News

Latest news from around the school

Our weekly message (13 November 2020)

Posted on 13 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

It’s so good to keep receiving positive feedback about how we’re doing in these challenging times, including our weekly messages. Many thanks for this. This message kicks off with a gentle reminder. Lower down, there are details about some ways to support your child’s learning at home (whether they’re self-isolating or just in general). We’ve also important advice about your child keeping warm in school and some news about Christmas.

Continuing to take care

This is the end of the ninth week in school and we’re so fortunate that we’ve not burst a bubble – yet. Within your household group and beyond, it can sometimes feel a bit too much of an effort to maintain all the precautions…

  • hands (wash and sanitise them lots during the day)
  • face (wear a mask around people outside of your household)
  • space (maintain 2 metres distance around others)

…however, please do keep helping us keep our schools open for all. In general, respect the national lockdown restrictions, and in school, wear a mask and keep your distance from others at the start and end of the school day.

Supporting your child at home 1 – online activities

Since September, there’s a fairly steady number of children having to stay at home due to Covid. Whether your child is self-isolating or if you’re keen to provide a bit of extra support at home, please do remember we publish an overview of learning for your child to get on with at home on our Home learning page. Contact us if this online approach doesn’t work for you – we can provide paper-based learning if you’re child is self-isolating at home. It’s definitely also worth checking out our Help your child and Calculations and times tables pages which both contain a range of ideas, links and activities – even just a bit of regular practice of times tables and handwriting can make loads of difference!

Talking of times tables, Times Tables Rock Stars is an app and website that we use in school to quicken the recall of tables facts. It’s something that you can use at home, too – your child has their own username and password. (If you don’t have these, or you have any questions, email your child’s class teacher.) Each game is short so you don’t need lots of time. ‘Garage’ is where you’ll find tables set by us whilst ‘Soundcheck’ includes all facts up to 12 x 12.

We’ve just signed up to Numbots, too. Perhaps more suited to younger children or children who need a bit of extra support with the basics, this is a great app and website for practising addition and subtraction facts. Your child can use it at home – they login using the same details they use for Times Tables Rock Stars. There are 15 different games, each with a different focus. Topics covered include doubles and number bonds to 10, 20 and 100.

PhonicsPlay is a great website that teachers in Reception to Year 2 (and sometimes Year 3) use in their daily phonics lessons. In each game, you can select the phase of phonics and, more specifically, which letters (graphemes) and sounds (phonemes) to focus on.  The games are a fun way to practise reading sounds, real words, ‘alien words’ and sentences. Login details are Sphere (user name) and Spher3 (password). Check out the Resources page.

Supporting your child at home 2 – Zoom workshops for you

Normally in the Autumn term, we provide a range of workshops to help you support your child’s learning at home. This year, we’re happy to offer something similar via Zoom…

The sessions – each lasting just 30 minutes – are:

  • Wednesday 18 November: Curriculum
  • Monday 23 November: Reading (mainly for Key Stage 2)
  • Wednesday 25 November: Phonics (mainly for Reception / Key Stage 1)
  • Wednesday 02 December: Maths
  • **Re-scheduled date** Monday 07 December: EYFS (mainly for Reception)
  • Wednesday 09 December: Times Tables

All six sessions start at 6pm. If you’re interested in attending, please send us a message on the School Gateway app or email us at scholesoffice@spherefederation.org. We’ll email the joining details out to all those who express an interest.

Keeping warm

Even though it’s getting colder, it’s important that we keep all areas of school as ventilated as possible. Ideally, the windows and doors should be open all of the time but we obviously don’t want staff or children shivering! We’ve asked teachers to judge the temperature and make a decision on whether it’s realistic to keep windows open during lessons. There’ll be times when it’s just too cold so we’ll open windows and doors when children aren’t in the rooms to blast some fresh air in.

Over the coming months, it’d be great if you could make sure your child has an extra layer on under their uniform or an extra jumper or fleece (unbranded and in the school colour where possible). Don’t forget suitable coats, too.

Christmas is coming…

…really?! Whilst we all wait eagerly for news of what Christmas might look like for ourselves and our families, we can say with some certainty that Christmas at school will be quite different.

Unfortunately, many of the things we do involve gathering large groups of children (and adults) together. Sadly, we won’t be performing any nativity plays for you to come and see. Instead, we’ll aim to share Christmas with you virtually with a few festive fun times. Details of these will be shared nearer the time.

Christmas parties will be held in individual classes with each child asked to bring their own party ‘pack-up’ to enjoy. Again, we’ll share details nearer the time.

Christmas will still be fun – just a little different!

Relationships and Sex Education Policy

Posted on 12 November 2020 by Mrs Quirk

Thank you to those of you who recently responded to our recent consultation about our revised Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) Policy. We’ve taken a good deal of the feedback on board, especially around the notion of consent.

As part of our Living and Learning subject, coming up soon will be some teaching and learning specifically around RSE. Please see the letter and final policy. If you’ve any questions, comments or concerns, please speak with Mr Roundtree or Miss Hague.

Parent / carer workshops

Posted on 09 November 2020 by Mrs Quirk

Normally in the Autumn term, we provide a range of workshops to help you support your child’s learning at home. This year, we’re happy to offer something similar via Zoom…

We’ve arranged six short Zoom sessions led by Sphere Federation leaders on a range of subject areas. Each session will last for just 30 minutes, but will provide a few top tips and guidance as to how to support your child at home. The invitation is open to all parents and carers across Sphere Federation, although we’ve indicated below if the session might be more appropriate for particular age ranges.

The sessions are as follows:

  • Wednesday 18 November: Curriculum
  • Monday 23 November: Reading (mainly for Key Stage 2)
  • Wednesday 25 November: Phonics (mainly for Foundation 2 / Key Stage 1)
  • **re-scheduled date (apologies)** Monday 07 December: EYFS (mainly for Foundation 2)
  • Wednesday 02 December: Maths
  • Wednesday 09 December: Times Tables

All six sessions start at 6pm. They should last around 20-25 minutes, plus there will be a questions and answer session at the end of around 5-10 minutes.

If you are interested in attending any of these Zoom workshops, please could you either send us a message on the School Gateway app or email us at scholesoffice@spherefederation.org. We will then email the Zoom joining details out to all those who have expressed an interest, prior to the session.

We look forward to welcoming you to our virtual workshops!

Our weekly message (06 November 2020)

Posted on 05 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Welcome back to school, and (sadly) to Lockdown 2…

Guidance for schools about the new national restrictions was released just the day before the lockdown kicked in, so we’re still working through any changes – we don’t anticipate too many, thankfully. You may have read headlines about teachers claiming that schools should close. The arguments stem from one particular union, and others disagree. As we said earlier this week, we fully support the decision to keep schools open – children need to be in school to learn and socialise. We can assure you that Sphere Federation schools have been working as hard as we can to keep our schools safe places to learn.

Your child’s a historian this half-term!

With the start of a new half-term comes the start of a new topic. Across Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, children are becoming historians this half-term:

  • children in Years 1 and 2 will learn about the Great Fire of London
  • children in Years 3 and 4 will become experts on Ancient Greece
  • children in Years 5 and 6 will compare the Stone Age and Iron Age in Britain with what was going on in Ancient Egypt at around the same time

Read this one page list of History learning for the half-term ahead – it contains the core learning in terms of both knowledge and skills. (Be aware, though, that because of the closure of schools in Lockdown 1, teachers are being more flexible in their approach to the expectations set out in this document, making sure that missed learning and gaps are being addressed in Reading, Writing and Maths.)

And now, a message from Miss Hague…

Everything I write at the moment seems to start with a reference to Covid and an acknowledgement to how difficult, worrying and serious the situation is. The news is unbearable but just being in school for a few hours is a great antidote. The children and staff have come back to school and are raring to go! Everyone seems to have settled back into our well-established routines and Scholes certainly feels like a happy and healthy place to be.

A few updates…

Lunches: During the last half term, we had to modify our school lunches to a ‘grab-bag’ style service. The catering team are eager to get hot meals back on the menu as quickly as possible but, because of space and the need to keep our bubbles separate, we aren’t able to serve hot meals in the hall, like we used to. As a step towards making hot food available, we’re now offering a revised menu with some hot food options. Read our menu if you’re considering a school meal for your child.

Swimming: I had hoped to be saying that we could begin to use the pool again for our children in school; unfortunately, this isn’t the case.  Government guidance has said that swimming pools should close until December 04. Our pool is now closed to all users until further notice. It’s our intention that we resume using the pool at the earliest and safest point in time.

A few thank yous…

Last half term, we managed to go a full seven weeks without having to collapse a school-based bubble! I’m sure we had luck on our side but I also recognise the huge effort everyone has made, too. From staggered start and finishing times (thank you, parents) to staggered breaks and lunches (thank you, staff)… From relentless cleaning of our school (thank you, premises staff) to the understanding and dedication of our children… Well done, everyone!

As always, if you’ve any questions, concerns or comments, please do speak with me. I’m pretty much always at the gate in the morning or at the end of the school day.

New national lockdown

Posted on 02 November 2020 by Mr Roundtree

The Department for Education have been sending schools daily emails since the start of the coronavirus crisis. This is an extract from today’s email. We fully support the decision to keep schools open – children need to be in school to learn and socialise. We can assure you that Sphere Federation schools have been working as hard as we can to keep our schools safe places to learn…

On Saturday 31 October, the Prime Minister announced new national restrictions that will come into force on Thursday 5 November for 4 weeks until Wednesday 2 December.

We will continue to prioritise the wellbeing and long-term futures of our children and young people and will not be closing early years settings, schools, colleges or universities. It remains very important for children and young people to attend, to support their wellbeing and education and help working parents and guardians. Senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be, and so they should continue to go to school.

Until Thursday 5 November, the relevant Local COVID Alert Level measures will continue to apply in the area where you live. From Thursday, the national restrictions replace the local restrictions in your area.

Relationships and Sex Education - consultation

Posted on 26 October 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Thank you to those of you who submitted your thoughts about our recent online consultation.

From September 2020, Relationships Education and Health Education are now statutory and form part of the National Curriculum. As a result of the changes, we’ve updated our Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) policy. We were keen to hear your views as parents / carers alongside the views of teachers and governors.

We asked three main questions, below. We can’t promise to take on board every view in our final policy, but we will definitely consider each one.

Are there any changes or additions that you think should be made to the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) policy?

Two themes came across strongly in the responses to this question: mental wellbeing (comments included ‘I would love to see emphasis on the child’s relationship with themself eg how they should learn to be kind to themselves as well as kind to others’ ) and consent (‘Talking to even young children about their rights over their body and their right to say they don’t like something, obviously in an age appropriate way – you can say you don’t like being tickled etc ‘).

We already do a lot to promote positive mental health, and we’ll continue to explore ways we can build on this – it’s obviously important. We’ve also started to introduce the notion of consent – asking if a pupil gives consent to have their photo taken, even. We’ll definitely ensure consent in the context of relationships and sex will be stressed.

What do you believe is the most important subject area of RSE that should be taught for different year groups and why?

Consent strongly featured in this section, too. This might be specifically mentioned (‘For very young children I think the focus should be on privates being private and the pants rule. For older children the focus should be around age of consent and how important it to adhere to that and what is meant by consent’) or in more general terms (‘Mutual respect across the board’).

Various other things were mentioned here, including accessing safe health information online, LGBTQ and diversity, and online grooming.

Is there an area of RSE that you think should not be taught for different year groups and why?

The vast majority of respondents replied ‘no’ to this question: ‘No. I think it is very important that these things are taught in school’. Two respondents who had concerns left their contact details so we’ll be able to speak with them and hopefully reassure them. Every year before children in Year 5 and 6 have lessons around physical changes and reproduction, parents will be invited to a session to discuss the content and the delivery, so each year there will be a similar chance to reassure people.

If you’ve any questions, comments or concerns about Relationships and Sex Education, please do contact us. In the meantime, thanks again to those who responded to our consultation.

Thank you...

Posted on 26 October 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Friday’s weekly message began with a thank you from us to you:

Most importantly this week, we want to say a big thank you for working with us to keep our schools safe places. We’ve had to make lots of changes to routines, and we keep having to review and tweak what we do. Throughout the half-term, we’ve appreciated your support. It seems to have paid off in that – despite some near misses – all three schools have yet to close a bubble. That may only be a matter of time; we’ll continue to be as rigorous and relentless about staying safe as we have been.

We’ve really appreciated your support and words of encouragement this term so far.

It’s also nice to have received this letter of thanks from Leeds City Council’s Director of Children and Families which recognises the efforts of all school staff, whether classroom-based or support staff.

Have a happy, healthy and safe half-term holiday.

Our weekly message (23 October 2020)

Posted on 23 October 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Our teachers are all in school (or Zooming in) for the final day of the half-term. We wish you all a happy and healthy half-term.

Thank you

Most importantly this week, we want to say a big thank you for working with us to keep our schools safe places. We’ve had to make lots of changes to routines, and we keep having to review and tweak what we do. Throughout the half-term, we’ve appreciated your support. It seems to have paid off in that – despite some near misses – all three schools have yet to close a bubble. That may only be a matter of time; we’ll continue to be as rigorous and relentless about staying safe as we have been.

Testing times

Children in Key Stage 2 have had some tests in Reading and Maths recently. Having left it a few weeks for children to settle down and feel comfortable at school again, we decided to carry out these assessments in order to further explore the impact of lockdown on children’s attainment. It’s early days and we’ve not analysed the results in a lot of detail, but we’ve been pleased with the results so far. This is a credit to your child, and also to you as you supported your child’s learning during lockdown.

Happy and healthy

A recent Talk Time homework for children in Key Stage 1 and 2 was to complete an online survey about health. Thanks to all the children for completing and returning the survey, and to you for supporting your child to do this. The results are really useful for us to think about priorities for the future, and they’re also encouraging in how positive they are.

Probably the most important question we asked was ‘Do you feel safe at school?’ and we’re pleased that across Sphere Federation schools, over 97% of pupils indicated a very positive response. 97% is good, but we want all children to feel safe all the time. In parent-teacher meetings this week, we followed up the very few responses that indicated only ‘some of the time’ with parents or carers. Quite often, the cause of concern lay with coronavirus (for example, one teacher reports ‘this was due to coronavirus in general. Nothing about school or being here makes [the pupil] feel unsafe… Dad has reassured me that [the pupil] is happy and comfortable in school’). Other reasons for the few who said they only sometimes feel safe included choosing the wrong response by accident, falling over and seeing a wasp!

Has your child got a mobile phone?

There are lots of benefits to having a phone, but drawbacks, too. We strongly encourage you to make sure your child has the BBC Own It app installed. It can help to guide your child if they’re exposed to things that upset them, and it can even question the user if it seems like they’re about to send unkind or hurtful messages.

And some Covid catch-ups…

Check out his website for a useful summary of where you can go for a Covid-19 test in Leeds.

In last week’s message, we set out a definition of ‘close contact‘. We were a bit ahead of the game on that one – just a couple of hours later, we were asked to communicate the definition by Leeds Schools Health, Safety & Wellbeing Team. The definition is pretty much what we said last week:

A person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 any time from two days before the person was symptomatic (or two days before a test if no symptoms) up to ten days from the onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). For schools’ purposes, a close contact can be:

A person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, including being coughed on; having a face-to-face conversation within one metre; having skin-to-skin physical contact; or contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact.

A person who has been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 for more than 15 minutes.

A person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

It’s important we’re clear about what a close contact is to avoid Test and Trace telling people to self-isolate when they don’t actually need to.

Once again, have a happy and healthy half-term holiday. Stay safe (and sane).

Thanks!

Posted on 20 October 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Thank you to all those who donated to the Harvest collection for the Salvation Army.

Our weekly message (16 October 2020)

Posted on 16 October 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This week’s message includes reference to the Health and Safety Executive and to coronavirus contacts. (There’s no connection whatsoever between these articles and the last feature, which is about ghastly ghouls and beastly bugs!) Most  importantly, though, we start the message with a reminder about an important Sphere Federation survey…

Relationships and Sex Education

A chance to tell us your views about an important policy update…

From September 2020, Relationships Education and Health Education are now statutory and form part of the National Curriculum. As a result of the changes, we’ve updated our Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) policy and we’re now consulting with parents, staff and governors. Your views are important to us. We welcome your feedback on the policy via this short survey. The survey will be open until Friday 23 October.

To help you understand the requirements further, we’ve emailed you with additional information, including the draft policy itself. Contact us if you haven’t received this. In addition, you might like to look at the following websites:

  • DfE statutory guidance on Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education
  • Guide for parents on Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education
  • List of FAQs for parents on the new RSE/Relationships Education requirements

Looking after our children, looking after our staff

We’re confident in our Sphere schools that we’ve done everything we reasonably can to make sure they’re happy, healthy and safe places to learn

Since schools opened in September for the new school year, representatives from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have been contacting schools to check on procedures in place to make sure schools have taken enough precautions to safeguard children and staff in the context of coronavirus. None of the Sphere Federation schools were contacted. However, from a wider perspective, it’s reassuring to note that it’s been reported that the HSE has been highly impressed with the work schools have done.

People have told us that Track and Trace staff have sometimes been sending out mixed messages, and sometimes the messages don’t match the advice schools have been given. When in doubt, we’ve been able to contact a Department for Education helpline. The advice we’ve been given on the helpline has been helpful. They advise we follow closely our own risk assessments.

Employers must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect staff, pupils and others from coronavirus (COVID-19) within the education setting.

Department for Education, 01.10.20

We want our schools to be happy, healthy and safe places to work, too…

We’re doing our best to look after our staff, too. All staff had the opportunity to have flu jab recently, and they’ve all got access to the Employee Assistance Programme, a service that provides a variety of support for education staff. These aren’t new things we’re doing because of the pandemic – we’ve provided them for a few years now.

What’s counts as a contact?

Someone from Public Health England has communicated with us recently, and we thought some of the information about contacts which they sent to us might be useful for you to know about…

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 any time from two days before the person was symptomatic up to ten days from the onset of symptoms. This period is when they are infectious to others. For example, a contact can be:

  • people who spend significant time in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • sexual partners
  • a person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including being coughed on; having a face-to-face conversation within one metre; having skin-to-skin physical contact; or contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes
  • a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

Beastly bugs and ghastly ghouls

Any plans for half-term? Perhaps a trip to Temple Newsam House is in order…

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Beastly bugs have discovered 5 star accommodation at Temple Newsam House. They’ve booked their staycation for Halloween week when the ghastly ghouls from years gone by pay their annual visit. Meet past residents and hear ghostly tales as you explore this 500 year old building. Follow the bug trail around the house, spot the miniature bug rooms and pick up your own Beastly Bug Craft pack to take home.

Visit between 11am to 4pm from Saturday 24 October to Friday 30 October (and be aware the house is closed on Monday 26 October). Pre-book your tickets to avoid disappointment. 

Following lockdown, Temple Newsam House has been open to the public for a few weeks now. They’ve had great feedback on the Covid precautions that they’ve put in place.