Latest news from around the school

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:

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 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:

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.

Our weekly message (20 November 2020)

Posted on 20 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’re reaching the end of the tenth week of the school year…

We’ve been really pleased with our pupils and their positive attitudes on their return to school. We’ve assessed their learning and we’re also pleased: whilst there are some gaps and some ‘slowing down’, we’re confident we can catch up over the year, especially with your continuing support.

Talking of support, thank you to the very many of you who joined the first of six Zoom workshops to help you support your child at home – Wednesday’s was about Science and ‘topic subjects’ like history and geography. (Those who arrived early got to hear why I’m looking so battered just now, too!) Next week, we’ve two English-related workshops: one on reading (Monday, 6pm) and one on phonics (Wednesday, 6pm). Contact school for details on how to join the Zoom.

Last week, we talked about how fortunate we’ve been in not having to ‘burst a bubble’. We spoke too soon: in one of our Sphere schools, we did have to send a class home to self-isolate. (Interesting to note the date last week…) As we said, in such circumstances, check out our Home Learning page. (In fact, check it out now so you can familiarise yourself, just in case.)

Covid-19 continues to throw up new challenges each day and the range of symptoms that people report seems to grow each day, too. However, the government is sticking to three main symptoms:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

There have been instances where symptoms have been vague and a Covid test has not been done until a few days after people have felt unwell. In these cases, we’re taking the 14 days isolation period from the positive test date or from the onset of classic Covid-19 symptoms, listed above. (This might seem to contradict what Test and Trace advise you, but it’s in consultation with Public Health England and the Department for Education.)

Similarly, we’ve had a few situations where children who have been self-isolating have come back to school too soon. The reason for this is that parents appear to have had messages from Test and Trace saying that children can come back. As a school, we need to follow government guidance which states that self-isolation is for 14 days. When you let us know that your child has to self-isolate, we note when they can return to school and we’ll tell you. If your child comes back before that date, they’ll be sent home. The only exception to this is if the person showing symptoms gets a negative test.

We’re working really hard to keep everyone safe and hope you understand our position on this.

Have you done a Covid test on yourself? It’s not the nicest thing to have to do, and it seems people fall into two camps: those who hate more the throat swab, and those who hate more the nose swab! Some of you will already have administered the test for your child. If not, this guide might help.

And that’s enough Covid talk for one message!

This week, we’ve been grateful to some parents who alerted us to concerns that their children may not be drinking enough water. We’ve reminded staff in the classroom and at lunchtime that they should be encouraging and checking children are drinking to stay hydrated – so important for health and for learning. Please help with this: make sure your child brings in a bottle full of fresh water each day.


Here’s the latest edition of Families magazine. There are lots of creative Christmas-themed ideas to do at home – we like the Christmas decorations on page 5 and the Christmas cooking on page 8!

Healthy eating assemblies

Posted on 18 November 2020 by Mrs Latham

The whole federation joined together to take part in an assembly about healthy eating last week. It was very exciting to see the other classes in the other schools! We had these booked in for Health Week last summer, which had to be cancelled.

The Leeds Health and Wellbeing Team delivered the assembly where we learnt all sorts of interesting things about keeping healthy and finished off with an interactive quiz.

Children in Need

Posted on 13 November 2020 by Miss Beatson

Thank you for helping to raise money for Children in Need by coming to school in non-uniform today. Some of our older children had a go at the  challenge where they had to ‘act their age’, completing an activity the number of times that represents how old they are.

In total, we raised £84.50 which will go towards a great cause!

Our weekly message (13 November 2020)

Posted on 13 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

It’s so good to keep receiving positive feedback about how we’re doing in these challenging times, including our weekly messages. Many thanks for this. This message kicks off with a gentle reminder. Lower down, there are details about some ways to support your child’s learning at home (whether they’re self-isolating or just in general). We’ve also important advice about your child keeping warm in school and some news about Christmas.

Continuing to take care

This is the end of the ninth week in school and we’re so fortunate that we’ve not burst a bubble – yet. Within your household group and beyond, it can sometimes feel a bit too much of an effort to maintain all the precautions…

  • hands (wash and sanitise them lots during the day)
  • face (wear a mask around people outside of your household)
  • space (maintain 2 metres distance around others)

…however, please do keep helping us keep our schools open for all. In general, respect the national lockdown restrictions, and in school, wear a mask and keep your distance from others at the start and end of the school day.

Supporting your child at home 1 – online activities

Since September, there’s a fairly steady number of children having to stay at home due to Covid. Whether your child is self-isolating or if you’re keen to provide a bit of extra support at home, please do remember we publish an overview of learning for your child to get on with at home on our Home learning page. Contact us if this online approach doesn’t work for you – we can provide paper-based learning if you’re child is self-isolating at home. It’s definitely also worth checking out our Help your child and Calculations and times tables pages which both contain a range of ideas, links and activities – even just a bit of regular practice of times tables and handwriting can make loads of difference!

Talking of times tables, Times Tables Rock Stars is an app and website that we use in school to quicken the recall of tables facts. It’s something that you can use at home, too – your child has their own username and password. (If you don’t have these, or you have any questions, email your child’s class teacher.) Each game is short so you don’t need lots of time. ‘Garage’ is where you’ll find tables set by us whilst ‘Soundcheck’ includes all facts up to 12 x 12.

We’ve just signed up to Numbots, too. Perhaps more suited to younger children or children who need a bit of extra support with the basics, this is a great app and website for practising addition and subtraction facts. Your child can use it at home – they login using the same details they use for Times Tables Rock Stars. There are 15 different games, each with a different focus. Topics covered include doubles and number bonds to 10, 20 and 100.

PhonicsPlay is a great website that teachers in Reception to Year 2 (and sometimes Year 3) use in their daily phonics lessons. In each game, you can select the phase of phonics and, more specifically, which letters (graphemes) and sounds (phonemes) to focus on.  The games are a fun way to practise reading sounds, real words, ‘alien words’ and sentences. Login details are Sphere (user name) and Spher3 (password). Check out the Resources page.

Supporting your child at home 2 – Zoom workshops for you

Normally in the Autumn term, we provide a range of workshops to help you support your child’s learning at home. This year, we’re happy to offer something similar via Zoom…

The sessions – each lasting just 30 minutes – are:

  • Wednesday 18 November: Curriculum
  • Monday 23 November: Reading (mainly for Key Stage 2)
  • Wednesday 25 November: Phonics (mainly for Reception / Key Stage 1)
  • Wednesday 02 December: Maths
  • **Re-scheduled date** Monday 07 December: EYFS (mainly for Reception)
  • Wednesday 09 December: Times Tables

All six sessions start at 6pm. If you’re interested in attending, please send us a message on the School Gateway app or email us at We’ll email the joining details out to all those who express an interest.

Keeping warm

Even though it’s getting colder, it’s important that we keep all areas of school as ventilated as possible. Ideally, the windows and doors should be open all of the time but we obviously don’t want staff or children shivering! We’ve asked teachers to judge the temperature and make a decision on whether it’s realistic to keep windows open during lessons. There’ll be times when it’s just too cold so we’ll open windows and doors when children aren’t in the rooms to blast some fresh air in.

Over the coming months, it’d be great if you could make sure your child has an extra layer on under their uniform or an extra jumper or fleece (unbranded and in the school colour where possible). Don’t forget suitable coats, too.

Christmas is coming…

…really?! Whilst we all wait eagerly for news of what Christmas might look like for ourselves and our families, we can say with some certainty that Christmas at school will be quite different.

Unfortunately, many of the things we do involve gathering large groups of children (and adults) together. Sadly, we won’t be performing any nativity plays for you to come and see. Instead, we’ll aim to share Christmas with you virtually with a few festive fun times. Details of these will be shared nearer the time.

Christmas parties will be held in individual classes with each child asked to bring their own party ‘pack-up’ to enjoy. Again, we’ll share details nearer the time.

Christmas will still be fun – just a little different!

Relationships and Sex Education Policy

Posted on 12 November 2020 by Mrs Quirk

Thank you to those of you who recently responded to our recent consultation about our revised Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) Policy. We’ve taken a good deal of the feedback on board, especially around the notion of consent.

As part of our Living and Learning subject, coming up soon will be some teaching and learning specifically around RSE. Please see the letter and final policy. If you’ve any questions, comments or concerns, please speak with Mr Roundtree or Miss Beatson.

Parent / carer workshops

Posted on 09 November 2020 by Mrs Quirk

Normally in the Autumn term, we provide a range of workshops to help you support your child’s learning at home. This year, we’re happy to offer something similar via Zoom…

We’ve arranged six short Zoom sessions led by Sphere Federation leaders on a range of subject areas. Each session will last for just 30 minutes, but will provide a few top tips and guidance as to how to support your child at home. The invitation is open to all parents and carers across Sphere Federation, although we’ve indicated below if the session might be more appropriate for particular age ranges.

The sessions are as follows:

  • Wednesday 18 November: Curriculum
  • Monday 23 November: Reading (mainly for Key Stage 2)
  • Wednesday 25 November: Phonics (mainly for Foundation 2 / Key Stage 1)
  • **re-scheduled date (apologies)** Monday 07 December: EYFS (mainly for Foundation 2)
  • Wednesday 02 December: Maths
  • Wednesday 09 December: Times Tables

All six sessions start at 6pm. They should last around 20-25 minutes, plus there will be a questions and answer session at the end of around 5-10 minutes.

If you are interested in attending any of these Zoom workshops, please could you either send us a message on the School Gateway app or email us at We will then email the Zoom joining details out to all those who have expressed an interest, prior to the session.

We look forward to welcoming you to our virtual workshops!

Our weekly message (06 November 2020)

Posted on 06 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Welcome back to school, and (sadly) to Lockdown 2…

Guidance for schools about the new national restrictions was released just the day before the lockdown kicked in, so we’re still working through any changes – we don’t anticipate too many, thankfully. You may have read headlines about teachers claiming that schools should close. The arguments stem from one particular union, and others disagree. As we said earlier this week, we fully support the decision to keep schools open – children need to be in school to learn and socialise. We can assure you that Sphere Federation schools have been working as hard as we can to keep our schools safe places to learn.

Your child’s a historian this half-term!

With the start of a new half-term comes the start of a new topic. Across Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, children are becoming historians this half-term:

  • children in Years 1 and 2 will learn about the Great Fire of London
  • children in Years 3 and 4 will become experts on Ancient Greece
  • children in Years 5 and 6 will compare the Stone Age and Iron Age in Britain with what was going on in Ancient Egypt at around the same time

Read this one page list of History learning for the half-term ahead – it contains the core learning in terms of both knowledge and skills. (Be aware, though, that because of the closure of schools in Lockdown 1, teachers are being more flexible in their approach to the expectations set out in this document, making sure that missed learning and gaps are being addressed in Reading, Writing and Maths.)

And now, a message from Miss Beatson…

We’ve had a really positive start to the half term; the children have come back eager to learn and happy to be with their friends. These are such challenging times for all of us but our children have shown great resilience and we’re all very proud of how well they continue to cope with the changes to school life. This half term, our Christian value is perseverance and I don’t think I can think of a more suitable value to focus on in these current times.

I’m really pleased to say that we’ve reviewed our school lunch grab bags and we’re now able to provide a hot meal option each day. I know this is something many of you have been asking about and our catering staff have been eager to provide, particularly now the weather is getting colder. Check out the menu on our website page or on the notice board in the playground if you’re considering a school meal for your child.

Our bagel bar is proving very popular and the children are enjoying meeting with their friends over breakfast before their day of learning begins. If you’d like your child to attend, then bring them to school between 8.30am and 8.45am.

I’d just like to finish by thanking you for your kind, supportive comments and messages that I know the staff in school really appreciate at this time. I’d also like to thank you for your support as you continue to wear face coverings and keep your distance in the school grounds to ensure we keep everyone as safe as we possibly can.