Friday, 11 May 2007

I started the day at Whingate Primary School. I had been invited to their Key Stage 1 celebration assembly...

Whingate Primary School is a great school with a fantastic young team and I was there to present certificates to a group of parents who had completed the volunteering course my colleague Jane Haswell has developed and which now can be accredited through the Open College Network. The parenting programmes in Leeds are brilliant and reaching groups of mums who missed out on qualifications and courses at school and it is wonderful to see and celebrate their successses. Jane will send me some photos of the group next week.

Stuart Myers and his team have really transformed things over the last two years. This is a great school doing some really good things. What makes Whingate Primary School such a good school?
  • a young and talented teaching team;
  • strong and passionate leadership across the school;
  • inspiring teaching within a positive learning environment;
  • high expectations of every child and the whole learning team; and
  • some great young people!

Stuart and his team are doing a great job and have created a fantastic learning environment for the children.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

I had some great news today about this years' Teaching Awards...

Five colleague and one of our schools have got through to the Regional Finals of the Teaching Awards. This ia a wonderful achievement for our talented colleagues who have got through the first assessment stage and now carry the flag for Leeds into the Regional Finals.

  • Julie Casper from Wigton Moor Primary School nominated for the DfES Award for Governor of the Year;
  • Micahel Wilding from Allerton High School nominated for the Award for Teaching Assistant of the Year;
  • Kathryn Clarke from Woodkirk High Specialist Science School nominated for the Guardian Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School;
  • John Townsley from Morley High School nominated for the Royal Air Force Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School;
  • Elizabeth Caven from Allerton High School nominated for the TDA Award for the Outstanding New Teacher of the Year;
  • Christ the King RC Primary School nominated for the DfES Award for Sustainable Schools.
Let's hope that these talented colleagues and Christ the King RC Primary School make it to the National Finals.

Congratulations and good luck to them all.
I had a letter today from John Gibson one of our supply teachers...

John has been writing to me every term, since I started in Leeds six years ago, to tell me his top ten primary schools. The places he has worked as a supply teacher where he has seen brilliant headteachers, fantastic colleagues and great children.

What I like about John and his letters is that they give me an interesting and very different perspective... the schools not on their best behaviour because the Chief Executive o Education Leeds is coming but as seen from inside the staffroom and the classroom and I haven't known him to be wrong when I check it out with my colleagues.

This time the top ten are as follows:
  • Fountain Primary School;
  • Meadowfield Primary School;
  • Swinnow Primary School;
  • Scholes Primary School;
  • Victoria Primary School;
  • Holly Bush Primary School;
  • Chapel Allerton Primary School;
  • Bracken Edge Primary School;
  • Christchurch CE Primary School;
  • Miles Hill Primary School.

It's a great list and as I said in my letter back to John, it is brilliant to know what fantastic places our primary schools are and what a wonderful job colleagues in these schools are doing to ensure that our children are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.


I ended the day at Brigshaw High School where Paul Brough-Jones and Liz Jones had organised a Conference for governors and staff from the nine schools in the Brigshaw Cluster of Schools to look at the opportunities that exist to take their brilliant partnership working forward...

This cluster is at the leading edge of work in Leeds and the region developing Extended Services and partnership and multi-agency working in this new Children's Services world. The schools were all keen to start to explore how they might further develop their practice and their working together to provide even better support to children, young people, their families and their communities.

Mary Neate from the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust provided her insights into the new and developing Trust Model while Councillor James Lewis and I provided a Leeds City Council and Education Leeds perspective. My view is that clusters should start local, determine what they want to achieve and then see if the Trust model would help them deliver it.

If any other schools are interested in looking at these issues we would be happy to help and Paul and Liz from the Brigshaw Cluster and Paul Edwards and Hazel Willis from the Garforth Cluster would be good people to talk to and possibly to invite to a meeting in your piece of Leeds.

It's good to talk and even better to listen.
I went to another of our small primary schools today...

Sarah Millard, the headteacher at Ingram Road Primary School, had invited me to come and meet her School Council and see the school... and it was great. Sarah and Eileen Pattison, Chair of the Governing Body, met me outside the school and showed me the outside wall of the school... every child and every member of staff, with help from some of the talented children, had produced a tile with a self portrait and all the tiles had been mounted around the school name to create a wonderful mosaic... a snapshot in time to become a little piece of the schools' history... brilliant.

Inside, I was greeted by members of the School Council and I was shown out into the playground to see all the school doing 'Wake Up and Shake Up' led by a group of children and the fantastic PE Co-ordinator... the energy, enthusiasm, commitment and sheer joy on show was wonderful.

I then spent time with Aeron, Asad, Frederick, Sophie. Amel, Sarah and Kiari, the School Council, who talked confidently and passionately about their school... the healthy tuck shop, the Active Club, the sports activities, the breakfast club sponsored by Greggs, the phonics work in reception and their SATs next week. This was a wonderful group of young people who are, very obviously, being nurtured, encouraged and supported as brilliant little learners by Sarah, her Deputy and their team.

Sarah and her team are clearly making real progress in a school where mobility is very high and in a building which is limited in terms of the space you need for everything schools now have to do in a Children's Services world. This is a wonderfully multi-cultural school in every sense with a world map in the entrance surrounded by the flags of all the 37 nations the children come from and the school is now involved in an exciting 'linking classrooms' project connecting it with schools in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The visit brightened my day thanks to Sarah and her children.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

I shouldn't have bothered reading the Guardian today. The paper was full of stories about the dangers to our children from their food and from watching too much television...

Researchers at Southampton University have apparently confirmed results first published seven years ago linking additives in food to behavioural problems, such as temper tantrums, poor concentration and hyperactivity. The researchers suggest we should avoid tartrazine (E102)ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104), and allura red AC (E129) along with the preservative sodium benzoate (E211). Some of these are banned in Scandinavian countries and the USA but they are all approved as safe and legal by the EU. You can find out more at

The resaerch linking too much television and learning problems came from a twenty year study following 700 children which found that excess TV viewing leads to poor academic achievement... children who watched more than three hours of TV a day develop problems such as boredom, hating school and difficulty doing homework and were much more likely to drop out and underachieve than children who watched less than one hour of TV a day. The scary fact is that the average 12 to 15 year old in Britain spends around seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen! The study is published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and you can find out more at
I started the day with a group of talented colleagues at the Chevin Lodge Country Park Hotel near Otley...

It was great to spend time having breakfast with a group of talented headteachers and to discuss how we develop local services for children and families building on some really brilliant local practice. The universal offer we make critically depends on colleagues like these... colleagues who acknowledge the real strengths in their schools, understand the weaknesses and the linitations and are prepared to work together to build even better provision... in the early years, in small primary schools and at post-14 and at post-16 in our secondary schools.

There are some inspiring people leading our schools.
And by the way the Volunteering Course my colleague Jane Haswell is running here in Leeds...

Jane is contactable at Details of the course were also sent to every school in the envopack - around Feb/March time.

Monday, 7 May 2007

It's strange but one of our City Councillors raised an important issue in a comment on the blog...

It was about children missing from education and whether I gave it sufficient priority. The Councillor couldn't find any evidence on the blog that I was taking the issue seriously, especially since she/he had read that Rosemary Archer had attended a session on the subject recently.

Actually I did go and on 22 March my blog reads as follows "And finally I went to the Children Missing Education Conference at Elland Road... Jane Hall and her fantastic colleagues had put together a half-day programme which they were running twice today... Jane had asked me to talk at the afternoon session. The highlight of the session was a performance by Intake High School students who were brilliant! Chris"

It was a coincidence perhaps that The Observer had an exclusive on Sunday about the estimated 100,000 children missing from school. The article highlighted the fact that 70,000 Year 11s simply don't turn up for their GCSEs. 15,000 Year 11s are not registered at a school. And 5,800 Year 9s in 2005 didn't turn up in Year 10!

Professor Stephen Heppell is involved with an organisation called The inclusion Trust to begin to address this issue. " These kids could fill the new Wembley Stadium" He is working on a unique programme called 'Not School' which he estimates could pull 50,000 of these young people back into learning.

Colleagues in Education Leeds have been working on this agenda for the last three years and we have established some brilliant practice but we all need to think about how we do even better... for a start we need to find out about Stephen Heppel's work.