This week’s message (Friday 25 March 2022)
Posted on 25 March 2022 by Mr Roundtree
This week’s message comes from Mrs Weekes, our Head of School…
The longer days are certainly making everyone feel that Spring’s in the air – that always makes people smile.
It’s clear from absences that Covid is still very much present in the community; thanks for your vigilance and support in trying to keep our staff and children safe.
Next week is a busy one. We’re recruiting on Monday for a teacher to take over from Miss Wilson for next year – this will be a maternity cover (and may not necessarily be in Year 6, so candidates will visit different classes across Monday morning). Teachers will send home your child’s second Learning Update of the year, too – look out for them on Wednesday.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated you about The Green (our affectionate name for the land at the back of school). Just this week we’ve received £1000 – £500 from John Lewis and £500 from Waitrose. Some of our Junior Leadership Team accepted the cheque which has gone straight into the funding pot. We’ve also just received some drawings and plans that need perusing so that we can get a definite plan in place. It’s all taking a lot of time but be reassured that there’s lots of work going on behind the scenes.
A very generous donation from an ex-pupil has meant that we could renew the playground markings and we’re really pleased with them – some great comments from the children, too. What about encouraging your child to hopscotch as they come into school (and then you hopscotch as you leave!).
As you know, I really enjoy being at the gate in the mornings and seeing everyone arrive at school. However, I seem to be standing there a very long time when most families arrive after 8.40 am. In the summer term, the internal school gates will not open until 8.40 am. This means there will be no adult at the gate until that time. If your child is on the premises before then, they must be supervised to ensure they’re safe. This arrangement will be reviewed before the end of the school year.
Finally, thanks for all your support in our fundraising efforts. Our sponsored number facts event was a great success and we’ll be able to update you on the total raised before the end of term – get that money in by the end of Thursday 31 March!
I hope you have a happy and healthy weekend – it’s Mothers Day on Sunday (and don’t forget to put your clocks forward this weekend!).
This week’s message (Friday 18 March 2022)
Posted on 18 March 2022 by Mr Roundtree
Almost exactly two years ago, schools were closing for the start of the first lockdown. Numbers of Covid-positive cases are rising again, and we’re really noticing that in our Sphere Federation schools – we’ve had close to ten staff members absent each day this week.
On a much more positive note, with daffodils springing up and the weather looking brighter, it’s really starting to feel like Spring.
This week, amongst the various messages, we’ve one related to Covid. We’ll start with an important one about reading…
The benefits of reading at home
A recent news article caught our eye. The article talks about a research study about trips to museums and art articles, which suggests that such activities don’t improve exam results. (The article also points out other research indicates cultural trips like these have lots of other benefits, even that they ‘could actually lead to a longer life’.)
What we thought was more significant was the findings about reading – findings that come as no surprise:
…researchers did find that reading activities by both parents and their children played a role in exam grades. They measured activities such as reading for pleasure, visiting a library and discussing books at home. Such activities boosted GCSE scores by a significant amount.
Parents often ask how they can support their child more. Our advice would always be to make sure your child’s reading and talking about what they’re reading.
Brighten someone’s day
The theme of this year’s Comic Relief fundraiser is ‘You’ – inspiring people to do something, however modest, to brighten someone’s day. A lot of those uplifting actions, we’d venture, can easily be accomplished online. Check out this poster highlighting ways that we can all spread some much-needed happiness through the digital world. What about each person in your household agreeing to do one thing each week?
Dealing with worrying content online
In contrast, this poster addresses the timely and delicate issue of speaking with children about worrying content they’ve seen online. Your child, by now, could well be very aware of the situation in Ukraine, even if they’re not quite old enough to comprehend it fully. Many will have watched or read potentially upsetting news items online covering the invasion – and, in all likelihood, will need extra reassurance from trusted adults during these unsettling days. Check out the practical advice on raising the subject with young ones, allowing them to express their concerns, and helping them to avoid feeling overwhelmed by their fears.
Covid vaccination for at-risk 5 to 11 year olds
The Department for Education has asked us to share the following information with parents and carers of at-risk 5 to 11 year olds…
Children aged 5 to 11 years who are in a clinical risk group or who live with someone who is immunosuppressed can get the COVID-19 vaccine, in line with advice set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Eligible children include those with diabetes, immunosuppression, learning disabilities, and other conditions as outlined by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in the Green Book.
Vaccinations help to increase protection against COVID-19, which is particularly important for those with underlying health conditions.
Further information is available in the guide for parents of children aged 5 to 11 years published by UKHSA. We have published some frequently asked questions on the vaccination programme including information on eligibility, accessibility and advice for parents of children at high risk from COVID-19. Following advice from the JCVI, healthy 5 to 11 year old children will also be offered two 10 microgram doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The NHS will prepare to extend this non-urgent offer to all children during April.
The Big Walk and Wheel 2022
Get set… we’re taking part in Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel 2022, the UK’s largest inter-school cycling, walking, wheeling and scooting challenge. The challenge runs from 21 March to 1 April. It’s free and we’d love everyone to be involved.
Please do your best to walk, scoot or cycle to school on as many days as possible during the event. Park and stride trips can also be included (Marks and Spencer car park provides this facility).
Getting to school by walking or wheels is a great way to build physical activity in children’s daily routine which is important for their physical health and mental wellbeing. Active school runs also help to reduce congestion and air pollution outside the school gate. A 2021 YouGov study showed nearly half of UK children worry about air pollution near their school. And that children thought active travel was the best way to bring down these pollution levels.
Plus there are some great prizes to be won every day if we get enough children taking part!
As we said at the start of the message, it’s really starting to feel like Spring’s in the air. Enjoy that feeling this weekend!
This week’s message (Friday 11 March 2022)
Posted on 11 March 2022 by Mr Roundtree
This week’s message comes from Mr Wilks, who leads on Science and Foundation subjects. Each half-term, Mr Wilks talks about the current whole-school topic – this time, it’s about Computing…
What do we mean by topics?
Topics are the vehicle for delivering much of the learning in the foundation subjects (eg history, art, geography, DT). Each half-termly topic has a ‘driving’ subject – the main focus for teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life. The driver changes with each topic to ensure a broad and balanced curriculum.
Although the learning in each topic is provided by the driving subject, there are opportunities for enrichment through other subjects. For example, learning in an art topic may be enriched by geography learning about where an artist was born and lived.
Read more about the intent, implementation and impact of our topics.
What is this half-term’s topic?
This half-term, it’s Computing. Your child will develop their knowledge of computers and computer programming.
Computer programming is super. Creating games, animations and solving real world problems is fun, encourages creativity and is challenging! Importantly, the skills children will use and develop are transferable to other subjects and areas of life. For example, the concept of decomposition in programming is concerned with breaking down a large task into smaller chunks. This concept could be used when writing a story, solving a maths problem or tidying a particularly messy bedroom! Debugging is the skill of identifying and fixing an error in a program. It requires systematic, objective thinking and plenty of resilience.
Each phase has age-related specific knowledge, skills and vocabulary that they’ll learn, use and apply across the topic. See pages 15-18 of the curriculum statement document.
Years 1 and 2
Children are learning about how technology is used beyond school in our homes and all around us. They’re considering what a computer is and isn’t.
In programming lessons, they’re being introduced to algorithms and will learn about how they need to be written in the correct sequence.
They’re creating their own algorithms in ‘unplugged computing’ lessons and will debug errors in their own and others’ algorithms. Next, they’ll plan and create their own unplugged game where they have to create an algorithm to move a character from one place to another using positional language.
They’ll then use the same concepts using Beebots – simple robots which can be programmed to move and turn. Finally, it’ll be time to create their own game using Beebots.
Years 3 and 4
Children will reason about what exactly makes a computer a computer. Is a games console a computer? Is a TV a computer? Is a bedside lamp a computer? Next, they’ll learn about inputs and outputs and identify different examples of them in everyday technology.
It’s then time for programming. Like Key Stage 1, they begin with some ‘unplugged computing’. They’ll create and debug unplugged programs which use sequence and repetition before they then create their own unplugged game which will require some decomposition. Next, it’s time to program on a platform called Scratch Jr. It’s a free app available on most devices and will allow children to develop and refine their understanding and use of concepts like repetition and sequence. Finally, they’ll create their own game on Scratch Jr using all of the skills they’ve learned over the topic. They’ll to be creative to plan and design their own game, whether it’s a maze game or a simple platform game.
Years 5 and 6
As in Year 3 and 4, children begin the topic by reasoning about what makes a computer a computer. They’ll then learn about what a computer network is and that the Internet is an enormous computer network. In programming lessons, they’ll use Scratch to gain a deeper understanding of concepts like sequence and repetition before learning about selection and variables. Some of this vocabulary may sound alien to you. However, before the end of the topic, your child will be able to tell you what they mean and give examples of how they’ve used them in their projects. Some of the projects your child might make are:
- a Spirograph style drawing animation with some potentially psychedelic visual effects!
- a chatbot program which will ask you questions and decide if your responses are correct or not.
- a times table quiz program that will test you on randomly selected times table questions within a set time limit.
How can you help?
Talk to your child about what they’ve been learning in class. The class news page of the school website is a good place to go to find out more about what children are doing.
The school library and local libraries have lots of books about coding and computer games – your child will be able to borrow the books to develop both their reading skills and computing knowledge.
Finally, try programming with your child. There are loads of programming apps and software available to download, often for free…
Key Stage 1
- Daisy the Dinosaur (Apple only)
- Tynker Junior
Key Stage 2
- Scratch Jr
Big Walk and Wheel
Posted on 10 March 2022 by Mrs Taylor
Get set… we’re taking part in Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel 2022 (the new name for Big Pedal), the UK’s largest inter-school cycling, walking, wheeling and scooting challenge. The challenge runs from 21 March to 1 April. It’s free and we would love everyone to be involved.
What do you need to do?
Encourage your child(ren) to walk, scoot or cycle to school on as many days as possible during the event. Park and stride (parking your car further away from school, for example, Marks and Spencer car park and walking, scooting or biking the final part of the journey) also counts.
Why we are taking part
As a happy and healthy school, Sustrans Big Walk and Wheel is a great way to build physical activity in children’s daily routine which is important for their physical health and mental wellbeing.
Active school runs also help to reduce congestion and air pollution outside the school gate. A 2021 YouGov study showed nearly half of UK children worry about air pollution near their school. Children thought active travel was the best away to bring down these pollution levels.
Plus there are some great prizes to be won every day if we get enough children taking part!
To help you prepare, Sustrans has developed a handy free guide packed with advice, games and challenges to help you have hassle-free cycle, walk or scoot to school.
Download your free family guide here.
This week’s message (Friday 04 March 2022)
Posted on 04 March 2022 by Mr Roundtree
We’re now over half-way through the school year. If you managed one, we hope you had a good break over the half-term period. This week’s message contains an attendance update and a reminder about two things that were communicated earlier in the week.
The overall whole-school attendance figure up to the end of Spring 1 is 95.1%. That’s a drop since the end of the Autumn term – in most cases, that’s because of Covid.
- Reception: 92.6%
- Year 1: 96.4%– the highest in school – well done!
- Year 2: 96.0%
- Year 3: 95.4%
- Year 4: 95.8% – this has increased since December, despite Covid – brilliant!
- Year 5: 95.5%
- Year 6: 94.0%
On Monday evening, we sent an email to let you know we’d be speaking with children about the current crisis. Children in Key Stage 2 had an assembly about this. Children in Key Stage 1 had a shorter discussion in class. We had no plans to speak with children in Foundation Stage unless a child raised it, in which case we’d respond in a very ‘light’ way.
Children coped well. They seemed to appreciate being told some basic facts and being provided with some reassurance. In case you missed it, we provided some website links so that you can support your child more:
- Supporting your child if they see upsetting content online about what is happening in Ukraine (Childnet)
- How to talk to children about what’s happening in Ukraine and World War Three anxiety (Metro)
- How and when to talk to children about war, according to a parenting expert (Independent)
- How to cope with traumatic news – an illustrated guide (ABC News, Australia)
- Talking with Children About War and Violence in the World (Family Education, US)
- Tips for parents and caregivers on media coverage of traumatic events (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, US)
Covid caution continues
You’ll know that the government issued new advice about self-isolation and testing. This letter from Leeds Children and Families Team sets out what the new guidance is. If you’ve not already done so, do take a minute or so to read it.
Next week’s message comes from Mr Wilks, who leads on Science and Topic subjects – it’s about our current Computing topic.
Covid caution continues
Posted on 02 March 2022 by Mrs Quirk
You‘ll know that the government issued new advice sound self-isolation and testing. This letter from Leeds Children and Families Team sets out what the new guidance is. The main message is included here, too:
Government advice is still that your child should stay at home and avoid contact with other people if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms. If your child is symptomatic, they should get a PCR test as soon as possible.
Your child can return to school after 10 full days isolation. They may be able to return earlier if they test negative for two days in a row from day 5 of self-isolation and do not have a temperature. If they continue to test positive during the 10-day isolation they can return after completing 10 full days isolation.
Your child will still receive work to do at home if they need to self-isolate, as well as free school meal support if they are eligible for this.
This week's message (Friday 18 February 2022)
Posted on 18 February 2022 by Nicky Russell
Wow! With three half-terms done, we’re now half-way through the school year. Thanks to everyone who joined us for the parent-teacher meetings this week. This week’s message is a short one, but do check out the links here…
Is your child in Year 4? If so, they’ll be one of the first to do the new statutory Multiplication Tables Check. Read more about this.
We know what etiquette is – a sort of code for polite behaviour. What about netiquette? Have a chat with your child about this, and the other tips for online respect – especially important if your child has a mobile phone or other online device.
Talking of things online, have you heard about Roblox? If your child plays it online, you really should be aware of recent concerns, in the news this week.
If you’ve a child with special educational needs or disabilities, these SEND workshops might be of interest.
Are you planning a day-trip next week? What about a visit to Temple Newsam – there’s a lot going on.
Whatever you get up to, have a happy and healthy half-term holiday!
This week’s message (Friday 11 February 2022)
Posted on 11 February 2022 by Mr Roundtree
This week’s message is about Reading – find out more about supporting your child learn to read so they can read to learn. The first part comes from Mrs Latham, Sphere Federation’s Early Reading Leader. The second part is from Miss Wilson, our other Reading Leader.
Early Reading and Phonics
We’ve made some improvements to our phonics and early reading approach over the last few months. We’re using the government validated phonics scheme Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised. We’ve always believed that phonics and reading is a priority. The changes we’ve made in school ensure that this continues to be the case.
Our phonics lessons happen every day – they’re now just a bit longer (half an hour). In these lessons, children are taught how a letter or letters (graphemes) match to sounds (phonemes).
Alongside phonics lessons, we’ve introduced Reading Practice sessions. These happen 3 or 4 times each week with children in Reception, Year 1 and some children in Year 2. These are small group sessions, led by an adult, where children read a book that is matched to the phonics phase for the children in that group. The time to do this has been made available by moving to allocating ebooks for children to share their phonics reading success at home. Year 1 or 2 children who are secure at Phase 5 will read a fluency text each day and take home a wider variety of books.
Children also take a sharing book home to develop a love of reading. These books are to enjoy together and read for pleasure. Enjoy stories, predict what might happen and use different voices for the characters. Information books (non-fiction) can also be so much fun to share – finding out facts and discussing new information. Above all – make it fun!
A recent workshop explained the changes and accompanying materials were emailed out.
Reading in Key Stage 2
If your child is in Key Stage 2, thank you for completing their Reading Record every week – it’s been great to see how children (and you!) have been engaging with their reading at home.
Have a discussion with them about the things we get up to in Book Club or what their library book choice is this week. Another great conversation to have is about different authors. Use this website and have a watch of some of the videos that are age-appropriate for your child. Keep an eye out for World Book Day we’ll let you know how we’re celebrating all things reading at school!
Remember that your child should be reading daily. This could be in a cosy, quiet spot by themselves, alongside an audio book or with an adult. When reading together, some simple questions can have a big impact on memory and understanding. Ask a variety of questions:
- ‘Where did the character go first?’
- ‘How do you think they’re feeling at this point?’
- ‘What does that particular word mean and what does it tell you about the character?’
We want children to progress from learning to read to be able to read to learn which includes understanding the world around them. Check this website out for more useful questions.
This week’s message (Friday 04 February 2022)
Posted on 04 February 2022 by Mr Roundtree
Last week’s message began with some news about the continuing challenges Covid is presenting. Since then, we’ve had some information about the situation across Leeds. This week’s message begins with this, and continues with some information about next week’s Staying Safe themed week, and a few reminders and requests, useful for everyone to read. At the end, just for parents of younger children, is an update about phonics.
Absence rates are higher in Leeds than they are nationally: attendance at Leeds schools (20.01.22) was 85.2% (87% primary and 83.7% secondary) compared to a national average figure of 87.4% (89.1% primary and 85.9% secondary). Some of the difference is down to a greater proportion of pupils being absent with Covid in Leeds (6.2%) than nationally (5.1%).
Staff absence rates are also higher in Leeds: 5.5% of teachers are absent for Covid-related reasons compared to 4.5% nationally. For teaching assistants and other staff, the disparity is even greater: 6.4% in Leeds compared to 4.7% nationally.
Thankfully, this week has been a bit more settled. We’re really hoping the curve is about to turn as it has in other areas of the country, but in the meantime, please do stay vigilant to symptoms.
Next week, we’ve another themed week: Staying Safe. Themed weeks are one of the ways we enrich our Living and Learning curriculum. Your child will be learning all about staying safe in lots of different situations, such as online safety and road safety. A variety of visitors will support this learning.
Online safety will be a particular focus on Safer Internet Day, Tuesday 08 February. Do take a look at these top tips for parents and children and more online safety advice. You may also want to look at these screen time guides.
Throughout the week, discuss this learning at home to encourage your child to stay safe.
We’re also running our Staying Safe active travel to school photo competition throughout the week. Send us photos of how your child stays safe on their way to school for a chance to win one of five £10 vouchers. Send entries to email@example.com by Thursday 10 February.
A few reminders and requests
We’re all so busy at the moment and we know it’s easy to let some things slip. The next few points are reminders and requests to help us keep our school a happy and healthy place to learn…
It’s natural that you’ll have some questions, comments and concerns from time to time. Our teachers will be happy to speak with you, but it’s worth remembering that after 8.50am, they need to crack on with teaching the class. Instead, try to catch your child’s teacher at the very end of the school day.
Alternatively, you could contact the office who’ll pass on the message – your child’s teacher or someone else in school will be happy to call you back. This also means you don’t need to have the conversation in front of your child – sometimes it’s better to have the conversation separately.
Older children might bring a mobile phone into school. If your child does, please make sure they’re careful as they walk to school. It’s sometimes easy to be distracted – your child needs to still concentrate on staying safe when crossing the road, for example.
Finally, please do take a moment to remind yourself and your child of uniform expectations. This includes wearing only small, plain stud earrings; keeping long hair tied back; and wearing hair accessories (like hair bands) which don’t distract – keep them small and not too bright.
For parents of younger children only…
Thanks to everyone who attended Monday’s Zoom session about the changes to how we teach early reading. Parents who attended commented favourably:
- ‘The clarity of still reading a physical book in the classroom has reassured us on the ebook reading at home.’
- ‘Thank you for an informative Zoom. My son is loving the ebooks and his improved fluency has really impressed me!’
- ‘Really helpful as always and thank you for giving up your evening.’
If you missed the session, you can watch it here (with apologies for the weird animal noise I seem to be making at the very start!). As requested during the Zoom, look out for some resources which we’ll email to you next week, too.
As always, we hope you have a happy and healthy weekend.
This week’s message (Friday 28 January 2022)
Posted on 28 January 2022 by Mr Roundtree
It’s been a tough week! In ten of the twelve classes at Scholes (Elmet) Primary, there have been positive cases of Covid. At Moortown Primary, one third of staff have been absent (though not all with Covid). St James’ CE Primary has similar problems, though thankfully not 25% Covid amongst pupils as is the case with another Wetherby school. With Covid cases still so high in our schools, please do stay vigilant to symptoms and get them tested if they’re not feeling quite right.
This week’s message comes from Mrs Allaway, who leads on Maths across Sphere Federation…
This year, Sphere schools are taking part in a new national programme for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2: ‘Mastering Number’. The programme aims to secure firm foundations in the development of good number sense for all children. The aim over time is that everyone leaves Key Stage 1 with fluency in calculation and a confidence and flexibility with number.
Why is fluency with number facts so important?
We want all children to develop fluency with number facts because we know this makes a huge difference to their progress in maths. For children who find maths difficult, it’s often the case that their only strategy is to count. They don’t see the relationships or make the connections that make maths easier. For example, if five and two is seven, seven minus two must be five – that’s the relationship within the maths.
An over-reliance on counting not only makes maths more difficult, it also inhibits flexibility, thinking and the development of problem-solving strategies. It doesn’t just affect calculating, it affects maths much more widely. We need children to have stopped counting by the time they move into Key Stage 2.
What is number sense?
Alongside fluency in number facts, we want our children to develop ‘number sense’: a flexibility with number where they reason; they see relationships; they see mathematical structures; and they see such things as if six and three is nine, then nine minus three is equal to six. These relationships won’t change in Key Stage 2 and beyond, the numbers just become bigger and more complex.
We want to support all children to think mathematically, make connections and see relationships because we know these are the characteristics that make maths learning successful.
Mastering Number sessions
In our short focused sessions for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, we give children opportunities to think deeply about mathematical relationships and time to practise and really embed fluency with number facts. These 10 minute sessions are in addition to our main daily maths lesson.
In some sessions, we focus on deepening children’s understand of the composition of number: inside numbers there are other numbers. For example, inside eight there’s five and three, there’s six and two. Knowing that inside numbers are other numbers enables children to develop fluency skills.
We’re also developing skills in subitising. This is the ability to look at a small number of objects (often a maximum of about five) and instantly recognise how many there are without needing to count them one by one. This plays a key role in helping children see how numbers are made up, avoiding an over-reliance on counting.
One of the key resources children use in Mastering Number sessions is a rekenrek – a type of abacus or number rack. It supports children to feel and visualise numbers as well as noticing how numbers relate to each other. Children begin to build up strong visual images by first doing, seeing and noticing the maths.
How can I help at home?
Regularly accessing NumBots will support children to practise and really embed and develop crucial number facts. If you need help accessing this, please contact your child’s class teacher.
Children in Key Stage 2 who struggle with Maths could use NumBots too – ask your child’s teacher. (And don’t forget the importance of knowing times tables – including division facts. You don’t need to use Times Tables Rock Stars, but it’s one way to practise at home.)
For those of you with a child in Early Years and Key Stage 1, don’t forget there’s a Zoom session about our updated provision for learning phonics and practising early reading skills: 6pm on Monday 31 January. Contact us for the Zoom details in case you missed them.
Have a good weekend.