Latest news from around the school

Our daily message (02 June 2020)

Posted on 02 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

You might have seen or heard news stories presenting general overview of what it was like yesterday as schools opened up to more children. In today’s message, we’re presenting an overview specifically of our three Sphere Federation schools…

Two specific things have come up:

From St James’ CE Primary…

We’ve had nine children in today. We were expecting 13 but two parents decided last minute (one this morning) that they didn’t want to send their child to school yet. One child is ill but not with COVID-19 symptoms.

The process of coming into school this morning went well. It’s good that we’ve started with small numbers so staff and parents can get use to this routine.

We hope to invite more pupils next week into a new Foundation/KS1 bubble. We’ll leave some space for additional key workers who may need a place in the following weeks, although this is becoming a challenge with the KS2 bubble which is quite full.

From Moortown Primary…

We were expecting 34 children in school but only have 32. The mood in school is positive. Staff are being vigilant but are taking things in their stride well. When I’ve visited classes, children have seemed less confident than usual, but that’s natural and staff say they’re easing into it.

The only big issue was responding to concerns about whether children have been socially distancing at home. We’ve a policy on this and we’re strictly following the policy – this has meant one parent has been asked to collect their child.

Other than that, there haven’t been any other glitches or issues, just a couple of minor teething problems like some parents not understanding the exit route (quickly rectified) – so far so good.

From Scholes (Elmet) Primary…

We’ve 31 children in school. We were expecting a few more but over the last couple of days some parents’ remained concerned while others had their work shifts confirmed/changed.

It was good having low numbers of children because it’s meant that our staff can also get used to working around lots of other adults – it’s important that they social distance, too, so they protect themselves as much as possible and therefore stay healthy to come to school.

Most parents had read the communications that are being sent out. However, we did have some bags brought to school – they got sent home.

Moving forward, we’d like to know if there are any more key workers who are going to need us. These people will continue to be our priority. After that, we’ll look at other children who we deem as being vulnerable.

Our daily message (01 June 2020)

Posted on 01 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We hope you had a happy and healthy half-term break from routines. The weather was glorious, which certainly helped. Did your child do some of the optional home learning activities? It’s not too late – one of the activities on the list could be an alternative or additional activity to the daily home learning tasks the teacher sets.

We start the week with news about schools opening more widely, some information about the school bubbles, and – as always on a Monday – our new Living and and Learning theme.

Schools opening more widely

This half-term, schools are opening to more and more pupils, although perhaps not as widely as the government and media headlines initially suggested. Research from the National Foundation for Educational Research shows that parents are still roughly split 50-50 about whether they want their child to return to school.

Here are just three of many barriers that schools have faced:

First, our classrooms and class sizes mean we simply can’t accommodate all the children set out in the government’s original plans: children of key workers, children who may be vulnerable in some way, and children from Early Years, Year 1 and Year 6. (The average class size in English primary schools is almost 28 pupils compared to about 20 across Europe – point 4 from this article from the “Independent Sage” group explains this well.)

Second, more and more people are going back to work. This includes more key workers, and that means there are already more children for us to welcome back, which in turn means the specific year groups identified by government aren’t returning quite as quickly as the government called for.

And third, we’ve fewer staff at a time when we need more. To operate smaller groups, and to ensure social distancing and cleaning, we need lots of staff. However, not all our staff are able to be in school because of particular health conditions or other personal circumstances.

The school bubbles

We’re committed to having more and more pupils back, and making this happen as safely as we can. We’ve established bubbles in our schools. Some of these bubbles might have space for more pupils, others less so.

At St James’ CE Primary, we’ve just two bubbles for the rest of this week: one for younger children (F2, Y1, Y2) and one for older children. There are two adults for each bubble to allow for breaks and cleaning. Over the week, we’ll look closely at the number of children attending – we may find some parents who said they wanted a place change their mind, in which case we’ll offer the place to other pupils.

Living and learning during lockdown

Living and Learning is the name for all the teaching and learning we do around Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE). As we start a new half term, our theme in Living and Learning changes to relationships. Each week in school, we’ve a Living and Learning statement. I listen to, share with and include others… is our statement this week. One of the Sphere Federation Health Leaders writes:

This Living and Learning statement promotes polite, helpful and kind behaviour. We want our pupils to know the importance of showing respect to everyone (whatever differences we may have) and to everything (whether it’s a school resource, a religious belief or whatever). Respect is central to one of our three school rules: We respect everyone and everything. 

You might want to read the poem, Say something nice, taken from The Little Book of Hopes with your child. While most of us are still at home, this week’s statement relates more to family than friends right now. You might want to encourage your child to spot when someone in your house follows this statement and listens to, shares with and includes others. How would they know? How does it make others feel?

Also, as we start a new month, check out the Action for Happiness Kindness Calendar for June with thirty actions to look after ourselves and each other.

This half-term's Christian value is...

Posted on 01 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree


What is honesty? Honesty is being trustworthy and truthful in our friendships, our relationships, our school and our community. We understand that we need to be honest and truthful with others when working together as a team. The challenge for us is: How can we be honest in our daily lives? How can we encourage people to be honest? What can we do to fix it if we forget to be honest?

The Church Council chose honesty as a Christian value: ‘Everyone needs to be honest because Jesus’ disciple (Peter) wasn’t honest when he denied Jesus.’ (Y3 Church Council member).

Home challenge:

Talk with your family about the consequences of not being honest or write a story or draw a picture to show what happens when people are dishonest. Bring it in to add to your class reflection areas.

Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

(1 John 13:18)

Important message for next week #3

Posted on 29 May 2020 by Mr Roundtree

You’ll be aware that last night the Prime Minister confirmed that the five tests upon which the easing of lockdown depended have been met. As a result, primary schools will begin to open schools more widely.

The response to this from the Director of Children and Families, Leeds City Council, is:

The Leeds position is unchanged. It is important for children to resume their education so they can once again learn and interact with their peers but that this is done in such a way that the risks to pupils, staff and parents are minimised as much as possible. We know that every school is different and your offer to pupils will vary according to your unique set of circumstances. We will continue to support [headteacher] decisions about the timing and level of phased return for children to school that are based on the comprehensive risk assessments you have been diligently undertaking.

The position in Sphere Federation schools is unchanged, too. We’ll continue to prioritise the growing numbers of children from key workers (as more people are expected back to work, there’s more demand for places in school) and children who may be vulnerable in some way. After this, we’ll look at increasing numbers of children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, and we’ll aim to balance this by considering safety in school and the needs of children and families in other year groups.

There are two more important messages for today.

Agreeing a place for your child

Only come to school if we’ve confirmed there’s a place for your child. Please note we only have a small amount of room for manoeuvre. We can’t allow more children without carefully checking the numbers we have already: each of the ‘bubbles’ can only take so many without undermining safety.

Social distancing

This morning, school leaders across the federation have agreed the following course of action if we have concerns about social distancing:

School leaders have prepared an extensive risk assessment to make sure that our children and staff stay safe in school from Tuesday 02 June 2020. Without our school community (pupils, parents / carers and staff) all adhering to the government guidance on social distancing, the measures we take in school will be undermined.
The policy has been prompted by concerns raised by parents and staff that others may not always have been following social distancing.
The government’s message about social contact is changing, but we will always aim to follow the current message in school, and equally expect families to do so out of school. This is especially the case if your child is attending school.
From Monday in England, you’ll be able to meet in groups of up to six people from different households outside as long as you remain two metres apart. This means that parents and carers must ensure their child stays two metres away from other people – children hugging and hand-holding, games like tig, tackling in football should all be avoided. The only people to enter a home should be members of that household.
If a child says something that indicates they or someone in their household has not followed government guidelines, we’ll do some or all of the following:
  • continue a conversation with the child in an informal, friendly way – this will help us to gain a better understanding and (hopefully) reassure ourselves that social distancing has not been undermined (we won’t ask any leading questions)
  • contact the child’s parents / carers to discuss what the child has said and to clarify the situation
  • isolate the child away from the rest of the children in their ‘bubble’ while we wait for more clarification from the child or their parents / carers
Equally, if an adult says something that indicates another family may not have followed government guidelines, we’ll follow this up.
Ultimately, we may have to ask a parent / carer to collect their child from school and they may lose their child’s place in the bubble. This is because our schools are close to capacity in terms of numbers in bubbles and there is a waiting list of other families wanting a place for their child.
We’d do this reluctantly, but this would be fair to other families in school who are following the guidance, many of whom are key workers and have less choice about whether their child should attend school, too. This is for the safety of all.
The final decision on whether a child can be in school safely lies with the Head of Federation.
Read all the key information about opening schools more widely.

Important message for next week

Posted on 28 May 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This half-term is proving to be super-sunny so hopefully you and your family have managed to spend some happy and healthy time outside. Please remember to make sure you’re all staying two metres away from others and not gathering in large groups, wherever you are, and remember to wash your hands before you head out and when you come back in again.

Here’s another reminder of what’s happening next week…

On Monday 01 June, we’ll be closed for all children. This is so that we can prepare for increasing numbers over the following weeks.

From Tuesday to Friday, school will be open for those using it as they are already and for some additional children. By now, we’ll have contacted you, we’ve agreed for your child to come back, and you’ll know that your child is expected.

Your child should only attend school if this has been agreed. Please don’t just turn up – we won’t have a safe place for your child at this stage.

Read more about St James’ opening to pupils.

Important message for next week

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We hope the sun helped make the bank holiday weekend at least a bit more pleasurable than a typical lockdown weekend.

This is a reminder of what’s happening next week…

On Monday 01 June, we’ll be closed for all children. This is so that we can prepare for increasing numbers over the following weeks.

From Tuesday to Friday, school will be open for those using it as they are already and for some additional children. By now, we’ll have contacted you, we’ve agreed for your child to come back, and you’ll know that your child is expected.

Your child should only attend school if this has been agreed.

Please don’t just turn up – we won’t have a safe place for your child at this stage.

The original government message about particular year groups returning appears to be slightly shifting to simply opening up schools to more pupils. This makes sense. As more people return to work, including more key workers returning to work, we’re already welcoming more pupils back next week – up to three times as many, based on your survey response.

Home learning and other support (22 May 2020) - message 2

Posted on 22 May 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This is the second of our two messages today. This one has information for when schools begin to open to more pupils – important for you all to read and be aware of.

The government has asked schools to prepare to open more widely to pupils. We’re sending this to all of you, even though only some of you will have children coming back to school in the next few weeks. This is so that you’re prepared for when we can welcome more and more children.

All the information here, and more, is in this document – please read the document carefully.

The document’s quite long so here’s an overview to help:

  • page 1: an introduction
  • page 2: our plans to slowly and safely welcome more pupils to school
  • page 3: our priorities – we hope these provide some reassurances for you
  • pages 4 and 5: some key information for you, like start and end times (and this includes our early closing on Fridays), uniform, and plans for continued home learning
  • page 6: what you and we will do in the unlikely event of a case of Covid-19

As always, the message is that things are changing rapidly and at short notice. And also as always, we’ll always keep you updated by website posts and emails as much as we can.

Thank you all for your support over the last few weeks. We hope you have some rest and break from routines over the half-term.

Home learning and other support (22 May 2020) - message 1

Posted on 22 May 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This is the first of two messages today. (The second will contain information for when schools begin to open to more pupils – an important for you all to read and be aware of.)

Today’s the last day of the Summer 1 term. That’s seven school weeks of home learning you’ve done – well done. We know at times it’s been hard, frustrating, confusing… but try to look back and think of the successes, too. You might be feeling proud of the routine you’ve all established, and relaxed if you break that routine sometimes. You might have noticed some progress that your child has shown over the weeks in a particular subject. You might have noticed your child getting stuck into some regular reading. Be proud of those successes as we head towards half-term next week.

Monday’s a bank holiday. From Tuesday to Friday, Moortown Primary and Scholes (Elmet) Primary will be open for the children who have been coming regularly over the past few weeks (and that includes St James’ CE Primary children).

We’ve prepared a menu of home learning activities that you might want to dip into next week – these are optional only, but you might want to encourage your child to have a go at being a quiz master, doing some up-cycling, presenting a cookery masterclass…

(Talking of quizzes, you might want to have a go yourself – see the end of this message for a learning challenge for the adults in the household…)

Is your child still washing their hands frequently?

This news story serves as a useful reminder about the importance of washing our hands. It’s not just relating to coronavirus – handwashing will protect us from flus and other bugs in the future, especially if we all do it.

Advice about handwashing is a consistent message from the government:

It is essential that everyone washes their hands more often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand washing with soap employs mechanical action that loosens bacteria and viruses from the skin, rinsing them into the drain. Drying hands afterwards makes the skin less hospitable to the virus. Hand sanitiser can be effective if soap is not available or the situation makes using soap less feasible (i.e. when outside) but using hand sanitiser provides none of the virus-destroying friction that rubbing your hands together and rinsing with water provides.

Read the latest guidance and video on hand washing can be found at:

The e-Bug project is led by Public Health England and has a dedicated webpage for learning resources on hand washing and respiratory hygiene.

Are you still respecting lockdown guidance?

We started the week with a message that stressed the importance of restricting social contact: you should only have contact with members of your own household:

You must continue to stay home except for a limited set of reasons but – in line with scientific advice – can take part in more outdoor activities.
In nearly all situations, this means you should not visit friends or family, and it means friends and family should not visit you.

Please continue to do that over half-term week and right up until we’re told we can relax the rule a little: it’s not ok to make the odd exception because it’s unfair on others. This is really important as we start to have more children attend school. If we have reasonable grounds to believe a family is not following the government’s message, we will ask you to collect your child and remain away from school for a period of time.

And finally, that quiz we mentioned…

Coming up with quiz questions is harder than you might think! This themed quiz round didn’t go down too well with some of our younger teachers, but you might you might want to have a go – if you’re a child of the ’80s, you’ll have a slight advantage!

Home learning and other support (21 May 2020)

Posted on 21 May 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Yesterday, we outlined our plans for how we might open up our schools more widely. These plans aren’t fixed: the situation we’re in right now is changing all the time. However, regardless of any new government announcement, things are unlikely to differ for next week and the week beginning 01 June:

Next week

On Monday 25 May, we’ll be closed for all children. This is because so few people needed to be in school on the Bank Holiday. For the rest of the week, Moortown Primary and Scholes (Elmet) Primary will stay open for children who are attending regularly at the moment and this includes individuals from St James’ CE Primary.

During this week, there will be a break from the daily home learning activities that teachers set, but we’ve put together this menu of optional activities.

Week commencing 01 June 2020

On Monday 01 June, we’ll be closed for all children. This is so that we can prepare for increasing numbers over the following weeks.

From Tuesday to Friday, school will be open for those using it as they are already and for some additional children. By now (or very soon), you’ll have been contacted and you’ll know that your child is expected. By 3.30pm tomorrow, we can’t accommodate any additional children.

Some principles for children returning to school

During lockdown, we know that children may have had very different experiences in terms of family life (for example, they may have experienced bereavement) and in terms of learning (for example, some will have been able to access the home learning enthusiastically, and others less so). As a result, we know that lessons in school won’t be as they were before, though many of the same good teaching principles apply.

Some of our priorities will be:

  • the safety and hygiene of children and adults, a priority above all else
  • the wellbeing of children: we’ll talk, play games, read stories
  • to establish rules and new routines, but in a gentle way
  • to wash hands frequently: we’ve timetabled many key points in our day when this must happen
  • to get outside as much as possible (and when this happens, high-touch areas, such as tables, chairs, door handles and taps, will be cleaned)

Our learning priorities will be the core skills of reading, writing and maths, but there will be time for other, enriching/relaxing activities, too. Lessons will be shorter to allow for handwashing and other practical considerations that weren’t needed before lockdown.

We’ll let you know more specific details as soon as we can.

Two important things to be aware of…

For all parents: We’re going to close school at noon each Friday for the next few weeks. This is so that rooms can be deep-cleaned, and so that teachers have a chance to plan and prepare some of the home learning activities.

For children in Nursery (Foundation 1): We’ve no plans at the moment to re-open Nursery. This goes against a priority that government has set out, but is in-line with Leeds City Council’s support for a phased re-opening. We’ve made this decision based on concerns about safety and social distancing for our youngest children.

The Leeds position

Read a letter to parents from Saleem Tariq, the Director of Children and Families in Leeds.

Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, and Sal Tariq, Director of Children and Families, set out this position on schools re-opening in an email earlier this week:

Last week the Government declared which year group cohorts (Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6) will be eligible to return to school from June 1st at the earliest, joining those pupils who have been eligible to attend school throughout the past two months (vulnerable children and children of key workers).  The Government have stated that when pupils return, they should be in school full time and that the rotation of year groups should be avoided.

As Leeds City Council, we believe that it is important for children to resume their education so they can learn and interact with their peers. However this needs to be done in such a way that the risks to pupils, staff and parents is minimised as much as possible.

Due to a variety of factors, it would be impossible for all schools to operate to the Government’s timetable of opening Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from June 1st.  While some schools will begin to gradually expand their intake from this date, Leeds will not be expecting all our schools to be open to all those pupils from day one.

In deciding what is feasible, schools are being asked to carry out an initial comprehensive risk assessment so that leaders can evaluate potential solutions on how they could safely and effectively accommodate eligible pupils. We would ask schools, in the first instance, to take a phased approach to how many pupils they take back and from when schools are ready.

Every school has a different number of vulnerable and key worker children, every school has a different number of staff who will not be able to attend school in person because they or a family member are in a vulnerable category and therefore shielding, and every school has a different layout and therefore has differing abilities to implement social distancing measures for its staff and pupils.

It can be expected, therefore, that there will not be one city-wide model for the initial phased re-opening of schools. However, Leeds City Council will support schools to work towards gradually increasing the number of pupils they receive at the pace that their individual circumstances will allow.

It is clear that there are a number of clarifications and actions are still needed from the Government before numbers returning to school can substantially increase.  We have been consistently asking for the scientific advice that has informed the Government’s position, we are demanding that this be published immediately.

There must be clarification around the appropriate levels of social distancing that will need to be implemented, and schools must have flexibility as each school will have a different layout and therefore will have differing abilities to implement social distancing.

There must be comprehensive and regular testing made available for school staff, as well as for the children and young people attending school, linking into a local tracing programme

Staff who are social distancing because they, or those they live with, are in vulnerable categories must be given national guarantees that they can continue to work from home and not be expected to physically come into school.

We support the Local Government Association’s call that local authorities be given the power to close any school where there is an outbreak of cases.  Given the disparate rates of R across the country, it is right that this power should sit locally and be done in consultation with Directors of Public Health.

And finally the new case count must be much lower than it is currently, with a sustained downward trend.

We are working in consultation with schools and the Department for Education to gain answers to questions which still remain.

It is important to note that schools have been open throughout the past two months, providing education in person for vulnerable children and the children of key worker children – in addition to providing education and pastoral care to those children at home.  This has been a phenomenal task and we thank everyone involved.

We understand that this is a difficult time for parents and Leeds recognises the urgency in returning children to education.  This urgency should not overlook local level factors, nor should it be done until these points have been addressed.  Safety of staff and pupils should be at the heart of all decision making and decisions should be kept under constant review.

Home learning and other support (20 May 2020)

Posted on 20 May 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’re starting today’s message with some plans for the next week or so.

The situation we’re in right now is changing all the time, so please be aware these plans aren’t set in stone: we have to work through them in more detail; our governors will scrutinise them; and advice and direction from the government is due to be updated, too.

All along the way, we’ll have to keep reviewing numbers coming in and balancing this with lots of other considerations, like staffing and the spread of the virus.

Up until now, the numbers of children of key workers at St James’ CE Primary have been quite low, and so they’ve been attending Moortown Primary or Scholes (Elmet) Primary, our sister federation schools.

Next week

Pupils from St James’ CE Primary can continue to attend Moortown or Scholes, as arranged. This is except for Monday when all three schools will be closed for Bank Holiday.

Week commencing 01 June 2020

On Monday 01 June, Sphere Federation schools will not be open to any children. This is so staff can prepare classrooms and learning resources for children.

We will re-open from Tuesday 02 June to accommodate children of key workers and children who may be vulnerable in some way.

For the rest of that week, we’re expecting the number of children to rise. This prediction is based on your survey responses, which indicate that more and more key workers will be required to be back at work.

We’re determined to accommodate these children in line with all safety guidance we’ve received.

Week commencing 08 June 2020

This week is open to some review based on the numbers we’ve had in school in the previous week. Our current aim is to open school more widely to additional Year 1 and Year 6 children. There are various criteria that we’re considering, such as criteria around free school meals, which seems a fair way to do this.

As before, we can and will accommodate these children in line with all safety guidance we’ve received.

Week commencing 15 June 2020

This week is open to a lot of review based on the numbers coming in to school. We have three broad options that we’ll continue to review:

  1. to continue to open school more widely to limited numbers of Year 1 and Year 6 children (two of the year groups identified by the government as a priority)
  2. to invite children from other year groups where we know there are exceptional circumstances and/or there is a real need
  3. to consider opening for children in Reception where the families qualify for free school meals

Our preferred options at this stage are Option 1 or 2, or some sort of combination. Option 3 is less likely based on survey responses and our capacity to make sure provision is safe for the youngest children, and – importantly – provision is appropriate (since we can’t safely offer an Early Years learning environment which the children will be used to).

As we said at the start, these plans are subject to change. We’ll continue to update you when we can.