Latest news from around the school

Home learning (02 April 2020)

Posted on 02 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s post centres around staying safe online, and – back by popular demand(!) – the return of Red Herring.

Making sure your child is safe online should be a top priority.

During these times, your child may well be online more often than they normally would. We’ve suggested you might decide that your child shouldn’t be on social networking sites during the school hours, but the Easter holidays are coming up so you may choose to relax any rules you’ve set. But how much screen time should children have? These activities designed for use with 7-11 year olds (but easily adapted to other ages) will help your child recognise the signs they may experience when they’ve been online too long and the importance of balancing online and offline activities.

Thinkuknow can help you make sure your child stays safe online. They’ve produced a short guide for parents of primary and secondary children.

How much do you know about Houseparty?

An app growing in popularity is Houseparty – downloads have increased by 122% in the last month during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a group video messaging app that allows users to live-chat with up to eight people where they can play games and chat with friends and family in a ‘room’.

Different organisations set an age limit for Houseparty, all higher than primary school age. (Apple rate Houseparty as 12+ and Google Play urge ‘parental guidance’, but Common Sense Media and others recommend users be at least 15 to use the platform. Houseparty’s privacy policy requires users to be at least 13 years old.)

Read more about Houseparty so you can support your child to stay safe online.

What’s the government advice about staying safe online?

Government guidance now includes reference to keeping your child safe online:

There is a lot of support available to keep your child safe online. Below are some useful links to help parents and carers:

Thinkyouknow (advice from the National Crime Agency to stay safe online)
Internet matters (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
Parent info (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
LGfL (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
Net-aware (support for parents and carers from the NSPCC)

The guidance also talks about concerns about too much pressure on broadband connections:

The government is having regular calls with the major fixed and mobile operators, and with Ofcom, to monitor the situation and ensure that any problems on the networks are rapidly addressed and rectified.

Now, the return of Red Herring…

On Monday, we set you a challenge of working out which fact is the red herring amongst each of the Heads of School (and me). Today, we present five more people – our office-based staff – and with a bit of an equestrian theme. Just work out which statement for each person is a fib, a big fat lie. (Yes, we know it’s hard because you don’t know the people working in the other schools!)

Mrs O’Malley, Sphere Resources Manager based at Moortown:

  • I met my husband whilst learning to drive a tank.
  • I have three British military qualifications: artillery survey,  combat appreciation, and radio communications.
  • As well as a yellow belt in kickboxing I also have a red belt in Ju Jitsu.

Miss Pallister, Admin Assistant at Scholes (Elmet):

  • My first ever full-time job after leaving school was working for Education Leeds, in the finance department at Merrion House.
  • Before moving to Scholes, I lived in Spain for five years.
  • When I was younger I won various horse riding competitions.

Mrs Quirk, Sphere Resources Manager based at Scholes (Elmet):

  • Knitting is one of my hobbies – I love to make presents for friends and family.
  • In my teens, I was part of a group of people who raised money to buy medical supplies for a hospital in Malawi; I spent a summer over there when we took over all the supplies.
  • One of my favourite jobs was as a Wedding Co-ordinator at a country house hotel – I loved planning and organising people’s special days!

Mrs Russell, Admin Assistant at Moortown:

  • When I was younger, I fell off a horse and it trod on my leg – it didn’t put me off horse riding though!
  • I used to help mend shopping trollies.
  • My favourite type of food is fish – anything apart from squid.

Mrs Walshaw, Admin Assistant at St James’:

  • I can count to 10 in Japanese.
  • When I was younger, my family owned two Shetland ponies but I never rode them.
  • In my previous job as an air stewardess, I was part of a crew who took Manchester United football team to one of their European Cup games (now known as the UEFA Champions League).

Home learning (01 April 2020)

Posted on 01 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

It’s April Fools’ Day – were you the trickster or the fool?

Today, we’ve news about the home learning over the Easter holiday period…

The weeks beginning 06 April and 13 April are the Easter holidays. Yes, it might seem that there won’t be much difference between term time and holiday time at the moment. We’ve thought carefully about how the home learning should look during the Easter period…

  • We’ll present a list of eight activities for your child (Years 1-6) to get up to during the holiday.
  • The list will be the same across year groups, meaning if you’ve more than one child, they might work on it together in some way.
  • Some of the tasks can take a bit longer, like a mini-project, and others will match Creative or Talk Time homework tasks.
  • You can encourage your child to do some or all of the activities – they’re all optional.

During this time, you can still email your child’s class teacher, although they may not respond as quickly as they have been doing.

Teachers will return to daily home learning tasks on Monday 20 April.

For children of key workers, and for children deemed vulnerable in some way, Scholes (Elmet) Primary and Moortown Primary remain open through the holiday, including on the bank holidays. (Thank you to all teachers who have agreed to work these days.)

…and we’ve a message from our Chair of Governors, Mrs Rachel Greenhalgh:

“It’s been an incredibly difficult few weeks for everyone, and I hope you and your families are all keeping well and staying safe through these strange times.

As a governing body, we have been closely following the public health advice and information from the Department of Education, and supporting Mr Roundtree and the Heads of School in managing the fast changing situation. Like most, we’ve had to change our way of working and have reassessed our immediate priorities for the children and the schools, but we are now experts at running virtual meetings! I am sure you will join the governing body in thanking Mr Roundtree and all the school staff for the huge amount of planning and work that has taken place over the past six weeks both in and out of school, and the support provided through regular communication and updates sent to parents and children.

A number of governors are Sphere Federation parents, and we have been hugely grateful for the work provided by the teachers and the additional resources signposted to support the children.

However, these are tough times and there are different daily pressures faced by us all trying to juggle things like home learning, work commitments and worries, family health issues, self-isolation, and general anxiety, whilst trying to keep things as normal as possible for our children. Thank you for all you have been doing to keep learning going during this time – we appreciate it’s not easy. The schools are aware that everyone is doing their best but know that there are many alternative ways for our children to learn new skills and develop knowledge – doing activities such as reading, exercise, cooking or gardening, or relaxing, watching films together, playing board games, chatting with each other as a family or close friends online can also provide many learning opportunities.

We can’t wait to welcome all the children and staff back to the schools once the restrictions are lifted, and return to our normal role of school governance (if you want to find out more about what this voluntary role entails, do look at the governor page on our website). In the meantime, thank you for supporting the children and schools during this difficult time, find time to look after yourselves, take care and stay safe.”

Home learning (31 March 2020)

Posted on 31 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Yesterday, we set you a challenge and prompted you to check out BBC’s Newsround. Today, we provide the answers and encourage you to look at a resource from the Children’s Commissioner.

First up, the answers to Red Herring…

We asked you to identify the red herring statement about four people from Sphere Federation…

Miss Hague, Scholes (Elmet) Primary:

  • I worked in pollution control before becoming a teacher.
  • I can talk like Donald Duck – it’s my party piece.
  • I appear in a travel brochure for Spain. This is the red herring: Miss Hague did make it to a tour brochure promoting holidays to Bridlington, though – almost as exotic.

Mrs Weekes, Moortown Primary:

  • I can juggle, but only with handkerchiefs (they’re slower than balls!) This is the red herring: metaphorically, Mrs Weekes does a good job juggling all the jobs around school as well as being the Senior Safeguarding Lead for the whole federation, but she can’t actually juggle.
  • I wanted to be a rally driver when I was little.
  • As a child, I hated wearing dresses – I used to hide them.

Miss Beatson, St James’ CE Primary:

  • When I was younger, my dream job was to be an air stewardess.
  • I used to pack tracheostomy sponges.
  • I can play the banjo. This is the red herring: Miss Beatson is musical, though – she can play the flute, not the banjo.

And me, Mr Roundtree:

  • I can do a bridge pose.
  • During university, I ate a medium pan pizza every day for three weeks. This is the red herring (although technically speaking, true as well): I did eat pizza every day, but for four weeks, not three – I was working in Pizza Hut while at university and taking advantage of this staff perk helped me save my wages (and I’m still loyal to The Hut!).
  • My favourite music is by a Dutch band called The Nits.

Make sure your child is in the know about coronavirus…

The Children’s Commissioner for England has produced this resource – a Children’s Guide to Coronavirus – to support your child. It contains facts about the virus and recommends ways to keep busy at home.

Finally, we’re still so grateful for your lovely feedback…

Here’s just one:

My sincere thanks and appreciation to everyone at school involved in the incredible communication we’re receiving including the updates, advice but mostly the fabulous work that the teachers are setting for the children. I can’t tell you how much this means to both me and the children… the work you are doing for our children is appreciated more than you could imagine.

Many thanks to you all.

Home learning (30 March 2020)

Posted on 30 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This week, we thought we’d lighten up on all the advice and information we’ve sent out recently, so…

It’s quiz time! Here’s a game called Red Herring…

Sphere Federation is made up of three primary schools. Each school has a Head of School, and there’s me, the Head of Federation. We’ve all listed three facts about ourselves, but beware! One is a Red Herring – it’s completely false. Your job is to work out which one is just plain wrong!

Miss Hague, Scholes (Elmet) Primary:

  • I worked in pollution control before becoming a teacher.
  • I can talk like Donald Duck – it’s my party piece.
  • I appear in a travel brochure for Spain.

Miss Weekes, Moortown Primary:

  • I can juggle, but only with handkerchiefs (they’re slower than balls!)
  • I wanted to be a rally driver when I was little.
  • As a child, I hated wearing dresses – I used to hide them.

Miss Beatson, St James’ CE Primary:

  • When I was younger, my dream job was to be an air stewardess.
  • I used to pack tracheostomy sponges.
  • I can play the banjo.

And me, Mr Roundtree:

  • I can do a bridge pose (although not as well as this one).
  • During university, I ate a medium pan pizza every day for three weeks.
  • My favourite music is by a Dutch band called The Nits.

Make sure your child is in the know about coronavirus and other news…

There’s a lot of wrong stuff out there on social media:

  • Misinformation is a mistake: information that’s accidentally (but still unhelpfully) wrong.
  • Disinformation is deliberate: information that’s wrong on purpose; this can be especially harmful.

You can always rely on Newsround to present the news to children in a way that works. And it’s not all doom and gloom – there’s an opinion poll at the moment rating the best celebrity teacher whilst the schools are closed. Who do you think is rated top so far? Could it be…

  • David Walliams
  • Carol Vorderman
  • Oti Mabuse, or
  • someone else entirely?

Do you know anyone whose English may not be good enough to understand the important health messages from the NHS at the moment?

Doctors of the World website has NHS guidance translated into several languages. The guidance is based on the government’s updated advice and health information. The complete list of languages is English, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Czech, Dari, Estonian, Farsi, French, Gujarati, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Hungarian, Kurdish Sorani, Lithuanian, Malayalam, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Romanian, Sindhi, Slovak, Spanish, Somali, Tigrinya, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Home learning: all set for a Week 2?

Posted on 29 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We really hope you’ve managed to have some sort of weekend, with some relaxation, rest and recuperation so you and your child are ready and rejuvenated for Week 2 of home learning.

Remember some tips from last week:

  • try to develop a timetable for the tasks and stick to it – children benefit from the routine and it becomes easier
  • build in practical tasks like cooking or planning an online shop so your child can use and apply the skills they have
  • use different devices to access the tasks if you’ve more than one child, or let them have a go at the same task, but provide extra support for the younger, or additional challenge for the older
  • if a task looks too complicated for your child, be flexible – they could access the task set by a teacher in one of the other Sphere schools, or they could access some learning from our menu of home learning resources.
  • let your child’s teacher know how they’re doing – it’ll help them to stay engaged if they get some feedback (and our teachers are loving seeing all the great learning that’s coming in – check out their Class News pages!)
  • importantly – be kind to yourself and your child: this is a difficult time for us all, so if they’ve done just two of the tasks, plus some reading (20 minutes would be great), some exercise and some other learning from our menu, then that’s a really productive day!

A top site to check out…

To kick off a new week. we want to really recommend BBC Teach. It’s home to thousands of free curriculum-mapped videos, arranged by age-group and subject. In the menu bar at the top, select primary (or secondary for older children) and you’ll find a whole array of options for each school subject, split into Key Stage 1 (Years 1, 2) and Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6).

A few other sites to maybe check out…

Teach your Monster to Read has lots of games to help your child learn to read. It covers everything from letters and sounds to reading full sentences. The computer version is 100% free.

Scholastic Kids’ Club is a great site for your child to browse – they can read about books, do games, activities and sometimes competitions, and the Book Wizard guides them to some reading recommendations, tailor-made for them.

Look out for Phonics Play’s comics which are decodable (this means ‘readable’ for the stage of phonics your child is on). If you’re not sure what stage of phonics your child is on, you could always start at the beginning for a useful re-cap, or email your child’s class teacher.

And you might want to encourage your child to access this if they’re feeling stressed…

Kooth is an online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people, accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop and free at the point of use.

All of these have been added to our menu of home learning resources.

You made it through the week!

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

To the mums, dads, carers of St James’ children: well done! You did it – you got to the end of the week, and for that, you should feel pleased with yourselves. We know it’s been tough. It’s the weekend now, and it’ll be a strange one in this ‘new norm’.

Try to find ways to relax. Maybe you can include a David Walliams story part of that. He’s reading a free audio story every day at the moment. Each day’s story can be heard here, or your child can listen live at 11am (perfect time for you to have a break and a cuppa).

Leeds emergency food provision and mental health support

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Mrs Quirk

Due to the rapidly evolving situation, for up to date information on where help and provisions can be accessed in the city, visit: or

If you are finding it difficult to access food due to financial constraints, self-isolation or accessibility of food provision, then you are eligible for help. Leeds City Council are putting additional support in place to ensure everyone is able to access the food they need.

Finally, whether you’re a key worker or at home, you may be worried and anxious about the current situation.  To support your mental health and well-being we would recommend:

Home learning (27 March 2020)

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’ll start with our third top tip to support your child…

Tip number 3: practical tasks for practice

We all agree we’d rather have all the children in school, the best place to learn different subjects and develop socially and emotionally, too. And we all agree that home learning is tough, especially when many of you will be working from home, too (and all of us are feeling cooped up so much).

There’s one thing about being at home that’s a real advantage, though, and that’s the chance to get your child joining in with practical tasks around the house.

  • For younger children, setting the table can help to develop motor skills and promote characteristics of effective learning like being involved, concentrating and enjoying achieving what they set out to do.
  • Being at home is a perfect chance to practise telling the time (by the end of the school year, most Year 1 children should be able to tell the time to the hour and half past the hour) – so what time does PE with Joe Wicks or Let’s go Live with Maddie and Greg start, or what time is lunch? For older children, how much longer until then?
  • For older children, serving out food can help to develop mathematical skills of estimation and fractions.
  • Have you a flat-pack that’s been lying around waiting to be assembled? Think about the reading skills and design and technology skills that will be developed if your child gets stuck in to help with this.
  • Even putting something in a microwave is an opportunity – what power is the microwave and how can we set the time to match?

Often, our instinct is to get on and do the job while the children are occupied elsewhere – it’s usually easier that way. However, it might help to try to look out for these opportunities. Some children learn better by doing things in a practical way. Don’t feel you must insist on all three home learning tasks done if you feel confident they’re practising skills in a more practical way.

Two new suggestions to support your child’s learning…

Why not join Leeds library online? Once you’ve joined, you can use their e-reading options, which are free and a great way to spend time, learn something new or look after your wellbeing.

The Maths Factor, endorsed by Carol Voderman, is free to use at the moment. It’s a comprehensive package of tutorials. We’d suggest your child watches one a couple of times and then perhaps has a go at something similar. You could work your way through them one by one, or dip in and out, looking at the one that most closely matches the home learning that’s been set by the teacher.

We’ve added both links to our menu of useful home learning sites.

Finally, a repeat call to respond…

Do you need to use school during the pandemic? It would really help us to plan ahead if you can complete this short form and return to us by email (or call us on the number provided if you can’t email). The dates on the form go right through the Easter holidays and include the bank holidays – we’re doing our best to be able to open throughout this situation. Please only consider this in light of current guidelines.

Home learning (26 March 2020)

Posted on 26 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

In today’s update, we’ve a second top tip for the week. There’ll be another one tomorrow…

Tip number 2: struggling with a home learning task

Our teachers are trying to make sure that the tasks they set are accessible to all – they should often cover previous learning (giving your child a chance to practise existing skills) or they should be quite open-ended (meaning your child can approach the task in different ways, to suit his/her needs).

However, you still might sometimes find that your child (or you!) is struggling with a home learning task. If this is the case, please don’t become stressed or anxious, and don’t try to push your child in a way that could make him/her really reluctant to do more. Instead, we’ve three suggestions:

You could try emailing your child’s teacher. Each teacher will have published on the Homework page their email address – it’ll follow the same pattern as

Teachers aim to reply on the same day, but it might involve a wait. So, another solution could be to check out a home learning task that’s been set by a teacher in one of our sister Sphere Federation schools:

(Some of our teachers work really closely across the schools and will have shared the same home learning tasks, so sorry if this suggestion doesn’t always work out.)

The third suggestion is to try something completely different from this list of home learning activities. (We’ve mentioned this before, but this list has a couple of updates.) The home learning tasks are a guide, but you can choose to be flexible in your approach.

A final piece of advice we can give you is a repeat: stay calm and don’t get stressed about it. If your child can do two of the three tasks successfully, plus some daily reading and practice of something like counting or times tables, then that’s already a productive day.

And a few more things to say…

During this time, your child might end up being online more than they normally would. There are lots of sites to help make sure your child stays safe online – Thinkuknow is one of them. They’ve produced a short guide for parents of primary and secondary children.

We know that this is a difficult and worrying time for everyone – but particularly so for adults and children living with domestic abuse. If this affects you or someone you know, check out these resources to help support you through this time. As always, if you or someone else is in immediate danger please call 999 and ask for the police.

Finally, apologies to you for the short time when our websites experienced a glitch yesterday. It was for a really short period of time thanks to the support team we use, but we know at a time like this (maybe half-way through a home learning task even!), it wasn’t ideal. (Thanks to the parents who alerted us, too.)

Home learning (25 March 2020)

Posted on 25 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Once again, we’re going to start this update with a big thank you to you, the parents and carers. We know this is tough for you. One of our own teachers with two children has commented that finding the balance between supporting her own children whilst working from home is tough. Remember, though, you’re doing a great job in tough times.

In today’s update, we’ve a top tip. There’ll be another one tomorrow and one more on Friday…

Tip number 1: supporting more than one child at home

If you’ve got more than one child at home, you might like to access the home learning tasks using different devices – perhaps one on a computer at home, and one on a mobile phone. (Like most websites these days, ours is set up so that looking at it on a smartphone works, with no squashed text or other content.) This will mean the children can settle to their learning at roughly the same time.

Another solution to support home learning with more than one child is to balance things out: quiet reading for one, and the home learning task for another.

And a third way might be for both children to have a go at the same task. This won’t always work, but often will, maybe with a tweak or two. For example, if a younger child is set a phonics challenge (such as spotting things around the house that begin with a ‘ch’ sound, like ‘chip’), the older child could be set the same task, but with longer words, or words that have ‘sh’ somewhere other than at the start (like ‘kitchen’).

If you’ve established a routine that includes PE with Joe Wicks at 9am, that could also give you time to check out the tasks for each of your children and think about how to be flexible, making them work for you and your children.

We’re going to end the update with another thank you, and that’s to you again. On behalf of all the teachers, the Heads of School and me, we’re saying thank you for the great feedback we’ve been getting for the communications. In these socially distanced times, we’re really happy to hear what we’re doing remotely is helping in some way.