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Pop Up Pride

Pop Up Pride

What a proud moment it was when I saw the wonderful efforts made by our children and my staff when I entered our pop-up gallery on Saturday morning. I was overwhelmed when I saw the pictures and the way the gallery had been put together. As the morning and afternoon progressed it was a delight to see the pleasure on the faces of the children, parents and other relatives and hear the comments from the members of the public who came into the gallery.

I would like to thank the children for their sheer enthusiasm in everything they do and our parents and carers who support the children and staff by attending our events in such great numbers. Finally, a huge thank you to the staff for their commitment to our children and the efforts they make to give them such wonderful opportunities and memories that will stay with them forever.

Have a good holiday!


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Eyes Down

I have very much enjoyed watching the children’s improving drawing skills this week. On Monday, we started work in all classes on our two week enquiry, ‘Could I be a still-life artist?’ The work in each class has been very carefully planned by staff to further develop the drawing skills of the children. The Arts Task Team chose this aspect after evaluating the quality of art across the school.

I have been really impressed with the work that has been planned for the children and the extra efforts of staff to make the enquiry stimulating and exciting. Mrs Crompton contacted Bury Arts Society prior to the enquiry starting and we were lucky enough to have a number of their members in each class on Monday and Tuesday. As I walked around, the artists were showing their work to the children and describing the techniques and media they use. They followed this up by coaching the children whilst they completed their drawings. It was clear that the artists inspired and impressed the children but also, that they thoroughly enjoyed their visit to our school.

We are very grateful to parents for their generosity in donating frames for our pop-up gallery in the Millgate Centre next Saturday. Every child will have a piece of art in the exhibition. Mrs Crompton and Miss Hackett have been to our ‘space’ and have planned how we will use it. Next Saturday morning, our staff will be going to the shop and preparing the exhibition, ready for you to attend between 10am and 2pm. Please call in and browse the gallery at your leisure!

For me, the current enquiry typifies what we are about in primary schools. Our children should experience a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum. We plan for them to have a very wide range of opportunities whilst they are at our school. Staff are encouraged to think creatively in order to give the children memorable experiences. We hope that by being exposed to art, music, sporting and other activities, a future talent or interest may be nurtured for when they move on to high school or into their adult life. I can’t wait for the exhibition as I have already seen the efforts the children have made and their pride in their work. I am also grateful to the staff for their tremendous efforts in framing and exhibiting over 200 pieces!

As I finish writing, I am getting ready to go to our annual event, the Easter Egg Bingo. Again, I am grateful to those staff members and parents who have put their time into getting things ready and making sure the event goes well. Thank you for supporting us by attending in such large numbers and good luck! Eyes down for your first number…

[whohit]Eyes Down[/whohit]

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Conferences and cabbages

In Monday’s assembly last week we watched a short clip made by primary school children about bullying. In the clip, a young boy felt excluded and ignored by his classmates. During the course of the clip, we saw a young girl stand out from the crowd and befriend him. During assembly, we talked about the fact that the ‘bully’ is often portrayed as big, ugly and male! The children realised that bullying behaviour can take many forms and be carried out by different people, even our friends. We also talked about the fact that it is part of everyday life to fall out with friends but that does not mean you are being ‘bullied.’ Once you start these conversations with children, you realise how complex these ideas and themes are for them and how confusing building relationships can be.

This is the reason we use our assemblies, our PATHS lessons in KS2, our class councils and our circle times to work on personal, social and emotional issues with the children. Being at school is very different to being at home. Children have to build relationships with at least 30 of their peers and a number of adults. They have to do this whilst learning across a wide range of subjects. The skills of turn-taking, compromise and negotiation are vital. As a school, we believe that we must be pro-active about issues such as bullying and racism and give our children numerous opportunities to explore their feelings and behaviours.

At our staff meeting on Monday, I asked staff to complete a personal reflection on their contribution towards our School Development Plan priorities. As I have mentioned before, these priorities are formed following self-evaluation and external checks such as Ofsted. I do feel that we have worked hard to achieve our targets, when it comes to writing, and I am hoping that parents and carers will feel the same when they view the children’s work at progress meetings in April.

On Tuesday, I went to a conference at Haydock Race Course for an update on the progress being made by North West Local Authorities on the new SEN reforms (Special Educational Needs). At the conference, there were representatives from a range of agencies who had been designated as ‘pathfinders’ over the last two years to implement the changes. What was clear by the end of the day is that the reforms are a huge challenge for local authorities and schools and will take time to be fully implemented. In principle, the new approaches should be of great benefit to children with special educational needs and/or disabilities and their families. The issue, as ever, is how we can all make the new processes involved work in an effective and efficient way. If you would like to read more about the new reforms click here.

On Thursday we welcomed our new student teacher to school. She will be working in Y1 alongside Miss Dooley. We really value the opportunity to work with our Higher Education partners and to play our part in training future teachers. Training and development is very much part of our ‘offer’ to our staff and working with student teachers is beneficial for them and for us.

The week ended for me in our ‘edible garden’ with our current crop (!) of gardeners from Y3. Mrs Canning, Miss McGrath and I had a great time working with the children, planting our onion bed and planting cabbage seeds in pots. We also spent time doing the weeding which, any gardener knows, is an on-going chore but the children love getting in the beds in the mud and using a big spade. What a great way to wind down after a busy week!


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Meaningful Words

Having downloaded our App of the Week I thought it might be interesting to put our Mission Statement and Aims into a word cloud. As you can see, apart from the word ‘school’, the other words that are prominent are child, learning, community, respect and understanding-all words we use frequently with our children. Mission Statements can be mere words on a poster or in a prospectus but our children know the importance of ‘Together We Build Understanding’ and try to live up to it.

During our whole-school assembly last week, we talked about racism as the 21st March was the United Nations Day for the elimination of racial discrimination. Even very young children understand about similarities and differences and we try to talk with them openly about positive attitudes and respect for one another. The children were able to relate our discussion to figures such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. One of our Y5 children also shared her knowledge of the story of Rosa Parks and her brave stand against discrimination. I am always so impressed with the clarity and simplicity of the child’s view on the big issues we discuss in our assemblies. I was also thrilled when two children,also from Y5, came to see me the next day with some work they had carried out at home, including a thoughtful poem, all about the theme.

In our staff meeting on Monday, the members of the Arts Task Team presented to the rest of the staff. At the end of this half term we will be conducting another whole school enquiry. This time the enquiry topic will be entitled ‘Could I be a still-life artist?’ The enquiry will focus on drawing skills and each class will take a different topic and media and focus on skills appropriate to their age group. There will be some interesting visitors to school during the two week enquiry and a very special celebration event at the end! It really is a pleasure to work with the staff when they are creating a theme such as this because of their creativity and enthusiasm.

Throughout the week, I spent some time in classrooms looking at children at work and looking at their books. In displays, books and during Well Done Assembly I have seen some outstanding pieces of work and spoken to a number of children who are rightly proud of their efforts. This enthusiasm for school and learning is something we try to develop in all of our children and I feel our enquiry topics are helping us to do this. The support parents and carers give through the children’s homework tasks is becoming very evident in the children’s work in school-perhaps we can say that ‘together we are building understanding!’


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Ways to Improve

During Monday’s assembly, last week, I did a maths quiz with the children as the theme for the week was Maths Day. I tried to fool them at the end of the quiz with that old favourite, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ but they were onto it straight away. No fooling our children!

On Monday, after school, our three Task Teams met. The staff work in one of the teams and each team is led by a senior leader. It is the job of each team to develop the curriculum subjects under their umbrella. The main focus for each team is to monitor the standards in each of their subjects and take actions to make sure they are the best they can be. It is my role to take a strategic overview of the work of all three teams and also work on behalf of each team to monitor a particular subject. For example, last term I conducted short lesson observations of RE lessons on behalf of the Humanities Team to inform their report on the quality of the RE curriculum.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Rhodes and I met with our School Effectiveness Partner, Mr Howarth, for our termly self-review meeting. During this meeting, we are held to account for our results and our actions towards improvement. In particular, we looked at the actions we have taken to improve our writing curriculum and the impact of those actions. It is very clear from our assessments, and from the children’s books, that our new approaches are improving the quality of writing across the curriculum.

Following our meeting, Mr Rhodes and I conducted a ‘ learning walk’ around the whole school. We visit each class and look at the quality of the learning environment and the work on display. Primary classrooms should be bright and stimulating, show-casing the children’s efforts. During a learning walk, we look at the displays and examples of children’s work to ensure that they reflect the learning taking place in lessons. Our staff have devised their own list of what should be contained in each classroom to enhance learning; when we conduct a learning walk, it is those elements we are looking for.

I went to a meeting with one of our governors on Thursday with representatives from the local authority and from other schools, to consider the range of assessment information we need from the local authority. From September, we will all be working hard to cope with a lot of change. As much as possible, when working in a time of change, it is important to collaborate and seek ideas from others before deciding to go your own way. As the changes come in to play next year we will endeavour to explain them but when it comes to assessment we are still very much in the dark. The government have stated that using the current system of ‘ levelling’ must change and that each school must decide for itself their own assessment system. Still a lot of problems to solve and decisions to be made!

After school on Thursday, the Attainment and Progress sub-committee of governors met. We looked at our provision for pupil premium and how we are using the funding we are getting. We also looked at our most recent assessment outcomes. It is during these meetings that we really consider how our actions as governors can affect pupil achievement. These discussions include teaching approaches, use of funding and staffing appointments and deployments. I am always very grateful to the members of the governing body who volunteer their time and energy to support myself and the leadership team in our decision making.

The week ended for me doing what I like best-supporting learning. I worked with a number of members of staff to look at children’s books and think about different strategies to use to help the children move on in their learning. This is the essence of my job and I love it!

[whohit]ways to improve[/whohit]

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Running-with and without pancakes

Last week’s Monday Assembly featured the Unsworth version of the Olney Pancake Race! We created a course down the centre of the hall and a number of children attempted to run whilst tossing a pancake. When I attempted a run, I caused a great deal of merriment when the pancake flew across the room rather than land in the pan! We did have great fun.

Each Monday, after school, we hold our staff meeting. Last week Mr Rhodes led the meeting and introduced the staff team to the new Computing curriculum he has devised after researching a number of approaches. This is probably the biggest change contained within the new National Curriculum. Between now and September, all staff will be involved in a number of training events in order to increase their knowledge of the new curriculum.

I attended the Bury Headteachers’ Conference this week. We meet together and listen to a number of speakers whose aim is to make us think, reflect and evaluate our practice. It is an annual event and it is a great opportunity to meet up with other Headteachers and discuss local and national issues. This year all thoughts are concentrated on the implementation of the new National Curriculum. We all have to do this but every school will try to create an approach relevant to its pupils. Our conclusion was that we need to use the knowledge-based curriculum we have been given and create opportunities and experiences to develop our children as creative thinkers.

On Saturday morning we spent the morning at Heaton Park watching our girls and boys race in the Prestwich and Whitefield Cross Country event. A team of boys and a team of girls raced with teams from most of the other local primary schools.The children try so hard and I always find it quite moving when they appear at the top of the hill, near the finish, often exhausted by the effort of the race. Well done to all the children who took part and finished a very difficult run and, in particular, to Ellie who won a bronze medal. We were very proud of everyone.

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Farmyards and Films

As February draws to a close, it is hard to believe that we are exactly half way through the academic year. On Thursday, our Reception Class children led their first assembly. When you watch 30 four and five year old children presenting to the whole school and their parents, it really does make you realise how magical learning together can be.

The children stood up in front of the other classes and their invited audience and sang a song dressed in their animal masks, displaying their writing across their chests! I always enjoy the fact that the other children watch class assemblies and respond so positively, enjoying the success of other children. The children involved in class assemblies are always so proud when they perform in front of their adults and it is lovely when they break off from the performance to say hello to mum or dad or wave to their grandparents!

Class assemblies help our children understand the idea of working together to produce something whilst also developing their self-confidence. Some children do not find it easy to stand up and speak aloud, but almost all manage to do it and have a sense of achievement having done so. For parents, grandparents and carers, assemblies provide an opportunity to see the class together in action and also to feel part of the school community as we meet together. We are very grateful for the support we receive from parents in terms of how many attend our assemblies.

During the early part of this week I met with Mr Armitage from Mersey Drive, to finalise our collaborative project on writing. We have planned a ‘lesson study’ project involving our Y6 teachers. The idea of the lesson study approach is that teachers work as a ‘triad’ (in threes) to work on a particular focus and plan and conduct a series of lessons together. The focus of the project will be higher-level writing skills. The three teachers involved will work in each other’s classrooms and observe teaching and learning, allowing them to evaluate whether the approaches they have used have worked for pupils. The idea is that the three teachers involved will also evaluate how successful the approach is as a professional development tool and present their findings at a joint staff meeting in the summer term.

I am a firm believer that we have to be outward-looking in education. We cannot rest on our laurels; we need to be constantly evaluating our practice and questioning how and why we do things. On Wednesday morning, I attended a presentation by representatives from the Department for Education (DfE) who visited Prestolee Teaching School in Bolton. They came to talk about converting to academy status. Neither the governors, nor I, intend to convert but it is important to be properly informed. Nothing was said at the presentation that convinced me that there would be any advantage for our children in academy status at this time.

As the week ended, we welcomed parents and children back to school for one of our cinema nights. This event is very popular and is designed to allow children and parents to come together as a community. We do hope you enjoyed it.

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Future entrepreneurs

Our final week before half term began with our usual Monday morning assembly. This week we have been thinking about how to use the internet safely as Tuesday was Safer Internet Day. On Tuesday, each class completed some work to increase their understanding of how to use the internet safely. Whilst most children have a very good grasp of this, we were concerned about the numbers of children using Facebook and games designed for adults. We do have some e-safety links and resources for parents under our Computing and Parents tabs.

This week was also Enterprise Week. The idea of this was to give our children an initial experience of the value of money, and how they might work hard to make their money grow. I gave each class a five pound note and asked the children to come up with a business idea to ‘grow their fiver’. With their teacher, they had to come up with a product or a service or an event and fund it by investing all, or part, of their fiver. Some classes chose to buy in their product or make it themselves. Some classes chose to use their money to buy a prize for a competition or event.

Throughout the week, I enjoyed watching the children’s growing enthusiasm for their enterprise – it wasn’t just the children who were competitive, I can tell you! When we return after half term, I will let you know how much profit was raised during the week. We will evaluate the children’s learning too so that we can improve any future enterprise events. All profits will be used to part-fund the end of year trips for each class.

In our staff meeting this week, we evaluated the approaches we have been developing to further improve our teaching of writing. Increasing the focus on the basic skills of spelling, grammar, phonics and handwriting is helping give children more confidence to write. Together with more interesting enquiry topics, the emphasis on these basic skills is allowing the children to produce some excellent pieces of writing. I will be asking class teachers to share some of these with you through our class pages. I have to say that the pieces children are completing in their homework books is really helping them to improve.

As usual, it amazes me how quickly the academic year passes. We are now half way through. The children (and staff) have worked very hard so far this year and I would also like to thank you for the excellent support you give by giving so much time to the children’s homework tasks. Enjoy your half term!



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Always Learning

I often describe the job of a Headteacher as chief problem-solver! The challenge (and the reward) of the job is that every day there can be a new issue to resolve. In order to make the right decisions about the challenges facing schools today, it’s really important that we think ahead and look beyond our school so that we take the right actions for our children.

This week, I have had the opportunity to develop my thinking in a number of different ways. On Monday morning, I visited Mersey Drive School and worked with Mr Armitage to develop an idea for collaborative working for our staff. Whilst I was there, I did two observations of teaching with him and then we discussed areas in each of our schools we want to improve. We have agreed a focus on writing and a project that will allow our teachers to work together in groups of three to develop their practice.

On Tuesday, after school, I visited St Andrew’s School in Radcliffe which was hosting a ‘speed learning event’. This involved a number of teachers and leaders from different schools giving short presentations about approaches to teaching and learning that they had been developing. I listened to four or five different ideas during the event. It is important to reflect afterwards and think about how what you have heard can shape work back at your own school. I heard some very interesting ideas about developing dyslexia-friendly classrooms. This involves thinking about how the written word is used and displayed for all children in order to give them the best chance to read and write successfully. Mrs Canning, the head of our Speech and Language Resourced Provision and our Special Educational Needs Coordinator, has arranged some whole school training on this later in the year.

On Wednesday, I met with a group of four other Headteachers and Mrs Gaskell, one of our community governors, to think about how we are going to record our assessments of children’s learning in the future. In September, we will be implementing a new National Curriculum and a new system for assessment. The government has agreed that the current system of levels should go but they will not replace them with another system. The expectation is that schools will develop their own approaches to assessment. This is a huge change and together with our colleagues from other schools, we will be working towards a solution that works for our children. At the meeting of our full Governing Body on Thursday evening, we looked again at the most recent assessment outcomes for our school and considered our successes and areas for improvement.

By far the best part of my job is when I am with the children sharing their experiences of learning. I thoroughly enjoyed Y3 class assembly this week and was so impressed with their presentation of their topic on Ghana. I enjoyed sharing a story with one of our Y1 pupils and a poem with a pupil from Y5. I also spent a Science lesson in Y5 watching them use flip cameras and iPads to record a short film to explain why we have day and night. One of the best parts of my day is the ‘walkabout’ school to see the children in action! Next week we are exploring the idea of ‘enterprise’ with the children and thinking about how to keep safe on the internet. See class blogs for details.



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Chicks, clusters and Chinese New Year

It has been a very easy job to think of the main topic for my blog this week. Our new-born chicks! On Monday morning an incubator and twelve hen eggs were delivered to our Y5 classroom. Over the next three days, our Y5 children watched as the eggs began to crack. On Thursday morning, there was much excitement when we arrived in school to find some of our eggs had hatched. During the day, the children saw some more hatch until we were left with 11 new chicks. The chicks will remain with us for another week before they go back to their farm. During this time, all children will have the opportunity to watch and handle the chicks. If you look on our Y5 page you can see some pictures and a short video of one of the chicks hatching.

On Monday morning our week began with our usual whole school assembly. The theme for this week was Chinese New Year. The children were told about some of the legends associated with the festival and about the fact that 2014 is the year of the horse. The children heard about the ways in which the Chinese community in Manchester celebrate the event. Our assemblies are one of the ways in which we help the children to understand the richness of cultural diversity in our locality. During our ‘Big Sing’ assembly on Tuesday, with Miss Geelan, we enjoyed singing a song to celebrate Chinese New Year.

On Monday after school, our teachers attended the local year group cluster meetings. We have a local ‘cluster’ of primary schools in the Unsworth and Whitefield area. This week the teachers from each year group met together in one of the schools. Each group is led by one of the Headteachers and the agenda is designed so that the issues for that year group are the main topic for discussion. Our teachers find it very useful to share developments and discuss concerns relevant to their year group. This was followed up on Wednesday morning, when all the Headteachers from the cluster met to share ideas and consider our professional development needs as a group. This can lead to shared projects across schools. For instance, I have arranged with Mr Armitage from Mersey Drive School, a development project in which we will be conducting joint observations together in order to learn from each other’s practice.

On Thursday, the third sub-committee of the governors met. The Attainment and Progress Committee meets to look at how children in each class are progressing in reading, writing and maths. The committee do not look at the results of specific children but rather, they look at the class as a whole and how they have progressed over the term. We then discuss and agree any actions that need to be taken. We also look at the funding we receive via the pupil premium and the impact that is having for eligible pupils.

At the end of the week I met with our Midday Supervisors. We meet each term and discuss how our lunchtimes are going and how we can ensure a positive experience for our children. We always consider organisational issues and the activities we can put in place for the children such as the ‘Huff n Puff’ shed. The team were very interested to hear about the new government initiative which will be implemented in September, 2014, when every child in YR, Y1 and Y2 will receive a free school meal.