St Michael's CofE VA Nursery & Infant School

Chair of Governor’s blog

September 2017

Welcome back to the new school year.  I hope you had an enjoyable summer.

A lot has been happening over the summer period with building plans coming together for a new multipurpose hall and nursery to replace the outdated kitchen and dining hall.  You may have seen the impressive new plans in the school hall. The building work is due to start early in the New Year and  be completed by the end of summer 2018, but in case of delay, Norfolk County Council will provide us with a state of the art, temporary building. The planning application has been submitted and you are welcome to make comments via the Broadland District Council website using planning application number 20171609.

Our proposal to change the age range at our school from 4-7 to 4-11 on 1st September 2018 goes to public notice on 28th September 2017.  Norfolk Admissions have assured us that when year 2 parents apply for their year 3 place later this year there will be the option to choose to stay at St Michael’s School. We will invite you all to an open evening after half term to discuss the details of the change and will be advertising for an experienced Key Stage 2 teacher.

In the meantime, the children this year are set to enjoy an inspiring curriculum, continuing to make use of the wonderful outside spaces. I am also quite sure they’ll enjoy watching the demolition and following the progress of the reconstruction work! We look forward to sharing this exciting year with you.

April 2017

Lots has happened since my last blog entry. St Michael’s is now proudly a Voluntary Aided school, which demonstrates our close links with the church and gives us ever increasing support from the Diocese of Norwich.

The governors spent time in school last term monitoring various aspects of school life. Governors were particularly interested in looking at the climate for learning established in school. We looked at and talked to staff and children about the physical environment and also the way that routines, timetabling and curriculum contribute to the positive attitude our children have towards learning and being a contributing member of this community.

Many governors commented, from different observations, on how the focus on values teaching, promotion of learning outside the classroom and encouragement of children’s independence and self regulation, was clearly having on creating a positive and effective atmosphere for children to work in.

Governors also noted how committed the teachers are to the professional development of teaching and learning at St Michael’s.  They talk with enthusiasm about the research they are engaged with and the positive effects they are seeing both day to day and over time on the progress children are making across the curriculum. It was a very rewarding and uplifting experience for governors to see such positive processes in place to ensure the very best for our children.

December 2016

Governors in school weeks are an important part of the governors’ monitoring programme.  It is a valuable opportunity to talk with children, teachers and support staff about the teaching and learning that has been going on.

It has been clear to us that the staff have been investing time, research and thought into finding better ways to organise learning opportunities and the learning environment for our children.  We have noticed on this term’s visit how much the INSPIRE ethos permeates through the teaching and learning across the school.

Independence is clearly encouraged in all the classes, where children take responsibility for their learning and maintaining the environment.

Nurture features, not only in the way that staff approach the children, but the caring and nurturing support the children show and offer each other.

Spirituality was commented on by several members of staff who noted that afternoon assemblies are inspiring a reflective nature in the children.

Potential for all children to develop and be successful is evident in the way that teachers tailor the activities, resources and support for all  individuals and groups.

Inclusion of all children in the classroom was evident across the school. It was so encouraging to see that every child’s needs are thought about and prepared for.

Relationships are key to group and collaborative working, which we saw in abundance, with lots of sharing of ideas and information.

Enjoyment in learning was something all governors commented on, along with the great attitude and behaviour that was seen in classes.

November 2016

We are delighted to report confirmation that St. Michael’s will become a Voluntary Aided school as of January 1st 2017. As you will recall this is one of the 2 proposals that the governing body put forward for consultation in the summer term. There was overwhelming support for this move and no challenges were presented. This is a strategic change and affects managerial aspects of the school, so changes will not be made to the day to day running of the school.

What will change?

  • The governing body will be reorganised and reconstituted.
  • The governing body will take on some additional responsibilities.
  • The way we access or apply for funding will also be slightly altered.
  • We will have increased support from the Diocese.

The governors will be coming in to school throughout this week to listen to children, parents and staff as part of our monitoring. This offers us first-hand experience of what goes on day-to-day and helps us to monitor the progress towards school development plan targets. Some of the targets for our school this year are;

  • Improve attitudes to learning (increasing children’s responsibilities)
  • Continue to improve and develop teaching and learning across all subject areas
  • Review and enhance Forest School and Church distinctiveness
  • Establish a school travel plan (addressing problem parking around the school)

September 2016

The informal consultation period for the proposals to make changes to our school came to an end over the summer. Thank you to all those who attended one of our open meetings or responded to our consultation paper.

The governors of St Michael’s met last week to review all the response and feedback. We have decided unanimously to proceed in principle, but significant changes have been made to our plans, taking into account all the responses we received.

Some of the concerns raised by those living close to the school related to the eventual size of the school. At the moment our numbers are 108 in the main school and 26 ‘full time equivalent’ places in the nursery. Given the growth in population in Aylsham we are still under pressure to accommodate more children, but will revise the growth and overall capacity of the school to take no more than 20 children into year 3. Over time this would mean that the school would cater for up to 140 children from Reception to year 6.

We recognise the concerns and difficulties in making these changes too swiftly and have revised our proposal to start extending the age range in September 2018 rather than 2017.  The new draft proposal is on the front page of this website.

We propose to accommodate growth by securing funding through Norfolk County Council to build a single storey class base that this is likely be located in the ‘lower’ playground space behind the current dining room. This is still under discussion and any new building would be subject to planning permission, of course.

The change from Voluntary Controlled to Voluntary Aided has also been agreed by governors and a public notice has been published on 22nd September in the North Norfolk News and on the front page of this website.

Governors are now organising working groups to look at strategies and ways forward in addressing other concerns raised through consultation (e.g. parking, outdoor space).

May 2016

The Governing Body of St Michael’s C of E, VA, Nursery and Infant School are proposing two strategic changes to the structure of our school.  The consultation document (link below) contains all the relevant information and reasoning for these changes.

There are two consultation meetings on Wednesday 29th June at 3.30pm and 6.00pm to give you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

Please complete the feedback form on the last page of the consultation document and return it to the post box in the school office by noon on 15th July 2016.

Primary and VA consultation document
February 2016

As half term approaches,  I thought I would report on the governors activities so far this year.  As a full governing body, we are particularly focussed this year on ensuring the school has long term strategic aims and clear options and plans in place for the future.

In addition to our routine tasks of reviewing school policies and monitoring progress, we have been working closely with others in the cluster to think about how the expansion of the town will impact on schools in the coming years and how we can best prepare for it.  We will obviously keep you up to date as this progresses.

The finance and general purposes committee has met and is preparing for the future by looking carefully at the budget for the next academic year.  Meanwhile, the school improvement committee has be reviewing the school’s development plan.

This week we have also had a “governors in school week,” where we have taken turns to come into school and spend time talking to the children.  The focus for our conversations has been around the classroom climate.  What is it like their classes.  It has been really heartening to hear how much the children enjoy learning at school and the respect they show for both their teachers and each other.  There was a strong message from the children that they know how to get help if they don’t understand something and that teachers always find ways to help them.  But it was also clear that they have a great deal of independence in their classrooms and visits across the school highlighted how well the children respond to taking responsibility in the classroom.

One of my favourite quotes came from Beech class, which summed up the positive outlook, “when I’m at school it feels like I’m at home.”

June 2015

I have the greatest of pleasures in writing to you regarding the SIAMS report which is linked  to the welcome page of this website. Outstanding judgements are hard earned by Mrs. McMahon and the whole school staff and community.

As highlighted in the report both Mrs. McMahon and Canon Revd Andrew have embraced opportunities to work collaboratively for the benefit of our children, bringing the school and church much closer.

The head teacher, in partnership with staff and the incumbent provides excellent leadership.

I am sure you will join me in congratulating both of them for their leadership and tireless drive to ensure that this church school provides the best start for the children of our community and opportunities for us all to be part of that journey.

This really is a fabulous achievement and is one that the whole school staff and community truly deserves. I am particularly pleased that the inspector obviously recognised

The Christian vision and values, embedded in daily school life, have a clear and positive influence on pupils’ values, attitudes, ability to think deeply and their behaviour. All pupils are nurtured and encouraged to be reflective learners.

School governors accept the inspector’s findings and would like to take this opportunity to thank all parents and carers who shared their views during the inspection. St Michael’s strives to be friendly, open and responsive in all matters and is always keen to receive your comments, concerns and feedback throughout the year. Please do come and talk to us on the Big Open evening, where governors will also be available in the school hall to discuss the findings of the recent parent questionnaire or anything further you would like to raise.

Our ‘Outstanding’ judgement does not mean we can be complacent. St Michael’s continues to have a desire and drive for improvement. We are in the process of establishing the school’s development plan for the next academic year and we will look closely at the points for action raised in the report to ensure that we continue to improve and develop the best provision for our children.

Please feel free to contact Mrs McMahon or myself via the school, if you wish to discuss any aspect of the report further.

May 2015

May Day

A huge thank you to all those who came to support the school for the opening of the new entrance and Maypole dancing. Congratulations go to everyone who persevered through the changeable weather to dance, support and celebrate together.

 Parent Governor election

Ballot papers have been coming in to the post box in reception for our new parent governor position, so thanks to those of you who have made your voices heard. If you haven’t cast your vote so far, please make sure you do so before 9 am on Friday 22nd May and don’t forget to put your vote in a sealed envelope. It is county protocol, that any vote not in a sealed envelope will NOT be counted.

 Monitoring

Richard Hodder our governor linked to PE came in to monitor the PE provision in school. He spent some time talking with the PE coordinator, Julie Barrett, and observed a PE lesson with Beech class. Richard reported very positively about the progress being made in the swimming classes for year 2s and the enthusiasm and energy involved in the PE lesson.

 Pupil voice

Pupils have been making their voices heard through the school council meetings. They met last week to discuss the new entrance. On the agenda was what they liked about the new addition and their thoughts as to what they didn’t like or what they would change or add to it.  From the comments it is clear that the pupils are impressed by the structure and recognise that it keeps them safer in school. They would like to see more pictures displayed in the reception area.

 Parent voice

Thanks to all those who have returned their completed questionnaires. We value your opinion and use your comments, questions and ideas to help improve our school. We will be collating all the information and comments and will be available to discuss these with you at the big open evening. Do look out for the governors discussion area in the hall on Wednesday 1st July, 3-5pm. We are happy to talk about what the school is doing and listen to any comments, questions or issues you would like to raise. We will also send out a brief report on the findings in due course.

 Road safety

At our latest full governing body meeting, we discussed the issue of road safety outside our school. This is a topic that has been raised by many parents as a real concern. Although we have tried to get support from county council via a local councillor in the past, this has not resulted in any positive steps forward. We feel that our voices are not being heard and the issue is not recognised outside our parent body. In order to gain action, we need to make our voices heard. It was decided that we will be looking into attending meetings of the town council and local safer neighbourhood partnership meetings and we would really welcome parents to attend with us, to show the strength of concern in our community. We have recently heard from the chair of the town council, that he will endeavour to put the matter forward as an agenda item, or at least give time to it for discussion at a future meeting. The next meeting is on Thursday 11th June at 7pm.

 Governors in school week

We are planning another Governors in school week, beginning on Monday 8th June. Throughout that week, governors will arrange to come into school to meet with staff, talk to children and monitor aspects of school life.

April 2015

What a lovely start to this summer term at St Michael’s! Not only has the sun been making a regular appearance, but the sensory garden is taking shape and our new entrance building and ramps are open and in use.  Thank you to everyone for your patience whilst work has been on-going and in particular, nursery children and parents, who have been adapting their route in and out accordingly.  We are all looking forward to the official opening ceremony and maypole dancing on Wednesday 6th May.  We hope to see many of you there.

We are delighted to welcome a new governor to the school: Adrian Rudman has spent some time getting to know the school and has been appointed as a local authority governor.

And finally, we have had the maths provision monitored in the school by Emma Panday.  She spent time talking to the math’s subject leader in the school and briefly observed a number of classes whilst they were doing a range of maths activities.  Emma was impressed by the engagement of the children and how staff promoted independent learning.

March 2015

24.03.15 We are delighted to hear that 15 of our year 2 children are going to Aylsham Parish Church on Thursday afternoon to be filmed for BBC Songs of Praise.  The children will be looking at the Journey to Easter, following on from the full year 2 visit in the morning.  The children have been chosen by names being pulled out of a hat during a collective worship on Monday and the BBC have provided us with consent forms for parents to complete.

Rev’d Andrew has explained on Monday that “the BBC have been filming with us all morning and plan to show the programme on April 12th.  The focus is on the use of wifi in rural churches and how churches can make the most of creative opportunities.

The other exciting part of the Thursday filming is that Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber will be joining us along with the singer Connie Fisher!”
Today we have also been host to Melsop Park Farm.  The nursery children have had a fabulous time meeting the Leicester sheep and lamb, pigmy goat and kid, rabbits, guinea pigs and one day old ducklings.  The children all had opportunities to handle the animals, talk about caring and looking after them and the importance of washing their hands afterwards.
The children showed great compassion for all the animals and particularly for the ducklings when they came out of the car, they huddled together for warmth.  The children noticed this, “I think they need to go back in the car now” said one boy.  The others agreed and with that, one girl carefully closed the cage. How thoughtful!

09.03.15 Last week we had a visit from an Education Challenge Partner.  This is someone who comes on behalf of the local authority.

He spent a day at the school talking to the head teacher and chair of governors, walking around the school, looking through children’s books and reviewing school data and documents.  Similar to Ofsted he looks closely at all aspects of the school’s leadership and management, teaching and learning, behaviour and safety and achievement.

I am very pleased to say that the report he has since sent to the school is outstanding!

February 2015

It’s been a busy few weeks for the governing body.  After the half term break we had a ‘Governors in School’ week.  This is a week where all governors come to spend some time in the school.  Whilst we do have some set monitoring tasks it also offers us an opportunity to develop closer relationships with staff and children.

On our visits we have been looking at ways in which the school supports the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) education of our children. In contrast to specific subjects which are taught discretely, SMSC is interwoven into every aspect of the schools teaching and learning.

Governors spent time looking at displays, talking to children and staff, shared lunch with the children and popped in to see some teaching.  We found that children have lots of opportunities to make their voices heard and reflect on their experiences, the school’s ‘values’ board in the school hall gives a very good example of this.  The children talk confidently about what is right and what is wrong within the school context.  A group of year 2 children talked to us about what happens if rules are broken, how to make it right again and the importance of forgiveness.

The school has close links with Cambodia and we observed how evident this is around the school, both in displays and artefacts as well as teaching.  In the whole school assembly the children were reminded how children in Cambodia show respect by putting their hands together when greeting.

The member of the support staff, who works with small groups and individuals in the school, talked through with a governor what was working well with new routines and the areas they would like to develop further.

At lunchtime the children talked to governors about how much they enjoyed the hot lunches, especially now there is a new routine in place.  We were also intrigued to see a television screen set up in the canteen.  Although it was not working at the time, it was explained that it is linked up to the bird box in the garden and when there is activity children can watch it all close up.  Two years ago pupils watched the progress of some blue-tit chicks!  Let’s hope they get some visitors again this spring.

Our humanities governor talked to the co-ordinator at school and found out about the school’s plans for this year and looked through the evidence file of what the children have been learning.  Over the next few weeks she will organise to go and observe a geography or history session in the school.

January 2015

Last term was busy in many respects, particularly with the school undergoing the Ofsted inspection and the usual seasonal festivities.

As governors we were also busy. We had a review of Health and Safety at the school, which was very positive. The school has comprehensive risk assessments and is very organised and prepared in the respect. We have also been monitoring maths, the foundation stage classes and literacy. The school clearly recognises its strengths in these areas and also constantly strives to improve provision and achievement for all children.

Coming up this half term the governors will be looking at;

  • Healthy schools
  • Overseas links
  • EYFS (early years foundation stage)
  • Outdoor learning
  • Special educational needs
  • Educational visits

November 2014

As Chair of Governors I have great pleasure in writing to you regarding the Ofsted report following the inspection on the 6th and 7th of November. This ‘Good’ (with outstanding areas) judgement is richly deserved by Mrs McMahon and her excellent team and I am sure you will join me in congratulating all involved. Under Mrs McMahon’s leadership the School has embraced changes to the Ofsted framework, the new curriculum and staff membership with enthusiasm; this is driven by the determination to provide the very best possible teaching and learning opportunities for all the pupils without ever losing sight of the caring and supportive ethos that makes our school’s learning environment so rich.

This is a tremendous achievement and is one that the school community truly deserves. I am thrilled that the inspector obviously recognised the tireless hard work, commitment, dedication and diligent professionalism that occur every day across our school. It is great to see that our inspector clearly identified that this school ‘has a very positive Christian culture in which pupils thrive, and which promotes their outstanding personal development and behaviour’ and that ‘Pupils have extremely positive attitudes to learning and are very enthusiastic.’ But most importantly that ‘children achieve well’ and ‘make good progress’, ‘because teachers know them well’.

School leaders and governors accept Ofsted’s findings and would like to take this opportunity to thank all parents and carers who completed the Ofsted parental survey on-line. Your comments were very helpful to the team. I feel it is worth clarifying that St Michael’s strives to be friendly, open and responsive in all matters and is eager to receive your comments, concerns and feedback throughout the year.

Our ‘Good’ judgment will not bring complacency to this school as we continue to share a constant desire for improvement. We already have a detailed development plan in place to map growth throughout the school and the steps being taken to improve our teaching and provision for the children of St. Michael’s. We will also look closely at how we can address the points for action raised in the report.

Please feel free to contact Mrs McMahon or myself via the school, if you wish to discuss any aspect of the report further.