Latest news from around the school

Easter eggs

Posted on 28 March 2024 by Miss Beatson

Thank you to the PTA who’ve donated Easter eggs for all the pupils in school. We saw lots of happy faces as the eggs were handed out in class today.

Have a lovely Easter break.

Our weekly message (Thursday 28 March 2024)

Posted on 28 March 2024 by Mr Roundtree

This week’s message comes a day earlier than normal…

Policies and other points

We’ve a few policy updates that you might want to be aware of.

Our Food in School policy sets out key points for parents/carers and staff. For parents/carers, this includes guidance around special occasions, birthdays, rewards and the importance of alerting us if your child has a food allergy. We’ve also updated our Packed Lunch Guidance. (Talking of food, you might want to check out the NHS Eatwell Guide for advice around eating healthily.)

Another update is our Smoking and Vaping policy. The message here remains the same: smoking and vaping are not permitted in any part of the school’s grounds.

Finally, please be aware of our Home-School Positive Relationships Policy, which supports the Governors’ Statement of Behavioural Principles.

School meal prices

Earlier this week, we received notification from Catering Leeds, the company who supplies our school lunches, that they have to significantly increase the prices for school meals from September.

Unfortunately, this means that we’re going to have to increase what we charge you:

  • Nursery: the cost of a school lunch will increase to £2.60 per day
  • Key Stage 2 children: the cost will be £2.75 per day
  • Reception and Key Stage 1 children: Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) will continue, meaning that your child will still be able to get a school lunch provided free of charge.

We appreciate the price rises are a big increase. We’ve been assured that Leeds City Council school meal prices are still relatively low. In 2023/24, Gateshead Council schools charge £3.00 for their school meals, North Yorkshire County Council charges £3.24 and Derbyshire Council charges £3.25.

And finally…

Really enjoyable activity that parents could join in with their children. The children were all confident with the topic vocabulary and really engaged.

That’s one of many positive comments following our recent Topic Review session. A big thanks to all who came to the session, and an even bigger thanks to those of you who left some feedback. We’ll read and consider all the comments.

Have a great Easter holiday. See you again on Monday 15 April.

Our weekly message (Friday 22 March 2024)

Posted on 22 March 2024 by Mr Roundtree

In case you missed our message, a reminder… Look out for the return of our attendance competition in Summer 1 half-term (Monday 15 April to Thursday 23 May). Just like before, all pupils with attendance of 96% or higher will be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 Love to Shop voucher.

This rest of this week’s message comes from Mr Catherall, the Writing Leader across Sphere Federation…

Words, words, words

We try to regularly give tips for you can help at home across various subjects. To help with reading, we encourage you to read with your child every day. To help with maths, we encourage the use of Numbots or Times Table Rockstars. To help with writing, we ask you to regularly practise the spellings that are sent home. But, there’s another way you can really help your child with their writing. Before the big reveal, a quick note on spelling…

Why spelling?

Spelling is a really important part of becoming a fluent writer. Our aim is for children to get to the point where spelling becomes automatic for them. When this happens, loads of ‘brain space’ is freed up to concentrate on the content of what you’re writing. If children are having to really focus on how to spell lots of words, they’re unable to write effectively because their brain is working in overdrive just to get the words down on the page (or device).

So, what’s the other way I can help?


That’s it – talk to your child. All the time. About anything– it doesn’t really matter.

Being able to speak to others and communicate effectively is a crucial life skill. But, it’s one we need to practise. The more words you know, the better able you are to communicate with others. So, talk to your child as much as you possibly can. Don’t simplify your language, either. Children are sponges for learning new words so the more we can expose them to, the more they’ll have ‘in the bank’ to use.

If children can speak fluently, they can probably write fluently. The more words they know, the more varied and interesting their writing will be.

It’s not just us that think this. There’s a growing bank of research which proves how important vocabulary and language development is.

‘A child’s vocabulary is a big predictor of their future success,’ says Alice Penfold, Project Manager of the Words for Work programme at the National Literacy Trust. ‘It not only affects their chances of performing well in exams, but also their life chances.

‘For example, children who have a poor vocabulary at the age of five are four times more likely to struggle with reading as adults, and three times more prone to mental health issues.’

With this in mind, it’s well worth making an effort to build your child’s vocabulary.

One way we encourage you talk together at home is through our weekly Talk Time homework. This can be done over dinner, in the car, on the way to the park or swimming or football or gymnastics or wherever you need to be. It doesn’t need to be a serious chat but the prompt we give is one we think should stimulate some discussion.

If you need any help, or further ideas about how to support your child with their writing, please contact your child’s class teacher.

Finally, look out for your child’s latest Learning Update which will be sent home next week.

Summer Attendance Competition

Posted on 17 March 2024 by Mr Roundtree

Look out for the return of our attendance competition in Summer 1 half-term. Just like before, all pupils with attendance of 96% or higher will be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 Love to Shop vouchers!

So… for the full Summer 1 half-term, Monday 15 April to Thursday 23 May (just short of six weeks), if your child reaches a good level of attendance – that’s 96% – their name will be entered into a prize draw. We’ll select one lucky winner on the last day of the half-term (Thursday 23 May).

Remember, arriving late for school counts as an unauthorised absence. This affects a child’s overall attendance figure, and that might mean they lose out.

St James’ CE Primary is a happy and healthy place to be – and maybe even a lucky one, too!

Our weekly message (Friday 15 March 2024)

Posted on 15 March 2024 by Mr Roundtree

Parents sometimes tell us their children don’t say much about what they’ve been doing at school. It’s not unusual! If you want to have a chat about school, one idea might be to re-phrase the question to keep it specific and keep it positive:

  • What’s the best learning you’ve done today, or this week?
  • When have you successfully used an R for learning?
  • How have you helped make school a happy and healthy place?

Something else that might help is to come along to the Topic Review session on Monday at 2.30pm. This is the second of two drop-in sessions – come and have a look at your child’s topic learning – and maybe be prepared to join in!

If you do come along to this, please remember to let us have some feedback.

Our communications

We thought it would be useful to remind you about the different ways that we communicate things with you.

Anything urgent (such as the cancellation of an after school club) or a quick reminder about something (like the photographer being in school) is sent by text. If you have the School Gateway app, it may be useful to set it so you receive notifications of messages. Texts are automatically sent to your app, if you have it installed (it’s free for us to communicate with you this way).

Our weekly message on Fridays contain information about things coming up, such as parents’ evenings or sports days, as well as other information that we think you might find useful, such as top tips to support your child to stay safe online.

Most letters will be emailed out to you, too. We’re moving away from sending out hard copies of letters (it’s better for the environment to send things electronically and things sometimes don’t always get to you, if they’re sent home in bookbags). Please try and check your emails daily, so you don’t miss anything important.

For anything relevant to your child’s class, please check the class news pages of the website (we recommend doing this at least once a week).
Nursery and Reception tend to put reminders on their class news page, as they don’t have a homework page.

Reception Parent Survey

Thank you again for your responses to our recent survey of parents and carers of children in Reception. It’s been great to read lots of your positive feedback, and it’s also a useful time for us to consider how we can keep getting better. One suggestion we’ll act on is to add another Stay and Learn session into our schedule for next year – we know this won’t benefit you, but hopefully our parents in 2024-25 will appreciate your suggestion. We’ve spoken with any parent (who left their name) who expressed a particular concern about their own child, too.

Finally today, a couple of thank yous…

Thank you

We recently asked you to consider making a voluntary contribution towards our Cooking and Nutrition lessons for the year. A big thank you for your contribution, which will help to pay for the ingredients for these sessions and therefore ensure they go ahead each term.

And also a thank you for your contributions to Comic Relief today. We’re delighted to let you know that we’ve raised £142.65 for this fantastic cause.

Have a good weekend.

We love reading - celebrating World Book Day at St James' CE Primary

Posted on 09 March 2024 by Emma Kendrew

A huge thank you to our fantastic school community for the amazing entries we’ve had for the World Book Day paper plate competition.


Mr Roundtree had the tricky job of judging a winner from each year group – each winner received a new book selected by our Reading Ambassadors. The winners were:

  • Nursery- Toryn
  • Reception- Isaac
  • Year 1- Poppy
  • Year 2- Freddie
  • Year 3-Elara
  • Year 4- Valerie
  • Year 5- Jayden
  • Year 6- Eliza

Selecting just one winner from each class was tough, but be assured that all the amazing entries will be displayed in our school library for all to see! It will make a wonderful celebration of all the wonderful and very different books we love to read.

Thank you for all your support.

This week’s message (Friday 08 March 2024)

Posted on 08 March 2024 by Mr Roundtree

As many of you will know, Miss Beatson’s not in school at the moment. We hope she’ll be back with us soon. In the meantime, thank you to all the parents who have passed on their goodwill messages.

After World Book Day yesterday, let’s continue this week’s message with a word from Mrs Latham (our Phonics Leader, based at one of the other Sphere Federation schools) about Early Reading…

Early reading (for parents of younger children)

Children learn to read during daily phonics lessons which are taught using a carefully sequenced, systematic phonics programme in Reception and Year 1.

Alongside this, there are Reading Practice groups four times each week. Children read the same book (a ‘real’ book, not an e-book) every day and the aim is to build fluency, prosody (expression) and comprehension throughout the week. The books are for practice. The words closely match the phonics that have been learnt in school. After the four reads in school, children can then celebrate their reading by reading the same text as an e-book at home.

Alongside these practice books, children should also have a book to read at home for pleasure. These books don’t match the learning at school – they’re best to read aloud together to enjoy.

We’ve now invested in some additional Fluency Reading books that follow on from this programme so that children can continue to develop reading fluency. They’re very appealing – children are thoroughly enjoying reading them. Take a look at them.

Help at home by listening to your child read out loud every day or reading out loud to them.

Publication: KS2 tests information leaflet for parents (for parents of older children)

Ahead of the end of Key Stage 2 national curriculum tests and teacher assessments in May, the Department for Education has published a new information leaflet for parents.

This leaflet provides an overview of the purpose of the tests, when they are scheduled, and when results will be shared by schools.

Is your child entitled to free school meals?

Free school meals are available to all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. They’re also available to some older children according to family income. It’s important to register for entitlement to free school meals, even if your child has a packed lunch or is in a younger class – this is so we can receive additional funding (called the pupil premium) which we can use to help your child.

Read our guide to free school meals.


I can’t speak highly enough of St James’. The teachers and staff are attentive, caring and are extremely supportive of my son. Thank you to everyone for making school such a happy and safe place to learn and grow.

That’s one of the comments from a recent survey of Reception parents – thank you to the 15 parents who took the time to let us know their views. We’re now reviewing what was said to see how we can act on some of the points raised.

This week’s message (Friday 01 March 2024)

Posted on 01 March 2024 by Mr Roundtree

It’s the first day of March and starting to feel like Spring. It’s also St David’s Day, so if you’ve any Welsh connections (or happen to be called David!) then perhaps enjoy some sort of celebration!

World Book Day is right around the corner but we celebrate reading all year round. We want children to leave school and have a life-long love of reading because the benefits of those who read for pleasure are far-ranging; there’s a strong positive link with empathy, well-being and attainment, just to name a few. Next week (and beyond), try reading something you and your child wouldn’t normally choose. You could create a quiz about the book or pretend to be the main character, acting or talking like them. You might just curl up together on the sofa and take turns reading aloud. The most important thing for children is that they have dedicated time put towards reading and that they have the power of choice over what they read… like a match day programme, song lyrics or graphic novels – anything counts!

The rest of this week’s message comes from Mr Wilks, who’s our Curriculum Leader in Sphere Federation…

What is this half-term’s topic?

This half-term, it’s Computing. We’re developing our knowledge of computers and computer programming.

Computer programming is super. Creating games, animations and solving real world problems is fun, encourages creativity and is challenging! Importantly, the skills the children develop and use are transferable to other subjects and areas of life. For example, the concept of decomposition in programming is concerned with breaking down a large task into smaller chunks. This concept could be used when writing a story, solving a maths problem or tidying a particularly messy bedroom! Debugging is the skill of identifying and fixing an error in a program. It requires systematic, objective thinking and plenty of resilience.

Each phase has age-related specific knowledge, skills and vocabulary that they’ll learn, use and apply across the topic. See pages  11 and 12 of our Topic Curriculum Guide.

Years 1 and 2

Children will learn about how technology is used beyond school in our homes and all around us. They’ll begin to consider what a computer is and isn’t.

In programming lessons, they’ll be introduced to algorithms and will learn about how they need to be written in the correct sequence.

They’ll create their own algorithms in ‘unplugged computing’ lessons and will debug errors in their own and others’ algorithms. Next, they’ll plan and create their own unplugged game where they have to create an algorithm to move a character from one place to another using positional language.

They’ll then use the same concepts using Beebots – simple robots which can be programmed to move and turn. Finally, it’ll be time to create their own game using Beebots.

Years 3 and 4

Pupils will begin with some ‘unplugged computing’. They’ll create, and debug unplugged programs which use sequence and repetition before they then create their own unplugged game which will require some decomposition. Next, it’s time to program on a platform called Scratch Jr. It’s a free app available on most devices and will allow children to develop and refine their understanding and use of concepts like repetition and sequence. Finally, they’ll create their own game on Scratch Jr using all of the skills they’ve learned over the topic. They will have some creativity to plan and design their own game. They may choose to create a maze game or a simple platform game. 

Years 5 and 6

Children will begin the topic by reasoning about what makes a computer a computer. They’ll then learn about how search engines work and how to best use them. In programming lessons, they’ll use Scratch to gain a deeper understanding of concepts like sequence and repetition before learning about selection and variables. Some of this vocabulary may sound alien to you. However, before the end of the topic your child will be able to tell you what they mean and give examples of how they’ve used them in their projects. Some of the projects your children will create are:

  • A Spirograph style drawing animation with some potentially psychedelic visual effects!
  • A chatbot program which will ask you questions and decide if your responses are correct or not.
  • A times table quiz program that will test you on randomly selected times table questions within a set time limit.

How can you help?

Talk to your child about what they’ve been learning in class. Our Class News  is a good place to go to find out more about what the children are doing.

The school library and local libraries have lots of books about coding and computer games which your child will be able to borrow and develop both their reading skills and computing knowledge.

Finally, try programming with your child. There are loads of programming apps and software available to download, often for free. Here’s a list:

Key Stage 1:

  • Daisy the Dinosaur (Apple only)
  • Beebot
  • Tynker Junior

Key Stage 2:

  • Lightbot
  • Tynker
  • Scratch Jr
  • Scratch

This week’s message (Friday 23 February 2024)

Posted on 23 February 2024 by Mr Roundtree

We hope you all managed some sort of break last week, the half-term break. This half-term has quite a few events coming up…

Number facts challenge

It’s time for another Number Facts Challenge, our annual sponsored maths challenge. The challenge is in two parts:

Today, children in Years 1-6 did a Maths challenge in class. On Wednesday 28 February, they’ll do the same challenge again to see if they can beat their score. (Reception children join in the challenge on Wednesday.)

Polish those number skills and get practising over the next couple of weeks and see how much money we can raise. Any money raised will be split between our school charity, the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF), and PTA.

Happy sponsoring and thank you for your support.

World Book Day

World Book Day is on Thursday 07 March. At St James’ CE Primary, we love to celebrate reading. This includes celebrating World Book Day each year, although we don’t always dress up (we do this every other year).

It’s that time again! We invite children to dress up as a book character. Whether it’s someone from a fairy tale or fantasy, a character from a comic or Harry in Hogwarts, your child is invited to celebrate their love of reading.
As always on days like this, this is a choice. If you or your child would prefer not to dress up, that’s absolutely fine.

Supermarkets are stocked up with World Book Day outfits but often you can dress up using clothes you already have or can borrow for free.

Also, and especially with younger children, please make sure costumes are practical. For example, all-in-one outfits are really tricky when a Reception child needs the toilet, and princess shoes aren’t ideal for running around at playtimes!

Comic Relief – Red Nose Day

Also coming up is Red Nose Day, which is on Friday 15 March. Each year at St James’ CE Primary, pupils select a new school charity. As you know, this year, it’s the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF).

Alongside some fund-raising for the CHSF, we mark a small number of other events, including Red Nose Day. This will be a non-uniform day. There’s no expectation to donate, but if you’d like to, your donation would be appreciated.

We realise that’s a lot going on. Please remember, participation and donations are voluntary for these events.

Attendance matters

At the start of each half-term, we like to give you an update on attendance at St James’ CE Primary.

This time, we’re celebrating! Our current attendance figure (right up until the end of Spring 1) is 93.8%. That’s just over the national figure for primary schools: 93.7%.

Well done especially to Year 3 with a figure of 96.8%. Other classes are not far off, too.

We’re really proud of our attendance figure. Thank you for making sure your child gets to school as much as they can.

Our Christian value this half-term is...

Posted on 19 February 2024 by Mr Roundtree


In our school, we learn about Christian values that help us to become well-rounded citizens in society. Each half-term, we have a new Christian value that will be embedded into our collective worship and our reflection areas.

‘Do not be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, then forgive him. Forgive each other because the Lord forgave you.’ (Colossians 3:13)

Throughout the Bible, God is described as slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin (Numbers 14:18) and Jesus is shown to be uncompromising in his command to forgive. ‘Forgive’, he said, ‘seventy times seven’ (Matthew 18:21), meaning forgive and keep on forgiving without limit.

At St James’ CE Primary, our children are encouraged to forgive each other. Forgiveness is associated with our Positive Relationships Policy. Children have many chances to reflect on their behaviour and make the right choices. Poor behaviour choices are always forgiven without a grudge and we enjoy a ‘new beginning’.

Sometimes, we accidentally break things that belong to ourselves or others. Sometimes, we use something so much it wears out. Some things that are broken cannot be mended, but it’s often possible to mend things that we’ve broken.

Help at home!

When you fall out with one of your friends, you can’t mend that friendship with a needle and thread, or some Sellotape, or glue or a puncture kit or a sticking plaster. Talk together about you can help show forgiveness towards those around you and how you can help mend any broken friendships.