Change of name

Academy Status

The school became an academy on the 1st November. On my blog I indicated our new name would be ‘Minchinhampton Church of England Primary School’ –an academy under the Diocese of Gloucester Academy Trust. However these things are never as straightforward as you hope and, because of a legal technicality, our name needs to have academy in the actual title. We will therefore be known henceforth as, ‘Minchinhampton Church of England Academy.’

To be perfectly honest the name itself makes not a jot of difference to me, and I hope not to you either. Ultimately all that matters is what we can provide for the children.

Academy Status

Academy Status

The school is now an academy- officially the school’s first day as an academy was last Saturday. Henceforth the school will be known as ‘Minchinhampton Church of England Primary School’ –An Academy Under the Diocese of Gloucester Academy Trust.

Of course most of you will not be able to discern any difference in the school now or, for that matter, in the foreseeable future. Our vision remains the same; we still have the same set of responsibilities as a school for your children’s welfare and learning; we’re still the same set of people with the same level of commitment.

However behind the scenes the school will soon be reaping the benefits of our involvement with DGAT. In particular the joint working with other schools and the high quality support from consultants has already begun in earnest and promises to make a significant difference to staff and the quality of education we can offer your children. Already we have high quality training organised for next term, as well as opportunities to visit outstanding practice in other parts of the country. We also now have other schools looking to come and see good practice here and learn from our leadership team. This is exactly what we had hoped for. In time of course we could also see adaptations to the curriculum we teach to make it that much more relevant to our children and certainly being an academy will give us greater freedoms regarding how we spend our income and allocate resources.


For the moment however, please sit back and assume business as usual. I am confident that, in time, our academy status will play a significant role in helping us provide your children with an even better education.






Our reading community

As a school, when it comes to reading, we have two parallel and equally important ends to achieve for our children: yes we want them to learn the mechanics of reading words on a page and comprehending them but we also want them to become ‘experienced’ readers: that is young people who see themselves as readers and are motivated to read.

The benefits of books and reading are well documented and indisputable. There is no doubt in my mind that books can transform lives. As a head teacher, on a daily basis, I see evidence of the strong link between reading and engagement with school; between reading and learning; between reading and self-discipline; between reading and an interest in the world we live in and the people we encounter. The Book Trust sites the long term benefits of books as increased educational outcomes, and increased employment opportunities. Reading for pleasure, they say, is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. The National Literacy Trust also cites overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant impact on a person’s happiness and success. Leisure reading makes students more articulate, develops higher order reasoning, and promotes critical thinking. According to The Rose Review in 2008 ‘a deep engagement with storytelling and great literature links directly to emotional development in primary children.’

Books introduce children into a wide tapestry of knowledge and culture, which can help children understand who they are and the place they have in the world. They can serve only to enrich our lives and deepen our appreciation and our sense of fulfilment. This is why we have invested so much time and money into the school’s library and book corners and into events such as Book Week. Every time our children walk through the library one implicit message must come across loud and clear: ‘books are important.. we value them.’ As a ‘Talk for Writing’ school, we also greatly value the art of story-telling. Stories have always been critical to how we make sense of things: there is nowhere better than stories for children to take risks, test their courage, face their fears and to indulge their humour. It is a way of growing up in a safe environment, testing out personal feelings and responses through others’ experiences.

Predictably, during Book Week, my assemblies were about reading. I tried to communicate to the children the pleasure I took in reading. I compared it to watching television and related how when I got up from watching most television, I felt a little empty, like I’d simply been killing time. In contrast, after I’d read a good book, I felt full up with my imaginings and stimulated by new thought. As a school we want our pupils to experience a whole wide range of books and other reading, whether it is comics, newspapers, magazines or digital media. What is important to us is that children read – an ambition best served by children reading what they want to read and being encouraged by the adults around them to read widely.

I think the very best way to get them interested in reading is to read to them and share your own enthusiasm for reading with them. The first ‘longer’ books I read were all books that an adult had already read to me or at least introduced me to and, as I developed my subsequent reading ‘interests,’ again these were heavily influenced by enthusiastic adults in my life. For this reason we introduced ‘Book Talk’ at the outset of each term. In teaching children to read, we can become preoccupied with teaching reading skills to the detriment of pupils’ pleasure and engagement in the text and developing their personal response. Without the purposeful encouragement of children’s pleasure in reading, the teaching of reading skills can become laborious and sometimes pointless. A key reference point for our Book Talk policy is Aidan Chamber’s ‘tell me’ approach and the CLPE’s ‘Power of Reading’ initiative.

I recognise that, for us parents, the ‘helping them to learn to read’ bit sometimes becomes a chore rather than a pleasure (especially when faced with the sometimes monotonous rigour of a reading scheme). There is no getting away from the fact that children can find reading hard work but it is so important that they stick with it. Getting the traction right on this can be difficult. The children need to know that working on their reading is non-negotiable but, at the same time, you don’t want to put them off reading. You will all have your own ways of making it work- with my own children just being firm with them wasn’t enough- I needed to make sure our reading sessions were regular and positive and accompanied by plenty of reading to them and enjoying their books with them. Finding that regular slot for reading in amongst our busy lives is often the key challenge. With this in mind we will sometimes now be opening our library to parents of Reception pupils before the end of the school day to provide an opportunity for parents to read to / with their children.

One thing we do have to be careful about is the ‘phew- they can read- now we can let them get on with it’ moment when children have finally emerged from the reading scheme and are what we term ‘independent readers.’ There is no doubt that this moment warrants a celebratory pause but, in truth, it is just the beginning. There is little point in being an independent reader if you don’t read; if you’re not developing into an experienced reader. As I have already stated, good reading habits make such a difference to a child’s confidence and progress in school generally. While ultimately we need the children to want to read and enjoy reading for its own sake, there is no harm in our introducing targets for them to try and achieve. To this end we are introducing new reading diet cards in the back of their reading journals. The children will update these monthly. This will involve them tallying up the number of times they have read as well as keeping track of the different types of reading they have engaged in. It will be critical that they maintain an ongoing record of their reading in their reading records and it would be very helpful if you monitor these at home and sign them regularly. Please also aim to discuss their reading with them regularly, including talking to them about their book choices and still listen to them read aloud -this an important skill in itself and can improve speed and understanding. One simple but effective approach is to work alongside them, reading a page each.

Last of all and most important and previously stated on numerous occasions- there is nothing we cannot achieve for your children when we work together. The one ‘joint piece of work’ that will have the most far-reaching consequences is our joint working on reading. It is about far more than just learning to read: it impacts fundamentally on their learning in general, like nothing else can. I have summarised below firstly what the school will offer your children and then how you can help. Please do contact me if you have any further thoughts.

How we can work together:

Our reading offer:

We will:-

Read to them;

Teach them phonics;

Take them through the reading scheme;

Teach them to read using 1:1 reading, guided reading and shared reading in class;

Encourage them in their personal response to reading through ‘Book Talk;’

Provide them with excellent book choices in class (see also core book lists);

Provide them with an excellent library;

Employ our librarian to promote reading and aid them with their book choices;

Hold Book Weeks each year to promote reading;

Encourage them to become experienced readers through our reading diet cards;

Develop their personal response to their reading through use of reading journals;

Provide parents with guidance and advice re reading with their child.

How you can help:


Help them with their ‘letters and sounds’ work 3 x a week;

Listen to them read and sign their reading records at least 4x a week;

Read to them/ enjoy books with them regularly;

Once they have become independent readers (up to the end of Year 4):-

Monitor and sign their reading records at least 4x a week.

Discuss with them/ help them complete their reading journals 1x a week.

For independent readers (up to the end of Year 6):-

Monitor and sign their ‘link books’ at least 1x a week.

Discuss with them/ help them complete their reading journals 1x a week.



Our PTA is a very impressive outfit. Now, of course, I’m duty-bound to make remarks like this but please don’t pass off my claim as one of those head teacher platitudes. Know that I have worked with a good number of PTA’s over the length of my career but none of them come within a country mile of our team here. What is it that makes them special? Yes, they raise much needed funds for the school- and a very significant amount at that, and yes, these funds have been well used to provide excellent opportunities and resources for the children. This is clearly the core purpose of PTA work and resources like the library, the scrap store and Woodhenge are educationally exciting as well as being intrinsic to the school’s vision and ethos. However what sets our PTA apart is the level of their commitment; their resourcefulness and their creativity. The events themselves are often on a very large scale and/or often unique to Minchinhampton- the Fire Works and the Comedy night being prime examples. Children and adults alike love these kind of events and they also provide a focal point for the community at large. I would strongly urge you to get involved in any way you can- partly for the undoubted pleasure of taking part and partly because it represents the perfect way of supporting your school and your children. Ahead of the Fire Works on Saturday, I would like to say again, a big thank you to the PTA for all their fine work.

N Moss


Thank you for homework

Dear Parents/ Carers

Thank you for all of your valiant efforts to complete homework. The new homework timetable comes out today (see docs/day to day) and, as you’ll see,  the amount of homework increases as our children get older. Some schools will give more out, others less. We do try to make it a sensible amount but it will always be a source of some contention. In English lessons, I’m sure you can imagine, it reliably makes for a good debate with the children.

As a parent I sometimes bemoan the fact, that with four children, I am constantly chasing one of them to finish their homework or being asked to help. When, on the same evening, one is writing an essay on Macbeth and another is still ploughing through a reading scheme, my brain begins to ache. Our household begins to feel like a boot camp where my sole interaction with the children involves the issuing of orders or instructions and it is only when I get to a weekend of holiday that  we get back to a more relaxed and level footing.

That said I see homework as important. As a parent it gives me another  opportunity to support my children with their learning and demonstrate to them that I see learning as important. I also see it as not just an opportunity but my responsibility to show them that their school and I are singing from the same hymn sheet and that they need to do what has been asked of them by the school (even if, privately, I don’t always completely agree with it).

I can’t expect you to all agree with homework or even with the way we manage our homework here but if we can do our best to work together in the eyes of the children, then I know this will help them thrive.

I know how much time and energy you put into your children’s learning and it is very much appreciated.

Thank you

Nick Moss

Poetry 10th September

Please have a read of:-

Amelia poem 05 09 14

Amelia has come up with some wonderful images here. My favourite is the final line- ‘silent storm stumbling across the sky.’

We always like to start a term with poetry because it allows children to explore and revel in the language; allows them that freedom of expression sometimes lacking in other writing forms.

And another one begins

5th September 2014

Thank you for last year- for your ongoing commitment and support. There is no doubt that a school’s ethos and approach is, in part, a reflection of its community and there is certainly no doubt that this school thrives because of your enthusiasm for your children’s’ learning and because of all the goodwill and creative energy you pour into the place. It has been a pleasure to re-acquaint ourselves with your children- they have come back ready and willing and as engaging as ever. The atmosphere in school is calm and friendly.


The next year could be busy. The proposed move towards Academy Status will continue to demand of us careful consideration and will not happen any earlier now than November 1st. One aspect of joining DGAT I am confident would have a significant impact on the school is the increased scope for sharing practice and support with a tight-knit group of other schools. The opportunities for staff to develop their teaching and leadership within this context are extensive.


Our need for a new build to house burgeoning numbers of pupils has been taken well in hand by the governors. They have worked with ‘Thinking Buildings,’ local architects, to generate a realistic development plan for the next few years. This plan factors in possible housing developments in the area and their likely impact on the school. For the short term the music room has been temporarily converted into a classroom to allow us to teach our year 3/4 pupils in three groups. It is working very well and in fact provides our pupils with more support than they would have had otherwise. In the medium term the school will be seeking funding to help build an extra classroom.


In terms of the curriculum one of our main priorities is to continue developing our approach to maths; an approach based on the work of Ray Maher, a well-respected provider of teacher training and in-school consultancy, with a strong track record of helping schools to achieve the highest possible standards. A push to improve children’s basic skills (including the use of the target passports) has been part of this approach. Also please keep a look out on the school website for a presentation about the calculation methods we use and for upcoming information about the problem-solving methods we are now teaching each week.







Another year over

18th July 2014

Dear Parents/ Carers

So there we go- another year slips by quicker still, it feels, than the previous one. I always crowd our school development plan with ambitious objectives in September because a year feels like a significant wad of time to be working with but gosh, does it flit past. In school each day is so full, so varied and in such ‘fast motion’: it is hardly surprising that the year disappears in the blink of an eye. I spoke to an ex-employee recently who said she was intent on going back into education again (having tried something else) because she had found herself ‘clock-watching’ in her present job. One never clock watches in school – I know the adults don’t and I would hope the children find little time or inclination to do so either.

In terms of the school development plan, we are constantly looking to develop the best practice we can- to develop our individual teaching and also to develop very good practice as a school that is consistent across all classes. This consistency is vital if we are to ensure our children build, as effectively as possible, on their experiences and achievements of the previous year. I think we have come a long way in this respect in the last 2 years. We have gone out to educational experts and other schools to search for the very best practice; have then brought it back and made it our own. The children’s achievements in English in the last 2 years have been testament to the progress we have made and maths is following hot on its heels. We also put a great deal of time and energy into our recruitment process because, let’s be honest, in any organisation, it is a lot about having the right people in the right place. Minchinhampton now has a strong team. I believe the governor’s recent decision to move towards academy status was a good one because it gives us an excellent opportunity to continue to improve our practice.