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Mrs Williamson's Weekly Message

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

Friday 17th July 2020

 

What a very strange year we have had.

 

On Wednesday 18th March 2020 the Secretary of State for Education set in motion the unprecedented shutdown of our nation’s education system to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

 

This plunged schools into a frenzy of emergency contingency preparation and planning and in barely 48 hours we managed to put into place the infrastructure to provide on-site skeleton ‘childcare’ education for the children of essential ‘key workers’; implementing from scratch home-learning provision.  We became the ‘fourth emergency service’ for many of the most vulnerable’.

 

This pandemic has demonstrated the sheer quality, commitment and dedication of everyone at Mere School when the education world changed out of all recognition.  It is a period of my life that I will never forget.

 

There is no training or preparation for this, no one trains you how to respond to a global pandemic.  We have been learning as we go along and we have made mistakes but we, at Mere School, accept that we did the very best we could in unbelievably trying circumstances.  The staff team and governing body have risen and responded to these unprecedented times and gone ‘above and beyond’ and for this I am truly grateful.

 

We have appreciated the massive support and encouragement from parents and the community which has kept us cheerful and focused on keeping the school running.  Thank you so much.

 

It has been a team effort and I am hopeful we can return to the beginnings of normality in September.  Please do read the final newsletter carefully.  This tells you about some of the adjustments we have had to make for the new school year.

 

Have a lovey summer holiday, best of luck to our year 6 children who will be starting the next part of their educational journey at Gillingham School and we look forward to seeing you on Thursday 3rd September 2020.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th July 2020

 

In September we will be looking to fill 2 Parent Governor positions.

 

School governors have a varied and important role helping the school run effectively.  They have 3 core functions:

  • planning the strategic direction of the school.
  • overseeing financial performance of the school.
  • holding the head teacher or school leadership to account.
  •  

The governor role is strategic rather than operational.  Governors don’t get involved with the day to day running of a school, instead supporting and challenging the school’s leadership team to drive school improvement.

 

Governors usually attend around 6 meetings/year.  Being a school governor is a commitment and a responsibility, but offers you the chance to see first-hand the impact you can make in improving education for children in your community.

 

You don’t need to be an experienced professional – it’s about attitude as well as expertise.  School governing boards need skilled people to help them run effectively, but both hard and soft skills are needed around the table.  Whether you’ve spent 20 years as an accountant or are in the earlier days of your career, schools need soft skills such as problem solving or negotiation as much as specific expertise.

 

Being a school governor is a responsibility – but it comes with rewards.  A survey found that on average, governors spend around 7 hours/month on governing duties.  The term of office for a governor is 4 years.

 

The governing body at Mere School has 4 parent governors, who represent the parent community.  Currently Mr Lee Tibbit, Mr Ed Ralph, Mr Ewen Ross and Mr Jim Ashlin are our parent governors.  Mr Jim Ashlin will not be standing for re-election in September but Mr Lee Tibbit is happy to continue in this role.

 

Parent governors are elected by other parents at the school.  Any parent, which includes a person with parental responsibility, or carer, of a registered pupil at the school at the time of election is eligible to stand for election as a parent governor.

 

So, if you are a parent and would be interested in joining our highly effective governing body, please watch out for the letter in September inviting nominations for these posts.  We are currently looking to strengthen our financial expertise if you might be able to help with this.  There will be an induction programme and new governors are allocated a ‘buddy’ as well.

 

We look forward to receiving your nominations and please do give me a ring if you have any questions or queries.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd July 2020

 

All pupils in all year groups in England will go back to school full-time in September, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary has announced.

 

At the daily coronavirus on 19th June he said:

 

“the Government was ‘signed up …. to bring every child back, in every year group, in every school.”

 

The current class size limits (or bubbles) imposed to curb the spread of the virus would be increased to allow every child to return to school.  Under current rules, class sizes are limited to a maximum of 15 pupils.  This also indicates that the social distancing expectations will be changed in time for our September start.

 

It is understood that there is still some parental and staff anxiety but the Government are constantly emphasizing that the well-being of staff and children is a top priority.

 

This announcement was made as the coronavirus alert level for the UK was downgraded from 4 to 3.

 

At school we have been planning on this eventuality and we are hoping that school will start ‘as normal’ on 3rd September. 

 

I hope you have received an app message asking you to download a letter about some induction sessions for our children.  These are going to take place on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th July.  Arrangements are rather complicated so do please read the letter carefully.

 

We look forward to seeing the children on one of these days and to a fresh start to a new school year on Thursday 3rd September 2020.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th June 2020

 

Several weeks ago the Department for Education issued new guidance outlining the flexibility primary schools now have to bring more pupils back beyond the current levels.

 

Contrary to some of the press coverage you may have seen, there is no expectation that all schools will be able to do this – “There is no expectation on primary schools to welcome back additional children where they do not have capacity to do so.”

 

We can only consider bringing more pupils back if we can adhere to current safety measures and stick to the group size limit of 15 pupils.  Unfortunately, we are already working a full capacity in terms of staff available to us.

 

There is no one more concerned about the well-being and achievement of pupils more than us and it goes without saying that we would love to be able to welcome more children back to school, but we have to be confident that it is both safe and logistically possible to do so. It is certainly a challenge running a school at the moment and I am so grateful that I have a team of staff and governors working with me who are proactive, willing to change plans at a moment’s notice and unbelievably positive.

 

We are planning for a ‘normal’ start to a ‘normal’ school year in September and desperately hope that this will be the case.

We are currently looking at an opportunity for all children to have a short period of time with their current teacher and their teacher for September, please see the letter that has been circulated.

 

Thank you for your continued support and support and good wishes and we are looking forward to a normal school life again!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th June 2020

 

As I am looking towards the end of this term and into September I am really sad about all the activities, visits and events that our children have missed.  We are planning for ‘business as usual’ in September but this is by no means certain at this time. 

 

We are doing our best to re-schedule missed events but this will be too late for our year 6 children.  Please see below what we have planned for the new academic year:

 

Pencelli

 

Our year 5 and 6 children will be going together to Pencelli next year on Monday 24th May 2020.

 

Swimming

 

We are hoping that our current year 3 children (and year 4 in September) will go swimming twice a week in September – Wednesday and Friday.

 

Photographs

 

We are asking our new photographer if he can do class photos on the same day he takes individual photos – 23rd September 2020.

 

Sporting events

 

We are hoping that these will resume in the new term.

 

New Entrants Play Visits

 

Mrs McClelland has completed phone meetings with all of our new entrant families.  We have invited our new children in for an individual, short visit.

 

Curriculum Visits and Visitors

 

We have made arrangements for what we would normally do to be resumed in September.

 

Life Bus

 

We are arranging for the bus to visit in the spring term of 2021.

 

Year 3 & 4 Sing Up Event

 

We have been permitted to carry the grant funding forward so that this event can take place in the 2021 spring term.

 

First Aid Visit from Wiltshire Air Ambulance

 

We have booked similar dates for next year.

 

Wicked London Theatre Trip Visit

 

This has been cancelled for this term.  We are hoping to re-book for July 2021.  We have refunded our year 6 children but will be offering the first places to our year 4 and 5 children who would have been going this year.

 

Year 6 Events

 

Purple Class are the group who have really suffered ‘at the hands’ of COVID-19.  Gillingham School’s induction programme has been cancelled and we are doing our best to answer any questions that the children have.  All of the special activities our children would have been involved in (Brush Factory business project, Leaver’s assembly and production, Leaver’s Lunch, Leaver’s disco etc) have been cancelled.  We are organising Leaver’s t shirts, a class photo, a school mug, a ‘Hall of Fame on the website and the year 6 awards.  We were hoping to make some longer videos but unfortunately we do not have permission for a significant number of children to be on YouTube (the way we would publish these videos).

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th June 2020

 

I want to use my Head Teacher Message to update you on the opening of our school to further year groups.  After significant amounts of planning by the staff and governors and very good co-operation from parents/carers the phased return of our children went smoothly.

 

Mr Ewen Ross, one of our Parent Governors, has been collecting feedback from staff and parents regarding our approach and we have adjusted our ways of working accordingly.  I seem to be updating our Risk Assessment on a daily basis but we are continually trying to improve what we are doing.

 

It continues to be a very difficult time for schools but Mere School has risen to the many challenges that have been posed and our Local Authority Governor commented “the community of Mere is extremely proud of the way Mere School has responded to the COVID-19 crisis’.

 

We have had many messages from parents of children who have returned to school over the last 2 weeks.  One commented:
 

“I just wanted to write and say thank you for everything you are doing to help keep our kids safe while educating them at school….After my poor attempts at home schooling I am even more in awe at what you do for them on a daily basis….I totally appreciate the difficulties of opening up your classrooms to very small children.  Your efforts are much appreciated.”

 

Another commented:

 

“With other primary school not letting children return, or only on a part time basis, I can’t tell you how grateful we are for your positive and confident approach to getting the children back to school safely.  Alongside many other parents, I have even more respect for teacher after venturing into the realm of home schooling but I have to say, more striking to me, is the revelation of how much more simply the curriculum, school provides……I know this is not everyone’s experience of school and I can only assume it’s down to the ethos and atmosphere at Mere.

 

One of our more experienced governors (and former parent) noted:

 

“..I have never felt prouder than I do at the moment as to how well the staff and Senior Leadership Team have dealt with the situation we find ourselves in…….  Mere School has and continues to do their utmost best for the children of Mere.”

 

These messages are uplifting for the staff and I am so grateful to those who have contacted us. 

 

There has been further announcements from the Government about the remaining children returning (or not returning) to school and we will endeavour to implement their expectations in the same positive and constructive manner.  Our priority will be to keep you fully informed.

 

I have been in education all of my working life and have never had to deal with a situation like this before.  My aim is always to have a positive outlook on life and I am sure that there will be, and have been, some good outcomes for us from this situation.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th June 2020

 

We have been delighted to welcome some of our children back to school in these highly unusual times.  The school day has certainly been different but I am so proud of the staff and children who have, as usual, risen to the challenge.

 

We have a comprehensive risk assessment which can be found on our website and this has been approved by the staff and governing body.

 

One of the areas we are asking your help with is reducing contact before and after school in the playground.  We ask for your help with the following:

 

  1. Follow social distancing rules on site.
  2. Drop and collect your children between the start and finish times (8.50 am – 9 am and 3 pm – 3.15 pm).
  3. Do not come early and wait in the playground
  4. Do not queue at the classroom doors.
  5. Do not hover outside the school doors and chat with other parents. 
  6. Use your child’s allocated door.
  7. Bring your child to their classroom door using the most direct route.
  8. Try to drop your child and the school gate and encourage them to walk on their own to their classroom door (older children).
  9. Only one parent/carer should accompany the children to school.
  10. In the foyer, please follow the directions on the sign stating only 2 people in there at one time.
  11. Please do not allow your children to play on the play equipment.
  12. Do not allow your children to socialise in the playground – they need to get into school swiftly.

 

Thank you for helping us to keep our whole school community safe.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd May 2020

 

At the time of writing this we have preliminary plans for some of the children returning to school.  This is going to be hard but we can draw on our experience of returning to school after the summer holidays.  We are fortunate at Mere that we have a very competent and professional staff who will ensure the best and most appropriate return for our children.

 

There are a number of key things to consider:

 

  1. Mere School has not been shut and the staff have continued to work, including the school holidays and bank holidays.
  2. The return to school, for a lot of us, will be greeted with a huge sigh of relief.  We will want to pretend that the world is returning to how it was, but we will all have been changed by the COVID-19 experience.
  3. We will all need to re-establish our routines and the children will need to re-learn the rhythm of the school.
  4. We will be adjusting the curriculum and activities to the needs of the children.  We will need to understand what the children have learnt and what they have forgotten and will focus on re-building relationships.
  5. We will recognise and celebrate that children will have had very different learning experiences at home.
  6. We will offer support to all of our children from those that are vulnerable or children of key workers who have been in school throughout to those who have been at home.
  7. We will continue to safeguard our children.  There has been a significant rise in domestic abuse during lockdown and there is an increased risk that our children might have been exposed to harmful images or threats on line.  We will ensure that the children have opportunities to talk to trusted adults.
  8. Some communities may have lost family members to the coronavirus or had relatives or friends who have been very unwell.  We will endeavour to support our children through these difficulties.
  9. Some children will be looking forward to returning to school but will find being around people difficult.  We will be aware of this and support it.
  10. There will be children who struggle with separation and experience anxiety when they are back in school.
  11. Extra support will be needed for those with Special Educational Needs.
  12. We will need to consider how we can best support the transition of our year 6 children to secondary school and we will be working closely with Gillingham School to make this as smooth as possible.  For those children joining us in September we have adjusted our induction programme.
  13. Children will have grown during their absence from school and many families are experiencing financial hardship.  We will work with parents to help ensure their child has the appropriate uniform.
  14. We will need to support our staff also from those who have experienced loss and trauma to those who have had to make very difficult decisions and respond to a barrage of Government guidance.
  15. Key to all of this is going to be re-building relationships.  We need to be aware that this is not going to happen overnight.  We need to give ourselves time and be kind.

 

We look forward to seeing the children very soon.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th May 2020

 

Please see below details of the school phased re-opening:

 

COVID-19 Phased Return to School Details

 

School will open on Monday 1st June 2020 for Foundation Stage (Blue and Yellow Classes), year 1 (Yellow Class and some of Silver Class) and year 6 (Purple Class).  PLEASE DO NOT COME ONTO THE SCHOOL SITE IF YOU ARE DISPLAYING ANY SYMPTOMS OF CORONOVIRUS.

 

Class Organisation - The children will be taught in smaller groups - Mrs Tavenner, Miss Lewis, Mrs Sayer and Mrs Cripps will be teaching Foundation Stage and Mrs Wilson, Mrs Edgar, Mr Rich, Mrs Howell and Mrs Young will be teaching year 1.  Mrs Loxton, Mrs Shannon, Mrs Smith and Mrs Read will be teaching year 6.  The remaining teachers will be teaching our vulnerable/key worker children in years 2, 3, 4 and 5.  The children will remain in these groups throughout the day.

Work Sheets - work will continue to be planned for year 2, 3, 4 and 5 and can be accessed in the usual ways.

Accommodation - we are fortunate that we have a huge building so that we will be able to space the children out while they are in class.  We will organise the day so that there will be no large gatherings of children.

Breaktimes - these will continue to be staggered, as they are when we are in school normally.  The children will play in their groups in zoned areas.

Snacks - the tuck trolley will be in operation as normal for our KS2 children.  We are hoping there will be fruit available for our KS1 children but it might be a good idea to send them with a snack just in case.

Lunch - please order and pay for lunches as you would normally do.  The menu is on the website.  We will be providing a hot school lunch for our KS1 and Free School Meal children.  We will continue to provide a packed lunch for collection for children in year 2 and those children eligible for a free school meal in years 3, 4 and 5 who are not attending school providing they have been ordered the previous week.

Lunchtimes – the children will eat and play in their groups and will have a specific zone to play in.

Assembly - we will not be having assemblies at the moment.

Uniform - the children need to come to school in their uniform and bring their PE kits in as normal.

Illness/first aid - please can you ensure that your emergency contact numbers are up to date as we will need to deal with any illness/injury in quick and efficient manner.  We will ensure we have appropriate personal protective equipment if staff need to have physical contact with the children.

Handwashing– this is the best form of protection for everyone so we will be washing our hands frequently.  We have a good supply of soap and paper towels.

Cleaning - our cleaning team will be completing a deep clean every evening.

Risk Assessment - a detailed risk assessment will be published on the website during the week.

Start of the day - the doors will open between 8.50 am and 9 am.  Our year 6 need to use their normal door.   We are asking that the year 1 children in Yellow Class meet Mr Rich at the Rainbow Room door and the remainder of our EYFS and year 1 children use their normal class doors.  We will be in contact with some parents of Blue Class children who will be working with Mrs Tavenner in Yellow Class.  For key worker and vulnerable children in years 2, 3, 4 and 5, please continue to come in through the main entrance.  We need to promote social distancing at this time.  If your child is older and can walk onto the school site alone, please encourage them to do this.  For younger children, please take the most direct route to your child’s door and leave them quickly.

End of the day – the children can leave between 3 pm and 3.15 pm.  We will watch out for parents and release them to your care as quickly as possible.

Social Distancing on Site – it is really important that social distancing is observed in the playground.  Please do not congregate and enter and leave the school site as quickly as possible.  Please do not come early to the school site and wait.  The children must not socialise in the playground, use the play equipment or mix together.  We appreciate your help with this to ensure that you, our children and staff are safe.

School Office - contact by phone or e.mail is the safest option.  Please exercise social distancing if you need to visit the office and we are limiting the foyer space to 2 people at a time.  Please queue appropriately outside if numbers exceed this.  Paying by Bacs for lunches etc is the safest option but if you need to leave money please use the post box.

Attendance - we are strongly recommending children to attend school in EYFS, year 1 and year 6.  There will be no penalty for those children not attending.  However, we will not be providing worksheets for these year groups after half term. 

Teacher phone calls - I know how much parents have valued phone contact with their teacher.  Due to the teaching commitments after half term these will no longer be possible.

Year 2, 3, 4 and 5 key worker/vulnerable children – please let us know if your children will be attending as we have to ensure that the classrooms are prepared for appropriate social distancing.

 

It is the ambition of the Government to bring all primary year groups back before the summer holidays - watch this space!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th May 2020

 

There is a lot of chatter in the media about schools returning if the ‘lockdown’ is lifted.  I have received no official advice and we are ‘in the hands’ of the Government.  As soon as I have any information I will ensure that you are kept fully informed.

 

Our governing body met last week to discuss our response to the COVID-19 situation.  They are particularly proud about the provision we have offered to our vulnerable and key worker children and how we have coped with the needs of these children from our cluster schools as well.

 

We spent some time discussing how we might return to school.  Social distancing will be an issue for our children – for some of our youngest children this concept is very difficult, and almost impossible, to grasp. 

 

In terms of the emotional health of our children, our team of teachers are very experienced and they know your children well.  They will ensure that any work, discussions or activities are appropriate and supportive and relevant for our children.  It is clear from our contact with you that you and the children are looking forward to getting back into normal routines.

 

As a team here we are keen to return as soon as we safely can.

 

Keep safe.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st May 2020

 

During the ‘lockdown’ I have been so relieved that we have the internet to support our work at school and lives at home.  It has been such a relief keeping in contact with our family and friends and being able to communicate with you at home.  It is hard to imagine what life would be like if we did not have this facility.

 

We are delighted that our website has coped (rather begrudgingly at times!) with the constant updating of work and messages for you.  It is at times like this that these systems are really tested.

 

Our teachers have enjoyed receiving messages, work and photographs on their class e.mail and they have been uploading much of this to their class pages on the website.

 

The governors have had virtual meetings on ‘Teams’ which was a new experience for us all but we coped admirably.

 

We are the only school open in the Mere and Tisbury Cluster and have accommodated children from local schools whose parents are key workers.  We, at Mere School, believe that this is the right thing to do and we are proud to be able to help with this national emergency.  We have appreciated all the messages of support from parents and members of the community who value what we are doing here.

 

Unfortunately, our Friends of Mere School Facebook Page has, at times, been used in an unsupportive, and upsetting manner.  This page is now being monitored closely by governors to ensure that posts are positive and helpful and any unkind or inappropriate posts are removed.  Please speak directly to the school if you have any worries or concerns so that we can respond immediately.

 

Catriona Williamson

 

Friday 24th April 2020

 

One of the most frustrating things for parents when their children are in school is head lice.  We have an unusual policy at Mere School - checking the children’s hair every half term (with your permission) and this results in our head lice problem being much less significant than most schools.

 

Head lice and nits are very common in young children and their families.  They do not have anything to do with dirty hair and are picked up by head-to-head contact.

 

Head lice are small insects, up to 3 mm long and they can be difficult to spot in your hair.  Head lice eggs (nits) are brown or white (empty shells) and attached to the hair.

 

Head lice can make your head feel:

 

  • itcy
  • like something is moving in your hair.

 

You can treat head lice without seeing your GP.  Treat the lice as soon as you spot them.  You should check everyone in the house and start treating anyone who has head lice on the same day.  There is no need to keep your child off school if they have head lice.

 

Lice and nits can be removed by wet combing.  You should try this method first.  You can buy a special fine-toothed comb (detection comb) online or from pharmacies to remove head lice and nits.  There may be instructions on the pack, but usually you:

 

  • wash hair with ordinary shampoo
  • apply lots of conditioner (any conditioner will do)
  • comb the whole head of hair, from roots to the ends.

 

It usually takes about 10 minutes to comb short hair and 20 to 30 minutes for long, frizzy or curly hair.

 

Do wet combing on days 1, 5, 9 and 13 to catch any newly hatched head lice.  Check again that everyone’s hair is free of lice on day 17.

 

If you have tried wet combing for 17 days, but your child still has live head lice ask your pharmacist for advice.

 

They may recommend using medicated lotions and sprays.  These kill head lice in all types of hair, and you can buy them from pharmacies, supermarkets or online.  Head lice should die within a day.  Some lotions and sprays come with a comb to remove dead lice and eggs.  Some treatments need to be repeated after a week to kill any newly hatched lice.

 

If lotions or sprays do not work, speak to a pharmacist about other treatments.

 

Please remember that there is nothing you can do to prevent head lice.  You can help them spreading by wet or dry combing regularly to catch them early.  Do not use medicated lotions and sprays to prevent head lice as they can irritate the scalp.  THERE IS NO NEED FOR CHILDREN TO STAY OFF SCHOOL OR TO WASH LAUNDRY ON A HOT WASH.

 

The NHS website has lots of information and videos to help.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd April 2020

 

The last few weeks have certainly demonstrated the need for personal resilience. 

 

I spent a very wet Sunday, a couple of weeks ago, supporting the runners who were completing the Bath Half Marathon.  Some looked exhausted even after the first mile but I admired their determination to complete the challenge, come what may.  Pain was etched on their faces as they approached the finish line but they demonstrated such resilience.

 

As part of our ‘Growth Mindset’ approach in school we are constantly encouraging our children to be resilient.  Our children with a positive mindset seek more effective learning strategies, work harder, persevere in the face of setbacks and achieve a higher competence.  We ask our youngsters to embrace challenges, persist despite obstacles, learn from criticism and view effort as a path to success.

 

Now that I have older children who are in the workplace coupled with my many years of experience in education I am in no doubt that these ‘soft’, personal skills are key to success in life.  Unfortunately our Musical Entertainment Evening was cancelled but children who ‘stick at’ learning a musical instrument show tremendous resilience.  Those who come across obstacles in their learning but persist until they have succeeded demonstrate resilience.  The children who train hard to get into school sports teams and later into county, regional and national teams have to show such resilience and commitment in the face of some extremely hard criticism.

 

Academic success is important and we continue to ensure that every child at Mere achieves their personal best, however, as a school, we must work on the ‘soft’ skills that are so crucial for life.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 27th March 2020

 

I regularly tell you what a wonderful team of staff we have at Mere School – how dedicated, resilient and innovative they are but this has been really evident during the last couple of weeks.

 

I have been astonished at how deep this goes as they responded at speed to the Government’s call.  Through that response came huge selflessness and willingness to go above and beyond knowing that our work is essential at this time of national crisis.

 

We have tried to steer a clear course through confusion, frustration and fear that requires the highest levels of physical, social and emotional energy.

 

The full weight of what is happening is only just sinking in and it is not like anything we have known before.

 

I would like to thank you all for your kind messages of support and I know, with you alongside us, we will get through the current difficulties and come out stronger at the end.

 

Take care everyone.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 20th March 2020

 

Wiltshire & Swindon Road Safety Partnership are running a child seat safety campaign throughout March.

 

They are promoting these key messages:

 

  • Always use the correct car seat for your child and vehicle, no matter how short your journey.  We can’t predict where and when a collision may happen.
  • Check your vehicle handbook and the seat manufacturer’s guidance to check that a seat is compatible with your vehicle.
  • Don’t be tempted to use a second-hand car seat.  It probably won’t come with fitting instructions and you may not know how long it’s been used for, how it’s been looked after or if it’s been in a collision.
  • Always follow the fitting instructions provided with the seat.  You may find helpful fitting videos on the manufacturer’s website, and your vehicle handbook will give specific advice about fitting seats in each model – you can also find this online.
  • Seats fitted using a vehicle’s seatbelt have coloured guides to help – blue guides for rear-facing seats and red guides for front-facing.
  • If you have an Isofix seat, ensure the drop-down foot is securely on the floor and/or the top tether is firmly attached to the vehicle mounting point.
  • Don’t rush to move your child into the next stage seat.  If their head is still within the seat, it’s safe.  Don’t worry if their feet stick out – children sit in all sorts of weird positions quite comfortably!
  • Ideally keep your child in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 15 months old or 13 kg.  In frontal impacts this is the best way to reduce the risk of neck and spinal injuries.  Some rear-facing seats are even suitable until your child is 25kg, or around 7 years old.
  • If you are using a rear-facing seat in the front passenger seat, you must deactivate the airbag first – check your vehicle handbook for advice.
  • Although you can still use a booster cushion without a back if you have one, they can no longer be sold for use by younger children.  A booster seat with a full back will protect your child’s upper body, neck, spine and head, especially in a side-impact collision.  These seats are designed to last until a child is at least 150cm tall, when an adult seat belt should fit safely across their shoulder and not their face or neck.
  • Check that the seat harness is tight enough by using the ‘pinch test’.  Try to pinch the webbing together – if you can, it’s not tight enough.
  • Remove thick coats before fastening the harness – they don’t allow you to fasten the harness securely.
  • If you are using an infant carrier for a new-born, limit the amount of time they spend in the seat, certainly no more than 2 hours at a time.  If you’re making a long journey, take regular breaks and take your baby out of the seat.

 

Please see http://www.carseatsmarter.co.uk/

 

The school does report incidents of children not being properly restrained in the car to the police. 

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th March 2020

 

We are looking forward to The Friend’s Easter Bingo next week – please do come along and support it.

 

The bingo raises a lot of money for the school and our children really benefit from the ‘extras’ that our Friends Association manage to buy us from their events.  We are the only primary school I know who have VR Headsets, thanks to The Friends, and they do enjoy their annual trip to the pantomime.

 

A very easy way for the group to raise money is through The Giving Machine and The School Lottery.

 

The Giving Machine enables you to raise free donations for the school.  There is no catch and all that you need to do is click via TheGivingMachine every time you shop online.  If you set up at Giver account on TheGivingMachine and then click to the shops via TheGivingMachine website any purchases generate a donation for the school.  Every year online shops pay millions in sales commission to other websites that direct shoppers to them.  TheGivingMachine turns these commissions into donations for our school, AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU!  Once you have registered you can download a desktop reminder and there is also a mobile app.

 

The School Lottery also raises significant funds for us and you can benefit from this for £1/week.  There is a guaranteed cash winner for our school every week and the chance to win a £25,000 jackpot (one of our families have won this jackpot).  The draw takes place every Saturday and the winners are notified by e.mail.  Match all 6 numbers and you can win the Jackpot!  For every ticket you play 76% comes to Mere School.

 

Please do sign up to these fund raising initiatives.  They are easy ways to raise money for our school.  TheGivingMachine costs nothing and The School Lottery is a small contribution with the chance of winning back your money and more.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th March 2020

 

A group of our year 6 children have successfully completed the Bikeability course.  This is a difficult programme for children and I was delighted that they all passed.

 

I was also pleased to read in the press that the Department for Transport has pledged that every child will be offered cycle training.  The Bikeability programme is to be expanded under Government plans to boost ‘active travel’ – such as walking, scooting and cycling.

 

An additional 400,000 training places will be offered on the scheme each year.  Since its launch in 2006, more than 3 million children in England have taken part in the programme.

 

Cycling minister, Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“Extending Bikeability training will inspire the next generation to take to the roads as confident and proficient cyclists, and will play an important role in helping us to meet our net-zero emission target.”

 

I am hoping that this training will be funded for schools as it is expensive for parents.  However, anything that keeps our children safe on the roads is to be celebrated.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 28th February 2020

 

I wanted to share some more good news with you!

 

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from the Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, the Minister of State for School Standards.  It said:

Dear Mrs Williamson

 

I would like to congratulate you, your staff and your pupils on the very high standard of achievement demonstrated in the mathematics Key Stage 2 assessments last year.

 

Your school’s results, as published on 13th December, show that 100% of your pupils reached or exceeded the expected standard in mathematics, Mere School is in the top 2% of primary schools in the country.

 

The Government wants to ensure that every child has the fluency in mathematics necessary to prepare them for a successful secondary education and beyond, which is why I was delighted to see your results.

 

Thank you for your work in continuing the drive towards higher academic standards, and congratulations again to you and your staff for your commitment and success.

 

The Head of School Improvement from Wiltshire also commented:

This is just brilliant – well done, such a fantastic achievement down to your persistent hard work.  You should be standing up shouting all about all that you are doing at Mere.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th February 2020

 

We are in the process of developing some ‘Lockdown Procedures’ for our school.  This is not a statutory responsibility but is recommended by the Local Authority.  We consider the need for such procedures as a sensible and proportionate response to any potential threat to the safety of staff and children at the school.

 

These procedures, I hope, will reassure you that the school is doing everything possible to ensure your child’s safety.

 

Lockdown procedures enable a school to close down and protect itself and those within it from an identified and urgent risk very quickly, such as the following:

 

  • 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 of weapons attack.

 

Lockdown is the ability to restrict access quickly, prevent staff and pupils from moving towards danger, or frustrate or delay the identified risk from entering the school.

 

As soon as these procedures have been agreed by the staff, governors and class parents I will send details home in the newsletter.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th February 2020

 

Our children (and teachers) had a fascinating day with Mr Karl Hopwood (international on-line safety expert) talking about online safety.  He worked in every class and was very impressed with our children’s knowledge.  He commented on their exemplary behaviour and how eager they were to learn.  Mr Hopwood visits lots of schools around the country so I was delighted that he was able to make these observations.

 

Attendance at the Parent Online Safety Information evening was disappointing but the parents who did come found the information they were given invaluable.  Mr Rich has put the presentation on the website so you can see what was discussed.

 

Next year, so more parents can access the on-line safety messages, we plan to invite parents to come and sit in their child’s class while he is working with the children.  This will give parents the opportunity to talk to their children at home about what they have learnt.

 

The governors are committed to regular visits from Mr Hopwood as it is such an important and fast growing part of growing up for our children.

 

In the workshop for parents Mr Hopwood helped parents to consider what their children are really doing online as opposed to what they might say they are doing.  He explored some of the risks and benefits of using the internet and online communication and tried to provide some possible solutions for parents.  Please do take a look at the Computing page on our website to read more details.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 31st January 2020

 

More good news to share with parents – and this could not have been achieved without fantastic parental support.

 

As you are well aware, attendance is a key issue for us at Mere School and I spend a lot of time tracking attendance and speaking with parents.

 

If the children are not in school we cannot teach them but the vast majority of our parents are willing to work with us to ensure the best attendance possible for their child.

 

Our overall absence rate in 2018/19 decreased from 4.03% to 3.02% giving us an average for the last 3 academic years of 3.70%.  These figures are better than national averages.  In 2018/19 our overall absence figure was 0.87% lower than the national average.  It is worth noting that our school has been better than the national average 3 times in the last 3 academic years for overall absence.

 

As a school we have an improving trend for attendance for which I would like to thank you.

 

My priority will still be on attendance for the coming year and I value the time working with parents.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th January 2020

 

Some of you might a read in the press that the Government are changing the PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum in primary schools and making this area statutory.

 

Mrs Cocker is our PSHE subject leader and she has been doing a lot of work on the new curriculum and there will be few changes as we are already covering the vast majority of what is expected – and more.

 

One of the key areas in the new PSHE curriculum is the introduction of life saving first aid.  For the last 2 years our year 6 children have completed a certificated first aid course as we would like all of our children to be equipped to know what to do in a crisis and to try and save a life, if necessary.

 

I have been working with the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and they explained to me how several very basic actions can improve the life chances of critically ill patients and if we can train our children to do this it would make their jobs much easier when they arrive, and potentially save lives.

 

We have decided at Mere School that every child in every class will be trained in appropriate life saving first aid, from being able to dial 999 in Foundation Stage to CPR in year 6.  The medics will come and work with every class in the summer term and we hope to do this every year so that when the children move on to Gillingham School they are very well trained.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th January 2020

 

The Government have been celebrating the fact that there has been a rise in the KS2 SATS results boosted by an improvement in maths scores, with a larger proportion meeting the required standards.  This is good news but my feeling is that the teachers are getting better at preparing the children for the tests.

 

We are celebrating at Mere School.  The performance tables were published by the Department for Education just before Christmas and our progress scores in maths were above the national average and well above in reading and writing.

 

91% of our children achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths compared to 64% in Wiltshire and 65% nationally.

 

These outcomes indicate that we are one of the most successful schools locally and in Wiltshire (coming 4th in the league tables).

 

We pride ourselves not only on the formal data, but on the rich experiences we offer our children.

 

None of this would be possible, of course, without your support and the excellent team of staff and governors we have at Mere School.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th January 2020

 

We are still working very closely with the Local Authority and Parish Council to finalise plans for the expansion of our school. 

 

We have agreed the internal alternations that need to be made.  We will be taking over all of the top floor of the building and (at the suggestion of the children) some toilets will be created upstairs as well.  There will be 4 classrooms upstairs and the school will be secured at the top of the Children’s Centre stairs so that we are all safe.  The biggest headache is sorting out the heating but there is now a specialist company involved in looking at the options.

 

The Parish Council are hoping to take over the additional offices on the ground floor and the old Duchy Manor foyer will remain redundant with the Parish Council and school having access to it when needed.

 

The car park plans are very exciting but subject to finances.  We are hoping to create many more spaces and make the staff parking much safer so that children coming to school and walking through this area are not in contact with any vehicle.  Our overall aim is to get as many cars off the local streets in Mere as possible.

 

The initial plans are for an electric barrier to be put up the school side of the dentist’s car park which will be closed during the school day – there will be an intercom so it can be opened from the school office for deliveries.  The road in front of the Parish Council Offices will also be closed and removed. 

 

The entrance to the Bowling Club car park will be widened and landscaped car parking will be created from this entrance to the edge of the bowling green right up to the public footpath and covering over the current, unsightly filled-in swimming pool.  There will also be a drop-off zone here and safe areas of pedestrians.

 

I must reiterate that these are currently plans and subject to planning and permission from The Duchy of Cornwall.  I hope that they can be afforded as it will ease congestion and create a much safe environment for the children.

 

If you would like to see the plans of the building and car park please ask in the office.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 20th December 2019

 

It is the end of an era!  Mrs Ings retired today after over 30 years of loyal service to Mere School.

 

Mrs Ings started her life at Mere School as a Teaching Assistant and was an active member of The Friends while her children came here.

 

She then moved on to run our school office, which is a role that is so different now to when Mrs Ings started.  The School Secretary’s role all those years ago involved answering the telephone and collecting in dinner money.  Now, Mrs Ings is responsible for managing a team of people and keeping a very close eye on the school budget.  She raises invoices and pays bills, keeps an eye on health and safety, manages the Single Central Safeguarding record, liaises with governors, shows visitors around the school, organises tradesmen … the list goes on and on.  The Finance Officer’s role is complex and comes with a high degree of accountability and responsibility. 

 

Most importantly for me though is that Mrs Ings has been a trusty assistant to the Head Teacher.  We have been through some challenging and exciting times but I always knew that I could rely totally on Mrs Ing’s skills and integrity.  She has been a loyal employee and a friend.

 

From the bottom of my heart I would like to say a huge thank you and wish Mrs Ings the very best for her retirement.  I know we will be seeing her in school – the teachers already have her ‘lined up’ for a whole host of different jobs for her!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th December 2019

 

I am following my Head Teacher Message from last week with another safeguarding edition!

 

As part of our wider safeguarding responsibilities we do have policies and procedures in place around the dropping off and collection of children to and from the school site.  These policies are shared with parents when a child joins the school and we ask for the following:

 

  • the names and addresses of parents/carers (including confirmation of parental responsibility).
  • home, work and mobile phone numbers.
  • 2 emergency/authorised adult contacts who may be called in the event of the parents being unobtainable or in the case of an emergency.
  • information about any person who has been denied legal access to the child.

 

We ask parents to update this information whenever there is a change and we use a secure system to store it.

 

There is no law on what age children may travel to school unsupervised.  Parents may make their decision based on their child’s maturity, ability and the safety and distance to the route to school.  There is also no law determining the age at which a sibling can accompany a child to school.

 

We do have procedures if parents are late to collect their child – contacting the parents/carers on the given phone numbers or calling emergency contacts.  If parents or an authorised person cannot collect the child and someone else is coming instead parents do need to notify the school.  As a school we do our utmost to work with parents if they are genuinely held up but we do keep records of late collections and in the event of frequent late collections a letter may be sent home advising parents that the school will contact the children’s social care team.

 

If parents fail to collect their child we will make every effort to contact the parents/authorised adult but if this is unsuccessful we will apply child protection procedures and contact the children’s social care team and police.

 

There may be times when the school is worried that it is not safe for the child to go home with the adult collecting the child (we might be worried that the adults is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or their behaviour otherwise suggests that they may not be in a fit state to safely look after their child).  If this is the case the school may contact another family member to collect the child or speak to the children’s social care team.

 

These measures all sound very formal and only have to be used in very rare circumstances.  We have strong relationships with parents and we are usually able to find a good solution to these problems when they occur.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th December 2019

 

Schools are one of the front-line organisations for protecting children and this underpins all that we do at school.  We aim to have a safeguarding culture where every member of staff is responsible for keeping every child safe.

 

I am the Designated Child Protection Leader, Mrs Loxton is the Deputy Child Protection Leader and Mrs Barry the Governor Responsible for Safeguarding.  Please do take a look at our website for our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy.

 

As a staff we discuss safeguarding issues every week formally and many informal discussions take place as well.  I am also responsible for making sure the governors are well informed as well.

 

All staff receive regular training and updates and our governors have all received training as well.  Any new members of staff or students receive an individual briefing and all our volunteers receive an information pack.  They have to sign to confirm that they have read and understood this information.

 

As you all probably know, anyone who will be working with the children has to have completed a DBS check with Mrs Ings.  Until we receive this clearance these members of staff or volunteers cannot work in school.

 

It is important that staff and friends of the school do not feel afraid to pass on concerns.  The information may be a small piece in a bigger jigsaw and may help to get a better understanding of a child’s predicament.  Any concerns, however, seemingly trivial, should be passed on to Mrs Loxton or me.

 

If you have concerns about a child in the community please do report them to the MASH team on 0300 456 0108.

 

Working together we can work towards our aim of keeping every child safe.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 29th November 2019

 

This is my favourite time of year in school.  I love how excited the children are getting about Christmas and all the special things we do.

 

I thought I would use my message this week to give you the ‘heads up’ on all the things that are happening in school, so you can make a note in your diaries.

 

The Friends Christmas Bingo is on Friday 29th November – details have been in the newsletter.  Our non-school uniform day (in exchange for a bingo prize) is on Thursday 28th November.

 

We are busily rehearsing for our Christmas entertainments – ‘The Bethlehem Star’ (KS1) and ‘Countdown to Christmas’ (KS2).  These productions will take place on Tuesday 17th December, 1.15 pm and 6 pm for KS1 and 2 pm and 6.45 pm for KS2.  There will be a letter coming home at the beginning of December explaining the arrangements.  We do ask for costumes to be in school by Friday 6th December – thank you for your help with this.

 

We are looking forward to our visit to Salisbury Playhouse on Wednesday 11th December.  Huge thanks to The Friends for organising this for us.

 

Red Class will be visiting Fives Court and Green Class Bramley House on Tuesday 10th December.  Residents from Bramley House will be coming to watch our dress rehearsal on Friday 13th December.

 

The Friends Christmas Disco is on Friday 13th December, 6 pm for KS1 and 6.45 pm for KS2.

 

We have a busy day on Thursday 19th December when all children will visit The Friends Christmas Grotto followed by Christmas lunch, when we hope Father Christmas will be coming as well.  The children are invited to wear their Christmas jumpers for the day.  At 2 pm that day we will be holding a tea party in the big hall for Mrs Ings and it is her penultimate day.  You are invited to come along.

 

As we normally do, we will be holding our annual Carol Service in St Michael’s Church at 9.15 am on Friday 20th December.  This is a very relaxed service (the children and staff are usually exhausted!) – please do come along.  During the afternoon the children will be watching and Christmas film together and sharing some special leaving cakes to say goodbye to Mrs Ings.

 

At 3.15 pm on Friday 20th December the school term will end and school will be closed until Monday 6th January.  This day is a T D day so it is only the staff in school and the new term starts for the children on Tuesday 7th January 2020.

 

I will keep reminding you in the newsletters about the dates.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd November 2019

 

We had our first Class Parent meeting of the new school year last Friday and I am so grateful to the group of parents who come along and help us.

 

The Class Parent group was set up quite a few years ago.  I was not very keen on the idea initially but the governors at the time wanted me to ‘give it a go’.  They were right as this is one of the most powerful things I have ever done in school.

 

The class teachers invite parents to work with them as their class representatives.  They select parents who they can work with and who are supportive of the school and relate well to other parents.

 

We now meet every term and have an agenda for every meeting – for instance last week we had a specific look at our new Policy on the Use of Video and Photography and spent some time discussing the companies we use for school photographs.  The most useful part of the meeting though is the ‘AOB’ section when the representatives from each class are able to bring up any issues that other parents may have.  We chat about these things, see if there is anything we are going to do about them and sometimes I have to take back issues to discuss with the staff.  Our governing body are also very keen to hear about issues raised at the meetings.  It is great when we receive positive feedback as well.

 

The class parents also liaise closely with their class teacher and help to organise reading rotas, help for school trips and pass on any messages that are relevant to that particular class.  Many class parents have set up a Facebook Page for their classes.

 

Unfortunately our last meeting was before the Local Authority decision to expand the places here.  Had I been given the time to discuss this with the class parents I think the process would have been much smoother for the school and parents!

 

Please do use your Class Parent if you have any ‘burning issues’ or something you would like to have discussed at the meeting.  They are a highly valued group of people who help us hugely at school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th November 2019

 

Top doctors are saying that children as young as 9 should be taught CPR and other life-saving skills in primary school.  I know we already have a jam-packed curriculum expectation but I do agree with them.

 

Around 30,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside hospitals in the UK every year, but fewer than 1 in 7 survive.  Doctors believe introducing basic life saving skills at a young age will improve survival rates.  They claim that very few people know how to carry out CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), which means that when paramedics arrive to treat a heart attack it is often too late.

 

The new PHSE (Personal, Health and Social Education) to be introduced in September 2020 will make it compulsory for all children to be trained by the age of 16.

 

At Mere we have in the past run voluntary first aid courses for children but last year we funded a 2-hour course for all of our year 6 children.  They thoroughly enjoyed this and came away with some very useful first aid skills as well as being able to carry out CPR.  Our plan is for this to happen every year.

 

As well as this a significant group of our year 4 children are completing a basic life saving course in their swimming lessons.

 

It is so important that our children achieve well academically but as a school we are determined that our children will also be equipped with the skills they need for life.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th November 2019

 

I came across a very disturbing headline in the paper a couple of weeks ago:

 

“one in 8 schools don’t even have a library.”

 

This amazes me as we are so lucky to have a purpose-built, well equipped library in school and a marvellous library in Mere.

 

We are very grateful to Mrs Clements who runs our library so efficiently and our children have the opportunity to take a book home every fortnight.  They love their time searching the library for a book to share with their parents!

 

Reading has the highest priority at Mere School as we believe it is the most crucial skill for life as well as providing great pleasure.

 

We re-launched our ‘Snuggle-Up Stories’ initiative just before half term to encourage the children’s early reading skills.

 

If a child can read fluently by the end of KS1 their journey through KS2 is so much easier.  Reading impacts on all of the other areas of the curriculum.

 

When I do my New Entrants talk to parents I encourage them to try to hear their children read every day and to share a story at bedtime.  It really does have a massive impact on your child’s learning.  We can see in the children’s work those who have read regularly at home.

 

Please work with us to make sure your children are making the most progress possible in school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th October 2019

 

I have been reading a very interesting article by an NHS Psychiatrist, Dr Max Pemberton about autism.  The headline of the article was:

“At this rate we’ll ALL be classed as autistic.”

 

He has noticed over the past 3 years a disturbing trend in referrals to his clinics for patients diagnosed with autism and he is baffled by this.

 

He is very familiar with the condition and has worked with people with profound autism but he says:

 

“ …what many of the new cohort of autistic patients complain of – vague feelings of not fitting in, feeling socially awkward, having perfectionist and/or obsessive traits etc, bear no resemblance to what I would describe as true autism.”

 

He feels that the problem is with the reclassification of autism as ‘autistic spectrum disorder’ and believes that there is a ‘diagnosis creep’, meaning the criteria for diagnosis are increasingly broadened to include more and more variations of symptoms and behaviour.  Dr Pemberton suggests that this means the diagnosis becomes meaningless and if it continues then, within a decade, there will be no clear distinction between someone with autism and the average person.

 

These comments are controversial but for some parents with a child who is a little bit different or who is showing behavioural problems, it might be easier to accept this diagnosis rather than just part of who they are.

 

Dr Pemberton has also seen more adult patients with this diagnosis after paying for a private assessment.

 

This situation, Dr Pemberton highlights, makes it very difficult for those with profound autism who are disabled by their condition and for their families, because it causes widespread misunderstanding of how serious it can be.  He continues:

“That’s not to say that those with autism can’t lead happy, fulfilling lives.  Of course they can, but many need intense support and resources to achieve that.  What’s more, in those who are wrongly diagnosed, the label of autism can discourage them from trying to change or adapt or improve their social interaction and behaviours.”

 

Food for thought I feel.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th October 2019

 

As well as coming to school there are lots of things we need to teach our children at home, preparing them early for grown-up life.  Campaigners are keen that schools should give children lessons on how best to save and spend their money.  Unfortunately our curriculum is ‘jam-packed’ and I feel that this is my responsibility as a parent. 

 

Some finance experts have given some advice in the press about how they taught their children valuable lessons about money:

 

  1. Chores for cash – use a pocket money system that helps children learn about money.  Link the amount of pocket money to chores.
  2. Tell them about tax – make money a regular topic of discussion so it is not a scary subject, eg using vouchers, budget for holidays etc.
  3. A Kids’ Contract – have a contract that sets out what the children must do to receive money they are given and what they can buy.
  4. Piggy Bank Pay – teach the children the art of saving by opening a savings account.
  5. School Rewards – financially reward the children for good work at school.
  6. Contactless Cost – let older children have a contactless card so that they can learn that it is ‘real money’.
  7. Talk Pensions – discuss the importance of saving into a pension.
  8. Credit Danger – teach your children the dangers of borrowing on credit cards and explain to them how paying interest means less money for them to spend.
  9. Don’t Blow it All – teach the children to spread their spending over a period of time.

 

I am not sure I would use all of these suggestions but there are some good ideas in the list to think about.

Friday 11th October 2019

 

I am really delighted to write about some good news and to thank you for all your help with this outcome.

 

The governors have been interrogating our attendance figures and they are very positive.  We are above the national average for every group of children in the school.

 

Monitoring attendance and completing the necessary paperwork around this issue takes up a lot of my time, but it is important, so that I can be confident that every child is in school for the maximum amount of time possible.  Any time out of school means that the children are missing valuable learning experiences.

 

I do realise that illness means that the children cannot attend but I think we have been particularly successful in managing these ailments and ensuring that time away from school is as limited as possible.

 

We also appreciate parents making arrangements for holidays and medical appointment out of school time.

 

The children still enjoy the excitement of the Attendance Cup and receiving 100% certificates.  I have removed the Attendance Fact from the newsletter.

 

The focus on attendance will still remain and I will constantly monitor every child’s attendance but it is good to know that what we are going is being successful.  Thank you for your continued support.  I know my nagging can be frustrating at times!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th October 2019

 

Our children in year 4 last term took the new Government times table tests as part of a trial, before it becomes statutory.

 

A group of Head Teachers have branded these tests as a ‘waste of time’ claiming in a survey, 94% of those who took part in the pilot scheme said the tests (set to be introduced next year) fail to tell teachers anything new about the ability of 8 and 9 year olds.

 

The Government is launching the multiplication tables check in June.  It will be conducted using computers or tablets and consists of 25 questions, with pupils given just 6 seconds to type in each answer.

 

The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said that the tests would:

 

‘make sure all pupils leave primary schools knowing their times tables by heart.’

 

I agree with this sentiment.  It is essential that all children know their tables as it is a fundamental skill for mathematical learning. However, we do not need a Government test to make sure that this happens.  I also know from working with my own children, that you do not learn tables for one test.  We have to keep on going over and over the tables so that they are not forgotten.  My poor children were bombarded with ‘tables’ questions every time we got in the car so that they did not forget them!

 

We do spend a lot of time teaching and learning the multiplication facts in school but need your help with this as well.  On-going help with learning and revising the times tables would be much appreciated.  All of our children do have a log-in for ‘Times Tables Rock Stars’ and the children enjoy learning and practising their tables this way.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 27th September 2019

 

We are hoping to bring the school right ‘up to date’ by introducing a school app powered by our website.

 

We are exciting to announce that to improve communication with our entire school community we will be launching a smartphone app which is free to download and works with iPhones and Android phones.  Please visit theschool.app for more information.

 

As a school, we believe it is essential to work in partnership with parents and carers and part of this is achieved by ensuring that you receive clear, relevant and regular communications.

 

Benefits of the app for Parents and Carers

 

  • The app is secure: you can set up a PIN/Touch ID to access on your phone.
  • The all is powered by our school website which means that when you download it, you will have a single place to receive and access important messages along with calendar events, newsletters, latest news and all information pages within the school website.
  • Messages appear in your inbox in the condition that they left school; you will receive secure individual and group messages as well as whole school notices.
  • We can be certain that you have received the message.

 

Benefits of the app for the school

 

  • We will be able to reduce costs as unlike texts, messages we wend are free of charge, and it will reduce our admin time by keeping all communication tools within one place.

 

Setting up the app

 

A letter will be coming home shortly with all the information you will need.

 

It is important that we have the most up-to-date parent/carer contact details and emergency contacts for your child.  If any information changes throughout the school year, please notify us immediately.

 

Looking forward to working with you!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th September 2019

 

Our Friend’s committee met last Friday to start to organise the year ahead and we are so grateful for everything they do for our school.

 

With your support they raise a lot of money for the school and they are in the process of ordering some VR headsets for us – I do not know of any school that has a set of these. 

 

Unfortunately the running of the events usually falls to a small group of willing parents.

 

I stumbled across an article in the holidays written by a lady who had been chair of her parent-teacher association and her children’s school.  It was titled:

 

“Why do all mums hate the head of the PTA? – by a writer who learned the hard way it’s a poisoned chalice.”

 

This mum says that she has helped to raise around £30,000 which has gone towards paying for books for the classroom, playground equipment and ice creams on school trips but she feels that she has paid the price in friendships, career, finances and event her marriage!  She says:

 

“in fact, I can honestly way it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”

 

This mum says that most parents, while wanting their children’s school to be a vibrant and engaging place, cannot think of anything worse than having to actually get involved.

 

One massive upside to the job is all the lovely people who do help who she has got to know really well.  As for those who do not she just keeps on smiling as she cannot risk alienating anyone in case they change their minds about helping!

 

Mrs Ashin will be continuing in her role of Chair but please can I encourage all parents, grandparents and family friends to try and get involved and support our Friends Association in some small way.

 

Many hands make light work!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th September 2019

 

We were delighted again with our KS2 SATs results with our children achieving very highly again.

 

I understand from the media that more than a third of youngsters have left primary school this year failing to reach their 3 Rs targets.  Nationally 65% of these children achieved the expected standards in all their reading, writing and maths SATs.  It was 91% at Mere!

 

The proportion of children reaching the expected reading standard was 73% nationally and we achieved 94%.  79% of children nationally achieved the expected maths standard but 100% of our children achieved this.

 

There were also a significant amount of our children that achieved the greater depth standard – 43% in reading, 26% in writing and 20% in maths.

 

These results are the outcome of strong teaching across the school with good support from parents at home. 

 

We managed to achieve these outstanding results as well as offering our children a rich and exciting curriculum.

 

Well done to everyone involved and all their hard work!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th July 2019

 

Another newspaper article to share with you!

 

Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education says that:

 

“parents should put their smartphones down and take every opportunity to talk to their children face to face.”

 

He believes that keeping up with social media and work e.mails often prevents mums and dads from chatting to their off spring and in the worst cases, he states, research shows that children who do not get enough contact with their parents can fail to learn the key vocabulary they need for school.

 

To help Mr Hinds is launching a campaign to help parents put aside distracting technology and build up their children’s literacy skills.  He wants more families to teach children new words by reading road signs, and how to count while on the bus, in the street, at the dinner table, in the shops etc.  He stressed that it was not his role to dictate to parents and that many were doing a great job of educating their children.

 

This campaign offers parents video tips, advice and games to help with early learning to encourage more parental interaction.  His Hungry Little Minds campaign has been designed to show parents how to incorporate fun and educational activities into their daily routines.  He says:

 

“What hungry Little Minds is about is about is giving some hints and tips, not telling anybody what to do.  There are all sorts of opportunities to use everyday interactions to develop language and communication skills and early learning.”

 

Research by Oxford University Press has found that half of five year olds in some schools are behind in their language skills.  The researchers found that when pupils arrive unable to understand basic phrases, they find it much harder to follow commands, make friends and learn to read.  In the long term this can lead to low confidence, underachievement and poor behaviour.

 

We all lead busy lives and it is so tempting to have our phone with us at all times.  I will try to learn from this article, even though it will be extremely hard!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th 2019

 

I was chatting to a mum last week who had ‘discovered’ out website!

 

I wanted to use my Weekly Message this week to remind you that our website is a full of information about the school and we are constantly updating it.

 

There is the usual, statutory information on there but some really useful bits and pieces ranging from information to help you to keep your child safe on the internet to the dates for the term.  Copies of any letters that have been sent home are also on here.

 

If you go to your child’s class page there are photograph albums of the children learning in school and Mrs Read keeps the site updated with photos of all of our school events.  You could spend hours looking at how busy we have been.  Events for the week are running along the home page.

 

We are hoping to develop our website even further in the new year with the introduction of a Mere School app .. more to follow at a later date!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 28th June 2019

 

There was a very interesting article in the paper last week with the headline:

 

‘The ‘outstanding’ schools that aren’t as good as they think…’

 

OFSTED inspectors have warned parents that they cannot have confidence in some outstanding-rated primaries and secondaries because they have not been assessed for so long.

 

OFSTED launched a crackdown this academic year on 305 outstanding schools that had not been visited by the inspectorate for more than a decade.  Of those visited between September and arch, 84% were downgraded.  Among them 54% went down one rating to good, 25% were found to require improvement and 5% were rated as inadequate.

 

OFSTED does not routinely inspect outstanding-rated schools because of a government-imposed exception aimed at letting them ‘get on with their good work’.

 

Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Schools, wants this lifted.  She said:

 

‘These figures should set alarm bells ringing.  The fact outstanding schools are largely exempt from inspection leaves us with real gaps in our knowledge of education and safeguarding.’

 

This article reinforces my view of outstanding schools.  Several years ago Mere School supported an outstanding school that had got into difficulty.  I believe that these schools should be inspected in the same way as good schools so that these situations do not arise and negatively impact on children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th June 2019

 

Wandering around Mere you can see how much building work is going on.  This obviously is going to have an impact on schooling in the town.

 

The governing body has been working very closely with the Local Authority over the past few months to look at how the town will cope with an increased number of children.

 

It has been decided that there is no need to build another primary school as there is so much space in our school building.  An architect has been commissioned to look at how our building can be expanded into the Children’s Centre (which will be closing down in August).  Once these plans have been drawn up the governing body will be consulted.  We are promised that these plans will include increased parking and a much better traffic management system for the site.

 

So that we have capacity to expand our class provision the governors have decided to employ an additional teacher in KS1 from September 2019.  We have enough capacity at KS2 at the moment but it is important that we are flexible with our planning so that we can respond appropriately to any families moving into Mere.

 

We plan to organise our classes in the following way from September:

 

Blue – reception

Yellow – reception and year 1

Silver – year 1 and year 2

Orange – year 2

Gold – year 3

Green – year 4

Red – year 5

Purple – year 6.

 

Over the next academic year the staff will be working closely with the governors to look at class organisation and the curriculum delivery so that we can ensure that we are offering the best standards of education for our children.  Ensuring that every child achieves their best emotionally, academically and socially will be our top priority.

 

Please do contact me if you have any questions or queries.  We are in the early stages of planning and as soon as we have any further information we will let you know.

 

This is an exciting development for the school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th May 2019

 

I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from the Local Authority Health and Safety Team stating that they had received an anonymous complaint about the amount of tummy bugs we have in school.

 

On the day of the phone call there were 5 children off with various ailments but the situation could not be described as ‘an epidemic’ – as this parent described it.  The children were all in different classes and had a variety of illnesses.

 

I know it is frustrating when your children are ill and all the necessary arrangements that need to be made.  When I was a child a tummy bug lasted for a maximum of a day then we were back to normal.  These new bugs seem to last for a few days and many have a tendency to return.

 

Our attendance data indicates that our illness absence is better than most schools nationally (at the moment!) and I appreciate all the efforts you make to get your children to school.

 

We are constantly encouraging the children to wash their hands and the teachers give regular instruction on how to do this.

 

Our cleaning team are meticulous when cleaning the loos and do their utmost to ensure there is a constant supply of soap – there are times when children need to be reminded about respecting the toilets and the fact that other children will be using them. 

 

I am concerned though, that our KS2 boys loos are still out of action and the governors and I continue to chase the Local Authority about the work that needs to be completed.  We have been told that they will be completing the necessary drainage work during half term and the redecorating shortly after this.

 

We would be grateful if you could discuss the importance of handwashing with your children to reinforce the work we are doing in school so we can keep illness to a minimum.

 

As ever, if you do have concerns about anything in school, please do contact me – 01747 860515 or head@mere.wilts.sch.uk.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th May 2019

 

It is KS2 SATs week next week and Purple Class are eager, anxious, well prepared and looking forward to getting them ‘over and done with’.

 

I really do not like putting our children and staff under such pressure but these tests have become part of our school lives now. 

 

The outcomes are really important for the school as we are judged on how well our children have performed.  OFSTED make a judgement on this and prospective parents.  If the results are poor our OFSTED rating will reflect this which will ultimately result in parents not selecting to send their children to our school which will impact negatively on our funding.

 

It is important as well that our children start secondary school with the best results possible.  Secondary schools do use the children’s test results to group the children and make predictions for their GCSE exams.

 

There has been a lot of negative press about SATs (there usually is at this time of year) and the pressure the children are feeling.  Some schools have been running revision classes during the Easter holidays and even rewarding these children with Happy Meals!  It is worth noting that in England we have a high-stakes accountability education system and this does impact negatively on schools and children and research indicates that this does not improve teaching and learning in schools.  The Government, however, can use this data to compare and judge schools.

 

Whilst these tests are important it is vital that we approach them in a balanced manner so that the children still receive a rich curricular experience.  It is important that we prepare our children adequately so they are not surprised by anything in the papers but we must still deliver other areas of the curriculum (PE, music, art, DT, science, computing, geography, history, PSHE,).  If our children are happy and engaged at school they will perform well in the tests.

 

I regularly chat with our children about the SATs and they are looking forward most to their bacon butties in the mornings!

 

So, I would like to wish our children the very best of luck for next week and encourage them to do their very best but also look forward with them to their remaining weeks in school when they will be doing lots of exciting activities – Leaver’s production, various trips, a business project with the Brush Factory, sporting events, first aid course, swimming, induction days at their new schools … the list goes on.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 3rd May 2019

 

Our art exhibition at the end of last term was a huge success and I would like to thank Mrs Loxton for the hard work that went into organising it. 

 

Our children were given the opportunity to produce a high quality piece of art work and have it professionally framed and parents were delighted to buy their pictures. 

 

We managed to raise over £300 for the school but most importantly the children enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to work on a piece of art for a sustained period, developing and enhancing their work over a period of time.  They were thrilled to see their pictures beautifully presented and valued. 

 

The children also had the chance to look at their friend’s work and that of professional artists who joined us during the afternoon – a real community event!

 

One of the artists who joined us during that afternoon e.mailed to say:

“Thank you for the invitation.  It was great to see the children, they had a real sense of pride and excitement when they found their paintings.  A very positive attitude to art.

 

The children were a credit to the school when they went around the room looking at the artwork and asking appropriate questions.

 

A lovely afternoon.”

 

Whilst reading, writing and maths are very important we believe, at Mere, that we must give our children a rounded and balanced education and events like this help us to do this.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th April 2019

 

This headline ‘caught my eye’ several weeks ago in a national newspaper:

 

Call for resilience lessons to beat the old boys network

 

The article went on to say:

 

“State school pupils must practise debating and public speaking to compete against Eton old-boys in the workplace, the education secretary will say.

 

Damian Hinds wants to ‘call time’ on the concept of ‘public school confidence’ and make sure pupils from all backgrounds can hold their own.

 

In a major speech today, he will point out that character and resilience are just as important as qualifications for future success.

 

And he will urge schools to help children take part in confidence-building activities such as debating and team sports to develop skills for the future lives.”

 

I am not sure about ‘the old boys network’ but at Mere School we do strongly believe that we must develop these crucial life/social skills alongside strong academic success.  If we manage to do this then our children are very well prepared for their future.

 

We offer our children a broad, balanced and exciting formal curriculum supplemented with lots of other opportunities, eg art exhibitions, drama productions, music lessons, sports matches, engineering days .. the list goes on.  Our Growth Mindset work also contributes significantly to ‘the rounded’ child and we encourage our children to grasp every opportunity that we offer.

 

As a school community we recognise the balance and combination of these attributes and it is encouraging that the proposed new OFSTED framework will also do this.  Our long-standing approach to education is now becoming officially recognised.

Friday 29th March 2019

 

I was delighted to read an article in the paper about the well being research project we are participating in run by the Anna Freud Foundation on behalf of the Department for Education.

 

Thousands of pupils are practising mindfulness at school for a couple of minutes a day to help them deal with the pressures of the modern world.

 

370 primary and secondary schools are testing different approaches to improving children’s mental health.  The trial, which runs until 2021 will be one of the largest of its kind in the world.  It will teach students ‘innovative techniques’ such as mindfulness, relaxation and breathing exercises to help children regulate their emotions.

 

Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education said:

 

“As a society we are more open about our mental health than ever before … but the modern world has brought new pressures for children, while potentially making others worse.  Schools and teachers don’t have all the answers – nor could they – but we know they can play a special role, which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools.”

 

We were very keen to take part in this research as we know how important it is that our children have healthy minds and bodies.  Working to support the mental health of our children has been a school priority for us this year.  Mr Rich and Mrs Cocker have been on some specialist training in Bristol and are now using these special techniques for a couple of minutes each day with Green and Red Classes.  They will they evaluate the impact of this are feedback to the Anna Freud Foundation.

 

As a school we believe that it is important that we help to make our children’s lives better and we hope that the outcome of the research will be for the Government to allocate more funding to this important cause.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd March 2019

 

I wanted to share this very special poem in my message this week, written by Tyler Ohuanbor:

 

A Teachers Poem

 

Everyday you greet your students with

A smile upon your face,

Though paperwork the night before

Seemed like a gruelling face.

 

Money’s not your motivation

It’s the love for what you do.

You hear that special calling,

To which you always stay true.

 

Your students are your dedication,

Devotion is to them.

To you each child’s unique and special,

A beautiful little gem.

 

Some days are just demanding

And frustration takes its course.

Then you see those little faces,

Their inspiration is your force.

 

Each day you’re in the classroom

It reminds you why you’re there.

Making a difference in children’s lives

With your heart that you share.

 

There’s a special pride in teachers,

And a love that isn’t seen.

Appreciation’s always shared

Between those little lives.

  

Tyler Ohuanbor

 

 

This sums up what being a teacher at Mere School is all about.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th March 2019

 

Our Class Parents met just before half term and I wanted to use my message to update you on their discussions.

 

Matters arising from the last meeting

 

School photos – a new company will be coming in to take class photos in the summer and the school would welcome any feedback.

Snuggle up story bags – any help with material donation or sewing would be appreciated.

Club information – this information is already on the website and a note has been made to include this in the next batch of Welcome letters.

Subsidiary letters for Blue Class – Mrs McClelland will do this to ensure that new parents understand our key events.

Help at lunchtime – the MDSAs and teachers are helping the children at lunchtime.

Snack trolley change – Mrs Ross will try to keep a closer eye on this.

 

Consultation on new Government Relationships and Health Education proposals

 

The changes to the PSHE curriculum were shared with the group.  Mere School are covering the expectations currently.

 

AOB

 

KS2 Pottery Club – This is a club for KS2 children only.  We do not have the staff capacity to extend it to other year groups unless a parent volunteer comes forward.

Temperature of the school – all classrooms have a thermostat and teachers control the temperature of the room – it is usually extremely cold in the KS1 classes.  Mr Drake will adjust the thermostats in the common areas to reduce the temperature if it is too warm.

Sickness – there has been a bug going around (very common at this time of year).  The staff continually emphasize the need for good personal hygiene and every termly newsletter mentions the 48 hour recommendation.

Lunchtimes – the school has been trying a new system which has now been withdrawn.  KS2 children can sit where they like (apart from the helpers) and KS1 children do have allocated places which they have chosen.  The younger children are much happier now knowing where they are sitting and the start of lunchtime is much calmer.

School disco – one parent noted that it took a long time for the children to enter the disco.  This will be rectified for the next one and has not happened before.  The time will not be extended as the younger children cannot cope with a longer session.

Toilet monitor role in Yellow Class – the reasons for this were discussed and it was noted how the children enjoy this responsibility and the class are responding well.

TD days – Mrs Williamson explained that these are very important days for the school and its development.  We endeavour to attach them to a holiday so there is the minimum disruption to learning.  They are planned in advance according to the needs of the school and availability of professionals who will be attending. 

Attendance messages in newsletter – this information is to keep parents informed and to ensure that a priority for the school is being shared. 

Nut allergy – it was confirmed that the child in school with a nut allergy has an allergy to all nuts not just peanuts.

Bramley House Fete – this will be in August and will be raising funds for our school.

KS2 SATs – there will be bacon butties for the children taking the tests.

Music at lunchtime – it was suggested that playing music at lunchtime might have a calming effect.  This will be discussed with the teachers.

Snack trolley – parents were very happy with the changes that the new catering manager has implemented.

French – Mrs Jacobs is must unwell at the moment and the school is looking for some temporary cover for French.

Safer internet use parent meeting – it was suggested that this might be alternated between just after school and the evening.

Mere School’s Got Talent – parents would very much like to come and watch this – CW will ask the teachers.

Drum teacher – parents are delighted with our new drum teacher.

 

The next meeting will be on Friday 17th May 2019.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th March 2019

 

I am delighted to use my message this week to share some good news about our school.  The new Director of Education has written to us congratulating us on our recent KS2 SATs outcomes.  Below is what she said:

 

Dear Colleagues

 

Congratulations on your school’s performance

 

As present, the responsibilities for educational excellence as set out in section 13A of the Education Act 1996, remain with the local authority.  That duty states that a local authority must exercise its education functions with a view to promoting high standards.  As well as taking swift and effective action when underperformance occurs in a maintained school, local authorities should encourage good and outstanding maintained schools to take responsibility for their own improvement and to support other schools to access such support.

 

I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the recently validated outcomes achieved by your pupils in 2018, which are amongst the best primary schools in Wiltshire.

 

It is very positive to see that you have risen to the challenge of higher expectations with 88% of your KS2 pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics combined.  It is also good to see that pupil progress is well above the national average for mathematics and above for reading and writing.

 

We appreciate that these very good outcomes are due to the sustained commitment, hard work and success of your staff, governors and pupils and recognise that they could not have been achieved without your effective leadership and determination to remain focused on school improvement.

 

I would like to offer my thanks to you and all at school for your pursuit of the highest standards of educational achievement.

 

Director or Education and Skills

 

At huge thank you to the whole school community who have contributed to these outcomes.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st March 2019

 

Please see below advice from Mr Hopwood (our international internet safety expert) and Mrs McClelland regarding the latest internet dangers for our children.  This has been well publicised in the press.

 

Seeing and Sharing Scary Things Online

 

Keeping children safe is a top priority at Mere School, whether on school premises or beyond, and this of course extends to the online world (although actually our online and offline lives are so blurred that it's not always helpful to use this distinction).

 

Online safety or digital resilience is a whole-school effort: it is embedded throughout the curriculum, explicitly in subjects like PSHE and Computing, but also taught in all subjects and topics throughout the year (we use the 'Education for a Connected World' framework from UKCIS), and, of course, it is very much part of our safeguarding focus given the real risks and dangers which exist online.

 

In all that we do, however, we like to focus on the positives of the online world.  We recognise that technology is here to stay and pupils at our school, live, love and learn through their tech.

 

If you want to find out more about the realities of life online for young people, which includes a lot about the risks, you may wish to read the results of a survey of 40,000 UK school children at hopesandstreams.lgfl,net.

 

What we would like to encourage you to do though is to talk to your children about what they get up to online.  The survey showed us that they want to talk to you and trust your life experience and advice, so it doesn't matter if you've ever played their games, hears of their apps or got a virtual reality headset!

 

Please take time to talk to them over the next few weeks about what they do on their devices and with whom, what they love, and what worries them.  Why not get them to show or teach you how to use their apps, sites or games?  The key thing is to stay positive, be real about the risks and make sure they know who they can talk to if they are unsure.

 

There are plenty of things to be aware of online, but if you are warning them about risks and dangers, please don't show them scary images or tell them the names of 'bad apps' (all apps can be good or bad) or challenges/dares to avoid.  If you do, that can scare them even more or encourage them to go and Google it later.

 

Here are a few links that may be helpful to you:

 

* apps.lgfl,net

* screentime.lgfl.net

* parentsafe.lgfl,net

 

In the past week there have been many press stories about a particular nasty challenge circulating with a scary image on social media.  These stories are based on an urban myth/hoax which circulates every few months.  Whether that is the case or not, please do not show scary images from the newspapers to your children in order to talk about it, and do not mention the challenge by name.  Instead, as above, talk about what to do if they see something scary or someone else dates them to do something stupid or dangerous; ask them is they would tell someone and who; make sure they know never to forward these things to classmates.

 

Let's work together to avoid unnecessary sleepless nights.

 

Catriona Williamson

 

Friday 15th February 2019

 

Whenever I speak to groups of children about how we could improve life at Mere School there is always one who would like to stop wearing school uniform.

 

We were delighted to welcome the Littlewood family back to school a couple of weeks ago, after their emigration to Sweden and they told our children how they do not have to wear a school uniform in Sweden. Our children were most envious!

 

The Education Secretary, Mr Damian Hinds believes that school uniform is “an ‘important leveller’ which helps prevent disadvantaged pupils from being bullied for not having expensive gear”.

 

He said that he supports all schools which enforce a strict clothing code as it stops children wearing expensive designer lines. Mr Hinds also called on parents to ‘back up’ headteachers in enforcing good behaviour – and complying with uniform is a key aspect.

 

He also added that the problems were worse if schools allowed children to come in wearing trainers of their choice rather than standard black shoes.

 

I am very proud of the standards of school uniform at Mere and value all the support we get from parents ensuring that our children are well-turned out in the correct uniform.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th February 2019

 

Following our highly informative day with Mr Karl Hopwood on internet safety I spent some time reflecting on how the internet has revolutionised education. When I started teaching we did not have a computer in school!

 

E.mail has significantly improved parent-teacher communication and it is hard to imagine a life without it. When you sit and think about how much of our day is spent reading or replying to e.mails it is quite worrying – not just at work but at home as well!

 

There is a difficult situation to be managed and we have to balance up reducing teacher workload and parent accessibility to the teacher. Some teachers are replying to parental e.mails in the evening on top of marking and lesson preparation.

 

I do have a personal rule that I do not look at school e.mails after 5 pm (unless I have been out of school all day or it is the holidays). I do encourage the teachers to adopt the same approach but I know some of them do check e.mails in the evening.

 

In a bid to reduce teaching workload (and to make our profession more attractive) I would be grateful if you could work with me to try not to contact teachers by e.mail in the evening unless it is absolutely necessary. We need our teachers to be refreshed for the new day ahead!

 

It is worth noting that I am in school from 8 am every morning and I check my e.mails at this time as well. I usually pick up anything urgent at this point.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st February 2019

 

You have probably been aware from the press coverage that there is a new OFSTED framework coming into schools.

 

Amanda Spielman, The Chief Inspector for Schools, has set out her eagerly awaited new OFSTED Education Inspection Framework, due to be implemented in September this year.

 

In a nutshell, these changes will move OFSTED’s focus away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving their results, and whether they are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep. The new system plans to reward school leaders who are ambitious for their pupils, rather than those who jump through hoops and simply teach to the test.

 

As you can imagine there has been a mixed reaction to these proposals. Some head teachers are delighted that teachers will be treated as experts in their field, not just data managers, and that this new framework will recognise and reward the good work done by schools in areas of high deprivation. Mrs Spielman is convinced that it will also ease the teacher recruitment crisis.

 

Other schools are very concerned over the new proposals and cannot see that they will reduce stress or increase the reliability of judgements that the inspectors make. They are worried that some inspections will be increased to 2 days, and that it is proposed that inspectors prepare for the inspection on school grounds (resulting in them inspecting as soon as they arrive!). Schools are nervous because it is believed that reliance on data will continue, but with added judgments on the curriculum – increasing the pressure on schools.

 

I have been head teacher at Mere for 20 years, and during that time there have been several changes to the way schools are assessed. We will ‘keep calm and carry on’ with business as usual, confident in the fact that we are doing what works and what we know to be right. We have always believed in getting the very best outcomes for our children in the basic skills, and are proud that their SATs results reflect that.

 

However, despite the apparent OFSTED obsession with data in recent years, we have maintained our belief that children should have a rich, exciting and diverse curriculum and school life, and that they are well prepared for the world that awaits them. Our children have long enjoyed competitive sport, art, music, foreign languages, whole school theatre trips, and numerous class trips.

 

We need to remember that this is still a consultation document, so a lot can change and head teachers and governors are being urged to take part in the consultation. I will let you know if there are any changes and we look forward to being inspected under this new framework in the near future.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th January 2019

 

During our Safeguarding T D day we were given some really useful information for parents if their children attend ‘out-of-school settings’, helping them to understand that a safe environment looks like.

 

Out-of-school settings might be Gymbuds, Karate Club, Rainbows/Beavers, football club etc.

 

These are safeguarding issue awareness for parents of children who attend out-of-hours settings.

 

  1. Staff are not DBS checked.
  2. No Child Protection Policy.
  3. Signs of abuse on other children who attend the setting, eg unexplained bruises.
  4. Provider unable to name a designated safeguarding lead.
  5. The designated safeguarding lead has not had relevant training.
  6. If there is access to the internet, no filtering or monitoring systems in place.
  7. Dangerous physical environment, eg loose wires, damp, no fire escape, no first aid kit.
  8. No designated first aider.
  9. No parental consent form or requirement for emergency contact details.
  10. Other adults coming into the club who are not staff members.
  11. No Health and Safety Policy.
  12. No fire escape plan.

 

If your child does attend out-of-school activities and you are worried about any of the above please call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th January 2019

 

We are really proud of our school meals at Mere School and the relatively new appointment of our Catering Manager, Mrs Julie Gulliver, has given us the opportunity to look at our provision and see how we can improve it further.

 

Our main aim is to provide our children with a high quality school meal at an affordable price. At £2.00/meal they do represent extremely good value, and are significantly cheaper than schools locally. Having a school meal is definitely cheaper than filling a lunchbox but it is very likely that prices will have to increase soon.

 

We are also keen to provide a meal-time experience for our children. We do have high expectations of table manners and behaviour at lunchtime and we want to make this even better. Mrs Edgar is working closely with Mrs Simmons, our Lunchtime Supervisor team and School Council to implement a new set of rules. We are particularly keen to work on the noise level as it does echo in the room. Good table manners are an extremely important skill for life.

 

Mrs Gulliver is also going to meet with the School Council to discuss the menus. The children are going to share their favourite meals with her and make suggestions for new ones. It is really important that we have a balance of meals that are healthy and popular.

 

We have also been working hard to reduce waste. Portion control is a priority now for us and Mrs Gulliver only cooks what meals are ordered – we cannot afford to prepare ‘extra’ food and this is why we have to be extremely strict about the ordering of meals.

 

It is good to note though, due to the School Council’s intervention, that we rarely use disposable plastic items.

 

We are one of the few schools that cook meals on site (for our own use and we supply 2 other schools as well). I am delighted that our governing body believe that this provision is extremely important for our children and continue to support our kitchen.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th January 2019

 

As our Internet Safety Day is approaching I thought it was an appropriate moment to remind parents about how to keep our children safe.

 

Early use of digital technology has been shown to improve language skills and promote children’s social development and creativity. However, it is not without risks for young children, who may come across inappropriate content or begin to copy what older children do online.

 

Be clear what your child can and can’t do online – where they can use the internet, how much time they can spend online, the sites they can visit and the type of information they can share. Agree with your child when they can have a mobile phone or tablet.

 

The best way to find out what your child is doing online is to ask them to tell you about what they do and what sites they like to visit. If they’re happy to, ask them to show you. Talk to them about being a good friend online.

 

Some experts recommend that you install parental controls on your home broadband and any internet-enabled devices. Set up a user account for your child on the main device they use and make sure other accounts in the household are password-protected so that younger children can’t access them by accident. Our Internet Safety advisor gives different advice to this – it would be worth coming along to hear what he says.

 

Use airplane mode on your devices when your child is using then so they can’t make an unapproved purchases or interact with anyone online without your knowledge.

 

Encourage them to use their tech devices in a communal area like the lounge or kitchen so you can keep an eye on how they’re using the internet and also share in their enjoyment.

 

It’s also a good idea to talk to any older children about what they’re doing online and what they show to younger children. Encourage them to be responsible and help keep their younger siblings safe.

 

Use safe search engines such as Swiggle or Kids-search. You can save time by adding these to your ‘Favourites’. Safe search settings can also be activated on Google and other search engines, as well as YouTube.

 

The age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child.

 

Our ultimate aim at school is to keep our children safe at all times and our governing body made the decision some time ago that we needed to invest in internet safety. This is why we have an Internet Safety Day (as well as the on-going safety work) every year. Please do come along to hear an international expert in this field – Mr Karl Hopwood. He will also be working in every class that day.

 

Thursday 31st January 2019, 3.30 – 4.30 pm

 

We will be running a crèche so you can concentrate on his advice!

 

Make a note in your diary and we look forward to seeing you.

Friday 21st December 2018

 

I like to finish the term with some good news.

 

Last week the school performance tables were published by the Government based on our KS2 SATs results from July 2018.

 

We are absolutely delighted with how well our children performed and you can have a look for yourself online at:

 

www.gov.uk/school-performance-tables

 

The headlines are that we have above average progress scores in reading and writing and well above in maths. 88% of our children met the expected standards in reading, writing and maths compared to 63% of children in Wiltshire and 64% nationally. Our average scores are rising year on year.

 

I am particularly pleased that our absence rate was 3.6% compared to 4% nationally.

 

Our overall performance at the end of KS2 in 2018 ranked us 21st out of 239 Wiltshire schools.

 

These results are testament to our hard working teachers and support staff across the school who work tirelessly to ensure that every child at Mere School achieves their personal best. I would also like to thank our team of committed governors for supporting and challenging the school so effectively. Educating a child is a team effort and all the help and support you parents give your children is much appreciated in school and contributes significantly to this superb set of results.

 

We are not ‘resting on our laurels’ and are striving for even better outcomes next year as well as providing a rich and balanced curriculum for your children.

 

I would like to share an e.mail I received from a parent last week:

 

“Just wanted to drop you a short note to congratulate you and the staff at Mere School on the recently published results in primary level achievement… I appreciate it’s not all about numbers and benchmarks but I’m not sure how many people realise and appreciate all the hard work that goes into such achievements … I was lucky enough to join my daughter recently as she travelled back from the Opera visit with her classmates. It really brightened up my commute to see the children enjoy a big day out to London and I’m sure all these extra-curricular activities drive a greater engagement for learning in the children … Many thanks to you and your team.”

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th December 2018

 

Our whole school focus for improvement this year is writing and I have been delighted to see some high quality examples of writing throughout the term. I love celebrating the successes the children are having and rewarding the children for their hard work. Examples of particularly good work can be seen in our Achievement Book in the entrance foyer.

 

Mr Rich, Mrs Edgar and Mrs Loxton have also completed a writing book scrutiny. This is when they take a selection of books from each class to look at the quality of writing. They were really impressed with the standard of work seen, particularly some WW1 writing from Purple Class and some snowman writing in Red Class. The children were described as ‘assessment literate’, which means that they can look at their work and improve it – for example, correcting spellings or making better word or phrase choices.

 

We are going to try to give the children more opportunities to write for longer periods of time so that their creative ‘flow’ is not disturbed.

 

Not only have the staff been impressed with the quality of writing but our new Chair of Governors spent some time with groups of children talking about their writing. Mrs Godfrey is an English graduate, qualified secondary English teacher and trained OFSTED inspector. She was overwhelmed with the discussions she had with our children. She noted that the children clearly ‘loved writing and spoke with enormous enthusiasm.’ She thought that the children’s attitudes to learning were ‘exceptional’ and all children talked about ‘challenging themselves to even greater achievements. They looked forward to receiving feedback from both peers and teachers as a way of improving the quality of their writing’.

 

Mrs Godfrey asked the children how she might persuade other children in another school who might not like writing that actually writing was a good thing. Apart from being very shocked by the possibility the children said ‘they need to do it and see that writing is fun’ and ‘if they work on their writing they will see that learning is infections – everyone will catch it!’

 

Mrs Godfrey also commented on how much standards have risen since she was teaching in a secondary school. She felt that our year 6 children were producing standards of work that a year 8 child might have been doing when she was teaching. I know that I am very pleased that I have an ‘A level’ in English when I am teaching our older classes.

 

I am so proud of what our children are achieving and I am delighted to share this with you.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th December 2018

 

With Christmas in mind, I am aware that for some families this is a challenging time.

The role of being a parent or carer can be a difficult one and it’s often hard to know if we’re doing the right thing.

To help your child stay healthy, try and ensure that they:

  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • get enough regular sleep
  • are physically active and busy
  • don’t have too much ‘screen time’ and the time they do have on devices is age-appropriate and safe
  • have a chance to talk to someone openly and regularly about how they are doing and what’s going on for them.

If your child is struggling with any of the above then it may be an indication that something or someone has upset them, or that they are finding things difficult to cope with.

Support is available from your GP, school, the school health nurse, and or health visitor/Children’s Centre (for those with under 5s).

For help that is more targeted towards understanding positive mental health and wellbeing contact

Young Minds Parents’ Helpline 0808 802 5544

 

Email: parents@youngminds.org.uk

Catriona Williamson

Friday 30th November 2018

 

The source of great confrontation in my house is when my husband and daughters are glued to their phones! It was interesting to read about the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, who is appealing to mothers and fathers to cut back on their screen time, saying it was a ‘scandal’ that many children ‘are starting school unable to communicate effectively.’

 

He told parents that spending ‘one-to-one’ time without gadgets’ and ‘playing with numbers to songs and poems’ would reap dividends for their youngest children.

 

Last week there was a summit in London with major companies, including Lego and Disney, to address what he called ‘the last taboo’ of tackling educational disadvantage – advising parents on how best to educate their young children at home. Mr Hinds said:

“As the vast majority of children’s time is spent at home, we need to think about how we support parents with learning in the home environment. This could be seen as the last taboo in education, and certainly no one wants to be lecturing parents. But, it is a persistent scandal that too many children are starting school unable to communicate effectively, and we know that what happens at home makes a big difference in that.

 

Working with businesses and organisations, we are looking to support parents with practical help and advice. This includes the development of a set of easy, everyday activities for all families, from playing with numbers to songs and poems, in order to support children’s development.

 

As a parent, I’m conscious that while we think about screen time limits for children, we find it harder to limit ourselves. But, that one-to-one time without gadgets getting in the way is so valuable. The pressures of work and the modern world means putting phones away is far from easy. But I think it’s an important area to talk about, particularly as we consider ways to support parents with children’s learning at home.”

 

He stressed that technology was not ‘the villain of the piece’ and that well used, it would ‘actively support a child’s learning.’

 

It is worth noting that more than a quarter of children finish their reception year without the basic early communication or reading skills they need to thrive at school.

 

Communication skills across the school is a priority for us at Mere also. We have an exciting new initiative that will be starting in KS1 after Christmas – Mr Rich will be contacting you shortly.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd November 2018

 

When thinking about what to write this week I came across an older article in ‘The Independent’ newspaper based on some research conducted by the University of California and they discovered, unsurprisingly that:

“the expectations parents hold for their kids have a huge effect on attainment.”

 

Ever since I have been teaching this has been a fundamental belief of mine but it is good to have it validated by research.

 

The research states:

“Any good parent wants their kids to stay out of trouble, do well at school, and go on and do awesome things as adults. Unsurprisingly, much of it comes down to the parents.”

 

Here is what parents of successful children have in common:

 

  1. They make their children do chores. Children need to learn that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute to this. Researchers claimed that children who do chores go on to become employees who collaborate well with their colleagues, are more empathetic as they know first-hand what struggling looks like and are able to take on tasks independently.
  2. They teach their kids social skills. The 0-year study showed that socially competent children could co-operate with their peers without prompting, be helpful to others, understand their feelings and resolve problems on their own. They were far more likely to go to university and have full-time job. Those with limited social skills had a higher chance of getting arrested, binge drinking and applying for public housing.
  3. They have healthy relationships with each other. Children in high-conflict families tend to fare worse that children of parents that get along.
  4. They have attained higher educational levels. The research showed that mothers who finished school or further education were more likely to raise children that did the same.
  5. They teach their kids maths early on. The research found that developing early maths skills can turn into a huge advantage. “Mastery of early maths skills predicts not only future maths achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement.”
  6. They develop a relationship with their children. Parents who ‘respond to their child’s signals promptly and appropriately’ and ‘provide a secure base for the children to explore the world’ are generally more successful.
  7. They are less stressed. Research shows that if mum is happy this brightness infects the children, if she is sad, that gloominess will transfer to the child.
  8. They value effort over avoiding failure. This point enforces all the work we have been doing on fixed and growth mindset. We need to encourage our children to have a growth mindset where the children thrive on challenge and see failure as an opportunity to learn.
  9. The mums work. According to this research there are significant benefits for children growing up with mums who work outside the home.
  10. They have a higher socioeconomic status.
  11. They are authoritative rather than authoritarian or permissive. The parent tries to direct the child rationally so that they grow up with respect for authority but they do not feel strangled by it.
  12. They teach ‘grit’. This is about teaching children to imagine and commit to the future they want to create.

 

Having attended my daughter’s graduation ceremony last week I was struck by what the Vice-Chancellor said. He stated that we have to encourage our children to ‘reach for the sky’ and with high aspirations and belief in themselves this will result in them having a successful life. I could not agree with him more. We have a responsibility to prepare our children and ensure they have the skills to cope with a world which we do not know what will look like when they are adults.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 16th November 2018

 

I received a lovely letter from the Mere Town Council Chairman which I would like to share with you:

 

"There are a lot of thank yous going about after what was a very memorable Remembrance Day and I would like to add one more.  I wanted to say to you and the staff and children at the school how pleasing it was to see the way the children of Mere responded to the centennial.  I saw it first hand when I came in with the vicar to do assembly.  Hands were raised with keenness and understanding to any question about what the centennial meant.

 

When I saw pupils, with their parents, about Mere looking at the mementos I could tell they were often leading the conversation.  Some pupils took part in the service but others were also there, in attendance.  The vicar pointed out, in her service, the poppies that had been created by pupils.  The librarian remarked on the fact that pupils were  coming into the library on their own to gather up maps of where the mementos were positioned.

 

It was very heartwarming for me, having worked with the school, to see from 'the outside' how good the school is in the way pupils are such a part of the community.

 

A big thank you to Mere School for being what I know it is - an outstanding school."

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th November 2018

 

I stumbled across a very interesting article at half term written by one of the UK’s most successful interior designers, Kelly Hoppen. The headline was:

 

“Your weakness can be your strength”.

 

Kelly Hoppen said that she had a miserable time at school. She was bullied and could not spell or read properly.

 

Now she realises that she was probably dyslexic, which was diagnosed when she became a mother and recognised the same struggles in her daughter.

 

When she looks back she is pleased that her condition was not diagnosed. She believes that it is important to understand that dyslexia is not a disability but a different way of thinking.

 

Kelly Hoppen believes that dyslexia has shaped who she is and what she has done in her life. She has a highly developed visual imagination and heightened intuition. Both skills have served her very well in life. She has run her highly successful business on these skills. When she interviews for staff she likes to meet people and through this she knows whether they are right for her business. She says, “whenever I’ve ignored my instincts, I’ve made mistakes.”

 

She sums up her thoughts:

“I wish I could tell my schoolgirl self that one day I would be proud to be the odd one out – and that what seems to be your worst weakness can actually be your greatest strength.”

 

I found this article most refreshing and I often have conversations about not labelling children. All children have different strengths and weaknesses and they will ultimately have to cope in the big wide world. We need to work together to find the best way for children to learn in school and ensure that they make as much progress with us as possible so that they are prepared for adult life.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd November 2018

 

Over the last 3 years primary aged children have been offered the flu vaccination in a national roll-out of the programme.

 

This year the flu vaccination is being offered to all children in our reception class through to year 5. Pre-school children will be offered the vaccine through the surgery. This will take place on Wednesday 19th December 2018.

 

Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children, with serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The programme is designed to provide both individual protection to children who receive the vaccine and to prevent the spread of flu to their family and the community

 

Evidence from the children’s programme indicates that there has been a positive impact on flu levels, both for the vaccinated children and the wider community. This has meant less illness in the community, and fewer GP consultations, hospital admissions, and emergency department attendances. Flu vaccination of school aged children also helps to promote a healthy school environment and may reduce absenteeism amongst pupils and staff.

 

The programme will be delivered by a healthcare team which may include nurses, healthcare support workers, administrative staff and other associated professions. Staff will have appropriate qualifications and training, including safeguarding training.

 

Parents need to provide consent for their children to be vaccinated by following the link below to Virgin Care’s secure electronic portal:

 

https://schoolimms.virgincare.co.uk/?h=15fb25fab83a65ac1b98451a51af7fc30ffecb1219261d0ace3862467ee0ab53

 

Virgin Care are requesting that consent is provided as soon as possible as the link closes 5 days prior to the session in school. This link is secure and unique to our school. Full details and information to assist parents in completing the consent is detailed on the portal including full FAQs, patient information and contact details should parents wish to speak to a nurse. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SCHOOL WILL NOT BE CHASING PERMISSIONS. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS TO REGISTER YOUR CHILD.

 

The nasal spray vaccine has a good safety record and vaccinated contacts are not at risk from catching flu from the vaccine, either through being given or by being in contact with a recently vaccinated individual.

 

So, if you would like your child to have the flu immunisation please register your child through the above website. Any queries or questions can be answered on this website and the contact details for the health professionals involved are there also. If you do not have access to the internet, Mere Library has access that parents can use.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 19th October 2018

 

I was delighted to meet with the Class Parents last week. It was again a very productive and useful meeting. We chatted about the following things:

 

  • The purpose of the Class Parent meetings – an opportunity for a group of parents to give feedback to the school and make suggestions for improvements and to liaise with the parents and the class teacher.
  • Texts – we will try to make them class specific if relevant.
  • Sports Day – lots of positive feedback about the event.
  • Class photos – the school will try a different company for these with the aim of providing something more informal.
  • Attendance – lengthy discussions about how this might be improved.
  • Friend’s Grotto Presents – the Class Parents agreed to help with the wrapping.
  • Snuggle-Up Bags – the Class Parents are going to try to find some willing helpers to sew these bags.
  • Snacks at the school disco – the current arrangements will not change.
  • Clubs – Yellow Class parents would appreciate more information about the clubs. Mrs Read will update the website with this and the ‘Welcome to Yellow Class’ letters will be adapted for next year.
  • More information for Blue Class – Mrs McClelland will try to write some additional flyers for parents to help those that are new to the school for key events (eg Sports Day).
  • Lunchtime – the lunchtime supervisors were asked to keep a close eye on the younger children who might be struggling with their lunchboxes.
  • KS2 snack trolley – we will try to keep an eye on the change that is being given out.
  • Newsletter – there has been some technical issues with the uploading of the newsletter to the website. We hope these are now rectified.

 

If you have anything you would like your Class Parents to raise at our meetings please do contact them.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th October 2018

 

I expect you have seen the negative press coverage concerning the 1000 head teachers who marched on Downing Street to protest against ‘dangerous’ cuts to budgets.

 

One head teacher reported that things were at such a critical point in her school that she had £80 left in her budget at the end of the financial year. Another has written to parents asking them to pay for toilet paper.

 

I would like to reassure you that the situation at Mere School is not quite as desperate but we are having to manage our finances particularly carefully. The Government claim that funding to schools is at an all-time high but schools are having to pay for much more out of their pot of money which is having a significant, negative impact on our budget. We are grateful to The Friends who provide many ‘extras’ for our children and we do our best to generate income from other sources to supplement out budget.

 

As far as marching on Downing Street, I believe that I have a job to educate the children at Mere School. There are other ways to register our concerns about the money coming into schools.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th October 2018

 

Mrs Loxton and I both attended some safeguarding training last week and it is clear that on-line safety is a growing area of concern. We must do our utmost to ensure that our children are safe when they are using the internet.

 

I frequently write about on-line safety and thought that a reminder would be a useful way to use my HT Message this week. It is worth noting that 86% of 3 – 4 year olds have access to a tablet computer at home. One in 5 has a computer of their own. Some 76% of children aged 6 have access to devices such as smartphones. By the age of 10 this is 92%; by 12 it is 96%.

 

So what can you do to ensure your child is safe online? Some experts have revealed the seven top strategies:

 

DON’T BAN THE INTERNET – our natural instincts are to protect our children by stopping then from going online at all. While we could set some rules (eg no internet after bedtime) restricting access too much risks alienating your child from their friends and the internet also offers so many opportunities for children to learn and play.

 

TALK TO YOUR CHILD – the most effective way to monitor your child’s life online is through direct discussion. Talk to younger children about strangers online. Warn them about scams and open discussions across social media. Bring up the dangers of sharing information, passwords, bank details and photos online. Be alert of cyber bullying and sexting and when your child confides in you don’t overreact. If your child gets the impression you feel the internet is bad your child might not tell you about a worry.

 

GO ONLINE WITH THEM – searching online together, teaching your child how to identify trusted websites and avoid scams, is valuable. Download games together so you know they are from a reputable site and make sure you both check out reviews so you know they are suitable.

 

JOIN IN ON SOCIAL MEDIA – as a parent it is important to remember that you are the life expert even though you might feel your child knows more than you do about technology. It can be a good idea to join in with your child on social media and it also gives you a starting point for sensitive discussions.

 

USE TOOLS THAT SUIT KIDS – check websites and apps before younger children use them and ensure that they are using a computer in a busy part of the house. You can tweak settings on devices to block adult contact and your internet providers can provide free filters to help block inappropriate content. Technology should never be used to ‘babysit’ your child – it cannot replace conversation and supervision by you. Remember – your safety tools have no effect when your child goes to a friend’s house where there are none.

 

DON’T SPY ON THEM – checking your child’s phone when they are asleep could backfire with your child accusing you of intruding on their privacy. Similarly, commenting on their Facebook posts could push them to use another social media site you don’t know about. Far better to develop a trusting face-to-face relationship.

 

SET A GOOD EXAMPLE – manage your child’s online time by restricting yours, suggesting you both have time away from the internet. Even older children enjoy a good old-fashioned day out.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 28th September 2018

 

I thought I would write about my ‘pet hate’! I get so irritated when I see bad table manners – usually from adults! At school we are continually persuading and encouraging our children to use their best table manners at lunchtime. When I say to them ‘manners maketh man’ they seem quite surprised.

 

Family meals are featuring less and less due to hectic schedules and busy lives and finding time to sit down and demonstrate good table manners is more important than ever – children learn by watching and copying. I came across these handy hints which, right from the word go, will help our children to adopt and master one of life’s fundamental life skills.

 

  • Wash your hands before sitting down for each meal.
  • Eat with your mouth closed and don’t talk between mouthfuls.
  • Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
  • Wait for everyone to finish before asking to be excused.
  • Take small mouthfuls.
  • Use napkins at mealtimes.
  • Keep burps at bay!
  • No screens on the scene.
  • Hold your cutlery correctly.
  • Clear your plate.

 

Good table manners show appreciation, responsibility and respect. We hope you can work with us to ensure these essential skills are secure in our children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st September 2018

 

Did you know there are only 40 teaching weeks in the school year; there are 12 weeks holiday?

Did you know that missing 6 days every term is the same as missing one whole school year?

Did you know that 95% sounds good, but really means that your child is taking one day off a month?

Did you know that attendance at Mere School is worse than most other schools?

 

I made this horrifying discovery when I was analysing attendance data at the end of last term and for all groups Mere School attendance is poor – lower than national averages.

 

When a child attends school on a regular basis, they take an important step towards reaching their full potential and are given the greatest opportunity to learn new things and develop their skills. Children who miss school frequently can fall behind with their work and do less well in exams. We have noticed this in our year 6 SATs results – those children who have a good attendance rate out-perform those who do not.

 

The more time a child spends around other children, whether in the classroom or as part of a school team, the more chance they have of making friends and feeling included, boosting social skills, confidence and self esteem.

 

While the parents are primarily responsible for ensuring their child attends school regularly, where school attendance problems occur the key to successfully resolving these problems is engaging the children through collaborative working between the parent, the school and the local authority.

 

So …. we will be tackling this problem during the year and would be grateful for your support. There will be lots of information in the newsletters and the School Council and Class Parents will be helping us as well.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th September 2018

 

We had a very interesting T D day in school on the first day of term all based on writing.

 

Our challenge for this year (and beyond I suspect) is to raise the standards of writing across the school.

 

The expectations of children in primary schools are huge and some of the curriculum content that we are teaching to our older classes I covered in my English A Level. This shows how educational standards have risen over time.

 

One of our challenges is to develop the speech of our children so that they have a richer and wider vocabulary. This can be done by encouraging the children to read a variety of high quality reading books and through discussion and speaking.

 

It has been highlighted in a report that almost a third of 5-year olds in the UK start school without the basic speaking skills needed to participate in class. The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, said that ‘it was a persistent scandal that so many children start school without the ability to speak in sentences.’

 

The research highlights the importance of parents spending time with their children and engaging them in conversation rather than leaving them to watch TV.

 

To help us in our quest we would be grateful if you could spend time talking with your children and encouraging them to read and limit the amount of time they are spending on their computers and phones. This will have a real impact on what we are trying to achieve in school.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th September 2018

 

With a little more time on my hands over the holidays I have managed to read more.

 

What has become obvious to me over the past few years are the expectations that are put on schools. At a Class Parent meeting several years ago we were asked if we could teach the children how to change a bed! I think you can work out what my answer was!

 

The school curriculum is vast and teachers struggle to deliver what is expected. We have become very creative in the way we deliver the curriculum content so that nothing is missed.

 

There are also certain things that parents want to teach their children themselves and I believed that things like making a bed and even sex education were my responsibility as a parent.

 

The Government are expecting schools to tackle the obesity crisis in our children and I was heartened to read that Amanda Spielman (Chief Inspector of OFSTED) said that:

 

“teachers were already stretched and should not be distracted from their primary role as educators …Schools cannot provide a ‘silver bullet’ to tackle childhood obesity.”

 

I acknowledge that schools have an important role to play against childhood obesity by offering high-quality PE lessons and emphasizing heathy lifestyles but Miss Spielman added:

 

“We must also recognise that schools cannot provide a silver bullet for all social ills. Families, government, industry, and other parts of the public sector all have a role to play.”

 

OFSTED research at 60 primary schools found no pattern to suggest school level interventions alone, such as having a kitchen on site or a member of staff leading on obesity, were linked with higher or lower levels of obesity. There were too many factors beyond the school gate for them to have a direct and measurable impact.

 

We will continue to encourage healthy lifestyles for our children and work closely with parents to achieve this.

 

Catriona Williamson

Tuesday 24th July

 

Another academic year over and an opportunity to reflect on the highs of the year.

 

We had an incredible DT day in September and were delighted to be the first ever primary school that The Dyson Foundation had ever worked with. The children were involved in a whole range of activities to promote science and technology.

 

We had continued significant success in sporting events this year, particularly at county level. Worthy of note are hockey, tennis, netball, football, athletics and Kwik Cricket. We work closely with Miss Thompson from Gillingham School to offer every pupil at Mere School some wonderful sporting opportunities.

 

Our school council have shaped the life of our school with their priorities. They have also raised a significant amount of money for their chosen charity – Diabetes UK.

 

Mr Butler organised a visit from a helicopter when we were able to learn all about the machine and what it was like being a member of The Royal Navy.

 

The Friends have been extremely active again. They have raised a lot of money and funded our annual trip to the Pantomime, hanging microphones in the hall and extra capacity for our laptops as well as organising some great social occasions. Our Class Parent continue to make valuable contributions to the life of the school.

 

The children have experienced lots of visits as part of their topic work from Pencelli to St Michael’s Church. We have welcomed lots of visitors into school enabling us to make our curriculum as exciting and vibrant as possible.

 

There have been numerous musical opportunities for our children from individual music lessons to the Musical Entertainment Evening to joining our cluster schools to sing at the Nadder Centre. Our Christmas and Leaver Productions were a delight to produce and watch.

 

We have hosted several student teacher placements throughout the year. It is so important that we ensure high quality teachers are entering the profession and we are delighted that we can contribute to their training here. We also continue to offer support to schools that are struggling locally.

 

Safety continues to be a high priority at Mere School. We work closely with parents and the community to keep our site and the local area safe. We have strong relationships with professionals who work with us to help our children. Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert came to work with our children and ran an information evening for parents.

 

Two of our children sat on the Cluster Council and there were several more able events organised. Mr Rich organised training for our colleagues and we enjoyed getting to know Mr Nicholson, the new head teacher at Gillingham School.

 

There were a handful of special days for the children to enjoy and learn from including World Book Day, Royal Wedding celebration and Australia Day and the children enjoyed showing parents and members of the community what they had been learning during our Open Mornings/Afternoons.

 

Our KS2 SATs were incredibly high again and were testament to the high quality staff team we have at Mere School. Every member of our staff team is committed to ensuring our children do their best but enjoy their learning and feel safe. The staff feel well supported (and often challenged) by our governing body.

 

So all in all we have had another very successful year and I would like to thank everybody who has been involved for their part in this success. We continue to strive for an even better one next year!

Friday 20th July 2018

 

One of the key skills I believe children need for life is good table manners and Mrs Green and Mrs Howell commented on how strong these skills were in our children, particularly at KS1 during our Australian day.

 

An article in the paper this week stated:


“Half of young children don’t use cutlery”.

 

I have to admit that I continue to be horrified at the table manners of some of my head teacher colleagues when I attend conferences and my husband has, in the past, had to speak to his staff about this.

 

The research in the paper continues:

 

“Parents allow children to pick up food with their fingers at meal times instead of teaching them table manners. Experts warn that youngsters are not developing adequate social skills and will struggle to eat in primary school canteens. They are also hampering their development as the fine motor skills gained by practising with cutlery help children’s brains develop as they grow.”

 

Even more worrying is that just over a third of parents across the country admitted that they did not eat with their children.

 

Sitting together regularly to enjoy a meal is a favourite time for me. We can discuss all sorts around the table and sort out many worries and issues. Support to use cutlery when the children are younger and a strong emphasis on good table manners ensures that these skills are embedded for life.

 

We have an emphasis at lunchtimes of enjoying our food in a social situation with good table manners. It is a basic skill that all children need for life and working together I hope our children will leave Mere School able to flourish in this social situation.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th July 2018

 

With our national football team success and our fantastic sports day I thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on what an amazing year Mrs Schofield, as our PE Subject Leader and her team of helpers and staff and our children have had.

 

We have had tremendous success in county-wide competitions in a variety of sports – particularly tennis, football, athletics, cricket, netball and hockey.  Many of our KS2 children have participated in these events and even our KS1 children have taken part in sporting activities.

 

We are extremely grateful to Miss Thompson, from Gillingham School and her Young Sports Leaders who organise and run many of these events.  Mrs Schofield and Mr Rich also organise events for our Pyramid and Cluster schools enabling a large group of children to take advantage of our superb facilities and resources.  Our KS2 children are fortunate that the specific skills for individual sports are taught by specialist teachers and coaches.

 

Sports day was a magical event when the spirit of our children really shone through.  The children wanted to win but were gracious when winning or losing and showed such mature support for those children who found some of the events challenging – not a ‘dry eye in the house’!

 

We regularly have discussions with parents and governors about our policy of ‘putting out the best team’ for sporting events.  If we are going to any sporting competition we are aiming to win so we send our strongest team.  I make no apologies for this as our children learn valuable life skills from this approach.

 

Standards in PE across the school continue to rise and Mrs Schofield has purchased a new PE scheme to ensure that all of our children are working to their full potential, particularly the most able.

 

We are considering expanding the opportunities for our children next year.  We hope to enter a local swimming gala and offer our children a greater range of sports and our year 6 children will take part in additional swimming sessions at the end of the year.  A first aid course for this group of children is also planned. We hope to take the whole school to Team Bath to experience the atmosphere of a Sports Training Village where many Olympic, international and  national athletes are trained.

 

We do appreciate the support we receive from parents whether it is helping with transport or coaching our children.  I am so proud that so many Mere children are recognised at the Gillingham School Sports Award evening.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th July 2018

 

I came across a fascinating article last weekend with the headline:

“Chemical cosh masks flaws of schools and parents.”

 

It was written by Dr Max Pemberton and his opening paragraph reads:

 

“Young minds are society’s most precious commodity, to be nurtured and guided, not stifled with a ‘chemical cosh’. And yet that is exactly what we are doing to hundreds of thousands of our children.”

 

He highlights concerns about the rising numbers of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who are prescribed the drug Ritalin. Prescriptions for the drug have more than doubled in the past 10 years.

 

The Head of OFSTED commented that it was ‘implausible’ that so many more young people were suffering from ADHD. She added:

 

“it seems to have become the ‘norm’ to medicate away behavioural problems rather than tackle the root cause”.

 

Dr Pemberton finds the arguments used to defend this increased dependence, blaming the rigid curriculum in schools, difficult. He believes that it is a social phenomenon advising that the diagnosis of ADHD can represent family dysfunction rather than a problem with the individual child. He suggests that parents must take their responsibility for establishing good behaviour at an early age, more seriously, so that being able to sit in class and listen to a teacher is a reasonable expectation rather than a challenge. He also suggests that the Government and schools need to make the curriculum more flexible and accommodating for children who are less academic.

 

Dr Pemberton ends his article with the following comment:

 

“By taking the easy option and prescribing behaviour-altering drugs, we are letting down an entire generation.”

 

Food for thought for all of us …..

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 29th June 2018

 

I expect every parent is sick of me nagging about car parking and driving in and around the school site but it is done with the very best of intentions. It is my job and my moral responsibility to ensure that every member of our school community is safe at all times.

 

I know from speaking to colleagues that every school has issues with parking and we are fortunate that we are able to use the Bowls Club car park.

 

There were initial plans drawn up to extend the car park but unfortunately the school does not have the money to pay for this. The governors cannot use money allocated for our pupil’s education to fund parking facilities. The Friends also regularly discuss the use of their funds to do this but again, they feel that any money raised should be used to enhance the education of our children. If the money was available we would need to work very closely with other site users.

 

The staff car park situation is much improved. I am so grateful for your support with this. I am hoping that everyone now knows that the only parking in this area is for staff and parents may not park here. This area is now much safer for all. The Bowls Club car park does get congested (especially when there is a match on) and we will continue to encourage parents to park off the school site and walk in.

 

White Road continues to be a problem and I am in constant contact with the police about this area. I continue to ask parents not to use this road as we need to keep it as safe as possible for the children walking to and from school. However, I am not able to enforce this. If parking off site on the roads we also encourage parents to park considerately – we advise neighbours to contact the police if their drives are blocked by a parked vehicle.

 

I am aware of conversations on ‘Mere Mutters’ about vehicles on the public roads (White Road is a public road and not part of the school site). I would dearly love to have some control over this but I am not a police officer and have no powers to do this – if I did I would create a road for locals around Stonehenge! The Mere School site is small (I have total control over this area) but I have limited control over vehicles on the Duchy site.

 

All I can do is encourage everyone to drive with extreme caution to ensure the safety of the community of Mere, especially our children and continue to work closely with the police and road traffic agencies.

Friday 22nd June 2018

 

Our Class Parents met for their final meeting of the academic year last week. A huge thank you to this group who help us tremendously in school. A special thank you to Mrs Pat Manning and Mrs Laura Rich for their role as Purple Class parents. We will be welcoming 2 new Blue Class members in September – Ms Jamie Cox and Mrs Woodley Cadey.

 

We had some matters arising from the last meeting:

 

  • Parents using mobile phones when driving on site and unlicensed drivers and any information on this is now forwarded directly to the police.
  • The work experience students will be a significant help at Sports Day this year – the event has been scheduled earlier in the term for this reason.
  • All teachers are encouraging children to drink water throughout the day – especially during this warmed weather.
  • There are ongoing issues about supervision before school and this has been mentioned in the newsletter. If it persists the school gates will not be opened until 8.50 am.
  • Teachers have been asked not to talk to parents at the end of the day but to phone if necessary.
  • All of the teachers are making huge efforts to open the doors on time.

 

Mere Carnival – unfortunately the group could not think of someone who could run a Carnival

Club for the children. Time is very limited now.

 

Facebook – many classes now have a Facebook Page and it was agreed that the Class Parents

would monitor this.

 

Changing for PE – the children in Green Class and Gold Class will change together from

September as this is what they are used to.

 

Evaluation of Group – it was agreed that the group was an extremely useful organisation to

enhance the communication for school.

 

Priorities for next year – none were identified at the meeting.

 

Reps for 2018/19 – all of the current group were happy to remain in post. The group thanked

Mrs Pat Manning and Mrs Laura Rich for their contributions. We will be wel

coming 2 new Blue Class members in September – Ms Jamie Cox and Mrs

Woodey Cadey.

 

Frequency of meetings – it was agreed that we would stick with this year’s format.

 

AOB -

  • Helper’s Lunch invitations were distributed.
  • The Class Parents were asked to come along to the final New Entrant meeting to welcome the new parents.
  • Organisational issues around the Area Sports event.
  • Class specific texts.
  • Sports day.
  • Giving our young children time to eat their lunches.
  • Placing of lunchboxes.
  • Hair dye!
  • Homework

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th June 2018

 

Red Class returned to school full of stories about their trip to Pencelli. They had the most incredible time and have made memories that they will never forget – many parents talk to me about their visit to Pencelli when they were younger.

 

The staff and parents who accompanied them were hugely impressed with the group and the way they tackled all the challenges they were presented with. A massive thank you to Miss Beckwith, Mr Rich, Mrs Green, Mr Ings and Mrs Bache for taking the children – leaving your family for a week is extremely difficult. Mr Rich’s Blog provided incredible entertainment value!

 

Mrs Green said:

 

“It has been a pleasure to take Red Class to Penceilli. They have made us very proud and we did indeed have great pleasure in watching them achieve a huge range of skills.”

 

Mr Ings commented:

 

“It has been an absolute pleasure and all the children and staff are a credit to not only themselves but the school as well.”

 

Mrs Bache posted the following on Facebook:

 

“Pencelli – what I’ve learnt.

 

Staff on these trips do not stop from dawn to dusk. The support and continual affirmation they give the kids throughout the entire trip is tiring to observe. They really work harder than I could have even imagined.

 

The staff are much more than ‘just teachers’. It’s been lovely seeing the kids interact with the staff as fellow human beings while still maintaining healthy boundaries.

 

Kids are amazing … we need to encourage our children to try and figure out their own challenges because they are totally capable.

 

I take way too many things for granted (family relationships); I really missed simple things like having a chat about our day.

 

I loved Pencelli as a child and never completely understood the love it gave me of the outdoors and dealing with relationships.

 

At times I’m quick to recognise things I’d like to improve with my kids’ school life; I need to take a minute to step back and appreciate the positives.

 

My daughter needs to become a weather lady – she sent me daily updates regarding the weather at home and in Pencelli.

 

I need to try and read a book before watching the film – remember the three Rs.

 

We have some incredible kids and teachers at Mere School.

 

Thanks for a great trip – it’s been a pleasure.”

 

I think Mrs Bache summed the trip up for everyone!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th June 2018

 

I noticed these headlines in a national newspaper just before half term about ‘outstanding schools’ and OFSTED:

 

Some schools have gone 13 years without having an Ofsted inspection.

Outstanding schools are allowed to continue as long as results do not drop.

The National Audit Office said 1,620 schools have not been inspected in 6 years.

Ofsted fears some of the schools may have slipped without regular inspections.

“A loophole that lets schools escape official Ofsted inspections has left nearly 300 unchecked for ten years or more.”

 

“A National Audit Office report warns that some of these may now be slipping behind academically.”

 

“Schools rated ‘outstanding’ are let off re-inspections unless their results show a serious dip or parents begin to complain.”

 

“The National Audit Office’s audit of Ofsted found that 1,620 schools had not been inspected for six years or more, including 296 which have gone without for more than a decade and a small number for up to 13 years.”

 

“Now Ofsted itself wants an end to the exemption because it lets schools avoid inspection forever if they stay below the radar after an ‘outstanding’ rating.”


I was delighted that this issue has been highlighted as it has been a concern of mine for quite a long time. Mere School (a good school!) has needed to support an outstanding school locally in the past. It does not take time for standards to slip.

 

I hope that OFSTED successfully persuade the Government to reinstate more regular and frequent inspections in these schools so that all children continue to receive the high quality education they deserve.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th May 2018

 

Another article in the newspaper that caught my eye recently had the headline:

 

“Education minister: Pupils aged 5 still can’t talk properly.”

 

This is a very disturbing and worrying headline but we are experiencing an increase in the number of children starting with us with speech and language issues, with some children who find it very difficult to express themselves.

 

The Education Minister, Damian Hinds, has vowed to tackle the worrying trend of 5 year olds turning up unable to use the simple words and phrases needed to interact with teachers and classmates. Research from the Oxford University Press found that half of 5 year olds in some schools are behind in their language skills and a study by the National Literacy Trust found that one in eight of the most disadvantaged children do not own a single book.

 

Mr Hinds said that a lack of vocabulary can create a ‘word gap’ which sets children behind their peers from the beginning and hinders their progress for the rest of their school career.

 

Mr Hinds is launching two projects to help tackle this issue and Mr Rich will talk to our new parents about the importance of reading, books and talking.

 

I cannot stress how much progress is accelerated for children if they read regularly at home. We can see a significant difference in the attainment of children at year 6 – those who have parents that read to and with them regularly achieve far better outcomes.

 

We are keen to work with you to ensure the best possible outcomes for your children.

Friday 18th May 2018

 

As a school we are focusing on science this term and Mrs Tavenner will be monitoring what we are doing as a school and how we can make science learning even more successful.

 

Mrs Tavenner wrote something for our newsletter:

“The latest research has shown that children who are inspired by science at an early age and see it as an integral part of their lives go on to choose science subjects at secondary school and beyond. The phrase that is used to describe children’s confidence in the subject is ‘Science Capital’. In our school we already help build children’s ‘Science Capital’ by making science exciting and linking it lots of different parts of the curriculum. To help the children see the relevance of science beyond the classroom we would like adults to share their experiences of science at work. If you would like to come in to talk to the children about your job, please contact Mrs Tavenner who will co-ordinate this in the Autumn term.

Another way to help build ‘Science Capital’ is for children to experience science at home. There is an amazing children’s magazine called ‘Whizz Bang Pop’ which would make a wonderful birthday or Christmas gift for your child. A year’s subscription is £34.99 at https://wwwwhizzpopbang.com. There are also some excellent websites that you may wish to explore with your child. Try http://www.rigb.org/families/experiment which gives ideas for science experiments to do at home and http://www.bbc.co.uk/terrificscientific/sections/do-it-yourself where you will see famous people doing science experiments with their children. Have fun and let’s help to inspire our next generation of scientists!”

 

We will be having a visit from a ‘scientist’ next term and our Open Afternoon next term will focus science. We would love to welcome any parents who have a job that is connected to science or technology to come into school to talk about it with the children.

 

This all builds on from our science/technology day earlier in the year when the children were involved in many different activities – the first primary school visit Dyson had even made!

 

At Mere School we are committed to ensuring our children receive a broad, balanced and vibrant curriculum where our children are stimulated and enjoying their learning.

Friday 11th May 2018

 

During the ‘Discussion Time’ at our recent governing body meeting one governor felt that parents were not aware of who our governors are and what they do. It was agreed that the group would try to advertise who sits on the body and what they have been doing in their roles.

 

Mr Ashlin, our Vice-Chair, will be writing in our termly newsletters from now on detailing the work they have been involved in and what they are planning to do next.

 

Governors are one of the largest volunteer forces in the country and have an important part to play in raising school standards. The role of the governing body is absolutely key to the effectiveness of as school and the HMI noted how well our governing body fulfil their role during our OFSTED inspection in 2017.

 

School governors provide strategic leadership and accountability in schools. They appoint the head teacher and deputy head teacher and hold responsibility for the finances of the school. Each individual governor is a member of a governing body. Individual governors may not act independently of the rest of the governing body; decisions are the joint responsibility of the group.

 

The key functions of the body are:

 

· set the aims and objectives for the school,

· set the policies for achieving those aims and objectives,

· set the targets for achieving those aims and objectives,

· monitor and evaluate the progress the school is making towards the achievement of its aims and objectives,

· be a source of challenge and support to the headteacher.

 

The head teacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and the implementation of the strategic framework established by the governing body.

 

These are the people who sit on our governing body:

 

Mr John Jordan (Chair/Parent Governor/Chair of Curriculum)

Mr Jim Ashin (Vice Chair/Parent Governor)

Mr Alan Gristwood (Chair of Finance/Co-opted)

Mr Lee Tibbit (Co-opted Governor)

Mrs Pat Manning (Parent Governor)

Mr Tony Rankin (Co-opted)

Mrs Carolanne Barry (Chair of Behaviour and Safety/Co-opted Governor/Safeguarding)

Mrs Paula Loxton (Staff Governor)

Mr David Rich (Co-opted Governor)

Mr Clive Hazzard (Local Authority)

Mrs Carolyn Godfrey (Co-opted)

Mr Ewen Ross (Parent Governor/Health and Safety Governor)

Ms Rachael Hansford (Co-opted/SEN and Marketing Governor)

Mrs Catriona Williamson (Head teacher)

 

If you are interested in joining our governing body please approach one of our governors. Mr John Jordan will be leaving us, after many years of service, at the end of this academic year so there will be a vacancy for a parent governor in September.

Friday 4th May 2018

 

We have been talking about how we might celebrate the impending Royal Wedding.

 

We have decided that we are going to have a special Royal Wedding British lunch. Purple Class are going to celebrate the end of their SATs week by organising this.

 

If the weather is good we are going to have a ‘street party’ type lunch in the playground. Purple Class will arrange the furniture, put up bunting and help the catering staff and MDSAs.

 

Lunch will be fish, chips and peas followed by strawberries and cream and a piece of Mere School wedding cake and the children and staff will all eat together.

 

Parents will need to order and pay for lunch by the end of the school day on FRIDAY 11th MAY. Unfortunately orders after this cannot be taken.

 

We will be inviting the children to come to school that day in their party clothes – please remember that KS2 children will still need the PE kits as they will be doing games in the afternoon.

 

We hope that this will be a memorable and exciting event for the children.

Friday 27th April 2018

 

You can hardly miss all the media coverage about the negative impact of plastic and our throw-away society at the moment and the Prime Minister announced last week that she was ‘declaring war on our throwaway culture’ and will be unveiling measures to protect the oceans.

 

Our School Council have been discussing this issue and have identified that we are wasteful at lunchtime as we are using a lot of plastic plates, cups and spoons that are thrown away.

 

Our Catering Manager, Miss Melissa Best, is in the process of ordering washable plastic cups, metal spoons and china plates. These will then be washed in the dishwasher and reused.

 

I was particularly impressed with Mrs Rich as she took all the plastic cups home after the school disco and washed them.

 

We have also been chatting about the plastic water bottles for sale in the office and we will be considering alternative options.

 

I am delighted that we have been able to respond to a very sensible request from our children – as adults, we should have noticed before them!

Friday 20th April 2018

 

My first job back after a holiday is to review the attendance across the school.

 

Attendance is a key issue for schools and if a child does not attend school regularly their educational performance is significantly hampered. It is no coincidence that the children who did not achieve the expected standard in the KS2 SATs last year were children who had poor attendance. Children who have a lot of time off school also struggle with friendships.

 

When OFSTED visited last year they scrutinised our attendance data and looked very carefully at what the school did to encourage good attendance. I also have to report half termly to our governing body.

 

I carefully track the attendance of children who have an attendance rate of less than 95%. If this continues for more than one half term I write to the parents to make them aware of the concerns we have (many parents do not realise) and this usually encourages parents to work with us to improve their child’s attendance rate.

 

In a very few number of cases, where there is no improvement, I invite the parents to attend a formal attendance meeting with me so we can work together to help their child to attend school more regularly. These meetings continue until their child has an attendance rate exceeding 95%. If these meeting are not successful I then refer the case to the Education Welfare Officer.

 

We do understand that some children suffer bouts of ill health and we try to be sensitive to this and an unauthorised holiday and some illness can have a significant impact on attendance data.

 

Liaising with parents is the key to improving attendance and I do my utmost to avoid more formal procedures. I do appreciate parents working closely with me.

Thursday 29th March 2018

 

I would like to finish the term with some good news!

 

We were delighted to welcome an NHS dentist into school several weeks ago. Miss Beckwith organised this for us. She worked in every class talking to the children about dental care and the importance of our teeth.

 

After her visit she sent us an e.mail – the details are below:

“I feel compelled to write to say that my visits to the school on Monday and yesterday were a real pleasure and I was so impressed by the children’s behaviour that I felt it necessary to send an e.mail to let everyone at the school know. All of the children in KS2 and KS1 listened beautifully and they had some great questions, knowledge and comments. They demonstrated such good manners. It was a pleasure visiting their classes. The reception children sat wonderfully and listened beautifully for 45 minutes on the carpet and were very engaged in helping Cheeky Monkey. I hope the children and teachers enjoyed my visit as much as me. Thank you so much.”

 

This sentiment is echoed regularly by our visitors.

 

I also received a card from another parent:

 

“Just a quick note to say thank you for all you have given our children, they have loved every minute and you have shaped the little people they have become. You will never know how much we appreciate your support and the start you have given them. Your school is amazing and you should be so proud.”

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd March 2018

 

It was lovely to welcome so many parents on Wednesday to meet their child’s teacher. I really miss this part of being a class teacher.

 

These meetings are an opportunity for your child’s teacher to share how well your child is doing and what we can do together to accelerate their progress. We hope that nothing comes as a shock to parents – if your teacher had concerns about your child they would have contacted you already.

 

If you did not make an appointment please speak to or e.mail your class teacher to see if an alternative arrangement can be made.

 

School Pupil Tracker is open to parents from Thursday 22nd March to Thursday 29th March. Parents can look at this online and see where their children are in relation to national expected outcomes and what their attendance rate is.

 

Children who make the most progress in school are those who have parents who support and value their education and it is clear from attendance at parent interviews and Open Morning that the vast majority of our parents do this. Thank you! We value working in partnership with you to ensure your child achieves their personal best while they come to Mere School.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 16th March 2018

 

LOST PROPERTY – AGH!

 

I cannot believe how much lost property we manage to accumulate over a very short period of time. We have everything from odd socks to brand new coats to pairs of shoes.

 

On the last Friday of each month I put the lost property in the playground and send a text to remind parents that it is there. It is always on display in the corridor for the final week of term.

 

At the end of term I take home any unclaimed uniform to wash and this is put into the second-hand uniform shop. Everything else is ‘bagged up’ for Bags2school or thrown away.

 

I cannot stress the importance of naming any clothing worn to school. Our older children do go through our lost property and try to get any named items back to the relevant children.

 

We also need to encourage our children to be responsible for their own belongings. We regularly see parents rummaging through our collection of lost property trying to find bits and pieces. When the children start secondary school it is rare to find uniform once it has been misplaced.

 

I understand the frustration of parents when their children have lost various items and we do our best to try to locate anything that might be missing but at KS2 we do expect children to look after their own belongings. It is unreasonable for parents to expect teachers and TAs to be hunting for clothing that is lost and a very poor use of our school budget and staff expertise. We are more than happy though, for parents to come in at the end of school to look through the lost property bins.

 

The solution is for us to work together to ensure that our children look after their own possessions and then hopefully our lost property bins will remain empty!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th March 2018

 

I am sorry but we will be sending home an opt-in form for ‘Photographs/Video and Internet’ permissions very shortly. Previously we have sent home an opt-out form but this does not meet the new national data requirements.

 

Schools collect, process, store, use and dispose of different types of data: educational records, personal data and sensitive personal data. There is to be a change to the handling of this data due to come into force on 25th May 2018 – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

 

GDPR requires us to ensure that personal data is:

 

  • processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals;
  • collected by specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible for those purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed;
  • accurate, and where necessary, kept up to date;
  • kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed;
  • processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data.

 

In short, we are checking that our ‘house is in order’ to ensure we meet the new requirements. Our internet permissions form did not, hence the need to send it home again.

 

You need to be confident that ‘personal, sensitive data’ is protected and that only people who need access to sensitive personal data can access it. The school staff and governors are working hard to ensure that we comply with the new legislation to keep us all safe.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd March 2018

 

I want to use my message this week to explain the difficulties Head Teachers and Chair of Governors have when deciding whether to shut a school or not.

 

Thursday was not an easy day and whatever decision we made about the status of the school, someone was going to be unhappy.

 

Before I arrived at school on Thursday morning I spent a considerable amount of time driving around the local roads and making phone calls.  I made the decision that it was safe for the school to open and that there would be enough staff to run the school safely.  I always make this decision by 7 am. Mr Jordan came to the school site and gritted the paths and later in the day Mr Suter cleared and gritted the school paths and playground. As we were remaining open there was no need to send a text/update the website - it was business as normal!

 

Mr Jordan and I kept in touch throughout the morning as we needed to decide whether we would close at lunchtime.  As it did not snow during the morning and the numerous weather forecasts predicted snow fall later in the afternoon we decided to remain open for the rest of the day.

 

At 2 pm we spoke again and it was decided, due to the amber weather warning, we would close the following day.  We were keen to make this decision early so that we could inform parents in good time and all of the necessary arrangements and paperwork could be completed.

 

We have a responsibility to provide education to our children for 192 days each year so any decision to close the school is not taken lightly.  Our duty is to ensure that we do not disrupt the learning of our children.  I am also conscious that closing the school has serious consequences for working parents.  Being a town school also means that most of our children (and some staff) can walk to school.

 

We had to balance this duty against the need to keep our community safe.  Many of our teachers left during the afternoon and a lot of parents collected their children before the end of the school day.  

 

We respected any decisions parents made about not bringing their children to school in these conditions and all absences were coded as 'authorised'.  

 

As it was World Book Day the children we had in school had a fabulous time.  They were involved in special activities and had the chance to play in the snow with their friends.  Our planned parent workshops have been rescheduled.  They will now take place on Thursday 15th March at the same time.

 

I am extremely grateful to the staff who worked with me to keep the school running, Mr Jordan for his advice and support and to parents who understood how difficult the day was!

 

Luckily this is only the 4th time in 18 years that the school has had to close.  Let's hope it is some time before we have to close again!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd February 2018

 

A couple of weeks ago the newspapers featured a tragic story about a teacher. She was working away from home when her husband died suddenly whilst looking after their young children. After his sudden death the little girls spent almost 24 hours with the body of their father.

 

The older girl had recently started school, and when she didn’t arrive, the school rang their father, to no avail. Tragically, they didn’t then follow up with a call to the girls’ mother. The alarm wasn’t raised until tea-time when grandmother visited the home.

 

The teacher is telling her heart-breaking story to raise awareness of the importance of first-day calls, and in maintaining an up-to-date record of several phone numbers which schools should phone when children do not attend.

 

I hope that this story highlights the importance of keeping contact information up to date. Our office team do their utmost to ensure that we contact you early, when your children do not arrive at school. This story emphasizes that we must continue to do this.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th February 2018

 

We were delighted to welcome Mr Paul Nicholson to our school a couple of weeks ago.

 

Mr Nicholson is the new head teacher of Gillingham School and our governing body was keen for him to come and visit Mere to meet our children and staff and gain an understanding of where his future pupils are educated.

 

Mr Nicholson’s previous post was at a school in Winchester which educates children from EYFS up to year 11. This is an extremely unusual educational setting but it was clear that Mr Nicholson had a very good understanding of early years and primary education.

 

We visited each class and talked about our schools. One of our Blue Class children even asked him if he had seen Fraser Bear!

 

It was clear that Mr Nicholson has great plans and aspirations for Gillingham School and working closely with the feeder primary schools is a priority. We look forward to building on our strong relationship.

 

Mr Nicholson plans to visit in the Autumn term to talk to our year 6 parents (current Red Class). This will be a great opportunity for you to meet him, learn about Gillingham School and start the transition process.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd February 2018

 

I wish I had a penny for everyone who said to me “I wouldn’t do your job for all the money in the world’!

 

I usually reply that I think I have the best job in the world! Like everyone there are good days and bad days but the privilege of influencing and shaping children’s lives is overwhelming. I love working closely with staff, children, parents and governors to ensure our children get the very best start to their lives. I thrive on being able to make a difference.

 

I hear many comments about teachers having an ‘easy life’ because of the school holidays but these people can always go and train to be a teacher so they can benefit and understand what a school holiday for teachers is like. We had a student from industry at this school who genuinely believed that being a teacher was easy. They only lasted 5 months in the profession.

 

I came across a very interesting article in the paper about a journalist who worked for the Financial Times. She ‘swapped her pampered life … for a tough East End London school.” She was not enjoying her job and she “wanted the excitement and fear of starting all over again and the feeling of being useful.”

 

There is a growing shortage of teachers and there seems to be increasing number of mature students entering the profession. Long may it continue.

 

Our 3 Bath Spa students come to the end of their teaching experience this week. We wish them every success in their next school and in their new job in September.

 

We enjoy having good students working with us. They challenge our ideas and encourage us to reflect on what we do. We also have a moral responsibility to prepare the next generation of teachers.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 26th January 2018

 

I keep coming across interesting articles in the newspaper and the latest one to catch my eye was:

 

“Not having a regular bedtime hurts pupils’ maths and reading”.

 

All of us have faced the problem of trying to put a child to bed who does not want to go but researchers are saying that letting children stay up a bit longer could damage their performance at school.

 

“Parents should stick to one fixed time, because their reading and maths could suffer” warns Dr Yvonne Kelly from University College London. She told the World Sleep Society that seven-year-olds of both sexes perform less well in tests if they do not have a regular bedtime.

 

Her findings also show that three-year-old children are worse at regulating their emotions and more likely to be obese in later life if they do not go to be at the same time each night.

 

“It is important that children go to bed at a fixed time so they can maintain their circadian rhythms. If you fly across time zones, it is difficult to function when you get to New York, for example. If you ask a child to effectively do the same thing by changing their sleeping patterns, they are going to struggle even more than an adult would. Sleep is important for forming and storing memories, to learn from day to day and it is essential for children.”

 

The good news for parents is:

 

“Children who switched to having a regular bedtime showed improvements in their behaviour. This shows that it’s never too late to help children back onto a positive path, and a small change could make a big difference to how well they get on.”

 

This is research I do agree with. I know from my own children that fatigue had a significant impact on their behaviour and performance and if I don’t get a decent night’s sleep I feel the same!

 

Catriona Williamson

 

 

 

Friday 19th January 2018

 

We are all looking forward to World Book Day on Thursday March 1st 2018 and Mr Rich is in the process of organising some very exciting activities. The Book Fair will also be in school the following week.

 

It is essential that our children learn to read as this skill underpins our curriculum. The SATs tests that our children have to take rely on the children being able to read the questions and reading plays a part in every other curriculum area. It is also an essential life skill.

 

The Government claim that ‘reading standards in England are now the best in a generation following the introduction of compulsory phonics tests’.

 

Many parents ask me what phonics teaching is. The phonics method involves teaching children the sounds that each individual letter makes and to identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make, such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’. The children are then taught how to blend together the sounds from left to right, to form the whole word.

 

This method of teaching children to read has been around for years but the Government has forced schools to place much more emphasis on this way of teaching. I agree that this method has had a positive impact on English outcomes but my feeling is that its biggest impact has been on writing and spelling.

 

As a school we are also conscious that some elements of reading are being lost with this method. We are encouraging children to use other strategies, such as looking at the pictures or discussing the text, to help as well. Our overall aim is that children enjoy reading and sharing books.

 

Time in school is limited and regular reading at home (every day for a few minutes if possible) has the biggest impact. Your support with this is greatly appreciated.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 12th January 2018

 

The Children’s Commissioner published her report on the effects of social media on 8 to 12 year olds – ‘Life in Likes’ which talks about the way children use social media and its effects on their well being, last week. It was reported in the press under the headline of:


“Children unprepared for social media ‘cliff edge’ as they start secondary school.”

 

The report states that whilst most social media sites have an official age limit of 13 years, some research has suggested that three quarters of 10 – 12 year olds have a social media account. This report reveals that many children are approaching a ‘cliff edge’ as they transition from primary to secondary school, with social media becoming much more important to their lives but causing them greater anxiety. The study suggests some children are becoming almost addicted to ‘likes’ as a form of social validation that makes them happy and that many are increasingly anxious about their online image and ‘keeping up appearances’.

 

We are aware here that many of our children are using social media and we spend a lot of time teaching all of our children about safe internet use and to this end Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert will be in school on Wednesday 24th January 2018 working with every class. His input will support and enhance the work we do in school.

 

Mr Hopwood will then be running an information evening for parents on the same day at 7.30 pm.

 

The children will be bringing home an invitation for parents for this event shortly and we will be running a crèche to help with childcare.

Please do come along to help our children stay safe when using the computer.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th January 2018

 

Another one of my newspaper articles!

 

According to the press “Primary pupils are getting better at reading, writing and maths after their exams were made more rigorous, figures showed.

 

Across England, 61% of 11 year olds who took national curriculum tests achieved the expected official standard. This compares to 53% in 2016, meaning a year-on-year rise of 8 percentage points.”

 

The tests have certainly been much harder for all children and the new curriculum , introduced in 2014, has resulted in higher expectations for all children across primary schools. I have been really impressed with the way that our children (and teachers) have risen to this challenge. I do suspect, however, that schools have become more proficient in preparing our children for these tests!

 

Our KS2 results at Mere School were particularly impressive and you can access these results on the gov.uk website.

 

80% achieved age related expectations in writing (76% national)

80% achieved age related expectations in reading (71% national)

88% achieved age related expectations in maths (80% national)

 

Worthy of particular note is our progress in maths as it was significantly above average and in the highest 10% of schools nationally.

 

We also compare extremely favourably with all of our local schools.

 

A huge well done to our children and teachers and thank you to our parents for supporting our children through this process.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th December 2017

 

There have been some really interesting articles about schools this week in the paper.

 

One headline that caught my eye was “First year of school can be a waste of time”.

 

The article continued:

 

“The first year of school is a ‘false start’ for too many children because basic reading and maths are not taught well enough, inspectors warn.

 

Some four and five year olds face years of catching up because they have not been pushed to learn, according to OFSTED.

 

The watchdog says schools must have ‘high expectations’ of their Reception pupils to avoid creating ‘missed opportunities’.

 

Research by inspectors found that a third of children do not have the essential knowledge they need to the time they move into Year One.”

 

This is one of the rare occasions that I do agree with OFSTED and I am delighted that this report verifies what we do at Mere School.

 

As well as providing an appropriate and exciting early years curriculum with a wide variety of learning experiences Mrs McClelland appreciates how much potential our younger children have and how keen they are to learn. She builds on this enthusiasm and desire to learn by ensuring that the basic skills needed for our National Curriculum are taught effectively and firmly embedded before the children move onto Year One.

 

It is a delight to visit Blue Class to see how well our children cope with these high expectations, what a high standard of work the children are producing and how much they are enjoying their learning. Mrs McClelland, Mrs Harrison and Mrs Sayer are highly skilled

practitioners ensuring our youngest children achieve their very best.

Friday 8th December 2017

 

I thought it would be a good idea to remind you about the finer details of our Christmas production. There will be a flyer coming home as well but please see below:

 

MERE SCHOOL

 

Christmas Production Arrangements

 

The School Council will be collecting at the end of each performance for their chosen charity – Diabetes UK.

 

KS1 Afternoon Performance

 

Please exit from the side door, AFTER THE CHILDREN HAVE LEFT, if you are not staying for the KS2 performance. If you are staying please remain in your seats.

 

You can take your children home early if you are not staying – please collect them from the normal place (outside their classroom door).

 

NO KS1 CHILDREN WILL BE ALLOWED TO WATCH THE KS2 PLAY AS THEY HAVE ALREADY SEEN IT AND THERE IS A RESTRICTION ON THE NUMBERS IN THE HALL.

 

KS2 Afternoon Performance

 

Please exit, AFTER THE CHILDREN HAVE LEFT, from the side door after the performance and the children can be collected from the normal place (outside of the side doors).

 

We will be sending the children home in their costumes and ask that KS1 (Blue, Yellow and Silver Classes) return to their classrooms at 5.45 pm, through the main entrance.

 

The teachers will supervise the KS2 (Gold, Green, Red and Purple Classes) children, if they have siblings in the KS1 production, in their classrooms and we ask for the KS2 children to return to school, through the main entrance, and go to their classrooms for 6.30 pm.

 

KS1 Evening Performance

 

Please exit from the side door, AFTER THE CHILDREN HAVE LEFT, if you are not staying for the KS2 performance. If you are staying please remain in your seats. The children will be looked after in the small hall by the teachers until the end of the KS2 performance. Please collect them from here when the KS2 play is over.

 

If you are leaving after the KS1 play, please collect the children from the normal place (outside their classroom door).

 

NO KS1 CHILDREN WILL BE ALLOWED TO WATCH THE KS2 PLAY AS THEY HAVE ALREADY SEEN IT AND THERE IS A RESTRICTION ON THE NUMBERS IN THE HALL.

 

KS2 Evening Performance

 

Please exit through the main hall doors and collect your child from their classroom.

 

Please note the playground gates will be locked.

 

 

The KS2 play is slightly longer than normal!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st December 2017

 

We have been subject to another type of inspection and I thought that I would ‘bring you up to speed’ so that you can be reassured that we are fulfilling and exceeding the expectations in another area.

 

Poor Mrs Ings received a phone call last July to book a date for a financial audit. This did give us a lot of time to prepare as the auditor was in school on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th November.

 

The auditor trawled through mountains of paperwork checking that our finances were being managed effectively. He checked governing body finance minutes to cheques to purchasing arrangements to the use of a charge card – the list was endless!

 

We are fortunate in that our governing body Chair of Finance is an auditor, accountant and retired school bursar so he provided lots of support to us in school and lots of challenge for the auditor.

 

The process was rigorous but entirely positive for the school. There were 3 actions for the Local Authority and a recommendation that members of the finance governing body committee and office staff complete a skills audit. This has already been done, even though it is not statutory.

 

Huge congratulations to Mrs Ings who manages our finances extremely well and thank you to Mr Gristwood who guides the governing body so effectively.

 

When school budgets are under such enormous pressure it is reassuring to know that we are providing the best value possible for our children.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th November 2017

 

As a school we are subject to lots of inspections and this is important to ensure that our children and staff are safe so that the children can thrive and do their best.

 

A couple of weeks ago Mrs Ings spent the morning with a Fire Risk Assessor who meticulously scrutinised our paperwork and inspected every area of our school.

 

The records that Mr Cannon had kept were described as exemplary.

 

There were a few minor actions that we have already made a start on. Mr Suter has already put up additional fire escape signage, fitted some smoke seals, re-housed petrol driven garden equipment and has removed and disposed of any rubbish under the stage.

 

We are in the process of organising a new smoke detector near our kiln and replacing the doors into the Children’s Centre with fire doors, that close in the event of an alarm activation (we have these doors open at lunchtime).We also need to speak with Mr Ward about changing the fastenings on 2 doors.

 

We are extremely fortunate that our new parent governor, Mr Ewen Ross, is a firefighter and he has been around the school with Mr Suter and I and read the report to offer us additional guidance. He will be delivering some fire extinguisher training to the relevant people andtalking to the Behaviour and Safety Governor committee.

 

Our next Fire Risk Assessment will be in 3 years but I do complete an annual assessment and our alarms, sensors, lights and extinguishers are checked regularly.

 

The children often comment, during my Head Teacher Lunch, that they feel safe because of the fire alarms and fire drills.

 

The huge amount of lost property was on display on Friday and Mr Avory came to present a prize to Lily Jones in assembly, as she has designed the Mere Matters Christmas front cover and Mr Rich met with a lady from the Local Authority about family learning.

 

The week ended with The Friend’s Christmas Bingo.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th November 2017

 

Christmas Productions

 

Timings

 

The KS1 (Blue, Yellow and Silver Class) afternoon performance starts at 1.15 pm on Tuesday 12th December. The doors will not open for seating until 1 pm as we have to clear up from lunch and set out the chairs. The performance will finish by 1.45 pm. If you would like to take your KS1 child home after the performance please leave school by the side hall door (into the playground) and walk round to their classroom door to collect them.

 

The KS2 (Gold, Green, Red and Purple Class) afternoon performance starts at 2 pm on Tuesday 12th December. The doors will not open for seating until 1.45 pm. The performance will finish by 3 pm and your children can be collected at the normal time. All children will remain in the care of their class teacher throughout the afternoon.

 

Children will come home with their costumes after the afternoon performance.

 

We ask that the KS1 children return (in their costume) to school for 5.45 pm on Tuesday 12th December and go to their classrooms (through the main entrance). The main entrance will open at this time so you can take your seats in the audience – the play starts at 6 pm. We anticipate that the KS1 performance will end at 6.30 pm. If you would like to take your KS1 child home after the performance please leave school by the side hall door (into the playground) and walk round to their classroom door to collect them.

 

We ask that the KS2 children return to school (through the main entrance) for 6.30 pm on Tuesday 12th December and go to their classrooms. The main entrance for the KS2 performance will be open at this time so you can wait in the corridor to take your seats in the audience until the start of the play at 6.45 pm.

 

All teachers will be in their classrooms for the evening so if you are coming to see both performances the children will be in the care of their class teachers when they are not performing. KS2 children can stay in their classrooms while the KS1 children perform and the KS1 children can stay in their classrooms while the KS2 children perform. No KS1 children will be permitted to watch the KS2 production, and no KS2 children the KS1 production, due to space and the fact that they have already seen their friends perform.

 

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 down the corridor and through the main entrance. Please meet your children after the performance in the corridor.

 

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!

 

If you plan to watch both performances please remain in your seats after the KS1 performance.

 

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 ‘Diabetes UK’.

 

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.

 

Photographs

 

We do not stop the audience taking photographs but ask you not to put them on any internet sites.

 

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.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th November 2017

 

We are racing towards Christmas and the children are doing really well with their Christmas Performance rehearsals. They are looking forward to performing to you. The dates and times are as follows:
 

Tuesday 12th December 2017

 

1 pm – KS1 (Blue, Yellow and Silver Classes), 1.45 pm KS2 (Gold, Green, Red and Purple

Classes).

 

I will include the finer details in my next newsletter.

 

As a parent I always felt anxious about providing a costume for my children (I am not particularly creative!) but I hope by giving you the ‘heads up’ below this might help. Our KS1 production is ‘Nearly No Nativity’ and our KS2 production is ‘Cinderella and Rockerfella’.

 

These are the parts the classes will be taking:

 

BLUE – angels and shepherds

YELLOW – stable animals

SILVER – nativity characters and narrators (more details will be coming home shortly)

GOLD – animals

GREEN – fans

RED – main characters (more details will come home shortly), trainee bakers (aprons and

baker’s hat) and townspeople (everyday wear)

PURPLE – main characters (more details will come home shortly).

 

We would like the costumes to be in a named bag in school by FRIDAY 1ST DECEMBER please.

 

We do appreciate the huge amount of time parents spend providing these costumes and I am sure you can understand that it would not be possible for the school to create almost 200 outfits. Our school supply of costumes will be available for parents to borrow from Monday.

 

If you have any worries or concerns please do contact your class teacher.

Friday 3rd November 2017

 

Several weeks ago I held my half termly Head Teacher lunch. This is when I invite 2 children from each class (not Blue Class) to come and eat lunch with me and discuss all manner of things about our school.

 

I asked the children the following questions:

 

Do you feel safe in school? Can you tell me why?

Can you tell me what bullying is?

Do we have any bullying at our school?

If you felt someone was being bullied at our school what would you advise them to do?

If you had a problem who would you ask at school for help?
If you asked an adult for help at school what would you expect them to do?

How would you welcome a new child to our school if they were different to us – eg a child

from Poland?

How would you treat someone at school who had different views to yours?

Why do we have rules in school?

How would you treat a child who started at our school who was born a little boy and became a

little girl?

How would you treat a Syrian refugee if they arrived at our school?

How do you keep safe when you are using the internet?

What is the best thing about being British?

What kind of person would Mere School like you to be in 10 year’s time?

 

I am always amazed at the maturity of our children and how they respond to my questioning. The children unanimously feel safe in school and all had a good understanding of what bullying is. This group stated there was not any bullying at our school but on occasions children are unkind, but they were clear about whom to ask for help and were confident that the staff would resolve the problems.

 

Our children were adamant that all children should be treated equally and fairly regardless of their beliefs, religion, gender or culture. They said “we are all children and we should treat each other the way we expect to be treated ourselves.”

 

The children thought that the good things about being British were tea, toast, hot chocolate and marshmallows and roast lunches and they all had high aspirations for the future.

 

I finish with asking the children how we might improve our school. We have some whacky ideas like a Theme Park in the grounds, to some sensible suggestions like a Chess Club or kindness week, to a few moans including more loo roll in the boy’s toilets and asking the boys not to use too many paper towels.

 

This year I have finished with a question about whether the children are enjoying life at Mere School as this is the focus of our governing body. The children thought that school was fun and the teachers make the learning fun. They are pleased that they have the equipment they need to learn and they have good friends. One of our children would prefer to chat rather than work but I’m afraid we cannot allow this to happen!

 

I was delighted that the children prepare for this lunch in advance – 2 children came with notes after discussing things with their parents.

 

The lunch is an extremely valuable opportunity for me to talk with the children and I feed back their ideas and responses to the staff and governors and at times changes are made based on their suggestions.

Friday 20th October 2017

 

We had our first Class Parent meeting of the academic year last week and it was most productive.

 

We discussed the following things:

 

· London Theatre Visit – The school had planned to suspend this visit for a year as it took such a lot of organising last year, due to the increased terrorist threat. The Class Parents are going to liaise with Mrs Loxton to see if they can organise it for next year as it is such a wonderful experience for the children.

· Pencelli – it was confirmed that once the deposit has been paid, this is non-refundable.

· Changing for PE – boys and girls now change separately in KS2 for PE lessons.

· Tying hair back for PE – all children with long hair have to have it tied back for PE lessons. We encourage hair to be tied back at all times.

· Car park – the group did not feel that the problems were as great in this area at the moment. They felt that, once the school can afford it, a new, raised zebra crossing would be of benefit. Many members of the group commented on dangerous driving and some parents/carers using phones when coming onto the school site. All parents are asked to report this danger to the PCSO - Peter.Tscherniawsky@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk

· Book Fair – one of the Class Parents has kindly offered to run this for Mr Rich next year.

· Sports Day – this group are hoping to contact one of the town’s community groups to run the catering facilities on Sports Day.

· Support for Anxious Child – one parent wanted to thank the staff for helping their child come into school in the mornings.

· Clouds/Cards – there is some confusion over the use of clouds and cards as part of our Behaviour Policy. Mr Rich will write an explanation for the next newsletter.

· Blue Class Clouds/star mats – Mrs McClelland will write a flyer to her parents explaining about these systems.

· Waiting Parents – there was a request for a staggered end to the school day so the amount of waiting parents could be reduced. Unfortunately this is not possible.

· Lunchtime Waste – some parents have asked if we can put a bin out for rubbish from the packed lunches. We have decided to continue sending all the rubbish home so that parents can see what the children have eaten for their lunch.

· School Trip Helpers – one Class Parent who had attended a trip explained to the group about the exemplary behaviour of our children.

· Texts – it was requested that we make our text class specific and this will now happen.

· Cycling and Scooting on Site – this is forbidden as it is dangerous. I will put a reminder in the Newsletter.

· Year 3 Recorder Assembly – I will try to make this very specific in the Newsletter so that Gold Class parents know they are welcome to attend.

 

The group will meet again in February 2018 – please do let them know if you have anything you would like to raise.

Friday 13th October 2017

 

I am delighted to use my Weekly Message to thank parents who have considered applying to be our new Parent Governor.

 

I have spoken with several parents about what the role entails and we received one application from Mr Ewan Ross – Archie, Poppy and Finlay’s dad. As there has only been one application there is no need for an election and Mr Ross will officially be welcomed to our governing body in November. He will undergo a period of induction and will be allocated a ‘buddy’ governor. Congratulations to him and a huge welcome to him to Mere School’s governing body.

 

The skill-set of the governing body is constantly reviewed and after Mr Nick Beale’s departure as Health and Safety Governor, we needed to fill this gap. Mr Ross is a full-time fire-fighter and brings many skills in this field to the governing body.

 

If you are interested in becoming a governor please do make contact with Mr Jordan – it is a very rewarding position.

 

Below is a list of our governors for your information:

 

Mr John Jordan (Chair) – Parent Governor

Mr Clive Hazzard – Local Authority Governor

Mrs Carolanne Barry – Co-opted Governor

Ms Rachael Hansford – Co-opted Governor

Mr Alan Gristwood – Co-opted Governor

Mr Tony Rankin – Co-opted Governor

Mr Lee Tibbit – Parent Governor

Mr David Rich – Co-opted Governor

Mrs Pat Manning – Parent Governor

Mr Jim Ashlin – Parent Governor

Mrs Paula Loxton – Staff Governor

Mrs Anne Dethick – Clerk.

 

Please do have a look at the website for more information about our governors and their responsibilities.

Friday 6th October 2017

 

We had a tremendous DT day – no doubt the children have told you all about it! I am very grateful to Mrs Wilson for co-ordinating and organising. It is not an easy job.

 

I am always very proud of our children when they go on visits or we have visitors into school and our DT day was no exception. I wanted to use my Head Teacher message to pass on some of the very positive comments that were made about our children.

 

The ladies who ran the cookery sessions were very complimentary about the behaviour, conduct and manners of our children and they thoroughly enjoyed working with them.

 

Mrs Brown enjoyed working with our older children so much that he is considering a career in education!

 

George (the paper aeroplane man), who works for the Electrical, Avionics and Engineering Authority e.mailed us to say:

“Thanks very much for your e.mail and a BIG thank you to all of the staff who were all very welcoming and polite and students who made the day so enjoyable.

 

The students were an absolute delight, very polite and a pleasure to spend the day with. They are a credit to the school!”

 

Danya, from the Dyson Foundation wrote:

“Thank you for organising the day, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. You have bright, polite students and I hope I have managed to inspire a good handful of them to be Design Engineers.”

 

We were the first primary school that Dyson have worked in. Danya was extremely nervous of our younger children but I hope her experience will encourage Dyson to work more with primary aged pupils.

 

A day of great learning and much celebration!

Friday 29th September 2017

 

My message is a bit mundane this week but it might save you a bit of money!

 

I have spent this morning in the 2 lost property bins and every time I do this I am always amazed at the quantity of lost property. We have only been in school for 3 weeks and we already have 2 bins full of disowned property.

 

I do try to return anything named to the relevant child but there are endless items of clothing without names. It is extremely surprising when there are beautiful, expensive coats and numerous pairs of shoes and no one has claimed them.

 

We need to try to encourage our children to be responsible with their property and look after it. I would also like to send a plea to parents to name items of clothing that come to school. If we can develop this responsibility it will make your life easier when the children go on to secondary school. If they misplace something there it will never return!

 

The lost property is on display outside the small hall – please do take a look. We are now putting this out on the last Friday of each month. It will also be on display on the last week of term and anything not claimed is then thrown away or put into ‘Bags4school’.

Friday 22nd September 2017

 

I woke up last Friday morning to the news that the Government were going to make even more changes to our assessment systems. We are constantly managing Governmental changes in school but I am pleased that this is happening because the current system has not been great.

 

There will always be some form of testing in primary schools as the Government needs to try and measure the impact of the funding that is given to us. Unfortunately the most important elements of primary education cannot be measured in this way. The Government only test what can be measured easily. We are constantly assessing and testing children in school and adjusting our teaching according to the outcomes of this assessment. The problems occur when this testing is published and this pressures the teachers and at times, the children.

 

I still worry about the impact on our children of this testing regime, especially when we are experiencing a significant increase in the number of children with mental health issues. We try to approach all external testing in a balanced and appropriate way and as a school we are focusing on improving the mental health of our children throughout the year.

 

We also believe that it is vital that we offer our children a balanced and relevant curriculum. Our children need to learn to read, write and compute but must experience and learn in the other subjects also – music, art, science, computing, DT, PE, history, geography and modern foreign languages. This is why we have a topic each term for our classes, many educational visits and visitors and our special days. An example of this is our DT day next week. Dyson and many other visitors will be working with our children for the whole day on scientific and technological projects. We have been really lucky that Dyson are travelling down to work with us – not many primary aged children will get this opportunity.

 

So, the main elements of change for the next few years are:

 

· there will be a slightly more flexible approach to assessing writing – we can take account of some specific issues the children might have and reflect this in the assessment (eg dyslexic tendencies, a significant spelling issue).

· from 2020 our reception children will be subject to a Government baseline assessment. This will not be a significant change for our children as Mrs McClelland does assess the children when they start with us. This data will a starting point from which the progress in school will be measured (eg how much progress have our children made from EYFS to year 6?).

· the KS1 SATs tests will be abolished from 2023.

· KS2 teacher assessment in reading and maths will not be required from 2019 onwards.

· an online multiplications tables check will be taken by our year 4 pupils from 2019. We do not think that this data will be published.

 

If any more changes are announced I will let you know and if you have any questions or concerns about how our children are assessed and tested please do pop in and see me or Mrs Loxton.

Friday 15th September 2017

 

The Carnival Committee approached us last term to ask if our children would like to take place in the carnival this year.

 

We were delighted to have been asked and each child has made a Mere School flag. They will be coming home with their flag tonight along with an invitation for them to take part in the carnival. Details are below:

 

 

MERE SCHOOL

 

Your child has come home tonight with a flag which they have made for the Carnival in Mere.

 

You have been invited (with your child!) to the afternoon procession on:

 

SATURDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER.

 

Please meet Mr Nick Beale or Mrs Sue Jeans at 2 pm on the Duchy Manor Field, outside the Pavillion behind Category G. The parade will leave the school gate at 3.30 pm and it will follow the brass band and slowly walk to the Clock Tower (where parents who are not walking can meet their child at about 3.45 pm).

 

It should be a fun afternoon and there will be a burger van, candy floss, sweets, face painting, musical entertainment and a bar (for mums and dads!).

 

 

We are really keen to support the carnival so it goes from strength to strength.

 

If you have any queries we can put you in touch with Mr Nick Beale.

 

Hope you have a great day.

Friday 9th September 2017

 

I don’t know how many times I have heard this holiday how lucky teachers are to have such long summer holidays. I have to agree that this is a positive aspect to the profession.

 

However, it is not until you live with a teacher that you understand that the 6 weeks of holiday is not quite what it says!

 

The teachers have to spend a lot of time finishing off the school year and making sure that everything is ready for the receiving teacher. They then have to start planning for the new academic year ensuring that no time is lost at the beginning of the new term and learning starts straight away.

 

There are also constant e.mails and queries to deal with when the school is closed.

 

Teaching is a very rewarding but exhausting profession. You have probably heard in the media this week that there are more teachers leaving ‘the trade’. It is essential that teachers have time to relax and ‘wind down’ after the academic year.

 

As a parent I used to find the T D days a real nuisance, particularly when organising childcare. A long time ago the Government took away a week of the school holiday so that 5 days could be allocated for training and as a result of this we now have the 5 TD days throughout the year. These days are extremely valuable for schools.

 

So, for people who do not have links to teaching I understand the comments about the school holidays. However, in reality things are quite different!

Thursday 20th July 2017

 

It is always good to end the year with some good news!

 

The results of our formal testing this year have been extremely good and I am using my Weekly Message to share this with you.

 

We were delighted that 80% of our children achieved success in the Phonics Screening test. Mrs Tavenner worked extremely hard with this group of children as our predictions had been much lower than this. This group of children made incredible progress.

 

Our KS1 SAT results combined with our teacher assessment showed a significant improvement on last year:

 

Writing – 68% at expected standard, 1% achieved greater depth

Reading – 79% at expected standard, 12% achieved greater depth

Maths – 82% at expected standard, 24% achieved greater depth.

 

Our KS2 SAT results were equally exciting!

 

Writing – 80% at expected standard, 16% achieved greater depth

Reading – 80% at expected standard, 28 % achieved greater depth

Maths – 88% at expected standard, 36% achieved greater depth.

 

These results are significantly higher compared to the national results last year. We anticipate that our progress scores will be very strong.

 

It is worth noting, however, that the majority of children who did not achieve the expected standard had attendance rates of lower than 95%.

 

I would like to congratulate the staff and children on such a good set of results. We aim, at Mere School, for our children to achieve high standards in English and maths but also to give the children a broad, balanced education.

 

The staff have met this week to discuss the outcomes and decide how we are going to work with every child to ensure even greater success next year.

Friday 14th July 2017

 

I thought I would make my Head Teacher message all about heath this week.

 

The Government will be offering the flu vaccination programme again for children in year 1, 2 and 3 (at the moment) and they plan to do this at our school on Thursday 7th December 2017.

 

This vaccination programme is in place to help protect your child against flu. Flu can be an unpleasant illness and sometimes causes serious complications. Vaccinating your child will also help protect more vulnerable friends and family by preventing the spread of flu. The vaccination is free and recommended for young children, and will be given by a quick and simple spray up the nose.

 

This vaccination is not compulsory and you will receive a consent form and a leaflet explaining the vaccination programme nearer the time.

 

This is also a good opportunity to remind parents to ensure that your child is up to date with important vaccinations which protect them against potentially serious infectious illnesses. It is particularly important that a children is up to date with their vaccinations before they start school as this is when they come into contact with many more children and potential sources of infection. There is lots of information on the NHS Choices website – just search ‘vaccination’ but if you are in doubt contact your GP to check your child is protected.

Friday 7th July 2017

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my Head Teacher lunch last week with a group of children – 2 children from each class (apart from Blue). I asked the children lots of questions and we chatted about what questions they might have about the school or how they think we could make our school better.

 

One of our year 6 girls asked a very sensible question. She asked why her parents have to pay for the Leaver’s Disco. This event is run independently to the school but I thought it would be worth me trying to talk about school trips and payment in general in my message to you.

 

We do try to make the curriculum exciting for our children, and this was identified as a feature of our school during our recent OFSTED inspection. Our teachers try to organise a visit every term for their classes and the vast majority of parents are delighted that we do. We do our best to keep costs to a minimum but unfortunately, as we are a rural school, transport costs are high. We are also extremely grateful to the generous members of our community who donate their time, premises and businesses for the benefit of our children.

 

If you read our ‘Charging Policy’ it does state that we ask for a ‘voluntary contribution’ towards our visits in school time (which support the curriculum). Unfortunately if we do not receive these contributions visits cannot take place. I would dearly love to pay for all of our trips out, as I believe they are very important, but we are in the middle of a school funding crisis and there are not enough pennies left, after we have paid staff and paid the running costs of the school.

 

Trips are regularly discussed at our Class Parent meetings and feedback from them is that our trips are highly valued by parents. This time last year they suggested we let parents know the likely costs for the coming year, which we do through the Welcome Letters. The children always talk about the wonderful visits they have experienced and they remember them for years to come.

 

Organising a trip is a huge task for a teacher. There are numerous risk assessments and a huge amount of paperwork and organisation to consider. Mrs Rawlings spends a lot of time in the office helping as well. However, because we believe these visits are so important to the education of our children we consider the work well worth it. The children look forward to their termly visits.

 

I am extremely grateful to the parents who spent the time giving us feedback and thanking the staff for these valuable, rich learning experiences. One mum found me at the Friend’s Fete on Saturday to tell me what an incredible experience Gold Class had had when they went to ‘Ready to Climb’ last week.

 

Mere School is a very special school and one of the key features of our success here is the fact that we are able to offer our children rich, exciting learning experiences. The OFSTED inspector commented on the outstanding attitudes to learning our children have. It is important that our children read, write and compute to a high standard but it would be a very sad day for us if we were not able to continue to deliver these unique experiences to our children which give them an all-round education so that they are well prepared for the future world that faces them.

 

Thank you all for continuing to support us with this.

Friday 30th June 2017

 

We had our final Class Parent meeting a couple of weeks ago and I have decided to use my Weekly Message to update you on what we discussed.

 

I started the meeting by thanking the whole group for working so closely with me. I find the meetings invaluable and any worries and concerns are discussed at this forum. I also use the opportunity to seek views from this group – the governors regularly ask me to consult them. There was a special thank you to Mr Nick Beale and Ms Sarah Cope. Their children are moving onto Gillingham School so will not be with us in September. Also a thank you to Mrs Louise Graddock who will not be continuing as a Class Parent next term.

 

We had a couple of issues arising from the last meeting:

 

KS1 Loos – the teachers spoke to their classes about appropriate conduct in the loos.

Active Tokens – Miss Beckwith is currently selecting things from the catalogue. Thank you to

Mrs Bella Guy for counting them for us.

Lost property – this is now put out on the last Friday on each term with a text reminder.

Life skills – it was decided that there was not enough room in the school curriculum for this

and it was felt that these responsibilities should be with the parents.

 

Representation for 2017/18 was finalised and will be as follows:

 

BLUE – to be decided

YELLOW – Mrs Sarah Elliott and Mrs Michelle Ings

SILVER – Mrs Steph Smith and Ms Chloe Parker

GOLD – Mrs Bella Guy and Mrs Emma Cummins

GREEN – Mrs Lynne Dimmock and Mrs Lisa Gray

RED – Mrs Sharen Jones and Mrs Claire Barton

PURPLE – Mr Simon Richardson and Mrs Pat Manning.

 

Frequency of meetings – it was decided that meetings would take place 3 times/term on a

trial basis.

 

AOB

 

· Concerns over the theatre trip to London were discussed.

· I confirmed that teachers would be remaining in their year groups in September 2017.

· Mr Rich will organise for the year 4 children to change separately from now on.

· Miss Beckwith will be organising a special assembly for all of our children about Pencelli.

· House PE t-shirts were discussed but it was decided that we would continue with the white ones.

· The school has been unable to appoint a Catering Manager so Mrs Corbett has agreed to stay in post until we have managed to fill this post.

· I will put a note in the newsletter about our Achievement Assembly.

· PE time in Red Class has been limited this term as the children completed so much of their PE curriculum when they were at Pencelli.

· Mrs Bella Guy will be organising a charity shoe collection at the end of term.

 

Our next meeting will be on Friday 13th October 2017 – please do let your Class Parent have any of your ideas.

Friday 23rd June 2017

 

Our new menu for September 2017 will be coming out very shortly. We are incredibly proud of our school kitchen and the delicious, nutritious meals that are available for our children.

 

Despite our best efforts we have, at present, been unable to appoint someone to replace Mrs Corbett as our Catering Manager and she has very kindly agreed to continue in her role until the governors have managed to fill this position.

 

Unfortunately we have had to increase the price of our meals from September to £2.00. I am sure you agree that this still represents extremely good value and our meals will still be significantly cheaper than most primary schools.

 

The administration around our school meals is very complicated and time consuming and as from September meals will have to be paid for when they are ordered. We will no longer be able to offer any credit – no money, no meal! Our ordering system remains the same – please place your child’s meal order by Friday before the week they would like the meals.

 

At the moment we will be continuing to provide a free school meal to our KS1 children (Blue, Yellow and Silver Classes). We are not sure how the Government plans to continue with this initiative but I will keep you up to date with any information we are given.

 

We hope, in the very near future, that parents will be able to pay electronically for their meals – watch this space!

 

Please do contact me with any concerns or queries.

Friday 16th June 2017

 

There has been much media attention over the last year regarding Leave of Absence (holidays in term time) where the term ‘regular’ has been considered at some lengths by the courts. On 6th April 2017 the Supreme Court released its judgement that the term ‘regular’ means ‘in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school’, ie to attend for all the sessions that the school is open.

 

The Local Authority is currently revising its position regarding Penalty Notices and will be informing us of their position on this ready for the new academic year (September 2017).

 

They have asked me to release the following information to parents:

 

“When a child is absent from school where this has not been authorised a parent/carer can be held accountable for an offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1966 – failure to secure the regular attendance at school of a child.

 

It is the responsibility of the head teacher to consider whether absences are authorised or not dependent upon the reason provided by the parent/carer. Therefore, if the school advises a parent/carer that unauthorised absence has accrued or that a Leave of Absence will be marked unauthorised there would be evidence of the child failing to attend school regularly.

 

Where there is evidence of unauthorised absence the school has a duty to notify the Local Authority for the consideration of the issuance of a Penalty Notice to each parent/carer.

 

As retrospective authorisation is not permitted for instances of Leave of Absence (holidays in term time) prior permission should be sought direct from the school prior to any Leave of Absence being taken.

 

There is no automatic right to authorised absence from school and it remains the responsibility of the head teacher to determine whether or not authorisation is permitted.”

 

As soon as I have clarification about the threshold for a Penalty Notice to be delivered I will let you know.

Friday 9th June 2017

 

Another valuable Class Parent meeting to report on!

 

Matters arising from the last meeting:

 

  • it was decided that we will continue to sell pull-on hoodies for PE.
  • I have reminded teachers about opening the doors promptly in the mornings.
  • unfortunately the idea of having a class pet was rejected!
  • supervision in the new Quiet Area was discussed with staff.
  • the success of our ‘Helping your Child Manage their Emotions’ workshops was discussed.

 

After some governor monitoring there was a suggestion that the school might set up an Internet Safety Forum. It was decided that any internet safety issues would come through this group rather than have a separate group.

 

The snack issue seems to have quietened down after 94% of parents and 94% of children were happy with our current provision.

 

We chatted about the following issues in our AOB section:

 

  • I have spoken to the KS1 teachers about appropriate behaviour in the KS1 loos.
  • the school is only able to offer jacket potato and beans or cheese, not both, as the administration of the mix would be too complicated.
  • children may not wear Crocs to school.
  • Mrs Guy has kindly counted 3054 Active Tokens for the school. The staff are using them to get some equipment for use when the children are playing on the field at lunchtime.
  • some parents were concerned about some masks hanging from trees in a garden near to the school. The school is unable to do anything about this but we should encourage parents to talk to their children about them.
  • Mr Beale and Ms Cope are in the process of organising a Leaver’s Disco for Purple Class.
  • the lost property will be put outside the small hall door on the last Friday of very month.
  • the Purple Class Parents wanted to thank Mr Clive Hazzard for showing Purple Class around his nurseries.
  • class photos will be on Friday 9th June 2017.
  • I was asked to talk to the staff about integrating life skills into the curriculum.

 

I am extremely grateful to this group of parents who liaise closely with their classes and come with such good ideas and feedback to these meeting.

 

We meet again on Friday 16th June 2017. Please do let your class parent know if you have anything you would like them to raise.

Friday 26th May 2017

 

I have decided to delay my Class Parent report to you until after half term. I would like to use my weekly message to talk about the dreadful attack at the Manchester Arena earlier this week.

 

The current threat level in the UK is critical and we will consider this when completing our risk assessment – particularly for out-of-school trips (our theatre visit to London especially). When we go to London we will undoubtedly see heightened security and we will speak to the children about this so that they are not frightened but reassured.

 

There is no specific guidance, at the moment, from the Government to schools but the London Borough of Havering offered the following advice for keeping children safe on school trips:

 

“In the event of a terrorist incident, it is likely that there will be road and transport closures, and this may lead to delays being able to return home. It will be sensible to ensure that the children have a bottle of water and a small snack in their bag in case of delays. There is no need to tell the children why, just way that they need to save it for the journey home.”

 

In the case of a major event we will keep you informed by text and alerts on the website.

 

The following are good resources for helping our children cope:

 

· BBC Newsround,

· Supporting Children Worrying about Terrorism (NSPCC),

· Responding to Children and Young People affected by the Media Coverage of the Incident in Manchester (Winston’s Wish),

· How to Explain the Horror of Terrorism to your Children (Telegraph).

 

We have no plans to cancel our trip to London at the moment, but we will be assessing the risk continually and taking advice from professionals.

 

The victims of this appalling tragedy are in our thoughts and prayers at all times. We must hold everyone dear to us tighter.

Friday 19th May 2017

 

The school and governing body are delighted to announce that Mr Jim Ashlin and Mrs Pat Manning will be our new parent governors, replacing Mr David Rich and Mr John Littlewood.

 

Jim has two children in the school – one in Silver Class and one in Yellow Class and currently works for the Royal Navy. Pat has one child in Red Class and another child who will be starting school with us shortly. Pat also brings a range of skills from publishing to book-keeping. We are thrilled that they will be working with us. Both will undergo a period of induction.

 

Please remember, if you would like to find out what our governors do, the website is the place to look. There are also copies of the meeting minutes for you to look at as well.

 

There will be other vacancies in the very near future. The governing body, in the longer term, is looking to recruit expertise in finance and law.

 

I would also like to use my weekly message to thank our governing body for all that they do for the school and our children. This group of volunteers support and challenge our school so effectively, for which I am extremely grateful.

Friday 12th May 2017

 

I know that you are all aware that we are currently running an election for 2 new parent governors at Mere School and we spent some time at our meeting this week discussing the issue of governor recruitment. Mr John Littlewood has emigrated and Mr David Rich’s governor designation has changed. I would like to thank John for the support and help he has given to our school.

 

There will be quite a change in September in our governing body as 2 of our long serving governors have children moving on to Gillingham School. We will be looking to co-opt governors from the community also.

 

So … if you are interested, or know of anyone who might be interested, in being a governor, please could you let Mr Jordan or myself know. As Mr Jordan said in his letter – “Please don’t think that you do not have the expertise; the governing body work together to train ourselves better to help the school. What we need are parents with the desire to help Mere School be a place where children enjoy, learn and achieve.”

 

The school is run on a daily basis by the staff and is guided by the governing body. Governors work with the staff team to keep the school developing and improving. I’m afraid there is no financial benefit but there is the pleasure of knowing you are helping your children, and the children of Mere School. There will be some work to do – attending meetings, reading papers, meeting with staff etc and you will learn new things and sometimes there are difficult decisions to be made, but I can promise you the work is satisfying.

 

If you would like to know more please do pop in and see me or contact John – john.a.jordan@hotmail.co.uk

Friday 5th May 2017

 

We were very upset to receive the news at the beginning of term that Mrs Corbett has resigned from her post with us as Catering Manager.

 

Mrs Corbett is not sure what she is going to do in September but needs time to consider different career options and we all respect and understand her decision – even though we are very sorry! She has very kindly given the Governors a whole term’s notice to advertise and appoint a suitable candidate.

 

Mrs Corbett has developed our catering department while she has been with us and she, and her team, have produced delicious, home-cooked, high quality meals for our children. She also caters for 2 other schools and we have a waiting list of local schools who would like her to cook for them also.

 

Preparing our lunches has only been part of the job though. Mrs Corbett has catered for staff and the Local Authority during courses/TD days, created special menus for the special days we have in school, produced thousands of cakes for various events, worked with the School Council to perfect our Christmas lunch arrangements, provided breakfast during SATs week and resourced our KS2 snack trolley. She has done this with good humour and enthusiasm – even when times are challenging.

 

On behalf of the whole school community I would like to thank her. This post is going to be very difficult to fill.

 

We will be advertising the post shortly in the Blackmorevale Magazine. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please could you pop into the office to get an application pack.

Friday 28th April 2017

 

The Friends have again been busy during the holidays. The new quiet area has been completed with the seating. We are now going to let the children use this area before we decide if we would like to add anything more. The Friends are considering some large outdoor cushions and quiet games but before we invest in this we would like to speak with the children and observe how they are using the space. Thank you so much to Mrs Sally Ashlin and Ms Rachael Hansford for co-ordinating all this work. The Yellow Class play area is the next project for The Friends.

 

Kingsmere Surfacing and Fencewise have completed their work on the side gate and the new fencing. This has made this side of the school much more attractive and offers our children and families a safer entrance into school. I do realise that the end of the path onto White Road poses a danger, but we need to train the children to be vigilant and keep themselves safe. All children must learn how to manage risk. A huge thank you to Mr Simon Richardson who applied for a grant from the Local Authority. He was successful in his bid and the money allocated has covered some of the costs. Simon and Mr Nick Beale will now be turning their attention to the car park and liaising closely with the Parish Council about the proposed zebra crossing and longer term extended car park.  THE SIDE GATE WILL BE OPEN FOR USE NEXT WEEK.

 

Our school grounds look tremendous at the moment and this is due to Mr Cannon and the hours he devotes to our school. He clears up, tidies, blows and collects leaves, weeds, cuts the grass, nurtures the plants, checks the equipment is safe, manages contractors, paints … this list goes on. He is working closely with Mrs Tavenner and the children to fill our planters and produce plants and vegetables for sale. We are extremely fortunate that we have someone on our team who genuinely cares about our school and promotes his desire to create a wonderful environment for our children. My sincere thanks to him. Our school grounds are the envy of other schools!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th April 2017

 

What a way to end our Spring Term! Attached is our OFSTED letter stating the outcomes of the inspection just over a fortnight ago.

 

We are officially a good school and we are delighted that the inspector has noted how well behaved our children are, how well our children are learning and progressing and how the school continues to improve. The inspector highlighted what a skilled team of staff we have at Mere School, “consequently, teaching is strong and pupils are engaged in their activities and enthusiastic about what they do”.

 

A copy of the letter has been sent home and is attached to this message.

 

A huge thank you to the staff, governors, children and parents for making this school a very special place to be.

Friday 3rd April 2017

 

Our KS2 snack trolley survey certainly caused a lot of debate and I appreciate all of the feedback and responses from parents and children. It is clear however, from the outcomes that there is a definite message coming through.

 

Parents need to be aware that the trolley is non-profit making and it takes Mrs Corbett a huge amount of time in an already very busy kitchen environment. I think, if she had voted, it would be easier for her if the trolley did not continue!

 

It is also essential to note that the trolley is voluntary. The children are more than welcome to bring a healthy snack from home or to take a piece of free fruit from the trolley.

 

The majority of our homemade snacks are carbohydrate-based and many parents appreciated this as their children do not eat much breakfast and it is a long time for them to go without something to eat from early morning to lunchtime.

 

As a school, we value the opportunity for our children to handle and be responsible for their money and our year 6 children benefit from the experience of being snack trolley monitors.

 

Based on your responses and considering national nutritional advice, Mrs Corbett will be changing the rolls offered to the children to brown/wholemeal. The flapjack portion sizes will be reduced and we will investigate using honey in the recipe. We plan to offer the children yoghurt and bottled water and increase the amount of fruit on offer.

 

We had 114 responses from our KS2 children and 67 parental responses. 94% of our KS2 children were in favour of keeping the KS2 snack trolley in its present form and 94% of our parents.

 

I appreciate your support in finding a democratic outcome to this issue.

 

Please remember that our School Nurse is always available for parents who would like to discuss individual dietary issues.

 

Friday 24th March 2017

 

Perrys Recycling have been to visit the school to thank us for having the Charity Paperbank.

 

This big, blue bank is sited just near the bike shed and anyone can use this – the more we collect the more we can raise for charity.

 

The Charity Paper Bank Scheme raises vital funds to support local charities in Wiltshire. Perrys Recycling donate £10 for every tonne of paper collected to the Wiltshire Community Foundation.

 

This paper bank also saves the school a significant amount of money. As you can imagine, most of our rubbish is paper and if we put this in the normal Wiltshire Authority bins we have to pay for its collection. We put all of our paper waste into the recycling bin which saves us money and helps the Wiltshire charities.

 

Please help us to keep recycling paper at our school.

Friday 17th March 2017

 

I thought I would dedicate my Head Teacher Message this week to our lunchtime supervisor team.

 

Being an MDSA (Mid-day Supervisory Assistant) is, I believe, the hardest job in a school. They arrive 20 minutes before lunch is served and prepare the hall for our children. At 12 noon they supervise the children, with a teacher, ensuring that every child is ‘fed and watered’ and encourage good table manners and good behaviour. At 12.20 pm Mrs Simmons (our Senior MDSA) gradually sends the children out to play. A team of MDSAs go into the playground and courts with the children while 2 are left in the hall supervising the remaining children and tidying up. They are also responsible for administering first aid. The MDSAs and the school office are all linked with a walkie-talkie system.

 

I meet officially with our MDSA team every half term. They are a committed group of people who endeavour to ensure our lunchtimes are fun but safe for the children. They are constantly thinking of new ideas to enrich and improve our lunchtime provision.

 

Lunchtimes are a period of time when the children need to relax and ‘burn off’ some energy. There can be behavioural issues that our MDSA team need to deal with which are challenging. They are constantly watching the children to make sure they are happy and often children do chat to our ladies if they are upset or worried about something. Liaison between the class teachers and our MDSAs is crucial but we also have to ensure that no learning time is lost in the afternoons. A senior member of staff is always available should there be a problem.

 

Our MDSAs have completed a lot of training for their role from Child Protection to First Aid to Managing Behaviour. Training needs are constantly addressed. Our MDSAs will be attending a couple of T D days next year with teachers and TAs.

 

Being an MDSA is also a privileged position. Our ladies form strong relationships with our children and they enjoy this special time with them.

 

We are always looking for casual MDSAs for absence cover. Many of our TAs started their educational career as a lunchtime supervisor. If you would like to know more about this position please do contact the office.

 

A huge thank you to our MDSA team who do an incredible job for our children.

Friday 10th March 2017

 

Following an incident of cyber-bulling towards one of our children I wanted to use my Weekly Message highlight this issue.

 

Technology means that bullying is no longer limited to the playground. Cyberbullying occurs when a child uses the internet, e.mails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms or other digital technology to harass, threaten or humiliate another child. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying does not require physical strength or face-to-face contact and is not limited to just a handful of witnesses at a time. Cyberbullies come in all shapes and sizes – almost anyone with an internet connection or mobile phone can cyberbully someone else, often without having to reveal their true identity. Cyberbullies can torment their victims 24 hours a day and the bullying can follow the victim anywhere so that no place, not even home, ever feels safe, and with a few clicks the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.

 

If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, it is important to remember that you are not alone. If your child is targeted by cyberbullies, it is important not to respond to any messages or posts written about them, no matter how hurtful or untrue. Responding will only make the situation worse and will provoke a reaction, which is what the cyberbullies want. Instead respond to the cyberbullying by:

 

  • saving the evidence of cyberbullying – keep abusive text messages or a screenshot of a web page and then report it to a trusted adult.
  • reporting threats of harm to the police
  • being relentless – keep reporting each and every bullying incident until it stops.
  • preventing communication from the cyberbully – by blocking their e.mail address and phone number or deleting them from social media contacts.

 

No matter how much pain it causes, children are often reluctant to tell parents or teachers about cyberbullying because they fear that doing so may result in losing their computer or phone privileges. While parents should always monitor a child’s use of technology, it is important not to threaten to withdraw access or punish a child who has been victim or cyberbullying. We need to help our children prevent cyberbullying before it starts by helping them to stay safe with technology. We need to teach our children to:

 

  • refuse to pass on cyberbullying messages.
  • tell their friends to stop cyberbullying.
  • block communication with cyberbullies.
  • never post or share their personal information.
  • talk to a trusted adult about their life online.
  • not put anything online that they would not want their classmates to see, even in an e.mail.
  • not send messages when they are angry or upset.
  • always be as polite online as they are in person.

 

As a school we have a duty to provide a safe environment for children and this includes protecting them from cyberbullying. We have worked very closely with the parents of the child who has been subject to cyberbullying and the police. It is a credit to the children of this school that they reported the cyberbullying to us so that we were able to offer immediate help and advice.

 

Please see the huge amount of information on our website offering advice.

Friday 3rd March 2017

 

Our Class Parents met last week and I like to use my Head Teacher message to let you know what was discussed in the meeting. It was, as ever, a very useful session and I am so grateful to the parents who contribute so fully to our meetings.

 

Matters Arising

 

ZIP-UP PE HOODIES – the school can only stock pull on or zip up hoodies.

HEALTHY SNACKS – the staff have spent a lot of time discussing this and the school has to rely on parents to make their own decision about what a healthy snack is. However, there should be no crisps, chocolate or crisps as a snack. Our School Council will be producing a fact sheet for parents around what a healthy snack is.

MANAGING EMOTIONS AT HOME – the Class Parents were asked to promote the workshop and surgeries for parents.

CLUB CAR PARK – the school contact the police about the dangers for our children and they promised to patrol this area. Mr Richardson explained to the group that the work on the side gate will be starting soon.

CLIMBING TREES ON DUCHY FIELD – something has been published in the newsletter about this.

 

SATS/Phonics Information Talk for Parents during Bedtime Story

 

The Class Parents were asked to publicise this.

 

Pancake Race Event

 

This will be taken to The Friends meeting.

 

AOB

 

  • It was decided that the school would not send out a text informing parents of any bugs going around the school (unless the illness rates meet the reportable levels) we the school does not want to panic parents.
  • I will remind staff about opening their class doors on time in the morning.
  • Our older children have asked if we can have a school pet – I will speak to the staff about this.
  • The administrative arrangements for our Bedtime Story event and the Book Fair were discussed and are ‘in hand’.
  • I will speak to the staff about supervision in the new Quiet Area.
  • A parent had requested personal information about the particular class and this has been denied.
  • It was decided a class Whatsap would not be a good idea.
  • The group were updated about our progress on BACs payments for trips – coming shortly!

Friday 24th February 2017

 

Sadly we are witnessing an increase in the number of children who are struggling to manage their emotions and feelings.

 

This is evident in school and we are offering increasing support to these children but parents are also, at times, struggling to manage their children at home. I speak to many parents over a whole range of issues from eating to sleeping to behaviour. I know that being a parent is a very tricky job and there are no right answers or a special manual to help us!

 

The Class Parents asked at their last meeting if the School Nurse could offer a workshop for parents but unfortunately the nursing service is overstretched and our school nurse is already working with a lot of individual children at our school.

 

After much research (and arm twisting!) the Behaviour Support Team at the Local Authority has been able to find some time to support our school. Mel and Karen will be at Mere on WEDNESDAY 1ST MARCH at 9 am to run an information workshop for parents. On WEDNESDAY 8TH MARCH from 9 am they will be offering a surgery for parents so you can speak individually and confidentially to them. Please ring the office to make an appointment.

 

We are extremely lucky to secure the services of these ladies and it is important that we make the most of their time. Please do come along to benefit from their expertise – if you can’t make the workshop please made an individual appointment.

 

With the squeeze on budgets and the shrinking of the Local Authority this opportunity might not arise again – we look forward to seeing you.

Friday 10th February 2017

 

At the beginning of last term Mrs Loxton launched our Growth Mindset initiative. Some information was in the newsletter and a leaflet was available for parents in the entrance hall.

 

It is really important, when something new is introduced into school, that we evaluate what we are doing to see if it is having a positive impact on learning and the children.

 

Mrs Loxton spent last Wednesday afternoon interviewing groups of children and asked the following questions:

 

Are you born clever?

What do you know about Growth Mindset?

Do you think having a Growth Mindset makes a difference?

Is it good to make mistakes?

How do you feel if you persevere and make mistakes?

How do you know having a good Growth Mindset helps you improve?

How does having a Growth Mindset help you at school?

Are there any phrases that help you have a Growth Mindset?

Is it good to struggle with work? What do you feel like when you succeed?

What do you do if you get stuck?

Who is the best person to motivate you?

 

Children across the school were aware of what Growth Mindset is. The children in Blue Class were a little too young to comment.

 

All of the children believed that making mistakes would help them to learn and the children said that the atmosphere in their classes made them feel safe when they made mistakes. Our older children could recite some phrases that the teachers use to reinforce a positive Growth Mindset.

 

The teachers also talked about Growth Mindset in the staff meeting this week and it was agreed that this approach was helping children to learn more effectively. We shared phrases that we could use across the school and we will continue to develop a culture of perseverance and resilience. Miss Beckwith is going to incorporate Growth Mindset into our PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum and we are starting to investigate how we can use Growth Mindset during play times and lunchtimes.

 

We hope that you are starting to see some of the effects of this strategy at home.

Friday 3rd February 2017

 

There were a series of governors meetings last week – Curriculum, Finance and the full body, with the usual full agenda (minutes can be found in the Governor Section on our website).

 

The group regularly discuss class organisation and there has been some anxiety for a while over the number of children in our current year 4 class (Green). Mr Rich is doing a fantastic job but it has always been an aspiration to split this class, if finances allow.

 

The Finance Committee have been making plans for the new financial year and with careful management the full governing body have decided that we can afford to employ an additional teacher in the mornings from September 2017 until this group move on to their secondary education.

 

The school has advertised for this teacher this week and Mr Jordan, Mr Rankin and I will be shortlisting and interviewing during the last week of February.

 

We have decided to employ an experienced teacher who will focus on English and maths during the mornings. How the children will be organised is subject to further discussion. Miss Beckwith will work very closely with the new teacher. It is hoped that this new teacher will then move with the children into year 6 (Purple).

 

We will keep the parents of Green Class fully informed but please do contact me if you have any questions.

Friday 27th January 2017

 

My meeting with the Class Parents a couple of weeks ago was extremely useful. We discussed the following:

 

  • The Class Parent agreed to publicise our Internet Safety evening.
  • There had been some concern about the new quiet area. Staff have now been briefed about supervision here and the children are being constantly reminded about appropriate play. Our Class of the Week award is for appropriate play on the equipment.
  • Contact had been made with the school photographer about the quality of the photographs this year. He is willing to offer another sitting for any parent who is not happy with their child’s photograph.
  • The school has reconsidered Sex and Relationship education. It has been decided that there will be a body changes talk to all of the year 5 children and the school nurse will deliver this. The boys and girls will be spoken to separately following this. In year 6 the children will be shown a DVD but this will not include any element of reproduction. The school will offer parents the opportunity to watch the DVD before the children see it.
  • It was agreed to abolish the Home School Agreement as this is no longer required by the DfE.
  • Mrs Guy has kindly offered to take responsibility for the tokens.
  • Mrs Barry and Mrs Sayer have stepped down from their role as class parents – thank you to them. Ms Parker and Mrs Smith have taken on the role for Yellow Class.
  • Mrs Rawlings is going to investigate the zip-through hoodies for games.
  • Mrs Tavenner will speak to Yellow Class about what constitutes a healthy snack and a reminder will go in the newsletter also.
  • The Class Parents asked for an Information Session on helping children to manage their emotions and understand their feelings. This has been organised for Wednesday 1st March.
  • There are ongoing concerns about the children’s safety on White Road and The Club Car Park before and after school. I have spoken to the police and they are going to patrol the area, Mr Nick Beale will speak to the Parish Council and I will put something in the newsletter.
  • Some parents are worried about children climbing trees on the Duchy Field. I will remind parents that this is at their risk in the newsletter.
  • Class Parents were asked to remind other parents about the Just Giving App and this raises a lot of money for the school.
  • Class Parents were asked to encourage as many new parents as possible to come along to The Friends.

 

As you can see it was quite a busy meeting. Please do use your Class Parents to share your views and opinions – they are very keen to help.

Friday 20th January 2017

Clarification of School Pupil Tracker Gradings

 

After a year of trials we now happy, that we our using Pupil Tracker effectively to monitor children’s attainment and progress, however, we have adapted the interpretation of the grades that Pupil Tracker uses to better suit our needs. This means you may have been surprised that some of the assessment outcomes shown, if you logged into Pupil Tracker, did not reflect your conversation with us at parents’ evening.

 

The colour coded grid below therefore shows how we are interpreting the colour gradings. We apologise for this oversight but hope this clarifies things for you. As always, if you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Colour code for attainment

Mere School Attainment Grade

School Pupil Tracker differences

 

Greater depth level - working above year group expectations– children can apply their learning in different situations.

 

 

Mastery level- working at year group expectations – this is the broadest band – most children nationally will be here.

Above year group expectations

 

Working slightly below year group expectations- needs a little support to reach year group targets.

Working at year group expectations

 

Working below year group expectations - but with support is working towards the year group targets.

 

 

Working significantly below year group expectations and is working on lower year group targets.

 

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th January 2017

 

PARENT INTERNET SAFETY EVENING – Monday 16th January 2017 at 7.30 pm.

 

There was a lot of press coverage last week about children in England signing over their digital rights ‘regularly and unknowingly’. England’s Children’s Commissioner stated that children are being left to fend for themselves in the digital world, regularly signing over their rights to their private messages and pictures, which means that children are unwittingly giving away personal information with no real understanding of who is holding that information, where they are holding it and what they are doing with it.

 

This report stresses the fact that we, collectively, are not doing enough to equip our children with the skills and knowledge to stay safe online. Sarah, Champion, the labour Shadow Cabinet Minister commented:

 

“We have to recognise children are growing up immersed in a digital world. We owe it them to do all we can to educate and support them to the risks they face in the virtual world, just as we do in the real world.”

 

Following some real e.safey incidents at our school and parental demand, we have arranged for Mr Karl Hopwood, an international internet safety expert, to spend all day on Monday working in each class. He will then spend an hour in the evening talking to parents and taking any questions. I really need to stress the importance of attending this meeting – we need to work together to keep our children safe.

 

We all know that children should not be accessing most of these sites until they are 13 but in reality they do. We have to give them the strategies to ensure they are as safe as possible, just as we teach them to cross the road. Over the last couple of years we have had an incident of a child being ‘followed’ on Instagram by an unsavoury character and an innocent incident of sexting. Neither child realised the danger they had put themselves in and fortunately we were able to work closely with the child, parents and relevant authorities to educate the children try to prevent this from happening again. It is also essential that our children feel that they are able to share any worrying experience they might have had on line.

 

We look forward to seeing you on Monday – Mrs Corbett’s homemade cakes will be available throughout the evening!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th January 2017

 

School league tables showing the performance of 11-year olds at primary schools across the country were published at the end of term.

 

‘The Daily Telegraph’ have produced an interactive tool allowing us to search these results and others by specific school or region and compare schools of our choice against one another – www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2016/12/15/primary-school-league-tables-2016-compare-schools-performance/

 

If you want to search by specific school or postcode you can type it into the search box. Alternatively use the interactive map to search by region. You can then add schools to your comparison list by checking the ‘add to compare’ box or clicking the ‘add to compare’ button. The compare page shows you the headline measure, alongside the percentage of pupils achieving the ‘higher standard’ in reading, writing and maths, and a school’s average scaled score and progress made in each subject.

 

The overall picture for Mere School is extremely positive. Our school is first or second locally in every ordering of the tables and indicates that our teaching and support staff are succeeding very well for our children.

 

The governors and staff look at this data extremely closely to see how we can improve outcomes even further for the next round of testing.

 

Please do take a look.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th December 2016

 

I am sure you have heard in the media that Greasley Beauvale Primary School is now grading parents on how much they support their children.  They are marked from A to D based on their involvement with their children’s education.  Parents are categorised in the following way:

 

A GRADE – The actively involved, ‘go above and beyond, highly-supportive parent – can be a bit demanding in a negative way.

B GRADE – Involved: these parents attend parents’ evening, work effectively with the school and understand its work.

C GRADE – Do little to support their child’s learning and very little to support the school but will attend events occasionally.

D GRADE – Does nothing to support their child’s learning or the school; is rarely in school.

 

This system is intended to improve the children’s performance at school by encouraging their mothers and fathers to attend events, such as parents’ evenings and plays, and help with learning at home.  It has been in place since 2011 and has become public knowledge thanks to an OFSTED report recently which commended the school for its ‘startling’ results. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of OFSTED commented:

 

“Telling a parent what the impact their lack of engagement is having on the life chances of their child is not easy, but for many children at this school, it is making a huge difference.”

 

This approach is causing huge debate and I have to admit that I was a little shocked when I heard about what this school is doing.  However, on reflection and reading about the initiative in more detail the school is trying to educate parents as to how important it is for parents to support their children in school.  A little regular help from home will pay dividends for the rest of that child’s academic life.

 

I often chat to parents about how they can help their children.  Hearing the children read every night will have a massive impact on educational outcomes for our children as this has an impact across the curriculum.  Helping the children to learn their spellings and tables is also very important.  One of our TAs commented this week that if parents could do this at home she would be able to support the children with deeper learning at school.

 

It is also essential that parents show an interest in what their children are learning and talk to them about their day at school.   This provides a positive message about school and the importance of learning.

 

I know, when you have been at work all day and you are tired, hearing your child read is probably not at the top of your ‘to do’ list but I cannot stress how beneficial this will be for your child.  We have your children in school for a relatively short period of time and if we all work together in this way our children will make good progress and reach their full potential.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 9th December 2016

 

A couple of years ago I used to complete a questionnaire with the children about the school and each term I used to talk more formally to a group of children.  This was an interesting exercise but I found some of the responses from the children were rather stilted and I wanted to explore a much wider range of topics.  The younger children also found the questionnaire quite difficult to navigate.

 

At the beginning of the last academic year I introduced my Head Teacher Lunches.  I invite 2 children from each class every half term to join me for lunch.  We sit together, enjoying a delicious meal, and chat about the school.  I am hoping that I will meet every child after a couple of years.  Blue Class do not join me as they are a little young.

 

I ask the children a wide range of questions:

 

Do you feel safe at school?  Can you tell me why?

Can you tell me what bullying is?  Do we have any bullying at our school?

If you felt someone was being bullied at our school, what would you advise them to do?

If you had a problem, who would you ask at school for help?  What would you expect them to do?

How would you welcome a new child to our school if they were different to us – a Muslim, someone from Poland, a Syrian refugee?

How would you treat someone at school who had views different to yours?

Why do we have rules at school?

How would you treat a child who started at our school who was born a little boy and became a little girl?

What is the best thing about being British?

What kind of person would Mere School like you to be in 10 years’ time?

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

 

These questions provide valuable information for school improvement but also prepare our children for our impending OFSTED inspection.  I report the outcomes to the staff and governors.

 

I have been genuinely amazed, and hugely impressed with the mature and thoughtful responses our children give.  Mrs Smith observed the last lunch and was spell-bound listening to the children.  It is very clear that our children, without exception, are compassionate, empathetic and mature children.  You should be incredibly proud of them.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd December 2016

 

Christmas Productions

 

Timings

 

The KS1 (Blue, Yellow and Silver Class) afternoon performance starts at 1.15 pm on Tuesday 13th December.  The doors will not open for seating until 1 pm as we have to clear up from lunch and set out the chairs.  The performance will finish by 1.45 pm.  If you would like to take your KS1 child home after the performance please leave school by the side hall door (into the playground) and walk round to their

classroom door to collect them.

 

The KS2 (Gold, Green, Red and Purple Class) afternoon performance starts at 2 pm on Tuesday 13th December.  The doors will not open for seating until 1.45 pm.  The performance will finish by 3 pm and your children can be collected at the normal time.  All children will remain in the care of their class teacher throughout the afternoon.

 

Children will come home with their costumes after the afternoon performance.

 

We ask that the KS1 children return (in their costume) to school for 5.45 pm on Tuesday 13th December and go to their classrooms (through the main entrance).  The main entrance will open at this time so you can take your seats in the audience – the play starts at 6 pm.  We anticipate that the KS1 performance will end at 6.30 pm.  If you would like to take your KS1 child home after the performance please leave school by the side hall door (into the playground) and walk round to their classroom door to collect them.

 

We ask that the KS2 children return to school (through the main entrance) for 6.30 pm on Tuesday 13th December and go to their classrooms.  The main entrance for the KS2 performance will be open at this time so you can wait in the corridor to take your seats in the audience until the start of the play at 6.45 pm. 

 

All teachers will be in their classrooms for the evening so if you are coming to see both performances the children will be in the care of their class teachers when they are not performing.  KS2 children can stay in their classrooms while the KS1 children perform and the KS1 children can stay in their classrooms while the KS2 children perform.  No KS1 children will be permitted to watch the KS2 production, and no KS2 children the KS1 production, due to space and the fact that they have already seen their friends perform. 

 

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 down the corridor and through the main entrance.  Please meet your children after the performance in the corridor.

 

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!

 

If you plan to watch both performances please remain in your seats after the KS1 performance.

 

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 ‘Make a Wish Foundation for Christmas’.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 25th November 2016

 

Last week was our Action Against Bullying week in school and the children were involved in all sorts of activities relating to this.  We had a particular focus on internet safety and ‘cyber bullying’ with our older children.  Mr Rich and Mrs McClelland spoke with groups of our children about internet safety and it is clear that they have a good understanding of how to keep safe on-line.

 

However, this is a fast moving area and being on-line is a feature of everyday life for our children.  This makes it very challenging for us, the parents and school, to keep up.  I am speaking to more parents about issues that have occurred when their children have been on-line.

 

Children spend a lot of time online.  It can be a great way for them to connect with friends and make new ones, to browse the internet for information, chat and play games and we need to work with you to keep the children safe online.  There are risks, but by understanding and talking about the dangers, we can help keep the children safe.

 

Talking to your child is one of the best ways to keep them safe.  Parental controls can be used that filter or monitor what your child can see.  Preventing your children from using the internet or mobile phones will not keep them safe in the long run, so it is important to have conversations that help them understand how to stay safe and what to do if ever they feel scared or uncomfortable.  Some hints from the NSPCC:

 

1  Have the conversation early and often

 

Children spend an average of 12 hours a week online and it becomes part of their routine in early life.  That is why it is important to start talking to your child about keeping safe online at an early age.  It is easier to have conversations about online safety little and often, rather than trying to cover everything at once.  As your children get older and technologies change, make sure you keep talking about what they are doing online and how to stay safe.

 

2  Explore online together

 

Ask your child to show you their favourite things to do online and show an interest in what they do – just as you would offline.  This will give you a much better idea of what they are getting up to and it gives you a way to support and encourage then while learning what they know.

 

3  Know who your child is talking to online

 

Children do not think of people they have met online through social networking and online games as strangers – they are just online friends.  So, it is important to keep track of who your child is talking to.  Explain to your child that it is easy for people to lie about themselves online.  Agree your child will ‘friend’ a trusted adult on their social networks or online games.  Your child could also become ‘friends’ with you so you can see their profile and their posts.

 

4  Set rules and agree boundaries

 

It is useful to agree some ground rules together.  These will depend on your child’s age and what you feel is right for them, but you might want to consider:

 

  • the amount of time they can spend online.
  • the websites they can visit or activities they can take part in.
  • sharing images and videos
  • how to treat people online and not post anything they would not say face to face.

 

If your child plays online games:

 

  • check the age rating before they play.
  • make sure you know who they are playing with.
  • talk to them about what information is OK to share with other players.
  • negotiate the amount of time they spend playing online games.

 

5  Make sure that content is age appropriate

 

You know your child best, so check that the websites, social networks and games they are using are suitable for them.  Online games, movies and some websites will have an age rating or minimum age to sign up.  Age limits are there to keep children safe, so you should not feel pressured into letting your child sign up or use websites that you feel they are too young for.

 

6  Use parental controls to filter, restrict, monitor or report content

 

You can use parental controls to stop your child seeing unsuitable or harmful content online.  Remember that if your child goes away from home the same controls might not be in place.

 

7  Check they know how to use privacy settings and reporting tools

 

Check the privacy settings on any online accounts your child has, like games, and remind them to keep their personal information private.  Talk to your child about what to do if they see content or are contacted by someone that worries or upsets them.

 

There is a lot of information on the NSPCC website and if you would like advice please do contact them – 0808 8005002.

 

On Monday 16th January 2017, Mr Karl Hopwood, an online safety expert, will be working with the children in school.  He will return to school in the evening at 7.30 pm to run an information evening for parents.  Please do come along, hear what he has to say and ask any questions.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th November 2016

 

I had the pleasure of meeting with our Class Parents last Friday and it was another useful and productive meeting.

 

Matters arising from the last meeting:

 

  • Mrs Schofield has a plan for Sports Day next year if it rains in the middle.
  • I will make sure that parents know they are invited to attend the Year 3 Recorder assembly with Mr Walker.
  • I need to make sure that Class Parent meetings and Open Mornings/Open Afternoons are clearly explained in the newsletters.
  • The Governors are investigating ways in which we can start to accept payments for Pencelli initially, by standing order.
  • Carla Winchcombe raised almost £500 from running the Winchester Half Marathon.
  • Class timetables are now on the class pages of the website.

 

The Homework Policy was circulated and discussed.  As expected homework generates lots of discussion and varying opinions – some parents do not feel that children get enough homework and others feel there is too much.  There was a general agreement that we have got it about right at Mere and parents highlighted that teachers direct children and parents to various websites if they would like to do more.  The quantity of homework once the children start Gillingham School was discussed.

 

The provisional dates for events next term were shared and discussed.

 

Mrs Loxton asked the group about our sex education programme.  She wondered whether the parents would like us to start puberty talks earlier, particularly with the girls.  It was decided to leave the programme as it is.  Parents would like Miss Beckwith to explain to the year 5 boys why the girls have a special talk with the school nurse at this time.

 

AOB

 

  • The children had commented that it was cold in school and I explained that there had been some issues with the heating which had been resolved.
  • On-going internet safety issues were discussed and Class Parents agreed to advertise our Internet Safety evening for parents on 16th January 2017.
  • Several parents were not happy with the school photographs and one of the parents is going to make contact with the photographer to explain the concerns.
  • There are some worries about The Friend’s new quiet area.  The teachers will speak to the children about how they should use this area and I will speak to the staff about supervision.
  • The huge volume of lost property was discussed.

 

I find these meetings so valuable and appreciate the time our Class Parents spend making contact with you to canvass your opinions and take any concerns you have.  I am extremely grateful and all issues raised are considered and many positive changes have been made as a result of our meetings.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th November 2016

 

Last term Purple Class attended a Countryside Learning day at Cranborne Estate.  They had a fantastic time learning all about country and when they returned to school they created some art work for the Countryside Learning competition.  Two of our year 6 girls were successful!

 

Sarah Jayne Walsh and Evie Rich have been presented with personal copies of the 30th Anniversary Book, “Once Upon a Farm”.  We also received a copy of the book for our library.  The competition was open to schools from across England and Wales that had attended a Countryside Learning Day in the summer term 2016.

 

The book creator, Sandra McNeill said:

 

“We were astounded by the number of fantastic entries submitted for the competition, choosing the winning entries was incredibly difficult.  The book was designed to provide schools with follow up work after attending a Countryside Learning Schools Day, enabling children from any age range and ability level to produce a unique piece of work to be published.  Many thanks go to our supporters for their help in the production of this book.”

 

Gary Richardson, Chief Executive of Countryside Learning said:

 

“Our job is a very special one, we get to visit the most wonderful parts of the country and meet some amazing people, none more so than the children who benefit hugely from experiencing life outside the classroom and not connected to an electronic device.  We have always known just how much the children benefit from the days, but I was still amazed at the skill, creativity and knowledge that they put into the work which goes into making this amazing book.  This amazing collection of stories, art and literature is a great way to celebrate our 30 years as a charity and the impact we have on our children up and down the country.”

 

The mission of the Countryside Learning is to educate, inform and inspire.  They work with children, parents and teachers so that they can enjoy and appreciate the countryside whilst having a greater understanding of the wide range of issues that surround it.  Countryside Learning works as a national infrastructure whereby teachers and pupils can visit and study a variety of skilled workers in their natural working environment, using the knowledge gained to take back to the classroom to enhance their learning within the school curriculum.

 

Well done to Evie and Sarah-Jane and I know Purple Class and looking forward to their visit next year.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th November 2016

 

In the newsletter this week there is a small paragraph on ‘Developing a Growth Mindset’. 

 

We are working with the children to develop a Growth Mindset at the moment.  The new National Curriculum, introduced in 2014, has much higher expectations for teaching and learning and this represents a challenge for all of us.  Research has shown that almost all children can reach the new standards set by the Government.  This can be done through effort, practice and resilience, which are some of the features of a Growth Mindset.

 

Extensive research, especially by Dr Carol Dweck, has shown that where schools and parents foster a ‘can do’ approach, children’s learning improves and standards rise.  Having a ‘Growth Mindset’ can improve children’s progress and attainment – they can grow their brains and intelligence!

 

At Mere School we strongly believe that, working closely with parents, all of our children can develop a Growth Mindset.  A Growth Mindset is the belief that we can develop our abilities, including our intelligence, which is our ability to think.  It is distinguished from a Fixed Mindset, which is the belief that abilities can’t change, such as thinking that people can’t improve in maths, creativity, writing, relationship-building, leadership, sports and the like.  The Mindset that we adopt leads to very different behaviours, attitudes and achievement.  Lots of research has shown that children with a Growth Mindset seek more effective learning strategies, work harder, persevere in the face of setbacks and achieve higher competence.

 

If you have a Fixed Mindset you believe that intelligence is static.  This Mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily when things get difficult, see effort as fruitless, ignore useful feedback and be threatened by others’ success.

 

If you have a Growth Mindset you believe that intelligence can be developed.  This leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist despite obstacles, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and be inspired by others’ success.

 

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep learning.  That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise.  They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence’.

 

If you would like to know more please do speak to Mrs Loxton.  There is a leaflet in the foyer for parents or on the website.

 

We look forward to working with you to help our children develop a Growth Mindset.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 21st October 2016

 

You will notice, when we return after the half term break, that our Friends Association have been hard at work.

 

Mrs Ashlin and Ms Hansford have been meeting and planning with various companies to create a quiet area in the corner of the playground.  Their ideas have been developed over a significant period of time fuelled by their desire to make the best use of the money raised from our Auction of Promises last year.  There will be some final touches to make until we can have a grand opening.  I am really grateful to them for the hours they have spent creating this for our children.

 

One parent kindly donated a beautiful playhouse and I expect you have seen a team from The Friends painting it over the last few weeks.  The Friends are now turning their fundraising efforts to developing a much improved play area for Yellow Class.  They are hoping to roof this area and buy/make some new resources.

 

Another team of parents kindly donated their time to repairing and repainting the fence around our Blue Class Play area. 

 

During the last half term a group from The Friends worked with Mr Drake to tidy up the pond area – there is more work to do here also.

 

There are too many people to mention to say thank you to.  The Friends are ‘on a mission’ to give our children amazing conditions to work and play in and our grounds are already the envy of many local schools.  Not only have this group of people given time to these projects, they have worked tirelessly to raise the funds to complete the work.  The children, staff and governors are immensely grateful.

 

There will be a Christmas Bingo and Christmas disco this term.  These are regular events which raise significant sums of money for The Friends.   There are also plans for a jumble sale and a ‘Bags to School’ collection.  While you are Christmas shopping please do go through the ‘Giving Machine’ website as this has raised nearly £1000 for The Friends already. 

 

Christmas cards will be designed and sold during the next month and Father Christmas will be inviting all of our children to visit him in his grotto, where they will receive a present, funded by The Friends.

 

An action packed half term!  Please do come along and support The Friends at their events or come to a meeting on the first Friday of every month at 2.15 pm.  They would love to see you there.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 14th October 2016

 

It has taken me a few weeks but I can now use My Weekly Message to tell you all about our last Class Parent meeting.

 

We welcomed several new members and picked up on some issues from the last meeting:

 

SPORTS DAY – Mrs Schofield will try to have a plan in case it rains halfway through this event next year.

BEHAVIOUR POLICY – the teachers have now put ‘Worry Boxes’ in their classes so that the children can post any concerns confidentially.

LUNCHTIME ISSUES – our MDSA team do ensure that all children are offered a drink but I have reminded the teachers to encourage the children to take their water bottle down to lunch.

SPORTS TEAM SELECTION – Mrs Schofield has published something in the newsletter about this.

SPORTING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – it was decided that our current awards systems are adequate.

 

Issues raised at the meeting:

 

YEAR 3 RECORDER/BRASS ASSEMBLY – I will ensure that parents understand that they are invited to come and watch and I will also add this to the Year 3 Welcome Letter.

CLASS PARENTS/OPEN MORNING – some parents are confused about these events.  I will endeavour to make this clearer in the newsletter.

PENCELLI – it was asked if parents can set up a standing order to pay monthly instalments.  We are currently investigating this.

SPONSORSHIP – strategies were discussed to try to boost sponsorship for Carla’s half marathon.

TIMETABLES – teachers have now put a class timetable on their class page of the website so that parents know what their children will be doing on a certain day.

 

We plan to chat about the following at our next meeting:

 

homework and dates.

 

I am really grateful to this group of parents who continue to help us.  If you have anything you would like them to raise please do contact them.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 7th October 2016

 

I understand that there is quite a lot of chatter on Facebook about our KS2 snack trolley.  If anyone has any questions or queries please do come into school so we can help.

 

Our snack trolley was introduced after a request by the children.  Our year 6 children enjoy the responsibility of organising this and collecting the money.

 

The trolley has a selection of healthy snacks for the children to buy and each snack costs 40p.  Parents can send their children with a snack from home – BUYING FROM THE TROLLEY IS VOLUNTARY.  We do have a rule that the children can only buy one item, whether it is a drink or some food.

 

THERE IS FREE FRUIT ON THE TROLLEY EVERY DAY AND THE CHILDREN ARE WELCOME TO HAVE THIS.

 

Mr Corbett is very careful about what is on the trolley.  There are usually bacon/sausage/cheese rolls, homemade pizzas (with a vegetable based tomato topping and cheese), flapjack and a selection of drinks.  WE NEVER SELL COKE OR UNHEALTHY FIZZY DRINKS.  We have Just Juice (100% pure juice), flavoured milk and Suso (a sparkling, multi-fruits juice drink – ‘one of your 5 a day’).  These drinks are available in the office for you to look at.

 

Our School Council is going to produce a fact sheet for parents and design something for the website.

 

For parents who are worried please be assured that we want to provide the healthiest options for our children.  It is a long time from breakfast until lunch time and children do need some carbohydrates to keep them going. 

 

The children love the option of our snack trolley but if a significant group of parents are concerned we can return to children bringing in their own healthy snacks.  Please do let me know if you would like us to do this.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 30th September 2016

 

You have no doubt noticed that we have had a large number of children start at Mere School recently right across all age ranges.  The school is extremely popular at the moment and we seem to be enrolling new pupils every week.

 

I received a lovely e.mail from one family thanking the staff for making their children feel so welcome.  They commented on how their children have been energised, by starting this school, and how well they have settled in.  They commented “a few days in it’s clear to me that we made the right decision to move them to Mere”.  We do appreciate this feedback.

 

Popularity does come at a cost though and I know that parents, staff and governors are concerned about the size of classes – particularly Green Class.  I would like to reassure you that the governors will be discussing this at their meeting next week.  They will be considering what might be done within the confines of the school budget.  I will keep you posted!

 

Admission forms are now available for children due to start with us in September 2017.  I would be grateful if you could ‘put the message out and about’ – it is really important to get the applications in as soon as possible.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 23rd September 2016

 

Now that the ‘dust has settled’ after the KS2 SATs I thought that I would use my ‘Weekly Message’ to let you know how our children had performed and what might happen next year.

 

As a school we were extremely proud of the performance of our children.  The tests were challenging and stressful for the children (teachers and parents!) and they performed emotionally and academically extremely well.  We were warned that these tests were going to be harder than previous years but schools nationally were taken by surprise as to how difficult the tests would be.  Many adults would have struggled.  In the tests our children collectively exceeded national age related expectations.  Huge credit goes to these children, Mrs Loxton and their parents for preparing them so well.

 

There was no test for writing and this was assessed by Mrs Loxton and a team of teachers in school, supported by the Local Authority and cluster school colleagues.  Writing expectations were close to what were recently GCSE expectations.  Our teaching team followed the guidance for the assessment of writing ‘to the letter’ and were extremely strict about our children achieving every component of the expected curriculum.  As a result of this our writing outcomes were below national age related expectations but we are not confident that other schools followed the guidance as rigorously as we did here.  Mrs Loxton is in no doubt that our children’s writing this year was significantly better than the year before.

 

Preparation for these KS2 SATs was blighted with a succession of administrative errors and many schools felt that they were ‘operating in a fog’ that showed little sign of clearing before, during or after the SATs but schools did their best in difficult circumstances.

 

It is difficult to anticipate what will happen next year.  The unions have made it clear that they will take issue with the government over the SATs but the Department for Education does not look ready to make an about-turn.  With feelings so high I think we should expect some conflict in the coming year.

 

We will, as ever, continue to ensure our children master the basics of reading, writing and maths combined with an education that is about breadth and depth of learning and I will endeavour to keep you informed of any changing which might occur.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 16th September 2016

 

I am delighted to let you know that Mr Michael Cannon (Jessica and Daniel’s dad) will be our new Handyman, taking over from Mr Drake. 

 

He will be working with Mr Drake for a week so that he knows all the routines and systems and becomes familiar with all the health and safety requirements.

 

Mr Cannon will be working every day apart from Monday and will, in time, also be taking responsibility for our school grounds.  He has very generously been looking after the flower tubs over the holidays.

 

In the past Mr Cannon worked at Sherborne School for Girls so has some experience in this field.

 

As ever, some of our handyman duties require extra help so if you know of anyone who might be able to help at various times we would be very grateful.

 

A huge thank you to Mr Drake and best of luck to him in his new post and a huge welcome to Mr Cannon.

Friday 9th September 2016

 

I thought I would use my message this week to bring you up to date with some future staffing changes.

 

The advert for Mrs Symond’s post will be published next week and the process has been planned.  We have several enquiries already.

 

Mr Craig Drake has resigned from his post as Handyman with effect from the end of this month.  We are going to miss him and he does such a good job meeting the health and safety requirements and making sure our building is cared for.  We wish him every success in his new job.

 

We have interviewed for this post and we are in the process of appointing the successful candidate.  I will let you know as soon as all the official paperwork has been completed.

 

Congratulations to Mrs Edgar who is expecting her second baby.  She will finish work early in the new year and has promised to return before the end of the academic year.  We are extremely lucky that Mrs Wilson has agreed to take responsibility for Silver Class while Mrs Edgar is on maternity leave.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 2nd September 2016

 

The summer holidays have, as usual, passed very quickly but we have been lucky with the weather. 

 

It seems very strange that the children have returned to school for one day before the weekend and I can understand why some parents are frustrated by this.

 

Unfortunately we do not have any control over our school holidays.  Wiltshire Council do allow Mere School to decide whether we follow Dorset or Wiltshire holidays and our governors always select Dorset holidays so that we coincide with Gillingham School.  Imagine how difficult it would be if our holidays were different to Gillingham School!

 

Some schools decided to have 2 T D days so that the children started on Monday 5th September.  I was unwilling to do this as our T D days are so precious.  I wanted to ensure that these training opportunities are well spaced during the year so that the training we have on these days has the biggest possible impact on learning.

 

We plan the content of our T D days over a year in advance.  This is what we will be doing for this academic year:

 

Thursday 1st September – planning and preparation for the new school year

Monday 17th October – science.  Dr Tom Robson will be working with us, and some of our neighbouring schools.  We will be considering assessment in science.  Ideally we like to ‘tag’ T D days onto a holiday but we have been lucky to secure a day this year with an international expert.

Tuesday 3rd January 2017 – Talk4writing and i.pads

Monday 20th February – teachers will be visiting other schools in the morning and will return to Mere in the afternoon to discuss what was seen.

Friday 21st July – appraisal.

 

Please make a note of these days in your diary.

 

Catriona Williamson

Tuesday 19th July 2016

 

It seems strange for me to be writing about a teacher leaving us at this point in the term.

 

Mrs Symonds will be leaving Mere School at Christmas.  She has been appointed as the Reception and year 1 teacher at Stour Provost taking up the appointment from January 2017.  We will be really sorry to see Mrs Symonds go but wish her every success with this new challenge. 

 

Mrs Symonds completed her teacher training with us, was appointed as our Reception teacher, then moved to Green Class and has spent the final few years with us in Yellow Class - she has been here a long time!  Mrs Symonds is also a Leading Early Years Teacher and Early Years Moderator for Wiltshire and they are going to miss her as well.

 

In September the staffing panel of governors will be advertising and interviewing for a new teacher.  This is a lengthy process but as soon as we have made a decision we will let you know.  We have to advertise the post for a period of time, then shortlist, take up references then interview.  We are fortunate that the financial position of the school will allow us to appoint any range of teacher, from a newly qualified teacher to a very experienced teacher. 

 

The new teacher must have the same values of the school community, be willing to grow and develop with us and have the personality to get on with our wonderful team.  We are a popular school and I am confident that we will find a teacher who is keen to come and work with us all.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th July 2016

 

Mrs Loxton and a team of staff had the privilege of taking a large group of our older children to London on Wednesday to see Matilda. 

 

This is an incredible visit for our children – an opportunity of a lifetime.  We manage to secure heavily subsidised tickets and organise transport for just over £40.  I know when we, as a family,  go to a West End show, tickets cost £120 each with transport an additional cost.

 

Given a choice we would like to take the children to London by train but they have increased their costs so significantly this is now not an option.  The bus drives around the main attractions in London so that the children see the sights.

 

I do remember the London visit 4 years ago (the London Olympics year), when we took the children by train to London.  I received several e.mails from passengers on the train about the conduct and behaviour of our pupils.  These passengers were so impressed with our children they took the time to contact me on their journey (they ‘Googled’ the school from our children’s sweatshirts).  This only reinforces what I am constantly saying about what a credit the children are at Mere School, to the school community and to our parents.  They value the opportunities we offer them, grasp them and have a thirst for learning and new experiences. 

 

This visit to London was no different.  Mrs Loxton was proud to be leading the visit.

 

Mrs Loxton has been investigating what we might go and see next year.  The tickets have been released for ‘School of Rock’ for next July and we are considering this as a possible option.  The letter to apply for this trip will be coming home at the beginning of next term.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th July 2016

 

You have no doubt seen in the media that the National Union of Teachers called a strike last Tuesday and many local schools and classes were closed as a result of this.  We do have members of this teaching union in school but their decision was not to strike.

 

This illustrates what a committed and professional staff we have.  Whilst we all agree that education is under-funded we all also agree that not teaching for a day will have a negative impact on the education of our children.

 

My Weekly Message gives me the opportunity to thank our staff for everything they do for our children.  They all work way beyond expectations ensuring that every child has a very special all-round education at Mere School.

 

I frequently come across people who claim that we have an ‘easy life’ because of the short days and long holidays and I just smile!  These people show their ignorance of what is involved in being a teacher.  We have had people train to be teachers with us, believing that they have made a ‘life-style’ choice.  They thought that teaching would be so much easier than other jobs – how wrong they were!  They are no longer in the profession – it was too much like hard work!

 

I am so proud of what our teachers do and what they achieve and I know our parents and governors are too.  Our children demonstrate their gratitude through their positive approach to learning.  Working at Mere School is a real privilege.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 1st July 2016

 

Throughout the year we have done a huge amount of work with the children on keeping safe on the internet.  Every year we increase the content of our curriculum in this area as the children’s skills are developing so quickly – we find it hard to keep up!

 

We are lucky at school because we have a sophisticated filter on our system, ensuring that our children can only access appropriate material.  At home this is not as easy and when we had our last Parent E.Safety Evening with Mr Karl Hopwood (international e.safety expert) he was adamant that we should be teaching our children how to use the internet safely – just like we would teach them to cross the road.  We need to understand that they will come across material that is inappropriate but we need to teach them what to do in this situation. 

 

As a parent there were occasions when I stopped my children from using the internet but I now understand that this just encourages then to access the internet in secret.  We must get our children to talk to us about what they are looking at, share sites with us and tell us if they are worried about anything they have found or experienced.

 

Unfortunately we have recently had an e.safety incident in school.  The NSPCC, police, CEOP and Social Care were involved and together we managed to resolve the problem.  The school policies and procedures were judged to be robust and appropriate, but this is the reason for my message this week.

 

Mr Rich has put a lot of leaflets in the Entrance Foyer for parents and our school website is full of useful and informative websites for parents and children.  We have also organised another evening for parents with Mr Hopwood in January next year (he was booked up until then!) and he will be working with the children that day also. 

 

Please can I urge you to be vigilant when your child is accessing the internet – on the computer or on their phones.  Children under the age of 13 should not have a Facebook or Instagram account.  As a school we are doing our utmost to keep your children safe and, working in partnership with you, we can offer the best possible protection for our children when they access the internet.

 

Mr Rich is our expert in this area and if you have any worries or questions he would be more than willing to help.  Please have a look on our website – www.mereschool.co.uk for guidance and support.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 24th June 2016

 

We had our final class parent meeting last Friday and I am so grateful to this group of mums and dads who come every half term to meet with me so we can work together for the benefit of our children.  This initiative has been one of the most powerful things I have ever done in school – I cannot recommend it more highly to my colleagues!

 

I have been asked to clarify how our class parents are selected.  When we initially set up the group each class teacher was asked to identify parents who had the time and who would be able to contribute to the meetings.  They also needed to be people who could liaise with the other parents in the class.  We are really lucky that these identified parents have decided to stay as part of this group and continue in their roles. 

 

Mrs Lu Berry and Mrs Donna Tallis have been part of the Class Parents since the group was established but they will be leaving at the end of this academic year as their children are moving on to Gillingham School.  Thank you to them both!  Mrs McClelland has asked 2  mums, Mrs Michelle Ings and Mrs Sarah Elliott, to join us in September for Blue Class.

 

Some issues raised from our meeting:

 

  • Mrs Carrie-Anne Sayer will be going through the lost property (ugh!) trying to reunite named items with their owners.
  • Mr Simon Richardson will be joining Mrs Pat Manning as the Class Parents for Red Class in September.
  • The new Behaviour Policy was discussed and Mr Rich will be amalgamating feedback from this group in the policy.  We are looking to put ‘Worry Boxes’ in each class which can also double up as a way for pupils to send a confidential message to the teacher.  I will also put some information in our newsletters about this policy.
  • Several issues around lunchtimes were raised and Mrs Simmons is ‘on the case’ dealing with these.
  • Girls are able to wear blue dresses or culottes to school.
  • There was some concern over the lateness of trip letters.  From September teachers have to give the office and parents at least half a terms notice or they will not be happening.
  • Mrs Schofield has written something for our next newsletter on team selection for parents.
  • The Class Parents were so proud of our children’s performance at the Area Sports event.  They were wondering whether we might be able to organise a celebration banner for the next morning in school.    We are also going to ask staff about the possibility of a year group sports award.
  • Mrs Carrie-Anne Sayer and Mrs Winchcombe are going to be running the Winchester Half Marathon next term to raise funds for the school.  I will include details in the next newsletter.

 

Class Parents for the next academic year will be:

 

Blue Class – Mrs Elliott and Mrs Ings,

Yellow Class – Mrs Sayer and Mrs Barry,

Silver Class – Mrs Guy and Mrs Graddock,

Gold Class – Mrs Gray and Mrs Dimmock,

Green Class – Mrs Barton and Mrs Jones,

Red Class – Mrs Manning and Mrs Richardson,

Purple Class – Mr Beale and Ms Cope.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 17th June 2016

 

I expect you are sick of me putting messages in the newsletters about the play equipment in the school grounds!

 

We are extremely lucky to have such wonderful facilities and The Friends are currently planning to develop the decking area outside Yellow Class and the far corner of the playground, near the football changing rooms.  They hope to improve the outdoor play area for Yellow Class and develop a quieter area for the children to use during playtimes, or indeed during lesson time.

 

The play equipment is extremely inviting for our children and their younger brothers and sisters but we are only able to supervise this for our children during school time.  Responsibility falls to our parents/carers at this time.

 

We frequently see children who are unaccompanied or children with their parents who are not using this equipment safely and this does cause us some concern.  We would be very grateful if you could watch and supervise your children at all times when they are playing. 

 

It is also important that children do not arrive too early in the morning as they are waiting in the playground without supervision – we do have some keen ones who arrive just after 8 am!

 

I do not want to stop the children enjoying themselves but I am keen to avoid an unnecessary accident.

 

The Friends are hoping to display some of their ideas for the playground development and would value any of your ideas.  We would like to hear from any of our families who might be able to offer building or carpentry expertise.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 10th June 2016

 

Invitations for specific children and their families will be coming home from school for our annual ‘Achievement Assembly’.  This is due to take place on Monday 18th July 2016 at 9.15 am.

 

This special assembly was introduced several years ago as the governors and staff wanted to recognise and reward children for their academic achievements.  We celebrate so many different things in school (sporting, musical, artistic, behaviour, out of school activities etc) but it was felt there was a gap in recognising children who consistently perform well in their academic work or who have made significant progress during the year.

 

The teachers will be selecting 2 or 3  children in each class who have particularly high achievement in English and maths and 2 or 3 children who have made excellent progress in English and maths throughout this year.  They will make this decision based on our School Pupil Tracker computer system, their professional judgement and work in the child’s book.  It will not be an easy task!  There will be less children receiving an award this year than in previous years.

 

Mr John Jordan (Chair of Governors) will be presenting the awards and our Glee Choir and recorder groups will be performing.  Parents of these children will also be invited to attend. 

 

We will also be giving out Madame Jacob’s annual French awards.

 

This ceremony is based very much on the Founders Day Awards at Gillingham School.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 27th May 2016

 

You will no doubt have seen the paperwork inviting nominations for a new parent governor for our school.  Ms Melissa Berry has kindly been one of our parent governors for a couple of years but due to work and educational commitments felt that she could no longer fulfil the responsibilities of the role.  We thank her for all that she has done for the school and wish her every success with her studies.

 

Ms Clark (Clerk to the Governors) organised the nomination process and as we only had one nomination there was no need for an election.  Mr David Rich, dad of Evie (year 6), George (year 4) and Sonny (FS) has been appointed as Parent Governor for a period of 4 years.  David is also our year 4 teacher and English subject leader but his role on the governing body will be that of a parent.  We are grateful to him offering to support the school in this way and look forward to working with him.

 

Being a governor is quite a commitment and responsibility.  Governors have to be supportive of the school but also have to act as a ‘critical friend’ ensuring that we are providing the best possible education for our children in a safe environment.  You will see from the minutes on the website that the meetings are robust and challenging and all of our governors contribute their skills and significant amounts of time to Mere School.

 

If, in the future, you might be interesting in becoming a governor, please do make contact with Mr John Jordan (Chair of Governors).

 

I would like to thank our governing body for all the work they do for us – it is much appreciated.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 20th May 2016

 

There has been so much debate in the media very recently about the testing arrangements in primary schools and I have had discussions with parents and children about the SATs.  Indeed, we spent a lot of time debating the issues at our last Class Parent meeting.

 

As you are aware we introduced a new, much harder national curriculum several years ago and these harder tests are designed to assess pupil attainment in line with this.  The tests are significantly more challenging and it was very interesting when the staff compared one of the KS2 maths SATs with a GCSE maths paper – there were not huge differences!  The KS2 reading SAT was extremely hard and I know that this has caused much national unrest. 

 

Our year 2 children have also started their KS1 SATs this week and again these are much more difficult.

 

I have been so proud of our children and they have tackled the SATs with resilience and perseverance.  Our teaching team have also worked hard to ensure that our children are adequately prepared so that they can do their best.  Lots of mums and dads have supported the children effectively at home also and our year 6 children loved their breakfast butties! We have also tried to explain to our children that these tests are important but all we can ask of them is for them to do their best.  We believe it is so important to deliver the tests in a calm and supportive manner so we do not have children traumatised by the experience. 

 

Personally I begrudge the time and effort spent in preparing the children for the SATs.  This is valuable learning time wasted to drilling the children to take a test.  We are constantly assessing the children and our teachers have a very good knowledge of where the children are, what they can do and what their next learning steps are.  I understand the need for a national benchmark and would be happy for the children to take a national test where the results can be used to aid pupil progress. 

 

Despite my views I am certain that testing is here to stay.  We will continue in our determination for our children to perform well in these tests but to also deliver an all-round education resulting in our children being well prepared with the skills needed for their future lives.

 

 Catriona Williamson

Friday 13th May 2016

 

No doubt you have heard in the news that the government have dropped their plans to force all schools to become an academy by 2022.

 

The governing body have discussed the pros and cons of becoming an academy annually for the last 3 years and each time it was decided that the school would not be moving in this direction.  However, this is reviewed on a regular basis.

 

We spoke with the Department for Education 2 years ago about joining with a small group of schools with a similar ethos to ours but it was decided that the distance between our schools was too great.  Mr Jordan, Mr Gristwood and I met with a secondary head teacher of a local school very recently but again it was decided that there was little benefit to us joining their academy.

 

The governing body are quite clear that they need to be convinced of the merits of becoming an academy.  There are no financial benefits and whatever is decided in the future it has to impact positively on the education of our children, ensuring improved outcomes.

 

We are a good school and do not believe in being ‘pushed’ into something that would be wrong for Mere School.  We will continue to build and strengthen bonds with other schools that will be essential for survival in the predicted tough times ahead.

 

Whatever the journey of travel for our school, parents and stakeholders will be consulted and we will keep you updated and informed.  I am sure there will be many more changes to come!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 6th May 2016

 

It is always lovely to hear from past pupils and their families and I was delighted to receive an e.mail last week from a family who moved away from Mere when their daughter was in Green Class with Mrs Symonds.  The family made contact to wish all of our year 6 children the very best of luck with their SATs next week.  This is what they said:

“As the time is drawing nearer for you and your team to say goodbye to yet another group of young people … here are 2 that got away!!!

 

Both of the girls are doing very well; studying hard for their up and coming SATs.

 

We shall always miss Mere, it’s people and it’s school. The girls often reflect when they are together on the happy memories and times they shared at Mere School: the friends made, the inspiring, kindly teachers, the many clubs, inviting special person to lunch dates and the wonderful discos; all of which make the school such a happy place to be.  So proud to have been part of it.

 

With our best wishes for the current year sixes and their SATS, wishing you and all the team every continued success.”

 

It is so good to know we are missed and appreciated and we have our fingers crossed for Purple Class next week! 

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 29th April 2016

 

Our Class Parent meeting last week was very productive – as usual.  Thank you to this group of parents who continue to help us.

 

We chatted about the following things:

 

  • Achievement Assembly – this will take place on Monday 18th July at 9.15 am and will be an invitation event.
  • Carnival Club is now running.
  • We are encouraging the teachers to use the celebration postcards more frequently.
  • There will be another Chelsea multi-skills day during our TD day on Monday 17th October that children can attend – there will be a payment for this activity.
  • The pond area has been tidied up but we would appreciate any help to take the weed out in September.
  • I have reminded parents in a newsletter about the lovely photos on the website.
  • It was clarified that hair must be tied up for PE and the teachers will speak with parents if it needs tying up at any other time.
  • The Auction of Promises raised £6500 and The Friends are now liaising with the staff about the plans for the outside area.
  • Parent interviews and reports were discussed for the next academic year.  Parent interviews will now be in November and March.  The tracking program will be open to parents during the Christmas and Easter holidays and reports will come out at the end of the academic year.
  • Homework was discussed.  The group enjoyed the variety of tasks sent home.  The increased expectation of children in the KS2 SATs was also chatted about – at length!
  • Class Parents will refer parents to the diary on the website.
  • We ask parents to send children with a water bottle with ONLY water in.
  • Class Parents will open the Parent Room during the final visit for our new entrants on Wednesday 29th June and all parents will be invited to have a drink and look at the second hand uniform for sale.
  • There was a lengthy discussion about the inappropriate use of Facebook and how the school will ‘police’ this in future.
  • Blue Class parents will be holding a cake sale very shortly to reduce the cost of the visit to Careymore.
  • Sports Day will be the same format as last year on Friday 15th June.

 

Catriona Williamson

 Friday 22nd April 2016

 

I was really interested to see one of our parents, Mrs Justine Womack, on our local ITV news several weeks ago, in her professional role.  She was discussing childhood obesity with the presenter because some statistics had been published about 22% of children in the South West starting school that are obese or overweight.  Please see:

http://www.itv.com/news/west/2016-03-21/childhood-obesity-in-the-west-has-reached-epidemic-proportions/

 

We send a letter home from the school nursing team about children being weighed in Foundation Stage and year 6.  Parents are able to opt out of this programme but if they do not the school nurse will be weighing these children.  We are then sent the collated results and I report this to our governing body. 

 

The letter I received said:

 

“Thank you for participating in the NCMP programme (National Child Measurement Programme), now in its eighth year in Wiltshire.  The NCMP provides invaluable information on child growth trends. “

 

The data from our children stated that the position of our school was:

 

“not different to Wiltshire as a whole.”

 

This is something to be celebrated as we like to work very closely with you to ensure our children have a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.

 

Catriona Williamson

 Friday 15th April 2016

 

I understand that there has been lots of great publicity about Mere during the holidays in the Sunday Times.  Mere was highlighted as one of the best places to live in the South West – the link is below:

 

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/style/homes and gardens/article1679202.ece?shareToken=71061589a3747171d8b3bdb45f681c93

 

It said:


“Mere, Wiltshire.  You’d be forgiven for thinking that not much happens in Mere, off the A303, which is making its debut in Best Places this year.  Union Jacks flutter from casement windows, and the church bells and chiming town clock do their baleful duty.  The odd reveller falls out of a half-timbered pub, and the town’s latest council report reveals that there’s progress with the new model railway, and that the Mere Meander trail is a great way for explore its historic gems.  OK, high-octane this is not, but its residents absolutely love this place, where the Blackmore Vale meets the chalk downs that extend westward from Salisbury Plain, and the community spirit is strong.  There’s something for everyone here, cat-lovers and quilters alike.  Large farmhouses with land on the outskirts of town cost £600,000, but quaint terraced houses near the market square (which, er, doesn’t have a market any more) cost less than half as much.  For proper shopping, locals have to head north to Warminster or south to Shaftesbury; the nearest secondary school is in Gillingham, where there’s also a direct rail link to London.  What the locals say ‘don’t rush me’.  Why we love it – Merely the perfect country town.”

 

The Sunday Times used our school’s performance when they made their judgements on Mere also. 

 

I am sure we all knew this but it is good to have it recognised in print!

 

Catriona Williamson

 Thursday 24th March 2016

 

I have spoken to so many parents this week about their child’s report and how proud they are of their child’s achievements and I read every comment that comes back to school on the acknowledgement slip. 

 

Parent Interviews will take place on Wednesday 20th April from 3.30 - 7 pm for all classes apart from GOLD.  MRS SCHOFIELD WILL BE MEETING PARENTS ON MONDAY 18TH APRIL 2016 FROM 1 PM - 5 PM.  Please ring the office after Easter to make an appointment.

 

There should be no surprises on the annual report as, if teachers had concerns about your child’s progress, they would have made contact with you but if you have immediate worries we can always arrange an earlier appointment.

 

We have created our reports so that they give you a very clear picture of your child’s progress and attainment.  As a parent I used to get so frustrated with the narrative of what my children had learnt rather than what they had achieved and I wanted to avoid this at our school.

 

From reading Mrs Loxton’s letter you can no doubt see that it is challenging for schools to make a judgement on how well our children are doing compared to national expectations.  The current government seem to be making daily changes and we will continue to ensure we keep up to date and adjust accordingly.  We are however, recording the progress of our children in great detail and I report this to our governing body every half term.

 

We have been considering the times of our Parent Interviews for the next academic year – they do not seem to be well ‘spaced’ this year!  We are proposing Parent Interviews next year in November and March, reports at the end of the academic year (July) and our tracking programme being open to parents at the end of each term.  Your views on this would be appreciated and I will be taking opinions from the Class Parents at our next meeting.

 

We do appreciate all the support and help you give to your children, enabling them to make the very best progress they can.  Hearing your child read regularly and helping them learn their tables over the Easter break will start the new term off well.  I hope you have a restful break and we look forward to seeing the children on Monday 11th April 2016.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th March 2016

 

I spend a lot of my time reading about the new OFSTED inspection and what will be expected.  Mrs Loxton and I were lucky to listen to 2 HMIs (senior inspectors) at a conference we attended recently.  They said that one of their favourite questions for schools was ‘How would you describe the culture of your school?’

 

We have a clear view inside school on this but I thought it would be useful to ask several visitors their opinion.  The Senior PE Lecturer from Winchester University made the following observations:

 

“I have been a visitor at Mere School since 2013, where the head teacher, staff and pupils have always been very welcoming.  It is the little things that make you feel welcome, colleagues remembering you by your first name, asking if you would like a drink or something to eat, chatting to you as part of the team when you sit in the staffroom and inviting you to events that have been part of (year 6 leaver’s event), or other events the school are proud to celebrate.  Being at one of Mere’s teachers book launch was particularly special, seeing how the whole school came together to celebrate the achievements of a member of staff.  I have never witnesses anything like that before.

 

Having worked with colleagues in physical education specifically, the time committed to all staff to place the health and well being of young people at Mere has been remarkable.  There is a distinct culture of sporting achievement as well as participation that has been clearly nurtured by all staff from physical education lessons right through to individual/team accomplishments in extra-curricular provision.  Teachers and teaching assistants have been genuinely keen to learn, asked questions and contributed to ideas which has ensured working together has always been very productive.  A real team approach.  As a visitor you no longer feel like a visitor .. but part of the wider team.”

 

Our new School Improvement Advisor also wrote:

 

“It has been a pleasure visiting Mere Primary School in my role as School Improvement Advisor.  On entering the school it is clear that the atmosphere is calm and orderly.  The children are confident learners and take pride in all they do.  This is demonstrated in the class work and their involvement in a range of activities, for example, playing musical instruments in assembly.  The school has a culture of purposefulness with staff and children having high expectations of themselves and each other.  Adults talk about the school with professionalism and are focused on continuing to develop and improve.  Children, staff and governors respect and effectively support each other in striving to build on their achievements.”

 

If you have any observations on the culture of our school please could you e.mail them to me?

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th March 2016

 

“Research says students make additional 2 – 4 months’ progress when small groups get structured help from assistant”, The Guardian, Friday 26th February 2016

 

This was music to my ears!  At Mere School we invest heavily in Teaching Assistants as we strongly believe they make a huge difference to the progress of our children. 

 

The educational value of TAs has been called into question in recent years but Sally Weale, the Education Correspondent from The Guardian, drew our attending to the latest research:

 

“The latest research, however, shows that when TAs are used in a focused way – to deliver structured, high quality support to small groups or individual children – pupils make an additional 2 – 4 months’ progress." 

 

Evaluation of the 2 studies was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) charity, which says there is compelling evidence that should help shape the way TAs are used in schools to ensure they improve pupils’ results.

 

Sir Kevan Collins, EEF chief Executive, said, “Teaching assistants have been much maligned in recent years and many schools have scaled back on their employment to cut costs.  But today’s results prove that when they’re used to deliver small-group interventions, they can have a great impact on pupils’ attainment.  With so many teaching assistants employed across the country, schools now have compelling evidence to make sure they’re using their own TAs in ways that really improve results.”

 

In the past 5 years the EEF has commissioned evaluations of 6 TA-led interventions, with more than 2,000 children in just under 150 schools.  In all of them, TAs are training to deliver structured sessions to small groups or individual pupils; all 6 trial show a positive impact on learning.

 

We have been employing all of our TAs in this way for a number of years now and our own monitoring indicates that our TAs are having a significant impact on the outcomes of our children.  We are extremely lucky at Mere, to have a dedicated, highly trained and knowledgeable group of professional TAs who work closely with the teachers, contributing to the learning journey of every child.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th March 2016

 

Another really productive meeting with our Class Parents!  Thank you so much to them for helping the school in this way.

 

We chatted about some issues raised at the last meeting:

 

  • parking on the school site – plans were shared about this.
  • Carnival Club has now been planned and organised to run next term.
  • the Achievements Page on the website is now up and running – please do take a look.
  • there has been some success with the recruitment drive for The Friends.
  • the Attendance Cup is being ‘rested’ at the moment and half termly certificates for 100% attendance will be awarded instead.

 

The Class Parents approved the updated ‘Action Against bullying’ leaflet for parents and this will be distributed with the newsletter and copies placed around the school.  The group also approved our ‘Singles Equalities Policy’ – which is now available on the website.

 

Mr Jordan (Chair of Governors) came to talk about our Achievement Awards, which have been held for the last couple of years at the end of the summer term.  Mr Jordan explained that the awards were established to recognise children who work hard and achieve well and he explained that all children have the opportunity to work for this recognition (very much like the Founders Day Awards at Gillingham School).  It was unanimously agreed that this event would continue and the parents were keen that it was an invitation only event.  I need to make sure that I explain clearly to parents the principles behind the awards in my newsletter.  I also need to encourage teachers to use the school postcards more frequently as parents and children really appreciate this recognition.

 

Other things we discussed:

 

  • I will ask The Chelsea Foundation to organise another day for our children to attend, during our T D day in October.
  • Mr Jordan is going to put a message on Facebook asking for help to tidy up the pond area.
  • The Church re-ordering was discussed.
  • I need to remind parents that there are a huge amount of photographs on the Class Pages of the website that parents can look at.
  • The school policy is for hair to be tied up for PE, it is not a requirement for other lessons.  I will remind teachers about this.
  • A small group of parents are still complaining about the school meals on Facebook.  The Class Parents will ask them to come and chat with Mrs Corbett and I about this.
  • The Friends are looking forward to a successful Auction of Promises.
  •  

If you have anything you would like your Class Parent to bring to our meetings – please do let them know.

 

Catriona Williamson

PARKING – an update

 

We had an extremely useful meeting just before the holidays.  Mr Beale (governor), Mrs Ashlin and Mrs Guy (parents) and I spent a lot of time walking around the car park discussing various options. 

 

We have some agreed actions which we will share with the Parish Council and other users of the site:

 

  1. a 15 mph sigh will be purchased to put on the school sign at the entrance.
  2. Mr Beale and Mr Drake will be creating a footpath from the Parish Council Car Park and one of the parking spaces will be marked out as pedestrian access only.
  3. a zebra crossing, and possibly a speed ramp, will be put down from this area to the footpath.
  4. Mr Beale will liaise closely with the Parish Council about extending the Parish Council Car Park and he will gather some quotes for this work.  Consideration is being given to removing the access to the rear of the building in front of the Parish Council Office and diverting traffic to this area through the new car park.
  5. the parking bays will be marked with ‘Staff and Visitor Parking’ only and the road markings refreshed.
  6. contact will be made with the dentist about their signage and road markings.
  7. a ‘Parking on Mere School Site’ leaflet will be devised.

 

For such a short meeting I feel that real progress has been made.  However, a lot of these actions are interconnected and reliant on all of the site users agreeing.  It might take a little time.

 

If you have any comments or suggestions we would really value your input.

 

Again, please can I reiterate that there is no parking in this area for parents/carers.  Please work with us to keep our children safe.

 

Catriona Williamson

PARKING – again!

 

Our current ‘bollard policy’ has certainly caused some debate and it has definitely resulted in the issue of parking on our school site rising to the top of our discussion list.

 

I know that the vast majority of our parents/carers are fully supportive of our mission to ensure our children are safe at all times.  Our school car park is regularly highlighted as an unsafe area by children, staff, visitors, governors and parents and it is my duty to ensure everyone is safe in this area.

 

The governors and I have tried to implement a quick solution, enabling us to have time to consider longer term options.  However, the bollards are having a negative impact on our immediate neighbours so we have suspended this for the time being.

 

The Governors, Friends and Mrs Ashlin (one of our parents, who has experience in this area) are starting to investigate our problem.  They are starting the process by considering the following:

 

· extending the ‘Bowls Club’ car park,

· creating a pick-up zone,

· erecting a barrier across the entrance to the school car park,

· a walking bus,

· penalty notices/site bans,

· encouraging more families to walk to school.

 

We are also liaising very closely with the Police, Wiltshire Council and Mere Town Council.  We would appreciate an input from you so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute.  We don’t have a magical answer!

 

So, in the short term I need your support to keep our car park safe until we find a solution.  Our short term approach was not implemented to upset our neighbours but through a genuine desire to protect everyone in this area.

 

Please do pop in or e.mail (head@mere.wilts.sch.uk) with any suggestions.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 5th February 2016

 

I am aware that there has been some Facebook discussion about our school meals so I thought this would make a good theme for my weekly message.

 

Our school meals are the envy of many local and not so local schools and we are extremely lucky that our Governing Body have chosen to invest in our school kitchen over the years.  We provide meals to 2 local schools with a waiting list of several others who would like to purchase our services.  We currently have the highest uptake of school meals that we have ever had – high praise indeed!

 

The Governors believe that there is nothing more important than to provide our children with a high quality meal at lunchtime.  Our ingredients are locally sourced (eg meat from the butchers in Shaftesbury) and the meals are prepared ‘from scratch’ (not reheated) by Mrs Corbett and her team.  We offer the children a dining experience where they eat around a table with cutlery and proper crockery (not an aeroplane tray!) and we encourage good table manners at all times.  Our older children are ‘servers’ and take responsibility for the children on their table. 

 

The children regularly speak with Mrs Corbett about the lunches and offer her feedback about the menus and lunchtime in general.  They have recently made a request for napkins so this has been actioned.  Mrs Corbett spends significant amounts of time planning the menus taking account of the national Food Standards and ensuring the meal is well balanced, appropriate for growing children,  delicious and popular.  We offer daily vegetarian alternatives and cater for a significant amount of food allergies.  Jacket potatoes and various fillings can be ordered in advance and fruit is always available instead of the planned pudding, for the children.

 

At £1.80/day I consider our school meals to be outstanding value and new parents to the school find it hard to believe how much cheaper compared to other schools our meals are.  They are also delighted with the quality of the food.

 

All of our KS1 children are offered a free school meal and the majority of children take advantage of this.  School meals at KS2 are optional and parents are able to decide if and when they would like their child to have a school meal.  We ask for meal orders to be with Mrs Rawlings on the Friday, ready for the following week, and payment on the Monday.  We are increasingly finding that the children (and parents) are going through the menus on a half termly basis and ordering in advance.

 

Of course, we are always willing to talk to parents about our meals and Mrs Corbett is regularly considering changes based on the feedback from the children.  We are so lucky to have such a dedicated professional striving to provide our children with the best possible meals.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 29th January 2016

 

We are looking forward to the next Friend’s meeting on Friday (5th February) at 2.15 pm.  Please do come along.

 

The Friends are a very important organisation for our school.  They primarily raise money for the ‘extras’ that our school budget cannot afford. 

 

Their fund raising pays for our annual visit to the pantomime in Salisbury.  Tickets for this are in excess of £20 each, quite often beyond what a lot of us can afford at this time of year.  It is such a special event for our children – one they remember for years to come.  The Friends have also bought for example, i.pads, computers, wet play time equipment, and they are currently trying to find match funding for a covered outdoor classroom, at the side of Yellow Class.

 

The Friends are also eager to offer the parents the opportunity to meet with each other socially and some of the events they organise are not for money raising purposes, but giving parents and friends of Mere School the chance to get to know each other.

 

On Friday 4th March 2016 at 7 pm in The Walnut, The Friend’s Auction of Promises will be taking place.  There are a huge number of lots for auction and this event will be the main fund raiser of the year (as well as being an opportunity for friends and parents of the school to meet together).  Tickets are on sale in the school office for £10.  This ticket includes a meal.

 

Other events ‘in the pipeline’ include discos, bingos and a Summer Fete.  The ‘Blue Bags to School’ collection also raises a lot of money as well as the ‘The Giving Machine’.

 

We noticed at our last meeting that the parents who attend are mums and dads (and grannies) of the children in our older classes.  We have very few parents who attend from the younger classes and this is going to be a problem for this organisation in the very near future.  We need to recruit so that there are people to fill the vacancies that are going to be there.

 

We would love to welcome any parents to the meeting at the end of the week.  We need new ideas and fresh input so that The Friends of Mere School go from strength to strength.  If you can spare some time please come to the meeting and bring a friend. 

 

We look forward to seeing you.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 22nd January 2016

 

We had yet another very productive Class Parent meeting last Friday.  A huge thank you to the dedicated parents who continue to help me.

 

We chatted about the following:

 

  • opening the Parent Room for coffee.  This was stopped this term due to lack of interest and no parents have asked for it to start again.
  • the Friend’s Auction of Promises will take place on Friday 4th March at 7 pm.  The tickets will be £10 and this includes a meal.  There are a huge amount of exciting lots to auction.
  • parental feedback after our Children in Need fund raising was positive.
  • a group of Class Parents have been sorting out the lost property and giving named items back to the children.  Parents are very grateful that this is happening and there was much less lost property at the end of term.
  • the school car park is still posing a problem.  This has now been referred to the Full Governing Body.
  • the use of Facebook and our will to try and keep the postings as positive as possible.
  • school photos – Mr Edkins will re-photograph children if the parents are unhappy with their photographs.
  • an Anti-Bullying leaflet for parents – this was circulated and Class Parents will give their feedback at the next meeting.
  • communication – there were no ideas for improvement.  The group asked that supply teachers are fully briefed when taking a class.
  • Carnival Club – Mr Nick Beale and Mrs Carol-Anne Barry will run a Carnival Club next term so that the school is represented at Mere Carnival in September.  Details will be in the newsletter.
  • Achievements Page on website – the Class Parents thought that this was a very good idea.
  • free fruit on the KS2 Tuck Trolley – some children have been charged for this so we need to remind our monitors that it is free.
  • A Mile a Day – this information will be given to Mrs Schofield and her Sports Ambassadors.
  • The Friends are going to launch a recruitment drive.
  • attendance – some parents felt that the Attendance Cup was making children anxious about being ill.  We discussed different ways of rewarding good attendance.
  • new applications for September – the school does not know how many new entrants there are yet as this information is kept at County Hall.

 

At the next meeting we plan to chat about our Achievement Awards.  Please let your class parents know your views.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 15th January 2016

The Governors are in the process of updating the information on the website about holidays in term time and I thought it would be a good idea to use my Weekly Message to remind parents all about it.

 

The Government have implemented rigorous procedures around term time absence and SCHOOLS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO AUTHORISE ANY HOLIDAY ABSENCE.  However, the governors are able to consider a 'Leave of Absence' in 'exceptional circumstances.' Family holidays do not fall into this category.

 

If a child has an unauthorised absence of more than 9 sessions (4.5 days), schools should pass the paperwork to the Fixed Penalty Officer at the Local Authority - in this case, Wiltshire Council. Follow this link to read more on the Wiltshire Council Website about fines for term time holidays.

 

Mere School's policy is that if a child's attendance is above 95% and their attainment and progress measures are good or above, we will not forward the paperwork for a fine. However, if the child's attendance, progress and attainment measures are satisfactory or below, the paperwork for a fine will be submitted if an absence is unauthorised.

 

We have high expectations for every child, and to achieve the best possible progress the children need to be in school.  To get on in life it is important that children have a good education behind them and a child’s chances of a successful future may be affected by not attending school regularly.  If children have a poor attendance rate they may not be able to keep up with school work.  Not only do children miss the academic work, poor attendance can also affect your child’s ability to make and keep friendships.

 

Fortunately, the number of unauthorised holidays in term time is decreasing and I am extremely grateful to parents who avoid taking children out of school.  Working in a school we have an acute understanding of how much more expensive it is to holiday during the school breaks and we can only hope that there might be some work completed with the holiday companies to eradicate this problem.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 8th January 2016

 

You have probably noticed from the newsletter that Parent Interviews will take place on Wednesday 13th January 2016 from 3.30 pm – 7 pm.

 

Please can I encourage all parents to make an appointment to see their child’s teacher.  If this day is not convenient we would be more than happy to arrange an alternative.

 

We are very keen to speak to every parent to celebrate their child’s progress and to consider how we can work together to secure even greater improvements.  A successful education relies on a good partnership between home and school and when this relationship is strong the children achieve very well.

 

Mrs Loxton has written to you to explain about how our computer tracking system will be open for parents to access their child’s progress, attainment and attendance data.  This is very easy to use but if you have any problems please contact us so we can help.  This letter is available to download from this website.

 

During the meeting the teachers will be offering suggestions as to how you might help your child at home.  Hearing your child read regularly is absolutely vital and this regular support has a positive impact across the curriculum.  You have probably heard in the media during the Christmas holidays that the children in year 6 will be completing a national tables test, starting in 2017, so the constant revision of the tables at home is really important.  Learning spellings and completing any given homework is also a ‘must’.  Your teacher might also have other suggestions and of course, we welcome your observations and feedback.

 

Mere School prides itself on its ‘open door’ policy and if, at any time, you are concerned about your child at school please contact us.  We were will do our best to meet with you quickly.  The class e.mails are a quick and easy way to contact your teacher:

 

BLUE - Mrs McClelland - blueclass@mere.wilts.sch.uk

YELLOW - Mrs Symonds - yellowclass@mere.wilts.sch.uk

SILVER - Mrs Edgar/Mrs Wilson - silverclass@mere.wilts.sch.uk

GOLD - Mrs Schofield - goldclass@mere.wilts.sch.uk

GREEN - Mr Rich - greenclass@mere.wilts.sch.uk

RED - Miss Beckwith - redclass@mere.wilts.sch.uk

PURPLE - Mrs Loxton - purpleclass@mere.wilts.sch.uk

 

We look forward to seeing you on 13th!  If we do not hear from you it is likely that your class teacher will make contact with you.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 18th December 2015

 

The final day of term has been a very happy and a very sad one!

 

Mere School said goodbye to Mrs Lynn Taylor, who has been part of our school since before September 2003.  I say before, as Mrs Taylor completed her final teaching experience with us while she was studying for her teaching qualification at university.  Mrs Taylor was a very competent student in the class that Mrs Warmington and I taught.

 

As a school we knew we had a teaching vacancy and were very keen that Mrs Taylor applied for the post.  It took her a long time to decide as she would have a lengthy journey to and from school, but fortunately, she did apply and was successful and has been here, in different roles ever since.

 

Mrs Taylor started as a newly qualified teacher in Yellow Class (year 1) and taught in there for several years.  After this we made the brave decision for her to move to Purple Class (year 6) and she taught there for quite a long time.  She was also appointed as Literacy Subject Leader.

 

On Mrs Bundy’s retirement we were delighted to appoint Mrs Taylor as our new Deputy Head Teacher and she was instrumental in the success we had raising standards across the school.  She became our data and teaching and learning expert. 

 

During this time Mrs Taylor embarked on a further training course – National Professional Qualification for Headship.  This is an onerous and difficult qualification, but she passed this and she was prepared officially to take on the headship of a school.

 

We have been lucky that she has remained with us for so long but an opportunity came along at Shrewton Primary School and she will be starting there as head teacher in January 2016.

 

As disappointing as it is for Mere School, it is only right that Shrewton should benefit from her many skills and talents and we wish her every success in this new post.  Our loss will be Shrewton’s gain!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 11th December 2015

 

I have decided to write about the dreaded ‘P’ word this week – PARKING! 

 

All schools have issues with parking and we are more fortunate than most, in that we have a drop-off zone and access to the Bowls Club car park.

 

Our main car park is for the sole use of school staff, pre-school staff and Children’s Centre staff.  There is no parking at all for parents/carers during the day – especially at the start and end of the school day.  There is a sign strategically placed and the school and pre-school regularly remind parents/carers about this.  The disabled bay is for anyone who might have a ‘Blue Badge’.

 

We now have several taxis and mini-buses that pick up children – adding to the collection of vehicles in this area.

 

I do understand how frustrating it is for parents, when they are in a rush, as there are empty parking spaces.  However, during one of our OFSTED inspections parents raised a concern about safety in the car park and this has made us even more determined to ensure that our children are safe.  Our risk assessments state our arrangements for this area and are regularly scrutinised and approved by the Local Authority.

 

We have daily feedback from parents with issues around the car park and the governors have discussed the problem.  A willing band of governors and parents will now be on duty in the car park after school to ensure there is no unauthorised parking and that our children are safe.  I am very grateful to them for helping us with this.  We cannot use members of staff at this time as they are still working with the children.

 

There are also added problems with parents/carers parking around by the swimming pool and the Parish Council are going to consider this.  With the high hedge on the corner is it so difficult to see anyone walking.  We also continue to have a group of parents who park in ‘The Prince of Wales Club’ car park and who drive along this narrow road when so many of our families are walking.  Unfortunately I have no control over this and we encourage parents to report their concerns to the police.

 

A huge thank you to the majority of parents/carers who are helping the school to keep our children safe.  Unfortunately there have been individuals who continue to ignore our pleas and this may result in a site ban.

 

The ‘P’ issue is consuming a huge amount of my time and I am hoping that, by working together, we can keep our children safe in this area.  The governors and Parish Council are working together to consider the possibility of extending The Bowls Club car park – it might be worth canvasing the support of your local parish Councillor!

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 4th December 2015

Mr John Jordan and I were delighted to appoint Mrs Sam Wilson to the position of job share teacher in year 2 and cover teacher for a variety of classes.  Congratulations to Mrs Wilson and Mrs Edgar is looking forward to working closely with her and Silver Class.  Mrs Wilson will also teach either Silver or Green Classes on a Wednesday morning while Mrs Edgar and Mr Rich have their subject leader time.  Mrs Smith will take Purple Class on a Wednesday afternoon while Mrs Loxton has her Deputy Head Teacher planning time.

 

The Class Parents asked at their last meeting how the recruitment process works so I thought I would use my Weekly Message to explain.

 

Once a teacher has handed in his/her resignation, I have to acknowledge the resignation, then the recruitment process starts.

 

I prepare an advert for the Wiltshire Bulletin (a Wiltshire publication which goes on the Wiltshire Council website – available to everyone nationally).  I have to consider the timing of the advert, a shortlisting date and an interview date.  I also have to ensure that a selection of governors are available to help with the shortlisting and interviewing.

 

Once I have a timeline in place I can then prepare an application pack.  This consists of a letter with details about the job and interview, a person specification, a job description and an application form.  Candidates often access this online.

 

The potential applicants are encouraged to come and meet me and have a look around the school before they apply.  This gives me the opportunity to meet people in a more relaxed situation.

 

After this the applicants return their application form and letter of application to the school and a team of governors and I will shortlist the candidates for interview.  Once we have a shortlist I send for 2 references for each candidate.

 

A timetable for the interview day is drawn up during the shortlisting meeting, usually this will involve the candidates teaching, showing us some work and answering a set of agreed questions (one of which must be a Child Protection one).  One of us on the interview panel must have successfully completed the ‘Safer Recruitment’ course.  I have this qualification at the moment and Mr Jordan and Mr Rankin are in the process of completing his.

 

After all of the tasks have been completed the interview panel meet to decide on whom to appoint.  If there is not a suitable candidate we will not appoint and the process starts again.

 

Recruitment for other posts in school are similar.  TA and administration posts are usually advertised in the Blackmore Vale Magazine and MDSA and cleaner posts in the Post Office and school newsletter.

 

As you can see, the process is rigorous and time consuming but the governors and I strongly believe that we must take recruitment very seriously so that we get the best possible staff at Mere School.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 27th November 2015

 

It has been a particularly busy and worrying time in school with the potential diarrhoeal illness doe to e.coli infection.  Mrs Taylor and the office team have worked tirelessly to ensure we follow the requirements of the Public Health Team at Public Health England. 

 

To date, there has only been one confirmed case and this child contracted the illness while they were abroad.

 

This type of diarrhoeal illness can be very infectious, especially in very young children who may not always have good hand hygiene.  We have organised for our cleaning team to return after lunch to give our loos and sinks an extra clean and all teachers have discussed the importance of careful hand washing with the children.  We have also organised for our water to be tested to double-check that our school environment is free from the bug.

 

The advice we are still receiving is that it is important not to bring your child to school if they have any type of diarrhoeal illness, and to ensure they are excluded from school for 48 hours after their symptoms have completely gone and they are feeling better.  You also need to arrange to see your GP to arrange for a stool sample to be taken.  Children should not return to school until it has been confirmed safe to do so by the Health Protection Team.

 

The procedure to follow is:

 

  • Consult your GP.
  • Let the Health Protection team know, their number is: 0300 303 8162 (option 2).
  • Your GP will arrange for stool samples to be taken from your child.
  • Do not take your child to school.
  • The Public Health Team will let you know when your child may return to school.
  •  

Thank you all so much for your calm and measured approach to this situation – it is much appreciated.

 

Catriona Williamson

Friday 20th November 2015

 

The Class Parents and I had another very productive meeting last week and I am so grateful to this team of parents who have ‘their fingers on the pulse’ and bring many relevant issues to discuss.  I am also able to share ideas with the group and ask for advice.  We discussed the following:

 

  • Opening the Parent Room – it was decided that this would not continue next term as attendance has been very low.  We will review the situation nearer to Easter.
  • Lu Berry chatted about the Auction of Promises and the huge amount of lots there will be.
  • The group were pleased with the information that was sent out about the KS2 Tuck Trolley.
  • Our fund raising arrangements for Children in Need changed after feedback from the Class Parents last year and we managed to raise over £250 and have a lot of fun.
  • An issue has arisen from the Governor Parental Questionnaire around Anti-Bullying and it was agreed that a leaflet for all parents about this would be very useful.  A governor and I are going to draft one and take it back to the Class Parents for their approval.  It will then be circulated to all families and put in the new starter pack.
  • The Class Parents are going to go through the lost property every fortnight so that they can give any named items back to the relevant children.
  • Parking on the school site was discussed as a huge concern – the group felt that some parents, who continue to park on the school site, are posing a real danger to our children.  This issue has been passed to the full Governing Body to consider.
  • School recruitment was chatted about – all teaching posts are advertised in the Wiltshire Bulletin, permanent TA and office posts in the Blackmore Vale Magazine and cleaning and MDSA posts in the school newsletter.
  • Parental use of Facebook and the appropriateness of some of the comments posted.
  • Requests for money – some parents feel that the school are constantly asking for money.  It was pointed out that the purchase of Christmas cards and school photographs is voluntary.
  • Costume information for our Christmas entertainment will be coming home very soon.
  • A parent had asked if an anti-slip surface could be put on the mound.  The children, in school time, are now allowed to use the mound if it is slippery.  This message will be put into a newsletter so that parents can stop the children using the mound out of school time, if it is slippery.

 

Catriona Williamson

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