Latest news from around the school

Home learning and other support (29 April 2020)

Posted on 29 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Apologies for the blurry image in yesterday’s message – a couple of pages from The Book of Hopes – ‘words and pictures to comfort, inspire and entertain children in lockdown’. The poem which was so hard to read was ‘Me’ by Swapna Haddow (page 291 of the book):

The book is free to access – go directly there to enjoy it and other poems and stories.

The other book we recommended yesterday was Coronavirus: A Book for Children with fabulous illustrations by Axel Scheffler (who illustrates so many of Julie Donaldson’s books). Did anyone spot the connection? In fact, both books feature Axel Scheffler’s work, because he created the cover image for The Book of Hopes:

Sticking with the book theme today, your child could well be reading more than they normally do. (Lots of adults are, too, apparently: ‘many of the 2,103 people surveyed cited reading as a form of release, escapism or distraction during these troubled times’.) Check out this website full of recommendations to help your child branch out if they’ve been hooked in by a particular series or author.

Another recommendation for your child is the BBC’s Own It. Own It helps children and young people who are new to social media manage their well-being, empowering them to make smart choices and to lead a happy and healthy life online. Its features help children to:

  • get advice whenever they type
  • track their feelings
  • win badges as they reflect
  • find help when they need it
  • taking quizzes to learn more about themselves

The app also includes a special keyboard to use which offers helpful tips and friendly advice to children when they need it.

Own It has been updated with support for your child linked to lockdown, such as advice on getting used to a new situation.

Finally, today, some more writing from one of our older pupils, this one from Sofia in Y5:

All schools across the U.K. have been closed due to the Coronavirus so that means children have to work at home.

There are some benefits about working at home, such as not being rushed; you can lay in bed longer. However, I think overall it is better to learn at school. But here are some of my Top Tips about how you can help a child learn at home.

The first thing you can do is stay out of their way and don’t talk to them. If they’re not doing their work tell them to and keep checking. If you don’t know an answer, which probably won’t happen, but if you don’t, try and work it out yourself. You could check our work for us to make sure nothing is wrong!

I hoped you liked my quick article about some Top Tips that can help you understand what will make us all better learners at home.

Home learning and other support (28 April 2020)

Posted on 28 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our message to you yesterday featured a couple of prompts about Living and Learning in Lockdown and about free school meals. Today, we’ve a couple of reading recommendations…

  • Coronavirus: A Book for Children is excellent – and free to download. As well as being full of useful facts, it’s full of fabulous illustrations by Axel Scheffler (he of The Gruffalo fame). There’s a nice news article about the book, with some comments from the illustrator himself: ‘This was something I could do to help.’ We really do recommend.
  • The Book of Hopes describes itself as ‘words and pictures to comfort, inspire and entertain children in lockdown’. Here’s a poem from the book:

Finally, another message from a Y6 writer to you all – this one’s from Max…

Hello, parents and carers, I hope you are doing alright.

I wanted to write to you to share some ideas of things you can be doing at home with your child for home learning.

There are plenty of things to do while we’re in lockdown, so here are a few suggestions:

You could be getting creative such as making things out cardboard or any other recyclable materials you have around the house such as dens, masks, models, painting and plenty of over things.

If you are stuck on anything you can ask a parent or a sibling to help you.

Also, you can do daily exercise such as Joe Wicks live exercise workouts everyday or play a game of football outside with your siblings or just play on your own with your parents. You can also go out for walks with your family to break the day up.

Baking or cooking can be done with an adult at home to teach your child these skills. Other jobs around the house can also be done with your child or children. These can include helping with laundry, tidying the house, loading the dishwasher, helping to do the gardening and any other jobs around the house.

Finally, you can just help your parents [or carers] by just doing your work or doing jobs to help out or watching a movie or playing a game with each other.

Home learning and other support (27 April 2020)

Posted on 27 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

I was surprised to reflect that, as we enter the fourth term-time week of school closures, this is only the 16th day of home learning.

In that time, our teachers have presented three home learning suggestions for each school day. We’ve also provided you with a menu of other ideas, which might be useful if you want to add to the learning activity or replace one that your child’s teacher has provided. During the school day, teachers are available to support by email , too.

More recently, we’ve responded to some of your suggestions:

  • we’ve reduced a little the amount of Writing tasks as some of you had said this was the hardest activity to support at home
  • we’ve changed the time we publish the home learning so you can you read through it and prepare in some way
  • we’ve begun to refer to some of the new daily lessons available online, including from Oak National Academy and BBC Bitesize
  • we’ve begun to explore posting more videos online as a way to engage and deliver the teaching

On this last point, we understand that some of you are having difficulty playing videos posted online. For some, when the link to a video is clicked, the video will not play. This is likely to be a wifi issue. A possible solution is to try downloading the video by pressing the download icon (shown by the arrow) in the top right corner of the screen; the downloaded version should then play normally.

Living and learning during lockdown

Living and Learning is the term we use to describe all the teaching and learning we do around Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE). Each week in school, we’d typically promote Living and Learning around a statement. This week’s is I recognise mental health is important. One of the Sphere Federation Health Leaders writes:

As a happy and healthy school, we encourage children to think about their mental health as well as their physical health. Here are some activities to support this theme at home – these could be used in addition to, or as an alternative to, to home learning tasks set by your child’s teacher.

Listen to the story Kindness by Todd Parr. The story ends with the message, ‘be kind to yourself’. Talk at home about different ways to be kind to yourself to support your mental health. Here are some daily suggestions for your child (and you!) to be kind to yourself:

  • Monday: go to bed earlier
  • Tuesday: have some screen-free time as a family or limit screen time
  • Wednesday: make the most of your daily allowed exercise to combine physical activity with being outdoors
  • Thursday: make contact with someone you’ve not spoken to recently
  • Friday: think of another way to be kind to yourself

Did you miss our prompt about free school meals?

In these tough times, more of you might now be eligible to claim for free school meals (FSM). Read more about the FSM eligibility criteria and how to claim.

Just now, children entitled to free school meals are receiving a weekly pack of food, including a loaf of bread, some small cheese portions, tins of tuna, a pack of biscuits, a large carton of apple juice, fruit, yoghurts, crisps and a couple of jacket potatoes. On a four week rotation, the packs will also contain a box of sanitary items, provided with support from Freedom4Girls. These items are usually available to women and girls for free through community hubs and One Stops for those who struggle to buy them due to financial pressures.

Home learning and other support (24 April 2020)

Posted on 24 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’ve reached Friday – the end of the first week of the Summer Term. Well done for supporting your child with their learning for another week. Now it’s the weekend, hopefully you and your child will get out of the house to enjoy some nice weather – respecting social distancing, of course!

We’ll end the week with some links to sites with great deals on to make sure your child continues to read lots – the most important thing they should be doing in terms of home learning. There’s also a brief reference to safeguarding which Leeds City Council has asked us to publish for all our parents, and some more writing from our older children across Sphere Federation.


Oxford Owl are offering free e-books from their reading scheme. All you have to do is register and you can read them on phones, tablets and computers. It lets you filter by phonics stage or by age so easy to use! Email your child’s teacher if you’re not sure what phonics phase your child has reached.

Similarly, a lot of publishers have reduced the cost of their ebooks. For example, Usbourne are selling ebooks for 99p. (I like the look of The Girl who Speaks Bear!)


There’s been a lot of information sent out over the past few weeks about online safety. At a time when your child might be online more often than they would normally, it really has to be a priority. The content of this latest guidance has come from Leeds Safeguarding Team and it contains some useful contacts;  please use these contacts if you’re concerned about anything your child encounters online or if you have any other safeguarding concerns.

And some words from our older children

Here’s a good re-cap of our home-learning from Bo, writing as me. It’s very well written!

Due to Covid-19, we will not be in school for the time being. Your child should still be being educated though. Every day, we send out three pieces of home learning for your child to complete (this is on the school website). Whilst this learning is revision, we fully understand that some children may struggle with some of the tasks. We also understand that some parents may struggle to help their child so we have a solution. On the website, you can find your child’s teacher’s email address. If you need anything, we’re always here to help and will try to reply to your message as soon as possible. We hope this helps and enjoy your tasks.

And a nice summary of good advice from Ellis:

As the Covid-19 lockdown continues, I would like to offer advice and support to parents and our students. In the first few weeks, we have learned a lot and adapted quickly – thank you for the support from the staff, parents and children.

From the feedback received, I’d like to offer the following helpful hints and tips for the coming weeks:

  • Make every day a fun day
  • Ensure you have a good routine – include snacks and break times
  • If you have older children, ask them to help
  • Ask your friends from school (but not in person)

We hope this helps.

Ellis’s final point is a good idea – we’re hearing about lots of successful learning time sessions where older children meet up online to discuss the learning together. Just make sure these sessions are done in a space where you can keep an eye on things, too.

Home learning and other support (23 April 2020)

Posted on 23 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

How’re you doing? Take a moment or so today to check-in on yourself to make you‘re doing ok. Just a couple of minutes of quiet down-time for you and you alone can make a big difference to how you cope in these tough times.

I know – the Ofsted judgement’s a joke. But stop for a moment and just think what you’re achieving right now: supporting your child with home learning tasks, managing to keep your household going, working from home maybe, coping with concerns about coronavirus for your loved ones… That’s no mean feat. If you can judge yourself to be ‘hanging in there’, then well done and be proud of yourself.

(And you’ve nearly got through another full week of home learning!)

We hope the change of timings for the home learning tasks going live on our website helped some of you plan to prepare a bit in advance.

Based on what you’ve told us, we’re making another change: we’re shifting the balance a bit in what we’re asking. We’ve heard that writing can be the most challenging task to engage your child and support him/her. We also wonder about the limited benefits of writing as a home learning task compared to practising reading and maths skills and learning more in foundation subjects. That’s why we’ve shifted the balance a little away from writing, based on your feedback. That’s not to say writing isn’t important – it really is – but it’s to recognise what are the best tasks for home learning.

And now, over to some Year 6 children across Sphere Federation…

Lleyton has pretended to be me here:

Hello parents. I hope you are happy. I have been planning work for the pupils – you are probably having more fun than me. I know it is hard for both of us but just keep trying your best. Here are some ideas for working at home:

  • Give your children breaks in between schoolwork
  • Giving them food
  • Giving them drinks
  • Giving them shelter
  • Making a routine
  • Allowing our children to communicate with friends
  • Take them on daily walks
  • Giving them fresh air

I know you and I are working really hard. You’re doing great. Keep it up!

Lleyton – there’s some really good advice – I do hope your own parents haven’t forgotten to give you food and drinks!

Mya’s written a poem called Ambition that might inspire us to get through lockdown:

I just want to achieve so that I believe

Just like everyone else

Doesn’t matter how hard it may seem

I have to be eager to be a believer

I will take the opportunity

To fit in with the community

I just want to achieve so that I believe

Home learning and other support (22 April 2020)

Posted on 22 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

It’s the mid-week point – hopefully, you and your child have settled back into a routine that’s working for you. It’s working for this parent: ‘I just wanted to pass on our thanks and gratitude for all the home learning that is being prepared… We thank you all for your continued help and support – it is invaluable!’

We’re keen to hear suggestions about how we can improve what we’re providing at the moment, and I’ve mentioned some things in the last couple of days. Something important to remember: tomorrow’s home learning tasks will be published this evening at 7pm and teachers will continue to publish the home learning the night before. This follows some suggestions from you so that you have time to prepare.

For the rest of today’s message, it’s over to the government and – far more importantly – to two of our Year 6 children!

Guidance for parents and carers on supporting their children’s education

The Department for Education has published information, guidance and support for parents and carers of children who are learning at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It’s similar to the advice we’ve offered over the last four weeks or so, but you might want to read it:

The government has also updated its guidance for parents and carers on the closure of educational settings with additional information on the support available for parents, online educational resources and support for vulnerable children.

We know how to wash our hands… don’t we?

I found this update (over the Easter holiday period) more interesting – it explains a bit some advice we’ve made in the past, which is to wash hands with soak and water rather than rely on sanitiser:

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 more about the latest guidance and video on hand washing.

The e-Bug project is led by Public Health England and has a dedicated webpage for learning resources on hand washing and respiratory hygiene. Resources are currently available for KS1, KS2 and KS3.

Finally, updates from some Year 6 children…

Nothing has really been normal recently so why don’t you take advantage of that. Try baking or cooking with your child. You could even get them to do meal planning, which can teach them to be prepared when the are older. Also, email your child’s class teacher- they would love to know what your child is doing!

To make your child feel more like they are at school, try to keep a timetable but make sure you and your child are having breaks between the work.

Thanks for that, Amelie – lots of good advice for parents there.

Lily, meanwhile, has two top tips for children:

Don’t forget to get out in the sun (but don’t forget your sun protection). I know it can be tough getting yourself into the routine of doing it when it feels just like the summer holidays!

Don’t forget to send us some pictures of you doing the work and having fun at home!

There’ll be more updates from our Year 6 children (and quite probably from the government, too) in future messages from us!

Home learning and other support (21 April 2020)

Posted on 21 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

(In case you weren’t aware, these messages appear on both on our website and by email a little later.)

Yesterday, we talked about two main things:

  • how tough it might be to get back into the swing of things with home learning
  • some new daily lessons available online from Oak National Academy and BBC Bitesize

This BBC article links these two points. The article flags up the importance of routine, and offers three top tips to achieve a safe structure for the day (and one that will help parents working from home, too).

…what is more important, say educationalists, is maintaining a degree of normality, rather than worrying about a child’s progress in English or maths. Home-schooling for now is “about encouraging parents to help their children create regular routines and study habits”, says Prof Becky Francis, of the UCL Institute of Education.

In an attempt to support you more with the home learning, we’re making one important change: from Wednesday, teachers will publish the home learning at 7pm the day before.

This change stems from requests that we publish the tasks the night before so that you can prepare:

  • some parents like to have things printed off in advance
  • some parents want to prepare for the home learning at a time when they themselves free, ie when they’re not working from home at the same time
  • some parents say their child is awake early and wanting to get going sooner
  • some parents even mention the clash with PE with Joe Wicks starting at the same time!

So, tomorrow, home learning will go live at 9am (the usual time), but also tomorrow, there’ll be another post at 7pm – this will be Thursday’s home learning. And we’ll continue like this; for example, Monday’s home learning will be published on Sunday at 7pm (with the Monday date).

Thanks to the various parents for making this suggestion.

Finally today, a lot of families rely on friends, grandparents and organisations to help with childcare. Your child might be missing these people just now.

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst might provide comfort – it’s read here by one of our Sphere Federation teaching assistants (thanks, Gemma!).

Home learning and other support (20 April 2020)

Posted on 20 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our daily home learning tasks started again today. As we said on Friday, we know it’ll be tough for everyone getting back into that routine – getting that momentum going again is bound to be hard.

You may have heard about some new online initiatives which aim to ‘teach’ children through a series of virtual lessons. Oak National Academy and BBC Bitesize are the two most widely spoken about – both have just launched today, although we’ve encouraged you to check out BBC Teach for a while now). These resources look great and we’re certainly exploring them – they’ve both got pros and cons, just like the daily package of home learning tasks we’ve been providing you. What you might notice is teachers beginning to refer to these resources when they provide the home learning tasks for your child. We ask for your patience with this: we don’t want to use online links that actually take more of your time to explain.

We’re also exploring ways to present more online lessons. Some parents/carers have suggested using Zoom or something similar, but these interactive approaches do present problems. Teachers are starting to try out other things. These might take a little extra time to put together but will absolutely meet the needs of our learners.

We’re trying hard to make your job as ‘teacher’ as easy as possible and have always acknowledged that learning is going to look different in these extraordinary times.

It might help to remember some of the tips we’ve talked about before:

  • 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!)
  • equally, feel free to ask your child’s teacher any questions about the learning
  • 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!

Finally, today, this quote from a parent in a recent magazine article is quite a powerful one, especially the text I’ve put in bold. The article (Guardian magazine, 07.03.20) was about child geniuses, but I think it’s an important message for us all!

My main thing is that she feels happy and fulfilled, because that isn’t always the case when chasing perfection. We model failure for her, making mistakes in front of her. We ask each day what her successes were, and what she failed at, and celebrate both.

Is your child joining St James' in September?

Posted on 20 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Last week, families across England were offered a school place.

If your child has a place at St James’ CE Primary, we’re delighted to welcome you! St James’ is a happy and healthy place to achieve and believe. We’re excited to continue that journey with you and your child.

It would really help us if you can contact school by email to confirm whether or not you want to take up the offer. Our email is:

In your email, if you’re accepting a place, it will help us to prepare the transition process if you tell us the following, if applicable:

  1. The name and contact details of your child’s current Early Years provider
  2. The name of your child’s key worker
  3. The hours that your child attends their current provider eg 30 hours
  4. The days of the week that your child attends their current provider

Because of the current school closures due to coronavirus, things are a bit different this year. We’ll be in touch with you in a few weeks to let you know more about how we’ll support you and your child in making the transition to our school.

Our Christian value this half-term is...

Posted on 20 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree


Peace is about positive harmony and healthy relationships between people. It involves spiritual as well as material security. Peace is a state of true wholeness, a state of wellbeing. This value promotes harmony, stability and security within the school and local community.

The Church Council chose peace as a Christian value because ‘when Jesus was sent down there was peace’ (Y2 Church Council member).

Home challenge:

The dove carrying an olive branch is a symbol of peace in Christianity. Research why this is a symbol of peace. Is Christianity the only religion to have a symbol of peace?

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.’

(John 14:27)