This section has been designed to replace the Governor’s Annual report which contained items written by Governors about the previous year in School. Governors will provide items throughout the year which they hope will be of interest to parents.
Governor Meeting Format
The whole Governing Body meets formally 6 times a year, once in each half of the term. Generally one meeting each term is used to cover matters which come from County (Suffolk County Council) and one for matters which are specifically to do with St. Mary’s. Other meeting s are arranged as necessary – Finance meets every term, Admissions meets in the Spring term, Head Teacher’s Performance Management in the autumn term with a review in the summer.
At the first meeting of the academic year in September the Chairman and Vice Chairman are elected and the make -up of committees is considered. Committees such as finance have the authority of the Governing Body to make decisions; working parties are set up to discuss a specific matter and conclusions are reported back to the whole Governing Body for any decision to be made. All Governors are encouraged to attend training; make visits to see the School in action and to attend other activities as is convenient.
Over the last year there have been a number of changes to personnel as the term of office of some Governors has come to an end – Governors usually serve 4 years.
Governor’s visit at Science Week, 21 June 2016
Tim Peake had just returned to Earth from the International Space Station, when St Mary’s started an exciting science week on the topic of space. Coincidentally, a strange object landed just the same week in the school field and there were reports of strange goings-on in the school – creating a real buzz of excitement across all years of St Mary’s.
St Mary’s managed to get a real coup in the form of astronomer Paul Hill from Sirius Astronomy who works with the European Space Agency. As science governor, I simply had to experience some of his visit.
I joined Paul’s school assembly. Dressed in a real space suit, Paul explained to the children how rockets work – with a memorable experiment – and provided many interesting facts and short videos, including a clip of how astronauts sleep in the International Space Station. He interacted really well with the children, who were obviously excited and fascinated by his presentation.
Following the assembly, over 2 days, Paul did a workshop with each class. I joined the first workshop, with Year 1. A couple of children had the opportunity to wear the space suit, and all learned what the space suit is for. They found out what happens if humans do not wear a space suit in space, well-illustrated with an experiment of expanding marshmallows. Children helped to make a comet (with brown sauce, sand, water, ammonia and dry ice), before being able to touch real comets.
The session was packed with facts and information, yet in a very accessible format. It was obvious that the children cherished every minute.
Paul left me impressed and inspired and he will have awed pupils of all ages, who will remember his visit. What a great way this was to inspire and create an interest in science in St Mary’s children – as well as providing great material for the children to write about in their big writing.
I was glad to have been able to experience as a governor a morning of the science week. Well done to Miss Fairweather and all staff to pull off such a superb week.
Interventions – 4th February 2016.
I visited the school to experience some of the interventions that the school runs on a small group or one to one basis. Over the course of the day I had the opportunity to see nine different interventions, which gave me a great insight into the range of interventions in use at St Mary’s.
I was impressed by the quality of the interventions and the excellent work that our Teaching Assistants (TAs) do. I found out that the school is investing in its TAs and in its range of interventions, by sending the TAs to specialist training, with each TA continuing to build up their expertise in interventions for specific subject areas.
I discussed the range of interventions with Mrs Clark, the school’s Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). She explained how closely the impact of each of the interventions is monitored during and at the end of an intervention, looking at the learning progress of the children involved. Each intervention is expected to close, or at least narrow, the learning gap of children with special needs compared to the rest of the cohort. I was encouraged by this very structured approach which clearly indicates the success of each intervention, and can then be used to review whether an intervention was right for a specific child, or is generally not showing much promise, and whether an intervention provides value for money with regard to its impact.
From the conversations with Mrs Clark and with teaching assistants, it was clear that children attend them with a very positive (and in the case of younger children even enthusiastic) attitude.
I provide below a short summary of the interventions I have observed.
Funky fingers – Foundation: This is a new whole class activity at Foundation stage, which has been introduced this academic year as an activity to start each day. Different activities are set up around the classroom, all designed to develop fine motor skills, for example putting breakfast cereal hoops on spaghetti sticks, taking beans out of a tray with a pair of tweezers, putting string through holes in shapes, putting beads on pipe cleaners. Over the week, each child will do each of the activities. It is apparent that the children enjoy this activity, and it helps them settle in for the day. While this is an activity for the whole class, it is particularly useful for and targeted at those children who have not sufficiently developed their fine motor skills, e.g. struggling to hold a pencil correctly, and it has shown real impact for these children.
Numicon: Numicon gives, with its coloured 1-10 shapes, a visual way of learning the basics of mathematics. Numicon is also used for whole class exercises, but is particularly useful for group interventions. The intervention that I observed was a small group intervention, led by a teaching assistant. The session was designed in a playful way, using a spinning wheel to choose numbers to make up number bonds. The children were fully engaged, and I could observe how in this short session alone the children seemed to be growing in confidence to make number bonds.
FFT: A one to one intervention led by a teaching assistant, providing a structured approach to writing and reading. I was informed that this intervention, even though resource intense, does provide very good results for the children. The atmosphere was very relaxed yet focussed, creating a learning environment which obviously worked well for this child.
Welcomm: This is another very new intervention for St Mary’s, which has only just started, following TA attendance at a training course. Welcomm is an intervention targeted at Early Years and Foundation Stage. It provides short and sweet group work outside of the class to develop language skills, based on a clear framework. It is playful, and I am told that children love to come out to do it (in fact, the other children are disappointed not to be able to go).
Spring Board: Spring Board is another group intervention led by a TA, to provide catch up for maths. In the session, children were using a number grid to add 10s.
Writing Group: A TA led group intervention to develop writing skills. The children were engaged with the task, which was to come up and write sentences with “and”, “or” and “but”.
Cued spelling: This is a one to one intervention by a TA for children who struggle to remember spellings. The TA supports the child to find cues to remember the spellings, taking on 5 spellings each time, in a 15 min intervention. This seemed to help the child. The intervention was disturbed by the significant noise of the school breaking up for lunch, with the back office room being located behind the school hall. This made concentrating very hard.
Rapid phonics: Rapid phonics is also used as a whole class approach, but this group intervention provides additional support to a small number of children. The children loved to be involved in this very short session, using their “robot arms” and “phonics fingers” to segment words in their different phonemes.
Maths booster: The Maths Booster programme is a group work intervention used both to close gaps in maths as well as advancing the very able children further, in KS2. The TA leading this session built on work done in class, taking the group through a series of maths exercises.
I finished the day with a short discussion with Mrs Petts about the targets which are set weekly for each child, where the achievement of the targets is considered using a combination of teacher assessment and child self-assessment.
Thank you to Mrs Clark for coordinating this visit, and to all who have given me an insight into a wide range of interventions, and have been, as ever, extremely welcoming and helpful.
Curriculum Evening – 7th October 2015.
On the evening of 7 October, I joined about 100 other parents and governors together with a group of enthusiastic children to learn more about the new maths curriculum at St Mary’s. Mrs Petts gave a really helpful presentation that introduced “Busy Ants”, the new scheme of work the school is using for maths, and explained some of the changes in the curriculum that required these new materials.
We heard how Busy Ants provides fun learning activities for the new maths curriculum throughout the school, with a wide range of challenges for children working at different levels within each year group. We also learned that the scheme provides for assessments every few weeks, so that each child’s attainment can be monitored throughout the year, helping their teachers to help them to keep improving. Attainment is one of the key things we focus on as a governing body, and checking that there are effective systems for monitoring every child’s progress is an important part of Ofsted inspections.
Mrs Petts then whizzed us through the new curriculum year by year for each of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. We learned that in key stage 1, the “newer” methods (which lots of parents have become familiar with over recent years) remain important in the new curriculum, and that the aim of these is to help younger children to get a good intuitive feel for numbers and place values. But as children get older, the new curriculum places more emphasis on “traditional” approaches like column addition, which help children to solve challenges quickly. This seemed to be a relief to lots of the parents, who may be more comfortable with these approaches, but there was still a little groan as we reached long division! Lastly, Mrs Petts explained that in the new curriculum a significant amount of more advanced content has been brought forward from Years 7 and 8 into Years 5 and 6, meaning that it is now even more important to ensure that children get a strong foundation in key stage 1 and continue to make good progress from Year 3 onwards.
We then enjoyed a wonderful opportunity to join groups of children in the hall, who were all working at different maths challenges in year groups. I was so impressed to see these tables of children working intently, using squared paper for “traditional” sums, or little white boards for faster work. And I was even more impressed by how well they all explained what they were doing. It was clear to me how much other parents enjoyed this as well, and in between the sums, it was great to have the chance to chat with people. I was also really pleased to have the opportunity to take a look at the Busy Ants books and the other resources. This new scheme of work has been a big investment for the school, and as a governor, with all the different demands on limited budgets, it’s always really encouraging to be able to spend money on things that directly contribute to the children’s learning.
So I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mrs Petts and all the staff and children for organising this event. And a big thank you as well to all the parents who came – all of us know how hard it can be to get out on a weekday evening when we have young children, especially as the autumn nights are drawing in. I’m sure we all came away feeling a little better equipped to help our children with their homework, and to talk with them about what they’re doing in school – and we should all be really pleased about that, because research shows that parental engagement and support really help children’s attainment at school. So well done everyone!
Foundation Class Visit – 8th July 2015.
Foundation class have been looking at people who help us – firefighters, doctors and nurses etc so following this theme they went to Aldeburgh to visit the lifeboat station.
When we arrived at Aldeburgh there was a little time to look around at the sea, the fish caught that morning, the Moot Hall and a shelter where we found a bird had made its nest up on a beam; there were three little chicks asking to be fed.
We went along to the RNLI station and had a talk by one of the volunteers, Victoria. She took us around the outside of the boat and up a stairway so we could see the top where she showed us ropes, tins of food and answered questions. We couldn’t go inside the boat because it has to be ready for any emergency and takes eight minutes to launch; it would probably take that long to get us all off. This boat has to be towed out of the shed and across the shingle beach so our next visit was to the tractor shed – the warning horn for use when driving on the beach was very loud but some children still wanted to hear it again!
We went back into the building to see the clothing and equipment which is used and Mrs Lemke was the volunteer to try it on but she was very quick in getting dressed; much of the clothing is quite heavy especially the lifejackets. Victoria explained the importance of the various pieces.
Our picnic was eaten on the beach and then after a time for play we went to the model boat pond and tried out the boats the children had made. This proved to be a popular activity and allowed small groups of children to go to the shop at the RNLI station to spend their money.
It was a most interesting day and fortunately the weather stayed fine.
Year 1 Framlingham Castle Visit – 25th June 2015
On 25th June 2015 I was fortunate enough to be able to join Year 1 on their trip to Framlingham Castle. I was aware that Castles and specifically this period in history was a topic the class had been focusing on this term and so the children were very excited awaiting our arrival at the castle. Despite their excitement the behaviour of the children was exemplary throughout the day – it was particularly nice for teachers and parents present on the trip to be approached by members of the public, who were also visiting the castle, to comment positively about how well the children were behaving!
During the visit the children were given a picture of the castle and its grounds and they were required in their groups to make note of what they could see or find at each point. This kept the children very well engaged and in fact many of them were keen to find additional structures of the castle not referred to on the picture and to also ask questions about these features. The children were fortunate enough to get to visit the museum at the castle and handle the exhibits too. After lunch we all went for a walk around the grounds of the castle and to see the Mere. The children then had an opportunity to really examine the castle and draw pictures of what they could see – there seem to be some budding artists in this year group who relished the opportunity to draw from their own perspective.
Overall, the desire to learn more about how people lived in these times was very evident and the children were particularly keen to consider how they would have attacked and defended the castle. In hearing the responses they gave to Mrs Clark it became very clear that many of the children had completed their homework to research Framlingham Castle on the internet before visiting and that they had listened carefully and shown an interest when the topic had been discussed previously in class.
I would like to say thank you to Mr Leese and Mrs Clark for allowing me to join in with this fascinating trip.
Lucy Overton, Governor
Governor School Visit Report – 5th March 2015
Michael Moll: Visit on the morning of 5 March 2015.
Purpose of the visit: To gain an insight into Science teaching at St Mary’s, in my role as governor linked to science.
Summary of activities: I met with Mrs Murray, the current Science lead, who talked to me about the new science curriculum and introduced me to an IT programme (Snap Science) that the school is currently trialling and considering to purchase. I then experienced science lessons in Years 3 (natural and manufactured materials), 4 (electrical circuits), 5 (state and other properties of materials) and 6 (light, reflections).
What I have learned as result of my visit:
- Science is given appropriate time (2 hours per week) in the school time table (Note – my visit was on the day that it was reported in the news that a third of English primary schools are not providing the recommended two hours of science teaching a week).
- The science lessons appear to engage the children well; all lessons I observed featured an introduction followed by practical group work (e.g. creating an electrical circuit; finding outside materials made out of rock; sorting materials according to state and other properties; a challenge to use 3 mirrors to reflect light from a torch to a point at the other side of a barrier).
- Science sees children excelling who may not achieve as well in other subjects.
- The new curriculum does not result in major changes in Science – a few topics have been added, but, generally existing topics have been moved around to different year groups.
- A science day is planned for the summer term
The morning provided me with a good and varied first insight into science at St Mary’s. I’d like to thank Mrs Murray for her time, and the relevant teachers and pupils for allowing me to experience their lessons and making me feel welcome.
Report of a Governor’s Day Visit to St Mary’s School – 11th February 2015
Veronica Howe: Wednesday, 11th February, 2015
The programme had been shaped to allow me to learn a little of the breadth and depth of interventions offered to pupils to facilitate individual progress, particularly in specific basic skills, but also – as in the case of Level 6 Maths support – for very able children.
My morning started when I joined Gym Trail, run by a CTA and taking place in the Hall with a mix of PE equipment to develop a range of motor skills, plus printed booklets used with scissors and crayons, to aid the acquisition of fine motor skills. The very small group of mixed-age pupils were focused and happily stretching their capabilities. Praise was a very strong motivator here.
Next, I was part of a Numicon session, run by a CTA, for a small group of Year 2 pupils. They so obviously loved every minute of it and were thrilled when they had persevered to achieve the tasks set. The colours, shapes and tactile nature of the process were all used to maximum effect and the pupils were reluctant to leave at the end of the session.
FFT Intervention for a single pupil in a 1:1 session with a CTA. I was afforded the privilege of seeing work from a few months previously, to compare with what was being produced currently. The child’s confidence had clearly increased considerably and there was a great pride in current achievements.
A session of Rapid Phonics provided a challenge for a small number of pupils in the KS1 Library area. They were guided by a CTA to focus on the tasks set and, with varying success, achieved the targets.
Read Attack Spell for a small group of Year 5 pupils built on what had been learned for homework and then developed the ability to look at meaning through word roots and other previously-acquired knowledge. It was an intensive, CTA-led session, with very clear expectations.
Pupils in Year 6 were engaged in ability-group work associated with their Guided Reading. A CTA was working with one group and the Class Teacher with another. I was privileged to be with a third group, for whom a series of tasks – from which they could choose – had been set.
Phonics Booster was another 1:1 session run by a CTA, with the pupil keen to show me, in a quietly confident way, that what being produced currently, in terms of written work, was so much better than in the Autumn Term.
I was very interested to join a CTA-led Memory Games/Dyslexia session, in which simple drawings and an ongoing story had the pupil captivated and interacting in a way that own recognition of increasing concentration skills was evident.
A Maths Booster – Level 4 to Level 5 for a small group was run by a teacher and had me recollecting long-forgotten simultaneous equations skills, in order to assist the pupil beside me! Great determination to crack the methods was seen in the pupils and it was clear that all were progressing considerably in the short session.
The final session (learning) session was within the Year 6 classroom, where Maths – Level 6 pupils were attempting (together) a trial Level 6 paper for the first time. It was good to see them challenged, yet willing to ‘have a go’ and use their previous knowledge to try to meet the paper’s demands. Their cooperative approach and willingness to discuss and justify their thoughts was impressive and indicative of what had been witnessed throughout the day – of pupils and adults wanting to make the best progress possible.
The day concluded with a meeting between the Headteacher and me, as ‘Safeguarding Governor’, when I was re-acquainted with the procedures operated and we examined the Safeguarding Audit in detail and noted points for further enquiry.
Summary: I was pleased to learn more about the school’s intervention strategies and to see how individual learning opportunities were being matched to individual needs. This reminded me of some of the comments in the previous Ofsted Report (September 2013) and gave me confidence that the demands were being met.
Some Points to Ponder: While it was good to see every available space being used to accommodate the children’s needs, it was rather cold in the ‘behind the stage’ area and also noisy. While the Headteacher resolved to improve the temperature by supplying a heater that had been used in the past, should we, as Governors, be discussing ways of improving these facilities – particularly with regard to intrusive sound?
Overall, it was a great day – other Governors might like to consider following such a programme.