What do our classrooms look like?

We thought we’d give you a glimpse of our classrooms to help prepare our children for the return to school.

Class R

Class 1

Class 2

Class 3

Make flying puppets!

alibi

Theatre Alibi’s Designer, Trina Bramman, has created beautiful flying puppets for you to make at home. You can choose from various different templates – maybe a bird? A butterfly? A dragon? Or even a winged horse!

alibiTrina has been careful to use bits and bobs that we hope you can find around the house. She’s put together a step by step guide with pictures too, to help children along the way.

Find the instructions and videos for this week’s activity here: https://bit.ly/2wXQYOw

The Importance of Play

importance of play

As we enter our fourth week of staying at home, having just had an extension to the current lockdown measures for a further 3 weeks at least, I have increasingly reflected on the different experiences we are all having, depending on our own specific circumstances.

On video calls with family and friends around the world, I am asked ‘What is happening with schools in the UK?’ ‘Are your schools doing online learning?’ ‘How can I ensure my daughter does all of this work?’ ‘I’m trying to hold down a job as a single parent and I’m utterly stressed that my son/daughter is falling behind.’ ‘I made my son work for a whole day, because he’d been lazy all week.’

You are, no doubt, aware of many varied approaches by different schools.
It is not surprising, therefore, that parents may be feeling confused or anxious about what the right approach is for their child, and questioning themselves over what they should or could be doing to support their child, in order that the learning can continue. One phrase I hear is, ‘I don’t want her to fall behind.’

So let’s stop for one moment and consider the situation we find ourselves in. What are some of the challenges? And I won’t have covered them all here, so forgive me if I miss something that you are finding critically important in your own situation right now. But I hope that I can offer at least some insight into how we can all help ourselves to find a positive mental and emotional state whilst we continue to deal with unusual and new daily stresses.

You might be trying to manage full time work at home right now, possibly with increased pressures from the work environment to deliver on key projects, whilst at the same time finding yourself to be the full time carer and educator for your child or children. You might be battling with how to get shopping done safely, monitoring your child’s activities, cooking and all the usual household pressures, whilst also questioning where time for yourself comes into this. You might find yourself faced with impossible financial challenges that are sending stress levels through the roof, with finding yourself unemployed suddenly, or with the worry of whether your job will continue or not. You might be supporting a stressed partner, whilst doing all of the above!
And on top of this, you are asking yourself, ‘How am I supposed to give my child the time they need and make sure their schoolwork doesn’t suffer?’

Well, first, take a breath. In. Out. Slowly. Repeat.

Next, let’s talk about the importance of play. And I don’t just mean for the children. But for you too.

Here at Rackenford Primary School we are encouraging our parents to not worry about teaching their children in any traditional 3R’s way. If you can do it, and you want to do it, all good. But it is good to understand why play is an important part of learning and growing too. We hear this statement a lot, ‘play is good for learning’, but what does it actually mean? Maybe you have doubts about this, as certainly our society today generally doesn’t seem to give a huge importance or attach huge value to play under normal circumstances. We have been conditioned into placing huge value on academic achievement, and of course, it has a valuable place in our lives. However, it is by no means the only important and valuable activity that we can achieve.

When you look at play theory that exists, you begin to realise the extent to which play is a critical and crucial part of our development and wellbeing as humans. So much so, that play is a Universal Right of Childhood. It is written into the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 31 states that ‘Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities.’ The UK is just one country of all but two in the world, that have ratified this convention.

And this is not to say that you now have to worry about what resources you are providing your child for play! On the contrary, children are very good at taking everyday objects and finding new and unexpected ways of using them. Play is fundamentally important for enabling children to deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life and can be valuable in enabling children to recover from traumatic situations.

So how can play help?

Stop for a moment and see if you can define play. It’s not as easy as you might think. I know when I ask my son at the end of the day, what was the best bit about school today, he will often answer, ‘Breaktime.’ And I will admit to having thought, ‘well, so much for the lessons then!’
Play is actually very difficult to define but here are a few key points about play:

Play is something freely chosen
Play is creative
Play might be alone or with someone else
Play might involve emotional exploration
Play explores reality and rules and enables the creation of new boundaries, outside of those that adults might set
Play helps us make sense of a world through our own perspective
Play can be self-directed, or it might be rules-based play, like a board game
Play is intrinsically motivated – it is a means and may not have an end
Play allows us to explore our world and also to escape from it if we need to
Play helps us explore and experiment with identity

There are so many more that could be added to this list. When you start to think of play in such a wide sense, it is easy to see why play is so important, and not just for children, but for adults too.

My own particular play, my own activity of choice and self-direction, lays in my hobbies of art, writing, photography, gardening, music, running…. When I start to think of all the activities that give me a sense of calm and serenity, a sense of rebalancing, growth, self-esteem, identity, I realise why all these things are important to me. I also know I get stressed and anxious if I go long periods of time neglecting to take this time for myself to ‘play’.

So I encourage you all, all of our lovely families, to allow play to happen, the mess, the chaos, the creation, the arguments and resolution, the social development, negotiation skills, exploration of self and identity, role play and experiencing a new way of ‘being’, boundary pushing – the innovators of the future. Let children be self-directed, so long as you know they are safe, in a safe environment, then they can freely explore and self-direct their play.

It is okay if you have to be busy with work and you ‘haven’t been able to give them much time.’ They are self-directing, they are choosing, they are growing and learning. But remember, that if you can join in with some play, it might just be you that benefits the most, as you rediscover the joy of engaging in ‘the means that doesn’t have to have an end.’

As educators, we are all here for you and if you feel you need any advice or guidance, or if you feel you want more structured ideas for learning, or more ideas for play activities, we are here to help. Please keep sharing all of your wonderful activities and creations. You are totally inspiring and consider yourself now as teaching the teachers!

Now go and play…

Kathy Perry
Play Leader
Rackenford Primary School

A letter to welcome September intake families

september 2020 families

Dear “September intake” Families,

I hope you are all well, and enjoying the sunshine at this most unusual of times.

Congratulations, your school places have been allocated and we are truly looking forward to welcoming all our new children and families into our Reception class in September. Sharon and Mia (Class teachers), Michaela (administration) and I will be busy in school next week putting together your starter packs full of all the information you will need to get you started. This will include where to purchase uniform, lunches, FAQ, etc.

We work very closely with Little Angels and some of the children have already been visiting the school for stories and lunches and coming over to play. Some of you however will be brand new to our learning community. We would normally have several open morning and afternoon sessions in the summer term to get to know you and a chance for you to ask questions, get to know us and the school. As this may not be possible at the usual time we will come up with an alternative for you so that you feel completely at ease and in the loop.

A September start to a new school is always full of excitement and apprehension and often it is an anxious time for every on. We anticipate that this September will be more so due to the all the complex and shared events unfolding in these unprecedented times we find our selves in now and for the foreseeable future. I would like to reassure you that we will plan very carefully how to best meet the needs of all of our children and their families baring this experience at the forefront of our thinking. Indeed, we have the resources and capacity to put much in place to support all of our children and families when we return to school. We will not expect everything to just ‘go back to normal”.

So as I said I am really looking forward to meeting you all and talking further, you will receive your new intake packs over the next week or two. In the mean time if you have any questions please do email me on: smaude@tiverton.devon.sch.uk.

With kind regards

Sarah Maude and The Rackenford Team
Head of School

Ideas for a greener Easter fun!

The Green Parent magazine has shared five great ideas for your Easter weekend – do take a look.

They have also made a list of useful Lockdown resources here.

1. MAKE Eco Easter

Why not go all-natural with your Easter crafts this year? You’ll find all you need to dye eggs in your store cupboards – red cabbage, turmeric, onion skins and more – pro tip, try to track down some white eggs. If you’re feeling a little more creative, you might try making imprints using leaves on your eggs. Or pick up materials on your walks to make a sweet bird nest, perhaps you might even put it into a tree or onto your window sill and see if anyone makes it a home. Find more ideas for Easter fun and rituals here.

2 DO Nature on Demand

The sun is shining, blossom is on our trees, there are butterflies circling the budding bushes; Spring is most certainly not cancelled. Small connections with nature are uplifting and comforting, but this year, you may be missing seeing gambolling lambs and wild flowers. The Wildlife Trust has a series of webcams that provide a direct link to birds and creatures across the country. Spot kittiwakes in Newcastle, ospreys in Wales, and barn owls and badgers in Essex. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot a chick hatching.

3 DO The Grand Tour

Missing a big Easter holiday day out? Take a virtual trip around some of the biggest draws instead. Bonus: no queues to get in, it’s free and no gift shop stress. Many galleries and museums have taken their exhibits online, and have ideas for home activities. We like the tours and demonstrations at the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum’s apps and activities that prompt you to explore the wildlife in your back garden or park, Tate’s creative ideas for art projects, gentle explorations of artists’ work and lives, and child-friendly quizzes, and Kew’s colourful digital gardens.

4 DO Find Your Space

Sunday is the International Day of Human Space Flight, celebrating the beginning of the space era for mankind. Find out about the day and find resources here. Get a closer connection to fellow humans in space by watching the ISS pass overhead – this tracker will tell you when it’s next due to fly over your town. The space station moves in a continuous, straight line, and is visible when the sky is clear.

5 RECIPE Simple Simnel

More than any other year, this Easter we have time to bake. Christians are nearing the end of Lent, a time of self-denial and simple living, so will be craving sugary treats. Try making something truly over-the-top such as this Triple Chocolate and Peanut Butter Layer Cake, a traditional Simnel Cake or get the whole clan to help make Nest Cakes. If you’re more of an Ostara family, or don’t want to attempt Bake Off-style showstoppers, why not make this super-simple Honey Cake?

Free resources for the week ahead

To go with the theme of recycling we have found these great free activities.

Also try your own book scavenger hunt?

Find certain characters or items in your own books, you could use this list as inspiration or create your own.

You could do some colouring or drawings to brighten your walls or windows, and show support for others at the same time.

There are many free online colouring sheets available to download, however these are from Tickety boo illustrations.

 

These shadow drawings are also a good idea to use the the lovely spring sunshine coming through your windows, simply grab a toy, let it cast a shadow and draw around it. You could also observe how the shadow changes during the day.

 

Other than Joe Wicks PE lessons at 9am everyday, many TV personalities have also been providing free online support for children and parents, here’s a little selection for you.

How to talk to children about Coronavirus

If your child is asking questions about Coronavirus and the current situation and you’re not sure how to answer them, there are some great articles and video clips from CBBC’s Newsround.
 
The information is reported in a way that makes it easy for them to understand what is going on in the world at the moment. Take a look at https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround.
 
You can also visit the Home learning resources page here for a handy guide on how to talk to children about Coronavirus.

A letter to all our lovely parents and carers….

To all our lovely parents and carers out there,

We know that these are difficult times and I am so sorry that we cannot be open for you. We have full confidence in each and every one of you that your children are in the very best place they could be right now, with their loving family.

We do realise that some of you are working from home, so you are juggling working as well as ‘home-schooling’ so we have tried to offer you a flexible approach, which can fit your family, needs and circumstances. The clear advice and guidance from the government is stay at home and if at all possible to keep your children at home.

As far as homeschooling your children goes, we could give you a time table, lots of worksheets and tell you what to do each day, we could give you printed booklets and targets and tests and ask you to mark them… but we are not going to do that. That is an unrealistic ask as every families’ situation is different.

We hope that you will see this as a time to cherish being with your children, enjoying being together, being curious, creative and imaginative. Get outdoors, enjoy the sunshine, talk, share, paint, draw, read stories, write poetry, explore nature and play games, play lots and lots of games.

The value in learning through play is vast, there is a huge research base which clearly proves that play is the fundamental basis for learning, indeed children develop language, fine and gross motor skills which leads to reading, writing and mathematical understanding, reasoning, problem-solving, risk taking, critical thinking, etc… and the list goes on… I have added a guide to ‘loose parts learning play’ on the school web site. It can offer you lots of suggestions and ideas.

If you choose to do more formal sessions then these ‘teaching’ sessions at home don’t need to be long. 1 to 1 is much more intense thank school and so you and your child only need to do short spells with lots of breaks and fun mixed in.
Establishing and keeping a routine can be helpful and make the children feel secure. Regular meals, set bedtimes, knowing what they are doing in the day can all help towards making children feel safe.
They need to value what they are doing when playing. For example playing Lego they often use these skills… imagination, fine motor skills, problem solving, creativity, sorting and finding, maths (shape), patterns and physics. Play is a child’s work!

We have full trust in you but if you need our support for ideas or resources we are available for you. The last thing we want to do is make things more stressful for you over this time.

We realise that for some of you a flexible approach is fine but for others you may want a more bespoke timetabled day of learning. I am more than happy to offer guidance, you can email me with your thoughts, ideas or even plans and I will help in any way I can.

We have given you lots of links to fantastic resources for you to access, which will meet the needs and interests of your children. You recently had a snap shot so you will know where they are with regards to their milestones in learning. Miss Budden is creating a resource that will support you in matching activities to where your child is currently working. So if you are unsure of what to choose, this will help point you in the right direction. We are putting up regular ideas on our website and PTFA Facebook and School Facebook pages. You are already sharing so many wonderful suggestions, resources, ideas and activities that you are already doing together, it is so lovely to see this so please keep posting.

Here at school we also learn through projects based on history, geography, science, art, Design and technology, etc. Our English work is based around a picture book, story or novel. If you want ideas for projects we are happy to help.

We are not expecting you to become teachers; we have no expectations on how you should provide your children with home learning. This is up to you, your circumstances, your family’s needs. Once this is all over and things begin to get back to how they used to be or how we would like them to be moving forwards, we do every thing we possibly can to ensure that your children make great progress. I personally think that they will benefit greatly from this precious given time with you and come back to school more grounded, knowledgeable, skillful and have more understanding about their place in this world and how they can cherish their planet and fellow humans.

Some of you may want to know how much time should you spend on structured learning, as a guide we would say a maximum of 2 hours a day, this includes learning through play.

We have trust in you totally and you can do this. You know your children and what is best for them, just being with them, talking, discovering, exploring, reading, and play is very valuable learning.

With all our very best wishes, stay safe.

You can do this!

Sarah and all the team

Important message for key workers about school provision during closure

As a school we are required to provide provision during normal school hours during the current closure to children of key workers who have an essential service to provide which makes it impossible for them to provide care for their children themselves as a family. The DfE advise that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. Note we have also put links on our website and Facebook to help you identify as a key worker. Guidance on which key workers are able to access this provision requires interpretation, but broadly speaking you need to meet the following criteria.

You have children who attend a school impacted by the UK Government closure announcement and:
• you need to go to work to carry out essential duties as a key worker, or need to work from home where it’s not possible to continue working as you’ll have very young children at home.
• you have exhausted all other sustainable childcare options as an alternative to schools (e.g. non-vulnerable partners, family members or trusted friends supporting with childcare, or children at an age when they can stay safely at home on their own).

It’s important to note that this guidance and support is in place as a last resort only. Priority will be given to those responding directly to the coronavirus threat, such as National Health Service workers. Therefore, even those classified as key workers may not necessarily receive school places.

Only those who can answer “yes” to being a key worker and the two questions above should contact the school to request provision. The decision on whether we can provide this for you will be made by the head teacher. Be aware that we have to make tough decisions in this regard, based on the information available to us at this time.

In the first instance please complete the survey. Provision would be available from 9am to 3.30pm, starting on this coming Monday.

Key worker survey for parents/carers

If you are a key worker, then you may be eligible to send your child to school during the school closure. The school is required to remain open and provide education to children in these circumstances. The school will be open from 8.45am to 3.15pm. We will not be providing breakfast or after school club. If your child is in school they will need a packed lunch as the school kitchen will not be open. Uniform is not required.

It is important to stress that every child who can stay at home absolutely must, and many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. However this may not be possible and there is provision to support you.

Unsure if you’re a key worker?

Visit this page for guidance from the Government on what a key worker is: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

Unsure if you’re a key worker that can get support?

Please take the online  survey below which is designed to help families are identifying themselves as keyworkers and get support from the school.  It will also give us an idea of the number of children who may be seeking provision from next week.

Before you complete the survey, please bear these principles in mind:

  • If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
  • If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them. You will already have been contacted regarding this.
  • Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
  • Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  • Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings continue to care for children wherever possible.

Click here to take the survey.