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Latest news from around the school

Remarkable Writing

Posted on 28 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

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

Hi everyone,

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

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

In St James’… How awesome is this?

In Moortown, Y6… What a great effort!

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

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

Scholes (Elmet) children have been really creative too…

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

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

Today’s message (Wednesday 27 January 2021)

Posted on 27 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

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

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

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

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

In non-Covid-related news, Mrs Latham is in the process of ordering some new outdoor equipment for the Key Stage 1 playground. It’s similar to the equipment in our front playground and looks fantastic. The quad area (the little enclosed space hidden from the rest of the playgrounds), which FOSP has helped us develop, is taking shape. It now has grass (artificial, so it can stay looking smart all year round), and the picnic benches have arrived and just need constructing. We can’t wait to get using it when the weather improves!

As always, get in touch if you have any concerns or questions.

Stay safe.

Thanks to Miss Hague for today’s message.

Today’s message (Tuesday 26 January 2021)

Posted on 26 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve another online safety message next Tuesday.

Today’s message (Monday 25 January 2021)

Posted on 25 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s message (Friday 22 January 2021)

Posted on 22 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

How’re you getting on? These are tough times for us all. Try to find time to rest, recuperate and recover at the weekend. Today,  is a mix of short messages…

Have you received a phone call from us? During this period, teachers and teaching assistants are making regular phone calls to review and reflect on how you and your child are getting on. This means you might get a call from a withheld number because some staff will be using their mobile phones or home landlines.

Is your child joining the daily Zooms? Teachers are telling us these are proving to be useful opportunities to provide feedback on how the learning is going, and to guide children in some way. They’re also a chance to socialise with classmates. When your child joins the Zooms, please make sure they follow the points set out on page 10 of our Home Learning Policy, and listed here, too:

  • call from the living room or kitchen, not a bedroom
  • wear appropriate clothes, not pyjamas
  • stay in the same spot, not move around
  • follow our school rules

Also, the Zoom name used should be one that makes your child easily identifiable – page 11 of the Home Learning Policy sets out how to change this.

One more important message:

The parent-teacher meetings for the last week of this half-term (week beginning 08 February 2021) are postponed. We’ve done this for two reasons: hopefully, the phone calls and emails between you and your child’s class teacher should be keeping you updated, and we think a meeting (likely by Zoom) would be better once your child is back at school, when we can update you on how well they’re doing once schools are open again.

And finally, this online magazine proved popular in the Spring-Summer lockdown…

Have a good weekend.

Today’s message (Thursday 21 January 2021)

Posted on 21 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Our message today follows on from yesterday’s…

…when we provided you with a one-page list of the geographical words and phrases from the current Geography topic.

Check out our Curriculum Statement for a similar list of the key scientific words and phrases for this half-term’s Science topics, along with an overview of the learning (the age-related expectations) for each topic:

  • Year 1 and 2: Everyday materials (a chemistry topic – read pages 38-40 – it’s the Cycle B topic that children are doing)
  • Year 3 and 4: Rocks, soils and fossils (also a chemistry topic – also pages 38-40)
  • Year 5 and 6: Earth and space (a physics topic – see pages 41-43)

To support your child to learn and use the words, you could:

  • encourage them to research the words and find out more about them
  • create a wordsearch or a crossword
  • quiz your child the to see if they can match the words and the definitions
  • play a could of rounds of Articulate (even if you don’t have the board game) by describing a word without actually saying it

As the topic progresses over the half-term, talk with your child about which words and phrases they’re learning in the recorded session.

Contact your child’s class teacher for help finding the Science vocabulary in our Curriculum Statement.

Today’s message (Wednesday 20 January 2021)

Posted on 20 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Our message today is about learning in Topic this half-term. This message was written in December and intended to go out at the start of the half-term, but events overtook us a little, so here’s a slightly tweaked version…

Each week, two of the seven daily sessions are Topic and two are Science.

In Topic, children in Key Stage 1 and 2 are geographers this half-term – geography is the main focus for Topic learning. The theme is about the environment and/or natural disasters:

  • Year 1 and 2 children are learning about their local environment
  • Year 3 and 4 learners are finding out more about volcanoes and earthquakes
  • Year 5 and 6 pupils are learning about climate change and the link with seas and oceans

You can help at home by checking out the geographical words and phrases that will be focused on during the topic. Encourage your child to research the words and find out more about them. As the topic progresses over the half-term, talk with your child about which words and phrases they’ve learnt about in the recorded home learning sessions.

Today's message (Tuesday 19 January 2021)

Posted on 19 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message features three points and links to support home learning…

Homework and spellings

It will probably be a relief to know that we’re not setting any of the usual homework tasks during this period of home learning. However, we’re still providing your child with a list of spellings to learn – you can find the list as a link on Monday’s home learning. Just like in normal times, it would be a good idea to plan in some time each day when your child learns the spellings, and then test your child, just like we’d do in school.

This is important as spelling is an area where more children appeared to fall back a bit in the Spring-Summer lockdown.

It sounds too simple, but another powerfully effective way to support your child with their spelling is to make sure they’re reading every day: the more your child is exposed to written words, the more the words will become familiar in terms of spelling.

Phonics

In the Autumn 2 half-term, we hosted a series of Zoom sessions where teachers in school guided you to ways to support your child’s learning at home. All the sessions were well-received, but perhaps the best-attended session was the one about phonics – a fundamental strategy to support effective reading and writing.

Following the session, we recorded two presentations which might help you with home learning:

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 (the Year 1 phonics screening check which is mentioned is cancelled for Summer 2021).

SATs and other assessments

Talking of cancelled assessments, no SATs or other formal assessments will take place in this school year. This includes end of Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs (and the phonics screening check mentioned above).

In normal times, we have a schedule of internal assessments that we carry out across all year groups. We plan to continue with at least some of these – they’ll help to identify any aspects of Reading, Writing and Maths that we should especially focus on.

It’s these internal assessments from the Autumn term that helped to identify that times tables and spellings were the most common two areas where pupils appeared to have fallen back on:

  • for times tables, that’s why we’re encouraging Times Tables Rock Stars so much right now, and this page on our website might help, too.
  • for spellings, we’re continuing to provide a list of spellings to learn, as we described above.

As always, contact us with any questions, comments or particular concerns that you may have.

Today’s message (Monday 18 January 2021)

Posted on 18 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

We hope you all had a happy and healthy – and safe – weekend. The roll-out of vaccinations appears to be going well and there are reasons to be optimistic, despite today being what’s known as Blue Monday (and more on that later).

Like last week, we begin Monday’s message with links to a recorded assembly for your child to watch at some point in the week:

The home learning for the week ahead has been published – nearly always, the links are published by around 5pm on Friday. This means you’ve got a chance to prepare for the week ahead. Thanks to those of you who alerted us to some links that didn’t allow access to the recorded clips – since recording and saving those, we’ve moved to recording on an upgraded version of Screencast-O-Matic and that should help resolve this problem in the future.

We’ve had lots of really positive comments about the home learning, such as this one:

‘[She] is still loving the new learning system and able to work a lot more independently… We were happy to read other people were finding the seven lessons a push some days and we didn’t feel so naughty missing one out.’

Do let us know any questions, comments or concerns you might have. We can’t guarantee we can act on every suggestion for improvement, but we will consider them.

Finally, we did say we’d return to ‘Blue Monday’… The idea of today, the third Monday in January, being labelled as the most depressing in the year stems from a story that a university professor calculating this using many factors, including weather conditions, debt level, and time since failing our new year’s resolutions. In reality, Blue Monday is a PR stunt, originally dreamed up to sell holidays.

Regardless of whether it’s today or any other day in the year, do let us know if you’re having a particularly rough time of it and you think we might be able to help in some way.

Today’s message (Friday 15 January 2021)

Posted on 15 January 2021 by Mr Roundtree

We closed school for all pupils because of the icy conditions and forecast for freezing temperatures throughout the day. If you’ve had to travel, we hope you managed to do so safely.

Our daily Zoom sessions

These are proving popular and are well-attended. They’re a chance to review and reflect on the learning that’s been happening, and there should be time for your child to check on how they’ve carried out any task. If your child joins a Zoom, please make sure it’s in the living room or kitchen or some other appropriate space – not a bedroom. On page 10 of our Home Learning guide, you’ll find a few other points for you and your child to follow, too.

Tailoring the home learning for your child

Our assessments show that the vast majority of children didn’t fall behind too much in the Spring/Summer lockdown, and they were able to make rapid progress – our December assessments were really encouraging.

Where children did fall behind, two areas stand out for the majority of our pupils – and these are actually fairly straightforward to support at home:

  • times tables – that’s why we’re encouraging Times Tables Rock Stars so much right now, and this page on our website might help, too
  • spellings – during this period, we’re continuing to provide a list of spellings to learn and from 5pm today, you’ll be able to find that list alongside one of the recorded lessons for the week; this means you can be building in daily practice sessions where your child should practise their spellings, and then you could test them on a Friday just like they’d be tested at school

Contact your child’s teacher for specific areas to work on as well as times tables and spellings. The teacher will guide you to which of the seven daily sessions are most important to do.

Fitting in all the home learning sessions

Ideally, we’d like every child learning from home to do all seven daily lessons. As we said on Wednesday, that’s a lot, and so you might need to be realistic about how many you can do – five would be good as a general rule. Our advice is to do at least one from each ‘colour’ on page 2 of the Home Learning Guide. This means doing just one of the two Reading sessions, and just one of the two Writing sessions – but do the full series rather than chop and change each day. (Reading and Writing are subjects are subjects where your child won’t miss out: a lot of the learning is practice, and where there’s new learning, it’ll be returned to again in the school year or future years – this is what’s sometimes called a ‘spiral curriculum’.)

As well as doing just four or five of the sessions, there are other ways to fit things into the day if you find your child is taking a long time:

  • if the teacher gives a task like writing out several sentences/answers, limit the number of sentences/answers to just the first one or two
  • your child could say the answers out loud rather than write them down
  • choose to end the session after about 30 minutes, even if it’s not yet finished, so you’ve got time for the other sessions planned
  • think about starting the day earlier, like at 8am, if this helps fit things into a routine that works well for the family

We’d love to hear other ways you’re making home learning work – we’ll share any top tips with others.

It’s been a busy week, but we’ve made it to Friday! This lockdown situation is stressful for us all but we’re confident you’re doing a good job. We hope you have a happy and healthy weekend.