Our weekly message (the second of two this week - 11 December 2020)
Posted on 11 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree
This is the second weekly message of the week, following an important one yesterday about the end of term…
We’re sorry if the message yesterday confused you. To confirm: next week, we’ll close for the Christmas holidays at the end of the school day on 18 December, as planned, so Friday is a the last day of the school term.
This week, we’ve had the last two parent Zoom sessions – one for Early Years and one for times tables. The feedback from the sessions has been really positive because they’ve been easier to attend than coming into schools. Beyond Covid times, we’ll carry on hosting these sessions by Zoom.
One of the most popular sessions was one on phonics – it was very well attended. We’ve now recorded the sessions:
- 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, and information about the phonics screening check which takes place towards the end of Year 1 (although our current Year 2 children have all just completed the check).
Links to the two videos are also on our dedicated phonics page.
This week, a primary in north Leeds has had to close for the rest of the term because of positive cases of Covid-19. As a whole, numbers in Leeds are reportedly in decline, which is good news, but please let’s all stay Covid-cautious. It’s thanks to your cooperation that Sphere Federation schools have been relatively unaffected by the pandemic so far.
The rest of this week’s message has various items…
Asda free meals
Asda supermarket cafes are providing children under the age of 16 withvia a takeaway service. There are no minimum spend requirements or restrictions on the number of children in a family or group that can take advantage of this offer. The offer runs until 31 December (except when stores are closed).
TikTok’s terms and conditions state that the app should only be used by people 13years old and over. Despite this, it’s sometimes used by children younger than 13. There’s a new feature that you should know about. Family Pairing allows parents and carers to guide their child’s TikTok experience in a safer way. Features include:
- Search – decide what can be searched for; this includes content, users, hashtags and sounds
- Screen time management – set out how long can be spent on TikTok each day
- Discoverability – decide on the account being private (you decide the content) or public (anyone can search and view content)
Grief and loss
Staffed by experienced counsellors, the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Grief and Loss Support Service is for anyone who is experiencing loss of any kind and the grief and emotional distress that loss may cause. Available to everyone living in West Yorkshire, the service is a free telephone counselling support service that operates 8am-8pm, 7 days a week. It includes text and live online chat facilities as well as translation options. Call the service on 0808 196 3833, or use text or online live chat at griefandlosswyh.co.uk.
Introducing Ollee – a virtual friend
Ollee is a digital friend for children aged 8-11, created by Parent Zone and funded by BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me initiative, which aims to make a difference to children’s emotional wellbeing. Ollee is designed to help children reflect on how they feel and to process their experiences with the support and help of their parents and carers – and it does this by offering them advice about a range of subjects: school, family, friends, their body, the internet and the world.
For each of these subjects, children can choose an emotion that matches how they feel about it: happy, angry, sad, confused, frustrated, stressed or worried. Next, they can choose from a list of topics – for instance, a child who was worried about school might be able to select ‘I haven’t done my homework’ as the cause of their worry. Finally, they’ll see a page of advice about the topic, presented in child-friendly, bite-sized chunks they can read then or save for later.
Have a happy and healthy and safe weekend, whatever you get up to.
Our weekly message (the first of two this week - 10 December 2020)
Posted on 10 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree
This is the first of two whole-school messages this week. This one confirms that we will close at the end of the school day on Friday 18 December, as planned…
On Tuesday, with eight days of term remaining, the government sent schools an email with two main sections:
- ‘End of term planning’ – this sets out the request that schools ‘remain contactable so they can assist with contact tracing where necessary’. This basically means that Heads of School will need to be available throughout the first week of the holiday to support the government’s track and tracing, up to and including Christmas Eve.
- ‘End of term – advice for schools’ – this advises that schools can close on Thursday next week, changing the last day of term into a training day. This basically means that schools have the option to close one day earlier for pupil (not staff) so that school leaders are available up to Wednesday 23 December, rather than Christmas Eve.
St James’ CE Primary will stick to our original plan of being open on Friday 18 December. We’ve based this decision on two main reasons:
- It’s too short-notice. Sometimes we have to change dates and timings, but we always aim to give you plenty of notice if we have to do this. In the run up to Christmas, we don’t think it’s fair to disrupt any plans you might have. Similarly, we’ve already let you know of the various plans for Christmas that we have in school – it would be quite tricky to shuffle things around at this late stage.
- It’s not a free day. We’d have to assign this as a training day and cancel one later in the school year. These additional days are valuable: we plan the days, with detailed content, well before the year begins – we can’t assign Friday next week as a training day and deliver worthwhile training with limited preparation time. This means, we’d also have to cancel one later in the year (and this might impact on plans that you might’ve made).
In its email to schools on Tuesday, the Department for Education state ‘We recognise this communication has arrived with schools late in the term…’. An email today from the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) states ‘NAHT has been raising our serious concerns about this issue with the DfE for a number of months’.
The government’s decision that schools may close a day early next week follows a number of schools who have tried to exercise some flexibility to alleviate some of the pressure at the end of term, the most publicised being the from Focus Trust.
So… for the first week of the holiday, up to and including Thursday 24 December, our Heads of School are available. This is in case you need to tell school about a positive case and/or they need to advise close contacts to self-isolate. This will be done by text or email, not a phone call.
After Thursday, where pupils are required to self-isolate due to contact with a positive case, you don’t need to inform us about absences until the first day of the new term (Tuesday 05 January).
Thank you to Miss Beatson for committing to this additional responsibility, and to admin staff for agreeing to be available to support.
Posted on 07 December 2020 by Miss Beatson
As we approach the final week of term, it’s time to get Christmassy, but as you know, it’s going to be very different.
We can’t invite you in to share any Christmas celebrations so instead we’re going to share Christmas with you in a different way. From Tuesday 15 December, there will be a video posted on Class News of your child’s class taking part in some Christmas celebrations. We know that this doesn’t compare to what we normally do but we hope that it helps in some way.
During the final week of term, there will be a virtual pantomime performance that children will be able to watch at school. Thanks to the PTA who have paid for this.
Christmas lunch will be on Tuesday 15 December and all children will get a Christmas cracker!
On Friday 18 December, there will be Christmas parties in classrooms. Children can come to school in non-uniform. There will be some goodies coming home which have kindly been bought by the company who provide and maintain our photocopiers and printers.
It’s a very different Christmas this year but we’ve worked so hard to stay safe that we don’t want to spoil it now.
We hope that you have a happy and healthy, enjoyable and restful time with your families over the Christmas holidays.
Our weekly message (04 December 2020)
Posted on 04 December 2020 by Mr Roundtree
I’m writing this week’s message after being on morning gate duty and it’s just started snowing – hopefully, my fingers will thaw out soon so I can press the right keys. If you do spot some typos, you’ll know why…
For some children and families, this time of year will be very difficult, especially for those who have experienced trauma or bereavement. Young Minds has created another Wellbeing Advent Calendar. It’s intended for use in schools, but it might help support you and your family throughout December. Each day, try a different 5 minute activity to help boost wellbeing and look after your child’s mental health. Today’s is a nice conversation starter: share something that has really cheered you up when you were feeling down.
Talking of conversation starters, this resource for parents and carers might help. Starting a conversation can be difficult, especially if you’re worried that your child is having a hard time. It doesn’t matter what topic the conversation starts with – it’s about the opportunity it gives you both to talk about feelings and to provide comfort.
Next, a message from Leeds City Council…
Sal Tariq, the Director of Children and Families, and Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, have written a joint letter for parents and carers. (It came too late to include in last week’s message.) Read the full letter here, but these two paragraphs stand out as matching our own thoughts:
The overwhelming majority of parents have been extremely understanding of the challenges that schools have encountered and have co-operated fully with the school’s range of measures put in place to provide a covid-safe environment for the children, staff and parents.
We are grateful to parents, for example, for wearing face coverings when requested to by the school and for not sending their child to school when they, or a member of the family, have been requested to self-isolate.
Finally, today, just a quick repeat of a message we sent earlier in the week…
Have a happy and healthy and warm weekend!
Virtual after school clubs
Posted on 01 December 2020 by Mrs Latham
Aimed mainly at primary-aged children, a different theme has been assigned for each day of the club – Adventure Monday, Tuesday Play, Wild Wednesday, Thinking Thursday and Fun Friday.
Find out more: https://www.youthsporttrust.org/AfterSchoolSportClub
Name the reindeer competition
Posted on 30 November 2020 by Miss Beatson
Thank you and well done to everyone who took part in the naming of Santa’s reindeer this year. Cinnamon Gallopsalot was the winning name from our school and became the joint overall winner with another school in Wetherby.
Our weekly message (27 November 2020)
Posted on 27 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree
It’s a bit of a letdown to be coming out of the national lockdown restriction only to enter Tier 3 restrictions. The government plans to review the tiers every two weeks – hopefully we can move to Tier 2 soon. Now, let’s think about Christmas for a moment…
As we approach Christmas, we’re asking you to be ultra-cautious. Any bubble burst from 12 December onwards would generate a need to self-isolate over the festive period – none of us wants this.
Asymptomatic transmission is something we can do little about, but we can reduce the chances of this happening by ensuring you keep your child at home if anyone in your household is waiting for the results of a Covid test.
Also, please keep your child at home if anyone in your household has the classic symptoms:
- a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
We’re doing all we can at school to keep everyone safe. You’ll be pleased to know the rest of this week’s message contains no more covid-gloom…
We love reading!
Reading is always a top priority in our school. Our library is well-stocked and we’ve a good bank of class novels and other reading resources. However, following the period of school closures, we’ve been wanting to maximise reading opportunities for our children in Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6). One way to do this to to have a good stock of books that are easy to ‘dip into’ – non-fiction ‘lists and facts’ books and poetry books. We’ve made a large investment in this – about £200 for each class. The books arrived this week and our children have loved them so far:
- ‘I like the new books because they’re interesting. I’ve enjoyed looking at the book about numbers, computers and coding because it has lots of fun facts.’ (Year 5 pupil at St James’)
- ‘The books are engrossing, fascinating and we’re learning quite a lot from them.’ (three Year 6 pupils at Scholes)
- ‘When I have 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll be able to find out so many things. I know lots about dinosaurs but now I can learn more things about them.’ (Year 4 pupil at Moortown)
- ‘The children are fighting over them!’ (Y5,6 teacher, who assures us this isn’t literally!)
Our parent workshops
This week, we’ve hosted two more workshops to help you support your child at home: one for Reading (mainly for parents/carers of older children) and one for Phonics (aimed at those of you with children in Foundation 2/Reception and Year 1 mainly). Both were well-attended, the phonics one especially so. Here are a few comments from people who’ve attended the workshops so far…
- ‘Thank you for these sessions – really appreciate the support with home learning.’
- ‘Thank you very much, very informative and useful! ’
- ‘ Thank you very much for this! I will definitely refer back to this slide show to help at home! ’
Have you a child starting school in September? Or perhaps you know someone who has?
If so, it’s important for you to know the school application process is open until 15 January 2021. You need to apply, even if you’ve a child at school already (and make sure you include sibling information on your application).
Read more information about schools, previous years’ allocation data, catchment maps and links to school admissions.
If you’ve any questions about the admissions process, please contact the Admissions Team at Leeds City Council on 0113 222 4414 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog from the Safer Roads Leeds team is an interesting one. The speed limit outside both Moortown Primary and St James’ CE Primary is 20mph – Scholes (Elmet) Primary still has a limit of 30mph, sadly. Here’s a few reasons why twenty’s plenty:
- It’s safer. If you do hit someone with your car, you’re less likely to kill them or inflict life-changing injuries and trauma.
- You can be the most experienced, careful, focused driver in the world but unexpected things happen. At 30mph, if you have to do an emergency stop, you will still travel around six car lengths before you come to a halt. At 20mph, that stopping distance is halved; if you do hit someone, they’re more likely to live.
- Vehicles travelling at lower speeds change the whole feel of a neighbourhood. Research shows people are far more willing to walk and to let their children walk and cycle.
- At speeds of more than about 20mph, research shows that children trying to cross a road can’t accurately judge how fast a car is coming; they can’t tell that a distant car might be approaching far too fast for them to cross.
- 20mph zones have almost no impact on overall journey times, so it’s a win-win.
Have you a child due to start school in September 2021?
Posted on 23 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree
The application process is open until 15 January 2021.
Apply by visiting www.leeds.gov.uk/apply – even if you’ve a child at school already. (Make sure you include sibling information on your application.)
Find information about schools, previous years’ allocation data, catchment maps and links to school admissions.
Leeds City Council can’t hold face to face drop-in sessions this year and so they’re holding Facebook question and answers sessions, to help with the application process, on:
- Thursday 03 December 2020, 6pm to 7pm
- Tuesday 05 January 2021, 4pm to 5pm
- Wednesday 13 January 2021, 2pm to 3pm
When you apply for a school, you should use all five preferences – using only use one or two preferences decreases the chances of being offered a place at a preferred school.
Any supplementary information needs to be provided by the closing date (this applies if a child is previously looked after, is seeking admission under exceptional needs, or if a family wish to apply for their child to be admitted out of chronological age group).
Make sure you use your child’s actual address. Using that of a friend, relative, childminder or renting a property to gain a school place are all considered fraud and places can be withdrawn.
If you’ve any questions about the admissions process, please contact the Admissions Team at Leeds City Council on 0113 222 4414 or by email: email@example.com
Parent governor elections
Posted on 20 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Thank you to all of you who voted in Sphere Federation governing body elections for a new parent governor.
The governing body of Sphere Federation is made up of two staff members (including the Head of Federation), governors appointed by Leeds City Council and the Diocese of Leeds, and representatives from the local community, all of whom share the important job of overseeing the running of the school. Mr Matthew Hick has been elected as the new parent governor joining the team. As a reminder, here’s Mr Hick’s ‘blurb’ from the nomination form:
As a former pupil of a Sphere Federation school, and someone with a lifelong connection to the neighbourhood, whose two children now attend the school, it would be a privilege to become a governor for the Federation and give something back to the community. I have extensive leadership experience and am the Chair and founder of an organisation that promotes volunteering work, former Chair and Trustee of an organisation that promotes voluntary, community and social enterprise and Co-founder of a local Covid-19 support Group. Alongside this I am Head of Volunteering with a large national charitable organisation where I lead on strategy, policy, and systems. In 2019, I was nominated to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, for my work in the voluntary sector, which I gladly accepted. Away from work and volunteering, I enjoy spending time with family, sport – and, in particular, running – and film. After 12 years of working in the third sector, I believe passionately in the power of people to come together to build a better future. I believe this applies equally to social action groups as it does to boards of governors and trustees. I would relish the opportunity to apply my passion and skills to helping Sphere Federation achieve its ambitions.
We had five candidates in total and all five presented a strong set of skills for the role. Thank you to all five for expressing their interest and we hope the other four might do so again when another vacancy arises.
Our weekly message (20 November 2020)
Posted on 20 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree
We’re reaching the end of the tenth week of the school year…
We’ve been really pleased with our pupils and their positive attitudes on their return to school. We’ve assessed their learning and we’re also pleased: whilst there are some gaps and some ‘slowing down’, we’re confident we can catch up over the year, especially with your continuing support.
Talking of support, thank you to the very many of you who joined the first of six Zoom workshops to help you support your child at home – Wednesday’s was about Science and ‘topic subjects’ like history and geography. (Those who arrived early got to hear why I’m looking so battered just now, too!) Next week, we’ve two English-related workshops: one on reading (Monday, 6pm) and one on phonics (Wednesday, 6pm). Contact school for details on how to join the Zoom.
Last week, we talked about how fortunate we’ve been in not having to ‘burst a bubble’. We spoke too soon: in one of our Sphere schools, we did have to send a class home to self-isolate. (Interesting to note the date last week…) As we said, in such circumstances, check out our Home Learning page. (In fact, check it out now so you can familiarise yourself, just in case.)
Covid-19 continues to throw up new challenges each day and the range of symptoms that people report seems to grow each day, too. However, the government is sticking to three main symptoms:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
There have been instances where symptoms have been vague and a Covid test has not been done until a few days after people have felt unwell. In these cases, we’re taking the 14 days isolation period from the positive test date or from the onset of classic Covid-19 symptoms, listed above. (This might seem to contradict what Test and Trace advise you, but it’s in consultation with Public Health England and the Department for Education.)
Similarly, we’ve had a few situations where children who have been self-isolating have come back to school too soon. The reason for this is that parents appear to have had messages from Test and Trace saying that children can come back. As a school, we need to follow government guidance which states that self-isolation is for 14 days. When you let us know that your child has to self-isolate, we note when they can return to school and we’ll tell you. If your child comes back before that date, they’ll be sent home. The only exception to this is if the person showing symptoms gets a negative test.
We’re working really hard to keep everyone safe and hope you understand our position on this.
Have you done a Covid test on yourself? It’s not the nicest thing to have to do, and it seems people fall into two camps: those who hate more the throat swab, and those who hate more the nose swab! Some of you will already have administered the test for your child. If not, this guide might help.
And that’s enough Covid talk for one message!
This week, we’ve been grateful to some parents who alerted us to concerns that their children may not be drinking enough water. We’ve reminded staff in the classroom and at lunchtime that they should be encouraging and checking children are drinking to stay hydrated – so important for health and for learning. Please help with this: make sure your child brings in a bottle full of fresh water each day.
Here’s the latest edition of Families magazine. There are lots of creative Christmas-themed ideas to do at home – we like the Christmas decorations on page 5 and the Christmas cooking on page 8!