Latest news from around the school

Today’s message (Wednesday 10 February 2021)

Posted on 10 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

For our mid-week message this week, we thought we’d hand over to some of the teachers.

Miss Wilson currently teaches Reading skills to Y5,6 home learners across our three schools. She writes…

A big hello to everyone! I hope you’re doing well and I’m sending a virtual (socially distanced) high five for making it so far!

Thank you for the kind messages we’ve received about our home learning videos. As you can imagine, it was quite alien to begin with and although it still is somewhat strange, it’s really spurred me on knowing there’s been lots of engagement, a growth in confidence, and some brilliant learning happening. I miss having a full, noisy classroom with my lovely, energetic class. though.

I’m really enjoying my daily Zooms. Whether it’s with me our another teacher, thank you if you’ve logged on, even just once, shared your learning, asked a question or joined in with our games and reflections. Seeing and chatting to my class has really kept me going, along with having that consistent time of day to keep me in my routine. Keeping a bit of structure has helped me keep sane!

Something I’m missing dearly is playing hockey: my teammates, the game day feeling, the competition… What’s really helped me during lockdown is having my colleagues become my ‘teammates’ and having them support me (from “Help! How on Earth do I edit this video?” to “Help! I’ve finished The Serpent – what next?”) and getting the chance to work with people I don’t normally collaborate with. As a social creature, it’s been a great opportunity.

Not only has a routine kept me sane, but exercise has, too. It’s good to get my legs moving and heart pumping – plus it’s great for a brain declutter. I’ve been running (admittedly not very far or very quickly but that doesn’t matter one bit) whilst listening to the Hamilton soundtrack!

One of Mr Lindsay‘s many jobs is to collect up all the Key Stage 2 sessions and make sure they’re posted to the websites on time. You’ll also find him teaching a Living and Learning session each week to Y5,6 children in the Science and Topic strand…

Wow, what a start to 2021! We’re either snowed in or snowed under, juggling work and home schooling. Hopefully, Sphere Federation’s attempt to make the learning more accessible through recorded lessons and daily Zoom sessions has eased some of the unexpected stress of the last year.
At first, the thought of recording lessons seemed like a daunting challenge. How could you recreate the magic of a classroom in a 15 minute video? However, digging deep and unearthing my inner stand up comic / Blue Peter presenter has been more fun than you would imagine. The feedback from parents and children has been lovely to hear. Thank you.

With the cold weather, the current restrictions have felt even harder than those in the Summer. I’ve certainly missed celebrating Christmas and a few birthdays with loved ones. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, so I’m still optimistic for the future and for a better end to what has started off as a challenging year.

Our third teacher is Mr Parker, who’s been teaching Phonics to Y1 and Y2 children… 

First of all, I’d like to thank those children who are regularly turning up to the Zoom sessions with your teachers. It’s really great to see your faces as we miss seeing them on a daily basis in school.  Not having the normality of school every day is very tough for children, parents and staff.

I think normality is what I miss the most: being able to see my family when I want; being able to go out for a meal with friends; and being able to do the job I love in the way that I’m used to. If you’re missing the normality of school, it’s a good idea to keep in contact with your teachers via the Zoom sessions. Also, email your teachers with learning and they’ll be able to give you feedback just like they would in school.

My wife and I are expecting our first born baby in a matter of weeks. This is a very exciting time but it’s going to be very strange bringing our little boy into a world that isn’t ‘normal’ at the moment. Luckily, I know that I have close family, friends and a school community who are at the end of a phone to help.

Stay safe and have a well-deserved half-term break.

After half-term, we’ll invite two more teachers to contribute.

Today’s message (Tuesday 09 February 2021)

Posted on 09 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s message has a safety theme, but with three quite different messages. The first part comes from Mrs Taylor, one of our Living and Learning leaders. Mrs Taylor writes:

Today is Safer Internet Day. What can you do at home to make sure your child is safe online?


Here are some free resources for you to use to start the conversation with your child about online safety including these top tips.

Other key websites providing support for parents/carers on staying safe online include:

  • Internet matters – helping parents/carers keep their children safe online
  • Net Aware – providing guides to apps, games and social media sites
  • Thinkuknow – providing support for keeping children safe
  • Own It app – for older children this new, free app is designed to support, help and advise children when they explore the online world
  • National Online Safety – here you can find free weekly online safety guides and details of their new National Online Safety App
  • E-safety Office – have a look at their twelve guides for parents, covering a range of topics including app safety, YouTube, cyberbullying and selfies.

Finally, take a look at our Staying Safe Online page for our top online safety tips and guidance.

Next week is half-term , but we still need to know if your child tests positive for Covid…

If your child has been attending school this week, we need you to tell us if they’ve had a positive Covid test result in the period Saturday 13 February to Thursday 18 February 2021. So you can give us all the information we need, please use this form or scan this QR code.

This means we’ll have the information to take the necessary actions, laid down by the Department for Education. If we have to advise that your child self-isolates, we’ll do this by email.

Finally, for your interest only…

You might be aware that more and more workplaces are being encouraged by the government to offer Covid self-testing kits. For a couple of weeks now, our staff have been self-testing themselves for Covid-19 – thankfully all getting negative results so far. Here, Miss Wilson, who’s been teaching the online Reading Skills sessions for the Y5,6 home learners, picks up her first kit.

Snow update (Tuesday)

Posted on 09 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Forecast is for some light snow, but we plan to stay open for children of key workers and children who may be vulnerable in some way.

Today’s message (Monday 08 February 2021)

Posted on 08 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

A friend texts me regular messages of positivity. Her most recent one was ‘Days getting longer and flowers coming up.’ We can’t control much of what’s going on at the moment, but we can look out for signs of good news and hope.

As normal on Monday, we start the week with a new Living and Learning statement: I make safe choices, including online. This links with Safer Internet Day 2021. Tomorrow, we’ll have a message from Mrs Taylor, one of our Living and Learning leaders; and, later in the week, we’ll have the third message from Mrs Weekes, our safeguarding leader. First though, we have our assemblies for the week…

Visit our Online Safety page for more support.

Talking of Living and Learning…

The last two weeks of Living and Learning and assemblies has had respect as a theme – respecting yourself and respecting communities. Visit the Living and Learning virtual library for links to great books on a related themes. Amongst others, there’s a shelf dedicated to similarities and differences, black history, and being proud of who you are.

And something completely different…

The BBC recently launched Blue Peter on YouTube. They’re uploading videos to it that are suitable for 5-11 year olds. The Blue Peter team writes: ‘We have world record breaking challenges, arts and crafts, environmental videos, cooking and baking how tos, inspirational films, gaming, celebrity appearances, dance routines and music performances. We also feature ways of getting a Blue Peter badge, behind the scenes footage and extra content about our incredible presenters Adam, Lindsey, Mwaksy, Richie and Henry the Blue Peter dog… and don’t forget to watch the live programme on CBBC at 5.00pm every week, or on BBC iPlayer.’

It prompted a conversation amongst staff about their all-time favourite Blue Peter presenter… Mrs Weekes opted for Peter Purves and Mrs Burke chose his co-presenter at the time, John Noakes. Miss Wilson’s favourite was Matt Baker. Mr Wilks had a crush on Katy Hill. Mr Owen is torn between Katy Hill and Konnie Huq. My favourite was Sarah Greene back in the early 1980s. Who was your favourite?

Finally, don’t forget that we’re now offering Morning Help Zooms from 9.30-11.30 each school day. Read more about this on page 4 of our Home Learning Guide – and contact us for the Zoom details.

Snow update

Posted on 08 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Forecast is for some heavy snow showers, but we plan to stay open for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Today’s message (Friday 05 February 2021)

Posted on 05 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

Mrs Weekes is the Safeguarding Lead across all three schools in Sphere Federation. Last Tuesday’s message was the first of three from her about helping to make sure your child is safe online. In her second message, she looks at how you can give your child independence but know that they are safe…

Are you confident that they are safe?
Whether it’s your home internet, mobile, consoles, apps or games, there are always settings to make them safer while being used by your child. The key ones are:
  • Can they chat to strangers?
  • Can they video chat or ‘go live’?
  • Are their posts public?
Internet Matters has hundreds of guides to parental controls for different things. Take a look – they’re easy to set up and will give you peace of mind.
You don’t need to know all about the latest app or game, but if your child shows you what they’re doing and with who, you’ll be able to see if it’s appropriate or not. Remember, games that are for 18 year olds are not just more advanced – they’re not appropriate and could be harmful. If your child doesn’t show you, show an interest yourself and ask to see what they’re doing.

For parent guides to apps, including recommendations for safe apps and video platforms, have a look on NSPCC NetAware. Why not download the BBC Own It app?

And this part of today’s message comes from the local authority…

Parenting can be a tough job at the best of times, but over the past few months, parents’ resilience has been tested in every way.  A blog has been created  by the Children and Families Public Health team to link parents up with support, offer ideas for managing stress and tips for taking care of their children’s mental and emotional wellbeing.  You may wish to share this with your pupils’ parents and carers.

Have a happy and healthy and safe weekend.

Today’s message (Thursday 04 February 2021)

Posted on 04 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

It seems everyone’s finding this lockdown so much harder, and for so many different reasons. Nevertheless, we’re aware of some great learning taking place at home…

Our teachers forward on some of the emails that you send, updating school about how the home learning is progressing – these are great to read. Especially important is to make sure your child’s class teacher is sent some of the writing that your child’s doing at home, because writing is a harder one to assess and give feedback on at home.

Last week, Mr Owen, who’s leading the Y5,6 home learning writing sessions, published some ‘Remarkable writing‘ – scroll through our news posts to Thursday 28 January to find this in case you missed it.

This week, Mr Catherall, leading the Y3,4 writing sessions, has published some ‘Newsworthy writing‘. That was on Tuesday 02 February. Another news story not to be missed.

Well done to all of the writers featured.

Make sure you send your child’s writing in to the class teacher. Look out for Mr Gathercole’s news story featuring Y1,2 writing next week!

Today’s message (Wednesday 03 February 2021)

Posted on 03 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

During one of the home learning sessions, has your child ever ‘got stuck’? If so, our new feature of home learning should help…

From tomorrow, there are now two ways that your child can Zoom in to school.

Our afternoon review Zooms remain. For most classes, they start at 2.00pm. The afternoon reviews are an opportunity for your child to review and reflect on their learning with their teacher and other children in their class. They’re also a chance for some social time – seeing friends from their class. One parent told us this week ‘the daily zooms are great…they are generally used for a wellbeing check and a review of work done that morning. This often motivates [my children] to get their work done which is helpful and supports any learning… We expect the girls to attend as we feel it is an important part of their day and allows them to remain connected’.

New from tomorrow are morning help Zooms. These are for individual pupils to contact a Sphere Federation teacher with a specific question or problem to do with their home learning.

They’re a bit like turning up at the doctors without an appointment…

  • drop in at any time between 9.30 and 11.30 in the morning
  • the teacher will be able to help with a learning problem that’s specific to the day’s learning (sorry – this isn’t the platform to talk about wider home learning issues like motivating your child or time management – email your child’s teacher for help with this)
  • in case someone else is waiting, the drop-ins are limited to about five minutes maximum
  • this is for individual pupils, not groups
  • generally speaking, the older the child, the less we’d expect a parent / carer to be need to be involved (but a parent should be present, as per policy)
  • your child will have to wait a while in the Zoom waiting room, just in case the teacher is with another child or is busy teaching the children in school
  • if the waiting list seems too long, then we’re sorry and you may need to leave the Zoom and try again later (or email your child’s teacher instead)
  • your child should visit the right phase for their year group – this means that they might be Zooming a teacher from one of the other Sphere Federation schools, but it’s about helping with a specific problem rather than staying in touch with your child’s own teacher

Read about the new morning help Zooms in our updated Home Learning guide.

Like any new initiative, there may be glitches so bear with us, but we hope you find this a helpful additional support.

Newsworthy writing

Posted on 02 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

From Mr Catherall, who is leading the Y3,4 home learning writing sessions…

Hi everyone

I hope you’re all happy, healthy and safe. I wanted to share with you – and celebrate – some of the awesome writing that’s been sent in by children across our federation. Home learning is tough. There are many challenges, for children and adults, but these superstars have been ready, resourceful and resilient learners. (Can you remember the other 8Rs for learning?)

In the Y3,4 phase, we spent last week building up to writing our own news report about a (made-up) volcanic eruption. This links to our geography and science learning.

Here are a small selection of the wonderful examples we’ve been sent in from all three schools. If you’d like to send yours in, I’d love to see it (send me an email –

From my class at Scholes (Elmet)… I love the varied sentence starts in this one (Late on Friday night, On Saturday, In the escape).

We’ve got a budding journalist at St James’ CE… I really like the news report structure here.

Back to Scholes (Elmet) for some another great piece… This time, I really like the main news section (the first paragraph in bold) because it’s exactly like you’d read in a newspaper or online.

Some amazing writing from Moortown… I love the expanded noun phrase (the orange, glowing liquid) and the vocabulary (predicted, nightfall, terrified) in this one.

Another super piece of writing from my class at Scholes (can you tell I’m proud?!)… There’s a lot to celebrate here – particularly the vocabulary (menacing, catastrophic, awoke, ear-splitting, historic)…

Back at Moortown for another great example of journalistic writing… I particularly enjoyed the use of questions to engage the reader and the way this writer has presented their news report in the style of a newspaper.

Another impressive report from Scholes… In this one, I love the vocabulary (citizens, fled on foot, vast amount).

Whatever writing you’ve managed to do at home, well done! After the last lockdown, writing was one of the few areas that we noticed children hadn’t progressed in. Try to help by completing at least one of the writing lessons each day (and always keep a focus on handwriting).

Today’s message (Tuesday 02 February 2021)

Posted on 02 February 2021 by Mr Roundtree

The first part of today’s message comes from the Sphere Maths Leader…

We’re proud to have a Maths Mastery teacher in our team. As well as leading Maths across the three Sphere Federation schools, Paula Allaway works for West Yorkshire Maths Hub, working closely with the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics. Paula writes…

Is your child regularly accessing NumBots or Times Tables Rock Stars?

The quick recall of addition and subtraction facts, and multiplication and division facts (times tables) is really important for all children. The ability to recall these facts quickly (rather than taking too long working them out) helps children to answer questions in lots of areas of Maths much more easily.

If these facts are learnt and stored, rather than being calculated or counted, they require less activity from the brain. Essentially, memorisation frees up working memory space to allow children to focus on learning new mathematical ideas and applying mathematics to solve problems, and not the facts themselves.

Without times tables facts, many future Maths topics are more difficult to learn. Daily practice, in short bursts, really makes a difference. If you’re finding it hard to fit in all the lessons, some days, you may want to prioritise practising number facts over the daily White Rose lesson.

Check out Numbots and Times Tables Rock Stars. Ask your child’s teacher for login details if you’re not sure how to access.

It’s another snow day…

As we’ve said before, deciding whether to close or not is a tough decision to make. The Heads of School were all up extra early today to check with staff about whether they can safely travel to school. Admin leaders were also up early, ready to communicate as soon as the decision to close (or stay open) was made.

We made the decision based on two main factors: the current weather and the forecast. When the call was made, it was snowing heavily and the forecast was that it would continue to snow heavily until noon. We also checked with other local schools.

The situation is made harder right now because we can’t mix children or staff – they have to stay within their bubbles.

Thanks for your understanding.