Parent Focus Group PDF Print E-mail

One of the areas identified for improvement from the recent Parent Survey was communication and the newly formed Parent Focus Group met for the first time in October 2015.  The group is made up of new and established members of the school community, with pupils in all year groups, some living in the village and others further afield.  The members will help to gauge parent reaction and opinion as well as minimising low level issues which can arise through misunderstanding or a lack of information.  The group will meet every couple of months and will send out a list of issues they intend to discuss throught the newsletter so other parents can give their input.

The members of the group are: Hugo Covaneiro, Emma Paffley, Clare Williams, Stephen Leach, Ruth Deadman, Diana Hitchcock, Karen England and Rebecca Grigg.

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Parent Focus Group Meeting Autumn Meeting - October 2016
Focus Area Key Points/Outcome
Parent Survey Consensus that it was worthwhile and alternate years (with a pupil survey in between) was the right frequency.  We recognise it is longer than a number of others but the specific issues meant this was worthwhile.  Extra time to complete it would be helpful.  The sharing of results and an action plan was felt very important.  Suggestions from the table about how to complete it were varied;  some did it in one go, others a section at a time whilst others felt it was helpful to involve their children in the discussion, perhaps around tea.  One area from this year was to explore further paid-for after school clubs for January.
Maths Evening Overwhelmingly positive responses from the group and others.  Looking forward to the resources and suggestions were made about follow-up parental workshops this year particularly in specific areas such as percentages.  It was felt future events, held on an annual basis, would be received with similar levels of enthusiasm - perhaps with a focus on spelling or reading.
Communication The group feel this could be a useful asset in helping with this issue.  It is important to recognise communication is a two-way process and newsletters and the website need to be use4d by parents to help with this.  The school will look at how soon it can inform parents about dates or requests from home as we recognise short notice is unhelpful.
Issues Raised through Group by Parents
School Meals This will be a discussion area for our next meeting.  The members of the Parent Focus Group will come and see/try for themselves a typical school dinner in January to help this discussion.
Parking An ongoing issue which we recognise has elements outside school control and is not restricted to our school alone, everyone understands the high level of importance.  Whilst further discussions can be had with the Parish/Local Council, there are things school and parents can do in the meantime.  School will ensure that doors and gates are open on time and that the bike sheds are also unlocked if it is wet.  We will also look at thinning the hedge to improve visibility.  We would ask parents to not drop off before 8.40 a.m. and to continue to park with the safety of the children and the consideration of our neighbours.  If you do see a school car parked in a dangerous area, particularly if it obstructs the crossing, please be proactive and politely confront the driver or owner - a slightly uncomfortable discussion is far less of an issue than having to deal with an actual accident.

 

Parent Focus Group Meeting Spring Meeting - April 2016
Focus Area

Key Points/Outcome

School Meals              

With Mrs Wallace and Mrs Adams present to provide information it soon became clear that school meals was a much more complex area than many parents realised.  For instance, many parents did not seem to realise that what the children receive on a daily basis is part of a strict three week rotation which must comply with National Nutritional Guidelines.  This is part of the reason why condiments such as salt, mayonnaise and ketchup are not available.  Likewise, the benefits of having staff eating school dinners in the hall with children was clear to all.  However, when lunchtime clubs, meetings, marking or getting ready for the afternoon’s learning were taken into consideration it became evident that this would be very difficult to achieve on any sort of consistent basis.


Consulting with the School Council and Parent Focus Group on the new menu options was appreciated and when the next menu is introduced, we hope to arrange with Edwards and Ward a tasting day for parents and pupils.


Parent and pupil thoughts and opinions were very varied on a number of points, for instance some people like trays, whilst others prefer plates.  The experiences and preferences of the focus group’s own children further illustrated to all those present the challenge of meeting every child’s and parent’s ideals.


Parents were reassured to hear there was a clear system in place to contact parents if pupils were not eating their dinner over a period of time.  There was also recognition about school doing everything it could to ensure children with serious allergies can still have a school dinner.  Members of the parent focus group who came in to try dinners were by and large impressed with the quality of food and recognised and appreciated the knowledge, experience and commitment of the MDSAs.


The following suggestions are being implemented:

The children will be encouraged to eat more salad by moving the salad bar and the kitchen staff pointing out its availability to each pupil.

It was recognised that dinner monitors are a great help.  However, by involving a wider number of children and now rotating on a termly basis this should ensure they remain helpful and enthusiastic.


From after half term individual pupils will be chosen to say grace at the start of each lunchtime.


We are reviewing arrangements so that on “busy days”, such as swimming, we can have every child sat at a dining table in the hall.

 

The kitchen staff and school are also looking at reducing the amount of waste food, with one of the main ways being more flexibility on portion size for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils.

Parking

Following a meeting with local residents we were able to discuss a number of issues and ideas related to parking and transport to school. These have been incorporated into the parking factsheet that will be shared with you at the start of Term 4, once we have heard from the last few people we are talking with.

Issues raised through group by parents

  • The group were appreciative that their suggestion that the hedge near the front of the school had been cut back to allow greater visibility when crossing the road.
  • The sports leaders have produced guidelines on how the sports badges that pupils are awarded when they represent the school in a school team should be worn. This will be sent out on the first day of next term when they are also launching a sports challenge in the lead up to the summer Olympics.
  • At our next focus meeting parents have asked for us to discuss the house system, including events, housepoints, trophies and the roles and responsibilities of house captains.
We will also be reviewing our Home/School Agreement.

 

Parent Focus Group Meeting

Summer Meeting - July 2016

Focus Area

Key Points/Outcome

School Improvement

The focus on Maths this year has been recognised and the Curriculum Evening that was held and well attended got a great deal of positive feedback both at the time and since.  Parents recognise that such events take time and effort to organise but would like to see a similar event put on next year for spelling and possibly punctuation and grammar. 

There was also a feeling that extending the Mathletics licence across the whole school to include Reception and Year 1 would prove popular.  This was followed by a suggestion that the Parent Focus Group would be willing to run a small fund-raising event specifically to generate the money to pay for this through an event in September such as a car wash, thus not taking any further money out of the school budget.  From a school point of view we could look at developing staff expertise through planning in CPD to support this.  If this proves a success, other similar programmes such as Reading Eggs exist for spelling and reading.  It was generally recognised that non only was it good communication to let parents know what any funds raised were used for, they may also feel more inclined to support a project - and this is something the PTFA could also develop further.

Following our focus on sport, parents would like to see another contrasting area developed in a similar way and the most popular choice was for this to be music.  This will be written into the School Improvement Plan and shared in September.

The group were heartened to hear the school plans to work with the local community and Parish Council in the coming year to look at improving the road safety facilities directly in front of the school.  Plans for a new crossing will be discussed in September with the relevant bodies, both locally and with Wiltshire Council.  If this does not prove a success, we will review the markings, footsteps etc. that we currently have and explore how these can be improved.  Most felt that the parking issues from earlier in the year had improved to some extent following the actions carried out by the school and the local community - although they are by no means perfect - and that the use of the Glebe Field for big events had made a significant difference.

Review of Recent Events

There has been a huge amount of appreciation for the breadth and quality of events and activities provided this year and it was recognised that a huge amount of work had gone into both the planning and the communicating of these.  However, with so much on, we spent time discussing ways this could be improved further and the following actions were identified:

  • planning slightly less or looking carefully at when events take place would allow a little time to reflect and appreciate them, thus increasing their depth and positive impact;
  • a weekly 'what's on' letter sent out the previous Friday for the coming week would act as a timely reminder and help parents to go back to the original letter or onto the website
  • school would start looking at how electronic reply slips could be used from September and to identify when possible how a single email with various pieces of information could, on occasions, replace three or four separate messages
As a result, we could all start to reduce the amount of unnecessary time spent both from a parental and a school point of view.  This would tie in with a greater expectation on pupils showing more independence and responsibility (at any age appropriate level, of course).
Cakes and Birthdays

The group recognised that to many this might seem a less important issue but one of the strengths of the group was that parents felt any issue, no matter how big or small, would be discussed.  Many different points of view and personal opinions were shared, illustrating that it is not a simple case of saying yes or no, but the following points were agreed:

  • the school continues to firmly promote a healthy lifestyle in a variety of ways
  • part of this recognises that different people have different takes on this, but the overall conclusion is that pupils have to lear that sweets and less healthy options should only be eaten in moderation
  • therefore we will not ban cakes or sweets
  • however, we should remind parents and children that a treat can be a healthy option (remember the workshops and Parents' Evening we ran with Gretchen Winter earlier this year ...)
  • finally, staff should be focussed on supporting teaching and learning and not use time to cut up cakes or send out invitiations.  The PTFA is looking at relaunching class reps. and they could help with names etc. for parties and parents should send in treats that require the minimum of sorting and distributing

The group felt sure that all of these would not be seen by parents as being 'party poopers' or school being perceived as taking an unfriendly out-of-character stance.

Other Issues
  • the school could look at other ways of interacting with the local community.  Whilst recognising that lots of good events and activities go on, we all feel the school is at the heart of the village and that this could be unintentionally lost as everyone gets busier and busier.  A specific action plan for this will be added to the School Improvement Plan and a timetable of events drawn up and published.  Paper copies of the newsletter will be sent to the shop and pub.
  • a suggestion was made about the school purchasing a sound system for events such as Sports Day.  The Year 6 leavers traditionally give a gift and I will ask that they could contribute towards us getting one.
  • it was pointed out that forest schools have not always managed to get back on time and this caused inconvenience in various ways - and I will speak with staff involved to ensure this is resolved.
  • finally, it was pointed out that there may be changes in legislation on the use of car seats, particularly the small booster seats.  As soon as any changes come into being, school will inform all parents of the new legislation, thus ensuring that the children's safety is maintained.

Parent Focus Group

Autumn Meeting - October 2016

Focus Area

Key Points/Outcome

School Improvement

We went through the School Improvement Plan with the group looking at the background and complexities of SEND pupils and the evaluation planned for the year.  House points - the reasons for and fairness of the allocation are to be discussed with House Captains.  We discussed Fundamental British Values to gain greater clarity of what it means (there is a useful document on the school website) and how this is best delivered when woven into the school curriculum.  We talked about music as an area of focus and how this can be shared and celebrated through the newsletter, website, a dedicated board or a letter sent out sharing what is planned and happening.  School will explore if there is sufficient interest in learning stringed instruments.  The PTFA will be funding musical activities over the year - school will explore whether Kate Courage, who is amazing and has worked with school previously, could be an option.

School Uniform

There seems to be a specific issue with the stock levels of the PE shirts at Scholars.  Apart from this everyone was happy with the service.  Although the school has been approached by another provider, on balance, parents are happy with the current service provided.  There was a reminder that the school PE shirt is preferred but not essential if parents have to wait for stock to arrive so an alternative can be used in the meantime.

School Crossing

The school is looking at working with the Parish Council to improve the crossing point.  This will take some time (Easter is a possible deadline) and effort and there is a need (and benefits in terms of accessing funding) for groups to work together.

A reminder that Hugo Covaneiro started a road safety petitioin earlier this year which is still running.  The link is http://www.thepetitionsite.com/392/809/168/school-road-safety-is-a-right-for-all/

Some parents mentioned that during particularly busy times they turn left out of the school and go round the village to help with traffic flow.  Whilst we do not want everyone to do this and create significant extra traffic for the village, it is something that other parents might like to consider at busy times.

Fund Raising

The Focus Group are running a car wash on the morning of Friday 4th November.  £5 a car from 9.15 - with all the money raised going towards a Mathletics licence for the whole school.

Other Issues
  • church/community work - there will be 3 fundraising events over the course of the year, one for school, one for local community, one for an outside cause.  This could tie in with the current Church project and will be discussed with staff and pupils
  • Forest schools - there was some concern that this is too much for some of the younger pupils as well as the pressure of finding sufficient volunteers.  It was suggested that there was also an issue with communicating the link with the Class 2 topic.  If this is a key feature of a topic then we need to ensure staff make thhis clearer in the termly topic letters.  Mrs Pender has run talks about the rationale and benefits of forest schools and this would perhaps be beneficial to repeat.
  • gate congestion - Class 3 children will now split, with the Year 2s coming in through the KS1 gate and the Year 3s waiting by the KS2 gate
  • pupil roles - this will be discussed in more detail at the next meeting, which will include an update from the revisiting of house captain roles
  • pen licences - the school is still running this system, Mr Borman will remind staff about how it works and we will ensure that they are all celebrated in Golden Worship
  • skipping - the day was enjoyed by lots of pupils, with lots of positive feedback and many of the pupils are using the extra skipping ropes we have in school at playtime and lunchtime.  The only concern was the selling of ropes by the man, which a few felt was a little pushy.  We will bear this in mind for the future.
  • TD Days - a number of parents appreciated having one on a Friday and a Monday around the same weekend to allow for parents to plan time away if they so wished.