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Testing Times

As the last week of the year approaches there has been a lot to do. Over the last few weeks I have been reading every pupil report written by class teachers. The annual reports are written to give parents and carers an overview of their child’s year. We comment on attainment (the level a child reaches compared with age-expectation) and the effort made by the child across the year. It is true to say that most children at Unsworth are given good or excellent effort grades. Class teachers also make comments about the children’s attitudes to their learning and to their relationships with others. It is often a child’s attitude to their learning, rather than their ability, which leads to their success as a learner.

By far my favourite part of a child’s annual report is their comment section. Even our youngest children in Y1 make a written observation on their learning. As the children move through the school, they show their understanding of how important it is that they work hard and try their best. This year it has been lovely to read how many children have really enjoyed our enquiry curriculum and how many children are recognising their own progress.

Most of my week since Tuesday has been taken up with checking and analysing our Y6 SAT results. The results of the tests the Y6 children take in May are published on line. This happened on Tuesday morning. In May, our Y6 children took tests in reading, mathematics and spelling, punctuation and grammar. We were delighted to see that our attainment levels were higher than previous years. We were particularly pleased that 60% of our Y6 children achieved a level 5 (above age expectation) in reading and in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Just over 50% achieved a level 5 in maths with a couple of children achieving level 6 in maths. We were also pleased that 100% of children in Y6 made expected progress in reading and 94% in maths. Both are above national figures. Our Y6 pupils should be very proud of the hard work which has led to such excellent results!

As I write my blog this weekend I am beginning to pack my case for the Y5 residential adventure holiday at Robinwood Activity Centre in Todmorden. The trip lasts for three days and the children get the opportunity to take part in all sorts of adventurous activities such as bouldering, archery and climbing. Y5 parents-look out for my messages from Robinwood on the Y5 blog!


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Super Scientists

Our latest whole-school enquiry began this week. The enquiry will last for two weeks and will focus on developing the children’s skills in working scientifically. We will also try to help them find out about the work of significant scientists. The enquiry began on Monday morning with the visit of ‘James Boffin’ the science detective! It was great fun as well as being informative and it gave our enquiry an excellent start. We try to enhance our curriculum through our whole school enquiries and through visits and visitors. If learning is memorable and attached to interesting and fun experiences then it is more likely to be effective. Bringing interesting and knowledgeable people into school is one way of achieving this.

After school on Monday, our three task teams met to review the work they had done across this academic year and begin to plan for next year. The bulk of our work this year has been focussing on the implementation of the new National Curriculum. We have revised our planning across all subjects and feel ready to introduce the new content and skills in every class from September. Across next year, we will focus on evaluating how well the implementation is going.

Towards the end of the week, I met with various contractors to arrange the summer holiday jobs that are needed as well as our summer clean. Whilst we are on holiday, it’s a very busy time for Mr Dean! This year we are having the toilet area in our Reception Class refurbished with new cubicles, toilets, flooring and storage areas. We are also having our hall redecorated and installing a new floor. It takes a lot of organising but we are looking forward to seeing the improvements in September.

You may have noticed that our playground shelter was demolished on Friday. We noticed that the wooden planters had started to splinter and break and after further inspection, it was recommended that the shelter should be removed on safety grounds. It will be very expensive to replace the shelter and in the current climate of reducing budgets, it is unlikely that we can afford a replacement. Having said that, we will look into the possibility of bidding for any existing grants or the possibility of the PTA funding a replacement.

The week ended with our second transition session. The children moved up into their new classes and impressed their new teachers with their hard work and enthusiasm. I know the class teachers are really looking forward to working with their new classes next year.


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Safety, singing and samba

With the end of term in sight, we turn our thoughts to September. Our Y6 pupils are starting their visits to their various high schools and our new children for September have had a ‘messy play’ afternoon at school. On Monday, the children in YR, Y1, Y2 and Y3 spent the morning with their new teacher. Y4 moved into their new classroom with Mrs Ali. Miss Sinclair has been working with Y5 for three mornings each week to get to know them, ready for next year. The next ‘moving up’ session will take place on the afternoon of Friday, 4th July.

On Monday, I completed the second day of my health and safety course. On Wednesday, Mrs Canning, Mrs Channon and I attended further safeguarding training as we carry the responsibilities for this area in school. As the Designated Teacher for Safeguarding, it is my responsibility to ensure all our policies and procedures are being followed in order to keep our children safe. We also have a responsibility to provide our children with the skills and information, at an age appropriate level, to keep themselves safe. In line with this, we invited Childline into school this week to talk to our Y5 and Y6 pupils. Next week these classes will have a separate workshop with Childline to discuss the issues in more depth.

After school on Thursday, the Attainment and Progress sub-committee of the Governing Body met to consider our most recent pupil outcomes in reading, writing and maths. We focused on writing in particular as this is our School Development Plan priority area. We were pleased to see that the measures we have put in place are having a positive effect across the school. We expect overall attainment in all three areas to have risen at both Key Stage1 and Key Stage 2.

On Tuesday afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting St. Bernadette’s RC Primary School with Miss Geelan and our choral group. We spent the afternoon with the choirs from St. Bernadette’s, St. Michael’s and Higher Lane Primary School. Each choir sang a song of their own and then all the choirs sang songs together. A lot of hard work had gone into preparing the children to sing together and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The children also had the chance to play samba together- a real flavour of Brazil!

On Friday disaster struck when the coach which should have taken Y3 to Eureka broke down on the way to our school. The company tried hard to find a replacement but it could not be done. Miss McGrath saved the day by quickly organising a ‘fun day’. The children cheered loudly when I announced that work was banned for the day and only fun was allowed! They enjoyed den building, going to the park and eating their dinner outside. The trip will be rearranged and we were impressed with how well the children dealt with their initial disappointment. Well done, Miss McGrath!


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Poppies, Flags and Javelins

It was a great pleasure this week to receive the poppy creations for our commemorative garden. The children have been very creative in thinking of different materials to use to make the poppies. We have started to ‘plant’ our poppy field at the opening to our Y1/2 garden. We have also received some beautiful red geraniums, which we have planted in pots. Some children have also shared family photographs of their ancestors who were involved in the war. We intend to mount a display so if you have any photographs or other items of interest, we would be grateful to receive copies to add to the display. Please do not send in items of value or original photographs.

On Tuesday, we held our new Junior Sports Day. In our class councils and Key Stage 2 assembly, we had asked the children about the way we do Sports Day and if we should change it. The children said they still wanted to have the traditional, competitive races but have other events such as throwing. We felt that the event was very successful from the children’s point of view. They were much more active and involved in more events. Children who prefer the field events were able to do them.

Standing at the finish line, I was able to see the efforts made and the enjoyment on the children’s faces. It is important that primary-aged children have positive experiences of sport, including competition. Having said that, we have to be mindful that losing a race can be difficult for a child. That is why I like to stand at the finish and encourage all finishers with a smile and a joke so they do not get upset. Next year, we will do both track and field activities again, as they were successful, but we will re-think the spectator area for parents to improve the view of the events.

On Wednesday, I completed day 1 of a two day health and safety course for school managers. There are many considerations and responsibilities in this area and it is sometimes a difficult job to ensure that everyone complies with safety rules. A perfect example of this is the use of the school car park. On Friday, my final job before the weekend was to receive a complaint about an argument between a parent leaving our car park and a local resident. This happened in front of children.

Over the years I have spent a lot of time writing letters, dealing with angry residents and challenging people using the staff car park. I worry that one day one of our children will be hurt, or worse, by someone driving into Blackley Close or the car park. The vast majority of parents using the Before and After School Club,the school and the nursery are responsible people and walk the very short distance from Chadderton Drive to school. A handful of people, however, persist in driving into the close or using the car park without permission. I am giving serious consideration to closing the gates at certain periods but it would be better if the individuals concerned just considered the safety of our children and walked!

On Thursday, we all enjoyed Y4’s class assembly. They gave us some interesting facts about the World Cup, challenged our knowledge of national flags and showed us their samba moves! As ever, the children were incredibly well supported by their parents attending the event. It is great to see so many people attending our events week after week. It makes such a difference to the children to be so well supported in the things they do in school. Thank you!



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Olympian Efforts and Other Things

What a busy week we have had! On Tuesday afternoon, we were very lucky with the weather and our Infant Olympics was able to go ahead. The Infant Olympics is for our YR, Y1 and Y2 children. It is designed to develop a range of skills whilst having fun in a team. The children are split into mixed-aged groups and move around a series of activities. We changed the format for the event some years ago when we realised that quite a few of the younger children found the traditional competitive sports day difficult. I really enjoy watching how active the children are throughout the event and how much enjoyment is shown on their faces. The older children, in this case Y5, are amazing role models and show such patience and encouragement as they assist the younger pupils.

Volunteers from Y5 also made us proud when they attended the meeting for parents whose children will be coming to Unsworth in September, on Wednesday evening. The parents who came to the meeting were very impressed with how articulate they were and with the pride they show in being part of our school. Well done, Y5! During the course of the meeting, the new parents were able to find out more about our school, particularly the Early Years Foundation Stage. They visited the classroom and met Miss Ashton and the YR team. It was great to see so many parents attend and to hear how positive they are about the arrangements we put into place for their child’s transition into school.

We have been thinking carefully about the arrangements we have for the transition into a new class. Prior to this year, we have had a ‘moving-up morning’ when our Y6 pupils go on their high school visits. On reflection, we felt that we need to do more than this to get some children ready for the change of class in September. Miss Sinclair has been working in Y5 three mornings each week since half term, alongside Miss Mullineux, in maths and guided reading. This will allow her to get to know her new children well before they move into Y6. Mrs Ali, obviously, knows her ‘new’ class well but will take the chance to move with them into their new classroom at certain points across the remainder of the year.

For our other classes, we have allocated three half day sessions between now and the end of term for the children to ‘move up’ and work with their new teacher in their new classroom. These will be on Monday 23rd June (am), Friday 4th July (pm) and Thursday 10th July (am). In addition, we have organised our ‘Meet the teacher’ events for parents. Details of these will be sent out. All of these arrangements are designed to help children to have a smooth transition into their next class which, for some children, can be a worrying time.

At the end of the week, we were moderated by representatives from the local authority. This means that a moderator comes into school and spends a morning looking at our assessments and speaking with staff about the evidence for their judgements. On Thursday morning an inspector from the STA (Standards and Testing Agency) also attended the meeting, looking at our assessments in YR. Her role was to look at how the local authority moderate schools. We all enjoyed going into YR at the beginning of the morning and joining in with the ‘dough disco’! On Friday morning, our Y2 SATs assessments were moderated. On both occasions, we got excellent feedback about our procedures and practices.

On Thursday, we had a visitor, Scott Knowles (The Tommy Teaches), who held talks with each class about the life of a ‘Tommy’ in the trenches in World War 1. He showed the children the uniform and equipment used. It is a difficult subject to broach with young children and their understanding of the enormity of those events will be limited. We do, however, feel it is important to mark the courage of those involved in some way on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war. We will attempt to do this in an age-appropriate way. Check out our website for more information about the visit.


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Taking a look

This week I have conducted some formal observations of teaching and learning across KS2 (having done KS1 and YR in the Autumn term). I carried out the observations with other members of the leadership team: Mr Rhodes, Mrs Ali and Miss Sinclair. The focus for the observations was the quality of teaching and learning in writing. As you all know, this links with the major priorities in this year’s School Development Plan.

It was an absolute pleasure to spend an hour in each class and watch the children at work. In every class, behaviour and attitudes to learning were exemplary and the children worked very hard on their tasks. In Y3 we saw children talking about and using ’embedded clauses’ to improve their descriptions; in Y4 we listened to children exploring a character’s ‘inside’ feelings and how they would affect their ‘outside’ actions; in Y5 children were using dialogue and character description to move a story on and in Y6 children were engaging in some very mature discussions about their targets as writers and how they could develop their skills further.

Across the two days I saw the impact of the work we have been doing to create a writing ‘route-map’ for the children to follow. This is a process of learning to write in different text types which allows the children to understand the structures involved in writing so that they write in an appropriate style for the subject matter. The most pleasing part of the observations was seeing the enthusiasm for writing on the part of the children. I really did see some outstanding pieces of work.

On Monday, our teaching staff attended their year group cluster meetings with other teachers in Whitefield and Unsworth. I attended and led the meeting of Y1 teachers at Higher Lane. During the meeting we looked at the implications of the new national tests at KS1(end of Y2) which will be introduced in the summer of 2016. We looked at the sort of skills children will need to tackle the reading, mathematics and new spelling, punctuation and grammar tests. Our teachers find it useful to discuss common issues with other teachers who teach the same year group. I enjoyed visiting Higher Lane and meeting up with the new Headteacher and my former colleagues.

On Thursday morning, Y3 held their class assembly. What wonderful costumes! Miss McGrath has revised the History curriculum in Y3 this year in line with the new National Curriculum. One of the new topics of study is the Stone Ages. Fred and Wilma Flintstone introduced us to the subject and every child spoke with confidence. They really enjoyed themselves and the efforts made by parents with costumes really added to the spectacle. Thank you!

On Friday morning I attended a briefing for Headteachers in Bury about the new Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs. It was interesting to get a view from outside Bury and hear about the national perspective. What is clear is that we have to have very clear processes for catering for children with additional needs and publish our school offer on our website. This is something we will be working on over the coming months.

As I write, the rain is pouring down – just as we turn our thoughts to our sports days… fingers crossed everybody!


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Looking ahead

The half term break has arrived rather quickly and it’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of another academic year. It is at this point in the year that we start to review our priority areas and our staffing structures in readiness for the next academic year. Over the next part of the summer term, we will put everything in place for the new year and prepare our children for the transition into their new class. Our Y6 pupils will go on their visits to their new schools and the parents and children coming into Reception Class in September will begin their visits to Unsworth.

On Wednesday this week, Mr Rhodes and I went on a full day’s training to consider how the new assessment regime will affect our school and our children. From 2016 there will be a number of new assessments/tests which will affect our younger children. As children enter Reception Class in September 2016, they will have a baseline assessment. This will be used in the future to measure their progress over time. At this point, we have no idea of the nature of this assessment but it is likely to be similar to the teacher assessments we currently undertake as children enter our school. From 2016, children in Y2 will take additional tests in spelling, grammar and punctuation in addition to those they currently take in reading and mathematics. As always, we will consider carefully how to implement these changes, putting the children’s interests first.

What we did realise during the course of the day is that the implementation of the new National Curriculum is key in understanding any new assessment system. We feel that the hours of work we have put into implementing the changes needed in all subject areas has been time well spent. During our training day on Thursday, those teachers who are subject co-ordinators briefed the rest of the staff on the changes and the preparations we have made in our curriculum. We have devised subject plans across the whole school which ensure progression in learning. We have used the Programmes of Study contained in the new National Curriculum but have ensured that our curriculum design is one that is appropriate for the children of Unsworth. When we started this work back in 2010 we wanted our children to have an exciting curriculum and a wide range of exciting opportunities whilst they were at our school. We have worked hard to ensure that the limited ‘offer’ contained within the National Curriculum does not inhibit those opportunities.

Throughout the rest of the summer term each class will go on a trip. We try to find venues for our trips that are both interesting and fun for the children. We are very grateful for your financial support with the cost of trips and also grateful for the fundraising of the PTA. This week we held our first Fashion Show fundraiser at school. It was a great success and many of the female members of our school community enjoyed coming together to grab a few bargains! Without the hard work of the PTA and the support of yourselves and the staff who attend the events, our children would not enjoy the enhanced opportunities they have in terms of visits and visitors to the school.

Thank you for your support and enjoy half term!


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Tests, tests and more tests!

This week was dominated by the Y6 SATs. Our children made us very proud by their hard work and determination throughout the week. They took part in tests in reading, grammar, spelling and punctuation, mental mathematics and two papers of written mathematics. Some children also took additional Level 6 tests in the afternoon. The tests have to be very strictly administered and then are packed away and sent to external markers. The SATs give a snapshot of what a child can do on a given day. The parents of children in Y6 will also be given a teacher assessment level. This may differ from the test level depending on how the child has handled the test situation.

Each morning this week, the children in Y6 were invited to come into school early and enjoy a ‘SATs Breakfast’ together. This allowed them to relax a little bit and socialise before the tests. Throughout Y6, Miss Sinclair and Mr French have worked really hard to get the balance right with the children in terms of their attitude towards the tests. We do not want children to be stressed about them but also we do not want them to dismiss their importance and not work hard. Hard work is something we saw this week and, actually, many of the children enjoyed the challenge the tests provided.

The governors met again on Thursday evening to approve our budget for 2014-2015. This involves looking at the total allocation the school receives and allocating our spending to different budget headings according to our school priorities. The majority of our spending goes on staffing but the governors also need to look at how we will spend on our curriculum, our building and grounds and the many different services we need to buy in to ensure the efficiency of the school. I am always very grateful for the time and commitment this group of volunteers make to the school. As a person who has spent her whole life in the school environment, it is very useful to be supported by people with expertise and experience in lots of different fields.

On Friday, I attended the meeting of the Bury Headteachers with the Director of Children’s Services. During this meeting we hear about the issues that will affect our schools over the next few months and get the chance to talk with other headteachers about them. The topics covered are many and various from the new SEN reforms to the plans for more flu vaccinations! It never fails to amaze me how diverse are the issues faced by a Headteacher in a typical week but that’s what makes it the best job in the world!


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Democracy in Action

We had a visit this week from the Leader of Bury Council, Mike Connolly, and the Chief Executive, Mike Kelly. They came to find out about our school and discuss the issues affecting it. During the visit, they met with our School Council and were impressed by our example of ‘democracy in action.’ They also toured the school and met some of our pupils and our staff.

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The School Council meet regularly with Mrs. Channon to represent the voice of the pupils. The council is made up of eight pupils from Y3, Y4, Y5 and Y6. The members put themselves forward for the council and are elected by their peers. During the year they collect the views and concerns of our pupils through class councils and bring the questions raised to the meetings of the School Council. The meetings have a proper agenda and the councillors report back via class councils. Mr Connolly was able to describe a very similar process taking place at Bury Council and also invited our councillors to the council chamber in Bury Town Hall. They will be able to sit in the empty council chamber and experience what it is like to take part in debates. How exciting!

On Thursday, after school, Mr Rhodes and I met with the Attainment and Progress sub-committee of the Governing Body. This group looks very carefully at the assessment outcomes for each class. This time we looked specifically at the assessment outcomes at the end of the spring term and discussed our predictions for the end of the year. By continually evaluating our pupil outcomes we are able to intervene if we think particular groups of pupils are not making sufficient progress. The governors also hold us to account by asking challenging questions about our work with the pupils.

Miss Sinclair and I met with teaching staff from Castlebrook High School this week. This is the first of a number of liaison meetings we hold with our high school colleagues in order to ensure a smooth transition for our Y6 pupils. In the coming month, we will meet with representatives from all the high schools our children are moving to and the children will also have the opportunity to visit their new school. We are confident that our Y6 will make a successful transition to high school and that they are very well prepared for their SATs next week.

We all enjoyed Y1 class assembly this week. Their assembly on the theme of holidays now and in the past brightened our day despite the weather! They sang songs, danced and told us all about their learning in their current history-based enquiry. As ever, we were all impressed by their efforts to perform in front of a large audience. You brought a little bit of sunshine to a very rainy day, Y1!



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Busy, busy, busy..

We returned to school this week to start the final term of the school year amazed at how time flies! The summer term in a primary school is a very busy one filled with additional activities and visits. The holiday pattern for this half term is a strange one with a very short 4 week half term which includes a Bank Holiday and a Polling Day closure.

At the end of each term, each class teacher carries out summative assessments on each child in their class. These are based on their on-going observations of the children at work and, for the older pupils, the results of tests. During this week Mr Rhodes and I have met with each class teacher and discussed the progress of the children in reading, writing and mathematics. During these discussions, we talk about possible additional interventions for individuals or groups of children. We also discuss targets for children for the end of year outcomes. Following these meetings, the Leadership Team and the governors look at the overall picture, class by class, to evaluate how successful we have been across the year so far in moving the children on in their learning.

The School Improvement sub-committee of the Governing Body met on Thursday evening this week. We looked at our progress towards the implementation of the new National Curriculum and our concerns about the huge changes in Special Educational Needs provision from September 2014. We also had initial discussions about the school’s priorities for our next School Development Plan.

On Wednesday I spent the day in London at The Academies Show. The movement towards schools joining together in collaboratives and formalising their partnerships into multi-academy trusts is growing. I try to look ahead and research any such trend to assess whether or not we, as a school, should consider involving ourselves in such change. At the moment, we are at the early stages of researching and discussion about how and if our children would benefit from such a partnership. If we were to recommend such a change to our school status then we would only do so because it would be of benefit to our children.

Towards the end of the week we all enjoyed the Y2 class assembly based on their current geography enquiry about countries and continents. It is always wonderful to watch every child participate with growing confidence as they move up the school. Well done, Y2!