This week’s message (Friday 11 February 2022)
Posted on 11 February 2022 by Mr Roundtree
This week’s message is about Reading – find out more about supporting your child learn to read so they can read to learn. The first part comes from Mrs Latham, Sphere Federation’s Early Reading Leader. The second part is from Miss Wilson, our other Reading Leader.
Early Reading and Phonics
We’ve made some improvements to our phonics and early reading approach over the last few months. We’re using the government validated phonics scheme Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised. We’ve always believed that phonics and reading is a priority. The changes we’ve made in school ensure that this continues to be the case.
Our phonics lessons happen every day – they’re now just a bit longer (half an hour). In these lessons, children are taught how a letter or letters (graphemes) match to sounds (phonemes).
Alongside phonics lessons, we’ve introduced Reading Practice sessions. These happen 3 or 4 times each week with children in Reception, Year 1 and some children in Year 2. These are small group sessions, led by an adult, where children read a book that is matched to the phonics phase for the children in that group. The time to do this has been made available by moving to allocating ebooks for children to share their phonics reading success at home. Year 1 or 2 children who are secure at Phase 5 will read a fluency text each day and take home a wider variety of books.
Children also take a sharing book home to develop a love of reading. These books are to enjoy together and read for pleasure. Enjoy stories, predict what might happen and use different voices for the characters. Information books (non-fiction) can also be so much fun to share – finding out facts and discussing new information. Above all – make it fun!
A recent workshop explained the changes and accompanying materials were emailed out.
Reading in Key Stage 2
If your child is in Key Stage 2, thank you for completing their Reading Record every week – it’s been great to see how children (and you!) have been engaging with their reading at home.
Have a discussion with them about the things we get up to in Book Club or what their library book choice is this week. Another great conversation to have is about different authors. Use this website and have a watch of some of the videos that are age-appropriate for your child. Keep an eye out for World Book Day we’ll let you know how we’re celebrating all things reading at school!
Remember that your child should be reading daily. This could be in a cosy, quiet spot by themselves, alongside an audio book or with an adult. When reading together, some simple questions can have a big impact on memory and understanding. Ask a variety of questions:
- ‘Where did the character go first?’
- ‘How do you think they’re feeling at this point?’
- ‘What does that particular word mean and what does it tell you about the character?’
We want children to progress from learning to read to be able to read to learn which includes understanding the world around them. Check this website out for more useful questions.
This week’s message (Friday 04 February 2022)
Posted on 04 February 2022 by Mr Roundtree
Last week’s message began with some news about the continuing challenges Covid is presenting. Since then, we’ve had some information about the situation across Leeds. This week’s message begins with this, and continues with some information about next week’s Staying Safe themed week, and a few reminders and requests, useful for everyone to read. At the end, just for parents of younger children, is an update about phonics.
Absence rates are higher in Leeds than they are nationally: attendance at Leeds schools (20.01.22) was 85.2% (87% primary and 83.7% secondary) compared to a national average figure of 87.4% (89.1% primary and 85.9% secondary). Some of the difference is down to a greater proportion of pupils being absent with Covid in Leeds (6.2%) than nationally (5.1%).
Staff absence rates are also higher in Leeds: 5.5% of teachers are absent for Covid-related reasons compared to 4.5% nationally. For teaching assistants and other staff, the disparity is even greater: 6.4% in Leeds compared to 4.7% nationally.
Thankfully, this week has been a bit more settled. We’re really hoping the curve is about to turn as it has in other areas of the country, but in the meantime, please do stay vigilant to symptoms.
Next week, we’ve another themed week: Staying Safe. Themed weeks are one of the ways we enrich our Living and Learning curriculum. Your child will be learning all about staying safe in lots of different situations, such as online safety and road safety. A variety of visitors will support this learning.
Online safety will be a particular focus on Safer Internet Day, Tuesday 08 February. Do take a look at these top tips for parents and children and more online safety advice. You may also want to look at these screen time guides.
Throughout the week, discuss this learning at home to encourage your child to stay safe.
A few reminders and requests
We’re all so busy at the moment and we know it’s easy to let some things slip. The next few points are reminders and requests to help us keep our school a happy and healthy place to learn…
It’s natural that you’ll have some questions, comments and concerns from time to time. Our teachers will be happy to speak with you, but it’s worth remembering that after 8.50am, they need to crack on with teaching the class. Instead, try to catch your child’s teacher at the very end of the school day.
Alternatively, you could contact the office who’ll pass on the message – your child’s teacher or someone else in school will be happy to call you back. This also means you don’t need to have the conversation in front of your child – sometimes it’s better to have the conversation separately.
Older children might bring a mobile phone into school. If your child does, please make sure they’re careful as they walk to school. It’s sometimes easy to be distracted – your child needs to still concentrate on staying safe when crossing the road, for example.
Finally, please do take a moment to remind yourself and your child of uniform expectations. This includes wearing only small, plain stud earrings; keeping long hair tied back; and wearing hair accessories (like hair bands) which don’t distract – keep them small and not too bright.
For parents of younger children only…
Thanks to everyone who attended Monday’s Zoom session about the changes to how we teach early reading. Parents who attended commented favourably:
- ‘The clarity of still reading a physical book in the classroom has reassured us on the ebook reading at home.’
- ‘Thank you for an informative Zoom. My son is loving the ebooks and his improved fluency has really impressed me!’
- ‘Really helpful as always and thank you for giving up your evening.’
If you missed the session, you can watch it here (with apologies for the weird animal noise I seem to be making at the very start!). As requested during the Zoom, look out for some resources which we’ll email to you next week, too.
As always, we hope you have a happy and healthy weekend.
This week’s message (Friday 28 January 2022)
Posted on 28 January 2022 by Mr Roundtree
It’s been a tough week! In ten of the twelve classes at Scholes (Elmet) Primary, there have been positive cases of Covid. At Moortown Primary, one third of staff have been absent (though not all with Covid). St James’ CE Primary has similar problems, though thankfully not 25% Covid amongst pupils as is the case with another Wetherby school. With Covid cases still so high in our schools, please do stay vigilant to symptoms and get them tested if they’re not feeling quite right.
This week’s message comes from Mrs Allaway, who leads on Maths across Sphere Federation…
This year, Sphere schools are taking part in a new national programme for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2: ‘Mastering Number’. The programme aims to secure firm foundations in the development of good number sense for all children. The aim over time is that everyone leaves Key Stage 1 with fluency in calculation and a confidence and flexibility with number.
Why is fluency with number facts so important?
We want all children to develop fluency with number facts because we know this makes a huge difference to their progress in maths. For children who find maths difficult, it’s often the case that their only strategy is to count. They don’t see the relationships or make the connections that make maths easier. For example, if five and two is seven, seven minus two must be five – that’s the relationship within the maths.
An over-reliance on counting not only makes maths more difficult, it also inhibits flexibility, thinking and the development of problem-solving strategies. It doesn’t just affect calculating, it affects maths much more widely. We need children to have stopped counting by the time they move into Key Stage 2.
What is number sense?
Alongside fluency in number facts, we want our children to develop ‘number sense’: a flexibility with number where they reason; they see relationships; they see mathematical structures; and they see such things as if six and three is nine, then nine minus three is equal to six. These relationships won’t change in Key Stage 2 and beyond, the numbers just become bigger and more complex.
We want to support all children to think mathematically, make connections and see relationships because we know these are the characteristics that make maths learning successful.
Mastering Number sessions
In our short focused sessions for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, we give children opportunities to think deeply about mathematical relationships and time to practise and really embed fluency with number facts. These 10 minute sessions are in addition to our main daily maths lesson.
In some sessions, we focus on deepening children’s understand of the composition of number: inside numbers there are other numbers. For example, inside eight there’s five and three, there’s six and two. Knowing that inside numbers are other numbers enables children to develop fluency skills.
We’re also developing skills in subitising. This is the ability to look at a small number of objects (often a maximum of about five) and instantly recognise how many there are without needing to count them one by one. This plays a key role in helping children see how numbers are made up, avoiding an over-reliance on counting.
One of the key resources children use in Mastering Number sessions is a rekenrek – a type of abacus or number rack. It supports children to feel and visualise numbers as well as noticing how numbers relate to each other. Children begin to build up strong visual images by first doing, seeing and noticing the maths.
How can I help at home?
Regularly accessing NumBots will support children to practise and really embed and develop crucial number facts. If you need help accessing this, please contact your child’s class teacher.
Children in Key Stage 2 who struggle with Maths could use NumBots too – ask your child’s teacher. (And don’t forget the importance of knowing times tables – including division facts. You don’t need to use Times Tables Rock Stars, but it’s one way to practise at home.)
For those of you with a child in Early Years and Key Stage 1, don’t forget there’s a Zoom session about our updated provision for learning phonics and practising early reading skills: 6pm on Monday 31 January. Contact us for the Zoom details in case you missed them.
Have a good weekend.
Posted on 27 January 2022 by Mr Roundtree
At St James’ CE Primary, we’re always keen to keep getting better. With this in mind, it’s helpful to invite people from outside our school and our federation to evaluate what we’re doing. A couple of weeks ago, we invited some advisors from the Diocese into school. Here’s a sample of comments following the visit.
- “Parents spoken to are unanimous in their view that the school provides a great education for their children… Speaking to parents of reception age children… they are extremely appreciative of the way their children have settled, made friends and are enthused by their learning.”
- “On multiple occasions parents said, ‘We don’t have a bad word to say about the school’.”
- “At the start of the day, pupils, including those accessing wrap-around care, settle quickly to well-established routines.”
- “Pupils behave consistently well, including at breaks. They say the school is supportive and that they get along together well.”
- “Staff want to work here. They feel valued and cared about…”
Thank you to the parents who spoke with the advisors and for your kind words!
Alongside comments such as there, the advisors made suggestions for what we might do even better. Miss Beatson and I are already working on these.
Rugby taster session
Posted on 22 January 2022 by Mrs Latham
Want to get involved in rugby? A local rugby team are recruiting girls and boys in Year 5. Go along to the taster session if you’re interested!
This week’s message (Friday 21 January 2022)
Posted on 21 January 2022 by Mr Roundtree
This week’s message kicks off with a repeat of one we sent on Wednesday, in case you missed it.
With the government’s announcement about the ending of Plan B restrictions next Thursday, it might seem that things are getting back to normal, and it might seem like most people with Covid have a relatively mild illness compared to previous strains.
In our schools, we’re struggling.
We’ve far more cases across all three schools (and across Leeds, from what we hear) than ever before amongst our children and our staff.
For pupils, when the number of positive cases of Covid rises, we have to consider isolating the class (‘bubbling’), and even move to home learning.
For staff, we’re committed to keeping the classes open. This is starting to prove really difficult – the more staff we have absent, the harder it is to cover. (And it’s really difficult to find supply teachers right now.)
Either way, this means learning is disrupted.
You can help us:
- Please continue to test your child often.
- Please continue to keep your child away from school if they’re not well, and make sure you test them.
- Please make sure you’re up-to-date with guidance, including self-isolation periods.
- Please be patient – we’re working really hard right now to manage the disruptions as best we can.
If your child’s at home…
- Please use the home learning materials we publish each week on our website – go to the Learn More section, choose Home Learning, and then click on your child’s year group.
- If you’re entitled to free school meals, please let us know – we can arrange for some food to be prepared.
The things I wish my parents had known…
This might seem like something more useful for older children, but the advice here could really help avoid issues later on…
The Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza DBE, has recently published a guidance document for parents helping to support them to understand online sexual harassment. It’s a sensitive topic, and not one all parents feel comfortable discussing with their children.
The commissioner’s team brought together a group of 16 – 21 year olds and asked them to talk about what they think parents should know, and what they should say to their children when talking about sexualised bullying and the pressures of growing up online.
Key advice from the young adults in the focus groups included:
- Start conversations early, before your child gets a phone or social media account. Keep the conversation going over time, adapting to your child.
- Young people want their parents to learn about new technology and trends, including risky behaviours and dangerous spaces online.
- Create a safe and trusting home environment. Young people told us the home environment is key, they want to share things with their parents but don’t always feel able.
We all need a bit of help from time to time…
The Family Lives charity aims to offer all parents somewhere to turn before they reach crisis point. Crisis support, provided for over 40 years through their helpline, has always been at the heart of what they do. The parents’ helpline is available Monday to Friday, 1.30 – 9pm: 0808 800 2222
Their website also offers help parents with the ups and downs of family life.
…And now it’s the weekend! Have a happy and healthy one, whatever you get up to.
This week’s message (Friday 14 January 2022)
Posted on 14 January 2022 by Mr Roundtree
This week’s message is from Mr Wilks, who leads on Science and foundation subjects. Before that, a quick heads up…
Next Friday is Identity Day. This day links to our learning on identity, part of our Living and Learning provision. We invite children to come to school wearing something that demonstrates their identity. This could be linked to a particular club or sport, it could be traditional clothes, or even just a badge to show belonging. (We’re keeping windows open for ventilation, so plenty of layers, too!)
Now, let’s find out more about the current topic your child is learning from Mr Wilks…
What is this half-term’s topic?
This half-term, we’re historians and we’ll develop our understanding of Britain’s past and the wider world.
I love history. It’s one of my favourite subjects to teach. There are so many amazing stories and characters from the past and although the people and events we study can be separated from our own lives by thousands of years, there are lots of relevant connections we can make with the world today. Children will use enquiry skills to answer questions about the past that require opinions. They’ll be ‘time detectives’, using sources of evidence to help them answer these questions. They’ll learn that certain things that they learn about may or may not be true and that history can be interpreted in different ways.
Each phase has age-related specific knowledge, skills and vocabulary that they’ll learn, use and apply across the topic. See pages 27, 28 and 29.
Years 1 and 2
Your child will learn about how shopping has changed over time. They’ll develop chronological understanding by sequencing events in their own lives before learning about how shopping was different during their parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods. They’ll look at similar products from different times and try to sequence them chronologically using logical reasoning. Your child will use photographs and other sources of evidence to identify changes and similarities on the high street over time. They’ll learn about the history of a local shop, Marks and Spencer, and how it has changed over time.
The key historical concept which we’ll explore in this topic is trade. Trade is the exchange of goods and services, initially for other goods and services, and then for money.
Years 3 and 4
Your child will learn about the Roman Empire and its invasion of Britain. They’ll examine how life changed for the people living in Britain at the time of the invasion. They’ll learn about the Celtic warrior, Boudicca, and how she resisted the Romans. Children will also consider what we know about Boudicca, how we know it and whether we can trust it. Your child will learn about the amazing inventions and advances that the Romans brought to Britain. Finally, they’ll find out why the Romans left Britain and what happened after they left.
There are two key historical concepts which we’ll explore in this topic: empire and invasion. An empire is a large group of countries or states ruled by an emperor or empress. An invasion is when a country or region is invaded by an armed force.
Years 5 and 6
Your child will learn about Viking Britain and an Early Islamic Civilisation centred around the city of Baghdad around 800AD.
During this period of time, Baghdad was the largest city in the world and was the centre of the world’s trade routes. Trade between Vikings and Baghdad happened and provides a real link between these two societies.
Through studying the Vikings, children will again learn about how people invaded and settled in Britain. Invasion is also relevant as it brought an end to the Islamic Golden Age.
The Islamic Golden Age was a period of great innovation. Learning and knowledge was key to their success. They built the world’s first hospitals, universities and observatories, as well as studied writing from scholars around the world. The contrast with Viking Britain during the Dark Ages is stark!
There are three key historical concepts which we’ll explore in this topic: trade, invasion and innovation. Trade is the exchange of goods and services, initially for other goods and services, and then for money. An innovation is an improvement or replacement for something. An invasion is when a country or region is invaded by an armed force.
How can you help?
Talk to your child about what they’ve been learning in class. The class news page of the school website is a good place to go to find out more about what the children are doing.
Find some books from the library which match what the children are learning. This will be quite easy for children in Key Stage 2 as there will be plenty of books about Roman Britain and Viking Britain. You should also be able to find some about the Islamic Golden Age. For children in KS1, you may find it more difficult to find books about shopping over time. However, any book that looks at how an aspect of life has changed over time will be good. For example, you may find KS1 history books about toys and games, houses, transport, holidays. These will all help your child to sequence chronologically and explore similarities and differences.
Watch television shows about history. Horrible Histories is great (regardless of your age!).
If it’s a rainy weekend and you’re looking for something to do, why not spend a morning or afternoon in a museum? Abbey House Museum in Kirkstall is a great museum, perfectly suited to the Year 1,2 topic as it has a recreated Victorian Street with lots of different shops and even a pub! It also has a great exhibition of toys over time. A visit to Leeds City Museum would be great for all children but especially for Y3,4 children as it has some exhibits linked to the Romans in Leeds. It’s free to enter. Though more expensive and further afield, the Jorvik Viking Centre and Jorvik Dig are both excellent days out and especially relevant for the Year 5 and 6 topic.
This week’s message (Friday 07 January 2022)
Posted on 07 January 2022 by Mr Roundtree
Happy new year! We hope 2022 has started well for you. Our first message of the year has three parts: an attendance update; some information about books we’re sending home for children in Reception and Key Stage 1; and some information about forthcoming workshops.
It’s difficult deciding whether your child should attend school if they’re poorly. It’s even more difficult in these Covid times. Children have missed out on so many days of learning in school because of lockdowns and isolating, and yet we know you’re careful that your child isn’t attending school if they’re displaying any Covid symptoms.
- Thank you for taking care to look after your own child – and everyone around them, too.
- Equally, thank you for making sure that your child gets to school as much as possible, and on time, when it’s been safe to do so.
Our whole-school attendance figure for the Autumn term was 94.1%. Well over one out of every ten pupils have 100% attendance so far this year – that’s great! Here’s an update on the attendance for each year group:
- Reception: 93.7%
- Year 1: 94.9%
- Year 2: 96.1%
- Year 3: 91.9%
- Year 4: 91.7%
- Year 5: 96.3% – the highest in school, so well done!
- Year 6: 95.8%
Reading at home
This section is for parents and carers of children in Early Years and Year 1. Something similar may be happening for Year 2 children – check with your child’s class teacher.
Earlier this week, we sent some information home about a change to what books we’ll send home. Since then, a few parents have asked for a bit more information about why we’re now asking you to read e-books at home.
It might help to be clear that there are two types of book.
The practice books are short books with simple words that your child will be able to ‘decode’ (to read). In school, these are physical books; at home, it’s the same text as an e-book. Your child will have read this book at least three times in school across the week. They’re for children to practise the phonics that they’ve learnt in school – matching letters to sounds. They’re also for you to celebrate your child’s increasing phonics skills. Reading the book won’t take more than about 10-15 minutes.
The sharing books are physical books (not e-books), typically chosen by your child. They’re likely to be longer. These books are to read together and enjoy. Your child is unlikely to be able to read all of the text independently. You’ll probably spend more time over a few days reading together the sharing books than the practice books.
Here are some of the reasons we’ve chosen to use a web-based approach for the practice books at home:
- the e-books mean the hard copies of the same books stay in school and therefore there will be less chance of some going missing – this is essential as even just one missing book will undermine the impact when we practise reading in school
- we’ve been really impressed by the appearance and user-interface of the website
- we’ve consulted other school leaders – the feedback about e-books has been overwhelmingly positive
Coming up next week is a Zoom session for parents and carers of children in Year 6, although others are welcome to attend, too. It’s to provide you with information about the end of Key Stage 2 assessments (the ‘SATs’) that will take place in the week beginning Monday 09 May.
The session is on Thursday 13 January and starts at 6pm. It’ll last around 30 minutes, and there’ll be opportunities to ask any questions that you might have.
We’ll send to Year 6 parents and carers the Zoom link. For other parents and carers, if you’re interested in attending, please either send us a message on the School Gateway app or email the school office. We’ll then email the Zoom joining details out to all those who have expressed an interest.
Talking of workshops, there are also some coming up about special education needs and disabilities (SEND). These come from Leeds Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information and Advice Support Service (not us) – read more about the workshops here.
Next week’s message comes from Mr Wilks, who leads on Science and topics across Sphere Federation. He’ll provide an overview of the History learning that’s happening in Key Stage 1 and 2, and how you might help at home. In the meantime, have a great weekend.
This half-term’s Christian value is…
Posted on 05 January 2022 by Nicky Russell
In Mark Chapter 12, Jesus was asked which of the ten commandments was the most important, to which he replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There are no commandments greater than these.”
The challenge for us is how can we show love to each other on a daily basis. How can we encourage each other? How can we make someone smile? How can we show love for our school and our world?
Why was this Christian value chosen?
‘Love is why Jesus came into the world – to send out love.’
Which is your favourite film or book? Think about the main characters in it – how do they show love? For example, Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – how does he show love?
Do everything in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:14)
We love because He first loved us.
((1 John 4:19)
This week’s message (Friday 17 December 2021)
Posted on 16 December 2021 by Mr Roundtree
The last message of 2021 comes from Miss Beatson, the Head of School…
We’ve come to the end of the term and the last few weeks have been full of festive fun: Christmas parties, Christmas lunch, Christingle at church and a virtual Santa visit. The children have certainly embraced the festivities and it’s been wonderful to see lots of smiley faces. Please visit the class pages on the school website to watch the nativity play and the KS2 Christmas singing.
At St James’, we want the very best for our children and we want them to be happy and healthy learners. One way you can help with this is to ensure your child starts the school day on time. If they’re late, they’ve often missed the important start to a lesson and it takes time for them to catch up. If your child arrives at school after the register has closed, their absence will be marked as unauthorised.
This term has been a time we’ve managed to come together again as a school: we’ve been able to play together in the playground, have lunch together, and have our collective worship as a whole school in the hall. Throughout the term, it’s been lovely to talk with the children about their learning and listen to them being reflective, responsible and resilient – three of our eight Rs for learning!
The children have shown enthusiasm for the topics they’ve been taught and I’ve been amazed by the knowledge they’ve acquired in the recent art topic.
We continue to prioritise reading in school and we have daily reading skills and reading fluency sessions to ensure children make good progress. We really encourage you to read at home with your child as much as you can- it makes a big difference with their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday. Please make sure you stay safe and follow any updated guidance so that you and your families can enjoy a well-deserved rest.
From Miss Beatson and me, and from all the staff at St James’ CE Primary: have a happy and healthy Christmas break.