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Telford Junior School

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Questions & Answers

During the school year teaching and administrative staff will be asked questions or receive comments about working arrangements or different aspects of school life. It is often difficult to respond to these in detail at the time and it may be necessary to look into the matter further. We thought it would be useful to log some of these questions and provide a response to them, so that parents/carers can see that their thoughts have been considered and so that there is a reference point for future discussions (since some of the questions tend to be perennial ones).

How will lunchtimes be organised once COVID-19 retrictions are lifted?

 

We will continue to operated staggered playtimes and lunchtimes, because we have seen real benefits from this arrangement during the pandemic. It means that only one year group is using the Y3/4 and Y5/6 playgrounds at a time. The difference of having 80/90 children in each playground, as opposed to 170/180 children, is significant. The playgrounds were not designed for 6 classes of children to use them at anyone time. Under current arrangements, we have seen improvements in behaviour and a reduction in the number of first aid incidents. Our professional judgement, based on our daily observations, is that this is a safer and more successful way of organising playtimes and lunch breaks. (N.B. Children from across each year group will now be able to mix and move freely around the playground, with class bubble/zones removed). 

 

Similarly, we have seen improvements in the way children eat and their general behaviour since we have moved to lunches being eaten in the classrooms, as opposed to the school hall. Again, the school hall and servery area were not designed for 340/350 children to move in and out and eat either a hot meal or packed lunch, in the time available for the lunch break. We have undetaken a number of reviews of lunchtimes over the years and not found solutions to the various issues that arise from using the school hall as a dining hall. Current arrangements mean that:

 

  • PE lessons in the morning session are not curtailed by lunch staff having to put out dining tables and chairs.
  • PE lessons can start on time in the afternoon, safe in the knowledge that floors are not wet from mopping and hazardous.
  • Children are not required to queue in corridors and then again at the servery, in order to receive their meal; queues that inevtably result in low level misbehaviour.
  • The hall can be used more easily for PE lessons, Active Maths lessons, drama lessons, assemblies, the choir, steel pans, performances, book fairs, etc.
  • The hall can be used for activities during the lunch break itself.
  • The difficulties of large numbers of children moving in and out of the hall, collecting hot meals, moving to and from tables and tidying away after they have eaten are avoided. 

 

Eating in the classrooms means that the children eat in a clamer, much less noisey environment. They are able to eat with their friends and hold conversations more easily. They are served together, regardless of whether they have a hot school meal or a packed lunch. They are more closely supervised and can be assisted more easily if the need arises. It is also possible for supervisors to pick up more easily on any disputes or upsets which might occur. Our experience is that in this environment these kind of issues tend not to arise. Once the children have eaten they will talk, undetake mindfulness activities and sometimes watch something shown on the classroom projector screen. Their eating time in the classroom is relatively short and is either preceded or followed by their playtime in a less crowded playground.

 

N.B. As well as their lunchtime play, the children also have a 20 minutes morning break and undertake the daily mile. During each week the children also move out of their classroom for library sessions, assemblies, PE and games lessons, Computing lessons and other activities, such as Active Maths or Forest Schools. 

 

 

Could the school use an application such as Zoom or MS Teams to deliver live lessons as part of its remote learning provision?

 

We have considered the option of using MS Teams to deliver live lessons, but decided that we would focus on providing quality learning resources through Padlet pages, our chosen online platform. During the second period of national schools' closure, teachers are developing the use of recorded instructions, explanations and short lessons, using PowerPoint presentations and video recordings. There are a number of reasons why we favour this approach:

 

1 . We are aware that some pupils do not have adequate IT access at home, or sole access to devices, in order to view such lessons. Video calls also take up a large amount of bandwidth, adding an additional burden to those households where parents/carers are already using the internet to work from home. It is also possible that some families would not be able to access lessons at the allocated time, due to the multiple use of ICT in the home. Therefore, PowerPoint lessons or pre-recorded videos offer more universal access.

 

2. Regular streaming into families' homes and expecting teachers to stream from their homes presents significant safeguarding concerns that we believe remain unresolved. It is not possible for the school to monitor or control those present on multiple devices, simultaneously streaming from multiple homes. There have also been cases of pupils inappropriately streaming when the teacher has come offline. 

 

3. Prior to the second period of schools' closure, there were some enquiries about the possibility of streaming lessons taking place in school, when a pupil is not able to attend the school (due to shielding or self-isolation). Our cluster of schools is of the view that we cannot live stream the lessons taking place in school, as there would also be safeguarding implications for any children being taught in the classroom at that time. 

 

4. Lessons do not have to be live streamed to be good lessons. We are working on providing PowerPoint slides with voiceovers that explain and clarify for pupils what they need to do or consider. There is also a wealth of resources that the DfE and other sources have made available for this purpose, to which teachers will provide links as appropriate. Teachers are able to supplement these with a variety of other resources, according to the learning intention of the lesson.  

 

5. Teachers are not always available for live online lessons, because they are timetabled to teach keyworker and vulnerable children. 

 

6. The offer of email communication directly with the teacher, or arranging a telephone conversation if required, means that the school is providing two-way communication with pupils or with parents/carers. This worked well for families during the first lockdown and is now established practice in school. In addition, with the second period of national schools' closure we have introduced the Teams registration slot each morning. This allows all children the opportunity to check in with their teacher each morning and for the teacher to explain the planned activities for the day.

 

7. MS Teams has been used for older students prior to lockdown for the delivery of 'lecture style' teaching. Typically students will join the Teams meeting, muting their microphones and video cameras. While the students are receiving the lecture, it tends not to be a two-way process, which is difficult to achieve with large numbers joining a Teams meeting. Muting microphones is necessary to avoid background noises being transmitted while the presenter is speaking. It is difficult to see how this style of delivery would be significantly beneficial to primary age children. Recorded video footage would seem to offer the same advantages and, because of the age group, would need to be relatively short. Managing a large number of primary age children on a Teams meeting is very different proposition to the experiences of Zoom family and friends gatherings many will have embraced during lockdown.

 

8. While not planning to use MS Teams for remote learning, the school has put in place effective two-way communications with families and through the Padlet online learning portal is able to provide quality remote learning consistently across all year groups. 

 

The article (link below) from the Times Educational Supplement makes the point that pre-recorded lessons are at least as good as streamed live lessons and may even be better:

 

https://www.tes.com/news/coronavirus-schools-online-learning-are-live-lessons-really-better-recorded-ones

 

Why is the school used as a polling station and could this not be changed?

 

The school contacted the Electoral Services Officer, regarding this issue. He explained that under Schedule 1, para 22 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, the returning officer does have the legal right to commandeer the use of the school for the purpose of running elections. In the case of Telford Junior School, there is nowhere else suitable for use as a Polling Station in the electoral ward.

 

It should be noted that the school uses election days that are planned (e.g. for Local Elections or Police Commissioner Elections) as one of its statutory teacher training days, so this does not affect the statutory 195 school days provision. Unplanned election days are different (e.g. the calling of a General Election or referendum). It is unlikely that the latter will be required in the immediate future.

 

Telford Junior School and Telford Infant School look to coincide training days wherever possible, to reduce the impact on families who have children in both schools.

 

Would it be possible for the school uniform track-suit trousers to have reinforced knees, since the children can wear a hole in them over time, through play?

 

It would be possible to source uniform trousers with reinforced knees, but this is likely to result in a significant cost increase for the item. Our feeling is that this would not be welcomed by most parents. Unfortunately, wear and tear to trouser knees is quite typical for children of primary school age. 

 

Is my child's reading book too 'easy' for him/her?

 

When making a judgement about the level of difficulty of a reading book and its suitability for a particular reader, teachers consider not only how easily they read the text (the fluency with which the child is able to read the text), but also the child's level of comprehension, taking into account their skills of deduction and inference. Sometimes a book which a child can read with reasonable fluency, is still challenging these other skills. Please see the website page about the school's approach to Reading. Go to the 'Curriculum' tab and then you will find it under 'Subjects'.

 

Why is there only one uniform supplier?

 

The overwhelming parent view would seem to be that there is a definite school uniform. When the school commissioned the current active uniform this was taken into account. All the children now wear the new uniform. The school is not that large a market and so to make it viable for a supplier to order in the volume of items that need to be kept in stock, it is not realistic to engage multiple suppliers. The economies of scale help the supplier to keep costs down. Our current supplier is local and has developed a good working relationship with the school. The supplier provides a good online delivery service, which seems to be appreciated by most parents. When we commissioned the supplier, we looked at other suppliers to check competitiveness for the products we wanted included in our uniform. The supplier also looked at sourcing the products as competitively as was possible.

 

Would it be possible to provide an more detailed overview of the school developments that have taken place following the July 2019 Ofsted inspection?

 

This question was raised at the Parents' Forum meeting, at which there was a presentation of the developments which have taken place. Those present at the meeting were able to ask more detailed questions. The document below is an overview, which was shared at the Local Authority Task Group meeting in February 2020. It provides details of the progress the school has made to address the actions set out in the Ofsted report, which should give parents/carers an understanding of the work that has been undertaken.

 

 

How does the school reach decisions about teaching arrangements for individual classes? In particular, how is it decided which classes are taught by a job share arrangement?

 

Decisions about teaching arrangements are made by school leaders, who take account of many factors, including the composition of classes and the school's staffing structure. School leaders are not at liberty to discuss the characteristics of individual classes or pupils and so it is not possible to give detailed explanations as to how decisions are made.

 

Where job share arrangements are in place, there is careful planning within the year groups, which helps with liaison, continuity and consistency. There is also evidence to suggest that children who experience more than one class teacher tend to be better prepared for later school life.

 

In Key Stage 2 shared teaching responsibilities should not present difficulties for the children, when there is shared planning and good liaison between the teachers involved. Indeed there are many Key Stage 1 children who will be taught by more than one teacher these days, since job share arrangements have become a common working pattern.

 

It is natural for parents/carers to argue for the teaching arrangement that they perceive to be most advantageous for their child, but please be mindful that as school leaders we have to take account of the broader picture.

 

Parents/carers can help make such arrangements a success, by presenting a positive view of the teaching arrangement to their child.

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