Saturday, 31 March 2007

I am told that there is some confusion about Wake Up and Shake Up...

'Wake Up and Shake Up' is a brilliant initiative that aims to raise fitness levels amongst young people, parents and colleagues in schools! Every day children have between 5 and 10 minutes of simple repetative aerobic style exercises which everyone can do in their classrooms to music, in the hall or even outside on sunny days. The idea is to increase the heart rate and the transfer of oxygen around the body which we believe will result in heightened levels of concentration and better participation in tasks and activities. We are monitoring the initiative to see if children's performance improves and if this can be linked to 'Wake Up and Shake Up'.

Friday, 30 March 2007

I have just been to the Official Opening of the suite of rooms and facilities at Windmill Primary School that have been redesigned to accommodate the Windmill Autism Partnership. David Dewhirst, ex-Headteacher of the Broomfield Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre opened the new facilities and celebrated the fantastic inclusion practice at this wonderful primary school.

Sally Sumpner and her colleagues at Windmill Primary School have worked with David and his colleagues over the last three years to create something unique and incredibly special for primary age children with Autism... we all aim to make a difference through our work and in our lives but here at Windmill Primary School is the evidence and it is truly wonderful.
I opened the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Conference on Elective Home Education this morning at Blenheim...

It was great to see some old colleagues who are working in this vital area. My colleague Brian Hogg has done a brilliant job and, with his colleagues Christine Spurr and Norma Leigh, created a regional centre of excellence. Brian and colleagues have been working closely with talented colleagues from the Education Welfare Service and the Travellers Education Service to ensure that all parents and carers educating their children at home are supported and monitored to ensure that the children receive 'efficient, suitable and fulltime education'.

I hope that we can create a learning network around this aspect of our work, sharing ideas and learning together.
Simply BRILLIANT Places are HAPPY Places.
Happiness and well-being are increasingly seen as vital elements in successful organisations. You have to ask what is wrong with us… the evidence would suggest that we are better off, we have more and we work fewer hours... although personally I am not sure about this. Yet, as a nation we are apparently more stressed, less happy and less content.

So how do we make our BRILLIANT learning places happier places… how do we make our schools happier, healthier and safer places for our learners? What are the characteristics of a happy organisation? What are the characteristics of a happy learning place? What makes you happy at work? Please let me know.
What do you want to achieve this year? What are your goals? How do you achieve them?

I was witha group of young people yesterday at South Leeds High School and it's simple… simply believe in yourself. You must believe that you have enormous potential and that you can lose weight, you can stop smoking, you can do more, you can achieve more, you can be more. You must passionately see yourself as a healthier, fitter, better and stronger you and you will find a way. It’s a simple as this, you must set the goal and invent the way.
So, what are your goals?
Let me know… I might be able to help.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

We have now launched this year's Be Healthy! campaign through launch events led by young people and attended by school staff and members of school councils. The pack for 2007 is in schools and can be accessed on our website from Monday.
I had a great meeting with Rosemary Archer, Sally Threlfall, Keith Burton and colleagues this morning where we explored 'Progressive Universalism'...

Interestingly the challenge we all face is how do develop an entitlement for all... 'The Leeds Promise' for every child at key points in their lives here in Leeds:
  • the Leeds Promise for Babies?
  • the Leeds Promise for 5 Year Olds?
  • the Leeds Promise for 11 Year Olds?
  • the Leeds Promise for 16 Year Olds?

and on top of this what are the 'Additional Promises' we will make for :

  • Looked After Children?
  • children with a disability?
  • children from Traveller Communities?
  • children from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities?
  • children from White Working Class Communities?
  • Children at Risk of Underachieving?

I'd be interested to know what people think.


I received the following information through the Campaign for Learning and thought you might find it interesting...

Fallibroome High School have been involved in the Campaign for Learning's Learning to Learn Programme since 2003. In December 2006 the school received a remarkable Ofsted report with a full set of grade one judgements under the headline of "an outstandingly effective school."

The school has been on an interesting journey in the last few years and, in a very complex business, they argue that two factors have been crucial to their success; attendance at the Learning Brain Expo in the USA and adopting the Kagan Co-operative Learning Strategies, which they discovered at the conference.

The school is now leading the Macclesfield Partnership of schools in recreating the learning conference in this country and they have brought over many of the inspirational American speakers and added a fantastic list of UK strategists and neuroscientists. The Learning Brain Europe Conference is in Oxford from 4-5 June and in Harrogate from 7-8 June.

To find out more go to
I went to Parklands Primary School last night to the drinks reception to mark the retirement of Steve Fisher...

Steve is a brilliant headteacher of a fantastic school... good, improving and inclusive provision characterises this beacon of real excellence in Seacroft. Steve has been headteacher there since 1989 and he has built a wonderful school to serve this community. He pioneered multi-agency working long before the DfES even thought of it and was instrumental in establishing MAST which has had an incredible impact in the area working with children and their families.

He will be missed by us all and we wish him well in his retirement.
As a part of her induction to Education Leeds, my new colleague Louise Vardey, Head of Personnel, went to Ingram Road Primary last week. Louise was clearly bowled over by her visit to this wonderful little school. She told me that she thought Sara Millard is a great headteacher who was justifiably very proud of everything that the school is achieving. For instance:
  • Hilary Benn MP visited as a part of the Red Nose Day events;
  • photos of Sara's school children appeared on the Leeds School Meals Strategy newsletter;
  • the school is a fantastic example of a healthy school;
  • the school is a Beacon for English as a second language;
  • their Contextual Value Added is 103!
  • it is one of the best, if not the best, schools for the take up of free schools meals in Leeds.

We are so lucky to have brilliant leaders, like Sara, leading great schools here in Leeds.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

A colleague recently told me that she just wanted to be inspired...

As part of the Education Leeds 'Lead Inspire Transform' programme we wanted to recognise young people who inspire others. Nine talented and amazing young people were nominated by their headteachers, group leaders or peers as 'inspirational young leaders'. The young people who received their Young Leaders Awards from the Lord Mayor were...
  • Rheima Ibrahiim who was nominated by Paulette Morris from Leeds Young Authors;
  • Danny Parr who was nominated by Aimee Fletcher and Jamie-Leigh Hall from Halton Moor Youth Centre;
  • Eleanor Hallis who was nominated by Christine Belt from Harehills Primary School;
  • Danielle Hemingway who was nominated by Louise Megson from St Lukes Cares;
  • Gavin Foster who was nominated by John Goldthorp from Priesthorpe Sports Specialist College;
  • Beth McCann who was nominated by Sarah Moss from Parklands Girls High School;
  • Finley Lund who was nominated by Chris Clarke from Kippax North Junior and Infant School;
  • Sadie Bateman who was nominated by Linda West from Raynville Primary School and Charlee Bewsher from Youth on Health;
  • Jonathan Langstaff who was nominated by Linda West from Raynville Primary School and Charlee Bewsher from Youth on Health.
These wonderful young leaders are showcased on the Education Leeds 'Lead Inspire Transform' web page on InfoBase and InfoBase Schools.
The seven rules of motivation...
  • set grand goals and build pathways;
  • make sure that you finish what you start;
  • spend time with people who share your passion;
  • learn how you learn best;
  • develop your talents;
  • learn about things that inspire you;
  • take risks.

Just do it!


I often think that the ends of term are great as things come together but this one was tinged with sadness as one of our most talented headteachers is retiring after a long and distinguished career at Parklands Primary School in Seacroft. I attended a drinks reception at the school to bid Steve farewell with other colleagues and friends.

Steve Fisher leads a great school which he has shaped and developed over the last seventeen years. Steve was instrumental in leading the development of integrated services around the child and the family... MAST was alive and delivering long before Children's Services was an idea at the DfES.

Steve's passion and commitment for this community and its children and families is inspiring and he will be missed.
I have just travelled back from Stratford-upon-Avon. I was chairing a national conference for 'continYou'.

Their 'Schools of the Future: National Conference on Extended Schools and Integrated Services' attracted around 300 colleagues from all over the country for this two day event. What was great was being able to talk to some amazing colleagues, from England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the occasional Scot, about the brilliant work they are doing usually on fixed and short term funding. It is staggering, knowing what we do about the impact of 'out of hours learning', that it is still so marginalised and forgotten when it comes to long term sustainable funding. We all spend so much time chasing pots of money and putting in bids, I often wonder how we continue to make such an incredible difference through these programmes... it is clearly down to these talented and amazing colleagues.

It was a great day with some sonderful people but the real highlight of the day was meeting and being interviewed by Jodie and Sam, two fantastic young people from Ormsby School in Middlesborough. They were there as Radiowaves student reporters making conference podcasts which are available at Radiowaves is a wonderful organisation working with us here in Leeds enabling young people to make their own radio programmes. You can find out more at

'continYou' is a brilliant organisation with a great team producing some amazing resources and projects. If you don't know about 'continYou' you can find out about their work at
On Monday afternoon we met with our friends from the DfES to talk about targets and schools that are hard to shift. It was our half-time talk as we run up to this year's results!

What astonishes me every time we do this, is listening to my fantastic colleagues talking about what we are doing with colleagues in schools to make a difference, to transform outcomes and to achieve transformational change and growth.

My colleagues are simply brilliant!
Sorry, it's been hectic here and I've been away...

On Monday we had the Children Leeds Open Forum at South Leeds Stadium. The accoustics were terrible which didn't help but Cllr Brett and Rosemary Arher talked about the chalenges we all face and the successes we are seeing. I was asked to be part of a small panel talking about leadership and what motivates me...

The answer I gave was my brilliant colleagues and the wonderful young people I have the privilege to serve here in Leeds. I am in awe of the colleagues in schools who do such an incredible job to ensure that our children are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.

So why is the Children Leeds thing so important? I am into jigsaw puzzles and I suppose I recognised very early on that my piece wouldn't make a fundamental difference, after all it's only 15% of the whole thing, unless it was powerfully connected with all the other pieces that shape and condition a child's life and their outcomes... it's back to the waht makes brilliant debate!
It's good to talk but better to listen.

Monday, 26 March 2007

I have just received this brilliant photograph of the team accepting the Beacon Award last week.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

My colleague Chris Bennett sent me a message this week which I wanted to share...

Chris wanted to tell me about Moira Stones, one of our brilliant learning mentors. Moira works at Carr Manor High School and Chris asked her to represent Leeds Learning Mentors at a meeting on behaviour and attendance at 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister. Moira was not used to travelling alone but, thanks to the STEPS programme, Moira went to the meeting and wowed everyone!

So much so, that Jim Knight, the Minister of State for Schools, has now invited Moira to join a practitioners' group on pupil behaviour and attendance... to quote Jim Knight's letter "it's role would be that of an informal focus group, whgose members would have the opportunity to provide views and feedback direct from the front line, drawing on their personal experiences as individual practioners. I would consult the group, from time to time, on specific issues".

The membership of the group includes six headteachers, with two Dames and a Sir, and Moira!

Our brilliant, talented, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues are simply great!
My colleague Peter Storrie sent me a message last week about my "Success is NOT plan driven. Success is NEEDS driven" call to arms. Peter says that he agrees with the statement but that both parts are necessary... the second part being by far the most critical, but the first being important to achieve the latter. Peter's legitimate concern is that the message gives permission to those people who aren't plan and performance driven and/or don't want to be. They probably believe that they are needs driven and therefore have been validated to keep on doing what they are doing. Peter argues that he isn't sure that the message helps; it is the right message for the wrong audience... what do you think?
I was sent a copy of the Beacon Scheme 2006 Assessment Form at the end of last week...

The feedback we received was brilliant... "This is an outstanding Healthy Schools Programme with some aspects that would be of immense value to other authorities." The assessment identified the following aspects as outstanding:
  • leadership, vision and strategy;
  • community and customer engagement and empowerment;
  • partnerships; and
  • outcomes.

and the following as excellent with outstanding features:

  • equalities and diversity; and
  • actions.

The feedback identifies the engagement of young people as a particularly outstanding feature of our work, exemplified by Kat and James who led our presentation in London.

We are as always simply the best!


I was sent a fantastic DVD by Ann Lomas and my colleagues in the Visually Impaired Team...

It's called 'Children's Voices... are we listening?' and I watched it over the weekend. It is a wonderful contribution to the debate about engaging and listening to young people about their lives, their learning and their schools. The young people featured were hugely impressive... especially the articulate and charismatic young man who was a Sheffield Wednesday supporter.

I hope that colleagues in every school in Leeds will watch and listen to the important messages it contains.
I received some wonderfully persuasive letters from Year 6 at Grimes Dyke Primary School. sadly their request was something I can't agree to because they wanted me to allow Year 6 and their teachers to take long weekends, which they argued would help them learn!

I explained to them that the Government requires all children between 5 and 16 years of age to attend school for 190 days every year. I suggested that since they actually only spend 15% of their time at school it isn't that much of a problem and that there are some ways they could unwind, relax and enhance their learning:
  • 'wake and shake' sessions;
  • 'healthy' breaks and lunchtimes;
  • breakfast clubs; and
  • circle time.

Any other ideas?


My colleague Steve Smith sent me something to watch...

I have just watched a fantastic talk by Ken Robinson, the creativity guru, which made me laugh and made me realise that we have a lot to do... it was called 'Do schools today kill creativity?' Ken has an amazing talent but then, like me, he believes that we all do! It takes 20 minutes and will change the way you think about creativity and school.

Watch the talk at