It is hard to believe that this half term is already over, it has whizzed past so quickly that it has been hard to keep a track of all the events and progress we've made.
Children have been bellringing at the Church, they have sung with professional musicians, we've been dancing on the playground in the morning, we have got our new curriculums for history and geography off to a flying start, the new French teacher has been in class teaching every week, our new teachers have settled in so quickly it's hard to believe they haven't always been here, our drive on handwriting and presentation is bearing fruit in children's pride in their work... I must have left off another dozen achievements but that's enough to give a flavour - our staff and students have gone above and beyond every day to meet the challenge and help our school move towards its remarkable potential.
Goodbye to Miss Rowe and to Miss Glanville
Today we had a very special assembly to say goodbye to two remarkable members of staff. Emily Glanville has been working with us as a teaching assistant for a couple of years and has been a calm and kind presence that children and adults warm to. We are sorry to see her go. Miss Rowe has taught at Chagford Primary for fifteen years and there is barely a child in the school, unless they joined us very recently indeed, who hasn't been taught by her at some stage. Over the years Lisa has taught every year group from early years to the end of Year Six and has shown great flexibility. This term she has been absolutely shining in the reception class - it has been a pleasure to see her loving teaching the children and to see them loving their learning. For many years Lisa has been the school's leader of music and we have loved singing with her in singing practice every week. I will remember those summer time practices out in the amphitheatre with great affection - there was the time a lamb sneaked under the fence and joined us while we sang and Miss Rowe didn't miss a beat but swung straight into 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm'. Every day Lisa would show us her kindness, her humour and her humanity.
While we are very sad to see Miss Rowe go we are very, very excited to hear all about her next big adventure. She will be flying to Greece and working in migrant camps bringing everything that makes her special to those places and working together with Greek musicians and migrants on music projects. She has been dreaming of this for a long time and we all wish her the very best in this great adventure.
Foundation Unit Staffing
With Lisa Rowe leaving us there is a big hole to fill in the EYFS. From Christmas the unit will be led by our new appointment - we'll be able to tell you all about her after half term. For the weeks up to Christmas the room will be led by Shauna Pindard who is joining us on a short term contract to fill that gap - we are very grateful to her for agreeing to do this. Shauna was in the EYFS all day on Wednesday and got to know the majority of the children. She got on very well with them and I took a chance to observe her teaching and manner with the children and I was very happy indeed. It is a great comfort to me that the children will have the consistency of Tina Adams and Dani Rowe, as well as the wonderful Mel, to help them weather the change to another teacher. Obviously this is not how we would wish it to be for our youngest pupils but I think that with the consistent approach used in the room and with many familiar adults working with them the children should continue to thrive. I will personally be in the room for a while each and every day to ensure the provision continues to be up to the standard I would want for my own child.
Are you coming to the Autumn Festival tomorrow, Saturday 23rd October? We've never had an Autumn Festival before so we are just a tiny bit nervous - we hope to see lots and lots of people there. There will be games to play and nice things to eat and all sorts going on from storytelling to the new tradition of the Apple Cake competition. This is meant to be a festival for the whole community - not just people immediately associated with the school so do drag along friends and neighbours and anyone who might like a look around - for lots of people it may be the first time they've had the chance to be in the school since the new building was built so we'll be running tours of the building so you can have a proper look. We'll be having a wonderful time together from eleven till three, do come and join us.
We are so SO happy with the delivery of Samba instruments that came to the school yesterday courtesy of the always amazing PTFA. We have enough instruments to put together a great big samba band to bring colour, noise and Brazilian beats to community events. It is the generosity of parents and school community members that has made this sizable purchase possible and I just cannot wait to get going after half term with a weekly samba club. If any parents or carers fancy joining the club as helpers/musicians just let us know and we'll get you onboarded. Playing samba is noisy, exhausting, demanding of focus and concentration and - when it all works - immensely satisfying. This is a wonderful new challenge to be able to offer to our learners - thank you to everyone who ever spent a few pounds or brought a cake to a bake sale, bought a raffle ticket, played 'Swat the Rat', barbecued a sausage or contributed to the PTFA in any way - it really does add up to improved opportunities for our children and - in this example at least - brings joy to our community.
Everyone has been enormously patient while we work out what we can and can't manage in this post covid environment. We have held off running clubs except for the Monday sports club and Craig's Football Fridays which take place entirely outdoors but we think the time has come to cautiously bring them back. Clearly, a resurgence in covid numbers could put these plans on hold but next term we hope to see an after school choir, a chess club, netball, samba, music club, possibly a tennis coaching session and maybe more. We'll get information and a booking system for all this together straight after half term. If you have a brilliant idea for a club - art, nature appreciation, board games, coding or whatever it is do get in touch. Volunteers will need to have a DBS check and we will suggest that you work in groups of two or three to offer a club. Let us know if this is something you'd be interested in.
Are you coming to the Autumn Festival at the school on Saturday 23rd October? This is the first year we have run this event and we hope it will grow into a big and glorious tradition. This is an event for the whole community - not just for people immediately associated with the school so do bring friends, neighbours and passers by. There'll be lots of activities as well as opportunities to have a look around the grounds and around the building - we know a lot of people haven't had a chance to do that since the new building opened and we want to throw open the doors, and our arms, as wide as we can. A recent visitor said that visiting Chagford Primary was like stepping into a big hug - I hope you'll all feel that way too. Welcome all - we are looking forward to enjoying a GREAT day together.
Chagford local, Howard Gayton, is part of the Pilgrimage for Nature (https://www.pilgrimagefornature.com/)
They are walking 500 miles from London to Glasgow for the COP26. This is what they say: 'At this time of unique peril for our planet and all its inhabitants our plan is to deeply connect with and listen to the land we travel through, the species we encounter on the way and the communities living along the route. Our walk is a uniquely hopeful, creative and reverential kind of activism'.
Howard is a theatre director, teacher, puppeteer and professional fool. He will be using these skills to engage with community groups as they progress, discussing the environmental and ecological challenges which face us all.
Anyone who would like to follow the pilgrims' progress, can do so here:
What a wonderful Harvest Festival we had! The whole school hadn't been together in the church since a while before the pandemic. To be sitting and singing together in that beautiful space with parents, grandparents and other members of the school community was very, very special.
I loved what the vicar, the Reverend Paul, said - 'Harvests don't just happen'. If we want a harvest of kindness, a harvest of love or a harvest of achievement, we have to work for it just as we know the many farmers and keen gardeners in our community have to work hard for the harvest from the land. It reminded me of our school's vision and it's underpinning Bible verse Hebrews 10:24 'let us spur each other on to love and good works' - if we want to do great things we need to challenge and encourage each other and to hold each other to account. Thanks for your thought provoking words Paul.
Paul also reminded us of our collective responsibility to build a fairer society where food banks can be a thing of the past. Sadly, we're not quite in that time yet and I was very pleased and very moved to see the extraordinary generosity of our community in the donations you all gave to the food bank. It was so much the wheel arches of my little car were grinding on the tyres when I drove it all over to Okehampton. Malcolm, the coordinator of the food bank, was very grateful indeed and was very glad of the top up of tinned goods and hygiene products especially. He promised to write us a letter which I will share here. I loved the imaginative variety of the donations showing real respect for the people who will be the recipients of your donations. Malcolm tells me that referals to the food bank are still growing so I think we should have another call for donations at Christmas if that's ok with people?
The harvest festival was Miss Rowe's last time leading us in song in the church - she's heading off on her adventures very soon. We are SO excited to see what she gets up to. I'm hoping that she'll tell us all about it in next week's post. We are very, very sad to be losing one of our most beloved teachers but we know that she is leaving us to fulfil a long held dream and we know that for her, although her heart is heavy to be going, there is a real excitement about what is happening next. We love you so much Lisa, some of us are making secret plans to come and visit you - you won't be able to leave us behind!
Early Years/Reception Class Provision
Miss Rowe's departure leaves us without a leader in the Early Years and parents with children in that area of the school will have been very understandably concerned as to what will be happening for their children after half term. We have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to get everything set up. We have appointed a really exciting and inspiring new teacher to lead EYFS and I can't wait to introduce her to you all - we are waiting on her second reference before we are able to give her a big fanfare and a proper welcome but I know that she will bring brilliant new ideas and new inspiration to the school and I'm very excited.
Our newly appointed EYFS lead has to complete her notice period at her current school so she will join us after Christmas. Until then we have taken on an experienced teacher, Shauna, through an agency who will work leading EYFS through the coming half term. We know this isn't ideal and we will rely on the consistency of the other adults who work in our Early Years setting, particularly Tina and Dani, to ensure the children don't wobble and continue to make the brilliant progress we've seen them make - especially in their phonics and mark making - over the first half term of the year. I will be making sure that I spend some time in early years every day - partly because I need to ensure the provision is calm and consistent and partly because it's one of my very favourite places in the school and it's good for my soul!
Early Years Outdoor Area
We also want to say a HUGE thank you to the PTFA for their generous donation of equipment for the early years area, helping us to zone the area and create opportunities for learning.
We are lucky to have a top of the range composting system on our site. Long ago, before the move into the new school building, I understand there was a thriving composting system in place. Now it's time to get that back up and running.
We are lucky to have a master composter, Nicky Scott, living in the community. Nicky came into school on Thursday to explain to the children all about how the Ridan composter (the big green beast with the turny handle) and the hot boxes which he designed work together to turn food waste into lovely rich compost diverting carbon from the atmosphere, reducing our waste and nourishing our soil. The children are itching to get going and form a 'Little Rotters' club to run the system.
Over the past few weeks a group of year sixes have been being trained up as Sports Leaders. They'll provide activities to other children every lunchtime to ensure everyone can have a fun and active time outside. We've been very impressed with their good attitude in their training and we're sure we'll see this translating into happy, positive playtime and a growth in leadership skills. Real Community and Challenge champions!
You catch me in a very good mood this afternoon. I always enjoy our Friday Celebration but todays was a special one. Afetr talking about our new school vision 'Community Challenge Care' with the children on Wednesday I was keen to see if they could talk about those values and qualities in their own lives. I was beyond pleased that they could. Children talked about children in their classes who had done great things for the community of the class, the community of the school and the community beyond. They talked about children who had taken up Challenge in thier personal lives, in sports and in school work. They talked about care they had experience and care they had given - when they'd had a scrape or a fall, support with challenging school work and care for the environment. It made me beyond proud to hear the children using the language of the school vision to notice and celebrate the good things going on in the school and in their lives.
Our Harvest Festival will take place next Wednesday in the church starting at 2:00 p.m. We would love some parent volunteers to help walk classes up to the church so if you are available do drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org letting us know and we will divvy up the helpers between the classes.
Family members and people of the community are welcome to join us. We will sit the children in the middle section of the church and hope that all our wonderful guests will fill up the sides and, when those are full, the rear of the church. It is going to mean an awful lot to us to see the children and the community back in the church together after this long time. Of course harvest Festival exists to celebrate the bounty of the land and the gift of harvest but I think, this year especially, it is equally a celebration of community. I do hope people will feel welcomed to join us.
As part of the harvest Festival I hope we can collect donations for the food bank. Pasta and dried foods with a long shelf life are always welcome. Tinned foods go down well. Even more than that Nappies, wipes, tampons and sanitary towels, shampoo and shower gel are always very welcome donations. Children can bring donations into school through their classes or, if it's easier, you can drop them off at reception at school. I'm hoping to share a photo of an absolute mountain of donations in the next newsletter.
We currently have three children off school isolating with covid. Two in Year One/Two and another in Year Four. We do not think they caught the virus at school and we don't think they were in school while contagious. One family with a child in Year Six are currently awaiting the results of PCR tests - we will let you know if that comes back positive but, again, we don't have reason to believe that school was the source of that infection. You'll be glad to know that the affected families are not very seriously ill. We do advise that you keep on taking regular LFT tests of course and we welcome a message to let us know if you get a positive result and have to go for a PCR.
Another heads up for the amazing Chagford Primary Festival of Community. It's only a couple of weeks away on Saturday 23rd October and we want it to be EPIC! We really hope that every community group in the area will be able to make a showing from bell ringers to allotment holders and fire fighters. If you have got any ideas of who should be invited and how we can make it a special day do PLEASE get in touch with the PTFA.
There's two very special new members of the school community keeping guard in reception at the moment. This mother and child entitled 'An Otterly Dreamy Summer Day' were part of the Moor Otters dispersed exhibition that you will have spotted around and about the moor. Painted by local artist Julie Greenaway this sculpture celebrates those wonderful days on the moor when you can lie on your back on soft, sheep nibbled turf and gaze up through the oak leaves with flowers nodding, bees buzzing past and meadow pipits zipping overhead. What a glorious thing to have on loan in the school.
Will you be taking part in Chagford's Big Litter Pick on Sunday 31st October? We'll be there! Hope to see you - gloves and litter pickers at the ready.
Make a Willow Bird Feeder
Would you like to weave a feeder for the birds? Parents and children can work together with Wood and Rush to weave a feeder from willow. A lovely thing to do together an nice way to attract birds to the garden.
I cannot believe it is October already! The leaves are still very green out of my window but I do see the bracken starting to turn as I drive across the moor. I'm looking forward to cosy winter days and looking forward to all sorts of Autumn and Winter fun.
We have set the date of our Harvest Festival Service on October 13th. We will be back in the Church for the first time in a long long while and we hope to raise the roof with our singing and fill the space with thankfulness and joy. We will be making a collection for the food bank so do pop in an extra couple of tins or packets of long life or dried foods when you do the shop over the next couple of weeks. We will see if we can give you a list of what is particularly needed.
On the first Saturday of the half term - Saturday 23rd October - we want to hold a grand Community Fair in the school field. We'll have stalls and games and we'll be inviting every community group we can think of to come along and get involved. We hope to make this a celebration not just for the school but for the whole community. Thanks to the PTFA for organising - do put in in your diaries.
A few parents have been wondering about the possibility of having a lollipop person to help children cross safely - particularly in the mornings when the road can be busy and a lot of children are converging on the school from all angles. We think if we were to look towards this it would require a bank of volunteers who would be happy to wear the hi-vis and hold the giant lollipop one or two days a week. We wondered if this might be more something for a person who was free in the mornings than someone trying to fit it in around work - a recent retiree for example. Can you think of anyone who might fit the bill?
Thanks to the generous members of our school community who have donated the tractor tyres which are already adding interest and fun to our field area. We are very lucky to have this space - lots of schools even in rural areas having nothing like the space we have - but it's still a bit plain and lacks activities for the children. With a few tyres and logs we are starting to give them something to do which stimulates body, mind and soul and leads to fewer behaviour incidents - it's a win all round. The children have been genuinely delighted with the tyres today. It's been a pleasure to see.
Tomorrow, Saturday October 2nd, we'll be having a work party at school to do more to improve our grounds - if you're available come along between ten and one. If you can bring gardening gloves and secateurs we'll put you to work clearing bramble and nettles, if the weather is dryish and you can bring a paintbrush we'll be painting the EYFS fence. If you can bring some tools and imagination we'll be creating a mud kitchen for the little ones. There's lots of other jobs to get involved in so do come along if you can. With a following wind there'll be tea, coffee and biscuits to keep us going too. If the weather is really foul we might cut it a wee bit short.
I'm very glad to say that we have had no more cases of covid in the school since I wrote to you last week and that the affected children are coming back to school as their isolation periods finish. One member of staff took a PCR test this week just to be sure that a cold really was no more than a cold. It came back negative so we are currently and zero live cases in the school. I would let you all know straight away if that situation were to change.
Most children went home with a reading record today. The few remaining without them will be bringing them home next week. Parents often ask me what they can best do to support their child with the limited time they have available. I always say it's reading with their child. Bear in mind that it's not the reading to the child that's the magic ingredient - it's the rich talk around the reading that makes the difference. It's talking about the characters - what they're like, who they remind us of, if we'd like them for a friend - talking about the plot - why did he do that? What's going to happen next? - talking about favourite bits and bits we didn't like so much, wondering why we enjoy this author so much but not that one, talking about amazing no-fiction... It's all about the talk. So, when you're filling in that reading record do bear in mind that if you have just twenty minutes to read with your child it's more than fine if half of that time is chatting about the reading.
We are having a massive push on handwriting at the moment. We want to build children's pride in their work and fluency in their writing and we're aware that, over the last couple of years, one impact of the pandemic has been on presentation and penmanship. Classes are making sure they spend fifteen to twenty minutes practicing handwriting daily. Already in some classes we are seeing results on the page and in the pride children are taking over their work. Handwriting is broadly cosmetic of course but when children start to feel a pride in their presentation we often find they start to take more pride over the content too. It might be fun to see if you can write beautifully too - perhaps we need to have a calligraphy competition open to parents and carers as well as the pupils. Would you enter?
Have a wonderful weekend everybody - I look forward to seeing you all on Monday morning. We have a new dance for you and this time it's pure disco.