Latest news from around the school

Yaaaaaay! Well done!

Posted on 03 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

A big well done to the mums, dads, carers of Moortown children – you’ve done two weeks of home learning now!

Has it been easier this week? Or harder in some way? Maybe a bit of both?

Just like around this time last week, our message to you is the same: you should feel pleased with yourselves. We know this whole situation is tough, and unsettling, and frustrating, and monotonous, and… but you and your family have got through it.

It’s time for a break. It’s the Easter ‘holidays’. Nobody’s going anywhere or doing anything exciting, but we wish you all the very best all the same.

A little piece of good news...

Posted on 03 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We all need a good news story in these unsettling times, and here’s one…

Baby Rushbrooke has arrived! Congratulations to Miss Rushbrooke and her partner on the birth of their baby boy on 01 April 2020. He weighed in at a whopping 9lb 5oz!

We send them all our love.

Home learning (02 April 2020)

Posted on 02 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Today’s post centres around staying safe online, and – back by popular demand(!) – the return of Red Herring.

Making sure your child is safe online should be a top priority.

During these times, your child may well be online more often than they normally would. We’ve suggested you might decide that your child shouldn’t be on social networking sites during the school hours, but the Easter holidays are coming up so you may choose to relax any rules you’ve set. But how much screen time should children have? These activities designed for use with 7-11 year olds (but easily adapted to other ages) will help your child recognise the signs they may experience when they’ve been online too long and the importance of balancing online and offline activities.

Thinkuknow can help you make sure your child stays safe online. They’ve produced a short guide for parents of primary and secondary children.

How much do you know about Houseparty?

An app growing in popularity is Houseparty – downloads have increased by 122% in the last month during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a group video messaging app that allows users to live-chat with up to eight people where they can play games and chat with friends and family in a ‘room’.

Different organisations set an age limit for Houseparty, all higher than primary school age. (Apple rate Houseparty as 12+ and Google Play urge ‘parental guidance’, but Common Sense Media and others recommend users be at least 15 to use the platform. Houseparty’s privacy policy requires users to be at least 13 years old.)

Read more about Houseparty so you can support your child to stay safe online.

What’s the government advice about staying safe online?

Government guidance now includes reference to keeping your child safe online:

There is a lot of support available to keep your child safe online. Below are some useful links to help parents and carers:

Thinkyouknow (advice from the National Crime Agency to stay safe online)
Internet matters (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
Parent info (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
LGfL (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
Net-aware (support for parents and carers from the NSPCC)

The guidance also talks about concerns about too much pressure on broadband connections:

The government is having regular calls with the major fixed and mobile operators, and with Ofcom, to monitor the situation and ensure that any problems on the networks are rapidly addressed and rectified.

Now, the return of Red Herring…

On Monday, we set you a challenge of working out which fact is the red herring amongst each of the Heads of School (and me). Today, we present five more people – our office-based staff – and with a bit of an equestrian theme. Just work out which statement for each person is a fib, a big fat lie. (Yes, we know it’s hard because you don’t know the people working in the other schools!)

Mrs O’Malley, Sphere Resources Manager based at Moortown:

  • I met my husband whilst learning to drive a tank.
  • I have three British military qualifications: artillery survey,  combat appreciation, and radio communications.
  • As well as a yellow belt in kickboxing I also have a red belt in Ju Jitsu.

Miss Pallister, Admin Assistant at Scholes (Elmet):

  • My first ever full-time job after leaving school was working for Education Leeds, in the finance department at Merrion House.
  • Before moving to Scholes, I lived in Spain for five years.
  • When I was younger I won various horse riding competitions.

Mrs Quirk, Sphere Resources Manager based at Scholes (Elmet):

  • Knitting is one of my hobbies – I love to make presents for friends and family.
  • In my teens, I was part of a group of people who raised money to buy medical supplies for a hospital in Malawi; I spent a summer over there when we took over all the supplies.
  • One of my favourite jobs was as a Wedding Co-ordinator at a country house hotel – I loved planning and organising people’s special days!

Mrs Russell, Admin Assistant at Moortown:

  • When I was younger, I fell off a horse and it trod on my leg – it didn’t put me off horse riding though!
  • I used to help mend shopping trollies.
  • My favourite type of food is fish – anything apart from squid.

Mrs Walshaw, Admin Assistant at St James’:

  • I can count to 10 in Japanese.
  • When I was younger, my family owned two Shetland ponies but I never rode them.
  • In my previous job as an air stewardess, I was part of a crew who took Manchester United football team to one of their European Cup games (now known as the UEFA Champions League).

Home learning (01 April 2020)

Posted on 01 April 2020 by Mr Roundtree

It’s April Fools’ Day – were you the trickster or the fool?

Today, we’ve news about the home learning over the Easter holiday period…

The weeks beginning 06 April and 13 April are the Easter holidays. Yes, it might seem that there won’t be much difference between term time and holiday time at the moment. We’ve thought carefully about how the home learning should look during the Easter period…

  • We’ll present a list of eight activities for your child (Years 1-6) to get up to during the holiday.
  • The list will be the same across year groups, meaning if you’ve more than one child, they might work on it together in some way.
  • Some of the tasks can take a bit longer, like a mini-project, and others will match Creative or Talk Time homework tasks.
  • You can encourage your child to do some or all of the activities – they’re all optional.

During this time, you can still email your child’s class teacher, although they may not respond as quickly as they have been doing.

Teachers will return to daily home learning tasks on Monday 20 April.

For children of key workers, and for children deemed vulnerable in some way, Scholes (Elmet) Primary and Moortown Primary remain open through the holiday, including on the bank holidays. (Thank you to all teachers who have agreed to work these days.)

…and we’ve a message from our Chair of Governors, Mrs Rachel Greenhalgh:

“It’s been an incredibly difficult few weeks for everyone, and I hope you and your families are all keeping well and staying safe through these strange times.

As a governing body, we have been closely following the public health advice and information from the Department of Education, and supporting Mr Roundtree and the Heads of School in managing the fast changing situation. Like most, we’ve had to change our way of working and have reassessed our immediate priorities for the children and the schools, but we are now experts at running virtual meetings! I am sure you will join the governing body in thanking Mr Roundtree and all the school staff for the huge amount of planning and work that has taken place over the past six weeks both in and out of school, and the support provided through regular communication and updates sent to parents and children.

A number of governors are Sphere Federation parents, and we have been hugely grateful for the work provided by the teachers and the additional resources signposted to support the children.

However, these are tough times and there are different daily pressures faced by us all trying to juggle things like home learning, work commitments and worries, family health issues, self-isolation, and general anxiety, whilst trying to keep things as normal as possible for our children. Thank you for all you have been doing to keep learning going during this time – we appreciate it’s not easy. The schools are aware that everyone is doing their best but know that there are many alternative ways for our children to learn new skills and develop knowledge – doing activities such as reading, exercise, cooking or gardening, or relaxing, watching films together, playing board games, chatting with each other as a family or close friends online can also provide many learning opportunities.

We can’t wait to welcome all the children and staff back to the schools once the restrictions are lifted, and return to our normal role of school governance (if you want to find out more about what this voluntary role entails, do look at the governor page on our website). In the meantime, thank you for supporting the children and schools during this difficult time, find time to look after yourselves, take care and stay safe.”

Home learning (31 March 2020)

Posted on 31 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Yesterday, we set you a challenge and prompted you to check out BBC’s Newsround. Today, we provide the answers and encourage you to look at a resource from the Children’s Commissioner.

First up, the answers to Red Herring…

We asked you to identify the red herring statement about four people from Sphere Federation…

Miss Hague, Scholes (Elmet) Primary:

  • I worked in pollution control before becoming a teacher.
  • I can talk like Donald Duck – it’s my party piece.
  • I appear in a travel brochure for Spain. This is the red herring: Miss Hague did make it to a tour brochure promoting holidays to Bridlington, though – almost as exotic.

Mrs Weekes, Moortown Primary:

  • I can juggle, but only with handkerchiefs (they’re slower than balls!) This is the red herring: metaphorically, Mrs Weekes does a good job juggling all the jobs around school as well as being the Senior Safeguarding Lead for the whole federation, but she can’t actually juggle.
  • I wanted to be a rally driver when I was little.
  • As a child, I hated wearing dresses – I used to hide them.

Miss Beatson, St James’ CE Primary:

  • When I was younger, my dream job was to be an air stewardess.
  • I used to pack tracheostomy sponges.
  • I can play the banjo. This is the red herring: Miss Beatson is musical, though – she can play the flute, not the banjo.

And me, Mr Roundtree:

  • I can do a bridge pose.
  • During university, I ate a medium pan pizza every day for three weeks. This is the red herring (although technically speaking, true as well): I did eat pizza every day, but for four weeks, not three – I was working in Pizza Hut while at university and taking advantage of this staff perk helped me save my wages (and I’m still loyal to The Hut!).
  • My favourite music is by a Dutch band called The Nits.

Make sure your child is in the know about coronavirus…

The Children’s Commissioner for England has produced this resource – a Children’s Guide to Coronavirus – to support your child. It contains facts about the virus and recommends ways to keep busy at home.

Finally, we’re still so grateful for your lovely feedback…

Here’s just one:

My sincere thanks and appreciation to everyone at school involved in the incredible communication we’re receiving including the updates, advice but mostly the fabulous work that the teachers are setting for the children. I can’t tell you how much this means to both me and the children… the work you are doing for our children is appreciated more than you could imagine.

Many thanks to you all.Home learning (31 March 2020)

Is it still Monday?

Posted on 30 March 2020 by Mrs Weekes

Hello Moortown people…

Hope you are all managing and keeping busy in these very strange times.  I don’t know about you but my days seem to be merging into one. I’m having to work at home but I’ve been keeping up to date with how things are in school and I did wave through the door at some smiling faces last week. One of the Reception parents sent some great photos of the Reception class who have all been painting rainbows – it put a big smile on my face.

I’ve spoken to a few families over the past week; someone in Year 4 was telling me about making plaster sculptures – sounds great! Hope you’re finding the learning interesting and a good way to keep busy – don’t forget to space it out during the day and not to worry if you struggle with some aspects. I bet there are a few people aching after following PE with Joe Wicks in the morning; I know they’ve been taking part in Mrs Taylor’s house!

Keep smiling, everyone – stay happy and stay healthy.

Home learning (30 March 2020)

Posted on 30 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

This week, we thought we’d lighten up on all the advice and information we’ve sent out recently, so…

It’s quiz time! Here’s a game called Red Herring…

Sphere Federation is made up of three primary schools. Each school has a Head of School, and there’s me, the Head of Federation. We’ve all listed three facts about ourselves, but beware! One is a Red Herring – it’s completely false. Your job is to work out which one is just plain wrong!

Miss Hague, Scholes (Elmet) Primary:

  • I worked in pollution control before becoming a teacher.
  • I can talk like Donald Duck – it’s my party piece.
  • I appear in a travel brochure for Spain.

Miss Weekes, Moortown Primary:

  • I can juggle, but only with handkerchiefs (they’re slower than balls!)
  • I wanted to be a rally driver when I was little.
  • As a child, I hated wearing dresses – I used to hide them.

Miss Beatson, St James’ CE Primary:

  • When I was younger, my dream job was to be an air stewardess.
  • I used to pack tracheostomy sponges.
  • I can play the banjo.

And me, Mr Roundtree:

  • I can do a bridge pose (although not as well as this one).
  • During university, I ate a medium pan pizza every day for three weeks.
  • My favourite music is by a Dutch band called The Nits.

Make sure your child is in the know about coronavirus and other news…

There’s a lot of wrong stuff out there on social media:

  • Misinformation is a mistake: information that’s accidentally (but still unhelpfully) wrong.
  • Disinformation is deliberate: information that’s wrong on purpose; this can be especially harmful.

You can always rely on Newsround to present the news to children in a way that works. And it’s not all doom and gloom – there’s an opinion poll at the moment rating the best celebrity teacher whilst the schools are closed. Who do you think is rated top so far? Could it be…

  • David Walliams
  • Carol Vorderman
  • Oti Mabuse, or
  • someone else entirely?

Do you know anyone whose English may not be good enough to understand the important health messages from the NHS at the moment?

Doctors of the World website has NHS guidance translated into several languages. The guidance is based on the government’s updated advice and health information. The complete list of languages is English, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Czech, Dari, Estonian, Farsi, French, Gujarati, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Hungarian, Kurdish Sorani, Lithuanian, Malayalam, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Romanian, Sindhi, Slovak, Spanish, Somali, Tigrinya, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Home learning: all set for a Week 2?

Posted on 29 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

We really hope you’ve managed to have some sort of weekend, with some relaxation, rest and recuperation so you and your child are ready and rejuvenated for Week 2 of home learning.

Remember some tips from last week:

  • try to develop a timetable for the tasks and stick to it – children benefit from the routine and it becomes easier
  • build in practical tasks like cooking or planning an online shop so your child can use and apply the skills they have
  • use different devices to access the tasks if you’ve more than one child, or let them have a go at the same task, but provide extra support for the younger, or additional challenge for the older
  • if a task looks too complicated for your child, be flexible – they could access the task set by a teacher in one of the other Sphere schools, or they could access some learning from our menu of home learning resources.
  • let your child’s teacher know how they’re doing – it’ll help them to stay engaged if they get some feedback (and our teachers are loving seeing all the great learning that’s coming in – check out their Class News pages!)
  • importantly – be kind to yourself and your child: this is a difficult time for us all, so if they’ve done just two of the tasks, plus some reading (20 minutes would be great), some exercise and some other learning from our menu, then that’s a really productive day!

A top site to check out…

To kick off a new week. we want to really recommend BBC Teach. It’s home to thousands of free curriculum-mapped videos, arranged by age-group and subject. In the menu bar at the top, select primary (or secondary for older children) and you’ll find a whole array of options for each school subject, split into Key Stage 1 (Years 1, 2) and Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6).

A few other sites to maybe check out…

Teach your Monster to Read has lots of games to help your child learn to read. It covers everything from letters and sounds to reading full sentences. The computer version is 100% free.

Scholastic Kids’ Club is a great site for your child to browse – they can read about books, do games, activities and sometimes competitions, and the Book Wizard guides them to some reading recommendations, tailor-made for them.

Look out for Phonics Play’s comics which are decodable (this means ‘readable’ for the stage of phonics your child is on). If you’re not sure what stage of phonics your child is on, you could always start at the beginning for a useful re-cap, or email your child’s class teacher.

And you might want to encourage your child to access this if they’re feeling stressed…

Kooth is an online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people, accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop and free at the point of use.

All of these have been added to our menu of home learning resources.

Fab feedback from an advisor

Posted on 28 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

Amongst all the chaos and communications and coordinating of the last couple of weeks, we received some great feedback following a visit from an external educational consultant (and Ofsted inspector)…

At Moortown Primary, we don’t like to rest on our laurels – we’re always keen to hear the views of others so we can keep getting better – so we invited a consultant in to do a ‘deep dive‘ in History.

(‘Deep dive’ is a new expression used by Ofsted – it’s an in-depth examination of a subject, typically involving lesson visits, pupil interviews (with their exercise books), and teacher interviews. Typical Ofsted inspections now feature about three to five ‘deep dives’ in different subjects.)

Our history deep dive was an important way to help us evaluate changes that we’ve made this year in how we plan and teach topic subjects. Read more about our curriculum here, but be aware we plan to update this page soon, better reflecting the changes we’ve made.

Here are some of the comments:

The main body [of the lesson], requiring children to read and become experts in an aspect of Viking life that have had a longer-term impact on life today, was thoroughly explored with exemplary reference to recent work on ‘digital footprints’ clearly resonating with the children. During the silent read session, the teacher moved effortlessly around the groups to qualify any queries regarding challenging vocabulary.


[The teacher] has established good presence and relationships with his class… The task to consider and explain how elements of everyday Viking life impact on our life today certainly captured the children’s imagination. Subsequently, attitudes to learning were strong as they maturely debated and collaborated.


In discussion… children could confidently recall elements of previous historical learning and, impressively, the links between civilisations is having an impact on learning and memory.


The Key Stage 2 children also spoke about their love of the subject. When challenged to find a piece of work in their books that they had particularly enjoyed and could remember a great deal from, it was hard to quell their enthusiasm and this in itself evidences their thirst and enjoyment for the subject.


The school’s intent for history is now well established and although its knowledge-based implementation phase remains in its embryonic form, the evidence points to a curriculum that children will enjoy and more importantly, learn a great deal from.


The unique strand of linking British and ancient historical periods [during the deep dive, the topic was Vikings in Britain, with comparisons made to a similar period elsewhere, the Golden Age of Islam] is totally unique and evidences the imaginative thinking of leaders. Such thinking is allowing teachers to teach to a greater depth thus fostering higher expectations of what pupils can achieve in historical knowledge, vocabulary and skill development.

Mr Wilks is the leader for History and the other foundations subjects. He’s done a great job in planning and leading the recent changes we’ve made, and in supporting teachers.

The consultant left us with two areas to improve which we’d already identified as next steps for us:

  1. to develop ways to improve children’s memory of vocabulary and facts in this new knowledge-led curriculum (it would be reasonable to say most schools are in this position following Ofsted’s shift of focus in September)
  2. to employ even greater use of first-hand learning experiences.

You made it!

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Mr Roundtree

To the mums, dads, carers of Moortown children: well done! You did it – you got to the end of the week, and for that, you should feel pleased with yourselves. We know it’s been tough. It’s the weekend now, and it’ll be a strange one in this ‘new norm’.

Try to find ways to relax. Maybe you can include a David Walliams story part of that. He’s reading a free audio story every day at the moment. Each day’s story can be heard here, or your child can listen live at 11am (perfect time for you to have a break and a cuppa).