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Mrs Williamson's Weekly Message

Friday 12th July 2024

 

Mere School has been awarded Sing School status by Wiltshire Music Connect.

 

Sing Wiltshire schools are those that place value on singing and the many benefits it brings to children and that offer a broad and high-quality provision, enabling the whole school community to develop a love of singing together.

 

Mere School was able to demonstrate the Sing Wiltshire principles.  The judging panel enjoyed reading about how our school choir has been learning to sing as an ensemble in different languages and have been enjoying such a huge range of musical genres.  They were impressed by the year 5 song writing project with IF Opera.

 

Twenty nine schools in Wiltshire have been successful in securing Sing Wiltshire status and will be celebrating with us.

 

We are very proud of our music provision at Mere School.  Our children are involved in a whole range of different musical experiences from individual instrumental tuition to Christmas performances to recorder and choir clubs.  We are looking forward to working with the ‘Musician in Residence’ for the Mere Tower stories’ project.

 

Well done to Mrs Jennings who leads our music in school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th July 2024

 

We are racing towards the end of term and it is extremely busy in school.

 

I know a lot of parents are struggling to keep up with all of the extra events and school trips.  We do our best to publish dates early in the newsletter at the beginning of term.  These dates are also on our website.  We send out finer details a week or 2 before and our newsletter and Facebook weekly diary are final reminders.

 

We also understand that these trips are extremely expensive.  For the majority of our school trips we have to travel by bus.  We struggle to find a bus (some of our buses are booked a year in advance) and bus travel is very costly.  Sadly, we have struggled to balance our school budget this year so there is no ‘spare’ money to help subsidise these visits.  We are most fortunate that we are able to access a charitable fund for our children who live in Mere.  This does help some families.

 

We pride ourselves at Mere School on our curriculum and all of the extra experiences we offer our children.  We believe that these visits ‘bring learning to life’ and this is reflected in our formal results.

 

Mere School is special and parents regularly comment that they want their children to come here because we believe in an all-round education where we offer all of our children a vast array of rich experiences.  This is the ‘cultural capital’ of our school and we are determined that we will continue to offer our children these experiences.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 28th June 2024

 

The general election will be held on 4th July 2024.  It is really interesting to understand what each party is promising for schools.

 

CONSERVATIVES

 

  • proposal to replace A-levels with Advanced British Standards
  • bonus payments for teachers in ‘priority areas’
  • statutory ban on phones in the classroom
  • new legislation on sex, gender and RSE

 

LABOUR

 

  • recruit 6500 new teachers in shortage subjects
  • OFSTED inspection reforms
  • a review of curriculum and assessment
  • inclusion and mental health proposals

 

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

 

  • improve teacher retention and recruitment
  • funding for school capital projects
  • SEND funding
  • OFSTED reform
  • a review of curriculum and assessment
  • parent engagement strategy
  • new powers for Local Authorities

 

GREEN PARTY

 

  • increase in school funding
  • abolishment of OFSTED
  • end of formal testing

 

REFORM UK

 

  • ban smartphone and social media in school
  • ban teaching of critical race theory and gender ideology
  • keeping sex education age-appropriate.

 

We have an interesting few years ahead in schools!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st June 2024

 

Sports Day!

 

This is due to take place on Friday 5th July 2024 – weather permitting.

 

It is a lovely school event and we are usually overwhelmed with the huge support from parents and families.

 

Miss Santry will be writing with details shortly but I thought I would use my Head Teacher Message to give you advanced information!

 

Our Sports Day combines individual competition and group competition where the children are rewarded for their successes with house points and stickers.  We have traditional races and ‘potted sports’.

 

Families are invited to watch the events and stay for a picnic lunch with their children.  After feedback from last year, parents will be able to take their children home at 1.05 pm, after the registers have been completed.

 

Mrs Gulliver will be providing packed lunches for our KS1 children and children entitled to a free school meal (please let us know if your child does not want one) and The Friends have organised a fish and chip van, a pizza van and an ice cream van to provide snacks and lunches during the morning.  The Friends will also be selling teas and coffees and cold drinks and snacks outside the pavilion.  I understand that our second hand uniform will be on sale as well.

 

We would be grateful if you could avoid crossing the track and coming to speak with your children during the morning – your children will be in the care of their teachers until lunchtime.

 

There is a huge amount of organisation involved and we would be really grateful if any parents could help us set up from 7.45 am and clear away after the event – please could you let the office know. 

 

Please note that there is very limited parking on site and we encourage parents to park off site.  Smoking and vaping is also not permitted on site.

 

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a dry day.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th June 2024

 

I know our Class Parents were very disappointed that I was unable to share our plans for our class structure for September 2024.

 

If I am honest the governors have had to work extremely hard to balance the new school budget.  It is no secret that schools are all in extremely challenging financial positions.  We are fortunate that we have been able to retain our teaching and support teams.

 

The governors have been determined that children will be taught in single year groups and our excellent swimming provision will continue.  They have also protected our school kitchen, which runs at a loss because of the high quality food we serve to our children.

 

We managed to balance the budget for this financial year a couple of weeks ago and it has been agreed by the governing body Finance Committee.  This budget then needs to be agreed by the full governing body on 25th June 2024.  It is at this point that it is legally ratified.

 

Letters will come home on Monday 1st July 2024 informing you about our class structure for September 2024 and on Wednesday 3rd July 2024 the children will meet their new teachers and visit their new classes.  You are invited to come in and see your child’s new class on Monday 15th July 2024 from 3.15 pm – 3.45 pm.

 

Unfortunately the cost of a school meal will increase from £2.50 to £2.60 in September (still very good value) and the swimming contribution will increase from £50 to £60.  Transport costs are crippling and the school are having to financially supplement and support this.  We do have grants available to us that we might be able to help struggling families with.

 

The Local Authority will be completing a lot of building work during the next couple of years which will ease some of our building and energy costs and we have been extremely grateful to have received some significant grants to ensure our computer hardware provision is of the highest quality.

 

It will be a year of trying to make savings so that we can retain our current staff in the next financial year and offer our children the very best education possible.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th June 2024

 

It is a very worrying fact that when some children start school aged four they do not know how to use a book correctly – many try to swipe or tap the pages like a phone or a tablet.

 

A survey of 1000 school staff also found that a quarter of reception children are not properly toilet-trained and a third are unable to put a coat on, hold a pencil or count to 10.

 

Teachers told the educational charity Kindred Squared that they were spending a third of the school day ‘baby sitting’ 4 and 5 year olds who lack basic skills.  If teachers are having to spend a lot of their day helping children who are developmentally behind, every child misses out.

 

Fortunately the majority of our children start school well prepared.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th May 2024

 

There was a very distressing violent incident in a school in southwest Wales at the end of April.  A ‘code red’ alarm sounded through the school’s PA system, prompting students and staff to hide in classrooms, and 4 hours later they were cleared to leave the building.

 

This incident has raised the question of how teachers and pupils are expected to react in an emergency scenario and whether schools are adequately prepared for these events.

 

At Mere School we do have emergency ‘Lockdown Procedures’ in place and we have an emergency drill every year.  These procedures are closely linked to our ‘Emergency and Business Continuity Plan’.

 

We take great care to ensure that our young children are not frightened by ‘locking the school down’ and we carefully explain some of the reasons we might need to do this.

 

When we complete the drills our children respond so well and they are incredible sensible.  When I speak to them during my Head Teacher lunch they tell me that these drills keep them safe in school.

 

I hope we never have to ‘lockdown’ our school but I am reassured that well established procedures are in place if we need to.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th May 2024

 

There is an absence crisis in schools at the moment which appears to be a legacy from COVID.

 

In response to this the Government will be introducing new guidance and regulations in September 2024.

 

At Mere School attendance is always and will continue to be a priority.  This is why our absence rates are so low and our children achieve so well.  If children are not in school they are missing their learning and regular attendance is an important protective factor for our most vulnerable children.

 

There will be some minor changes for us at Mere School in September.  We will not be able to authorise any holiday absence under any circumstances. 

 

The threshold for a Penalty Notice is changing.  It used to be 5 days in a 6 month period.  Now Penalty Notices can be issued again after a period of 10 weeks.  The first Penalty Notice issued to each parent will be £160 reduced to £80 if paid within 21 days.  The second Penalty Notice to the same parents in respect of the same child is a flat rate of £160.  A third Penalty Notice will not be issued.  If the threshold is met for a 3rd time within 3 years prosecution will be considered.

 

By doing this the Government are endeavouring to prevent parents taking an annual holiday every school year.

 

It is worth remembering that Penalty Notices can be issued for children who are regularly late to school or for absences that have not been authorised by the school.

 

Mrs Rawlings and I are constantly monitoring every child’s attendance and we would like to thank you for your continued support.  Please remember if your child is unable to come to school to let us know – by phone or e.mail by 9.15 am.  This saves the office time. 

 

Thank you!

Friday 10th May 2024

 

There has been a lot in the media about ADHD recently and Dr Max Pemberton wrote an article about his concern about there being an ‘epidemic’ of over diagnosis of the condition.

 

He wrote:

“We are rushing to pathologise every little idiosyncrasy, to medicalise problems and struggles.”

 

Dr Pemberton describes that the criteria for diagnosing many mental health problems, including ADHD, has been widened.  It means that more and more people are being classed as having the condition.

 

He writes that labelling can have a dramatic effect on how people view themselves and the efforts they make to change their behaviour.  Often, a diagnoses means that people feel they no longer need to take responsibility for their actions – sometimes this labelling removes their incentive to work to change their lives.

 

Kate Silverton, the mother of 2, TV newsreader and now child therapist has also warned against prematurely putting misbehaving children on ADHD medication as they may simply be struggling to deal with their emotions.

 

I couldn’t agree more!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd May 2024

 

I am using my message this week to say thank you to The Friends of Mere School for all the fund raising they have organised for the benefit of our children.  Without this many of the special things we do in school would not happen.

 

In the past few years they have paid for the pantomime and transport for every child, funded equipment for school (ipads, specialist camera, pencil sharpeners, laptops, licence for VR headsets etc), organised a cover for our quiet area, bought Christmas presents and organised a visit from Father Christmas and funded visits from specialists (artist in residence).

 

Parents and children have been able to come to a wide range of different events – Mere Fireworks, disco, Christmas Fair, beetle drive to name a few and these events have not only raised money but have been lovely social occasions as well.

 

The Friends Committee is made up of a small group of parents who work extremely hard for our school and very sadly Mrs Gulliver, who heads up the committee, will be stepping down at their AGM. A huge thank you to her for all that she has done for our children.

 

We need to fill this position if The Friends are to continue and we would welcome any volunteers who would like to help – parents, friends or grandparents.  Please do contact me if you feel you might be able to run this group.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th April 2024

 

There is public outcry at the moment over the growing number of parents who are sending their children to primary school in nappies.

 

Nine in ten people believe children should not be allowed to start school until they are toilet trained, a survey by early years charity Kindred shows.

 

Experts say that most children are capable of learning how to use the toilet by the age of 3 unless they have special educational needs.  Recent research has shown the 25% of them are arriving in the reception class without this basic skill.

 

OFSTED has highlighted the importance of basic skills in helping children to feel ready for school including using the toilet, putting on shoes and holding a pen.

 

At Mere School we are most fortunate that we have not had a child start with us who is not toilet trained – we do not have the facilities to change nappies.  All of our parents work hard to ensure that their children can use the loo before they start with us for which I am very grateful.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th April  2024

 

There has been a lot of information in the media recently about school meals.

 

A head teacher from Southampton has written a despairing letter to parents about the ‘unacceptable’ lunches dished out at his school.  He said he could ‘no longer tolerate’ the meals provided by his catering firm.  He tried working with the company with no success and he has published photographs of some disgusting-looking meals.

 

He wrote to parents:

‘For those of you that pay from your hard-earned wages – I can only apologise and I am sorry.  However, nothing I seem to do or say makes any difference and I feel you have a right to know.’

 

We are so lucky with our school meals provision.  Mrs Gulliver and her team provide delicious, nutritious school meals for our children – there can be nothing more important than this.

 

The governors invest heavily in our school meal provision and our kitchen runs ‘at a loss’.  It is likely that the cost of a school meal will rise in September reflecting the 10% increase in food costs and rising staffing costs.

 

However, we would be unable to fill a lunchbox for the price of a school meal so this high quality lunch still represents extremely good value for money.

 

We are so lucky that we are able to continue to offer this service.

 

Catriona Williamson

Thursday 28th March 2024

 

I love ending the term with some fantastic news.

 

I have just shown some new parents around our school and they were amazed at how polite our children are and how hard they were working in class.

 

We have received feedback about how well our children behave when they are on trips and visits.  The staff at Port Regis School describe us as the best school they have swimming.  Riversmeet have told staff how they miss the conduct and behaviour of our children.  Feedback from trips to Gutchpool and Totes Farms, Winchester Science Museum, Stonehenge, The Newt has also been so positive.

 

I received an e.mail from some people who live in Mere after the Beetle Drive:

 

“Dear Mrs Williamson

 

My husband and I attended the Beetle Drive on Friday evening and wanted to let you know that we were impressed by some of your older pupils.  I sat with 2 girls who were polite, friendly and tolerant of my young granddaughter who became very excited on occasions and cost us time!  When the round finished they said it had been a pleasure to meet me and hoped I would enjoy the rest of the evening.  On our way home my husband spoke about the same girls in glowing terms.  So often today children and schools receive poor press and this assured us as ex teachers that all is still well in school.”

 

Visitors and professionals praise the school highly after they have worked here.

 

Our school is a very special place to work and learn.  I know, like me, you are very proud of our children and staff.

 

Catriona Williamson

Thursday 28th March 2024

 

A short week in school and we closed on Thursday for the Easter break.

 

I held several attendance and professionals meetings during the week.

 

Music, French, year 3 recorders, recorder club, individual music lessons, Gold Class swimming and our School Counsellor sessions took place as usual.  There were no clubs and Mrs Clements continued with her library stock take.

 

I taught in Blue Class on Monday afternoon while Miss Fletcher worked on her SEND qualification, Green Class SS on Tuesday while Miss Santry attended a PE conference and Silver on Wednesday afternoon while Mr Rich ran a year 5 and 6 football tournament here.

 

Pupil Progress meetings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Our subject leaders work with teachers to look at the progress of every child in English and maths and any interventions that might be necessary.

 

The Wiltshire Council Family Learning Team ran an anxiety workshop for some parents on Tuesday morning and Gold and Green Classes took part in the Cluster singing event on Tuesday afternoon.  This was a lovely occasion when our children sang with children from our cluster schools.  Mrs Jennings has been rehearsing this large group of children for many weeks.

 

Our football teams played very well at the tournament on Wednesday.

 

The school came together on Thursday morning to share books – our ‘buddy reading’ end of term session.  I sent our Mere Matters contribution in and school closed at 3.15 pm for the Easter holidays.

 

The lost property was on display in the entrance hall all week.  Any uncollected items were put into our second hand uniform shop or recycled.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd March 2024

 

We have noticed that since COVID the resilience of some of our children is weak. Sadly this is a national problem.

 

Resilience is a fundamental life skill and helping children build it is a key to their mental health.  The real world is sometimes unfair and harsh and surviving it requires plenty of grit!

 

Without it we are allowing our children to be at the whim of the unpredictable nature of life.  Developing resilience is far better than wrapping a child in bubble wrap.  It builds an inner strength and confidence they can rely on for the rest of their lives.  Without resilience the children crumble when the parental shield is no longer there.

 

Psychiatrist, Dr Max Pemberton offers the following advice on how to build resilience:

 

LET CHILDREN FAIL – Too often we try to protect children from making mistakes.  We do things for them or offer advice when it has not been asked for.  We all learn from making mistakes.

 

THINK ABOUT TECHNOLOGY – Limit access to technology and try not to bend to pressure to give your children a smartphone.  Social media is strongly associated with mental health problems and stops them connecting with the world around them.

 

ENCOURAGE THEM TO ENGAGE IN SPORT – Competition, physical exercise and being in a team are incredibly important and helpful in building resilience.

 

REMEMBER YOU’RE THE ADULT – Your child is not your friend.  Being strict, firm and having clear routines helps your child and gives them a blueprint for discipline and how to manage time and pressure when they are older.

 

BUILD THEIR COMPETENCIES – Help your child to focus on key skills such as speaking in front of others, making themselves a meal or doing their washing.  Helping a child become more independent also shows them they can do things on their own and are in control.

 

FOCUS ON THEIR TALENTS – Building confidence is not just about praising them.  Identify the things the children are good at and encourage them in this area.  ‘Helicopter’ parenting can increase stress and the pressure to please everyone.

 

GOAL SETTING – Encourage your child to set a goal whether it is to read a book, learn a skill or pass a music exam.  This goal must require dedication and focus.  It will not be easy and there will be problems along the way but it will act as a blueprint for future goals.

 

ENCOURAGE THEM TO GET A JOB, PERFERABLE PUBLIC-FACING – When they are older a job will help the children to learn key life skills such as time-keeping, managing other people, conflict resolution and coping with boredom.

 

HELP THEM FIND A PURPOSE – Reflect on your family values and help your child to draw strength from them. 

 

ENCOURAGE THEM TO GIVE BACK – helping someone helps to build purpose and teaches key skills.  Nothing takes your mind off your own problems like solving someone else’s.

 

BROADEN THEIR HORIZONS – Encourage your children to explore thoughts and ideas that are different from their own.

 

HELP THEM GET PERSPECTIVE – Make sure you maintain open communication.  Aim to be non-judgemental and warm.  Help them to identify and name their emotions and validate these feelings.  Emphasize that they are in control of how they feel and help them to find strategies to manage these.  If you do not have the answer reassure them that you will find the answer together. Emphasize that bad or difficult times will pass and to focus on the things they are able to change.  Encourage them to break problems down in to chunks and tackle things bit by bit.

 

DON’T OVER MEDICALISE THEM – resist the temptation to see every difficulty your children have as evidence of mental illness.  Be sympathetic but do not rush to label children as this will remove any sense of control they might have in changing things for themselves.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th March 2024

 

Taking an unauthorised holiday is about to get more expensive, with the Government announcing that fines for children in England missing school are to rise by 33%.

 

The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan will be overhauling the way Local Authorities fine parents for unauthorised school absences in that hope that inconsistencies will be eradicated.  We are well aware that fines are issued in Wiltshire schools but not as consistently in Dorset schools which makes life quite challenging at times.

 

The initial penalty notices will be raised from £60 to £80 if paid within 21 days.  Those who delay payment will have fines raised from £120 to £160.

 

Our school daily register will be shared online with the DfE as part of the Government’s drive to improve attendance after COVID.

 

At Mere School our attendance rates are significantly higher in all areas than the national averages and we are so grateful for your support with this.

 

Alongside this The Nuffield Foundation Report has highlighted the need to reform the school calendar, which has been in place since Victorian times.  This research suggests that by reducing the summer holidays from 6 weeks to 4 weeks inequalities among pupils could be tackled.  It would also take pressure off parents and teachers.  They are proposing extending half term breaks from one week to 2.  They state:

 

“Spreading school holidays more evenly across the year makes complete educational sense: improving the well-being of pupils and the working lives of teachers; balancing out childcare costs for parents; with the added potential of boosting academic results.”

 

The Welsh Government are already considering these proposals.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th March 2024

 

I know some parents get very frustrated about the school chasing them if their children have not arrived.

 

There was a tragic incident recently when a toddler was found starved to death next to his father’s body.  The little boy was left helpless and alone without food or water after his father had a heart attack.

 

It is clear that the agencies involved with this family have not fulfilled their responsibilities but the law is not to break the door down and Social Care followed their procedures.  This law obviously needs to change so no other child dies unnecessarily.

 

The office will phone if your child has not arrived in school as we are checking on your safety and your child’s safety.  A phone call or e.mail informing us of your child’s absence will save us time and worry.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st March 2024

 

School photos!

 

Well I think we have found a resolution to this problem.  I am extremely grateful to our Class Parents for helping.

 

The overwhelming view from this group was that parents would like school photographs to continue. 

 

We have asked Concept Photography Ltd to do our photographs – this is the company that takes the photographs at Leaping Frogs and they come highly recommended.

 

A couple of the Class Parents have offered to organise the individual photographs in the new school year, easing the burden on the school office.  These will be taken on Monday 16th September 2024.

 

Concept Photography will also be taking class photographs on Monday 10th June 2024.

 

Ordering will all be online so this again makes life much easier in the office.

 

We have not yet found a company to take a whole school photograph but Mrs Rawlings is on the ‘look-out’.

 

The school will receive commission from the photographs and Concept Photography will be donating a voucher to The Friend’s Auction of Promises to be held in April.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd February 2024

 

Gold Class at Mere School are currently involved in an exciting new project.  They are in contact with a year 3 class in Paris.

 

Miss Hanby (our year 3 and French teacher) reached out to Maitresse Anna – a very enthusiastic teacher, who shares her educational journey and good practice on social media.

 

Miss Hanby contacted Maitresse Anna over social media and after a discussion they started this ‘pen-pal’ initiative.  Both classes filled in a form “Tout sue moi/All about me” and then Miss Hanby and Maitresse Anna paired up the children based on their shared interests.

 

Both classes then met over ‘Zoom’.  They sang a song to each other and met their pen pals online.  The children at Mere School made Miss Hanby proud by saying “Bonjour, enchante” to their new friend.

 

After the meeting a child from Mere said that ‘it was magical’ and another ‘at first I was scared but then I was very happy to meet my pen pal!’

 

After half term the children started a book project together.  The teachers selected a book that both classes will study together.  This will help the children to use their language skills and exchange questions and ideas about the story.

 

The plan is that the 2 classes will meet every week via ‘Zoom’ to share a favourite song or poem or to start other projects.

 

Maitresse Anna’s social media is getting lots of attention in France and this project was even mentioned on national radio, France Bleu.

 

Our children are very keen to go and visit their friends in Paris but I am not sure the school budget will stretch to this!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd February 2024

 

We are all being made aware in the press of the increasing cases of measles.

 

Measles is an infection that spreads very easily and can cause serious problems in some people.  Having the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent it.

 

Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later.  Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.

 

The first symptoms of measles include:

 

  • a high temperature,
  • a runny or blocked nose,
  • sneezing,
  • a cough,
  • red, sore, watery eyes.

 

Small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later.  These spots usually last a few days.

 

A rash usually appears a few days after the cold-like symptoms.

 

The rash starts on the face and behind the ears before spreading to the rest of the body.

 

The spots of the measles rash are sometimes raised and joined together to form blotchy patches.  They are not usually itchy.

 

The rash looks brown or red on white skin.  It may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

 

It is very unlikely to be measles if your child has had both does of the MMR vaccine or they have had measles before.

 

If you think your child has measles ask for an urgent GP appointment.

 

The MMR vaccine is offered to all children in the UK.  Ask at your GP surgery if you are not sure if your child has had the vaccine.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd February 2024

 

The newsletter was available to download on Monday morning and there were various meetings and visits from professionals during the week.

 

Our usual programme of events took place – music, French, individual music lessons, clubs, school council, library and swimming.

 

The Friends met on Tuesday evening in school to try and ‘muster up’ more support for the group.  At the moment a very small group of people are organising all of the fund raising.

 

I taught Blue and Green Classes during the week while these teachers completed some training.

 

Various attendance meetings took place during the week.

 

Mr Ed Ralph, one of our governors, completed some governor monitoring on Thursday afternoon, talking to the children about our newly organised curriculum.  After this there was a Curriculum Governors meeting.

 

Mrs Jennings rehearsed Gold and Green Classes ready for the Cluster Singing event at the end of term.

 

I met with the Class Parents on Friday afternoon.

 

We held an emergency procedure drill as well.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th January 2024

 

I expect you are aware that a new Chief Inspector of Schools has started – Sir Martyn Oliver.  His first announcement upon taking up the post was that inspections for schools would be paused for the first 3 weeks of the new term so that further inspector training on mental health could be undertaken.

 

This represents a positive step in the fight direction for OFSTED and there is clearly a welcome change of tone from Ofsted’s leadership.

 

The teaching unions are in detailed talks with the new Chief Inspector which might lead to some meaningful change.  They believe that long-term fundamental reform is required – an entirely new approach to school inspection.

 

As parents are well aware our last Ofsted was challenging despite our good outcome.  We hope that, at the very least, future inspections can be carried out with respect.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th January 2024

 

You are probably aware that there is a lot of information in the media about attendance and the importance of children attending school every day possible.  I am constantly reminding our parents about this and the vast majority of our parents at Mere share our ambition for every child to attend every day.

 

The Children’s Commissioner has noted that attendance has become the ‘issue of our time’.  The number of children regularly missing school has more than doubled compared to pre-pandemic and slow progress is being made to raise these rates.  Worryingly over 120,000 children are missing at least half of their time in school.

 

She commissioned ‘The Big Ask’ which was a project which listened to children about their key priorities, concerns and needs after coming out of lockdown.  The outcomes of this showed how much England’s children prize education; they see it as important in and of itself, and as a pathway to opportunity.  However, despite wanting to learn and return to school, many children faced daunting barriers to attendance which were holding them back from achieving their full potential.  The reasons for absence were complex: some needed support with mental health issues, others lacked the special educational needs provision they needed to access education.

 

The findings of the report confirm the strong link between absence and attainment and we see that at Mere.  The children with good attendance achieve better.  Children can only benefit from an education if they are actually in school.

 

Attendance generally at Mere School is good but I continue to monitor this and work with parents to improve their child’s attendance when necessary.  We want the very best for all of our children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th January 2024

 

I dropped into every class during the week to see how well our children are learning – always an enjoyable and fascinating experience.

 

Clubs started and our normal activities continued – music, individual music lessons, French, library, swimming and counselling.

 

The newsletter was available to download at the start of the week.

 

The Maths Advisor was in school on Wednesday morning working with Mrs Cocker.

 

All the school took part in a Cricket Roadshow on Wednesday.  Sadly the trip to the Science Museum in Bristol had to be cancelled.

 

I attended a Cluster Head Teacher, the School Forum meeting in Trowbridge and some leadership training.

 

I met with our lunchtime supervisors on Friday.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th January 2024

 

A report in the press just before Christmas was headlined:

‘Educate pupils on the skills they really need in life, say parents.’

 

A report by the Laidlaw Foundation claims that parents think schools should prioritise life skills over academic achievements.

 

Twice as many parents would rather schools prepare their children for adult life than for further study the report found.

 

The study stated that 54% of parents would prefer their child to attend a school prioritising extra-curricular activities and life skills, such as healthy eating and financial literacy.

 

At Mere School we believe that there is a place for both.  We want our children to achieve the best possible academic outcomes as well as preparing them for their life ahead.  Our aim is to give our children the richest all-round education possible.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th January 2024

 

Tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admission for young children and this is largely preventable.  In 2022, 60,000 school days were missed due to tooth extractions and 1 in 5 children in England experienced tooth decay.  Tooth decay in children most often leads to fillings, replacement fillings, root canal work, extractions and a lifetime of dental problems.

 

We are hoping that we might be taking part in a Supervised Tooth brushing scheme that is coming to Wiltshire.  This programme is designed to be:

 

  • simple – taking no more that 2 – 5 minutes /day with all the kit provided,
  • effective – giving children the vital protection of fluoride at a crucial age,
  • potentially life changing – saving children from a lifetime of dental problems.

 

Every participating school will receive all the support, training and stock needed from the Big Brush Club which includes a new toothbrush for each child every term and a pack for children to take home with toothbrush and toothpaste.

 

It is a shame that schools have to teach children how to clean their teeth as this is something that they should have been doing at home from an early age but we have a responsibility to help keep our children safe and healthy and avoid any absence from school.

 

I’ll let you know if we are selected to take part.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th December 2023

 

“Children’s behaviour in schools has plunged since the pandemic, the education watchdog warned”.

 

OFSTED Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said the problems in England’s schools were so severe they had eroded the ‘social contract’ between carers and teachers.

 

In her last annual report after 7 years of leading OFSTED, Mrs Spielman said the impact could be seen in lower school attendance, poorer behaviour and friction between parents ‘undermining discipline codes or ignoring uniform requirements or other rules’

 

I am relieved and delighted to say that we are not seeing these problems at Mere School.  The behaviour of our children is exemplary and this is regularly commented on by professionals and visitors.  Our attendance is very good with parents working closely with the school.  We feel that our relationships with parents are strong and we are always working to improve this.

 

A lovely way to end the term – thank you!

 

Catriona Williamson

 

Friday 8th December 2023

 

Coughs!  We are really struggling with this at the moment – staff and children alike.

 

Coughs can last for 3 – 4 weeks and can make us feel quite unwell but in most situations will get better by themselves (according to Bristol University).

 

‘Noisy chests’ or ‘chesty coughs’ are quite common when young children catch a cold and are not necessarily a sign of a ‘chest infection’.  Healthy children typically get a cough 7 – 10 times a year and this is not a sign that there is anything wrong with their immune system.

 

Coughs will often wake children in the night.  When a child lies down, more of the mucus from the nose and throat runs downwards and they cough more to clear it.  Coughing is part of the body’s defence system which helps keep the lungs clear and fight the illness.  Unfortunately this can wake the children in the night but does not mean the illness is more severe.

 

In children, a temperature is over 37.5 degrees is considered a fever.  Fever is a normal response to illness and does not harm children.  It may even help to fight illness.  Children with a high temperature may be more likely to have a more severe illness, although most do not.  Occasionally a child may have a fit.  This should not cause harm and treating the fever does not prevent it.

 

It is safe to use child paracetamol and ibuprofen to manage children’s fever (and pain) for as long as needed.  Please follow the dosage on the bottle.

 

Children often eat and drink less when they have normal childhood illnesses.  Most children can go a few days without eating much and this will not affect their longer term growth and development.  All children need to drink regularly to avoid becoming dehydrated, especially if they are vomiting.  To help prevent dehydration, encourage your child to have sips of water.

 

Arrange to see or speak to your doctor if any of the following occur:

 

  • rapid of difficult breathing,
  • high or persistent fever, and/or
  • vomiting.

 

This advice has been sent to schools from the University of Bristol and I thought it was useful to share it with you.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st December 2023

 

I was very saddened to read an article in the paper headlined:

“Why must I change 6-year old nappies”

 

from a ‘furious’ primary school teacher’ who is sadly leaving the profession.

 

At the school where this teacher works there are a significant amount of children who are not toilet-trained.  A 6-year old boy had an accident at this school and his mum had forgotten to send him in with more nappies and a change of clothes.  She promised to return within the hour with what was needed but the teacher had to chase her again.  Her response was:

 

“I don’t have time!  He’s at school so it’s your problem now.”

 

Nappy changing very definitely not part of a teacher’s responsibility and teaching a child to use the loo is definitely a parental responsibility.

 

Children do have accidents in school and we work with parents to keep these to a minimum.  Our job is to help our children learn and changing children is time consuming and impacts on the whole class.

 

Fortunately our children are toilet trained before they start with us and for this I am most grateful.  We encourage new parents to ensure that their children possess the basic life skills before they start school eg, using a knife and fork, putting on and taking off shoes, zipping up their coats and of course using the loo.

 

Teaching is a new generation of children is a privilege and Mere parents, in preparing their children well for school, enable us to do this.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th November 2023

 

I promised in our newsletter to share more detail about the fantastic results Mere School achieved at the end of the last academic year.

 

The main headline is that the proportion of children reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths has consistently been above average over the last 3 years and is most often well above and in the top 20% of schools nationally.  Attainment is currently significantly above average and in the top 8% of schools nationally.

 

EYFS

 

  • The proportion of children reading a Good Level of Development is well above average at 81% (65% nationally).

 

Phonics

 

  • 93% of our children achieved the phonics expected score, this was 68% nationally

 

KS1

 

  • Reading – 83% achieved the expected standard (69% nationally)
  • Maths – 83% achieved the expected standard (72% nationally)
  • Writing – 83% achieved the expected standard (61% nationally)

 

KS2

 

  • Reading – 90% achieved the expected standard (73% nationally), and

30% achieved greater depth (29% nationally)

  • Maths – 83% achieved the expected standard (73% nationally), and 20% achieved greater depth (22% nationally). Our maths outcomes at KS2 are slightly lower as we had 5 children who were unable to take the test.  All of the children achieved at least the expected standard.
  • Writing – 83% achieved the expected standards (71% nationally), and 20% achieved greater depth (13% nationally).
  • Reading, maths and writing combined at t6he expected standard – 80% (59% nationally).

 

Our children and teachers, along with your help, achieved these amazing outcomes.  We are all incredibly proud!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th November 2023

 

I know I seem to keep nagging about school uniform on a regular basis!

 

Thank you so much to the vast majority of our parents who send their children to school appropriately dressed and ready for learning.  It is really important that our children wear the correct uniform to school – especially shoes on non-PE days and the correct school PE hoodie or school sweatshirt on PE days.  We will find uniform for children who are not correctly dressed.

 

The governors do their very best to keep school uniform prices as low as possible, especially in these challenging financial times.  We keep branded items to a minimum so that things like shirts, trousers and skirts and pinafores can be bought at any high street store.

 

We are investigating the possibility of a school badge which can be sewn onto non-branded items of uniform to help further.

 

A study involving 2000 parents and carers found that on average primary school uniforms are costing families £287 per pupil, per year.  The high costs are blamed on uniform policies.  Statutory guidance introduced in 2022 orders school to keep branded uniform items ‘to a minimum’.  We also offer the opportunity to buy second hand uniform as required by this guidance.

 

We do have access to a grant for parents who might be struggling – please do let us know if we can help.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th November 2023

 

Sleep!

 

At any given time up to 40% of adults and 50% of children (this rises to 80% with a SEND diagnosis) have difficulties with their sleep.  In a recent survey almost 60% of adults felt there was a lack of support for sleep issues.  Sleep problems can leave people feeling isolated and lonely.

 

Sleep is essential to brain function and by helping children to sleep better, we can help them to succeed in school.

 

We have received some information from The Sleep Charity.  They have a free helpline run by trained sleep advisors, many of whom are specialists in working with SEND children.  They can talk to parents or young people if appropriate.

 

The helpline is open 5 times a week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday evenings 7 – 9 pm and Monday and Wednesday mornings 9 – 11 am.  Their number is 03303 530541.

 

You can read more here: https://thesleepcharity.org.uk/national-sleep-helpline/

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd November 2023

 

We have been having huge debates in school about school photographs.

 

Feedback from our Class Parents meeting was that some parents were not happy with their child’s photographs.

 

Unfortunately there is always someone who is unhappy with their child’s photo but there is no obligation for parents to buy them.

 

Mr McGirr is the best photographer we have had and he always offers parents the opportunity to visit his studio for a re-take if they are unhappy.  He is highly experienced and has a very successful business.  He also produces a selection of photographs for parents to look at.

 

Photograph day also consumes a huge amount of staff time.  The class teacher and TA are there supporting the children and Mrs Rawlings keeps us organised and running to time.  It is a massive task taking almost 230 individual photos in addition to family groups and pre-schoolers.

 

We have made the decision that we will not be offering these photographs next year.  We will continue to have class photos taken in the summer term and a school photo every couple of years.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 20th October 2023

 

I know you are probably ‘sick to death’ of me nagging about children needing to have water in their bottles at school!

 

Figures show that 42,000 children went to hospital to have teeth removed in 2021/22, 26,700 of whom had tooth decay as their main diagnosis, while tooth decay is the most common reason for children aged 6 to 10 to be admitted to hospital.

 

Children living in the most deprived areas are 3 times more likely to have rotting teeth than those in the least deprived areas.

 

These worrying statistics validate our reasoning for only having water in school water bottles combined with the added health benefits of drinking water.

 

I was somewhat disturbed about Sir Keir Starmer’s plans for teachers to supervise the morning dental care of our youngest children.  It is not the role of teachers to supervise dental care.  This is something that should be taught and firmly established at home.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th October 2023

 

I have been really irritated by a lot of the headlines in the papers recently:

“Parents don’t care if kids skip school”.

 

It is claimed that parents no longer believe that their children must attend school every day, since the pandemic.

 

I know a lot of schools are really struggling to get some children into school and there are growing concerns about the rise in children missing school in England.

 

The Public First Consultancy reported:

“Pre-covid, ensuring your child’s daily attendance at school was seen as a fundamental element of good parenting.  Post-covid, parents no longer felt that to be the case, and instead view attending school as one of several options or demands on their child on a daily basis, against a backdrop of a more holistic approach to daily life.”

 

The report highlights that every day in school could not possibly be that important given so much time had been lost to lockdowns and strikes.

 

At Mere School we are extremely lucky that the majority of parents strongly believe that their children should be in school every day so that they learn as much as possible.  Our attendance figures are very strong and do not reflect the national picture.  Our governing body look at our attendance figures every half term and on every measure we are well above most schools nationally.

 

Thank you to all of our parents for working so closely with us for the benefit of our children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th October 2023

 

Mere School is delighted to be working very closely with Paterson Estates. 

 

We are aiming to update over 60  ipads so that they run the most up to date software.   Joe Paterson felt that this was a great opportunity to help out.

 

Paterson Estates have promised, if they successfully sell a property in the Mere School catchment area, they will donate £50 of their commission for each child that will attend/attends Mere School to us.  People buying a property in Mere, who do not have a child at Mere School, can also arrange for this donation.

 

Joe and Sam Paterson write:

 

“Paterson Estates is a business founded by identical twins, Samuel and Joseph, in order to promote a new bespoke service to home movers across North Dorset and surrounding areas.  We believe that every client is unique and we strive to offer a tailored service to meet your specific needs.  A local Estate Agency with a big personality, we combine traditional methods with new innovative technologies to provide you with an exceptional level of service at real value.  Here at Paterson Estates we understand how overwhelming it can all be, so we’re here to ensure you are receiving the right support and advice at the time you need it.

 

We are focused on giving back to the community and being recognised for our professional service and aim to keep your transaction as stress free as possible.

 

With the rise of technology and web-based traffic, the internet has changed the property market forever.  However, here at Paterson Estates we believe there is more to it than just simply putting your property online.  Now more than ever, local market knowledge and determination to exceed expectation is vital!  Our bespoke marketing package as well as great communication and up to date advice will help your home stand out from the crowd.

 

It would be a pleasure to discuss any questions you have about selling or purchasing property.  Please get in contact on 01747 441199 or sales@patersonestates.co.uk.”

 

Schools are in challenging financial positions at the moment and any help is much appreciated!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 29th September 2023

 

The Online Safety Bill is currently waiting for Royal Assent.

 

This Bill is a new set of laws to protect children and adults online.  It will make social media companies more responsible for their users’ safety and adults online. 

 

Some content is not illegal but could be harmful or age inappropriate for children.  Platforms will need to protect children from it.

 

The categories of harmful content that platforms will need to protect children from encountering are set out in the Bill and include:

 

  • pornographic content,
  • content that does not meet a criminal threshold but which promotes, encourages or provides instructions for suicide, self-harm or eating disorders,
  • content that depicts or encourages serious violence,
  • bulling content.

 

Social media companies set the age limits on their platforms and many of them say children under 13 years of age are not allowed, but many younger children have accounts.  This will stop.

 

Different technologies can be used to check people’s ages online.  The new laws mean social media companies will have to show how they are enforcing their age limits.

 

Let’s hope that this new Bill coupled with education from home and school will result in our children being much safe when they are online.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd September 2023

 

The Department for Health were asked by the Department for Education to provide schools with a clinical and public health perspective on mild illness and school awareness.

 

The COVID pandemic has caused some parents to feel less confident when assessing whether their child is well enough to be in school.

 

There is wide agreement that school attendance is vital to the life chances of children.  Being in school improves health, well-being and socialisation throughout the life course.  The greatest benefits come from children attending school regularly.

 

It is usually appropriate for parents to send their children to school with mild respiratory illnesses.  This would include general cold symptoms: a minor cough, runny nose or sore throat.  However children should not be sent to school if they have a temperature of 38 degrees or above.

 

Some guidance on other illnesses:

 

Coughs and colds – fine to send to school but if they have a fever keep them off until the fever goes.

 

High temperature – keep the children off until it goes.

 

Chickenpox – off until all the spots have crusted over.

 

Cold sores – no need to keep the children off.

 

Conjunctivitis – no need to keep the children off.

 

COVID – can attend school if they have mild symptoms.

 

Ear infection – can attend school unless they have a high temperature or severe earache.

 

Hand, foot and mouth disease – can attend school.

 

Headlice – no need to keep children off school if they have been treated.

 

Impetigo – keep the children off school until all the sores have crusted over or for 48 hours after they start antibiotic treatment.

 

Ringworm – fine to attend school once the children have started treatment.

 

Scarlet fever – children can attend school 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

 

Slapped cheek syndrome – no need to keep the children off school.

 

Sore throat – can attend school providing they do not have a high temperature.

 

Threadworms – no need to keep the children off school.

 

Vomiting and diarrhoea – children need to stay away from school until they have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 48 hours.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th September 2023

 

You may have seen recent media coverage regarding Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and its use in educational settings.  RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete; because it is weaker than regular concrete, concerns have been raised about its long-term durability.  The Department for Education (DfE) has recently changed its guidance to education settings on the management of RAAC to take a more precautionary approach and as a result areas in affected spaces will be vacated.

 

Fortunately we are not affected by this decision as we understand we do not have any RAAC in any of our building and therefore we are functioning as normal.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th September 2023

 

It is always lovely to share some good news at the start of the school year.

 

We are so proud of our KS2 SATs results again.  Our children (and teachers) have worked incredibly hard and we have another set of excellent outcomes despite some children not being able to take the tests.

 

Reading

 

90% of our children achieved the expected standard– the figure nationally was 73%.  An incredible 30% of our children achieved the greater depth standard.

 

Writing

 

83% of our children achieved the expected standard – the figure national was 71%.  20% of our children achieved the greater depth standard.

 

Maths

 

83% of our children achieved the expected standards – the figure nationally was 73%.  20% achieved the greater depth standard.

 

Every child that took the test achieved the expected standard.

 

Combined

 

80% of our children achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths compared to 59% nationally.

 

These results are particularly impressive because 17% of the class had special educational needs.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st July 2023

 

After 23 years we said a very sad farewell to Mrs Loxton.  I dedicate my Head Teacher Message to Mrs Loxton and on behalf of us all a huge thank you for her dedication and commitment to the children of Mere.  She writes:

 

It will be forty years ago this September that I embarked on my BEd degree at Newton Park College of Higher Education (now Bath Spa University College) to begin my teacher training. I emerged in 1986 at the tender age of twenty-one, ready to start the career that has kept me busy ever since.

 

Now I must be one of the few teachers left who can remember life before the National Curriculum. With my first class of reception children at Milborne Port, I was free to teach more or less what I wanted. There were no demands on getting through schemes of work, no lesson plans… As long as I heard every child read every day, the head was happy and so were we! I loved my days in the classroom and my carefree evenings gallivanting around Somerset with the Young Farmers!

 

In 1987, I moved on to work in Huish - Yeovil’s oldest and flagship school - under the leadership of an enthusiastic new young head where “first hand experiences” were key, much to the horror of the stalwart teachers nearing retirement. In 1990, the year I got married, the first big changes of my career came.  Not only did my school move across the Queensway to free up space for a Tesco supermarket, the National Curriculum came into being. We were all duly presented with a spiral bound copy of the first English National Curriculum and told to look after it – I still have mine!

 

With the advent of the National Curriculum, teachers were told for the first time what we had to teach. But with some team effort devoted to ‘cutting and sticking’ our photocopied sheets, we managed to share out our new curriculum and develop topics for our children that were pretty similar to what we usually did. Then (to show we were at the forefront of progressive thinking) we produced topic webs and a few ideas of key lessons to show we were covering everything effectively. Infants were rebranded as Key Stage 1 and Juniors as Key Stage 2 but life in school continued to be good.

 

In 1991, SATS were introduced for Years 2 and 6. As Year 2 teacher, I found myself doing a lot of long winded activities with the children and marking off on grids what they knew or didn’t know. Honestly, we didn’t really knew what we were doing, but no one was overly concerned. The head told me, after national results were published for the first time, that we didn’t have enough children at Level 3 and that our children were as good as any other schools. So the following year we simply graded our assessments more generously and all was well again.

 

Emergency staff meetings are rare in school life and are usually called to deliver one stark warning: Ofsted is coming. I still clearly remember our first, in 1994, and everybody sitting in stunned silence when the head announced we’d be having our first inspection – in eighteen months’ time!  Nowadays we get a day’s notice.  I’ve lost count of the inspections I’ve endured  enjoyed. Although each time there is a supposedly new and better inspection regime, la plus ca change la plus c’est la meme chose. I can’t say I shall miss Ofsted in my retirement.

 

It was 1998 that brought the biggest change to how I (and all other teachers) taught. In an effort to raise standards the government imposed the extremely prescriptive ‘Literacy Hour’ on all primary schools. Every teacher was now expected to deliver a precisely timed four part English lesson every day: a quick introduction would be followed by fifteen minutes of whole class teaching, followed by twenty minutes of group work (the government hadn’t quite considered the pitfalls of letting twenty-four children get on ‘independently’, while the teacher  listened to the other six read), followed by the dreaded ten minute ‘plenary’, a new and baffling term to us all. Exhaustion set in for teachers and children but the government declared the enterprise a great success and promptly introduced the ‘Numeracy Hour’. Enabled by the ready availability of computers for teachers, suddenly detailed daily lesson plans had to be written for each and every lesson, a task so onerous that many teachers left the profession, including my year group partner.

 

I kept teaching, and in 2000, I moved my family to Mere in time to take up my post as reception teacher at Mere First School and enjoy my first of many Mere carnivals! By now I was learning that the world of teaching never stood still and it was just my luck that in this year the government had another one of their much dreaded anticipated ‘good ideas’: reception infants were going to become part of their new Early Years phase, with a shiny new “play-based” curriculum. At Mere, we set out on a mission to make our learning for the reception children fun and full of play. We came up with many great ideas, although scorching shadow puppets on overhead projectors and letting chocolate burn holes in the microwave were perhaps not our best ones! On one day we had so much fun we didn’t hear the fire alarm go off!

 

In 2004, Duchy Manor Middle School was closed and we became Mere Primary School. I bravely relocated from Key Stage 1 to teach the ‘big children’ in Year 4. I loved the change in pace and stayed with Year 4 for the next eight years. However in term of work load it was a tough time. Driven by relentless Ofsted initiatives and countless government research reports, schools and teaching changed phenomenally. Every lesson had to be planned and typed up on increasingly complicated gridded formats. More and more information had to be included – learning objectives, differentiation et al. Then every lesson had to be assessed - more writing and thousands of boxes to tick. Progress and attainment became our watchwords and marking became the bane of every teacher’s life. Evenings and weekends were swallowed up by paperwork. It was around this time that the positioning of Yapp’s wine merchants on my route home became quite fortuitous.

 

As the years rolled by, I moved on to teaching Year 5 and then Year 6, where I have been happily installed for the last decade. In 2016, I was thrilled to take up the post of Deputy Headteacher. Change continued in the wider world of education over this time; in September 2014 we were given yet another new National Curriculum and I learned more about Saxons and the subjunctive than I ever anticipated. Michael Gove’s “knowledge rich” curriculum was certainly new, although many educationalists have detected more than a whiff of Victorian thinking about it. Nonetheless, the workforce reforms of 2016 have been less divisive, and put the balance of marking, planning and assessment back to a sensible and reasonable level.

 

As I look forward to my own retirement, I hope that future changes will be focused not only on making children literate and numerate but confident and well-rounded people who will have the skill set for a quickly evolving world.  Thankfully the one constant in my career has been the children. They are the reason I went into teaching and, along with many amazing colleagues, the reason I have kept teaching for thirty-seven years. I have had a wonderful and fulfilling career and feel privileged to have touched the lives of over a thousand children.  But now as my former students’ own children are beginning to filter through the playground gates, the time is right for me to gracefully bow out of teaching. However having lived here for twenty three years, I will certainly not be retiring from Mere and look forward to finding a new role in our lovely little town. 

 

We wish her every happiness in her retirement.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th July 2023

 

We have been selling huge amounts of school uniform recently ready for next term.

 

Articles in the press are claiming that families are still having to spend ‘exorbitant amounts’ on school uniforms.  It is claimed that parents of secondary school children are paying on average £422/year on uniform and £287 for primary school children.

 

The Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Act came into force last autumn.  This guidance states that schools must ensure that second hand uniforms are available and keep branded items to a minimum.

 

It is clear that the affordability of school uniforms remains a significant financial burden for many families.

 

We do our best to ensure that our school uniform is reasonably priced and we do not make any profit from selling uniform.  We expect the children to have a school sweatshirt/cardigan with our logo on and a Mere School book bag.  The rest of our uniform can be bought from local stores – ASDA, M & S etc.  We also expect the children to wear shoes to school.

 

We are lucky to have a lot of pre-loved uniform available for parents – this was on display during Sports Day.

 

The prices for our uniform are below:

 

Sweatshirt -                             £10.00

Cardigan -                               £12.00

PE T-Shirt -                             £5.50

Book Bag -                              £5.50

Coat -                                      £19.00

Sports Hoodie (26” – 34”) -    £13.50

Sports Hoodie (XS/S/M) -      £15.00

Water Bottle -                         £2.00.

 

This is all detailed on our website.

 

We do have access to a charitable trust for parents who are experiencing financial hardship – please ask in the office.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th July 2023

 

There is a lot of media attention about RSHE (relationship, sex and health education) at the moment and the Government are currently reviewing the RSHE curriculum after some disturbing stories about events in some schools.

 

As a parent I felt it was my responsibility to explain the facts of life to my children when they were at an appropriate stage of development and understanding.  Every child is different and develops at different speeds.

 

However, RSHE is now compulsory and at Mere School we strive to ensure we follow the statutory curriculum requirements in a sensitive and appropriate manner.

 

We have consulted widely on our delivery – Mrs Cocker and Mrs Cole (responsible governor) came to our Class Parent meeting and a parent information workshop to which all parents were invited.  The materials we use are always available for parents to look at.  We do send a letter home to parents informing them when our puberty talks will be taking place.

 

We will continue to follow Government guidance and will consult you on any changes we will be making.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 30th June 2023

 

As we are approaching the end of term I wanted to use my Weekly Message to say a huge thank you to our governing body.

 

Being on a governing body is a voluntary post and our team of governors donate huge amounts of time and expertise for the benefit of our children.

 

A particular big thank you to Ms Rachael Hansford who will be leaving us at the end of this academic year after 10 years of dedicated service. 

 

We will be approaching Mere Town Council for a community member to replace her in September.  We are also keen to co-opt a governor with PR/social media experience – if you know of anyone who might be interest please let me know.

 

This is our current governing body team:

 

Mrs Carolyn Godfrey – Chair

Mrs Julia Cole – Vice-Chair

Mr Lee Tibbit – Chair of Finance

Mrs Jenny Ritter – Chair of Behaviour & Safety

Mr Ed Ralph – Chair of Curriculum

Mr Adam Bloomfield

Mrs Paula Loxton

Mrs Ali Hyde – Clerk

Mrs Jenny Bennett

Mrs Christine Marsh

Mrs Rachael Hansford.

 

Our governing body team support and challenge us in equal measure and they played a key role during our recent OFSTED inspection.

 

Thank you to them all – they play a key part in the success of Mere School.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd June 2023

 

For a long time now we have a ‘Games’ afternoon on a Friday for our KS2 children. 

 

Miss Santry organises the afternoon with the support of Mr Rich and 3 sports coaches.  Our children are taught specific skills in the main sports and often have the opportunity try more unusual sports as well.  Each class will have either a dance or gymnastics lesson during the week as well.

 

The remaining teachers spend this time to plan.

 

We have found that these afternoons are hugely successful.  The children are being taught by specialist coaches which impacts positively on our performance at local (and sometimes county) tournaments.  

 

It is sensible to review our provision regularly though and Miss Santry spent an afternoon recently observing.  She was most impressed with what she saw – planning was effective, skills were being taught and applied to small games situations, children were challenging themselves and good behaviour was evidenced throughout.  Most importantly, despite the heat, the children were engaged and enjoying their lessons.

 

It is a priority for the school that our children receive 2 hours of high quality PE every week.

 

Catriona Williamson

 

 

Friday 16th June 2023

 

We mums are being blamed again in the media!!

 

Professor Athene Donal, Master of Churchill College, Cambridge, says that mothers are ‘subtly deterring’ daughters from science careers.

 

She told the Hay Festival that mothers in particular are ‘discouraging curiosity from the earliest years’ by asking questions such as ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’.

 

The professor said:

 

“One of the things I find particularly distressing is the number of mothers who say, “Oh I could never do maths”. That says it all.”

 

The academic added that primary school teachers need to be better qualified in order to encourage girls to pursue careers in science.

 

I have to admit that I did express my anxiety about maths to my own children but always did my best to promote their work in the sciences and maths.  At school we value every subject and encourage girls and boys to achieve well – I hope we might have a leading scientist or mathematician from Mere School one day!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th June 2023

 

I expect a lot of us have seen the press coverage about the KS2 reading SAT.  It was a fiendishly difficult paper with even our strongest readers struggling to finish.

 

Many children were upset by the paper nationally and Mere School was no exception.

 

Analysis of the year 6 test showed that pupils were required to read 2106 words across 3 texts – around a third more than last year’s 1,564 words.  Based on the Department for Education guidelines that a KS2 SATs pupil is able to read a minimum of 90 words a minute, it means reading the booklet alone would take 23 minutes and 30 seconds.  The questions themselves contained a further 1,337 words – another 15 minutes or so of reading time.  As a result, the average reader would have just 21 and a half minutes to answer 38 questions during the hour-long test – one every 34 seconds.

 

Compared with this year’s reading paper, the 2022 test gave average readers a full eight and a half minutes more for their answers, the analysis by the Times Educational Supplement found.

 

Thousands of parents and teachers have complained about the paper with some saying that it had damaged children’s mental health and wellbeing.

 

We are proud of our children at Mere School and the positive approach our children have shown during the SATs generally.  However, this was a ‘freak’ paper which was not a fair test for our children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th May 2023

 

I really do enjoy my Head Teacher Lunches each half term and I gather a lot of useful information from the children.  This information is shared with the staff and governors and any changes necessary are made.

 

I invite 2 children from each year group (not EYFS) to come along making sure that every child has the opportunity to contribute during their time at Mere School.  We eat lunch and chat away together.

 

I ask the following questions:

 

Do you feel safe at Mere 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 treat someone at school who had different views to yours?

Why do we have rules at school?

How would you treat a child who started at our school who was board a little boy and became a little girl?
How would you welcome an Ukranian 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?

Do boys bother girls in school or girls bother boys?

Why do we need to have good attendance at school?

Are there places in school that you do not feel safe?

Is there anything else you would like to tell me about our school and how we can make it better?

 

The children spoke about how much they were enjoying the new markings on the playground and they would love some new things to play with outside.  I have explained how expensive playground equipment is but if we had some spare money we would look into this.  They were also pleased that the school was saving energy.

 

We had the inevitable conversation about the loos in school.  This is an area that some children feel unsafe.  I regularly talk to the staff and children about this but I am now going to ask our School Council to consider how we can improve behaviour and ‘loo etiquette’.

 

I am always so impressed with how mature our children are.  They were puzzled by the question ‘Do boys bother girls in school or do girls bother boys?’ and wanted to know why I asked this question.  I explained about some of the issues (like ‘up-skirting’) that have been highlighted in secondary school.  They were not convinced that this question was relevant at our school.

 

I look forward to my next meeting during our next half term.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th May 2023

 

We were very excited to find out that the Local Authority have appointed a Family Help Champion who will be working in our community

 

Lisa Farmahan will be the Champion for Mere and we have arranged for her to run a ‘drop in’ session every Monday morning from 9 am – 10.30 am in school – a good time for parents to pop in after drop off.

 

Lisa is part of a small team and she will work alongside the community of Mere and will provide support in any areas of family life that are challenging.  She can offer help, guidance or signposting in many different areas which might include challenging behaviour at home, managing your own or your child’s mental health, personal finance or debt advice and much more. You might even want to pop in for a chat!

 

Lisa will be in school from Monday 5th June 2023 at 9 am and would very much like to meet you. 

 

You do not need to make an appointment – just come to the office.

 

We are delighted that we have been offered this free support so we need to make the most of it!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th May 2023

 

I know there is a lot of discussion among parents about our class organisation for September.

 

We have been very busy considering lots of possibilities and how we can best use the staff resources that we have at our disposal.

 

Our first problem is we are unable to balance the school budget at the moment.  I know there is a lot of press coverage about the difficult financial situation in schools and we are struggling like most other schools.  We have been very lucky this academic year as we could afford to run very small classes in year 1 and year 3 and year 4 in the mornings but finances will not allow us to operate like this in September.  The governors and office team are working on financial solutions as we speak!

 

We have made the decision though that children need to be taught in their year groups so that the curriculum coverage is in place and this principle will form the foundation of our decisions.

 

Teachers can also resign any time before half term so we are unable to make concrete decisions until this point.

 

Added to this we are growing so we need to ensure we have adequate provision in each year group in case more children join us during the next academic year.

 

Please be reassured that we are considering the best organisation to ensure all children make the most possible progress.  As soon as we have definite plans we will let you know – thank you for your patience.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th May 2023

 

We continue to have a huge focus on reading at Mere School as it underpins all the learning that take place in school.  An added bonus is if we can encourage our children to read for pleasure - they will really reap the benefits. It might not seem like a particularly important task, but actually, research shows that reading for pleasure can be directly linked to children’s success throughout their time at school and even into adulthood.

 

Reading for pleasure opens up new worlds for children. It gives them the opportunity to use their imagination to explore new ideas, visit new places and meet new characters.

 

Interestingly, reading for pleasure also improves children’s well-being and empathy. It helps them to understand their own identity, and gives them an insight into the world and the views of others.

 

We do a huge amount in school to excite children about their reading, for example stickers, rewards, book day, visiting authors, class readers, snuggle up books, library books and we are constantly talking to the children about what they are reading and what books they would like us to buy for school.

 

This term we are in the process of taking all of our classes to Mere Library so they can learn about this amazing community resource and learn how to become members.  Mrs Loxton is taking a small group of year 6 children to the library on a weekly basis to learn how the library can help them with their homework when they start Gillingham School.

 

Support from home with reading has an incredible impact on your child’s learning in school.  Here are some ideas for encouraging your child to read for pleasure:

 

Set aside a special time – just a few minutes a day is enough to create a reading habit.

Get caught reading yourself – show that reading for pleasure is not just for children.

Read to each other – if your child really doesn’t want to read on their own, then read together. You read a page, then they read a page. Or one of you could read any dialogue. Be brave and put on different voices.

Value the books they choose to read – all reading is valuable for a child’s development. Some of us prefer non-fiction; some of us prefer comics. One child might like superhero books; another might a book of football statistics.

Set a challenge – can they read ten books before they’re ten? Can they read a book from six different genres: a comic, an information book, a funny book, a sci-fi book, a classic and an instruction manual?

Reading buddies – reading to a younger sibling can boost your child’s self-confidence and communication skills.

Audiobooks – audiobooks allow children to experience a book above their own reading level. It also allows you to share a book together or make the most of those car journeys. Listening to a story over and over again can improve vocabulary and encourage deeper comprehension.

Stage and screen – use your child’s favourite films or games as a springboard into reading. Knowing the characters and storyline can be a helpful bridge into reading a longer story.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 28th April 2023

 

After School Care

 

We are delighted with our Breakfast Club before school which continues to be run by PH Sports and the feedback from staff, children and parents is excellent.  This runs from 7.50 am until 8.50 am in our school hall.

 

There have been ongoing concerns about our previous after school provision run by Zeals After School Club which forced the school to look into alternative provision in rather a hurry!

 

We were hoping that PH Sports would run after school care for us after the Easter holidays but they were unable to organise this at such short notice.  We are hopeful that they can start this for us in September 2023.

 

Some of our TAs will be providing after school care from 3.15 pm – 5.45 pm from Monday to Thursday.  They have lots of exciting activities planned and Mrs Gulliver will be providing some snacks for them as well.  On a Friday PH Coaching will be running a Multi-Sports Club from 3.15 pm – 4.30 pm – please see the newsletter from last week with details.

 

If you would like to book your child into our after school care please contact the office.  Zeals After School Club will not be operating from Mere School.

 

We are sorry that arrangements have been put into place very quickly but we had to ensure the safety of our children. 

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st April 2023

 

There has been a lot of press coverage following the tragic death of Ruth Perry.  Ruth was the head teacher of a primary school in Reading.

 

Members of Ruth’s family have spoken publicly about the impact that an OFSTED inspection had on Ruth and her well-being.  We completely understand this situation at Mere School after our most recent inspection.

 

Many teachers and head teachers are angry and deeply saddened and want to challenge the inspection process so this never happens again.

 

OFSTED inspections are important and schools must be held accountable for the education they are offering.  However, I am hoping that this tragedy will result in a revision of the process so that it is respectful and constructive.

 

As a school we would like to send our deepest condolences to Ruth’s family and the community in which she worked.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 31st March 2023

 

Attendance in schools across the country has dropped significantly since COVID but I am delighted that Mere School has ‘bucked’ this trend.  Our attendance is still strong but it will continue to be a priority for our school.

 

It is clear from our data that children who have a poor attendance rate do not achieve as well as those who come to school every day.

 

Mrs Rawlings checks our attendance on a daily basis and alerts me to any concerns and I look more formally at the end of every half term.  This is when I write letters to parents of children causing concern or organise School Attendance Meetings.

 

The Department for Education noted that a staggering 5,651,978 days were lost through unauthorised term-time holidays in 2021-22 school year. This is a significant increase on previous years.  Primary school children were more than twice as likely to be taken out of school for a term-time holiday than secondary school pupils.

 

Frank Young, editorial director at the Civitas think-tank, which analysed the data said:

 

“Too many parents aren’t taking school seriously.  Even missing a day or two has an impact.  It is worrying that the youngest primary school children are most likely to miss school just as they are learning to read and write.  Ministers will need to get a grip of this as they urgently review truancy measures later this year.”

 

We will be continuing with our rigorous monitoring so that our children make the best possible academic and social progress possible.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th March 2023

 

As you are all aware now Mr Rich has been appointed as the new Deputy Head Teacher at Mere School.  It is the end of an era for the school as Mrs Loxton has been working here for 23 years.

 

Mr Rich has written a piece for Mere Matters all about himself and I thought I would share it with you before it is published.

 

David Rich - new deputy head teacher at Mere School.

 

My name is David Rich and I have just accepted the role of the new deputy head teacher at Mere School, replacing Paula Loxton who has been in her post, as deputy to Mrs Williamson, for 7 years.

 

It is an honour to take on this role, which gives me the privilege to serve the children and the families of Mere; the community in which I have lived for most of my life, both as a child and pupil at Duchy Manor Middle School and as an adult.

 

I started my teaching career as a volunteer at Mere School in 2006 when I helped the staff in Blue (Reception) Class. This inspired me to train as a primary school teacher, which I duly did through higher education at Bath Spa University and the University of Gloucestershire. I was lucky enough to be trained at Mere School through the Graduate Teacher Programme. It was during this training year, whilst I was on placement at The Mead School, that I applied for my first teaching job at Walwayne Court School in Trowbridge. I started as a newly-qualified teacher at Walwayne Court and worked my way up to proudly become English Leader, having taken charge of Personal, Social and Health Education along the way.

 

In 2014, I moved back to Mere School to take up the post of Year 4 teacher and to lead English. In the 9 years that I have worked at Mere, I have been lucky to work alongside a fantastic team of staff, under the leadership of Mrs Williamson. My three children Evie (18), George (15) and Sonny (12) have all attended the school and enjoyed many fantastic achievements there.

 

In September this year, I will take up my new role at Mere School, automatically assuming the role of Teaching and Learning Leader, as well as becoming a Designated Safeguarding Lead. I aspire to make positive changes to the curriculum and to the pedagogy of the school and I am looking forward to working alongside the brilliant staff team and the families of our community. As well as having a clear focus on maintaining the high academic standards and the fantastic reputation of the school, I aim to foster close links with our community by creating opportunities for parents to come into school and work alongside their children on exciting family learning projects.

 

I feel very fortunate to have been awarded the position of deputy head teacher, and I relish both the new responsibilities and the new challenges that the role will bring. What I most look forward to though, is working hard to build on the recent success that Mere School has achieved and to further improve outcomes for the pupils and the families of Mere. The school is expanding in size, both in terms of the number of pupils and physically. We have recently taken back some of the classrooms that haven’t been used as such since the closure of Duchy Manor Middle School. All staff at the school aim to continue to provide an excellent educational setting for the young people of Mere.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd March 2023

 

In his first speech of 2023 the prime minister announced plans for all pupils in England to study maths up to the age of 18 to “tackle innumeracy and better equip them for the modern workplace”.

 

He added:

 

“Right now, just half of all 16-19 year olds study any maths at all.  Yet in a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, our children’s jobs will require more analytical skills than ever before.”

 

I struggled with this policy announcement as evidence is needed to justify extending maths for all students.

It is important that our youngsters have the basic maths skills at 16 but if they have not managed to achieve this during their many years in school there perhaps needs to be a different approach and journey to achieving this.

 

There is also a national shortage of maths teachers so it might be challenging for secondary schools to be able to staff this expectation.

 

Since Mr Sunak made this speech there has been little more information – perhaps he is having a rethink!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th March 2023

 

Water bottles! 

 

I know there are some parents who get extremely frustrated that we do not allow squash in the water bottles at school.  It is challenging when children refuse to drink water but I think this is something we need to encourage from a very early age.

Drinking a certain amount of water daily is something I force myself to do for the well-publicised health benefits and I do feel better for it.  We regularly talk to the children about the importance of drinking water.

 

I came across a report about tooth decay in children and this reinforced our approach to water bottles in school.  The headline was:

“25 000 children have teeth out”.

 

More than 25 000 children had decaying teeth removed in hospital last year.  Data from the government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows 42,189 extraction operations took place in NHS hospitals in England in 2021/22 for those aged 19 and under.

 

We need to continue to work together so we can avoid tooth decay in our children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd March 2023

 

I was horrified to learn from the media that the Roald Dahl’s amazing books are thought not to be suitable for children unless they are ‘sanitised’.

 

When I was young books for children were not as exciting as they are now and Roald Dahl’s books were the first ones that got me excited about reading.  This is the case now – the children here thoroughly enjoy them.

 

Children are robust and love talking about these books. They enjoy the fact that they are quite ‘naughty’ and provide many opportunities for discussion.  These novels feed young imaginations and help prepare them for our imperfect world.  Even our fairy tales and nursery rhymes have a dark side to them but we continue to share them with our children, which is proper and correct.

 

I have to ask why our children should be patronised and short changed by Puffin (the publishers who are altering these books).  They should not be allowed to tamper with our cultural heritage.  The language in these books seems unimportant when children are given smartphones and can access hard-core pornography at a couple of clicks.

 

I hope that there is a public outcry about this and Puffin reverse their decision.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th February 2023

 

I am so grateful to our Class Parents who meet with me every term.  This meeting gives me the opportunity to share ideas with the group and their feedback and comments are much valued.  It is also a useful forum to the Class Parents to bring any issues raised from their classes to the meeting.

 

Mrs Cocker spent the first part of the meeting with us.  We chatted about the Relationships and Sex Education Policy and highlighted the need to introduce puberty talks to year 4 in the coming years as the needs of our children are changing. The group felt it was very important that the boys were aware of the female puberty issues as well.

 

We then went on to discuss our approach to LGBT+ education.  Mrs Cocker explained that we have a discreet approach according to the emotional maturity of our children.  We focus on healthy friendships and what it is like to be ‘me’.  We develop the children’s skills to be assertive and to understand that there are a variety of families. The respectful culture of the school is crucial.  The group supported the purchase of representative children’s literature and staff training in this issue.  Our teaching around this issue will continue to be led by the children and will be responsive and appropriate and the group supported this.

 

The following issues were brought to the attention of the class reps:

 

  • Some parents wanted the Carol Service to be optional.  This is part of our RE curriculum so all children must attend.
  • There was an issue on the strike days with some older children being rude to staff and handing children sweets through the school fence.  The younger children were reminded about keeping away from the fence and not putting their hands through (to stroke a dog, to accept a gift etc) and the police were informed.
  • It was highlighted that the car park has been extremely slippery.  Sadly this area is not under the control of the school and one of our reps was going to speak to the Town Council.  Our Site Manager will look at the weather forecast and if frost is predicted he will grit the playground and paths when he is in on a Monday or Friday.  If it rains between these times the salt will be washed away and we will all need to exercise caution.
  • The group have asked if parents could donate costumes after a school visit.  The school will collect and store any of these and make them available for the visit next year for parents.
  • The last cancellation of the Dance Club was my fault.  Mrs Rawlings was ill and I remembered at the last minute to cancel the club – sorry!
  • We will adapt the first newsletter of the term to accommodate first and second choices for clubs – as requested.
  • Some parents are finding it difficult driving around the car park.  This car par was designed by computer and cannot be altered.  The group suggested that if people drive slowly there is plenty of space.  I have reminded parents about the importance of driving slowly on site.

 

Our next meeting is in May.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th February 2023

 

Just under 20 years ago the Government introduced an NHS scheme that measured primary school pupils' height and weight in a drive to tackle the obesity crisis.

 

The National Child Measurement Programme measures children when they start primary school and again in year 6.  Their body mass is calculated and used to categorise them as underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or very overweight.  The initiative provides key data on national child obesity levels.  Parents are informed if their child is over or under weight.

 

One in 10 children are now obese at the start of primary school and this rises to almost 1 in 4 by the time they leave secondary school.

 

I have always felt very uncomfortable about this and did not allow my own children to take part in the initiative.  I objected to learning time being used to collect this data and worried about the impact on their mental health.

 

It would appear that my worries were well founded.  In the first study of its kind, Queen Mary University of London researchers assessed the impact the scheme had on children judged to be overweight.  They analysed feedback from parents who were given advice and support on getting their overweight or very overweight child to a healthy weight.

 

Analysis showed that these families expressed significant concerns about the potential for harmful effects on their child's mental health.  Many said that it marked a turning point in their child's awareness of body weight and altered their relationship with food.  Children reported feeling anxiety and embarrassment about the weighing process and their result, as well as the potential for weight-related teasing, according to the findings published in the Critical Public Health journal.

 

Parents expressed concern that the potential for mental health disorders, eating disorders and unhealthy dieting behaviours was far more dangerous than the weight itself.  

 

Dr Meredith Hawking said that the Government must find new ways to address childhood obesity, which is particularly prevalent among poorer communities.  She said:

"Without meaningful regulation or the food industry or measures to address poverty, parents will be unsupported in their efforts to help children live healthier lives."

 

Food for thought....!

 

Catriona Williamson

 

 

Friday 3rd February 2023

 

It is getting increasingly difficult and very expensive to take our children swimming but I am determined that this will not stop us taking our children.

 

Olympian Sharron Davies has urged Government Ministers to take action after new figures reveals that a quarter of children cannot swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school.

 

Sport England said that 72% of those in their first year of secondary school can make it from one end of a standard recreational pool to the other.  This compares to 78% before lessons were stopped during the pandemic.

 

I was surprised to learn that 4 in 10 primary schools do not offer swimming lessons at all, despite it being a National Curriculum requirement and many pools are struggling to stay open due to rising heating costs.

Sharron Davies said:

 

“I believe whole-heartedly that all children should be given the opportunity to swim.  Because it’s a life skill, it’s something you can do from the cradle to the grave.”

 

Rising costs of travel, pool hire and lifeguards will mean that we have to look at our swimming offer in the next academic year.  We need to find a compromise without charging parents any more in these challenging financial times.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 27th January 2023

 

We recently received a letter from the Local Authority congratulating us on our OFSTED report.  I thought I would share it with you below:

 

Dear Mrs Williamson

 

We are writing to acknowledge the school’s Ofsted report following your inspection on 8-9 November 2022 and the numerous positive comments within it.

 

We were delighted to read about the school’s achievements and especially, “Leaders and staff are ambitious for all pupils. They have high expectations of what pupils can achieve. Leaders’ vision, ‘we enjoy, we learn, we achieve’, reflects the pupils’ day-today experience”- you are to be congratulated on this.

 

Leading a successful school continues to be an ever-increasing challenge and one that you and your team are responding to in the best interests of the children. We celebrate a range of successful features in Wiltshire schools and many are reflected in your report including:

 

  •  Leaders at all levels are enthusiastic and dedicated. They engage with staff well.

         There is a strong sense of team spirit.

  •  Leaders have designed an ambitious curriculum. They have thought carefully about

          what pupils must learn and by when in most subjects.

  •  Leaders promote a love of reading and ensure that there is a consistent approach to

          teaching phonics. This enables children in the Reception Year to know the sounds that

          letters make.

  • In mathematics, pupils can rapidly recall number facts and times tables so that they

            can tackle more complex concepts and solve problems effectively.

  • Most pupils with SEND are supported well. Adults find creative ways to make sure

            that pupils can access the curriculum. This helps pupils to develop a sense of

            independence.

  • Leaders have high expectations of pupils’ behaviour.

 

We would like to thank you for all the work you are doing for the children of Wiltshire and we wish the school every success in the future.

 

Best wishes.

Yours sincerely

 

Director - Education and Skills

Corporate Director – People (DCS/DASS)

Portfolio Holder

Education

Deputy Leader and

Cabinet Member for Children Services, Education and Skills

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th January 2023

 

Our Friends Association has had such a busy and successful year.  Thank you so much to a small group of people who keep this organisation running for the benefit of our children.

 

A lot of money has been raised this year and there have been some wonderful events for our children, their families and the community to attend.

 

This was particularly evident just before Christmas when their fund raising paid for the entire trip to the pantomime in Salisbury (which was amazing) and a visit to the Christmas Grotto where the children received a gift from Father Christmas.

 

The Friends will be paying for some new lines on our playground, an artist in residence visit (a sculpture) and the covering of our quiet area so we can use it as an outdoor classroom.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th January 2023

 

During our last Class Parent meeting there was concern that schools might be heading for a 4-day week, as reported in the press.

 

There has been an incredible ‘squeeze’ on school budgets and rising energy costs and staff pay increases have eaten into our school budget.

 

Some schools are talking about restricting timetables, slashing staff and increasing class sizes.

 

We are most fortunate that our budget has been managed by our governing body extremely carefully and there are no plans to reduce staffing or time in school.  We are hoping that we will be able to maintain our class structures for next year.

 

There was some good news following the Chancellor’s autumn statement with an extra £2 billion coming into school.  There will be some funding to help with increased staffing costs and rising energy prices and a grant to implement some energy saving initiatives in school.  We are in the process of getting quotes to change our current lights to LED ones and this is how we plan to use this funding.

 

There are still some risks as the teacher’s pay rise has not yet been agreed and industrial action is on the horizon.

 

Sadly there was always going to be a consequence of our COVID outbreaks and we will do our utmost to ensure that ‘business continues as usual’ at Mere School.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 16th December 2022

 

I expect you have all had the opportunity to look at our OFSTED report and we are delighted that our school has retained its good judgement and that OFSTED recognised the very many strengths of our school.

 

OFSTED acknowledged how our vision is evident in practice and that we are ambitious for every child at our school.

 

The comments made about our children were tremendous.  The inspector was impressed with the children's politeness, behaviour, positive attitudes to learning, willingness to collaborate and their sense of fairness.  Our children are respectful and work hard in their lessons.

 

I know that you know how hard our staff work and their commitment and dedication means that our children flourish and achieve.  We have a great staff team who always put the children first.

 

Of the highest importance is our work to safeguard and protect children is acknowledged to be effective.

 

Our parental response to the OFSTED questionnaire was overwhelmingly positive and parents are delighted with our school

 

The 2 minor action points have already been addressed.

 

What a great way to end this term.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th December 2022

 

The Governors have written to all staff following our OFSTED inspection and I would like to share what they said:

 

To all members of staff at Mere School

Following the recent OFSTED inspection, and our Governing Body meeting this week, Governors wished to pass on their sincere thanks and congratulations to all members of staff.

As governors, we know how much children and parents appreciate everything that you do on a daily basis to make a positive difference for children. We know how much children enjoy their learning, make progress, achieve and thrive. We know that children become successful learners equipped with a range of strategies to support their learning and independence. We know that children respect each other and adults, and that they understand and promote concepts of fairness, equality and inclusion. We know how resilient children become during their time at Mere School, and that they leave fully ready for secondary school. Governors appreciate that all of this is because of your commitment, dedication and talent.

We also know that the OFSTED process was extremely tiring, and at times quite difficult, however, we are very pleased that the quality of education and leadership was recognised by OFSTED, and delighted that the feedback from parents was so positive and uplifting.

With our immense gratitude once again.

Kindest regards

All Governors at Mere School

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd December 2022

 

We have received our updated Travel Plan in school and Mrs Cocker and Mrs Shannon will be taking control of this document with the School and Eco Councils.

 

Thank you to parents and staff for contributing to the document.

 

The aim of our travel plan is:

 

To support students, parents, carers and visitors in travelling to and from the school in active and sustainable ways where possible to deduce the proportion of private cars at the school gate.

 

The objectives to achieve this are:

 

  1. improve the safety of all users, particularly those walking, wheeling and cycling.
  2. improve the air quality surrounding the school and reduce exposure to harmful pollutants.
  3. help support and encourage people living within Mere to travel to the school by walking, wheeling and cycling.
  4. support and encourage people driving to the school to car share and ‘Park and Stride’ where possible.
  5. reduce unsafe parking practices and make the trip to and from school a safe, healthy and social one.

 

The plan noted that footways in Mere are poor, pedestrian safety on White Road was a concern and the lack of cycle routes.  However, the new car park had made a significant positive impact on the safety of our children and the access roads leading to the school.

 

We will continue to work closely with you and the Town Council to make Mere and the school site as safe as possible for our children and their families.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th November 2022

 

I expect most people are aware that OFSTED came to visit us last week for 2 days.  The report will be published shortly.

 

The staff and governors were so overwhelmed by the tremendous support and kindness shown by the parents of Mere School and it was highlighted by the HMI how positive the OFSTED Parent View results were.

 

I thought I would share the outcomes with you below:

 

  • 97% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that their child was happy at school.
  • 100% of parents reported that their children felt safe at Mere School.
  • 100% of parents agreed that the school makes sure the children are well behaved.
  • 15% of parents who said their child had been bullied agreed that it had been dealt with quickly and effectively by the school (80% had not been bullied).
  • 95% of parents said that the school makes them aware of what their child is learning during the year.
  • 97% of parents felt that when they raised concerns they have been dealt with properly by the school.
  • 100 % of parents who have a child with SEND said that the school gives them the support they need to succeed.
  • 89% said the school has high expectations for their child (the remainder did not know).
  • 94% felt that their child was doing well at Mere School.
  • 97% said that the school lets them know how well their child is doing (3% did not know).
  • 97% believed that there is a good range of subjects available (3% did not know).
  • 100% said their child can take part in clubs and activities.
  • 91% believed the school supports their child’s personal development.
  • 100% OF PARENTS WOULD RECOMMEND MERE SCHOOL TO ANOTHER PARENT!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th November 2022

 

We have been taking part in the national Anti-Bullying week this week.

 

Anti-Bullying Week is an annual UK event, held in the 3rd week in November which aims to raise awareness of bullying of children and young people, in schools and elsewhere, and to highlight ways of preventing and responding to it.  It started in 2002 and has since grown to become a significant event in our calendars.

 

Each year a theme for the week is developed and this year the theme is ‘Reach Out’. 

 

On Monday we invited the children to wear odd socks to school to launch the week.  This was to show that we are all unique and different and to encourage us all to be kind to each other and respect each other’s individuality.  A song was launched nationally called ‘Calling Out’ - Andy and The Odd Socks Song 2022.  The children were involved in lots of different activities throughout the week.

 

Anti-Bullying Week helps to raise awareness of bullying amongst children and helps school to tackle bullying taking place face to face and on line.

 

We talk to our children regularly about bullying and what they can do if they feel they are a victim.  Research shows:

 

30% of children have been bullied in the last year alone.

17% have been bullied online.

1 child in every classroom experiences bullying each day.

 

Bullying has a significant impact on a child’s life and this can last well into adulthood with adults who were bullied as children being more likely to:

 

  • experience a range of mental health issues.
  • earn less money.
  • be unemployed.
  • be obese.
  • not be in a stable relationships.
  • leave school with no qualifications.

 

There is a lot of information available in school and on our website for parents and children and our older children have completed a questionnaire designed by the School Council.

 

We take bullying extremely seriously and encourage children and parents to contact us if they feel they are experiencing any form of bullying.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th November 2022

 

Phonics teaching at Mere School has changed slightly! 

 

We have all become most proficient at learning the actions for the various letters which helped our children with their reading and writing.  At Mere School we had considerable success with this with 91% of our year 1 children achieving the pass mark in the phonics screening test (75% nationally).

 

The Government however, are very keen that all schools follow a validated scheme and if schools decide not to do this they have to demonstrate good outcomes – which we have.  We have taken a couple of years to consider all of the validated schemes available and at the end of last term we managed to find one called ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ which was appropriate for our children, staff and current resources.

 

We started delivering this scheme in September 2022.  We no longer use individual actions for each sound but robot arms and blending hands!

 

I was concerned about implementing a new scheme when our children achieve so well but I have been pleasantly surprised.  There has been a considerable financial cost to the school but the children are learning their sounds more quickly and the improvement in handwriting has been significant.  The early signs are good!

 

Mr Rich and Mrs Edgar ran a parent workshop which was really well attended and if you would like to know more please visit our website.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th November 2022

 

It was lovely to welcome so many of our Class Parents to our meeting just before half term.  As usual it was a useful meeting for us all.

 

We chatted about the building works and we even had time to have a look around.  I was also thrilled to be able to share the news about our upgraded KS2 loos – at no cost to the school.

 

There were not many issues raised by each class.  I reminded the teachers about opening the school gates promptly at 3.10 pm at the end of the day and Mr Stafford has cut the hedge so that it is not overhanging the footpath.  The issue of school clubs was raised again but we need volunteers to help expand what we offer at the moment.

 

The group were worried that the school might be closed at times due to the rising energy costs.  I was able to reassure everyone that this would not happen and we had made good provision in our budget to cope with the increased cost.

 

The Friends have agreed to fund the whole of the pantomime visit to help families during the financial crisis which will be very welcome news to many.  We also talked about their Fireworks Event.

 

I am going to try to remember to add class colours and year groups to newsletters to avoid any confusion.

 

Mrs Cocker will be joining our next meeting in February to talk about the RSE Policy.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st October 2022

 

I in 5 primary pupils start school a healthy weight … but leave fatter

 

This was a worrying headline I noticed in the paper a few weeks ago.

 

The article stated that one in five children who started primary school a healthy size are leaving overweight or obese.

 

Boys were more likely than girls to pile on the pounds, according to the figures.  Overweight boys were also more likely to move into the severely obese category by 11, according to the National Child Measurement Programme report.

 

Some 22.3% of boys and 17.2% of girls had moved up a weight category to overweight or obese by the end of year 6.  Of those who started overweight, obese or severely obese, 75.9% of them remained this way.  One in 50 were already severely obese by the time they started school.

 

We will continue to work with our children to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy eating and encourage parents to provide children who do not have school lunches, with a well balanced lunch box.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th October 2022

 

Schools are being encouraged to work very closely with the NHS to encourage parents and carers to ensure their child has received their immunisations before they start school.  There has been a survey to help the NHS understand what is working well and identify any challenges there may be.

 

NHS UK states that vaccines do:

 

  • protect you and your child from many serious and potentially deadly diseases,
  • protect other people in your community – by helping to stop diseases spreading to people who cannot have vaccines,
  • undergo rigorous safety testing before being introduced – they are also constantly monitored for side effects after being introduced,
  • sometimes cause mild side effects that will not last long – some children may feel a bit unwell and have a sore arm for 2 or 3 days,
  • reduce or even get rid of some diseases – if enough people are vaccinated.

 

Vaccines do not:

 

  • cause autism – studies have found no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism,
  • over load or weaken the immune system – it is safe to give children several vaccines at a time and this reduces the amount of injections they need,
  • cause allergies or other conditions – all the current evidence tells us that vaccinating is safer than not vaccinating,
  • contain mercury,
  • contain any ingredients that cause harm in such small amounts.

 

The NHS website says that vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health.  They prevent up to 3 million deaths worldwide every year.  Since vaccines were introduced in the UK, diseases like small pox, polio and tetanus that used to kill or disable millions of people are either gone or seen very rarely.  Other diseases like measles and diphtheria have been reduced by up to 99.9% since their vaccines were introduced.  If people stop having vaccines it is possible for infectious diseases to quickly spread again.

 

All of our children will be offered a flu immunisation later this term.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th October 2022

 

Mere School Fireworks – SATURDAY 5TH NOVEMBER 2022

 

The Friends are finalising their plans for the above event and we are all very excited.  We are extremely grateful to Mr Adam Bloomfield of Bloomfield & Associates Ltd for sponsoring the event for us.

 

Please see the details below:

 

  • gates open 5.30pm
  • fireworks 6.30pm
  • BBQ
  • bar
  • mulled cider
  • fish and chip van
  • pizza van
  • ice cream van
  • cake stall
  • glow toy stall
  • soft drinks
  • sweet stall.

 

There will be no parking on site and if you are driving to the event please be respectful to our neighbours.

 

THE EVENT IS FREE!

 

Please spread the work – I know there are very few local firework events now and we look forward to seeing you.

 

Catriona Williamson

 

Friday 30th September 2022

 

The scale of family breakdown has been laid bare by figures showing that almost half of children do not stay with both parents throughout childhood.

 

According to the Office for National Statistics one in four families is headed by a lone parent, 90% of whom are women.

 

The report from Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, stresses that families have a crucial ‘protective effect’ that help shield people at times of crisis and can improve happiness levels and even future earnings.  Dame Rachel said:

 

“Having a stable and supportive family, whatever form that takes, can determine a child’s future success.  Children with happy families do better in their exams, go on to get better jobs, and have higher hourly income at the age of 25. Families can insulate us from life’s adversity and challenges.”

 

It is important to note that Dame Rachel was emphasizing that families take all sorts of different forms.  It is important that our children are surrounded by family members who love and support them which will result in improved outcomes.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd September 2022

 

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman has stated her concern about children who are still struggling to read when they start secondary school.

 

This year’s SATs showed that nearly 175,000 children did not meet the expected standard in reading which means about a quarter of all year 7s still have a reading age of below 11.  This really matters as children who cannot read well find it difficult to keep up in secondary school.  Reading is an essential part of almost every subject.

 

The Department for Education said:

 

“Reading attainment figures at the end of primary school increased slightly this year .. but we know there is more to do, which is why we have set an ambition for 90% of children to reach the expected standards in reading and maths by 2030.”

 

81% of our children at Mere achieved the expected standard in reading with 23% achieving a greater depth outcome.  This is significantly higher than the national figure of 74%.  94% of our children achieved the expected standard in 2019 (when the last SATs were last taken) but COVID has interrupted the learning of our children since then.  We are very proud of this achievement.

 

Being a fluent reader is a life skill and is a constant focus for us at Mere.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 16th September 2022

 

As we gather together to give thanks for the life of the only Queen that most of us have ever known, our memories will inevitably be drawn to others we have also known, and are no longer with us.  Bereavement and grief can be unpredictable.  Feelings that we think have been left behind can suddenly re-surface and unsettle us.

 

Two years ago, the children in our schools were hit by an unprecedented global pandemic.  The enforced lockdowns and COVID precautions meant that for many, endings were unsaid and life events uncommemorated.  Remembering Queen Elizabeth’s life and saying goodbye to a well-loved figure, may well become a proxy goodbye for those that were missed during the health emergency.

 

For some children, the extensive coverage of the Queen’s departure and the public displays of grief and flowers might raise feelings that they cannot name and questions we might not feel confident to answer.  For the children it is important that we try to do so.

 

As we mourn for the Queen and welcome our new King, inevitable children will still want to be children and our everyday school life will continue.

 

Here are some pointers to help:

 

The Young Person Cries a Lot

 

Empathise.  The child may need lots of reassuring

 

Relatively Minor events Trigger intense Emotional Response

 

During intense emotional responses such as tears, explosive anger or times of shut down stay calm and encourage them to breathe.

 

The Theme of Loss comes into Conversation Frequently

 

Talk about death and loss.  Let your child steer the conversation and offer helpful responses appropriate to their age.  Read stories or watch animations about loss and bereavement.

 

Out of Character – the Child Starts to Lose Important Belongings

 

Try not to get angry or show our frustration.  When we deal with loss we can be preoccupied.  We don’t remember things clearly.  Retrace steps with them.  Spent time alongside them.  Search together.

 

They Frequently Ask for Help with the Things They Can Easily do Themselves

 

Calmly offer help even though you know they can do the things themselves.  This behaviour is communicating that they want connection.  They are using the activity or task as a way of being able to ask for it.  You’ll notice that when they feel steadier, those requests for help will reduce.

 

Performance May Decline as They Struggle to Concentrate

 

Offer additional help and resources to support your child.  Loss presents as a threat so when dealing with it we can lose our focus as our bodies need the ‘energy’ to survive.  Offering help and additional support will mean that any decline in performance will quickly reverse.

 

Play Starts to Focus on Death

 

Observe their play.  Provide suitable play materials and equipment and if they seem willing, look for an opportunity to join in.  Follow their lead.  Children use play as a way of processing and dealing with the loss they are experiencing.

 

They Develop Fears That May Seem Unrealistic to Adults

 

When a child becomes anxious or nervous, take their fears seriously.  Even though you know they are unrealistic they feel real to them and it is important for us to respect this.

 

They Have Trouble Sleeping or Start Wetting the Bed

 

Develop bedtime routines that include a bath, story, cuddles, toilet and bed.  Sleep problems and bed wetting can be a sign of separation anxiety and this may increase when a loss has occurred.  Providing a bedtime routine will help.

 

They Imagine That They Have Contributed in Some Way to the Death

 

Reassure them that this isn’t the case.  Validate the emotion, take their beliefs seriously, show empathy and offer lots of reassurance that they have not caused the death.

 

 

As you will be aware, the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II will take place next Monday and that this day will be a Bank Holiday and school will be closed.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th September 2022

 

We are fairly certain that OFSTED will be visiting us during this academic year – we are well overdue!  I know that there is a real shortage of inspectors at the moment and OFSTED are still catching up after the pandemic.

 

I am looking forward to their visit as I am so proud of what we are achieving at Mere School.

 

I expect we will receive an ‘ungraded’ inspection.  It will determine whether the school remains the same grade as at our previous inspection.

 

OFSTED will be asking for the views of parents through online questionnaires.  We will send the link for these to parents and they ask that these are completed by 3 pm on the first day of the inspection.  The inspectors may also gather evidence from parents during informal meetings at the start and/or end of the day.

 

We are expecting 2 inspectors to be in school for 2 days.  On arrival they will have secure access to our safeguarding information.  After this they will evaluate our school against the following judgements:

 

  • quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development, and
  • leadership and management.

 

They will talk to curriculum leaders and governors, visit lessons and look at books.  Early reading will definitely be a focus for their inspection.  The team will also gather evidence about school culture and practice in relation to pupils’ behaviour, support for staff and other systems.  They will also evaluate how we support the personal development of our children.  A judgement will be made on how leaders ensure that the education we provide has a positive impact on all of our children.

 

The inspection will be challenging and stressful but we are well prepared.  I am confident that our children, staff, governors and school community will support us well through the process.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd September 2022

 

We have started the new school year full of enthusiasm and excitement for the year ahead.

 

I would like to welcome the many new children to our school – I know they will be made very welcome by our staff, children and parents.

 

We live in hope that there will be no interruptions to learning and the year can progress as it used to several years ago!

 

We welcomed several new members of staff – Miss Hanby in Gold MH, Miss Fletcher in Yellow MF and Mrs Lee in Yellow SW.  We are looking forward to working with them.

 

Our aim is that our full, rich, formal curriculum and our extra curricular activities will continue throughout the school year.

 

I will be keeping a very close eye on attendance.  Given that our children have missed so much learning over the past few years it is essential that they are in school learning with their friends.  As a school we are focused on trying to ‘fill the gaps’ in learning after the pandemic and children need to be in school so that we can do this.  I hope that the level of illness in children and staff reduces this year – we will continue to hand sanitise!

 

We are quite confident that OFSTED will visit shortly.  I am looking forward to sharing formally what a tremendous school we have with children who are keen to learn, staff who teach effectively and a community that supports us in our desire to provide the very best education possible for our children.

 

We have a lovely new extension to our school giving us even more space and I am so grateful to the staff who have worked during their holidays to ensure it is prepared for the new school year.  The car park is almost finished and it is such a relief that our children are much safer on our school site.

 

So, we are looking forward to working with our school community to ensure that our children are making the maximum progress possible in a safe and caring environment.  I am sure we will gather up some magical moments along the way.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd July 2022

 

Well it has been quite a year!  The children and staff suffered more this academic year than any other with COVID outbreaks.  Before the Easter holidays we had 13 members of staff off and 60 children but we still battled on and kept the school open.  It was a real team effort with tremendous support from our parents and governors.

 

It has been lovely watching the school ‘come to life’ as the year progressed.  There have been numerous trips, events and visitors and I am so pleased to witness the excitement and engagement in learning across the school.

 

Despite the pandemic the academic achievements of our children are very strong across the school – in their books and the outcomes in the formal tests.  Our children and teachers have worked so hard.  We have also committed time to ensuring our children are happy and cared for in school working closely with you.

 

We were certain that we would have a visit from OFSTED this year – it is well overdue.  We can look forward to this in September!

 

We have had to embrace change again with our growing numbers and we are excited about welcoming several new members of staff to our team as well as saying goodbye to several others. 

 

There have been challenges with the building works but they are long forgotten now that we have 4 beautiful new classrooms.  We hope that the car park will be in operation in September.

 

A huge thank you to our whole school community for making Mere School such a special place – our wonderful children, dedicated staff, supportive parents and proactive governors.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th July 2022

 

A study by the Centre for Social Justice think-tank has concluded that children as young as 7 should learn about money management in school.  The study claims that:

 

‘14 million adults who have faced financial problems believe that their lack of money-management skills had contributed to their plight’.

 

Experts claim that most adult money habits, such as managing spending and saving for a rainy day, are already set by the age of 7.

 

MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee said:

 

‘the ‘soft’ skills which we too often denigrate in fact aren’t soft at all.  Indeed, they are skills for life.  This report shows how those leaving without an effective financial education are a high risk of financial abuse, fraud and debt.  Yet today only one in 3 children currently receives any form of financial education at primary school.  We must be bolder – critically, by adding financial education to the curriculum in primary school.’

 

We have been considering how we can prepare our children financially for life as a staff recently and balancing this with our very busy curriculum.  We will be working with several banks and building societies to see if we can introduce this to our children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th July 2022

 

The Department for Education have launched a ‘crackdown’ designed to boost attendance in schools post-pandemic.  They have produced a consultation document proposing that parents could face automatic fines for any unauthorised term time holidays.

 

Under the proposals, families would also meet the threshold for receiving fines if their child has more than 5 days of unauthorised absence, including lateness, in any one term.

 

Fixed penalty notices are £120, reduced to £60 if paid within 21 days.  Currently each authority decides the thresholds for issuing these fines to families and ministers are frustrated and want more consistency around the country.

 

A parent would face a maximum of 2 fines for each child within the school year, with prosecution considered as the next step if this limit is reached under the proposals.

 

If this legislation is passed it would make life easier for us at Mere.  We adhere strictly to the guidance but some schools locally do not.  This can result in some challenging conversations with parents and carers.  I also hope that this might reduce the paperwork for the school as well.

 

Good attendance is a priority at Mere School – if the children are not in school they cannot learn.  We appreciate your support with this.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st July 2022

 

There is an expectation that mainstream schools should deliver a school week of at least 32.5 hours by September 2023.  The Department for Education maintain that extending time in schools can benefit pupils’ outcomes if used well.  This has yet to be made law.

 

Legally, at the moment, all schools maintained by the Local Authority are required to:

 

  • meet at least 380 sessions or 190 days during any school year to educate their pupils,
  • operate 2 sessions on every school day divided by a break in the middle of the day.

 

 

To meet these new requirements our plan is that school will start at 8.45 am from September 2023 with the gates opening at 8.35/8.40 am (to be decided).  Registers will be taken at 8.45 am.

 

I expect there will be a lot of media coverage about this over the next year but we wanted to give you the ‘heads up’.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th June 2022

 

I was really concerned to read an article in the paper a few weeks ago with the headline:

“Half of teachers don’t mark pupils’ books’.

 

The journalist claimed that school are increasingly scrapping the requirements for teachers to mark pupils’ exercise books and homework.

 

‘Research by the Teacher Tapp discovered that just 42% of more than 6250 teachers who provided a response were expected to mark work.’

 

The article goes on:

‘The trend comes amid increasing concerns about upsetting pupils who are struggling in the classroom’.

 

I would like to reassure parents that every piece of work is marked at Mere School.  It is our view that if the children have spent the time to produce a piece of work we need to spend the time to recognise it.  Some work is marked in much more detail and other pieces in less.   However the teacher or TA will always indicate that it has been read either with a smiley face or their initials.

 

We do spend a lot of time during the lesson talking to the children about their work while they are completing it so that the feedback is immediate and the children can respond to it as they are working.  We find this to be the most valuable form of marking.

 

A copy of Marking and Feedback Policy is on our website.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th June 2022

 

We are very lucky in Mere that we have the ‘Mere Tiddlers and Toddlers Group’.

 

This group provides a social shared play environment for parents and carers, with babies and children under 5 years old.

 

It enables play, support, interaction and friendship.  The group provides refreshments, craft activities and a singalong every week with providing access to the free foodbank produce at the end of every session.  People often make friends for life at this group.

 

Sadly Mrs Rich will be leaving this group shorty after many years of organisation – the community are so grateful for the hours she has spent providing this valuable community resource.  It is hoped that another volunteer has been found to replace her.

 

Volunteers are always welcomed – from organisational skills, being able to listen to others, good sense of humour, fondness for children, some physical strength for lifting boxes and food crates, plus food preparation skills.  Help with the activities would be welcomed term time only at Mere Lecture Hall, every Monday morning from 9 am – 11.45 am.

 

If you are able to help in any way with this very friendly group Mrs Rich would be delighted to hear from you (arich@icloud.com).

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th June 2022

 

We will be having some Ukrainian children joining us during this term and we are preparing the make sure they have a good welcome at Mere School.

 

We will make sure that as soon as they arrive in Mere they can start school.  We will try to establish how much English the children and parents have and work out how we can support them effectively in school.  Fortunately Miss Hanby speaks Russian and this might help.

 

We have already started to talk to our children about the war and how we can welcome and be kind to them.  We will ask some children to be buddies who will be rewarded for taking on this responsibility.  Breaktimes and lunchtimes will be challenging for our new children.

 

We will try to organise a support group for parents so that they can understand the school systems and expectations.

 

The children will be praised for any form of communication but we will not pressure them to produce English.  There are a lot of resources available to support our teachers.  We will endeavour to find as many ways as possible to include the children.

 

Our priority to begin with is to make sure the child feels welcome, safe and happy.  We understand that extended periods of listening to a new language is very taxing and the child is likely to tire – we will have  a lot of low language demand activities ready giving the child a bit of downtime when they are flagging.

 

I am confident that our school and community will welcome these children and their families ‘with open arms’.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th June 2022

 

It was a short week with the school being closed on Monday.

 

Mrs Tavenner completed the year 1 phonics screening with her class.

 

Some clubs, Gold swimming, KS2 library, some individual music lessons and music took place during the week.

 

Several members of staff were involved in training during the week and we hosted a writing moderation session here with local schools attending.

 

Miss Santry took a bus load of our KS2 children to the Area Athletics tournament at Yeovil.  We were so proud of the children’s performance.

 

Our new entrants came to visit Mrs Edgar and Mr Button and Silver and Orange classes had an exciting day at the Sealife Centre.  Purple Class also had a day learning about country life at Fontill Estate.

 

The Friends held their AGM on Friday followed by selling ice creams in the playground. 

 

We collected our Travel to School data on Friday as well.

 

Head checks took place during the week.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 27th May 2022

 

We are so lucky that we have a catering team that produce healthy, delicious school meals on site and I would encourage every parent to take advantage of this.  Not all schools are as fortunate.

 

I would dearly love to let every child have a free school meal every day but sadly our budget does not allow this.

 

Preparing a nutritious packed lunch day after day is a real challenge – especially if your child is a fussy eater.

 

I have just been reading an article in the newspaper written by a doctor who claimed:

 

“Only one in 60 packed lunches is deemed nutritionally ‘healthy’, a study found.  How appalling, particularly considering another study also found adult lifestyle is less important for fending off heart disease than childhood nutrition.  Surely this is yet more evidence that we should be taking childhood obesity seriously?    It really isn’t hard to learn how to make a healthy packed lunch – or to keep the treats to a minimum.  There’s even NHS guidance parents can follow if they struggle to bung the components of a balanced diet in a lunchbox.  Those who refuse to do so should be ashamed.”

 

This is quite a ‘hard hitting’ article but perhaps ‘food for thought’?

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 20th May 2022

 

We are starting to ‘firm up’ plans for class organisation in September and we are in the process of recruiting new members of staff.  Interviews have been held for a couple of posts and 2 more will be advertised after half term.

 

Our governing body have approved the budget and we are able to finance our ideal class structure.  We have yet to put teachers and TAs to classes, which we will do once we have appointed to our advertised positions.

 

There is a lot of interest in the school at the moment with children joining us in every year group. We hope we have managed to create a structure that accommodates these growing numbers.

 

These are the 9 classes we hope will be in place in September:

 

EYFS – teacher and TA

Year 1 – teacher and TA

Year 1 – teacher and TA

Year 2 – teacher and TA

Year 3 – teacher and TA

Year 3 – teacher and TA

Year 4 – teacher, morning teacher and TA

Year 5 – teacher and TA

Year 6 – teacher and TA.

 

Decisions about class colours and rooms are yet to be decided.

 

It is an exciting time for Mere School with lots to do.  I will write with more details as soon as possible.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th May 2022

 

We have had a selection of governing body meetings over the last fortnight and I am extremely grateful to this group of volunteers who give up their time to support and challenge Mere School.

 

I noticed an article in The New Blackmore Vale magazine this week written by the Conservative MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare about governance in school.

 

He talks about one of the 'silver linings' from COVID - the increase in the number of people who undertook some form of voluntary work to help their communities.  He believes that many people tried volunteering for the first time and liked it and one of the benefits of working from home has meant that people have a bit more time on their hands, as the need for work travel has reduced.

 

Mr Hoare is a governor and he has found it an incredibly satisfying thing to do - 

 

"just pause and consider the role of education.  Shaping our future generations, inspiring confidence, building platforms from which to launch the whole of a pupil's life.  Working alongside dedicated teachers to make a real difference.  Helping to sculpt the ethos and values of a school.  Equipping our young people with the skills and learning to meet the challenges of tomorrow."

 

He goes on to add that you do not have to be an expert of a parent just someone who likes - 

 

'rolling their sleeves up, getting involved and working as part of a team.  A team which asks themselves only one basic question - how can we make this school even better for the children who come here?'

 

If you are interested in joining our governing body the workload is not onerous but the personal benefits are huge.  Someone with a keen eye for financial planning, budgeting and resource allocation would be warmly welcomed.  Please let me know if you are interested.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th May 2022

 

At the end of every half term I scrutinise our attendance figures.  When a child’s attendance is causing concern their parents will receive a letter in the first instance.  If there is no improvement the following half term we need to start School Attendance Meetings.  If after 2 of these there is still no improvement we make a referral to our Education Welfare Officer who then takes over the case.

 

As you can imagine COVID has had a significant impact on attendance for the last few years and our data collection system at school can now give me 2 attendance figures – one indicating how much time a child has had off with COVID and another indicating how much time the child has been absent, excluding COVID.  It is this figure I am now focusing on.

 

The Government, quite rightly, are insisting that schools work with parents to encourage the very best attendance possible.  If a child is not in school s/he cannot learn and a lot of time off means they have gaps in their learning which are very difficult to fill at a later date.  Poor attendance also has a negative impact on their social development as well.

 

I also spend some time at the end of every term analysing the attainment data of every child in school.  I report this key information to our governing body as well.  Our teachers and subject leaders meet to decide on how progress can be accelerated, particularly for those children who are not making the progress we would expect.

 

The figures clearly indicate that those children who do not attend regularly are not making as much progress as those who do.  65% of our children who attend school more than 95% of the time are at or above expected outcomes in reading, writing and maths and this figure is increasing.  Sadly of those children who have an attendance rate of below 90% only 40% of them are at or above their expected level.

 

These figures speak for themselves.  I would encourage every parent/carer to work closely with us to ensure their child attends every possible school day.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 29th April 2022

 

Below is the latest Government advice on managing COVID in schools:

 

Changes to measures and guidance for managing COVID-19 in education and childcare settings from Friday 1 April

 

On Tuesday 29 March, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, set out the next steps for living with COVID-19 in England from Friday 1 April.

 

Free COVID-19 tests will continue to be available for specific groups, including eligible patients and NHS staff, once the universal testing offer ends on Friday 1 April.

 

Updated guidance will advise:

 

adults with the symptoms of a respiratory infection, and who have a high temperature or feel unwell, should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until they feel well enough to resume normal activities and they no longer have a high temperature.  Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people. They can go back to school, college or childcare when they no longer have a high temperature, and they are well enough to attend.

 

Adults with a positive COVID-19 test result should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days, which is when they are most infectious. For children and young people aged 18 and under, the advice will be 3 days.

The population now has much stronger protection against COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic. This means we can begin to manage the virus like other respiratory infections, thanks to the success of the vaccination programme and access to antivirals, alongside natural immunity and increased scientific and public understanding about how to manage risk.

 

For education and childcare settings from Friday 1 April:

 

  • regular asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended in any education or childcare setting, including in SEND, alternative provision and children’s social care settings. Therefore, settings will no longer be able to order test kits.
  • residential SEND settings may be advised by their local health protection team to

re-introduce some time-limited asymptomatic testing. This would be an exceptional measure, for targeted groups of staff and pupils or students (secondary age or above) in the event of a possible COVID-19 outbreak. These settings are scheduled to receive an automatic delivery of contingency supply test kits during the week commencing Monday 28 March.

  • the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will publish new guidance. Most of the specific COVID-19 guidance for education and childcare settings will be withdrawn from GOV.​UK on Friday 1 April. The operational guidance on the testing in education settings document sharing platform will also be removed on the same day.

 

I hope this clarifies the situation with COVID this term.

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th April 2022

 

I thought I would use my end of term message to update you on our building works.

 

The works started very badly with the school holidays and the first week of term being significantly disrupted.  I know many members of the community were disturbed at seeing some of the behaviours of the building team and breaches of health and safety.

 

The Local Authority acted extremely quickly with the contractors and a new site manager was appointed and things have been much better since.

 

Most of the structural work has been completed (one last bit to do in our old Green Class during the Easter break) and the heating and electrical engineers have started.  The building team put a partition wall into Green Class so we have been able to continue to use this room for as long as possible – we have been using it for music and French for the last part of this term.  This room will be handed over to the contractors today – once we have cleared it.

 

We have been relatively unaffected by the works and the site manager has been extremely conscious about noise so that there is no interruption to learning.  He regularly pops into school to keep us updated on their progress and there is a formal meeting every month.

 

The plan is for the remodelled upstairs space to be handed over to the school on 21st June 2022.

 

Planning permission has been granted for the car park works with the condition that the school must update its Travel Plan.  It will not be possible for all this to be completed during the summer break and the plan is, at the moment, for this to start sometime during the summer term.  There will be some disruption and some short periods of time when there will be no parking at all (the Bowls Club car park will be closed).  I am however, confident that ‘the pain will be worth the gain’! 

 

I would like to thank you for your patience and understanding.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st April 2022

 

From 24th February the guidance for the management of COVID outbreaks changed.  To become more aligned to the Governments ‘Living with COVID’ strategy, the quantitative thresholds set by the DfE have been replaced.

 

However we have experienced the following at Mere School:

 

  • a higher than previously experienced and/or rapidly increasing number of staff or child absences due to COVID infection.
  • evidence of severe disease due to COVID, for example if a child or member of staff is admitted to hospital due to COVID.

 

Due to this we have implemented restrictive measures until the Easter holidays and I am so grateful for your support and help with this.  We are really disappointed that some lovely events have had to be cancelled or postponed.

Cases have reduced significantly and I am hoping that after Easter we will be back to normal.   It seems very strange that we have been ‘struck down’ with COVID after so few cases for such a long time.

 

Given that it is not possible to get tests now it would seem that we have to treat COVID as any other illness – if your child is unwell they do not come to school and if they feel fine they come! 

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th March 2022

 

I have just finished reading a very interesting article written by a gay teacher.  He often heard children (as we sometimes do here) use the term ‘gay’ to mean something rubbish, or as an insult.

 

A lunchtime supervisor came to him at the end of lunchtime one day to tell him that one of the boys in his class had been calling people ‘gay’. 

 

This prompted an in depth discussion with his class resulting in the children sharing their anecdotes about family members or people who also identified as gay.  They discussed how you can be hurting someone’s feelings without even realising it, and that unlike some other characteristics, you cannot tell whether someone is gay just from looking at them.

 

There was a group of boys in this class who were not getting the message so the teacher asked them “Do you know who you are insulting when you use that work that way?”  They looked blankly until the teacher told them “Me”. 

 

This teacher had never shared this information with children before as he considered that it was his own business.  However he made this decision in the hope that he could support children in understanding that ‘gay’ is not a bad word, it is how it is used. 

 

The impact on his class was significant.  He recently explained to his class that he had heard someone refer to a pair of trainers as ‘gay’.  One of the boys in this class spoke up and said “Well that doesn’t make sense – trainers don’t have a gender!”

 

Not everyone will agree with what this teacher did but he received much support from the parents because it enabled them to have conversations at home.  It also helped children who may feel confused and alone.

 

This teacher hopes that the children in his care have learned how language that does not affect you can affect others.

 

I will remember this when a similar incident happens here and how powerful this approach was at this school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th March 2022

 

Given the difficulties in the world at the moment we are having some stimulating and challenging discussions with our children.  We try to watch Newsround with our older children regularly and this poses many topics for discussion.

 

I spent some time in Red Class just as the video of West Ham player Kurt Zouma was posted of him drop kicking his cat.

 

As you can imagine this sparked great debate with views ranging from ‘let the police deal with this’ to taking him to America to sit in the electric chair!

 

Our children were able to discuss their opinions freely and showed great maturity listening to their peers.  They asked me what my view was and I explained that it was my personal view and that they had to form their own opinions.

 

Gold Class were involved in similar discussions over the breach of COVID rules at Downing Street.  Miss Santry spent a lot of time preparing the children for a balanced and fair debate when all points of view could be considered.

 

I am delighted that our children are so well informed about what is happening in the world and that they are keen to debate these issues.  It indicates that the culture in our school is respectful and open and the children feel confident to challenge in a ‘safe environment’.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th March 2022

 

Ukraine

 

The situation in Ukraine is horrendous. Whilst we are geographically far away from the events, many in our schools and communities will be directly affected and may have families or roots in the region. The news and social media feeds are filled with the latest information, and some of it is very upsetting and worrying; and may not even be verified. Children listening and viewing distressing images can become frightened and fearful.

 

Here are some background reading resources to help you think about how adults can support children with what they are seeing or feeling. Please read through these links before sharing them with your child to ensure that they are suitable for you and your children.

 

Current information regarding Ukraine

 

Supporting your child if they see upsetting content online about what is happening in Ukraine (Childnet)


https://www.childnet.com/blog/supporting-your-child-with-upsetting-content/

 

We should not hide from children what is happening in Ukraine (Schools Week/Children's Commissioner)


https://schoolsweek.co.uk/we-should-not-hide-from-children-what-is-happening-in-ukraine/

 

How to talk to children about what’s happening in Ukraine and World War Three anxiety (Metro)


https://metro.co.uk/2022/02/24/how-to-talk-to-children-about-whats-happening-in-ukraine-16163133/

 

Help for teachers and families to talk to pupils about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how to help them avoid misinformation (Department for Education)


https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2022/02/25/help-for-teachers-and-families-to-talk-to-pupils-about-russias-invasion-of-ukraine-and-how-to-help-them-avoid-misinformation/

 

Information produced previously about war and international violence

 

How and when to talk to children about war, according to a parenting expert (Independent)


https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/children-war-talk-russia-ukraine-b2023695.html

 

How to cope with traumatic news - an illustrated guide (ABC News, Australia)


https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-23/illustrated-guide-coping-traumatic-news/5985104

 

Talking with Children About War and Violence in the World (Family Education, US)


https://www.familyeducation.com/life/wars/talking-children-about-war-violence-world

 

Tips for parents and caregivers on media coverage of traumatic events (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, US)


https://www.nctsn.org/resources/tips-parents-and-caregivers-media-coverage-traumatic-events

 

I hope you find this information helpful.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th March 2022

 

I had another, extremely valuable, Class Parent meeting on Friday 11th February 2022.  Mrs Manning was also observing on behalf of our governing body so that she can feedback to them how these meetings work and the many issues that are discussed.

 

In the matters arising part we discussed the RSE meeting Mrs Cocker organised and how much the group appreciated this.  Wednesday is the best day for photos in terms of school organisation however, class photos will be on a Monday next term due to a football tournament.  Unfortunately the group has not been successful in finding any volunteers to run additional after school clubs.  All children now have a Numbots access code and Miss Santry continues to update the PE staff on a Friday about the loo requirements of specific children.

 

The group discussed the expansion plans.  The internal work started during half term and will continue until the summer holidays when the car park works will commence – subject to planning permission.  We discussed class configuration for September.  Many different options are being considered by the school but until numbers are confirmed final decisions cannot be made.

 

It was felt that the Governor Newsletter was useful and should continue.  The group commented that people can find it on the website if they want to read it.

 

There was a discussion about letters.  The first letter of each term comes home in hard copy, as do trip letters, and any subsequent newsletters are published on the website and an app message is sent to parents to let them know it has been uploaded.  Hard copies of all letters are on the table in the entrance foyer.

 

In AOB the school confirmed that the school gates would continue to open at 8.50 am and 3.10 am but I promised to remind the staff to open them promptly.  Parents are always invited to use the drop-off zone if it is appropriate.  One of the group reminded us all that staff are officially responsible for the children from 9 am and that they are giving up 10 minutes of their time daily.

 

The allocation of club places was discussed and the responsibility of the prescriber to update careplans in school.

There was a lengthy discussion about loos.  I will talk to the children in assembly about appropriate loo behaviour and ask the teachers to reinforce this as well.

 

As ever a huge thank you to these parents for helping us.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th February 2022

 

The NSPCC has launched a new website called Stop Abuse Together and I wanted to use my message to let you know about this.

 

Child sexual abuse is a reality for thousands of children across our country, with at least one in ten estimated to experience sexual abuse before they turn 16.

 

But we can all play a part in protecting children and getting them the right help. That is why it is important to know how to spot the potential signs of child sexual abuse and where to go for support. This website brings together advice and resources to help you keep the children in your life safe.

 

If you have any concerns at all about a child’s safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to contact the NSPCC helpline on:

 

0808 800 5000

Or e.mail:

help@nspcc.org.uk

 

The dedicated NSPCC child protection specialist you talk to will know what to do next and will take any necessary action.  It is never too soon to speak out when a child needs help.  Even if you are unsure or if you are worried, the best thing to do is to talk to a trained professional.  Yours call could protect a child from experiencing sexual abuse.

 

If you think a child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

 

I often speak to parents who are worried and this website give lots of useful information for parents, professionals and young people.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th February 2022

 

We are just coming to the end of increased protective measures in school due to more than 10% of Green Class having COVID.

 

COVID continues to circulate widely in the South West, and with the prevalence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, we continue to see very high case rates in our communities.  Rates are particularly high in the school age population, and our highest rates amongst our primary age population.  Most children who are infected with Omicron have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.  Hospitalisation for severe COVID illness remains highest in older age groups and the unvaccinated.

 

There are current acute pressures on schools, particularly with staff absences which to date, have not had a significant impact at our school.

 

National Plan B restrictions have ceased and we have moved back to Plan A and I expect there will be continuing changes to national policies over the next few months which will mean we will need to keep adapting to in school.  However, we are likely to see continued high case rates with the challenges associated with this.

 

We will continue with our protective measures in school – good hygiene, enhanced cleaning regimes, good ventilation, following Public Health advice etc and it continues to be the case that any children with symptoms of COVID should isolate and continue with the recommended Lateral Flow testing.  All staff and children who are unwell, should stay at home until they are well or have completed the relevant isolation period for the infection.

 

We are asking any adults on site to continue to wear a face covering.

 

I would like to thank our community for its support and hard work through the challenges we have faced over the last 2 years.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th February 2022

 

I am using my message this week to recognise the amazing work that our teaching assistants do at Mere School as we are saying goodbye to Mrs Green after so many years of loyal and dedicated service to our children and school.

 

Mrs Green started working at Mere School in 2005 as a lunchtime supervisor and in 2006 she was appointed as a teaching assistant, with Mrs Howell in our new Specialist Learning Centre.  Along with the Centre Manager, Mrs Green and Mrs Howell established school based and outreach support for children with special educational needs.  Their work was highly valued by not only our school but our cluster schools as well. 

 

Unfortunately the Local Authority closed this centre in 2011 for financial reasons but we were delighted that we were able to appoint Mrs Green as the TA for Red Class.  Mrs Green has worked in partnership with Mrs Cocker since then.

 

Mrs Green has helped hundreds of children in her role as TA not only helping them to access and develop their learning but emotionally as well.  She is an experienced member of our teaching team who has given her time willingly to make the lives of our children so special.  Mrs Green and Mrs Howell ran a Homework Club in school for many years and she has been to Pencelli with Mrs Cocker for almost 10 years.  Mrs Green has mentored new members of staff and has willingly shared her expertise and skills across the school community.

 

We are going to miss her friendship and experience but wish her well in the future.

 

We are most fortunate that we have a tremendous team of TAs at Mere School.  They are an integral part of our teaching team and we would be unable to maintain our high standards without their dedication, skill and professionalism.  A huge thank you to them all.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 28th January 2022

 

It is really hard to keep up with the self isolation requirements as they keep changing and I hope to use my message to offer some clarification.

 

Anyone who has tested positive must isolate for at least 5 full days from the point at which they had symptoms or got a positive test.

 

This means that release from self-isolation is effectively after 2 negative lateral flow test results on days 5 and 6, because the first day of the positive test is not counted as a full day.

 

If either of the 2 tests are positive, patients must stay in isolation until they have had negative tests on 2 consecutive days.

 

DAY 0 – symptoms or positive test

DAY 1 – the clock begins ticking

DAY 2

DAY 3

DAY 4
DAY 5 – LFD test

DAY 6 – LFD – freedom day - day after your last ‘full day’

 

I hope this helps but please do contact us if we offer any further guidance.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st January 2022

 

Please find below a copy of our ‘Emergency Procedures’ which we will be practising with the children shortly.  I would be grateful if you could help prepare your child for this in a sensitive way emphasizing that this would be a very rare event and only used to keep us all safe.

Emergency Procedures

 

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:

 

  • an intruder on the school’s site or nearby
  • a local incident, such as a civil disturbance or risk of air pollution
  • a fire adjacent to the school
  • a dangerous dog or another animal which is nearby
  • a firearms or weapons attack.

 

This list illustrates some of the more typical causes for a school to lockdown.

 

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.

 

Notification of Lockdown

 

Staff will be notified that lock down procedures are to take place immediately by phone/walkie talkie with the word ‘lockdown’.

 

Procedures

 

On notification, if the children are outside, a whistle will be blown and they will be ushered into their classrooms as quickly as possible and the school’s doors and windows will be locked and blinds closed.

 

The children will remain in their classrooms (if appropriate), positioned away from sightlines from external doors and windows, if possible.  Lights, interactive boards and computer monitors should be turned off and mobile phones put on silent mode.  If necessary staff may move to a safer part of the building.

 

Children or staff not in class for any reason will proceed to the nearest occupied classroom and remain with that class and teacher.

 

Staff should notify the office that they have entered lockdown and identify those children not accounted for (mobiles to be used if an internal line is not available).

 

No one should move about the school.

 

Staff should support the children to keep calm and quiet.

 

Staff to remain in lock down positions until informed by key staff that there is an all clear.

 

Office staff will ensure that the office is locked and the police are called, if necessary.

 

If it is necessary to evacuate the building, the fire alarm will be sounded and everyone should leave the building as if it is a fire drill.

 

All situations are different, once all staff and children are safely inside, senior staff will conduct an on-going dynamic risk assessment based on the advice from the emergency services.  This will be communicated to staff.

 

The school will notify the Local Authority.

 

Communication with Parents

 

If necessary, parents will be notified as soon as it is practical to do so via the school’s app/texting system.  They will be told “the school is in a full emergency situation.  During this period the phones and entrances will be un-manned, external doors locked and nobody allowed in or out.”

 

Depending on the type and severity of the incident, parents may be asked not to collect their children from school as it may put them and their child at risk.

 

Children will not be released to parents during a lockdown.  If the end of the day is extended due to the lockdown, parents will be notified and will receive information about the time and place pupils can be picked up.

 

A letter to parents will be sent home as soon as possible following a serious incident to inform parents of the context of the lockdown and to encourage parents to reinforce with their children the importance of following procedures in these very rare circumstances.

 

These Lockdown Procedures will be communicated to parents through the newsletter and website.

 

Lockdown Drills

 

Lockdown practices will take place once a year.

 

It is vital that all of the school’s lockdown procedures are familiar to all members of staff.

 

Thank you for your help!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st January 2022

 

School is returning to normal!

 

The newsletter was available to download on Monday.

 

I held various attendance meetings during the week and staff attended a variety of on-line courses.

 

I ‘dropped into’ all classes to look at how effective the learning is in school – I always love doing this as our children are so enthusiastic.

 

Various professionals were in school supporting specific children.

 

Swimming, music, French, year 3 recorders, library and individual music lessons took place and Mrs Cocker held her School Council lunch.  Dance club was held to make up for a missed session last term.

 

All of our children had a fascinating visit into the Science Dome on Tuesday.

 

Mrs Edgar and Mrs Loxton met with our lunchtime supervisors and TAs.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th January 2022

 

There was lots of press coverage just before Christmas about talking to our children about online sexual harassment with some guidelines for parents.

 

This is mostly relevant to secondary age pupils but it is important that we are aware of the issues at primary schools are parents and teachers are able to talk to and support our children.

 

Dame Rachel de Souza (Children’s Commissioner) wrote the following to accompany a leaflet for parents - ‘Talking to your child about online sexual harassment: A guide for parents’ and I thought it would be useful to share it with you:

 

Foreword by Dame Rachel de Souza DBE

 

Since March 2020, thousands of young women have been sharing their experiences of sexual harassment through the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ project. This is an online platform where girls ‑ who are still mostly in school – have described growing up in a world where harassment, including sexualised comments, slut‑shaming and the sharing of nude pictures, is part of their everyday lives. This harmful behaviour happens online and offline. I’ve seen this first‑hand during my time as a head teacher and I know how stressful and damaging it can be for children, especially girls.

 

Of course, boys can experience sexualised bullying too, and when they do it’s often in the form of homophobic abuse, or through pressure to be more ‘masculine’.

 

When I became Children’s Commissioner for England I undertook the largest ever survey of children – The Big Ask – to understand children’s lives. The findings of this survey gave me a lot of hope for this next generation, not least because of their incredible resilience. But children, especially girls, talked about their experiences of sexualised bullying and peer‑on‑peer abuse and were calling firmly for more support. Most children want that support to come from their parents or carers.

 

Talking to our children about this issue can be hard. Parents tell me they sometimes feel uncomfortable, not just because of the sexualised nature of the topic, but also because their children know more about technology than they do. For mums, dads and carers who grew up without smart phones, this whole world can feel bewildering.

 

But children want to talk to their parents and carers about this. We know this because they’ve told us. And that’s what is at the heart of this guidance.

 

We brought together a group of 16–21 year‑olds and asked them to tell us what they think parents should know, and what they should say to their children when talking about sexualised bullying and the pressures of growing up online. We asked them to think back to when they were a bit younger and tell us what their parents and carers did and said that was helpful…and what wasn’t.

 

This guidance is based on the voices of young people giving adults their tips on how to tackle this subject.

 

I also convened a steering group of the leading organisations working in this area and listened to their expertise. We’ll signpost to their excellent work for those who want more information, but this guide serves as a starter kit – an entry point for parents and carers who want to talk to their children but need a bit of support to understand the issues and to start a conversation.

 

The overriding message you’ll see from our focus group is talk early, talk often. You might be surprised how early our young people felt parents need to start the conversation. But children want an age‑appropriate conversation that evolves over time in line with their growing maturity.

 

My advice to parents and carers is to create the culture before the crisis. Children have told us they want their mums and dads to create a safe, judgment‑free space for them to talk about these issues. It’s better to do that before you hit a problem rather than trying to create that mood while you’re dealing with one.

 

It takes a lot of bravery for a child to share their experiences of abuse or harassment. Parents and carers are telling me they want to match that bravery in getting to grips with these issues. Things that might feel uncomfortable to begin with, will feel less so over time. Parents and carers need to grasp the nettle as they support their children navigating this complex part of growing up. Our children have told us it’s what they want. This guide will help you get there.

 

It is so important that we create an environment at school and at home where children can talk freely to us and this culture needs to be developed during the primary years.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th January 2022

 

We will be welcoming Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert to school next Wednesday.  The governing body prioritise his visits and are determined that our children, staff and parents should get the benefit of his expert advice. 

 

Children regularly use different websites and apps and it can be hard to keep up in this ever-changing digital world but the things that help keep children safe online are often similar to the things that keep them safe offline.

 

  • Half of 10-year olds now own their own smartphone.
  • 70% of 12 – 15 year olds now have a social media profile, with Snapchat being the most prominent platform in this age group.
  • Children aged 5 – 15 now spend over 14 hours a week online, just over 2 hours a day.

 

Talk to your children about what they think is normal online and what behaviour to expect from others and from themselves.

Encourage them to think critically and question what they see online.  Talk to them about where they can go to get information they trust, talk about fake news, fake followers and scams.  Help them develop a healthy suspicion of whether people are who they say they are.

 

Share your knowledge and experience of relationships.  For example, sometimes people seem nice at first and then they turn out to be mean.  Let them know that you know this, they can talk to you about it and that you will not panic or punish them if they do.

 

Show them how to report any worrying behaviour they see online.

 

We are helping prepare our children for their futures if we help them go online safely and responsibly. Many people worry about amounts of screen time, but there can be lots of positives about what your child is doing – entertainment, keeping in touch with friends and researching homework, so quality screen time is important.

 

There is a lot of information on our website – please do take a look and we look forward to seeing you at our parent workshop on WEDNESDAY 12TH JANUARY 2022 from 3.30 pm – 4.30 pm.  A crèche will be available.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th December 2021

 

The horrendous and cruel treatment of 6-year old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes at the hands of his father and partner has disturbed us all.  Some of the media coverage is unwatchable and this coverage only gives us a tiny insight into the fear that this little boy must have felt.

 

There will be many learning reviews and it is clear that Arthur’s dad and his partner were deceitful, violent and cruel people.  Mr Justice Wall said:

 

“This is one of the most distressing and disturbing cases we have had to deal with.”

 

I would like to thank our staff and governors for all the work they do in keeping our children as safe as possible.

 

We will continue to foster and develop a safeguarding culture at Mere School when everybody is responsible for the safety of our children.  I know that every parent will support us with this in the hope that no other child has to endure poor Arthur’s treatment.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th December 2021

 

It has been a difficult couple of weeks consulting and making decisions about our Christmas activities in the knowledge that our children have already missed out on so much in their short lives.

 

Headlines in the paper like:

“DON’T LET COVID HALT NATIVITIES.  PLAYS ARE AN IMPORTANT TRADITION SAYS MINISTER.  Schools should stage Nativity plays because they are important traditions.”

 

do not make our discussions any easier.

 

I could not agree with these headlines more but we also have the rather large responsibility of keeping our children, staff and communities safe.

 

Case rates locally are amongst the highest nationally and we have had to take these statistics into consideration when making decisions.

The governors and I have been extremely grateful to Wiltshire Public Health, staff and Class Parents who have helped to shape our modified Christmas programme.

 

We have endeavoured to keep all of the elements of our special Mere School Christmas. 

 

We were extremely concerned about allowing so many adults into the confined space of our hall for the Christmas productions – especially some very vulnerable adults.  I am so grateful to one of our parents who has offered to film our productions for us and we are investigating ways of publishing them securely on our website so you can enjoy them in the comfort of your homes.  I know this is not ideal but it seemed to be the best option.  We really did not want to cancel them again.

 

The only casualty is The Friend’s Christmas disco.  We decided to cancel this as so many children are exhausted or struggling with illness and bringing such a large amount of children together in a hot hall would not be sensible. We hope that all will be OK for Easter!

 

As always I would like to thank you for your tremendous support during these challenging times.  Knowing that you trust us and respect what we are doing means so much.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd December 2021

 

Please see below some advice for parents regarding COVID.

 

Dear Parents,

 

Over the last few weeks we have been made aware of people in our school community who have tested positive for COVID-19.

 

We are continuing to monitor the situation and are working closely with Public Health Wiltshire. This letter is to inform you of the current situation and provide advice on how to support your child. Please be reassured that for most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness.

 

Students and staff who have tested positive are isolating. The small number of children who have been identified as contacts of the confirmed case will have guidance from NHS test and trace and will be advised to take a PCR test. Outbreak control measures are also in place and being kept under review.

 

The school remains open and, providing your child remains well, they can continue to attend school as normal. We will keep this under review.

 

Pupils who are household contacts of a positive case or have been contacted as a close contact by Test & Trace, including those in Primary settings, can take daily LFD tests whilst awaiting PCR results. If negative they can remain in school.

 

What to do if your child develops symptoms of COVID 19

 

If your child develops symptoms of COVID-19, you should organise for your child to be tested via the NHS online portal or by calling 119. Your household should isolate until you receive the test results giving the all clear. Fully vaccinated adults, children and young people aged below 18 years and six months do not need to isolate as close contacts of someone with symptoms, or as a close contact of a confirmed case, but are advised to take additional caution.

 

Symptoms of COVID 19

 

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

 

For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness.

 

How to stop coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading

 

We are keen to ensure education can continue; and we wish to advocate the

following measures you can take to help reduce the risk to you and anyone you live with getting ill with coronavirus (COVID-19):

 

  • get vaccinated – everyone aged 18 and over can book COVID-19 vaccination appointments. 12–17 year olds are also offered one dose of the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for eligible children and young people aged 12 to 17 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • if you’re symptomatic - Isolate and get PCR test
  • if you think you are a close contact - get a PCR test
  • wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • clean surfaces often, paying particular attention to surfaces touched often (e.g. light switches, door handles or electronic devises)
  • Keep indoor spaces as well ventilated as possible – let the fresh air in, even if for a short period per day
  • consider your social contacts – every contact carries a COVID risk, even with vaccinated people so:
    • consider whether to meet up at all
    • meet people outside and avoid crowded areas
    • open doors and windows to let in fresh air if meeting people inside
    • wear a face covering if aged 11 and over when it's hard to stay away from other people – particularly indoors or in crowded places
    • reduce the time spent in crowded areas where it may be difficult to

social distance

 

As you may know, the UK Health Security Agency (formerly PHE) has been made aware that some areas are reporting positive LFD test results with subsequent negative PCR tests.

 

The UKHSA investigation led to a test lab being temporarily closed. All affected test participants are being contacted by National Test & Trace should they still be within their infectious period and need to retest.

 

National guidance is clear, that if people still feel unwell after a negative test, they should stay at home until feeling better. When people test negative via a PCR test but go on to develop COVID-19 symptoms after the test they should take another PCR test. Please also see the following for further information.

 

Further Information

 

Further information is available at

 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/check-if-you-have-coronavirus-symptoms/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/main-symptoms/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing/test-results/negative-test-result/

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th November 2021

 

I am delighted that I have been able to hold my Head Teacher lunches this term as the children give me such valuable feedback about our school.

 

While we eat lunch I bombard the children with many questions including:

 

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 treat someone at school who had different views 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?

How would you welcome an Afgan 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 when you are a grown up?

Why do we need to have good attendance at school?

Is there anything else you would like to tell me about our school and how we can make it better?

 

The responses I receive from the children are insightful and mature and I often have a few jobs to do as a result of their suggestions!  One child commented that it was important that the whole school knew about the expansion to the building.  This was such a sensible observation and I have since talked to the whole school about our expansion plans.

 

Anything raised from this meeting is shared with the staff and governors so that there is a real value to our lunches and our children feel that they ‘have a voice’ in school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th November 2021

 

I am delighted to use my message to give you advanced notice about our Christmas performances, after 2 years!  This information will also be sent home in a letter.

 

I write with arrangements for our Christmas performances.  I apologise that the letter appears to be rather formal and ‘bossy’ but with so many children, parents and relatives it is important that things are organised very carefully in anticipation of everyone enjoying the occasion.

 

Timings

 

The KS1 (Blue, Yellow, Silver and Orange Class) afternoon performance starts at 1.15 pm on Tuesday 14th 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.

 

If you plan to watch both performances please remain in your seats after the KS1 performance.

 

The KS2 (Gold, Green, Red and Purple Class) afternoon performance starts at 2 pm on Tuesday 14th 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 14th 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 14th 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. 

 

Entrances

 

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 through both doors.

 

Tickets

 

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!

 

Younger Children

 

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. 

 

Collection

 

The school council will be arranging a collection after each performance and are raising money for The Stars Appeal.

 

Parking

 

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.  THE POLICE WILL BE INFORMED IF THIS ADVICE IS IGNORED. 

 

Evening Attendance

 

We do expect every child to return for the evening performance and appreciate your support with this.  If it is not possible for your child to come back and enjoy our evening performance please can you let us know as soon as possible so we avoid the embarrassing situation of actors being missing and teachers having to read their parts!

 

Thank you

 

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.

 

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THESE PERFORMANCES WILL DEPEND ON COVID RATES ACROSS THE SCHOOL.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th November 2021

 

The children all know that I feel very strongly about good table manners in school and in life generally.  This is a crucial life skill and we do our utmost at Mere to ensure the children are equipped with these skills for later life.

 

Unfortunately this is not something we can do alone and I would encourage every parent and carer to promote good table manners at home.

 

A newspaper article has caught my eye recently.  The headline was:

“Why knives and forks are off the table for children’.

 

The article stated:

“a new study has found more than half of British children do not eat with a knife and fork.  A staggering 54% of parents with children do not use a knife and fork properly at meal times.  And 60% of youngsters often eat with just their hands, while nearly a fifth lick their plate given the chance.  The study…. also found 28% of parents admit their children talk with their mouths full, which they would have been told off for doing at the same age.”

 

Sadly these statistics are in evidence in our lunch hall.

 

The article continued:

“The study of 1500 parents found this has effects beyond the family table – as 23% often feel humiliated when at a restaurant with their children.  Additionally 46% let youngsters watch TV at the table and 35% let them play with a tablet or phone at meal times.”

 

Many professionals believe that portable screens have replaced the family mealtime in a lot of households which results in children being less exposed to a varied diet and having no demonstration of how to use cutlery.

 

What a sad place this is.  I hope by working together we can reinstate the highly valuable family mealtime.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th November 2021

 

I really enjoyed meeting our Class Parents at the end of last half term and as ever we had a really useful meeting.

 

We discussed our new Relationships and Sex Education Policy and another meeting has been arranged with Mrs Cocker to consider this in more detail.

 

I updated the group on the school expansion and there was some discussion around class organisation.

 

Everyone seems to be happy with the current KS2 snack arrangements and our school photographs were a success.  There was a request for these to be taken on a Monday (when uniforms are clean!) but this does not fit in well with the school timetable on a Monday.

 

I shared my disappointment about not having more after school clubs.  We are doing our best to address this and the staff and governors have discussed it as well.  Any offers from parents to run a club would be gratefully received.

 

I confirmed that the gates and doors open at 8.50 am and we discussed using the loos during the KS2 games afternoon.

 

The parent interview slots filled up very quickly so we invited parents to arrange an alternative time with their child’s teacher over e.mail.

 

Mrs Edgar has issued Silver Class with a Numbots access code.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd October 2021

 

I was delighted to hold my Class Parents meeting a fortnight ago – the first one in a very long time!

 

We discussed our new RSE Policy and we decided to hold an additional Class Parent meeting when the group could ask Mrs Cocker specific questions about the policy and practice here.

 

There were discussions about the school building expansion, the car park and how classes might be organised.

 

The most useful part of the meeting though is the time when we discuss any issues that the Class Parents have been given from the rest of the parents in their class.

 

  1. KS2 Tuck

 

The current arrangements were discussed – free fruit available from Monday to Thursday then ordered snacks on a Friday costing 50p each.  Everyone seemed very happy with these new arrangements.

 

  1. Photos

 

Parents are very happy with the quality again.  Some parents have asked whether Monday could be the photo taking day but I explained that we have to pick the best day for minimal disruption to the children.  This will be discussed with the staff.

 

  1. Clubs

 

The group was disappointed that more after school clubs had not resumed after COVID.  I shared this disappointment.  The staff and governors will be discussing this shortly.  We have tried to look at alternative club providers and some of the class parents were going to think about the possibility of a group of them running a club for us.  This invitation is offered to any parent that might be able to help.

 

  1. Opening Times

 

I confirmed that the gates and doors open at 8.50 am.

 

  1. Parent Interviews

 

The slots have booked up very quickly.  If parents have not managed to secure an interview, or cannot make this evening, we are asking them to e.mail the class teacher to arrange an alternative appointment.  Books will be available for parents to look at.

 

  1. Visiting the Loos during KS2 PE Afternoon

 

I will make sure Miss Santry speaks to the staff about the specific toileting needs of some children.

 

  1. Numbots

 

I will speak to Mrs Edgar about a log in for children in Silver Class.

 

Please do chat to your Class Parent – we love to hear your ideas and views.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th October 2021

 

The Friends have organised some lovely fund raising events for this term and will be letting you know about all their plans shortly.

 

The Friends have bought us a drone to use in school and I know our Digital Leaders are really excited about learning how to use it.  They have also funded the Forest Schools days for our children.  The School Council will be investigating the possibility of renewing the lines/games on the playground and The Friends have offered to fund this  Mrs Smith has also ordered some new keyboards for our music lessons as well.

 

I know it is sometimes hard to attend events or meetings but everyone can help with their new fund raising activity.

 

The Friends are asking you (and your friends and family) to sign up to Amazon Smile.  Amazon Smile is a website operated by Amazon. It features the same products at the same prices as the standard Amazon site. The only difference is, when you shop on Amazon Smile, the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the cost of all eligible products to your chosen charity – which we hope will be Mere School.

 

With Christmas approaching there is the potential to raise a lot of money in this very simple way and we would appreciate your help with this.  Please ask your friends and family to help as well!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th October 2021

 

Unfortunately we are seeing an increase of illness in staff and children at school at the moment.  This is mostly cold symptoms.

 

This is being reflected across the country and Public Health Wiltshire did predict this situation.

 

Researchers believe that this surge in illness is a consequence of children congregating after so many months of social distancing – they may be more susceptible to respiratory viruses because they probably had fewer exposures to people outside of their households and therefore fewer chances to contract them and build up immunity.

 

The COVID symptom definition has not changed.  It is “a high temperature, continuous cough and/or a loss of or change to the sense of smell and taste.”

 

Children, if they are well enough, can attend school with common cold symptoms.  Many parents are completing Lateral Flow Tests to be on the safe side.

 

We continue to encourage hand washing/sanitising in school to try to keep these bugs to a minimum and flu vaccines are due to take place on Wednesday 17th November if permission has been granted.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st October 2021

 

Morrisons want to get the next generation growing so that more children know about how food is grown and made hoping that they will eat better.

 

They have launched an initiative called ‘It’s Good to Grow’.  Customers of Morrisons can register and collect Grow Tokens which the school can exchange for things like mini green houses, wheel barrows, plant pots, watering cans, trowels and spades, seeds etc.

 

We would appreciate your help please! 

 

This is how it works:

 

  1. Morrisons customers download the MyMorrisons app.
  2. They sign in or register to MyMorrisons and select the school they wish to collect for – Mere School please!
  3. They scan the app at the checkout or use online when shopping.
  4. For every £10 spent they will receive a Grow Token to donate to our school.
  5. Our school can exchange our Grow Tokens for free gardening equipment after the collection period.

 

For more information please visit itsgoodtogrow.co.uk

 

Please ask your friends and family to collect for the school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th September 2021

 

Our school expansion is moving along and we are at the planning phase at the moment.

 

I have worked with the Local Authority during the holidays and the last few weeks attending meetings and looking at detailed plans.

 

The internal works are easy and we are just finalising the details.  Green Class, the Children’s Centre IT room and cooking room will be made into 2 classrooms and the old corridor will be reinstated.  There will also be 2 toilets created in this space as well.  The room at the end of the corridor will be a ‘spare room’ with a specific area for cooking.  The final room will be another classroom.  All of the windows will be replaced (the ones on the car park side with a material that reflects the sunlight), new carpet laid and everywhere will be redecorated with blinds in every room.  The fire, phone, alarm and wifi will be extended.  The school is then allocated a pot of money to furnish each room.  We will not be taking responsibility for the stairs in the Children’s Centre but will use them in an emergency situation.

 

We are not anticipating much disruption to the school.  At some point Green Class will need to work in the French Room while the work in this area is completed.

 

The car park area is slightly more complicated and the Local Authority are in the process of submitting a planning application.  The Town Council and school have worked together to formulate this plan with the aim of creating a safe car park for school and community use.

 

The road in front of the Town Council office will be shut and there will be an electric gate just above the dentist’s drive so that no unauthorised vehicles can access this space.  It is a priority that it is safe for the children to walk across here when they come to school and leave.

 

The road into the Bowls Club car park will be widened and a new car park area will be created from this car park up to the fence near the footpath.  There will be many more spaces, a drop off zone and an area for larger vehicles to turn.  We hope that the old swimming pool site will be incorporated into this but at the moment this looks too costly.  A pedestrian area will be clearly marked.  The governors hope that extending the parking in this way will remove cars from any neighbouring streets making it much safer for everyone.

 

The management of this work is extremely challenging as the car park is in constant use not just by the school but by the community as well.

 

It is hoped that all of these works will be completed by April 2022 and we are extremely grateful at school that we have been so involved in creating the plans.

 

If you would like to see the plans for our expansion I can make these available.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th September 2021

 

COVID has proved to be a very challenging time for children and adults alike. 

 

We have decided to have an even greater focus on positive mental health at Mere School this academic year, supporting our children and families.  If children are happy and enjoying life they will achieve well at school.

 

Mrs Sarah Cocker is our Mental Health lead and the teachers and TAs have taken part in additional training.

 

We are very fortunate that our governors have decided to release funding so that we can employ a childhood counsellor.

 

Sian will be in school every Wednesday working with children who have been referred to her by their class teacher, in consultation with their parents. Mrs Smith scrutinises the referrals and prioritises the needs.

 

Sian works for Relate and is a fully qualified Young People’s Counsellor.  She will help our children in a supportive and non-judgemental way in school and the service is confidential.

 

Relate say:

“Many of our young clients tell us that they feel happier after they see a Relate counsellor and are better able to deal with their problems. In some cases, the Relate counsellor helped them to concentrate better at school or college, or get on better with their friends and family.”

 

A Relate Counsellor said:

 

“Young people hate being talked down to. As a young person’s counsellor you have to be open and honest and give your clients time to open up. When my clients leave they thank me, but I tell them that they have done the hard-work as it isn’t easy talking about the big things that are worrying them.”

 

If you think your child might benefit from some counselling, please make contact with your child’s teacher.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th September 2021

 

It is lovely to be back in a school that is currently operating in ‘normal circumstances’.  We have almost forgotten what ‘normal’ means any more!

 

I am still conscious that COVID cases are rising and it is expected that this will continue now that the children have returned to school.

 

The national expectation is that there should be minimal impact on a child’s education due to COVID.  We are expected to maintain proportionate protective measures (ventilation, extra hygiene etc) that help keep children and staff safe and minimise disruption to face-to-face education.  Restrictions such as bubbles have been eased to allow a full return to sport, music, drama, science and being with friends.

 

We ask that your child stays at home if they have COVID symptoms and book a PCR test.  High temperature, loss of taste and smell and a continuous cough are all signs.  Parents/carers of a child with a positive COVID test have a responsibility to contact NHS Test and Trace to establish any likely contacts.  Just with any illness, please could you let the school know if your child is absent.

 

It is predicted that there will be a lot of influenza-like illness during the next few months.  If your child is unwell they obviously cannot attend school.

 

We will be encouraging your child to stay safe and we will be continuing to use hand sanitiser in school – this has significantly reduced the bugs in school and is probably something that will be permanent.

 

Some of the guidance has changed around ‘close contacts’.  Children do not need to be off school if a close contact has had a positive COVID test.  They only need to stay at home if they have had a positive COVID test or are showing COVID symptoms.  It is recommended in these circumstances that the child of a close contact does take a PCR test.

 

We have updated out COVID Risk Assessment and this is now on our website for you to look at.  We look forward to working closely with you to ensure we all stay safe.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd September 2021

 

School attendance! 

 

I am delighted to report that attendance at Mere School was better than children nationally in every group (gender, SEND, service, Pupil Premium) and I would like to thank you for supporting us with this.

 

Good attendance is essential if children are to make the very best progress in school.  When I was analysing attainment data at the end of last term it was very clear that those children with an attendance rate of 90% or lower were not achieving as well as those who had a better attendance rate.  A worrying statistic indicated that only 13% of our children with an attendance rate lower that 90% were at the expected level for their age group.

 

Poor attendance not only impacts on educational outcomes but negatively affects the child’s social and emotional development as well.  With the children missing so much time in school due to COVID we must work together closely to ensure the very best attendance during this academic year so that any educational gaps are closed.

 

Mrs Rawlings and I spend a lot of time looking at children’s attendance.  If their attendance ‘dips’ below 95% a letter will be sent from school letting parents know about this. If there is no improvement during the next 6 weeks a School Attendance Meeting will be set up.  If, after 2 meetings there is still no improvement the school will make a referral to the Education Welfare Officer who will work directly with the parents.

 

Of course, there might be a genuine medical reason for absence and we work closely with our school nurse to help in these circumstances.

 

A sobering thought is that if a child has a 90% attendance rate that means they have missed the equivalent of 1 day/week.  Any employer would not tolerate this at work and we are establishing routines for life with our children.

 

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd July 2021

 

I always use my final message of the year to reflect on what has happened.  When I wrote this last year I never imagined that we would be closed for such a long period of time.  We are all looking forward to September and to the start, of what we hope will be, a normal year.

 

As ever, our children have responded magnificently to the challenges of the year.  They have been adaptable and flexible and have shown great resilience swapping between on-line and actual learning.  We have been so impressed with the way the children have worked extremely hard to catch up with any lost learning and endured the constant cancellation of all the special things we like to do in school.

 

Home learning was a challenge for all of us.  Our parents demonstrated a determined approach to learning about TEAMs so they could access remote learning with their children.  The children produced some careful work of a high standard and, with your help, managed to submit it remotely for the teachers to mark.  The staff really appreciated parent messages of support and thanks as well as the suggestions to make things even better.

 

I know that the staff are exhausted.  We would normally be involved in many more extra-curricular activities but I think it has been a long year with lots of new things to learn and many adaptations to be made.

 

Our governing body has been an immense support to the school.  They have challenged and supported in equal measure to ensure that educational standards remain high but our staff and children are cared for and coping.

 

Mere School is an extremely special place and I would like to thank everyone who contributes to its unique nature.  We are all part of a highly effective team enabling our children to achieve their potential emotionally, socially and academically.

 

We look forward to working with you next year in normal circumstances I hope!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 16th July 2021

 

We are really sorry that Miss Hanby will be leaving us at the end of this term. 

 

Miss Hanby’s ambition when she came to England was to train to be a teacher.  She knew that she had to gain some experience of education in a primary school and volunteered with us every day for over a term.  She learnt such a lot in a very short period of time and was successfully appointed as the TA for Yellow Class.

 

Our school community has benefitted so much from Miss Hanby being with us and she is a great example to us all, showing determination, resilience and hard work – all the attributes we are trying to develop in our children.  Miss Hanby said “it is with deep regret that I am leaving Mere School to start my career.”

 

I would like to share with you part of an e.mail Miss Hanby sent to our Chair of Governors about what it is like working in our school.  Unless you are part of the team here it is difficult for you to understand how special our school is:

“Working at Mere School with such a united and supportive team has made me more confident and resilient.  Mere School has amazing values and an amazing culture.  I have been amazed to see how everybody works together in total transparency in order to help the children in the best way possible.  I couldn’t have wished for a better experience before starting my teaching training in September.”

 

So, a huge thank you all of our staff who make Mere School a very special place to learn, train and work and we wish Miss Hanby the very best of luck for her training.  I hope she might come back to Mere School as a teacher in the future!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th July 2021

 

We have always been so proud of the way our children conduct themselves at Mere School.  Many visitors comment on the high standards of behaviour and how keen the children are to learn in school.

 

We have a comprehensive Behaviour Policy, which is on our website for you to read.  It is designed to promote good behaviour and underpins our ethos of kindness and co-operation.

 

We teach appropriate behaviour through our curriculum (respect, fairness, empathy, care) and endeavour to provide a stimulating environment where children will be more likely to engage in acceptable behaviour.

 

Our Golden Rules are:

 

We are kind and helpful

We work hard

We are gentle

We are honest

We listen

We look after property.

 

In addition to these Golden Rules ‘Class Charters’ are negotiated with each class at the start of the new school year.

 

There are occasions when a child might break these Golden Rules.  We have a warning system across the school (colour clouds in KS1 and coloured cards in KS2) and there are a series of consequences should this happen.

 

At Mere School every member of staff adheres to this policy and we all model appropriate behaviour for our children.  We aim to maintain our high behavioural standards by positive reinforcement rather than negative censure and this seems to be working for us!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd July 2021

 

Learning first aid is an invaluable life skill.  It helps children become more risk aware and equips them with skills to keep themselves safe and help themselves or others if involved in a medical emergency.  It could save their life.

 

From September 2020, first aid training was a mandatory part of our PSHE curriculum, however, first aid training is not new to Mere School.

 

A couple of weeks ago a paramedic from the Wiltshire Air Ambulance team came to work with every class.  He taught our children basic first aid in a hands–on way.  The children loved the practical nature of this training and the wealth of experience the paramedic was able to share.

 

Please chat to your child about what they learned – they might save a life with this information one day.

 

The children will have first aid training every year.

 

Mrs Cocker will be in touch early in the new term to share our new PSHE curriculum with you, inviting any comments of observations.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th June 2021

 

The Local Authority is now moving forward with the expansion of our school building and the car park improvements.  We seem to have been waiting for ages but there are lots of processes that need to be followed.

 

The main contractor has been approved and the design phase will be completed by the end of August.

 

There will be a series of meetings before this time to finalise the plans.  It is really important we liaise closely with the Town Council and other users of the site.

 

It is hoped that the work will start in October 2021 and will be completed by March 2022.  There will be limited impact on the school building but we will need to plan the car park works very carefully.  This is advanced notice that there might be some disruption for a short period of time.

 

The plans are for the school to take control of the whole first floor of the building.  Green Class will be remodelled and the 3 rooms along that wall will be knocked into 2 large classrooms.  We will also have the 2 smaller rooms at the end of the corridor.  All of this area will be refurbished so that the environment matches that of our school currently – new windows, blinds, re-decoration, carpet, wi-fi, telephones etc.  There will also be some additional toilets created.  It is unlikely that we will use all of this space initially but the governors wanted us to be ready!

 

The car park will be significantly expanded with many more parking spaces.  The area in front of the school will be gated off ensuring a safe walkway for the children.  The additional spaces will be between the Bowl’s Club car park all the way up to the side of the MUGA.  A drop off zone will also be created in this area.  It is hoped that this work will ensure the approach roads to the school are less congested and safer to walk along.

 

There is a lot of work to be done but it is very exciting for our school!  I will keep you regularly updated.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th June 2021

 

Our children thoroughly enjoyed working with our visiting e.safety expert a few weeks ago and he was very impressed with our children’s knowledge.  He said that the best advice he can give parents is to have a conversation with them about their internet use – particularly our older children.

 

A simple but effective way to get involved with your children and their lives online is through discussion.  By maintaining an open dialogue with your child and encouraging them to talk to you about their internet use parents can help children access the amazing resources the internet has to offer whilst keeping them safe online.

 

Conversation starter ideas:

 

  1. Ask your children to tell you about the sites they like to visit and what they enjoy doing online.
  2. Ask them about how they stay safe online.  What tips do they have for you and where did they learn them?  What is OK and not OK to share?
  3. Ask them if they know where to go for help, where to find the safety advice, privacy settings and HOW TO REPORT or put a block on the services they use.
  4. Encourage them to help.  Perhaps they can show you how to do something better online or they might have friend who would benefit from their help and support.
  5. Think about how you use the internet as a family.  What could you do to get more out of the internet together and further enjoy your lives online?

 

Parents are the best people for children to talk to.  There is lots of help on our website – please do take a look.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th June 2021

 

Even though we have not been able to meet face to face, our Class Parents have been busy during this term.  We have been keeping in touch by e.mail.

 

We have made some decisions about school photographs for the next academic year.  Mr David McGirr will be taking our photos again – everyone seemed very pleased with the quality of his work.  He will be coming on Wednesday 22nd September to take individual and family group photos – COVID permitting.  He will then return in June to take class photographs.

 

Some parents have asked whether the children can wear Fitbits/iwatches during PE lessons so the children can monitor their performance.  We have decided that we will follow the policy of Gillingham School.  They do not allow the children to wear these items during their lessons so we will be following their decision.

 

I had no more expansion information to share with the Class Parents.  I think the Local Authority are gathering quotes and completing planning applications.

 

I shared class information with the group for September 2021.  The classes will be as follows:

 

Blue – spring and summer born EYFS with Mrs Catherine McClelland/Mrs Sarah Shinar and

            Mrs Carrieanne Sayer

Yellow – autumn born EYFS and spring and summer born year 1 with Mrs Mel Tavenner and

            Mrs Claire Peck/Ms Kelly Glendenning

Silver – autumn born year 1 and summer born year 2 with Mrs Sam Wilson/Mrs Sophie

            Edgar and Mrs Louise Rainford

Orange – autumn and summer born year 2 with Mr Rich and a new teaching assistant

Gold – year 3 with Miss Sarah Santry and Mrs Carolanne Barry

Green – year 4 with Mrs Debs Shannon and Mrs Lisa Cripps

Red – year 5 with Mrs Sarah Cocker and Mrs Mandy Green

Purple – year 6 with Mrs Paula Loxton and Mrs Michelle Read.

 

Letters will be sent home at the end of June informing parents of which class their child will be in.

 

We managed to consider who would be Class Parents in September 2021.  We have 2 parents for every class and Mrs McClelland is approaching 2 parents for our new Blue Class.

 

A huge thank you to all of our Class Parents for all the work they do for the school and for helping us to keep in touch with all of our parents – particularly during COVID.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 28th May 2021

 

We are starting to put plans together for the next academic year.  We hope it will be one full of normality!

 

Some parents have been asking about school photographs and whether there was the opportunity for family groups to be taken before the summer.  Unfortunately sibling group photographs will be a COVID victim this academic year.  As we are unable to cross bubbles in school (despite siblings being together at home) it will not be possible for us to organise this.

 

We have booked for Mr David McGirr to return in September.  Parents seemed universally pleased with his photographs and we will work with David to try and improve the administration.

 

Individual and sibling group photographs will be taken in September (COVID-permitting) and he will return to take class photographs in June.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st May 2021

 

We were delighted to welcome Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert to school on Wednesday.  His visit was postponed from January but we were determined that our children should get the benefit of his expert advice.  Our governing body put money aside every year to ensure that our children are informed and supported when using the internet.

 

Children regularly use different websites and apps and it can be hard to keep up in this ever-changing digital world but the things that help keep children safe online are often similar to the things that keep them safe offline.

 

  • Half of 10-year olds now own their own smartphone.
  • 70% of 12 – 15 year olds now have a social media profile, with Snapchat being the most prominent platform in this age group.
  • Children aged 5 – 15 now spend over 14 hours a week online, just over 2 hours a day.

 

Talk to your children about what they think is normal online and what behaviour to expect from others and from themselves.

 

Encourage them to think critically and question what they see online.  Talk to them about where they can go to get information they trust, talk about fake news, fake followers and scams.  Help them develop a healthy suspicion of whether people are who they say they are.

 

Share your knowledge and experience of relationships.  For example, sometimes people seem nice at first and then they turn out to be mean.  Let them know that you know this, they can talk to you about it and that you will not panic or punish them if they do.

Show them how to report any worrying behaviour they see online.

We are helping prepare our children for their futures if we help them go online safely and responsibly. Many people worry about amounts of screen time, but there can be lots of positives about what your child is doing – entertainment, keeping in touch with friends and researching homework, so quality screen time is important.

 

There is a lot of information on our website – please do take a look.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th May 2021

 

At least we have managed to hold one event for the children – our book fair and the Mere School book day.

 

The Travelling Book Fair arrived in school on Wednesday which was stocked with all of the latest books as well as the old favourites.  This year though, due to COVID restrictions, the cases of books were only for the children and staff to look at (not touch).  We have sent the catalogue home and parents are able to order by using the order form and contacting the company directly, either online or by phone.  We usually manage to stock our books up in school through the commission from this event.

 

We held our COVID-secure Book Day on Thursday and the children were involved in many exciting activities linked to their favourite book.  They were invited to come to school in warm, comfortable clothes – like our KS1 Snuggle Up story day.

 

The children had the opportunity to guess who the Masked Readers were (teachers and TAs recorded themselves reading their favourite children’s stories) with their identities hidden.  They all enjoyed a Snuggle Up story time with hot chocolate and biscuits from our school kitchen.  We welcomed children’s book author Pippa Goodhart virtually and she launched our book day with an assembly and had a session with each class.

 

A huge thank you to Mr Rich for organising this special week and to our parents for supporting the book fair.

 

We hope that we can have a normal one next year!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th May 2021

 

I am sure you are aware of the huge media coverage relating to child on child sexual violence.  This has resulted in the setting up a website called ‘Everyone’s Invited’.


A lady called Soma experienced a rape culture in her early teenage years. Conversations with friends throughout her time at school and u
niversity began to reveal to her just how widespread the issue is for young people. While finishing her English degree at UCL, she began sharing her experiences of rape culture on Instagram. In light of the overwhelming response from those that resonated with her story Soma founded Everyone’s Invited in June 2020. Everyone’s Invited is a space created for survivors to share their stories. Since the 8th of March 2021, over 15,000 anonymous testimonies have been submitted and shared on Everyone’s Invited, sparking a conversation about rape culture with millions of people. Soma is hopeful that this conversation will help lead to the global exposure and eradication of rape culture.

 

The Government have asked OFSTED to review the safeguarding policies in schools, when they visit, to look at the severity and extent of the issue and to ensure that schools are following appropriate safeguarding processes and procedures.

Whilst this issue relates more to older children I wanted to use my message to reassure you that safeguarding continues to be the utmost priority for Mere School.  We are constantly reviewing policies and procedures to ensure our children are safe at all times and as part of this staff and governors have received additional training and information.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 30th April 2021

 

We are hoping that you have managed to make an appointment to see your child’s teacher on Tuesday 4th May 2021.  This will be a T D day and the school will be closed for the children.  We look forward to when we can return to our ‘normal’ parent interviews.

 

We must ensure that these interviews are conducted in the safest way possible.  Please see details below:

 

· Appointments can be made between 9 am and 3 pm

· We strongly discourage children from attending with their parents.  We have given you the date early so that you can find childcare.  In exceptional circumstances, if your child has to come with you, we ask that they sit quietly (the teacher will show you where).

· Appointments will be held in the following places - Blue Class - in Blue Class; Yellow Class - in Yellow Class; Silver Class - in Silver Class; Orange Class - in Rainbow Room (where the children come in and go home from); Gold, Green, Red and Purple Classes in the main hall.

· Please access these rooms from the external doors - from the playground/side of the school.  The gates will be open.

· There will be no access through the main entrance.

· Please wait outside the relevant doors, observing social distancing and any queueing systems.

· The teacher will collect parents from the relevant door - please leave space for the exiting parents to leave safely.

· We ask parents to wear a face mask.

· There will be no toilet facilities available.

· Please use the hand sanitiser on arrival.

· It would be preferable for just one parent to attend.

· Windows will be open for good ventilation - please wrap up warm!

· If you are showing any COVID symptoms please stay at home and we will organise a phone appointment.

· We will be keeping a record of attendance for Track and Trace purposes.

· We are not able to show you the children’s work at the interview.

 

We are sorry if this seems ‘bossy’ or unwelcoming but we are endeavouring to keep our whole community safe.  We do feel that it is important we meet you so that you can work with us to minimise the impact of the lockdown.  If you are unable to come we will try to make a telephone appointment with you.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd April 2021

 

I am sure that many of you are aware but it is with great sadness that I am using my Head Teacher Message to inform you about the death of Mrs Amy Nugent.  Amy was mum to 3 of our children at Mere School and died from cancer.

 

Most of our children are aware of Amy’s death and we have reassured them that this is something that does not happen very often.  Your child may or may not want to talk about it, but it is likely that they will need more care, attention and reassurance at this time.

 

We are all deeply saddened by Amy’s death, but we are trying, for the sake of the children, to keep the school routines as normal as possible, whilst allowing the children opportunities to talk about it if they wish to.

 

We are receiving a lot of support from the Local Authority Education Psychologist, the Salisbury Hospice Social Worker and the Charity, Winston’s wish to help us through this difficult time.  If you have any concerns or feel that your child needs extra support, please let us know.

 

Winston’s Wish is a Childhood Bereavement Charity and there are lots of resources and good advice to support parents.  Please have a look – www.winstonswish.org

 

Our thoughts are with the Nugent family at this difficult time and the whole school community sends them our sincerest sympathy and support.

 

Catriona Williamson

Thursday 1st April 2021

 

We are always trying to improve systems and routines in school and to make life in school more efficient.

 

With this in mind we are going to try the booking system on our website for our parent interviews on Tuesday 4th May 2021.

 

On Monday 19th April you will be sent an e.mail inviting you to make an appointment with your child’s teacher.  If you follow the instructions on the e.mail you will be able to log in and choose a convenient time.

 

The appointment slots are 10 minutes long and you will be able to select from a list of available times.  You will receive an on-screen reminder of the date and time you have chosen followed by an e.mail confirmation.

 

For parents who do not have the App the office can log on and book a slot for you – please ring Mrs Rawlings and she will be more than happy to help.

 

If you forget to book an appointment you will receive a reminder 3 days before.

 

For parents who are unable to attend you can click on the ‘Cannot Attend’ button and your class teacher will make contact with you to arrange an alternative time.

 

We hope that this will make booking easier and more convenient for parents and the office.  Please do contact us if you are having any difficulties.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th March 2021

 

We have been having huge debates in school recently about our KS2 snacks.  Our children love them but given the research and publicity about childhood obesity we feel that it is time to change our approach.

 

Statistics state that one out of every 5 British children is already overweight or obese when they start primary school.  Worryingly, that number has risen to one in 3 by the time they leave.  The number of youngsters receiving treatment for type 2 diabetes has risen by 40% over the past 6 years while weight loss surgeons report operating on morbidly obese patients as young as 12.

 

We introduced snacks a few years ago so that our older children were able to take responsibility for distributing the snacks and collecting the money.  Given the COVID-19 situation we have organised the snack ordering differently so our children are not now getting this opportunity.

 

After Easter there will be no KS2 snacks from Monday to Thursday.  Fresh fruit will be available to all the children at no charge or the children can bring in a healthy snack from home (no crisps, chocolate, biscuits etc).

 

On Fridays (our PE afternoon days) the children will be able to buy a snack, as they have been doing.  At the start of the day the children can order one of the following for 50p:

 

sausage in a roll

bacon roll

cheese and tomato pizza

flapjack

fruit drink.

 

Fresh fruit will still be available at no cost.

 

I know that this new approach will not be popular with the children as they enjoy their morning snacks but it is important that we promote a healthy lifestyle in school.  The teachers will explain the new arrangements to their classes and I am pleased that we can still offer a treat on Fridays.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th March 2021

 

I have just been discussing dates for next term with the staff and we are all longing to hold the very special events with the children as we would during a normal term.

 

It is clear that while the school is required to work in bubbles, very few school events can take place.

 

In the newsletter at the beginning of next term there will be the usual list of dates but these need to be viewed with extreme caution as the likelihood of the planned events taking place is not great.

 

Clubs cannot resume after Easter as we have to remain in our bubbles.

 

The Class Celebration morning, Recorder and Brass Assembly, Friend’s Disco, visit to new classes, Sports Day, Friend’s Summer Fete, year 6 production, inter-school sporting events, Achievement Assembly, Leaver’s Assembly and some school trips are not looking promising but I will keep you updated.

 

We have planned to hold our Mere School Book Day on Thursday 13th May when we are hoping to have a Snuggle Up Stories day in our bubbles with a hot chocolate and biscuit treat.  The COVID-secure Book Fair will be arriving for a week on Wednesday 12th May.  The children will be able to look at, but not touch the books, and parents can order online.

 

It is our hope that swimming will resume when the pools are open on 12th April and our Internet Safety day with Mr Karl Hopwood will be on Wednesday 28th April.

 

We are still uncertain about Pencelli.  The Government categorise this outdoor centre under their leisure umbrella rather than an educational establishment.  Pencelli and Wiltshire Council are lobbying the DfE to change the classification.  We will be informed by 31st March 2021.  If this visit cannot take place we will be organising a week of special activities for Purple and Red Classes.

 

Parent Interviews will take place on Tuesday 4th May, when the school will be closed for the children.  These meetings might be held as we did last time or over TEAMs – watch this space!  Reports will be coming home as normal towards the end of the term.

 

It is too early to make a decision on our EYFS induction programme or the transition day to Gillingham School for our older children.

 

Our Multicultural Day might have to be organised in a different way but we know we are going to focus on France, making the most of Miss Hanby’s expertise before she leaves us to complete her teacher training.

 

These special events create many lasting memories for our children and staff.  Here’s to a fresh start in September when we can operate as normal.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th March 2021

 

We are all smiling and happy that school has returned to some form of normality during these very challenging times. 

 

At Mere School we have always been proud of the curriculum enrichment and special activities we offer to our children.

 

It has been our pleasure to support special charity days like Children in Need and Comic Relief.

 

Red Nose Day is approaching – Friday 19th May 2021 but unfortunately we are not able to sell red noses but we do have some special activities planned.  You can read all about these on the School Council Page.

 

Our aim is to cheer up our communities.

 

We are inviting children to come to school wearing red clothes in return for a small donation towards Comic Relief.

 

The children can also bring their favourite joke to school and we plan to create class joke books for us to look at when we need a chuckle!

 

We also want to cheer up our home communities too and we are asking our children to do a ‘Share a Smile’ poster which can be displayed in a window at home.  The poster template is on the School Council page as well.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th March 2021

 

I hope we are approaching the end of a very strange period in school and we have all missed the many volunteers who come into school to help our children and teachers. 

 

Our volunteers help us with all sorts of things, mostly hearing the children read but we like to make full use of our volunteer’s talents and skills!  One of our volunteers is a retired teacher and she was spending one morning a week helping our children in years 3 and 4 with their learning.  Another runs our after school Kwik Cricket Club.  A local artist worked with one of our teachers and Gold Class to produce some beautiful Henry VIII portraits.   Many help on school trips.  Lockdown has meant that our children have been missing our much appreciated team of volunteers.

 

Any volunteer in school needs to complete a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) with our office team to check that they are safe to work with children.  This takes about 15 minutes to complete and we ask you to bring some evidence to help us complete the process (driving licence, passport, recent utilities bill, National Insurance number).  Once we have received clearance we ask our volunteers to complete some school paperwork and reading and then we introduce them to a class.  The class teacher and teaching assistant will then welcome and induct the volunteer.  As there is a cost to the school of completing these checks we do ask that our volunteers help on a regular basis.  In these difficult financial times it is important that we are spending our school budget wisely.

 

We have a lot of parent/grandparent helpers who like to help in their child’s class but we do like to welcome volunteers who are unconnected to the school.  These volunteers add a different dimension to school life and the children thoroughly enjoy talking to them and asking them questions about life outside school.  I know that our volunteers also enjoy talking to the children but there is the added magical feeling that we all get when a child learns something new from the help they have been given or the opportunity we have to make a child’s life a little easier.  Our teaching staff have a hectic day but our volunteers have time to chat with our children.

 

We are hoping, when school life gets back to normal, that we can welcome back our volunteers.  If you are interested in volunteering please give the school office a ring – 01747 860515.  We would welcome you ‘with open arms’!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th February 2021

 

Despite the lockdown I have been working closely with our governing body, the Town Council and the Local Authority considering the expansion to our school, as a result of the housing developments in Mere.

 

It is taking a long time for house purchases to be processed but our governing body have asked the Local Authority to move forward with the modifications to the school building, so that we are prepared for when these additional children arrive.

 

We are hoping that the builders will move in to complete the internal works first.  We will be taking the remaining top floor of the old Children’s Centre.  There are 3 classrooms along the car park side that will be knocked into 2 (Green Class might have to move downstairs for a little while).  The 2 smaller classrooms at the end and the corridor will be renovated as well.  There will also be a small toilet block created.  The heating system will be reconfigured, new windows put in and carpet laid and it will all be decorated.

 

The only alteration that needs to be made in the main building is the installation of an additional KS2 girls’ loo so we are hoping that the disruption to the school will be minimal.

 

The car park is slightly more complicated.  The Local Authority need to obtain land owner permission then submit a planning application.  The planning process will take longer.

 

My understanding is that the Local Authority, once they have completed all the necessary procurement processes hope that the work will start in October.

 

Once all is completed we will then need to think about whether we ‘moth ball’ this new area until we need it or enjoy the increased space while we have it!

 

I do have the plans in school if you are interested in having a look.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th February 2021

 

There is a bit of a tradition at Mere School now, when each class has the opportunity to select a book for me to read.

 

I put a picture of it outside my office so that the children know what I am reading.

 

I have just finished reading ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ by Michelle Macgorian.  This was one of the best books I have ever read – I feel quite ashamed that I have not got around to reading such a classic children’s novel.

 

Ciaran, from Green Class, chose the book for me and he has become quite frustrated at how long it has taken me to finish it but it was well worth the wait.

 

As well as being a positive role model for the children, they can read the reviews I have written for each book that I have read.  I can also make recommendations to the children or talk about the books we have mutually enjoyed.  It also gives me the opportunity to keep up to date with new children’s books, now that my own children are older.

 

If you have a few spare moments why not read a book that your child have enjoyed?

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th February 2021

 

There is mounting pressure to put school staff at the ‘front of the queue’ for COVID vaccines so that our children can return to school as quickly as possible.

 

A coalition of schools have drawn up a plan to vaccinate all of England’s teachers and education staff during half term.

 

The plan, which has been presented to the Government, proposes to vaccinate all of the 453,000 teachers employed in England’s schools and nurseries, along with 493,000 teaching assistants and support staff, including lunchtime supervisors, caretakers and cleaners.

 

This would mean that all schools could open fully, safely and sustainably, as soon as possible.

 

Former OFSTED head Sir Michael Wilshire said:

 

“It’s a good idea.  What is absolutely essential is that we get schools back open as soon as possible.”

 

The children’s tsar has said that primary pupils must be allowed back in class after the February half term and has backed calls to prioritise COVID jabs for school staff.

 

Research indicates that 75% of parents believed that the school closures had been harmful to children’s education.  90% said that their children’s social live had suffered, with 78% saying school closures have been harmful for pupil’s mental health.

 

At Mere School we are all keen for school to return to ‘normal’ so that our children can start to make up some of their lost learning time.  An initiative like this seems to be innovative and exciting and I hope the Government give these plans serious and urgent consideration.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 29th January 2021

 

All school staff have been undertaking rapid, COVID-19 home testing this week.  This home testing is to try and identify staff who might be carrying the virus without displaying any symptoms.

 

This is a lateral flow test which we will complete twice weekly and send the results to the Government.  This test is easy to use with no need for laboratory analysis and we have the results in 30 minutes.

 

If a member of staff has a negative test they come to school as normal.  If they have 2 void tests or a positive test they have to book a PCR test and self isolate until they receive a negative outcome.

 

The staff will be given 3 – 4 weeks of tests and we all plan to test ourselves on a Monday and Thursday.

 

We are all very keen to do our best to bring this virus under control and get back to a normal life.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd January 2021

 

I was flabbergasted when I saw the following headline in the paper a few weeks ago:

“The astonishing claim of some teachers as survey reveals millions of state pupils get no live online teaching while private schools provide a full timetable.”

 

This tabloid newspaper claimed that “As schools closed under the new coronavirus restrictions, some teachers took to social media to complain it was off-putting having parents observe them at work.”

 

A mother told the newspaper “They need live lessons otherwise they are going to fall behind and may never be able to catch up.”

 

Headlines like this are particularly unhelpful when our staff are doing their utmost to provide a high quality education for the children attending school, for the children who are accessing remote learning and for the children who have no internet access at all.

 

We have considered and continue to consider ‘live’ lessons at Mere and we have taken advice from many different sources.  We feel that ‘live’ lessons can be particularly successful at secondary school but for younger children this is not the case.  There is also the huge problem of families not having enough devices to access them.

 

The Education Endowment Foundation after some Rapid Evidence Assessment stated:

“Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered…. There was no clear difference between teaching in real time and alternatives.”

 

OFSTED stated that it was an unhelpful myth that:

 

“the best way to deliver remote education is always through live lessons.”

 

So, at Mere School, we will be continuing to deliver our lessons remotely through TEAMS with work packs for those children who do not have access to a device.  Our weekly class meetings are proving to be a great success as well.

 

The good news is that we have managed to order 15 new laptops from the Department for Education – we are not sure when they will be arriving in school.  We are however, starting to distribute donated laptops to families.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th January 2021

 

You are probably aware from all of the press coverage that there are huge numbers of children attending school despite the lockdown as their parents are classified as key workers or the children are vulnerable.

 

At Mere we are fortunate because our parents are taking a very sensible approach to school attendance and are keen not to undermine the impact of the current lockdown.  During the previous lockdown about 20 children attended but during this one we are welcoming between 50 and 60 children.

 

The Government guidance is that there is ‘no limit’ on the number of key worker children the schools should be accepting and that schools are ‘expected to allow and strongly encourage’ vulnerable children to attend.  However, we do not want to undermine the impact of the lockdown measures and run the risk of extending school closures.

 

Parents are being urged to send their children in only if ‘absolutely necessary’ and some schools are having to prioritise which children can attend:

 

Priority Group 1: NHS Workers

Priority Group 2: Wider Health and Social Care, Educational Professionals and

            Security

Priority Group 3: Key Public Services, Local and National Government, Food and

            Other Necessary Goods, Transport and Utilities, Communication and Financial Services

 

We ask parents to consider the following when thinking about sending their child to school:

 

  • Can the parents’ specific key worker role be carried out from home?  If so, their children should be kept at home.
  • Every child who can be cared for at home should be.
  • Although only one parent needs to be a key worker to be considered for a place at school, if a child can stay at home, they should.
  • School can ask for evidence of a job role.
  • If a key worker works shifts, the school can ask to see evidence of the shift pattern.

 

We appreciate the supportive and effective relationships we have with our parents and our parent‘s willingness to help with the challenges in school at the moment.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th January 2021

 

Home learning is now via TEAMs and feedback is that parents and children are coping well.  I have included the relevant section from our COVID-19 newsletter below as a reminder.  If you are having any difficulties please do contact us – we are here to help!

 

Microsoft Teams – a platform for home learning (for year 1 – year 6)

 

The Department for Education now expects that all children will continue to learn at home. Your child will be asked to complete work and submit it to their class teacher with support from you, so that they can be given feedback on their learning.

 

In order to do this safely, securely and efficiently, we have decided to use Microsoft Teams as a learning platform for Mere School pupils learning from home. This learning platform is safe, secure and simple to use. It is used by pupils at Gillingham School and will be used by Mere School pupils more in the future in order to ‘blend’ learning between home and school.

On Microsoft Teams, your child has been set up with a username, a password and a class team. In KS2, the child’s team is their class name. In KS1, Year 1 pupils are in the Year 1 team and the Year 2 pupils are in the Year 2 team. Home learning for your child will be set in the form of assignments created by your child’s teacher which may include links to online lessons. These will not be daily live lessons but three activities set at the start of each day; one English lesson, one maths lesson and one ‘foundation subject’ lesson (history, geography, RE etc). 

 

In terms of uploading your child’s work to TEAMs, this can be done easily via Microsoft Teams using a smartphone camera.  Children will be expected to ‘turn in’ their work and feedback will be given to your child where appropriate. Your child’s teacher will be logged into Microsoft Teams from 10am until 3pm each day and will respond to answer any questions you and your child might have within those times via the class email address. Please note that the ‘chat’ function is for work purposes only.

 

The username and password needed for your child to access Microsoft Teams are both located below. Please follow the instructions to log your child into their class team. 

 

If you have any questions regarding Microsoft Teams, please contact your child’s teacher.

 

When you have entered your child’s username into the ‘Sign in address’ box on Teams,  you will then need to enter your child’s password in the next box that pops up.

 

Your child’s username and password are as follows:

Username: child’s full name@mere.wilts.sch.uk (for example: tomsmith@mere.wilts.sch.uk)

Password: Mereschool1!

Team: class name or year 1 or year 2

 

Please note that once your child is logged into Microsoft Teams on a particular device, you won’t need to log in every time you open Teams.

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th December 2020

 

When we approach the end of term I spend some time looking back at what has happened, what has gone well and what we might do differently.

 

This autumn term has probably been the most challenging any of us have ever experienced in our entire careers.

 

The children started back so well.  They have enjoyed being back in school.  When you talk to them, they are just happy to be back with their friends and in a routine.  Our children have been remarkably resilient and confident about returning and they are enjoying some of the temporary changes we have had to implement.  Our attendance rates are significantly better than normal.

 

It has been a challenging and tiring term.  The staff are juggling and spinning so many plates and managing their own anxieties.  We have set up new systems, implemented catch up plans for our children and prepared for so many COVID senarios.

 

This extraordinary period has reminded everyone that education is a front-line service.  We have accomplished so much under a huge amount of pressure and I would personally like to thank our staff team for their dedication and commitment to ensuring our school is open for ‘business’, the governors for their tremendous support, the parents for working with us so closely and last, but not least, our wonderful children.

 

I live in hope that next term will be easier with us moving towards a sense of normality.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th December 2020

 

Our Governing Body met a couple of weeks ago and one of the items being discussed was the expansion of the school building, in the light of the housing developments in Mere, and the impact of children moving to our school.

 

The original plan was that the work would take place during the summer holidays but the Local Authority halted all non-emergency building works due to COVID.  The housing market also slowed during this time and the expected number of new children to the school did not materialise.

 

However, the Local Authority are holding a significant amount of money from the developers which must be used to expand the primary provision in Mere and this money can be kept for 10 years otherwise it has to be paid back.

 

The governors decided that they would like this work to be completed as soon as possible.  It might mean that we have a building that is too big for us currently, but it was felt that this could be ‘moth-balled’ without costing the school too much money.  If the building is ready, we would be better prepared for any additional children.

 

The Local Authority have been informed accordingly and it is hoped that the works will be completed during 2021.  The architects are currently considering the utilities as the building has gas and oil central heating – this is quite a problem to resolve!  This will then be followed by the conversion of the upstairs of the previous Children’s Centre into 2 large classrooms, 2 smaller ones and a set of toilets.  The windows will be replaced and the rooms redecorated and new carpet put down.  Following this the work on the car park can start.  The governors and Parish Council have worked closely with the Local Authority to try to create a much safer, user-friendly car park.

 

This is an exciting time for the school and I am grateful for the feedback on the provisional plans we have had from the staff, governors and Class Parents.

 

I will keep you informed of any progress!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th December 2020

 

Despite the COVID crisis safeguarding our children at Mere has continued to be the highest priority.

 

I am the Designated Safeguarding Lead for the school and Mrs Loxton is the Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead.  Mrs Barry is the governor responsible for safeguarding.  We have all completed rigorous on-line training this term to ensure we are fully updated and competent.  All staff have received training and there is a comprehensive induction package for new members of staff.

 

The staff discuss safeguarding issues every week and the Governing Body Behaviour & Safety Committee at each of their meetings.  I write a brief report for governors 5 times/year.  I also have to complete a Safeguarding Audit and submit it for scrutiny to the Local Authority.  Every volunteer receives information about safeguarding.

 

Our Safeguarding Policy is on the website and our procedures are based on this and are designed to make sure our children are safe and feel safe.

 

Safeguarding is not just about protecting children from deliberate harm but includes:

 

health and safety

all aspects of behaviour (including bullying and racist and homophobic abuse)

harassment and discrimination

use of physical intervention

meeting the needs of pupils with medical conditions

first aid

drug and substance misuse

educational visits

intimate care

internet safety

school security.

 

Our aim is to ensure there is a culture of safeguarding at Mere School and we all work together to ensure that our children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care enabling them to have the best life chances.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 27th November 2020

 

COVID-19 has thrown up many challenges for us at Mere School and I am so proud of the way the whole school community has come together to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in.

 

I strongly believe that there is always something good that comes out of any situation and our staff and governors have put together a list of positive things we have as a result of the pandemic and what we will continue with after everything is back to normal.  I thought I would share our lists with you

 

  • hand washing and sanitisation has resulted in less illness and improved attendance
  • staggered break and lunch times has meant that our children have played more harmoniously together and are ready to start learning straight away.  Each class TA has been on duty and has been able to observe the children very carefully.
  • TEAMS – this has been a ‘life saver’ for any meetings.  We are also now using this platform for home learning.
  • snack ordering – the children are eating their snacks during class assemblies and we are avoiding unnecessary queueing.
  • class assemblies – we have saved a lot of time avoiding queueing to get into the hall and the teachers have been able to ‘tailor’ them to the needs of their class.  We have found that the children’s knowledge of current affairs has improved greatly.
  • later gate opening has eradicated issues in the playground before and after school and we have a much ‘smarter’ start to the day.
  • car park – this area is much safer with me being on duty every morning.
  • school appreciation – the children and parents seem delighted that the school is fully open.
  • years 4, 5 and 6 exiting  from the hall has eased congestion.
  • staggered lunch – the hall is quieter and the children are having a better quality lunch break.
  • coming to school in PE kits on PE days has released more time for PE and the amont of lost property we have.
  • our EYFS children have settled more quickly due to our ‘bubbled’ playtimes.
  • twice weekly swimming has resulted in rapid progress.

 

When the pandemic has ended and school is back to normal we are planning on continuing with the following:

 

  • hand washing and sanitisation
  • staggered break and lunchtimes
  • TEAMS
  • more class assemblies
  • later gate opening
  • wearing PE kits on PE days
  • re-organisation of swimming sessions.

 

So …. every cloud has a silver lining!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 20th November 2020

 

I regularly receive very positive feedback about Mere School and how we are doing but we can always get better.  That is why I value the feedback from our Class Parents so much.

 

It is interesting to understand what parents expect from schools.  Most parents hope that their children are safe, happy and learning.  It is interesting to see what this selection of interviewed parents wanted:

 

“As a parent I need to feel connected to the goings on at school.  Communication is key to my child’s well being and education.  I want my child to have fond memories of these early school years and it is his teacher that will be shaping these.”

 

“I want a teacher to spot my child’s potential in different areas and lead them to achieve the best of their abilities.”

 

“I want their teacher to be the one they still remember as an adult.  We all have memories of those teachers who really caught our imagination and taught us to think for ourselves.  I want my son’s school to facilitate creativity and independence within a supportive and nurturing environment.”

 

“For me it is great when I can see that my child’s teacher is excited and passionate about their job.  When the teacher is enjoying what they’re doing I think it shows in the excitement and learning of their students.  I love going to collect the girls and seeing them happy and excited to tell me about their day.”

 

“Home-school communication is so important in helping me to support my child effectively.  I can’t always get a full picture of what is going on in the classroom and in the playground from my child alone, I need to hear from the teachers and staff to fully understand.  If there is a problem I want to know that the school make me aware and include me in the discussion about how we can move forward.”

 

“Academics are important, but so are the wider values and skills that my children are learning at school.  I look for their school to support growth in social skills and to promote values of respect and tolerance.”

 

There appears to be a lot of agreement about what parents want from their child’s school/teachers and I also agree with these parents.

 

  • Committed, happy and effective teaching staff.
  • A safe school environment.
  • Intellectual and emotional growth fostered by the school.
  • Strong home/school communication.
  • A fun and supportive school environment.
  • To be involved and ‘kept in the loop’.

 

Clear communication is key to the above and we are constantly striving to let you know what is happening in school.  Parental input also helps teachers to be more effective.

 

A sense of positivity, support and enjoyment within the learning environment is also important.  We hope to let you know about the amazing things we are doing as a school and the fantastic achievements of your child.

 

Our website contains a wealth of information.

 

Working closely together will ensure our children achieve the very best they can, academically and socially.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th November 2020

 

Christmas if my favourite time of year in school and sadly, the majority of our normal Christmas activities, will have to be cancelled due to COVID-19. It is certainly going to be very strange and I am sorry that we will all be missing such special activities.

 

Our Christmas productions, Carol Service, visit to the pantomime, grotto and community visits have had to be cancelled.

 

We will put up our new Christmas tree (kindly donated by Mrs Nell and decorated by Mrs Sayer) and our nativity tableau will be on display for the children.

 

Christmas lunch will take place in a different form!  We will continue with our popular Christmas lunch bags and the children will eat them in their classrooms.  They will make a hat and Father Christmas will wave from the door and drop a sack of presents into the classroom.  The Friends have kindly decided to pay for Christmas lunch for every child.

 

The children can only send Christmas cards to children in their ‘bubbles’ and the teacher will put up a class post box on Monday 7th December.

 

We are still determined that there will be some festive fun though!  Thursday 17th December will be our class Christmas fun day.  The children can come to school in a Christmas jumper and the teachers and TAs will organise a day of games and Christmas activities.  The Friends will provide prizes and popcorn and pay for every child to have lunch that day.

 

The Friends will also be organising a Christmas Raffle – one for the children and one for adults.  There is a non-uniform day on 26th November in exchange for a donation of chocolate/confectionary for the raffle prize.  The raffle for the children will be drawn on our Christmas fun day.

 

These plans are not perfect but we will do our best to make Christmas at Mere School as special as we possibly can.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th November 2020

 

We have had a very different Class Parent meeting this term!  As we were unable to get together we have communicated via e.mail and I have appreciated all the comments and views that our class parents have gathered.

 

Photographs

 

Overall the feedback has been very good and parents have been positive about the quality.  One parent wanted a more formal class photo but we felt it was safer to take the photograph in this way.  Unfortunately we were unable to cross bubbles in school so we could not take siblings together unless they were in the same class.  Parents appreciated the smaller selection of photographs available.  The request to have a digital image of the class photo was refused as one copy could be bought and circulated around the class.  This would not be fair on the photographer.  The children thoroughly enjoyed the experience as well.  We realise that these photos were a little more expensive but the Class Parents thought that it was better to have a photograph of quality.

 

PE Kit

 

Our new policy has caused some confusion and frustration.  We appreciate that this was a sudden change of policy and have appreciated your feedback so we can make adjustments to it.  Clarification has been sent out in our most recent newsletter.

 

Pick Up Times

 

We do our utmost to encourage parents to use the 10 minute slot to pick up children.  It is safer for all of us for parents to come nearer to 3.25 pm as the playground is empty.  Please do not think you are late if your child is the only one left in their class.  The teachers are delighted that you are making the most of this opportunity.

 

We have decided that a staggered drop off/pick up is logistically not possible and we have decided against a one-way system.  We are most fortunate that we have so many doors in our building, a lot of entrances to the site and a large playground. 

 

COVID

 

We are constantly striving to ensure staff and children are working in a safe environment in these challenging times.  If I am given information about a COVID situation I seek advice from Public Health Wiltshire and follow the very strict guidelines from the Local Authority. 

 

App Messages

 

Our main communication tool is our app system linked to our website.  Mrs Rawlings is always willing to help if parents are having difficulties.  Our system refers parents to our website and all apps are titled.

 

Parent Interviews

 

Again I have appreciated all the feedback.  Clarification has been published in our most recent newsletter.

 

Quality of Letters

 

Some parents have expressed concern about the amount of errors in letters.  We apologise!   Five members of staff check the letters but we will endeavour to do better in future.

 

A huge thank you to our Class Parents for spending the time to liaise so closely with me.  Please do contact them if you have concerns, questions or positive feedback.  We will always listen.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd October 2020

 

Please see below the contents of a letter from Public Health Wiltshire:

 

As we head towards the half-term break, which I’m sure many of you are looking forward to, we thought now would be a good opportunity to thank you for your continued support in playing your part to help keep the virus rate as low as possible in Wiltshire.

 

After what has been a difficult six months or so, we want you and your family to enjoy the half term break. However, we would hate to see you and your family having to spend it self-isolating due to COVID-19 and all the disruption that brings with it.

 

We’re at the stage now that if you or your family imminently contract the virus then you would have to spend the majority of the half-term break, if not all of it, inside and self-isolating. Therefore, now more than ever it’s vital to follow the national advice.

 

We know there’s so much information available and it’s hard to keep track, particularly on when or when not to get tested for COVID-19, so we thought we’d re-iterate the main messages.

 

If you have the following COVID-19 symptoms you must self-isolate and get a test done as soon as possible:

 

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  •  

You can book at test at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

 

We want to use this as an opportunity to reminder you that you should only get a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been asked to get tested.

 

The easiest way to prevent getting COVID-19 is to keep following the guidance and continue to play your part:

 

  • Wash hands – keep washing hands regularly
  • Wear face coverings in enclosed spaces
  • Make space – stay at least 2 meters apart or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions
  • Follow the Rule of Six

 

And while in normal circumstances the half-term break would be a time for your children to enjoy playdates and sleepovers, we’d encourage you to limit these as much as possible, as this will help reduce the likelihood of more cases emerging.

While the number of people who have COVID-19 in Wiltshire is comparatively lower than other parts of the country, our rates are unfortunately rising, so we can’t allow ourselves to get complacent.

 

We know this has been a difficult year for school communities up and down the county and thank you once again for your support and understanding during this time, we really appreciate it.

 

Many thanks

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 16th October 2020

 

I was rather relieved to read a headline in the paper a few weeks ago:

“It’s better for your children not to have a perfect parent”.

 

As parents we constantly ‘beat ourselves up’ because we think we are letting our children down – we might be late picking them up or make our children wait while we chat to someone. 

 

Business woman Karren Brady said in an article recently that she thinks being a parent is far harder than going to work.  I think she is right!  Raising children is exhausting and so there are going to be times when we ‘mess up’, when things don’t go to plan.  I often chat with parents who are stressed that they are failing, racked with guilt that they aren’t the perfect parent, feel like they are making it up as they go along.  This is perfectly normal.

 

Leading psychiatrists reassure parents that it is good for children if you are not perfect.  By not always being perfect in the day-to-day aspects of life parents help children to make their children more independent and resilient.  Many young people who have developed issues ranging from eating disorders to depression, struggle to take responsibility and live in a perpetual state of adolescence, never quite able to deal with the difficulties and setbacks of real life.  In wanting to ensure they have the best start in life, parents can unwittingly do harm; creating damaged children with limited experience and initiative, who are unable to solve problems themselves.  We know how important these skills are for later life.

 

Every parent worries that they are not good enough but professionals claim that being imperfect is actually perfect.  It is not just OK to mess up now and again, but it is necessary to ensure our children develop properly.

 

What a relief!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th October 2020

 

I thought I would use my message this week to explain about our change of policy regarding hand sanitiser.

 

One thing this crisis has taught me is that we constantly have to make adjustments to our plans – nothing seems to be ‘set in stone’ for long!

 

The catalyst for our decision was lunchtime.  We have been really lucky with the weather but now that it is not as pleasant we cannot expect our KS2 children to eat or play on the field.  It is also really important that our older children have the opportunity to run around at lunchtime.  We now have our KS1 and KS2 children eating in 2 sittings so we can make full use of the playground with our older children hand sanitising before they eat.

 

We have debated the sanitiser issue in school on many occasions. We were keen to protect those with allergies to it and our preference would have been to continue with hand washing as this is the Wiltshire Council’s Health and Safety team’s preferred option.  However, logistically, we had to start to use hand sanitiser, as many schools do.  Those children with allergies will continue to wash their hands.

 

Handwashing is consuming many minutes of teaching time and this has been a worry for me.  I am hoping that a combination of sanitiser and hand washing will ease this.  We are also, understandably, using vast amounts of soap and paper towels, which are expensive.  The paper towels cannot be recycled either.

 

Every class now has an alcohol free, Local Authority recommended hand sanitiser which is dispensed in a foam.  We also have additional dispensers dotted around the school (entrance hall, main hall, near key doors).

 

The children cope with the ongoing changes so well – we are so proud of them.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd October 2020

 

We are hoping that the school photographs will be coming home very shortly.

 

In consultation with The Class Parents we have tried a new photographer.

 

He spent the day with us and more time with each child or group hoping that we achieved the very highest quality of photograph.  He took photographs of all children individually (if siblings were in the same class we managed to take them together as well) then children in small groups from which he has created a class photograph.  There was no ‘cross-bubbling’!

 

Unfortunately we were unable to offer younger siblings the chance for a photo or family groups, due to the COVID-19 situation.

 

The costs are below:

 

1 copy 10 x 8 - £10

2 copies 7 x 5 - £13

1 copy 10 x 8 and 2 copies 7 x 5 - £21

3 copies 7 x 5 - £18

Digital files (of at least 6 images) - £35

 

Discount on multiple orders will be considered by negotiation with the photographer (details will be on the pack that comes home) and the school is benefitting from 10% commission.

 

We hope that these photos will make good Christmas presents and any feedback would be appreciated.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th September 2020

 

The testing chaos has been blamed on the rush by parents seeking COVID tests for children.  We are told that typically, coughs and colds spike every September when children head back to school and become even more common during the winter.

 

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health advises that children with simple cold symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throat without fever should not be tested.

 

We are told by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

 

“It is so important that we ensure that the tests are used for the people who really need them.”

 

I know that parents are extremely anxious about the possibility of their child bringing the virus into school and want to do the responsible thing to keep us all safe.  The chart below might help:

 

Cold, Flu or COVID?  How to tell the difference.

 

SYMPTOMS

COVID-19

COLD

FLU

Fever

Common

Rare

Common

Loss/change in taste/smell

Common

Sometimes

Sometimes

Cough

Common

(usually dry)

Mild

Common

(usually dry)

Fatigue

Sometimes

Sometimes

Common

Sneezing

No

Common

No

Aches and pains

Sometimes

Common

Common

Runny or stuffy nose

Rare

Common

Sometimes

Sore throat

Sometimes

Common

Sometimes

Diarrhoea

Rare

No

Sometimes

Headaches

Sometimes

Rare

Common

Shortness of breath

Sometimes

No

No

 

It’s so tough being a good parent!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th September 2020

 

We have received some really useful advice from a local GP surgery as we have seen a rise in calls from parents regarding the usual start of term colds and sniffles, which are inevitable a children come together in the ‘bubbles’. 

 

This is the advice they are giving:

 

This is a very challenging time we find ourselves in and there is understandably a lot of anxiety in the community around school age children, their risk from COVID-19 and the potential impact of school absence both for that child and the family as a whole.  This advice it to try and help you access good, up-to-date information to help schools, the GP and family work together over the next few months.

 

  1. Symptoms of coronavirus in children

The main symptoms of Coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough – this means coughing a lot, for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to sense of smell or taste – this means they cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
  •  

Please be reassured that if your child has symptoms of the usual winter bugs, eg runny nose or sore throat but DOES NOT have any symptoms listed above then they can still go to school.

 

What to do if your child has the above symptoms

 

If your child has any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:

 

  • Get a test to check if they have coronavirus as soon as possible – please be aware that you cannot under any circumstances get a test through your GP surgery so please do not ring for this purpose alone.  You can ONLY get a test through ‘NHS 111 online’ OR by ringing 119 if you do not have access to the internet.
  • Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get the test result – only leave your home to have a test.  Please only order a test for the person in your household who has symptoms.  These tests are NOT for individuals who do not have symptoms.  Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must also stay at home until you get the result.  

 

What you can do to decide if your child needs to see the GP

 

If you are worried about your child please click on the link below to an excellent website called ‘Healthier Together’ where there is lots of very useful information about managing illness in children:

 

https://what0-18.nhs.uk/

 

There is also a page dedicated to COVID-19 in children.  It is important to remember that COVID-19 appears to generally cause mild illness in children.  Only 1 in every 100 cases diagnosed in the UK have been in children and infection is generally far milder in children than it is in adults, although we do not yet understand exactly why this is the case.  Once you have looked at your child’s symptoms if you are still concerned and think they need to be seen then please either:

 

  • access NHS 111 online or ring 111 for COVID-19 symptoms
  • if you do not think your child’s illness is due to COVID-19 then please contact your GP practice.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th September 2020

 

There has been some extremely negative press coverage over the past few months which our children have been subjected to when the message that the lives of our children ‘have been devastated’ by the COVID outbreak through the closing of schools. 

 

It has been a difficult time for us all – children, staff and parents but I would feel much more comfortable if we were hearing more positive messages.  I believe we need to teach our children that disruption can be difficult but it is part of our lives.

A recent paper published in the Journal of Educational Psychology studied 969 school children who were given questions about changing or uncertain situations and ask how effective they were in responding to them.  The study found that youngsters more comfortable with change are more likely to participate in class, enjoy school, be more satisfied with life, have higher self esteem and have a more concrete sense of meaning and purpose in life.

 

This is not surprising – if change is part of life, the capacity to deal with it could hardly be more important.  The author of the study suggested the following strategies to help our children cope with our changing lives:

 

  1. Encourage questions.  It is thought that children ask the most questions when they are just 4 years old.  Young children are unafraid to ask questions in order to learn about the world around them.  As they get older they worry more about whether their question is a sensible one and begin to take for granted the way the world works.  We need to encourage them to keep asking questions.
  2. Talk about change.  COVID has forced us to change the way we live, communicate and interact.  This is unlikely to be the first change a child has faced and certainly will not be the last!  As children navigate their way through changes mention to them the ones that are coming and the success of how they managed past ones.
  3. Appreciate your differences.  The things that make us different are exactly what enable us to contribute something unique.  Encourage children to consider the ways they can offer something extraordinary.
  4. Celebrate failure.  We can be fairly certain that things will not go to plan all the time, so coping with bumps along the way is going to be an inevitable part of life.  To reduce anxiety about failure, help your children to understand that these are opportunities to understand what we need to do differently next time.
  5. Be kind.  Research shows that being kind can help reduce anxiety and increase confidence.  Encourage acts of kindness, no matter how small.  It helps to build trust with others.

It is natural for us all to feel anxious, particularly when returning to school after a long period away and I hope that, working together with the right messages and encouragement, our children will flourish as much as previous generations – a little dose of positivity would really help!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th September 2020

 

I have used my Head Teacher message to remind you of some of the precautions and changes we have had to implement this term.

HANDWASHING WILL CONTINUE TO BE ESSENTIAL IN SCHOOL.

The updated risk assessment is on the website – please do take a look.

We will be having class-sized bubbles and it is our aim to keep these groups apart from other groups where possible, including break and lunchtimes.

School Activities

  • The normal curriculum will re-start.
  • Breakfast and after school care will resume – please contact P H Coaching to book a space for the morning and Mere Pre-School or ZACs for an after school place.
  • Most individual music lessons and year 3 recorders will take place.
  • There will be class assemblies instead of full assemblies (we need to avoid large gatherings).
  • Some trips will take place.
  • KS2 snacks will be ordered at the start of the day and distributed to children before playtime.
  • We can welcome back parent volunteers to help in their own child’s class.
  • Swimming – Green Class will be swimming on a Wednesday and Friday to make up for the sessions they missed last year.
  • No clubs will be running.
  • The children will need PE kit in school every day.

 

Equipment and Resources

  • We will be providing a personal pack of frequently used equipment for every child (pencil, rubber, pencil crayons etc).
  • Please do not send pencil cases into school.
  • The static play equipment on site will continue to be out of use.
  • Reading books will be coming home and we ask that you read every night with your child.
  • Library will start again as normal.
  • Please could ‘Snuggle Up’ stories be returned by Thursday so that they can be redistributed the following Monday.

 

Break and Lunchtimes

  • The normal ordering and payment systems continue for hot lunches.
  • The children will play and eat in their class ‘bubble’.

 

Start and End of the Day

  • The school gates will open at 8.45 am and 3.10 pm.
  • Children can be dropped at the relevant door between 8.50 am and 9 am.
  • Blue, Yellow and Silver Classes will enter and leave through their class door.
  • Orange Class will enter and leave through Rainbow Room door.
  • Gold Class will use the side door - near the pond, apart from Fridays when they will exit from the main all.
  • Green, Red and Purple Classes will enter through the main entrance and exit through the main hall.
  • All children should be collected between 3.15 pm and 3.25 pm.  The teachers will not release your child to your care until 3.15 pm.
  • Please do not come early to pick up your children.  Make the most of the 10 minute collection period so that we can ensure social distancing.
  • Please do not congregate at any time on the school site.
  • If you have urgent messages for the teachers please e.mail or phone – do not catch them at the door.
  • Only one adult should accompany your children to school.
  • Please do not park or hover in the car park – we must keep our children safe.

 

Attendance

 

  • All children are expected to attend school.
  • Normal attendance procedures will apply.
  • The children will need to wear school uniform.

 

The key is that we are adaptable and flexible and I know that you will work with us if we need to make any changes.

We look forward to normal times – if they ever come back!

 

Catriona Williamson

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