Author Archives: Cilla James

Head’s Blog – 31st March 2023

It has been a very busy week here at Clearwell! A group of children chose to attend a gymnastics competition at the Forest of Dean Gymnastics Centre organised by Lynn Hammersley. We competed against Ellwood Primary school and the children were an absolute credit to themselves and our school. All of the children received a participation certificate and some chocolate. The highest scoring gymnasts (male and female, KS1 and KS2) were also given an Easter Egg. Clearwell did really well with this, Teddy, Victoria & Lily (joint first) and Harry all received an Easter Egg. Lynn generously had a “lucky dip” gift for three of the entrants, Bea and Zara won two of these. I am so very proud of all of these children as they were living out our vision of being “Life-long learners”. A parent also sent in these words which I wanted to share:

I just wanted to send an email to say how impressed I was with the children who took part in the gymnastics competition! It’s one thing to try something completely new, and another to then take that new activity and perform in front of a crowd of people! It takes a lot of guts to perform in front of other people, and even when nerves seemed to get the better of some of the gymnasts, they continued to perform to the best of their abilities and behaved in a very professional and sportsmanlike manner! 

We also had our Easter Service which was fully organised by the teaching staff. As always, the service was a delight, with our children performing with varying amounts of confidence. We feel it is important that every child has the opportunity to speak in our celebrations as it is part of our vision for them to be confident communicators. We have seen so many children develop their confidence through our learning provision and ethos. Thank you to all of the families and members of the community that came to join us in this celebration – you are always welcome.

Sewing club have created a large range of items this term, practising different stitches. Thank you to Mrs Peters and Mrs McKelvey for running this club and filling the children’s sewing with Easter goodies!

The school council requested that Key Stage Two children get to participate in Welly Walk – this is an activity for all of our EYFS and KS1 children as elements of their curriculum are delivered in this way. As usual, we do our best to fulfill their requests; on Thursday the whole school went on Welly Walk. They had a fabulous time.

The children have also been part of the process in the selection of new play equipment for the rec. KS2 children were shown the different designs and Mrs McBean and Charlie Rose came in today to discuss their thoughts and gather their opinions. It is great opportunity for them to influence the area where they get to play. The children have chosen the company which has an ethos and reputation for their materials being sustainable. They have requested for play equipment that enables access for all, including a hard service for wheel chair users. The next step will be to raise over £100,000 – watch this space!

The dojo shop was open today with children exchanging their dojo points (positive rewards given in school). They love this shop! Thank you to Mrs Williams for sorting this out for the children.

Mrs Tarry has been extremely busy over the last couple of weeks with us having a number of audits before I leave. These have been in Finance, Health and Safety and Safeguarding. I am extremely grateful for the amount of work she put in to prepare for and be part of these audits. I am pleased to say that all three audits confirmed that best practice is in place at Clearwell. The Safeguarding audit was particularly pleasing as the quick feedback was that we are “Sound as a pound” as Clearwell has an ethos conducive to excellent safeguarding.

The week has been a very strange one for me as it is my last one the Headteacher at Clearwell Primary school and the last one as a teacher. I have been working with and at Clearwell for six years as I was appointed in March 2017 and have been teaching for 25 years. I am going to work at the Local Authority and will be the Inclusion Lead for the Forest of Dean and Gloucester. Inclusion is something that I am passionate about as I believe that every child deserves the chance to be the best version of themselves possible – sometimes needed an extra helping hand to make this possible.

My time at Clearwell has been brilliant! There have been some challenging times alongside the joyous occasions but I have always done my very best to put the children in our school at the centre of decision making. I am going to miss the staff; the children; the families and the community of Clearwell so much. It has been a huge part of my life for the last 6 years. Thank you to those who have welcomed me into this community and supported me in my journey as Headteacher of our village school. There are way too many people to thank individually, but I hope that you know who you are – I do try to make sure people know when I am grateful. As I tell the children, “treat others as you like to be treated!” I also want to say thank you to those people who have contributed to the gifts that I received during the Easter service. Just in case you do not know what your kind donations went to I had some Lego flowers (I LOVE Lego!), a spa day for two and afternoon tea for two. There were also some fabulous gifts made by the children, a book of memories (these will make me shed some tears!) and some bunting where they had all drawn me. Absolutely perfect.

I usually like to write personalised thank you letters to anyone that gives a gift to me but I have been bombarded with flowers, wine and other gifts this morning and I am not 100% sure who has given me what, so please forgive me for this generic thank you! The cards with your thanks on definitely need a mascara warning!

I am confident that the team at Clearwell will continue to put children at the centre of decision making as they are absolutely superb. The school is in an excellent place, with a dedicated team of people who all share the same values and ethos. These will be ably led by Rachel Griffiths until September. The recruitment process is on-going for the substantial Headteacher and the Vice Chair of Governors – Dr Laura Price – will keep you informed of this.

Our Celebrations

Head’s Blog – 24th March 2023

What a hectic week in school this week. The children have been practising for their gymnastics competition next week and we were also able to invite parents in to watch the violin concert. I was amazed at how well they have learnt to play different tunes and read music in only 9 weeks. This shows how good a teacher Ms McFarlane is and how determined the children are to learn. I really hope some of them take up the lessons being offered in Cinderford – they have had a flyer about it.

A message from Mrs Stirrup – Thank you to all those who came and supported year 3 and 4 violin concert they were incredible, I hope your child has enjoyed their experience learning a new instrument. Thank you once again for your continued support.  

Mental Health and wellbeing is fundamental to us all. This week in our wellbeing lesson our focus was top talents and thinking out how everyone has an area they really shine in. To encourage positive thinking we made medals with positive words and phrases on then swapped with another friend in our class.

Our Celebrations

Head’s Blog – 17th March

Lots of exciting learning taking place this week in school. We have also been carrying out some assessments with children’s reading. If you ask any child in our school they know that assessments are there to show us what they know and what the teachers need to teach still. We love this ethos as it shows children that assessments are not to be feared but instead a time to celebrate and use for planning. Over the last couple of weeks Mrs Williams has been using YARC (a standardised National Test) to review reading progress. It assesses accuracy, reading rate and comprehension. We were absolutely blown away with the progress made by children. This shows that the fluency practice that we do daily in class, along with the comprehension activities are all working. The biggest improvement in children’s “reading ages” is when they read regularly (and the converse when they don’t read regularly). Mrs Knight takes some children individually and listens to them every day as part of our reading offer. She is incredible and has worked wonders with the confidence and the ability of them. Thank you Mrs Knight, you have gone over and above what we asked you to do in your remit as a Reading Partner.

You will start to notice a different style in the weekly blog as classes are making their own contributions, so not all of the information is coming from me now. I am not losing it by using the incorrect pronouns!

There is a new display up showing the incredible observational drawing from Years 1 and 2.

This week in Oak Class we have been using our 3D Art Sculpture lessons to make tulips for our Mother’s Day cards.  We looked at the bulbs we planted earlier in the year and were so please with how they have grown.  We made them into special gifts for our mums.

Every day Mrs Thomas provides us with a lovely selection of fruit and vegetables for our morning snack. It always looks and tastes delicious – thank you Mrs Thomas!

At Clearwell we like to see ourselves as writers, using a short video clip as stimulus year 3 and 4 have written narratives using the title The Lighthouse. They have all written fantastic stories budding authors in the making. 

We have also been busy dissecting flowers to learn about functions of plants, we love a practical science lesson where we use our working scientifically skills. 

They have also been busy preparing for their violin concert which year 3 and 4 parents are welcome to attend , concert will begin at 11.40.  They sound superb ! 

It has also been Comic relief today and we have talked about what it means to be a Courageous Advocates. All of KS2 wrote their reasons for making a donation and wearing something that makes them smile. Maci announced the winner of the “Guess how many sweets in the jar” competition – Mrs Williams was very happy! This competition raised an extra £30 toward Maci’s charity work for endangered animals.

Our Celebrations

Maci in year 3 was a Top Learner for her swimming.

Head’s Blog – 10th March 2023

The snow didn’t stop our adventures this week, although we were a bit worried about the bus turning up but it did arrive, albeit a bit late! First stop was the Reception and KS1 children who went to Bristol Suspension Bridge to learn about the Significant Individual Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the impact that he had on numerous engineering projects. They also go to be engineers and design and create a bridge. With some adult support (some of them are only 4!) they were able to create some create structures. You can see by the look on their faces how proud they were!

Years 3 and 4 have written their own blog entry:

It has been a busy week in Willow 1. On Wednesday, we went to Bristol museum to find out more about the Ancient Egyptians. We saw mummified cats, a sarcophagus and clay jewellery. It was awesome!

Years 5 and 6 had an excellent trip to the M-Shed in Bristol, where they took part in a workshop about the migration of the Anglo- Saxons to Britain. They also enjoyed the interactive exhibits during a tour of the Museum. They were brilliantly behaved during their trip and a real credit to our school. 

Other learning has taken place this week including some hands on Science. The children in Reception have been exploring herbs.  The cut up mint, basil and coriander and mixed them with water to make ‘potions’. Our classroom smelt lovely! This activity encourages the children to explore the natural world through their senses, study cause and effect and to develop new vocabulary.

Earlier in the week the class competed against each other boys vs girls to learn about features of plants , the objective was to roll a dice and build a flower each flower part being associated with a number on a die. The pupils enjoyed the element of healthy competition as well as being scientists. 

Our Celebrations

Head’s Blog – 3rd March

In Oak Class, Years 1 & 2 have been learning about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as a significant individual in History.  This week they studied paintings (of the launch of the SS Great Britain), as a historical source, to make deductions about the past.   They then tried to draw an accurate picture of the ship, including lots of details.  Their work is really impressive! We will be visiting one of Brunel’s designs, Clifton Suspension Bridge as one of our adventures next week. I cannot wait to go!

Reception have been learning all about growing plants.  They have been sorting types of vegetables and had a ‘vegetable tasting’ session, which led to discussions about what they did or didn’t like.  They have also been making their own obstacle courses outside! We love to encourage children to be creative as it is a quality and skill that will service them in later life.

Years 3 and 4 jumped into their new science topic plants by Investigating what plants need to survive using the variables sunlight and water , no sunlight but water and sunlight but no water. We will observe what has happened next week where the pupils will find out if their predictions were correct.

Some of our Year 5 children took part in a Netball Tournament at Dean Academy and we are very proud of them. They represented the school well, upholding our values and playing great netball. They came second in their group and out of the 20 teams that took part over different heats, they came 7th. We are by far the smallest school to participate (although we now have 58 children in our school and still growing!) which makes their achievement even more impressive.

We have celebrated a love of books and continuing to encourage children to be readers today. We made the decision for our KS2 children to be ambassadors of reading to promote their love of reading with the KS1 children so they are working in groups of mixed ages across the entire school. As part of National World Book Day, we have discussed our favourite book and character from their book as this was the theme for children who chose to dress up.

A number of children took up the challenge to read in an unusual place. Our winners were pictured on a slide and on a climbing wall. They both receive a £10 book voucher. Here are the competition entries.

We also took the time to participate in some Paired Reading, drew some maps of books and designed a book token for a competition. A very busy and exciting day celebrating books.

Our Celebrations

Head’s Blog – 17th February 2023

As we approach half term, a week later than normal we have had a busy one! We are very proud that one of our children is being a Courageous Advocate. Following our whole class reading about Endangered Animals, Maci decided that she wanted to raise money to support endangered animals and their habitats. She is going to do a sponsored litter pick around the forest, with the main pick planned for the Easter Holidays. Below is a link to her Just Giving Page, where the chosen charity is “The World Land Trust”.

In addition to this, she is going to organise a “Guess how many sweets in the jar” competition at school to raise more money. This will be launched in school after half term. We are very proud of Maci, it shows how someone young can make a difference.

Our school council changes twice a year to give more children the opportunity to take a leadership role. During the new election earlier this week, one of the school council members explained to others what they had achieved during their tenure; they were very surprised and pleased with themselves.

Our School Council

Here are some of the things that have been implemented that the previous school council had requested:

  • A quiet place to colour and read on the decking – a colouring box has been put together for children to take out and use
  • Further rewards for pupils living out our vision – Golden time once a week for all pupils in school who do this (different goals dependent on the year groups
  • KS2 pupils to be able to use the garden more – changed break time for KS2 to allow this to happen
  • Pupils to run clubs – Year 5 and 6 children run their own clubs (with adult supervision). These include Worship, Environment, Colouring, Doodle, Microbit coding, Jewellery making and Singing club
  • Raise money for charities – Children in Need collected for so far

We often get asked what we do all day at school, well earlier this week Mrs Tarry and I got down on our hands and knees to clean all of the silt out of the acos. All glamour in this job!

Whatever the weather at Clearwell the Reception (and KS1) children have access to indoor and outdoor continuous provision. It enables them to develop as individuals and build lots of skills and have mini adventures.

We like to inspire children to pursue interests after they have left our school so we give them opportunities to learn different skills. Below are some images of the year 3 and 4 learning the violin, they sound great and will be performing a mini concert to parents in March.

We are really looking forward to our next adventure in Bristol when we come back after half term. In preparation for this Mrs Peters has created a new area of her continuous provision about Brunel which is challenging children to inventors, engineers and designers! This classroom is so inspiring, thank you Mrs Peters.

Today, years 5 and 6 had Ben from Big Pit visit us to give a Workshop on coal, the Industrial Revolution and the impact this had on migration. They got to be historians by looking at artefacts and working what this tells us about the period of time in which it derives from. We also got to smell different items that people would have experienced during that time. A couple of children got to dress up, Evan Evans took his Tommy box with his bread, cheese and a jug of beer to drink down the mine and his wife, Blodwyn Evans worked as a Screener.

Ben has been researching Henrietta Franklyn who worked in the mines as a child and she was born in Newland. She was interviewed and appears in the1842 children’s employment Commissioners report as one of the witnesses. Paige even got to record Henrietta’s testimony from the report which will form part of a new workshop at Big Pit. What an experience! We have been offered to visit the pit and experience the workshop free of charge when it has been completed.

Years 3 and 4 have been making rainbow vegetable tarts as part of their Design Technology. They have been cutting and chopping using vegetables.

Our Celebrations

Head’s Blog – 10th February 2023

Just as we were all getting used to slightly warmer weather, the temperature has dropped again. Although, the sunshine and blue skies have been welcomed and always brightens our day. The British seasons and weather are always a conversation starter! Reception and Key Stage one learn about the different seasons on their weekly Welly Walks and have also been choreographing their own dances to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. This week they were mirroring each others moves. It is a joy to watch them smile and get lost in the music.

More hands-on Science has been taking place in UKS2 where they have been using resources from Dene Magna to investigate filtration.

Lots of our children demonstrated their swimming skills this week, earning both 5 and 10m badges. For many of our children, COVID meant that they didn’t swim or have had the opportunity since to learn this essential life-long skill. We are very proud of the determination shown to start on their journey to being a swimmer. Below is a photograph of some our Y2 children who got badges, they are so proud of themselves.

Our Celebrations

Head’s Blog – 3rd February 2023

This week has seen some of years 5 and 6 completing their Bikeability course to support them to safely ride their bikes to school. This can be challenging when your playground has a rather steep incline but fortunately the roads in Clearwell are relatively flat so they could train out in the village. Even the most experienced bike riders improved their practice and for those less experienced there was a huge improvement in their ability to cycle safely on the roads. As we all aim to reduce our carbon footprint, it is brilliant that these children can now ride their bikes safely to school. Now we just need a bike rack installed to store them in during the day!

Not wanting to be left out in learning essential life-long skills, four of our year 2 children have been awarded their 5m badges at swimming. This is often the most challenging as it is a brand new skill to acquire. Well done to Victoria, Lacey, Matilda and Réne – badges can be collected from the pool next time!

As part of learning that some materials will dissolve in liquid to form a solution, and describe how to recover a substance from a solution, years 5 and 6 have been carrying out an investigation using a range of household products. Lots of fun and learning was had by all! Filtration next week using resources lent by Dene Magna Science Department – thank you Mr Derrick.

Our Celebrations

Roman was a Top Learner for his hard work in phonics and reading.

Head’s Blog – 26th January

Reception children have been continuing their learning about animals and also lots of key skills to aid their development. One of which being making bracelets and necklaces, which supports their fine motor skills which will build finger strength which will help them with their writing. All of this and they end up with a beautiful adornment!

Years 2 to 6 have been swimming this week. The progress that children make so quickly is incredible, with many children learning to swim for the first time with school. This is what makes it so important that we continue to take children swimming, even though we have had to adapt our pattern to fortnightly hour long lessons, instead of weekly 30 minute lessons. The cost of transport has made this change necessary but fortunately we have been able to adapt without having a negative impact on the learning experience.

KS1 have been creating a winter dance to Vivaldi’s “Winter” from the Four Seasons. This exposes them to a different type of music to what they might ordinarily listen too as well as give them the opportunity to express themselves in a physical form. In Science they have learnt about different types of garden flowers and then had the opportunity to draw their own interpretation of a beautiful flower garden. The outcomes are fabulous.

It has been a Non-Chronological report focus in KS1 and LKS2. KS1 have been learning about The Gambia and years 3 and 4 have been writing about Pugs. What I find particularly impressive is for the year 3 and 4 children shown below English is their second language. They have only been living in England for one or two years, respectively. This progress is simply phenomenal as they couldn’t speak English when they came. I am in awe of these children.

Years 5 and 6 have been investigating magnetism in science this week. Our intent is for science to be as hands on as possible, whilst ensuring that the key learning is central to the activity.

Our key focus for PE, other than swimming, has been dance this term. In KS2 they have tried a range of styles including ballet, jazz, hip hop and today line dancing. The hope is, is that we inspire children to find a style that they love and take it up outside of school.

Next week is Bikeability for a number of our UKS2, please can parents ensure that they have returned the forms and that the bikes are in good working order. Helmets must be worn. Thank you.

Our Celebrations

We listened to Betty read her poem, about Spring, which was inspired by Welly Walk and some wonderful arts and crafts.

Head’s Blog – 20th January 2023

As promised here are a small selection of the photographs taken at Young Voices on Friday night. They had the most spectacular time, where the adults reported the children’s faces being lit up with excitement. For many of our children it was their first experience of attending a big venue like the The Resorts World Arena; being part of the show made it even more special. At Clearwell, our vision is well and truly living and breathing as this adventure of a lifetime shows. Many famous performers have been part of the choir at YV and who knows maybe one of our children could follow a similar path. We tell our children that they can be anything that they want to be and never quash their dreams.

As always, there have been lots of exciting learning opportunities this week. Reception children have been learning about camouflage, predators and prey as well as construction. KS1 have been learning the dragon dance as it is Chinese New Year. Years 3 & 4 have been been practising their violin playing, courtesy of Gloucester Music who come in every week. Years 5 & 6 have been planning and carrying out an investigation relating to insulation and the impact of different materials.

In staff news, Miss Warr has decided that she will not be returning to Clearwell after her maternity leave. We would like to thank her for the impact she had on the learning of our pupils at Clearwell, especially during Lockdown when she went over and above her job description. We wish her well with her family and best wishes for her upcoming nuptials.

As you will know, Mrs Ridgway has been covering in Reception and we are extremely lucky that she has loved our school so much she wants to stay! We are delighted as she is an exceptional practitioner and brings so much expertise to our school.

Our Celebrations