All posts by Rebecca Stacey

Week 1 Complete!

As we finish our first full week I thought I would take the opportunity to reflect: what is working well and what we need to think about as we move forward.

As ever, I want to start by thanking everyone for their adaptability in these strange times. Both staff and children are getting used to new lunch times, to being outside much more and restricting their movement around school. Parents and carers as well are adapting; new routines at the end of school; booking into Kids Club and Breakfast Club (which is very useful for us); and not coming onto the school site.

Some of these changes are working very well – such as separate playgrounds for the two age groups which gives the children lots of space to play games and to talk to their friends again. Some changes are proving a bit more challenging – such as the bus drop off and pick up with the two bubbles – and the bus not driving through parents but waiting in one spot.

The children however have started their school year in excellent form; they have really taken everything in their stride! It has been great to see and really inspirational.

There are common questions and concerns which arise – I’ve answered a few here:

What if my child is ill?

Covid symptoms (change to sense of smell, a dry hacking cough or high temperature) are currently very specific – and if your child displays any of these symptoms then you should isolate and get them a test. However, as we know, it is ‘common cold and flu’ season – if you are unsure or worried, keep your child at home so you can closely monitor their temperature and cough. Once they start to feel better, and they have displayed no Covid-19 symptoms, then they can return to school.

What do we do if our household has to isolate?

If your household is isolating, but the child attending our school has not had a positive test then all you need to do is keep us informed as to how they are feeling. Isolation for a household is fourteen days, and during this time your health and wellbing is paramount. If you are able you can also try to keep a routine for reading and some home work.

For the older children this could mean just checking in with their Google Classroom online, (Key Stage 2 Landing Page Here) daily reading of their book and using platforms such as Times Table Rockstar. For the younger children it will be about reading at home, talking about their books, some simple writing and drawing and taking any advice from the teacher. Class 1 Page here. Class 2 Page here.

Unless the whole bubble has to isolate teachers wouldn’t normally provide work for home, but they will be happy to advise you and point you in the right direction. Termly outline plans for each class are online.

I’m concerned about the rising number of cases – can I keep my child at home?

The short answer to this is no, the government have made our role very clear in keeping children in school and keeping schools open. And, in fact, we all know how important it is for the children to see their friends and to continue to learn. However, if you are beginning to feel anxious, or you are worried about family members please do contact school. We all need to be able to share our concerns and be honest about how we are feeling.

How can we ensure that parents are still involved in their children’s school life?

This is really important to us, and as we settle in to the day-to-day routine it is something that we are going to dedicate more time to. In the first instance we will soon be sending out an online link for our Friday Assemblies, so Parents / Carers and Grandparents can watch our weekly assemblies. We will be holding some online workshops for parents looking at different areas of supporting your child, such as using Google Apps, or Early Reading. We are currently thinking about the best way to manage homework and the governors are meeting with myself to look at how this can all be managed.

I hope this blog post is useful – and I will try to keep these updated. As this situation progresses we need to ensure that all information is shared is is clear – please do get in touch if you are unsure about anything.

Ms Stacey

Preparing for September

As I write this there is just over a week to go before we are to welcome the children back into school – and it really does feel like a lifetime ago since we were all together. I just wanted to keep you up to date with the preparations that we are undertaking as a school ahead of September.

Currently we are ensuring that the risk assessments and procedures we have in place meet government guidelines and advice. We take advice from our Heath and Safety advisers for this – and I anticipate that over the next week or so we may receive further guidance. Once completed this will be on the website.

School will look and feel different – and whilst we can be slightly more relaxed than we were in June there are many different procedures that are in place. Many of these such as frequent washing of hands and staggered lunch breaks will require school staff to work with pupils ensuring they understand the reasoning behind the changes. Others – such as entering school through a different door, only coming onto the site with an appointment and maintaining correct social distance will require your support.

Home Schooling may also make a return. This could be through families who are isolating, or a school bubble that is sent home or even local lockdown. To make this as smooth as possible we will maintain our plans and resources on the school website and we will be holding some online workshops looking at some of the software and apps we use in school.

School governors will continue to meet regularly – reviewing not only risk assessments and procedures but also the learning provision and the preparations for home school learning.

Finally, the letter that went home in July still stands:

  • school uniform is optional until January
  • children should come into school in their PE kit on PE days.
  • Teachers will be in touch regarding an online meeting prior to coming back into school.
  • We will let parents know of planning and any dates within the first week.
  • Reception children have a staggered start
  • school dinners will happen as normal.
  • After school club / Breakfast Club will begin the following week (Monday the 7th) and will finish earlier initally – 5pm.

I’ll be in touch next week with more details.

I know that this coming term may be a tricky one for some of our children, but we are so excited to jump back into teaching and learning! See you soon!

Ms Stacey

International Day of the Family

Today is International Day of the Family and if ever there was a more pertinent time for us to look at our families and to celebrate them it is right now.

There are a multitude of different family types and today they do not always consist of people that are directly related to one another as families are fluid and can change. The most important thing about being part of a family is that you are with people who consider you, who care about how you feel, who respect you, listen to you and support you when you ask for help; people who try to understand you, who allow you to make decisions and guide you towards your goals, who value your opinions and encourage you to express yourself in a calm and nurturing environment. Families look out for each other and notice when you behave differently, they invite you to share any problems, worries and anxieties that you may have, and sometimes just by talking to your family they become less of a problem and together you can work out a solution.

Families are fun. These are the people who may know you better than others, where you can relax and be yourself, knowing that they will not judge you and they will not stop loving you. You can be silly in your family, you can express yourself and be truthful in a way that sometimes you cannot be when you are with other people, families can make you feel free.

It is our families that are with us now as we all share the experience of this different way of living – some of them are close to us in the same house, some of them are a small picture on a screen that we talk to and some of them on the other end of a phone call or a text message. At Castle Carrock School we consider ourselves to be a family; we all care about each other and will be here to support each other through this experience till a time when we can all hopefully get together again.

So Happy International Day of the Family and go celebrate your wonderful family

Supporting Phonics at Home

LOCKDOWN has brought challenges of varying shapes and sizes; not least the trial of trying to keep some form of home learning going in midst of a pandemic that has shaken life as we knew it to its very core.

Trying to keep young, inquisitive, ripe-for-learning brains on track when you are not even sure what day of the week it is anymore is right up there when it comes to the list of daily struggles.

Our national primary curriculum is broad and comprehensive and incorporates, alongside daily doses of maths and literacy, science, history, geography, PE, computing, music, art, RE and PHSE (personal, health, social and emotional) studies.

All of which can be daunting when a) you are not really sure what you are doing b) your child would rather be on Minecraft or playing outdoors, c) you are trying to juggle your own work commitments and d) there are other siblings to consider.

But spare a thought for those grown-ups who are also grappling with phonics. This area of learning is crucial for the four to seven-year age group and it is one that baffles many a parent up and down the land.

So, what exactly is phonics? And can it be taught at home?

Put simply, there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and they make 44 sounds. Phonics is a way of teaching children early reading skills by linking letters (graphemes) to sounds (phonemes) and there are a range of programmes out there designed to help teachers do this.

At Castle Carrock School we follow the Letters and Sounds programme which begins with Phase 1 for nursery children and ends with Phase 6, when by the age of seven, children will hopefully have become confident and fluent readers.

A more detailed explanation of the programme and its various stages can be found here: Phonics

In school all children in Early Years and KS1 have a daily 15 to 20-minute phonics lessons where they learn the art of decoding words for reading and segmenting words for spelling. They start by learning how sounds are represented by written words and then how to blend sounds together to make words. Alongside this, in each phase, there are tricky words to learn; words that cannot be decoded phonetically such as the, to, no, go, I, into.

We aim to make the lessons fun, engaging and interactive so if your child comes home doing ‘robot arms’ or singing silly songs and pretending ants are running up their arm, do not be alarmed – it is all part of the process.

And at home?

A great online resource to help keep phonics learning on track during lockdown is the Letters and Sounds Home and School programme on You Tube.

It is worth starting by watching the Handy Guide to Our Online Phonics Lessons and then following the daily lessons.

Free interactive online games to support this learning and which the children enjoy playing at school can found at or Another good resource with phonics teaching videos is

For nursery children, Mrs Grayson and Mrs Murgatroyd give lots of suggestions on their weekly home learning grid

Learning Times Tables

Following on from our Reading Blog last week, Mr Kirby has put together some resources and ideas all about learning our Times Tables.

Two key areas of mathematical development are place value and times tables. They provide a solid foundation to build upon as children progress through their schooling. Here, we look at different ways you can support your children to learn their times tables.

For those that aren’t aware of expectations, here are the national curriculum aims for each year group surrounding times table.

  • Year 1: count in multiples of 2, 5 and 10.
  • Year 2: be able to remember and use multiplication and division facts for the 2, 5 and 10 multiplication tables, including recognising odd and even numbers.
  • Year 3: be able to remember and use multiplication and division facts for the 3, 4 and 8 multiplication tables, including recognising odd and even numbers.
  • Year 4: be able to remember and use multiplication and division facts for the multiplication tables up to 12 x 12.
  • Year 5&6: revision of all multiplication and division facts for the multiplication tables up to 12 x 12.

Early multiplication

To start with, look at the language surrounding early multiplication- it is ‘repeated addition’ or ‘groups of’.
So to begin, practically look at making groups of the same number and repeatedly adding them. Ask your child what  are they noticing? 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 is “4 groups of 2”. Demonstrate this practically: share items amongst members of the family or toys.

At this stage, the practical movement of items and the discussion about what they are doing is an ideal early introduction to multiplication. In KS1, the early focus is on 2s, 5s and 10s so try and use items that come in 2s (shoes, socks, gloves), 5s (coins, hands, toes) or 10s (coins, ten-frames, a crab with 10 legs, 2 hands together). This will visually represent the number as a “set of” rather than a number of individual items.

The next stage to explore could be to rearrange these arrays and groups. Is 4 groups of 2 the same as 2 groups of 4? Children now begin to see it doesn’t matter what order they multiply in.

Questioning and encouraging an inquisitive nature and a curiosity about number is so important at this stage of child development. Make it fun and remove the fear!

Looking for links.

Children love to learn when they think there is a ‘cheat’ or a shortcut they can use to make things easier.

This starts as early as learning odd and even numbers when suddenly a light bulb flashes in a child’s head and they confidently inform you “the 2s are just the even numbers- you just miss out the odd ones!” Now that they’ve taught you that little shortcut, let’s see what other gems the number system may throw up…

Here is a colourful multiplication grid displaying the product of the grey numbers (Always slip in key mathematical language where possible, expose children to language they will learn later)

From the easier-to-spot early stages of spotting multiples of 5 as “always ending in 5 or 0 and “the 10s ending in 0” to the tricks associated with the 9s and 11s (do we all know the infamous “finger trick”?

Some of the times tables they learn lend themselves to this through the sequential order we learn them: “when you know your doubles (2s), double the doubles (4s)”; when you’ve learnt your 3s, double them to find your 6s; “when you’re confident with your double-doubles (4s), double them again! (8s)”

Looking beyond the numbers themselves, another link to utilise is making children see what they are learning in the real world and seeing why they should learn these. This can be done through relatable word problems (“this costs £5, how much will 3 cost?”) or in a practical sense on an activity I know so many of us are filling our time with, when upscaling a recipe (1 egg, use 3; 3tsp, use 9…).

Varying the language used

In maths, there will be a range of language used. From KS1, children will be exposed to the various ways a question can formed.

Number families:

These are a group of 3 numbers which can create different maths facts when arranged in different sequences. They comprise two multiplication facts and two division facts.

Key mathematical concepts involved here: multiplication can be commutative (can be done in any order achieving the same outcome) but division cannot. The key language involved in this is seeing the “inverse”, a key concept moving forward used in proving and reasoning.

A great way of illustrating these is through triangles where the number sentence created by 2 numbers leaves the 3rd unused number as the answer. Children will benefit by seeing and remembering these numbers together, particularly in different sequences.

A website with some number family worksheets:

Get practical

This could be as simple as gathering piles of counters/pebbles/Cheerios/whatever you’ve got in abundance, and sorting into groups.

Many games have printable options available online which have questions on one sheet and answers on another, but sometimes it’s just as easy to make a set of your own. Or better yet, have the children themselves create their own game! Matching games, timed games, competitions, anything to make the learning their times tables fun.

Making towers/covering answers with paper cups, there’s so much that can be done with a bit of card, some cups and a bit of imagination…

Create an alternative version of this cup game by putting answers on cups and sums on the card or, to go one step further, create missing number problems: 7 x ___ = 42

Practising on computers and tablets

By the end of Year 4, children will complete a digital multiplication assessment so it’s only fair to expose them to the circumstances and format they will face.

Times Table Rockstars gives a great idea of the pacey, timed nature of the questioning but there are a wide range of games out there which can engage children.

“Waldorf Flowers”

Templates for these are readily available or children can draw and decorate their own.
Starting from the inside out, multiply the chosen number by petals 1-12 (It the template is 10 petals, do 3-12!)

Upon completion, bring back our old friend “inverse” and change the format of the question to division. 4×8=32 but 32 ÷ 8 = 4

When children are starting to see this, there are Waldorf flowers available with the outer circle completed and the inner circle to calculate. Another element of learning for the child’s times table knowledge and further embedding their learning.

We hope you found this blog useful – please do comment, or get in touch, if you have any questions.