Our daily message (07 July 2020)
Posted on 07 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message reflects the conversations we’re having in order to prepare for September, when schools open more widely…
We’re working hard to make sure the September start for all our children returning to school – or joining for the first time – is a happy and healthy one.
I’m working closely with people from Leeds City Council and other Leeds headteachers to share ideas and best practice as we wade through the current government guidance. (This morning, I had my longest Zoom meeting yet – it lasted just short of three hours! – but it was really positive and productive).
School leaders across Sphere are also working hard on specific details. Some of the detail has to be based on each of the Sphere schools context, but others can be applied across all three schools. (I had another Zoom meeting this afternoon, for example – thankfully, a bit shorter at one and a half hours!).
There’s a lot to consider. Some obvious things are staggered start times, playtimes, lunches and finish times.
During the school day, we’re planning an adapted curriculum that follows two key principles: we want it to be broad and balanced but allow for flexibility so we can support children in terms of learning and wellbeing. The government’s guidance contains some broad messages (such as ‘Substantial modification to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, so teaching time should be prioritised to address significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge with the aim of returning to the school’s normal curriculum content by no later than summer term 2021‘) and some specific detail, too (such as information about specific subjects like PE and music).
Other aspects of school organisation that we’re working through include before and after school care, maintaining the increased sanitisation, handwashing and cleaning, and staffing issues. (There are some aspects of school that you might not immediately think about, such as checks for Legionnaires’ disease to ensure the water we have is healthy.)
Some of what we’re doing may have to be finalised in the summer holiday, and guidance from government could well change, too. We’ll keep you informed as much as we can, and as soon as we can.
Our daily message (06 July 2020)
Posted on 06 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
We hope your weekend was a good one. It’s Monday – that means it’s time to talk Living and Learning during lockdown…
Statement of the week
I know how to cope with change… is our statement this week.
Talk to your child at home about the changes they’re facing:
- some changes are expected and some are unexpected
- some changes are welcome, others less so
- some can be managed, others are harder to deal with
We’re nearing the end of the school year. Some of us will be moving on to a new school; most of us will be getting ready for new classes and teachers. This clearly isn’t a normal year and transitions are different for us all. However, we want to encourage children to cope with change by managing and understanding the emotions they feel at this time.
At home, start by asking your child to consider change for the new year:
- what will be the same and what will be different?
- what will be easy and might some changes be harder to deal with?
- are there ways to cope with the more challenging changes?
Books can support transition. Use this reading of Dear Teacher as a prompt to discuss your child’s hopes and fears for the new year.
Sadly, one of our favourite events of the year – sports day – can’t take place this year. The next best thing is to take part in a virtual sports day!
We’re excited to be joining the West Yorkshire Virtual School Games Sports Day on Tuesday 07 July. The day will involve children taking part in multiple activities with the chance to compete against other schools across the county. There’ll be prizes on offer, too.
What do you need to do?
Have a look at the guidance for parents/carers to help you prepare for the day.
When does it take place?
There is a live opening ceremony at 10am on Tuesday 07 July and the activities can be completed at any point in the day.
Is this just for children who are back at school?
No – the activities can be done by children at school and at home. The sports day could be one of your child’s home learning activities on the day.
What are the activities?
The parent guide gives details of all the activities and instructions will also be given on the video released on the day.
Do children have to complete all the activities?
We’d encourage the children to have a go at as many as they can but they don’t have to complete them all.
How do we submit results?
This is the link to submit results (live from 10am on 07 July up till 12pm on the 08 July). All children’s results will be added to their school score.
We’d love to see the virtual sports day in action so please share any photos of your children taking part and good luck to everyone!
Our daily message (03 July 2020)
Posted on 03 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
There’s a lot of things going on right now in terms of social distancing, summer and schools in September…
Indoors or outdoors, you can meet in groups of up to two households (a support bubble counts as one household) in any location. You don’t always have to meet with the same household – you can meet with different households at different times. However, it remains the case – even inside someone’s home – that you should socially distance from anyone not in your own household.
Outdoors, you can meet in groups of up to six people from different households as long as you remain at least one metre away (ideally two metres). This means that parents and carers must ensure their child stays at a distance from other people – hugging and hand-holding, games like tig, tackling in football should all be avoided.
Earlier in the week, we confirmed that schools would not be open in the summer. Since then, the government has updated its guidance on what parents and carers need to know about schools during the coronavirus outbreak and they’ve added content on summer provision. (There’s also content on school uniform and the support package to help pupils to catch up, plus updates on school meals and the Covid Summer Food Fund.)
School in September
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, announced the plans for all children to return to full-time education at the start of the autumn term. Read the supporting guidance for schools, colleges and nurseries.
They have also published guidance for parents and carers on the plans for the autumn term to help reassure you about what to expect for your child.
We know many of you are disappointed that schools aren’t open over the Summer holiday. And we know the disappointment comes from your concern about the learning that your child has missed this school year.
Please be assured we’re already working hard with other school leaders in Sphere Federation and across the local authority to have plans in place for a safe and successful school year 2020-21.
Enjoy the weekend as much as you can.
Our daily message (02 July 2020)
Posted on 02 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message comes from Sal Tariq, the Director of Children and Families for Leeds City Council…
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your understanding and co-operation during what has been an extremely difficult time for our schools and your children.
I hope you join me in thanking teachers and head teachers, for their efforts in keeping schools open since lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. In many cases, this has included provision throughout the holidays. Most recently, head teachers have undertaken a significant amount of work in re-configuring their schools to make them safe to open more widely to more pupils in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6. I am very grateful for their efforts to make this happen.
Each school in Leeds is different and each school has unique circumstances. This is why we have been very clear that all schools will be operating slightly differently from each other during the current period. The numbers of pupils schools have been able to welcome back varies from school to school and school leaders have had to consider a wide number of variables.
Some schools, for example, have smaller classrooms, whereas some have greater numbers of ‘shielding’ staff. Both of these considerations result in the school being able to accommodate fewer pupils. In a number of schools, the numbers of vulnerable children or children of key workers have risen considerably which has resulted in a lack of capacity to welcome more children back.
Many schools have now reached the position where they cannot take any more children back safely and within guidelines. As a result, some head teachers are in the difficult position of not being able to offer a child a place. I know there has been some talk of using community facilities such as church halls, leisure centres, social clubs and scout huts to provide additional space but current government guidance is clear that schools should not use these facilities at the moment.
Accommodating children in non-educational settings is not as easy to do as it may first appear. It would highlight significant safeguarding, health and safety, resourcing and staffing implications and the priority for school leaders is the safety and well-being of your children. Schools must await further guidance from the government before considering this as an option.
Many of you are aware that the Government announced plans earlier this week to relax the 2m social distancing rule and may wonder if this means that schools can take more children. The government have said that from 4th July where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. In Leeds, our current guidance to schools regarding social distancing of 2 metres has not changed; a 1 metre plus policy would require additional measures such as face coverings to be used routinely and would expose staff and children to greater risk of infection.
I know that the current situation is frustrating to parents and carers who are keen for their child to return to school. Despite their best efforts, school leaders will inevitably not be able to accommodate all requests from parents. I am writing to ask you to be respectful of the decision made by the head teacher of your child’s school, in the knowledge that it has been made with the safety of all children and staff at its heart.
Head teachers are now busy planning for September when it is hoped that all pupils will be able to return to school full time. School leaders are eagerly awaiting government guidance as to the expectations for September and I know they will communicate their plans with you as soon as they are in a position to do so.
I anticipate that restrictions, for example staggered start and finish times, class bubbles and increased cleaning and hygiene routines, will remain in place from September to ensure the safety of staff and pupils
I thank you for your continuing patience during these difficult times. I hope you and your families stay safe and well.
Sal Tariq OBE
Director, Children and Families
If you like, you can download the letter, too.
Our daily message (01 July 2020)
Posted on 01 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message features a link to another edition of Families magazine – it’s another ‘surviving lockdown’ edition.
The magazine has lots of resources and ideas to help with returning your child to school, home learning, pre-school play and a variety of ideas for family activities and entertainment.
Our daily message (30 June 2020)
Posted on 30 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message relates to recent government announcements…
Socially distanced in school
Since the government announced that from Saturday 04 July, the two metre rule would be relaxed a little, some parents have asked if this means we can accept more children back at school. Sadly, the answer is no.
There may be spaces for a small number of individual children in a bubble, but generally speaking, there are no more spaces. Recent messages refer to a ‘one metre plus’ rule, but the guidance talks of ‘mitigation’, which includes:
- maintain 2m where viable (we’ve organised classrooms to do this)
- maintaining hand hygiene and cough etiquette (and we can’t ensure children maintain ‘cough etiquette’ – coughing into a disposable tissue or at least into their sleeve, not hand)
- staff minimising duration of contact at less than 2m with people outside their household (in a small classroom, and with young children, this is really hard)
- wearing face coverings when distances of 2m cannot be kept in indoor environments where possible (school staff are advised not to wear masks or other coverings because they hinder effective teaching)
Because these precautions can’t really happen in school, our current circumstances are the right ones, and Leeds City Council advice (26 June 2020) backs this up: ‘Schools should continue to implement and maintain the 2m social distancing measures already in place and not plan to reduce this to 1m+.’
We know the government guidelines are complicated and appear to be forever-changing, but be assured we’re following them closely.
(If it helps to know, sometimes school leaders are confused by the messages, too: current guidance for primary planning advises heads ‘if you can keep older children…two metres away from each other, you should do so’. However, on 24 June, the daily email and a blog from the Department for Education stated something apparently quite different: ‘primary schools do not need to keep children 2 metres apart from each other – this has been the case throughout the outbreak’.)
On Friday evening, the DfE confirmed that there is no expectation that schools should open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers over the summer holiday.
They stated: ‘Teachers, support staff and school leaders deserve a break, to recharge and rest.’
They further added: ‘We can confirm that providers offering paid childcare will be able to operate over the summer holidays, in line with protective measures guidance. Additional funded activities may be available in local areas, such as the Holiday Activities and Food scheme.’
It’s great news that children entitled to free school meals can benefit from enriching activities throughout the summer. The Holiday Activities and Food programme will support up to 50,000 disadvantaged children across 17 local authority areas, including Leeds, and help them to stay healthy and active over the summer.
Ten providers, including the Leeds Community Foundation, were successful in their bid for the programme and will be supporting families in need with activities and healthy meals. Activities will include a variety of online and directly delivered physical activities such as dance, yoga, HIIT and adventure play.
September and beyond – plans
The government has not yet published its plans for schools opening in September, but its intention is clear: that all pupils will be back for all the time.
Draft plans have been leaked and published yesterday on the Huffington Post.
These plans are still very much subject to change, but a couple of things are encouraging, including the ability to adapt the curriculum so that we can make sure our pupils catch up on valuable skills in reading, writing and maths. Please be assured we’re committed to doing this in a way which means our children can continue to enjoy a broad and balanced curriculum with enriching and enjoyable experiences.
The plans also raise questions, too. For example, there is a strong emphasis on class bubbles of 30. This means we’ll have to carefully consider how we plan the school day and week, and it might mean we still need to close early for one half day each week. Hopefully, the government’s full plans will provide lots of guidance and detail.
Our daily message (29 June 2020)
Posted on 29 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree
We hope you had a good weekend. Despite the unpredictable weather, hopefully you managed some social time with family or friends while respecting social distancing. On my last few Sunday morning walks, I’ve spotted quite a few familiar faces up and about which is lovely to see.
As with previous Mondays, we kick off the week with an addition or alternative to some home learning…
Living and Learning is the name for all the teaching and learning we do around Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE). Each week in school, we’ve a Living and Learning statement. I make healthy choices… is our statement this week. One of the Sphere Federation Health Leaders writes:
This week in school, we would have been enjoying one of our themed weeks: Being happy and healthy. Right now, it’s even more important to look after our own physical and mental health. To help, we’d like to share some ideas to look at the theme of being happy and healthy at home. Start by watching this clip from BBC Bitesize and reading these top ten tips from Child Friendly Leeds for families to keep healthy and happy at home.
Can you encourage your child to make a new healthy choice every day this week? Or think about one new healthy change your child can make? Try to help them make sure the choice is a realistic, achievable one, such as avoiding being on an electronic device after a certain time to help sleep, or adding one extra daily portion of vegetables to their diet each day.
Here are some links to support you with this learning at home which may be as well as or instead of some of your child’s home learning for this week:
- Healthy eating – Change4Life, British Nutrition Foundation Healthy Eating week, Food a fact of life
- Physical health – Government guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, get active with National School Sports Week resources, imovement, ThisisPE, GoNoodle
- Mental health (including reducing screen time) – Tips for reducing screen time, Anna Freud centre, MindMate, Childline calm zone, listen to meditations, try yoga, look at our suggested mindfulness techniques
- Sleep – Good-Night Guide For Children, Top tips to help children sleep well
- Teeth – Keeping our teeth healthy
- Hygiene – e-bug KS1, e-bug KS2, hand washing
Talking of handwashing and being healthy…
Is everyone in your household still washing their hands carefully? After weeks of lockdown, perhaps not. This experiment might prompt you to get back into the habit: invisible flourescent paint (think of this as coronavirus or any other bug) was applied to the hand of one person (imagine the person has just coughed into their hand)… watch how it spreads.
(Top tip for watching YouTube with your child: go to the settings cog (it’s along the play bar) and turn off autoplay – this avoids an inappropriate clip coming up automatically, and helps to discourage your child from passively watching clip after clip…)
Our daily message (26 June 2020)
Posted on 26 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Our final message this week comes from Miss Beatson, our Head of School…
We thought we’d update you on the staffing in school at present and in the future.
Currently, we have two Foundation/KS1 bubbles and two KS2 bubbles. Miss Harker and Miss Marsden are leading the F/KS1 bubbles. Mr Mills, Mrs Allen-Kelly, Mrs Rowley and Mrs Welsby are leading the KS2 bubbles.
Whilst the children who are coming to school are happy and relieved to be back into some kind of routine, school by no means feels complete. We miss our home learners enormously. Staff are working really hard to keep in touch by email, phone calls or even a wave through the fence. You’ve not been forgotten!
In September, the class teachers haven’t changed too much…
Foundation: Miss Marsden
Y1/2: Miss Harker
Y3/4: Mrs Welsby and Mrs Rowley
Y5/6: MIss Beatson and Mr Mills
We’re very sad to say goodbye to Mrs Allen-Kelly, who is leaving St James’ this term to teach at Scholes (Elmet) Primary, one of our federation schools. Mrs Allen-Kelly started at the same time as me three years ago. She has been a great member of the Early Years team and she’ll be missed. Miss Marsden will become the full time Early Years teacher.
The current Foundation parents will be emailed some Year 1 transition information next week to support the start in September.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or queries. Do get in touch if you’re struggling in any way.
Our daily message (25 June 2020)
Posted on 25 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message is especially for the many parents whose child remains at home…
How’re things with you? For many of us, it’s getting tough. We know that from some of the conversations we’re having with you. And we know that from how we’re feeling, too. If you’re finding things tough right now, it might help to know you’re not alone.
Even with some aspects of lockdown easing, there are still things that aren’t back to normal – and we know one of the most important things that’s not easing up is your child being at home, away from their friends and away from their teacher.
Way back in March, just before schools closed, some of you speculated at the school gate about this going on for the rest of the school year. Despite this, I reckon at first many of us chose to not think about this lasting so long – we just got on with things. The first few weeks might have felt it was a bit of a novelty, even, and we had the resilience and positivity to get through it.
This was always going to be a marathon, not a sprint. We’re definitely approaching the finishing line – we just can’t see it yet. And just like a real marathon (not that I’ve ever run one!), the last stages are tough.
Things are challenging because you can see some people back at school – it’s hard not to feel a sense of envy or even resentment. And things are challenging when you hear about other aspects of lockdown easing – what a weird situation that we can take children to a zoo, but not to school.
The government has announced that all pupils in all year groups in England will go back to school full-time in September. Even if that doesn’t happen (and I’m thinking worst-case scenario here), I’m confident all children will be back at school on a rota system, For us, that would mean we can plan for teaching in school and then follow-up home learning which is then is checked by the teacher… That’s got to be better than than the current situation – and remember, that’s a worst-case scenario.
In the meantime, if your child is still at home, remember the majority of children across England are in the same situation, and children are resilient – they can bounce back, and they will. We’ll all reach the end of this marathon we’re running, tired and emotional maybe, but we will reach it.
Our daily message (24 June 2020)
Posted on 24 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Tomorrow’s message is for those parents whose child(ren) are still at home. Today’s message is especially to the parents and carers who have a child back at school – it’s a simple one:
Please respect social distancing.
For most people, this means just three things:
- only meet outside
- only meet up in a group of six people maximum
- stay two metres apart
Yes, we know the rules will soon ease up a bit, but that’s not until Saturday 04 July.
Right now, it’s still those three things we all need to follow.
We’re not judging a family or their choices about whether they follow guidelines or not, but the choices made at home have an impact on us in school. My job is to try and keep everyone safe. Asking a family to keep their child at home for 14 days is heartbreaking – it’s not a decision taken lightly at all. The reality is that it’s very upsetting.
If you and your family don’t follow social distancing, we’ll have to send your child home to quarantine for two weeks. This is a great shame for your child, and frustrating for other parents who want their child to be in school.
School is a social place and children chat away – it’s natural for children to want to catch-up and share what they’ve been up to. Imagine how they feel when they’ve been chatting happily and they end up saying something about visiting a friend or family member’s house, maybe for a meal or to socialise.
To be really clear about this: the chats we have with children are social chats – light and cheerful. We obviously don’t intend to make the child feel uncomfortable, and it’s horrible if child ends up feeling confused and guilty, thinking they’ve done something wrong, but not sure what.
The situation can be horrible for the child and difficult for us – but we need to protect all the children and staff and so we can’t just ignore the concern.
Here’s a comment from another school leader this week:
I totally feel for the children in this sort of situation. It’s not their choice at all, but they feel the awkwardness of it, and then have to miss out on seeing their friends and getting some normal school time.
Thank you for helping us to all stay safe.