Many thanks to all the parents and carers of children in Beech Class for their kindness and patience over what has been a challenging week.
I know that everyone will be joining me in sending the very warmest of best wishes to the class teacher Emily Coleman who is currently recuperating at home after a serious medical situation over the half term break. Emily, we miss you and we are looking forward to welcoming you back when you are well enough to return.
I know that many parents and carers have concerns about the running of the class in Miss Coleman's absence. In normal times it would be reasonably simple to find a supply teacher to cover a class for a period when necessary but things have not been normal for quite a while and good supply teachers are now very hard to get hold of indeed. At one point in the week we had secured an excellent teacher for the period of Miss Coleman's absence until that teacher tested positive for covid. This has been very challenging indeed.
I am very glad to say that Audra Fitzgerald who knows the children very well indeed having covered the class for an extended period last year is with us on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. She has a prior booking for Thursday but the excellent teacher who taught the class on Thursday and Friday of this week has agreed to return to fill that day. Of course none of this is ideal - we would so much rather have Miss Coleman back in the class but we know that we have secured really good people to help us in the meantime.
I have been hugely impressed with the children in the class this week. Despite coming back to school after half term to the 'wrong' teacher, they have been incredibly resilient and their learning behaviour has not faltered. As I mentioned in an email to parents earlier in the week - one of the absolute highpoints of my week was watching the children's lesson with Miss Fitzgerald where they had the opportunity to explore the exciting apparatus in our hall. This was the first time that the apparatus had been used since before the pandemic and it made my heart sing to see it being used. I have been delighted with the progress in writing the children are showing me - especially Bodhi who has been making me proud every single day. In math I've loved seeing the different models and representations that the children have been using and making to represent part and whole. I have seen bead strings and unifix and Numicon being used and real thought and investigation going into exploration of number. Good good work. Outside in the playground I love to see how the children interact between classes and years - I'm very pleased indeed when I see our younger children confidently interacting with the older ones - especially taking advantage of the new play leaders to make sure they are having a positive and active playtime.
Our main Humanities topic this term is a History unit on 'Changes Within Living memory'. To explore this children might like to talk to relatives about how things have changed during their own lifetimes. It can be mind-blowing to children to think that mummy and daddy were children once, and that granny was a little girl once upon a time. Talking to children about this is very valuable and very entertaining too. It would be wonderful if children could look at photos of people and places familiar to them in past times. I'm not talking about the distant past here - looking at a photograph of the garden and seeing that the tree which is so big now was only little when they were born is a really powerful learning moment. If possible we would love for children to bring in copies of any photographs that they find interesting - don't bring in originals as they can get lost or damaged in a busy key stage one classroom.
Our maths for the next week focusses on addition and subtraction - for the majority of the Year Ones this is within ten and for the majority of Year Twos it is within twenty. A very powerful bit of learning that you can help them with at home is securing their instant recall of number bonds to ten (Year One) and twenty (Year Two). Number bonds is the term we teachers use for numbers that go together to make a certain sum. So the year ones would be practicing 'one and nine makes ten', 'four and six makes ten', 'five and five makes ten' and so on. There's any number of ways to make this fun: I hold up some of my fingers and you see how quickly you can hold up the right number of fingers on your side to make ten. I count out ten lego bricks then hide some and you have to see how many there are and tell me how many I must have hidden. You will think of more - I used to play number bond tennis in the car with my son when we were out driving.
We changed all the books in the children's book bags this week - or at least as many as we could find - if you have any of the schools books at home do send them in for a change. This week we will be making the system more rigorously matched to the children's learning in phonics to make sure that in their phonically decodable books they are reading material that is in exactly the right place to build confidence. Of course in their own choice of reading for pleasure, by themselves or with an adult, we hope they are choosing a wide, wide range of fun and engaging sources of reading whether that's The Beano, a book about Dinosaurs, a funny story, the Argos catalogue, grandad's fishing magazine whatever it is that grabs them. We aren't fussy - reading is reading.
In science we will be thinking about building things. About the materials we use to build and how we make structures. In a sense this as much an engineering unit as a science one. It should be the most immense fun. I wish I could be teaching it myself if I'm honest. If any mums or dads work in the construction industry and would be happy to come in to school to be quizzed on their jobs we would love to hear from them - they will get a swift invitation.
I'm looking forward to a slightly more settled week next week. Thanks again to all the parents and carers for their kindness and understanding this week and, once again, a huge well done to the children for rolling with the challenges they have faced.
Sincerely, Ed Finch