Message from Mr Mansfield
What a half term! It’s been another long one and this is the latest I can ever remember finishing before Christmas. When initially seeing the term dates, we decided to allocate one of our staff training days as Friday 23rd December to allow children to spend an additional day at home enjoying the festivities before the big day!
As always, we’ve managed to pack so much into every week this half-term – all of the usual planned learning themes and activities with Christmas events on top! I’m incredibly grateful to staff, who are certainly exhausted, but full of joy having spent the past couple of weeks seeing children become excited for Christmas and hearing tales of what naughty ‘elves on shelves’ have been up to each morning!
I’ve been absolutely blown away by each of the Christmas concerts. Children have performed and spoken so confidently and retold the Christmas story in such creative ways, each year group with their own little twist. The singing has also been superb! I often hear snippets of the songs as the children rehearse, but nothing beats being in the hall seeing them performing live to an audience, with beaming smiles on their faces as they belt out their songs at the top of their voices – something I think we’ve all particularly missed over the past couple of years during virtual events.
The school choirs have also been fantastic, singing at a variety of events and venues throughout December, spreading lots of Christmas cheer! I’m so grateful to Mrs Sefton, Miss Millett, Mrs Tucker and Mrs Howells who have worked so hard practising with the children. You can read more about our choir events below.
It’s also been wonderful to support so many charities over the past few months. Though we’re well aware that we’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis, I’m so proud that we as a school have been able to continue supporting those in need.
I hope you enjoy reading the news updates below. A huge thank you for all your support throughout the Autumn term. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Year Group Blog Updates
We were delighted to be back at St. Julian’s Baptist Church this Christmas, hosting our Annual Carol service. We’ve been virtual for the past two years so it was great to be back together again! Mr Mansfield opened the service with one of his favourite presents – a game called Pie Face! Councillor Mark Spencer, one of the school governors, was a very willing volunteer and agreed to take on Dylan, one of our Year 6 children! Dylan had the victory and Cllr. Spencer ended up with a face full of cream! We also heard from St. Julian’s Primary Children what they were hoping for for Christmas – you can see that video here. Children then read through the Christmas story, the choir performed Christmas songs and the congregation joined in for some traditional carols. It was a really lovely evening and it certainly got us in the mood for Christmas! You can watch the full Carol Service here if you weren’t able to attend.
Christmas Video 2022
Each year, we try to produce a Christmas video. This year, we were inspired by Ed Sheeran and Elton John. We hope you enjoy it! You can see all of our Christmas Videos here.
Christmas Concerts – including USB sticks and Photographs
We are so proud of everyone who has performed in one of our nativity plays this year! Every year group from Nursery to Year 4 has performed in front of a packed out hall filled with proud parents and relatives! I am so grateful to staff who have worked their socks off practising lines with the children, rehearsing songs and finding costumes!
We had so many USB Stick orders and had to order more USB sticks. The new batch of USB sticks were supposed to arrive in plenty of time before the end of term but unfortunately, our supplier let us down and they’re now not due to arrive until January. We managed to get all of the Nursery, Reception and Year 1 USB sticks out to those who ordered them. USB sticks for Year 2, 3 and 4 will be sent out in January. We know that lots of you will be disappointed as you were hoping to watch the concerts over Christmas. To help, we’ve had our little elves working overtime to upload the Year 2, 3 and 4 concerts to our video hosting platform which will allow you to stream them over Christmas until your USB stick arrives in January. We will share the link and the password to watch with all families who ordered a USB stick – this will arrive via text message shortly. If you do not receive the link but have ordered a USB stick, please email the school office and we’ll be happy to help.
Performance for Glyn Anwen and Church Court Care Homes
On 12th December, our choirs performed to the residents of Church Court during their Christmas meal and on the last day of term, every class from Reception to Year 6 performed over at Glyn Anwen Care Home after lunch. The children sang Christmas carols and songs from their concerts. Residents at both venues were overjoyed with our performances and were clapping along with great big smiles on their faces. We’ve had some lovely emails and comments sent to the school following the performances! We love visiting these very special places in our community whether it be to sing, to read books, to give computer lessons or just to sit and chat! We will be visiting lots more during 2023!
Cluster Christmas Concert
At the beginning of December, we were due to have a Cluster Christmas Concert involving all four schools within the cluster – St Julian’s High School, Glan Usk Primary, Newport Nursery School and ourselves. Unfortunately, concerns around Strep A infections in the area meant that the schools ended up having to host their own concerts – and we did just that. A huge thank you to parents and family members who were still able to join us despite the change of venue and time. We thoroughly enjoyed performing and thought the children sounded absolutely amazing! You can watch a couple of highlights from that concert here.
A huge thank you to everyone who came to our Christmas Bazaar! The choirs performed some seasonal songs, a lot of candy-floss was consumed and plenty of fun was had on the games stalls! There were also some lucky raffle winners who won some great prizes – A Chromebook, hampers, toys and board games. We’re so grateful to Hasbro who support us every year by donating prizes for our raffle.
Altogether, we raised just over £500 for the PTA, which will go towards activities and resources for our children during 2023! Thank you so much for your support!
Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day
On 8th December, we wore our Christmas jumpers to school and managed to raise £286 for ‘Save the Children’!
Christmas Meal Hampers and Presents
We’d like to thank friends of the school, Mrs Kenney, Foresters Financial, Julian’s Baptist Church, St Julian’s Methodist Church, King’s Church and St Julian’s Primary School Parents who have donated money/presents/time to put together 51 Christmas Hampers for families who needed one.
Children from the Department of Community Outreach helped to pack the hampers with Mrs Walshe and Mr and Mrs Edge from Foresters Financial. The hampers included everything families would need for their Christmas meal, some Christmas snacks, a supermarket voucher and a gift for children.
We are so so grateful to all the people mentioned above, without whom, it would not have been possible to send out all of these hampers and help so many people.
We managed to give out 54 Samsung Galaxy Tablets which had been donated by Newport Council as Christmas presents!
Uganda Christmas Party
We were really pleased to be able to support our friends in Uganda again this year. As many of you will know, back in 2015, we set up a link with a group of schools in Uganda. Staff from St Julian’s Primary have visited the schools on a number of occasions and whilst in Uganda, visited a small community in a place called Bududa. Many of the children we met in Bududa are orphans and attend a charity-run school in the middle of the community. Over the past few years, we’ve donated money to help members of the community to host a Christmas party for the children. This year, we raised 400,000 Ugandan shillings, which is around £89, to pay for rice, beans, drinks and music for the Christmas party. A few years ago, we bought Joseph, one of our friends in Uganda, a smartphone so he could take photos and videos to send back to us in Wales. He knows we particularly like seeing the children dancing so has captured a few videos of the dancing as well as the food and a thank you message to St. Julian’s Primary. Though we know many families are struggling with the cost of living at the moment, it’s still so great for our children to see us supporting others around the world – so an enormous thank you to those who were able to contribute to this on ParentPay.
Crazy Hair Day for Children in Need
We had a great time on 18th November! We all came to school with CRAZY HAIR to raise money for Children in Need. We managed to raise £457 which will help lots of children over the coming months!
During the last week of term, we had our Christmas parties. Thanks to parents for sending in lots of yummy food for us to eat – there was enough to last us for the following day, too! During the afternoon, Foundation Phase children had a visit from a special visitor! Mrs Hill enjoyed poking his big belly!
School Development Priorities
Each year in September, we agree our main priorities for the year ahead and put these into a School Development Plan. These priorities come from a range of places…
- There are things that we as staff, leaders and governors identify as areas to develop
- There are things that children identify as things to develop – this could be from their surveys or pupil leadership groups/School Senedd.
- There are things that are identified in our Parents’ Survey which we need to develop
- And finally, there are things which are from the Local Authority and Government agenda for improvement – for example: the changes to curriculum and Additional Learning Needs reform
Our main priorities, which we’ve already been working hard on for this year, are as follows…
1 – Further raise standards in all pupils’ basic skills with a focus on Oracy (Voice 21 Strategies)
We’ve made good progress on children’s reading over the past two years, but have really noticed that many children’s speaking and listening skills need improvement. In a nutshell – in the early years, this means helping children to recognise and pronounce sounds and blends, increase vocabulary and build/speak sentences correctly. Towards the top of the school, we’ve been working on improving the quality of children’s speech – particularly through our ‘Talk Tactic’ sentence stems when discussing issues. Good oracy is the foundation for all literacy – in most cases, if children can’t speak it, they’ll struggle to read it and almost certainly won’t be able to write it.
2 – Continue to develop our ‘Whole School Approach to Wellbeing’ in order to support pupils and staff to become healthy, confident individuals
With all the pressures that face us in life, we’re conscious that wellbeing is so important. We do lots to support children’s wellbeing but we really want to have a very clear offer of support as a school which is a whole school approach to how we support positive wellbeing.
3 – Further develop curriculum content, teaching pedagogy (“WalkThrus” & “Teach like a Champion”) and assessment and progression in line with Curriculum for Wales.
Having spent many hours working with governors, parents, staff and children considering ‘What Matters’ for our learners in our context, and devising our curriculum content, we’ve now got some work to do around assessment of pupils – making assessment more purposeful for moving learning forward, rather than just giving children a number or a level. This is work going on in all schools across Wales at the moment. During the Spring term, we’ll be inviting parents in to hear more about our curriculum and some of the changes we’re making.
What we teach is important but equally as important is how we teach. We’ve been looking at a whole host of research about what makes great teaching and using this research to inform our practice.
4 – Improve Whole School Attendance and develop ALN practices and procedures in-line with the new ALN act
Whether we like it or not, our whole school attendance fell during the pandemic to around 85%. Whilst it’s obvious that a pandemic was going to have an enormous impact on attendance at school, as we recover from the pandemic, there is an expectation that schools work hard to tackle poor attendance.
5 – Continue to develop the effectiveness of Leaders, Staff Professional Learning and Self Evaluation Processes
There’s a great quote by an education researcher which says “Everyone needs to improve, not because they’re not good enough, but because they can be even better”. As a school, we want to grow and support new leaders, make sure all staff have access to effective professional learning opportunities and make sure we’re regularly evaluating everything we do thoroughly to have maximum impact on our learners.
There are many actions which sit under each of those five headings and an enormous amount of work is going on to develop each of these areas. We’ll keep you updated as the year goes on.
Leaders joining Lessons
This half term, Mr Jones, Mrs Hollings and I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting every classroom for a lesson to see the great teaching and learning going on. All children have been so engaged in the exciting activities that teachers have planned for them, and we’ve been so impressed with the answers that children were giving to teachers’ questions, and the standard of children’s work. Another headteacher from Caerphilly also came to join us whilst visiting some of these lessons and said she was really impressed at the quality of teaching and standard of pupils’ learning.
Extra Curricular Activities
Mr Jones has sent out a list of all the Extra Curricular Clubs for next term. Please remember that clubs won’t start back until the second week of term! If you have any queries about clubs, send us an email or contact the school and ask for Mr Jones.
Wales V Iran – Football World Cup
It was wonderful to be able to cheer on Wales as they played against Iran in the world cup! Most children watched in classes however some brought their parents to school to watch the game on the big screen! We ate pastries for breakfast as the match kicked off, then had pizza and chicken nuggets at half-time and cookies for dessert. Unfortunately, Wales didn’t win but it was still a great atmosphere with lots of excited parents and children!
Goodbye to Mrs Inker
On Thursday, the last day of term, all the staff gathered in the hall at the end of the day to say farewell to Karen Inker. Karen has been a cleaner at the school for just under 30 years. We will really miss Karen, who’s done a great job keeping our corridors and classrooms sparkling!
Cookery Suite and Digital Media Suite
Last year, we showed you some of the developments we’d made to the school building – including setting up a cookery suite with ovens, hobs and cooking equipment, and also our Digital Media Suite with Apple iMac computers and keyboards. Children have absolutely loved using these suites over the past term. There have been a whole host of meals, cakes and snacks created in our cookery suite; Gordon Ramsey and Gino D’Acampo would be proud! Staff have often linked cooking activities with the thematic learning going on in classes to make it relevant to what the children are learning about. We see cooking as such an important life-skill, but also a great way to apply literacy and numeracy skills in a meaningful context – weighing, measuring, timing, reading a recipe, writing instructions… etc! Not to mention, of course, that children love doing it and Mr Mansfield and Mr Jones love eating what they bake! Mrs Rue and other staff have also done a brilliant job hosting ‘Cook with your Kids’ club involving parents in cooking sessions after school. We have been seriously impressed with the standard of food coming out at the end of each session!
Miss Shepherd has also done a brilliant job sharing her techie skills with classes from Year 2 to Year 6 teaching them how to edit movies, use green screen to replace backgrounds and add voice overs and other sound effects. Children have really enjoyed these sessions and created some great movie clips.
Football Team Update
Christmas Bake Along
Well done to the children who won our Christmas Bake Along session by sending images of their entries to Mrs Rue and Miss Shepherd! All winners each won a gingerbread house to create at home over Christmas!
Roof and Maintenance Update
So the site has been incredibly busy since the summer. Workmen have been working hard on stripping our roof, cleaning it and relaying new insulation, waterproof membrane and felt over the top. This will help to prevent damp and roof leaks which started to appear. After Christmas, we are also having some significant electrical rewiring works undertaken which has been arranged by the council. As much of our building was initially wired in the 1950s, we need to improve the wiring to suit the number of electrical devices we now have and also make our building more energy efficient, for example by installing LED light fixings which consume less power. We’re also hoping to have a new boiler installed in January which will replace the temporary one which is currently in place. We’re looking forward to when all this work is complete!
Training Day Reminder
A reminder that Monday 9th January 2023 is a Staff Training Day. Children return to school on Tuesday 10th January. You can see other training day dates here.
In addition, the government has announced an additional bank holiday to mark the coronation of King Charles III next year. The UK-wide holiday will fall on Monday 8th May after the coronation at Westminster Abbey two days earlier.