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Parent's update from Mr Hayles

23 May 2019 (by admin)

Mr Hayles has written to all parents about a variety of topics.

Dear parents & carers

I am writing to let you know about a few developments and to address a few issues which have informally come my way but which I know are a topic of discussion among some parents.

KS 2 class sizes
Due to the continued demand for places at the school, we are experiencing a great deal of pressure on our class sizes. This comes about due to mid-year admissions where people moving into our catchment area request a place and are admitted by the Local Authority who still control admissions. We are not given a choice as to whether to accept these admissions but never admit pupils who are out of our catchment if we are ‘full’. Following discussions with the school’s governors we have decided to begin the process of consultation to bring in a ‘cap’ which should help to limit class sizes in the future. We know of schools where pupils have still obtained places, on appeal, despite such a cap but we have taken independent legal advice and it is a strong recommendation to move forwards on this. This process will begin in October 2019. This will involve taking our Admission Number from 55 to 60 in the Foundation Stage and capping at 30 per class. This is a big step to take as we believe in local schools for local children and it is possible, as a result of such a cap, that a child moving into a house just across the road from school, would not secure a place. As a result of some schools capping (largely those schools that became an academy before us) ALL schools are put under pressure to cap. We are aware of some large housing developments in process or being planned that are not in our catchment but may lead to further demand for school places at Woodland Grange because the catchment school has already capped. It is the current Year 4 cohort of pupils that has grown to the greatest size and of course, every additional pupil, potentially detracts from the level of support that our teachers and support staff can offer to pupils. It also affects the workload of teachers; marking, alone, for 30 pupils is not inconsiderable but for 37 or 38 is border-line unmanageable. The staff have worked incredibly hard to maintain the highest levels of teaching for the Year 4 pupils and I have increased learning support assistance to the year group over this year. I can now confirm, it having been agreed by governors, that the current Year 4 cohort will be divided into THREE classes (of 25 pupils, based on current numbers) for the next academic year (when in Year 5) and likely the following year (when in Year 6). We are currently undertaking a recruitment exercise to bring in the extra staffing required (interviews this week). We are only able to do this as we have one ‘spare’ classroom i.e. the classroom in the current Year 6 building that is currently used for French teaching.

Teachers retiring
After 20 years at the school, Mrs Wood (currently in Year 5) and Mrs Smyton (who works part-time in the Foundation Stage) who has been here for 7 years, have announced their retirement from class teaching and will be finishing at Woodland Grange at the end of this academic year. Their contribution to school life has been incredible and the school will feel like a very different place without them next year but more on this in forthcoming newsletters as we go through the remainder of the year.

Ofsted Grading
I understand there is some talk of the school having lost its ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted grading as a result of the poor result returned in writing at KS 2 last year. I would like to confirm that this is not the case. I would like to remind you that the school returned excellent results in maths, grammar, punctuation and spelling and above average results in reading. The percentage of pupils ‘achieving’ as well as ‘exceeding’ the expected standard was above the national average in all areas apart from writing. This single poor writing result brought down the overall RWM (reading, writing, maths) combined score which shows the pupils who got the expected or exceeding level in all three key areas but we were still above the ‘floor standard’ set by the Department for Education as we were within the acceptable range of progress scores for writing.

Our SATs results for summer 2018 can be found on the website under the 'assessment' page. Early indications from teacher assessment s for this year suggest that writing at KS 2 is already looking better this year and we await the return (in July) of results from the formal Year 6 SATs tests in maths, reading and GPS that were carried out last week. I would like to congratulate the pupils for how hard they have worked leading up to their SATs in Year 6. We of course want our pupils to do as well as possible academically and we do not minimise the importance of SATs as a judgement upon a school but we also want our pupils to: be confident; have a love of learning; feel inspired; communicate effectively; be willing to question and ask why; have a strength of character; and be determined and not give up but to have a go, take a chance and not give up and try and try again. We want them to be creative thinkers and problem solvers, to be not just strong in mind but body too and have the grounding in all respects to be ready for the next stage of their lives when they leave us. Every school should be judged on these in a way that a test never can so please judge us on the whole picture and the experience of your child and how they have grown over the time that they have been with us not just on the outcome of a test at age 10/11. It should also be acknowledged, as a very inclusive school, we rarely refuse a place to a child with learning difficulties but in doing so acknowledge that this will impact on our SATs results as these pupils are included in the results. As soon as we have results back from our KS 1 and 2 SATs tests as well as the Year 1 phonics check, we will report these to parents.

Dinner times
An issue that seems to come up from time to time is the matter of eating at lunchtime. It is never the case that pupils having a packed lunch are made to eat outside. It is entirely the choice of pupils on days when the weather is suitable. Some pupils would choose to eat outside in all weathers but this is not presented as an option when the weather is too cold or wet. Our hall space is tight as the school was built for fewer pupils than it now has (even before the addition of Year 6) and at times we make use of a further space in the Year 6 base for older pupils to eat their packed lunches.

Uniform and in particular, shoes
I am aware of a few children telling their parents that they are allowed to wear any shoes/trainers to school and we have a few very bright pairs of shoes being worn to school. This is not the case and pupils should be wearing black school shoes or trainers. Any colour trainers can be worn for PE. Thank you for your support with this.

Yours Sincerely

Mr Hayles