Latest news from around the school

Homework is changing...

Posted on 19 June 2017 by Mr Roundtree

From September, we’re changing how our homework routines, for three main reasons:

  • to raise standards in key areas like learning times tables and spelling
  • to follow research about how to get the best from homework (more about that later)
  • following feedback from parents, who want more ways to support their child at home on current learning, plus specific tables and spelling to focus on

Weekly homework tasks

Each week, there will be one of three possible types of homework (not all three in one week). Homework is handed out on Friday and returned on Thursday. It should take a minimum of around 30-40 minutes, possibly carried out over a few days.

Talk Time: The purpose of Talk Time is to encourage a conversation around children’s current learning. We want our children to be expert talkers, using a variety of sentences and expressions, and able to back up their points or disagree with others in a polite way. Simply: it’s hard to be a good writer if you’re not a good speaker, so Talk Times using ambitious words, useful phrases, interesting sentences is the best way to support your child. Children shouldn’t spend a lot of time on the presentation of the Talk Time homework. Instead, children should make notes which will act as a prompt when it is discussed in class the following week.
Creative: Creative homework is an opportunity for your child to choose whatever they want to demonstrate some learning. For example, I can show what I know about food chains …your child could present all their learning in so many different ways, from a diagram with notes to a story or comic strip. Parents’ and carers’ role is to support, encourage, help but (obviously) never to take over and do the homework!
Practice Makes Perfect: This is useful homework when something has been taught in school but needs consolidation. The work should be fairly straightforward for the child as there should be no need for new learning, so just some encouragement from you is needed. However, it would be a great time to get your child to ‘teach’ you – they should be able to explain the key points or processes!

Research backs this up.

All of this corresponds to recommendations following research, which says:

Effective homework is associated with greater parental involvement and support.

Creative homework is just that: your child can be as creative as they want, and this can involve as much of your involvement and support as you want in order to get the most out of the experience.

Talk Time homework completely matches this, too, with not a lot of effort or time involved by you. It’s all about involving your child in thoughtful, open discussion, and in developing language use. We’re sure you’re going this already, but the Talk Time homework will present a focus for your family discussions that meet the next recommendation…

Short focused tasks or activities which relate directly to what is being taught, and which are built upon in school, are likely to be more effective.

Homework tasks will always link to some learning in school, whether that is in English, Maths, topic or something else, and the homework will always be followed up the next week with some sort of review:

  • Talk Time homework will be followed up by a class discussion or debate.
  • Creative homework will be followed up by sharing and celebrating the different homeworks, during which the teacher (and peers) will provide feedback.
  • Practice Makes Perfect homework will be marked.

Daily expectations

We hope our children do lots of other learning, too. Specifically, children should be reading each day, plus practising spellings and (from Year 2) times tables.

Reading: We can’t stress enough the value of reading. At the very least, it helps your child access lots of learning across all subjects. Research also shows other benefits, too, such as improved social and emotional skills. Reading could be fiction, non-fiction, magazines, websites – anything!  Reading to your child is really valuable, too, so even a bedtime story counts!
Spellings (about ten minutes every day): From Year 1, children will be given a list of spellings to learn for a Friday test or some sort of spelling challenge – this could be a spelling investigation (research shows that active learning like this promotes better learning).
Times tables (about ten minutes every day): Starting in Year 2, children will also have a times table to learn for a Friday test – the aim is that by the end of Year 4 children have a rapid recall of all multiplication and division facts up to 12×12.

Happy and healthy half-term

Posted on 27 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

It’s the half-term holidays!

There are lots of things going on in and around Leeds. To find out more, check out Breeze for what’s coming up right across the city for children and young people. Visit Leeds lists lots of events listed, including their Top 5 suggestions. Leeds City Council‘s own website is certainly worth a look, too.

Whatever you get up to, have a happy and healthy half-term holiday.

See you all again on Monday 05 June.

How do we respond to children's concerns after events such as the Manchester attack?

Posted on 23 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

This morning, we woke up to the dreadful news of the terror attack that took place in Manchester last night. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those that lost their lives and the many people that were injured as a result of the atrocity.

Your child may be upset or worried about news events such as this one. The following may be helpful websites may be useful:

Childline presents a general overview of worries of the world, and this includes attacks, extremism and bullying.

BBC Newsround advice is more specific to the Manchester attack, offering simple information and advice for a child or young person who is upset.

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. There’s a link on their homepage to this leaflet on supporting a child after a frightening event.

Winston’s Wish is another charity that supports bereaved children. They’re offering specific advice on how to respond to children and young people affected by the media coverage of the incident in Manchester.


Keeping your child safe online

Posted on 16 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

Have you checked out these useful resources yet?

Think U Know is a great website for children and young people – there are pages that cover children aged 5-8, aged 8-10, aged 11-13 and aged 14+. There are also really useful pages for parents/carers.

The NSPCC also has great guidance to the social networks your child might be using.

Finally (for now!), Vodafone has been particularly supportive of parents with their Digital Parenting magazine. They’ve produced this for five years now. The magazine is available as a downloadable pdf.

Key Stage 2 SATs

Posted on 11 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

Many of you will be aware that this week, our Year 6 pupils have been sitting SATs tests. On Monday, they had an hour-long Reading test; on Tuesday, they had a Grammar and Punctuation test and a separate Spelling test; yesterday, they had two Maths tests (one on arithmetic, which focussed on calculations, and one on reasoning, which is about using and applying their mathematical skills in problem-solving). Today, there is one more Maths test (another reasoning one). We wish all our Year 6 children lots of success.

The SATs tests can be a stressful time, but our children have performed well. Thank you for your support at home in making sure your child is in school, feeling as relaxed as they can be, and bright and alert having had enough sleep the night before.

The Department for Education places a great deal of importance on these tests as one way to measure a school’s performance. To this end, representatives from the local authority make unannounced spot-checks on schools to check that the administration of the tests is all done correctly – checking, for example, that the papers have been stored securely beforehand and that they are not opened privately before the tests are due to begin. The Department for Education also encourage schools to arrange a monitoring visit from someone who is able to check proceedings from a more independent standpoint; they suggest a governor or someone from a local secondary school.

It’s hard to arrange a visit from the latter – lots of primary schools would want a teacher to visit in the same week, so secondary schools struggle to provide this. However, we did arrange visits from governors who checked what was going on. One governor report describes checks on ‘Where test scripts are securely kept, who has access / keys. Observed securely sealed scripts, removal, opening and distribution of scripts.’ (Her report continues to describe the secure proceedings over the course of a morning.) Thank you to those governors who carried out this extra check to ensure there is no maladministration.

Thank you also to the staff who have provided help and reassurances to our children, and again to you, for your support. Most of all, thank you to the Year 6 children for putting in lots of extra effort in this tough week.

Wonderful writing

Posted on 09 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

Children in Y3,4 have been ‘reading’ a book called Journey by Aaron Becker. (It’s not quite ‘reading’, as the book is a wordless book, where the story is told through its illustrations. You can enjoy the story, too, though the background music is a bit distracting – turn the sound down to fully immerse yourself in the story!)

Look at these wonderful pieces of writing from two Year 4 pupils, who have described one part of the story where the main character is in some sort of imaginary world, flying on a magic carpet:

The girl glided into the white, fluffy clouds after her accomplished mission of escaping the old metal cage. The girl had to dodge all the time because the gold, rusty turrets were in her way. She wondered if the violet and light purple bird would hopefully lead her to her destiny. Suddenly, the bird stopped. She flew next to the bird to see if something was ahead but there was nothing to be seen, so she took the opportunity to admire the view below her before she returned to her old town. She wished that she had a camera to take photos so she could treasure the wonderful, exquisite land in her dark home. Firstly, she looked at the garden domes gleaming far below her in the reflection of the beautiful sunset. Next, she looked at everything else. She was now heading to her gloomy town. Thankfully, when she came back she made lots of friends.

Well done, Rodi. We love your ambitious vocabulary and very descriptive sentences.

The solitary girl flew high above the old, majestic castle on her ruby red carpet. She wondered where the thrilling purple bird would take her. As she soared around, she scrutinised the stunning, gold towers with circular-shaped turrets pointing up to the sunset sky. She had this tingling sense that she couldn’t describe… She gazed at the micro-sized people far below. She wondered if they could see her. The town was phenomenal compared to her lonely, dull town but, unfortunately, she could not stay forever. She wanted to explore the breath-taking castle more than anything, but if she took one more step into the castle a whole army of large, hostile guards would bolt after her.

Another well done, this time to Rhianna, for the same reasons: ambitious vocabulary and very descriptive sentences.


Posted on 08 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

From time to time, we like to alert you to any new trends in online activity that we think you should know about. There’s a new website called Here’s how the site describes what to do:

1. Create your personal feedback web address
2. Spread the link through Twitter, Facebook, Skype, etc.
3. Read what people think about you
4. Publish your favourite feedback

‘Your favourite feedback’ might sound positive. However, inevitably there will be young people who see an anonymous feedback tool and spot an opportunity to be abusive and offensive.

There is growing evidence of the harm that this site has already created. Safeguarding leaders are reporting a growing number of incidents of damaging cyberbullying as a result of it.

Please make sure you keep an eye on what apps and websites your child is using, and how they’re using them.

Attendance update

Posted on 06 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

The more time your pupil is in school, the more good learning they can do. In Leeds overall, primary attendance is at 95.9% and secondary at 93.9% for the 2016-17 academic year to date. The city has made great improvements in school attendance, with more children and young people in school and learning.

At St James’, attendance is just a little below this: 95.6%. Let’s do our best to at least match the city’s attendance by the end of the year!

You might also like to see how each year group is doing. Figures in green are higher than the Leeds average (95.9%).

  • Reception: 95.7%
  • Year 1: 95.6%
  • Year 2: 95.1%
  • Year 3: 96.2% – a great figure – well done!
  • Year 4: 94.5%
  • Year 5: 97.2% – another great figure – fantastic!
  • Year 6: 95.1%

You can get an update on your child’s individual attendance whenever you like – ask at the school office.

Top tips for a good (and safe!) read

Posted on 03 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

Books about safeguarding-related issues

We all love a good story. Stories can make us laugh, cry, shudder and think. Reading stories out loud with your child is a valuable opportunity to build up the relationship with your child. It’s good to spend some relaxing time together, and stories can help us both learn and think about the lives of others.

We all have our favourite books. However, the following book lists might help you to identify some new stories you might not know.

Books focusing on identity, belonging, conflict, migrant and refugee experiences

Books about kindness, compassion and empathy

Books about bullying for 8-12s

Books about depression

Books about grief and loss

Books about eating disorders

Testing times...?

Posted on 02 May 2017 by Mr Roundtree

End of Key Stage 2 SAT tests take place next week:

  • Monday 08 May: reading
  • Tuesday 09 May: grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • Wednesday 10 May: maths (arithmetic and reasoning)
  • Thursday 11 May: maths (reasoning)

The Standards and Testing Agency has produced a leaflet and videos aimed at parents with children in year 2 and year 6. They provide information on the purpose and format of tests, how parents can support their children and how results will be reported.