School Development Plan 2018-2019 Part 2

Making Numbers Count!

Another area that the school is currently working on is our Mathematics attainment and progression.

Maths across the school – whilst meeting national progress targets – is one of our most challenging areas. Last year we worked at ensuring our mathematics curriculum progressed appropriately through the classes and that the children were challenged enough in class. We also looked at our  Calculation Policy – which ensured that the children are taught the same methods of calculation throughout the year. Sharing this with parents via the website and in our Parent Maths Sessions has been a key area to work on.

What we are doing:

This year our emphasis is on consistency across the school – consistency with vocabulary, expectations and resources. As such some of the teachers have already attended training looking at the different resources available and how they can be used across school. We are having a whole school maths day at Talkin Tarn – linked with the Carlisle United Community Coaches who will be supporting us with orienteering and direction work. We are continuing to emphasise mental calculation methods – using Times Table Rock Star from Year 2 onwards – and asking our our older children to solve more calculations with mental methods.

What you can do:

Your help is vital for this; the children all have maths targets which detail what they are working on in class. For example in reception it may be about recognising and ordering numbers up to 20 whilst in Year 4 it may be about knowing all of their times tables by heart. Homework as they go through school will also help the children to reinforce learning at home.




School Development Plan 2018 – 2019 (Part 1)

As we settle in to a new school year we always take time to review the successes of last year and explore what we could do better in the year to come. Alongside usual school improvement areas such as attainment of pupils and maintaining our high behaviour expectations we have a different things each year that we, as a school community of staff and governors have highlighted.

One area we are working on this year is handwriting. 

Why handwriting? Well – believe it or not, handwriting has to be a certain standard by the end of Key Stage 2 for the children to be deemed as ‘secondary ready’ – namely they should be able to ‘maintain legibility when writing at speed’.  In addition the national curriculum states that pupils should be taught to ‘use the diagonal and horizontal strokes that are needed to join letters and understand which letters, when adjacent to one another, are best left unjoined’.

What will we be doing?  We have agreed on a standard scheme to use in order to ensure that we all teach handwriting in the same manner and that we all have high expectations of handwriting from the children. We will be using the widely-recognised ‘PenPals‘ from Cambridge Education.

Information for Parents can be found here.

How you can help: Take a look at the information above (which is split into each year group) – this gives you some idea as to what the teacher will cover and the expectations for your child. This way when they are writing at home you can gently encourage the joins and letter formation that we will be working on. Of course, please don’t out your child off writing – sometimes it is better to be thinking creatively and get ideas down and then worry about handwriting later! We always love to see any extra work done at home as well!



Getting Ready for September!

Last week we held two days in school where the children moved into the new class and spent the morning with their new teacher. There are no changes to the teaching staff structure next year, and so for many of the children it is not a new teacher, merely a new year group with new challenges and new opportunities. Some children may have a few anxieties about next year, and we work to allay these.

For the younger children – those moving from Class 1 into Class 2 – Mr Kirby will be a familiar figure. Class 1 and Class 2 work together regularly over the year as this supports the Reception children in becoming used to the formal learning before Year 1. It also offers Year 1 the chance to experience the more familiar continuous provision and so support the development of interests and self confidence. We are looking to build on this successful work next year – exploring more continuous provision in Class 2.

For Class 3 and Class 4 they maintain their now familiar routine. Class 4 will keep Ms Stacey in the morning, with Mrs Buchanan as a Teaching Assistant, and Class 3 will keep Mr Tyrrell with support from Mrs McNeil. Key Stage 2 will continue to be supported by Sports Teacher Mr Burns next year as well and we also hope to build on a successful sports partnership with Carlisle United. Ben Draper will continue to provide choir and music support.

In the meantime we also have a few dates for your diary – the children return back to school on Tuesday September 4th and we have a ‘Meet the Teacher’ time on Wednesday 5th September at 4pm.

As usual, if you have any questions do get in touch!


It’s that time of year again….

Each year we ask our Year 5 and 6 children about their aspirations… What would they like to do when they grow up? What are they interested in and what kind of careers would they like to find out about? Our Aspirations program has meant that we have welcomed people from around the country into school to talk about their work and how they got into their careers. From electricians to farmers; animators to fashion designers – our pupils are always interested in how people made their career choices!

And.. every year we need your help.. 

This year we are looking for another huge range of jobs and careers:

  • Game Designers
  • Butcher
  • Author
  • Dancer
  • Marine Biologist
  • Artist (thinking of painting and drawing)
  • Working in construction
  • Mechanic
  • Equestrian work

Or any other careers that you think our pupils may find interesting!


If you can help please get in touch with the school – 01228670393 or email



Times Table (Rock) Stars!

Over the half-term you may have read the news that the government are to introduce a new, online, check for our Year 4 children to check their times table knowledge.

I thought I would offer our perspective on these tests:

Maths is important to us here at Castle Carrock. Outdoor Maths is one of our key curriculum drivers and we regularly invite parents in to see us teach maths!

Maths is, of course, a big subject and we appreciate there’s more to it than times tables and there’s more to times tables than learning them off by heart. However, a lot of the rich, interesting maths is all about the multiplicative relationships and these are hard to fully grasp without fluent recall of the tables. For that reason, learning the tables is fundamental – they are a key facilitator to the maths that sits on top. We’ve always believed that – this is why we use Times Table Rock Star and why, every day in Key Stage 2, your children already do timed daily tests.

We’re not worried about the checks and it wasn’t a surprise. In fact, we’re in favour of the checks because it’s always good to sharpen practice across the education sector and this is a useful lever to get schools to do that. We’re already in a good place with learning the tables and the expectations are in line with the National Curriculum so it’s business as usual for us.

The checks will not be compulsory until 2020 so current year 2s will be the first cohort to do them when they’re in year 4. We have the option of volunteering the current year 3s to do the checks in 2019 – which we will probably do so we get to see the set-up!

The results of the test are not published publicly, they’re not going to end up on a league table and they’re not to worry about. There’s no pass or fail, there’s just a score out of 25 marks (or 20). They’re not to be used to compare children, they’re for us to reflect on so that we make the most of our provision. We’re actually looking forward to seeing how well we do.

The checks consist of 25 questions (possibly only 20, depending on government trials later this year). The questions will only be multiplication and they will go up to 12×12.

The checks are all about remembering the multiplication facts. That doesn’t mean we’ll forget all about the concepts, patterns, structures and relationships in multiplication. We’re going to be learning those too, partly because they go hand in hand with excellent recall.

Given that the questions are relatively simple, age appropriate and the length of the check, which is carried out on a computer, is under 5 minutes, we don’t think the checks are onerous.

Tests in themselves don’t cause anxiety. It’s the perceived cost of not doing well. For that reason, we will actively downplay the checks with the pupils. The only thing that will stress the children is if we repeatedly refer to the checks in class or at home, even casually in front of them when they’re not supposed to be listening. This is the same for all tests, checks and SATs here in school. Our children are in Primary school and we are preparing them for ther next stage of schooling.

Please support your child in learning their times tables at home – they have access to Times Table Rockstar, and there is a leaflet in school that was sent home last term about times tables. Many of our children will have a maths target this term linked to times tables.

If you want to know more, just ask your class teacher!