News

Latest news from around the school

Today’s message (Wednesday 20 January 2021)

Posted on 20 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Our message today is about learning in Topic this half-term. This message was written in December and intended to go out at the start of the half-term, but events overtook us a little, so here’s a slightly tweaked version…

Each week, two of the seven daily sessions are Topic and two are Science.

In Topic, children in Key Stage 1 and 2 are geographers this half-term – geography is the main focus for Topic learning. The theme is about the environment and/or natural disasters:

  • Year 1 and 2 children are learning about their local environment
  • Year 3 and 4 learners are finding out more about volcanoes and earthquakes
  • Year 5 and 6 pupils are learning about climate change and the link with seas and oceans

You can help at home by checking out the geographical words and phrases that will be focused on during the topic. Encourage your child to research the words and find out more about them. As the topic progresses over the half-term, talk with your child about which words and phrases they’ve learnt about in the recorded home learning sessions.

Today's message (Tuesday 19 January 2021)

Posted on 19 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message features three points and links to support home learning…

Homework and spellings

It will probably be a relief to know that we’re not setting any of the usual homework tasks during this period of home learning. However, we’re still providing your child with a list of spellings to learn – you can find the list as a link on Monday’s home learning. Just like in normal times, it would be a good idea to plan in some time each day when your child learns the spellings, and then test your child, just like we’d do in school.

This is important as spelling is an area where more children appeared to fall back a bit in the Spring-Summer lockdown.

It sounds too simple, but another powerfully effective way to support your child with their spelling is to make sure they’re reading every day: the more your child is exposed to written words, the more the words will become familiar in terms of spelling.

Phonics

In the Autumn 2 half-term, we hosted a series of Zoom sessions where teachers in school guided you to ways to support your child’s learning at home. All the sessions were well-received, but perhaps the best-attended session was the one about phonics – a fundamental strategy to support effective reading and writing.

Following the session, we recorded two presentations which might help you with home learning:

Phonics video 1 – supports parents with children in Foundation 2 (Reception) who are learning phonics at Phase 2.

Phonics video 2 – supports parents with children in Foundation 2 (Reception) and Year 1 who are learning phonics at Phases 3, 4 and 5 (the Year 1 phonics screening check which is mentioned is cancelled for Summer 2021).

SATs and other assessments

Talking of cancelled assessments, no SATs or other formal assessments will take place in this school year. This includes end of Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs (and the phonics screening check mentioned above).

In normal times, we have a schedule of internal assessments that we carry out across all year groups. We plan to continue with at least some of these – they’ll help to identify any aspects of Reading, Writing and Maths that we should especially focus on.

It’s these internal assessments from the Autumn term that helped to identify that times tables and spellings were the most common two areas where pupils appeared to have fallen back on:

  • for times tables, that’s why we’re encouraging Times Tables Rock Stars so much right now, and this page on our website might help, too.
  • for spellings, we’re continuing to provide a list of spellings to learn, as we described above.

As always, contact us with any questions, comments or particular concerns that you may have.

Today’s message (Monday 18 January 2021)

Posted on 18 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

We hope you all had a happy and healthy – and safe – weekend. The roll-out of vaccinations appears to be going well and there are reasons to be optimistic, despite today being what’s known as Blue Monday (and more on that later).

Like last week, we begin Monday’s message with links to a recorded assembly for your child to watch at some point in the week:

The home learning for the week ahead has been published – nearly always, the links are published by around 5pm on Friday. This means you’ve got a chance to prepare for the week ahead. Thanks to those of you who alerted us to some links that didn’t allow access to the recorded clips – since recording and saving those, we’ve moved to recording on an upgraded version of Screencast-O-Matic and that should help resolve this problem in the future.

We’ve had lots of really positive comments about the home learning, such as this one:

‘[She] is still loving the new learning system and able to work a lot more independently… We were happy to read other people were finding the seven lessons a push some days and we didn’t feel so naughty missing one out.’

Do let us know any questions, comments or concerns you might have. We can’t guarantee we can act on every suggestion for improvement, but we will consider them.

Finally, we did say we’d return to ‘Blue Monday’… The idea of today, the third Monday in January, being labelled as the most depressing in the year stems from a story that a university professor calculating this using many factors, including weather conditions, debt level, and time since failing our new year’s resolutions. In reality, Blue Monday is a PR stunt, originally dreamed up to sell holidays.

Regardless of whether it’s today or any other day in the year, do let us know if you’re having a particularly rough time of it and you think we might be able to help in some way.

Today’s message (Friday 15 January 2021)

Posted on 15 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

We closed school for all pupils because of the icy conditions and forecast for freezing temperatures throughout the day. If you’ve had to travel, we hope you managed to do so safely.

Our daily Zoom sessions

These are proving popular and are well-attended. They’re a chance to review and reflect on the learning that’s been happening, and there should be time for your child to check on how they’ve carried out any task. If your child joins a Zoom, please make sure it’s in the living room or kitchen or some other appropriate space – not a bedroom. On page 10 of our Home Learning guide, you’ll find a few other points for you and your child to follow, too.

Tailoring the home learning for your child

Our assessments show that the vast majority of children didn’t fall behind too much in the Spring/Summer lockdown, and they were able to make rapid progress – our December assessments were really encouraging.

Where children did fall behind, two areas stand out for the majority of our pupils – and these are actually fairly straightforward to support at home:

  • times tables – that’s why we’re encouraging Times Tables Rock Stars so much right now, and this page on our website might help, too
  • spellings – during this period, we’re continuing to provide a list of spellings to learn and from 5pm today, you’ll be able to find that list alongside one of the recorded lessons for the week; this means you can be building in daily practice sessions where your child should practise their spellings, and then you could test them on a Friday just like they’d be tested at school

Contact your child’s teacher for specific areas to work on as well as times tables and spellings. The teacher will guide you to which of the seven daily sessions are most important to do.

Fitting in all the home learning sessions

Ideally, we’d like every child learning from home to do all seven daily lessons. As we said on Wednesday, that’s a lot, and so you might need to be realistic about how many you can do – five would be good as a general rule. Our advice is to do at least one from each ‘colour’ on page 2 of the Home Learning Guide. This means doing just one of the two Reading sessions, and just one of the two Writing sessions – but do the full series rather than chop and change each day. (Reading and Writing are subjects are subjects where your child won’t miss out: a lot of the learning is practice, and where there’s new learning, it’ll be returned to again in the school year or future years – this is what’s sometimes called a ‘spiral curriculum’.)

As well as doing just four or five of the sessions, there are other ways to fit things into the day if you find your child is taking a long time:

  • if the teacher gives a task like writing out several sentences/answers, limit the number of sentences/answers to just the first one or two
  • your child could say the answers out loud rather than write them down
  • choose to end the session after about 30 minutes, even if it’s not yet finished, so you’ve got time for the other sessions planned
  • think about starting the day earlier, like at 8am, if this helps fit things into a routine that works well for the family

We’d love to hear other ways you’re making home learning work – we’ll share any top tips with others.

It’s been a busy week, but we’ve made it to Friday! This lockdown situation is stressful for us all but we’re confident you’re doing a good job. We hope you have a happy and healthy weekend.

We're closed to all pupils today

Posted on 15 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

We’re closed today because of the very icy conditions and the forecast that this will continue throughout the day.

Key staff for each bubble in school would struggle to get into school safely.

Please check out our Home learning page.

Today’s message (Thursday 13 January 2021)

Posted on 14 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Let’s have a Covid-free message today…

…and talk about snow days instead.

To close or not to close? It’s always one of the toughest decisions to make as a school leader (and arguably even harder just now because of a certain problem that I said I wouldn’t mention).

We try to alert you the day before if we become aware of weather conditions that may affect school openings, although we don’t make any decisions until the morning. Even then, though, it’s a tough call.

When we make the decision, we base it on two main factors: the current weather and the forecast.

We won’t get it right every time. Last week, based on those two points, we closed. Despite the forecast, the weather improved a little and we probably could have stayed open – the benefit of hindsight.

Today, as I write today’s message, the snow is heavy and sustained, and the forecast is for this to continue until 4pm – it definitely seems right to close.

If you’re one of the key workers or other parents who have collected your child from school – or even this morning turned round at the school gate and gone home – thank you for your understanding.

Tomorrow, the forecast is for no snow, but temperatures are expected to be below freezing point. Whether you’re a parent/carer whose child is coming to school, or one who’s working from home, take care if you’re travelling.

Today’s message (Wednesday 13 January 2021)

Posted on 13 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message is about home learning. However, parents and carers whose children are still coming into school should still be aware in case their child has to self-isolate – we’ve got several staff members who are self-isolating, so it’s quite possible your child may need to if they’re still coming into school…

Home learning

In our Home Learning Guide, there’s a series of top tips (page 3), some of which we thought we’d flag up to support you and your child at home.

We’re providing seven sessions – that’s a lot. Guidance from the Department for Education is that children in Key Stage 1 should be provided with three hours, and those in Key Stage 2 four hours.

Be realistic: this might be too much for your child (be firm, but it’s important not to force it too much because a stressed environment doesn’t help anyone). Concentrate on as many as your child (and you!) can do. One parent has commented: ‘I’m not sure we will get through the full 7 daily as obviously she will need some support but we will certainly try our best!’ To help:

  • As a general rule, it would be a good idea to do at least one from each ‘colour’ on page 2 of the Home Learning Guide – this means your child will have at least one Reading and one Writing session each day, alongside Phonics/Spelling, Maths, and Science/Topic.

  • Stick to the same series of lessons across the week as the learning will build up from Monday to Friday.
  • If it helps, ask your child’s class teacher about which lessons to prioritise.
  • If a session we provides taking too long, don’t be afraid to end it sooner so it sticks to the 30 minutes (this is still new to teachers – it’s hard working out how long a recorded lesson will last).

If your child isn’t doing all seven daily sessions, think about how you might top up the learning (it’s not ‘cheating’ to rely on these things for some of the time):

  • ‘mini-sessions’ (NumBots or Times Tables Rock Stars, for example)
  • with home learning programmes on CBBC (9.00am to 12 noon)
  • a period of quiet, sustained reading
  • at least one daily session of physical activity (PE with Joe Wicks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, for example, ideally combined with a chance to get outside for a walk or something)

Zooms

Our daily afternoon Zoom sessions appear to be going down well. A live Zoom is a good opportunity to review and reflect on the learning that’s been happening, and to meet up with familiar faces from the class. These sessions are evolving – they were originally intended to be drop-in sessions for one-to-one feedback from the teacher – and we’re still happy to do that if you let us know it’s needed (just email the teacher). It’s really early days doing this, but here’s a few tips about the Zoom sessions:

  • if your child has their work in front of them, they can hold it us to show the teacher
  • encourage your child to have any specific questions ready to ask (or even email them in advance)
  • email the teacher if you’d like to arrange a separate short Zoom, or maybe hang around at the end of group one

If you’ve got any questions, comments or particular concerns about the home learning, contact your child’s teacher by email – see page 4 of the Home Learning Guide.

Today’s message (Tuesday 12 January 2021)

Posted on 12 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Yesterday’s message was based around additional or alternative ways to support home learning. Today’s message is more for parents/carers of children who are still coming to school…

As you’ll probably know from news stories, many school leaders across England continue to have concerns about the high numbers of pupils still coming into school.

Government guidance around what counts as a critical worker (more frequently called key workers) includes the message ‘parents and carers should keep their children at home if they can’.

A government blog contains this message: ‘We encourage parents to consider the spirit of the lockdown when making their decision.’

Friday’s message from us also talked about the importance of staying at home if you can. Following this message, thank you to the parents and carers who contacted us to let us know you will keep your child at home.

Based on what you’ve told us, and with your cooperation, we’ve managed to restrict numbers to a level that we can manage. However, with no national guidance around this, Leeds City Council are in the process of drawing up some health and safety guidelines around safe numbers in school based on various criteria including staffing and spaces available. Please be aware that this guidance will form part of our risk assessments and therefore we may have to restrict numbers to keep our schools safe for everyone.

In the meantime, if your child is coming to school, we’re strongly encouraging two things about the clothes they wear:

  1. Your child should wear clean top layers each day (although there’s no need for anything other than normal personal hygiene and washing of clothes following a day in school).
  2. Your child comes wearing extra layers for warmth (we’re keeping as many windows or doors open as we can to ensure good ventilation, but this means it can get quite chilly even inside).

Please contact us if you’re any questions, comments or concerns about this.

Today’s message (Monday 11 January 2021)

Posted on 11 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

We hope you had a restful, restorative weekend. Today’s message is based around a variety of ways to support home learning…

First up, we have a recorded assembly for your child to watch at some point in the week (to replicate school, assemblies are usually at around 2.30pm):

The theme for all three is democracy, which ties in with this week’s Living and Learning theme: I can take part in democratic decisions. This was planned to tie in with our elections for a new Junior Leadership Team (our new name for the School Council) – these elections are postponed. To support younger children, talk about how even at home you sometimes make democratic decisions (even if it’s just a vote on what takeaway on a Friday evening). To support older children, you might want to talk about the scenes we saw in Washington DC last week (was that democracy – a rule by the people – or an attempt to undermine democracy?).

On Friday, we begun our series of seven daily lessons – find them listed on the Home Learning page along with our Home Learning guide. You might find it helpful to combine the lessons – or some of them – with some external elements:

Last time round, we provided a list of ideas that seemed to grow and grow. This time, we won’t overwhelm you with too much – our own seven lessons supplemented with one or two other activities like the ones here should be enough (and hopefully, if we’re all following the restrictions, this lockdown won’t be as long).

Thanks to the parents and children who let us know how the first week went, with lots of positive comments about the seven Sphere lessons.

Today’s message (Friday 08 January 2021)

Posted on 08 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

January’s often a month when people feel a bit flat: we’re still enduring the gloom of cold weather (including today’s snow!) and dark mornings and nights, and the the joys of Christmas or other festivals aren’t approaching. Many, many thanks for your support this week – it’s really helped us as we do the same balancing act you’re doing of combining work and home.

Children coming into school

Earlier today, we emailed parents and carers a letter from Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning and Skills at Leeds City Council, and Saleem Tariq, Director for Children and Families. We’ve included it here, too, because of the importance of its message, including this extract:

We are at a critical situation in Leeds. The infection rate has increased again to 316 per 100,000, an increase of 64% on last week, and further increases are likely as the effect of the Christmas relaxations feeds through… if you qualify as a critical worker, but can manage to have your children at home, please do this, and let your school know. Government guidance published on 7th January reinforces this point. It says: “Parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if they can.”

We really need this to happen: we’ve managed to accommodate most of the requests for children to attend school but – like schools across the country – the numbers in our school remain too high to achieve what the Prime Minister set out on Monday: to stop schools acting as ‘vectors of transmission, causing the virus to spread between households’.

Home learning

The daily sessions have begun. Today, you’ll find six sessions in most year groups on the Home Learning page. (Scroll down the page to find the seventh one (Maths) – this was provided earlier in the week as part of a series of Maths lessons for any individual children having to self-isolate.)

The daily Zoom sessions – to review and reflect on learning – will begin next week. These are completely new and they’re likely to evolve over time as teachers explore what works best for the children who are joining the sessions.

There were a couple of minor errors in the Home Learning Guide we sent out yesterday – we’re sorry about that. This is the correct version – dated 08 January 2021.

The Sphere Federation Early Years team are working together to help you support your younger child at home. Check out their Class News page for this.

…and we’ve reached Friday! Whatever you get up to this weekend, we hope it’s a good one.