It really feels like last week was incredibly productive. Not only have the pupils been really busy and really successful during lessons, but we have also made real progress on some of our whole school improvement targets.
This week, Mr Turner and the rest of the SLT conducted a deep dive into maths across the school. This was a fabulous opportunity to get into classrooms and see some of the highly effective teaching that takes place in all year groups. We conducted learning walks, a book scrutiny and we also discussed maths teaching and learning in teacher and pupil interviews. This 'Deep Dive' followed the Ofsted methodology and enabled us to explore maths from every perspective. We saw some great practice, in particular the inclusion of retrieval practice and prior learning at the start of all lessons. This enables children to 'join the dots' in the curriculum for themselves, whilst also retrieving prior learning, which research shows, makes it far more likely to 'stick' into the long term memory. We plan to repeat the whole procedure next week for English, with Mrs.Westwood taking the lead.
The Governing Body
Our Governing Body met this week for the first full meeting of this academic year. There was obviously, lots to discuss and celebrate. They have been especially impressed with how well the children have settled back into school and embraced the recovery curriculum.
The new roles were also agreed at this meeting, as several of our Governors had come to the end of their tenure on the GB. Therefore, I can now announce that we have a new Chair of Governors - Mrs Christensen, who has been a Thomas Harding Governor for several years. Our previous chair, Mr Barton, will stay on as a Governor into the new year. We also have a new Vice Chair: Mrs Langdon, who is also stepping up into the role. Mrs Flack, will also be staying on as a skills governor. We have also welcomed two new skills governors this term; Mrs L Jordan and Mrs.J. Fatima.
As I sit and reflect at the end of yet another busy week in school, I am struck by how truly fortunate I am to be working in such a fabulous school and local community. This week, the children have been so magnificent in so many different ways. They really are the most important factor in why our school is such a successful one, they embody our ASPIRE values, they are consistently polite, well mannered and considerate of others; they show integrity and warmth - and most importantly, they all share the same growth mindset that says that anything is possible with hard work, resilience and practice. Another reason I find to be grateful today is the ongoing and truly humbling support of you, our parents. You have worked tirelessly to ensure that the return to school was a successful one and we are so appreciative of your patience with us while we got things right for the children! School is a really happy and hardworking place at the moment and that is down to our strong partnership - so thank you!
ODBST Visit 2
As you may remember, we have six visits each year from the ODBST. These visits are from our School improvement advisor, who is very supportive (but also very challenging!).The visits are always hugely beneficial to us as a school. Each one focusses on a key area of school improvement, and ensures that we keep a tight rein on the areas of school that have the most impact on our pupils learning or wellbeing.
The first visit of the year was in October, and that one is always based around Year 6 outcomes and target setting. This second visit however, is always focussed on an area of teaching and learning, and involves a deep dive into classroom practices. This year, we chose to focus on our provision for our most vulnerable learners, those in receipt of Pupil Premium.
Eileen Northey, our SIA, held the visit on Wednesday, over Microsoft teams. We always have to submit detailed reports, with evidence before the meeting and, she spends the first part of the visit discussing this with Senior Leaders and members of the Governing Body. We then shared and discussed pupil work, before she 'met' some children over the call, and asked them questions about their learning. The children were fantastic, and spoke well about how they are supported in school to achieve their potential. The result of the visit was that our provision received the highest possible grading of 'Highly Effective' Well done #TeamThomasHarding, for a brilliant, collaborative effort!
As you know, the first national lockdown, led to missed curriculum content - something which as a school, we are determined to address. We have dealt with this with a variety of strategies, for example by slotting in skills and knowledge to our recovery curriculum, or by attaching content to units that the children will meet later this year, or perhaps even in subsequent school years.
However, some content simply does not fit in anywhere else, and we need to cover it to ensure that our curriculum progression is fully effective. Therefore we this week we held our 'History day' which enabled each year group to address missed skills and content that subsequent units will build upon. It was a fabulous day, with each year group using a particular historical time period as a ‘lens. ' These periods were: Year 3 – Stone age. Year 4 – Egyptians. Year 5 – Mayans and Year 6 – Vikings.
What a busy week we have had in school. Although we always knew it would be, as the diary was so full - the reality, when other things naturally crop up in the course of each day, is always more intense. The week started when Chesham Food bank came to collect the parcel of food that we had collected for Harvest. Despite the fact that our usual Harvest celebrations were not possible, Miss Capocci still managed to organise a brilliant Harvest Festival- '2020' style. We shared assemblies, both in class and in the hall, and as always Thomas Harding parents were incredibly generous. In total we handed over 11 boxes of provisions to the Food Bank! Our newly elected House and Sports Captains, along with our Head Boy and Girl, were on hand to help pack up the food.
Any discussion of parents evenings must start with a huge thank you to our flexible and patient parents! Although we had plans to hold the meetings over Zoom, we had huge technical difficulties on the first night, which led to a quick change over to phone calls at the 11th hour. Thank you to those parents who had to wait longer than we would have liked or anticipated to speak to your child’s teacher. We did eventually manage to connect with all parents who wanted appointments. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and teachers are hugely grateful for the support received during the conversations. They are continuing to do an incredible job in such unusual circumstances. The children have settled back in very well and they are learning very well in lessons We are all very appreciative of your continued support
Our year six pupils finally sat the transfer test this week, over two months later than usual, with their characteristic levels of energy and dedication. Both tests went very smoothly, with the practice tests on Tuesday morning, followed by the real tests on Thursday. I have to say I was very proud of their mindsets, as many refused to put pencils down until the very final second! There is something truly special about a Thomas Harding pupil. #proud
Following many weeks of careful planning, we have been in a position to start our Catch-Up provision this week. As you will know, the government has provided schools with additional funds to support us in the important work of ensuring that the all pupils achieve their potential despite the national Lockdown.
Mr Turner has put together a comprehensive programme of catch up, which is (in this first wave) targeting the most vulnerable learners. We have identified them, following careful assessments and discussions with teachers and learning support assistants. The programme is being delivered by Thomas Harding teachers, which we feel strongly, is the best approach for our pupils. Some pupils are being provided with 1:1 tuition in reading or maths, after school, by teachers, governors and members of SLT. Other pupils are being taught in small groups during the day. Mr Turner and Miss Nugent are providing this tuition in years 3 and 4, whilst Mrs Westwood and Mrs Smith are focussing on pupils in years 5 and 6. All provision will run until Christmas, when we will measure the impact and plan the second wave of support for the spring term