Almost the end of term.

I know I’ve been a bit quiet lately.. but things have not been forgotten.

The “winner” of the parent governor position was Sandra Byrne.  She has promised to be hands-on and to speak her mind.  I wish her luck.

The new permanent head has been appointed – Mr Schilling.  As you know, he was brought in by the Diocese in January to assist with the running of the school.  There seems to have been very little discussion about his appointment – this should be a matter for the full board of Governors, but the announcement was made before a meeting took place.  Nevertheless, in my multiple dealings with him over the last three months, he has seemed receptive and interested, so I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

And finally … it’s now two months since the LEA replied to us promising that the Diocese would be dealing with the complaint and that they would be in touch.  Needless to say, we have heard precisely nothing from them.  I have therefore emailed Nick Page at Salford and the Office for Education  at the Diocese giving them one further week to respond or I will escalate the complaint to the Secretary of State.  (as per Education Act 1996, s. 409497).   We will keep you informed as to any progress.

 

 

Remember to vote.

ballot-box[1]As all parents of children at the school should know, there is currently an election running for a Parent Governor.

The Governing Body is basically in charge of the school; the head reports to them, and they set overall policy. There are ten members; two are school staff (one being the headteacher), one from the LEA, one parent governor, and six foundation governors (one always being the parish priest.)

It should be apparent, therefore, that the influence of the parent governor is likely to be limited, but it is at least a voice in the place that matters.

Parent governors are selected by the parents, which is what the current vote is for.  The foundation governors are appointed by the Bishop.  You can see the a list of governors, prior to the recent events, still on the school website.

Please take the time to cast your vote; ballot papers should be returned to school in a sealed an signed envelope by Friday 14th.

And yes,  I’m standing.  You can read about me, and the other candidates, on the rear of the ballot paper. I’d be honoured if you select me. But whomever you choose, please do vote – this is one of the very few opportunities parents have to give their input to the operation of the school.

– Rob.

First Response

Letter received from Nick Page, Strategic Director for Children’s Services –

sjp letter thumbThank you for your letter which I received on 14 January, 2014 regarding the complaint you have raised about actions of the Governing Body at St Joseph’s RC Primary School. I have liaised with the Diocese of Salford as it is their role to deal with complaints of this type. You will be hearing from them in due course.

The former Headteacher Miss Margaret Ambrose asked for early retirement in November after many years at the school. It was her personal decision and she told parents just before Christmas to, in her own words, “avoid any fuss.”

This has undoubtedly come as a surprise and something of a shock to parents. The governors are extremely grateful for the many years of dedication which Miss Ambrose has given to St Joseph’s RC Primary School. While we are touched by the parents’ feelings and messages of support for Miss Ambrose we would ask them to respect her choice to retire and to support the school as we move forward.

The Governing Body, working closely with the Local Authority and Diocese, have secured a strong and experienced leadership team to lead the school until such time as a new, permanent Headteacher can be appointed.

I’m not wholly convinced that they can offload responsibility to deal with complaints to the Diocese quite like that, so will examine the legislation more closely.

 

Handed In

Unity House
Unity House

Just a quick note to say the petition (with cover letter) has been handed in to the council.

A very nice gentleman came down to collect it. We will obviously post here any further news we get.

About “Requires Improvement” – Ofsted 2013.

Ofsted were in school last term, and we were all given a copy of their report last week. It’s not available on Ofsted’s website yet.

We have remained at grade 3. Last time, a 3 was “Satisfactory”. This year, Ofsted have renamed the grade to “Requires Improvement” – Please don’t think that this means things have got worse; reading the report, and comparing to last year, reveals quite the opposite, in fact. But we think that this change of terminology will cause confusion, as it will for many schools, because on the face of it, going from “Satisfactory” to “Requires Improvement” sounds like things have got worse.

A couple of quotes  –

2012: The school failed to meet the government’s current floor standard which sets the minimum expectations for pupils’ attainment and progress.

2013: The school meets the government’s current floor standards, which set the minimum expectations for pupils’ attainment and progress.

That’s definitely an improvement, for a start. Indeed, the new report states :

Actions taken by senior leaders and governors have led to ongoing improvements in teaching and achievement, particularly in reading and writing, since the last inspection

Since the last inspection, middle leaders have become more involved in checking the quality of teaching and pupils’ work. They provide helpful feedback to individual staff and specific
guidance ,support and training where needed,which has led to improvements in teaching .

Yes there is still work to be done, but every comparison with the past is positive; there is no slippage. It seems that although improvements have been made, it’s not yet been quite enough to move us up to a grade 2, so we stay at 3, and suffer from the renaming of that to make it seem like things have got worse, when the report actually says the opposite.

One further point of interest, especially given the reason for creating this website –

An external review of governance should be undertaken in order to assess how this aspect of  leadership and management may be improved.

Performance Statistics – An analysis

Numbers
Numbers

I asked my father, a (retired) statistician and lecturer, to look at the last school performance results (available here) and look at the perceived significant drop (65% to 54%) in Key Stage 2 pupils  achieving Level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths.  This is his report:

Statistics can be a very useful tool, but all too often they can be misleading or misinterpreted. The School Results case is not as straightforward as it may appear.

The use of percentage results gives a false impression, and masks the fact that  only small numbers (of pupils) are involved.

For a class size of 24, the 2013 result of 52% translates as 13 pupils. For the same class size the 2012 value of 65% gives 16 pupils (or 15 if the class was only 23 in size).

Since this is only a difference of 2 or 3 pupils it is easy to suggest that this could simply be due to the presence of more ‘underachievers’ in 2013 – or conversely extra ‘high-fliers’ the year before.

This could be true – but it is not the only possible explanation. Even with exactly uniform situations numerical measurements on samples can (and do) vary by chance. This is easy to demonstrate if need be.

Samples of small size can show differences that appear surprisingly large – while larger samples still show big variations, but which represent smaller percentages.

The school case of interest has small samples ( of 13 or 16 successes) and this needs consideration as to whether this difference is meaningful, or possibly due to chance variations.

There is a routine statistical method of analysing such a situation. If applied to the case in question it shows that there is a significant (more than 10 %) possibility of the observed difference occurring by chance.

Hence it is not statistically justifiable to say that the difference has a ‘cause and effect’ explanation. It might have, but the statistics do not provide evidence.

JOD 11 January 2013

In Summary – the statistics cannot prove that the drop in pupils reaching the target had any cause at all.

Comment: New drop off/collection rules.

Picture the scene; you’ve just started a new job.  Everything in your workplace is already running smoothly.  There’s nothing broken that needs fixing, so how can you make your mark, stand out, make sure people know there’s a new broom in charge.

It seems that this is the first step.. the letter that arrived home today indicates that in future, years 2+ basically drop off and pick up in the playgrounds.

Now, I don’t know about other people, but I personally really like the current arrangements where we are allowed into the school to collect our kids.  Yes it’s a bit cramped, but we get to see the school!  We see the work on the walls, the teachers and staff, the classrooms and areas that our kids spend their day in, and basically, we feel a part of the school.

Many years ago, I used to drop off at a primary school over in Chorlton.  Then and there it was drop off and collect in the playground, as per these new arrangements.  I rarely saw inside the building, and never really felt as connected to the place as I do at St Joseph’s.

We will, of course, comply with this move, but I can’t help feel that we are losing something here; and I have a fear that we’re being pushed away, that perhaps we are not welcome in the school any longer.  I hope this is not the case, but I still worry: What next?

Additional content 11:55pm :

The more we think about and discuss this, the worse it seems to be.  At present, we can take the kids into school early, and the teachers will be in the classrooms from about 8.45am onwards to receive the kids.  It’s up to the parents to deal with coats, hats etc., to say goodbye, and ensure their child goes into class happy. And there’s no particular rush.

The new arrangement sees the teacher collect all of her class at 8.55am from outside.  Do the parents wait that extra few minutes, and perhaps now be late for work, or leave them with a friend and lose entirely the chance to see their children go into school?

Furthermore, the drop off particularly is often a chance to have a quick informal chat with the teacher: maybe the kid has been unhappy or unwell, or some other message need passing on.   That opportunity will now be lost as there simply wouldn’t be time.

I know many children, particularly the older ones, like to go into school on their own.  And that’s fine and good, and when the kid is ready to do that, then of course we let them.  But to basically force that on everybody Y2+ immediately?  I don’t think that’s a good idea.

In fact, we can’t see how the teachers will be happy with this either; it’s extra work for them, chivvying over two dozen kids into getting ready for class, sorting out coats, hats, gloves etc.  And the reverse at the end of the day.  All of them at the same time..  We foresee frayed tempers, raised voices, and many unhappy children.

And then there’s the simple logistics – reaching the Key Stage 1 playground from the official main entrance on Ryall Avenue means walking all the way around the building.  Yes, opening the Mayflower Ave gates will probably be welcomed by some people, but it’s still going to be irritating that the places we are now supposed to wait are right by the gate that we’re not supposed to use!  Plus there’s no shelter from the elements in the KS1 playground, and not enough for three classes worth of children and parents in the other.

And what happens with those who have two or more children?  At present, they can be delivered in sequence, and are kept in class until collected.  Under the new scheme, the kids could be expected to be delivered to  different playgrounds at the same time, and will be brought out to them at the end of the day.  I can’t see that working well..  It’s not as easy to control children waiting for their parents to arrive when outside as it is inside..

But that’s OK. because “The new system means that parents do not need to enter the building during these busy times of the day.”  Worded as if that’s a positive thing. Sorry, I don’t feel that it is. We’re being pushed away and kept out.

Our daughter has already said that she is unhappy and doesn’t want to go to St Joseph’s any more.   That would have been a totally unthinkable statement a month ago.  Now, we’re wondering if we should take that seriously.

 

Thank You!

Thanks everyone for the fantastic support today.  We were only able to be at the Ryall Avenue gate, but almost everybody who passed signed the petition, and we’ve had lots of good wishes.

Without a doubt, everybody is upset and shocked at Miss Ambrose’s sudden departure, and hopefully with your support we can find out what happened, why, and what can be done about it.

If you were not able to sign, or were one of those who downloaded or took away sheets to sign and return, you can catch me, Rob, any day before or after school, or email me at admin@stjosephsparents.com and we’ll work out how to get them to me.

With almost 100 names representing around the same number of children in the school, this already represents around half of the school population wanting answers.

“Don’t Leave”

This card was produced by my daughter, quite spontaneously, the weekend after we received the news about Miss Ambrose.

Don't Leave
Don’t Leave

Text inside reads:
To Miss Ambrose. Please don’t leave St Joseph’s. I will miss you for life if you leave.
Love from Eva-Jane.   

PS. Don’t forget me.

Back to School

School re-opens on Tuesday 7th January (changed from Monday 6th!).

If you are prepared to collect signatures at the gates, please download and print copies of the petition and be there from 8.30am.  Although the official entrance is on Ryall Ave South, there are many pupils still enter though the car park on St Joseph’s Drive – we could do with people there too.

Please add a comment below if you are planning to help so we know to expect you.