Welcome to the blog for Bernards Heath Infant School Governors.
Tuesday 25 June saw 10 of our school governors swap their everyday routines for a day in school for our annual Governor Day. Each year we set aside one day in the school calendar for all governors to come in and get completely stuck into school life. Our normal governor meetings take place in an evening when all the pupils and the rest of the staff have gone home and whilst we all try to come into school as much as possible, nothing is quite the same as spending a whole school day here.
From starting the day on the playground with Mrs Rimmer as she greeted children and parents for all of us our feet didn’t seem to touch the ground again until we were back on the playground at the end of the school day watching a cycling showcase. In between governors saw everything that school has to offer. And it is amazing just how much does go on in school in just one day.
Before the day itself, governors worked with Mrs Rimmer and Miss Woolfson to identify certain parts of school life that they particularly wanted to see, often to fit in with their specific role on the governing body. This resulted in each governor having an individual timetable for the day, making sure that we made the most of every minute that we were here.
Between us we took part in 5 a day and mindfulness sessions with the children, attended a school assembly, listened to children read and joined in lessons, including PE, with all year groups from Heath Class to Year 2. We shared Learning Journals and school books with children, went on a Health and Safety walk around school with School Council, sat in on teachers taking children through the NSPCC talkPANTS lesson and watched children learn to ride balance bikes on the playground.
At lunchtime we all ate in the hall with the children (always a highlight of our day!) before joining them on the playground. One thing that amazed us was the huge number of activities that children have available to them at lunchtime. As well as organised games with MSAs, we saw children making use of the playground equipment that the school has invested in, have space to draw and write, and use a wide range of equipment for everything from small world role play to a newly invented tennis-football hybrid style game that some children seemed very keen on. And whilst this was going on a group of children watched with interest from the edge of the playground as builders installed some new equipment on the edge of the field area. It was certainly very different to the playtimes we remember from our school days!
It wasn’t just the children that we spent time with on Governor Day. Governors also carried out an audit of various Health and Safety records with Mr Desborough, worked on the online safety policy with Mrs Rimmer, carried out the annual safeguarding audit, led a “staff voice” session with teaching and support staff, went through FS school data with Miss Woolfson and also spoke to support staff about the work they do with SEND and Pupil Premium pupils and their families from across the school. Also in our schedule was some time for us to reflect on how we work together as a governing body and look at how we can improve further.
Governor day gives us all an amazing opportunity to see school in action. Without it it would make our roles as governors so much more difficult. In the words of one of our new governors:
“As a new governor and one who isn’t a parent at the school, Governors’ Day was a fantastic opportunity to get to know the school a little better. From the morning assembly, to CIP time with the Y1s, lunch with the children and talking PANTS in the afternoon, everyone was so welcoming. Speaking to the children, they were eager to show me their favourite things to do (mainly on the playground!) and tell me why they enjoy coming to school. Great day at school all round!”
One of the best things about being a Governor at Bernards Heath is spending time in school and seeing all the things that we talk about in governor meetings in action. We are always made to feel so welcome and for that we thank all the staff and pupils. Finally though, huge thanks for Mrs Rimmer and her SLT for coming up with our individual timetables for the day which allow us to get around and see so much of the school day.
Many of you will be aware that the school is now hosting an after school club run by Challenge Sport & Education, but how did this come about and why?
Bernard’s Heath Infant and Nursery School have always been keen to provide wrap around care for its children. With an on-site Breakfast club established last year and numerous after school clubs there was already significant wrap around care in place that provides a breadth of opportunities for children to grow. However, the Leadership Team and the Governors have always discussed if more could be done.
In light of this and the recent reality that schools need to look for opportunities to raise funds, the school engaged potential care providers who would be interested in running an after school club on the school premises (by hosting the club the school are able to raise funds via renting the premises to the provider).
The providers who were interested were asked to come to a pitch attended by selected staff and the Resources Committee Governors to give an overview of how they would run the club from an ‘child experience’ view point as well as an administrative point of view. A number of factors were used to assess the providers and the school were lucky enough to have two strong proposals to choose from. Challenge Sport & Education emerged from that process as the preferred provider and were then asked to a further meeting to run through more practical points. Following that meeting it was agreed to proceed with Challenge Sport & Education.
Early feedback from the after school club was given at the Full Governing Body meeting on 1st April, at which it was highlighted there have been a few tears from children – tears when their grown-ups have come to collect them and take them away!! So the early signs are very encouraging.
As part of her science subject leader role Miss Suttle has set up a school Eco Council and, as part of Governor Day 2018, Mrs Newbigging and Mrs Carr attended an Eco Council meeting and were very impressed with what they heard.
The class representatives from Years 1 and 2 were full of wonderful ideas about how to make Bernards Heath Infant and Nursery School more Eco friendly. Many of their ideas were around reducing electricity usage, especially when lights were being used unnecessarily. It was therefore no surprise that once they realised the March sunshine outside, we spent the second half of the meeting with the lights off!
When not talking about switching off lights the Eco Councillors had other wonderful ideas about how we can encourage more paper recycling in school and also how we should all make sure that only toilet roll is flushed down the toilet. They have grand plans for a school litter pick and possibly extending this to the local community and picking up litter on Bernards Heath. Miss Suttle is going to go away and talk to the Friends of Bernards Heath about what might be possible.
Also, look out for a message in the school newsletter about how the children have been inspired by watching The Blue Planet and want us all to try to reduce our plastic consumption.
Caroline Lucas had better watch out, as I think some of these children might be after her job soon!
Thank you to Miss Suttle and the Eco Council for allowing us to join you today.
Last week I had the privilege of visiting our new school-run Breakfast Club, to get a behind-the-scenes view on how it’s going, and see the reaction of the children.
When the children first arrive, they self-register by finding their own name card, while they are formally signed in by their parent or carer. Then it’s straight off for breakfast – a choice of cereals (with either semi-skimmed or soya milk) and toast, plus juice, milk or water to drink. There was also fruit on offer and I spotted some toasted waffles being enjoyed too. As the Breakfast Club is still new, the team are still trying out different options to find out what is most popular with the children – apparently raspberries were a real winner, but bananas and blueberries have proved a little less popular!
After breakfast, it’s playtime, and there were lots of options available for the children to get involved with. On the day I visited the children could choose from Lego, trains, drawing, card-making, mini toys and a book corner, but there’s always something different to keep it interesting. By chance, I happened to visit on a Thursday, one of their busiest days with around 30 children attending, and yet despite the numbers, all the children were playing calmly and happily. There was no running, no loud voices, no drama…..I wish I knew their secret! Of course, having the right staff ratio is important, and Breakfast Club has one member of staff for every 8 children, and has scaled up as numbers have grown since the beginning of term. The Club is run by Miss Flanagan (one of our Teaching Assistants) and other members of the school team, they know the children, and the children know them, which was demonstrated in the relaxed, caring atmosphere.
At the end of playtime, Miss Flanagan rang a bell and hush descended, before the children started tidying all the toys away. Five minutes later it was all done, and the children settled down for a story. Then class by class the children collected their coats and bags and lined up to go to their classes, just before the school bell rang.
I really enjoyed my hour at breakfast club – although it is still new, it ran like clockwork, with no sense that the team are still finding their feet. And most importantly, I witnessed 30 happy children. I asked a number of them whether they enjoyed Breakfast Club and all of them were really enthusiastic. Here’s some of their favourite things about the Club…..
“I like playing with the Lego and trains”
“It’s lots of fun”
“I like drawing”
“I can choose what I want for breakfast”
Thanks to Miss Flanagan and her team for their warm welcome last Thursday, and I look forward to seeing Breakfast Club going from strength to strength!
Over the 2016/2017 academic year we have been reviewing our school vision, values and aims. These are published at the front of our Parent and Staff Handbooks and were written with the aim of ensuring all stakeholders know what we are striving for at Bernards Heath.
The process of updating this has been led by the Governing Body. They have worked with staff and children to find the right words to accurately describe the vision at Bernards Heath. We have also discussed whether this is more of an ethos statement as it is not necessarily something we are working towards in the long term but describes what we strive for every day. It is what influences the way we speak, to and about children, to each other and also embodies our expectations for our whole school community.
We wanted to ensure the statement was not too long, wordy or too easy to forget. These are the words that shape our education and curriculum and we want everyone to be able to easily recall what we believe and what we value.
Please read on; as always, your feedback is welcome…
At Bernards Heath Infant and Nursery School we share our days with children who are just starting to find their place in the world. Our school is a happy, safe learning environment that actively promotes curiosity, challenge and creativity.
We are proud of our school and the strong relationships we have with our families. We celebrate kindness, respect and individuality as we strive to be the best versions of ourselves.
Our children develop enquiring minds and the skills needed for lifelong learning through an active and engaging curriculum.
This morning voting closed for the Parent Governor Election. School Councillors from Year 1 and 2 helped Mrs Rimmer open all the envelopes. Ms Pearlman and Mrs Carr our Chair and Deputy Chair of Governors were in attendance and sorted the ballot papers ready to count. Mrs Rimmer talked to the children about how to effectively count the ballot papers and it was decided a good idea was to group them into piles of 10. The vote was close and our successful candidate won by 2 votes. The children talked about why it was important to double check the counting to make sure the person with the most votes was elected. The children are familiar with the process of electing School Council members and understood that parents were voting for the person they wanted to help Mrs Rimmer and the rest of the Governors lead our school.
Congratulations to Sarah Pike our new Parent Governor!
Thank you to School Council for helping with the big count.
Opening the envelopes being very careful not to put any ballot papers in the rubbish bin.
Counting the ballot papers into piles of 10.
As part of Governors’ Day on Wednesday this week two of us met with school councillors to talk to them about road safety and parking around our school. It is a subject that we know many grown-ups have concerns about locally and we wanted to get the children’s input into how to address the issue best.
The current School Council at Bernards Heath is made up of a mix of children who walk, scoot and drive to school. Over half of the children also had an older sibling at the Junior School and we talked about how their brothers and sisters are dropped off there before their grown-ups bring them to school.
All children were aware of the dangers of busy roads, like Sandridge Road, and also spoke about how it is necessary to find somewhere safe to cross a road and to always do so with a grown-up. Some of the children talked about how it can sometimes be difficult to cross either Seymour Road, or the roads leading to our Upper Culver Road gate, due to cars being parked where they want to cross. They suggested that there should be more double yellow lines, or zigzags, to tell grown-ups not to park there.
Around our school are various posters drawn by children telling grown-ups to park considerably and to help us keep our children safe. The children felt that some grown-ups who park and drive near our school think that what the posters say is “not true” and that they ignore them. One of them suggested that they might talk to their grown up about the posters the next time that they walked past them together. They also suggested that PCSO Russo (our local PCSO) might tell grown-ups that they should listen to what the posters say. Many of the children were concerned that when cars park half on the road and half on the pavement they might get hurt if someone opened a car door when they walked or scooted past.
Many of the children scoot to school and the spoke proudly of how they wear their helmets when scooting and don’t go too fast. They also talked about how important it is to scoot close to their grown-ups. As a group they were keen that we should make some new posters reminding children about how to scoot safely and we could ask Mr Desborough to put them up so that people can see them when they go in and out of the school gates.
As a school, governors and staff we will continue to work with parents, carers, local residents and our PCSO to keep our children safe and minimise inconvenience to those who live and work nearby. We ask all of you to park considerately, ensuring that you are not blocking resident’s drives or parking close to corners to prevent pedestrians from crossing safely. We also advise you not to park partially on the pavement, as this can make it particularly difficult for pedestrians with prams and pushchairs.
If you ever have any concerns about parking or road safety then please do not hesitate to get in touch with the school to discuss further.
Mrs Carr and Mrs Rahman
Last month at Bernards Heath we had our JARV with our “HIP” (Hertforshire Improvement Partner). The HIP’s job is to work with schools to monitor standards across the school as well as tracke progress against our objectives and ensure we have the right priorities and the right approach. The annual visit is always a packed day. This time, our HIP carried out learning walks with English and Maths leaders, sat in on lessons, reviewed children’s learning in their books and talked to the children and staff. There is a lot to see and discuss in a day! Our Chair of Governors then joined the senior leadership team to receive feedback.
The report makes for great reading and the HIP’s comments were a ringing endorsement of what he had seen. He went as far as to call our school “a stunning environment for young children to learn in” and “What you’ve got here is gold dust, I’d like to say its typical but its not”. The report noted good progress against our priorities since the November 2016 OFSTED report, with phonics teaching well supported by the English leader and “very strong” teaching of the technical aspects of English. Teaching as a whole was described as “consistently good and some is outstanding” and recent changes that have been made, such as to the guided reading timetable and in training Teaching Assistants to support children in choosing books, also received positive comments. Staff’s behaviour management was described as “skilled and highly consistent” and the children’s excellent attitude to learning, high standards of behaviour and ability to discuss and appraise their learning with each other were all remarked upon. The report concludes that personal development, behaviour and welfare at the school are outstanding.
Obviously the governors are delighted to see everyone’s hard work recognised, but the real value of the HIP is the continued involvement in the school’s planning and development with an external expert with knowledge of other schools across Hertfordshire. We will continue to work with our HIP to improve our school even further and benefit from his input as to where to focus our efforts. In the meantime though, the governors wish to extend our congratulations to all the staff for creating a learning environment that has drawn such strong praise.
As Governors, we have been sharing our views of what makes Bernards Heath Infant and Nursery School special; we have been talking about our aims and our values. The Governors were keen to seek the children’s views too, so two Governors met with School Council in December. It was wonderful to hear the children speak so positively about their school. When asked to describe how they feel at school the children used the words “happy”, “awesome”, “safe”,” excited”, and “proud”. They explained how the teachers made learning fun and interesting. The children talked with enthusiasm and pride about their learning and told us about their ‘Learning Heroes’, they explained to us that they don’t give up and they keep practising. Science, cooking, looking at books in the library and playing were some of their favourite things to do at school. Their respect for one another came across clearly, they said they expected to be treated kindly and that Bernards Heath was a very friendly school. We heard that “If people weren’t nice it would be the worst school, but it’s not like that at all…It’s the best school in the universe!”
Mrs Secker and Mrs Young
Monday 18th July saw the full Bernards Heath Governing Body arrive in school for the second Governor Day of the school year. Governors are regular visitors to school, but with all our meetings taking place in the evenings we don’t always get to experience the school full of children going about a normal school day.
The main aim for the day is for Governors to immerse ourselves in the school and have the opportunity to see in practice some of the things that we hear and talk about in our meetings. Mrs Rimmer and Miss Wolfson had devised individual timetables for each Governor which allowed us to spend some time concentrating on our allocated Governor roles (SEN, Pupil Premium, SMSC etc) and to spend time in classes, observing lessons and meeting children and staff.
Governors saw initiatives like Smart Moves and WellComm in action, joined in with Five-a-Day, took part in Outdoor Learning, hunted for mini-beasts in the new Wild Garden and walked the perimeter with Mr Desborough. They also discussed pupil progress with members of the Senior Leadership Team and observed a year group handover meeting with teaching staff. As a Full Governing Body we also got time together to review progress on this year’s School Development Plan and talk about future plans.
For Governors one of the highlights of the day is always joining the children in the hall for lunch. As on previous visits, we were all very impressed at the quality of the food served by Mrs Banahan and really enjoyed our apple crumble and ice cream. As we sat with the children they once again blew us away with their questions all about who we were and why we were in school. Seeing such happy and confident children chatting away to visitors to school like this makes us incredibly proud of the children in the school.
Huge thanks to Mrs Rimmer, Miss Woolfson and all the staff and children at school for making us so welcome today and sharing their learning with us.