2018 - 2019 Head Teacher's Blogs

5 minutes to make a difference   April 6th 2019

I'm a busy parent and I remember how difficult it was sometimes to find the time to help my son with his homework. After a day at school, neither of us really wanted to sit down and start work all over again. We wanted to play together and have fun, rather than battling over reading - which was far from his favourite subject! If only there was a way to spend just 5 minutes a day making a HUGE difference to his reading.

Does that sound familiar? Well, we can help!

Reading whole words is what advanced readers do. Using phonics is an important strategy when learning to read, but advanced readers rarely have to stop and sound out a word. Why not? Because they just recognise words; simply by looking at them. This is a vital skill, even for those who are still learning to read, as it speeds up our reading and stops us losing interest.

In order to read independently, your child needs to be able to instantly recognise approximately 95% of the words in the text. In order to be able to read fluently, your child needs to be able to read words by sight. In order to understand what they are reading, your child needs to read independently, with fluency and at a reasonable speed.

Phonics is important BUT so is reading words by sight! All children, from Reception to Year 6 have words they are expected to be able to read (and spell). I've put the links to these at the bottom of this page.

Now, here's the best bit. It takes 5 minutes a day. That's it. Just 5 minutes each day practising reading words by sight will make a considerable difference to your child's ability to read fluently, independently and with understanding. Your child's confidence will increase as they learn to read more and reading will become a more enjoyable activity for them. Before long, they'll be independently reading, meaning they can get on with the rest of their reading homework with more independence.

It can also be fun. The internet is filled with games, activities and ideas for how to make the 5 minutes of daily practice a fun and enjoyable activity - for both of you! We're always happy to help you to support your child, so if you'd like some ideas or resources to help you with this, then please come and talk to us. We'll be sending home a range of activities, over the course of the year, to help you to ensure that your child practices every day. As always, we appreciate your support - please make sure that your child learns to read independently, fluently and with understanding - all it takes is 5 minutes of your time.

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Oh no! Not maths!  March 24th 2019
A recent study from Cambridge University found that 1 in 10 children suffer from maths anxiety. Researchers interviewed children aged 8 to 13 and 10% described negative emotions ranging from 'despair' to 'rage'. Now, maths happens most days in school.
Can you imagine feeling negative emotions on a daily basis?
Can you imagine feeling anxious every day? Feeling despair every day? Feeling rage every day? Apprehensive? Tense? Frustrated? Imagine sitting in class waiting for the lesson you dread. Imagine the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. Imagine feeling your heart racing. Imagine struggling to catch your breath.
None of us would want to be in that position, but you may remember similar feelings from your own school days.  If you're female, it's more likely that you'll think you weren't very good at maths. 
There are some simple things you can do at home, to support us in our work to reduce maths anxiety,
1 - Let children know that it's ok to make mistakes.
2 - Praise hard work and 'having a go', rather than praising correct answers. 
3 - Ask your child to explain how they might tackle a maths problem. Let them talk it through. 
4 - Don't share your own feelings of maths anxiety with them. 
5 - Play memory games, as they help with retaining mathematical facts. 
6 - Make maths fun! 

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Random Acts of Kindness   March 14th 2019

Have you ever spoken to someone and received no reply? Have you ever held a door open for someone and had them pass by without thanking you? Have you ever let someone into the traffic in front of you and not received a wave of thanks?

I know that this will have happened to each and every one of you. It happens to one of us every day. It makes us feel miserable, irritated or annoyed. At that moment, it affects our day.

At Christmas, some of the staff completed their own random acts of kindness advent calendar. We enjoyed completing the tasks each day and showing others kindness. What we realised during December was that it felt great. Even if we received no thanks for our actions, it made us feel good. In fact, the point of it was that we wouldn’t receive thanks but be rewarded simply by knowing that we had been kind.

Research shows that helping others can be beneficial to our own mental health. It can reduce stress, improve our emotional wellbeing and even benefit our physical health. Research suggests that kindness and giving act like a natural anti-depressant because they release serotonin in the brain. Serotonin plays an important part in learning, memory, mood, sleep, health and digestion. It provides children (and adults) with a heightened sense of well-being, increases energy and gives wonderful feelings of positivity and self worth.

We displayed our advent calendars around school and the children enjoyed asking us about them and talking to us about the acts of kindness. Some of them joined in with carrying out their own acts of kindness around school. Still, children visit my office sometimes to tell me about how they have spontaneously helped someone in our school community.

As part of our National Curriculum, we teach the children that Christians give something up for lent. We are proud of the range of beliefs and faiths we have in our school community and we celebrate the values that are common to all faiths in our school. We know that kindness is something we all believe in. So we’ve made it a focus for the next month in school.

Some staff have their own acts of kindness charts and these are displayed around school. These are not displayed so that everyone knows we’ve been kind but so that the children will again engage with these. We will, once again, be encouraging the children to engage in random acts of kindness around school. If you’d like to join in, please ask us for a copy of our kindness charts for adults. You can find suggestions for children by clicking on the links below:   


Please talk to your child about how to safely engage in these random acts of kindness.

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Do one thing every day that scares you - 4/3/2019
What have you done today that scared you? Something that made you a little apprehensive. Something that made you a little nervous. Something that made you take a deep breath before you began. Something that you would have preferred to avoid. 
This thought came to me this evening as I was posting photos from our Kingswood residential. Our children in the Peak District were challenging themselves today. It may have been by waving goodbye this morning. It could have been as they unpacked their clothes in their new home for the next five days. It may have been as they stepped into a harness, whilst looking up at the high ropes course. It could have been as they inched along that rope, metres above ground. 
Back in school, our children were also doing things that scared them. We have a theatre group in residence this week, to help us celebrate World Book Day, and Kate has been leading drama workshops. For some children, performing in front of their classmates will have made them nervous. Other children will have been apprehensive as they moved to a new level in the reading scheme or tackled a more challenging maths problem. For others it may have been joining in with that game on the playground, speaking to a new friend or answering a question in class. For a few children, today was their first day at our school, which may have made them nervous this morning. 
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The Point of Play  
Handwriting is important. Even in an increasingly technological world, there are still lots of reasons why your child needs to develop fluent, joined handwriting. Even though your child may record in school on an ipad sometimes, the bulk of their work is handwritten. Not just in primary school, but throughout their education. It's important that they learn to write neatly, but quickly, and without it feeling uncomfortable. This is why we teach the children joined-up writing. But, not everyone finds neat handwriting easy - or quick! But there's something you can do to help.
One of our areas to develop is in the children's presentation of their work. Children work each day on improving their handwriting and here's how you can help us to support your child further.
Play is crucial. It develops many, many skills and it helps children to develop the skills needed to pick up and hold a pencil; the skills needed to write fluently. So encourage your children to build, paint, thread, sort and organise. Give them sand or flour or play dough and let them use a range of tools. Find ways in which older children can manipulate small items. Join them in games of Jenga or doing a jigsaw. Ask them to make models from Knex, Lego or Meccano. Encourage them to build models from junk. Let them play with nuts and bolts and paperclips. Every one of these activities (and those pictured in the gallery to the right) will help your child to develop the strength and control they need to write neatly. 
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Small daily improvements - September 2018
Every day, every member of our school community experiences academic success. Like today, when a child who finds reading more challenging read aloud to four adults and left us all with huge smiles on our faces.
Every success is important, be it adding the full stop at the end of every sentence, remembering which way around a '5' is written or finally catching the ball in PE. As educators, it's our job to recognise these successes, celebrate them and then work out the next steps for each and every child to help them to more success. 
Challenge 2 on this year's School Development Plan is focused on further developing our use of assessment. We'll be continuing the staff training we began last year, working with an assessment expert, who will bring fresh ideas to our work. We've also begun to look at the ways in which we share assessment on your child with you and we will be providing you with even more information over the course of the year. Our first Parents' Evenings will take place either side of the October half term holiday, giving you the first insight into how your child is achieving this year.
If you would like to discuss our assessment of your child's achievements at any time, please do not hesitate to contact your child's class teacher. Myself and Elaine Wagg are also happy to meet with you, or chat on the phone, at any time. Please do not hesitate to contact us. 
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'The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement' - Helmut Schmidt
Every Monday on our Weekly Briefing for staff, we have an inspirational or motivational quote. Tomorrow, the quote above is on this week's staff briefing. 
Last year, every member of our school community worked hard to improve standards in our school. There are many, many ways to measure success and we use them all to ensure that we are constantly giving our children the best primary education we can. We use statistical measures; we observe lessons; we scrutinise children's books; we talk to the children, the parents, the staff, the governors and the community. We work closely with the Local Authority to ensure that standards in our school are constantly improving. Throughout last year, we shared our successes with you and we will continue to do so throughout this year, 
This process of school improvement requires everyone to play their part and so, over the coming weeks, we will be sharing this year's improvement objectives with you.
Challenge 1 - Leadership
We are continuing to strengthen leadership in our school by further developing skills in our staff that allow them to lead their subjects areas effectively.
Our English and Maths Leads (Caroline Colledge & Becky Duncton respectively) now have time each week to monitor standards in their subjects and improve provision in these areas.
The same is true for our Early Years Lead (Louise Harris), who is busy further developing provision for not only our Reception children, but for pre-school children from birth.
We've made some huge changes to Special Educational Needs Leadership and provision in the school this year. As a qualified SENDCo, I will be sharing the role with Janet Hunt, who is embarking upon her training to gain the national qualification. We will be working closely together to further improve our provision and practices. Within our support staff, we are creating specialists - staff who have an increased knowledge and understanding of a range of needs - who will support staff and children across the school. We have also set up our new CSI Team (they absolutely love the name!), which is focusing on improving communication in children of all ages. This team, lead by Elaine Wagg, also works hard to improve provision for children with sensory impairment.
Our PE leads now also have regular time each week in which to complete the mammoth task of ensuring that our children access high-quality sports provision, both within the curriculum and in addition to the school day.
All other subject leads will also been given regular time, each term, to focus on improving their subject areas each term. 
In addition to this, we have set up Phase Leaders to implement and monitor further improvements across the school, ensuring that we have consistency in everything we do:
EYFS Phase Leader (Nursery & Reception) - Mrs Louise Harris
KS1 Phase Leader (Years 1 & 2) - Mrs Janet Hunt
Lower KS2 Phase Leader (Years 3 & 4) - Mrs Caroline Colledge
Upper KS2 Phase Leader (Years 5 & 6) - Mrs Becky Duncton
Our governing body is also continuing to develop its leadership skills and will update you of its work throughout the year. 
In addition to all of this, Elaine and myself are continuing to work closely with the local education authority to further raise standards. Last year, we very successfully began this process and we are certain that our improvements will continue this year. We would, as always, like to thank you for the support you give us in our work and would like to remind you that you are welcome to come and chat to use at any time. 

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Welcome Back …

We have had a fabulous start to the new term. Children all settled very quickly, including our new 2 year olds in our Seedlings Nursery Provision. The children seem to have all grown over the summer and all look very smart in their new school uniforms - thank you for your support with this; we really appreciate it. We have welcomed some new children into our school and we are receiving requests for places every day. We are excited about this new school year and can’t wait to share it with you all.

Last year was a huge year for our school and saw many changes taking place. We will update you regularly throughout this year with changes we are making and the impact of these. We are working hard every single day to constantly improve our school and raise standards further. You, as parents and carers, play a vital role in that and we look forward to working closely with you again this year.

At the start of each new year, there is always so much information to give you and much of it will be included in this newsletter. But, please make sure you check our Twitter and Facebook feeds for updates on a daily basis. As always, we are more than happy to talk to you at the end of every school day. Myself and Mrs Wagg are usually out and about in the mornings too.

Thank you for your continued support. If you ever have any concerns, please do come and speak to us at the first opportunity.


Staverton Rd, Daventry, Northants, NN11 4HW 01327 705785 head@thegrange.northants-ecl.gov.uk

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