'I'm a Parent: Help Me Out Here!'

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Here, you'll find 'must-know info' for Parents such as:

  • 'The Basics':

           -School structure: Classes & Staff
           -School day 
           -Clubs
           -Trips & visits
           -Travel
           -Attendance
           -Assessment & Reporting
           -Communication
           -Uniform
           -Forest School

  • Home Learning

  • FAQs (popular parent submissions)

So you've taken the plunge and entrusted your most treasured possession with us. Congratulations - welcome to the family! However, there's 'stuff' you need to know. We'll try our best to answer some of those burning, more practical questions here... 



Must-know Info

School Structure

BC 7 of 122We are a 1.5 mixed form entry school. In plain english, that means that children enter the school in two Reception classes of 22-23 pupils each (45 pupils per year group), and then on we have 'mixed classes' since classes of this size can't be financed throughout the school. Class sizes increase to a legal maximum of 30 in Key Stage 1, and we have a little over this in most Key Stage 2 classes.

As of September 2016, our current structure is:

Headteacher: Mr Ryan

SENDCo (Special Education Needs & Disabilities Co-ordinator): Mrs O'Shaughnessy

Early Years:

  • Reception - Snapdragon - Miss Fisher
  • Reception - Kingfisher - Mrs Moir & Mrs Wallace

Milepost 1:

  • Year 1 - Livingstone - Mrs Goodship
  • Year 1&2 - Kingsley - Mrs Nelson (Assistant Headteacher, EYFS & KS1)
  • Year 2  Hannu ("HAN-oo") - Miss Price

Milepost 2:

  • Year 3&4 - Drake - Miss Dobie 
  • Year 3&4 - Darwin - Miss Simms
  • Year 3&4 - Cousteau ("Cus-STOW") - Miss Halford

Milepost 3:  

  • Year 5 - Vasco - Mrs Hunt (Maternity Cover for Mrs Lamb)
  • Year 5&6 - Tabei ("Ta-BYE") - Mrs Arnold & Mr Knill (Deputy Headteacher)
  • Year 6 - Cook - Mr Brooks & Mrs Galvin

The School's Governors

 



The School Day

BC 1 of 122The school bell is rung at 8.50am signalling the children's entrance into classes. Having lassoed bags and coats on pegs, all classes start with a purposeful activity to coincide with registration, such as Handwriting, reviewing feedback marking, problem solving etc. Children arriving after 8.55am are marked as 'late' and we try to warn against this as children are missing key activities in these first minutes of school. As a matter of course, late arrivers are asked to enter via the school's main entrance rather than class doors to monitor punctuality after registration.

The morning is predominantly English and Maths learning focussed. It is split by a whole school break at 10.35 - 10.55am. Everyone then breaks for lunch at 12pm and the 'lunch hour' is followed by Key Stage 2 classes (Mileposts 2 & 3) but with a 1.10pm finish for Key Stage 1 (Early Years & Milepost 1) - they get really tired, you see.

So, lunchtime: many a child's highlight! We recognise and value the importance of play for children and how it has an undeniable link to rich personal learning. We're on a continuing journey with a company called OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) to look at how we can enhance opportunities for purposeful play at all breaktimes. Check the Play Blog for more information and play highlights.

BC 56 of 122Our school dinners are very popular. Our catering team beaver away to bring nutritious, wholesome and well balanced foods to our school dinners menu, and source many ingredients locally to feed needed investment back into the local economy.

A hearty lunch is followed by an afternoon of learning centred around our 'Vehicles for Learning'. Children in Key Stage 1 classes may have a flexible break at mid-point - it depends on the learning flow in the classrooms! Most teachers will have entitled Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time one afternoon a week. This presents children with a different face in the classroom and our PPA teachers enrich the afternoon learning with their individual passions and strengths.

[It is worth mentioning that children in our Reception classes work towards a different curriculum which is based on the notion of learning through child-initiated play. The times above still apply but the 'look' of the day is very different for them.]

BC 120 of 122As a proud Church of England school we engage in acts of collective worship daily at around 2.45pm. The Holy Trinity is represented at the front of our school hall. This is the initial focus when children quietly prepare for the message centred on our current Christian value. We try to make worship entertaining and engaging whilst also bringing to life the great stuff written in the Bible that we can all learn and benefit from. Worship is peppered with opportunities for children to discuss or ask questions, reflect, pray, celebrate and sing.

The leaders of school collective worship vary throughout the week and the term. We have school leaders, teachers, clergy, the Open the Book Team, esteemed visitors and the children themselves regularly leading acts of collective worship. The focus here is about community as much as spirituality.

After worship, the school turns into a postal sorting office as letters home are picked up (or not!), packed and the children set on their way home by 3.15pm. Unless there's an after-school club to attend, of course...



After-school Clubs

DSC 0206Our teachers are good sorts. They give up their time after school to offer free clubs to children who want to do something different. We have a whole range of sports clubs that they provide, and we've also offered other sports by trained professionals (at cost to parents) to deliver more specialist clubs. But you don't have to be 'sporty' to enjoy our extra-curricular clubs as we have plenty of other options to tantalise children to stay after school hours.

Occasionally, a club will incur a cost associated with the extra-curricular activity i.e. gym - please check first. Some clubs are invitation-only where a specific group is the focus i.e. Gifted and Talented. But on the whole, most clubs are open to those who put their name down... but you need to be a) reliable and b) quick!

Please note that after-school clubs rarely take place in either the first or last week of each term - even teachers need a break sometimes.



School Trips & Visitors

morfaEveryone, even adults, remember at least one school trip they've been on. (Hopefully this is for better rather than worse!) This is because school trips form memorable experiences that often give learning context and purpose.

School trips, visitors and visiting experiences are considered to be opportunities for enrichment and as such are not part of the National Curriculum - that means that we don't have to do them. But we feel that they are important and should be something that we offer our pupils since we want primary school and the learning they do here to be memorable.

Our Charging & Remissions Policy clearly sets out that the actual costs for these experiences are the responsibilities of parents and carers. We have to ask for a 'voluntary contribution' on the basis that if the amount requested is not paid then the trip/visitor will have to be cancelled for all and not some.

In addition to these experiences, we also offer Year 6 children the opportunity to go on a residential visit to Morfa Bay. A perennial favourite with our eldest pupils, Morfa Bay is a soul-searching experience layered with camaraderie, fear-quashing and mud. In short, our kids love it! 



To-and-from Travel

As many children are local then they resort to pumping out CO2 into the atmosphere each day via their lungs rather than hot cars on a brisk stroll to school. Families further out may need to drive and should use the town's car park called The Chipping opposite the school for drop-off (there is no facility for this on either Symn Lane or the school site).

Children in Year 6 are allowed to cycle to school once they have been versed in the ways of 'Bikability' offered in the autumn of their final year. Bike racks at school are provided, just outside Class Tabei. Those who prefer to scoot follow the same rules: use the bike racks provided and alight your 2-wheeled friend at all times on the school drive and wider school site. Simple.

The school does not provide organised transport, but the Local Education Authority do. Please contact them if this is a service that you'll need to make use of.



Attendance & Punctuality

DSC 9910We're fortunate to have a very supportive parent body who values attendance at school. Every Lesson Counts set out to highlight the importance of attendance and accompany this with some facts and figures - this can be found here. As you can see, 90% attendance sounds ok but the fact of the matter is that this equates to over a year of schooling missed over the course of 11 years at school! 

We monitor attendance closely and promote its importance regularly to parents and children. Our pupils have a weekly Star Attenders award for being the highest attending class of the week. Competition is fierce and the prospect of a non-school uniform day should never be underestimated!

190 days of schooling and 175 non-school days make up the year. Despite this there may be times where parents wish or need to withdraw their child from school. The school asks for 2 weeks notice in DSC 9915this event through a submitted form found here. Please be aware that term-time holidays cannot be authorised and only exceptional circumstances will ever be considered for authorisation. If a child is taken out of school without the permission of the headteacher then they will be marked as taking 'Unauthorised Absence'. Under these circumstances prosecution may be considered.

When children are ill then the school office should be informed at the first opportunity and contacted every day thereafter that the child is not at school. If a child has been sick due to illness then we ask that they do not attend school for 48 hours so as to prevent contagion to others.

Being punctual means children are ready to start the school day on time at 8.50am. Lateness is monitored by the school and where trends appear the school will contact families to work with them on improving the child's punctuality.

 



Assessment & Reporting

BC 106 of 122Assessment is a way of life in primary schools. If we assess then we know where children are and then can work out what they need to do next and how we'll get them there. This isn't nearly as invasive as you might think. More often than not, assessment is going on seemlessly throughout the school day as part of effective teaching practice. This doesn't equate to a series of daily tests sat in silence. Instead, teachers use a number of strategies as part of their ongoing assesment of all of their pupils: observation, discussions, verbal questions, hinge moments etc.

Sometimes there are tests. These summative assessments are part of a wider picture we build for each child to make sure that they're on track and making good or better progress. We communicate targets openly with parents so that they know how we expect their child to achieve each year. Results of key assessments are shared with parents at Parent Consultations and in End of Year Pupil Reports. 

Children in end of Key Stage year groups (Reception, Years 2 and 6), have their results reported to the Local Authority and our school has periodic external moderation - as well as our own internal processes - to ensure that our judgements are accurate and secure.

If children move away from our school, to another primary or a secondary school, we openly share assessment information with the receiving school so that they can plan to meet your child's requirements in their new setting. 



Communication

School-to-home communication currently takes several forms. We are trying to reduce our carbon footprint through web-based services such as Parent Mail (a free email service) and this fine website. Newsletters and many notices are still available in paper format and are periodically sent home by our very own 'Postman Pats': the children.



School Uniform

BC 28 of 122Our dress code is pretty predictable. All clothing items can be bought from the school's PTA or other outlets. At present this is outlined in our School Uniform Policy.


Forest School

Our children think Forest School is great fun. It is an outdoor session that takes place in a safe Forest School setting in the corner of our school field where children are encouraged to develop the skills of decision making and independence. Forest School simply promotes the raising of child self-esteem. It helps pupils become aware of their roles as members of teams and respect others’ ideas whilst having their own valued in a completely different environment to that of the classroom.

A typical session might include a listening or observation activity, skill developing, learning through exploration and play, the telling of a story, and the favourite finish of hot chocolate and a biscuit! If we're feeling really adventurous then we light a fire and make toast or damper bread.

We encourage our parents to take part in Forest School too. If this is a propsect that you find appealing then look out for notices or contact the school. As a Forest School helper you have a specific role. Here are a few guidelines that we ask you to follow:

1. Facilitate Learning: Your role as a helper is to help the children learn. This is usually achieved by standing back and watching the children. It can be difficult not to leap in if you know a 'better' way to do something. The children need to discover the best way to do something themselves and make their own mistakes. Afterall, it's making mistakes that encourages us to learn.

2. Trigger ideas: A sneaky tactic to ignite learning is to quietly start an activity yourself, your way, and then watch as the children choose to copy you. If a child is struggling with something offer to help, but resist taking control e.g. “Can I hold that for you, while you ….?” or try to ask leading questions, “How do you think you could…?”

3. Maintain safe conditions: The time to leap in is if you see anyone doing something that is jeopardising their safety or that of others. Risk-taking is part and parcel of Forest School, but in a controlled environment where safety is considered by everyone.

All of this outdoors exploration requires children to be prepared to face the elements. Forest School takes place almost all year round so here's what we suggest children wear during the seasons:

In Cold Weather:

    • Warm Base Layers (i.e. vest, long-sleeved t-shirt, jumper (or two), jogging bottoms)
    • Coat/Fleece jacket
    • Thick socks or two pair of medium thickness
    • Wellies or sturdy waterproof boots
    • Hat and gloves
    • A scarf - but if worn it should be tucked in (a head-over neck warmer is better)

In Hot Weather:

      • Long-sleeved top
      • Long trousers
      • Sun hat or cap with neck protection
      • Sunscreen
      • Sturdy shoes (not sandals or any other open-toed shoes)

Thanks to an onoing investment in Forest School by our PTA then we are able to provide children with waterproof coats and trousers/dungarees.

 



Home Learning

Note how we avoid the use of the term 'homework'. That's because we encourage children not to see learning as something that is 'work'. Work might imply an activity that has an end point in mind, is a series of tasks and potentially carried out for someone else's benefit over a set period of time. In contrast , we believe that learning has no end point, is a continous process and is for the benefit of ourselves as a personal journey that has no time limits.

BC 31 of 122The vision for our children doesn't stop at 3.15pm each day. We want our children to be lifelong learners who are technology-savvy, independent, self-starters ready for all that the future will throw at them. This commands that home learning play a key role in fulfiling our vision, and parents have an opportunity to support school here.

Specific arrangements for home learning may be found in the school's policy.

In summary, the children have home learning responsibilities in these areas:

  • Reading - with or without a family member, the benefits of daily reading cannot be argued with. Moreover, reading is an activity that can bring immense pleasure to the reader and is something that most parents feel confident to support. We have reading schemes and 'free reader' books in school to support your child in becoming a better and impassioned reader.
  • BC 35 of 122Mathletics - widely touted as the 'future of learning', online learning platforms, such as Mathletics, have a firm foothold in striving towards a vision where technology is valued. Every child in Years 1 to 6 enjoys a free Mathletics account. Once they have signed in to their account, they create a Mathlete personal to them (akin to the Nintendo Wii-mi) that can be customised according to how many reward points they earn. Points are earned through a series of learning activites that are either asigned by the teacher or chosen by the children. Add in Live Mathletics where children compete against other Mathletes that are online at the same time as them all across the globe and you have all the ingredients of an engaging and effective way to do maths home learning!
  • English - in addition to reading, teachers will set various English activities dependent on the age BC 93 of 122of the child. These may be to learn 'tricky words' at home, new spelling patterns or to blog an entry or response in the class blogs. The blogs have been the launch space for our budding authors to write whole novellas, reaching audiences across the globe and getting much-welcomed feedback on what to write next or how to improve their craft.

  • Independent Home Learning Grids - a recent inception trialled by Milepost 1 and then copied by later mileposts, the grids are based on the principles of free choice and self-organisation - key independent learning features. Children have a grid for the term reflecting the themes of our broader curriculum. A number of suggested activities are provided drawing on different subjects and are often open-ended in nature to promote opportunities for further learning. A minimum expectation is set by teachers and the children will, more often than not, go beyond this due to the fun they have learning. We regularly hold feedback sessions at the end of each term so that children can showcase their learning and get feedback from teachers and peers on the outcomes of their home learning - what has gone well and what could be looked at for future development.



FAQs

If you've read through all of the above then, firstly, 'congratulations'! However, if you've got this far and not had your question(s) answered then this section will attempt to 'mop up'. If you have any burning questions to add to this section that you think other parents would like to know the answer to then please use our contact button above.

Q. How do I know that my child will be safe at school?

DSC 0150-Edit-EditOur first commitment is always to the safety and wellbeing of our pupils. We take matters of a safeguarding nature very seriously and the school works with the Local Authority and Police to ensure that our children are safe in school. We have assigned governors and committees who check that we're doing everything by the book, as well as audits and drills to keep us on our toes with the measures that we have in place. 

Our Senior Leadership Team is trained to Child Protection Officer level and so all are competent in dealing with matters of this nature. All other staff have regular safeguarding training to remain relevant and informed on developments.

Q. Is my child making progress in their learning? How will I know?

A. As independent learners we would suggest you ask your child first - they should know based on how we learn at Blue Coat! If you're met with a grunt or groan then, of course, speak to a teacher. We have Parent Consultations offered 2-3 times a year and an annual End of Year Pupil Report. We are transparent in setting children appropriate targets in their learning for Reading, Writing and Maths. Parent consultations are the perfect time to enquire as to how children are moving in relation to these targets.

As much as we'd like it to be true, many children do not (generally) make progress in exponential curves or straight steep lines. The reasons for this can be numerous. We ask that parents have an open dialogue with our teachers if/when barriers present themselves to learning, and fulfill their commitment in the home-school agreement. This is a partnership that we take seriously and one in which all 3 parties (school, parents and child) should be aligned for success.

Q. I suspect that my child has some specific needs in their learning - they are finding some things difficult. What should I do?

First and foremost, start a conversation with us. Your first port of call will always be your child's class teacher who will listen and give their working perspective on your child's needs. If it is agreed that there is cause for further investigation then our Special Education Needs Co-ordinator, Mrs O'Shaughnessy, will carry out the necessary assessments to pinpoint the nature of the need. 

Children with specific learning needs will be treated under our SEND policy and we will work with you and your child to ensure that their needs are met so as to minimise the barriers to learning. A 'My Plan' is used to document this process and to evaluate the effectiveness of special provision or intervention that has been put in place.

Q. If I have a more general concern or issue to raise regarding my child then who should I be talking to at school?

BC 25 of 122We prefer to work in a systematic manner when dealing with parental concerns. This will involve you always speaking to the class teacher first since they know your child best! The teacher will then listen to your concerns, agree a series of actions and, if appropriate, will negotiate a timeline with you to follow-up the issue and review the progress made. If they feel that it is appropriate, they may alternatively decide to escalate the issue to the Assistant Headteacher for attention.

After the follow-up with the class teacher, if you are not satisfied that the issue has been resolved or handled appropriately then the Assistant Headteacher (of the Key Stage) will meet with you and the class teacher to discuss a plan of action. Again, a follow-up date for review will also be agreed.

If, on the rare occasion, that the issue still remains then a meeting with the Headteacher/Deputy Headteacher and the Assistant Headteacher will then be arranged with you.

If, after this final stage, you do not feel satisifed that the school has comprehensively dealt with the issue then the school's complaints procedure can be followed. This has seldom happened as we work hard alongside families to resolve the very large majority of issues at the class teacher stage.

By working in this order it should ensure that the people who know your child best are first to deal with the issue. It then allows you to escalate an issue through different levels of seniority for further attention if needed.

Q. Do you have a Parent Teacher Association (PTA)? If so, how do I join?

P3150408A. We're very fortunate to have a very active PTA at Blue Coat. You need only tour the school to see just how much they have done for the school and the opportunities they have afforded the children. If you would like to join this merry band of committed volunteers then contact us and we will put you in touch with the Chair of the committee. They are always on the lookout for new blood and promise not to bite (hard!) when it comes to commitment.

Q. What if I want to take a more strategic role in the school? Could I become a governor?

A. Indeed. As a Church of England school we are committed to having a majority of foundation governors who are chosen by the church. As a regular churchgoer then this could be worth enquiring about with your minister. Others not taking this route may apply to be a governor when periodic parent governor elections are announced. Keep an eye on the school post or even contact us to speak to the Clerk to Governors to see when elections are coming up.

Being a governor is an active and rewarding role of great value to the school. We are always on the lookout for governors who can bring their skills and perspective to benefit Blue Coat.

Q. Are there opportunities to volunteer in school?

IMG 7807Yes! Quite regularly we ask for parents and volunteers to help out in school life. This might be for a supervised local stroll around Wotton looking at local geography or a journey to a service at our second home, St Mary's church. Alternatively, we might be looking for adult readers in school or contributors to worship - it all depends. Helping regularly in school can be trickier since Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks have to be carried out and this does incur cost to the school. 

The best thing to do is express an interest in the level of support you are willing to offer the school and then we will add you to our 'go-to' lists when things come up.

Q. Has the Bermuda Triangle moved to Blue Coat? My child has managed to lose property. What do we do?

Ah, a common issue, rest assured. As much as we focus on our value of 'Responsibility' it seems that lost property is a fact of primary school life! Each key stage has holding receptacles (clean black bins or yellow tubs, in reality) for lost property that children and parents are free to peruse at the end of the school day for lost uniform and things. All we ask is that items are put back after and left tidy. Periodically, we empty school uniform onto tables outside the school for 'last chance collection' as many items persist to remain unclaimed. After that time they will be claimed by the PTA for second-hand uniform sales or recycled as textiles.

If your child has lost or broken an item of value then we're afraid that the school cannot accept responsibility as we discourage items of value from being brought into school.

Q. I feel that my child needs to bring a mobile phone to school. Is that ok?

We don't generally encourage this as it brings a whole host of problems related to safeguarding and otherwise. However, if you deem it to be essential then we ask that children follow some strict rules. The first is that they don't use it anywhere on the school site for calls, data, photographs or game playing etc. The second is that the phone must reside with the class teacher from when they enter school to when they exit.  Phones will be stored safely during this time, but their responsibility still resides with that of the child. 

BC 66 of 122

Head's Tweet

from Mr Ryan

Flo has blogged about how she sees play at Blue Coat. Visit the Play Blog now under the pink menu.

8 hours ago