This week, Camden Learning hosted the first Primary Chairs’ Network meeting; the purpose of the reformed network meetings are to provide an opportunity for chairs to meet and discuss issues of concern with each other, share best practice and identify possible areas for cooperation. The first theme agreed by the steering group, focused on the rising levels of need in pupils entering Nursery and Reception, and the impact this has on schools and the role of governors in supporting heads and staff.

As part of the discussion, recent guidance from the DfE was sent around for some pre-meeting reading titled, ‘Improving the home learning environment-A behaviour change approach’. It begins by focusing on the fact that nationally, 28% of children leave the Foundation Stage without the communication and literacy skills they need to thrive. Oli Knight Headteacher, who spoke at the Deputy/ Assistant Heads conference last week, outlined and talked about the barriers to disadvantage, which highlighted that children from professional families know 1100 words by the age of 3, compared to 525 words for a child from a family receiving benefits; the research also compared the engagement in verbal interactions, whereby a child from professional families has three times as many as a child from a family receiving benefits.

The governors’ discussion was rich and covered a wide range of associated issues, which impact on the presenting needs of children entering school. Quite rightly, we challenged each other about not being excuse driven or having low expectations, however, we did discuss earlier and more complex SEND identification, family/ parent support and of course the area of speech and language. We tried to remain positive around the challenge that exists, recognising the tremendous job our schools and nurseries do with the families and children that arrive at our Camden schools. The strategies that are already in place in our schools to combat some of the barriers for disadvantage include; all teachers are teachers of language, a culture of oracy exists (e.g. full sentences), system of meaningful rewards, tackle the behaviour not the child and the library is at the heart of the school. I attach the DfE report for your perusal.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director, Camden Learning

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