Latest news from around the school

Please help us plan ahead

Posted on 25 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Are you a parent or carer who may 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. (Thank you to all the staff who have been able to commit to this.)

Please only consider this in light of current guidelines:

  • The government has asked parent to keep their children at home, wherever possible: the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread.
  • The government has set out key principles to ensure we are providing childcare for a limited number of children and only those who absolutely need to attend.
  • Every child who can be safely cared for at home, should be.

Important: school is completely closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

So far this week, we’ve remained open for a small number of children of critical workers and children who may be vulnerable in some way. Today, there was only one child; tomorrow, we expect only two.

Being the only child in school isn’t an especially nice experience, and it’s not a good use of staff.

Parents of the two children expected tomorrow are able to transport their child to our sister Sphere Federation schools – Moortown Primary and Scholes (Elmet) Primary. (Thank you to the two parents.)

This means that staff can stay at home and now act as substitutes if and when we have a drop in staffing. This in turn means we’ll be able to stay open for children of critical workers.

If you were expecting your child to be at St James’ tomorrow, please contact:

  • Head of School, Natalie Beatson:


  • Head of Federation, David Roundtree:

Home learning (24 March 2020)

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We hope your first day of home learning went well.

Yesterday, we suggested getting a timetable up and running with your child, to help them get into routines, and we shared various websites that can help to support you.

It’s completely understandable that you’re feeling stressed right now – most parents will be feeling the same. Here’s a few things to bear in mind:

  • Combine home learning with some practical tasks, like helping to prepare lunch and doing the washing up. They can be added to the routine of the day and are great for developing a sense of responsibility. Try to invest the time now so your child becomes really good at a household job – first one, then another and perhaps a third.
  • The ideas, and the suggested timetable we shared yesterday, are for guidance. You’re not falling short if you don’t quite manage to achieve everything we’ve suggested – we understand that many of you are trying to work from home as well.
  • It might help to build up the timetable, taking on board something new one at a time. It’s important to really secure one or two things done well before trying to get it all right from the outset.

For parents of younger children, you might be reassured to know there are plenty of countries where children don’t actually start school until children are about seven. Some education professionals argue that in the UK we push our children too quickly down an academic route rather than securing really strong characteristics of effective learning. These feature in Early Years settings and they’re something you can develop and nurture at home. With these characteristics, children are well-suited to make good progress later on, so try to develop those at home.

And now a top tip… (and one I’ve tried out at home, too!)

Why not encourage your child to take a virtual mountain bike ride, courtesy of imoves? Go on a speedy journey travelling through forests and trees, over bridges and much more! Once they’ve done the ride, get them to think about the ride they’ve just been on. What did they see, smell or hear? How did it make them feel? imoves has a whole range of ways to support physical health and mental health and wellbeing, quick blasts of exercise to calming meditations.

(Yep – I’ve taken the virtual bike ride in my kitchen last night!)

School’s closed: how to support your child's home learning (23 March 2020)

Posted on 23 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We can’t imagine how your first day of home learning has gone. In normal circumstances, a day off school like a ‘snow day’ can feel like a bonus, an unexpected holiday. Our children are clued up and know this current situation is more serious and longer-term. We really encourage you to establish a routine for home learning: we could be in this situation for a while and so it’s important for your child’s wellbeing and education to have some structure and routines in the day, just like at school (it might even help you, too).

Why not sit with your child and work out a timetable? This will help your child to have a sense of routine and develop clear expectations – it’s definitely worth the investment in time (teachers spend a lot of September establishing this with a new class!).

  • Perhaps your child starts the day at 9am with a live PE session from Joe Wicks (Monday to Friday).
  • Your child could then do a couple of the home learning challenges set by the class teacher with a short break in between.
  • Most younger children learn phonics just after Wake Up Shake Up in school – that’s at 10.10am. Stick to the same pattern using Phonics Play. (Children in Key Stage 2 could practise spellings in this time, too, looking back at previous lists or even making their own.)
  • A mindfulness session mid-morning might be a good idea, or another workout session – Jump Start Jonny features both on a really easy to use website.
  • After this, perhaps your child has a go at French, Spanish or even a new language using Duolingo – try to stick to one language so they can really progress in it – and impress us all when they return to school!
  • The third home learning challenge could come straight after lunch.
  • This could be followed by some reading – either independently or listening to an audiobook. (Audible has free access at the moment.)
  • Maybe in the afternoon, they do another workout – one of his High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts specifically designed for children – or some iMoves that are linked to Maths and English.

You could use the ideas above, but we’d encourage you to agree a few things:

  • timings for each activity
  • the maximum amount of times they’re allowed to interrupt within each session
  • don’t forget to weave into the day time for quiet reading, times tables or number bonds practice (eg 8+2=10 and 2+8=10, 18+2 and 2+18, 80+20 and 20+80), and handwriting practice
  • what they should do if they finish early (we’d suggest you definitely avoid letting them drift online – stick to the task and see if they can come up with some extra learning linked to it)

Read our home learning suggestions to help you create a schedule of learning activities for your child. (This has already been updated with a couple of extra tips since we last published it.)

Finally, in all this, your child will be confused and anxious. It’s important that children have some sort of understanding of what’s going on at the moment, and some resources from Ineqe might be a good place to start:

  • What exactly is coronavirus?
  • What’s the difference between coronavirus and COVID-19?
  • And even: what does the 19 mean?

Find the answers in the video or the storybook – and then try out the resource.

School’s closed: keep your child at home if it’s at all possible (23 March 2020)

Posted on 23 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We’ve had fewer children in school than we anticipated – thank you for acting on the clear message: keep your child at home if it’s at all possible.

This letter (23 March 2020) from Saleem Tariq, Director of Children and Families for Leeds City Council, backs up the message:

‘We understand that these are uncertain times for everyone, and whilst the schools are closed it can seem harder to find information about what this means for you.  School websites will be updated, letting you know about your own child’s school, and we will be posting up to date information on the Council website too.

We have received lots of enquiries about what it means to be a key worker and whether your child should be attending school from Monday 23rd March.

Our advice to parents is clear: Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be

It is really important that we all work together to stop the Covid-19 virus from spreading, and children staying at home helps to do this.  For the majority of children this is the safest place to be.

Schools will not be able to look after large numbers of pupils safely, as their own staff will also have to follow the rules about self-isolating.

The final decision as to whether a child can be safely accommodated at the school rests with the Headteacher/Principal based on their risk assessment of the situation.  The Local Authority are supporting Headteachers/Principals in applying the following principles:

  • Schools remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
  • The majority of children will be made safer by adhering to the principle above.
  • School is open to pupils of key workers only where they would not be safe at home and the parents have no other option but for their child to be at school if they are to continue to do their jobs.

If your child has an Education Health Care Plan or a social worker, the decision as to whether they should attend school will be made in consultation with the Headteacher, parents and social workers. If your child can be looked after at home safely, then they should be. Staffing levels may not be high enough for all children to attend.

Headteachers and education staff are playing a crucial part in the national Covid-19 strategy. We would like to thank them for doing all they can to keep our city functioning at this difficult time and in supporting parents to play their vital role in the effort.’

School’s closed: keep your child at home if it's at all possible (22 March 2020)

Posted on 22 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

The government has stressed the importance of keeping your child at home wherever possible.

It has asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

The situation nationally is serious. Social distancing and protecting NHS and other key workers have placed teachers and schools in the front line. Few people will come into contact with others in the same way teachers and support staff will. If we close our doors, our health service and other critical services will quickly become over-stretched.

We need to take emergency steps to reduce the spread of the virus. We need as many people as possible to avoid sending their children into school. This will protect children and staff.

To NHS staff, emergency service staff, and key workers, we’re proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and will welcome your children into our schools, providing education, entertainment and support.

These are examples of key workers:

  • NHS staff = key workers
  • Other medical professions like pharmacy staff = key workers
  • Emergency services like the police and firefighters = key workers
  • Social care = key workers
  • Supermarket workers, food warehouses, transport for food = key workers
  • Utilities (electric, gas, water) staff + key workers

Even these key workers may be able to look after their children if their shift patterns allow or their partners work from home or is not a key worker.

To other parents, please support us by keeping your child at home. Examples of non-key workers:

Legal professionals (eg solicitors) = not key workers

Retail, not related to food = not key workers

Takeaway staff = not key workers

Builders, construction workers = not key workers, unless directly working in critical areas above (eg hospital maintenance)

We’ll be asking for shift rota evidence and ID. We’ll also be asking about partners or others in the home.

Please understand, this is emergency support.

If we want to reduce the spread of Covid-19, we need your help.

Teachers and other staff are worried. They don’t have protective masks etc, so if you, your child, or others in your house are ill – stay at home. Isolate and follow medical advice. Do not under any circumstances send your child to school.

In the event of severe staff shortages, we’ll need to close. If this happens, the government has agreed to work with the local authority, regional school commissioners and neighbouring providers to find an alternative setting for pupils. Please check the website regularly for updates.

School's closed: learning from home (22 March 2020)

Posted on 22 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We want to help you to make sure your child continues to learn at home whilst we all get through these difficult times.

Your child will be set three daily tasks…

  • There will be a reading task, a maths one, and a science / topic / writing task.
  • Each of the three tasks should take about 30-40 mins each.
  • The tasks will show on the Homework pages of the website.
  • They’ll be published daily, Monday to Friday, at 9am.
  • All tasks for the day will show up in one daily Homework post on the site.
  • Phone any of the Sphere schools if you’re unsure how to access the website and where you can find the tasks.

To supplement the learning…

…we’ve prepared a list of over 30 websites that you can use, from English and Maths to PE and wellbeing activities.

You can email your child’s teacher…

Email teachers if you’re unsure about some aspect of the home learning. The email addresses follow the same pattern in Key Stage 1 and 2: (If your child has two teachers, please email both of them.) Check the Homework section and you should find the exact email addresses today or tomorrow on there.

For parents of children in Early Years, you’ll be familiar with the addresses already:


We’ll aim to reply on the same day and no later than the following morning. To keep this manageable, please restrict emails to one per day, per child.

(This is a short-term measure and will not continue beyond the current period. Teachers are allowed to respond to questions, comments and concerns that relate to the learning and not to wider issues.)

And some other points…

The Learn More section of our website has two pages that you’ll find especially helpful: ‘Calculations and times tables’ and ‘Help your child’ – check them out.

Don’t forget that children should be reading at home every day – we encourage a minimum of 20 minutes. This could be quiet reading on their own, reading aloud with an adult, or an adult reading to the child (all are important, but that last one is an especially comforting end-of-day activity).

Other things that can be happening all the time are spelling practice (you could make up your own lists) and times tables practice (and set a regular time to test on a times tables – don’t forget the division facts).

Keep a look out for educational programmes from the BBC on iPlayer (they plan to increase these a lot).

Coronavirus – update 4 (20 March 2020)

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today, we’ve been finalising plans for next week and beyond. In separate a communication, I’ll let you know what you can expect from the home learning tasks that teachers will set. We’ll break from policy and allow teachers to respond to parents who might have questions about the learning, too – we know this will be important for many of you.

The government has produced some guidance with frequently asked questions about the school closures – you might find this helpful.

If you’ve told us your child is coming in to school next week:

  • you can assume we’re expecting your child to arrive – we won’t send a confirmation
  • you must come or tell us if not – this will save wasting time contacting families to check on the whereabouts of your child when we have limited staff

I’ve communicated in an earlier post the guidance around maintaining some sort of educational provision. Whilst we’ve been heartened by all your words of encouragement and praise, we’ve also – sadly – had to respond to parents who have complained to us about the restrictions the government is setting. The government is clear:

  • ‘if it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be’
  • ‘parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus’

…And we’ve had parents trying to work around the system in some way. Please be aware we’ll be asking for evidence that your work is regarded as essential in these difficult times – this could even involve contacting a line manager from your place of work and carrying out other checks. I’m sorry that seems untrusting, but most of you will understand we need to protect the limited number of spaces we can safely offer (and it also helps to restrict unnecessary movement:

  • ‘the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society’

The last couple of days, after the announcement that schools would close, have been hectic and stressful. We’re grateful for your patience and your words of encouragement, and your kind messages which have reassured and revitalised us when we’ve needed it.

(On a personal note, I’d like to say again how grateful I am to the my wonderful Heads of School across Sphere Federation who have worked so hard, the terrific teachers and teaching assistants, the amazing admin team, and the other super support staff such as the site supervisors and cleaners. Many of these people have dealt with the situation at school while facing their own personal problems, too.)

Coronavirus – update 3 (20 March 2020)

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

When we open on Monday, it’ll be for childcare – there won’t be any new teaching (it may not be teachers who are in school, in fact). There will be opportunities for the children to carry out their home learning tasks, just as we expect this to be happening at home.

So that we can manage to accommodate children for the reduced provision in school, we’ll want to see evidence that you are an essential worker. Please bring this to school on Monday or as soon as you can.

Please read the government’s guidance as to what an essential worker is. It makes these points clear:

  • Schools are asked to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
  • The fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread.
  • Schools are therefore asked to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.
  • Many parents who are essential workers may be able to ensure their child is kept at home – and every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

Two other important points:

  • For childcare, you shouldn’t rely on grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions or who are elderly.
  • You should do everything you can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. Please observe the same social distancing principles as adults.
  • It’s not a good enough reason to say that someone’s at home but they’re working and can’t be disturbed.

Regretfully, a warning to you all…

Sadly, fake emails are circulating about schools closing due to Covid-19 – this is linked to asking for your bank details. We’ll never ask for your bank details via an email. Please ignore these scam emails.

Coronavirus – update 2 (20 March 2020)

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

If you’re an essential worker who needs to send their child to school next week, please complete this form so that we can prepare as best we can.

If you prefer, use this Word version and complete online and return by email.

(The links take you to a different Sphere school, but the forms are relevant all the same.)