National School Meal Week 2022 – an interview with the Trust Catering manager

Andrew Rigby

This week is National School Meals Week so we took the opportunity to speak with Trust Catering Lead, Dee Formby. LACA are focusing on ‘green issues’ with NSMW running at the same time as COP27.

LACA - the school food people; are focusing on ‘green issues’ with NSMW running at the same time as COP27. School caterers across the country are working hard to lessen the impact the industry has on the planet and that is certainly the case for REAchEat, our Academy Trust’s in house school food provision.

For #NSMW22 our CEO, Cathie Paine, caught up with Dee Formby, Trust catering Lead.

Dee Formby

I know you believe passionately that all children should be eating a healthy school meal – tell me a bit more about this and your vision for school food. What should all REAch2 schools be able to provide?

School meals are more than food on a plate. The advantages of our children having a healthy, satisfying meal at school are far reaching. Whether it be for their own health or their reaching their potential at school, we should be striving to show them and their families that the food served at school is tasty, exciting and a part of their school experience.

There’s no doubt about it, the tastes of children are not the same as ours. Food that we think is great / traditional does not always translate into empty plates and uptake figures. Careful analysis of current meal uptake helps shape future menus, collaboration with catering teams and our children ensures that each school, whilst part of our Trust, has a menu that meets the individual requirements of the school and their children.

girl at salad bar picking food to eat

You have been a real driving force behind community fridges. For those in the Trust who may not be aware of this scheme can you give us the highlights?

The community fridge scheme launched in 2019 at Unity Primary Academy along with another 4 schools who took part in the pilot. Working with Amica CDA, the generous sponsor of the scheme, 16 schools across the trust now benefit from a Community Fridge with a waiting list available for any school from the trust interested in taking part.

Locally, schools are working with supermarkets and Fare Share’s national network of charitable food redistributors alongside their own surplus of healthy portioned meals, direct from the school kitchen.

Fridges are positioned carefully in discreet areas away from crowded corridors and are free from any potential stigma or data collection. Beccles Academy is our flagship school, who took the mission of the Community Fridge and developed a robust support structure within the school, including second hand uniforms, toys, books, a swap shop and even a parent cafe twice a week.

a boy eating lunch at school

The theme for NSMW 2022 is ‘Go Green School Lunch’. Are there any schools that you can highlight that have introduced more sustainable practices in their school meal provision such as ‘Meat Free Mondays’?

Reach2Eat menus are produced twice a year, featuring Meat Free Mondays and plant-based meals. We also cater for Vegans, vegetarians, dietary requirements, and lifestyle choices. Schools have already reduced their reliance on plastic containers and pots, as well as changing to recyclable cling film and the aim is for all schools to recycle plastics, tins, and food waste. This supports the Trust’s 5-year strategy which includes Sustainability goals.

Unity Primary Academy are leading the way in school meals week and taking part each day and will be joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Colchester on Friday.

An aim is to make our schools more energy efficient by upgrading their ovens, some of which require 40% less working time, use 18% less energy and reduce cost of goods by up to 15% compared to older models.

Even with rising food costs, Camulos, Sprites, Phoenix, Gunton and Beccles still use local producers of fruit and veg to supply their fruit and salad bars and the main supplier, Thomas Ridleye, are based in Suffolk.

REAch2 Academy Trust Announces New National Director of Education

Launches new era of leadership, collaboration and national connection across our family of academies

REAch2 Academy Trust is excited to announce the appointment of Andrew Rigby as their new National Director of Education, effective January 1, 2023.

"The selection of Andrew for this key position signals a bold, new era of leadership, driven by a desire for excellence in primary education, visionary innovation and collaborative working across our family of schools" said Cathie Paine, CEO. "With this appointment, we are excited to build on our touchstone values and strategic commitments in fresh and dynamic ways, to propel learning forward and continue our track record as a high-performing Multi-Academy Trust."

Mr. Rigby brings to his new position more than 20 years of progressively responsible leadership roles. This includes 10 years of senior leadership in an inner-city school and a Senior Curriculum Advisor for Excellence in Cities.

"I am thrilled, honoured, and deeply humbled to be joining an exceptional group of leaders, educators and employees within a Trust that is always aiming higher in its aspirations for children and families,” says Mr. Rigby. "I look forward to sharing my passion for how great schools can make a real difference to children’s life chances, while at the same time learning and collaborating with everyone I encounter on this exciting journey."

Andrew Rigby

"I am thrilled, honoured, and deeply humbled to be joining an exceptional group of leaders, educators and employees within a Trust that is always aiming higher in its aspirations for children and families,” says Mr. Rigby. "I look forward to sharing my passion for how great schools can make a real difference to children’s life chances, while at the same time learning and collaborating with everyone I encounter on this exciting journey."

Andrew Rigby

Mr. Rigby is currently the Director of Excellence and Standards at REAch2. Prior to that he was Regional Director for 16 schools across London, Kent, Suffolk and Sussex, a role he took up after 6 years in headship.

The Death of Her Majesty The Queen – Statement

On behalf of the REAch2 Academy Trust, I would like to express my sadness at the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As well as being our Queen, of course, Her Majesty had her own family so our sincerest condolences go to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been our constant for 70 years; it is simply remarkable when we look back at the service she has given to our country over that very long period of time. She lived through a period of vast social, material and technological change but what remained the same was her integrity, her humble leadership, her tremendous work ethic, and her highest expectations to do the best for those with the least.

It is these values that will be our constant in REAch2 both in this period of national mourning and in the years to come.

 

Catherine Paine

CEO - REAch2 Academy Trust

REAch2 captures the views of both children and adults across all 60 academies and staff

During the months of February – April, REAch2 carried out its first annual survey in order to gather the views of children, parents, carers and staff across all 60 academies.

Cathie Paine, CEO, explains, “We believe that REAch2 is a family connected by a common desire to learn from each other, share experiences and be mutually supportive across the entire academy community. Every school and every individual, be it child, parent or staff, is included in this vision.

These surveys are pivotal, and I want to thank everyone who gave us their views. The responses mean we are able to get the unique perspective of parents and children as well as providing an insight into multiple areas of Trust life. It’s important to know how our children, parents and carers and staff feel about a range of topics including the environment, wellbeing and what it means to be part of REAch2. It was brilliant to see so many positive results but there is definitely lots still to do!

We want to build on the surveys, learning from them year on year and the findings will inform our strategic planning and help us improve”.

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REAch2 accredited to provide Initial Teacher Training

The largest primary-only family of schools in the country, REAch2 Academy Trust, has been accredited to provide Initial Teacher Training (ITT) following a rigorous government process. As a result of the accreditation, REAch2 will be running its ITT programme nationwide from 2024 across its 60 schools and beyond.

The accreditation process was designed to ensure that all accredited ITT providers are able to deliver high-quality ITT against the new Quality Requirements which will become part of the ITT criteria 2024/2025, and come into effect in September 2024. Recent reforms to ITT required all existing providers to re-apply for accreditation, as well as offering new providers the opportunity to apply for accreditation. 80 providers were accredited in the first wave, only one out of every three applying, highlighting the strength of the REAch2 application and the quality of the programme they will be providing.

Copperfield Academy Classroom Teacher with Children

As primary specialists, the REAch2 ITT programme will ensure trainees receive extensive training in learning how to work expertly with the youngest children, ensuring they develop a strong foundation for future learning and easing their transition to secondary school.

The REAch2 ITT programme will give trainees the opportunity to train in well-established local networks of schools at the heart of their communities while benefiting from all the advantages of being part of a national network of primary practitioners.

Andrea Wright, Head of Early Career Teacher Development at REAch2 Academy Trust, said:

“This is an exciting new chapter for REAch2, building on the success of the REAch Teach Primary Partnership’s current ITT provision. REAch2 represents one of the largest networks of primary education professionals and is committed to creating expert primary practitioners and future school leaders who provide exceptional opportunities for learning for all children.

“We want trainees to: ‘Train locally, grow nationally’ benefiting from a broad and strong national network of schools who share our vision and values. We know that great teachers shape children’s lives, and we can’t wait to get started in training the next generation of expert primary teachers to do just this.”

Andrea Wright
Head of Early Career Teacher Development

Cathie Paine, CEO at REAch2 Academy Trust, said:
“We are all delighted to be accredited as an Initial Teacher Training provider and are looking forward to helping develop new teachers. My vision for REAch2 is for every one of our schools to be great, and that will only happen with great teachers in the classroom. This is wonderful news that we can start to train the next generation of expert primary teachers to do just this.”

26th May is Thank a Teacher Day!

National Thank a Teacher Day takes place on Thursday 26th May! With school prizes, celebrity contests, and on-the-day activities, it's set to be a nationwide celebration of the UK's amazing school staff.   

This year, the theme will recognise the schools at the heart of our communities. From the teachers helping students make sense of the outside world, to the support staff keeping things running, it's our chance to say a big thank you. 

Following the success of last year, which saw the likes of David Walliams, Nadiya Hussain and Stephen Fry all getting involved to thank their teachers, this year aims to be bigger than ever.  

It’s easy to get involved – on the day or after. You can a free thank you e-card (designed by a secret celebrity artist) to any school staff member you’re grateful to. 

Our CEO, Cathie Paine, has recorded her own special thank you to teachers in her past and teachers across the organisation in the present. 

Who will you say thank you to? 

Camulos Academy step out for 5k walk for Save the Children’s Emergency Appeal

Children from Colchester’s Camulos Academy, part of REAch2 Academy Trust, took part in a 5k walk on Sunday to raise emergency funds for families in Ukraine.

The big-hearted youngsters and their families took part in the walk, with over 40 people giving up their Sunday to raise £2,140 for the Save the Children’s Ukraine appeal.

The children, from across the school, were all rewarded with a chocolate medal for their efforts, but the smile on their faces was more because they had smashed their fundraising target of £2,000.

Lisa Gibb, Mum of Harrison in Year 3 who organised the walk said:

“Wow, what an awesome morning we’ve had on our sponsored walk! Around 40 people came and we’ve smashed our fundraising target! The walk was very muddy, but the kids absolutely loved it and everyone was in high spirits. The children all received a chocolate medal at the end of the walk to thank them for their efforts. Thanks so much to everyone for sharing, donating and supporting our cause.”

Harrison Gibb said:

“It was really fun and everyone enjoyed it. I found it moving that we knew we were doing it for children who are in danger in their own country.”

Suryaa Prakash said:

“I feel really bad for the children in Ukraine and how they are suffering and so raising money to help is very important.”

Headteacher of Camulos Academy, Lisa Frith-Sly said:

Mabel (our school dog) and I had a wonderful time on the walk. The Camulos Community is strong. It is powerful for pupils to feel that they can make a positive difference, and this is very much part of our school ethos. Another amazing achievement by our families. We are very proud.

The pupils’ fundraising page for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal is open for anyone wanting to donate: Lisa Gibbs is fundraising for Save the Children (justgiving.com)

Children’s Mental Health Week Spotlight: Ranikhet Academy

At Ranikhet Academy, mental health is something that is discussed every single day, forming an essential part of our Steps to Success, where the school works to ensure their children are physically and emotionally healthy, which is key to their wellbeing.

Louisa Sanghera, Head of School explains, “The school has a listening culture, where children know if they need to talk to an adult they can do and can be confident that what they say will be acted on and fed back. We’ve done a tremendous amount of work with our pupils to help them articulate their feelings and emotions and helped them develop their vocabularies to describe their feelings and emotions.

One of our main interventions to support pupils’ social and emotional mental health is our Nurture Group, which takes place every morning for children with SEND, or where staff are aware of concerns for them. The Nurture Group room is designed to resemble a ‘family home’ room, so there is a kitchen area, a sofa area, and floor space for learning through play. At present there are 12 children in this group.

In the room, children do a number of learning activities alongside wider activities to develop their social skills. As one example: when they have a mid-morning snack it is the children who make the toast, butter it, serve it to each other, and then wash up afterwards. Our staff model the behaviours we want to see, but otherwise try to sit back and let the children develop at their own pace.

Since bringing in the Nurture Group we have seen a real improvement in behaviour. Previously these children were really struggling to engage with their learning in a large classroom setting, leading to low-level behaviour issues and general disruption. As soon as they were taken out of the classroom and put into the Nurture Group setting for the morning, they were calmer throughout the day.

They clearly enjoy the structure and routine of their morning in the Nurture Group, while also developing strong relationships with the teachers there. We invite their parents into the school so they can see what a morning there looks like, and that also gives us the chance to discuss those so-important things like getting a good night’s sleep, having a solid bedtime routine, a healthy diet, and even giving them some cookery instruction for the future. It means it’s supportive for the whole family, which helps them develop their family unit as well as improving our relationships with them.

Our plan is for the children in the Nurture Group to be in there for four half terms. After this we will assess them to see if they are ready to start their transition back to the classroom, dividing their mornings between the Nurture Group and the classroom, before going back permanently. Of course, if they are not ready, they can stay in the Nurture Group for longer.”

Like Aerodrome Primary Academy and Beccles Primary Academy, pets also feature in the pastoral offer at Ranikhet. There is a ‘Reading to Guinea Pigs Club’, a morning club which is run weekly where children can come in and read chosen stories to the school’s pet guinea pigs.

The school has two guinea pigs which play a key role in supporting the most vulnerable children. These pupils may have struggled to develop their reading skills, as well as requiring emotional support, and so now have the opportunity to come into school and spend time with the pets and read to them in a reassuring and safe environment.

Two Year 6 pupils at Ranikhet Academy are the designated Guinea Pig Champions – responsible for supervising and cleaning out the guinea pig cages, modelling how to care for the pets, and how to use this kind behaviour in pupils’ wider lives. Using pets to support children’s reading is becoming more common in schools across the country as they provide a non-judgemental, supporting, presence which encourages pupils to feel more confident in reading aloud. In addition, there is growing evidence that children’s social and emotional development can benefit greatly from interactions with animals.

Louisa says, “We are delighted with the impact our guinea pigs have made since joining our school– they have been a great addition. Spending time with them has really helped some of our pupils who might need just that extra emotional support at school.”

Children’s Mental Health Week Spotlight: Heath Hayes Academy

Sometimes it takes just small changes to a school’s approach to make a significant impact on the emotional wellbeing of their pupils. Mary-Ellen Krause, Inclusion Lead explains:

“As a school we wanted our approach to children’s mental health to be proactive, rather than managing crises or responding to behaviour issues. As a result, we established our Relational Care Team (RCT), consisting of five members of staff with the role (in addition to their day jobs!) of supporting children with their unmet needs.

The RCT look for children who might need additional support, whether that’s due to bereavement, mental health issues, concerns with their learning, or anything else. Each member of the team wears a star on their lanyard so any child can identify them and know they can come to them for help.

So far, the impact has been incredibly positive. When it comes to dropping children off for the day, particularly on a Monday or after a holiday, they can be unsettled, but with two members of the RCT on the gate they are far more likely to be happier and start their day more smoothly. Having that friendly face right at the start means they know there’s someone there in case of any issues.

It’s also hugely helped across the school with any incidences of low-level unwanted behaviour. Because our pastoral support actively identifies any potential issues and mitigates them in advance, a child who is struggling with their learning can access this support and get themselves back in the right mindset to learn.

We’ve noticed a reduction in children coming to us in crisis and we’ve been able to identify patterns which has proven incredibly effective. We can notice an issue brewing and can often ‘nip these in the bud’.”

The school has plans to develop its Relational Care Team further.

“We already run a ‘soft start’ on Friday mornings for children with SEND, attachment issues or trauma, where they start the day in our nurture provision. It’s been really effective and parent feedback has been glowing about how much of a difference it makes.

That’s why we want to run this on a daily basis, with a member of the RCT overseeing it, to make sure these children start every school day at their absolute best.

In addition, after the February half term, we’re going to look at organising a separate dining room for pupils with sensory needs, who might struggle with a busy dining room. Again, a member of the RCT can oversee this and make sure these children can eat their lunch in peace, and so be in a far better mindset for their afternoon lessons.

These might look like small tasks, but their impact can be tremendous in supporting all our children to feel valued and to know we are actively looking to make the school environment as supportive as possible for them. Every member of the RCT wants our pupils to feel welcome, and ready to learn.”

Children’s Mental Health Week Spotlight: Camulos Academy

Whilst waiting lists were long before March 2020, one of the consequences of the pandemic has been a tremendous backlog in accessing external services to support pupils’ mental health. As a result, Camulos Academy has worked to train up their staff to develop a model of internal support to ensure pupils are able to reach their full potential.

Sam Greatorex, SENDCo at Camulos explains, “Our staff are very good at noticing triggers and signs of potential distress among our pupils. We’ve done a lot of training on this in the past and it has really paid off. Teachers are very quick to come and say they have a child who is struggling, meaning we can move quickly to see if they need an intervention, or a programme of support put in place.”

Programmes include speech and language interventions to enable pupils to have the vocabulary to express their emotions, as well as training a member of staff as an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant to help children develop their emotional and social skills.

“We are in the process of training up two members of staff on Mental First Aid courses, and our Headteacher is a Mental Health First Aider. These are vital roles where they can spot the signs of mental health issues and have the skills to support someone in crisis. It also means raising awareness around mental health for both staff and pupils and reducing any stigma around mental health.”

Another support mechanism in place, funded by the school, is a play therapist who comes in every week to work with pupils who need more focused support. If children are struggling to engage with their classes, they’ll be referred to the therapist for an initial six-week block. This has proven to have a huge impact in helping these pupils regulate their emotions, and while they may still have their ‘blips’, it’s a significant improvement in helping them concentrate in class.

Despite all these measures the school recognises that some children may still need more professional support through accessing CAMHS. However, with external support still difficult to access, by developing a model of internal support the school has embedded a supportive and caring ethos throughout the school.

Always looking to improve, the school has more plans in place to enhance mental health support for their pupils. “We want to build on our provision by training staff on Trauma Perceptive Practice. This helps staff understand more about the neurobiology behind pupil behaviours, why different situations cause pupils to react in different ways, and how these are influenced by the traumas they’ve experienced. It essentially helps staff understand that pupils aren’t misbehaving because they’re naughty, but rather because there are underlying issues that they need to explore.

These could be previous traumas, attachment issues, or emotional concerns. The programme is non-punitive and is designed to help staff identify certain triggers in their pupils and then approach them in a more compassionate fashion.”

The Headteacher and SENCo are currently training on the programme and will look to embed it among the rest of the staff over the course of the summer term.

It’s just one more example of the school looking at how they can mitigate the impact of losing outside support. With schools across the country struggling to access external services, Camulos have had to think harder about how they can actively widen the support they can offer ‘in-house’. “Our school culture is built around inclusion and putting in the work to help our pupils overcome any barriers to learning and developing a strong internal model of support is central to this.”