Back to school…

I love the beginning of Autumn term- children in pristine uniforms with happy smiling faces and relieved parents, delighted to return to the routine that school brings. School is full of the sound of new learning, excitement and fun!

Coming back to lead High Hazels, after working away in London this past year, has been really lovely . There are some new staff and a number of interesting changes that have happened in my absence. Lots for me to learn about. Lots of new children too- so many names to learn!

That mix of the familiar contrasting with the new is, I suspect, what most of the children experience too as they begin a new academic year. It can be a little unsettling at first but they soon get back into the swing of things. Happily, the youngest children settle into school routines so quickly and confidently that teachers are often heard to remark that it seems like they have always been with us!

As the nights draw in and the weather cools, our summer holiday seems like a distant memory. There are so many exciting times ahead for us however; residential trips for Y6 and Y4, theatre visits, and new topics to learn about. Don’t forget we also have the now famous ‘Lantern Parade’ to plan for too!

Please make sure that you have downloaded the ‘My ed’ app on your phone so that you can be kept up to date with all things High Hazels.

Encourage your child to come to school every day and arrive here on time for the very best start.Let’s work together to make this year the best yet.

Welcome back to school!


Testing times ahead!

IMG_0043When I was young, my twin  sister and I used to routinely do each others work at school.Luckily our teacher was very short sighted and never seemed to notice! I was great at spelling, she was brilliant at maths.

All that changed one day towards the end of our time at primary school when we both had to sit in the school hall for an hour , in silence, to do the dreaded ’11 plus’  examination . In those days the 11+  determined who could go to the best schools. I am really pleased that this is no longer the way we allocate school places in Sheffield!

You might have heard lots about the new SATS tests that 7 and 11 year olds are taking this year. Many parents (and some teachers) are very worried about them because they seem to be much harder than they used to be. These new tests have been written to match the revised National Curriculum. This relatively new plan for primary school learning is pitched at a much more ambitious level than it used to be . These changes are part of the government’s  plan for improving standards. It is also exactly right, in my view, to be ambitious for what children can achieve at primary school.

We know that the children at High Hazels Academy have been so well prepared by their teachers that they are ready to take these new tests in their stride. We hope that everyone will do their best and we certainly don’t want anyone to lose any sleep about these new SATs this year!

Last year,as many years before,children  were given a National Curriculum levelled score. The children were aiming to achieve a level 2 or even a level 3 at the end of year 2 and a level 4 or even Level 5 at the end of year 6. Parents understood that the award of level 2 or level 4 meant that the child had reached the required standard for their age. Level 3 and level five was awarded for work at higher ability.

Those numbers or curriculum levels, as they were known, will no longer be used to describe what children can do.  Children are still aiming to produce work and demonstrate learning which is at at the standard expected for their age. The new standard is much higher than it used to be! We in school have a very good idea what this means for children in Y2 and Y6, but we don’t yet know exactly what this will look like across the country in the subjects to be tested.  This is very frustrating but at least every school and primary teacher in England is in the same boat! We are all learning how to use these new  assessments and how to describe ‘Working at Standard’.

These new tests are all part of something called the ‘Interim framework for assessment’. The government have said that they still need to know how well children are learning at key times during their primary school. They want to work with teachers to design better assessments for children going forward. So everyone  will work using these new materials and suggest any changes needed to make the process more accurate and user friendly for the children in the future.

This means that for 2016, Children in year six will sit tests in arithmetic, mathematical reasoning, reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar. Their writing will also be assessed. Children in year two will sit arithmetic, mathematical reasoning and reading tests. They will have writing assessed by their teacher. The spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for year two has had to be abandoned this year after someone in the DFE accidentally published the question paper online as a practise, giving the children who had already tried it an unfair advantage! These essential skills will now be assessed within children’ writing.

This year ‘working at standard’ in every subject tested will be described by a score of 100. Scores below 100 mean that a child has not yet reached the standard required. A score above 100 means that a child has demonstrated greater depth of learning. The score that your child will receive will be scaled and reported to you once every child across the country has taken these tests.

Children who do not reach the standard by the end of  year 6 will have to try again when they go to their next school in year 7. Nobody quite knows how that will work yet but most  agree that children do need to be able to reach ‘standard’ across the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics in order to access the curriculum set for secondary schools and continue to make good progress in their learning.

Now to be honest with you, nobody ever really  enjoys taking tests! Many teachers and other professionals hope that better ways will be developed to assess what children can do without putting them under the pressure of examination conditions. Currently however, we know that these tests are necessary to show what a child can do on their own and to demonstrate what they have learned.

We tell our children to ‘show off what you can do!’ in any test and to use them as an opportunity to shine. I hope that you too will praise and encourage your children as they prepare to sit these important end of key stage examinations. Teachers have worked very hard to make sure that everyone has the best possible chance to do well. We are very proud of your children for all their hard work .

Good luck everyone- do your best!









An apple a day keeps the doctor away !


‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away!’ or so I have heard it tell. Is that old saying really true? Will a  daily portion of fruit really keep me healthy? Many people still believe so. We do know that a healthy balanced diet, regular exercise, early bedtime and a jolly good nights sleep provide the very best health insurance.

I am the world’s most impatient patient! I have no time to be ill these days. When I was a little girl my mum’s cure for any kind of ailment was a cuddle, boiled egg and soldiers and an early bedtime. If we were well enough to watch the TV we were well enough to go to school. To be honest TV was never switched on in our house until the evening anyway and day time viewing was rarely tolerated!

Continue reading

Record breaking ambition and excellence.

The fastest tortoise in the uk?

The fastest tortoise in the uk?

Bertie , a tortoise currently quietly residing in county Durham, has risen to great fame according to the news this week. The reason? He has achieved a world record! For Bertie has the athletic promise of Mo Farrar and managed to cover 5.48m in 19.59 seconds, smashing the previous best time, which stood since 1977. To quote his owner, Janine Calzini, ‘He’s just like a real life Usain Bolt!’.

It seems to me that everyone is pursuing a record something or other be it land speed, long distance run or flight to Mars and whilst I very much doubt that Bertie ever actually intended to break any records when he set off in search of lettuce, ambition fuels many a marvellous journey. It certainly inspires ours!

The exciting school improvement journey that we are on at High Hazels Academy is guided by the ambition we hold for all of our young people. It is that they will receive the very best primary education: one rich in memorable experience and filled with great teaching. They deserve nothing less!

 In seeking to bring out the best in everyone, we aim to equip our pupils with powerful knowledge so that they are exceptionally well prepared for their learning journey – here across this primary academy, at secondary phase and beyond.

Above all other aspects of this work, nothing is more important than that the children become skilled communicators. Our teachers therefore carefully plan a range of opportunities for pupils to become articulate and confident speakers, fluent readers and competent writers.

Numeracy is a life skill that supports all aspects of learning and so we focus on the development of excellent mathematical knowledge and understanding . Numerate young people who can reason, problem solve and apply their skills in a range of contexts grow into adults who can function responsibly and contribute widely to the community.

We aim to deliver education with character. To do so we have built a broad, balanced and purposeful curriculum enhanced by a good range of high quality first hand experiences and a range of extra curricular activities. This allows all children to contribute widely in and beyond the school. A fantastic range of sport, music, visits and visitors, social functions and enterprise projects are offered to every child here . These encourage the children to step out of their comfort zone ,experience challenge, build up resilience and have fun along the way

 We are growing the leaders of the future. The determination to develop leadership at every level encourages the children to take responsibility for themselves and others. One example of this is our school council where classroom reps debate and discuss real issues and manage a small budget too!

The children here at High Hazels enjoy competition and so we have introduced a number of ways in which they can compete against themselves and others. Sports, learning, behaviour, punctuality and so on can all become competitive  and the children get really enthusiastic if there is personal challenge, recognition and the possibility of a certificate ,prize or sticker!

You see we are building the habit of continuous improvement. To do this we are committed to listening and responding  thoughtfully to what our children and  families tell us about their experience here. Leaders, teachers and governors then work together to carefully evaluate the impact of our work on outcomes for the children. This means that we also have to bravely take stock of what works and what doesn’t- striving to make sensible investments in resource and to spend every penny wisely.

The best in everyone, powerful knowledge, education with character, leadership at every level and continuous improvement are key drivers of United learning’s  ‘Framework for Excellence’. It has helped to guide the direction of travel for our academy and set ambitious parameters against which we can monitor our progress on the way.

Unlike Bertie the tortoise, we probably won’t appear in any book of records, but the quality and impact of the ambitions we are determined to achieve will leave a far more valuable legacy. I am confident that they will transform this academy into an outstanding provision for the children and families of Darnall- one we can all be proud to belong to!

White rabbit wisdom.


‘I’m late…I’m late…for a very important date!’

So sang the white rabbit as he rushed ahead of Alice down the rabbit hole in that marvellous Disney cartoon of Alice in Wonderland.

I hate being late for anything don’t you? I suspect that this comes from the time when I had to catch a 7.15 am train for school every day. That train never waited a second beyond it’s scheduled departure time and my heart would pound as I ran down the road, always last minute, and breathless.

Continue reading

What are words anyway?

My mother says that I learned to speak before I learned to crawl. Passers by would look into the pram and wonder where the words were coming from. I guess that I must have continued in the same vein because ‘chatters too much!’ was often the theme of my school report. Oh and I also had an opinion about everything apparently, and wasn’t afraid of sharing those with my teachers. (I expect those of you who know me well will be unsurprised!)

Continue reading

A rose by any other name?

A rose by any other name...

A rose by any other name…

The nature of a thing is indeed more important than its label.

I wore round-framed National Health glasses, very much in the style of John Lennon, from the age of two until I was sixteen. Worse than that, as a very young girl a plaster patch was placed over one eye in order to train my wandering pupil to focus. I felt neither stylish nor accepted. I simply felt different. Helpfully, this was pointed out at regular intervals by my classmates. Well I certainly hope they were trying to be helpful- at the time it seemed very nasty!

‘Speccy four eyes!’ and ‘Pirate Pete’ all may have been well intended but I can assure you that by the time I was twelve my response to these frequent jeers was less than polite.

You may have heard the oft-told fable, ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you!’ Those of us who were victims of vicious taunting as children know that this simply is not true. Name-calling can hurt very much indeed – in fact its effects can be life long. Continue reading