Initiatives to support schools to flourish

Statement

Mandeville School is a flourishing high-quality primary school in Hackney. The Hackney Education team regards Mandeville, and the LEAP federation to which it belongs, very highly. We are supporting LEAP initiatives to grow Mandeville, including increasing nursery places and the groundbreaking Hackney School of Food.

Recently, a leaflet has been disseminated in the community, claiming there may be Council plans to close Mandeville School. To confirm: we have no intention of suggesting a closure of Mandeville and have never discussed any such plan. Any statement to this effect is wrong and is spreading disinformation in the community.

A press article earlier this year discussed forward planning for schools in Hackney: this comprised two concurrent issues: our short-term review of school places in light of a decrease in the number of reception-age children in the borough; and our longer-term considerations should rolls continue to fall. This article drew on the Hackney Education’s school organisation plan document, which is available online, and a public consultation we carried out on immediate admission reductions proposals.

The consultation resulted in six primary schools reducing the number of places in their reception classes from September 2022. One of these was Mandeville. These reductions help secure the future of the schools as thriving parts of our community.

There is no council plan to close any school. Looking at the longer-term, we continue to keep a range of options under consideration when scrutinising demographics, including the impact of housing developments and requirement for special needs places.

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

A sense of hope as we move into a safer, more sustainably stable educational space

Dear colleagues,

I write to thank you at the end of this Spring term for all you and your teams have done for our pupils and their families.

As I look back those difficulties around January 4th, the U turns over opening or not opening seem an age away. Twelve weeks have passed. During that period we know that our community will have lost some much loved members of families, teams and friendship groups. Our thoughts are with all affected.

During this twelve week period, we have also seen continued outstanding work by all involved in education. The attention to remote learning, to work with pupils on the school site, to pastoral contact with children and families, has been immensely supportive for our community and most importantly for our Hackney children. Thank you.

We seem now to be moving into a safer, more sustainably stable educational space (although risks of variants and outbreaks hover). As we look ahead, I feel a sense of hope about the future months for our school communities. I enjoy these quotes about hope which I share with you:

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.” Amanda Gorman January 2021

”A positive statement propels hope toward a better future, it builds up your faith and that of others, and it promotes change.” Jan Dargatz

I do think the disruption caused by the pandemic allows us to reevaluate: much that we thought unchangeable has actually changed and much that we thought impossible has become possible. A range of opportunities present themselves for changing some ways of working. I encourage you to reflect on these opportunities and what you want to keep or develop for your school.

In thinking about my future work here, I bear in mind Hackney Council’s aims which are to create a fairer, more inclusive borough, which supports children and young people to thrive. Our own Hackney Education mission is to improve the life chances of every child, young person and learner in Hackney…making Hackney the most forward looking education system in the UK, where schools, settings and partners provide an exciting environment which ensures inclusion and success for everyone. We see our borough as being one of the best places in the country for young people to grow, learn, develop and achieve and one of the best places for colleagues to work and thrive in our education system. I know that your own school aims will underpin your reflections on what you want to develop and sustain moving forward.

So, key themes for me, looking ahead, are attention to quality first teaching and what underpins it, to understanding and providing for more vulnerable groups while tackling the inequalities which may increase vulnerability, and attention to professional development for all my colleagues. I also want to build further the partnerships which have grown during this period and which support all the above themes.

We can be proud of the work that has been undertaken as a family of Hackney schools, and our common understanding that children and young people come first will continue to be a feature of our work in the coming term. We hope that you can join us at the briefing for headteachers that has been arranged for 9am – 9.45am on Thursday 22 April, where we will again share new updates and best practice.

In the meantime, I wish you the very best for the forthcoming holiday and wish you well if you are celebrating Easter, Passover or beginning Ramadan. Please make sure you have a well deserved break. I very much look forward to seeing you in the summer term.

With best wishes

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

The importance of connections, learning and sense of belonging

Dear Headteachers, Principals, and Setting Leader Colleagues

Thank you very much for all you are doing at this time. As you know it matters significantly to children to be able to be in schools and settings, with the connections, learning and sense of belonging that school brings. Thank you for providing for our children during this challenging period.

You may well have been dealing with covid cases over the past week. In October through to the first two weeks of November, there were around 30 cases per week in educational or childcare settings, while in the last two weeks there were over 50 cases per week – the majority individual ones, but some in a cluster of cases. I know this is a concern and each case brings a range of tasks with it to ensure safety of others and prevent the spread of the virus. We are seeing the figures in the general population in Hackney fall and I hope we will see this replicated in our schools and settings.

You and your teams will have been doing a host of other work too – ensuring all our children are learning and progressing well. I have been very impressed by the range of learning being evidenced across all year groups – and the recent timely input for our older pupils about sixth form and post 18 choices. Thank you for sharing such good examples of pupil work, both with SIPs and on social media/your websites.

I attended part of the annual Safaplace conference on the morning of Saturday, 21 November 2020. This event, usually run at Stoke Newington School, was run virtually. I was struck by several things the opening speaker, David Weaver, Chair of BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) said: he pointed out that at times where anxiety is high it is important to be able to talk, yet the current anxiety inducing covid situation tends to reduce opportunities to talk. Do remember the opportunities in school which you and your leaders can give to talk virtually or in person are really valuable. Also at the conference was an excellent speaker on neurodiversity. My understanding of dyslexia and the emotional impact of having a different way of learning has definitely moved on through attending the session run by Siobhan Moore-Lynch, she has inspired me to read the splendidly titled “Proust and the Squid: the story and science of the reading brain”.

I was struck, as we look ahead to the possibilities of a new normal next year, by the history of two of the scientists working on the vaccine. You can find out more about the two Turkish born immigrants.

I wish you well for the rest of term. We have a Headteachers’ briefing on Tuesday, 12 January 2021, at 9.15am – 10am. I look forward to seeing you then, if not before. We will have more news for you of covid related issues, a look at assessment and at school place planning.

With warmest wishes to you and your teams,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

Ambitious and caring approach helps children back to their schools and settings

Dear colleagues

It has been a pleasure to see the children going into schools and settings over the past three weeks of September. I very much appreciate the work you and your teams did, in advance of September opening, and are now putting in daily, to ensure the education of all our children goes as well as possible. Your high ambitions for our children combined with your caring approach have ensured that the very great majority of children are back in school and settings. Thank you and well done.

As an update across Hackney we have attendance of just below 90% overall with a number of schools having attendance in the high nineties. I know that you are following up your non attenders. We have invested in additional resource in FAST to help you with this: Sue Roberts, who was a school improvement partner last year, is working with FAST to support attendance issues. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Sue if you have exhausted means at your disposal to get children back into school. Billy Baker remains the key contact for elective home education enquiries and formal attendance follow up. Contacts are:

sue.roberts@hackney.gov.uk and Billy.baker@hackney.gov.uk.

We have had four bubbles sent home across all age groups (nursery, primary, secondary, FE)  over the past three weeks. This amounts to 0.2% of attendance overall. In each school case colleagues moved very rapidly to implement distance learning as appropriate.

The link to the overall Hackney prevalence picture will be sent out in our bulletins each week. It is important to recognise the local picture which, while rising, shows a small proportion of positive tests. The figure for the first fortnight in September was 134 positive cases across Hackney and the City out of a population of 280,000: i.e. 0.05% of the population had a positive test.

We are keen to get the balance right for you between focusing on coronavirus related issues and getting on with giving our Hackney children a brilliant education and our Hackney staff great development. Of course, children, families and colleagues need to feel safe to be able to engage well, so ensuring safety remains a priority for us. It is the foundation on which to take forward educational development. I am happy to hear feedback from you on this balance and also keen to visit your schools over this term to talk further and see your school in action.

Please do keep raising any issues or queries with our team: Hilary Smith or your school improvement link. We will aim to have local answers and we also speak with DfE contacts regularly during the week and can raise any concerns with them.

I wish you well and leave you with a quote from Suzy Kaseem:

“If life throws you a few bad notes or vibrations, don’t let them interrupt or alter your song.”

― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun

With very best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education and Head of Hackney Learning trust
@HackneyDirofEd

2019 secondary performance tables confirm Hackney success

Dear colleagues,

I hope the days since the half term break for your educational setting has gone well for you and your community. I know that all in your setting continue to work very hard for your pupils. This week will be a significant time for Year 6 pupils as they receive their secondary school offer letters.

Since I last wrote to you the 2019 secondary performance tables have been confirmed showing that overall Hackney pupils were achieving 0.29 P8 compared to a national figure of 0.03 – and that 48% of Hackney pupils achieved a strong pass In English and math compared to 43% nationally. These are commendable overall figures. The standard pass figure in Hackney was 69%. Those young people will be in sixth form or equivalent settings now and well on their way with the next stage of their education. Well done to all involved with supporting such significant achievement.

Of course many pupils who worked hard did not achieve the higher pass marks and may not be able to stay in school sixth forms depending on the course offer. We are promoting the two Hackney colleges: BSix and New City College, Hackney for young people who may be in this position or prefer a college setting. Ofsted have recently confirmed how well the colleges are developing and further information can be found on their websites.

I am always struck by the quality of relationships in settings between staff and pupils and the positive impact this has on the children. The importance to our children is long lasting. This was exemplified by ex-footballer Ian Wright recently. Some of you may have heard or read about Ian Wright on Desert Island Discs talking about the importance of a teacher in his life. It is well worth a listen for how intensely the support of a teacher for the 8 year old boy mattered.

I know you will have received separate communications from us about the coronavirus. We have given individual advice to a number of settings with queries. At times like this you are key centres for providing information. We will continue to send out updates but do recommend that you review the government advice daily, which we have condensed on the Hackney Learning Trust website.

Thank you for supporting your communities at this time. Do please let me know if you have any queries or comments.

With every best wish,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education and Head of Hackney Learning trust
@HackneyDirofEd