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All sorts of visitors

Recently we had our prefab refurbished into a training room. This week we welcomed teachers from other schools across Bury and Rochdale to attend a training course on the ‘Power of Coaching’ led by myself, Mr Rhodes and Mr Holden, the Headteacher from Tottington Primary School. During the day, the teachers had the opportunity to visit some of our classrooms and to have their lunch on the ‘top table.’ Some of our Y6 pupils acted as hosts and made sure our visitors felt welcome and also that they had plenty to eat and drink. I was very proud to watch our children as they took their responsibilities so seriously. Our visitors were so impressed with the care they received and the impeccable manners of our children.

Later in the week I had a visitor from Medway Council in Kent to discuss the inclusive nature of our school. When she had looked for an example of good practice in the north of England, I was delighted that it was our school she selected to visit. We spent the morning talking about our provision and practice when it comes to special educational needs and comparing notes about developments in both Medway and Bury. Again, we spent some time looking around the school and visiting classrooms. In every class we saw pupils engaged in learning, willing to tell us about their activities. Part way through the morning our discussions had to stop when four children from Y4 came to interview me for their newspaper report! Such challenging questions!

In between visits and visitors Christmas has arrived at Unsworth Primary School. In every nook and cranny you can find children practising their songs or lines and creating decorations. Around every corner you can see staff making costumes and props including alien spaceships for our nativity play…?? Next week we will invite parents and carers into school to see the nativity and the week after to see our panto. At the same time we will be starting our latest whole school enquiry all about science and scientists. We are looking forward to seeing how the children will develop their scientific skills over the two weeks.

Finally.. it seems we have had some intruders in our Reception Class after we left on Friday. Check out Miss Ashton’s blog to see what happened…

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The kindness boomerang

At the end of our whole school assembly on Monday morning we held a moment of quiet reflection whilst we listened to ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.’ The theme for our assemblies was ‘contributing to the lives of others through kindness.’ I spoke to the children briefly about the fact that terrible things had happened in Paris over the weekend and we related this back to the values we cover in our assemblies.

We talked about how over the last two months we have been thinking about respect, effort, democracy and peace. We talked about our school community and how we value each other and our differences and are ‘brothers and sisters’ of sorts. When I asked the children why we do this one of our Y6 pupils simply said, ‘We do this so that we grow up to be nice people.’

We then started to think about our kindness theme. We talked about the way we can offer each other little acts of kindness across the day and how this can make us feel good whilst helping others. I introduced the children to the idea of a ‘kindness boomerang.’ I had a fridge magnet in the shape of a boomerang which had been given to me as a gift from Australia. Earlier in the day, I had greeted a member of the Y6 class as she came into school and held open the doors for her. We reflected that this was a simple act of kindness. I then challenged her to pass on the boomerang to one of her classmates across the course of the morning and for Y6 to pass it on to Y5 by the afternoon.

During the course of the week, the children passed the boomerang from class to class. If they had the boomerang in their possession and passed it on they were asked to write their name on our assembly board in the hall. By Friday the board was filled with names and the boomerang had arrived in YR after travelling through every class.

It was a delight to see the efforts the children made to be kind-even if it did cause a little bit of disruption in lessons from time to time! My final challenge was that the boomerang should be returned to me by the end of the week via an act of kindness..in assembly on Monday morning I will let the children know if that happened!

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is every wasted.” Aesop

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Moving things forward

Each year we produce a document called the School Development Plan which outlines our priority areas for the coming academic year. The priorities contained in this are developed out of our previous year’s outcomes and through discussion with staff and governors. This week we have taken time out to evaluate our progress so far.

For the last two years, Ofsted have produced an ‘Inspection Dashboard’ for each school. This uses the previous year’s outcomes to list a school’s strengths and ‘weaknesses’. We are proud of the fact that we have strengths listed in early years, Y1 phonics and both Key Stage One and Key Stage Two outcomes. We will also have strengths in attendance once those figures have been finalised nationally. The dashboard states that the school has ‘no weaknesses’. We were particularly proud of the fact that writing has now become a strength as we have worked hard to improve our writing curriculum over the last three years.

Each year, in our School Development Plan, we have a priority that includes targets for attainment in reading, writing and mathematics in each class. These are deliberately challenging and are discussed with each class teacher regularly. We monitor the progress of every child across the year and intervene if we feel they need additional provision to meet the targets set.

We also have up to two additional priority areas. This does not mean we ignore all other areas of the curriculum but rather that we focus our professional development and monitoring on these areas. This year, we are focussing on improving even further the quality of pupils’ recording in books and the quality of adults’ verbal feedback and marking. The second area we are working on is that of maximising the challenge in our curriculum in order to engage all pupils fully. In both areas we are focussing on the full range of subject areas.

One of the reasons for the sustained improvement at Unsworth is that we have a very strong system of monitoring what happens in our classrooms. On Thursday, three of our governors spent the morning in school and visited every classroom. They observed the lessons that were going on at the time, spoke to children, looked at books and then had a discussion with members of staff. The object of the visit was to gather evidence of how verbal and written feedback was being used to have an impact on pupils’ learning. It is not the role of governors to pass judgements on teaching and learning in classrooms but rather to gather evidence to discuss with the leadership team.

It was a very successful visit and the governors were so impressed (as all visitors are!) with how articulate our children are about their learning and how much they can talk about the process of learning. When the children were asked about why they received written feedback in their books, this is what they said:

o It helps me to learn from my mistakes
o It makes me work better
o I am happy when the teacher says I have done good work
o It helps me to learn how to spell correctly so that I get it right next time
o It helps me to get better
o I like it when I get good comments, it makes me feel good
o I’m excited when I get my book back to see if I have been given a house point
o You don’t have to be right all the time, it’s good to learn from your mistakes.

I always say that no matter how long I have been at our school, I never fail to be enthused and inspired by our children. They are very articulate, thoughtful individuals and we are rightly proud of them. If you would like to contribute your thoughts as parents/carers about our priority areas then please use the comment facility below.

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Sneetches and scooters

At lunchtime on Wednesday, I found myself on a scooter for the first time in many years! Somehow it was difficult to scoot and stay on course and I found myself going in the opposite direction from my colleagues. Of course, the children thought I was trying to gain some advantage in the race- I couldn’t possibly comment other than to say it was great fun. Each class had the opportunity to go outside and ride scooters across ramps and through cones. Y2 have created their own iMovie about the experience.

Earlier in the week, I had introduced the assembly theme of ‘celebrating difference’ by using the Dr Seuss story The Sneetches. The children enjoyed the story and were able to understand that the different sneetches were discriminating against each other. Following the assembly, the children commented with their thoughts on the display. As usual, our children showed their ability and values in their comments.

On Thursday we were treated to a very special assembly from our Y5 class. Over the past few weeks the class have been studying the narrative poem, The Highwayman. During the assembly the children recited the poem acting out the main aspects of the story and ended with the line’ love conquers all’-so romantic! It is great to see their confidence and their enjoyment and the support they get from their parents. Well done, Y5.

On Thursday evening Y6 parents joined myself, Mr Rhodes and Miss Sinclair to hear about the changes to Y6 SATs in 2016. We discussed the changes to the tests themselves and the new interim system for teacher assessment. We also tried to explain the new scaled score which will be reported for each child once they have taken the tests. The only confirmed information we have on this is that a child ‘at the expected standard’ will be awarded a scaled score of 100. This is a period of change and we still have many questions about the new SATs. Having said that, we reassured parents that we will prepare our children well, we will keep a sense of perspective about tests and we will work hard to protect their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum in Y6.

On Monday and Tuesday next week we will be holding our progress meetings with parents and carers. You will have received your appointment time and will have an opportunity to hear how your child has settled into their new class. Your child’s class teacher will have prepared a short report on their attitudes to learning and their targets in reading, writing and maths. We do hope you enjoy your visit and take the opportunity to look at the classroom and the children’s books.

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What is democracy?

To read a tweet that talked about one of our five year olds spending Friday tea time explaining democracy was the icing on the cake this week! That happened because of the success of our School Council election and our assembly theme of ‘democracy’. It also happened because our children are thinkers and love to join in with a discussion, particularly one about big ideas!

At the start of the week, I introduced the theme in our whole school assembly. I asked the children to explain democracy. Some talked about voting and putting a cross on a ballot paper – they knew they had done this themselves when we held our vote last term to select a quote for our hall wall. As the discussion deepened, some children talked about different groups of people thinking different things and how democracy is about compromise and fairness and accepting that you might not always get what you want. It was lovely to hear one child say, ‘It has to be fair and you might not win but you have to be proud of that’. Amazing!

Following the assembly, the children were asked to nominate themselves to be a school councillor. A boy and a girl from each class is elected by their peers to represent the class. If you would like to know more about the things the council does and how it operates, take a look at our School Council page under the ‘children’ tab. In order to put themselves forward, the children complete a nomination form and stand up in class and say why they would make a good councillor. It is a lovely experience to read these forms and see the ways the children are able to recognise the qualities they have.

On Friday, the whole school came together to hear the results of the election. We were so proud to hear that 89 children had put themselves forward as candidates. That is 47% of the electorate! We started by talking about how it was not possible for all 89 to be elected and that it was natural to feel disappointed if you were not successful this time. We asked all the candidates to stand up and receive a clap and they were all given a well done sticker. When the winning candidates were announced there was great excitement in the hall and everyone was pleased for the new school councillors. They received a special certificate and a badge to wear on their school jumper!

Very soon, the councillors will have their first meeting. They will be supported in these by Mrs Channon who will be helping the children to organise their meetings, hold discussions, take minutes,survey opinions and make decisions. They will also be asked to report back to their classmates and to the whole school. What a lot of responsibility. Hopefully, at some point in the year they will also visit Bury Town Hall and have the opportunity to sit in the council chamber!

It has been a really positive week and the children have truly had the opportunity to experience ‘democracy in action’!

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Assembling through the week

This week began with our usual whole school assembly to introduce our theme of the week. This half term we are thinking about the values that are important to us and on Monday we introduced the concept of peace. The children were asked to think about what being peaceful meant to them. For some of them that meant being still and quiet and for others it meant getting along with others. Next week our important value will be that of democracy. During the week, the children will be encouraged to put themselves forward for the School Council. They will have the opportunity to take part in the democratic process by electing their representatives to the council.

On Tuesday, we enjoyed our ‘Big Sing’ assembly led by Miss Geelan. During this assembly, the whole school, children and adults, join together to sing. We have a lot of fun singing a wide variety of songs. Thursday saw our Well Done assembly in which two or three children from each class are selected for producing their ‘personal best’. The children understand that each and everyone of them will be chosen for this assembly at some point and they enjoy seeing others being rewarded with a sticker, a postcard and with their name in the Well Done book!

After school on Wednesday, class teachers met with their counterparts at Hollins Grundy Primary School in order to conduct some joint moderation of reading. We started this partnership last year as both schools began to develop their new approaches to assessment. It was a useful session with teachers comparing the evidence they collect in order to make a judgement about a child’s reading. Next term, we will meet again at Unsworth and look at another subject area.

On Thursday, Mr Rhodes presented our analysis of the end of year assessment outcomes to the Attainment and Progress Committee of the governing body. The governors were pleased to see the improved performances across the school, in particular the significant improvements in attainment and progress in writing. This is something we have worked very hard to improve over the last couple of years so it is pleasing to see that the hard work has paid off.

At the end of the week, we conducted what we call a ‘work scrutiny’ of the children’s books. This is a self-evaluation process we employ in order to check the quality of learning experience and the quality of pupil work. We were pleased to see how our pupils are being challenged across the school and how hard they are working to produce some high quality work in their exercise books. You can get a flavour of this if you follow our Twitter feed on a daily basis.

Well done, everyone, on all of your hard work and effort!

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Nurturing new talents

The highlight of the week had to be our Welcome Assembly. On Thursday morning, Reception class attended their first whole-school assembly with their invited guests. After all of the other classes had entered the hall, our Y6 children sat at the front of the hall with their welcome cards. We welcomed Reception class to the front with an enthusiastic round of applause. It took them a little while but they made it and sat beautifully throughout the rest of the assembly!

It was a pleasure to see how confidently our new children stood up and waved at their guests, and the rest of the school, as they received their cards. It was also a proud moment to watch how our Y6 children take on the nurturing role involved in looking after a buddy. Standing at the front, I can hear the little words of encouragement and little gestures of help to stand up and turn around given by our older pupils. Throughout the year I know we can rely on our Y6 children to be proper role models to our younger pupils.

In our other assemblies this half term our weekly themes will focus on our values as a school. Last week we talked about how effort is an important value and this week we discussed Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and how respect for each other and our different beliefs is important. At the end of Monday’s introductory assembly, the children are invited to respond to my questions by posting their thoughts on our assembly board in the hall. Next week we will be exploring the concept of peace and will try to relate that to everyday life in school.

In my last blog, I described the enhanced musical experience we have planned for our children. This week, I will outline similar enhancements we have made to our sport and PE offer. We have engaged in a partnership with QFirst Sports. Each half term, specialist sports coaches will be coming into school almost daily to work alongside our staff to further develop the children’s skills.

This half term, in P.E. lessons, Ryan will be working with Y1 in multi-skills sessions and with Y6 on invasion games. After school, Ryan and Sam will be leading basketball and other sessions for our older pupils and for children in the Out of School Club. At lunchtimes, Ryan will be supporting our older pupils to be leaders, coaching younger pupils in a variety of activities. As the year progresses, all classes will have the chance to work with the specialist coaches.

Next week will be be holding our first meeting of the PTA (Parent Teachers Association). The meeting will take place at school on Thursday, 24th September at 6:30pm. Any parent or carer is welcome to join us to find out about the work of the PTA and the events planned for this next year.
We do hope you will be able to join us.

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Ukuleles and ocarinas

From this September all classes from Y1 to Y6 are working on the content and skills from the revised National Curriculum (2014). This week saw the children starting to use their new books to record their learning. It is always a pleasure to walk around our classes and see the care and pride the children take as they start a new book-don’t we all remember that experience of opening the first page of a new exercise book and starting to write!

We work hard at Unsworth to plan a curriculum experience for our children that ensures that they embed the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics. Having these skills gives children confidence to engage fully with their learning. It is practice, consolidation and over-learning that helps them to do this. That is why we have introduced, over the last few years, our homework journals. The tasks contained in these give the children the opportunity to use the content of their lessons to reflect through writing whilst also giving them the chance to be a little bit creative in the way they present their understanding.

We all know that basic skills are important. Having said that, we also need to enthuse and engage our children. We do that through our enquiry curriculum and through the variety of learning experiences we plan across the year. It is true to say that there is always ‘something going on’ at Unsworth! This year will be no different. We will continue to take the children out on trips and plan special events in school.

On Tuesday, our music specialist, Miss Geelan was in school again. She works tirelessly to develop the musical education of every child. She also extends their opportunities by introducing them to other providers for more individualised musical tuition. This week we had music demonstrations from Fidler Music and from Bury Music Service. If you would like your child to learn to play a musical instrument with either of these providers, details of fees etc can be obtained from the school office.

As a school, we feel it is important that every child has the opportunity to play music during their time with us. For this reason, we have designed our music curriculum so that the children have three chances to play an instrument with their classmates. In this way they learn the basics of musical notation but more importantly, they experience the fun and enjoyment of playing music together.

In Y5 our children learn to play a brass instrument. This year they will be taught by a brass specialist, Mr. Dixon, who will be assisted by Miss Geelan. The brass lessons taught by Mr. Dixon and Miss Geelan are always fun and interactive but both insist on effort and excellence and, of course, practice! By the end of a few short months we can truly say we will have our own brass band!

In Y3 our children learn to play the recorder. Mrs. McLoughlin will teach the children how to play and very soon they will perform together in one of our assemblies! This year, we have also introduced a class instrument into Key Stage One. Children in Y2 had their first ocarina lesson this week. The ocarina is a small wind instrument with a mouthpiece and finger holes. They are all different colours and caused much excitement in Y2!

In addition, Miss Geelan will work with each class across the year to develop their singing and general musical understanding. This half term she is working with Y1 and Y4. She leads our weekly ‘Big Sing’ with the whole school and is also busy recruiting for our Y5/6 Choral Group. Thank you, Miss Geelan for all that hard work!

As well as musical experiences, we want our children to enjoy other aspects of the curriculum. This year we have introduced French lessons into Key Stage Two. We have appointed a new teacher, Madame Jackson, who will teach Y3-Y6 every week. She came into school this week for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed working with our children. Bienvenue, Madame Jackson!

Finally, Mrs. McLoughlin has introduced a whole new sports and PE programme for our children this year. This includes a number of new sports coaches coming into school to work with the children and class teachers in different aspects of sport and PE. It also involves lunchtime sessions and some after school clubs. Look out for more details coming soon on our PE curriculum page.

So, it’s been a busy old week…just how we like it!

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What will you aim for?

It was lovely to see so many happy smiles on Thursday morning as we returned after the long, summer holiday. Our children looked so smart in their new uniforms and settled into their new classes immediately. The class teachers were very impressed with their enthusiasm and teamwork right from the start and the children were impressed with how their classrooms had been so beautifully prepared by their teachers!

Over the holidays, Mr. Dean and Mrs. Leonard have worked hard to clean our school from top to bottom. We have also had two classrooms redecorated -YR and Y3. Miss Ashton and Mrs. McLoughlin were delighted when they came back to see their lovely new rooms! You will have noted that our Y3 teacher has a new name after getting married this summer-congratulations Mrs. McLoughlin!

The school staff attended two training days prior to the start of the school year on Tuesday and Wednesday. During these sessions we considered the priorities for the academic year 2015-2016. Our development priorities are agreed after careful consideration of our results from the previous year. We are proud of the fact that our outcomes in terms of national assessments are above national figures at all phases (early years, Y1 phonics, Key Stage One and Key Stage Two). Despite this, we are always looking to improve further.

This year we will be developing our curriculum further in order to provide challenge in all subjects for all pupils. We will continue to engage our pupils in exciting learning experiences and look at how we can challenge our children to think for themselves and apply their learning through problem solving. We will also be looking at how we can help the children to produce their very best work in their books through a range of recording activities and effective marking and verbal feedback.

At the end of last term we asked for parental feedback through a website survey. We will be sending out a detailed analysis of the outcomes of this but we were delighted with the overwhelming support of our parents and carers. In the survey there was almost unanimous support for the lifting of the photography ban. We have discussed this and will be asking parents and carers to agree to not publishing images of our children online. In this way families can still record their children’s school experiences. More information on this will be sent out shortly.

Back in July we were sad to say goodbye to our wonderful Y6 children as they left our school. We were very proud of their achievements and wished them well in the next stage of their education. This September we welcome our new children to our Reception Class. Very soon they will be partnered with a Y6 buddy who will look after them across their first year at school. This is always a very special relationship and is something that Y6 look forward to. They take this responsibility very seriously and the Reception children really benefit from the care and attention given to them.

On Thursday, 17th September (9:10am) we will be holding our annual Welcome Assembly. We would like to invite all parents and carers new to the school to join us for this assembly to see their children ‘officially’ welcomed to school by our Y6 pupils. This is always a very special occasion and reflects the special ethos of our school. It would be lovely to see you there!

As we start the new school year I would encourage our children to give their very best efforts to their learning. On Monday, at our whole school assembly, I will be talking about effort and hard work and challenging the children to achieve their bronze and silver certificates. For those who like to aim high there are also gold certificates and the final accolade, the Headteacher’s Award. House points are awarded by the staff to children who work hard and ‘do their very best’. I look forward to giving out some special awards in July 2016!

Mrs. Reynolds

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End of term approaches

What a wonderful end to the final full week in school. The whole school gathered on Friday morning together with parents and grandparents to watch our Y6 lead their final assembly before leaving us on Tuesday. It was an emotional occasion and everyone was moved by their confidence, enjoyment and mutual support.

Every year, we are amazed by how quickly time passes. During the assembly our Y6 treated us to a vision of the future whilst also remembering their past. They reminded us of memorable moments in each of their seven years at the school and then shared their aspirations for the future. It was lovely to see the genuine affection shared by this group of children and the support and pride of their families and school staff. We all reached for the tissues when they sang their ‘moving on’ song!

The children in Y6 have worked hard this year and have achieved well in their learning. They have also grown as people and we feel they are well equipped for the move to high school. Over the years we have developed excellent partnerships with the parents and carers in this class and this has been reflected in their success. Well done, Y6, we are so proud of each and every one of you.

Earlier in the week, we showcased the musical talents of pupils across the school. A large audience of parents attended the music concert organised by Miss Geelan and were astounded by the considerable skills of our musicians. We heard individual musicians, ensembles and whole class performances. The quality of the singing and playing was evident and everyone left feeling uplifted. Our music curriculum is given a high priority and concerts like the one we experienced on Tuesday show why this is important in the development of our pupils.

After sending home the children’s annual reports this week we have received some excellent feedback from parents. We read all comment slips and respond to parent queries or concerns if requested. This year we have had some queries about our use of effort grades. Having considered these we will provide some descriptions of the different grades next year so parents can understand the differences between the grades and why they are selected and why they might change year by year.

In addition, we have also uploaded a parent view survey onto our website. This is similar to the Ofsted questionnaire used when the school is inspected but also includes some additional questions. In particular, we are asking for views on homework and on this year’s ban on photography. It would be very helpful if as many parents as possible added their views to the survey. It only takes 5 minutes to complete.

As the year comes to an end, I would like to take the opportunity to thank our lovely children for their hard work, enthusiasm and determination to do well; our staff for their dedication and commitment to our children and our parents for their involvement and support. Our 50th year has been a great success and we have enjoyed every moment of it!

On behalf of the whole staff I would like to wish you an enjoyable summer break. We look forward to seeing you all again on Thursday, 3rd September.

Mrs. Reynolds