Governors' Blog

March 20, 2018
by Governors

Just Reading

Education and knowledge are about more than an assimilation of facts. They involve feelings and understanding, and these can best be derived through reading. There is also no doubt that statistics show a close correlation between academic achievement and reading.

In a time of cut backs, with Libraries closing and when our prisons are full of young people unable to read and write, it’s rather wonderful to find that Whitchurch Primary School is enthusiastically encouraging and pushing reading in different ways.

At the centre of the school there’s a library run by Mrs Jo Clarke, who reviews books for The Times Educational Supplement. Once a week, each class has a library period, where children are encouraged to choose and read books of their choice. Each class is given an author of the month to research and enjoy. Teachers share books by ’their’ author with the children in the class. Mrs Clarke has recently opened the library after school on a Monday, so that parents, future pupils and their parents too can share in the wonderful selection of books, many of them purchased through money raised by the hard work of FOWPS (Friends of WPS.)

Then there are visiting authors who come to speak to the children about the characters, plots and themes they create. Some bring their illustrator with them and intrigue the children with fantastically imaginative drawings. The school even has its patron of reading, the author, Abi Elphinstone, who sets up writing and reading competitions for the children. She is a welcome and regular visitor to the school. The children are clearly inspired by the writing tasks she creates for them. They voluntarily participate!

Children are encouraged to read every day. While parents at home are an important part of this, an army of listeners has been recruited from parents, grandparents and those ‘just’ wanting to help. These willing individuals come in to school on a regular basis to encourage the child by listening, and then discussing the book with the individual. The children respond well to the individual attention and gradually learn to love books and then to love reading. (Each adult is DBS checked.) If you’re interested in helping, please do volunteer!

Quite apart from everyday classroom reading, children are challenged to extra reading at home, through a reward system that encourages them to climb a ladder towards a higher badge of achievement. These badges are presented in school assemblies, and then worn, with pride, by the individuals.

Children who have reading difficulties are not forgotten, and the school has a wonderful SENCO in Mrs Jane Henderson, who champions a ‘Reading Recovery’ programme that is focused on getting every child to achieve at least their own reading age.

Ruth Vale (Foundation Governor)

January 8, 2018
by Governors

Happy New Year

Now that the start of 2018 is underway and the new year is upon us, the Governors wish all the students, staff and families of Whitchurch primary a very Happy New Year. We hope that you all had a lovely Christmas time. The performances that the children put on throughout December were delightful and we certainly saw and heard some exceptional skills from many! We also hope you had the opportunity to read our end Autumn Newsletter which had details of the focus areas for each of the Governing committee.

With Kind Regards,

Whitchurch Primary Governors

November 28, 2017
by Governors

Our school link with Mityana:Ruth Vale

On Monday, I had the privilege of enjoying an assembly led by The Rev Dodie Marsden, the Diocesan coordinator for our Mityana link. What a fantastic experience it was! She greeted the children in the Mityana style, explaining that children there were super polite and that she’d like them to emulate them. Amos, the teddy bear was then introduced, dressed in Whitchurch C of E uniform. He had been to Mityana and had brought back news of his adventures.
Through a series of pictures of Amos projected on to the wall, we followed his adventures to Mityana. We saw children and staff from Whitchurch hugging Amos and giving him messages to take with him. We saw him with his luggage at the airport, at passport control, strapped into his seat on the plane, and best of all, in the pilot’s cockpit with the Captain and First Officer. I’m not sure how that was arranged but the children were delighted!
Once at Mityana, Amos went to school on a scooter and met children there; he planted a mango tree, visited homes, made beanbags with the children, and greeted cattle in the fields. The children were transfixed and I’m sure won’t forget their ‘virtual’ visit to Mityana.
The assembly finished with the singing of Ugandan words to well known songs that were phonetically projected on to the wall. It was fantastic watching the older children enjoying, ‘Head and shoulders, knees and toes,’ with even the most sophisticated joining in the actions and trying the words. Younger children sang, ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star,’ in Ugandan.
Our Mityana link is an important one for all schools. (There are a number of schools in Mityana, and Testbourne and other local schools here participate in the link.) Our children are indirectly sampling another culture, a different geography, and another way of living. They’re discovering the joy of sharing their own privileged school life with others who have relatively little but are incredibly grateful for what they have. It is amazing to see how valued education is in Mityana. Their teachers and children visit us, and Whitchurch children and teachers regularly go out to spend time in Mityana.
Whitchurch children meet daily for an assembly that usually involves collective worship. Sometimes the assemblies are class led, with each year taking a turn. On other occasions Mrs Stevens or a member of staff leads the assembly. Each Friday, the children are rewarded for their hard work and achievements in a special whole school assembly. Outside visitors, including local clergy, sometimes lead a worship. Dodie Marsden is a regular participant and is always welcomed with enormous enthusiasm by the children and staff, and on this occasion by a governor.

September 11, 2017
by Governors

Welcome to the new school year

A very warm welcome to all the new children, parents and staff who have joined the school in September,and all the children and staff who were with us last year.  We hope you have enjoyed your summer break and first week at school. We hope our new Reception class children enjoy their first week of school and we look forward to meeting all our new families. The Governors are keen and eager to resume their Governor meetings which start this week. Please check out our Governors page for further details.

July 10, 2017
by Governors

Sealife Centre Year R Trip: Ruth Vale

I was invited, as the Early Years governor to accompany Year R on a trip to the Sea Life Centre in Portsmouth. Each adult was allocated a group of 4 children who were instructed “to look after” us. The children told me that I’m ‘very old’ and consequently they took their responsibility of care for the elderly seriously; I had the easy task of being supervised by four caring children during the rest of the day!

The visit was well organised with time allocated for some free play, food and water stops, toilet requirements, and enjoyment of the various aquariums. The highlight was a talk by an expert who encouraged each child to touch a star fish, crab, and spider crab in turn. It was a new experience for me and, judging by the enthusiastic questions and comment, was very much enjoyed by the children.

We returned, by coach, in time for the end of the school day. An excellent extracurricular activity was enjoyed by all. I feel the children were happy, safe and had enjoyed a  valuable educational experience.

July 10, 2017
by Governors

Testbourne Choir Showcase 23rd May: Sophie Lloyd

I was delighted to accompany the school choir to the Testbourne Choir Showcase on 23rd May. This event was organised by Head of Music at Whitchurch Primary, Mrs Spencer, and featured choirs from Overton Primary, Oakley Primary and Testbourne’s own choir. All of the children sang beautifully and were very well behaved, but the aspect that struck me most was how supportive they all were of each other, giving plenty of applause, whoops and dancing along! This Showcase was such a success Mrs Spencer hopes it will happen again next year.
I was also privileged to accompany Year 4 singers to Winchester Cathedral for a Hampshire Music Services vocal project on 26th June. Mr Cooper (HMS) and Mr Burton of Pilgrim’s School, had spent a lot of time visiting the participating schools to teach them a very broad repertoire, from ‘I’m a Believer’ to a Gospel medley, to ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from ‘Les Miserables’. The children performed a lunchtime concert and there was a very good turnout of parents of Whitchurch Primary in the audience. The children were impeccably behaved, followed the conductor’s instructions meticulously, and sang their hearts out, moving some parents to tears!

May 24, 2017
by Governors

‘You CAN run!” by Ruth Vale

Another visit to Early Years has left me feeling convinced that our children are in very safe hands, and that’s in spite of the fact that one of the children looked at me very wisely and said, “You’re old!” Using my great age as an excuse, I thought I’d get out of running round the playground and explained that “I can’t run,” at which my hands were firmly grasped by children and I was dragged off with encouraging comments of, “Look what we’re doing,” and “Copy us,” followed by encouraging comments of, “You see you can!” Clearly”I can’t,” isn’t accepted as an excuse for not trying!

Perhaps the highlight of my morning was found in a discussion group. The children were asked to sit in a circle, not in their usual places but next to someone they had not previously sat near or played with. After encouragement and some gentle challenging, the children were asked to decide whether it had been a hard or easy thing to do. There was no right or wrong answer to this question and the children were encouraged to explore their feelings and then justify their responses by explaining why it was hard or easy.

This was followed by a discussion on what they would do if a friend at the park wanted to go and play on the swings when they wanted to play on the slide, leaving them on their own. They were asked to consider whether they would accompany the friend or remain on their own. Again it was emphasised that there was no right or wrong answer, and children were encouraged to explain their decision.

I felt this was an enormously valuable learning opportunity for the children. They were faced with the unusual situation, in school, of there being no ‘correct’ answer. They were also encouraged to justify their choices and listen to the different decisions made by others.

March 28, 2017
by Governors

Happiness – Jackie Day

I recently sat in on Miss Colyer and Lions lesson where the topic being discussed was Circle times rules – Happiness was the theme.

Miss Colyer explained the rules to the children ensuring all were engaged and asked a few children to repeat back the rules to show that they were listening and understanding.  The children were then asked to draw what makes them happy, the only rule was not to show your drawing to another child. The expressions on their faces of concentration was a joy to watch, even when the teacher commented that looks good the child in question was not convinced that their drawing was good enough so started again but the clock was ticking to complete luckily just in time.

While the children were drawing the teacher put down 5 pieces of paper on the floor each had a heading Electronics/Family/Food/Outdoors/other

The next step was without talking see if any other children had similar drawings the end result was for the children to put their pictures on the appropriate piece of paper of the floor and to sit in that area.

The teacher then went through each main heading and asked children to explain why they chose that particular item that made them happy.

 The outcome was:
Outdoors; playing football with friends, visiting pigs being muddy all was explained in detail.
Family: memories from Christmas and a day out at the zoo and why these were special to them.
Food: no interest in this area.
Electronics: sharing games with friends.

Other: spending time with friends and drawing.

What was very clear was that all children genuinely interest on what was being said and why.

Miss Colyer then announced that when Miss Haighton visits Mityana she will do the same exercise and then the children can then compare the results, all were keen to find out more and so was I (note to self must follow this up).

The teacher then read out 5 quotes regarding options for being happy and ask the children if they agreed or disagreed with the quote, each time the child related this back to a memory/example so was very clear on reason why, then there was a show of hands.  It was interesting on the last quote where some children disagreed (but most agreed) and again very good reasoning behind either option.  This showed independence, thinking ‘out of the box’ and not afraid to go against the flow I was very impressed.

At the end of the lesson a quick game of ‘Hedgehogs’ before they played this the teacher explained what was involved (as I had no idea).  Although fun the underlying message here was engagement and knowing your fellow classmates.  (Hedgehog is a game where the children curl up on the floor and the teacher covers a child with a blanket and the rest of the children have to say who is under the blanket) a positive sign for awareness – I wished this game was around when I was growing up!

Looking back on the lesson this certainly reflects on our school motto Together we make a difference with Love, Courage and Respect.  The children reflected with examples what they love, having the courage to be different and the respect of all classmate not to assume one way is the right way.  They should be very proud I know I certainly was.

February 6, 2017
by Governors

Year R Visit – Stephanie Alderman

On Friday mornings as part of my Governor (and parent!) duties I visit Year R and today I had the pleasure of spending some time in the classroom with Mrs Lawley and her Penguins. Everytime I visit it always strikes me what an exceptional learning environment the classroom is and how enthused and excited the class are about their learning. Mrs Lawley greets her class by name and with an individual comment, and is keen to give her time and attention to any child when requested or required, which creates a really secure environment for them. The class are very confident and always happy to share their work and learning with me, and during ‘free flow’ time are keen to get involved in the stimulating activities laid out for them by the team, especially those related to their current ‘Space’ scheme of work. This in itself was a wonderful choice of topic and very much enjoyed by the children, who are keen to share their learning with me.

The thing that I most enjoy about spending time with Penguins class is that Mrs Lawley and her team have installed a lovely sense of pride in the children. They are all proud of their classroom, and proud of their progress and glow when they show me their achievements,  in reading, writing, keywords or gaining a ‘happy side’ on the whiteboard. It is a real pleasure to be able to watch them play and learn in such an active way and I very much look forward to my weekly visits!

January 16, 2017
by Governors

Early Years Governor Visit: Ruth Vale

“My mummy’s 45. You’re really old!” or “You smell just like my grandma!” These are some of the comments I elicited when visiting Early Years, this morning, as part of my duties as a Governor. Children are generally very honest and I’m left wondering what a grandma smells like to a 5 year old. I’m assuming it’s something pleasant!

I came away convinced of what a happy environment it is and how wonderfully inducing it is to learning. Mrs Wersby was at the door greeting parents when I arrived, giving each the opportunity to raise issues and share simple problems on the spot. The children chatted happily as they put bags and coats in allotted places, fetched a book and sat on the mat next to friends as they waited for the day to begin.

Miss Coughtrey took the register while Mrs Wersby removed a small group of children to do some writing with them. I was most impressed by what they had achieved when I later saw that written work.

Those who remained, were encouraged to focus their attention on Miss Coughtrey as she took the register. Each child was greeted by name and each responded with a clear, “Good morning,” in return. There were two children absent and the opportunity was used to deduct 2 from 31. A number of children worked it out mentally. The whole class then checked the result on a number line. Lunches were checked using the white board, and once again an opportunity for counting was taken as all the ‘red’ lunch choices were counted. Miss Coughtrey then showed them how to count consistently in rows suggesting that they should count from left to right as this is the way we read.

We then shared a ‘wriggle’, before children once again sat on the carpet for the sharing of a book on Space on the white board. This activity provided more teaching opportunity as ideas, information, facts and phonics were elicited from the children. For example, “sp” and “st” were illustrated by the words “space” and “star.” The Contents page was used to look at other sounds while talking about the purpose of a contents page. The children were all very engaged in the ‘non-fiction’ facts that were shared.

The Free Play that followed allowed the children to develop their interest in space, through play dough and crafts, and the creating of aliens, planets, constellations, galaxies and rockets. A book table held a variety of fiction and non-fiction books on space. There was a ‘moon surface’ with various space craft and buggies for active play. Some children went back to the white board to look at the Space book there again, while others had access to tablets.

There was a wonderful atmosphere of participatory and active learning taking place through the various activities and opportunities presented in that classroom. Our Early Years children are indeed fortunate in the stimulating environment presented by their teachers.