News

Latest news from around the school

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

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 griefandlosswyh.co.uk.

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.

Our weekly message (04 December 2020)

Posted on 04 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree

I’m writing this week’s message after being on morning gate duty and it’s just started snowing – hopefully, my fingers will thaw out soon so I can press the right keys. If you do spot some typos, you’ll know why…

For some children and families, this time of year will be very difficult, especially for those who have experienced trauma or bereavement. Young Minds has created another Wellbeing Advent Calendar. It’s intended for use in schools, but it might help support you and your family throughout December. Each day, try a different 5 minute activity to help boost wellbeing and look after your child’s mental health. Today’s is a nice conversation starter: share something that has really cheered you up when you were feeling down.

Talking of conversation starters, this resource for parents and carers might help. Starting a conversation can be difficult, especially if you’re worried that your child is having a hard time. It doesn’t matter what topic the conversation starts with – it’s about the opportunity it gives you both to talk about feelings and to provide comfort.

Next, a message from Leeds City Council…

Sal Tariq, the Director of Children and Families, and Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, have written a joint letter for parents and carers. (It came too late to include in last week’s message.) Read the full letter here, but these two paragraphs stand out as matching our own thoughts:

The overwhelming majority of parents have been extremely understanding of the challenges that schools have encountered and have co-operated fully with the school’s range of measures put in place to provide a covid-safe environment for the children, staff and parents.

We are grateful to parents, for example, for wearing face coverings when requested to by the school and for not sending their child to school when they, or a member of the family, have been requested to self-isolate.

Finally, today, just a quick repeat of a message we sent earlier in the week…

It’s common for children to catch colds and have coughs around this time. Normally, we’d still encourage children to come to school with a mild cough or cold, but not this year. If your child starts coughing, we really need you to keep your child at home and get a test for Covid. The results will quite likely be negative, meaning your child can quickly return to school. However, there’s always that slim chance your child might test positive. That would mean the whole class having to self-isolate for 14 days – that’s just not worth the risk. Please keep your child home if they’ve got any any hint of the three main symptoms of Covid.

 

Have a happy and healthy and warm weekend!

Virtual after school clubs

Posted on 01 December 2020 by Mrs Latham

We know you are missing attending after-school clubs at the moment (in and out of school) so here is some information about a virtual after-school club that can be done at home.
 
The Youth Sport Trust have taken the step to deliver a free virtual after school club as part of a national response to the second lockdown. The 30-minute club will take place at 5pm each weekday and be led by a different member of the YST’s athlete mentor network. These will run until 18 December.


Aimed mainly at primary-aged children, a different theme has been assigned for each day of the club – Adventure Monday, Tuesday Play, Wild Wednesday, Thinking Thursday and Fun Friday. 

Find out more: https://www.youthsporttrust.org/AfterSchoolSportClub

Name the reindeer competition

Posted on 30 November 2020 by Miss Beatson

Thank you and well done to everyone who took part in the naming of Santa’s reindeer this year. Cinnamon Gallopsalot was the winning name from our school and became the joint overall winner with another school in Wetherby.

Our weekly message (27 November 2020)

Posted on 27 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

It’s a bit of a letdown to be coming out of the national lockdown restriction only to enter Tier 3 restrictions. The government plans to review the tiers every two weeks – hopefully we can move to Tier 2 soon. Now, let’s think about Christmas for a moment…

As we approach Christmas, we’re asking you to be ultra-cautious. Any bubble burst from 12 December onwards would generate a need to self-isolate over the festive period – none of us wants this.

Asymptomatic transmission is something we can do little about, but we can reduce the chances of this happening by ensuring you keep your child at home if anyone in your household is waiting for the results of a Covid test.

Also, please keep your child at home if anyone in your household has the classic symptoms:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

We’re doing all we can at school to keep everyone safe. You’ll be pleased to know the rest of this week’s message contains no more covid-gloom…

We love reading!

Reading is always a top priority in our school. Our library is well-stocked and we’ve a good bank of class novels and other reading resources. However, following the period of school closures, we’ve been wanting to maximise reading opportunities for our children in Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6). One way to do this to to have a good stock of  books that are easy to ‘dip into’ – non-fiction ‘lists and facts’ books and poetry books. We’ve made a large investment in this – about £200 for each class. The books arrived this week and our children have loved them so far:

  • ‘I like the new books because they’re interesting. I’ve enjoyed looking at the book about numbers, computers and coding because it has lots of fun facts.’ (Year 5 pupil at St James’)
  • ‘The books are engrossing, fascinating and we’re learning quite a lot from them.’ (three Year 6 pupils at Scholes)
  • ‘When I have 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll be able to find out so many things. I know lots about dinosaurs but now I can learn more things about them.’ (Year 4 pupil at Moortown)
  • ‘The children are fighting over them!’ (Y5,6 teacher, who assures us this isn’t literally!)

Our parent workshops

This week, we’ve hosted two more workshops to help you support your child at home: one for Reading (mainly for parents/carers of older children) and one for Phonics (aimed at those of you with children in Foundation 2/Reception and Year 1 mainly). Both were well-attended, the phonics one especially so. Here are a few comments from people who’ve attended the workshops so far…

  • ‘Thank you for these sessions – really appreciate the support with home learning.’
  • ‘Thank you very much, very informative and useful!
’
  • ‘
Thank you very much for this! I will definitely refer back to this slide show to help at home!
’
Talking of the slide show – here it is. We do plan to record a version with a teacher talking through the slides – coming soon.

Have you a child starting school in September? Or perhaps you know someone who has?

If so, it’s important for you to know the school application process is open until 15 January 2021. You need to apply, even if you’ve a child at school already (and make sure you include sibling information on your application).

Read more information about schools, previous years’ allocation data, catchment maps and links to school admissions.

If you’ve any questions about the admissions process, please contact the Admissions Team at Leeds City Council on 0113 222 4414 or by email: [email protected]

Twenty’s plenty

This blog from the Safer Roads Leeds team is an interesting one. The speed limit outside both Moortown Primary and St James’ CE Primary is 20mph – Scholes (Elmet) Primary still has a limit of 30mph, sadly. Here’s a few reasons why twenty’s plenty:

  • It’s safer. If you do hit someone with your car, you’re less likely to kill them or inflict life-changing injuries and trauma.
  • You can be the most experienced, careful, focused driver in the world but unexpected things happen. At 30mph, if you have to do an emergency stop, you will still travel around six car lengths before you come to a halt. At 20mph, that stopping distance is halved; if you do hit someone, they’re more likely to live.
  • Vehicles travelling at lower speeds change the whole feel of a neighbourhood. Research shows people are far more willing to walk and to let their children walk and cycle.
  • At speeds of more than about 20mph, research shows that children trying to cross a road can’t accurately judge how fast a car is coming; they can’t tell that a distant car might be approaching far too fast for them to cross.
  • 20mph zones have almost no impact on overall journey times, so it’s a win-win.

Have you a child due to start school in September 2021?

Posted on 23 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

The application process is open until 15 January 2021.

Apply by visiting www.leeds.gov.uk/applyeven if you’ve a child at school already. (Make sure you include sibling information on your application.)

Find information about schools, previous years’ allocation data, catchment maps and links to school admissions.

Leeds City Council can’t hold face to face drop-in sessions this year and so they’re holding Facebook question and answers sessions, to help with the application process, on:

  • Thursday 03 December 2020, 6pm to 7pm
  • Tuesday 05 January 2021, 4pm to 5pm
  • Wednesday 13 January 2021, 2pm to 3pm

When you apply for a school, you should use all five preferences – using only use one or two preferences decreases the chances of being offered a place at a preferred school.

Any supplementary information needs to be provided by the closing date (this applies if a child is previously looked after, is seeking admission under exceptional needs, or if a family wish to apply for their child to be admitted out of chronological age group).

Make sure you use your child’s actual address. Using that of a friend, relative, childminder or renting a property to gain a school place are all considered fraud and places can be withdrawn.

If you’ve any questions about the admissions process, please contact the Admissions Team at Leeds City Council on 0113 222 4414 or by email: [email protected]

Parent governor elections

Posted on 20 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Thank you to all of you who voted in Sphere Federation governing body elections for a new parent governor.

The governing body of Sphere Federation is made up of two staff members (including the Head of Federation), governors appointed by Leeds City Council and the Diocese of Leeds, and representatives from the local community, all of whom share the important job of overseeing the running of the school. Mr Matthew Hick has been elected as the new parent governor joining the team. As a reminder, here’s Mr Hick’s ‘blurb’ from the nomination form:

As a former pupil of a Sphere Federation school, and someone with a lifelong connection to the neighbourhood, whose two children now attend the school, it would be a privilege to become a governor for the Federation and give something back to the community. I have extensive leadership experience and am the Chair and founder of an organisation that promotes volunteering work, former Chair and Trustee of an organisation that promotes voluntary, community and social enterprise and Co-founder of a local Covid-19 support Group. Alongside this I am Head of Volunteering with a large national charitable organisation where I lead on strategy, policy, and systems. In 2019, I was nominated to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, for my work in the voluntary sector, which I gladly accepted. Away from work and volunteering, I enjoy spending time with family, sport – and, in particular, running – and film. After 12 years of working in the third sector, I believe passionately in the power of people to come together to build a better future. I believe this applies equally to social action groups as it does to boards of governors and trustees. I would relish the opportunity to apply my passion and skills to helping Sphere Federation achieve its ambitions.

We had five candidates in total and all five presented a strong set of skills for the role. Thank you to all five for expressing their interest and we hope the other four might do so again when another vacancy arises.