Saturday, 26 May 2007

Last night I went to see Rigoletto...

Opera North were doing the wonderful Verdi opera at the Leeds Grand Theatre and it was a fantastic night out. It's a dark story which led it to be banned when it was first performed. Richard Mantle, General Director at the Grand says in the programme "Rigoletto is an opera of immense vitality with an unforgettably vivid score and a story capable of turning both our hearts and our stomachs."

But why do all the great operas have to end with someone dying?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

It's another half-term and everyone I meet is so tired. A bit like the footballers who played in the Cup Final this year...

I am really lucky, my life is brilliant and there is never a dull day because I am constantly setting new goals, accepting new challenges, meeting new people and focusing on what I still need to do here in Leeds. Remember that there is a real danger that we all look forward so much to the end of something; a half-term, a term or a career and set that as our goal... only to find that when we get there we are totally exhausted, because we have achieved our goal and there is nothing to look forward to, nothing to work for or to get the energy levels up.

Lou Tice got it right ,we must constantly set ourselves new goals, things that will keep our energy levels up and enable us to enjoy the break, our work or our retirement. So what are your goals for half-term and for the week after half-term... remember to refresh, recharge, read, relax and take care. See you after half-term for the next set of challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead.

"Set the goal and invent the way;
Set the goal and make it happen;
Set the goal and change the world."

Keep the faith.
I finished the day meeting with Rose Simpkin, Director of Leeds Racial Harassment soon to be renamed Stop Hate Crime...

Interestingly, the Channel 4 news this evening identified Leeds as having one of the highest levels of reported racist incidents in schools. The programme highlighted the example of two young Asian women who were too frightened to go to school in Manchester... it was terribly sad that anyone would bully or intimidate these two intelligent young women.

We must continue to do everything we can to tackle this corrosive and destructive issue. We must all all refocus and redouble our efforts through Circle Time, our PSHE programmes, the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard and the Together for Peace initiative to continue to build respect, tolerance and understanding. We must also work closely with Rose and her colleagues to continue to rigorously tackle and root out every racist incident in our schools.
I received an e-mail today from one of my colleagues who has got a fantastic new job...

"Dear Chris, I announced to my Governors on Monday, and to my staff today, my imminent departure from Leeds to take up a headship in North Wales. This is a fantastic 'work life balance' opportunity for my family to move to an area where we have wanted to live for some time & also a tremendous professional challenge for me (no SATs, no CVA, no league money!!!!).

I want you to know that, although it has been a roller-coaster for me, I have enjoyed working in Leeds so much that I could not begin to tell you. A lot of people,including myself at times, have scoffed at your oft stated assertion that there are 'brilliant' people in Leeds - well it is 100% true. There are many colleagues in Leeds I will miss, both professionally and personally, and I could possibly name them all. At Education Leeds I have come across so many great people that it may be unfair to mention anyone in particular, but I would like to thank both you and your colleagues for allowing me to work closely with you on many projects over my time. I hope I may have made some small contribution to pushing things forward in the right direction - and if not you an always blame me for stuff when I've gone!!

I think it is worth pointing out that, under the Welsh Assembly Government, things are entirely different in Wales and so it will take me a while to get used to things. One thing that is already clear, however, is how well off Leeds is financially and you should take some of the credit for that personally because you have ensured that Leeds never gets forgotten. Learners in Leeds will thank you one day I'm sure."

It's great to know that colleagues leaving Leeds, with nothing to gain or lose, recognise and celebrate what we have here... people and provision that is so unique and so special.
I went on to Hovingham Primary School for yet another celebration of the achievements of their parents...

My colleagues, Val Cain and Jane Haswell were there to help me celebrate the achievements... some of the mums had completed the STEPS course and others had completed the Volunteering course. Sitting in the Pupil Development Centre with the mums afterwards you realise what Janet and her colleagues have achieved at the school. It was a wonderful atmosphere and the engagement with parents and carers is clearly making a real difference to these families.
I did manage to make it to Adel Primary School...

I caught the end of their assembly on the work of Oxfam. I'd been invited to their 'International Week' where they are celebrating global citizenship. I walked around the school with Stephen Boothroyd, the new headteacher. Every class had adopted a country and the classrooms featured displays of art, activities and games from every continent and examples where children were exploring new cultures and new languages... some of the younger children were counting and speaking in Italian!

It's really great to see our talented colleagues in wonderful schools celebrating the richness and diversity of the world we live in!
I started the day early with Simon Flowers at Carr Manor High School...

This is a great school with a brilliant team of colleagues who are working to transform outcomes for young people in this community. Simon showed me a picture taken at the School Prom... it was picture of Simon and some of his students... students who had not been expected to finish school and achieve anything but because of the relationships and the self-belief the team had developed with these young men, here they were; some of the real but hidden successes. Simon and I talked about the 14 - 19 Review, Trusts and Learning Campuses and how we could help Carr Manor High School continue to develop its offer to its students, their families and the community.

It was a great start to the day.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

My colleague Dirk Gilleard and I had dinner this evening with Lord Andrew Adonis...

We had been invited by the DfES to the Queeen's Hotel to discuss the potential of Academies here in Leeds. Leeds was well represented at the dinner... Cllr Blake, Cllr Brett, Cllr Harker, Cllr Harris, Cllr Hyde, Rosemary Archer and Paul Rogerson were joined by Margaret Coleman from the Learning and Skills Council, colleagues from Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Leeds, colleagues from the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds along with a selection of business partners.

Lord Adonis outlined the power of the Academy model in tackling educational disadvantage and Cllr Harker outlined the Leeds approach before I talked...

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever does."
Margaret Mead

" Here in Leeds we have made really good progress over the last five years. 38% of our young people were achieving Level 2 qualifications (equivalent to 5 good GCSEs) at 16 and now 52% are!... and interestingly by the age of 19 over 75% of our young people are achieving Level 2 qualifications.

We believe that we still need a step change in outcomes for young people. About 80% of our young people are successful at primary school so why shouldn't 80% go on to achieve Level 2 qualifications at 16, with 95% progressing to Further and higher education, and 60% achieving Level 3 qualifications by 19?

To achieve these ambitious outcomes, the most ambitious targets for any local authority in the country, we need to do things differently... ALL OF US... schools, colleges, Leeds City Council, the Learning and Skills Council and Education Leeds! We need to develop LEARNING PATHWAYS based on a clear and unambiguous LEARNER ENTITLEMENT. We need to develop CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE linked to the skills sectors crucial to the success of our great city. We need to build BRILLIANT PROVISION consistently for ALL OUR LEARNERS... whatever it takes!

We must develop a new language around learning, around our little learners and our bigger learners, and we need to build a city where everyone understands that learning matters and every learners counts. To do this we must put aside our institutional bias and prejudices and start talking about:
  • the learner entitlement;
  • teaching and learning;
  • coaching and personalisation;
  • a rich, diverse and creative:
  • ... post-14 offer; and
  • ... post-16 offer.
  • intelligent accountability;
  • engagement and choice;
  • centres of excellence
  • ... academic;
  • ...vocational; and
  • ... specialist.

We are hoping to take forward a Leeds Learning Trust to help us drive this transformational programme across the city. We are happy to have more Academies but only where they add valus and help us achieve our goals and where we have shared and agreed protocols around attendance, exclusions and partnership working.

We are totally committed to working with anyone and everyone who shares our passion and ambition and who wants to help us ensure that every school in Leeds is a brilliant learning place whereevery child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful."


I have been trying to get to Adel Primary School this week...

Sadly so far I haven't made it! I've been invited to their International Week where they are celebrating global citizenship. The weeks activities include:
  • a Fairtrade Cafe with recipes from around the world;
  • music, dances and songs from different cultures;
  • displays of ethnic art:

  • activities and games from every continent;

  • exploring new cultures and new languages.

It's great to see our wonderful schools celebrating the richness and diversity of the world we live in and I might still make it!


I spent most of the afternoon with the Headteachers' Forum...

I am increasingly impressed with the colleagues I work with from our schools. We have developed great teamwork and brilliant understanding here in Leeds and our headteachers are an amazing bunch... innovative, creative and imaginative and determined to do things their way because they passionately believe that it works for children and young people.

Who wouldn't be impressed?
I spent lunchtime dealing with the consequences of a Channel 4 programme about racist incidents in schools...

The programme is due to be shown tomorrow evening but it identifies Leeds as having one of the highest levels of reported racist incidents in schools. This is interpreted as bad news but as I explained to the journalists who interviewed me today I believe that it shows that we take the issue seriously. We had 1450 reported incidents last year... equivalent to around 5 per school. They are mostly verbal abuse and mostly reported across our 230 primary schools.

We should celebrate the fact that we do take this seriously and while every racist incident is one too many we should refocus and redouble our efforts through the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard and the Together for Peace initiative to continue to build respect, tolerance and understanding.

Keep the faith.
I went on to one of our small village primary schools...

I visited Aberford CE Primary School where Bob Young and his colleagues are doing great things. Sadly, I missed most of the class assembly where a significant group of parents and all the children were squeezed into the school hall. I also met Ruth Toone, the Chair of the Governors, who is also passionate about the school and what it is achieving. I did manage to catch a circle time session where the pet duck was talking about her experiences to the younger children...

As always in a small school there was an energy and engagement that is great to see and judging from the Year 5 and 6 class I visited, there are some fantastic, talented and articulate young people who will go on to do great things.

I started the day early with Keith Loudon and Trina Hegarty...

We are trying to establish a link with Banco Santander who own Abbey. Apparently, they are the sixth largest banking group in the world and the sponsors of this year's British Grand Prix.

We were discussing primary spanish, financial literacy, business studies and hoola hooping! The Spanish city of Santander is renowned as the world champion hoola hooping city... a fact I suspect a lot of colleagues didn't already know!

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

I started the day early at Quarry Mount Primary School...

Margaret Moyles, the Acting Headteacher, and Katie Hamer, the Deputy Headteacher met me when I arrived. Katie had been at the Lou Tice Event last week and had asked me to come to school because they had organised a special event which she really wanted me to attend... she was very persuasive! I also met a great friend, Colette Kurylo, the Children's Centre Manager, who showed me her brilliant new facilities which include a 'birth to threes' unit, meeting rooms, family rooms and offices. Margaret, Katie and Colette are fantastic colleagues who passion, energy and commitment shines out like a beacon in this very diverse and challenging little bit of Leeds.

Therese McNeice, the North West Leeds Pupil Development Centre Manager had invited me to the school because they had organised a half-day Weapons Awareness course for parents. The rise in gun and knife crime nationally had made the team look for a positive and proactive way of addressing the issue with parents. This built on the Weapons Awareness course that the school has run for children over the last couple of years. PC Eric Cryer and Jamie Mensah, from the Youth Service, were running the programme with Pat Regan, a Leeds mother, whose son was shot dead in Liverpool in December 2002. Pat's other son was also shot and wounded in a Leeds nightclub. She believes that "it's time to take responsibility and do all we can to make people sit up and listen." Pat set up her own organisation, Mothers Against Violence because "We want to put a stop to the wave of gun crime and street violence."

Pat is an inspirational woman and it was great to see colleagues from a range of organisations working so well together to address such a complex and difficult issue.

Monday, 21 May 2007

I started the day with the secondary headteachers...

They are a great group of talented colleagues and I am increasingly certain that the strength, health and well-being of our learning community here in Leeds critically depends on the participation and engagement of everyone who shares our passion, our belief and our faith in our children and young people... that is after all one of the reasons why I started this blog!

We were discussing 14 - 19 provision here in Leeds but increasingly sessions like this reinforce my belief that everyone has a contribution to make and that every contribution will help us shape and develop our provision, our practice and improve our outcomes. We already know that achieving sustainable and deep change requires a distinctive blend of reflection and implementation... more so than ever we need dreamers with deadlines!

What can we learn from colleagues in Leeds to drive and develop our practice? What can we learn from colleagues in Stockholm to drive and develop our secondary practice? What can we learn from colleagues in Reggio Emilia to drive and develop our early years practice? Together, we need to deepen our understanding of the concepts, principles and values that underpin our provision and provide the foundations on which we can build briliant learning places... be that 14 - 19 provision, early years provision, parenting, coaching... whatever! We need to carefully engage all our colleagues, individually and in groups in sharing, developing and understanding these ideas and then establishing them in their schools, their colleges and their workplaces. We must apply these ideas consistently and powerfully to develop brilliant learning places that nurture, sustain and transform our practice and our outcomes.

So how do we develop somewhere where we can nurture and develop ideas... from the small steps to the giant leaps of faith we need here in Leeds and across the country. If we are serious about transformational outcomes for our children and young people we must be brave and shine a light on all aspects of our provision and ask questions about everything we do and how we can do it better.

Please contribute your ideas, your stories and your activities because everyone has something important to add to the mix. Your ideas will help us think differeently, your stories will encourage others to share theirs and your activities will spark ideas in other colleagues.

So SHARE things, have your say and make a DIFFERENCE!
One of my colleagues Zoë Stead, who is the Extended Schools Development Officer based at St Bartholomew's C of E Primary School sent me this to share with you...

"Dear Chris
I am a regular reader of your blog, and would like to bring a story about one of the parents in Leeds to your attention. Mandy Craven has won not only a Community Champions award for the local Leeds Adult Learners' Week awards, but also a regional ALW award for Yorkshire and Humberside awarded by NIACE. On Friday she went with her family to have an award presented to her in Scarborough, and tomorrow she is being presented with her local Community Champions award at the Town Hall. Mandy is a return to learn-er who went back into learning at the local Park Lane College in Armley and worked her way through GCSEs, a mature Access Course and finally a 2:1 degree in dietetics at LMU. During her University course her small daughter was diagnosed as autistic, and despite this huge disruption Mandy still completed her work placement and the full degree. Her work for other parents of autistic children is tireless, and she is also massively active in her local community - having set up her own independent parents' group (APPLE - Armley Primary Parents Learning and Enjoyment) and helping out with the Armley Fun Day, working for her school as a school governor and much much more. I have attached a small case study which summarises some of Mandy's work.
I think Mandy demonstrates that committed individuals CAN change things - her work with the APPLE group is tireless and she is always ahead of me in arranging activities, courses and events and widening her group to be all inclusive (she is arranging for interpreters so that Polish mums in the area can join in some of the courses).
Mandy is very modest and never seeks publicity for her work, but I thought that you would like to hear how one parent is helping provide services for parents and children.

Thanks Zoe... there are some incredible people about and it's true that thoughtful, committed, passionate people change the world... indeed they are the only people who do! Has anyone else got a story to share about someone who is making a real difference here in Leeds?
"If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, she learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, she learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, she learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, she learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, she learns to like herself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world."
Dorothy Law Nolte

I think that applies equally to little learners, big learners, children, parents and carers and should help us think through what we mean by brilliant learning places. I mentioned my friend John Gibson and his uniquely different perspective on brilliant learning places...

John contacted me again last week... a week which had not been a good one for me in lots of ways. John wanted me to know about two other fantastic learning places... Blackgates Primary School and Austhorpe Primary School... schools where he had been working recently.

John tells me that what makes these schools special is:
  • inspiring leadership;
  • fantastic teamwork;
  • great children; and
  • high expectations.

Thanks John.

We do have some inspiring learning places here in Leeds; places where children learn tolerance, fairness, respect, and friendship; places where all children are accepted, encouraged and praised and where everyone feels secure and valued.


It's great when other coleagues want to tell me their stories...

Susie Mackenzie, one of the Educational Psychology Team wanted me to know about the fantastic work two of our brilliant learning places are doing with children with significant health problems. Inclusion is at the heart of what we do... all our provision should be good, improving AND inclusive and Blackgates Primary School and Cottingley Primary School show us all what we can do if we have the right attitudes and beliefs. They are wonderful examples of schools that set the goal and simply make it happen, set the goal and invent the way.

Thanks Susie... I am eqully proud to be part of a team here in Leeds that set the goal and always puts children first... whatever it takes.