our school. Full details and information to assist parents in completing the consent is detailed on the portal including full FAQs, patient information and contact details should parents wish to speak to a nurse. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SCHOOL WILL NOT BE CHASING PERMISSIONS. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS TO REGISTER YOUR CHILD.
The nasal spray vaccine has a good safety record and vaccinated contacts are not at risk from catching flu from the vaccine, either through being given or by being in contact with a recently vaccinated individual.
So, if you would like your child to have the flu immunisation please register your child through the above website. Any queries or questions can be answered on this website and the contact details for the health professionals involved are there also. If you do not have access to the internet, Mere Library has access that parents can use.
Friday 19th October 2018
I was delighted to meet with the Class Parents last week. It was again a very productive and useful meeting. We chatted about the following things:
If you have anything you would like your Class Parents to raise at our meetings please do contact them.
Friday 12th October 2018
I expect you have seen the negative press coverage concerning the 1000 head teachers who marched on Downing Street to protest against ‘dangerous’ cuts to budgets.
One head teacher reported that things were at such a critical point in her school that she had £80 left in her budget at the end of the financial year. Another has written to parents asking them to pay for toilet paper.
I would like to reassure you that the situation at Mere School is not quite as desperate but we are having to manage our finances particularly carefully. The Government claim that funding to schools is at an all-time high but schools are having to pay for much more out of their pot of money which is having a significant, negative impact on our budget. We are grateful to The Friends who provide many ‘extras’ for our children and we do our best to generate income from other sources to supplement out budget.
As far as marching on Downing Street, I believe that I have a job to educate the children at Mere School. There are other ways to register our concerns about the money coming into schools.
Friday 5th October 2018
Mrs Loxton and I both attended some safeguarding training last week and it is clear that on-line safety is a growing area of concern. We must do our utmost to ensure that our children are safe when they are using the internet.
I frequently write about on-line safety and thought that a reminder would be a useful way to use my HT Message this week. It is worth noting that 86% of 3 – 4 year olds have access to a tablet computer at home. One in 5 has a computer of their own. Some 76% of children aged 6 have access to devices such as smartphones. By the age of 10 this is 92%; by 12 it is 96%.
So what can you do to ensure your child is safe online? Some experts have revealed the seven top strategies:
DON’T BAN THE INTERNET – our natural instincts are to protect our children by stopping then from going online at all. While we could set some rules (eg no internet after bedtime) restricting access too much risks alienating your child from their friends and the internet also offers so many opportunities for children to learn and play.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD – the most effective way to monitor your child’s life online is through direct discussion. Talk to younger children about strangers online. Warn them about scams and open discussions across social media. Bring up the dangers of sharing information, passwords, bank details and photos online. Be alert of cyber bullying and sexting and when your child confides in you don’t overreact. If your child gets the impression you feel the internet is bad your child might not tell you about a worry.
GO ONLINE WITH THEM – searching online together, teaching your child how to identify trusted websites and avoid scams, is valuable. Download games together so you know they are from a reputable site and make sure you both check out reviews so you know they are suitable.
JOIN IN ON SOCIAL MEDIA – as a parent it is important to remember that you are the life expert even though you might feel your child knows more than you do about technology. It can be a good idea to join in with your child on social media and it also gives you a starting point for sensitive discussions.
USE TOOLS THAT SUIT KIDS – check websites and apps before younger children use them and ensure that they are using a computer in a busy part of the house. You can tweak settings on devices to block adult contact and your internet providers can provide free filters to help block inappropriate content. Technology should never be used to ‘babysit’ your child – it cannot replace conversation and supervision by you. Remember – your safety tools have no effect when your child goes to a friend’s house where there are none.
DON’T SPY ON THEM – checking your child’s phone when they are asleep could backfire with your child accusing you of intruding on their privacy. Similarly, commenting on their Facebook posts could push them to use another social media site you don’t know about. Far better to develop a trusting face-to-face relationship.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE – manage your child’s online time by restricting yours, suggesting you both have time away from the internet. Even older children enjoy a good old-fashioned day out.
Friday 28th September 2018
I thought I would write about my ‘pet hate’! I get so irritated when I see bad table manners – usually from adults! At school we are continually persuading and encouraging our children to use their best table manners at lunchtime. When I say to them ‘manners maketh man’ they seem quite surprised.
Family meals are featuring less and less due to hectic schedules and busy lives and finding time to sit down and demonstrate good table manners is more important than ever – children learn by watching and copying. I came across these handy hints which, right from the word go, will help our children to adopt and master one of life’s fundamental life skills.
Good table manners show appreciation, responsibility and respect. We hope you can work with us to ensure these essential skills are secure in our children.
Friday 21st September 2018
Did you know there are only 40 teaching weeks in the school year; there are 12 weeks holiday?
Did you know that missing 6 days every term is the same as missing one whole school year?
Did you know that 95% sounds good, but really means that your child is taking one day off a month?
Did you know that attendance at Mere School is worse than most other schools?
I made this horrifying discovery when I was analysing attendance data at the end of last term and for all groups Mere School attendance is poor – lower than national averages.
When a child attends school on a regular basis, they take an important step towards reaching their full potential and are given the greatest opportunity to learn new things and develop their skills. Children who miss school frequently can fall behind with their work and do less well in exams. We have noticed this in our year 6 SATs results – those children who have a good attendance rate out-perform those who do not.
The more time a child spends around other children, whether in the classroom or as part of a school team, the more chance they have of making friends and feeling included, boosting social skills, confidence and self esteem.
While the parents are primarily responsible for ensuring their child attends school regularly, where school attendance problems occur the key to successfully resolving these problems is engaging the children through collaborative working between the parent, the school and the local authority.
So …. we will be tackling this problem during the year and would be grateful for your support. There will be lots of information in the newsletters and the School Council and Class Parents will be helping us as well.
Friday 14th September 2018
We had a very interesting T D day in school on the first day of term all based on writing.
Our challenge for this year (and beyond I suspect) is to raise the standards of writing across the school.
The expectations of children in primary schools are huge and some of the curriculum content that we are teaching to our older classes I covered in my English A Level. This shows how educational standards have risen over time.
One of our challenges is to develop the speech of our children so that they have a richer and wider vocabulary. This can be done by encouraging the children to read a variety of high quality reading books and through discussion and speaking.
It has been highlighted in a report that almost a third of 5-year olds in the UK start school without the basic speaking skills needed to participate in class. The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, said that ‘it was a persistent scandal that so many children start school without the ability to speak in sentences.’
The research highlights the importance of parents spending time with their children and engaging them in conversation rather than leaving them to watch TV.
To help us in our quest we would be grateful if you could spend time talking with your children and encouraging them to read and limit the amount of time they are spending on their computers and phones. This will have a real impact on what we are trying to achieve in school.
Friday 7th September 2018
With a little more time on my hands over the holidays I have managed to read more.
What has become obvious to me over the past few years are the expectations that are put on schools. At a Class Parent meeting several years ago we were asked if we could teach the children how to change a bed! I think you can work out what my answer was!
The school curriculum is vast and teachers struggle to deliver what is expected. We have become very creative in the way we deliver the curriculum content so that nothing is missed.
There are also certain things that parents want to teach their children themselves and I believed that things like making a bed and even sex education were my responsibility as a parent.
The Government are expecting schools to tackle the obesity crisis in our children and I was heartened to read that Amanda Spielman (Chief Inspector of OFSTED) said that:
“teachers were already stretched and should not be distracted from their primary role as educators …Schools cannot provide a ‘silver bullet’ to tackle childhood obesity.”
I acknowledge that schools have an important role to play against childhood obesity by offering high-quality PE lessons and emphasizing heathy lifestyles but Miss Spielman added:
“We must also recognise that schools cannot provide a silver bullet for all social ills. Families, government, industry, and other parts of the public sector all have a role to play.”
OFSTED research at 60 primary schools found no pattern to suggest school level interventions alone, such as having a kitchen on site or a member of staff leading on obesity, were linked with higher or lower levels of obesity. There were too many factors beyond the school gate for them to have a direct and measurable impact.
We will continue to encourage healthy lifestyles for our children and work closely with parents to achieve this.
Tuesday 24th July
Another academic year over and an opportunity to reflect on the highs of the year.
We had an incredible DT day in September and were delighted to be the first ever primary school that The Dyson Foundation had ever worked with. The children were involved in a whole range of activities to promote science and technology.
We had continued significant success in sporting events this year, particularly at county level. Worthy of note are hockey, tennis, netball, football, athletics and Kwik Cricket. We work closely with Miss Thompson from Gillingham School to offer every pupil at Mere School some wonderful sporting opportunities.
Our school council have shaped the life of our school with their priorities. They have also raised a significant amount of money for their chosen charity – Diabetes UK.
Mr Butler organised a visit from a helicopter when we were able to learn all about the machine and what it was like being a member of The Royal Navy.
The Friends have been extremely active again. They have raised a lot of money and funded our annual trip to the Pantomime, hanging microphones in the hall and extra capacity for our laptops as well as organising some great social occasions. Our Class Parent continue to make valuable contributions to the life of the school.
The children have experienced lots of visits as part of their topic work from Pencelli to St Michael’s Church. We have welcomed lots of visitors into school enabling us to make our curriculum as exciting and vibrant as possible.
There have been numerous musical opportunities for our children from individual music lessons to the Musical Entertainment Evening to joining our cluster schools to sing at the Nadder Centre. Our Christmas and Leaver Productions were a delight to produce and watch.
We have hosted several student teacher placements throughout the year. It is so important that we ensure high quality teachers are entering the profession and we are delighted that we can contribute to their training here. We also continue to offer support to schools that are struggling locally.
Safety continues to be a high priority at Mere School. We work closely with parents and the community to keep our site and the local area safe. We have strong relationships with professionals who work with us to help our children. Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert came to work with our children and ran an information evening for parents.
Two of our children sat on the Cluster Council and there were several more able events organised. Mr Rich organised training for our colleagues and we enjoyed getting to know Mr Nicholson, the new head teacher at Gillingham School.
There were a handful of special days for the children to enjoy and learn from including World Book Day, Royal Wedding celebration and Australia Day and the children enjoyed showing parents and members of the community what they had been learning during our Open Mornings/Afternoons.
Our KS2 SATs were incredibly high again and were testament to the high quality staff team we have at Mere School. Every member of our staff team is committed to ensuring our children do their best but enjoy their learning and feel safe. The staff feel well supported (and often challenged) by our governing body.
So all in all we have had another very successful year and I would like to thank everybody who has been involved for their part in this success. We continue to strive for an even better one next year!
Friday 20th July 2018
One of the key skills I believe children need for life is good table manners and Mrs Green and Mrs Howell commented on how strong these skills were in our children, particularly at KS1 during our Australian day.
An article in the paper this week stated:
“Half of young children don’t use cutlery”.
I have to admit that I continue to be horrified at the table manners of some of my head teacher colleagues when I attend conferences and my husband has, in the past, had to speak to his staff about this.
The research in the paper continues:
“Parents allow children to pick up food with their fingers at meal times instead of teaching them table manners. Experts warn that youngsters are not developing adequate social skills and will struggle to eat in primary school canteens. They are also hampering their development as the fine motor skills gained by practising with cutlery help children’s brains develop as they grow.”
Even more worrying is that just over a third of parents across the country admitted that they did not eat with their children.
Sitting together regularly to enjoy a meal is a favourite time for me. We can discuss all sorts around the table and sort out many worries and issues. Support to use cutlery when the children are younger and a strong emphasis on good table manners ensures that these skills are embedded for life.
We have an emphasis at lunchtimes of enjoying our food in a social situation with good table manners. It is a basic skill that all children need for life and working together I hope our children will leave Mere School able to flourish in this social situation.
Friday 13th July 2018
With our national football team success and our fantastic sports day I thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on what an amazing year Mrs Schofield, as our PE Subject Leader and her team of helpers and staff and our children have had.
We have had tremendous success in county-wide competitions in a variety of sports – particularly tennis, football, athletics, cricket, netball and hockey. Many of our KS2 children have participated in these events and even our KS1 children have taken part in sporting activities.
We are extremely grateful to Miss Thompson, from Gillingham School and her Young Sports Leaders who organise and run many of these events. Mrs Schofield and Mr Rich also organise events for our Pyramid and Cluster schools enabling a large group of children to take advantage of our superb facilities and resources. Our KS2 children are fortunate that the specific skills for individual sports are taught by specialist teachers and coaches.
Sports day was a magical event when the spirit of our children really shone through. The children wanted to win but were gracious when winning or losing and showed such mature support for those children who found some of the events challenging – not a ‘dry eye in the house’!
We regularly have discussions with parents and governors about our policy of ‘putting out the best team’ for sporting events. If we are going to any sporting competition we are aiming to win so we send our strongest team. I make no apologies for this as our children learn valuable life skills from this approach.
Standards in PE across the school continue to rise and Mrs Schofield has purchased a new PE scheme to ensure that all of our children are working to their full potential, particularly the most able.
We are considering expanding the opportunities for our children next year. We hope to enter a local swimming gala and offer our children a greater range of sports and our year 6 children will take part in additional swimming sessions at the end of the year. A first aid course for this group of children is also planned. We hope to take the whole school to Team Bath to experience the atmosphere of a Sports Training Village where many Olympic, international and national athletes are trained.
We do appreciate the support we receive from parents whether it is helping with transport or coaching our children. I am so proud that so many Mere children are recognised at the Gillingham School Sports Award evening.
Friday 6th July 2018
I came across a fascinating article last weekend with the headline:
“Chemical cosh masks flaws of schools and parents.”
It was written by Dr Max Pemberton and his opening paragraph reads:
“Young minds are society’s most precious commodity, to be nurtured and guided, not stifled with a ‘chemical cosh’. And yet that is exactly what we are doing to hundreds of thousands of our children.”
He highlights concerns about the rising numbers of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who are prescribed the drug Ritalin. Prescriptions for the drug have more than doubled in the past 10 years.
The Head of OFSTED commented that it was ‘implausible’ that so many more young people were suffering from ADHD. She added:
“it seems to have become the ‘norm’ to medicate away behavioural problems rather than tackle the root cause”.
Dr Pemberton finds the arguments used to defend this increased dependence, blaming the rigid curriculum in schools, difficult. He believes that it is a social phenomenon advising that the diagnosis of ADHD can represent family dysfunction rather than a problem with the individual child. He suggests that parents must take their responsibility for establishing good behaviour at an early age, more seriously, so that being able to sit in class and listen to a teacher is a reasonable expectation rather than a challenge. He also suggests that the Government and schools need to make the curriculum more flexible and accommodating for children who are less academic.
Dr Pemberton ends his article with the following comment:
“By taking the easy option and prescribing behaviour-altering drugs, we are letting down an entire generation.”
Food for thought for all of us …..
Friday 29th June 2018
I expect every parent is sick of me nagging about car parking and driving in and around the school site but it is done with the very best of intentions. It is my job and my moral responsibility to ensure that every member of our school community is safe at all times.
I know from speaking to colleagues that every school has issues with parking and we are fortunate that we are able to use the Bowls Club car park.
There were initial plans drawn up to extend the car park but unfortunately the school does not have the money to pay for this. The governors cannot use money allocated for our pupil’s education to fund parking facilities. The Friends also regularly discuss the use of their funds to do this but again, they feel that any money raised should be used to enhance the education of our children. If the money was available we would need to work very closely with other site users.
The staff car park situation is much improved. I am so grateful for your support with this. I am hoping that everyone now knows that the only parking in this area is for staff and parents may not park here. This area is now much safer for all. The Bowls Club car park does get congested (especially when there is a match on) and we will continue to encourage parents to park off the school site and walk in.
White Road continues to be a problem and I am in constant contact with the police about this area. I continue to ask parents not to use this road as we need to keep it as safe as possible for the children walking to and from school. However, I am not able to enforce this. If parking off site on the roads we also encourage parents to park considerately – we advise neighbours to contact the police if their drives are blocked by a parked vehicle.
I am aware of conversations on ‘Mere Mutters’ about vehicles on the public roads (White Road is a public road and not part of the school site). I would dearly love to have some control over this but I am not a police officer and have no powers to do this – if I did I would create a road for locals around Stonehenge! The Mere School site is small (I have total control over this area) but I have limited control over vehicles on the Duchy site.
All I can do is encourage everyone to drive with extreme caution to ensure the safety of the community of Mere, especially our children and continue to work closely with the police and road traffic agencies.
Friday 22nd June 2018
Our Class Parents met for their final meeting of the academic year last week. A huge thank you to this group who help us tremendously in school. A special thank you to Mrs Pat Manning and Mrs Laura Rich for their role as Purple Class parents. We will be welcoming 2 new Blue Class members in September – Ms Jamie Cox and Mrs Woodley Cadey.
We had some matters arising from the last meeting:
Mere Carnival – unfortunately the group could not think of someone who could run a Carnival
Club for the children. Time is very limited now.
Facebook – many classes now have a Facebook Page and it was agreed that the Class Parents
would monitor this.
Changing for PE – the children in Green Class and Gold Class will change together from
September as this is what they are used to.
Evaluation of Group – it was agreed that the group was an extremely useful organisation to
enhance the communication for school.
Priorities for next year – none were identified at the meeting.
Reps for 2018/19 – all of the current group were happy to remain in post. The group thanked
Mrs Pat Manning and Mrs Laura Rich for their contributions. We will be wel
coming 2 new Blue Class members in September – Ms Jamie Cox and Mrs
Frequency of meetings – it was agreed that we would stick with this year’s format.
Friday 15th June 2018
Red Class returned to school full of stories about their trip to Pencelli. They had the most incredible time and have made memories that they will never forget – many parents talk to me about their visit to Pencelli when they were younger.
The staff and parents who accompanied them were hugely impressed with the group and the way they tackled all the challenges they were presented with. A massive thank you to Miss Beckwith, Mr Rich, Mrs Green, Mr Ings and Mrs Bache for taking the children – leaving your family for a week is extremely difficult. Mr Rich’s Blog provided incredible entertainment value!
Mrs Green said:
“It has been a pleasure to take Red Class to Penceilli. They have made us very proud and we did indeed have great pleasure in watching them achieve a huge range of skills.”
Mr Ings commented:
“It has been an absolute pleasure and all the children and staff are a credit to not only themselves but the school as well.”
Mrs Bache posted the following on Facebook:
“Pencelli – what I’ve learnt.
Staff on these trips do not stop from dawn to dusk. The support and continual affirmation they give the kids throughout the entire trip is tiring to observe. They really work harder than I could have even imagined.
The staff are much more than ‘just teachers’. It’s been lovely seeing the kids interact with the staff as fellow human beings while still maintaining healthy boundaries.
Kids are amazing … we need to encourage our children to try and figure out their own challenges because they are totally capable.
I take way too many things for granted (family relationships); I really missed simple things like having a chat about our day.
I loved Pencelli as a child and never completely understood the love it gave me of the outdoors and dealing with relationships.
At times I’m quick to recognise things I’d like to improve with my kids’ school life; I need to take a minute to step back and appreciate the positives.
My daughter needs to become a weather lady – she sent me daily updates regarding the weather at home and in Pencelli.
I need to try and read a book before watching the film – remember the three Rs.
We have some incredible kids and teachers at Mere School.
Thanks for a great trip – it’s been a pleasure.”
I think Mrs Bache summed the trip up for everyone!
Friday 8th June 2018
I noticed these headlines in a national newspaper just before half term about ‘outstanding schools’ and OFSTED:
Some schools have gone 13 years without having an Ofsted inspection.
Outstanding schools are allowed to continue as long as results do not drop.
The National Audit Office said 1,620 schools have not been inspected in 6 years.
Ofsted fears some of the schools may have slipped without regular inspections.
“A loophole that lets schools escape official Ofsted inspections has left nearly 300 unchecked for ten years or more.”
“A National Audit Office report warns that some of these may now be slipping behind academically.”
“Schools rated ‘outstanding’ are let off re-inspections unless their results show a serious dip or parents begin to complain.”
“The National Audit Office’s audit of Ofsted found that 1,620 schools had not been inspected for six years or more, including 296 which have gone without for more than a decade and a small number for up to 13 years.”
“Now Ofsted itself wants an end to the exemption because it lets schools avoid inspection forever if they stay below the radar after an ‘outstanding’ rating.”
I was delighted that this issue has been highlighted as it has been a concern of mine for quite a long time. Mere School (a good school!) has needed to support an outstanding school locally in the past. It does not take time for standards to slip.
I hope that OFSTED successfully persuade the Government to reinstate more regular and frequent inspections in these schools so that all children continue to receive the high quality education they deserve.
Friday 25th May 2018
Another article in the newspaper that caught my eye recently had the headline:
“Education minister: Pupils aged 5 still can’t talk properly.”
This is a very disturbing and worrying headline but we are experiencing an increase in the number of children starting with us with speech and language issues, with some children who find it very difficult to express themselves.
The Education Minister, Damian Hinds, has vowed to tackle the worrying trend of 5 year olds turning up unable to use the simple words and phrases needed to interact with teachers and classmates. Research from the Oxford University Press found that half of 5 year olds in some schools are behind in their language skills and a study by the National Literacy Trust found that one in eight of the most disadvantaged children do not own a single book.
Mr Hinds said that a lack of vocabulary can create a ‘word gap’ which sets children behind their peers from the beginning and hinders their progress for the rest of their school career.
Mr Hinds is launching two projects to help tackle this issue and Mr Rich will talk to our new parents about the importance of reading, books and talking.
I cannot stress how much progress is accelerated for children if they read regularly at home. We can see a significant difference in the attainment of children at year 6 – those who have parents that read to and with them regularly achieve far better outcomes.
We are keen to work with you to ensure the best possible outcomes for your children.
Friday 18th May 2018
As a school we are focusing on science this term and Mrs Tavenner will be monitoring what we are doing as a school and how we can make science learning even more successful.
Mrs Tavenner wrote something for our newsletter:
“The latest research has shown that children who are inspired by science at an early age and see it as an integral part of their lives go on to choose science subjects at secondary school and beyond. The phrase that is used to describe children’s confidence in the subject is ‘Science Capital’. In our school we already help build children’s ‘Science Capital’ by making science exciting and linking it lots of different parts of the curriculum. To help the children see the relevance of science beyond the classroom we would like adults to share their experiences of science at work. If you would like to come in to talk to the children about your job, please contact Mrs Tavenner who will co-ordinate this in the Autumn term.
Another way to help build ‘Science Capital’ is for children to experience science at home. There is an amazing children’s magazine called ‘Whizz Bang Pop’ which would make a wonderful birthday or Christmas gift for your child. A year’s subscription is £34.99 at https://wwwwhizzpopbang.com. There are also some excellent websites that you may wish to explore with your child. Try http://www.rigb.org/families/experiment which gives ideas for science experiments to do at home and http://www.bbc.co.uk/terrificscientific/sections/do-it-yourself where you will see famous people doing science experiments with their children. Have fun and let’s help to inspire our next generation of scientists!”
We will be having a visit from a ‘scientist’ next term and our Open Afternoon next term will focus science. We would love to welcome any parents who have a job that is connected to science or technology to come into school to talk about it with the children.
This all builds on from our science/technology day earlier in the year when the children were involved in many different activities – the first primary school visit Dyson had even made!
At Mere School we are committed to ensuring our children receive a broad, balanced and vibrant curriculum where our children are stimulated and enjoying their learning.
Friday 11th May 2018
During the ‘Discussion Time’ at our recent governing body meeting one governor felt that parents were not aware of who our governors are and what they do. It was agreed that the group would try to advertise who sits on the body and what they have been doing in their roles.
Mr Ashlin, our Vice-Chair, will be writing in our termly newsletters from now on detailing the work they have been involved in and what they are planning to do next.
Governors are one of the largest volunteer forces in the country and have an important part to play in raising school standards. The role of the governing body is absolutely key to the effectiveness of as school and the HMI noted how well our governing body fulfil their role during our OFSTED inspection in 2017.
School governors provide strategic leadership and accountability in schools. They appoint the head teacher and deputy head teacher and hold responsibility for the finances of the school. Each individual governor is a member of a governing body. Individual governors may not act independently of the rest of the governing body; decisions are the joint responsibility of the group.
The key functions of the body are:
· set the aims and objectives for the school,
· set the policies for achieving those aims and objectives,
· set the targets for achieving those aims and objectives,
· monitor and evaluate the progress the school is making towards the achievement of its aims and objectives,
· be a source of challenge and support to the headteacher.
The head teacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and the implementation of the strategic framework established by the governing body.
These are the people who sit on our governing body:
Mr John Jordan (Chair/Parent Governor/Chair of Curriculum)
Mr Jim Ashin (Vice Chair/Parent Governor)
Mr Alan Gristwood (Chair of Finance/Co-opted)
Mr Lee Tibbit (Co-opted Governor)
Mrs Pat Manning (Parent Governor)
Mr Tony Rankin (Co-opted)
Mrs Carolanne Barry (Chair of Behaviour and Safety/Co-opted Governor/Safeguarding)
Mrs Paula Loxton (Staff Governor)
Mr David Rich (Co-opted Governor)
Mr Clive Hazzard (Local Authority)
Mrs Carolyn Godfrey (Co-opted)
Mr Ewen Ross (Parent Governor/Health and Safety Governor)
Ms Rachael Hansford (Co-opted/SEN and Marketing Governor)
Mrs Catriona Williamson (Head teacher)
If you are interested in joining our governing body please approach one of our governors. Mr John Jordan will be leaving us, after many years of service, at the end of this academic year so there will be a vacancy for a parent governor in September.
Friday 4th May 2018
We have been talking about how we might celebrate the impending Royal Wedding.
We have decided that we are going to have a special Royal Wedding British lunch. Purple Class are going to celebrate the end of their SATs week by organising this.
If the weather is good we are going to have a ‘street party’ type lunch in the playground. Purple Class will arrange the furniture, put up bunting and help the catering staff and MDSAs.
Lunch will be fish, chips and peas followed by strawberries and cream and a piece of Mere School wedding cake and the children and staff will all eat together.
Parents will need to order and pay for lunch by the end of the school day on FRIDAY 11th MAY. Unfortunately orders after this cannot be taken.
We will be inviting the children to come to school that day in their party clothes – please remember that KS2 children will still need the PE kits as they will be doing games in the afternoon.
We hope that this will be a memorable and exciting event for the children.
Friday 27th April 2018
You can hardly miss all the media coverage about the negative impact of plastic and our throw-away society at the moment and the Prime Minister announced last week that she was ‘declaring war on our throwaway culture’ and will be unveiling measures to protect the oceans.
Our School Council have been discussing this issue and have identified that we are wasteful at lunchtime as we are using a lot of plastic plates, cups and spoons that are thrown away.
Our Catering Manager, Miss Melissa Best, is in the process of ordering washable plastic cups, metal spoons and china plates. These will then be washed in the dishwasher and reused.
I was particularly impressed with Mrs Rich as she took all the plastic cups home after the school disco and washed them.
We have also been chatting about the plastic water bottles for sale in the office and we will be considering alternative options.
I am delighted that we have been able to respond to a very sensible request from our children – as adults, we should have noticed before them!
Friday 20th April 2018
My first job back after a holiday is to review the attendance across the school.
Attendance is a key issue for schools and if a child does not attend school regularly their educational performance is significantly hampered. It is no coincidence that the children who did not achieve the expected standard in the KS2 SATs last year were children who had poor attendance. Children who have a lot of time off school also struggle with friendships.
When OFSTED visited last year they scrutinised our attendance data and looked very carefully at what the school did to encourage good attendance. I also have to report half termly to our governing body.
I carefully track the attendance of children who have an attendance rate of less than 95%. If this continues for more than one half term I write to the parents to make them aware of the concerns we have (many parents do not realise) and this usually encourages parents to work with us to improve their child’s attendance rate.
In a very few number of cases, where there is no improvement, I invite the parents to attend a formal attendance meeting with me so we can work together to help their child to attend school more regularly. These meetings continue until their child has an attendance rate exceeding 95%. If these meeting are not successful I then refer the case to the Education Welfare Officer.
We do understand that some children suffer bouts of ill health and we try to be sensitive to this and an unauthorised holiday and some illness can have a significant impact on attendance data.
Liaising with parents is the key to improving attendance and I do my utmost to avoid more formal procedures. I do appreciate parents working closely with me.
Thursday 29th March 2018
I would like to finish the term with some good news!
We were delighted to welcome an NHS dentist into school several weeks ago. Miss Beckwith organised this for us. She worked in every class talking to the children about dental care and the importance of our teeth.
After her visit she sent us an e.mail – the details are below:
“I feel compelled to write to say that my visits to the school on Monday and yesterday were a real pleasure and I was so impressed by the children’s behaviour that I felt it necessary to send an e.mail to let everyone at the school know. All of the children in KS2 and KS1 listened beautifully and they had some great questions, knowledge and comments. They demonstrated such good manners. It was a pleasure visiting their classes. The reception children sat wonderfully and listened beautifully for 45 minutes on the carpet and were very engaged in helping Cheeky Monkey. I hope the children and teachers enjoyed my visit as much as me. Thank you so much.”
This sentiment is echoed regularly by our visitors.
I also received a card from another parent:
“Just a quick note to say thank you for all you have given our children, they have loved every minute and you have shaped the little people they have become. You will never know how much we appreciate your support and the start you have given them. Your school is amazing and you should be so proud.”
Friday 23rd March 2018
It was lovely to welcome so many parents on Wednesday to meet their child’s teacher. I really miss this part of being a class teacher.
These meetings are an opportunity for your child’s teacher to share how well your child is doing and what we can do together to accelerate their progress. We hope that nothing comes as a shock to parents – if your teacher had concerns about your child they would have contacted you already.
If you did not make an appointment please speak to or e.mail your class teacher to see if an alternative arrangement can be made.
School Pupil Tracker is open to parents from Thursday 22nd March to Thursday 29th March. Parents can look at this online and see where their children are in relation to national expected outcomes and what their attendance rate is.
Children who make the most progress in school are those who have parents who support and value their education and it is clear from attendance at parent interviews and Open Morning that the vast majority of our parents do this. Thank you! We value working in partnership with you to ensure your child achieves their personal best while they come to Mere School.
Friday 16th March 2018
LOST PROPERTY – AGH!
I cannot believe how much lost property we manage to accumulate over a very short period of time. We have everything from odd socks to brand new coats to pairs of shoes.
On the last Friday of each month I put the lost property in the playground and send a text to remind parents that it is there. It is always on display in the corridor for the final week of term.
At the end of term I take home any unclaimed uniform to wash and this is put into the second-hand uniform shop. Everything else is ‘bagged up’ for Bags2school or thrown away.
I cannot stress the importance of naming any clothing worn to school. Our older children do go through our lost property and try to get any named items back to the relevant children.
We also need to encourage our children to be responsible for their own belongings. We regularly see parents rummaging through our collection of lost property trying to find bits and pieces. When the children start secondary school it is rare to find uniform once it has been misplaced.
I understand the frustration of parents when their children have lost various items and we do our best to try to locate anything that might be missing but at KS2 we do expect children to look after their own belongings. It is unreasonable for parents to expect teachers and TAs to be hunting for clothing that is lost and a very poor use of our school budget and staff expertise. We are more than happy though, for parents to come in at the end of school to look through the lost property bins.
The solution is for us to work together to ensure that our children look after their own possessions and then hopefully our lost property bins will remain empty!
Friday 9th March 2018
I am sorry but we will be sending home an opt-in form for ‘Photographs/Video and Internet’ permissions very shortly. Previously we have sent home an opt-out form but this does not meet the new national data requirements.
Schools collect, process, store, use and dispose of different types of data: educational records, personal data and sensitive personal data. There is to be a change to the handling of this data due to come into force on 25th May 2018 – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
GDPR requires us to ensure that personal data is:
In short, we are checking that our ‘house is in order’ to ensure we meet the new requirements. Our internet permissions form did not, hence the need to send it home again.
You need to be confident that ‘personal, sensitive data’ is protected and that only people who need access to sensitive personal data can access it. The school staff and governors are working hard to ensure that we comply with the new legislation to keep us all safe.
Friday 2nd March 2018
I want to use my message this week to explain the difficulties Head Teachers and Chair of Governors have when deciding whether to shut a school or not.
Thursday was not an easy day and whatever decision we made about the status of the school, someone was going to be unhappy.
Before I arrived at school on Thursday morning I spent a considerable amount of time driving around the local roads and making phone calls. I made the decision that it was safe for the school to open and that there would be enough staff to run the school safely. I always make this decision by 7 am. Mr Jordan came to the school site and gritted the paths and later in the day Mr Suter cleared and gritted the school paths and playground. As we were remaining open there was no need to send a text/update the website - it was business as normal!
Mr Jordan and I kept in touch throughout the morning as we needed to decide whether we would close at lunchtime. As it did not snow during the morning and the numerous weather forecasts predicted snow fall later in the afternoon we decided to remain open for the rest of the day.
At 2 pm we spoke again and it was decided, due to the amber weather warning, we would close the following day. We were keen to make this decision early so that we could inform parents in good time and all of the necessary arrangements and paperwork could be completed.
We have a responsibility to provide education to our children for 192 days each year so any decision to close the school is not taken lightly. Our duty is to ensure that we do not disrupt the learning of our children. I am also conscious that closing the school has serious consequences for working parents. Being a town school also means that most of our children (and some staff) can walk to school.
We had to balance this duty against the need to keep our community safe. Many of our teachers left during the afternoon and a lot of parents collected their children before the end of the school day.
We respected any decisions parents made about not bringing their children to school in these conditions and all absences were coded as 'authorised'.
As it was World Book Day the children we had in school had a fabulous time. They were involved in special activities and had the chance to play in the snow with their friends. Our planned parent workshops have been rescheduled. They will now take place on Thursday 15th March at the same time.
I am extremely grateful to the staff who worked with me to keep the school running, Mr Jordan for his advice and support and to parents who understood how difficult the day was!
Luckily this is only the 4th time in 18 years that the school has had to close. Let's hope it is some time before we have to close again!
Friday 23rd February 2018
A couple of weeks ago the newspapers featured a tragic story about a teacher. She was working away from home when her husband died suddenly whilst looking after their young children. After his sudden death the little girls spent almost 24 hours with the body of their father.
The older girl had recently started school, and when she didn’t arrive, the school rang their father, to no avail. Tragically, they didn’t then follow up with a call to the girls’ mother. The alarm wasn’t raised until tea-time when grandmother visited the home.
The teacher is telling her heart-breaking story to raise awareness of the importance of first-day calls, and in maintaining an up-to-date record of several phone numbers which schools should phone when children do not attend.
I hope that this story highlights the importance of keeping contact information up to date. Our office team do their utmost to ensure that we contact you early, when your children do not arrive at school. This story emphasizes that we must continue to do this.
Friday 9th February 2018
We were delighted to welcome Mr Paul Nicholson to our school a couple of weeks ago.
Mr Nicholson is the new head teacher of Gillingham School and our governing body was keen for him to come and visit Mere to meet our children and staff and gain an understanding of where his future pupils are educated.
Mr Nicholson’s previous post was at a school in Winchester which educates children from EYFS up to year 11. This is an extremely unusual educational setting but it was clear that Mr Nicholson had a very good understanding of early years and primary education.
We visited each class and talked about our schools. One of our Blue Class children even asked him if he had seen Fraser Bear!
It was clear that Mr Nicholson has great plans and aspirations for Gillingham School and working closely with the feeder primary schools is a priority. We look forward to building on our strong relationship.
Mr Nicholson plans to visit in the Autumn term to talk to our year 6 parents (current Red Class). This will be a great opportunity for you to meet him, learn about Gillingham School and start the transition process.
Friday 2nd February 2018
I wish I had a penny for everyone who said to me “I wouldn’t do your job for all the money in the world’!
I usually reply that I think I have the best job in the world! Like everyone there are good days and bad days but the privilege of influencing and shaping children’s lives is overwhelming. I love working closely with staff, children, parents and governors to ensure our children get the very best start to their lives. I thrive on being able to make a difference.
I hear many comments about teachers having an ‘easy life’ because of the school holidays but these people can always go and train to be a teacher so they can benefit and understand what a school holiday for teachers is like. We had a student from industry at this school who genuinely believed that being a teacher was easy. They only lasted 5 months in the profession.
I came across a very interesting article in the paper about a journalist who worked for the Financial Times. She ‘swapped her pampered life … for a tough East End London school.” She was not enjoying her job and she “wanted the excitement and fear of starting all over again and the feeling of being useful.”
There is a growing shortage of teachers and there seems to be increasing number of mature students entering the profession. Long may it continue.
Our 3 Bath Spa students come to the end of their teaching experience this week. We wish them every success in their next school and in their new job in September.
We enjoy having good students working with us. They challenge our ideas and encourage us to reflect on what we do. We also have a moral responsibility to prepare the next generation of teachers.
Friday 26th January 2018
I keep coming across interesting articles in the newspaper and the latest one to catch my eye was:
“Not having a regular bedtime hurts pupils’ maths and reading”.
All of us have faced the problem of trying to put a child to bed who does not want to go but researchers are saying that letting children stay up a bit longer could damage their performance at school.
“Parents should stick to one fixed time, because their reading and maths could suffer” warns Dr Yvonne Kelly from University College London. She told the World Sleep Society that seven-year-olds of both sexes perform less well in tests if they do not have a regular bedtime.
Her findings also show that three-year-old children are worse at regulating their emotions and more likely to be obese in later life if they do not go to be at the same time each night.
“It is important that children go to bed at a fixed time so they can maintain their circadian rhythms. If you fly across time zones, it is difficult to function when you get to New York, for example. If you ask a child to effectively do the same thing by changing their sleeping patterns, they are going to struggle even more than an adult would. Sleep is important for forming and storing memories, to learn from day to day and it is essential for children.”
The good news for parents is:
“Children who switched to having a regular bedtime showed improvements in their behaviour. This shows that it’s never too late to help children back onto a positive path, and a small change could make a big difference to how well they get on.”
This is research I do agree with. I know from my own children that fatigue had a significant impact on their behaviour and performance and if I don’t get a decent night’s sleep I feel the same!
Friday 19th January 2018
We are all looking forward to World Book Day on Thursday March 1st 2018 and Mr Rich is in the process of organising some very exciting activities. The Book Fair will also be in school the following week.
It is essential that our children learn to read as this skill underpins our curriculum. The SATs tests that our children have to take rely on the children being able to read the questions and reading plays a part in every other curriculum area. It is also an essential life skill.
The Government claim that ‘reading standards in England are now the best in a generation following the introduction of compulsory phonics tests’.
Many parents ask me what phonics teaching is. The phonics method involves teaching children the sounds that each individual letter makes and to identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make, such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’. The children are then taught how to blend together the sounds from left to right, to form the whole word.
This method of teaching children to read has been around for years but the Government has forced schools to place much more emphasis on this way of teaching. I agree that this method has had a positive impact on English outcomes but my feeling is that its biggest impact has been on writing and spelling.
As a school we are also conscious that some elements of reading are being lost with this method. We are encouraging children to use other strategies, such as looking at the pictures or discussing the text, to help as well. Our overall aim is that children enjoy reading and sharing books.
Time in school is limited and regular reading at home (every day for a few minutes if possible) has the biggest impact. Your support with this is greatly appreciated.
Friday 12th January 2018
The Children’s Commissioner published her report on the effects of social media on 8 to 12 year olds – ‘Life in Likes’ which talks about the way children use social media and its effects on their well being, last week. It was reported in the press under the headline of:
“Children unprepared for social media ‘cliff edge’ as they start secondary school.”
The report states that whilst most social media sites have an official age limit of 13 years, some research has suggested that three quarters of 10 – 12 year olds have a social media account. This report reveals that many children are approaching a ‘cliff edge’ as they transition from primary to secondary school, with social media becoming much more important to their lives but causing them greater anxiety. The study suggests some children are becoming almost addicted to ‘likes’ as a form of social validation that makes them happy and that many are increasingly anxious about their online image and ‘keeping up appearances’.
We are aware here that many of our children are using social media and we spend a lot of time teaching all of our children about safe internet use and to this end Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert will be in school on Wednesday 24th January 2018 working with every class. His input will support and enhance the work we do in school.
Mr Hopwood will then be running an information evening for parents on the same day at 7.30 pm.
The children will be bringing home an invitation for parents for this event shortly and we will be running a crèche to help with childcare.
Please do come along to help our children stay safe when using the computer.
Friday 5th January 2018
Another one of my newspaper articles!
According to the press “Primary pupils are getting better at reading, writing and maths after their exams were made more rigorous, figures showed.
Across England, 61% of 11 year olds who took national curriculum tests achieved the expected official standard. This compares to 53% in 2016, meaning a year-on-year rise of 8 percentage points.”
The tests have certainly been much harder for all children and the new curriculum , introduced in 2014, has resulted in higher expectations for all children across primary schools. I have been really impressed with the way that our children (and teachers) have risen to this challenge. I do suspect, however, that schools have become more proficient in preparing our children for these tests!
Our KS2 results at Mere School were particularly impressive and you can access these results on the gov.uk website.
80% achieved age related expectations in writing (76% national)
80% achieved age related expectations in reading (71% national)
88% achieved age related expectations in maths (80% national)
Worthy of particular note is our progress in maths as it was significantly above average and in the highest 10% of schools nationally.
We also compare extremely favourably with all of our local schools.
A huge well done to our children and teachers and thank you to our parents for supporting our children through this process.
Friday 15th December 2017
There have been some really interesting articles about schools this week in the paper.
One headline that caught my eye was “First year of school can be a waste of time”.
The article continued:
“The first year of school is a ‘false start’ for too many children because basic reading and maths are not taught well enough, inspectors warn.
Some four and five year olds face years of catching up because they have not been pushed to learn, according to OFSTED.
The watchdog says schools must have ‘high expectations’ of their Reception pupils to avoid creating ‘missed opportunities’.
Research by inspectors found that a third of children do not have the essential knowledge they need to the time they move into Year One.”
This is one of the rare occasions that I do agree with OFSTED and I am delighted that this report verifies what we do at Mere School.
As well as providing an appropriate and exciting early years curriculum with a wide variety of learning experiences Mrs McClelland appreciates how much potential our younger children have and how keen they are to learn. She builds on this enthusiasm and desire to learn by ensuring that the basic skills needed for our National Curriculum are taught effectively and firmly embedded before the children move onto Year One.
It is a delight to visit Blue Class to see how well our children cope with these high expectations, what a high standard of work the children are producing and how much they are enjoying their learning. Mrs McClelland, Mrs Harrison and Mrs Sayer are highly skilled
practitioners ensuring our youngest children achieve their very best.
Friday 8th December 2017
I thought it would be a good idea to remind you about the finer details of our Christmas production. There will be a flyer coming home as well but please see below:
The KS2 play is slightly longer than normal!
Friday 1st December 2017
We have been subject to another type of inspection and I thought that I would ‘bring you up to speed’ so that you can be reassured that we are fulfilling and exceeding the expectations in another area.
Poor Mrs Ings received a phone call last July to book a date for a financial audit. This did give us a lot of time to prepare as the auditor was in school on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th November.
The auditor trawled through mountains of paperwork checking that our finances were being managed effectively. He checked governing body finance minutes to cheques to purchasing arrangements to the use of a charge card – the list was endless!
We are fortunate in that our governing body Chair of Finance is an auditor, accountant and retired school bursar so he provided lots of support to us in school and lots of challenge for the auditor.
The process was rigorous but entirely positive for the school. There were 3 actions for the Local Authority and a recommendation that members of the finance governing body committee and office staff complete a skills audit. This has already been done, even though it is not statutory.
Huge congratulations to Mrs Ings who manages our finances extremely well and thank you to Mr Gristwood who guides the governing body so effectively.
When school budgets are under such enormous pressure it is reassuring to know that we are providing the best value possible for our children.
Friday 24th November 2017
As a school we are subject to lots of inspections and this is important to ensure that our children and staff are safe so that the children can thrive and do their best.
A couple of weeks ago Mrs Ings spent the morning with a Fire Risk Assessor who meticulously scrutinised our paperwork and inspected every area of our school.
The records that Mr Cannon had kept were described as exemplary.
There were a few minor actions that we have already made a start on. Mr Suter has already put up additional fire escape signage, fitted some smoke seals, re-housed petrol driven garden equipment and has removed and disposed of any rubbish under the stage.
We are in the process of organising a new smoke detector near our kiln and replacing the doors into the Children’s Centre with fire doors, that close in the event of an alarm activation (we have these doors open at lunchtime).We also need to speak with Mr Ward about changing the fastenings on 2 doors.
We are extremely fortunate that our new parent governor, Mr Ewen Ross, is a firefighter and he has been around the school with Mr Suter and I and read the report to offer us additional guidance. He will be delivering some fire extinguisher training to the relevant people andtalking to the Behaviour and Safety Governor committee.
Our next Fire Risk Assessment will be in 3 years but I do complete an annual assessment and our alarms, sensors, lights and extinguishers are checked regularly.
The children often comment, during my Head Teacher Lunch, that they feel safe because of the fire alarms and fire drills.
The huge amount of lost property was on display on Friday and Mr Avory came to present a prize to Lily Jones in assembly, as she has designed the Mere Matters Christmas front cover and Mr Rich met with a lady from the Local Authority about family learning.
The week ended with The Friend’s Christmas Bingo.
Friday 17th November 2017
The KS1 (Blue, Yellow and Silver Class) afternoon performance starts at 1.15 pm on Tuesday 12th 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 12th 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 12th 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 12th 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 ‘Diabetes UK’.
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 not stop the audience taking photographs but ask you not to put them on any internet sites.
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 10th November 2017
We are racing towards Christmas and the children are doing really well with their Christmas Performance rehearsals. They are looking forward to performing to you. The dates and times are as follows:
Tuesday 12th December 2017
1 pm – KS1 (Blue, Yellow and Silver Classes), 1.45 pm KS2 (Gold, Green, Red and Purple
I will include the finer details in my next newsletter.
As a parent I always felt anxious about providing a costume for my children (I am not particularly creative!) but I hope by giving you the ‘heads up’ below this might help. Our KS1 production is ‘Nearly No Nativity’ and our KS2 production is ‘Cinderella and Rockerfella’.
These are the parts the classes will be taking:
BLUE – angels and shepherds
YELLOW – stable animals
SILVER – nativity characters and narrators (more details will be coming home shortly)
GOLD – animals
GREEN – fans
RED – main characters (more details will come home shortly), trainee bakers (aprons and
baker’s hat) and townspeople (everyday wear)
PURPLE – main characters (more details will come home shortly).
We would like the costumes to be in a named bag in school by FRIDAY 1ST DECEMBER please.
We do appreciate the huge amount of time parents spend providing these costumes and I am sure you can understand that it would not be possible for the school to create almost 200 outfits. Our school supply of costumes will be available for parents to borrow from Monday.
If you have any worries or concerns please do contact your class teacher.
Friday 3rd November 2017
Several weeks ago I held my half termly Head Teacher lunch. This is when I invite 2 children from each class (not Blue Class) to come and eat lunch with me and discuss all manner of things about our school.
I asked the children the following questions:
Do you feel safe in 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?
If you asked an adult for help at school what would you expect them to do?
How would you welcome a new child to our school if they were different to us – eg a child
How would you treat someone at school who had different views to yours?
Why do we have rules in school?
How would you treat a child who started at our school who was born a little boy and became a
How would you treat a Syrian refugee if they arrived at our school?
How do you keep safe when you are using the internet?
What is the best thing about being British?
What kind of person would Mere School like you to be in 10 year’s time?
I am always amazed at the maturity of our children and how they respond to my questioning. The children unanimously feel safe in school and all had a good understanding of what bullying is. This group stated there was not any bullying at our school but on occasions children are unkind, but they were clear about whom to ask for help and were confident that the staff would resolve the problems.
Our children were adamant that all children should be treated equally and fairly regardless of their beliefs, religion, gender or culture. They said “we are all children and we should treat each other the way we expect to be treated ourselves.”
The children thought that the good things about being British were tea, toast, hot chocolate and marshmallows and roast lunches and they all had high aspirations for the future.
I finish with asking the children how we might improve our school. We have some whacky ideas like a Theme Park in the grounds, to some sensible suggestions like a Chess Club or kindness week, to a few moans including more loo roll in the boy’s toilets and asking the boys not to use too many paper towels.
This year I have finished with a question about whether the children are enjoying life at Mere School as this is the focus of our governing body. The children thought that school was fun and the teachers make the learning fun. They are pleased that they have the equipment they need to learn and they have good friends. One of our children would prefer to chat rather than work but I’m afraid we cannot allow this to happen!
I was delighted that the children prepare for this lunch in advance – 2 children came with notes after discussing things with their parents.
The lunch is an extremely valuable opportunity for me to talk with the children and I feed back their ideas and responses to the staff and governors and at times changes are made based on their suggestions.
Friday 20th October 2017
We had our first Class Parent meeting of the academic year last week and it was most productive.
We discussed the following things:
· London Theatre Visit – The school had planned to suspend this visit for a year as it took such a lot of organising last year, due to the increased terrorist threat. The Class Parents are going to liaise with Mrs Loxton to see if they can organise it for next year as it is such a wonderful experience for the children.
· Pencelli – it was confirmed that once the deposit has been paid, this is non-refundable.
· Changing for PE – boys and girls now change separately in KS2 for PE lessons.
· Tying hair back for PE – all children with long hair have to have it tied back for PE lessons. We encourage hair to be tied back at all times.
· Car park – the group did not feel that the problems were as great in this area at the moment. They felt that, once the school can afford it, a new, raised zebra crossing would be of benefit. Many members of the group commented on dangerous driving and some parents/carers using phones when coming onto the school site. All parents are asked to report this danger to the PCSO - Peter.Tscherniawsky@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk
· Book Fair – one of the Class Parents has kindly offered to run this for Mr Rich next year.
· Sports Day – this group are hoping to contact one of the town’s community groups to run the catering facilities on Sports Day.
· Support for Anxious Child – one parent wanted to thank the staff for helping their child come into school in the mornings.
· Clouds/Cards – there is some confusion over the use of clouds and cards as part of our Behaviour Policy. Mr Rich will write an explanation for the next newsletter.
· Blue Class Clouds/star mats – Mrs McClelland will write a flyer to her parents explaining about these systems.
· Waiting Parents – there was a request for a staggered end to the school day so the amount of waiting parents could be reduced. Unfortunately this is not possible.
· Lunchtime Waste – some parents have asked if we can put a bin out for rubbish from the packed lunches. We have decided to continue sending all the rubbish home so that parents can see what the children have eaten for their lunch.
· School Trip Helpers – one Class Parent who had attended a trip explained to the group about the exemplary behaviour of our children.
· Texts – it was requested that we make our text class specific and this will now happen.
· Cycling and Scooting on Site – this is forbidden as it is dangerous. I will put a reminder in the Newsletter.
· Year 3 Recorder Assembly – I will try to make this very specific in the Newsletter so that Gold Class parents know they are welcome to attend.
The group will meet again in February 2018 – please do let them know if you have anything you would like to raise.
Friday 13th October 2017
I am delighted to use my Weekly Message to thank parents who have considered applying to be our new Parent Governor.
I have spoken with several parents about what the role entails and we received one application from Mr Ewan Ross – Archie, Poppy and Finlay’s dad. As there has only been one application there is no need for an election and Mr Ross will officially be welcomed to our governing body in November. He will undergo a period of induction and will be allocated a ‘buddy’ governor. Congratulations to him and a huge welcome to him to Mere School’s governing body.
The skill-set of the governing body is constantly reviewed and after Mr Nick Beale’s departure as Health and Safety Governor, we needed to fill this gap. Mr Ross is a full-time fire-fighter and brings many skills in this field to the governing body.
If you are interested in becoming a governor please do make contact with Mr Jordan – it is a very rewarding position.
Below is a list of our governors for your information:
Mr John Jordan (Chair) – Parent Governor
Mr Clive Hazzard – Local Authority Governor
Mrs Carolanne Barry – Co-opted Governor
Ms Rachael Hansford – Co-opted Governor
Mr Alan Gristwood – Co-opted Governor
Mr Tony Rankin – Co-opted Governor
Mr Lee Tibbit – Parent Governor
Mr David Rich – Co-opted Governor
Mrs Pat Manning – Parent Governor
Mr Jim Ashlin – Parent Governor
Mrs Paula Loxton – Staff Governor
Mrs Anne Dethick – Clerk.
Please do have a look at the website for more information about our governors and their responsibilities.
Friday 6th October 2017
We had a tremendous DT day – no doubt the children have told you all about it! I am very grateful to Mrs Wilson for co-ordinating and organising. It is not an easy job.
I am always very proud of our children when they go on visits or we have visitors into school and our DT day was no exception. I wanted to use my Head Teacher message to pass on some of the very positive comments that were made about our children.
The ladies who ran the cookery sessions were very complimentary about the behaviour, conduct and manners of our children and they thoroughly enjoyed working with them.
Mrs Brown enjoyed working with our older children so much that he is considering a career in education!
George (the paper aeroplane man), who works for the Electrical, Avionics and Engineering Authority e.mailed us to say:
“Thanks very much for your e.mail and a BIG thank you to all of the staff who were all very welcoming and polite and students who made the day so enjoyable.
The students were an absolute delight, very polite and a pleasure to spend the day with. They are a credit to the school!”
Danya, from the Dyson Foundation wrote:
“Thank you for organising the day, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. You have bright, polite students and I hope I have managed to inspire a good handful of them to be Design Engineers.”
We were the first primary school that Dyson have worked in. Danya was extremely nervous of our younger children but I hope her experience will encourage Dyson to work more with primary aged pupils.
A day of great learning and much celebration!
Friday 29th September 2017
My message is a bit mundane this week but it might save you a bit of money!
I have spent this morning in the 2 lost property bins and every time I do this I am always amazed at the quantity of lost property. We have only been in school for 3 weeks and we already have 2 bins full of disowned property.
I do try to return anything named to the relevant child but there are endless items of clothing without names. It is extremely surprising when there are beautiful, expensive coats and numerous pairs of shoes and no one has claimed them.
We need to try to encourage our children to be responsible with their property and look after it. I would also like to send a plea to parents to name items of clothing that come to school. If we can develop this responsibility it will make your life easier when the children go on to secondary school. If they misplace something there it will never return!
The lost property is on display outside the small hall – please do take a look. We are now putting this out on the last Friday of each month. It will also be on display on the last week of term and anything not claimed is then thrown away or put into ‘Bags4school’.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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 (email@example.com) 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
YELLOW - Mrs Symonds - email@example.com
SILVER - Mrs Edgar/Mrs Wilson - firstname.lastname@example.org
GOLD - Mrs Schofield - email@example.com
GREEN - Mr Rich - firstname.lastname@example.org
RED - Miss Beckwith - email@example.com
PURPLE - Mrs Loxton - firstname.lastname@example.org
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: