Recently the subject of libraries in Primary Schools has been discussed on Twitter. Rob asked the question: Does your primary school have a fully functioning library? The results were varied. Almost a quarter of the votes indicated no library at all, whilst 30% could only describe a room with books in.
With the challenges of ever decreasing budgets year on year, many schools are feeling the need to put libraries on the back burner. As a school’s current stock wears out, where does the money come from to re-stock? How can a school manage a library when staff for interventions are hard to come by? This was a challenge faced by my school – solved through creative staffing and accessing nationally available grant schemes.
On first entering my new school I was greeted with an impressive space. Windows all the way around, a library of sorts. Originally the space was the connecting area between the Infant and Junior departments. After the initial first impression of space, it became clear that this area was wasted. There was no clear purpose to it. A brick “bench” resembling a bus stop had been built in the middle of the area, giving it a Doctor’s waiting room feel. There was work to be done. Many of the books were tired – publication dates identifying them as older than most of the staff.
As a school, we couldn’t allocate enough funding to refit the library as we wanted to – and we didn’t want a half-done job. I began to investigate alternative funding options, and after an open question on Twitter, found the Foyle’s Foundation (I think thanks for this go to @LibWithAttitude)
The process was fairly simple. Within the application form I highlighted our challenging social circumstances, using quotes from the School Development Plan as well as percentages of Pupil Premium students and EAL. I also used quotes from our most recent inspection reports to show that reading was a priority.
Another important factor in the application process was how the library would be sustained. We have an enthusiastic PTFA who have donated furniture for the library. Part of the process also required us to indicate how the library could benefit the wider community. To support this a member of staff opens the library after school once a week for families to loan books.
The shopping list was the most exciting part – Madeleine Lindley were fantastic. I gave them my budget and they built a library for me!
After a wait of several months, we heard that we had been successful. To prepare for our new resources, we invested in the structure of the library. This involved getting our caretaker on side to remove seating, and tasking a lunch time organiser to paint a mural. We had an official opening which we invited parents to. We wanted a community ownership feel from the start.
We are all now proud of our new library. The children have bought into it, and want to look after the resources. We have too many children wanting to be librarians and have to have a waiting list. The entrance to our school is now impressive and purposeful – thanks to a grant from the Foyle’s Foundation and the hard work of our school staff.
Blog by Angela Goodman
Managing behaviour is more than crowd control and the term behaviour management almost suggests managing/controlling those ‘key characters’ that we have all met throughout our careers. Those kids that see you as you walk through the door keen and eager to make an impact on your new class; meanwhile they are just thinking – yay, fresh meat!
For me behaviour management isn’t about what you do when Bobby decides to kick off because someone looked at him, or how you calm Stacey down from the endless arguments she has been having with the other children in the year group. It’s about setting out your stall. Setting up an environment that allows all children to be safe and flourish in their learning.
So what is my advice?
1. Be consistent – follow through with what you say.
If you say the children will stay in at break if work is not completed – do it! The moment the children see a chink in the armour that’s it – you are done for!
2. Know your children. Know what makes them tick. Set up the classroom to avoid issues where consequences are needed.
If you know that Ahmed and Tom are best mates and make each other giddy as kippers, sitting them together is probably a bad idea. Think about having carpet places and arrange your seating plan so that certain children are not in eye line of each other. Also think who needs to be at the back – no one to turn around and distract.
3. Make children invested in the classroom and learning. Think about rewards that they will want to earn.
First of all, tap into what they want to learn. Make them so interested in the theme/ topic they are working on that being off task won’t be an issue. Secondly think about what your children will want as a reward. I heard Sue Cowley speak about this at Northern Rocks last year and she is spot on. Not every child will want a reward of going out for basketball or lego time. Don’t force what you want/think is easy to facilitate.
4. Never underestimate the power of a phone call or text message home.
They can mean the world.Parent power is the best tool in a teacher’s kit. If you have a good relationship with the parents you have already won half the battle.
5. Surprise rewards. Treating them when they don’t expect it. Not as a carrot but just because. It shows you care.
I have done this many times. I know this goes against the healthy schools thing but one of my favourite things to do involve a pack of custard creams. The children would be working away and I would out of the blue offer a biscuit to each child totally at random. Who doesn’t love a custard cream?!
6. Use humour to defuse situations – this is invaluable especially in year 6. Never underestimate the power of banter.
Again – this ties in to knowing your children. Sometimes a joke or a quiet word will get a child back on track far more effectively that the hair dryer treatment.
7. Have high expectations – don’t lower them. Set things in place when expectations are or are not met.
Don’t be afraid to show you mean business. If the children are not producing enough work/complete work to standard, hold them accountable - whether it’s a chat with parents or keeping them in to rectify this.
8. Change systems if needed. Don’t set children up to fail. Make the system fit the child not the child fit the system.
Don’t be afraid to set up individualised plans for those children that the system doesn’t work for. There might be any number of reasons for this but by continuing to make them fit the system we are setting them up to fail. Think about smart simple achievable targets. Involving the child in this is key. They have to understand how they can correct their behaviour and should be involved in choosing their incentive for doing so. This will also need reviewing on regular occasions.
9. Don’t squash big personalities Get them to work with you rather than against.
I must admit I am one of those teachers that love a big personality; they often bring humour and those magic moments to the classroom that you remember for the rest of your career. Go with the personality rather than try to stifle it.
10. Quiet reading/guided reading straight after lunch defuses lunchtime issues.We all know that you can have a lovely calm focused class out for lunch and then pick up a class that are swinging from the light fittings after an hour running around outside, arguing over who fouled who in football or whose turn it is to play hockey and that’s before we have even mentioned the year 6 constant falling out and bickering that goes on. Setting up guided reading as soon as they come in defuses any lunch time issues. It calms things down and resets the tone for learning.
I am aware that this may have an element of teaching some to suck eggs. I am also aware that how you manage your classroom is very personal and not everyone will agree with my approach. Let’s also not forget, what works for one teacher might not work for another. This is more me expanding on some of my tweets last night and being reflective on my own practice, after all if we don’t do this how do we grow professionally? Which is why chats like #PrimaryRocks are so great. They build communities. Communities where we can share, reflect and discuss everyday efforts in our classrooms.
A few days ago I saw this tweet by @C_Hendrick and nodded in agreement. I have seen many more of these events occurring recently, I get asked to speak at them and I am a small cog in the fantastic team of primary practitioners who organise Primary Rocks Live. I am the only one who is not full time school based.
Why so many negatives floating on the sea of positivity?
What has prompted me to write this blog is the negative thoughts many tweeters expressed around the concept of Saturday CPD. I won’t lift tweets and place them here but there were a number of issues raised amongst the raft of positivity:
I do not think there is an expectation for any staff to attend Saturday CPD sessions, it would be a different matter if SLT were placing this expectation on teachers. Some schools pay for Saturday CPD tickets and days in lieu if a teacher requests to attend and it is beneficial to the school or teacher.
Why is there a need at all for Saturday CPD?
Most schools have five INSeT days per year in addition to staff meetings and attendance at external CPD events so why is there a need for Saturday CPD events such as #ResearchED, Pedagoo and #PrimaryRocks Live? I think the answer is pretty simple – they offer something different.
Most school CPD is booked by SLT who have an overview of the whole school, they assess any weaknesses and needs of the school staff. (accuracy of this assessment could be argued here). They then source CPD based upon these needs. One teacher recently told me on Facebook that they have asked to come on a Literacy Shed CPD course but have been told that the only CPD being sanctioned this year is maths CPD because this is high on the list of priorities for the school. You can see why this occurs if budgets are tight. If Maths and English are taking priority in a budget that is already being squeezed where will PE, Art and RE training it in terms of priority.
This is the big difference between CPD that is chargeable and takes place during the week and Saturday CPD. Saturday CPD often deals with the wants of the teacher rather than the needs of the school.
Personally my interests lie in English and PE, I lap up all modern developments and theories out there on these subjects. Truthfully, maths CPD, science CPD and behaviour training do not appeal to me, if I was in school where this was seen as a weakness then I would attend and take notice but I would be unlikely to seek it out otherwise. However, I want to find out more about the teaching of English, I want to see how it is done in other schools and how teachers are delivering it and I want to hear from academics in the field. This is where Saturday events come into their own, I can pick and choose which I would like to attend and who I would like to listen to whilst I am there – I can spend a whole day of CPD without anyone mentioning the ‘bar method’. The only bar method I’ll see on Saturday CPD days is the pulling of pints at the end of the afternoon.
This is not the only difference between ‘traditional’ in school CPD and Saturday CPD. I have seen a number of fantastic speakers at these events, Hywel Roberts, David Didau and Jon Brunskill to name a few, speakers that schools could simply not afford to pay all staff to see in the same amount of time (especially when school CPD budgets are around 0.5% of their total budget.) I have seen these speakers talk for around 30 – 60 mins each time, Saturday events are like the tasting menu at a Michelin Star restaurant, you get little samples of wonderful tasty morsels which leave you wanting more. It is because of this that Saturday CPD is relatively cheaper than the traditional school CPD ‘Saturday speakers’ tend to speak for free or a reduced price. I deliver CPD in schools weekly but I speak at Saturday events and teachmeets for free when they are non-profit making events because I want to be able to share with those teachers who do not get the opportunity through school. Often speakers at these events, such as #PrimaryRocks Live, are full time classroom teachers who are not able to take time out of class to offer their experiences to others.
It doesn't happen in other professions though so teachers shouldn't have to!
One argument I saw repeated on twitter this week. Try this – type ‘Saturday CPD’ into google. A whole myriad of results appears. If you are an accountant it seems you can attend an ACCA course on pretty much any Saturday in the year, Dental nurses in Reading can top up their knowledge this Saturday. In Liverpool on the 6th of May you can attend the ‘Exotic Pets in General Practice’ CPD course (if you are a vet.) You could brush up on your counselling in Brighton this Saturday or choose from a range of massage courses to do in Kent. And it is not just in the UK, if you are a barrister in New South Wales their Bar association offers official accreditation for barristers attending two or more Saturday courses in 2016/17
As for burning out, please take my advice, if everything is getting too much for you then take Saturdays to relax and spend time with your family and friends. Or come along to a Saturday CPD event and make new friends. Saturday events are designed so you can take in as much or as little as you like. I have missed whole workshops because I have been sitting and chatting with like minded people in the refreshment area. I count some of the Primary Rocks team amongst my best friends now and Primary Rocks is a chance for us to meet up and enjoy each others company. (Especially at the end of the day when we all go for PrimaryRocksBeers)
Blog by Rob Smith
I have heard the phrase ‘awe and wonder’ used in education to describe learning experiences or hooks that teachers have used to engage their classes. Having been teaching for about 18 years now, I can probably count on one hand when I have been in the presence of awe. However, I see wonder on a daily basis. Children wondering what the answer is to a question that seems just out of reach. Children wondering if someone they have fallen out with will ever be their friend again. Teachers wondering if the lesson someone has observed was good enough.
These two words are an apt way to describe my experience of being part of the team that helped to organise Primary Rocks Live last March.
In the build up to the event, we all wondered whether we would be able to make everything come together. We wondered if we could get enough high quality speakers who would share our vision for the event and its ethos. We wondered whether we would sell enough tickets. We wondered whether things would go smoothly on the day. Would anybody actually turn up? Personally, I wondered whether my headteacher (who I had only been working for for two months) would be impressed by the event. As a team, we supported and helped each other to minimise the impact of these ‘wonders’.
On the Friday afternoon, the day before the event, we set the chairs out. We checked through all of Sophie’s lists. We discussed logistics. We fussed and fretted a little. Had we done enough? Was there anything we had missed?
At about 9.40 am, the awe kicked in. The hall was filled with people, all chatting together, making new friendships or re-igniting existing ones. The entire room had a positive buzz. This was what a grass roots event felt like.
As I watched teachers moving from workshop to workshop, I stood in awe at what we had done. Ten primary teachers had created this. I said to Gaz at one point, “We did this!” He smiled, patted me on the shoulder and said, “Yes, Bryn. We did.” That’s was true awe, right there.
After the event, as teachers were starting to leave, Tim Taylor said to me, “I told my wife that I need to stay in Manchester for Primary Rocks because it is more than just a conference. I will be seeing friends.” I was awestruck by this comment from a man I hold in the highest regard and who travels to many conferences.
To be honest, the awe I felt that day will stay with me forever.
I hope you all have an awesome day at Primary Rocks Live this year. I know I will.
Today I was at a conference with lots of other head teachers. I was sat with my local authority group of heads when I spotted a lovely head teacher from another authority, Cathy, who had informed me earlier in the year about how we could use the primary accountability document to help try to make more accurate predictions about progress expected from our current Years 4, 5 and 6 at the end of Key Stage 2 (this was before I knew about @jpembroke’s value added calculator). (https://twitter.com/jpembroke) and value added calculator (http://sigplus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/va-calculator-and-floor-standards.html)
I made my way over at break time and said hello. I told her that I had told other English leaders in Oldham about how to work out possible expected progress when she told me about her next crusade.
She had realised that in her budget she had a £9,000 deficit which she couldn’t account for it. She looked and looked and looked but she couldn’t find where this money had gone. Then she realised that it was because of the universal free school meals that all infant children receive. Cathy looked at me with her eyebrows raised, clearly expecting me to understand.
I didn’t understand so she explained it simply to me! If you have 90 children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 combined then, theoretically, you should receive £437 for each child to cover a school meal a day for the year. Therefore you should get 90 x 437. Cathy had increased her infants by 6 children this year, but her universal free school meals money had dropped by around £9,000. She couldn’t understand this so she contacted her local authority and they informed her that schools do not receive money for the number of children on roll, but that they only receive money for the number of children IN SCHOOL on census day. They take a mean average of the October and January census and this determines how many children you get funding for, so if you have 5 children off on the October census day and 3 children off on the January census day, your school will not be funded for 4 children to have the universal ‘free’ school meals for the whole year, even though those children will still need to have a lunch. However, school will still have to provide a meal. And where will this money come from, you ask? Why… your school budget of course! So those mean average of four children being absent will cost your school £1,748.
I couldn’t believe it.
My mouth dropped open and I covered it with my hand.
This couldn’t be right, could it?
I’m a new head and I’m sure I must have misunderstood.
Break time finished and I headed back to my Oldham pals. I explained what Cathy had just told me and they were incredulous. They told me that I must have got the wrong end of the stick and I was pretty sure they were right. I occasionally misunderstand things and I was sure that this must have been one of those times, especially as these experienced heads from my own authority were telling me it couldn’t be this way.
But I still texted my office administrator and asked her to check if it was correct. The office administrator got back to me and told me it was actually correct! She had called the finance team and they had confirmed it. My school will have to find £1,300 from our budget to cover the universal ‘free’ school meals because some children were absent on census day.
This is £1,300 that could be spent on:
4 coaches to take kids on school trips;
1,805 bottles of paint;
5 ipad minis;
93 Nike Pitch Premier League Footballs;
137 tickets to Chester Zoo;
10% of a TAs wage;
260 new library books;
108 tickets to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar at the Lowry Theatre.
My point is, that because some children are absent on 2 arbitrary days, the school gets punished. As if budgets weren’t already tight enough, they are being squeezed again but in a very stealthy way. And many heads might not even realise it. I know that the experienced heads who I admire and regard very highly couldn’t believe it. When I told my chair of governors she was aghast.
So this blog post is about spreading the word. Census days are important. I will be sending out a letter to try to ensure that these 2 random days have 100% attendance otherwise we will be punished as a school financially. I will be explaining to parents an outline of this problem and urging them to have their child in school every day but particularly on these days. And your school would be wise to do the same. This is the simple way to save thousands of pounds – have 100% attendance on census days.
Finally, I would love to be completely wrong and I will modify this if someone can tell me that I am wrong. I really hope I am.
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