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Latest news from around the school

School's closed: learning from home (22 March 2020)

Posted on 22 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We want to help you to make sure your child continues to learn at home whilst we all get through these difficult times.

Your child will be set three daily tasks…

  • There will be a reading task, a maths one, and a science / topic / writing task.
  • Each of the three tasks should take about 30-40 mins each.
  • The tasks will show on the Homework pages of the website.
  • They’ll be published daily, Monday to Friday, at 9am.
  • All tasks for the day will show up in one daily Homework post on the site.
  • Phone any of the Sphere schools if you’re unsure how to access the website and where you can find the tasks.

To supplement the learning…

…we’ve prepared a list of over 30 websites that you can use, from English and Maths to PE and wellbeing activities.

You can email your child’s teacher…

Email teachers if you’re unsure about some aspect of the home learning. The email addresses follow the same pattern in Key Stage 1 and 2: joebloggs@spherefederation.org (If your child has two teachers, please email both of them.) Check the Homework section and you should find the exact email addresses today or tomorrow on there.

For parents of children in Early Years, you’ll be familiar with the addresses already:

We’ll aim to reply on the same day and no later than the following morning. To keep this manageable, please restrict emails to one per day, per child.

(This is a short-term measure and will not continue beyond the current period. Teachers are allowed to respond to questions, comments and concerns that relate to the learning and not to wider issues.)

And some other points…

The Learn More section of our website has two pages that you’ll find especially helpful: ‘Calculations and times tables’ and ‘Help your child’ – check them out.

Don’t forget that children should be reading at home every day – we encourage a minimum of 20 minutes. This could be quiet reading on their own, reading aloud with an adult, or an adult reading to the child (all are important, but that last one is an especially comforting end-of-day activity).

Other things that can be happening all the time are spelling practice (you could make up your own lists) and times tables practice (and set a regular time to test on a times tables – don’t forget the division facts).

Keep a look out for educational programmes from the BBC on iPlayer (they plan to increase these a lot).

Coronavirus – update 4 (20 March 2020)

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today, we’ve been finalising plans for next week and beyond. In separate a communication, I’ll let you know what you can expect from the home learning tasks that teachers will set. We’ll break from policy and allow teachers to respond to parents who might have questions about the learning, too – we know this will be important for many of you.

The government has produced some guidance with frequently asked questions about the school closures – you might find this helpful.

If you’ve told us your child is coming in to school next week:

  • you can assume we’re expecting your child to arrive – we won’t send a confirmation
  • you must come or tell us if not – this will save wasting time contacting families to check on the whereabouts of your child when we have limited staff

I’ve communicated in an earlier post the guidance around maintaining some sort of educational provision. Whilst we’ve been heartened by all your words of encouragement and praise, we’ve also – sadly – had to respond to parents who have complained to us about the restrictions the government is setting. The government is clear:

  • ‘if it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be’
  • ‘parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus’

…And we’ve had parents trying to work around the system in some way. Please be aware we’ll be asking for evidence that your work is regarded as essential in these difficult times – this could even involve contacting a line manager from your place of work and carrying out other checks. I’m sorry that seems untrusting, but most of you will understand we need to protect the limited number of spaces we can safely offer (and it also helps to restrict unnecessary movement:

  • ‘the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society’

The last couple of days, after the announcement that schools would close, have been hectic and stressful. We’re grateful for your patience and your words of encouragement, and your kind messages which have reassured and revitalised us when we’ve needed it.

(On a personal note, I’d like to say again how grateful I am to the my wonderful Heads of School across Sphere Federation who have worked so hard, the terrific teachers and teaching assistants, the amazing admin team, and the other super support staff such as the site supervisors and cleaners. Many of these people have dealt with the situation at school while facing their own personal problems, too.)

Coronavirus – update 3 (20 March 2020)

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

When we open on Monday, it’ll be for childcare – there won’t be any new teaching (it may not be teachers who are in school, in fact). There will be opportunities for the children to carry out their home learning tasks, just as we expect this to be happening at home.

So that we can manage to accommodate children for the reduced provision in school, we’ll want to see evidence that you are an essential worker. Please bring this to school on Monday or as soon as you can.

Please read the government’s guidance as to what an essential worker is. It makes these points clear:

  • Schools are asked to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
  • The fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread.
  • Schools are therefore asked to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.
  • Many parents who are essential workers may be able to ensure their child is kept at home – and every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

Two other important points:

  • For childcare, you shouldn’t rely on grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions or who are elderly.
  • You should do everything you can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. Please observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  • It’s not a good enough reason to say that someone’s at home but they’re working and can’t be disturbed.

Regretfully, a warning to you all…

Sadly, fake emails are circulating about schools closing due to Covid-19 – this is linked to asking for your bank details. We’ll never ask for your bank details via an email. Please ignore these scam emails.

Coronavirus – update 2 (20 March 2020)

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

If you’re an essential worker who needs to send their child to school next week, please complete this form so that we can prepare as best we can.

If you prefer, use this Word version and complete online and return by email.

(The links take you to a different Sphere school, but the forms are relevant all the same.)

Coronavirus – update 1 (20 March 2020)

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

The government has released its list of worker who are considered critical. If you’re a parent who works in one of these sectors, and you need your child to continue to attend school, please let us know. (You don’t need to tell us if you already did yesterday.)

Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors outlined below. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

The government emphasises the following points:

If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.
If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a critical worker, then educational provision will be available for them.
Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.
Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
If your work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and you cannot keep your child safe at home then your children will be prioritised for education provision.

The sectors are:

  • Health and social care
  • Education and childcare
  • Key public services
  • Local and national government
  • Food and other necessary goods
  • Public safety and national security
  • Transport
  • Utilities, communication and financial services

The government also says:

If workers think they fall within the critical categories above they should confirm with their employer that, based on their business continuity arrangements, their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service.

Coronavirus – update 3 (19 March 2020)

Posted on 19 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s email update to schools from the government says very little that’s new (they do keep stressing the importance of handwashing, though). You’ll know already that schools will close for the foreseeable future from tomorrow, and we’ve already communicated that we plan to be open on Monday for children of key workers and for children who are vulnerable in some way.

What we don’t know is what the key worker categories will be. Thank you to the parents / carers who provided us with an idea of this – it’s helped us with our plans. We now need to wait and see exactly which jobs are on the list.

If your child does come to school next week…

  • There’ll be an expectation that they do similar learning tasks to those that we publish on the website for children at home. (We’ll tell you more about the home learning tasks separately.)
  • Children will be encouraged to bring in a game, toy or book for some regular ‘down time’ during the day – we’d rather not electronic toys, but a board game for others to join in would be good.
  • There won’t be an expectation that children wear uniform.
  • We hope we’ll be able to offer some sort of support for children of key workers and a small number of other children during the Easter holiday period, too.
  • In the longer term, things may change so that schools work together and provide this reduced provision as a group of schools.

We do have a few other brief updates for you…

  • If your child receives free school meals because of low income (not just because they’re in Early Years or Key Stage 1), then a ‘grab bag’ lunch will be available to collect from school.
  • There will be no tests or other assessments this school year.
  • One of our great teachers is in the middle of preparing a really long list of top websites to support learning at home – we’re all loving DuoLingo (perhaps your child will return to school being fluent in a new language – I might even give Irish a go!)
  • The BBC plans to increase the availability of educational programmes, which is great: ‘Educational programming for school children will be increased across iPlayer and the red button, with a daily educational programme for different key stages or year groups. BBC Bitesize will also be expanded.’

And a top tip…

  • We’ve heard from a few mums and dads that they plan to restrict their child’s access to social networking and other online activity (other than learning) at home during school hours – we think that’s a great idea.

And finally for today, a big thank you…

  • To the fantastic teachers, teaching assistants, admin team and cleaners – they’ve been truly amazing in these unsettling times.
  • To all of you who’ve told us how much you appreciate what teachers have done, and how much you’ve appreciated these updates.

Coronavirus – update 2 (19 March 2020): essential workers

Posted on 19 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’d hoped by now that the government would have released details of which workers are deemed to be ‘key workers’. They sent this in an email yesterday:

To provide parents, student and staff with the certainty they need, we are announcing that schools, colleges and early years settings will be closed to everyone except children of key workers and vulnerable children from Monday, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus.

Examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work… A full list of key worker categories will be published by the Cabinet Office tomorrow.

Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.

The government hasn’t provided us with this list yet.

To help us plan for next week, it would be helpful if you contact school by telephone if you think you’re a key worker (or your partner if you have one).

When you call, you’ll be asked:

  • Which key worker category you (or partner) falls into – at the moment this is only broken down as NHS staff, police or delivery driver
  • How many days you need the service for in a typical week
  • If there’s an adult under 70 at home who’s able to look after the children

On Monday, when you drop your child off, you’ll be asked:

  • To show some evidence of the key worker status (this is so we can protect the provision for those who really need it)
  • To bring a packed lunch and any snack, unless your child is entitled to free school meals

Please note that things are changing quickly. By the time you read this, we may have more information about the key worker status.

Coronovirus – update 1 (19 March 2020)

Posted on 19 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We know you’ll have a lot of questions about yesterday’s late announcement about schools closing – we do, too.

We’re confident in our plans so far, but we’ve a lot to do to finalise details. Please bear with us.

I’m meeting with Miss Beatson this morning to finalise these plans. We’ll be joined by colleagues from our other Sphere Federation schools to share ideas and thoughts about the best way forward.

I’m sure you’ll understand this is a busy time for us.

Coronovirus – update (18 March 2020)

Posted on 18 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’ll keep today’s update a short one…

Yesterday, we published an article about ways to support your child.

The article included various links to advice to support your child’s wellbeing during these unsettling times. Do take a look, and especially monitor what they’re accessing online because some children are talking about the coronavirus pandemic in ways which aren’t helping at all (and this is based on misinformation (mistakes) and disinformation (deliberate lies) that children (and adults!) are reading online.

We also included a list of online resources if your child is at home, or if schools are closed. A few more resources to consider at home are…

Phonics

PhonicsPlay is now free to access with immediate effect – use the log-in details provided on their homepage. (This company has hurried forward a new site to use, but there may be broken links and glitches: http://www.new.phonicsplay.co.uk/ ) Many younger children will be very familiar with this resource, and this will help to keep that reassuring connection with learning in school.

Science

The Science Museum Group have some fantastic experiments to try out at home.

Physical activity

The imovement platform has resources that will support you and your child at home. New resources will be added on a daily basis, and will include Quick Blasts, Active Blasts and Additional Activities to support Maths and Literacy.

Today’s daily update from the government doesn’t contain a lot of new information, and does say that Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, will make a statement to the House of Commons at 5pm – we can expect more news later, perhaps. The update does tell us more about the COVID-19 Emergency Bill, which is to be published later this week. The Bill will include:

  • a power to remove or relax some requirements around education and childcare legislation in order to help these institutions run effectively in the event of an emergency
  • a power to require schools, further education and childcare settings to stay open or re-open, operate in ways to support continued education and childcare such as enable pupils / students to attend different premises, to enhance resilience of childcare and education sector

These two points might mean schools shifting focus to providing childcare to those parents who most need it, but please note that nothing is confirmed at this stage.

Coronovirus - update (17 March 2020)

Posted on 17 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’ve already communicated about coronavirus today – we’ve let you know about ways to support your child at home.

We’re grateful to those of you who have thanked us, commenting that their child feels supported at school in these difficult times. However, teachers are telling us that some children are feeling anxious. Please do take the time to read about how to support your child’s wellbeing. One top tip we mentioned is to supervise closely what your child is reading on social media – there’s a lot of misinformation (stuff that’s wrong) and disinformation (deliberate lies) out there.

The daily update from the government doesn’t contain much new information that’s relevant to you as a parent, but as a reminder:

Yesterday, the Government introduced new guidance on whole household isolation in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak:

if you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started
if you live with others and you or another member of the household have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. It is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community for anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.
The symptoms are:

A high temperature (37.8 degrees and above)
A new, continuous cough
The full stay at home guidance for households with these symptoms can be found here.

We’ve always said that we’re following government guidance. Because of new guidance on social distancing, we’re now cancelling some events and activities. This includes any open sessions for parents to visit schools. Local organisations have also started to do so. This includes the local authority closing all leisure centres – this means there will be no swimming sessions for a while. We’re sorry about this.

In the event of schools closing…

…we continue to make plans. To support home learning:

  • Your child will select two or three reading books that he/she can take home.
  • Your child will be given a blank exercise book to record any home learning.
  • Teachers will communicate learning using the homework section on the website.
  • You’ll be able to contact your child’s class teacher by email if he/she needs any specific support.

Families may be contacted during the time that school is closed; if contact is made then it would be from the Head of School and would probably be by phone. If you’re contacted, it’ll be just to check that all is ok and to make sure that you are able to access everything that you need.

And finally…

…on a personal note, and a very trivial one, thank you to the dad who wished me a happy St Patrick’s Day today – it certainly served to lighten my mood!