Sarah Marvin and I were pleased to welcome parents to a virtual meeting on Thursday evening, where we shared our continuing aims for school improvement at South Tawton Primary School. Having already met with parents at Chagford and North Tawton, this was the third of our meetings within the Three Hares. I am delighted that our Chair and Vice Chair of our Three Hares Local Academy Committee (governors) joined us, along with Hazel Fox (DMAT Interim CEO) and our link Trustee, Morgen Witzel all available to take questions. Unfortunately, Dan Morrow the incoming CEO for the DMAT was unfortunately unable to attend at the last minute, due to a situation he needed to attend to in his current trust. However, he is very keen to meet parents and has promised to join us on another occasion soon.
If you would like to view the presentation, please click here.
We are very proud of the excellent reputation that South Tawton has earned and continues to develop. The staff are really committed to school improvement and due to their hard work and professionalism, the children have made a happy and settled return to school since September.
Current School Improvement Focus:
Over recent weeks, within our Three Hares leaders’ meetings, we have been discussing our Three Hares vision. We are keen to share our thinking with all stakeholders over the coming weeks in order that everyone’s views are reflected. Fundamentally, we aim to craft a statement which describes our goals for every child who makes the journey through one of our schools.
Three Hares Curriculum
Having introduced all of our children to the ‘Three Hares’ theme last academic year, lockdown gave us the opportunity to take a fresh look at our curriculum, together as a Three Hares staff. We have launched into teaching and learning this year, with some new themes which deliver a broad and enriching learning journey, as children make their way through our schools.
Teachers and subject leaders are able to share good practice through our monthly Three Hares staff meetings, where over time, teachers will benefit from systems which will reduce their workload, enabling them to share, modify and develop plans and projects across the schools. We have shared training opportunities for leaders, teachers and support staff, providing not only value for money, but also the benefits of collaboration and shared discussion across a broader context.
South Tawton already enjoys a wonderful relationship with its parents and local community. We hope to continue to build upon this, extending our communications to ensure that we are able to welcome parents from beyond South Zeal and local villages to sustain our current number of pupils which ensures we can keep single-age classes in the future.
One of our focus areas this term, is to develop our capacity for delivering remote learning. Staff are currently being trained in the use of Google Classroom, which will enable children to login with a Google email address allocated to them, from a device in school or at home. They will be able to access projects set for them and submit their completed work and receive feedback. We are also working on enabling teachers’ face-to-face online contact, should we need to close a bubble or even close the school at any point in the future.
Since our return in September, teachers have been carefully assessing children’s knowledge and understanding of key concepts. We have identified some gaps in spelling, grammar and maths. Our catch-up plan is already being implemented and with the benefit of government funding, we will be able to deliver individual and small group interventions. We have also purchased a variety of resources which will ensure any gaps in learning will be quickly and efficiently filled.
We are pleased that improvements to the fabric of our old building will be underway soon. Following the replacement of gates and fences over the summer holidays, we will soon see the gradual removal and sympathetic refurbishment of windows and doors, in line with the listed status of the buildings. Refurbishment of the front façade of the YR/Y1 building are also due to take place this year.
Over recent months, with the support of the DMAT, we have undertaken a feasibility study, looking into the possibility of bring our pre-school onto school site. We will keep you posted in the progress of this project.
I am delighted to say, we have been able to appoint a Three Hares Site Officer, Mr Steve Kiff, who will work across our schools to specifically support premises projects, repairs and maintenance.
Three Hares Partnership
In addition to the aforementioned benefits of working as a trio of schools, we continue to plan ahead for the time when we can physically bring our children together. We still aspire to have children working with their peers in other schools, getting to know new friends as they move up through primary school and into secondary education as a larger cohort. Other opportunities could include: joint day visits, residentials, inter-school events, festivals, music, clubs, competitions and matches, both sporting and other themed events.
As our partnerships grow, we are keen to bring our communities closer together. Already, due to this partnership, we have seen children in Chagford and North Tawton benefit from the generosity of two sets of Chagford parents who have sponsored the first of year of a three year subscription to the school library service. This means that all three schools once again enjoy delivery of quality books each half term.
We are currently looking into developing partnerships with schools in contrasting parts of the UK, as well as investigating more far-reaching links with schools in other parts of the world in the future.
Mel Holyoak, our Vice Chair of Governors has been instrumental in developing a strategy to provide additional financial support for our Three Hares primary schools. We are excited to launch a brand new fundraising initiative, asking for support from parents, carers, local businesses and communities to provide the children of our schools with access to the best possible school learning experiences. This initiative is being undertaken collaboratively with the PTAs of the trio of schools that make up the Three Hares. We also hope to forge stronger relationships between the schools and their local communities, not just for the children of today, but for those of the future.
Within the Three Hares, we focus on providing local children with the best possible start in life, both from an academic and lifestyle perspective, to ensure that they are all given the tools and resources they need to be prepared to move into further education and their future workplace as well-rounded, skilled, confident and unique individuals. Our hope is that, as a result, they will grow up and continue to contribute to our community as adults. As you may already know, government funding for schools has been substantially reduced over the years, to the point that our schools are now spending up to 90% of their budget on staff alone. Historically, a school would have expected to spend up to 75% of its budget on staff. This is not bad budgeting on the part of the schools – it is the sad truth of the public purse, and the cuts that have been made in education. We have developed a wish-list has been separated into several categories that could be supported, as well as a legacy project, designed to be long-lasting for the school with a “Yours Today, Theirs Tomorrow” sentiment. Each category provides several examples of how your donation would be used, together with a target fundraising goal. The final decision in relation to how those funds will be spent (but strictly adhering to their specified category) would be made by school leaders, in conjunction with the Local Academy Committee.
Donations can be made which will support projects within 5 categories:
· Legacy projects – these will benefit current and future children of the school;
· Teaching and Learning
· General School Fund.
More details of each category can be found on the PowerPoint presentation, and information will also be available on the school website soon. The DMAT has supported this venture with the purchase of fundraising software which will enable parents, relations, community and businesses to support South Tawton Primary School, or the Three Hares trio of schools. Rest assured, that any donations made for this school in particular, will be strictly restricted for use in South Tawton only. As a charity, all donations received will enable the school to claim an additional 25% of the value of the donation from the government, at no extra cost to the benefactor.
Amazon Wish List
In addition to our fundraising website and in collaboration with the PTFA, we have also created an Amazon wish list, which has been populated by the staff of the school, with all sorts of items to support and enhance teaching and learning. This will be updated regularly and ranges from the smallest of items to much bigger aspirational items. Whilst we recognise the obvious convenience and vast range of Amazon, we are committed to supporting our local community so, wherever feasible, please be assured that the school will endeavour to use monies raised to make purchases locally and use local businesses and trades. ANY improvements we are able to make enriches the children’s school experience, and adds value to the school environment, making them attractive to potential new pupils and families. In turn, this generates additional funding for the schools – the amount of funding the school receives from the government is dependent on the number of pupils. So the more pupils that are attracted to the schools, the better funded the schools become. The schools' leadership and staff are also eager to forge stronger relationships between the school and local communities and would love to hear from you with any ideas you may have about ways we might do this together. Our wish is to create a school where the saying, “It takes a community to raise a child” really holds true. Finally, it is really important that we stress that we appreciate that many families may not be in a position to offer anything. We would never ask or expect anyone to put themselves under any kind of strain to contribute.
Three Hares Governance
Emma Neath, our Chair of Governors will soon be contacting parents about two vacancies within our committee for the role of parent governor. There are vacancies for two Parent Governors to serve on the Three Hares Academy Committee, which is the governing body across Chagford, South Tawton and North Tawton Primary Schools, and part of the Dartmoor Multi-Academy Trust. We are very keen to encourage parents and carers of registered pupils to nominate themselves to become part of our Academy Committee. More details and nomination forms will be issued shortly.
We are grateful to all the parents who were able to attend the meeting last week; whilst we look forward to meeting with parents face-to-face in school again one day soon, we hope that meeting virtually using ‘Teams’ invites was helpful means of keeping in touch with school leaders in the meantime; it also provided a great opportunity for a ‘Q&A’ session.
Thank you for supporting this wonderful school.
With kind regards,
Elizabeth Underwood Sarah Marvin
Executive Headteacher Head of School