Well! What a strange and unexpected end to the half term.
I hope that all of you have weathered the storm so to speak. I know that most of Chagford lost power and that, at the time of writing, that hasn't been put right yet. I also understand that mobile service was lost for a long time too. I have been thinking of you throughout the day and sending all the love and strength I can muster - I hope some of it got through. I spent the day hunkered down in Crediton myself where the weather never seemed to become too severe but I'm more than glad that I didn't have to drive today and that we didn't ask you to - we love our narrow, windy lanes but one or two trees falling could have wreaked havoc.
Thanks to everyone for their patience and flexibility in dealing with this unprecedented situation.
With so much of the town being without electricity and mobile service I know that online learning was probably not possible for the majority of families. I also understand it will not have felt like the very topmost point on the days agenda! Still, it was lovely to see some of the children who did check in on Google Classroom to meet with their teachers and to have a go at the learning tasks which had been posted. Some children who couldn't get online had a go at some of the tasks we sent home on paper. This terrific poem from Lulu was one of those - I won't judge the two writing competitions until after half term so if you fancy making a half term project of either a poem inspired by the wind or a comforting letter to a younger child do feel free to. There are two twenty pound book tokens on offer.
World Book Day - Thursday March 10th
We are being a little eccentric this year and having our own World Book Day on a different day to the 'official' one. A team from The Bookery in Crediton will be visiting the school on Thursday March 10th to share some brilliant books and help us get excited about all that lovely reading. They have handpicked a set of really great books they think that our children will really enjoy and they will be running a 'pop up shop' to let every child have the chance to buy a book. In addition to this, a very generous member of the school community has offered to buy 'one of each' so that children who are not able to bring some money to buy a book will know that the books which have been shared are available to read in school.
On that day we will have a whole day of bookish activities to enjoy - we will let you know a little more very soon bit one thing you might enjoy doing over half term is making a 'Story Jar'. Get any old jar, wash it out then pop things into it to give us clues to a favourite book or story. If you like you can make an intricate diorama or, if you prefer, it could be a collection of objects. DO use your imagination and remember, non-fiction books, poetry books, graphic novels and all manner of books are good books too and shouldn't be made to feel left out! You can see some examples from another school below - pretty sure we can do better!
A Midsummer Night's Dream
I think enough people know about this project now that I can't keep it under wraps any more.
On Midsummer Night - Friday 24th June - Chagford Primary School will be putting on its own, absolutely unique production of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. We want every single one of our children to be in the show which will take place outdoors in the amphitheatre. As well as pupils from the school there will be a host of community members taking part to supply music, puppetry and other roles. We have contracted a professional theatre director to help us create this piece of theatre and ticket sales alone won't be enough to pay her a reasonable fee for her work so local musicians Amye Farrell & Rupert Egerton-Smith have very kindly offered to play a concert at ST Michaels to raise funds. This concert will be at the church on May 21st, do book the date in your diaries.
We are SO excited for this project - it will be the event of the season. We hope to absolutely pack the amphitheatre and to create an evening of such magic that none of us ever forgets it. After the pandemic years when projects like this weren't able to happen we want this to be a big, glorious, healing celebration of love, nature and our community.
Have a wonderful half term break everyone - I hope the electricity is back on very soon. Do let me know if there is anything I can do to help - I mean that most sincerely.
Spring is on it's way! 'The Lord of the Dance' has been playing in a loop at the back of my mind this week as I've rejoiced in the couple of minutes extra sunlight that I've noticed each morning and the spring flowers popping up all over. I hope your hearts have been lifted too.
Enormous thanks to every parent who has been booking their child's meals on to the SchoolComms system. I can't tell you how much easier it is to whizz through the register and get on to something more interesting when all the children are already coded for their meals. In some classes nearly all the children are now being sorted for meals and the teacher can pretty much get on with some teaching and learning. If you aren't sure how to book up and would like a little support Elaine in the office is very happy to advise.
A couple of parents have asked if we still need them to code when children are having a packed lunch from home. Yes please! The more children are booked up on the system in advance, the less we have to fuss the children in the morning.
Wonderful Year Sixes
Our Year Six pupils impressed hugely this morning when two teachers from one of our sister schools in the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust visited to observe their writing lesson. Mrs Armstrong, who teaches Year SIx, is one of our trust's strongest teachers of writing as well as being a county moderator. The children stayed calm even though there were visitors in their class, they participated in the lesson whole heartedly impressing Mrs Armstrong and the visitors and created some great writing. We are SO impressed with the progress this year's Year SIxes have made - they are real #ChagfordChampions.
Times Tables Rockstars
We have been delighted to see a big uptick in the children's interest and involvement in Times Tables Rockstars over the last few weeks. Some children have really been putting in the time and, as a result, their facility with times tables is markedly improving.
As a child I never got the point of learning times tables facts - I don't think my teachers ever explained to me, or, if they did, perhaps I wasn't listening. The biggest barrier to our pupils achieving their potential in maths at the moment is the quickness of their recall - if we know that three times four is twelve we can quickly work out that thirty times forty is one thousand two hundred, or that one hundred and twenty divided by forty is three. If we don't know that three fours are twelve and have to work it out afresh each time those secondary facts just aren't available to us. I am ambitious that every child in the school should know their times tables facts to ten times ten by the end of Year Three adding the elven times tables and twelve times tables in Year Four - that time spent on Numbots and on Times Tables Rockstars is a massive part of making that possible for every child.
Did you know that we have clubs running most nights of the week? If you missed them there's Chess Club, Sports Club, Football Club Netball Club, Lego Robotics Club and Samba Club running currently. There are available places in some of them so do have a look. I would LOVE to see more children coming to Samba Club so we can build the size of the band so if children are at a lose end on a Thursday after school please encourage them to give samba club a try. It would be brilliant to get a big old band going so we can fill the streets with the sound of drums when we process through the town.
We are hoping that covid cases will ease up again soon and that we'll be able to get volunteers back in to the school again - once we do we'll be really interested to talk to community members who are interested in running a club of some sort. Do get in touch if you'd be interested whether it be an art club, a board game club, a coding club, a dance club or whatever else it is you can offer.
We have a jolly clever computerised system for managing pupils data and we've noticed over that last few weeks that our attendance data - even after we take out everything associated with covid - has dropped by a couple of percentage points. In normal times we would expect our attendance figures to be somewhere around 97% - at the moment, even when all absence related to covid is taken out - it's hovering around 94%. As a result we've decided we need to be a bit more proactive and we've been calling parents of children where attendance has dropped below the threshold of 96%. A lot of the time there is an absolutely reasonable answer to the the question but sometimes parents are really surprised to learn that their child' s attendance has dropped significantly. We make no judgements at all as a school but we have a statutory duty as a school to ensure that children are attending as regularly as possible. Pleas don't be offended if we call and ask if we can help with attendance - we genuinely just want to make sure your child gets the very best go at education that we can possibly provide.
Free events at the Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centres.
Join us this February half term for a host of bird activities. From nest box making with Ranger Pete, to cuckoo trails and bird crafts.
Find out more on our events page at www.dartmoor.gov.uk
I was as excited as one of our reception unit pupils this morning when I saw the first crocuses have opened up and added their yellow to the purply blue and gold of the irises. At the back of the field and in the old groundskeeper's garden there is an absolute mass of snowdrops it's definitely starting to get lighter in the mornings too. I have a strong feeling that spring must be on it's way. I think a lot of us are pinning a lot of hope on the longer evenings - I've done my calculations and I'm thinking that by the end of February I might even be arriving at school in daylight! If the long dark winter has been hard for you and your family, if times have been hard and you have had a heavy heart these first signs of spring mean so much. Even if the snow comes now we'll know the blossom is on its way!
By the way - thanks to the gardening group - someone once upon a time planted those bulbs that gave me so much pleasure today. Thank you whoever you are!
Parents received an email from me earlier today to keep them up to date with the situation regarding covid-19 in the school. As of this morning we knew of nineteen pupils who are isolating following a positive test for covid-19. There has been a steep rise over the week - mostly in Years five and six but with children in all classes in the school affected. We also have two members of staff who have tested positive.
We sought advice from Public Health England, their instructions are that there is no need to change anything at the present time. We continue to follow hygiene protocols, we ventilate rooms thoroughly, we sanitise hands and we limit movement between classrooms. The children have assembly together in our huge and well ventilated hall and they play together at playtime and lunchtime. We hope that all families who are affected are doing ok - do let us know if there is anything we can do to help.
Cross Country Running
It was such a brilliant thing to see a big team of excited runners getting on to the coach for today's cross country running competition. We had aimed to take forty children to the inter-school competition in Okehampton - covid took a few of those out - but we were still a pretty large party. Thanks to the parents who came along to help look after the children and to the parents who came along to shout their support. Mr Frewin was the perfect coach - making sure the children felt equally challenged and supported.
Every child tried there very best with Henry being a real stand out as someone who gave their all then found a little more to give. He really put emphasised the 'Challenge' in our school values while the way the whole team worked together to support each other underlined the 'Community' aspect. Results don't matter so much on a day like this, so long as we've done well enough to progress through to the next round we are happy. However... we are pretty pleased with our Year Three/Four Team who managed to take first, second, third, fourth AND fifth places in their race. That's pretty good going I'd say! Whether it's something about the number of keen runners in our community or something about the rocks and soil hereabouts I don't know but we really do seem to breed some good runners.
School Dinner Register
Getting through the dinner register in the morning is a dreadfully time consuming job that can waste a great deal of good learning time. Reminding children what's on offer then waiting while they change their minds and then change them again can cost teachers up to ten minutes a day - which is fifty minutes a week - time enough for another whole lesson. We would be very grateful if every family could pre-book their meals on the system - if we all manage to do that then the teacher can glance down the list to check that everyone is accounted for and move straight in to something a little more interesting.
Huge thanks to every family who is already doing this - it really does help. I'd love to think that we can catch up with South Tawton where, or so they tell me, the teachers rarely have to fill in even one school dinner slot!
Butterfly Conservation Project
This week our Year Three and Four pupils started their butterfly conservation project in partnership with Shallowford Farm over near Widdicombe. In this first session Ellie, the education officer from the farm, came to the school and explained all about the project. The Marsh Fritillary Butterfly used to be common on the moor but is now increasingly endangered - isolated groups of them still live in the valley bottom at Shallowford Farm however and in the patches of habitat on neighbouring farms. The team at Shallowford want to plant lots of Devil's Bit Scabious - the butterfly's exclusive food plant - and join up the isolated patches of habitat and they wanted our help to grow the plants. Each of our children brought in something to grow plants in and planted out seeds taken from last year's scabious plants. To make sure that we are growing the exact same species and variety as the butterflies on the farm are used to the seeds were taken from the exact places that we will be planting them. later this year we will take the children to visit Shallowford Farm to see if we can spot the butterfly in its breeding season and to survey the plants that grow in the valley bottom. Later in the year, when the plants we are caring for here at school are big and strong enough to be planted out, we will take them to Shallowford and plant them out, expanding the butterflies' range and connecting up patches of habitat. The children had a great time and learned a lot from this first visit - I can't wait to see the project develop.
St Brigid's Crosses
Children from right across the school had a great time learning how to make St Brigid's Crosses to be displayed at the church as part of the ongoing 'Celebration of the Earth'.
St Brigid was a fifth century Irish holy woman. She shares her name with a pre-Christian goddess and her feast day falls at Imbolc - the mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. There are many great stories associated with Brigid; in one story she asked a king for land to build a convent on. It was in a sweet spot with fewsh water for bathing and drinking and plenty of firewood to gather. The mean land owner - who was known for his cruelty to the poor - said 'no!'. Brigid asked for just as much land as her cloak would cover and, laughing, the kind agreed. Brigid took off her cloak and placed it on the ground. Each of the women with her took up a corner of the cloak and stated to move away from each other, slowly at first, then running, away - with the cloak magically stretching effortlessly to cover more and more ground - rivers and woodland and valleys and hills. The king saw what was happening and cried out 'Brigid! What are you doing!' Brigid told him how she had heard how mean he was and how badly he treated people with less privilege than himself. He repented and said, 'Please, let me be forgiven and I will give you a good plot of land for your convent.' He was as good as his word and that place is where St Brigid established her convent and her school of metallurgy, crafts and decoration that is said to have made the most perfect books in all Ireland. Books that would make The Book of Kells look like a copy of The Beano so perfect are the lines and harmonious the colours. St Brigid is the patron saint of many things farmers, bakers, craftsmen and brewers - one of my favourite stories about her is that she was so skilled she could turn water into ale. She is also known for the quality of her excellent blueberry jam.
Our children heard a little about the saint and made these St Brigid's crosses - traditionally made from rushes rather than pipe cleaners! These were taken to the church and used as part of a celebration in the evening. If you'd like a go at making a St brigid's Cross you can find instructions online - or just ask a child to show you!