Latest news from around the school

Home learning

Posted on 05 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Home learning activities are available on the school website. Go to the Learn More section and then the Home Learning page. There are activities for the full week.

We’ve been preparing these learning activities for some time. We’ll be moving towards some of our own ‘prepared-for-broadcast’ lessons and daily Zoom meetings as soon as we can assess pupil numbers and staffing numbers in school. In the meantime, check out the Learning Activities ‘box’ that’s on the page, and also consult the Home Learning Guide and Policies – you’ll find a home learning schedule there which might help, for example.

Important message (04 January 2020)

Posted on 04 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

The Prime Minister’s announcement that schools should close from tomorrow for all pupils except children of key workers and those deemed vulnerable was made at 8pm this evening. School leaders did not receive any prior notice.


I’m sure you’ll appreciate that this very short notice has left us no time to make arrangements. As a result, I’ve agreed with the Heads of School that Sphere schools will be closed tomorrow for all pupils.

The only exception we’re able to make for tomorrow (Tuesday 05 January) is for children of key workers where there are absolutely no alternative options. If this is the case, please arrive at school at the normal time with a drink and packed lunch for your children. Unfortunately, we can only accommodate a small number of pupils tomorrow. It would really help if you contact your employer who should be sympathetic to your childcare needs under these exceptional circumstances.


We need to plan for the longer-term. Please complete this online form before noon on Tuesday 05 January if you’re a key worker who definitely needs to send your child to school.

Please note:

  • Because of staffing, if your child comes to school, they will access the same learning as those children who remain at home.
  • Please only complete the form if you have a definite need.

Read what the definitions of key workers are.


We’re very sorry for these last minute changes but you’ll understand they’re beyond our control. Thank you for your continued co-operation. Be assured we’ll keep you updated with our plans.

Repeating our weekly message (03 January 2021)

Posted on 03 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Whether schools should open or not continues to be in the news. Our message today confirms what we said on Friday 01 January…

Our school is open again on Tuesday 05 January, following a planned training day for staff on Monday.

The current situation is that the Department for Education’s expectation in Leeds is that no primary schools are expected to close as the region remains in Tier 3 restrictions.

The National Education Union (NEU) has recommended to its members not to return to school or early years settings at the start of term due to concern about the higher transmissibility of the new Covid-19 variant. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has issued guidance to school leaders which recommends seeking the views of staff who do not intend to come to school – so far, we’ve had very few staff express this intention and therefore we are in the position of confirming Friday’s message: school is open again on Tuesday 05 January.

If you’ve concerns about your child returning, it might help to reassure you that there appears to be no increase in severe child cases of Covid.

As we’re sure you can appreciate, the situation is changeable. However, for now, certainly… we’re looking forward to seeing all our pupils return to school happy and healthy on Tuesday.

Our weekly message (01 January 2021)

Posted on 01 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

A short message to kick-off the new year…

We’d like to wish you all a much happier and healthier new year than the one we’ve just been through. Thank you for all your support in 2020 and your continued support in the year ahead.

Our school is open again on Tuesday 05 January, following a training day for staff on Monday.

There’s a lot of information in the news about schools not opening straight away. However, this applies to secondary schools, and to some primary schools in the south east. It does not apply to primary schools in Leeds or surrounding areas.

Also in the news is testing of staff and pupils for Covid. Again, this does not apply to our school. Testing pupils for Covid will happen in secondary schools. There’s no indication that testing for Covid will be introduced in primary schools.

We’re looking forward to seeing all our pupils return to school happy and healthy on Tuesday.

Our weekly message (18 December 2020)

Posted on 18 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree

First up this week is a repeat of a message from yesterday…

If your child receives a positive Covid test result in the period Saturday 19 December to Thursday 24 December 2020, we need you to tell us. So you can give us all the information we need, please use this form or scan this QR code.

This means we’ll have the information to take the necessary actions, laid down by the Department for Education. If we have to advise that your child self-isolates, we’ll do this by email.

We’d prefer you to use the online form, but if the technology fails you, please contact school:

If your child receives a positive test result after Thursday 24 December, you can tell us on the first day of the new term (Tuesday 05 January).

Christmas class news

Make sure you check the Class News pages on our website – there’s a Christmas greeting from every class in school. Enjoy!

Dress to impress…

…well, maybe not to impress but to look smart and show belonging to school:

Because of the current covid conditions, children have been coming to school in their PE kit on the days they have PE. As well as the covid connected reasons, this is actually saving a lot of time and it means clothes are less likely to go missing. However, please note our uniform policy:

  • tops: plain, white t-shirts plus a warm top (eg fleece)
  • bottoms: black shorts / tracksuit bottoms / leggings / skirt
  • footwear: avoid expensive brands

Talking of uniform, another thing to remember as we start a new term is that if your child does wear earrings, they must be plain stud earrings no more than 4mm wide.

A uniform helps to develop a sense of belonging to the school and prevents competition and additional costs. We’ve found that wearing school colours supports us in maintaining our high standards of behaviour. Thanks for working with us on this.

Last minute gift guide

Sometimes, parents ask teachers for recommendations of which books to buy their children for Christmas. The Christmas Book Gift Guides are free to download and include recommended titles for four different age categories: 3-5, 5-7, 7-9 and 9-11.

Being social online

Access to new tech at Christmas can provide new opportunities for children and young people but also presents risks.

This guide for parents looks at how you can support your child to be safer online this season by focusing on key areas: viewing, sharing, chatting and friending.

A Christmas poem

Ryan Tomlin‘s a local poet and author based in Leeds – you might have seen him around Leeds centre because, for the past few years, he’s been performing poems on the streets. For fairly obvious reasons, this year he’s not been able to busk or perform much, so instead he’s been recording his poems and posting them online. He’s just uploaded a Christmas poem: ‘Sam the Snowman, My Best Friend‘. It’s a family-friendly story about a child that sees a snowman in their garden one day, and the two become friends – the entire thing told in poetry form.

Asda free meals

Asda supermarket cafes are providing children under the age of 16 with a meal completely free of charge via a takeaway service. There are no minimum spend requirements or restrictions on the number of children in a family or group that can take advantage of this offer. The offer will run until the end of December, except Christmas Day when stores are closed.

It’s been a tough year but your support and cooperation has helped us enjoy a successful term. We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday over the Christmas period – stay safe and help others around you stay safe, too.

Covid-19 notification procedures during the Christmas break

Posted on 17 December 2020 by Mrs Quirk

If your child receives a positive Covid test result in the period Saturday 19 December to Thursday 24 December 2020, we need you to tell us.

So you can give us all the information we need, please use this form or scan the QR code below.

This means we’ll have the information to take the necessary actions, laid down by the Department for Education.

We’d prefer you to use the online form, but if the technology fails you, please contact school:

If your child receives a positive test result after Thursday 24 December, you can tell us on the first day of the new term (Tuesday 05 January).

Learning updates (Years 1 - 6 only)

Posted on 16 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today, your child (Years 1 – 6 only) will go home with a copy of their Learning Update.

This is so we keep you up-to-date with how well your child is doing at school. At the end of Autumn 1 and Spring 1, we have our parent-teacher meetings (this year by Zoom), and at the end of Autumn 2 and Spring 2, we update you with these mini-reports. In the Summer term, we send you a longer, annual report.

As always, please contact us if you’ve any questions, comments or concerns.

(Children in Early Years will have a Learning Update a little later in the year.)

Our weekly message (the second of two this week - 11 December 2020)

Posted on 11 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This is the second weekly message of the week, following an important one yesterday about the end of term…

We’re sorry if the message yesterday confused you. To confirm: next week, we’ll close for the Christmas holidays at the end of the school day on 18 December, as planned, so Friday is a the last day of the school term.

This week, we’ve had the last two parent Zoom sessions – one for Early Years and one for times tables. The feedback from the sessions has been really positive because they’ve been easier to attend than coming into schools. Beyond Covid times, we’ll carry on hosting these sessions by Zoom.

One of the most popular sessions was one on phonics – it was very well attended. We’ve now recorded the sessions:

  • Phonics video 1 – supports parents with children in Foundation 2 (Reception) who are learning phonics at Phase 2.
  • Phonics video 2 – supports parents with children in Foundation 2 (Reception) and Year 1 who are learning phonics at Phases 3, 4 and 5, and information about the phonics screening check which takes place towards the end of Year 1 (although our current Year 2 children have all just completed the check).

Links to the two videos are also on our dedicated phonics page.

This week, a primary in north Leeds has had to close for the rest of the term because of positive cases of Covid-19. As a whole, numbers in Leeds are reportedly in decline, which is good news, but please let’s all stay Covid-cautious. It’s thanks to your cooperation that Sphere Federation schools have been relatively unaffected by the pandemic so far.

The rest of this week’s message has various items…

Asda free meals

Asda supermarket cafes are providing children under the age of 16 with a meal completely free of charge via a takeaway service. There are no minimum spend requirements or restrictions on the number of children in a family or group that can take advantage of this offer. The offer runs until 31 December (except when stores are closed).


TikTok’s terms and conditions state that the app should only be used by people 13years old and over. Despite this, it’s sometimes used by children younger than 13. There’s a new feature that you should know about. Family Pairing allows parents and carers to guide their child’s TikTok experience in a safer way. Features include:

  • Search – decide what can be searched for; this includes content, users, hashtags and sounds
  • Screen time management – set out how long can be spent on TikTok each day
  • Discoverability – decide on the account being private (you decide the content) or public (anyone can search and view content)

Grief and loss

Staffed by experienced counsellors, the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Grief and Loss Support Service is for anyone who is experiencing loss of any kind and the grief and emotional distress that loss may cause. Available to everyone living in West Yorkshire, the service is a free telephone counselling support service that operates 8am-8pm, 7 days a week. It includes text and live online chat facilities as well as translation options. Call the service on 0808 196 3833, or use text or online live chat at

Introducing Ollee – a virtual friend

Ollee is a digital friend for children aged 8-11, created by Parent Zone and funded by BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me initiative, which aims to make a difference to children’s emotional wellbeing. Ollee is designed to help children reflect on how they feel and to process their experiences with the support and help of their parents and carers – and it does this by offering them advice about a range of subjects: school, family, friends, their body, the internet and the world.

For each of these subjects, children can choose an emotion that matches how they feel about it: happy, angry, sad, confused, frustrated, stressed or worried. Next, they can choose from a list of topics – for instance, a child who was worried about school might be able to select ‘I haven’t done my homework’ as the cause of their worry. Finally, they’ll see a page of advice about the topic, presented in child-friendly, bite-sized chunks they can read then or save for later.

Have a happy and healthy and safe weekend, whatever you get up to.

Our weekly message (the first of two this week - 10 December 2020)

Posted on 10 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This is the first of two whole-school messages this week. This one confirms that we will close at the end of the school day on Friday 18 December, as planned…

On Tuesday, with eight days of term remaining, the government sent schools an email with two main sections:

  • ‘End of term planning’ – this sets out the request that schools ‘remain contactable so they can assist with contact tracing where necessary’. This basically means that Heads of School will need to be available throughout the first week of the holiday to support the government’s track and tracing, up to and including Christmas Eve.
  • ‘End of term – advice for schools’ – this advises that schools can close on Thursday next week, changing the last day of term into a training day. This basically means that schools have the option to close one day earlier for pupil (not staff) so that school leaders are available up to Wednesday 23 December, rather than Christmas Eve.

St James’ CE Primary will stick to our original plan of being open on Friday 18 December. We’ve based this decision on two main reasons:

  1. It’s too short-notice. Sometimes we have to change dates and timings, but we always aim to give you plenty of notice if we have to do this. In the run up to Christmas, we don’t think it’s fair to disrupt any plans you might have. Similarly, we’ve already let you know of the various plans for Christmas that we have in school – it would be quite tricky to shuffle things around at this late stage.
  2. It’s not a free day. We’d have to assign this as a training day and cancel one later in the school year. These additional days are valuable: we plan the days, with detailed content, well before the year begins – we can’t assign Friday next week as a training day and deliver worthwhile training with limited preparation time. This means, we’d also have to cancel one later in the year (and this might impact on plans that you might’ve made).

In its email to schools on Tuesday, the Department for Education state ‘We recognise this communication has arrived with schools late in the term…’. An email today from the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) states ‘NAHT has been raising our serious concerns about this issue with the DfE for a number of months’.

The government’s decision that schools may close a day early next week follows a number of schools who have tried to exercise some flexibility to alleviate some of the pressure at the end of term, the most publicised being the from Focus Trust.

So… for the first week of the holiday, up to and including Thursday 24 December, our Heads of School are available. This is in case you need to tell school about a positive case and/or they need to advise close contacts to self-isolate. This will be done by text or email, not a phone call.

After Thursday, where pupils are required to self-isolate due to contact with a positive case, you don’t need to inform us about absences until the first day of the new term (Tuesday 05 January).

Thank you to Miss Beatson for committing to this additional responsibility, and to admin staff for agreeing to be available to support.

Christmas celebrations

Posted on 07 December 2020 by Miss Beatson

As we approach the final week of term, it’s time to get Christmassy, but as you know, it’s going to be very different.

We can’t invite you in to share any Christmas celebrations so instead we’re going to share Christmas with you in a different way. From Tuesday 15 December, there will be a video posted on Class News of your child’s class taking part in some Christmas celebrations. We know that this doesn’t compare to what we normally do but we hope that it helps in some way.

During the final week of term, there will be a virtual pantomime performance that children will be able to watch at school. Thanks to the PTA who have paid for this.

Christmas lunch will be on Tuesday 15 December and all children will get a Christmas cracker!

On Friday 18 December, there will be Christmas parties in classrooms. Children can come to school in non-uniform. There will be some goodies coming home which have kindly been bought by the company who provide and maintain our photocopiers and printers.

It’s a very different Christmas this year but we’ve worked so hard to stay safe that we don’t want to spoil it now.

We hope that you have a happy and healthy, enjoyable and restful time with your families over the Christmas holidays.