Our daily message (09 July 2020)
Posted on 09 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Our daily message today includes a word from the Chair of Governors for Sphere Federation. Before that…
Sadly, during lockdown, incidents of domestic violence and other domestic abuse have increased quite significantly. Get support if this is happening to you or to someone you know.
We’re a few days into July, but it’s not too late to benefit from this Jump Back July calendar from Action for Happiness. This month, their focus is on how we can be more resilient in challenging times. Even taking just one thing on board each week might make a difference. Today’s suggestion is ‘Help someone in need and notice how that gives you a boost, too’. (My favourite so far this month has been the tip for Sunday 05 July – and, for me, that related to mowing the lawn!)
Finally, some words from Rachel Greenhalgh, our Chair of Governors…
As the academic year draws to a close, the governing body reflects on its work throughout 2019/20 and looks ahead to the coming year. This annual governance statement will shortly be published on our Governance page (in the Join In section).
Without exception, this past year has been the most challenging the education sector has experienced. As a governing body, we have responded by adapting our governance to cover essential business only and to ensure our school leaders have been supported.
At the end of last week, the Government published guidance for full opening of schools from September. School leaders are working hard to digest this new information, discussing numerous options in detail, creating plans, and managing risks for the safest possible return for all pupils and staff next term. Mr Roundtree has also initiated a working party with other school leaders and people from the Local Authority to develop well thought through plans for September. The governing body will ensure these plans and risk assessments are robust, and communicated to you as soon as possible.
Next year, the governing body will continue to ensure that all our statutory duties are met and focus on essential areas of governance whilst supporting school leaders as the Covid-19 situation evolves in the new academic year. Our immediate areas of priority remain the safety and wellbeing of all pupils and school staff, and we will continue to challenge school leaders on our vision that all the schools are a happy and healthy place to learn, and that all our children feel safe.
These past few months have been a very difficult time for most people and we are extremely proud of how all our school community has pulled together throughout the pandemic, and we thank you for all your support over the year. The Government has confirmed they are not asking schools to open over the summer holiday. We fully support this and agree ‘teachers, support staff and school leaders deserve a break, to recharge and rest’ (Department for Education daily email, 30.06.20).
We hope that you and your children have a happy and healthy school summer holiday and we look forward to seeing you all in September.
Tomorrow’s message is from the Head of School and provides the first key information about school in Autumn for all children.
Virtual School Sports Day - results
Posted on 08 July 2020 by Mrs Latham
Thank you to everyone at home and in school who took part and submitted results. Over 200 schools across West Yorkshire took part and we did really well – netball being our particular strength!
Our daily message (08 July 2020)
Posted on 08 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message talks about the summer and September…
The BBC reports today that ‘home-schooling has been hell‘. We don’t doubt for one minute that it’s been tough – even more so if you’re one of the majority whose child is still at home.
In a recent daily message (25.06.20), we made the analogy of home-school learning being like a marathon: ‘This was always going to be a marathon, not a sprint. We’re definitely approaching the finishing line – we just can’t see it yet. And just like a real marathon…the last stages are tough.’
Are we reaching the finishing line? Some of you are anxious about the summer weeks, too.
From our communications with you, we know you’ve done a really good job. Some of you have had to step back from the home-learning quite a bit. That’s completely understandable, as you try to engage your child, deal with work, deal with all the other problems that this virus has brought about.
To hopefully help some of you through the summer, we’ve produced a list of summer camps and other activities. If you’re in a position to afford this, it might be an idea to sign up to something – your child could benefit from the social aspects, and it’ll give you the much-needed break you deserve. (If you do sign up for something, do seek assurance that the provider is following protective measures in line with the guidance which the government has produced. To help reduce the spread of Covid-19, we also strongly recommend you limit as far as possible the number of clubs your child attends.)
In that previous daily message, we also said: ‘The government has announced that all pupils in all year groups in England will go back to school full-time in September. Even if that doesn’t happen (and I’m thinking worst-case scenario here), I’m confident all children will be back at school on a rota system.’ In September, some schools in Leeds are planning reduced school days or reduced weeks for the first couple of weeks, and others are planning for years groups to return on a staggered basis over a few weeks. We’re planning to have all our children back from Monday 07 September – the very first day of the school term.
The school day might have a slightly different start and end time; there will be lots of tweaks to the timetable to allow for handwashing, playtimes and lunches; and we’re changing our curriculum topics to support children’s return. There will be plenty of other changes to consider, too, no doubt.
We’re lucky because our staff had already all agreed to attend training days at the end of the summer holidays (Thursday 03 September and Friday 04 September). We can use these to prepare all staff for the changes and safeguarding measures we’ll need to take. This will mean we can open for your child on Monday 07 September, the first day of term.
We want to assure you now that we’re doing all we can to hit the ground running from the very first day of the 2020-21 school year – a marathon that we hope we can all run together from the very start to the very end.
Did you get sporty today?
Posted on 07 July 2020 by Mrs Latham
Well, the rain came – just like when we usually have sports day! We hope you managed to complete at least some of the challenges set by the West Yorkshire School Games for the Virtual Sports Day. Don’t forget to submit your results here : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfdEX8xOo-PtkFwasg0B7deXM1uzvMQMFAPwpKCU9yEKG6qqg/viewform
Our daily message (07 July 2020)
Posted on 07 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message reflects the conversations we’re having in order to prepare for September, when schools open more widely…
We’re working hard to make sure the September start for all our children returning to school – or joining for the first time – is a happy and healthy one.
I’m working closely with people from Leeds City Council and other Leeds headteachers to share ideas and best practice as we wade through the current government guidance. (This morning, I had my longest Zoom meeting yet – it lasted just short of three hours! – but it was really positive and productive).
School leaders across Sphere are also working hard on specific details. Some of the detail has to be based on each of the Sphere schools context, but others can be applied across all three schools. (I had another Zoom meeting this afternoon, for example – thankfully, a bit shorter at one and a half hours!).
There’s a lot to consider. Some obvious things are staggered start times, playtimes, lunches and finish times.
During the school day, we’re planning an adapted curriculum that follows two key principles: we want it to be broad and balanced but allow for flexibility so we can support children in terms of learning and wellbeing. The government’s guidance contains some broad messages (such as ‘Substantial modification to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, so teaching time should be prioritised to address significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge with the aim of returning to the school’s normal curriculum content by no later than summer term 2021‘) and some specific detail, too (such as information about specific subjects like PE and music).
Other aspects of school organisation that we’re working through include before and after school care, maintaining the increased sanitisation, handwashing and cleaning, and staffing issues. (There are some aspects of school that you might not immediately think about, such as checks for Legionnaires’ disease to ensure the water we have is healthy.)
Some of what we’re doing may have to be finalised in the summer holiday, and guidance from government could well change, too. We’ll keep you informed as much as we can, and as soon as we can.
Our daily message (06 July 2020)
Posted on 06 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
We hope your weekend was a good one. It’s Monday – that means it’s time to talk Living and Learning during lockdown…
Statement of the week
I know how to cope with change… is our statement this week.
Talk to your child at home about the changes they’re facing:
- some changes are expected and some are unexpected
- some changes are welcome, others less so
- some can be managed, others are harder to deal with
We’re nearing the end of the school year. Some of us will be moving on to a new school; most of us will be getting ready for new classes and teachers. This clearly isn’t a normal year and transitions are different for us all. However, we want to encourage children to cope with change by managing and understanding the emotions they feel at this time.
At home, start by asking your child to consider change for the new year:
- what will be the same and what will be different?
- what will be easy and might some changes be harder to deal with?
- are there ways to cope with the more challenging changes?
Books can support transition. Use this reading of Dear Teacher as a prompt to discuss your child’s hopes and fears for the new year.
Sadly, one of our favourite events of the year – sports day – can’t take place this year. The next best thing is to take part in a virtual sports day!
We’re excited to be joining the West Yorkshire Virtual School Games Sports Day on Tuesday 07 July. The day will involve children taking part in multiple activities with the chance to compete against other schools across the county. There’ll be prizes on offer, too.
What do you need to do?
Have a look at the guidance for parents/carers to help you prepare for the day.
When does it take place?
There is a live opening ceremony at 10am on Tuesday 07 July and the activities can be completed at any point in the day.
Is this just for children who are back at school?
No – the activities can be done by children at school and at home. The sports day could be one of your child’s home learning activities on the day.
What are the activities?
The parent guide gives details of all the activities and instructions will also be given on the video released on the day.
Do children have to complete all the activities?
We’d encourage the children to have a go at as many as they can but they don’t have to complete them all.
How do we submit results?
This is the link to submit results (live from 10am on 07 July up till 12pm on the 08 July). All children’s results will be added to their school score.
We’d love to see the virtual sports day in action so please share any photos of your children taking part and good luck to everyone!
Our daily message (03 July 2020)
Posted on 03 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
There’s a lot of things going on right now in terms of social distancing, summer and schools in September…
Indoors or outdoors, you can meet in groups of up to two households (a support bubble counts as one household) in any location. You don’t always have to meet with the same household – you can meet with different households at different times. However, it remains the case – even inside someone’s home – that you should socially distance from anyone not in your own household.
Outdoors, you can meet in groups of up to six people from different households as long as you remain at least one metre away (ideally two metres). This means that parents and carers must ensure their child stays at a distance from other people – hugging and hand-holding, games like tig, tackling in football should all be avoided.
Earlier in the week, we confirmed that schools would not be open in the summer. Since then, the government has updated its guidance on what parents and carers need to know about schools during the coronavirus outbreak and they’ve added content on summer provision. (There’s also content on school uniform and the support package to help pupils to catch up, plus updates on school meals and the Covid Summer Food Fund.)
School in September
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, announced the plans for all children to return to full-time education at the start of the autumn term. Read the supporting guidance for schools, colleges and nurseries.
They have also published guidance for parents and carers on the plans for the autumn term to help reassure you about what to expect for your child.
We know many of you are disappointed that schools aren’t open over the Summer holiday. And we know the disappointment comes from your concern about the learning that your child has missed this school year.
Please be assured we’re already working hard with other school leaders in Sphere Federation and across the local authority to have plans in place for a safe and successful school year 2020-21.
Enjoy the weekend as much as you can.
Our daily message (02 July 2020)
Posted on 02 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message comes from Sal Tariq, the Director of Children and Families for Leeds City Council…
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your understanding and co-operation during what has been an extremely difficult time for our schools and your children.
I hope you join me in thanking teachers and head teachers, for their efforts in keeping schools open since lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. In many cases, this has included provision throughout the holidays. Most recently, head teachers have undertaken a significant amount of work in re-configuring their schools to make them safe to open more widely to more pupils in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6. I am very grateful for their efforts to make this happen.
Each school in Leeds is different and each school has unique circumstances. This is why we have been very clear that all schools will be operating slightly differently from each other during the current period. The numbers of pupils schools have been able to welcome back varies from school to school and school leaders have had to consider a wide number of variables.
Some schools, for example, have smaller classrooms, whereas some have greater numbers of ‘shielding’ staff. Both of these considerations result in the school being able to accommodate fewer pupils. In a number of schools, the numbers of vulnerable children or children of key workers have risen considerably which has resulted in a lack of capacity to welcome more children back.
Many schools have now reached the position where they cannot take any more children back safely and within guidelines. As a result, some head teachers are in the difficult position of not being able to offer a child a place. I know there has been some talk of using community facilities such as church halls, leisure centres, social clubs and scout huts to provide additional space but current government guidance is clear that schools should not use these facilities at the moment.
Accommodating children in non-educational settings is not as easy to do as it may first appear. It would highlight significant safeguarding, health and safety, resourcing and staffing implications and the priority for school leaders is the safety and well-being of your children. Schools must await further guidance from the government before considering this as an option.
Many of you are aware that the Government announced plans earlier this week to relax the 2m social distancing rule and may wonder if this means that schools can take more children. The government have said that from 4th July where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. In Leeds, our current guidance to schools regarding social distancing of 2 metres has not changed; a 1 metre plus policy would require additional measures such as face coverings to be used routinely and would expose staff and children to greater risk of infection.
I know that the current situation is frustrating to parents and carers who are keen for their child to return to school. Despite their best efforts, school leaders will inevitably not be able to accommodate all requests from parents. I am writing to ask you to be respectful of the decision made by the head teacher of your child’s school, in the knowledge that it has been made with the safety of all children and staff at its heart.
Head teachers are now busy planning for September when it is hoped that all pupils will be able to return to school full time. School leaders are eagerly awaiting government guidance as to the expectations for September and I know they will communicate their plans with you as soon as they are in a position to do so.
I anticipate that restrictions, for example staggered start and finish times, class bubbles and increased cleaning and hygiene routines, will remain in place from September to ensure the safety of staff and pupils
I thank you for your continuing patience during these difficult times. I hope you and your families stay safe and well.
Sal Tariq OBE
Director, Children and Families
If you like, you can download the letter, too.
Our daily message (01 July 2020)
Posted on 01 July 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message features a link to another edition of Families magazine – it’s another ‘surviving lockdown’ edition.
The magazine has lots of resources and ideas to help with returning your child to school, home learning, pre-school play and a variety of ideas for family activities and entertainment.
Our daily message (30 June 2020)
Posted on 30 June 2020 by Mr Roundtree
Today’s message relates to recent government announcements…
Socially distanced in school
Since the government announced that from Saturday 04 July, the two metre rule would be relaxed a little, some parents have asked if this means we can accept more children back at school. Sadly, the answer is no.
There may be spaces for a small number of individual children in a bubble, but generally speaking, there are no more spaces. Recent messages refer to a ‘one metre plus’ rule, but the guidance talks of ‘mitigation’, which includes:
- maintain 2m where viable (we’ve organised classrooms to do this)
- maintaining hand hygiene and cough etiquette (and we can’t ensure children maintain ‘cough etiquette’ – coughing into a disposable tissue or at least into their sleeve, not hand)
- staff minimising duration of contact at less than 2m with people outside their household (in a small classroom, and with young children, this is really hard)
- wearing face coverings when distances of 2m cannot be kept in indoor environments where possible (school staff are advised not to wear masks or other coverings because they hinder effective teaching)
Because these precautions can’t really happen in school, our current circumstances are the right ones, and Leeds City Council advice (26 June 2020) backs this up: ‘Schools should continue to implement and maintain the 2m social distancing measures already in place and not plan to reduce this to 1m+.’
We know the government guidelines are complicated and appear to be forever-changing, but be assured we’re following them closely.
(If it helps to know, sometimes school leaders are confused by the messages, too: current guidance for primary planning advises heads ‘if you can keep older children…two metres away from each other, you should do so’. However, on 24 June, the daily email and a blog from the Department for Education stated something apparently quite different: ‘primary schools do not need to keep children 2 metres apart from each other – this has been the case throughout the outbreak’.)
On Friday evening, the DfE confirmed that there is no expectation that schools should open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers over the summer holiday.
They stated: ‘Teachers, support staff and school leaders deserve a break, to recharge and rest.’
They further added: ‘We can confirm that providers offering paid childcare will be able to operate over the summer holidays, in line with protective measures guidance. Additional funded activities may be available in local areas, such as the Holiday Activities and Food scheme.’
It’s great news that children entitled to free school meals can benefit from enriching activities throughout the summer. The Holiday Activities and Food programme will support up to 50,000 disadvantaged children across 17 local authority areas, including Leeds, and help them to stay healthy and active over the summer.
Ten providers, including the Leeds Community Foundation, were successful in their bid for the programme and will be supporting families in need with activities and healthy meals. Activities will include a variety of online and directly delivered physical activities such as dance, yoga, HIIT and adventure play.
September and beyond – plans
The government has not yet published its plans for schools opening in September, but its intention is clear: that all pupils will be back for all the time.
Draft plans have been leaked and published yesterday on the Huffington Post.
These plans are still very much subject to change, but a couple of things are encouraging, including the ability to adapt the curriculum so that we can make sure our pupils catch up on valuable skills in reading, writing and maths. Please be assured we’re committed to doing this in a way which means our children can continue to enjoy a broad and balanced curriculum with enriching and enjoyable experiences.
The plans also raise questions, too. For example, there is a strong emphasis on class bubbles of 30. This means we’ll have to carefully consider how we plan the school day and week, and it might mean we still need to close early for one half day each week. Hopefully, the government’s full plans will provide lots of guidance and detail.