News

Latest news from around the school

Newsworthy writing

Posted on 02 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

From Mr Catherall, who is leading the Y3,4 home learning writing sessions…

Hi everyone

I hope you’re all happy, healthy and safe. I wanted to share with you – and celebrate – some of the awesome writing that’s been sent in by children across our federation. Home learning is tough. There are many challenges, for children and adults, but these superstars have been ready, resourceful and resilient learners. (Can you remember the other 8Rs for learning?)

In the Y3,4 phase, we spent last week building up to writing our own news report about a (made-up) volcanic eruption. This links to our geography and science learning.

Here are a small selection of the wonderful examples we’ve been sent in from all three schools. If you’d like to send yours in, I’d love to see it (send me an email – olliecatherall@spherefederation.org).

From my class at Scholes (Elmet)… I love the varied sentence starts in this one (Late on Friday night, On Saturday, In the escape).

We’ve got a budding journalist at St James’ CE… I really like the news report structure here.

Back to Scholes (Elmet) for some another great piece… This time, I really like the main news section (the first paragraph in bold) because it’s exactly like you’d read in a newspaper or online.

Some amazing writing from Moortown… I love the expanded noun phrase (the orange, glowing liquid) and the vocabulary (predicted, nightfall, terrified) in this one.

Another super piece of writing from my class at Scholes (can you tell I’m proud?!)… There’s a lot to celebrate here – particularly the vocabulary (menacing, catastrophic, awoke, ear-splitting, historic)…

Back at Moortown for another great example of journalistic writing… I particularly enjoyed the use of questions to engage the reader and the way this writer has presented their news report in the style of a newspaper.

Another impressive report from Scholes… In this one, I love the vocabulary (citizens, fled on foot, vast amount).

Whatever writing you’ve managed to do at home, well done! After the last lockdown, writing was one of the few areas that we noticed children hadn’t progressed in. Try to help by completing at least one of the writing lessons each day (and always keep a focus on handwriting).

Today’s message (Tuesday 02 February 2021)

Posted on 02 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

The first part of today’s message comes from the Sphere Maths Leader…

We’re proud to have a Maths Mastery teacher in our team. As well as leading Maths across the three Sphere Federation schools, Paula Allaway works for West Yorkshire Maths Hub, working closely with the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics. Paula writes…

Is your child regularly accessing NumBots or Times Tables Rock Stars?

The quick recall of addition and subtraction facts, and multiplication and division facts (times tables) is really important for all children. The ability to recall these facts quickly (rather than taking too long working them out) helps children to answer questions in lots of areas of Maths much more easily.

If these facts are learnt and stored, rather than being calculated or counted, they require less activity from the brain. Essentially, memorisation frees up working memory space to allow children to focus on learning new mathematical ideas and applying mathematics to solve problems, and not the facts themselves.

Without times tables facts, many future Maths topics are more difficult to learn. Daily practice, in short bursts, really makes a difference. If you’re finding it hard to fit in all the lessons, some days, you may want to prioritise practising number facts over the daily White Rose lesson.

Check out Numbots and Times Tables Rock Stars. Ask your child’s teacher for login details if you’re not sure how to access.

It’s another snow day…

As we’ve said before, deciding whether to close or not is a tough decision to make. The Heads of School were all up extra early today to check with staff about whether they can safely travel to school. Admin leaders were also up early, ready to communicate as soon as the decision to close (or stay open) was made.

We made the decision based on two main factors: the current weather and the forecast. When the call was made, it was snowing heavily and the forecast was that it would continue to snow heavily until noon. We also checked with other local schools.

The situation is made harder right now because we can’t mix children or staff – they have to stay within their bubbles.

Thanks for your understanding.

We're closed to all pupils today

Posted on 02 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

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

Key staff in school (for example, enough for each bubble and including a first-aid trained staff member) would struggle to get into school safely.

Please check out our Home learning page.

Today’s message (Monday 01 February 2021)

Posted on 01 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

And we’ve reached February! We kick off the week in our usual way…

…with links to the school assemblies. Last week, the theme was respect, including self-respect. This week, we develop that by thinking about respect in the context of communities. This links with the Living and Learning message ‘I respect my communities and other communities’.

Your child can watch the assembly at any time during the week. It would be great if you follow it up with a conversation at home about respect and community:

  • What communities do you belong to?
  • How do you show respect within these communities?
  • What other communities are there?
  • How do you show respect towards these communities? Why is this important?

Last Monday, we featured a link to a newspaper article about the stresses of home schooling. Following his, we featured some top tips to try to help you with this, and we shared some more on Friday. This weekend, the same newspaper had more guidance that you might find useful: ‘Learn to say ‘I don’t know’: teachers’ tips for parents weary of lockdown 2 schooling’.

By the way, in case you hadn’t spotted it, we’ve added a link on the homepage of our website to take you straight to home learning – it’s in the blue banner just below the pics.

To help you a little more, look out for a new initiative to help with home learning coming later this week.

Today’s message (Friday 29 January 2021)

Posted on 29 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

We’ve reached the end of another week and, indeed, the end of the month. Today’s message returns to what we talked about on Monday – ways to get through the home learning…

We presented eight ideas to support you during this period of home learning – using one of the timetables in our Home Learning Guide and a few replacements (or additions) to the seven daily sessions that we’re providing. Using Times Tables Rock Stars or NumBots instead of the Maths sessions is ok, too – in fact, we’d really like your child to come back knowing the numbers facts and times tables.

We encouraged you to tell us a few more top tips. How about creating a chart to tick off the sessions when they’ve been done. This one looks great!

In case you can’t see it clearly, each of the white bits of paper is labelled up with one of the daily sessions, and you can see that, when the pic was taken, five of the sessions had been marked off for Monday. This visual ‘checklist’ acts as a real celebration of achievement!

A couple of other ideas came in that might help:

  • when your child’s working, they could wear a sweatshirt, and when they’re finished for the day, they change – this can help to signal the shift from ‘home learning’ to ‘home life’
  • on a similar theme, moving rooms (if you can) can help with that transition, too: one room for home learning and another for relaxation – or even just positions (sitting at a table for learning, and on a couch for relaxing)

And finally, we presented a challenge to our grammar and punctuation superstars in Years 5 and 6. Did you spot the error in the email from the Department for Education, featured in yesterday’s message?

Well done to the people who made suggestions, many of which were arguably more a style choice (although I do agree with the idea of a comma needed after ‘February’ in paragraph 2). The actual error is in the last paragraph: there’s a missing apostrophe… ‘two weeks notice’ should read ‘two weeks’ notice’. If you’re ever in doubt, we like Grammar Monster!

Today’s message (Thursday 28 January 2021)

Posted on 28 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

The news that schools won’t open until Monday 08 March is a disappointing and frustrating one…

Here’s an extract from the email from the Department for Education, sent daily to school leaders:

Today, the Prime Minister has announced that it will not be possible to resume face-to-face learning immediately after the February half-term and instead hopes it will be safe to commence the re-opening of schools and colleges from Monday 8 March. This is in response to the national public health data and pressure on NHS capacity.

If the Government achieves its target of vaccinating everyone in the four most vulnerable groups with their first dose by 15 February then those groups will have developed immunity from the virus around three weeks later, that is by 8 March. It is for this reason that we hope it will therefore be safe to commence the reopening of schools from Monday 8 March.

Education settings, as well as students, parents and carers will be given at least two weeks notice to prepare for a return to face-to-face education.

Over the last week or so, it became increasingly clear that this delay would likely be the case, but that doesn’t take away from the concerns we all share. Do contact your child’s teacher, or the Head of School, with any particular questions, comments or concerns. Teachers’ emails are in our Home Learning Guide.

Talking of which, we’ve updated the guide. There are a few small changes to who’s leading the home learning sessions, but the main change is on page 9, which is our temporary policy on emails between school and home. The new point is that teachers will respond when you email them, but for safeguarding reasons they won’t respond to children – your child should stay in touch with their teacher through the daily afternoon Zooms and when staff phone home.

Finally, a challenge for Year 5 and 6 children, so many of whom are experts on grammar and punctuation. In the Department for Education extract, above, there’s a little error – a tricky one to spot, and a common error, too. Can your child spot the error and explain it? If so, let me know (via an email from Mum or Dad, not the child, of course!).

Remarkable Writing

Posted on 28 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

From Mr Owen, who’s leading the Y5,6 home learning writing sessions…

Hi everyone,

I wanted to share some of the fantastic writing that’s been happening in Y5 and Y6 recently, both at home and in school. Children have been creating their own planets, including maps and loads of links to geography learning. Classes in Moortown, Scholes (Elmet) and St James’ have all been working on the same projects, and the end products look great! Children should be really proud of what they’ve created.

Here are just some of the great examples that I’ve been sent. If you’d like to send yours in, I’d love to see it! (Send me an email – davidowen@spherefederation.org)

In St James’… How awesome is this?

In Moortown, Y6… What a great effort!

In my class: Moortown, Y5… This one even had an accompanying video!

This one included lots of the things we’ve been working on recently and included great vocabulary:

Scholes (Elmet) children have been really creative too…

At St James’ again… Working hard to create amazing planets!

Amazing presentation, fantastic ideas and great writing skills on show!

Today’s message (Wednesday 27 January 2021)

Posted on 27 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Our message today comes from Miss Beatson, the Head of School…

Almost every message or conversation I have at the moment seems to start with a nod to how tough things are at the moment. They are tough and everyone is feeling it at different times and in different ways. I hope you’re experiencing some glimmers of hope, possibly by family members receiving the vaccine.

School is much busier than it was during the first lockdown but we’re still missing so many of our children. We can’t wait to get back to normal with a school full of happy and healthy learners. I expect all of you, trying to juggle work and home schooling, have the very same wish!

For those of you learning at home, our staff are working hard to give you a call each week. We hope you’re finding these a useful way of staying in touch and resolving any issues that may arise.

In the last few weeks, we’ve really appreciated your messages of support and encouragement, such as this one…

Just wanted to say a huge thank you for the continued email support – it’s nice to have at the end of the day.
[My daughter] is still loving the new learning system and able to work a lot more independently without needing me every 5 seconds. We were happy to read other people were finding the 7 lessons a push some days and we didn’t feel so naughty missing off one out.
Overall I don’t think there’s anything extra you could add – you’re all doing amazing!

Stay safe, happy and healthy.

Thanks to Miss Beatson for today’s message.

Today’s message (Tuesday 26 January 2021)

Posted on 26 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Your child’s probably spending more time online than ever. For the next few Tuesdays, we’ll talk about being happy, healthy and safe online.

Mrs Weekes is the Safeguarding Lead across all three schools in Sphere Federation. In her first message, she writes about the digital five-a-day

During these strange and uncertain times, it’s really important that we’re making sure our children are safe online. Lots of time is being spent on devices and we’re expecting children to be resilient and independent. Unfortunately, that means they might be on devices while you’re working or helping others in the family. To help keep them safe, the online safety message needs to be regular and manageable.

Don’t feel bad about the time your child is currently spending on devices – just make sure they are happy, healthy and safe.

Screen time is not the issue. Aim for screen quality.

Spending time on social media is not the same as doing a Facetime with grandparents, or making a film or story. Make screen time count. Try and plan or review your day together using the Children’s Commissioner’s Digital Five a Day:

  1. Be mindful.
  2. Connect.
  3. Be active.
  4. Get creative.
  5. Give to others.

Talking about these all in one go might be too much. Why not spend time discussing just one of these each day over the next few days?

The Digital Five a Day idea is based on the NHS’s evidence-based ‘five steps to better mental wellbeing’ – also worth a read.

Devices are really helping at this time – just make sure they’re being used productively and safely.

We’ve another online safety message next Tuesday.

Today’s message (Monday 25 January 2021)

Posted on 25 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

This lockdown seems a lot tougher than the last one. Nevertheless, we hope your weekend was as good as it can be at the moment.

As usual on Mondays, we start the week with links to the school assemblies. This week, they’re all about respect, linking with the Living and Learning message ‘I respect myself and others‘.

Your child can watch the assembly at any point in the week. After watching, have a conversation at home about respect:

  • What is respect?
  • When and where should people show respect?
  • Who should we respect?
  • Why is it important to show respect?
  • How do we show respect? Does this differ depending on the situation?

Remembering the Living and Learning message ‘I respect myself and others‘, don’t forget to talk about self-respect – respecting yourself.

As we said at the start of today’s message, this lockdown just seems tougher in lots of ways – the weather, the short days, the fact we’ve been through it all before…

This weekend, The Guardian reported that ‘Parents’ stress rises over home schooling in Covid lockdown’. In the article, it’s reported that ‘Nearly half of parents say primary school teachers are expecting more of their child this time round’. This time round, the Department for Education expectations are for children in Key Stage 1 to have three hours of learning every day, and four hours for children in Key Stage 2. The seven daily sessions that we’re providing, plus independent reading, learning spellings and some physical activity provides this. However…

…that’s tough, we know. We’ve suggested that five might be realistic – maybe less, depending on your context. Here are some strategies that you’ve told us about for coping with home learning:

  • using the timetable we provide in our Home Learning Guide to set expectations – we’ve provided a template for five as well as seven sessions across the day
  • for time away from a screen, don’t under-estimate the value of quiet reading (or reading aloud to each other)
  • another idea for time away from the screen is to drop a session and do something practical instead – cooking something up in the kitchen is a valuable learning experience, for example
  • as an alternative, check out the BBC’s offer online, on TV and on iPlayer
  • you could even consider buying some workbooks as a screen-alternative (for example, the CGP books are quite well-priced and popular amongst children) – this would mean your child is engaging in some appropriate and useful learning, although it will be different to others doing the home learning
  • if your child doesn’t pause for the independent activities that are featured in our recorded sessions, and instead watches the clips through, don’t worry too much – at least they’re engaging
  • try watching a session from a younger year group if your child’s struggling – it would do no harm to practise and secure Maths and spellings / phonics, especially, and might help boost your child’s confidence
  • daily physical activity really helps learning and encourages a positive attitude

Do let us know any other ways you’re coping so we can share them.