Latest news from around the school

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)


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. 

Today’s message (Thursday 07 January 2021)

Posted on 07 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message focuses on home learning. Even if your child is still coming into school, it’s important that you know about this in case your child has to self-isolate.

Our seven daily lessons will begin tomorrow. Please bear with us if there are one or two glitches.

Our daily live Zoom sessions will begin on Monday afternoon (at 2pm for most classes, but some teachers may have to vary this). These sessions are with teachers to review and reflect on the day’s learning – they’re optional, so your child can attend on some days and not others. Again, please bear with us if there are glitches in the first few days.

To support all this, we’ve prepared a Home Learning Guide. In the guide, you’ll find the following:

  • Page 1: an introduction
  • Page 2: the seven daily lessons and who’ll deliver them
  • Page 3: some tips and guidance to help you support your child
  • Page 4: email addresses
  • Pages 5-8: sample blank timetables to help you and your child get a good routine going (some of the timetables feature just five sessions if that feels appropriate – perhaps better for younger children, for example)
  • Page 9: a short policy on emailing between home and school
  • Page 10: a short policy on Zoom calls between home and school, in readiness for the live sessions each afternoon
  • Page 11: brief guidance about some aspects of using Zoom
  • Page 12 onwards: our technology acceptable use policies for pupils, parents/carers and staff

We know the very vast majority of children returned from the last lockdown period happy and healthy learners with not too many gaps – that’s testament to the great home learning you provided your child last time round.

Today’s message (Wednesday 06 January 2021)

Posted on 06 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Thank you for the encouraging messages we’ve received this week. Today’s message is a brief update and summary following yesterday’s much longer one…

Safe bubbles for key worker children

As you know, schools are closed to all children except those of key workers (officially referred to as ‘critical workers’) and some who might be classed as vulnerable in some way. We’re now operating with reduced numbers of children in school (although far greater than in Spring 2020). Thank you for communicating and co-operating with us to keep these numbers low so that we protect the children and staff who are in school.

Arrangements for home learning

Please call in to school if you’d like a Home Learning exercise book and some pencils to support your child at home.

Please contact us if you or your child is struggling to access the online learning. We can provide paper-based learning for those who need this.

Home learning sessions will begin on Friday. These will be in the form of pre-recorded presentations, each lasting around 30 minutes. We’ve also bought for all children in Year 5 and Year 6 three (for Y5) and four (for Y6) CGP workbooks – these proved popular alternatives to the online learning in the Summer last year. If you haven’t already received these, please call in to school to collect them.

There will also be a live daily ‘drop-in’ Zoom session in the afternoon. These will typically start at 2pm (although some teachers will have to arrange a different time – they’ll let you know) and will usually be with the child’s class teacher – children who are in school may also join in sometimes. The sessions will be an opportunity to review and reflect on the learning that’s happening.

Like last time, teachers are also available if you’d like to email with questions and comments about the learning, and – importantly – to share the learning that your child has done.

Yet another national lockdown is tough for us all in lots of different ways. Please stay safe (and sane), and help those around you to do the same.

Today's message (Tuesday 05 January 2021)

Posted on 05 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

The Prime Minister made his announcement about the national lockdown at 8pm last night. The Department for Education sent its daily coronavirus update email to schools (which normally arrives at around 1pm) at 10.50pm last night. Read more about the national lockdown.

We think it’s right that the government has taken decisive action to keep school communities (children, families, staff and others) safe. We appreciate this is a rapidly moving situation and that decisions have to be made quickly in light of the changing data.

The timing of this decisive action has placed huge demands on us all:

  • You‘ve had to make last minute arrangements to sort out childcare or work arrangements (thank you for doing this).
  • We‘re still working hard to sort out safe bubbles for key worker children and arrangements for home learning.

Safe bubbles for key worker children

This is our priority right now. Sorting this out will mean we can have more children in school, meaning those with a genuine critical role to play can carry on with their jobs.

Thank you for working with us today – only a handful of children have been in school.

We asked that you complete an online form if you’re a key worker who needs a place in school. Across Sphere Federation (and in other schools across the country), the demand for places has been huge – much higher than last time.

The Prime Minister’s message is that schools are closed and must move to remote provision. Whilst he said that schools were safe, he also said schools may ‘act as vectors of transmission, causing the virus to spread between households’. We need to protect the children who are in school – and staff – and that means keeping numbers low. The new virus strain isn’t known to be more harmful, but it is known to be much more easy to pass on – this makes it even more important to keep numbers low in school.

Because of the very high demand for places, and following communications with other schools in Sphere and beyond the federation, we need to restrict places.

We need everyone to think carefully about their childcare needs. We have a duty to open to children of key workers, and to children who may be vulnerable in some way, but we also have a duty to restrict numbers to stop the spread of the virus.

Arrangements for home learning

This is our other top priority right now.

Sphere Federation schools have had provision in place for home learning for some months now. On 15 December 2020, the Department for Education published guidance on providing remote education information to parents – we’d done this weeks earlier and met all the recommendations in the guidance.

The problem is that neither the Department for Education’s guidance, nor our own current home learning guide and policies, factored in another full national lockdown.

We’re working hard to put in place provision that will go over and above the Department for Education’s requirements.

Our plans will include seven daily learning sessions, each lasting around 30 minutes. We think these shorter ‘bursts’ of learning will be more accessible for children than longer sessions. Six of the sessions will be delivered by Sphere Federation teachers who work in the same phase as your child, with the seventh being a daily Maths lesson from White Rose Maths, which we use in school. (There will be an extra lesson each week, Religious Education, available especially for children at St James’ CE Primary, but open to all.)

We know some of you will want to see live Zoom lessons happen. We don’t currently plan to do this for various reasons, including the fact timings are inflexible (families with two or more children may not have enough devices, or good enough broadband, to access the lessons at the same time); and we still need to have teachers working in the classrooms to support children in school (it’s hard to deliver a Zoom session while there are children in the classroom). We do plan, however, to provide daily ‘drop-in’ Zoom sessions in the afternoon with the child’s class teacher – an opportunity to review and reflect on the learning that’s happening. Our teachers are also keen to read any emails you send with updates about your child’s learning, and they might call you at home for updates, too. (Do let us know if something like this would help support your child’s learning.)

And we know some of you need access to electronic devices. You might have heard talk of schools being able to provide devices to support home learning. These devices are supplied by government and are extremely limited – quite possibly even more so now. If you’re struggling to access the online learning, please contact Miss Hague. We can provide paper-based learning as an alternative, for example.

The daily lessons will begin on Friday this week – a good opportunity for your child to begin to familiarise themselves with their new online teachers.

We’re working really hard at the moment, so please bear with is. Nevertheless, if you do have any questions, comments or concerns, do get in touch. We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to get back to you as soon as we’d normally like, but we’ll do our best.

Home learning

Posted on 05 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Home learning activities are available on the school website. Go to the Learn More section and then the Home Learning page. There are activities for the full week.

We’ve been preparing these learning activities for some time. We’ll be moving towards some of our own ‘prepared-for-broadcast’ lessons and daily Zoom meetings as soon as we can assess pupil numbers and staffing numbers in school. In the meantime, check out the Learning Activities ‘box’ that’s on the page, and also consult the Home Learning Guide and Policies – you’ll find a home learning schedule there which might help, for example.

Important message (04 January 2020)

Posted on 04 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

The Prime Minister’s announcement that schools should close from tomorrow for all pupils except children of key workers and those deemed vulnerable was made at 8pm this evening. School leaders did not receive any prior notice.


I’m sure you’ll appreciate that this very short notice has left us no time to make arrangements. As a result, I’ve agreed with the Heads of School that Sphere schools will be closed tomorrow for all pupils.

The only exception we’re able to make for tomorrow (Tuesday 05 January) is for children of key workers where there are absolutely no alternative options. If this is the case, please arrive at school at the normal time with a drink and packed lunch for your children. Unfortunately, we can only accommodate a small number of pupils tomorrow. It would really help if you contact your employer who should be sympathetic to your childcare needs under these exceptional circumstances.


We need to plan for the longer-term. Please complete this online form before noon on Tuesday 05 January if you’re a key worker who definitely needs to send your child to school.

Please note:

  • Because of staffing, if your child comes to school, they will access the same learning as those children who remain at home.
  • Please only complete the form if you have a definite need.

Read what the definitions of key workers are.


We’re very sorry for these last minute changes but you’ll understand they’re beyond our control. Thank you for your continued co-operation. Be assured we’ll keep you updated with our plans.