Friday, 20 July 2007

I have decided to take a break...

The blog will be quiet for a couple of weeks while I re-charge the batteries, unwind the over-stressed springs and reset the nerve endings for another year. Don't worry I'll be back with a vengence for another roller-coaster ride with DfCSF, OfSTED, National Strategies, QCA and all those colleagues who make you smile as they wave you goodbye! Take care when you are out in traffic and remember to hold hands and stick together whatever comes your way. I hope that you have a fantastic Summer holiday if you get one, and if you don't enjoy life without me.
I finished the term at Westerton Primary School...

I had been invited to their final leavers' assembly and it was a wonderful event. They can certainly sing at Westerton and the band were great! This has been a great year for Westerton... under James Reid's skilful leadership the school has achieved the Healthy Schools Award, Investors in Pupils, the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard and the Leeds Inclusion Chartermark. It also had an OfSTED inspection that said that it was an 'outstanding school'.

We have many outstanding schools here in Leeds and this is one of the best!
Sue Carroll contacted me with this message...

"Dear Mr. Edwards, my grandson Lewis attends Swarcliffe Primary School and has just completed his first year in reception. I have visited the school on several occasions and have attended assemblies, open evenings etc. I am extremely impressed with the general atmosphere within the school and the very caring and approachable staff. I particularly enjoyed school assembly with its focus on celebrating children’s achievements. Lewis has settled very well into the school environment and he has enjoyed his first year of formal education. Alicia (Lewis’s mum) and I very much appreciate the hard work of all the school staff especially Mrs. Hall, Lewis’s class teacher, who has been wonderful. She has shown huge commitment to Lewis and has spent lots of time out of school hours to meet with us when needed. I do know that you welcome comments and feedback and I feel strongly that parents (and grandparents) should take the opportunity to give their views. Sue Carroll"

It is fantastic when parents, carers and grandparents take the time to let me know about the brilliant things that are happening in schools across the city. I have been there recently and, Sue's right, Swarcliffe Primary School is a brilliant learning place where children like Lewis are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.


Thursday, 19 July 2007

It's funny but I recognise that I haven't spent as much time with some of the people who matter most over the last few weeks and months... yes, I'm talking about you!

I am sorry if you have felt neglected, unloved and starved of chocolate but it has been a hard term for me and I promise to do better next term. We all need feedback about what we are doing right and what we are getting wrong... particularly me! One of my strengths is that I am a good learner but I know that I need to be a better listener. I also need time to be more focused and more disciplined and to get the balance right between all the competing priorities for my attention.

I am working on a Review of the Year and I'll share it with you before I finalise it so you can see the highlights of my year and perhaps add your own. I know that there are so many extraordinarily talented colleagues working here at Education Leeds and we have once again had a great year where we have collectively, as teams and individually achieved so much.
Great news... the NE SILC has been identified as outstanding by OFSTED. This is a fantastic outcome and reflects the work of so many talented colleagues but it is also a testament to the work that our wonderful colleague Hilary McKuen had done at West Oaks and the Oakwood Centre here in Leeds. Hilary's death was a terrible blow to so many people and it is wonderful that his legacy continues and has been recognised in this way.
Garforth Community College has been judged as outstanding following its recent OfSTED inspection...

This is fantastic news for Paul Edwards and his talented colleagues who are, as we know, releasing a very special kind of magic at the College. It is also great news for Leeds!
By the way why is it that people believe everything they read in the papers...

Surely by now most people with any sense or intellegence realise that the truth doesn't come via the media... be that the BBC, ITV, Sky, the Times, the Guardian or even the Yorkshire Eveining Post... you name it they all do it! The spin and gossip, these organisations constantly pass off as the truth, has undermined trust and confidence with almost everything that used to be important... and sadly the harder we try to be open and transparent and straightforward the worse it gets because nobody trusts anyone anymore.

Perhaps we can get back to a code of behaviour which is about trust, openness, honesty and respect. We must understand that we all have our blindspots. We must trust everyone and give them total access to everything we have. We must admit it when we don’t know the answers. We must talk to each other, talk to everyone and constantly search for better solutions to the problems we face. We must manage everything as close as possible to the young people, the schools, the parents and the communities we serve.
I finished the day with two of my favourite people...

I had dinner with Ruth Baldwin and Sonia Sharp who used to be two of my colleagues here at Education Leeds. Ruth is now Director of Children's Services in Oldham and Sonia is Director of Children's Services in Rotherham. They are amazing women... committed, passionate, energetic, enthusiastic and brilliant... Oldham and Rotherham are incredibly fortunate to have people like this championing the best interests of their children.
I went straight on to the Cross Flatts Primary School where Anne Phillips was having her retirement celebration...

Anne has been teaching since 1969 and has been headteacher for fifteen years. Anne has championed her community and through her open, consultative and brilliant leadership built a school of real excellence never losing sight of the importance of a rich, dynamic and engaging curriculum for her children and her learning team.

We have been fortunate indeed to have Anne as a colleague over the years and Personally I will miss her passion, her good humour, her commitment, her understanding and her focused and very powerful work for her children.
I went straight on to the West SILC where Peter Miller was having his retirement celebration...

Peter has been teaching since 1978 and has been headteacher for over twelve years. Peter is a quit, thoughtful and intelligent man who has championed inclusion and special educational needs here in Leeds. He has been part of the team that re-invented the special schools in Leeds to create the SILCs and his impact for some of the most special children in Leeds has been remarkable.

Personally, I will miss his humour, his leadership, his passion and commitment and his hard work for the most important cause for Peter... improving the life chances of children and young people in his care.
I went on to the Retiring Headteachers Celebration at Haley's Hotel in Headingley...

Twelve colleagues managed to get there and together they had amassed 435 years of teaching experience and 165 years of headship experience. These are some amazingly talented colleagues who have run fantastic schools making an incredible difference in some of the most interesting parts of Leeds...
  • Charles Ashby from Scholes Elmete Primary School;
  • Liz Campbell from Brudenell Primary School;
  • Yvonne Davidson from Otley Ashfield Primary School;
  • Steve Fisher from Parklands Primary School;
  • Nigel Hewitt from Rothwell Victoria Junior School;
  • Lesley Jackson from Wykebeck Primary School;
  • Martin Kromer from Christ the King RC Primary School;
  • Gloria Stone from Thorner Primary School;
  • Bobbie Syrett from Beeston Primary School;
  • Rhoda Wallace from Whinmoor St Paul's CE Primary School.

I am particularly grateful to my colleagues Helen Ford and Iram Mir who organised and managed the event. It was a wonderful interlude where we recognised the hugely significant contribution these colleagues had made to children and young people, to families, to their learning teams and to their communities. Personally, I will miss them all!


I started the day yesterday at Leeds University for the presentation for re-accreditation of the Leeds Inclusion Chartermark...

I joined members of the Inclusion Chartermark Team and Pat Stokey from Prince Henry's Grammar School to deliver our presentation to the regional panel... and we were brilliant!

The Leeds Inclusion Chartermark was duly re-endorsed by the Regional Partnership recognising the fantastic work going on across Leeds to promote and develop inclusion.
Leeds is the first Local Authority to achieve regional revalidation based on the new Quality Standards. Congratulations to the incredible team behind this wonderful initiative... Tina Hardman, Jean Basson, Claire Norris, Anne Lomas, Carole Leeming and Harinder Takher.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

I finished my day yesterday at Beeston Primary School for their 'Prestigious Evening of Drama, Music and the Presentation of Achievement Awards' and it was brilliant...

Bobbie Syrett had asked me to come to present the awards to the talented Year 6 Leavers who also performed 'Wilbur's Web', their own wonderful show based loosely on Charlotte's Web and Babe. This is a wonderful primary school with some incredible young people... whoever gets them next year at secondary school is inheriting a hugely talented and amazing bunch of young people.

Bobbie has been teaching for 44 years and headteacher at Beeston Primary School for 20 years. She is retiring and it will not be the same without her... and personally I will really miss her!


Tuesday, 17 July 2007

I just received my termly letter from John Gibson who tells me that he will be sitting relaxing in Normandy as we read this...

As you know, if you are a regular reader of the blog, John is a supply teacher who sends me his top schools list each term. Here they are...
  • Swinnow Primary School;
  • Summerfield Primary School;
  • Miles Hill Primary School;
  • Victoria Primary School;
  • Christchurch CE Primary School;
  • Swillington Primary School;
  • Methley Primary School;
  • Fountain Primary School;
  • Kippax Ashtree Primary School;
  • Hovingham Primary School;
  • Hillcrest Primary School;
  • Bracken Edge Primary School;
  • Chapel Allerton Primary School.

John says that he has been at 100 schools as a supply teacher and that these are some of the best.


I have just experienced something special and it would have restored your faith in education, in schools and in young people if you ever were to lose it...

I was invited to the 'The Italian Job', the Amazing Year 6 Restaurant at Shakespeare Primary School. The invitation said that it would be a privilege to eat at the Five Star venue and it was much more than that!

I was welcomed by the children who had all formally applied for their jobs. I was shown to my table by the Maitre D. I ordered melon, followed by spaghetti bolognese with tiramisu to finish.
The service was attentive, couteous and fast. The venue was attractive and busy. The food was well presented and really delicious. I was also invited to inspect the kitchen which was clean, professional and slick... no swearing or abuse in here! Eat your heart out Gordon Ramsay!

'We tend to get what we expect' and what is really brilliant about Julian and his colleagues at Shakespeare Primary School is that they expect so much and what is great about the children at Shakespeare Primary School is that they are brilliant. It was the experience of my week if not my term!
I started the day having breakfast with the headteachers from the Pudsey Family of Schools...

We talked about the year we have all had... our successes, our concerns and our plans for the next year. These schools are doing amazing work on sustainable schools and school farms, on buddying and community cohesion, on behaviour managment, on sports partnership work, on health and well-being of staff and children, on international development and on ICT! Just listening to this talented group of headteachers you realise how much brilliant stuff is happening in just one family!

A great start to a great day!
My coleague Helen Pemberton contacted me...

"Chris, I too had a brilliant week! We had Wake up Shake up at our AST conference on Friday and some children from Garforth Green Lane Primary School came to get 60 ASTs to 'have a go' - the ASTs were great too and all joined in! The AST conference went really well - a fantastic atmosphere with some of our best and most committed teachers in Leeds all contributing to a wonderful learning event. I also had a really enjoyable and productive afternoon with Tonia Bowden and Chris Coley when we planned an extensive piece of work to run across the Central Leeds Learning Federation next year."

There is so much talent, energy and enthusiasm around, even at the end of a long and difficult year... it's truly an amazing place!

Monday, 16 July 2007

OK we've done healthy what about happy or safe next?

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. Yet, 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?

Work it out over the Summer and please let me know.
While I was in London over the weekend I was really aware of the huge problem we have in this country with obesity...

It certainly is a huge problem but how can you stop yourself and your family from becoming overweight or obese? We all know that many things can affect your weight but if you have a healthy diet and keep physically active then it’s much easier to stay a healthy weight.

How can you eat healthily? The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) publishes guidance that says that a healthy diet is the key and important for all the family, including children and young people. After all we are what we eat!

They say that following their advice will help you stay a healthy weight.
  • Base your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, choosing wholegrain where possible.
  • Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, peas, lentils, grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables, as well as wholegrain bread, and brown rice and pasta.
  • Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day in place of foods higher in fat and calories.
  • Choose low-fat foods.
  • Avoid foods containing a lot of fat and sugar, such as fried food, sweetened drinks, sweets and chocolate. Some takeaways and ‘fast’ foods contain a lot of fat and sugar.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Watch the portion sizes of meals and snacks, and how often you are eating.
  • Drink lots of water and avoid taking in too many calories in the form of alcohol.
How can you keep physically active? All the research suggests that small everyday changes can make a big difference. You don’t have to join a gym or sports club although it might help and below is some more advice from the NICE guidance.
  • Try walking or cycling to the shops.
  • Avoid sitting for too long in front of the television, at a computer or playing video games... you could try gradually reducing how long you sit down in front of a screen by setting some time limits.
  • Try to build physical activity into the working day... you could take the stairs instead of the lift, or go for a walk at lunchtime.

We can all do something to tackle what is a growing epidemic in this country.


"Approaching innovation in the right way can help build a broader, stronger community of support and contribution around our existing educational system. The challenge is to build the foundations of a system that would support it, and then to pursue them consistently and rigorously over time."
Bentley and Gillinson

Following on from my meeting with colleagues from NCSL today I have been looking the Innovation Unit web-site. It is worth looking at since it brings together so much innovative and creative work going on across the country. It also has details of a new publication calling for more education research in general and for greater teacher involvement. Written by former Demos Director, Tom Bentley together with Sarah Gillinson, 'A D&R System for Education' makes a number of recommendations for the two newly-formed education departments - the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and also for the government's new National Council for Educational Excellence, which the Prime Minister himself will be chairing.

This publication, the latest in a series, draws on what we know about innovation and research within education and in other sectors. In effect, this signals a shift from Research and Development (R&D) to Development and Research (D&R) and the publication calls for greater support for the involvement of teachers and school leaders in this process. If you want to find out more visit the Innovation unit website at

I received some more pictures from the STEPS event at Bramley St Peters CE Primary School..

Dirk and I had a really good meeting with David Jackson and Jan McKenley-Simpson from the NCSL looking at the 'Next Practice' Project at the Central Leeds Learning Federation...

We ranged across an enormous area and agreed that what was emerging from the projects across the country was that the way forward was to start local and to develop authority structures and services accordingly. My learning from a fantastic meeting was about focus and discipline and a recognition that while we undoubtedly are one of the most creative organisations I have ever worked in, that brings with it a real need to get better at a more disciplined and focused approach to evaluating, learning and cascading the outcomes.
I was invited to yet another retirement do today...

I went to Middleton Primary School to recognise the enormous contribution Stewart Forster has made over 37 years of teaching and 17 years of headship at the school. During my six years here in Leeds I have always thought that the real challenge and the real opportunity lies in schools like Middleton Primary School and what an amazing job it does... reaching out with an 'every child matters' philosophy to reach its families and its community long before the DfES decided that Every Child Matters. A lot of people will miss Stewart and I am one of them.
What a start to the week. The Evening Post ran this bumbling, confused and distorted piece 'Academy Plan for 12 Leeds Schools'...

It makes me wonder why we ever talk to journalists and whether they ever listen or even try to understand what they are being told. Most of the clumsy and badly constructed 'exclusive' was a patching together of stories from all over the place. I thought journalism was about the truth , trying to inform and educate but more and more it's simply a joke.
Lynda Gration, Assistant Headteacher and Inclusion Manager at New Bewerley Community School has written about taking STEPS to bring the community to school...

"It has long since been acknowledged that one of the ways to raise children’s levels of academic achievement is by involving the primary carer, the children’s parents themselves in the education process. Over the years schools have endeavoured, indeed worked relentlessly to achieve this aim, but in inner city areas like Beeston, South Leeds, an area of significant socio-economic decline and depression, there has been limited success.

Many parents here have their children at a very young age, they themselves have had limited education and have become trapped in their lives with few skills to enable them to change their lot. Many had become disaffected by the whole idea of training and education. Furthermore, as a result of this disaffection, many had become completely disengaged and almost ‘disabled’. Then came ‘Investment in Excellence’, a self- assertiveness, self-awareness, self-improvement and self-esteem building programme from the Pacific Institute in America.

Initially school staff were themselves trained using this programme and many found it extremely useful in their own careers. Following this first round of training, school staff were trained to facilitate the course so that it could be taken to the wider community and so STEPS was born. In a community school such as ours this once again gave us a light at the end of the arduous tunnel that was parental involvement.

School staff became committed to the programme. Our Behaviour Support Worker, our Learning Mentor and much more recently our Parental Support Worker with support from Extended Services – Family and Schools Together Team have already completed three extremely successful courses in school with parents of our children.

All schools, I am sure, have some very difficult parents to deal with every day - parents who will not engage with education, who are critical of the school system and everyone who works in it, who come into school incessantly with complaints of one sort or another, who in some instances are extremely aggressive towards staff and other parents and children. We too have had our share, but the STEPS programme has helped us enormously with some of our most difficult clients. Indeed, one of our biggest successes in involving parents in the education of their child, in giving that parent the self-esteem and courage to improve their life has been achieved through STEPS. From being probably the school’s biggest critic that parent is now employed by the school, extremely successful in her role in supporting the behaviour policy which she once despised and misunderstood and has become one of our biggest advocates.

STEPS enabled her to take a different look at her life, gave her a different perspective from which to view her difficulties and gave her the courage not only to apologise for her past attitudes and behaviour towards school, but to actively seek to change her life and to make a difference.

Over the past two years we have had a constant stream of parents, many of whom have also undertaken the STEPS course, coming into school as Parent Volunteers. This has given our school a real opportunity to reach the community and begin to change attitudes. Many of these parents have now the courage to take up college courses, achieve qualifications, go out there and look for rewarding work to make a difference to their lives and the way they feel about themselves and the wider community.

Our STEPS parents now show a commitment to the school that was never there before. Some have formed a parents group which helps to raise funds, many work voluntarily in classes helping to support children experiencing difficulties and many are now undertaking Cache courses in the hope that they can become employed in the system that once they could not access at all.

The training and understanding that our parents have developed since STEPS has also had a profound effect on their own skills as parents. Many will admit that they had significant difficulties in the past, but that they now feel much more able to manage their feelings and handle problems in a much more positive way.

Perhaps STEPS has really begun to give some meaning to the idea of ‘Lifelong Learning’ for the members of our community. We intend to continue our commitment to the STEPS course and hope in the future to reach many more of our parents and community members, so that, little by little, the message spreads and many other people whom society has disengaged and ‘disabled’ become ‘enabled’ once again."

It is wonderful to hear about the impact the STEPS programme is having on the front line.
You may have missed it but Evening Post reporter Ian Rosser visited the Oakwood Pupil Support Centre...

"TAKE Leeds's most disruptive youngsters and put them in classrooms together. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? In fact, these unlikely ingredients have produced a remarkable success story in which children with a history of volatile behaviour have turned their lives around.The youngsters, aged seven to 11, are all pupils at the Oakwood Pupil Support Centre in east Leeds. From the outside, the one-story building is a bit grim – hidden away behind 6ft-high grey railings and a car park but inside some of the country's most innovative work is being done helping children re-tune to learning."

The Oakwood Pupil Support Centre is a hugely impressive place doing some great work and if you want to read more of Ian Rosser's article you can visit
I went to London Zoo yesterday in the pouring rain...

Actually, I'm not that keen on zoos but the conservation exhibition in the new 'Bugs' section was great as was the new penguin house. The new Gorilla house is fantastic , shame for the visitors that there aren't many gorillas! The whole thing is now designed to get you close to the wildlife but the way people behave I am never really convinced whether the animals are on show or whether we are the real animals!
If you get the chance over the Summer it's worth seeing the 'Impressionists by the Sea' exhibition at the Royal Academy...

I went to see the exhibition yesterday... some great Monet's Manet's, Renoir's and Courbet's...
and although it's small, the paintings are great!


Sunday, 15 July 2007

I went to see Matthew Bourne's 'The Car Man' at Sadler's Wells last night...

It was a brilliant evening with the usual Matthew Bourne twist... the music was wonderful and really well performed, the set was great, the story line interesting, set in a garage and a diner, and the dancers were fantastic, particularly the men. It's on for another three weeks... if you like ballet, in fact even if you don't like ballet and you get the chance go to see it!
I see I am not alone in wondering if OfSTED is fit for purpose...

The House of Commons Select Committee on Education reported recently that "We cannot disguise our concern as to the fitness for purpose of the organisation at the present moment" and that the organisation had turned into an unwieldy bureaucracy that is in danger of becoming overstretched. The Committee took issue with light touch inspections and asked for them to properly evaluated after two years as they were not convinced as to their effectiveness. Christine Gilbert HMCI was also challenged over her statement that satisfactory was not good enough for schools. "OfSTED should take care that the discussion on the quality of provision is constructive rather than accusatory."

I am looking forward to a more positive and productive year with OfSTED!
We need all our schools to become centres of excellence for sustainablility and green issues...

We need a real push next year to ensure that we all look at:
  • locally sourced healthy and sustainable food and drink;
  • the efficient use of energy and water;
  • the development of renewable forms of energy;
  • sustainable travel, walking buses and travel plans;
  • sustainable procurement and waste reduction;
  • sustainable school buildings and school grounds.

This is agenda for us, our children and their families and every community we serve.