Saturday, 30 June 2007

I have been reading about the Leeds 'Be Healthy!' Challenge...

Schools across Leeds have been taking part in this years 'Be Healthy!' Challenge and the organising committee are now asking us, the adults,to do one small achievable thing to improve our health.

They suggest the following physical activity challenges...

  • walk around the block a fixed number of times;
  • walk with friends during your lunchtime break;
  • pace yourself with a pedometer and set a target for the number of steps you do each day;
  • take the stairs instead of the lift;
  • Teach a friend to dance, or get them to teach you;
  • park further away and stride to work.

They also suggest the following to improve your emotional well-being:

  • when sending e-mail include a message of goodwill, inspiration and motivation;
  • spend time each day listening to music;
  • learn to say good morning in another language each week;
  • have lunch with a colleague;
  • read something from a good book every day;
  • get out for some fresh air every day;
  • if you need it ask for help;
  • be kind to fellow motorists;
  • avoid getting angry;
  • spend time listening to your children;
  • learn a new joke to tell every week;
  • keep a compliments diary;
  • be positive about the people you know;
  • talk about the things that are worrying you;
  • do someone a favour;
  • switch off the TV and spend time with your family and friends;
  • learn something new;
  • volunteer;
  • set off early;
  • make lists.

Great stuff. So what are you going to do?


I have just read 'harmony', the new News Magazine of the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard in Leeds...

It is a brilliant collection of stories and articles celebrating the best of Leeds which I hope everyone will read and learn from. Wouldn't it be great if every school in Leeds had the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard!

Friday, 29 June 2007

I went on to the official opening of the Primrose and Shakespeare Learning Campus...

The school looks fantastic. Many people said that we would never deliver the new school but thanks to the brilliant partners at Investors in the Community and the vision, passion and commitment of colleagues in Leeds City Council led by David Outram and Education Leeds led by Robert Douglas and Shirley Parks we have delived something brilliant which has been brought alive by a great team of colleagues led by Liz Talmadge, Tonia Bowden and Julian Galton. The school was supposed to be opened by Hilary Benn MP but sadly he was called to a meeting of the new Government and in his place Cllr Ricahrd Harker did the honours.

It was a wonderful celebration and the rain stayed away.
If you missed this you missed something really important...

I started the day at the 'Sustainable Schools: Time for Action' Conference at the Leeds College of Music. Paul Hudson, BBC Look North Weatherman, and Dr Jake Reynolds, DCSF (DCSF is the new Department for Children, Schools and Families) Senior Adviser for Sustainable Development, both did short presentations before the participants went into some fantastic workshops sessions.
At the event we are hosting for the first time the Leeds Sustainable Schools Young Person's Summit which has brought together children and young people from primary and secondary schools across the city to discuss their hopes, aspirations and ideas. There is also a marketplace where partners and schools are sharing their ieas and projects.

I also finished the day at the Conference with a question time and the awards to the two schools who had been runners up and the winner of our competition to find a logo for our sustainable schools work. The winner was Westbrook Lane Primary School who received £300 worth of garden centre vouchers... their entry was wonderful.

The Conference was brilliantly organised by Steve Ruse and colleagues from the Health Initiatives Team and was a partnership between Education Leeds, the National Association for Environmental Education and the Geographical Association supported by United Co-op.
My colleague Barbara brought a poem back from her holiday...

Smiling is infectious; you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw me grin
When he smiled I realised I'd passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile, then I realised its worth,
A single smile, just like mine, could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected
Let's start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!

Thanks Barbara... you made us all smile.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

I also met the ABC Parent Support Group...

I had been contacted by Susan McDonagh who is the Chairperson of the Leeds ABC Suport Group. Susan and the other group members wanted to see me to discuss their concerns about provision for children and young people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition. I hadn't realised that new studies indicate that the number of children with autism is 25 times higher than the accepted figures in the 1990.

It was a really helpful meeting and we agreed to work with the group to review and develop our provision which would involve further developing the wonderful STARS service and building on the excellent provision for children with autism at the NE SILC West Oaks, Windmill Primary School and St Mary's Catholic High School.
I went on to Barwick in Elmet Primary School...

This is another little primary school doing some brilliant work. I caught the end of their concert where the children were showing off their musical talents to the school and parents... some really talented young people played flutes, clarinets, violins, recorders and bassoons!

Peter Doherty also showed me the brilliant intiative his colleagues have been working on with the Elmet Partnership of Schools. The project, which was funded by Education Leeds, is called 'Planet Protectors' and they have produced a huge resource pack focusing on green issues, sustainability and the environment. Every school in Leeds should have a copy!
I started the day early at Shire Oak CE Primary School...

Mark Edwards and his team have done a wonderful job during their first year as Shire Oak CE Primary School. Mark wanted to show me some of the best of Shire Oak and I met a group of children who were brilliant adverts for the school; a confident, articulate, positive and wonderful group of young people who talked to me about all the things they were doing and the things they liked about their school.

I was also introduced to a fantastic project which involves five Leeds schools... 'Grow It, Cook It, Film It' involves children growing their own vegetables, cooking them and filming their work... the children filmed me in their garden talking with them and it was already loaded onto their site before I left the school... it was another little piece of magic!

All of our amalgamations have been interesting but this has been a real success and shown us what we can achieve with strong support from headteachers, staff and governors.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

'Get Smarter in a Week' appears to bear out the growing belief among scientists that making simple changes to our lifestyle can lead to significant improvements in how well our brains function...

The programme found that a combination of techniques based on healthy eating, physical activity, sound sleep and stimulating your mind through solving puzzles and remembering lists makes people sharper, more confident and better at making decisions.

Brush your teeth with your 'wrong' hand and take a shower with your eyes closed.
Do the crossword or Sudoku puzzle in your Sunday paper and take a brisk walk.
Have oily fish for dinner, and either cycle, walk or take the bus into work.
Select unfamiliar words from the dictionary and work them into conversations.
Go to yoga, Pilates or a meditation class, and talk to someone you don't know.
Take a different route to work; watch Countdown or Brainteaser.
Avoid caffeine or alcohol; memorise your shopping list.

Why not try it!

Laugh and the world laughs with you...

It's always important to see the funny side and to have a sense of humour, because laughter is another of those powerful things that makes you cleverer. Research proves that laughter reduces inflammation, enhances respiration, increases the number of immune cells, decreases cortisol, and most importantly it increases natural endorphins, the body's natural mood enhancers... a bit like chocolate!

We all need to create time for fun and laughter in our busy lives. So...
  • Be quirky;
  • Laugh at yourself;
  • Laugh at situations not people;
  • Invite laughter during conflict and tears.


I was talking about chocolate again today and some people simply don't believe that is makes you cleverer and asked me where is the research evidence...

Chocolate is a psychoactive food. It is made from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree. The Greek term means literally "food of the gods". Cacao beans were used by the Aztecs to prepare a hot, frothy beverage with stimulant and restorative properties. Chocolate itself was reserved for warriors, nobility and priests. The Aztecs esteemed its reputed ability to confer wisdom and vitality.

A study of 8000 male Harvard graduates showed that chocoholics lived longer than abstainers. Their longevity may be explained by the high polyphenol levels in chocolate. Polyphenols reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and thereby protect against heart disease. Placebo-controlled trials suggest chocolate consumption may subtly enhance cognitive performance. As reported by Dr Bryan Raudenbush (2006), scores for verbal and visual memory are raised by eating chocolate. Impulse-control and reaction-time are also improved. study needs replicating.

A "symposium" at the 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science - hyped as a potentially "mind-altering experience" - presented evidence that chocolate consumption can be good for the brain. Experiments with chocolate-fed mice suggest that it stimulates neurovascular activity, enhancing memory and alertness. Coincidentally or otherwise, many of the worlds oldest supercentenarians were passionately fond of chocolate. You are best advised to eat dark chocolate rather than the kinds of calorie-rich confectionery popular in America. In 2007, a UK study suggested that eating dark chocolate was more rewarding than passionate kissing. More research is needed to replicate this result!

Chocolate contains essential amino acids important in the production of the mood-modulating neurotransmitter serotonin. Enhanced serotonin function typically diminishes anxiety. Consumption of chocolate triggers the release of endorphins, the body's endogenous opiates. Enhanced endorphin-release reduces the chocolate-eater's sensitivity to pain. Endorphins contribute to the warm inner glow induced in chocoholics.

Keep eating dark chocoalte!
Our Re-engage with the Rhinos project has also hit the headlines...

A case study in the latest edition of Sec Ed features the brilliant work that Tracy Whittaker has been doing on the Re-engage Project. To find out more visit their website at
I don't know if you saw it but our 'Just the Job' programme hit the headlines...

Bankside Pirmary School children visited Middleton Railway as part of the programme and appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post. The 'Just the Job' programme has enabled 650 children from 15 inner city primary schools to visit a range of companies and take part is a series of classroom activities. It involved 90 visits with 45 different companies over the six weeks following the Year Six SATs. Mike Cooper and his colleagues have worked incredibly hard to continue this brilliant programme despite Yorkshire Bank deciding not to fund it this year. The schools I visit tell me that this is a fantastic programme which we must continue to support and fund.

Thank you Mike and all the 'Just the Job' team.
One of my colleagues told me about a wonderful learning place she had visited...

Annie Mitchell from our Healthy Schools Team had visited the Oakwood Centre to moderate their self assessment as an Advanced Healthy School and tells me that it was amazing! Two fantastic young people proudly showed Annie around to meet a team of very special people who are making the Centre such a brilliant learning place.
We had a really interesting meeting with colleagues from OfSTED today...

It was funny but they are starting to talk about partnership and working together. Perhaps they are at long last begining to undertand that we are all after the same things... brilliant learning in brilliant learning places.
Another day another STEPS programme...

This time I went to Bramley St Peter's CE Primary School where Michael Tennant and his team are doing a wonderful job... the programme was delivered by a great team: Annie Pearson, the learning mentor, Sarah Berry, the parent support adviser and Tricia Bell, a classroom assistant and it has had an incredible impact. One of the mum's didn't enjoy driving and had never driven out of Leeds before... as a result of the programme she had bought a satellite navigation system and went to Scarborough with her family for the day... she is now enrolled on courses at college and wants to look for a job!

This is the team... talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful!

I went on to another STEPS presentation...

This was a very special one at the Cottingley Children's Centre; a real oasis of wonderful early years practice with very young children. The STEPS programme was for mums from the Cottingley Traveller Community and had been facilitated by brilliant colleagues from the Traveller Education Team. They are a really impressive group of mums who had attended the Lou Tice event and made a real impression on Lou.

I have been promised some photographs.
I started the day yesterday with another group of brilliant headteacher colleagues...

Breakfast at the Chevin Country Hotel with the Aireborough Family of Schools. They are a great group who are working together on the extended services agenda and we had a really good discussion about transition to secondary school, inclusion and behaviour management and buildings.

Monday, 25 June 2007

My colleague, Christine Marsden our Enterprise Curriculum Development Manager sent me this today...

"Chris, I notice in your blog today there is mention of the Face2Face with Finance programme from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Nat West banks. This tool is part of the toolkit which I promote in my role as Enterprise Curriculum Development Manager in order to develop young peoples’ financial capability. This has been running in Leeds schools for the last 4 years.
We also work in collaboration with pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group) to support schools in writing schemes of work which address these issues. Pfeg consultants are currently working in 12 secondary schools offering 3 free days of consultancy support. They also ran a conference for us at the last but one Enterprise Network Forum in March. The Cashpoints Money Management Business Simulation was one of the programmes which formed part of the Council’s bid for Beacon Status on Financial Inclusion. Christine"

This is another example of the brilliant work that is going on here in Leeds.