12 October 2018

Parents Communication Working Group (PCWG) meeting 5/10/18

The PCWG met last Friday 5th October with about 25 parents in attendance.

Plans for the Trust and Cypress Primary this year: The school are still continuing the work on HR, training and premises improvement. Upper school kitchen is complete and the facilities team are now working on improving the Reception outdoor area. School funding for the year ahead is a serious concern due to a combination of factors (e.g. salary/NI/pension contribution increases which have to come from existing budgets; reduction in eligibility for pupil premium). No fixed term contracts were renewed last year and the Trust have made all possible efficiency savings.  The group discussed how parents could support and the leadership are speaking to the PTFA.  Archbishop Lanfranc is no longer joining the Trust due to cultural differences with integrating ways of working – the Trust is now open to another school joining the Trust if a suitable local school was identified.

The meeting discussed the delay in setting up online accounts (e.g. library logins): a technical problem with the uplink to the Capita servers from the school’s system prevented the accounts being automatically created at the start of the school year. This fault could only be resolved by Capita and despite escalation by the school was not fixed until the end of Sept. This process can’t be initiated until Sept 1st as SIMS (the school information management system) does not allow children to be moved into their new year group until then, meaning the admin prep can’t be done during holidays.

New school year communications: Parents asked why information shared in curriculum meetings was not shared at the beginning of the year. This has not been raised previously and will be fed back at academy council. A parent also asked why parents’ evenings were held early in the term as teachers had had limited time to get to know children; this is to give early knowledge of targets, to have an opportunity to meet teachers and for parents to share any information they want teachers to be aware of.

MagicBooking issues: Suzanne Christopher (SC) apologised for the inconvenience and frustration caused by the MagicBooking (MB) fault when booking activity clubs. The trust had persisted in multiple attempts in fixing it as PAT had used MB for previous two years without problems and had been assured each time by the MB team that the problem had been identified and fixed. The eventual alternative of manual booking via text took a significant amount of time and was not straightforward for parents so it would have been preferable to use MB if the fault had been fixed. The fault related to a maintenance upgrade on 15th Sept – it was only evident under load by multiple users so was difficult to test and required working with Microsoft (who host MB) to resolve. Other payments on MB have worked well – ad hoc wraparound care booking, early years payments, lunch payments etc – and the team has provided good service previously, so the Trust believe it is still the right system to use despite this. Ecclesbourne and Beulah were due to book activity clubs via MB last weekend which would be a test that the issues were fixed, and that was successful. MB have apologised and their letter is here.

Activity club provision: Parents were concerned about lack of places for clubs, but only 8 children didn’t get a club they requested, and 4 of those were given spaces in alternative clubs. Not all clubs were full, and board games had to be cancelled due to lack of demand, though some were very popular (archery and textiles). SC had worked with providers to add extra spaces, and subsidised some clubs at an overall cost of £1200. The Trust had previously provided activity clubs free of charge until school funding pressures made this unaffordable. A parent commented that some parents may have given up after the first couple of booking attempts, so this may not fully reflect the demand, which was acknowledged. Adding a TA to a club wasn’t necessarily an answer to increase capacity, as where clubs are run by outside providers public liability insurance covers them for a certain number of children. Also, some specialist clubs (e.g. archery) need specialist support so need someone with particular skills.

Allocation of places at activity clubs: Returning to paper forms isn’t a viable option as the admin required behind the scenes (to process payments etc) is substantial and there isn’t the resource to do this and manage existing workloads. The ;first past the post; paper system was also unfair to working parents, who couldn’t bring their forms in that day. A lottery system for clubs was discussed – this also is complex to administer so would have to be implemented on MagicBooking rather than using paper forms. It is a change from the way clubs are currently processed (payment at the point of booking) so would need detailed consideration to make sure it doesn’t introduce new problems, but it will be considered.

Music lessons: The school is discussing with music teachers how to coordinate arrangements for these, but currently bookings are still made directly with teachers. Parents asked whether whole class lessons were feasible (e.g. for ukulele) – a teacher may be available within the Trust so funding for instrument purchase will be discussed with the PTFA.

Holiday childcare: it was very positive that this had been able to run in the summer holidays, as the Trust have aimed to run a scheme in previous years but had insufficient demand to make it viable. Between 15 and 34 children attended each day; feedback had been positive and the trip to Godstone Farm was praised. The Trust plan to run a scheme in the Easter and Summer holidays this academic year and a parent suggested that this should be publicised well in advance.  Bookings are now open for the Easter scheme on MagicBooking.

After school supervision: Leadership asked parents to spread the word to ask that a closer eye be kept on children playing after school, as teachers had reported seeing some potentially dangerous incidents due to lack of supervision (e.g. children running on top of the reception equipment cupboards in the playground).

Parent volunteer support: Many parents have skills/expertise/knowledge which could be of use to the school and would like to offer help. Setting up a register of parent availability plus skills/expertise was discussed, coordinated by parents to avoid a management overhead being placed on the school – will set up a separate meeting to discuss. Existing volunteer schemes (e.g. reading aunties) were mentioned and volunteer help to run forest school sessions suggested.

Next meeting is Friday 30th November at 9:15 in the lower site community room – all welcome!





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Published on 12th October, 2018

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