Latest news from around the school

Our daily message (17 June 2020)

Posted on 17 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We continue our messages this week with another message that supports our home learners in terms of Living and Learning.

Last week, our Living and Learning statement was ‘I see things from other people’s point of view’. This statement linked with the British value of mutual respect and tolerance. It promotes empathy and understanding.

We got some great feedback from some parents and carers about the ideas and resources we presented, including this, in reference to the Sesame Street clip (we’ve edited the comment to make sure it’s anonymous):

‘[My child] has had a few negative comments about her skin (this was addressed). But she says every day she wants to look like all her friends – she wants white skin and straight hair. We explain about skin colour etc and how lucky [she is]. But she still wants to have white skin. This video clicked with her. She understood that everyone is the same even though they may look different.’

Whilst really encouraging, the comment made us sad to note the negative comments had been made in the first place. Imagine the impact if we all took on board the simple message of the Sesame Street clip: ‘we’re different, we’re the same’.

If you didn’t find time to think about last week’s Living and Learning theme with your child, please do.

As well as he three book list recommendations from last week, we’ve one extra book list that you might want to check out, from Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books:

Our daily message (16 June 2020)

Posted on 16 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Yesterday, the Department for Education published guidance ‘to provide information on how primary schools can use flexibility to welcome back additional pupils this term’. The guidance states: ‘It is up to schools to decide which pupils to prioritise, based on their knowledge of their children and communities’.

Welcoming back additional pupils

‘It is up to schools to decide which pupils to prioritise…’ That’s good – that’s what we’ve been trying to do since the government announced that schools should begin to open more widely for pupils.

We’ve been planning carefully to manage increasing numbers in a safe way: while responding the the government’s goal for children in Early Years, Year 1 and Year 6 to return, we’ve also welcomed back more children of key workers, and we’ve also invited individuals from other year groups who might be considered vulnerable in some way.

Regrettably, because we’d already decided which additional pupils to prioritise ahead of yesterday’s guidance, our schools are already close to capacity. If you’re at home with your child and are really struggling in some way, please do get in touch.

A word of caution…

The guidance published yesterday states primary schools with extra capacity can welcome back pupils from any year groups. This is despite education secretary Gavin Williamson telling Parliament last week he was working on a ‘priority’ list for schools of which pupils to welcome back first. This is an example of the confusing messages coming from government.

The current situation means that plans and messages often change. However, please be cautious about the messages coming from government just now:

  • they sometimes change, they sometimes get dropped (as appears to be the case with Gavin Williamson’s priority list), and they sometimes don’t match reality
  • they don’t appear to stem from working closely with school leaders – certainly, we don’t hear things before you do
  • there is a danger that they create false hope and mislead parents as to what is deliverable

The government has previously announced initiatives that haven’t quite lived up to the message: free laptops for disadvantaged home learners haven’t been delivered yet; free school meal vouchers didn’t work like they should leaving families not able to pay for their food at supermarket checkouts; and – one affecting us all – the prime minister’s ambition for all pupils to return for the last few weeks of the school year. Most recently, the prime minister has announced a ‘summer catch-up scheme‘ – let’s hope this is realistic, well-thought-through, and can actually happen.

Our daily message (15 June 2020)

Posted on 15 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We start the week with another message that supports our home learners in terms of Living and Learning. I know the difference between laughing at and laughing with someone… is our statement this week.

There’s an important difference between laughing at and laughing with someone. We’ll get on better with others if we know that laughing at someone is unkind and hurtful. The statement links with the British value of mutual respect and tolerance.

Firstly, for older children, read this article to find out what actually happens when we laugh. Laughing and smiling helps your body as well as your mind feel better and healthier but not when this is directed at someone else.

Look at and use these questions to discuss these contrasting photos with your child.

  • What do you think is happening in this photograph?
  • Have you ever been in a situation like this?
  • What do you think this person is/these people are feeling like?
  • If you feel like that, what would your face look like?  And your body?
  • If you’re feeling like this, what might you do?
  • If you’re feeling like this, how does your body feel on the inside?
  • What do you think a person who felt like that would do?

Finally, consider the following with your friends and family at the moment:

  • What makes you smile and laugh?
  • How could you make someone laugh?
  • How would that person feel when they are laughing?

For parents and carers, you might like to read Michael Rosen’s article, The trick to making children laugh. And with your child, enjoy his poems, which  can help to bring a smile or a laugh to your face.

Our daily message (12 June 2020)

Posted on 12 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our final message of the week comes from Miss Beatson, St James’ CE Primary’s Head of School.

We’re now at the end of the second week back in school. We’ve managed to open three ‘bubbles’ (groups which are separated from the others) and we’ll start a fourth bubble next week. At this point, following current government guidelines, we’ll be close to full capacity and unable to have any more children in school for the time being.

Staff are doing a fantastic job under challenging circumstances. They’ve worked incredibly hard:

  • making school as safe as possible
  • supporting our children’s wellbeing
  • teaching lessons within the new constraints of the classroom
  • continuing to provide good quality home learning online for our children who are still at home

School at the moment does feel quiet and different. We’re all missing each and every one of you who can’t join us right now.

Nevertheless, the children in school have been very good at following and respecting the new rules and they’ve taken so well to the ‘new normal’.

Message of caution: if we do have a member of staff become unwell or unable to come into school, the bubble they teach in may have to go home as we do not have any spare staff to step in.


To further support learning at home, we’ve bought all children in Reception to Year 5 a bundle of textbooks and more information about how to collect these will be communicated next week. We hope this will further support the online learning or ‘re-motivate’ some of the children who may have been struggling to engage in learning in recent weeks.

As Mr Roundtree mentioned in his daily message on Wednesday, we still don’t know what the school picture looks like for September and we understand it can be an anxious time for parents with so much uncertainty. We’ll be working very hard to put safe plans in place and follow the government advice and guidelines and obviously communicate the plans to you as soon as we can.

For those families who are already coming into school or who will be starting school next week, here are a few reminders about the expectations in order to keep our school community as safe as possible:

  • stick to the allocated drop off and pick up times for your child
  • only one parent is to drop off and pick up
  • if any new medication is to be given in school, please inform the office prior to your child coming into school
  • it should be someone from the household collecting your child
  • water bottles must be brought into school

If your child is back at school, please make sure you read the last two pages of this document – it’s important information about what we need from you and your child to keep everyone safe at school.

If your child is returning soon, please make sure you read the whole document, so you can be prepared with every detail, from snacks to sun-cream (although not much of that is needed at the moment!).

Have a good weekend, despite the weather.

Our daily message (11 June 2020)

Posted on 11 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message comes from Rachel Greenhalgh, our Chair of Governors…

Since the government announced that schools should make preparations to open more widely, our governing body has been working closely with the school leaders to ensure how and when this could happen in the safest way possible for all.

This has been a huge undertaking. School leaders and governors have been keeping abreast of the relevant government information, which extends to 29 guidance documents or announcements and 94 guidance updates published by the Department for Education since the start of the Covid-19 crisis (source: Schools Week), along with additional information from the Local Authority and other sources. Full risk assessments have taken place and were brought to the governing body for discussion, consideration and approval, alongside the proposed practical arrangements for children returning to school and those remaining at home.

The safety of all our children, staff and the wider community has been paramount in all our decision making. Last week, our schools, like many across England, began to welcome more children through our doors. The governing body continues to monitor and review the safety of children and staff in school as we steadily increase the number of children attending, through regular discussion of the risk assessments and plans with school leaders, and communicating any updates to you. For example, we have asked school leaders to reinforce the message about social distancing and other Covid-19 safeguarding priorities.

At the same time, we are conscious that there are still many of our children at home, and there is huge uncertainty about when it will be possible for all children to be back to school. Providing and signposting home-learning for these children also remains a priority, and we continue to ask about the provision for children at home and support available for parents / carers in facilitating this.

We would like to thank you for your continuous support. We are extremely proud of our children and staff and how you have helped and encouraged them to stay happy and healthy during this difficult time.

Look out for tomorrow’s message, which comes from Miss Beatson, the Head of School at St James’ CE Primary.

Our daily message (10 June 2020)

Posted on 10 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message comes directly from me, and it’s a response to yesterday’s news: ‘Plans for all England’s primary children to return for a month before the summer break have been dropped by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’. This is a difficult message to write because I’ve always tried to avoid presenting my own personal views on the tough times we’re currently in.

The problem

The government’s plan that children in Early Years, Year 1 and Year 6 should return to school was not one of the options that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) evaluated. In fact, SAGE recommended a rota system, where small groups from all year groups returned on a rota – one week in school, one week not. (This is similar to what the Welsh Government is doing, for example.)

The government’s plan to have all primary school pupils back at school for the last few weeks was always destined to be very much an ambition rather than than a realistic plan if systems to support it weren’t properly up-and-running. We’ve seen delays in accessing a test for Covid-19, which I hear from headteacher colleagues are still a problem, and the track and trace system not yet fully operational.

The issue facing us now is challenging. Schools in England followed the guidance coming from the Department for Education – we can’t realistically un-do what we were advised to do. Parents were led to feel confident and optimistic that even if their child didn’t return to school at the start of June, they would be back at school for at least the last few weeks.

The next steps

We need well-thought through plans from government that are developed with school leaders and not simply presented to them. The plans need to be ready for different scenarios.

The best-case scenario is that in September, all our current pupils will be back at school in September. But that doesn’t mean things are back to normal – we still need a plan. We need to adapt our curriculum. This is so that we can support children’s wellbeing even more than we normally do, and so that we can adapt what we teach so children can catch up on learning they’ve missed. We need to be able to do this with at least the support of, and at best the guidance from, government and Ofsted.

Where I read about concerns that schools may not be back to normal by September, they mainly relate to secondary schools having all pupils back. I’m cautiously optimistic that for primaries, this will happen. However, we need to be prepared for things not going to plan…

A worst-case scenario is that the virus remains widespread and we’re in a position similar to what we have now. I’d love to be able to go back in time, ignore the government’s ‘roadmap’, and put in place a better and fairer way to have all children in school for at least some regular time. We can’t realistically do that right now, but it would definitely be a a better way to start the new school year: all children attending school at least on a rota basis.

In a meeting with Leeds headteachers and Leeds councillors yesterday, I put forward the need for longer-term thinking and encouraged them to lobby the government more to do this. I’ll back up what I said with a more detailed picture of what I’ve said here. I’ll also be sending this to my own trade union, the NAHT. They have taken, in my opinion, a pragmatic, proactive and productive approach. I’m hoping the government might listen more than it has done to the views of this particular union.

Finally, some thanks. First of all, from the very start of the challenges we’ve faced, way back in March, the support from you has been so appreciated. You’ve encouraged us, guided us, thanked us – for all your feedback, I’m very grateful. Thank you.


Tomorrow’s message comes from Rachel Greenhalgh, the Chair of Governors for Sphere Federation. Friday’s message is directly from the Head of School and presents a school-specific picture of our school at this strange transition point.

Our daily message (09 June 2020)

Posted on 09 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Headlines this morning indicate what perhaps you had already predicted. From the BBC:

The plan for all primary school years in England to go back to school before the end of term is to be dropped by the government.

There had been an aim for all primary pupils to spend four weeks in school before the summer break.

But it is no longer thought to be feasible and instead schools will be given “flexibility” over whether or not to admit more pupils.

Although this is a realistic picture of the current situation for schools, we’re really sad that it’s unlikely all our pupils can return before the summer break.

The Prime Minister announced on 10 May his roadmap to open schools more widely. Reading more closely through government documentation, it was always an ambition rather than a promise, and one that relied very closely on an effective track and trace system in operation (we were assured of a world-beating one by 01 June although it appears this isn’t yet fully operational).

Since 10 May, there have been many conflicting headlines and news stories and opinions. At school level, we’ve had to consider many things to welcome more children back, not least the following:

  • increasing numbers of children of key workers across all ages, as more parents were expected back at work
  • maintaining provision for children who may be vulnerable in some way
  • fewer staff than usual, due to personal circumstances (eg a need to shield)
  • limited space to enable social distancing
  • evolving government guidance
  • how to maintain home learning for those not yet returning

We haven’t yet heard the government announcement about this, but in it, we’d really like to hear some sort of central, long-term plan that’s been worked through alongside school leaders.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to explore how we can safely welcome back more pupils each week whilst not neglecting those who remain at home.

Do contact us if you’ve got specific questions, comments or concerns about your own circumstances. If you’re at home with your child and are really struggling in some way, please do get in touch: call us on 01937 583 379 or send an email to Miss Beatson, the Head of School:

We’ll do our best to support in some way.


Is your child attending school, or due to return soon?

If so, it’s really important you read our policy on social distancing and other Covid-19 safeguarding priorities. The content is closely linked to our risk assessment for opening school more widely. We’ve updated the previous policy following further guidance from Leeds City Council; the main changes are:

  • reference to safeguarding priorities other than social distancing
  • actions we’ll take to follow the policy

It’s important to remember this policy is here to keep everyone safe at school.

Our daily message (08 June 2020)

Posted on 08 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our daily message today concentrates on home learning, and in particular Living and Learning. It’s an important one this week, so do please spend some time at home on this.

Living and Learning is our term for Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE). Each week in school, we have a Living and Learning statement and we’ve started to tell you about this so that you have an opportunity to include this in your home learning activities, whether as an additional or an alternative task.

This week’s Living and Learning statement is ‘I see things from other people’s point of view’. Like the previous week, this statement links with the British value of mutual respect and tolerance. It promotes empathy and understanding; it’s about encouraging children to consider what makes themselves and others special, valuing the similarities and differences between themselves and others.

In light of recent events in America and subsequent protests across the world, please do make sure you fit some time into your week to discuss this with your child.

One of a series of ‘I Don’t Get It’ short films from First News (in partnership with Sky and the British Film Institute) asks why racism is still a big issue in our world. It’s not perfect (it fails to mention the role of Britain in the slave trade, for example), but might act as a good starting point.

Empathy Lab is a good base to keep returning to in order to promote empathy and understanding and therefore ultimately stop prejudicial behaviour. Their aim is ‘to inspire the rising generation to drive a new empathy movement… to build children’s empathy, literacy and social activism through a systematic use of high quality literature.’ Tomorrow happens to be Empathy Day.

For older children, this resource sheet with questions and prompts for discussion linked to this poster would be a good starting point.

Also worth looking at would be this experience of an American author, which asks the question what can this account teach us about the effects of racism on his daily life?

We really thinking stories are a really powerful way to break down barriers, whatever the barrier. Possibly more suited to younger children are these two stories read aloud by their author:

And here are three lists of books for all ages – they all feature themes of racism:

Our daily message (05 June 2020)

Posted on 05 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Yesterday, we listed four ideas for additional or alternative home learning, including providing design inspiration for the new Leeds Children’s Hospital and contributing to Leeds COVID Diaries. Our last daily message of the week features a couple more top tips to support home learning and an interesting article about the benefits of video games.

Before either of those things, though, a repeat of one part of yesterday’s message:

If you’re at home with your child and are really struggling in some way, please do get in touch. Call us on 01937 583 379 or send an email to Natalie Beatson, the Head of School ( We’ll do our best to support in some way.

Daily wellbeing activities

Although Purple Patch Arts’ mission is to improve the lives and life chances of people with learning disabilities, complex needs and autism, their daily activities are really good for everyone. The activities all fit around a weekly theme (this week’s was ‘Unsolved Mysteries – Climate Change‘).

Each day, there’s a fact of the day (yesterday’s was ‘Trees act like the lungs of the earth. Trees help the planet breathe by turning carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into clean, pure oxygen.‘). It’s worth checking out the activity just for this. It could prompt your child to do some further independent research, or simply to build up a bank of fascinating facts to remember!

The fact of the day is then followed up with about five activities (yesterday’s included a science investigation, an arty activity and a film to watch to find out more about trees).

Creative connections

The aim of Fun Palaces is to ‘support local people to co-create their own cultural and community events, across the UK and worldwide, sharing and celebrating the genius in everyone‘.

Since the start of the lockdown, Fun Palaces has been asking people to share ways they’re connecting with neighbours, friends and family whilst safely social distancing. These Tiny Revolutions are easy steps anyone can take to connect a little more in their local community or pass time creatively in self-isolation. You can download a whole series of creative ideas – we like the Big Picture idea on page 4!

Video games in lockdown

Read this article about the hidden benefits of playing video games in lockdown. Benefits mentioned in the article include…

  • a sense of connection: ‘Even the most competitive online game is an opportunity for children to be in touch with school friends or a wider group of online acquaintances.
  • learning opportunities: ‘There’s a whole category of games that have been created solely to teach the player something. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but there’s also a lot of learning that happens in games not specifically designed for this purpose.
  • a way to stay calm and feel more in control: ‘Video games can offer a healthy and helpful escape from the real world, particularly at stressful times. In the game, the child can find a sense of control over things or attempt projects that in the real world they might not have the confidence for.’

The article goes on to provide some short advice for you to help your child enjoy positive experiences when playing.


Whatever you do, have a happy and healthy weekend, and a safe one, too.

Our daily message (04 June 2020)

Posted on 04 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our daily message to you today concentrates on home learning – we’ve still got lots of our pupils at home and we’re not going to neglect them.

If you’re at home with your child and are really struggling in some way, please do get in touch. Call us on 01937 583 379 or send an email to Natalie Beatson, the Head of School ( We’ll do our best to support in some way.

In previous messages, we’ve encouraged setting up a routine to support home learning. In case you’ve missed this, we really like the Education Endowment Foundation’s resources to support parents and carers at home, especially this video and really simple tick list which promote routines.

Another piece of advice was to be flexible. This could be in two ways…

One is to be flexible in terms of occasionally breaking the routine so that it works for you and your child. Routines bring with them feelings of safety and security for your child, and breaking them can bring excitement and extra engagement (and ease some pressure for you), as long as it’s not too often.

The other way to be flexible is about the home learning tasks. The four activities here can be used as additional or alternative home learning tasks.

Design competition for the new Leeds Children’s Hospital

Calling all budding architects and designers! Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is going to build a brand new Leeds Children’s Hospital and they need children’s help to design it.

The judges are looking for design ideas that will make a difference to patients, their families, carers and people who work in the new Leeds Children’s Hospital. The ideas could be:

  • an idea that is a practical help (for example, a new way of finding your way around)
  • an idea for how the inside or outside of the hospital might look to make patients, families and staff feel like it’s great place to be
  • an idea for something to keep patients in touch with their families and friends
  • an idea for a space to play, or relax, or spend time with friends and family
  • a new idea to inspire their design team in the future

Draw a picture, paint, make a model, write a poem, make it in Minecraft or Lego, make a short video… anything you like – it’s up to your child to decide! Find out more about the competition. Entries are open to anyone under 18 years old and the competition closes on Friday 12 June 2020.

Share your Covid experiences

Across the city, the lives of children and young people have been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They’re having to come to terms with a whole new normal way of living and finding different and innovative ways to cope. The Leeds COVID Diaries Project is a way to capture their experience and will provide a valuable historical snapshot of Leeds for future generations.

People of all ages across Leeds are being invited to share their stories, experiences and thoughts about the coronavirus pandemic, but they’re particularly keen to hear from children, young people and families.

It might be called COVID Diaries, but it doesn’t have to be a diary entry! Your child’s (or your own) entry can be absolutely anything you want and in any format. It can be hand-written, typed, drawn, painted, recorded etc and can be a blog, video diary, song, piece of music, social media post, a photo, a poem, a piece of artwork…  Find out more.

Storytelling and drama from Polka Theatre

For younger children, there are four stories to watch a story and then have a go at some of the related activities from Polka Theatre. You could perhaps spread this across four weeks of home learning, choosing one of the following for each week:

Leeds Children’s Mayor 2020

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Leeds will still hold elections for the next Leeds Children’s Mayor (LCM) this year. Find out more.

Children in  Year 5 need to write a manifesto and then send it to us:

It’s down to schools to submit the entrants, so send these to us by Friday 12 June. We’ll then make sure we submit entrants to the Leeds Children’s Mayor Team by Wednesday 17 June, the closing date.

Here’s a short video from Wania, the current Children’s Mayor, who explains what she likes about the programme.