Friday, 21 December 2007

Goodbye to 2007!

Well that's it another year gone.
I will not be blogging now until 2008!
Take care.
I am once again using the amazing Eee PC which my colleagues have explained to me is fairly unique since these wonderful little machines are like gold dust. I am really grateful to RM for letting me trial this little bit of magic.
The end of term has come at last and I want to thank everyone for everything they have done this term to achieve really fantastic results but more importantly I wanted to announce my own awards for those colleagues and teams who have gone the extra mile and released that special Education Leeds magic...

I recognise the dangers of doing this because having won and not won awards and knowing how it feels not to be recognised, I risk the wrath of everyone I don't mention. However, these are some of the colleagues, the teams and the initiatives that has made my life here at Education Leeds so special this year.

I have decided to award the following:

My nominations for TEAM OF THE YEAR are:

EMA team
SEN Assessment and Planning Team;
Performance Management and Information Team;
Traveller Team
Leadership Support Team
National Strategies Team;
Secondary Advisers;
Healthy Schools Team;
Families and Schools Together Team;
Deaf and Hearing Impaired Team;
Attendance Team;
Primary Advisers;
Finance Team;
Communications Team;
Pupil Planning Team;
Playing for Success Team;
Building Schools for the Future Team.

My nominations for COLLEAGUE OF THE YEAR are:

Glenn Pickersgill;
Andy Hargreaves;
Hilary Farmery;
Malcolm Learoyd;
Lise Stower;
Simon Darby;
Iram Mir;
Helen Ford;
Danielle Brearley;
Jon Hosegood;
Vicki White;
Christine Alexander;
Val Cain;
Gary Nixon;
Monica Tomkiss;
Richard Irvine;
Claire Macklam;
Joss Ivory;
Liz White;
Carolyn Eyre;
Beverley Lloyd;
Frances Bernstein;
Josie Warwick,
Sue Morgan;
Alex MacLeod;
Margaret Dalby;
Paul Hudson;
Preet Matharu;
Richard Boughey;
Bernadette Robinson;
Heather Eyre;
Althea Brown;
Barbara Comiskey;
Rosie Denison;
Gary Milner;
Rachael Holdgate.

My nominations for MANAGER OF THE YEAR are:

Dee Reid;
Viv Buckland;
Jane Hall;
Tony Palmer;
Wendy Winterburn;
Chris Halsall;
Mark Hopkins;
Brian Tuffin;
Til Wright;
Richard Smith;
George Turnbull;
Charlotte Foley;
Peter Storrie;
Barry Hilton;
Carol Stagg;
Chris Pollard;
Peter Saunders;
Joan Haines;
Anne Cowling;
Steve Smith.

My nominations for LEADER OF THE YEAR are:

Dirk Gilleard;
Ros Vahey;
Pat Toner;
Jackie Green;
Carol Jordan;
Rehana Minhas;
Martin Hollos;
Dorothy Smith;
David McDermott;
Shirley Parks.

My nominations for INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR are:

Aim Higher;
Attendance Champions;
Equalitiy Champions;
No Child Left Behind;
Together for Peace;
Extended Services Developments;
InfoBase and InfoBase Schools;
Inclusive Learning Strategy;
Children Missing Education Initiative;
Enterprise Ambassadors;
Leeds Mentoring;
Wake Up and Shake Up;
Intensifying Support Programme;
Parent Support Advisers;
The Power of Me;
Stephen Lawrence Education Standard in Morley;
Brilliant Learning, Brilliant Leadership;
Inclusion Chartermark;
PfI Schools;
My Blog!

You know me well enough by now that actually they are all winners, all stars, all talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful. I know that I may have forgotten someone and I am sorry if you weren't nominated this year but I hope it will be an incentive to let me know about your personal and team successes during the next year.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

I received this message this afternoon from Cllr Richard Harker...

"Dear All, This year I have run out of time and failed to write Christmas Cards to you all, but before I go off for my Christmas break I had to send greetings. Genius or Hard Work? the answer to the question is....... You are all of you a GENIUS in your own right. But as Thomas Edison said Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety - nine percent perspiration.
Thank you, each and all, for you individual leadership, your one percent inspiration and your ninety - nine percent perspiration that results in services to our young people you can be proud of and of which I can boast about at every chance I get. Try to have a good rest over Christmas and recharge those batteries. 2008 looks like it could be testing. Richard"

It is great to know how much we are all appreciated!
I attended the Blenheim Christmas party at lunchtime...

I wanted to thank this brilliant group of colleagues for everything they have done this year and to tell them the real difference they have made for some of our most special children and young people. These colleagues work with children and families facing some of the greatest challenges and do a brilliant job... they all deserve to have a special visit from Santa and I hope that he brings them peace, love and happiness this Christmas!
I then went to Corpus Christi Catholic Church to a mass where I had a chance to thank Cecilia Hyland for her forty years of dedicated service to Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School. Cecilia has been acting headteacher for most of the last few years while Gerry O'Kane has been working for Education Leeds. I read Cecelia's file over the weekend and to read about someone's life of service was inspiring. Over forty years Cecelia has touched, shaped and changed so many childrens lives and we are all deeply grateful for her passion, commitment, energy, care and hard work. We wish her well in her well deserved retirement.
I moved on to Clapgate Primary School which is where I should have been...

I had breakfast with a great group of children before talking to Lesley Simpson, the headteacher, about the support we've been giving her as well as talking through some of the things we are not getting right. Lesley was really positive about the school improvement support she has had and the impact of the Intensifying Support Programme. She then gave me the whistle stop tour of the school which was calm, purposeful and positive... Lesley and the team are doing a great job and releasing a real magic for this community.
I started the day at Sharp Lane Primary School which was quite a surprise for Margaret Lupton the headteacher who wasn't expecting me...

To be fair Margaret was delighted to see me and they made me very welcome.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

I had a lovely letter today from Kathryn Carter, headteacher at Holy Rosary and St Anne's Catholic Primary School...

Kathryn had received a letter from Lord Adonis letting her know that Holy Rosary and St Anne's Catholic Primary School is one of the 100 most improved primary schools in the country!
Kathryn and her team are doing a brilliant job and releasing the magic in one of the most deprived parts of our great city.
I was delighted to hear that Robin Hood Primary School won the Yorkshire Evening Post's Christmas Carol Factor. Well done to everyone.
I visited a wonderful little school this morning although as on so many occasions the building conspires to make things difficult...

I visited Cross Flatts Park Primary School to see Nicky Mamwell the new headteacher. It was an inspiring visit because I got the chance to walk around the school with Nicky and her deputy, to 'Wake Up and Shake Up' and to meet the wonderful school council who were brilliant advocates and ambassadors for the school... some of them didn't want the holidays to come and wanted to stay at their school.

I also received this magical Christmas card...

Nicky and the team are certainly releasing the magic at Cross Flatts Park Primary School.


Tuesday, 18 December 2007

At the end of my 100th term in this crazy profession of ours, I wanted to give you some reflections and stimulate some thinking over Christmas...

My manifesto is as follows...
  • Our job is, and always has been, "Educating the Whole Child".
  • Brilliant schools don't work without brilliant teachers and brilliant headteachers
  • Skilled and talented teachers and headteachers will not keep teaching when their work life has been radically undermined and undervalued.
  • Talented new teachers will not rush to work in schools that are more like factories than learning organisations.
  • We need to create strong and popular local schools at the heart of their communities.
  • Basic literacy and numeracy, while important, are not the answer to building world class schools.
  • All our children need access to the arts, to music and to develop their personal and social skills.
  • Play and creativity are at the very heart of what we do.
  • Children do not learn best when limited to a narrow range of educational experiences taught in highly standardised ways.
  • If you test just two aspects of learning, inevitably the rest will get neglected.
  • Tests are not rich and accurate indicators of student performance.
  • Tests don't provide data to guide better teaching and learning.
  • Annual testing does not turn children into better readers, better writers and better mathematicians.
  • Schools will not get better results simply because they have business partners.
  • Shame, fear and humiliation are ineffective motivators for teachers, headteachers and colleagues in authorities.
  • Elevated levels of threat and risk create unhealthy environments for learning and teaching.
  • Corporate style competition is an unhealthy and ineffective model for a learning organization.
  • Imposed top down solutions don't release the magic and in the long term will be a complete waste of money.
  • People should only give advice if they are prepared to roll their sleeves up and do it themselves.
  • Parents, carers and families are partners in this endeavour and share responsibility for their children's performance.
  • Increased poverty, mobility and worklessness impact greatly on children's performance.
  • You can't push down on one aspect of a complex system without taking responsibility for other aspects of the system.
Let me know what you think.
I started the day at Grimes Dyke Primary School...

I had bought flowers and chocolates for Barbara Dixon who has worked at the school as a cleaner and lunchtime superviser for 33 years... 99 terms! What dedication and commitment and Barbara was now planning to go on a cruise. I also talked to Diana Mann about their latest OFSTED visit which had gone very well and walked around the school with Diana and her deputy.

The school has recently achieved the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard and been re-vaidated for the Leeds Inclusion Chartermark. The OFSTED report identifies satisfactory progress overall and good progress with leadership and management and children's personal development and well-being. The school was calm and purposeful and the atmosphere positive and happy with some excellent learning environments for the children. The school tracking system is home grown and enables the team to focus theri energy and efforts where it is needed... it's brilliant according to OFSTED!

Diana and her colleagues are working in a challenging community and on the basis of my visit the team are releasing something very special for a great group of young people.

Monday, 17 December 2007

I managed to get to a little bit of Christmas today...

I went to Hovingham Primary School; one of my favourite schools. I had been invited to their Year 2 production "Santa's Helpers" which was brilliant!

They also gave me a wonderful Happy Christmas and Happy Eid card.

The children were fantastic... stars in the making and a real credit to Janet Spence and her brilliant colleagues, Miss Fisher, Mrs Crabbe, Mrs Brown, Mrs Poole and Mrs Mughal.
Students from three Yorkshire Schools were invited to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park as a prize for winning a sculpture competition within their school...

"The year 8 students took part in a sculpture competition organised by Leeds based, award winning The Cool Drinks Company, who provide healthy drinks vending at 40 schools across Yorkshire. To encourage recycling of plastic bottles, the pupils were tasked with creating sculptures from the empty bottles and lids. A variety of sculptures were created, including spacecraft, animals and vehicles, and the winning students were invited to a celebration and workshop at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The visit took place on the 17th December and included students from Bruntcliffe High School. The students were given a tour of the YSP grounds to see examples of sculptures at the park to compare with those they had made using the recycled drinks vending bottles. In the afternoon they took part in an artist-led workshop to practice new techniques and design their own sculptures in the YSP grounds.

Tracey Mosley, who led the initiative at Clifton said “We had an excellent response to the recycling collection, and the competition provided a stimulating one-off activity that the students really enjoyed.“

Aaron Prout from The Cool Drinks Company said: “The competition was a great way to encourage recycling at schools. We have organised a number of different education initiatives and visits with schools, and the sculpture competition is always one of the most popular.”

Claire Blundell Jones from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park said, “It has been great to have this recycling competition taking place in local schools and exciting to see the students ‘bottle’ sculptures here at the Park. The workshop has offered the winning students the chance to develop their ideas and knowledge further, and to take inspiration from the Park to create more sculptures from a range of materials”

Well done to colleagues at Bruntcliffe High School.
We can forget how special the work we do actually is. My colleague Su Edwards, headtecaher at Raynville Primary School sent me this over the weekend...

"Dear Chris, A few highlights from the week....William wrote a W - he's 9 and nobody thought he ever would write, Jordan said "more" because he wanted another cuddle, he's 8 and nobody thought he ever would speak, and Spike was in the band for the reception class performance and managed to stay there for the whole time and, unexpectedly, took a bow. Sadie and James met Princess Anne and told her how they contribute to Youth on Health and Nathan and Amber helped decide on a provider for an E-ILP. These are all things that could not have happened in the school I went to or even in the first schools that I taught in. How wonderful to live in these times. Su"

We should never forget what we achieve as a team and the difference we are all making to the lives of children and young people.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Another term, another Christmas and another brilliant year!

It's hard to believe that this is my seventh Christmas here in Leeds and what is impressive is the way that this year colleagues across Education Leeds have continued to release a very special and unique magic. I know that we face yet another series of progress checks, internal and external audits, Annual Performance Assessments, Joint Reviews and inspections... you name it we've had it, I have been there and we have all got the t-shirt.

It's easy to forget within this national culture of criticism, failure and negativity, that you are simply the best; colleagues across Education Leeds from our Healthy Schools Team to our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Team, from our Deaf and Hearing Impaired Team to our Families and Schools Together Team, from our National Strategies Team to our School improvement Team, from our Attendance Team to our Extended Services Team, from our Finance Team to our Human Resources Team, from our Performance and Information Management Team to our Communications Team. I know that I have left out some incredible teams so I'll leave space for you to put your team in here....................................

It's true though, wherever you look and whenever you get out of Leeds and see what other authorities are doing we are BRILLIANT, EXCEPTIONAL AND DIFFERENT... an innovative and creative cutting edge team. I hope that you will think about the special things you and your colleagues have achieved this year... examples where you have helped release the magic and created that WOW factor! Make a list and pin it on the wall to remind you through the dark times that working in Leeds is simply fantastic.

In 2008 we need to continue to deliver high challenge, brilliant support and quality services to our schools, our colleagues and all the organisations we work with so that we continue to ensure that the children and young people of this great city are happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes. We must all continue to work on driving a cultural change which fosters excellence, ownership and discipline and deliver brilliant outcomes. We must all develop our skills, our abilities and our understanding and strive to work even better as a team. We must get rid of the excuses, the things that get in the way and the bureaucracy and simply focus on outcomes.

Remember that you are part of a unique, creative and innovative team. We must challenge ourselves to do better and constantly refresh our offer, our products and materials, our partnerships and our ideas. This is above all a passionate enterprise and we must continue to build trust, to listen, to smile, to act, to be positive, to be considerate and caring, to be brave and to always tell the truth.

This Christmas, I wish you, and those you love and care about, delight and simplicity, foolishness and fantasy and noise, angels and miracles and wonder, and innocence and magic. I realise, as I write this, that this is the seventh time I have done Christmas in Leeds and it’s funny I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Have a great time… be happy, keep healthy and stay safe.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

At the Education Leeds Board yesterday we looked at the new Strategic Plan and the importance of understanding that our job is to build brilliant. We all need to be passionately engaged, have a sense of purpose and agree what are the shared values that shape the work we are doing here at Education Leeds. We need to balance our individual needs, our team needs and the needs of the various communities we serve and it is never easy. We also have to acknowledge and recognise that we are all basically selfish and that whatever we do our lives start with us, our needs and wants and those of people closest to us. However, the really positive piece of the jigsaw puzzle is that all the research suggests that we are all searching for something bigger, some higher purpose and that we are all ultimately decent people wanting to make a difference.

I am convinced that much of life is a self–fulfilling prophecy and that if you think the best of colleagues and show it they will most often prove you right. Interestingly, if you trust people and believe that most people can be relied on colleagues will most often live up to your expectations. My approach has always been that we all have a magic and a talent that simply needs to be released.

I mean who wouldn't want to be part of what we are doing in Leeds. We are a unique and very special team and everyone who gets to know us really well says that. I know that optimists are always prey to disappointment but life without hope and being positive about the future is no real life at all.

Be your brilliant best and surprise yourself.


"Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow."
William Pollard

I spent a couple of hours with Valerie Hannon, colleagues from the Innovation Unit and a select group of Directors of Children's Services having lunch at the Commonwealth Club in London. Charles Leadbeater talked to a paper he had written on 'New Platforms for Learning' which really connected with what we are doing here in Leeds. He connected three key elements: leadership, capacity building and empowerment across three platforms... schools, colleges and children's centres, families and neighbourhoods and learning across the community. He was challenging some of the basic assumptions that underpin our learning systems:
  • where learning takes place;
  • who we learn from;
  • when we learn;
  • how we learn;
  • how our learning is monitored and assessed;
  • how our learning is funded;
  • who sets the standards;
  • how we are supported as learners.
It was a stimulating session and I hope Charles will come to Leeds in the New Year to see what we are doing at the cutting edge of innovation and helps us take it further.
I was sorry to have missed this year's Christmas Carol Concert at the Town Hall but really grateful that some kind soul sent me a copy of the CD which I have been playing in my car. Everyone told me how good the concert was this year and it is wonderful to be able to sing along.
I heard on the radio this morning that my favourite author, Terry Pratchett, has a rare form of Alzheimer's...

I have read all his books and love the Discworld novels. He used to produce a novel every year, usually in time for a good Christmas read, but he hasn't been writing as much recently. Let's hope that he continues to write for a long time yet!
I am going to London for a meeting and lunch with colleagues from the Innovations Unit...

The session is called "The Next Education: New Platforms for Learning". I'll let you know what I learn!
It was Leslie Wagner's last Education Leeds Board meeting yesterday and last night we all went out for a meal to say thank you to Leslie for steering Education Leeds over the last four interesting and challenging years. We will miss his focus and clarity, his advice and support and his good humour and honesty.
I am sitting on a train heading towards London using my new Eee PC...

It is an amazing little machine. Everyone should have one!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

I had lunch yesterday with Tim Pearson and Ian Todd from RM...

RM are our strategic ICT partner within the Building Schools for the Future programme. They have already helped us arrange visits by Stephen Hepple and Tim Brighouse and we are keen to do some 'blue sky' thinking about learners, learning and learning places of the future. This is an exciting, creative and innovative partnership which will really add value to what we are doing here in Leeds.

You can find out more about RM by visiting their website at
The Government wants to make this country the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up...

The Children’s Plan sets out how the Department for Children, Schools and Families is going to achieve that – by putting the needs of families, children and young people at the centre of everything we do. Five principles underpin the Children’s Plan:
  • government does not bring up children – parents do – so
    government needs to do more to back parents and families;
  • all children have the potential to succeed and should go as
    far as their talents can take them;
  • children and young people need to enjoy their childhood as
    well as grow up prepared for adult life;
  • services need to be shaped by and responsive to children,
    young people and families, not designed around professional
    boundaries; and
  • it is always better to prevent failure than tackle a crisis late.
You can download the full Children's Plan or a summary at the DCSF website at
The Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service (GRTAS) in Leeds has launched it's new website. It's for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, those that work with them and those that wish to find out more about these fascinating communities...

The team were formerly the Travellers Education Service (TES) but have changed their name to reflect the nature of their business more accurately. The site is recommended by the Department of Children, Schools and Families. You can visit the site at

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Message of the Week Fourteen

I‘ve been thinking about my Mum and Dad a lot recently. They brought me up in a working class home, to believe in family, the work ethic, discipline and service. They taught me that I had responsibilities to my family, my community and to others and that is how I live my life...

It has been another hectic week... I started the week having breakfast with Maxine Room, the Principal at Park Lane College and ended it having tea with the Wetherby primary headteachers and Chairs of Governors. I had the usual round of meetings with Cabinet, Cllr Brett, Cllr Harker, Ros Vahey and Dirk Gilleard, David McDermott, Rosie Denison, Bob Vince and Adrian Ringrose from Interserve, Gabby Harris from the Artz Academy and the North East Governors at their area meeting In between we have been wrestling with the Joint Area Review, sustainable schools and recycling and the 14 – 19 review. The highlights of the week were lunch with colleagues from the Families and Schools Together Team, the University of Leeds Student Volunteering Awards, my visit to Meadowfield Primary School and Benton Park School's Celebration of Success Evening.

It's funny how much the world of work engulfs our lives…. I daren’t count the hours I spend working, and the mobile phone, PDA and the internet simply blur the edges between work and life. My doctor is constantly telling me to slow down. It's sad really that many people tell me that the only reason they work is to earn a living. It's not the same for me... this is above all a pasionate enterprise we are engaged in and too important to just be a job. We need to ensure that we all work hard but we must at the same time look after ourselves and our relationships... put simply we need to have a life! This coming week make sure that you go out and enjoy yourself. Use your time well, whatever you do do something creative, imaginative and stimulating. But also make sure that you spend time with those you love and care about and ensure that you find space for yourself.

Whatever you are doing this week enjoy yourself, focus on work but also focus on the priorities in your life and get a life!

Monday, 10 December 2007

I knew that mentoring made a difference but until know I didn't have the evidence...

My colleague Andy Humphries has looked at the latest Year 11 Fisher Family Trust outcomes and the results make interesting reading. The Leeds value added is 985 with the 'best school' achieving 1012 and the 'worst school' achieving 954. These are the figures for the young people we have mentored over the last year:
  • adult mentors 1012;
  • peer mentors 1022;
  • business mentors 1017;
  • BME mentoring 1028;
  • Making the Difference BME mentors 1003;
  • Looked-after Children mentors 1007
  • Junior windsor fellowship BME mentors 1045.

If this doesn't persuade you to become a mentor for one of our young people nothing will. If you are interested contact my colleague Barry Hilton who will send you a pack! Become a mentor and change a life!


INVEST Volunteer Training

My colleague Jane Haswell from the Families and Schools Together team told me about this message she had received from Whitecote Primary School recently...

"Hi Jane - The volunteer course : we feel its given our parents a thorough training and a more professional approach to working in school. Parents involved with the course have fed back that its also helped them both with their own children's learning and they've found themselves using some of the display skills in their jobs. From our point of view we feel we have set ground rules for volunteering which are very difficult to do with parents who just appear in the classroom. The volunteers seem more open than expected to working outside their child's year group, I think because they have a better view of whole school needs. One parent is also looking to eventually apply for classroom assistant roles from previous nursery nurse qualifications so we feel more confident in giving her opportunities to develop some group work skills because of the training she has gone through. The accreditation element of the course seemed to motivate parents to remain committed and gave them access to learning which I know in one case will continue now her confidence has built through this course and others. Whitecote staff also commented how good it was to have the assembly and celebrate parents achievements in front of the children, who were very excited. Our Learning Mentor has accessed the training and we are planning the next course for the Spring term to hopefully reach volunteers that couldn't make your slot. We could update you after the spring term if you want as to response to the second round of training and number of volunteers that we have managed to retain.Thankyou once again. Karen Tatham Whitecote Primary"

The FAST team do a brilliant job reaching and supporting parents and carers. If you want to find out more contact Chris Bennett , Jane Haswell or Val Cain.

More great news!

Congratulations go to Jill Wood, Headteacher at Little London Community Primary School. Jill has received a letter from Lord Adonis confirming that the school (at Key Stage 2) is amongst the top 100 performing schools nationally, based on the most improved schools showing sustained improvement over the period 2004 - 07. Brilliant news for Jill and her team.

My colleague Rehana Minhas went to the South Leeds Celebration of Success while I was at Benton Park. She sent me this message about her evening...

"Dear Chris, I attended the South Leeds High School Awards evening to talk about their programme, Children for Peace, and to make presentations to pupils who have been ambassadors for peace. It was an impressive evening with great performances from pupils and an increased number of young people getting awards for academic achievement. Colin Bell's closing remarks about the journey South Leeds High School has made to date and the challenges ahead, was an honest account and very inspirational. The school has also been short-listed for the National Community Cohesion Award which will be decided some time in January. Kind Regards. Rehana"

South Leeds High School has achieved a great deal this term under Colin Bell's skilful leadership.

Looking for a great place to bring up the kids? Try Leeds

This was in the Observer on Sunday December 09 2007..

Looking for a great place to bring up the kids, try Leeds. '4Children' which used to be called Kids' Club Network has done the resaearch and...

"Cambridge and Leeds are two of the best places for children to grow up, while Northampton is one of the worst, according to a report out today. Researchers looked at factors such as school results, leisure centre facilities and the number of parks to rank areas for child-friendliness. The charity 4Children, which produced the report, believes the creation of safe neighbourhoods where young people can play outdoors should be at the heart of government plans to improve childhood. In many of the poorest areas of Britain, there are no safe playgrounds and children play in streets where traffic is heavy.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of the charity, which campaigns for more community help for families, said the government had been putting childhood high on its agenda but warned there were still large inequalities. 'Those families that are affluent are able to buy houses in areas deemed to be good to bring up children,' she said. 'But those who do not have that ability and rely on social housing have to make do with what they have got.'

Cambridge scored highly because there are a number of parks and open spaces, and it is pedestrian and cycle friendly. Leeds has eight health centres which cater for those from the least and most affluent areas. Specialist services reach out to the most disadvantaged families and provide affordable childcare.

Anne Longfield said regeneration in deprived areas had been occurring for decades, but the focus was on buildings and roads. 'That is important, but if we want places to flourish we need to start with families and children.'

The charity has called for every local and national policy to be 'child-proofed', so that their impact on children is taken into account. 4Children found that what parents wanted most was support when their children were young, including centres where they could get advice and meet other parents.

Anne went on to say: 'They want communities where families are valued, where there are lots of kids who are welcomed into restaurants and shops and have access to good playgrounds and parks.' What they did not want, she added, were 'signs that say "no kids" or "this is not a playground". These things indicate the culture of the community.'

The best and the worst
The most child-friendly places:
Somerset, Leeds, Cambridge
The least child-friendly:
Northampton, Blackpool, Merthyr Tydfil
Child-friendly but needs improvement:

You can find out more by visiting

Sunday, 9 December 2007

I have been using one of these little Eee PCs and it is simply brilliant...

I was given one to try by colleagues at RM after I saw the little thing at the Tim Brighouse lecture and then saw one in action at the Derek Fatchett City Learning Centre. It is a real addition to the toolkit available to schools to support and enhance young people's learning. I can't believe what you get for the price... the one I am using has it's own wordprocessor programme, spreadsheet programme, presentation programme, e-mail, file manager, music manager, photo manager, it's own webcam and skype plus loads of other educational and games stuff!

I'll let you know more when I have used it more.
I also heard on Friday that the first monitoring visit by OFSTED to South Leeds had gone as well as we could have possibly hoped...

Progress since the inspection has been satisfactory and the school team are on a real high especially as the school has also just been awarded Sportsmark, won a business enterprise competition against other Leeds schools and wona dance competition at the West Yorkshire Playhouse! They have also been nominated for a community cohesion award.

Clearly it has been a brilliant week in the life of South Leeds High School! Congratulations to Colin Bell and his team who are working some real magic in South Leeds.
I finished the week at Deighton Gates Primary School in Wetherby talking to the Wetherby primary headteachers and chairs of governors about the challenges we are facing with falling rolls. The meeting was also attended by Colin Burgon MP who was keen to help us find a way ahead which maintained as much provision as possible in Wetherby. It was a very useful meeting. It helps to talk and share ideas.
I went on to the University of Leeds Dinner to celebrate 800 years of the City of Leeds...

I met Melvyn Bragg, who is Chancellor of the University of Leeds, and really enjoyed a quiet lunchtime at the end to the week with a lot of the great and good of Leeds!
I started the day on Friday with Cllr Harker looking at the next term...

It looks like being another really exciting term with lots of things going on.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

I ended the day at Benton Park School...

It was their Celebration of Success Evening and I had been invited to present the awards at the last Celebration for Anne Clarke who has been headtecher at Benton Park for ten years. It was a great evening with some brilliant music perfromed by some fabulously talented young people.
I had lunch with colleagues from the Families and Schools Together Team...

The Team have been doing brilliant work with STEPS, Parent Volunteering and Family Learning programmes and it was great to spend time with these colleagues talking about how we take this work forward. We discussed an entitlement for parents and carers, pathways to learning and some sort of chartermark.
I started the day at the dentist having a crown fitted.
I received this comment from Craig Clarkson...

"Hi Chris,I wanted to share with you a real success story from Intake High School. One of the school bands "Unknown Cause" have been going from strength to strength sinve the summer when they went out on the Breeze on Tour events, they have been playing some of the established music venues in the city, getting great support from Intake staff especially Matt Evens (Head of Music)and also BARCA-Leeds who have helped with a grant for equipment. On Sunday they attended regional heats for live and unsigned event in Manchester and successfully made the semi finals to be held in February.The increase in confidence in performance and stage presence over the last few months has been impressive. We are really proud of them all and what they are achieving.Have a listen @ I hope you'll agree its very professional. Thanks, Craig"

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


The Guild of Food Writers has announced the launch of an exciting new competition CookIt–WriteIt! The Guild is looking for young food writers of the future and is asking entrants, aged between 15 and 18, to put together a 750-word piece on any food related subject.

Their two competitions are:
Children’s Cookery Competition: CookIt! 2008
The Guild is asking budding young cooks, aged between 10 and 14, to create a two-course family meal for a special occasion using mainly fresh and healthy ingredients. The main course and pudding should serve between 2 and 4 people and cost a maximum of £20.00 to make. Recipes should also take no longer than 1 hour 30 minutes to prepare and cook. The closing date for entries is Monday 7 April 2008.
Young People’s Food Writing Competition: CookIt–WriteIt! 2008
This year the Guild has introduced a food writing section to its annual Cook It! competition: CookIt–WriteIt! Open to applicants aged between 15 and 18, entrants are required to write a descriptive 750-word piece based on any food-related subject such as a visit to a restaurant, market or food shop, either in Britain or abroad.

Entries should be emailed with a completed entry form by Monday 21 April 2008.
For entry forms and further information for both competitions go to
My colleague Paul Kaiserman sent me some more good news...

"Hi Chris, Sorry, but I can't resist sharing some more good news for this week. Some comments below from schools after our recent project week when small teams go in to schools to deliver jointly-planned programmes:

  • Swarcliffe: ENORMOUS thank you for all the hard work you put was fantastic to see the children come alive & work so enthusiastically towards a common goal. Not only was the music work great fun....but the sense of team that you inspired will remain with the children....we will DEFINITELY see you again very soon!!
  • Newlaithes: ....both staff & pupils had a wonderful time with the ArtForms all sounded amazing. We were surprised & impressed at how much the children learnt and thrilled at how they responded to the experience. Quote; Reece "I feel alive!"
  • Calverley: The children had a real sense of achievement.....[and] began to understand how music is "put together". There was real cooperation and collaboration. The team was friendly, approachable, enthusiastic & had high expectations of the children. I feel more confident about my own understanding of music and will be better able to ask for specific help & advice.
  • St Bartholomew: predicted, brilliant.
  • EPOS: .......absolutely fantastic. Beyond our expectations. Great to link up with the High School......inspirational for the children.
  • Castleton: Come back next year. A real success again. This continues to be a real highlight of the school year, with pupils entering year 6 & asking "When do we do the Steel Pans?". A motivating and "carrot" tool and always perform to a well attended concert of parents, governors, staff and pupils

Also the launch of the great anti-bullying pack with Hilary Farmery. We're feeling somewhat pleased with ourselves! Paul"

It is great to see what the Artforms team are doing is really appreciated.


My colleague Paul Kaiserman sent me this e-mail about the CHristmas Concert at the Town Hall last night...

"Hi Chris, I know you couldn't make it last night, but we did miss you (no pressure there, then!). It was absolutely fantastic - a standing ovation from a packed hall. The programme was really varied, including songs and carols to mark the end of the anniversary of the abolition of slavery. We had about 350 primary children in the choir and they sang like I've never heard before, mainly due to the inspirational leadership of Dougie Scarfe the conductor. He has a unique ability to draw out the best in everyone - a leader committed to bringing out the voice of others without any sense of self-promotion. We're very lucky to have him (he's also the chorus and orchestra director at Opera North). One mark of the quality was that not one child went to the toilet throughout the whole performance - another first! Also the collection at the end for the Jane Tomlinson appeal raised the record amount of nearly £1,500.
Hope you'll be able to make it next year....Regards Paul"

My colleagues in Artforms do it every year. They manage to release a very special kind of magic from our brilliant young people. I am sorry that I missed it this year.
I visited an amazing school today...

Meadowfield Primary School and Children's Centre replaced Osmondthorpe and Whitebridge Primary Schools and the new facilities are fantastic! There are, as always with new builds, some snagging problems, space issues and the school field needs attention but it is a wonderful journey that the team have been on and they have achieved something really special. Richard Mellard, the headteacher, and Mike Shaw, the Chair of Governors, showed me round the school and it was fantastic. The learning team are young, energetic and creative; with one class I went into using De Bono's thinking hats and across the school purposeful and very focused learning taking place, including a session by The Blah Blah Blah Theatre Company who were performing Theseus & The Bull Dancers and you could have heard a pin drop!

I think the things that make Meadowfield Primary School so good are...

  • focused and passionate distributed leadership;
  • a clear, shared vision driving all aspects of the school;
  • a talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative learning team;
  • a rich, exciting and engaging curriculum offer;
  • a powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environment;
  • inspiring teaching and learning within a nurturing climate;
  • individual tracking of childrens progress and achievements;
  • early, appropriate and focused interventions.

This is a great school, serving a very complex population and releasing a very special kind of magic. Congratulations to Richard and the team!


Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The other highlight of the University of Leeds Volunteering Awards was a performance by Leeds Young Authors...

Charmaine Riley, Saju Ahmed and Zodwa Nyoni recited their poetry and brought the Great Hall alive. They were inspiring, passionate and powerful young poets all with a strong personal message. I also picked up a copy of 'Journey of the Heart II' an amazing collection of poems and life stories written by the participants of the Young People in Public Care Language Project 2006-07.

I am constantly surprised by the people I meet and the places I go and it's wonderful to know the talent out there releasing the magic in our young people.
I went to the University of Leeds Volunteering Awards this afternoon...

I had been asked to go to present the Education Award but I was struck by the information I discovered about the University's volunteering scheme. It involves 2000 volunteers working over 6500 hours in 250 schools... that's about 100 full time equivalent posts! We all know the difference schemes like this make and the impact these wonderful young people have in our schools. The nominees for the Education Award were Kayleigh Orr, Beth Atkinson and Victoria Edwards.Kayleigh worked as an arts mentor accompanying young people on field trips and attending sessions in school as well as completing 260 hours of volunteering. Beth volunteered at Lawnswood School working with two students who have decided to pursue further studies at Art School. Victoria led a project called Changing Futures for Young People in Public Care mentoring young people in care.

The judging panel were so impressed with these nominees that they awarded Kayleigh Orr the individual award and Changing Futures an additional award for the project. It was an inspiring afternoon where students showed their real passion, commitment and determination to make a real difference to young people and the communities where they live.
'We can all adopt sustainable development, respecting both man and nature - and alter our production and consumption habits. Everyone can make a difference, starting right now.'

I met with colleagues to look at Sustainable Schools today and we agreed that this is a really important issue for young people and that we need to raise the profile. We agreed to look at how we might develop a local or regional standard for an award with associated resources to help schools give this the priority it deserves. WATCH THIS SPACE

You can find out more about the DCSF approach by visiting
I have just received my THE POWER OF ME pack...

It has been produced by young people from 21 schools across Leeds supported by Artforms and our Education Leeds anti-bullying team.The art work is fantastic with sections on what to do if you are being bullied, Childline's top 10 tips, creating a bully free school, how to have an effective anti-bullying policy, tackling cyberbullying and building emotional resilience.

It is a powerful and really helpful resource for schools and you can get your copy from my colleague Hilary Farmery.
They say that singing makes you cleverer...

It's great to see that twelve schools are fighting it win the Yorkshire Evening Post's Christmas Carol Factor. The schools are:
  • Meanwood CE Primary Schol;
  • Strawberry Fioelds Primary School;
  • Adel Primary School;
  • Hugh Gaitskell Primary School;
  • Grinmes Dyke Primary School;
  • Raynville Primary School;
  • Primrose Hill Primary School;
  • St Joseph's RC Primary School;
  • Blackgates Primary School;
  • Ingram Road Primary School;
  • Little London Primary School;
  • Robin Hodd Primary School.
Each school has recorded a version of a Christmas classic and you can see them at before voting for your favourite!

Message of the Week Fourteen

Another great week full of fantastic people, great places, wonderful celebrations and important launches...

I visited John Smeaton Community College with colleagues from the Leadership Team, attended part of the council's corporate leadership team's awayday at Monk Fryston Hall and attended Headteacher Forum at the David Lloyd Centre. I also visited three small primary schools, Calverley Parkside, Pudsey Lowtown and Summerfield, where colleagues are working hard to drive up standards and release the magic.
We launched the Family Support and Parenting Strategy at Primrose High School where colleagues put on a wonderful display of the services supporting parents, carers and families across Leeds. We also launched the Deaf and hearing impaired team's DVD 'Inspired to learn' which featured the amazing story of Sam Green and her daughter. It was a truly inspiring and tear-jerking story of brilliant support.
The other highlights of my week were the Big STEPS celebration and the Foundation Degree ceremony at Leeds Trinity & All Saints. Both inspiring events with wonderful colleagues also have achieved brilliant results.
Sadly I finished the week with another terrible migraine which lasted 36 hours. Sorry to anyone I let down by not being around on Friday!


What is it about Finland?
They top the OECD league tables for 11 and 15 year olds!
Anyone know what they do that is so special?
I visited a group of schools last week that set me thinking again about what makes brilliant...

I think the things that make brilliant are...
  • strong, disciplined, focused and passionate distributed leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs driving all aspects of the school;
  • a talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative learning team;
  • a rich, exciting and engaging curriculum offer, inside and outside the classroom;
  • a powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environment for everyone;
  • confident, creative and passionate use of appropriate strategies and approaches to raise standards and achieve the five outcomes;
  • high shared expectations of children and the whole learning team;
  • strong, dynamic and meaningful relationships;
  • inspiring teaching and learning within a nurturing culture;
  • individual tracking of childrens progress and achievements;
  • early, appropriate and focused interventions;
  • high engagement and involvement of young people;
  • high parental engagement and involvement.

I need your help here and would welcome feedback... is this the recipe for outstanding schools releasing a very special magic or have I missed something?


I had a brief working lunch with Dirk Gilleard and Ros Vahey where we talked through the week ahead and how we felt things were going generally.
I went on to a meeting with Dirk Gilleard, our weekly one to one session...

Dirk is a great colleague; an intelligent and thoughtful colleague and we talked about some of the real challenges we are facing with driving the learning agenda here in Leeds and about how we can continue to develop and support colleagues to release their potential.
I started the day yesterday having breakfast with Maxine Room, the new Principal and Chief Executive at Park Lane College...

Maxine is a real breath of fresh air and it was great just talking to her about the challenges and opportunities we face here in Leeds. We are both looking forward to Christmas!
Manchester is another great city and they do really do things well...

It's on a different scale to Leeds. The whole shopping and entertainment scene is huge and their Christmas markets are incredible although I thought that their Christmas lights were not up to the Leeds standard!
I went to Manchester's Bridgewater Hall over the weekend to see a performance of Verdi's Requiem. It's an incredibly powerful work and the Halle Orchestra and chorus were wonderful.

Monday, 3 December 2007

These are the photographs from last week's Foundation Degree Ceremony at Leeds Trinity and All Saints...


Steve Smith, our Playing for Success and Quality Assurance in Study Support Manager sent me this bit of news...

"Dear Chris, As you may know the 'Backstage Past' Study Support project which ran at the Grand Theatre in partnership with Learning and Leisure was nominated for an award at the Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' Awards. The ceremony was presented by Claire Frisby (BBC) at the Queen's Hotel in Leeds last night. The project was up against some high profile competition including the Wilberforce Anti-Slavery Museum in Hull; the Sheffield International Indian Festival; and the West Yorkshire Young Firefighter Scheme to name but three.

The section they were nominated for was the Cultural Places Award - an award for making a difference through culture. The category recognised "significant impact through cultural activities" and was sponsored by the Arts Council, English Heritage, Sport England, and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. I am delighted to say that it was worth Rachael and Shabana putting on their best frocks and bling as they scooped the award! This is a real accolade and I'm sure you will join with me in congratulating the White Rose Learning Centre Team who designed, developed and delivered the project.
Well done Rachael and Shabana. Best wishes Steve"

This is more good news at the end of yet another great term here in Leeds!


Sunday, 2 December 2007

Friday was another wash out for me with the start of yet another migraine attack that lasted over 36 hours...

I am sorry to anyone I didn't reach on Friday as a result.
My third school was Summerfield Primary School...

Karon Wittman, the headteacher, has a real vision for this little primary school with a strong focus on standards, inclusion and improvement.
I moved on to Pudsey Lowtown Primary School...

I was impressed by my visit to this little school; the quality of the learning environment, the relationships and purposeful learning and Rebecca Howells very focused leadership. It is clearly an inclusive and increasingly successful school with a strong focus on standards, tracking and intervention within a rich global curriculum and a focus on equality, health and environmental awareness.
I started the day on Thursday at Calverley Parkside Primary School...

It's a happy, friendly and welcoming little school where headteacher, Alan Duncalf, has achieved a great deal over the last couple of years. Matthew and Amy showed me around their school and talked powerfully and positively about the really great aspects of being a student at Calverley Parkside.

Thursday, 29 November 2007


St Bartholomew’s C of E Primary school wanted to transform a field behind the school into a real community space. The field is a blank canvas, unused by anybody. The school applied to the People’s Millions competition for £79,930 and they won!

Staff, parents and children showcased their project on Calendar news on Monday and had to go head to head with another Yorkshire project, Henshaw’s College for the Blind. On Tuesday Calendar presenters made a surprise visit to the school to tell them they had won – and cheering children and staff were shown on Tuesday night’s Calendar.

There were only eight projects in the whole of Yorkshire and Humberside shortlisted to appear in the People’s Millions competition and only four could win in the X-factor style public vote. There was huge community support for the project in Armley, with local shopkeepers and organisations displaying posters and wearing badges. People from all across Leeds voted as well.

Pauline Gavin, headteacher at St Bartholomew’s, said “This is a great boost for the community! Thank you to everyone who voted for us.”

Well done Pauline!
I finished the amazing day at Leeds Trinity and All Saints...

I was there for the Graduation Ceremony for a group of students who had completed the Foundation Degree in Child and Youth Studies and twenty of the group were my colleagues from schools across Leeds... brilliant, talented, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who have been juggling their family, school and learning lives over the last two years and achieved something really special. Dr Freda Bridge, Principal of Leeds Trinity and I presented the graduates with their degree certificates in front of their families and friends and the team who delivred the course including my colleague Monica Tomkiss who brilliantly leads and manages the programme for Education Leeds.

It was a wonderful evening and I was deeply proud to be there. I hope the phots will be sent soon so I can add them to the blog.
I went on to Headteacher Forum at the David Lloyd Centre...
Yesterday was an amazing day. I started the day at the Big STEPS Celebration...

STEPS is one of the most successful initiatives we have developed here in Leeds. The parents programme has been taken up by Val Cain and Chris Bennett and the Families and Schools Together Team and has reached around 180 facilitators and countless schools across Leeds. The impact has been fantastic and the Big STEPS Celebration brought together the STEPS facilitators in the Civic Hall witha group of STEPS parents and carers joining the session at lunchtime. We also had the first 'The Keith Jackson Award' prseented to Val Cain for her significant contribution to the STEPS programme in Leeds.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

At the same event I also came across 'All Relative' a group supporting parents understanding children...

'All Relative' is an intitaive contributing to the Respect Action Plan funded by the DCSF. They work with families where there is a risk of the children offending or participating in anti-social behaviour. They provide parenting programmes with other agencies including the Youth Offending Service, Early Years Anti-social Behaviour Unit, CAMHS and Education Leeds.
If you want to find out more you can visit their web-site at or e-mail
Last night at the Family Support and Parenting Event I discovered THE ACHIEVERS...

They are on a mission to improve training for young people aged 16 - 17 who are in work but are not receiving any training. The message is TRAINING CAN MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO YOUR FUTURE! For:

  • free and flexible training
  • training while you continue to work
  • qualifications that are recognised and respected by employers
  • continuous support until the training is completed

They are urging young people to sign up to the LEARNING AGREEMENT!

It appears to be brilliant initiative and you can find out more by visiting


My colleague David sent me some photos of the talnted colleagues he had been working with...

" are some photos of the NPSLBA presentation held on the 14th of November you suggested sending them for your blog ....Hope they are useful....... the next group is planned for January and the BESDSILC have just started submitting their completion folders. Colette Hussey's idea for reflecting pupil progress received a positive mention on the HMI feedback ...she wrote it up as one of her intersessional activities. Cheers David"

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

I moved on to the launch of the 'Family Support and Parenting Strategy' at Primrose High School...

The event was also an opportunity for parents to see the level of support available here in Leeds and the range of services providing information and advice to parents and carers. Interestingly, there were 40 providers represented at the market place and taster session and even I learn't a lot although there didn't appear to be many parents there. Well done to everyone who contributed to a real celebration of services for families.
This afternoon I attended the launch of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired Team's new DVD 'Enabled to Learn'...

It is a wonderful celebration of the work that the DAHIT do across Leeds working with some incredible children and young people. My colleague, Joan Haines who leads the sensory and early years SEN services for Education Leeds, introduced the DVD and the stars of the show, Sam Green and her daughter Georgia. Sam reduced most people to tears with her story about the support the whole family has received from DAHIT and the difference it has made to their lives.
I started my day at Monk Fryston hall with Corporate Leadership Team looking at the Strategic Plan and the Budget for 2008-09...

We are looking to refine and develop the Strategic Plan in the light of the feedback from consultation. It is also going to be a very difficult and challenging budget for everyone across the Council.
I received a copy of the 'Transforming Transfer' publication today...

It is a brilliant piece of work produced for us by Brian Ward and Sarah Balfour. It aims to help schools with the transfer of children from primary to secondary school and contains guidance about best practice and some case studies from schools across Leeds. If you haven't received a copy contact colleagues at Elmete who will be happy to help.

Message of the Week Twelve

"Winning is about individuals performing when the going gets tough, not when it’s easy."
Michael Vaughan

I know what you are thinking: ‘It hasn’t been a week since Chris wrote the last message of the week’, and you’re right… it’s been a fortnight, and what a fortnight!

It has been a hectic couple of weeks… I visited Intake High School to talk to the staff about academies and Garforth Community College to talk to Paul Edwards, the headteacher, about the support he is providing for South Leeds High School. I also met the Teenage Pregnancy National Support Team to talk about the challenges we are facing here in Leeds with sexual health. Lord Adonis was in Leeds talking at the Girls Schools Association Annual Conference at the Queen’s Hotel and he asked to meet with Cllr Harker and me to hear about the progress we are making with secondary schools, trusts and academies. I also had breakfast and tea-time meetings with headteacher colleagues from the Seacroft/Manston, Richmond Hill and Inner East families of schools.

Colleagues from Leeds Corporate Leadership Team went on a tour of the city with the inspection teams who are doing the corporate assessment of Leeds City Council and the joint area review of children’s services here in Leeds. We also had a tour of the new Leeds Museum in Millennium Square with colleagues from the museums service.

It has been an incredible couple of weeks for celebrations and launches. I attended the Healthy Schools celebration event at Castle Grove, the ‘Brilliant Learning, Brilliant Leadership’ event at Weetwood Hall, the Leeds Mentoring celebration event at the Civic Hall, the launch of ‘The Power of Me’ at the Headingley Experience and the Leeds Peace Poetry competition awards evening at the Civic Hall. All were inspiring and wonderful opportunities to see the impact of our work in Leeds.

I had meetings with Abdul Udin and Frank Hartle from the Hay Group, Chief Superintendent Milsom from West Yorkshire Police, Christina George from the West Yorkshire Learning and Skills Council, Dierdre Rowe from the Roman Catholic Diocesan Team, Tina Taylor about provision for her son, Sue Knights from the North West SILC Parents Forum. I had lunch with the Artforms team leaders and I also attended the Closing the Gap Executive meeting at the South Leeds Sikh Gudwara.

I did manage to visit some schools… St Anthony’s Primary School, Templenewsam Halton Primary School and the NE SILC at West Oaks School… great schools where great colleagues are releasing the magic.

There were three other highlights for me: I attended the third Education Leeds Annual Lecture given this year by Professor Tim Brighouse who was wonderful; I went to the Elmete Centre to support the brilliant school improvement support team who achieved Chartermark status; and I finished the week with representatives from school councils from Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, City of Leeds School, South Leeds High School, and West Leeds High School. Friday was 11 Million Takeover Day where the children’s commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley Green had challenged organisations to allow young people to take over for the day or part of the day. We spent the afternoon with this amazing group of young people and they then used our meeting to tell us about their concerns and issues which we will use to inform our strategies and plans.

If we are going to continue to build brilliant learning places we must…
§ Adopt an athletic mindset …. prepare, review and train.
§ Remember successes…. focus on what has gone well.
§ Learn from everything… review, analyse and evaluate.
§ Don’t get bogged down by setbacks… use them to learn and do better.
§ Control things… be prepared and be organised.
§ Focus on success… use visualisation and affirmation techniques.
§ Look after ourselves and each other… eat well, exercise and relax.
§ Manage attitudes…be optimistic and be positive.
§ Seek challenges… get feedback to improve our performance.
§ Create a brilliant working environment… play to our strengths
Keep the faith

Monday, 26 November 2007

As leaders we need to light up the way for others....

"There are three kinds of people in this world; those who don't know what's happening, those who watch what's happening and those who make things happen." The very essence of leadership is vision. People don't follow a dream itself. They follow the leader who has that dream and the ability to communicate it effectively. A good leader has the ability to attract, energize and encourage followers.

"Motivators are the movers and shakers of this world; they make things happen." They aren't discouraged by opposition - they expect it and plan for it. They are risk-takers; they understand that innovation and new ideas will not necessarily be readily accepted by anyone. But it is their personal enthusiasm and inner strength that will continue to fuel their desire to see change occur, because they have a vision and a dream that they are willing to sacrifice for.

"Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Very few of us practice empathetic listening, which is listening with the intent to understand. It means you look at the world the way they see it; you understand how they feel; you listen with more than your ears; you listen with your eyes and your heart as you search for feeling, meaning and behavior. A person will always have difficulty as a leader if she doesn’t learn to listen to colleagues.

"A benchmark of maturity is taking personal responsibility for our attitudes." We choose what attitudes we have right now and it is a continual choice. Every morning when we wake up, we choose what our attitude will be. Having the right attitude will be a big factor in setting the right atmosphere and bringing the right responses from your colleagues. A leader’s attitude is “caught” more quickly than her actions.

As leaders, you have such great potential to shine!
The rest of the day passed in a blur...

I moved from meeting to meeting... from Corporate Leadership Team to my one to one with Dirk Gilleard and from my monthly meeting with Keith Burton on to my one to one with Ros Vahey.
I started the day early in the office trying to finish off the piles of paper and e-mails before I went with Leadership Team to John Smeaton Community School for our meeting...

John Daulby and Marilyn Steele gave us the guided tour of this great building; a calm, purposeful learning environment. I love the uniform, the colour and the use of ICT as well as the general feeling of space... shame the cafe is so small and the queues have meant a significant drop in the number of young people having lunch.
My colleague Lynn Turner who is Service Manager in the Integrated Children's Services Team at Blenheim sent me this after her day with young people on Friday...

"Dear Chris, We had a very fun and challenging day today. The young people did some really great work using drama techniques and collage work. We used PSPs to take photographs of the activities and to make video diaries. They also voted on some key issues around the Leeds Iinclusive Learning Strategy. We were well supported by staff from the schools involved and the BEST teams from South Leeds, Intake and the Central Leeds Learning Federation. Our colleagues in Artforms were fantastic and responded to our request for support with great flexibility and creativity.

I am grateful to Richard Boughey and David Bateson for their help in planning the event and for colleagues for admin support.We were really pleased that Carol Jordan could join us for a good part of the day. Most of all, I'm gateful to the young people of all ages and abilities for their ideas and hard work. I hope your day was as brilliant and as invigorating as ours?
Best wishes. Lynn"

I am really pleased that 11 Million Takeover Day has had a real impact here in Leeds and children and young people have helped us shape some of our work on inclusion, strategic planning and school improvement. We must do it more often!


Saturday, 24 November 2007

Over the weekend I read a brilliant OFSTED report...

We don't have many secondary schools described as outstanding by our friends at OFSTED so it was wonderful to read Roundhay School Technology College's report where the school is described as outstanding, inclusive and highly successful. The team recognised Neil Clephen's strong and inspirational leadership, the quality of leadership, managemnet and team work across the school and the outstanding teaching and learning. I have rarely read such a celebration of secondary excellence.


  • Think, reflect, research, analyse and learn;
  • Be visible, accessible and available;
  • Walk the talk and constantly connect with colleagues;
  • Tell stories; celebrate, praise and challenge;
  • Teach, coach and model behaviours you want to see;
  • Get a life... live, love and regularly escape;
  • Do things to make people feel special.

Try it and see...


Friday, 23 November 2007

I spend a significant slice of the day with a group of young people from Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, City of Leeds School, South Leeds High School and West Leeds High School...

As part of 11 MILLION Takeover Day, this group of young people, who had been nominated to represent their schools, spent the afternoon with the Education Leeds executive team. They had a brief tour of Merrion House, had lunch with the team and and shared their views and experiences, discussed solutions, and had the chance to ask lots of questions!

The young people were wonderful ambassadors for their schools and we discussed the following:
  • the environment, recycling and school meals;
  • bullying and anti-social behaviour;
  • the limitations of PFI buildings and contracts;
  • the challenges associated with merging secondary schools;
  • the importance of an attractive and stimulating learning environment;
  • positive behaviour, rewards and sanctions; and
  • school uniform.

We all enjoyed meeting these young people and have agreed to meet them again in March to review these issues.


I started the day early at Hinsley Hall with Dierdre Rowe looking at some of the opportunities and challenges we face with Catholic provision here in Leeds...

It was a great start to the day; to sit, talk and share bacon butties!
They certainly know how to live at Hinsley Hall!
I finished another long day at the Civic Hall at the Fifth Annual Leeds Peace Poetry Competition Awards Evening which is a vital part of 'Together for Peace'...

And it was fantastic... dancing and singing from a group of children and young people called Arrows of Promise followed by three poets reading the primary school finalists... then classical guitar played by Ramtin followed by the secondary school finalists poems... then more from Arrows of Promise followed by the adult finalists poems which included Colin Trenholme from Hugh Gaitskell Primary School's brilliant 'Green Piece'. Special awards were given to two children from Tranmere Park Primary School as the youingest ever entrants to the competition.

It is great to know that poetry is alive and thriving in our primary and secondary schools and I hope that next year more schools will encourage and support the competition.
I then visited the NE SILC at West Oaks...

This is a brilliant school and Andrew Hodkinson, it's new headteacher, wanted to talk to me about his vision for the school and the behavioural continuum here in Leeds. It was an interesting and refreshing meeting with a lot of creative ideas and a real sense of how we can shift one of our wicked and challenging issues. I look forward to seeing how the school's work locks into the new Inclusive Learning Strategy and how we continue to build on our centres of excekllence to develop brilliant learning consistently across all our provision!
I have just heard some brilliant news...

The School Improvement Support Service at Elmete has been awarded Chartermark! This is a fantastic achievement and reflects the work some amazing colleagues have put into developing the service over the last few years. I am really grateful to Margaret Dalby for her leadership and care and to Linda Gibson who co-ordinated the work.... and to everyone in the team!
I moved on to the Elmete Centre to be interviewed by the Chartermark assessor...

The School Improvement Support team are going for Chartermark along side everyone else across the company and it was their turn to go through the assessment process which is rigorous and challenging against the 64 criteria of the award. The team have done a brilliant job at Elmete supporting the teams who are based there but also making a unique and special contribution to their community and to the wider city.
The reason I couldn't make the Leadership event was that I wanted to be at the launch of our new approach to tackling bullying....

Young people tell us that the biggest issue for them is not feeling safe and 'The Power of Me' is our response. The initiative was launched at the Headingley Experience with an invited audience of children and young people from schools who have helped us develop our new approach. The campaign has been developed with young people from 22 schools across the city and is a whole city approach to help us build resilience in our young people, to tackle cyber-bullying and to stamp out bullying wherever it happens.

The elements of the new approach are:
  • peer support teams trained by Childline as first point of contact for anyone who has been bullied or feels unsafe;
  • Leeds Rugby Foundation providing positive breaktime activities;
  • Anti-bullying Alliance training for staff;
  • Restorative Justice training involving the West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council's Youth Offending Team;
  • 'Mission Transition' a musical production to support transition to secondary school.

'The Power of Me' is sponsored by First Direct Bank and provides help and advice to anyone who is experiencing bullying or dealing with it in schools. Bus adverts are helping to raise the profile of the scheme which is supported by posters, postcards and stickers.

The launch was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and learn. If you want to find out more about this brilliant scheme contact my colleague Hilary Farmery on


I started the day yesterday at the Leeds Town Hall...

I was there very briefly to apologise for not being able to attend the Children's Services Leadership event.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

And another award...

Catriona MacLeod a Leeds language expert has received the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Special Commendation for her commitment to language learning...

Catriona, who is based at the North-East Leeds City Learning Centre in Moortown, was presented with the prestigious award by His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Kent, at an awards ceremony in London. Originally donated to the institute by Professor David Crystal, the award is presented every year to a linguist from the UK who is committed to promoting the study of languages. Catriona was nominated for the commendation for her work with the North East Leeds City Learning Centre - particularly in French, German and Spanish.

Catriona’s dedication to languages is helping hundreds of our young people learn an interesting and valuable skill which will help prepare them for life in an increasingly smaller world. This award is a reflection of the admiration and respect her work has on a national level and she thoroughly deserves the recognition and praise that comes with it.

Another award for our work!

A Leeds project that promotes deeper understanding between the city’s oldest and youngest citizens has won a major European award...

Leeds’s ‘Building Bridges’ has been nominated for a ‘Eurocities’ award and has been shortlisted alongside the cities of Oslo and Edinburgh. The winner will be announced at a judging ceremony in Poland on 23 November. ‘Building Bridges’ is a project that began in 2003 and over the years has brought pupils from over 20 primary schools together with members of around 15 older people’s voluntary organisations. Hundreds of youngsters and older people, have been involved. Groups of all ages meet in weekly sessions and, using a technique known as ‘Circle Time’ learn about each other as individuals, play games and share experiences, memories and aspirations for the future of their community. The scheme has been successful in helping school pupils and older people living in the same community develop a mutual understanding and overcome stereotyping. As a result, lasting relationships have been created that will break down barriers that exist between generations.

This is a brilliant initiative that started with Penny Vine's work at Oakwood Primary School and is speading across the city. Well done to everyone involved!
I finished the day at the Civic Hall at the Celebrating Success event for Leeds Mentoring...

It was another inspiring evening where we celebrated the achievements of one of the jewels of Leeds and Education Leeds. Mentoring makes an incredible difference across the city and last year we had 4200 mentoring partnerships linking young people in our schools with mentors from the universities, businesses, voluntary groups as well as a significant and important peer mentoring programme which has developed massively over the last couple of years. The Mentoring Team have been going for 15 years Mohsin Zulfiqar told me but over my six years here in Leeds it has developed into one of the best elements of our work and certainly the best mentoring service in the country.

Last nights highlights included...
    • the noisy but brilliant 'Silver Sparrows';
    • the wonderful Lludel Bryant, UK Young Citizen of the Year 2007, a passionate, brilliant and articulate young man who works for the Leeds Mentoring Team;
    • the fantastic Bex Cohen, an amazing trainee teacher at Leeds Trinity and All Saints, who ran a Hip Hop Summer School working with looked-after children;
    • the erudite and powerful Andrew Edwards, from BBC Radio Leeds, who talked about his magnificent seven people who had influenced and shaped his life; and
    • the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful Dinneka Smilie, one of the mentors of the year, who is now studying at Notre Dame College after achieving brilliant GCSE reasults.

Barry Hilton and his team do an incredible job shaping and driving a series of programmes which are making an enormous difference and really changing young peoples lives. If anyone out there wants to help, wants to make a differenece, wants to change lives and has the time to be a mentor contact Barry at


I went on to the Narrowing the Gap Executive for it's last meeting before it becomes the Narrowing the Gap Board...

The meeting was at the South Leeds Sikh Gudwara and the terrible thing is that I have been here in Leeds for over six years and I didn't know the Gudwara was there just across from St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School on Lady Pit Lane in Beeston.

The meeting looked at worklessness and financial inclusion as well as the Local Area Agreement and the progress we are making against our targets.
I started the day at Weetwood Hall with Dirk Gileard and some amazing colleagues...

We were launching the 'Brilliant Learning, Brilliant Leadership' programme which aims to capture the magic that exists in almost every schools in Leeds and try to understand how we can make it more consistent and more regular. I look forward to hearing from colleagues how the day went and seeing the product as it develops. Hopefully over time every school in Leeds will be involved in what I hope will be a key building block for our work together in building the future where every child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

I found the poem...

The Average Child by Mike Buscemi

"I don’t cause teachers trouble;
My grades have been okay.
I listen in my classes.
I’m in school every day.

My teachers think I’m average;
My parents think so too.
I wish I didn’t know that, though;
There’s lots I’d like to do.

I’d like to build a rocket;
I read a book on how.
Or start a stamp collection…
But no use trying now.

’Cause, since I found I’m average,
I’m smart enough you see
To know there’s nothing special
I should expect of me.

I’m part of that majority,
That hump part of the bell,
Who spends his life unnoticed
In an average kind of hell."

The challenge we all face is to make sure that everyone understands that they are extraordinary... including you!
My colleague Zoë Stead who is the Extended Schools Development Officer for the Inner Armley Cluster and based at St Bartholomew's C of E Primary School sent me this...

"An Armley school with a sense of community has reached the final of the People's Millions Big Lottery competition and is looking for your vote! St Bartholomew's C of E Primary school wants to transform a field behind the school into a real community space. At the moment the field is a blank canvas, unused by anybody. The school wants to find out what people would like to see on the field, whether it's a sensory garden, a play area, a sports area or seating. They will take those ideas and transform the field into a real community resource. But this can only happen if St Bart's wins an 'X Factor'-style public vote to get the money!

The project will feature on Calendar news on ITV1 starting at 6pm on Monday 26 th November. There will be a short film of the project and a short film about Henshaw's College, which is also bidding for the money. After the film, people will be asked to vote for their favourite. If you already know you want to vote for the Armley project, the number is available on from 9am on the 26th November and votes will be accepted up until midnight".

WE all need to help Pauline and colleagues to secure the resources to do this.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tim told us a poem about the curse of being described as normal.
Does anyone know where it comes from?
I finished the day at the Annual Education Leeds Lecture at the Hilton Hotel...

The evening started with a presentation by the fabulous children from Hugh Gaitskell Primary School. Then Professor Tim Brighouse talked to an audience of 250 of our most committed, passionate and creative colleagues about 'Creating a Positive Learning Climate - What Works?'. It was a stimulating and thought provoking evening and Tim's presentation will be available shortly on InfoBase Schools. The evening which was sponsored by RM, our strategic ICT partners, finished with a brief contribution by Cllr Richard Harker who thanked Tim for his contribution to a really enjoyable evening. The colleagues who organised and managed the evening did a brilliant job and a good time was had by all.

Tim suggested that we look to share more of our brilliant learning. Don't forget to tell me what is really great about what you are doing in your school or your service.
Later in the day I visited the new Leeds Museum in Millenium Square...

The Museum is fantastic and will really add to what is on offer from the museums here in Leeds. It has a 'learning centre' as well as a childrens lunch room and spaces which can be hired out. The Museum will open next Summer.
I started the day early at Templenewsam Halton Primary School...

I talked toKay and her wonderful deputy about the challenges they face around the building, support for children with special educational needs and standards. The school has seen a large turnover of teaching staff over the last two years and the team clearly work hard to create an attractive and stimulating learning environments for the children. The children are wonderful and 'Big Writing' is alive and well at TNHPS.

Kay Crellin and her team are doing a great job and releasing a special kind of magic.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Dirk Gilleard and I had lunch with Paul Kaiserman and the leadership team from Artforms at the West Park Centre...

Paul, Fiona, Ray and Clare wanted to talk through the contribution Artforms will be making over the next few years, the challenges and opportunities the team faces and how an Arts Centre can be used and developed.

It was a stimulating and interesting hour and a half with a brilliant group of colleagues.
I moved on to St Anthony's Catholic Primary School in Beeston...

St Anthony's is a good school well led by Maura Laverty, the headteacher. Maura and her team have created a wonderful learning environment. The children had very positive attitudes to learning, were well motivated and relationships were very good.
I started the day early with Chief Superintendent Mark Milsom at Holbeck Police Station...

West Yorkshire Police have been supporting South Leeds High School and we were meeting to catch up on the progress the school is making.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Tomorrow sees the start of Anti-bullying Week and we are launching another brilliant campaign which is called 'The Power of Me'...

The campaign has been developed with young people from 22 schools across the city and is a whole city approach to help us build resilience in our young people, to tackle cyber-bullying and to stamp out bullying wherever it happens. The pilot scheme at Ralph Thoresby High School has:
    • a peer support team trained by Childline as first point of contact for anyone who has been bullied or feels unsafe;
    • Leeds Rugby Foundation providing positive breaktime activities;
    • The Anti-bullying Alliance has trained the staff;
    • Restorative Justice training involving the West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council's Youth Offending Team;
    • 'Mission Transition' a musical productio to support transition to seciondary school.

'The Power of Me' is sponsored by First Direct Bank and provides help and advice to anyone who is experiencing bullying or dealing with it in schools. Bus adverts are helping to raise the profile of the scheme which is supported by posters, postcards and stickers. If you want to find out more about the scheme contact my colleague Hilary Farmery on


I don't know if you saw it, but I read in the Times Educational Supplement that The Ashden Trust, one of the Sainsbury trusts, makes awards to schools for their energy policies...

The awards are for £15000 and £5000 but entries close on 4 December so you need to be quick! The website is at

Friday, 16 November 2007

And finally at the end of yet another week I took Rosemary Archer out for a cup of coffee while we talked about the 14 - 19 Review and the Inclusive Learning Strategy.
Then it was over to the Civic Hall for the feedback from the Joint Area Review team at the end of their information gathering week...

There were no surprises and the focus will be largely around provision for children with learning disabilities and the 14 - 19 provision in Leeds.
I moved on to Merrion House to collect for Children in Need...

I had been challenged to wear a white shirt for the first time for ages and we raised about £350.
I moved on to the Healthy Schools Celebration event at Castle Grove in Headingley...

The Healthy Schools team had organised a series of workshops for the schools who had achieved Healthy Schools status since the Summer. The theme of the session was Break Times which links to the launch of the fantastic 'Emotional Health and Well-being Strategy' and supports the work we are all doing to address the problem with childhood obesity.

The schools who attended with groups of young people attended three workshops:
    • a physical activity session;
    • a healthy eating session;
    • an emotional health session.

AND a great time was had by all!


I started the day at Garforth Community College talking to Paul Edwards about the support he is providing for South Leeds High School.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the collection for Children in Need. I'll let you know later how much we raised...

Next Friday we celebrate the last day of Anti-Bullying week and everyone is being asked to dress in blue to demonstrate your commitment to making young people safe and tackling bullying wherever we find it.

Why don't you do something and get sponsored and raise some money towards our £50,000 total for Martin House. All ideas welcome... and please let me know what you would like the Chief Executive to do to get your money.
My colleague David Bateson sent me this...

"Hi Chris just some information for your blog following the presentation last night @Castle Grove Hall.......... 22 Staff fom the Pupil Development Centres and Inclusion Workers from PAS have successfully completed a year long programme and produced some fantastic folders about the work they have done as a result of the programme, It was a great celebration because we had Carol Jordan and Chris Pollard presenting the certificates and congratulating the participants on the innovative and exciting work they do which has positive outcomes for young people.

We should be proud of the way colleagues are working together on this programme and how the succesful participants can become advocates and facilitators of the programme. All 22 received the DCSF certificate and some staff are interested in accessing additional qulalifications linked to the programme. One of the group took some photos which we hope to share with you once he's learnt how to download them.Carol has a short briefing paper which I could forward if you need it. Cheers David.

PS the next group is starting in January 2008"

David is right we have some amazing work going on and some amazing colleagues doing it.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

The National College for School Leadership (NCSL) has announced plans for an innovative strategy to enhance the capacity of school leaders to secure primary schoolchildren's wellbeing and skills for life...

NCSL has been given the go ahead from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families to begin some sustained work on primary school leadership – including developing further the role of highly skilled school business managers that could save up to a third of headteachers' time. To find out more visit the national College website at
I then met with Abdul Udin and Frank Hartle from the Hay Group...

The identification and development of future school leaders is a key strategic challenge. Sustaining the flow of high-quality school leaders is critical to achieving the best outcomes for all our children and young people. The most effective leaders and practitioners must be encouraged and enabled to work where their skills are most needed. Frank has written some materials for the National College for School Leadership on succession planning and the challenges we face with recruiting, keeping and managing leadership talent. They are working with hampshire and other authorities to develop local programmes and we are looking at how we might further develop this work here in Leeds.