Latest news from around the school

Our daily message (23 June 2020)

Posted on 23 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

In our message today, we’ve a response to some government announcements made last week, and a reminder about the annual reports we recently emailed to parents.

Annual reports

By now, you should all have received a copy of your child’s annual report.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, teachers wrote the report based on the learning up to Friday 20 March, the date that schools closed. All the information, including the attainment bands and progress, refer to the period from September to March.

We want you to know as much as you want about your child’s learning. If you want to discuss the report, please do contact your child’s class teacher or the Head of School.

Free school meals over the summer holiday

You’ll be aware of the success of Marcus Rashford in persuading the government to provide free school meals over the summer – the government had previously said the scheme would end at the end of the term.

In last Tuesday’s post (16.06.20), we encouraged caution when hearing about government plans. This is a case in point, because at the moment the information about this is that this is for a voucher scheme only. This is different to how we’ve provided free school meals over Easter, when we worked with our regular caterers who provided food hampers. It’s worth knowing so you can perhaps start to find out more about the vouchers and how they work.

If you’ve had a recent change in circumstances – a loss of job or a reduction in earnings, for example – your child might now be entitled to free school meals. Find out if you’re now entitled.

Summer catch-up programme

We ended last Tuesday’s post with reference to the summer catch-up scheme that the Prime Minister has pledged. Some of you have been asking us about this, but – as we said last week – caution is needed. In this case, it seems that the catch-up scheme is no longer part of the government’s strategy. This apparent shift might be due to the government working more closely with school leaders; in an email to members (19.06.20), the NAHT‘s general secretary wrote:

Importantly, previous headlines suggesting a ‘summer of catch-up classes’ appear to have been replaced with a more sensible, long-term plan… Our conversations with the government have not always been easy over the last few months, but I am pleased to be able to tell you that I sensed a real desire to engage with us over this particular issue and to listen to many of our concerns… My initial reaction is that, compared to where we were a week ago, this is a positive step forward for pupils and the profession.

We’re including this here so you’re aware that school won’t be open to operate any sort of summer programme of activity or learning.


As always, thanks very much for your support. Whether emailed, or mentioned to staff in passing, your supportive comments have really helped us.

Our daily message (22 June 2020)

Posted on 22 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

In our post today, we have our regular Monday Living and Learning during lockdown update…

As you’ll know by now, Living and Learning is the name for all the teaching and learning we do around Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE). This half term, our theme is relationships. Each week in school, we have a Living and Learning statement. I tell the truth and say sorry if I need to… is our statement this week.

One of the Sphere Federation Health Leaders writes:

A classic story to support this theme is The boy who cried ‘wolf!’. Listen to the fable here and discuss the moral message with your child.

You may want to consider why people might not tell the truth. It could be:

  • to cover something up
  • to gain attention
  • to manipulate a situation
  • to impress others

Telling the truth might seem difficult, but it’s the best way to solve problems and move on.

Apologising or saying sorry in a caring way can make you feel good because you are trying to make things right again and help your relationship (and the other person will probably feel better, too). It shows the other person you have thought about your actions. When you empathise with them, you begin to feel sorry for your behaviour.

What might an apology look like? It might simply be saying, ‘I’m sorry’, writing them a note or doing something for the person you have upset,
You might also want to look at this article about saying you’re sorry – it could be a good read for an older child, and interesting for you to read, too.

Tomorrow’s message includes a response to some recent government announcements.

Our daily message (19 June 2020)

Posted on 21 June 2020 by Mrs Craggs

Our final message of the week is an important one for those of you who still have a child at home…J. Lyons & Co.

Before lockdown, what did ‘Zoom’ mean to you? A classic ice lolly from Lyons Maid? A timeless tune from the ’80s classic by Fat Larry’s Band? Now, of course, it’s synonymous with online video conferencing. (We know other video conferencing products exist, but here, we’ll refer to Zoom, which has taken off massively during lockdown.)

Before the end of the school year, teachers will host some Zoom meetings for children who remain at home.

Some background

The meetings will be with groups of children from the class. They’ll be a one-off chance for children to re-connect with the teacher, classmates and with learning. We think this is important for our friends still at home during lockdown, especially since we now know they won’t be returning until September, all being well.

One or two of you have been asking for teachers to deliver lessons by Zoom since the start of lockdown. We didn’t pursue this for two main reasons: safeguarding and effective teaching. (We have other reservations about Zoom to teach, too, but these are the main ones.)

We’re still not convinced Zoom (or any online video conferencing service) is an effective way to teach large groups of younger children online. It might work well for older children, but the important two-way dialogue that we have in school would be hard to re-create and sustain in a Zoom meeting.

There were some unpleasant stories at the start of lockdown that highlighted safeguarding concerns. However, Zoom has introduced improved security features. We’ve researched how best to secure the Zoom meetings; we’ve consulted colleagues who have begun to use it; and we’ve trialled it amongst ourselves. We’re now confident that Zoom can be used securely.

Next steps

The next steps are simple…

If your child is still learning at home, and you’d like your child to be part of a Zoom call with their teacher and some of their classmates, email your child’s teacher. By now, most of you will already have emailed – the teacher’s address is something like (first name, last name and then @spherefederation).

When you email, you’ll need to provide the name that will appear in the Zoom call – the teacher won’t allow anyone into the meeting if they’re not expecting them. Ideally, the name would be the child’s first and last name, but it can be your name. (And please make sure the name is appropriate.)

The teacher will decide a date and time for this to happen – it’ll happen before the end of term. They’ll send an invitation with the log-in details back to you. We’re sorry – there can’t be much flexibility about the date and time.

How to prepare

For younger children, your child’s teacher will have a chat and read a story. For older children (Y3-Y6), the teacher will ask a couple of questions which will include questions related to home learning:

  • What home learning have you felt most proud of?
  • What learning have you made most progress with at home?
  • What sort of learning routine are you in?

It would be great if your child has thought about these so they’re able to answer a question like that.

Some more details

  • Meetings will be with groups of children from the class: no more than 10-12 children.
  • The meetings are only for those who are home learning.
  • Teachers will have a list of pupils and appropriate Zoom name in advance to allow people to enter.
  • Two members of staff will be present throughout the Zoom.
  • A parent / carer should be present at home, although you don’t need to be on screen throughout the meeting.
  • Teachers will continue to make occasional phone calls home, too, but you might not get a call during the week teachers do their Zoom.
  • The meeting will last about 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the group.
  • Some Zoom features will be disabled: the chat function, the record function, and the ‘re-name’ function will all be disabled.
  • Participants will all be ‘mute’ on entry; teachers will manage the Zoom meeting by ‘unmuting’ children one at a time.
  • Our school rules will still apply (including We respect everyone).
  • Your child can be part of the Zoom but choose not to talk – no pressure!
  • Teachers are aware of actions to take if a child doesn’t follow ground rules, school rules, instructions: this could include disabling video of anyone who is not following rules, for example.

Our daily message (18 June 2020)

Posted on 18 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our message today focuses on two simple things: eating and sleeping…


Have you had a change in circumstances – a loss of job or a reduction in earnings? If so, your child might now be entitled to free school meals. Find out if you’re now entitled.

If you’re finding it difficult to access food because of money problems, self-isolation, or whatever the reason, you might be able to access emergency food support. Check out Leeds Food Aid Network and Leeds Money Information Centre.

Don’t feel awkward – ask us and we’ll try to help you access the help you need right now.


Has your child (or you) experienced sleep problems during lockdown?

Perhaps with your child, read The Good-Night Guide for Children – full of facts about sleep and its importance to us all. Did you know, for example, that when we sleep, we go through sleep cycles that last about 90 minutes and after each cycle, we come to a point of partial awakening? (And it’s at that point that we’re likely to wake up.)

Millpond Sleep Clinic is a specialist in children’s sleep. Millpond’s top tips to help your child sleep well are below. The NHS have some similar healthy sleep tips for children.

Get your routine right 
30 to 40 minutes before your child goes to bed, carry out the same series of steps every night – make this routine your bedtime ritual. Having a regular routine at about the same time every night means your child’s body will start to prepare for sleep as soon as you start this process.

The lead up to bedtime
About an hour before your child goes to sleep, have quiet time. Tidy away the toys and turn off the TV. Research has shown light from computers, iPads and other devices can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Food for sleep
If your child is hungry at this time, avoid sugary foods and drinks. Instead, offer foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan that causes sleepiness. The best snacks should contain carbohydrates and protein and are found in foods such as chicken or turkey with brown bread, peanut butter on whole grain cereal or low sugar cereal and milk.

Warm bath
Have a warm, quiet and relaxing bath lasting no longer than ten minutes. Keeping the bath to a maximum of ten minutes means bath time doesn’t become a stimulating play time. The added bonus is coming out of the warm water allows the body to cool quickly triggering the sleep hormone melatonin.

Straight to bed
Then go straight into your child’s bedroom; going back into the living area at this time will lose the focus and magic of the routine and make your child think it’s time to play again.

Pre-dim the lights in the bedroom. Dim light is another trigger for melatonin production.

Dress for bed
Have their night clothes ready for your return from the bathroom so they can quickly get dressed and climb into bed.

Story time
Read a story and have a cuddle and kiss goodnight then tuck them in with their favourite soft toy so they are warm and cosy.

Now that they’re drowsy, leave the bedroom so that they learn to fall asleep independently.

(You might also want to check out a night time meditation.)

Our daily message (17 June 2020)

Posted on 17 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We continue our messages this week with another message that supports our home learners in terms of Living and Learning.

Last week, our Living and Learning statement was ‘I see things from other people’s point of view’. This statement linked with the British value of mutual respect and tolerance. It promotes empathy and understanding.

We got some great feedback from some parents and carers about the ideas and resources we presented, including this, in reference to the Sesame Street clip (we’ve edited the comment to make sure it’s anonymous):

‘[My child] has had a few negative comments about her skin (this was addressed). But she says every day she wants to look like all her friends – she wants white skin and straight hair. We explain about skin colour etc and how lucky [she is]. But she still wants to have white skin. This video clicked with her. She understood that everyone is the same even though they may look different.’

Whilst really encouraging, the comment made us sad to note the negative comments had been made in the first place. Imagine the impact if we all took on board the simple message of the Sesame Street clip: ‘we’re different, we’re the same’.

If you didn’t find time to think about last week’s Living and Learning theme with your child, please do.

As well as he three book list recommendations from last week, we’ve one extra book list that you might want to check out, from Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books:

Our daily message (16 June 2020)

Posted on 16 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Yesterday, the Department for Education published guidance ‘to provide information on how primary schools can use flexibility to welcome back additional pupils this term’. The guidance states: ‘It is up to schools to decide which pupils to prioritise, based on their knowledge of their children and communities’.

Welcoming back additional pupils

‘It is up to schools to decide which pupils to prioritise…’ That’s good – that’s what we’ve been trying to do since the government announced that schools should begin to open more widely for pupils.

We’ve been planning carefully to manage increasing numbers in a safe way: while responding the the government’s goal for children in Early Years, Year 1 and Year 6 to return, we’ve also welcomed back more children of key workers, and we’ve also invited individuals from other year groups who might be considered vulnerable in some way.

Regrettably, because we’d already decided which additional pupils to prioritise ahead of yesterday’s guidance, our schools are already close to capacity. If you’re at home with your child and are really struggling in some way, please do get in touch.

A word of caution…

The guidance published yesterday states primary schools with extra capacity can welcome back pupils from any year groups. This is despite education secretary Gavin Williamson telling Parliament last week he was working on a ‘priority’ list for schools of which pupils to welcome back first. This is an example of the confusing messages coming from government.

The current situation means that plans and messages often change. However, please be cautious about the messages coming from government just now:

  • they sometimes change, they sometimes get dropped (as appears to be the case with Gavin Williamson’s priority list), and they sometimes don’t match reality
  • they don’t appear to stem from working closely with school leaders – certainly, we don’t hear things before you do
  • there is a danger that they create false hope and mislead parents as to what is deliverable

The government has previously announced initiatives that haven’t quite lived up to the message: free laptops for disadvantaged home learners haven’t been delivered yet; free school meal vouchers didn’t work like they should leaving families not able to pay for their food at supermarket checkouts; and – one affecting us all – the prime minister’s ambition for all pupils to return for the last few weeks of the school year. Most recently, the prime minister has announced a ‘summer catch-up scheme‘ – let’s hope this is realistic, well-thought-through, and can actually happen.

Our daily message (15 June 2020)

Posted on 15 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We start the week with another message that supports our home learners in terms of Living and Learning. I know the difference between laughing at and laughing with someone… is our statement this week.

There’s an important difference between laughing at and laughing with someone. We’ll get on better with others if we know that laughing at someone is unkind and hurtful. The statement links with the British value of mutual respect and tolerance.

Firstly, for older children, read this article to find out what actually happens when we laugh. Laughing and smiling helps your body as well as your mind feel better and healthier but not when this is directed at someone else.

Look at and use these questions to discuss these contrasting photos with your child.

  • What do you think is happening in this photograph?
  • Have you ever been in a situation like this?
  • What do you think this person is/these people are feeling like?
  • If you feel like that, what would your face look like?  And your body?
  • If you’re feeling like this, what might you do?
  • If you’re feeling like this, how does your body feel on the inside?
  • What do you think a person who felt like that would do?

Finally, consider the following with your friends and family at the moment:

  • What makes you smile and laugh?
  • How could you make someone laugh?
  • How would that person feel when they are laughing?

For parents and carers, you might like to read Michael Rosen’s article, The trick to making children laugh. And with your child, enjoy his poems, which  can help to bring a smile or a laugh to your face.

Our daily message (12 June 2020)

Posted on 12 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our final message of the week comes from Miss Beatson, St James’ CE Primary’s Head of School.

We’re now at the end of the second week back in school. We’ve managed to open three ‘bubbles’ (groups which are separated from the others) and we’ll start a fourth bubble next week. At this point, following current government guidelines, we’ll be close to full capacity and unable to have any more children in school for the time being.

Staff are doing a fantastic job under challenging circumstances. They’ve worked incredibly hard:

  • making school as safe as possible
  • supporting our children’s wellbeing
  • teaching lessons within the new constraints of the classroom
  • continuing to provide good quality home learning online for our children who are still at home

School at the moment does feel quiet and different. We’re all missing each and every one of you who can’t join us right now.

Nevertheless, the children in school have been very good at following and respecting the new rules and they’ve taken so well to the ‘new normal’.

Message of caution: if we do have a member of staff become unwell or unable to come into school, the bubble they teach in may have to go home as we do not have any spare staff to step in.


To further support learning at home, we’ve bought all children in Reception to Year 5 a bundle of textbooks and more information about how to collect these will be communicated next week. We hope this will further support the online learning or ‘re-motivate’ some of the children who may have been struggling to engage in learning in recent weeks.

As Mr Roundtree mentioned in his daily message on Wednesday, we still don’t know what the school picture looks like for September and we understand it can be an anxious time for parents with so much uncertainty. We’ll be working very hard to put safe plans in place and follow the government advice and guidelines and obviously communicate the plans to you as soon as we can.

For those families who are already coming into school or who will be starting school next week, here are a few reminders about the expectations in order to keep our school community as safe as possible:

  • stick to the allocated drop off and pick up times for your child
  • only one parent is to drop off and pick up
  • if any new medication is to be given in school, please inform the office prior to your child coming into school
  • it should be someone from the household collecting your child
  • water bottles must be brought into school

If your child is back at school, please make sure you read the last two pages of this document – it’s important information about what we need from you and your child to keep everyone safe at school.

If your child is returning soon, please make sure you read the whole document, so you can be prepared with every detail, from snacks to sun-cream (although not much of that is needed at the moment!).

Have a good weekend, despite the weather.

Our daily message (11 June 2020)

Posted on 11 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message comes from Rachel Greenhalgh, our Chair of Governors…

Since the government announced that schools should make preparations to open more widely, our governing body has been working closely with the school leaders to ensure how and when this could happen in the safest way possible for all.

This has been a huge undertaking. School leaders and governors have been keeping abreast of the relevant government information, which extends to 29 guidance documents or announcements and 94 guidance updates published by the Department for Education since the start of the Covid-19 crisis (source: Schools Week), along with additional information from the Local Authority and other sources. Full risk assessments have taken place and were brought to the governing body for discussion, consideration and approval, alongside the proposed practical arrangements for children returning to school and those remaining at home.

The safety of all our children, staff and the wider community has been paramount in all our decision making. Last week, our schools, like many across England, began to welcome more children through our doors. The governing body continues to monitor and review the safety of children and staff in school as we steadily increase the number of children attending, through regular discussion of the risk assessments and plans with school leaders, and communicating any updates to you. For example, we have asked school leaders to reinforce the message about social distancing and other Covid-19 safeguarding priorities.

At the same time, we are conscious that there are still many of our children at home, and there is huge uncertainty about when it will be possible for all children to be back to school. Providing and signposting home-learning for these children also remains a priority, and we continue to ask about the provision for children at home and support available for parents / carers in facilitating this.

We would like to thank you for your continuous support. We are extremely proud of our children and staff and how you have helped and encouraged them to stay happy and healthy during this difficult time.

Look out for tomorrow’s message, which comes from Miss Beatson, the Head of School at St James’ CE Primary.

Our daily message (10 June 2020)

Posted on 10 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message comes directly from me, and it’s a response to yesterday’s news: ‘Plans for all England’s primary children to return for a month before the summer break have been dropped by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’. This is a difficult message to write because I’ve always tried to avoid presenting my own personal views on the tough times we’re currently in.

The problem

The government’s plan that children in Early Years, Year 1 and Year 6 should return to school was not one of the options that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) evaluated. In fact, SAGE recommended a rota system, where small groups from all year groups returned on a rota – one week in school, one week not. (This is similar to what the Welsh Government is doing, for example.)

The government’s plan to have all primary school pupils back at school for the last few weeks was always destined to be very much an ambition rather than than a realistic plan if systems to support it weren’t properly up-and-running. We’ve seen delays in accessing a test for Covid-19, which I hear from headteacher colleagues are still a problem, and the track and trace system not yet fully operational.

The issue facing us now is challenging. Schools in England followed the guidance coming from the Department for Education – we can’t realistically un-do what we were advised to do. Parents were led to feel confident and optimistic that even if their child didn’t return to school at the start of June, they would be back at school for at least the last few weeks.

The next steps

We need well-thought through plans from government that are developed with school leaders and not simply presented to them. The plans need to be ready for different scenarios.

The best-case scenario is that in September, all our current pupils will be back at school in September. But that doesn’t mean things are back to normal – we still need a plan. We need to adapt our curriculum. This is so that we can support children’s wellbeing even more than we normally do, and so that we can adapt what we teach so children can catch up on learning they’ve missed. We need to be able to do this with at least the support of, and at best the guidance from, government and Ofsted.

Where I read about concerns that schools may not be back to normal by September, they mainly relate to secondary schools having all pupils back. I’m cautiously optimistic that for primaries, this will happen. However, we need to be prepared for things not going to plan…

A worst-case scenario is that the virus remains widespread and we’re in a position similar to what we have now. I’d love to be able to go back in time, ignore the government’s ‘roadmap’, and put in place a better and fairer way to have all children in school for at least some regular time. We can’t realistically do that right now, but it would definitely be a a better way to start the new school year: all children attending school at least on a rota basis.

In a meeting with Leeds headteachers and Leeds councillors yesterday, I put forward the need for longer-term thinking and encouraged them to lobby the government more to do this. I’ll back up what I said with a more detailed picture of what I’ve said here. I’ll also be sending this to my own trade union, the NAHT. They have taken, in my opinion, a pragmatic, proactive and productive approach. I’m hoping the government might listen more than it has done to the views of this particular union.

Finally, some thanks. First of all, from the very start of the challenges we’ve faced, way back in March, the support from you has been so appreciated. You’ve encouraged us, guided us, thanked us – for all your feedback, I’m very grateful. Thank you.


Tomorrow’s message comes from Rachel Greenhalgh, the Chair of Governors for Sphere Federation. Friday’s message is directly from the Head of School and presents a school-specific picture of our school at this strange transition point.