Welcome to Almond Hill where it is all about 'The Climb'
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Dear Parents and Carers,
I am pleased to welcome you to our school.
Almond Hill is a community school, which opened in 1957. Our school is situated close to Stevenage Old Town in a very pleasant environment. It is a school of approximately 300 children aged 7 –11.
Our school staff work very closely together to provide a happy, safe, stimulating and healthy environment in which your child will learn, be respected and valued. High standards of educational achievement are promoted and attained. Effort and hard work are rewarded, achievements are celebrated and individual needs supported.
We aim to provide an excellent education for all pupils, working in partnership with our feeder schools to provide continuity in learning and pastoral care. We work closely with parents and carers to help them support their child's education. We 'Aim High' in everything we do to achieve our very best and develop our skills and talents and be proud of our achievements. We aim to have a 'growth mindset' and learn from mistakes. We may not be able to do something 'yet', but we will if we keep trying. We recognise we are all individuals and respect our uniqueness. We expect to treat others in the way we wish to be treated ourselves, always showing respect and good manners and a high standard of behaviour.
We are a school who celebrates our successes, but also moves forward by evaluating our work. To achieve our aims, we believe it is essential that a partnership exists between home and school. As a parent you have a vital role to play in all aspects of your child’s education. We encourage close links with parents to ensure you are well-informed about your child’s progress in both their educational achievements and personal and social development and so you are aware of school policy and practice. We also regularly ask for your views, so we can move forward together.
We want you and your child to feel valued members of our school community, and we look forward to a close association with you and your child.
School Improvement Plan
Our Staff, Governing Body and School Community
Please follow the link to be taken to our whole school staffing page: Almond Hill Staff
The Governing Body
The governing body comprises appointed, elected and co-opted governors. Governors delegate responsibility for the day to day running of the school to the Head teacher, but they are responsible to:
ensure safeguarding procedures comply with statutory guidance and monitor the safety and wellbeing of pupils and staff;
establish the aims and policies of the school;
support and monitor the review and development of the curriculum;
monitor standards of achievement and pupil progress;
provide support and challenge;
help decide the spending of the school’s budget and to monitor expenditure and financial procedures to ensure best value;
monitor the condition of the school premises;
appoint new staff.
Governors are responsible for the appointment of the Head Teacher and Deputy Head. They act as a link between school, parents, and the local community, promoting a strong partnership between them. The governing body meets formally each term working closely with the Head Teacher and staff to stay well-informed about the school. Regular committee meetings and link governor visits ensure governors receive up to date information on curriculum policy, progress on school development plans, standards, special educational needs, personnel and finance. The school premises are inspected with health and safety checks being regularly completed. As well as formal planned visits, governors also make informal visits to the school during the working day. Governors are elected for a four-year period of office. Any parent or guardian of a child at Almond Hill may stand for election, details of which will be supplied by the Head Teacher.
‘Friends of Almond Hill’ are a group of parents who are interested in supporting school events and fundraising activities. The group is firmly established and warmly welcomes all new parents, either on a regular basis or to help out on occasions. They meet regularly each half-term to discuss plans for forthcoming events. Information regarding events and meetings are published in a newsletter to parents. Any parent is welcome to join our half termly planning meetings. FOAH funds a wide range of resources, activities and visitors for our children that support both learning and recreational activities.
The School Government
The School Government is an elected body of children from the school. Pupils in year 6 form ‘political parties’ and present their ‘manifesto’ to the school to share their pledges. Children across the school then vote to elect a winning Prime Minister and Deputy. Once elected, they work with staff to make their pledges happen across the year.
Safeguarding and Child Protection
Safeguarding has the highest priority at Almond Hill and is at the forefront of all we do. The school is committed to the safety of all pupils and staff and promotes an ‘it could happen here’ ethos to support our vigilance.
All of our children have the right to be safe and happy at school, and it is our responsibility to try to make them feel that way. All adults working in school are subject to DBS clearance and appointments follow the school’s safer recruitment policy. Safeguarding is discussed at all meetings and there is an expectation for all staff to be highly vigilant.
All staff undertake safeguarding training on appointment, statutory 3-yearly update, and annual school update along with regular specific training. The governing body has appointed a named safeguarding governor and there is a governor safeguarding working party that meets to regularly monitor all of the school’s safeguarding procedures. The school invites an external ‘Herts for Learning’ review of school procedures to ensure the very best practice is maintained. Our monitoring involves all of our stakeholders and covers all aspects of our provision as well as statutory responsibilities. The school’s Child Protection Policy and Whistleblowing Policy are published on the school’s website.
All of the school policies support our safeguarding practice, but we believe that our effective safeguarding is achieved not only through policy documents but through our daily actions and building strong relationships with our children, so we know them well, and they all feel confident to build trust in the adults they work with.
All schools have a clear responsibility placed on them by the Children Act 1989 and guidance from the Department for Education and Skills to safeguard the welfare of all their pupils. In doing so, schools are expected to consult with Children’s Services if they believe there is a possibility that a child may be suffering from abuse or neglect. A referral to Children’s Services is not intended to be an accusation of any particular action or against any particular person. It is the reporting of concerns that have come to the school’s attention. This is in accordance with Hertfordshire Area Child protection procedures.
Almond Hill Junior School has a Child Protection Policy and follows safeguarding guidance from other key documents e.g. Keeping Children Safe in Education all of which are available for parents/carers to see.
Mrs. Fordham is the Designated Teacher for Child Protection. In her absence, Mrs. Burgess, Mrs. Birchall and Miss Simmons deputise in this role. They will be happy to discuss any questions or concerns parents/carers may have about child protection policy and practice. The appointed governor for Child Protection and safeguarding is Mr Stephen Fuller.
The children are taught all subjects in the National Curriculum. Core subjects include: — English and Maths (taught daily) Science and Computing.
Foundation subjects include: — Art, Design Technology, Geography, History, Music, Personal Social Health and Citizen Education, Physical Education, Religious Education and Languages (French). We believe that every child should have equal access to learning regardless of gender, disability, or cultural background. We aim to provide equal opportunity of learning throughout our curriculum.
Our curriculum is designed to ensure:
Children have access to a broad and rich curriculum, make cross curricular links and see the bigger picture.
Children achieve their academic potential and have secured strong basic maths and English skills in line with National Curriculum expectation which can be used to solve problems.
Recognise and develop creative skills.
Children have the confidence to know that they can achieve anything they put their mind to, the sky is the limit with a good education but to achieve their aspiration hard work is also essential.
Children are able to communicate in formal and social situations. They will value friendship and the variety of safe relationships in which they interact.
Children are able to assess risk and take risks — they will know that sometime life has disappointment but have resilience to be able to bounce back.
Children will know how to keep themselves healthy both physically and emotionally.
Children will be aware of the benefits of technology but will not be constrained by it.
Children will have experienced the rich cultural diversity on their doorstep and want to know more about the cultures and languages of our world, particularly those relevant to our community.
Children will learn to interact socially with different groups and cultures and communicate effectively, including respecting everybody’s views.
Children leave the school with happy memories of learning and children will want to continue their education and love learning.
In addition to the outline of coverage given in this prospectus, the school website publishes long-term plans and medium term plans* for each year group.
*These are evolving documents.
For more information about our curriculum please visit the learning page on our website: Learning
The school’s SENCo is Mrs. Birchall. Parents are welcome to make an appointment to meet with her if they have specific concerns they wish to discuss.
Sometimes a child will need extra support. This may be educational (they may need more time to understand the work they are doing) or they may be ‘able’ and need to extend their learning. They may be experiencing behavioural or emotional problems and need support to overcome them. Children with special educational needs at both ends of the spectrum are catered for. A team of highly experienced teaching assistants support pupils in class and lead individual teaching programmes.
Children who need their work to be differentiated beyond that normally planned for the class may have an Individual Education Plan (IEP). These outline specific targets children are working towards and are drawn up in consultation with the child and parents to ensure learning is personalised to their individual needs. The IEP is reviewed regularly and parents are invited to contribute their views at the meeting and review progress. Some children have an Assess. Plan, Do, Review (ADPR) which is an ongoing document detailing strategies to overcome barriers as well as cognitive targets.
The school website publishes our ‘Local Offer.’ This details the provision that may be offered to a pupil at the school with special educational needs.
Sometimes children need a short intervention to help them make progress in particular areas. This may be for aspects of their academic work or to support emotional or behavioural development. In this instance, parents are informed and invited to discuss the intervention with the class teacher, the teaching assistant leading the intervention or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo). Sometimes children need very specific support; teachers work in close liaison with outside agencies such as the Educational Psychologist or specialist outreach teachers who provide guidance and extra tuition when needed. Any additional provision is always fully discussed with parents. All additional provision is mapped so that it is tailored to individual needs. A copy of the school’s SEND policy is on the website and available from the school office.
Pastoral Care and Discipline
Code of Conduct
We have very few rules at Almond Hill and those we do have are concerned chiefly with safety, the happiness of the child and preparing for life in society. We follow a simple code of conduct. At Almond Hill we take pride in our school and respect the environment we work in. We are a community who cares for each other. To achieve our aims, we work in close partnership with parents and seek your support in helping us achieve them.
We are silent when the teacher is talking.
We follow instructions immediately.
We let others get on with their work.
We respect each other.
We are safe.
Our aim is to help children achieve self-discipline. Children are expected to be polite and respect other people’s views and their belongings. Good behaviour is recognised and praised. Breaches of behaviour are dealt with firmly and fairly through a clear policy of procedures which are published in all classes. We follow the Hertfordshire STEPs approach to behaviour. Bullying, either verbal or physical, which intends to threaten or intimidate is not acceptable at Almond Hill. The school’s anti-bullying policy is published on the school website. Also, available from the school office are the school’s policy for preventing and dealing with racist behaviour and the school policy for promoting race equality and equal opportunity.
Whilst children get on well and play co-operatively, there are times when they have disputes or things go wrong, and they need adult support at play times. We also have ‘play leaders’ who run structured games for their own year group each day supported by a teaching assistant and overseen by Miss Simmons and peer mediators who help younger pupils manage minor conflict.
Our team of teaching assistants are there to help any child who has a particular problem. In addition, the school has a supervised Friendship Room that any child may access if they are feeling lonely or have had a fall out with their friends. This is supervised by a member of our pastoral support team.
We appreciate that for some children they may find it difficult to express concerns, particularly when they are new to us. Therefore, each class has a ‘worry box’ where children may post any concern. They are checked regularly by the class teacher and issues discussed in class.
Children may need some additional support to manage their behaviour. In this case a member of our pastoral support team may work with your child in partnership with you.
Almond Hill 'Steps Approach'
Hertfordshire Steps is the local authority’s preferred approach to supporting positive behaviour management in schools and settings. The Steps approach forms part of the authority’s behaviour strategy. It has been agreed through the SEND Executive and forms part of Hertfordshire’s Local Offer.
Meet Miya — Our School Dog
Miya works children across the school, and she has a really positive impact on those who meet her. The children are learning about respecting life and animals and this encourages respect towards teachers, their peers and parents. Miya has a beneficial effect on the wellbeing of the children and for those who work closely with her, it fosters a sense of responsibility.
We do ask for parental consent before children work with Miya.
For more information on our pastoral care and the interventions we offer please click here.
A continuous process of assessment enables teachers to plan work matched to the child’s ability and to set targets and challenges for further development.
Assessment may be formative: to plan the next stage in learning; diagnostic: to identify strengths and weaknesses; or summative: to summarise levels of achievement.
Children receive regular feedback from their teachers about their progress and are encouraged to evaluate their work through self and peer assessment.
At the start of a lesson the ‘learning objective’ is shared with the children to explain the focus and context of the learning.
Verbal / Written Feedback
We believe the best feedback is as immediate as possible and verbal in the lesson or individual through conferencing, and where possible teachers provide this to children on a daily basis. We teach children to be reflective of their own learning and teach them how to edit and improve their work, and the importance of verbalising and explaining their thinking.
Teachers will work with children in a variety of ways to provide feedback during lessons; they will also review all outcomes of pupil work at the end of a lesson to inform their planning. Sometimes the teacher will make a written comment in a child’s book or provide a guided task/model or writing frame to help a child secure a skill or move their learning on.
Within daily classwork children will spend some time working with a learning partner. Learning partners are selected randomly and changed regularly. Learning partners are used to engage all pupils in focused discussion about their learning — they talk to their partner to share ideas and/or to work collaboratively. For example, they may discuss what they think about a piece of writing they are studying, they might work on a problem together, or they might work together to create a descriptive sentence. The use of learning partners ensures all pupils are actively involved and able to contribute their ideas to the learning taking place.
Standard Assessment Tests are administered at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) in Maths and English and a multiplication tables check is done in Year 4. Formal tests are marked externally. In other year groups, the school uses teacher assessment combined with age-appropriate assessment materials and some additional published standardised assessment materials. Regular quizzing and retrieval activities take place to encourage recall and children are encouraged to compete against themselves to continuously seek to improve.
Attendance and Punctuality
AT ALMOND HILL JUNIOR SCHOOL, WE ASPIRE TO ALL CHILDREN HAVING 100% ATTENDANCE.
Under the Education Act, a pupil is required to attend regularly at the school where he/she is a registered pupil. Regular attendance and prompt punctuality supports pupil progress and at Almond Hill we strongly promote this expectation.
The school is obliged by law to differentiate between authorised and unauthorised absence. A letter or telephone message from a parent does not in itself authorise absence. Only if the school is satisfied as to the validity of the explanation offered by the letter or message, will the absence be authorised.
We have a school target of 96%+ for attendance. We appreciate that children are ill sometimes, but all absence is rigorously monitored by senior leaders in the school. If your child’s attendance drops to 96% or below within a half-term you will be informed by letter. If absence below 96% persists you will be invited to discuss the absences with the Head teacher, Deputy or Assistant Head.
If your child is absent, please contact the school office on 01438 233660 or firstname.lastname@example.org before 9.00am. If you do not contact the school, we will try to contact you by phone or text to ask the reason for absence. We will continue to try to contact you and this may involve a visit to your home by a senior member of staff.
If your child returns to school without a reason for absence, the school will contact you asking for parents/carers to confirm the reason for absence. If no reason for absence is received, the absence will be recorded on your child’s record as an ‘unauthorised absence’.
Absence from school will be authorised if it is for the following reasons: -
• unavoidable medical or dental appointments;
• days of religious observance;
• exceptional family circumstances, such as close family bereavement.
Please see our attendance policy on our website for full details.
Attendance falling to less than 90% shows a serious risk of underachievement and even attendance falling to 95% may present a risk of underachievement. When looked at in terms of time lost, 90% attendance means that half a day a week is missed or 4 weeks missed over the course of a school year or half a year missed over your child’s time at primary school! 100% attendance gives your child the opportunity for the greatest achievement!
Holidays in Term Time
Along with all schools in Stevenage, Almond Hill Junior School does not authorise holidays in term time. If you take your child out of school during term time it will be recorded as an unauthorised absence. Over 15 sessions unauthorised absence across a year can attract a fixed penalty notice.
Details of Fixed Penalty Notices can be found in our Attendance policy on the website.
When not to send a child to school
Details of isolation and incubation periods for infectious and contagious diseases are available from the school office. If your child is well enough to attend school, and you wish them to stay inside at playtime we appreciate you sending a letter or doctor’s certificate.
Head lice are common among children and clean, tied back hair is not immune. It is important that parents carry out regular checks on their child for head lice.
The School Day
On arrival children should make their way to the classroom doors.
Children should not arrive in the playground before this time as it is not supervised, and should not wait at the school gate before coming in to school. The gates are locked at 8.55am. Children arriving after this time must come in through the main entrance and report to the office.
8.55 am — 9.00am
9.00 am — 12.00pm
Lessons including assembly
12.00pm — 1.00pm
Year 4, 5 and 6 lunch
12.15pm - 1.15pm
Year 3 lunch
At the end of the day children leave school via their classroom doors, accompanied by their class teacher and walk to the pedestrian gate. Children are not allowed to use the main entrance. Parents or carers should meet children in year 5 and 6 at the school gate or, for children in year 3 and 4, wait outside their classroom doors. Should you be late collecting at 3.15pm children must be signed out at the main office.
For safety, children are told to always return to the office and wait inside school if the parent or carer collecting them has been delayed. Parents will need to sign their child out at the main office if they arrive late to collect them. They should never wait outside on their own. Parents with younger children must supervise them while they are waiting to collect their child and ensure they do not go near or obstruct the main automated vehicle entrance gates. Pedestrians should never enter school via the vehicle entrance.
The school office is open from 8.30am to 4.00pm. Messages may be left on the school answer phone when the office is closed. Pupil pedestrian gates are locked at 8.55am and re-opened at the end of the school day.
Registers will be completed each day at 9.00am and 1.15pm. A child who arrives after the register has closed at 9.00am is deemed as being late and arrivals after this time without adequate explanation will be classed as an unauthorised absence.
Medical appointments should be made outside of school time. Where this is not possible your child should attend school before and after the appointment.
Communication with Parents
In addition to a range of information that is published on our school website, the school publishes a weekly newsletter on Fridays.
The school uses the School Gateway text and e-mail service which will allow you to receive messages from the school and for you to be able to reply to those messages. This system allows for messages to be sent in a cost effective way. Please support the school by downloading the app so messages can be sent to you free of charge.
If you already use School Gateway to make payments, then there is nothing else you need to do.
If you haven’t yet activated your School Gateway account it is quick and easy to do. All you need are your email address and mobile number that school holds on record for you.
Download the app: If you have a smartphone, please download School Gateway from your app store (Android and iPhone).
Visit the website: www.schoolgateway.com and click on ‘New User’. You’ll receive a text message with a PIN number. Use this PIN to log into School Gateway.
We’re aiming to get all parents using the School Gateway smartphone app — please help us achieve this target. If you’re having trouble logging in, please contact the school office.
All other information and letters are published on the school website. We aim to inform parents of events in the school calendar as soon as possible. Parents should be aware the school itself sometimes has limited notice of activities pupils are invited to take part in. We aim to keep our parents fully informed of curriculum developments and events. Letters will be issued with details of specific events and these will also be published on the school website for reference.
The Special Educational Needs co-ordinator (SENCo) also has a dedicated e-mail email@example.com for parents of pupils with special needs.
Should you ever have any queries or problems relating to your child at school, we believe it is very important that they are resolved quickly. Parents are encouraged to make an appointment with the class teacher. Should you have continued concerns, please make an appointment with the Deputy Head or Assistant Head. If an issue is still not resolved, please make an appointment with the Head Teacher.
There may be occasions when we need to contact you urgently. It is very important that the office has details of how you may be contacted during the day and an emergency contact numberplus an additional 2 emergency contacts.
In September 2021, we began introducing a new parental engagement app across all classes. Seesaw is a fantastic way to see in 'real time' what your children have been learning at school. Children can share videos, photos of their work or use the creative tool to show you what they are proud of. We are really excited about Seesaw and look forward to using this as a way to communicate with parents.
Partnership with Parents and The Community
At Almond Hill, we seek to work in partnership with you to ensure you are well-informed about all aspects of the school and your child’s learning and progress. Almond Hill has a Home School Agreement which outlines what the school expects to provide for each pupil, what parents will try to do to support their child and the school, and what pupils will try to do to support their own learning. We believe the agreement unites school, parents and children.
To keep you well-informed about your child's learning we:
Invite you to a formal parent teacher interview twice each year. This may be offered remotely.
Provide you with an annual written report in the summer term.
Invite you to view your child’s work at any time after school.
Invite you to open events to see your child’s classroom and work.
Provide a year group e-mail so you can contact class teachers directly.
Invite you to contribute to school self-evaluation.
Invite parents of children with special educational needs to review meetings every term.
Invite you to parent forums and to workshops that explain aspects of school policy and developments.
Publish information about what your child has been learning through our Medium Term Plans under the learning section of our website.
Publish a weekly newsletter to inform you of school events and diary dates.
Welcome parental help which is highly valued, and we encourage volunteers to support a range of activities in the classroom (subject to safeguarding checks).
Publish a wide range of information on our school website.
Our expected uniform standards can be seen here, please support us by following our uniform expectations.
Extra Curricular Activities
At Almond Hill we believe in the all round development of the children and aim to provide a wide range of activities to encourage this. Many clubs are organised by teachers, parents and through our links with the Sporting Futures Team after school and at lunchtime. Sometimes, clubs are arranged through external providers.
Our clubs include:
Walk and Talk
Most after school clubs finish at 4:15pm. A register is taken at the start of each club and children should inform the club teacher if they are going to be absent. For children in school teams, matches are arranged after school. School concerts and plays are organised on a regular basis and rehearsals for these take place after school. Details of clubs will be published to parents and children at the start of each term.
Day outings to places of interest are arranged to support studies in the classroom.
School journey is regarded as an important feature in a child’s development. In Year 6 children are offered the opportunity to go on a residential journey. Currently, Year 6 have the opportunity to stay at Grafham Water for three days of outdoor and adventurous activities.
For those who wish to take up an instrument to further their learning, lessons are available for which a charge is made. These lessons may include: guitar and violin. All music lessons at Almond Hill combine learning with enjoyment. Music features regularly in weekly assembly, and special music concerts which are held to celebrate the children’s achievements. Parents pay for music lessons unless they are exempt (see remissions) and are expected to make a commitment of at least a year’s tuition.
Premier Education Wrap Around Care
Our wrap around care is provided by Premier Education who provide a premium Ofsted-registered wraparound care facility. They are passionate about offering high quality out-of-school-hours care for primary school children, to create an outstanding service for busy parents. Details of the courses available are published on the school website.
Only children attending Almond Hill Junior School are eligible to attend the before and after school. Provision can be booked online before 12pm on the day of the booking.
Mobile Phones: School policy allows for children in years. 5 and 6 to bring a mobile phone to school for safety reasons if they travel to and from school independently. Mobile phones must be switched off whilst on school premises and not be used during the school day.
First Aid: Recognised personnel administer first aid in school. If your child has received first aid during the school day involving a bump to the head, they will be issued with a wristband and an email will be sent to parents/carers so you are aware. Parents are always informed if more than a minor first aid injury has occurred.
Freedom of Information — Information is published on our school website or is available on request from the school office.
Charging: The school is committed to ensuring equal access to the curriculum for all pupils. The policy for charging for school activities by the Governors of Almond Hill Junior School is published on the school website.
Please watch our video about ‘The Climb’ - our school ethos. The Climb is about children striving to be top of the ‘Hill'. ‘The Climb’ helps to build on our expectations for good behaviour and self-ownership. The Climb is about the lessons you learn along the journey and not the end result.