Headteacher’s Blog 22/2/17

Well – it’s time for another blog and as ever, I can hardly believe where the time has gone this school year. We’re at the half year point already and as I was saying to the children in assembly on Monday, our Reception children are not brand new anymore and our Year 6 children only have half a year to get ready for their transfer to High School. Blimey – it must be to do with getting old – but time seems to pass by more quickly than ever!

School is as busy as ever with lots going on in all year groups from Reception through to the end of KS2. This is the outward facing side of school – the bits that parents will see and be aware of through class news and bulletins and so on. Behind the scenes, we’re busily also working our way through this year’s School Development Plan which we told you about at the start of the school year. We’ve made big changes to the way we teach reading, moving away from the guided reading approach which has been in place and working well for a number of years. We are now using a whole class approach which allows us to focus more on the ‘higher order’ skills of reading which are very much integral to the ‘new’ National Curriculum which was introduced in 2014. Children are expected to get to grips with the decoding aspects of reading much earlier and our new approach allows us to focus in much more on the skills of inference and choice – both the reader’s choices and the author’s choices. We’re delighted with the way the new approach is going in school and feel that it will really take children’s reading to the next level. We’ve also been looking at the way we communicate our expectations regarding learning behaviours to the children. This aspect was introduced to our pupil mentoring folders a couple of years ago and we are now looking to embed this as an integral part of classroom practice with children explicitly being taught about what they need to do to demonstrate each learning behaviour. We’ve spent some time working on this and will be introducing this approach in classrooms post Easter.

Governors have had a lot to discuss and debate too, particularly around the area of school funding. It can be difficult to equate the fact that Tranmere Park has the lowest budget in Aireborough despite being one of the largest primary schools and also being heavily oversubscribed with all year groups full to capacity. The reason for this is to do with the context of the school – we generate very little additional funding to do with deprivation ( the ‘Pupil Premium’ ) and we are in the lowest percentile nationally for the numbers of pupils in school receiving this additional money. We also generate little Special Needs funding which means that the bulk of our school funding comes from the core ‘per pupil’ schools grant. This has a big impact on how much money comes into school – nationally schools get on average about £4,257 per pupil, other schools like TPPS get approximately £3,488 and we receive £3,167 per pupil. This does impact on areas like our support staffing – we aren’t funded to have teaching assistants as it would be deemed that our children don’t need this extra support. We know the value that our brilliant support staff team such as the Teaching Assistants and Mrs Martin bring to school and work really hard to preserve these posts. This does mean though that we’ve needed to trim back in other areas – such as our spend on the school buildings. In recent years, our ‘capital’ funding – the money we get to spend on the school building – has decreased from approximately £45,000 a year to about £7,500 a year. As we have an ageing building, £7,500 is a tight budget to keep us watertight and in generally good order. It does mean that we don’t have the money to embark on big projects as in the past ( such as the quad renovations from a couple of years ago ) but we are trying to keep everywhere looking nice through redecoration and other low cost solutions. We plan to have the fascias painted this Spring as they are looking a little tatty and will be replacing the main paths in school when our new budget lands in April. We’ve also ‘spruced’ up the entrance hall as it was looking a little dated. Going forward, we’ll be relying on grant funding ( such as the PE grant ) to revamp the KS2 playground, competitions such as Dulux ‘Smarter Spaces’ which allowed us to refurbish the Computer Suite, contributions from our hard working PTA and – more and more – upon self generated income. Our Teaching School, Noctua, brings in valuable additional income for school and our self generated income in the last year rose by 160% to £82,166 – about £235 per pupil compared to £102 nationally. So – the budget is challenging but we are working hard to ensure the best possible provision for the children.

I’ve got more updates for you but will post these later in the week.