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Headteacher's Blog

Thursday 22nd October

 

Dear Parents

 

I would like to begin by thanking you for the support you have given the school this half term. It has been a busy seven weeks for us all however it has been a real pleasure to stand on the gate each morning and welcome our children to school and I know that Mrs Crosskill on Maple site feels the same.  

 

We are very keen to ensure that our school remains open to all our children and in school we are doing all we can to mitigate risks, and we are asking parents to ensure that they do the same at home and during the forthcoming break.  At the moment we live in an area with a medium risk, however as I am sure you are aware the number of positive cases is rising, and a number of our families have been self-isolating recently due to close contact with someone with COVID. The rules concerning families mixing are outlined below:

 
  • You must not meet with groups of more than six, and the six includes children. Within this group, social distancing must be adhered to - two-meter rule.  If at all possible groups should meet outside. 

  • Support bubbles can only be made between single adults and another household and then they become one bubble - this bubble cannot change - you can not belong to more than one support bubble.

  • If you have symptoms however mild, you and your family should self isolate until you receive test results. This means that if anyone in your family is going for the test, even if it's just a precaution, then all the family should stay at home until the test result is known. 

 

I do understand what a challenge these rules are, especially for our children who miss their friends and of course for our parents who at times need an adult to chat with face to face.  However, I strongly believe that if we do not follow these rules, tougher measures will be introduced and this will have such a long-lasting impact on all of us. Not only will more children miss out on the education they deserve, but with Christmas around the corner (sorry to mention the C-word) we need to do all we can to combat the spread to allow us to celebrate in some way with our family and friends.

 

It has been an exciting week in school this week:  In Spanish, the children have been learning Halloween words - and I am very grateful to Regan who made me a book to help me remember them - he even wrote them phonetically for me!  I have really enjoyed looking at Year 2’s Tudor houses; they have worked very hard with those cereal boxes.  Today the school is full of witches, wizards and zombies and the money raised will be used to buy books for each year group. Massive thank you to the Kelly family who have continued to raise money for us. The house looks great.  

 

On line, learning continues to be a real focus for the school, and I know lots of parents in key stage 2 have signed up for google classroom. It is really important that you sign your child up as more and more learning will be done this way. I realise that not all families have laptops or Chromebooks, however, in the event of the closure of bubbles or individual self-isolation - the school may be able to help with this - but only if you register your child.  

If you are having any difficulties or have lost login details please contact your child’s year group through email.  After half term, we will contact parents who have not signed up directly and may be able to offer some surgeries to support parents.

 

The school is already looking forward to the next half term.  The curriculum will continue to be slightly different from previous years, as we focus on key skills, and our aim is to introduce the full curriculum from January 2021. Next half term traditionally brings events that unite us as a community.  Westwood has a strong tradition of marking Armistice Day with the whole school community and we will be attempting to do this virtually.  We also know that the families of our youngest children have traditionally enjoyed performances of the nativity and again we hope to bring this to you virtually.  We will also be holding a second parent consultation conversation by telephone for our Key Stage 2 pupils at the end of the term, and early years and key stage 1 at the very beginning of the Spring term. As always if you have any questions or concerns please contact the school - email is best. 

 

Please remember that tomorrow is a training day and school will be shut.  Have a great half term, everyone. Please stay safe and we look forward to welcoming you all back on Monday 2nd November. 

 

Best regards 

Gill Thomas 


 

Friday 9th October 

 

Dear Parents 

 

We are fast approaching the end of our first half term of the academic year, and at school, we have settled well into the “new normal”. I have said it before, but it is worth saying again - your children are a credit to you. They have adapted very well to the new ways of working and it is a pleasure to be in school.  This week I had the opportunity to observe a number of maths lessons and also music lessons being delivered by our enrichment team.  In year four I learnt all about ostinato.  As you are aware we have a card system in place when children are going to the toilet and the bathrooms are regularly cleaned during the day. Some of our children are very excited by toilet passes!  Now that the children have settled we are going to get a little stricter, particularly for our older children. Of course, we will allow them to go when needed, but we may ask them if they can wait a few minutes so as not to miss the teaching! 

 

Our class ambassadors are wearing their badges with pride and our celebration assemblies are enjoyed by the whole school. Jeffers class got a special mention this week - as nearly every child in the class received a reading certificate.  Well done Jeffers and parents. Children cannot bring in trophies or certificates from home but we are very happy to share their success. Just drop me a line. 

 

After half term, we will be appointing new ambassadors. Please note that attitude to learning, attendance and adhering to the uniform policy all play a part in the selection criteria.   I realise that with children coming into school in PE kits one day a week, uniform guidelines may seem to have slipped, however, it is an expectation that children wear uniforms on non-PE days. School uniforms help children feel a part of a school community and this is very important to us. Our grab a bag of uniform was very successful during the summer holidays and spare uniform is available if anyone needs it. Our policy on jewellery has not changed. Children are expected to wear stud or sleeper earrings only and other jewellery is not permitted. I know that some of our children are wearing link bracelets to help them settle and of course that is permitted. 

 

Just to put parents' minds at rest when reviewing attendance, self-isolating after a positive test of family members or waiting for test results does not count towards your child’s absence figures. There is an expectation that your child, if well enough, is learning at home and parents in key stage 2 will have received lots of information about google classrooms this week. It is vital that parents and children become familiar with the google classroom as this will ensure that interactive teaching can take place in the event of bubble closure.  Homework for key stage 2 will be set through google classrooms and this will give you a chance to see it in action. In early years and key stage 1, we are using Tapestry and after half term homework will be set using this media, giving parents a chance to upload their child’s learning and receive a response from teachers. Our school website is becoming a hive of information with teachers uploading weekly objectives and class pages being used to keep parents fully informed and celebrate learning.  The school needs to be aware if any child does not have access to a device to support learning, as in the event of closure we may be able to help. 

 

Next week we will be hosting a visit from our Elliot regional director, Caroline Oliver. I am very much looking forward to showing her around the school and discussing our next steps. I remain very proud of every pupil and every member of staff. In this strange world - Westwood remains a great place to be.

 

Have a good weekend everyone. My weather app tells me it's going to be a dry one. 

 

Best regards 

Gill Thomas 

 

25th September 2020 

 

Dear parents 

 

As you are all aware this week the school was notified of our first confirmed case of a child with COVID. I would like to publicly thank the parent of the child in question, who followed the guidelines impeccably and ensured that the child and  sibling did not attend school from the first day of symptoms. This ensured that only one class/bubble needed to be sent home. 

 

The events of this week highlighted the strength of the school’s risk assessments and procedures in place.  We could confidently inform you and Public Health that no other children had come into contact with the child or the class - separate playtimes, lunchtimes and strict cleaning regimes in toilets and touchpoints supported this. I know that this is a worrying time for many parents, but this is the new world we are living in and as an educator, I really believe that all children have a right to be at school; they have a right to learn and school is where they should be. Schools must ensure that they are safe places and rest assured we are doing all we can.  We, of course, ask you to support us in this - social distancing at pick up and drop off times must be adhered to please and children must stay with their parents whilst waiting on the playground.

 

In addition to one class,  a number of families and children have been self-isolating whilst waiting for test results and it is really important that the children’s learning continues.  To support this we have introduced Tapestry to our Year 1 and Year 2.  If your child has come through our Reception classes you will know how Tapestry works and how it can be used by the teacher to give feedback.  If you are not familiar with it, we are producing a Home Learning information book for parents.  In key stage 2 we are working to give all children access to the google classroom, an interactive site, where children will be able to get feedback from teachers, and teachers will be able to set work “live”.  Our school website contains all the learning children are doing in school and if your child is at home and well - awaiting results or self-isolating, you are able to access lessons and videos and resources to support this. It does look like we are in this for the long haul and we now need to do our best to organise two learning platforms - one in school and one at home.   Bear with us, we are working very hard to get this right for you and your child.   Do have a look at our website it will give you a clear understanding of what your child is learning. 

 

And now in school:  We are all settled and it feels like we have never been away. We welcomed our Foundation children full time this week and they have coped really well. The outdoor area has been revamped by the team and the children are very much making the most of the learning opportunities.   In Early Years and Key Stage 1 reading and phonics remain the key focus as we work towards our aim - every child is a reader by 7.  A massive thank you to all the parents who have signed up to volunteer to hear readers in school. These adults will be assigned to a class/bubble and be invaluable in supporting children's learning.  

 

It is a real pleasure to observe the school once again doing what we do best - teaching. I have been to a number of classes this week, socially distancing, and have watched some great lessons.  I watched two lovely lessons in year 3 - where the children were learning new vocabulary - ask your child about blustery!

 

The behaviour of our children in school continues to be excellent.  It is great to see so many over and above stickers.  At our weekly virtual assembly, I share good news cards and special work,  and on Monday I will be announcing this term's class ambassadors and I know it has been a difficult decision for teachers.  

 

After a few false starts, before and after school is becoming much more organised. We know it has been a challenge and thank you for your patience.  We are not quite ready to reduce the time in the morning, however, if you are a working parent please drop off at a time that is suitable to you.  Please remember that the gates do not open until 8:30. We do not have the support staff capacity before this time.  When we feel confident we will introduce a drop off between 8:30 and 9:05.  I will keep you informed.

 

Have a good weekend everyone.  I fear it is going to be a wet one. 

Best Regards 

Gill Thomas 



 

Friday 11th September 2020

 

Good morning, well we are back!  This week has been a real pleasure! Your children have settled very well and have coped really with the new expectations, and I know I speak for all my staff when I say it is great to be back. I know I have said it in a previous letter, but we are so touched by the trust you have placed in us and we will continue to work with you to ensure that your child receives the education they deserve.

 

Education is once again compulsory for all children and the school will now re-establish our attendance procedures. Term-time holiday will not be authorised and I would urge you to think very carefully this year before booking a holiday.  If you take your child abroad there is every likelihood that your child will be out of school for a month and this will not only impact on their academic progress but also on their emotional well-being.  A month is a long time in a child’s life - not only does learning move on, friendships move on too.  

 

This week, the children have been following a slightly different curriculum - English and Maths lessons began on the first day - with a real focus on reading.  The closure of the school library has led to the establishment of reading trolleys for each year group and children are able to change books safely and books returned from home are cleaned before being placed on the trolley.  Art is playing a significant part in our curriculum this term, and we are using art to promote talk and to explore feelings.  Our aim is to continue with a slightly revised curriculum until half term and then to ensure all subjects are taught. 

 

Each class has established its bubble charter this week,  reinforcing the rules of the class. As I am sure you know our behaviour policy hangs on the aim that every child is Ready, Respectful and Safe and I reinforced this through our whole school virtual assembly on Monday. This assembly is also a time for celebration and this year we would like to continue celebrating the successes of our children out of school. Children can't bring in their certificates and medals, however, if you send me an email outlining their achievement I will be able to share it with the whole school.  At the end of the month, Monday 28th September, we will be appointing our first class ambassadors of the year and at the beginning of the Spring term, we will be appointing our school ambassadors from our year 5 and year 6 pupils.  

 

Before and after school procedures have worked well this week, and with experience, we have adapted routines slightly.  Our next step is to get our Reception children in next week and then look at reducing the time it takes to get our children in, in the morning.  Our aim is to be ready to learn by 9:05 am. I will keep you fully informed, but next week procedures stay as in the parent handbook. Our afternoon times will not change until government restrictions are lifted fully, and I would ask parents and childminders to ensure that children do not run around the playground whilst waiting for siblings. They need to stand with their adult,  socially distancing from others at all times. 

Please can I also remind parents that social gatherings of more than 6 people are not allowed from Monday. We are noticing that parents are gathering outside the school entrance at both our Mapel and Oak site This undermines the work we are doing to keep our children in their bubbles and can be concerning for our more vulnerable parents who are bringing their children ot school, and need to walk past large groups. We ask you to be considerate of the whole school community.. 


Next week, we begin our Parent/teacher consultations.  A little different this year, as they will be by telephone.  Please note that teachers will be using school mobiles and your phone may display an unknown number.  The aim of these calls is to give you an opportunity to: 

  • Meet  your child’s new teacher 

  • Discuss any concerns 

  • Inform your child’s teacher about changes in circumstances during lockdown

  • Talk to your teacher about any issues the school can support with concerning home learning in the event of any further local or national lockdowns, or if your family is asked to self-isolate 

  • Introduce you to our school website, which under the leadership of Mr Abey, has become a learning hub

 

Breakfast on the playground has of course been disbanded this term, however, the National Breakfast Programme is still supporting us to provide this service and Miss Sidaway sent home a form to ascertain who would like breakfast bags. Over 70 bags have been distributed this week, containing cereals and bagels and we are very pleased to inform you that our local one-stop has presented us with another £500 voucher to support us in supplementing these bags. If this is something you would like to take advantage of please contact Miss Sidaway through our Maple office. 

 

Have a good weekend everyone. We very much look forward to welcoming our Reception children into school next week.  A very big step for our smallest of children and their parents.   We are ready and very excited. 

 

And finally to our parents of Year 7 pupils - do drop us a line to let us know how they are getting on.  In previous years, many of them have popped back to see us but at present, this is not possible.  Send them our love.

 

Best regards 

 

Gill Thomas 

21/7/20 

 

Good afternoon.  Today, we closed our doors to our last key worker child and I would like to thank all our parents and the community for the support the school has been shown. Many firms and individuals have helped us with our food boxes and judging by the donations we have received our uniform swap is going to be a great success. 

 

Today, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Westwood staff on behalf of you as parents and our children. I do have a very easy job, and I really mean that. The Westwood team is very easy to lead and their commitment to this school has been amazing. 

Like you, many of them have been juggling child care, home learning, caring for elderly and vulnerable family members and their own fears and worries, and yet whether at school or working from home, they have done their job and done it well. So to our cleaners, lunchtime staff, site officer, Kevin, kitchen staff, office staff, inclusion workers, teaching assistants, teachers and senior leadership team - I say thank you and yes indeed together we are strong x

 

And now we look forward to September.  Staff are working hard to prepare classrooms for their bubbles and new toilets are finally being installed in our Maple site which is very welcome. I know that many of you are concerned about staggered starts and finishes next year. Our Trust has informed us that we cannot send out information too soon just in case things change, however, please be aware we will work with working families and those of you with multiple pickups, and we will be liaising with our colleagues at Maple Grove out of school club. The important thing to be aware of is that the school gates will not open until 8:30 am and it is important that parents ensure that children do not arrive before this time.

Further information in the way of an information pack will be sent out to parents in August, so please ensure that you check emails and updates on our website.  The Oak office will be open every day during the holidays until 1 pm, and as always, I am contactable by email. 

 

It has been the saddest of years. Our school community and families have suffered more than most I feel. We began 2020 reeling from the loss of our Kaleb and I know that so many of our families and staff have suffered personal loss. I really hope that we have been able to find some strength and support in each other. 

 

We will begin the next academic year with determination, hope and optimism. It is going to be a great year.  Please enjoy a poem recorded by our staff to end the year called ‘New Beginnings’

 

My very best wishes 

 

Gill Thomas

New Beginnings by Tony Walsh

3/7/20

 

Good afternoon, as always I hope you are all well.  It has been a very good week at school this week. The school is filling up and we have around  200 children attending, and we eagerly await our year 6s’ return next week. Full uniform year 6  - It’s still a school day! 

 

I know how disappointed many of our children (and staff) are that they haven’t been invited back to full schooling, however, we are adhering rigidly to government guidance to minimise the risk for all.  Say goodbye to your teacher days begin next week and we hope that the weather is kind to us - if not please bring an umbrella!  If your child is attending school then we will arrange for your child’s class teacher to say goodbye during school time. 

 

A number of emails are being sent out this week with very important information. In this new world, email is becoming the most important means of communication between school and home and this is set to continue in September. Please, please ensure that the school has your correct email address. We understand that some of our parents have limited or no internet access.  If you do not have internet access in your home and are using mobile data only, we might be able to support you in getting BT Wifi.  You would need to be able to pick up a BT Wifi signal at home. Look out for an email with more details next week.

 

Yesterday, you were informed about your child’s new class for September and today you will have received a letter asking you to sign up to meet your child’s class teacher!  As stated in the letter we are closing the school on Friday 17th July to facilitate these meetings.  Please adhere to the closing dates for submission forms as organising events and ensuring we adhere to government restrictions is very important.

 

The start of a new school year is always exciting and daunting for both parents and children and this year, more than any before, many of you are going to have concerns and questions. I would like to assure you that teachers have thought very carefully about groupings of classes, using their prior knowledge of your children. However, we know that the usual “jump up “ mornings, where children meet their class, are not possible and as a parent myself I really do understand that the situation we are in at present is by no means ideal. Rest assured we are doing all we can to ensure the current class teachers hand over all relevant information to welcoming teachers. There are lots and lots of virtual meetings taking place at the moment between staff and our intention is to hold parent/teacher meetings very early in the autumn term to support a smooth transition. 

 

On Thursday 2nd July, the government issued the guidance for full opening in September and both school staff and our Trust are now digesting this information. We will then prepare our risk assessments and procedures which will be shared with you.  We are also looking at the curriculum that we are offering to ensure we build in time for “recovery”. Next year is going to look a little different for us all, but I can reassure you that those children who have returned to school have so happily, and as a school, we are very very committed to getting this right for every child and family.  Although the school will be shut to children during the summer break, staff will continue to work to prepare the learning environment and our office is open daily until 1 pm so watch out for those emails and updates. 

 

As always I would like to thank you for your continued support.  I and my staff have had a number of conversations with parents this week and your patience and understanding, despite your understandable concerns, makes our job so much easier.

 

Have a  good weekend everyone - I have a hair appointment! 

 

Best regards 

Gill Thomas

26/6/20

 

I do hope that you are all safe and well.  As I write this, Mrs Thomas is taking a break from reading the forever-updating DfE guidance, bubble planning and working on a plan for the future, to visit some of our families with Miss Sidaway!  So it’s down to me to write the blog:)  

 

Year 5 have really settled in well and it is lovely to see their smiling faces!  They are so good at understanding and following the social distancing measures put in place to keep us all safe.  Mrs Barker commented that it was lovely to see a group gathered round in a circle on the playground, just chatting to one another but with distance between them.  No adult told them to do this.  It just happened naturally.  How mature of them.

 

The year 6 team are, as I write this, busy planning for the return of some of our year 6 children.  They are trying as best as possible to group children into friendship groups.  We look forward to their return shortly.  Don’t forget to keep checking the transition materials on the website.  I know that Neale Wade and Cromwell have already sent out some materials to use and that they should shortly find out what form they are in.  Exciting times!

 

As we are approaching the end of the term, we are looking at how we can end this term and year for all our children.  Teachers are thinking about the next two-week learning plan and will incorporate some reflection and transition activities to support moving into next year.  Look out for these.  A letter has also been sent out today inviting children and an adult to meet their existing class teacher in small groups to listen to a story, chat about what they have been up to and say goodbye.  It is important that you fill in the linked form on the letter to book a place.

 

Staff have been looking at what September might look like and discussing how to plan for the return to school.  We are exploring how our curriculum meets the needs of our returning children and ways in which we can support them.  Children will have had a huge range of experiences throughout this time and it is important that we meet them ‘where they are’ and build from there.  We will wait until next week for, hopefully, further clarification from the government on what the return might look like.  We will, of course, keep you informed of our intentions as soon as we know!

 

Staff continue to make calls to speak to children.  Speaking to some parents, this really lifts the children’s spirits.  I too have contacted children this week and it is lovely to hear what they have been up to.  Can’t wait to try your ‘Oreo fudge’ recipe, James!  Sounds delicious!

 

A quick note about Voice In A Million.  We, like you, are very disappointed that the trip did not take place.  We have been in contact with the VIAM team and they have said that it is not cancelled as yet and that they are working to get a new date.  Obviously, government guidance is stopping any immediate decisions regarding the concert, but VIAM have said that they will update us on their position on 30th June.  We will update all concerned when we have more information.  It would be lovely to bring back our year 7s from secondary school to join us if it is rescheduled.  We await their announcement.

 

As always, stay safe. 

 

Mr Abey

19/6/20

 

Good afternoon everyone as always I hope you are all well. This week in school we welcomed back more of our key worker children and our Year 5s. We have also sent out invitations to our Year 6 pupils and hope to have them back in a few weeks time. Year 6 parents please note that responses to our survey need to be submitted by the 29th June, as places cannot be considered after this time.  

 

The Bubble system which all schools are now using has very strict guidelines. Bubbles must contain no more than 15 children and must be staffed by at least 2 adults. Children and adults cannot “cross” bubbles and therefore teachers are not allowed to teach more than one bubble and support staff such as lunchtime supervisors cannot support more than one bubble. In addition to this bubbles cannot share the same learning space unless it has been cleaned thoroughly. For this reason, as I explained last week, the school does not have the capacity to bring back more children. I really do understand that this is a real concern to many parents of children who will not be back in school this academic year.  

 

Teachers and other staff who have had contact with parents this week have shared your comments and I am aware that many of your children would like the opportunity to say goodbye to their teacher and to meet new teachers before the new academic year. We are in the process of exploring how to do this safely. Our Trust is trialling the use of virtual platforms, and the school has submitted a plan.  Safety of pupils remains our primary concern and at present, there are safeguarding issues that need to be explored. 

 

Government guidance continues to evolve and there may be a way that we can arrange small groups to meet teachers before the end of the term.  We will continue to work for you to do all that we can to ensure closure for all our children. 

 

At present we do not know what the summer holidays will look like for schools.  As I am sure you are aware, the government has stated that they will fund free school meals through the voucher system during the summer break. We do not feel that we will be able to continue with our food boxes during this time, so if you are entitled to free school meals and have not signed up for vouchers, please do so by contacting Mrs Tanlsley in the Oak office, by telephone or email.  Although we are awaiting government and Trust instructions,  we are not expecting to offer child care during this period. I am aware that Maple Grove out of school club is open for key worker families.  Please ensure if you need this facility you contact Mrs Bidwell at the Grove. We are hoping to run some of our community events for families during the summer break and at present are considering how we can do this safely. We will be in touch. 

 

As you know Mr Abey was hoping to run the London Marathon this year and continues to raise funds for STARS, a charity that supports bereaved children.  He chose this charity in memory of our Kaleb, and Kaleb and his family remain very much in our thoughts. I know that a number our children and families have suffered bereavements in recent weeks and I want to assure you that we are making every effort to ensure that staff are ready to support our children when they return.  I really hope that once we are all together again we will be able to organise a lasting memorial to Kaleb which will reflect the losses we have suffered this year but will also commemorate the strength and support we found in each other.  Together we are strong. 

 

Have a good weekend everyone.  Father's Day on Sunday will be a time for many families to come together once more as restrictions lift, however I know it will also be a very sad day for some.  Our deepest sympathy.

 

My very best wishes 

 

Gill Thomas

12th June 2020 

 

Good afternoon, I do hope you are all well. The change in the weather continues but it is not dampening the spirit at school and this week we welcomed back our year 1s. It was a lovely sight to see on Monday - the children were smiling and staff were waving bubbles.  The learning environments are indeed different but the laughter and learning continues.  

We are in the process of planning for the second phase and as I write we are waiting for the sign off of plans and risk assessments from our Trust. More information about dates will be sent out shortly. 

 

Mr Abey launched our weekly check-in sheet this week and I am very aware that many parents and children are finding home learning increasingly difficult.  We are very aware that many many of you, like us, wanted to see your children back at school before the end of the academic year, however I now have to regretfully inform you that the school does not have the capacity to move beyond phase 2 in our plan to return.   

 

In summary, once year 5 are settled we will be making an offer to our year 6 pupils and we will not be inviting back any further year groups this academic year.  I do realise that this is not the course of action that many of you want, but because of the high demand for places from key worker families and the high uptake from parents in phase 1 and 2, the school is now running 22 bubbles, in 22 learning areas. This involves 66 members of the teaching and teaching support staff and when the Year 6 return we will be at full capacity.  

 

We are continually updating our home learning offer and we are looking at strategies to make more use of online learning and we hope to have further information to you soon. 

 

Please remember parents can request a home visit at any time. This week I am dropping in to see a little man who is going to show me the work he is doing at home. A little extra motivation to get things done!  Miss Sidaway, Mr Abey and I really enjoy these doorstep visits so please make use of them if you need them. 

 

Our food service continues to go well - just a reminder, collections are now from our Oak site and are mornings only, up until 1pm. This week we distributed 90 food boxes and thanks again to Smurfit Kappa for the boxes.  Please note, whereas lunch boxes are only for families entitled to free school meals, not receiving vouchers, the grocery boxes are now for any family who require them. 

 

I continue to be so touched by the support the school is receiving from you. A. special thank you to William who sent me some stars for my window - I love them William.  I know that we are entering another strange and uncertain time, lots of things are opening up, people are going back to work and many of you want to know our plans.  I can only assure you that we are following government guidelines and working with our Trust to ensure that all procedures are in place - the safety of our children and staff is at the forefront of everything we do.

 

Have a good weekend everyone. I do hope the weather improves a little -  I am looking forward to meeting my own baby girl this weekend (she is 25 but still my baby) - the first time since February and in a park with a picnic - can't wait. 

 

My very best wishes 

Gill Thomas 

 

And over to  Mr Abey …

 

This morning I spent time looking at the Gallery pages, smiling at all the things you keep sending in.  I saw cardboard castle building, sunflower growing, Egyptian lego pyramid building, cookie cooking and cake creations!  What a great array of things you have been up to.  If you are stuck for inspiration then I can recommend you have a look through and maybe copy some of the ideas people have been up to!

 

As time goes on it is only natural that motivation wanes and it becomes more difficult to engage children with learning.  I have 3 of my own and have noticed that the enthusiasm and spring they had at the start is becoming difficult to maintain.  Mine now miss the structure and routine of school and seeing their teachers (although they probably would not admit it when they were at school!)  I am sure yours are feeling similar. 

 

Using some of the more interactive elements on our site may reinvigorate learning.  

 

The Discovery Education site is amazing.  At the moment the Espresso part is free.  The school subscribes to the Coding area of the site too.  Log in details are on the year group pages.  The page has a great daily news briefing that you can use to inspire follow on activities. For example, today’s has a piece on Dinosaurs - perfect for a dinosaur project!  On the KeyStage pages, there are Daily Challenge activities - today’s for KS1 is ‘Design a crown for a new prince or princess’

 

The Pobble website continues to be a favourite link. It has a new picture everyday with lots of questions and activities linked to it.  Perfect for discussion. Not everything needs writing down!  

 

The Literacy Shed website is amazing and packed full of short video animations with lots of activities that link.  They have a whole range of 'sheds' including the Adventure Shed, the Fairy Tale Shed to the Mystery Shed.  Watching them together and using the questions to discuss is a great way to build comprehension and understanding of what they see.

 

BBC iPlayer - there are lots of great programs to inspire learning, including Horrible Histories, Blue Planet and Earth From Space!

 

Our webpage has also been updated this week with information about year 6 transition.  I have been in contact with feeder secondary schools to ask for any relevant information to be included on the page.  There are some optional resources for you to explore based around ‘Be Awesome Go Big’.  A brilliant book that explores similar themes is called ‘You Are Awesome’ by Matthew Syed - a truly inspirational, easy and entertaining read for any age but especially the young! 

 

We are also in the process of building transition pages for next year so that children can learn a little more about their new teacher - keep checking back!

 

Take care and stay safe

 

Mr Abey

Friday 5th June 

 

Hello everyone, as I write this I am looking out of my window at a very dark and damp morning - what a change in the weather! I do hope you are all well.  This week in school we welcomed back a number of key worker children and we have had around 72 children in school. The children are working within their bubbles, staying in their small groups at playtime and lunchtime and eating in their classroom. We are in a very fortunate position as we have a very large site and lots of grounds and this ensures that children can get outside as much as possible. Staff have worked extremely hard and we are ready to invite back our year 1 children,  Phase 1, on Monday. Parents of children who are returning should have received a phone call from an adult from their “bubble”. There will be lots of staff on hand to guide you at the beginning and the end of the day. We are very excited. Maple Grove Pre-School returned on Thursday and it was lovely to hear the children playing happily outside as I walked between the sites. Schools should be full of children’s laughter. 

 

I have had some correspondence from parents this week concerning the timing of subsequent phases and asking when their children will return.  As stated in my video, the school, supported by the trust, will take it nice and steady. We need to ensure that each phase is established and operating effectively before we bring other groups back. The safety of children and staff is at the forefront of our minds and Westwood is a very large school  which has many many advantages, however with social distancing in mind, the transition needs to be carefully thought through.  At every point, risk assessments and plans must be discussed and signed off with our trust and this gives me, as headteacher, much comfort and  I am sure as parents you too welcome the importance we place on your child’s safety. 

 

Parents have also been asking about plans for September. I can only say that I continue to wait for government guidance. We have had no information concerning September.  We continue to plan for full attendance however this might change.  I do know how unhelpful this is and as a lady who loves a plan, I share your frustration.  However, these are unprecedented times. 

 

Weekly lunches and grocery boxes moved to Oak site this week.  The times for collection have also changed, in that collections need to take place between 9am and 1pm. This is because with greater numbers of children in school, staff are being deployed elsewhere.  Learning packs can also now be collected from our Oak site.

 

This week we welcomed back two familiar faces to our teaching team - Mrs Olivia Grant and Miss Laura Cliss. Both Oliva and Laura began their teaching careers at Westwood.  Both are working in our year 3 key worker bubbles. We also welcome Miss Nicole Drury to our team. Nicole is a newly qualified teacher and at present is working in our year 4 team. 

 

Have a good weekend everyone, despite the weather!    Next week is the first step towards  full opening and to all of us it seems to have been a long time coming.  I can't tell you how much we are looking forward to seeing some of our little ones back.  

 

Teaching is what we do!  Together we are strong 

 

Best regards 

Gill Thomas 

 

And over to  Mr Abey 

 

Hello, I do hope everyone is well.  This week I would like to draw your attention to what has become an annual summer event - The Summer Reading Challenge.  The Summer Reading Challenge, presented by The Reading Agency and funded by Arts Council England, encourages children aged 4 to 11 to set themselves a reading challenge to help prevent the summer reading 'dip'.  This year’s challenge is named the ‘Silly Squad’ and will celebrate funny books, happiness and laughter. Children taking part in the Challenge will join the Silly Squad, an adventurous team of animals who love to have a laugh and get stuck in to all different kinds of funny books!  We all need a bit of fun and laughter at this time so this is a great theme.  

 

To take part, children sign up and create their own profile.  They set their own challenge to read any amount of books during the Challenge, with children being encouraged to read anything that makes them happy – whether it be comics, joke books, poetry, fiction or non-fiction; in digital or print format; from e-book lending through the public library service or from what they already have at home. 

 

Each time they finish a book, they add it to their profile and write a review. They are rewarded with activities and incentives along the way, such as online badges, games and videos.  Families are encouraged to join in and ‘Get Silly’ with downloadable activities, games, quizzes and more. With new content to enjoy each week, the fun will continue throughout the summer to keep families engaged.  They receive a downloadable certificate once they’ve completed their challenge!  We look forward to celebrating challenges in the Autumn term.

 

You can find a link to the challenge below and on our Reading Zone page and can follow the challenge on facebook via this link https://www.facebook.com/SummerReadingChallengeUK

 

Don’t forget that you can join the library service for free too (see links on the Reading Zone).  Here you can loan out ebooks, emagazines, ecomics and eaudio. These all could towards the challenge!   I have joined up and now listen to eaudio books for free while I am running.  The miles seem to go past a little quicker now!

 

Take care all and stay safe

 

Mr Abey

 

Friday 29th May 

Good afternoon, as always I send you my best wishes.  I am aware that this has been an extremely sad week for members of our Westwood community and our thoughts are with them and all our families who are grieving at this time.

It has been extremely busy in school.  The children this week have enjoyed the freedom of half term - lots of outdoor activities and crafts.  Year 3 pupils have made some excellent masks this week and I look forward to seeing the finished products. 
Staff have been very busy preparing for further opening, and the school is beginning to look  a little different. Signage and zones have been established on our Maple Site and classrooms and learning areas are being constructed.  Thank You to all year 1 parents who have completed the questionnaires.   Year 1 staff will now look at the responses to sort groups.  Further information, pertinent to your child,  will be distributed next week.  I am very very aware of the concerns you will have about “bubbles”.  I would say though we have had up to 65 children in school for the duration of the lockdown and these children have responded very well to the new ways of working.  They really do appear to have adapted well and appear happy.  We are very much looking forward to welcoming children back in phase 1 on the 8th June, and then we will begin preparing for phase 2. Our Trust has been very supportive throughout this process and a re-opening meeting will take place on Monday 1st June (virtually of course) where members of the trust’s operational group will review our plans and risk assessments.  I do have to publicly thank my staff who are working so hard to ensure that everything is in place and that home learning continues for all our pupils.  I know how much you appreciate all they are doing and again thank you for the very supportive messages we have received this week. 

Our grocery boxes and packed lunch bags continue to be well received and lots of parents are coming to school to collect, as we can only deliver now to those who are shielding or self isolating.  We have received a £500 donation from One Stop towards food and thanks again to Caron and Pete Robinson, grandparents of Summer and Paige, who provide the boxes. Bea Holdsworth, one of our wonderful teaching assistants, has also donated £80 this week from the sale of produce outside her house, and her VE Day decorations. 
As from Monday 1st June - collection of foods for parents will take place on our Oak site, from our Oak hall - this again is to support reopening on our Maple site, reminders will be sent next week.

Monday sees the beginning of our final term of the school year.  Traditionally it is a time for sports days, outings,  parties,  celebrations and goodbyes.  It's going to be a little different this year, however staff are busy preparing for September - reports are being written and  new classes organised. We will keep you as informed as we can and look to new ways of working and sharing information.    
 
Enjoy the good weather  - keep safe - together we are strong. 

Warmest Regards 
Gill Thomas 
 

15/5/20

 

Good afternoon. As always, I am sending you my very best wishes and I hope you are all safe and well. It has been a very, very busy week! . The children in school, as always, have been a real credit to you. Particular praise to Imogen who has been making bookmarks at home and selling them in school to raise funds for the NHS. Imogen’s mummy is a nurse and therefore Imogen is able to support her mum and all her brave colleagues. 

 

As you know the government has set a tentative date to begin reopening further. This is based on a number of factors and the government will make the decision late in May.  This week the school has received lots and lots of information and guidance and we are working with our Trust to ensure that when and if the school opens, Westwood is the safe and secure place it needs to be for both children and staff. I know that our CEO, Hugh Greenway, wrote to you personally, stating this and I want to just reassure you that as a school we feel fully supported to do what is right for our community.

 

As of next week, our children coming into school will return to their year groups and will stay in their year groups all day.  We are bringing more staff back to school to support this; a separate letter has been sent to the parents of those children.  The school will be open for childcare for key workers during the half-term break and this time, as there is a need, we are open for the Bank Holiday. 

 

Food boxes and packed lunches continue to be very popular.  Please remember these are available to all parents who are not in receipt of the vouchers.  As we make preparations to open when safe, we are, from Monday 18th May, reducing our delivery of food significantly. This is to ensure that adults are, when needed, available to teach.  We are very aware that the need for additional support is still there and many of us continue to feel financial pressures:

  • Weekly lunch bags will be available on a Monday for all children previously receiving daily pack ups. These will include rolls, fillings, fruit and a pudding  - enough for 5 days. For the vast majority, parents will collect from our Maple site from 10 am.  For those shielding families, we will, of course, continue to deliver to you. 

  • Weekly food parcels will be available on Thursdays and Fridays for collection from our Mapel site. 

  • We will expect all parents to collect and will only deliver to those shielding. 

 

I do know that Miss Sidaway and members of her team have spoken to all families directly about this and I thank you for your understanding in this matter.  Our aim is to continue with the food boxes for as long as families need them and, by changing procedures now, we are able to see how sustainable it is and monitor if changes need to be made, when and if the school reopens to more children. 

 

I have really enjoyed talking to a number of children and parents this week and I know for some children, parents and indeed staff, we have entered another period of real uncertainty. And uncertainty can be so stressful.   We really want to work together, developing our plans to reopen and we will keep you informed.  I think that the last 7 weeks have shown what a team we are.  Parents and staff working together for the best for our children and I really believe this will continue as we move towards the next chapter.  

 

I say it every week - Together we are strong .

 

My very best regards,

Gill Thomas

7/5/20

 

Good afternoon everyone. As always I hope you are all well. I am aware that some of our families are experiencing their own personal tragedies at the moment. Our thoughts are with you. 

 

This week in school we have been learning about VE day. The fence on Oak site has been decorated and Mr Abey has uploaded photographs of our in-school children commemorating the sacrifices made by our armed forces.  Take a look at the special VE page on our website.  The weather is going to be good tomorrow and I hope that you enjoy the celebrations from the safety of your homes - we would love to see photographs.

Lunch deliveries have continued this week for those families not in receipt of vouchers. The staff who pack the lunches wrote messages on the bags yesterday - I do hope your children enjoyed reading them. We received a lovely film from one of our pupils - we really do miss them. 

 

We have distributed  139 food boxes and this week we have received some personal donations to support this work -  a parent donation of £10 and Mrs B Holdsworth, one of our wonderful teaching assistants, donated £50 from the sale of produce outside her home. 

 

As there are no requests for key worker childcare tomorrow,  we will be closed and therefore there will be no lunch deliveries

 

We are all awaiting the government announcement on Sunday concerning the next stage of their strategy.  Once this is known, we, alongside our trust, will put together a reopening plan which will be shared with parents. The safety of children, parents, and staff will be at the forefront of any plan.  I am very aware that for some,  lockdown is becoming increasingly difficult.  Please use us if you need us - we are happy to do doorstep visits ( highlight of the week to be honest) and our inclusion team are happy to talk to children over the phone.  The Parent/Carer support line run by the Early Help Hub also opens today.  We all need help sometimes and together we are strong x. 

 

Have a good weekend everyone. Stay safe!

 

Best regards 

Gill Thomas 

 

And over to Mr Abey

 

Hello everyone.  As Mrs Thomas stated above, our website has a new page with resources to support children’s understanding of VE Day.  On there you will find information slides, video clips and some craft activities to support learning. It would be lovely to add some pictures of the things you did to celebrate the day and to show others how you celebrated.  Please email your teachers with pictures so that we can add them to the Gallery pages.

 

Our Reading Zone pages now includes some Poetry pieces by Mr Ryan.  He has recorded 4 poems and discusses why they have meaning to him.  There are also some activities to go with them should children wish to pursue them further. Thanks Mr Ryan!

 

Our TAs wanted to say a big ‘Hello and we miss you!’ to all our children (and each other!) so we have put together a lovely picture to say just that.   

 

Enjoy the weather while it is still with us!  Stay safe.

 

Mr Abey

1/5/2020

 

Good afternoon everyone. As always I hope you are all well. What a change in the weather we have seen this week. It has been fun in school. We have had buckets out collecting the drips from the roof on the Oak site which was due to be fixed over the Easter holidays - postponed now!

 

The children in school have been doing lots of fun things inside including lots of crafts. This week, I was introduced to the pleasure of Hit the Button with the year 5 and 6 pupils. I have been taking on Miss Barker. Let's just say that youth is a great thing!

 

FSM vouchers are now in place for all who need them and my understanding is that they went out yesterday without any hiccups. Parents who have signed up for them should receive them every Thursday. Please let the office know if there are any problems. The office staff are in the process of signing up parents who requested them after the initial closing date; so watch out for email. 

 

Lunch deliveries will continue for those who require them and are not entitled to FSM. This week we began devising our own grocery boxes rather than buying in packs.  This has meant a number of trips to supermarkets, but we hope that we have been able to offer more variety, at a reasonable cost to the school. These boxes are available to any family, not in receipt of FSM vouchers, who require them. 

 

This week we need to thank a number of companies and individuals :

  • Alan Bartlett - Chatteris - carrots and parsnips

  • Allpress Farms - Chatteris - leeks

  • Magic breakfast ( National School Breakfast programme) -Bagels, beans, cereal - these are the people who usually provide our bagels on the playground and we have been touched by their continued commitment. 

  • Greenvale - potatoes

  • Tesco - boxes

  • Smurfit Kappa - boxes- with particular thanks  to Pete and Caron Robinson 

A very special thanks to the staff at Lidl - the manager Dan, shop assistant Vikki Rust and the security guard on duty - who have not only donated chocolate, but given staff lots and lots of support when shopping.

 

Teachers have been contacting children this week to check-in and to answer any concerns and I know a number of parents are asking about plans for re-opening. I am also aware that there is lots of speculation in the press.  The school at present has no information about a proposed date. We are following government guidance at all times and will continue to do so. When we know, you will know!  The school and the trust are working hard to ensure that we are ready to support our pupils on their return both academically and socially and emotionally.  As stated last week we have asked such a lot of our children. As a school community we have endured so much this year, but I remain so proud of the way children, parents, staff and friends have stepped up. It is so true -  ‘Together we are Strong’. 

 

Have a good weekend everyone. Please be aware that Friday 8th May is a national Bank Holiday and at present we are not open as we have no requests for child care from key workers. 

 

Stay Safe 

Gill Thomas x 

 

And now over to Mr Abey ….

 

We continue to be amazed by the work that lots of our children are doing.  Your emails really do make the teachers smile and they really enjoy responding and encouraging the children.  If you have not yet emailed your child’s teacher then please do.  It is important that we remain in contact during this time and that children keep a link with school.  Email in any photos of the things you have been up to - academic or life skills!  

 

You should find the new 2 week learning packs on the website ready for next week (time is racing away - where did the last two weeks go?!).  You should find all you need on our web pages to support you and your child with their learning.  As always, printed copies are available should you need them from Maple site.

 

This week, we have populated our Reading Zone page with books read by some of our teachers.  We also have a Poetry Corner section with a collection of poems to enjoy - Miss Jackman has started us off with a few but Mr Ryan has also indicated that he wants to ‘get back to his roots’ as he put it with some Australian poetry.  Look out for that!

 

We have also been busy recording the beautiful poem ‘The Time we Spring Cleaned the World’ by Louise Gribbons.  This poem was written by an English teacher from Northern Ireland and has become very popular.  Children can find the poem on our ‘Keeping You Safe’ page on the site.

 

In the meantime, I will leave you with a link to it.

 

Stay safe everyone.

 

Mr Abey

The Time we Spring Cleaned the World

Written by Louise Gribbons Read by Westwood teachers

24/4/20

 

Good afternoon everyone. I really hope that you are all well.  It has been a very busy week in school. The children have had the opportunity to get out for a significant amount of time. The daily mile and football is very popular in Year 5 and 6. Mr Ryan is in his PE kit all day.   Forms are in the process of being sent out to key workers to ascertain child care requirements for the weeks beginning 4th and 11th May. Please be aware that Friday 8th May is officially a bank holiday, however we will be open if parents need us to be. 

 

The school offices are extremely busy sorting out the voucher system for parents of pupils entitled to FSM.  If everything goes according to plan, the vouchers should be out to parents by the end of next week.  We will continue to deliver food until they are in place.

Although we are not allowed to give vouchers, the school will continue to provide lunches and grocery boxes to families not entitled to free school meals, who need support at this time. We are all very aware of the challenging economic circumstances many of us are facing and as stated last week we have been fortunate in receiving support from local suppliers and we are also allocating some of our school funds.  A special thank you to  Cofresco,  who are providing us with bacofoil to wrap the sandwiches and Tescos are now providing the cardboard boxes. 

 

Today, Mr Abey and I had the pleasure of visiting some of our families, adhering to social distancing of course. If you feel your child would benefit from a doorstep visit please let us know.  Mr Abey will discuss online learning later in this blog, but I do know that many of you are concerned about the lack of new reading books at home. We have recently acquired some books through donations. At present this is quite a limited number, but if you are in need please let us know and we will deliver or send out by post.  We would not expect parents to return the books until the school is once more open. 

 

As always sending you all my very best wishes. We are all living through the most strangest of times and we are asking so much of our children.  Our older ones should be tasting independence a little now, going out to play with their friends, taking a walk up town  and our younger ones should be enjoying playdates and parties.  Please don't worry too much if they don't feel like doing lots and lots of formal work at the moment. The sun is shining, families are together -  make the most of it if you can. Keep them safe and happy - a bit of reading and maths and we will help them catch up when we are back together. 

 

Stay safe everyone- Together we are strong 

Best Regards 

Gill Thomas 

 

Thank you to everybody who responded to the survey on home learning and our website.  We really do value your responses and will work hard to make things as easy as possible for you during this time.  It is good to see that lots of you are using the website as a source of information and links to further ideas.  The website is really the first ‘port of call’ for information about home learning for your children.  It is updated regularly so check back often.

 

A number of you stated that you found reading materials for your children difficult to come by and some had limited access to books.  A number had asked for access to our library.  Unfortunately, at this time the school is closed to all children except those of key workers and our most vulnerable.  Opening it would go against social distancing rules that are in place at the moment so this is not possible.  

 

To help, we have launched a new page on our website called The Reading Zone.  On there you will find links to different sites offering access to books, either by listening, watching them being read or actual reading books.  We are also asking teachers to record themselves reading their favourite books and they will also be posted on this page for the children’s enjoyment. Lots of the books that you may find may not be on the Accelerated Reader system.  Please do not worry.  It is more important at this time that children are enjoying their reading rather than worrying about quizzing.

 

The site has also been updated with the new two-week learning plans for each year group.  You can find them under the relevant year group pages.  Again, do what you can.  Adapt if you need to.  Email for help should you need it. Teachers always enjoy looking at what children have been doing and commenting on your emails.  Come on, let's keep them busy and get emailing them - even if it's just to say ‘hello!’  Don’t miss out on getting your picture on the Gallery Pages!

 

Take care and stay safe

Mr Abey

Dear Parents 

 

I do hope that you are all keeping well. The school has continued  to be very busy over the Easter period . The children in school have really enjoyed getting outside as much as possible. They have become a very close knit little group, like a little family . I do realise how difficult it must be to send your child into school, when we are all being told to stay home to stay safe, but rest assured we are looking after them. 

 

Food deliveries are going really well and recently we have been able to provide additional bags for collection from the school. Staff are working tirelessly to source food and we do need to publicly thank the following companies who are donating to  our grocery bags.

  • Allpress Farm - Chatteris 

  • Alan Bartlett Chatteris 

  • G’s Beetroot Ltd March

  • One Stop Maple Grove 

  • Greencore Group Wisbech

If you know of any company that would like to get involved please let us know. We are aware  that the larger supermarkets are already donating to charities and are unable to offer support to individual schools and this is understandable 

 

This week I have had the opportunity to chat to parents, who were collecting supplies,  and I know that for many of our children and families it is becoming increasingly difficult. I think we all have “bad” days when we just can’t see an end to it and we all are missing friends and family and worrying about next steps.  I am heartened by the support we are receiving from the whole community; the dedication of my staff and the good wishes we are receiving from parents.

 

Last week I wrote to our year 6 pupils to assure them that support will be in place for them when they return to school or move on to their respective secondary schools and I would like to assure all parents that when the time comes we will be ready. 

 

A special welcome  to the children who will be joining  us in Foundation in September - offer letters went out this week and I will be writing to you all personally in the next few days . 

 

The Summer term begins on Monday.  Back to school uniforms for staff and children in school!

 

Keep safe everyone - Together we are strong 

Best Wishes 

Gill Thomas 

 

And over to Mr Abey… 

 

Hi everybody.  I hope you are all well and enjoying the lovely sunshine that we have been blessed with over the past week as best you can!  Our website has now been updated with the next two weeks learning plans. Alongside these plans, we have included a link to the wonderful White Rose Maths hub site who have linked up with BBC Bitesize to provide weekly maths plans.  They contain lots of videos each day that provide children with support in maths. You might like to check them out alongside the 2wk learning plan as additional maths support should you need it.  

 

You might also wish to check out what the BBC have to offer. BBC iPlayer and the Red Button service will host Bitesize Daily. These are six different 20 minute shows, each designed to target a specific age group. Experts and teachers will be involved, covering what should be learned that day for the different year groups and key stages. Maths, Science and English will be covered in dedicated programmes, and other subjects such as History, Geography, Music and Art will also be covered.  These should begin the week beginning 20th April.

 

As with all of the home learning resources, they are there to support you.  Health and mental well being come first. Do what you can to support your child but do not feel that ‘everything’ has to be done.  Create a timetable that suits you and your child. And don’t forget that teachers are available via email to help with anything.

 

The Easter egg competition was a great success and we have decided to give all entrants a cream egg as a prize - you can look forward to these when you return to school!

 

Have a good week everybody and stay safe!

 

Mr Abey

3rd April 2020

 

Dear parents 

 

I do hope you are all keeping well, and finding some joy in this very strange time. The photographs on our website indicate that you are.  In school, the children have been enjoying Joe Wicks in the morning and adults have been joining in. We are also doing the daily mile. Listening to the groans in the staffroom is quite telling. Some people have found muscles they didn't know they had! The children have also been busy making rainbow decorations for our fences on both sites. They look great. I do enjoy walking around March,  when exercising, and spotting the rainbows and messages in the windows. There's a Hop-scotch down Ellingham Avenue, and written by it - is please have a go. We had a go!

 

Staff are attending school according to a rota; this is to support social distancing and to ensure that we are not overstaffed - following the message, stay at home if you can.   This week, teachers who were in school, began to call their pupils to have a chat and check in with them. If your child hasn't received a phone call yet - don't worry it will happen. I know the teachers have really enjoyed talking to their children.  We do miss you! 

 

On a very happy note, Mrs Reeve is expecting her first child in August. We are all very pleased for Emma and Adam and await the happy event. 

 

Food deliveries are going well. We are delivering over 100 meals a day, and now are able to provide weekly boxes for delivery and grab bags for parents to collect. We are happy to support food for any family that needs it, irrespective of free school meal status: just let us know. As explained in a letter earlier in the week, the government's voucher scheme is only for families entitled to free school meals and claiming benefits. I am still awaiting login details and then I will contact eligible families to discuss their options in due course.

 

Friday, April 3rd is the last day of the Spring term and I do hope that many of you, including our key workers, enjoy some time to rest and recuperate. I know holidays are a time for families and we are all missing loved ones.  Thank goodness for technology, at least we can see them. Nothing beats a hug though and I am saving mine up. - my grown-up daughters will be so pleased! 

 

Stay safe everyone and remember we are here for you. Together we are strong.

 

Best wishes 

Gill Thomas x 

 

And over to Mr Abey … 

 

The year group galleries are filling up nicely with lots of pictures of the children’s home learning.  Hopefully, this will help to maintain motivation and enthusiasm and give you some ideas to pinch too! Teachers are enjoying communicating via email, answering any questions you may have and praising children for the great things they have been doing.

 

We have created an Easter Activities page on our website to give you some ideas of things that you could do over the Easter break.  There is a competition to decorate an egg with a prize for each year group winner, links to activity packs and links to other websites.

 

Teachers have been busy planning children’s next block of learning. The next two-week learning packs will ‘go live’ during the second week of the Easter break.  Look out for these on the year group pages. Our year group pages are being added to all the time, so make sure you keep revisiting them. Recent additions include the excellent WhiteRose maths pages, with weekly plans for Maths.  You could follow these alongside the two-weekly learning plan that the teachers set as additional activities should you so wish. Also added are links to a great Science resource called TigTag - teachers use this in school a lot - just search for your year group to find lots of science content and videos!  

 

I know many of you have appreciated the range of free reading sites that have opened up to us, especially Accelerated Reader’s myON.  There have been issues with quizzing (UK/US quiz number issue!) but if you follow the guidance on the website AR pages then you should be able to filter for UK books only.  This is a great resource that I would encourage children to explore, especially the News section of the site - this is updated daily.  

 

There has been articles in the news recently about developments by the BBC to bring home learning to your TV.  More on this when we have more details.

 

Lastly, some Spring flowers made by Matthew in Year 3 to wish us all a happy Easter.

 

Stay Safe

Mr Abey

 

 

27th March 2020

 

Dear Parents,

It feels like an age since we closed our doors last Friday, and a strange sense of normality has set in for the staff who are working in school this week.

 

To our key workers who are leaving your children with us, your children are a credit to you. They are now a little family. They are following a programme of learning activities from the school website and lots of outdoor activities. Thankfully the weather is good.  We are even allowing scooters on the playground - strange times indeed! 

 

The gratitude parents have shown the school for just doing our job, is humbling and we return that gratitude to you - our prison officers, health care workers, police officers, shop workers, drivers, utility workers, education staff,  social care staff, food production staff - thank you and your children are safe with us.

 

We are taking bookings for child care over Easter and as yet no decision has been made about the bank holidays. When we know you will know!

 

We are working hard to keep food deliveries going with the support of staff and their families. We are hoping to get more deliveries next week to support weekly boxes and may have some for collection for more families. Watch this space.  I know that both staff and families enjoy daily interaction, however distant and today I have had the pleasure of visual check-ins with children. What a lovely way to end the week! 

 

I am very aware that as time has passed this week, and new and more stringent rules have been put in place, we all are feeling more concerned for our families.  On a personal note, I strongly believe that we will come through this, with a greater understanding and appreciation of each other. The acts of kindness I see from people not only in our school but in our community and beyond, support the faith I have in our society. Together we are strong.

Stay safe everyone - we are here if you need us.

     

Warmest Regards  Gill Thomas x

 

And now over to  Mr Abey ….

 

I would firstly like to echo the words of Mrs Thomas.  It has been a delight to read your comments on Facebook and these have really made our teachers smile.  It has also been lovely to see some of the great things that you have been up to during the past week. The enthusiasm shown to continue learning has shone through.  Teachers have really enjoyed reading emails from you and receiving pictures of things you have been up to. Our key stage galleries are filling up with some of the great work!  Keep sending pictures in by using the email buttons found on the website year group pages. Our website is updated regularly with new things that we find that will help with learning.  

 

I know that some of you may be feeling a little stressed and overwhelmed by the work being set for your child.  The most important thing at this time is that your children are safe and happy. There is no expectation that it is all completed.  Pick and choose parts that will keep them motivated. Remember, their routine has changed. They are not around their friends or their teachers. Learning ‘looks’ different.  Be creative. Bake. Make. Play. All learning is good learning.

 

Don’t forget the year group emails are there so that you can reach out to teachers should you need help with anything. We look forward to looking at more pictures next week!

 

Lastly, a lovely poem written by Hollie in Year 2.  Stay Safe.  Mr Abey

 

 

Headteacher's Blog - Sept 2019

 

What a start to the term!  As I write this, I sit on our Maple Site - listening to the builders on the roof.  The Oak Site and my main office are out of bounds; it is still a building site! I am very aware of the inconvenience and upset that our postponed start has caused for parents and children and I can only assure you that staff in school really do share your frustration.  No more building work for a while please!! 

 

Despite the obvious disruption, it has been a very successful Summer; the weekly opening of the library has been a real hit and it has been an absolute pleasure observing families reading together each week. So that the children’s efforts are recognised, Mr Abey will be very busy preparing word count certificates in the first few weeks of term.  This is something that we will definitely repeat next year. To continue to develop reading momentum, we will open both school libraries on scheduled days after school; we will be looking for school librarians amongst our older pupils to facilitate this. We will share the timetable with parents and children, once librarians have been chosen and trained.  Parents are their children's first teachers; if you show your child that you value reading, they will value reading too.

 

The 2018 - 2019 academic year was successful for the school.  We have been very pleased with the level of support and challenge that we received from the Elliot Foundation.  I trust that many of you have read our MAT OFSTED Report. If you missed this, it is available on our Facebook page.  Two aspects of the report which I feel , benefit Westwood greatly are: “school leaders value the trust’s commitment to ensure that individual schools retain their distinct characteristics ...This approach typically enables schools to meet the needs of the communities they serve effectively” and  “staff benefit from high quality and well-targeted professional development opportunities.”   

Staff across the school have benefitted from the opportunities presented by the MAT.  Professional development opportunities have included: leaders, who engaged with coaching and mentoring; our newly qualified teachers, who attended bespoke training and our teaching assistants who, for the first time, enjoyed a tailored professional development day alongside colleagues from other schools. The Elliot Foundation will be conducting a further review of the school during the Autumn Term.  The outcomes of this review will of course be shared with parents.

 

Other successes in 2018 - 2019 included developments to the provision for our pupils with special educational needs - including the introduction of Pupil Passports and Individual Support Plans.  I know that parents have welcomed additional meetings alongside class teachers and our SENCO team; we will continue to build upon this during the coming academic year. Our inclusion room, The Snug, takes a very active role and helps to ensure that we meet the needs of all of our pupils.  The provision in The Snug is regarded highly by the Local Authority and other schools in the area. At the end of the Summer Term, we were informed that the school had been successful in its bid for a £10,000 grant from The Opportunities Area. This grant will enable us to enhance this aspect of our provision, while developing our capacity to support other schools locally. 

 

During 2018 - 2019, we restructured our leadership team and introduced phase leaders. This restructure has supported improvements in teaching and learning.  We are very pleased with our Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 results and feel proud of the children throughout the school for working hard and striving to achieve their best.  We eagerly await the release of the Government’s published data and will share this with parents through our school website, when it is available. With the introduction of the new OFSTED framework, we have also been further enhancing our curriculum - in Key Stage 2 we are teaching discrete subjects.  I trust that your children are enjoying talking about the knowledge that they are learning through their lessons in school; their enthusiasm for this new approach is apparent through both their homework activities and the learning completed in class. 

 

The introduction of Class Ambassadors has been a real success and I know that many children are motivated by the opportunity to be chosen as a Class Ambassador. At times, I realise that children may be disappointed when they are not selected; however, there are twelve opportunities each year.  If not this time, encourage your child to keep trying; maybe they will be picked in the future. At the beginning of the term, teachers and children will be reminded of the expectations set for Class Ambassadors: exemplary behaviour in the classroom and around the school; correct uniform including black shoes; homework and reading completed and good attendance, including punctuality. This year we have introduced School Ambassadors for each site. Our School Ambassadors will replace the previous House Captain positions and children will be identifiable because they will be wearing grey jumpers. 

 

This year, we hope to continue to build upon our hard work and the improvements made during previous years. Our strategic plan, which outlines our priorities, will be available on our school website; however, key headlines include continuing to develop a reading culture (with emphasis on ensuring that every child is a reader by the time they are seven) and developing our arts curriculum.  With the development of our arts curriculum in mind, we are benefiting from our close links to Cavalry Primary School. Cavalry have an excellent reputation in the field of music provision and we are working with them to provide further opportunities for our children to learn to play instruments - through the use of specialist teachers. This means that we will be coming away from Cambridgeshire Music; more details of this will follow early in the Autumn Term. 

 

During the previous two years, early closure on a Friday afternoon has supported with planning and the development of teacher and teaching assistant knowledge in Early Years and Key Stage 1.  However, we now feel able to review this approach. More details will be given in the future correspondence , and parental views will be sought on whether to extend the school day for our younger children to 3:10pm on a Friday, so that timings are inline with Key Stage 2.  With parental support, this will be introduced for the start of the Spring Term. 

 

Parental help is always very welcome: support with bagels on the playground, spelling helpers and of course reading buddies; thank you to those who helped last year!  If you can support the work of the school in any way, please make contact with the school offices to let them know. 

 

I really look forward to welcoming back our children in Years One to Six on Thursday 5th September.  I am equally excited to be meeting our new Reception cohort - as they begin their Westwood journey - from the week beginning Monday 9th September.  I hope to see as many of you as possible at our meet the teacher events in the coming weeks.

 

As always, if you have any comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me through the school offices or by email. 

 

Best Regards,

 

Gill Thomas

Headteacher’s Blog  8/4/19

 

As we approach the final term of the year I thought it would be a good time to reflect on our first year as part of the Elliot Foundation family.

 

The year started well with a very positive baseline assessment from the Elliot and the publication of the 2017 - 2018 statutory assessments which showed a significant improvement in   Key stage 2 progress scores and that the school is on an upward trajectory. Since the beginning of the year, the school has welcomed a number of visitors from the Elliot and have attended a number of professional development opportunities. We are very much enjoying being part of the team and are now working closely with not only local schools, but schools in other regions - learning from each other.

Our children continue to do us proud. The introduction of class ambassadors has had a very positive impact on behaviour. I am aware our children see this as a real honor and wear their badges with pride. Each class chooses 12 ambassadors a year so there are lots of opportunities to be chosen during a child’s school career. Our celebration assemblies held weekly to give us an opportunity to share the good news through reading certificates, homework certificates and of course good news cards. if your child has something to celebrate from an interest outside school please feel free to allow them to bring their medal/certificate to school. I have enjoyed hearing about individuals’ gymnastics and swimming successes this year.  

 

This year we have benefited from additional support from Neale Wade to develop sport. A member of the Neale wade staff has worked alongside teachers to develop their practice weekly and we have entered a number of sporting events at Neale Wade.  Music participation has continued to be strongly encouraged. Mrs. Greenwood’s choir has already performed at the Christmas market and will be on stage at St George's Fayre and the Voice in A Million choir had a wonderful time at Wembley this term. If you get the opportunity, have a look at the  VIAM display on Oak site - children have commented that they will remember the night forever - that's what it is all about!

Music education will be high on the agenda for the academic year 2019 - 2020 and I would really like to work towards giving more children the opportunity to learn to play an instrument.

 

Staff have continued to go over and above to provide your child with extracurricular adventures and I  thank them on your behalf .it all began with Insane Terrain ( what a great day) followed by Read around the Campfire,  Books before Bedtime and as I write this, a number of staff have given up part of their Easter break to work with Year 6 preparing them for SATs:   the children are really enjoying the combination of targeted support in English and Maths and an opportunity to socialise with staff and peers over hot dogs in the playground.

 

Encouraging full attendance is a key priority of the school. We know the impact persistent absenteeism has on a child's academic and social progress. The walking bus is going from strength to strength and the bagels on the playground have proved a great success  At present we have funding for 2 more terms - let’s hope it can continue. Congratulations to Chloe and Ryan who won this half term attendance price. Next term the raffle prize will be a swimming pass.

 

Finance continues to give leaders and governors a lot to think about and we are doing our best to continue to ensure that we provide quality education with a diminishing budget.  A massive thank you to the parents and staff who have worked so hard to raise funds for the school. We used to be able to use these monies to pay for the extras, however, we are now supplementing the cost of necessities. I am very aware that the request for donations can be concerning and we are doing our best to ensure that we keep this to a minimum.

 

Thank you to all the parents who returned the parent questionnaires this term. We have listened to your views and continue to review the homework policy. This term we have introduced individual spelling tests for year 3 and 4 and are evaluating the impact tests have on children's spelling in their writing before deciding whether to introduce to all year groups in September. Thank You to our parent helpers who are giving up their time weekly to help administer the test. if you can spare an hour or two on a Wednesday or Thursday please contact me. It would be greatly appreciated.

 

And finally, you may be aware that OFSTED is introducing a new framework for inspection in September 2019. There is to be a greater focus on the curriculum and how schools are developing their curriculum to meet the needs of all their children. School leaders have been working very hard to develop this and you may have noticed your children talking much more about the knowledge they are learning. We feel we have come a long way in a very short time and with this in mind, we have volunteered to aid OFSTED by allowing them to complete a trial inspection at the school under the new criteria. This will happen early in the summer term and will be short notice, 2-day inspection. Although it will be administered under OFSTED guidelines by a HMI and 3 inspectors  it will not be an official inspection and parents views will not be sought through parent view or a questionnaire ( although I am sure inspectors will talk to parents in the playground ) and there will not be a report or a change in OFSTED category designation. . The aim of the inspection is to give inspectors practice and to gain feedback from staff to support the final draft of the inspection handbook to be published in August. I do feel the school will benefit greatly too- we will have a clear view of how we are doing in response to OFSTED’s criteria and will help prepare us for the “real thing”. I remain very proud to be headteacher of Westwood Primary and I have no doubt that my staff will rise to the occasion and welcome the support and advice given.

 

The summer term will be a busy one.  I look forward you all at the forthcoming parents evenings and sports days,

As always if you have any concerns or comments please feel free to contact me through the school offices or through email head@westwood-cambs.org

 

Best Regards

 

Gill Thomas

Head teacher’s Blog June 2018

 

Today parents received a copy of the report written following the school’s recent inspection. Firstly I would like to state that the leadership team and the governors agree fully with the overall judgement made by the Lead Inspector – Westwood, in OFSTED terms, “requires improvement “.

 

Requires improvement as outlined in the OFSTED School Inspection Handbook April 2018 -states “A school that requires improvement is a school that is not good but provides an acceptable standard of education. The judgement of requires improvement is not a formal category of concern …”

 

An acceptable standard of education is not good enough for your child and as the report highlights  both governors and leaders are very aware of the strengths and areas of development  of the school and are striving to improve it. This was the case long before OSTED came to visit; with governors and leaders seeking out support from external agencies and looking for ways to sustain improvement through our academy conversion. The reasons behind our decision to convert to academy have been explained previously to parents   and it can be summarised by stating the school cannot get the support it requires from the local authority to move forward at a pace that is acceptable to you and us.

 

It might seem to some of you that the school has gone backwards since our previous inspection as Westwood Juniors in December 2014: that the school grew too quickly; I, however, strongly believe that we made the right decision for our community. March is growing, and children have a right to be educated in their local school; parents have a right to be a part of their local community. We could have closed our doors and refused to expand, but in these days of severe teacher recruitment and retention at all levels who would have taught your children?

 

As Westwood Primary we have been able to forge links with our neighbouring  outstanding pre –school, establish relationships with our families much sooner, introduce and embed strategies to improve teaching and learning at  a quicker pace.  I often walk between to two sites at the beginning   and the end of the day, greeting parents who I know well and who know us, waving to pre – school children who know me by name and are excited about starting “big” school; stopping to say hello to past pupils who want to share their success and I know that we made the right decision for our families.  During the school day I see older children working with the younger ones, reading buddies, year 5 and Year 6 supporting the little ones in the library, children confidently crossing the road to perform on the stage and I know we made the right decision for our children. Westwood has not gone backwards.  We have supported a transition that ensured that our children receive an adequate early years and key stage 1 experience that is rapidly improving, and it is important to remember that at the time of its closure Maple Grove was in the Ofsted category “special measures”

 

And now to the narrative of the report.  I would urge you  to read past the front page and note  the many many positives highlighted in the report: the determination of leaders and governors; the effectiveness of the teaching across many areas; (the report highlights the progress that was evident in the children’s books – progress you have seen  on parents evening , and open school events - parents do need to be aware that each teacher was only observed once during the two day inspection  for a period of up to 30 minutes and  although I agree that not all teachers performed to their best, inexperience and nerves played a great part in this) the work of our Inclusion team, the snug and SENCOs to ensure that we are a truly inclusive school; the focus that the school has on personal and social education, and that pupils achievement is improving.  Rest assured as stated in the report “staff are keen to work together and share the leader’s determination to improve outcomes for all pupils.”

 

Finally, although the report was as expected, it has to be said that the inspection was a very challenging time for staff. For many of my young teachers this was their first experience of an OFSTED inspection – and this inspection was particularly rigorous. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them, on your behalf, for their continued commitment to your children. When the inspectors left on the final day many of my staff felt demoralised and defeated, however they were all here the next day ready to face the challenges ahead and excited about the next stage of Westwood’s road to outstanding.  As parents you know how hard my staff work; you know and share our belief that education is not only about what OFSTED measures. You know that Westwood is continually striving to do the best for each and every child in an increasingly difficult landscape and I ask you to show your support for your school – smile at us in the playground tomorrow – that’s all it will take!

 

A very personal thank you to my governors, under the leadership of our chair- Natasha Hardy, who have worked tirelessly to do what is right for the children, families and staff. I am so pleased that the report recognises their commitment to school improvement.  A public thankyou to my senior leadership team, Mr Abey and our assistant Heads who not only share my vision but help shape it; middle leaders whose commitment to the school was recognised in the report, and the teachers and support staff as the report states – “There is a tangible sense of teamwork in the school” and of course a thank you to the many parents who shared their views of the school with inspectors.

 

I remain very proud to be the headteacher of Westwood Primary school. I see this report as a starting point – the benchmark by which we can judge the success of the next phase of Westwood’s history and I look forward to leading the school to continued and rapid success.

 

Gill Thomas

Monday 19th March 2018

 

On Tuesday 13th March myself and Caroline Oliver, the regional director for the Elliot Foundation spoke to staff and parents concerning the governors’ proposal to join the Elliot Foundation. I would like to thank parents and staff for attending and take this opportunity to answer questions posed in more detail.

 

At the meetings it was explained, that the governors have made the decision to covert to academy status and parents and staff are asking to consider whether they feel that the Elliot Foundation is the most appropriate academy trust.  

 

Firstly I would like to say how proud I am to be headteacher of Westwood Primary School.    Westwood is a great school!  After 30 years in education I still smile every day going to work and the faith the children, parents and staff put in myself and the governing body to lead them is not taken lightly.  The governors, like all governing bodies have been discussing the academy agenda for a considerable time.  We have visited a number of academies both in Cambridgeshire and further afield and we have spoken to a number of CEOs of academy trusts. The reason we chose to approach the Elliot Foundation is that we strongly believe that they share the same values as we do.  

 

“Where children believe they can because teachers know they can“– Elliot Foundation website

 

Westwood is a good school. Since converting to a primary school in September 2015 we have gone from strength to strength and this is supported by the views of parents.  Leadership and teaching and learning is strong, so I can understand why parents are confused by our decision to convert.  For me, it is not about the strength of the school, but about the capacity of the Local Authority to support us and ensure we become more than good. Your children deserve outstanding and this I feel can be achieved though joining the Elliot Foundation.

 

When I first began working in Cambridgeshire in 1988, I worked for the Local Education Authority and over the years I have worked with and for a number of inspirational educationalists, however the political landscape has changed.  The government has reversed its commitment that all schools will become academies, however it firmly believes that school improvement is achieved through academies  and  the capacity of the Local Authority  to support good schools has been diminished.  The Elliot Foundation is a multi-academy trust which concerns itself entirely with primary education; it is judged by the success of its schools. As one parent who communicated to me stated “Local authorities have a lot of plates to keep spinning, academies only have education to focus on and specialise in

 

Questions posed by parents:

If we join the academy does it mean we may not be inspected by OFSTED for up to 3 Years?

This is in essence true. When a school converts to academy status it keeps its previous OFSTED judgement but the clock is reset on the inspection timeline.  OFSTED risk assesses all schools regularly, using data, parent views and other measures and it could be 3 years before we receive a full OFSTED inspection.  However if we remain a LA school there is no certainty that we will be inspected in the near future[HG1] . The Elliot foundation will complete a review of the school on conversion and this will be placed on the school website for parents to view.  I have led Westwood school thorough three OFSTED inspections during my headship and on all occasions leaders’ ability to evaluate the strengths and areas of development of the school has been highlighted as a strength. This is one of the reasons I support the conversion, we are not an outstanding school – I don’t need OFSTED to tell me this – but with support and challenge we can be.

 

What level of contribution to back office functions will the school need to make versus what we make to the Local Authority now?

The school will pay 5% of our budget to the Elliot Foundation.  At the moment we pay this 5% to the LA. The Elliot will provide professional development for all staff and the performance management of the headteacher from the levy.  At present the school pays additional costs to support professional development of staff.

 

What experience does the Elliot Foundation have with such a large school as ours?

Although we are at present the biggest school in Cambridgeshire, if we joint the Elliot Foundation we will not be the biggest school in the trust. I have visited two Elliot schools this term that compare in size to Westwood. This gave myself and my business manager, Mrs Goakes, an opportunity to look at systems to support administration in the office.

 

Will the school continue to grow by a class each year?

Yes – the school is committed to becoming 4 form entry school and as long as those places are needed by the Local Authority and the town of March we will continue to grow.

 

What is the 3 year business plan for the school?  What plans does the Elliot Foundation have for us

Although the school sets a 3 year budget it is very difficult to outline a business plan as we are not sure of our funding, or the needs of our pupils. Our strategic plan is written for the year, available on our website, and reviewed termly. The Elliot Foundation’s plans for us are that we become an integral part of the trust - receiving support and challenge and giving support and challenge.  Caroline Oliver made it clear at the consultation meeting with staff - “you get out what you put in”

 

Will you (Headteacher) be expected to support other schools?

As an experienced headteacher I already support other schools for the Local Authority,  as do other members of my leadership team who are specialist leaders of education.  I mentor two head teachers new to headship who work for the LA and I sit on two Local Authority boards - The Safeguarding Board and the Newly Qualified Teachers Appropriate Body.  In addition to this I am also a member of the Partnership Board for the Eastern Opportunities Funding.   I am very aware that the Elliot values school to school support and I feel sure I will be asked to work with other leaders and other leaders will be asked to work with us.   However I have always strived to be visible to the  pupils, parents and staff at  Westwood.  I know how important it is  for the headteacher to be available and this will not change.

 

What investment will the school get by joining an academy?

There is no additional investment by becoming an academy,  however as previously stated the school will make savings as we will not have to purchase  additional CPD and there will be some savings with The Elliot being able to negotiate prices of services for a trust rather than a school buying alone.

 

Will there be an impact on funding from looked after children?

There will be no change in funding for children with additional needs.  Children who are looked after; children with ECHP plans; children entitled to pupil premium.  

 

What is the need to convert to an academy at this time?

As previously stated Westwood is a good school.   We are not under any pressure to convert, however the capacity of the Local Authority to support us to outstanding is a concern. I do not want us to be left alone because we are doing ok.  Our parents, better than most, know how quickly standards can fall in a school and I welcome the support and challenge that the Elliot will bring.

 

What is the guarantees against financial mismanagement?

It is important to note that the academies movement has been associated with a number of instances of mismanagement and fraud. When I challenged the CEO of Elliot about this he said:

“There are no guarantees. You can only make a decision about the qualities of the MAT that you are choosing to join.  That is why I make such a fuss at the beginning about how important this decision is.  One of the reasons that these stories are attached to academies is that there is much greater financial oversight and control on them than on the public sector. Academies have to meet Public Sector standards but also comply with company legislation and the requirements of being a charity. In terms of addressing the question behind this which is, “Can I trust the Elliot Foundation?”,  I would direct you to all of our schools and invite you to ask them. You will also find a whole host of transparency documents on our website”

 

What happens if it doesn’t work out?

Once a school becomes an academy it cannot return to Local Authority control.  As Hugh Greenway, the CEO of the Elliot Foundation is fond of saying “this a marriage without the prospect of divorce” – this is why the governors have been considering this decision for so long.  We are committed to being part of the Elliot and making it work for the good of pupils, parents and staff.

 

Are other children at a disadvantage because I've heard that there are more special needs and children with behaviour problems at a local academy?

 

The school’s admission policy will remain the same. Academies do not take more or less children with additional needs. The Local Authority  will continue  to have the authority  to place looked after children and children with special educational needs at the most appropriate  school,  irrespective of its’ academy status. The Elliot Foundation supports full inclusion, as does Westwood Primary School.

 

The letter seemed to be bias to the positives, what disadvantages are there? VAT? Unqualified teachers?

The disadvantages as I see it is that we cannot reverse the decision. The governors and leaders have to sure that this is the correct decision and we are. As with LA schools, academies can claim back any VAT paid on services.  Academies can appoint unqualified teachers, as can Local Authority schools. As it is now, I as headteacher will be responsible for appointing teaching staff and the school is committed to appointing the best; qualified teaching staff.   Being part of the Elliot with its commitment to good quality professional development will help us not only recruit but retain the best staff.

 

Will parents hear what the teachers are thinking about the proposal? 

Yes – all responses to the consultation will be published on our website and feel free to ask them.

 

What about the fact that the curriculum doesn't need to be followed by academies?

Elliot Foundation schools all follow the national curriculum.  At Westwood we follow the national curriculum and we continue work to improve our curriculum and make it relevant to our pupils. This will continue.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me by email or through the school office. I am very aware that parents have seen a number of changes in recent years please be assured that as always, at the heart of every decision we make is the well-being of your child.

 

Best regards

Gill Thomas


 

 

 

 

12th February 2018

 

As we are half way through the year, I thought it was a good time to review what the school has achieved this year and keep parents up to date.

 

The school has been trialling Friday closure for our foundation and key stage 1 for a term and a half now. Feedback from staff, both teaching and teaching assistants, is very positive. Staff feel that they have a greater understanding of learning and this is impacting on children’s progress. The majority of parents whose children are impacted by this change are in favour of the shorter Friday and I was very pleased to read the comments about the Friday club. I have been really impressed with how the Friday staff have worked to provide quality and enjoyable child care for our children. Governors need now to consider our next steps and a real consideration is the cost to our working parents. We have made a commitment that the cost of child care will be kept at a minimum and we intend to honour this, and with constraints on our school budget, full implementation may not be possible. Governors will be considering a number of options – continuing as we are with foundation and key stage 1 finishing on a Friday; extending early closure to include year 3; full implementation to all year groups. The decision is expected to be made before the end of the spring term.

 

As the school grows in size, we continue to work hard to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice. We have enjoyed a number of open sessions this year – phonics and English in the autumn term and maths this term. I do hope that you as parents find these informative. I know that a number of our working parents have commented that they felt giving the dates out in September for the whole year has been useful and we will continue to do this. This academic year saw the introduction of two schemes to support teachers with planning – Maths - No Problem and Story time Phonics. Senior leaders, external advisors and governors have been involved in monitoring the impact and we have seen real progress, particularly in teacher knowledge.

 

The school strongly believes that for children to learn they must feel safe and secure. This term we have collected the views of our children about how they feel at school. It was very pleasing to note that the vast majority of children feel safe at school. They feel safe in their classrooms, feel safe to make mistakes, and feel that teachers listen. However an area that does concern some children is lunchtimes. Many felt the halls are very noisy and this can make them feel unsafe. I and my senior leadership team monitor the lunchtime halls daily and the behaviour remains good, however there are a lot of children eating and chatting. To make lunchtime a more enjoyable experience for all, from the 19th February, packed lunch children in foundation to year 5 will be eating their lunch in classrooms, picnic style on large blankets. I feel sure that the children will enjoy this experience and thus lunchtimes will be the social time it should be. Another concern for some of our younger children was the cloak rooms and the amount of children using them. Building works during the February half term has alleviated this, as individual cloakrooms are now in place for most of the classes - it may even help with lost property.

 

I know that the building work has caused some upset to parents and neighbours. The traffic lights were an unavoidable inconvenience and I can only apologise. The building work does appear to be on track and the school will benefit so much from our new improved building. Thank you for your patience.

 

It was with real sadness that at the beginning of the year I took the decision to disband Friends of Westwood, however I do understand that we are all busy and it is difficult for parents and staff to commit to a whole year of fundraising. I do feel that the current system where we ask parents and staff of each year group to support one fund raiser is more achievable. The school works very hard to ensure that extra -curricula activities are accessible to all and we do not feel any child should miss out because of cost. School trips, after school clubs, residential, leavers parties and lots more are funded by the school, and our fundraising activities make this possible. With this in mind I look forward to seeing lots of you at our Year 3 obstacle race and car boot sale on Saturday 24th February. Year 3 parents we need bottles and cakes for the day – thank you.

 

As stated in my last newsletter, the school governors will be consulting on academy status. Senior leaders and governors have thought long and hard about this decision. We have met with a number of academy chains and visited a number of schools both within Cambridgeshire and further afield. We now feel that to ensure that the school continues to move forward the time is right. We will be applying to the Secretary of State for Education to join The Elliot Foundation Academy Trust. We strongly believe that the Elliot Foundation shares the school’s ethos – that the child comes first. The Eliot Foundation works solely with primary schools and we feel that they have the expertise to support us. Our colleagues at Cavalry Primary School work within the Elliot Foundation and we are looking forward to working more closely with them. There will be parents consultation meetings in the near future (dates will be given out week beginning 19th February). Rest assured the school believes that this is the right move for us and will only benefit your child. If our aim is successful, in the immediate future, parents and children will not notice a difference – the school name will remain the same; the uniform will remain the same and the senior leadership will remain in place. However staff will have access to high quality professional development, support and challenge and this will serve to ensure that your child receives the outstanding education he /she deserves. I am very happy to discuss this further with individuals on request.

Looking forward to seeing you all at our forthcoming parents evenings.

 

Best Regards

Gill Thomas

Headteachers blog: October 2017

 

The first half term has been an eventful and successful start to the year. Memorable events include our year 6 Caythorpe trip, Insane Terrain and our open day events. We have lots to look forward to, with Read around the campfire and our Christmas events. I am particularly looking forward to our remembrance service and the return of our ceramic poppies, which the older children have been busy making.

 

Reception have settled well. We altered our procedures this year; with our youngest children beginning school first and children beginning in small groups. Our reception staff are reporting that they feel because of this, they know the children better and thus can support their learning. During our forthcoming parents evenings we will be providing a questionnaire for our reception parents asking for their opinion on their experience of starting at Westwood.

 

A number of parents have commented positively about the introduction of story time phonics into our reception and key stage 1 classes. The children love it and much of this is to do with the enthusiasm of staff who are not averse to dressing up! I have notice cave women and men, princesses and bears in the school playground.

Our key stage 2 open events were concerned with reading this term and it was a real pleasure to present our first half a million word reading certificates to four young men in our celebration assembly.

 

For our early years and key stage 1 pupils, school had been ending at 1:15 on a Friday for half a term and both the senior leadership team and governors are monitoring the impact on learning. Governors have met with staff and in November a local authority advisor will visit the school to observe in classes, looking specifically at the contribution of adults to the learning. Our governor newsletter and governor minutes, published on our website will keep parents informed. Please be aware we are expecting to move to early closure for all pupils in September 2018.

 

We are expecting the building works to begin on our oak site in December. The extension will include 4 new classrooms, new offices and meeting rooms at the front of the school, an extended school kitchen and long awaited individual cloakrooms for each class. The building works will inevitably lead to some disruption for all but we will do our best to keep it to minimum.

 

Despite the size of our school I believe we work very hard to ensure that we retain our family feel! As a parent wrote on our Facebook page - we are "team Westwood”. If you have a concern or worry about any aspect of your child’s education, please feel free to contact me directly through the school offices or through email,

 

And finally a plea.

 

Early this week a letter will be sent home concerning fund raising. Unfortunately this year there were not enough parents at the AGM of the friends of Westwood to form a committee and therefore it will not run. The funds given by the Friends of Westwood have supported your child in so many ways. The friends have paid for the cost of buses for all trips. They have paid for theatre shows enjoyed by all. They have provided for equipment for our foundation and for our year 6 they pay for the leavers party, entertainment, tea and make a contribution of £5.00 towards leavers jumpers. I understand that we are all busy and that although we get lots of help at events many of you don't have time to sit on a committee. However without some fundraising, parents are going to be asked to pay considerably more for the "extras" and our children will miss out. In addition to this fundraisers can be social events helping parents meet each other. The proposal I am suggesting is that each year group organises one fundraiser a year, with parents coming together in each year to work together. I feel sure we will have enough volunteers to support one fundraiser a year.

 

As always, I thank you for your continued support and look forward to seeing you at the forthcoming parents evenings

 

Gill Thomas

Headteacher Blog August 2017

 

As the holiday draws to a close it is time to look forward to the year ahead.

 

Summer holidays have been a busy time for staff. A number of classrooms have been painted and a telephone intercom system has been installed in all oak classrooms they now enjoy a similar communication system to the one being used on our Maple site. Our focus on Foundation and year 1 continues and both year groups have had an injection of funds which has allowed teachers to redesign classrooms – with more suitable furniture and resources. Come in and have a look next term – they look great!

 

Work on the extension to our Oak site is due to begin early in the autumn term. We will work alongside the builders to keep disruption to our parents and children to a minimum. The benefits of the extension will however outweigh any disruption in its building. I am particularly looking forward to the redesigned entrance which will make it easier for parents at the end of the school day.

 

This academic year we welcome 5 newly qualified teachers to Westwood. In a climate where it is difficult to recruit, Westwood continues to attract teachers new to the profession who are entusitiaic and committed to development. Our size supports this as there are opportunities for progression within the school. In addition to this we have a very experienced and skilled senior leadership team, including 3 Specialist Leaders of Education who are able to support professional development, both within the school and within the locality. From September we will also being employing an early year’s specialist teacher to support in Foundation. Her brief will be to work with children identified with communication difficulties to support accelerated progress. As I say every year at our new parent’s events – the foundation is called foundation for a reason – it is the foundation that all future success is built upon.

This year sees the establishment of an additional classroom – “The Snug” led by Miss Kelly Patterson. The Snug will be a classroom designed for those children, who, for a variety of reasons, are not managing in the traditional classroom setting. In the Snug their educational and emotional needs will be met in a very small group supported by teachers and TAS The benefits for the children within The Snug are of course apparent, however we also envisage real benefits for the whole school community, as adults in the remaining classrooms concentrating on the needs of the class, and not the complex needs of a minority. Additional information about our Nurture policy will be posted on our school website.

 

The academic year 2016 -2017 the governors and leadership sought the views of parents on a number of the issues. The parent questionnaire completed in March, although very positive, highlighted the issue of communication. To support this, from September on our school website will be Yearly calendar containing all the salient dates for the forthcoming year. Dates include parent’s evenings, information evenings, sports days, productions. We will update it as necessary and you will be informed through texts, email and Facebook. Homework was also raised as an issue and a big thankyou to the parents who worked with Mrs Jones to review our homework policy. Both Topic and Maths homework has been reviewed and will begin in its new format in the autumn term. Spelling homework is still under review.

 

Following or consultation on changing the school day – the school week will change for our Foundation and Key stage 1 pupils from September. School will end at 1:15 for these pupils and Friday Club will begin on Friday 8th September for children of working parents and those in full – time education. Please be aware that, as this is being paid for out of the school budget this year, it is exclusively for parents who need it for the reasons outlined above.  If any parents would like to visit Friday club in action, please feel free to contact myself to Miss Sidaway through the school offices.

 

Another aspect of communication we feel we need to improve this year is to ensure that parents understand the role of the governing body in monitoring the school. This year the chair of governors will be producing newsletters outlining their work. I feel sure that parents will find this useful and informative.

 

Our priorities for this year are outlined in re school’s strategic plan, which will be posited on our website. Our key priority remains phonics teaching in Foundation and Key stage 1 and we will be introducing Story time phonics to all year groups. Parents of our younger children will, I am sure, hear lots about this, with their children telling stories and learning actions to support developing their phonic knowledge.

 

I look forward to meeting you all personally over the next few weeks, and as always if you have any questions or concerns I can be contacted through the school offices or by email head@westwood.cambs.sch.uk.

 

Best Regards

 

Gill Thomas

 

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Friday 12th May

 

I realise that the proposal to change the school week has led to lots of discussion.  I am very pleased with my photo in the Cambs Times – it is quite old and I look young!

 

A parent handed me a list of questions yesterday which I am delighted to answer.  The parent obviously thought carefully about the proposal and has kindly agreed that I can share on our website.

 

Q             Will there be a crèche for the meeting on the 23rd May?

A             There will be a crèche for the 2.30 pm meeting, if parents require one for the 6.30 pm meeting then please let me know and I will organise.

 

About the Proposal

 

Q             How do other schools manage PPA time?

A             PPA is a statutory obligation, so all schools have to implement it.  Schools do so in a number of ways – supply teachers, sports coaches, teaching assistants.  A number of schools have implemented a 4½ day week for pupils, including schools in Cambridge and Peterborough.

 

Q             Is the change driven by budget/increase in number of classes per year?

A             Absolutely not!  I can understand why parents may think this, particularly with stories in the news about education cuts.  Westwood is a large school and schools are funded per pupil.  In addition to this we manage our budget very well.  This proposal is driven by one thing only.  The school’s commitment to continue to improve the education your child receives.  If implemented it will actually cost the school – teaching assistants, including part-time, will be asked to work Friday afternoons and there will be an increase in hours for catering and lunchtime staff to cover the staggered lunch time.

 

Q             Are the teachers on board with this proposal?

A             Teachers and teaching support staff are being consulted formally and I will be able to share their views at the meetings on the 23rd May.  Informal discussions with staff indicate they are very supportive of the proposal and believe it will have a real impact on teaching and learning.

 

Q             Will this proposal mean class time currently lost to PPA will stop or is this additional to current levels?

A             PPA in its current format will end.  The children will still receive a broad and balanced curriculum and receive their entitlement of PE, music and art, but they will be taught by class teachers.  Our art lead, Miss Allen, will continue to support art in years 3 – 6, however class teachers will have responsibility for the class.

 

Q             Will you ensure that it is mandatory for teachers and teaching assistants to stay for the full PPA time (until 3.15 pm)?

A             Yes, but this is something I know I will not have to ‘police’.  I was very disappointed to read comments on social medial about “teachers having afternoons off”.  You only have to drive by Westwood at 7 o’clock in the morning or 6 o’clock at night to see how hard my staff work.  As I write this 8 members of staff, teachers and teaching assistants are preparing to give up their weekend to take year 4 to Kingswood.  There are no overtime payments for this!  Westwood organises residentials at the weekend as the cost to parents is so much cheaper than in the week and we do not want children penalised because of cost.  With summer camps, Easter camps, family learning days, read around the campfire etc. the school is virtually open 52 weeks a year. 

 

Q             Can the proposal be implemented by the school or does it need  higher authority to approve?

A             The governors of the school will make the decision.  That’s why it is so important that parents share their views with governors through the questionnaire that will be sent out following the meeting and through discussions with our named governors, Natasha Hardy and Rebecca Amps, who can be contacted through the school office either by telephone or email (office@westwood.cambs.sch.uk)   As a local authority school we have a duty to consult with the local authority, however the decision remains that of the school governors.

 

Q             The 15 minutes lost from lunchtime for year 1 – 6 doesn’t sound like a lot but I am wondering if dawdlers or slow eaters will have less social / exercise time which could be detrimental to their learning (and disruptive for class).  Has this been considered  / will it factor into the restructure of teaching time?

A             We believe that the proposal will help our dawdlers or slow eaters.  All children will go into first seating.  Children will not have to queue, and therefore playtime should be longer.  There will be less children in the hall but the same amount of lunchtime staff and therefore they will be able to support children more effectively.  Many, many children find an hour too long – our colouring club, nest and library are full to overflowing.  We work very hard to ensure our classrooms are social environments.  The best part of the day shouldn’t be lunchtime.  We are teaching children to collaborate, discuss, compete  and this supports social skills.  PE and sport supports the school’s aims and we will ensure that the children’s entitlement to these important aspects of the curriculum continues.

 

Assuming implementation of the proposal

 

Q             How will you measure if this change has been effective?

A             The proposal is to support the improvement of teaching and learning. Monitoring of this is continuous.  We do this through lesson observations, ‘drop-ins’ into classrooms by members of the senior leadership team, work scrutinies, discussions with pupils and staff and, of course, data analysis.   Teaching in this school is good – very good, we are going for outstanding – it’s what your child deserves!    Ultimately the school is judged by OFSTED.  The school was last inspected in December 2014 and as a good school we are expecting an inspection during the academic year 2017-2018.  If the proposal is implemented we are confident that we can justify our reasoning and show results.

 

Q             Would there be parent input into this assessment?

A             Parent questionnaires, given out yearly, include questions concerning quality of teaching and learning – progress of pupils.  This is an excellent vehicle to gauge parents’ views as they are completed at parents evenings and the vast majority of parents attend.  If the proposal is implemented,  a specific questionnaire about the school week will be circulated at the end of the spring term 2018.

 

Q             What time scale would you give it before assessing the change?

A             We would expect to see an almost immediate impact in the classroom.  Our already trained teaching assistants, will have a greater understanding of learning intentions and expected outcomes and thus will work to an even greater effect.  The long term effect will be in the data analysis, at the end of the year.

 

Q             What is the plan if the change isn’t as effective as hoped?  (e.g. additional PPA still needed, or not financially viable to continue)

A             I was very very aware that in the first instance this proposal was going to be controversial and I would not have suggested it if I did not believe that it would significantly enhance the education of our children.  Those of you who know me well, hopefully know that, although I am not always popular, my commitment to your children is steadfast and this is shared by my staff.  I am fully committed to making this work.  Additional PPA is not an option.  Children progress when taught by teachers they know.  My staff will do what they do now – work longer – until the job is done.  As previously stated the school manages its budget well.  I cannot envisage a time when it is not financially viable.  However schools communities evolve, educational thinking evolves, if changes need to be made parents will be consulted as always.

 

Logistically

Q             Drop off / pick up times – how will these work for dual site parents?

A             Very much as it does now.  When we changed Maple Site hours from 3.00 pm to 3.15 pm, some felt that this would be an issue, however there hasn’t been any problems.  Our year 5 and 6 pupils are let out independently at the end of the day (unless parents state otherwise) and staff remain on the playground until all pupils are collected at the end of the day.  In the mornings classrooms will open at 8.30 am and register is at 8.45 am, so there is plenty of time to drop off on both sites and the early start may well support our working parents.

 

Childcare on a Friday

 

Q             Who will be looking after the children?

A             The ultimate responsibility for the children will stay with myself.  A number of lunchtime supervisors have expressed an interest in this role.  All lunchtime supervisors receive regular training on child protection and positive play as well as first aid.  Some lunchtime supervisors are already supporting the school day through our very popular “Time to Move Programme”.  If the proposal is implemented, once staff are in place, we will ensure that play leader training takes place.

 

Q             What will they be doing during this time?

A             This is a ‘club’, a chill out time – art activities, sporting activities, opportunity to use ICT.  Children can do homework if they want to.  It will be dependent on the children’s interests.

 

Q             Will the child care be run on just one site?

A             Ideally yes, as this would make collection easier, however the final decision will be made when we have numbers.  Yes, medications will be transferred. 

 

Q             Will there be segregation of years?

A             No – we want to develop a family atmosphere – the older children and younger children gain a lot from being together and this is why we mixed the year groups over two sites.  Primary schools run from 4 to 11, why should your children miss out because the school is a split site?  However, the children will choose their activity and it might well be that at times they segregate themselves according to age and interest, e.g. football.

 

Q             Offered to ‘working parents’ – how are you going to assess this?

A             Friday Club will be offered to any parent that requires it.  My assumption is that working parents

                will require it.  Please note my answer to the question below; we do need to ensure that there is a

                distinction between Friday club and school.

 

Q             How flexible will childcare be?  Will booking be weekly / termly in advance?

A             We will expect parents to book termly.  That does not mean we expect parents to use it every

                week, however it is imperative that staff are in place to run the club, and this can only be achieved

                if we know in advance.  It would impact on the education of your children if staff had to be taken

                from planning meetings as there had been an influx of children to Friday club.

 

Q             How much will childcare cost?  When will this be due to you?

A             There are two reasons the school is asking for payment for Friday club.

 

  1. It is important that parents see that ‘Friday Club’ differs from the school day.  The school day ends at 1.30 pm – this is an extra curricular.  The school runs a number of free after school clubs, indeed we run clubs every day of the week.  A number of schools charge for all extra-curricular clubs.
  2. A contribution by parents whose children use the club, ensures that the budget is spent on the education of all children.

 

As part of the parent questionnaire that will be circulated following the meeting on the 23rd, parents will be asked about payment for Friday club.  If the majority have strong views on this issue, I feel sure the governors will take this into consideration.  The cost is dependent on the number of pupils that, on average, sign up to use the club.  The school has no overheads - building, lights, heating resources are all here.  We only need to cover staffing.  I do not want, as yet, to put a figure on the cost, but it will not be above £3.50 a session and the likelihood is, it will be considerably less.  Parents will be expected to pay in advance, but as always the school will discuss individual needs.

 

Q             Will there be a discount for siblings?

A             No – the staff costs remain the same, however I am expecting the cost to be minimum.

 

Q             Will childcare vouchers be accepted?

A             This is something I know little about.  If needed we can investigate.

 

Q             What will you do if a child is not picked up on time but no payment for childcare made, and how will this differ for persistent offenders?

A             The school is very aware that sometimes things happen, stuck in traffic, cars break down etc.   This can happen whether the school closes at 1.30 pm or 3.15 pm.  Procedures are in place for this and will continue.  If a parent contacts the school to say they are running late, we hold on to the child.  If a parent is late and does not contact the school, then we hold onto the child and use the emergency contact numbers held by the school.  Persistent offenders are very rare and the school works closely with individual parents to understand issues.

 

Q             What plans do you have for the deficit /excess monies resulting from the childcare?

A             As previously stated the school will not make a profit from a school club.  Parents will be charged the bare minimum to cover the cost.

 

I do hope that these questions and answers have helped you understand in more detail the thinking behind the proposal.  I am more than happy to answer any further questions, either in writing or through a private meeting.

 

Thank you, as always, for your continued support.

 

Gill Thomas

22nd February 2017

 

Well we are half way through the year and I thought I would remind you of some of the successes Westwood Primary school have experienced this year:   Our new build is well and truly established and our foundation children now have a purpose built outside area (a little less muddy than last year).  At the beginning of the year we introduced a new uniform for our reception which included polo shirts and tracksuit bottoms. We also presented every child with a jumper with their name on it. The fundraising for outdoor coats was a great success and thank you for your support. Our year 5s are firmly established on our Maple site and this, we feel, has been a great success. The year 5s have risen in stature as the eldest on the site. The year 5 house captains do a sterling job and all Year 5s can be relied on to support their younger peers.

 

The school has enjoyed a number of sporting successes this year. Neale Wade Academy has organised many sporting events for the local primary schools and Westwood has attended the majority   - we did particularly well in the cross county and the football.  Our links with Neale Wade remain very strong and Miss Jackman our Year 6 lead has attended a number of meetings with Neale Wade staff to support transition.  Visits to Neale Wade for some children, will begin this term and Year 6 have the careers convention to look forward to on 15th March 2017.

 

Our two choirs go from strength to strength, under the direction of Mrs Greenwood and Mr Abey. We have performed at community events, including the Mayor’s Christmas Service and Voice in a Million is fast approaching.

 

Our links with parents continues to be a real strength of the school and it is a pleasure to see so many of you at our weekly assemblies.  Family learning activities continue to be well supported and this term we are opening them up to pre-school parents.  We enjoy a very good relationship with our neighbouring pre-school, with Mrs Bidwell sitting on our governing body and myself being part of the management committee for Maple Grove Pre-school.  This works towards ensuring smooth transition into school for our youngest pupils.

 

This year we continue to develop our curriculum.  Mrs Grant and Mrs Lansdell Hill are taking part in a cluster project concerned with developing enquiry based learning in Key stage 1, and years 2 and years 5 have been trialling a new maths scheme, based on the Singapore method of maths – this is to be introduced to all years in the summer term.

 

One of the highlights of the year so far for me has to be the read around the campfire.  One of the school’s priorities this year is to support a love of reading for our children.  In an era of testing and outcomes for children, it is important that we continue to encourage them to see the joy we can get from books – to read for pleasure. With this in mind I do hope that our Read before Bed evening will be just as successful and I look forward to seeing many of you there.

 

Governors and senior leaders are beginning to think about organisation for next year.  Building work is expected to begin on our Oak site in November - 4 new classrooms are to be built and the offices and kitchen are to be refurbished.   The cloakrooms are also going to be updated and FINALLY every class will have their own cloakroom. This will make such a difference to our children’s well-being.  As many of you know the years 3 and 4 cloakrooms are a little like Bermuda triangles -  with 90 children sharing the space it is inevitable.   Whilst the building works is going on the school will lose the Oak nest, as this will be needed for a classroom, however this is only an interim measure and the lunchtime club will take place in our art room.

 

I look forward to seeing you at parents evening on Tuesday 28th February and Thursday 2nd March on our Oak site,   parent questionnaires will be given out on these evenings to gauge your views.

 

As always thank you for your continued support.

 

Gill Thomas


22nd August 2017

The new term is nearly upon us and we are looking forward to welcoming the children back to school.  The summer break has been a busy time for the school. On Maple Site building work has continued and we will be opening with 4 new classrooms for our Year 5; a new senior leaders’ office for myself and other members of the senior leadership team; a refurbished front office and a purpose built Nest, for lunchtimes and breakfast club.  On Oak site, a path has been added to allow easy access from both sites and an Art room has been established in the small hall.  There is still lots to do and teachers and support staff will be busy moving furniture and setting up classrooms on the 1st and 2nd September. School starts for pupils on Tuesday 6th September, with Years 1 to 6 attending full time and a stay and play day for our Reception.  

We are welcoming a number of new staff this year and open mornings for each year group will be organised for early in the term, to give parents an opportunity to meet class teachers, see the new classrooms and hear about the curriculum.  Dates for the term will go out with the first school newsletter.

 

 

 

Just to clarify the school day –

 On Maple Site   doors will open at 8:35, and children will come straight in from the playground.  On the first morning teachers will be in the playground to ensure everyone knows where they are going, however as a rule of thumb Year 1 classrooms are at the front of the school, and the children will enter through their class doors. Year 5 will enter either through their classroom door or the year 5 corridor door and the reception pupils will be escorted around the back of the school, where they will be met by their teachers. DON’T WORRY STAFF WILL BE THERE TO HELP.

We are hoping that all children will be in school for 8:45 and the register will closed for Year 5 at 8:45 and our Reception / Year 1 Pupils, 9am.   At the end of the day the children will be dismissed at 3:10. If you are picking up from both sites, pick up from Maple first. Foundation and Year 1 pupils will only be handed over to an adult named on contact list. Year 5 pupils are dismissed independently, unless parents inform the class teacher otherwise.

Oak Site, as Maple, doors open at 8:35. Year 2 and Year 6 pupils   walk down the side of the school (by the cycle sheds) to enter the school. Year 2 will come through the side door and year 6 will enter through doors in their classrooms.   Year 2 teachers / TAs will be monitoring the path every morning and will be available for a quick chat with parents. Year 4 pupils enter through the main entrance and Year 3 come in through the Year 3 door, at the edge of the playground by the cycle shed.  All children are expected to be in school by 8:45 am and the register is called for years 3, 4 and 6 at 8:45 and Year 2 at 9.am.  The school ends at 3:15.  Please do not worry – we will not allow younger pupils in Years 2 and 3 to leave the school if an adult is not present.

And Finally Uniform – the school strongly encourages all children to wear uniform. It supports a feeling of belonging to the school and it ensures that children’s “best clothes” are  not ruined.   In all year groups, but in particular   in Foundation the children are exploring the world around them and their clothes and shoes will get dirty – paint, mud, sand, pen - to name just a few stains. The school makes no apology for this – this is your child’s place of work and learning can be dirty work.

To support parents and to help with the washing, we decided to change the  uniform slightly for our youngest pupils. We felt that blue t - shirts would hide the stains a little more and jogging  bottoms / legging could be bought very cheaply, however if you would like  to put your child in traditional uniform – then that is absolutely  fine with us – we just ask you to understand that it will come home dirty.  I do hope that has made the school’s positon clear. 

 

Looking forward seeing you on Tuesday 6th September

Gill Thomas

 

 

 

 

 4th May 2016

Thank you to all who took the time to comment when completing parent questionnaires.  The results have been shared with you and I am sure you will agree the statistics are very positive however there are some comments that I would like to respond to:

 

The question concerning homework generated the most comments.  Some parents feel we set too much and some that we set too little. The government expects schools to set homework and sets guidelines which we adhere to. The children appear to enjoy Mathletics and the after school clubs are very popular, however teachers do need to ensure that Mathletics is accessible for all children and that feedback is given.  Spelling homework is less popular and we will be reviewing this. The aim of Topic homework is to provide a vehicle for parents and children to work together and it remains voluntary. The project homework must capture the children’s imagination and the senior leadership team is in the process of reviewing the school’s curriculum for September 2016.  Project homework will be part of this review.

It is very pleasing to note that 98% of respondents recorded that their children feel safe at school, and only 5% felt that the school did not deal effectively with bullying.  5% is too many children! As a parent myself I am very aware of the impact bullying can have on our children and we hope to make it clear to pupils and parents that we will tackle all types of bullying, both inside and outside of the school gates.  I strongly believe that we are preparing children for life and that our pupils will meet people who will try to bully them long after they leave Westwood.  We must prepare our children by ensuring that they are resilient and self confident.  The school’s anti-bullying policy supports this by admonishing perpetrators and empowering victims.  I am quite happy to discuss our policy through a parents evening or with individuals. It does sadden me to note that a very small minority of parents continue to comment on the school’s policy on social media sites, particularly as the school will not comment in a public forum.

Communication between home and school generated some comments.  I recognise that there have been some teething problems and I do hope you are now seeing some improvement.  I know that the Foundation Link books have been greatly appreciated.

It is pleasing to note that only 2% of respondents felt that the school did not ensure children behave well.  The school prides itself on its inclusive ethos.  However  we endeavour to ensure that the behaviour of an individual does not impact negatively on the learning or well-being of others . That said, we are aware that some children face challenging times, due to a number of issues beyond their control, such as concerns about transition, bereavement, family upheaval.  In these circumstances we work with parents and children to provide a “safe place” and draw up individual behaviour plans which reward and reinforce positive behaviour, whilst we are supporting the child's emotional well-being .  I am very happy to discuss the thinking behind this in more detail.

 

A school split over two sites has some positives, not least the amount of space it generates for our children. However it does generate some challenges.  Assemblies take place on Oak site because of space restrictions and because we can use the stage.  A risk assessment has been completed to ensure the children safely cross the road. I strongly believe that the blending of the key stages across the sites will be of great benefit to our children and I know the Year 5 pupils are looking forward to their new purpose built classrooms.

 

Thank you one again for taking the time to complete the questionnaires. This is your school and your views matter.  I can, as always, be contacted through the school office and as one parent commented – we respond quickly to emails.

Gill Thomas

24th March

 

 A great end to the term  with an excellent turn out on for  Parents' evening.  I do hope our Key stage  2 parents enjoyed getting to know Maple Site. Thank you  to all who completed questionnaires. The office are busing analysing the results and these will be shared with you early next term.   I do hope that you  found the target sheets useful, feedback from parents would be welcomed

 

The Easter holidays will be a busy time for the school. The office will be open every morning, except Bank holidays,   and many of our Year 6 pupils will be at school in the second week, preparing for SATS., and of course the building work continues.

 

Wishing you all a Happy Easter , let's hope the weather is kind to us

The Summer term begins on Monday April 11th, with a staff training day and the children are back on Tuesday 12th April

 

Mrs. Thomas

 

 17th March 2016

As we draw to the end of the Spring term it is a good time to think about how far we have come this year. Westwood Primary school is well established and , even though  we are over two sites we feel like one school. It has been a very exciting term for the children , - our World Book Week gave the pupils an opportunity  to work together over the two sites , Voice in a Million for our choir was a wonderful experience, our Reception began their assemblies,  and  this week we have enjoyed the brilliant Year 4 Production of Robin Hood - thank you to all involved.

in addition to this the building work continues . I am very aware of  the disruption that this has caused, to parents , staff and children,  however  the builders are progressing well and it is expected to be completed, on Maple site,  for the new academic year,  and over the Easter break they are working on the Foundation outdoor area. 

Senior leaders are in the process of redesigning parts of the curriculum  to support our aim to continue to raise standards  and we will of course  keep you fully informed . This will include bringing the times of the day on both sites into line, and looking at mixing key stages across both sites. Governors and staff have looked at the school aims  and we will be sharing them with you in the summer term.

 

Our year 2 and Year 6 pupils will be taking the Interim statutory assessments in May , in light of the changes to the national curriculum in 2014, An information evening  for parents will take place on Wednesday 13th April. There s lots of information for parents on this site to support understanding of the changes.

 

I am very much looking forward to seeing you all at parents eveing next week. All appointments will be on our Maple Site, with Year 6 pupils on hand to guide parents. A Parent questionnaire will be distributed at parents' evening, asking for your views of the school .

Thank you for your continued support

 

Gill Thomas

 

15th October 2015

 

This week we have continued to encourage the children to work across both sites . Year 6 pupils are taking it in turns  to help the younger children  on our Maple site , during lunchtime and our Infants have  been enjoying going to Oak site for assembles. This week a Year 5 class use maple site's hall for PE.

Our Reception  have settled well and are enjoying staying all day.  it is a real pleasure to visit them in their classrooms. I realise that they come home very dirty and at times wet, however we make no apologies for this - the children are exploring , creating and learning.

 

 Many of you know we  are part of the Fenland Teaching  School  Alliance. As a part of this alliance we work with other schools in the area offering and receiving support. We also play our part in  developing teachers in training. This term we have Miss Lee and Miss Page working alongside Mrs. Talbolt and Mrs. Crosskill  "learning their trade". We very much enjoy being part of this professional development and feel the children benefit from the enthusiasm and commitment  these teachers show,  however of course the class teachers remain responsible for their class.

 

Just a reminder about behaviour - the school works very hard with parents to support positive behaviour. I am aware that many of you know that there was a serious incident of unacceptable behaviour this week,. Be  assured the incident  was dealt with quickly and effectively. I really do thank you for your support in this matter. If you have any concerns please see me through the Oak office .

 

Looking forward to seeing lots of you at the Family Learning festival next Saturday 17th October.

 

Gill Thomas

29th September

 

Four weeks into term and  all is well! I have really enjoyed the class assemblies this term and it is great to see our younger children from the Maple Site coming over to perform on our stage . They set a very high standard.  The  Reception are in  all day from this week , and they have settled well.  Some of our Year 6 pupils are kindly giving up their lunchtimes to  help out in the Maple hall and in the playground and this is greatly appreciated. 

 

After school clubs start this week - I do believe there is something for everyone. Please ensure that if your child signs up for a club he/ she attends regularly and the office staff are informed promptly if you child cannot attend.  It can be very time consuming and even worrying when a child doesn't show up for a club and we are ringing round trying to find out where that child is.

 

Finally I just want to take the time to reiterate the school's policy on attendance. Regular, prompt attendance is a vital factor when   seeking success at school. The school curriculum is very  full; children do not have time to catch up! Children who are absent a lot find it difficult  to maintain friendships with their peers and   fail to make relationships with staff. This perpetuates the problems - they don't come so they don't want to come.  The government has made it very clear that it supports full attendance at school for every child and this year has raised the bar-  a child is now identified as a persistent absentee is his/ her attendance drops below 90%.  If your child 's attendance drops below 90% you will receive a letter  from myself, informing you that attendance  is being monitored . Of course children should not be at school if they are ill and at times children are ill, the school will of course exercise some common sense! Please, please note Westwood school does not authorize  term time holidays unless EXCEPTIONAL circumstances.  I do understand the arguments about cost and I  also understand that some holidays are a experience of a life time and children learn so much by going to different  countries, however I also see the impact absenteeism can have on the child that misses the same two weeks in September every year and has to step into a class that has already settled .

 

A great big thank you  to all parents and friends who have signed up for reading buddies - Miss Cliss will be in touch 

 

11th September

 

The end of  a very good week and the Year 6s have set off to Caythorpe for the weekend  - lets hope the weather holds out for them.

This week years 1 to 6 enjoyed  a live performance of Alice in Wonderland over on the oak site. This experience was then used as a stimuli for writing and displays of children's work  are being put up in the corridors as I type. Our Year 2s have  had a visit to "Westwood forest",  our little  wooded area on the oak site.. The children sat on the story telling circle to listen and tell stories.

 

Our reception intake have settled well and teachers and support staff have been busy participating in home visits.  They will be staying for lunch next week, how exciting. 

 

I am very pleased that  a number  of parents have shown an interest in the parent governor vacancies. Being a governor is  challenging , but very rewarding,  so please see Mrs. Tansley , the clerk to the governors, if you would like  more information . 

Have a lovely weekend  and I hope to see many of you at the Friends  of Westwood meeting on out Maple site on Monday at 3:30pm

Gill Thomas

Tuesday 1st September.

 

It has been a very busy summer for staff and governors this year. Lots of work has gone  on to ensure that the school is ready for the children on Thursday 3rd September.  Our Maple site has been painted, new signs have been installed and a new library has been sited in the glass room.   The site is open to parents and friends after school on Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th September. 

 

We have also been busy on our Oak site , with new carpets in Class 8, a brand new fence and new playground markings .

 

We are very much looking forward to welcoming the children back this week .Our reception have two taster sessions an our Year 3s will becoming to our  Oak site for breakfast on Thursday 3rd September.  there is , as always, a busy term ahead of us and I am looking forward to  working alongside you all.

 

 Gill Thomas

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