Parent Forum

Responses to questions raised in the Parent Forum meeting 16/11/15

6 parents attended the meeting.

Mrs Wallace attended in person and was able to answer some of the questions at the time. Responses from Mrs Wallace are in red.

1) Communications

Some parents felt there could have been a bit more context provided for the survey - and are interested in the results [I know this has been superceded by your communicating this already but for the sake of record am including it]. 

  • Yes – I have put the results on the website and sent out a summary version with school actions identified. In response to what people told us:
  • From this week letters will go on the website so that even if lost they can be accessed from home
  • I have sent out a letter asking people if they would consider signing up for emails (only 50% of our families currently access this)
  • Phonics leaflets sent home last week
  • Dates of next two parents evenings published and sent home
  • I recognise that there is loads of info out there – but have we signposted it well enough? We are looking at ways of telling parents how and where they can find out things

Some parents found out there is much more information on the website than they realised - eg termly lesson plans are there as are weekly timetables - it may be worth publicizing this. Some also wondered if the lesson plans could be made weekly so they had a closer idea of what was being discussed in school. 

See above re info on website – we need to show people what’s on there and we will incorporate it into workshops from now on as well as signposting it in other ways

Teacher lesson plans are written by teachers and are personal to them; and whilst they are monitored as part of our work in school they are not scrutinised by Ofsted – indeed Ofsted are not entitled to ask for them.  I am not sure what is to be gained from their publication –information about what children are learning is already there. The lesson plans are a guide – they are annotated and changed all the time, they also have information about individual children on them (for example about assessment), and clearly this is not for public consumption!

2) Targets and parent evenings

Quite a few parents were not sure what the new targets were for and how they were being used in school. Could the school explain a bit more about them?

  • Targets show all of the expectations for the band the child is aiming to be secure in by the end of the year. Usually this means Band 3 for Year 3 children etc. It is to ensure parents are more informed about coverage of band and all its expectations, especially as there is a new curriculum.
  • The teacher ticked two targets in each subject that the child is currently working on when they were sent out.
  • These are integral to the work children are doing in class.
  • We should explain this to parents better perhaps.

They also felt it might be better next year to have the first parent's evening later, once children's targets had been set, as these could then be discussed with parents.

We used to do the first parents evening later – parents wanted it earlier so they could  meet their child’s  teachers quickly! We changed because of the views of parents so it is unlikely to change again. However we will look at target setting and sending them out earlier.

3) Breakfast club

A number of the parents attending were still interested in a breakfast club and wondered what had happened to plans to set one up. Mrs Wallace explained the case had been explored but it was not certain if there was still sufficient demand, there aren't enough staff to run it at the moment, and the private provider Energy Kidz was not favoured as they do not want to enforce the same behaviour policy as the school's. Some parents still felt they would like the option explored again.

We are still recruiting and will keep people updated. We would like to have a breakfast club and are working towards it. If we do not feel an outside provider is right then I would rather wait and get it right.

Our after care is well regarded and Miss Roseamann is currently helping another local school set up aftercare. (She has also been involved with other schools across Reading).

4) School field

Many parents are wondering how certain we are the council will keep its word and remove the temporary classrooms at the end of the school year so we can have our sports field back. Have there been any updates on the situation?

There have been no updates from the council. As far as I am aware the planning permission for the modular classrooms runs out in July (2016) and they will be removed. If this changes I will let parents know.

Responses to questions raised in the Parent Forum meeting 25/9/15

Responses by H Wallace (HW)  and S Roseaman (SR)

1. Could the school tell us what plans the council has for the temporary classrooms and how permission for them came to be extended? Does the school have any plans for them as well?

HW: The council originally had permission for the temporary classrooms for two years, although we initially thought that they would remove them after 1 year (ie when the building work was competed). As far as I am aware they are not planning to extend the two years. For this year we will use them as group rooms, extra classrooms and as below. I will put this in the next newsletter.

2. We are very glad that Thameside is able to share the classrooms with The Heights, to enable them to have a breakfast club on site. Could we explore the possibility of Thameside children being able to use that breakfast club as well, given there was some demand from parents in the past for one?

HW: This is for 10 weeks only – they will then relocate to the Heights. Miss Roseaman has explored the possibility of us using the Heights – but the children will need to be transported from the Heights to Thameside at the start of the school day and at the moment this is proving problematic. The people who run the club are not keen to mix the two schools. The cost is also quite high at £5 session. We are still working on this one.

SR: Whilst there is still some demand for a breakfast club the issues that I currently have are staffing. This is very problematic. Most of the staff in After Care work as TAs in the school. If they were to run breakfast club too, it would take them over the amount of hours they are allowed to legally work. It also causes a problem where they wouldn’t have any time with their line managers, teachers before school starts and this is vital for a good working relationship and the day ahead.

I have recently met with Andrew Norton, director of Energy Kids and where they would be able to provide a breakfast club on our site it does raise the following issues for me personally and with Mrs Wallace. Those being,

  • Wouldn’t be run the same as AC, therefore possible lack of consistency especially for the younger children. Whole new set of staff to get to know.
  • The charge at £5 is much higher than we would charge if we were to run it.
  • Paperwork, invoices with another company as well as with our bursar.
  • I would want Energy kids to run our school behaviour policies and guidelines and they are not keen to do this

Ultimately I would rather the school ran BC. This will mean we need to advertise for staff to do this; we are still exploring our options.

3. Is there anything we could do to improve the general perception of the school in the area, eg providing more regular feedback to parents or the community about ways in which it has improved, things being done to address perceived shortcomings by Ofsted, providing more regular information on the website?

HW: I am sure we could always improve our communication – there is information about the results updated yearly (as close to the results as possible). This went on the website last July. There are letters from HMI stating the improvements. It would be good to have any ideas on improving communication – a survey will be going out shortly. Also have the parents got any suggestions? We would be grateful for any!!

4. There was good feedback on efforts to boost engagement and enthusiasm about mathematics over the last two years - eg regular homework via Mathletics and the Maths club - are there any further plans this year?

HW: Mathletics and maths club will continue. We will have another “Number Day”. The parents toolkit was updated last year and goes out to new parents. We will hold another parents workshop to explain the new calculations policy which matches the new national curriculum - incidentally only one parent turned up to this workshop last summer and we had to abandon it!

5. Parents said they were keen to be able to engage more regularly with their children about the topics they were covering at school and to know on a more regular basis, eg weekly, what they were learning. There was enthusiasm for simple things that might help this, like the use of the notice board outside reception to flag topics; use of maths target cards like the reading target cards; allowing children to bring home their school books once or twice a term so parents can see how they're getting on; ensuring class blogs are updated with topics more regularly.

HW: Maths target cards – I have considered this many times but the skills in maths aren’t hierarchical so won’t work – there would be far too many targets on a card. That’s why we brought the parent maths toolkit out. The calculation policy shows the progression and these could be used at home.

Topics at school – the annual plans are on the website and give the topics. Newsletters from the teams give the topics and information about the learning. Teachers planning is on the website. With the best will in the world I’m not sure we could put this on the boards too- sorry!

School books  - these are a vital part of any Ofsted inspection and given that we only have half a days’ notice they do need to be kept in school. They should be available each long term at parent’s evenings.

6. Having said the above, parents also wanted to stress they were very happy with the quality of teaching at the school and said how well children had settled back into the swing of things at the start of term. The moves to help them transition at the end of the school year appear to work very well.

HW: This is good to hear – we review our transition arrangements every year and are always looking to make them even better!

7. One parent was keen to know what the key stage expectations are. Is there a document the school could point us to?

HW: The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and the National Curriculum are on the website – these make the expectations clear.

9. The after-school club choices this time are great. However, is it possible to have multi-skills again?  This tends to get a mix of boys and girls rather than the polarised clubs of football and glee club for instance. One parent also said they really liked the idea of sports clubs in the mornings as they felt it got the children moving and wide awake before school.

HW: We do have a small number of clubs in the morning sometimes, such as gymnastics and free running.  We have sensory circuits in the hall for some of our children at 8.15 so this rules out the use of the hall in the morning.

SR: Multi Skills was on offer last term but I replaced it with Circus skills for a change. It is really difficult sometimes to get a good variety that will suit everyone. In the past when I have run the same club again, parents have asked for change. I do try really hard to give the children what they want. I would welcome suggestions from parents and I am happy to run a questionnaire like I have done in the past to see what people would like to do? I can’t always get what people want depending on other bookings and cost. Music clubs are particularly pricy and as a school we are unable to subsidise them anymore.

Regarding the boy/girl clubs as it were like Glee and Dance…. I do have some boys in both those clubs and also in football club. I’m afraid it’s just one of those things that it is used mainly by girls sadly. It is open for all.

10. Concern about children's access to drinking water during the day - one parent says their year 1 child has been advised that they can only have water at break time and lunch - is this right? And could this be improved given studies show strong correlation between hydration and improved learning?

HW: I have spoken to all the teachers to remind them that children should have access to water throughout the day

10. Could we invest more in the school website so the content is more regularly updated?

There is a statutory list of requirements for all schools and ours complies to that (things like Pupil Premium Report, Sports funding report, results, British Values statement, class timetables, safety etc). Reviewed school policies are uploaded regularly.

We now have an ICT technician who can monitor content.

We know that some class blogs (and the Head’s blog!) need to be updated much more regularly – it is disappointing that this is not consistent and it will be fed back to staff.


11. Some parents would like to be able to meet the teachers to get to know them a bit more. While we realise they have a life outside school and work already very long hours is there anything we could do to enable perhaps a little socialising without further burdening the school or them too much? Eg a school picnic after sports day, or something around Christmas.

Thank you for considering teachers workload – in the last census I think the statistic was something like teachers worked 55 hours per week plus!

At the end of the summer term we invite parents in to meet the new class teachers, we have three parent meetings a year and the staff make themselves available anytime parents need to speak to them and appointments can be made via the school office. Staff are on the doors and gates at the end of the day. Teachers have meetings after school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays (either SLT, staff, phase meetings and working party meetings from 3.30 – 5pm) so that only leaves 2 evenings and I can’t direct teachers to attend any other after school events.

Teachers are invited to TSA events – and a number of them come to the Summer and Christmas fairs as well as other events.

I believe the relationship between staff and pupils and parents should be kept to a professional one.

NEXT PARENT FORUM MEETING

Monday 16th November at 6pm

Children do better when parents and schools work together

Here are the issues that Thameside's Parent Forum discussed in its first meeting. If you would like to add your views, please feel free to drop us a note in the Parent Forum box at the school entrance or by emailing parentforum@thameside.reading.sch.uk.

  1. Experience of new parents at Thameside
  2. School meals
  3. ParentPay for school meals
  4. Water consumption
  5. School communication
  6. Future of the parent forum
  7. School website
  8. Supporting maths
  9. Teaching music

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