Saturday, 29 September 2007

Harbans Singh Sagoo contacted me to let me know that the Sikh community here in Leeds are organising a major event at Roundhay Park from Thursday 11 October until Sunday 14 October...

The Sikh Religious Educational and Interfaith Event celebrates the 300th anniversary of Guru Granth Sahib Ji's perpetual Guruship and the 800th anniversary of the first charter establishing Leeds in 1207.The range of displays and activities will be fantastic and of great educational and cultural value to every school here in Leeds. I hope that colleagues will try to attend during the first two days of the event between 11.00 and 2.30.

You can find out more and book your visit by visiting their website at I hope to see some of you there.
My colleague, Ana Schofield, also moves in powerful circles. I recently met Ana on a train down to London. Ana belongs to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants...

Ana tells me that the Institute has developed an information pack for schools about their career path and it is being sent to all secondary schools. They are also organising an annual management competition for business studies students particularly aimed at the Business and Enterprise Specialist Schools. They are also involved in sponsoring the Business and Enterprise Conference for Headteachers organised by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

You can find out more about CIMA at their website
Moira Stones, Learning Mentor at Carr Manor High School met with Tony Blair last year to discuss behaviour and attendance issues. Moira had been asked by the then Minister, Jim Knight, to join a new practioners group to look at strateges and advise on next steps. She is now going to London for a meeting and to have lunch with Kevin Brennan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families. It is deeply reassuring when some of our brilliant colleagues knowledge, experience and understanding is being used to influence national policy.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Following on from the Good to Great Conference which colleagues from our Leadership Team attended I received this e-mail from Paul Rogerson, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council...

Good Afternoon, I hope that you enjoyed yesterday’s event and now feel inspired to take up the leadership challenge of moving us from good to great. I was delighted to see so many colleagues there, as I know you are so busy, but yesterday was only a step along the way and it is important that you know where to go for information and support as we move forward. This morning a new interest area has been launched on the intranet to support this progression and the pages can be found via the following link:

I would encourage you to visit these pages and to look out for future developments and additions to the site - these will be notified to you via the ‘In Brief’ updates. Video links from yesterday's event of the Corporate Leadership Team are available to view on the intranet site. Additionally you will receive a CD – Rom of the whole day's event in the near future. Whilst I hope you found most of yesterday’s event useful and inspiring, I am also sure that you will have thoughts on how other parts could have been improved. We need this feedback to contribute to the programme’s overall development as well as to shape any future ‘from good to great’ events we may decide to run. There is no formal feedback form but I would be grateful if you could email your views to: by return email.

We are also keen to receive feedback regarding the draft strategic outcomes and improvement priorities. Thank you to those of you who found the time to make some general comments yesterday. We would like to encourage everyone to complete a further questionnaire electronically that seeks a more detailed response on the draft improvement priorities. The questionnaire will be available on the ‘from good to great’ intranet interest area under Leeds Strategic Plan from Monday. Once again, thank you for your time and I look forward to working with you on our leadership challenge to move us from a good to great team. Kind regards, Paul."

For those of you who didn't get to the event the site is an amazing resource for team leaders and teams wanting to know more and who are on the journey, as we all are, from good to grest!
I met Sue Knights at the '14-19 Conference' at the David Young Community Academy today...

Sue is Chair of the parents forum at the NWSilc and they are organising a brilliant event for parents and carers of children with disabilities at the Civic Hall on 17 October. Sue sent me this e-mail.

"Chris, I thought you might like to see the updated website which we are running, sadly I am not the worlds best speller or typist. At one o'clock in the morning I'm even worse so will rectify some errors. I was rather hoping you would give feed back on it and perhaps a letter for our letter page. I can add the education leeds web page as a link for people if you give permission. The event is now gaining a large degree of interest from outside of Leeds both from professionals and families. Rotherham, York, Harrogate, Doncaster, Brighton and Newcastle. It does appear Leeds seems to be leading the way with this event I would like you to consider helping finance this as an annual event. ....... Sue."

I hope that everyone will help Sue and her forum members wito make this really important event a great success. You can visit their website at
Another of our great successes is the work that Monica Tomkiss has led working with our support staff to build learning pathways for them. I attended the latest HLTA event last week which was brilliant and Monica told me about the work with the university. I asked her to send me more details...

"Chris, At the HLTA celebration on Monday evening you asked me to write to you with some more details about the positive way in which Leeds University approaches Foundation Degrees . When this years cohort of Teaching Assistants completing Foundation Degrees graduated in July, they received their degrees as part of one the many Graduation ceremonies which the University hold each July.

When the University invited me to attend the graduation I expected a separate small ceremony such as the one we attended at Trinity and All Saints last year. Instead I found myself participating in a full formal University Graduation event . The students graduated as an integral part of the School of Education alongside graduands receiving the full range of Degrees (Ph.D M.Ed B.A etc) complete with proud parents of these! I have graduated three times from Leeds University and the ceremony provided for the Foundation Degree students was identical to these occasions in every respect. In her speech. the pro Vice Chancellor even made a special mention of those who had combined their studies with full time employment.

I was very impressed by how much an integral part of the University the Foundation Degree students have become. Unlike some other HEI s locally, Leeds University does not need the Foundation Degree student numbers to thrive, survive or remain viable and, in its desire to uphold standards, is frequently accused of being remote, elitist, inflexible and only interested in the 'traditional' type of student. The experience of the Foundation Degree students, both at the ceremony and talking to them generally, and as part of the evaluation I undertook during the summer does not reflect this stereotype. The students, mostly Teaching Assistants, say they are well supported and feel part of the University. They understand that the University will not compromise on standards and therefore expects them to work hard. They value this challenge and rise to it.

Most of them have spent all their lives in Leeds and never thought they would go to University at all, and certainly not Leeds University. As one, very emotional and proud, man put it to me at the reception after the ceremony speaking of his wife- a Teaching Assistant in a Leeds school '' I can't believe this is happening. I'm so proud. I never thought anybody connected with me would come here and I would be at a 'do' like this''. That alone made my job worthwhile!

It occurred to me that the positive experience of the Leeds Teaching Assistants should be passed on to the 'powers that be' at the University . I assume you are in contact with Michael Arthur, so if you think it appropriate please will you pass on the positive comments and thanks. I expect like most other people he receives 1 compliment to every 9 complaints so maybe he would value some positive feedback. I will send you a copy of the Graduation ceremony programme in the mail- you might be interested in which Leeds colleagues graduated. Monica"

Our relationship with the university has blossomed over the last few years and it is wonderful to hear about things like this.

My colleague, Liz White, sent me this about the Corporate Chartermark we are working on...

"Hi Chris - just quickly! We're launching our corporate charter mark ambitions next week and each day on the front page of InfoBase will be floating some ideas and questions around the standard to get colleagues thinking and talking. On the Tuesday we will address the criteria which looks at the culture of the organisation and leadership. We will be asking colleagues to post ideas or questions to you to which we'll present a managed response the following week. Many thanks! Incidently I went with the Swedish teachers yesterday to Carr Manor Primary - what a fantastic school and beautiful, friendly, kind kids. Makes you proud to live in Leeds! Liz"

I have had a brilliant week made incredibly special by great colleagues and great young people and honestly I am exhausted, but Liz is so right we are so lucky to live and work in this great city.
One of my brilliant new colleagues, Lucie Lakin, sent me this, which I wanted to share more widely...

"Dear Chris, I am a consultant new to Education Leeds, working in the National Strategies Secondary team. I have enjoyed reading your messages and blog and thought I would send you this story that was told to me by the teacher that trained me and was my first line manager in education. Regards Lucie

An old shepherd and his son are working in the mountains attending to their flock. The father turns to his son and says, "Boy, I think it will be a cold night to night. You should go to the forest and gather some wood and we will make a big, strong fire." "But Father, the wood is so far away. Why not use the wood around here?" asked the boy. "This wood is damp, my son," replied the shepherd. "Going that extra distance will be worth it for a warmer, brighter, stronger fire. And besides, I know of a shorter route that will have you there in no time."

The shepherd gave his son directions and the boy set of to the wood. Several hours passed until finally a tired and angry looking boy appeared over the hills carrying the firewood. "Father! You have tricked me! The road you sent me on was not shorter. In fact it was so full of rocks and stones that I could not even pass that way. It took me even longer to make it to the wood!"
The shepherd looked for a moment at his son and then replied gently, "My boy, what you saw as troublesome rocks were stepping stones, not stumbling blocks.""

It's really important that we all recognise the opportunities we face and not see them as stumbling blocks. Thanks Lucie.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

I went on to the 'BSF Design Festival' at the Royal Armouries...

David Ingham and some of his colleagues were running a session for young people from three of the new schools... Cockburn College, Rodillian School and Temple Moor High School. Broomfield SILC and John Jamieson SILC were also there as these new builds will also be developing as specialist centres. Two of our BSF partners, Interserve and RM, were there to facilitate workshops sessions for the young people.

This is a fantastic example to us all about how important it is to involve young people in the decisions about schools and I know that David and his colleagues will be using the feedback from these young people to continue to improve and develop our BSF programme and to build brilliant.
I started the day very early at Pudsey Tyersal Primary School...

It was a flying visit but even so everyone was there when I arrived. OFSTED described the school as 'an improving school that provides a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment for all pupils' but actually it is a great little school sitting out on the edge of Leeds in BD4!

Chris Metcalf, the headteacher, has been at the school for about three years and he has transformed the place. The building has really changed since my last visit and looks wonderful... although it still needs some replacement windows! The early years is brilliant and the quality of care and support are real strengths. Chris is also passionate about sport and its impact on learning which recently involved a visit to Lincoln to watch Bradford play Lincoln and involved a football match between Tyersal and a Lincoln primary school team at half time which has really inspired some of Chris' fantastic young people. Chris and his young and enthusiastic team are determined to develop the whole child without losing sight of the basics.

It was great to visit the breakfast club and be offered porridge and to see what Chris and his team are achieving at this special little oasis on the edge of Leeds.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

I went on to meet colleagues who were filming a piece for RM to use at their corporate events...

It went really well and I hope that it will let RM colleagues know what we are trying to do here in Leeds.
I have had a great day, or should I say a 'Good to Great' day!

I spent most of the day at the Leadership Event at the Royal Armouries where we were launching the 'from good to great leadership challenge'. The 'we' being Leeds City Council and the audience was the 350 senior leaders from across the Council, Education Leeds and the ALMOs.

The whole event was launched by Dave Page, Deputy Chief Executive with the Council who talked about our strategic priorities and showed everyone a powerful DVD focused on creating a city of enterprise, a city of culture and a city of learning, with an environment and a transport system that supports harmonious, thriving and healthy communities.

All members of the Council's Corporate Leadership Team were asked to give their personal perspective on the challenges and opportunities we face together. I was in the group immediately after Dave with Jean Dent, James Rogers and Sandie Keene... and we were brilliant!

The main speaker for the day was Mike O'Brien from the Pacific Institute who talked about 'Great Culture, Great Leadership, Great Performance' and he was focused and engaging and he really connected with the audience through his analysis, anecdotes and personal stories.

The afternoon session opened with the remaining members of Corporate Leadership Team, Neil Evans, Alan Gay, Nicole Jackson and Rosemary Archer talking about theri personal perspective and again it was engaging and powerful. Rosemary finished by introducing two young people from the Leeds Youth Council, Matthew and Sarah who talked about the things they wanted from us for their city... and it was an incredibly important and powerful statement about the future of our great city.

The day ended with the insights, wit and wisdom of Paul Rogerson, Chief Executive of the Council, who cahllenged us all to take the message into our working practices and build 'One Council'.

It was a great day, a stimulating and throught provoking day. Our challenge as always is to take it forward, to maintain the energy and momentum. We must all:

"set the goal and make it happen;
set the goal and invent the way;
set the goal and create the future."

We must all work to create a city of enterprise, a city of culture and a city of learning, with an environment and a transport system that supports harmonious, thriving and healthy communities... whatever it takes!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

I finished the day at a dinner with my colleagues from Corporate Management Team and colleagues from the Pacific Institute...

Mike O'Brien had arrived and we all spent a couple of hours together talking about the 'Good to Great' Conference at the Royal Armouries tomorrow and it's focus on Leadership and Culture.
I went on to 'The Venue' at Leeds Collge of Music to listen to Mats Pettersson talk about 'Energetic Learning and Teaching'...

It was the first of a series of transformational seminars linking Stockholm and Leeds and I am particularly grateful to John Ellard and Jonathan Emerson from ICG who sponsored the event. Our challenge, wherever we are, is to build brilliant:
  • brilliant learners;
  • brilliant learning and teaching;
  • brilliant learning places;
  • brilliant communities.

We want all our young people to be happy, healthy, safe and successful. We want all our colleagues to be happy, healthy, safe and successful and we want all our schools to be happy, healthy, safe and successful places... whatever it takes!

The seminar was about getting the most out of your life; having the energy to maximise your learning and teaching capacities... whatever your age! Mats has been voted best public speaker in Sweden. He is an expert on nutricain, health and fitness who has worked with the Swedish National Ice Hockey Team, The Swedish Davis Cup Team, the Himalayan Expedition and olympic athletes. He ahas also worked with companies like Ericsson and AstraZeneca.

The seminar focused on understanding how the body works, how habits influence well-being and how small changes can reap enormous benefits. His 'Seven Spokes to the Wheel' model says that these aspects are key:

  • life perspective;
  • relationships;
  • motion;
  • nutrition;
  • sleep;
  • curiosity;
  • appreciation.

If you weren't there you missed an interesting and thought provoking session.


I went on to Corporate Management Team where we had a practice run for the sessions we are doing tomorrow at the 'Good to Great' Conference with Mike O'Brien from the Pacific Institute. It was really good to see all the Directors from across the Council talking about their passion, commitment and determination to make Leeds great. Should be a great day tomorrow!
I started the day with group of colleagues from Stockholm...

We are hosting another visit by headteachers from Stockholm and my colleague Frances Bernstein had put together a fantastic two day programme for the group. Frances had asked me to open the programme and talk about the transformation we have seen here in Leeds over the last six years. They are visiting some of our best schools; Methley Primary School, Brigshaw High School, Carr Manor High School and Carr Manor Primary School. They are having workshop sessions on data and intelligence, ICT and the curriculum, Buidling Schools for the Future, personalisation and coaching, the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard, the Inclusion Chartermark and Healthy Schools.

Looking at the programme it made me wish I was spending the two days with our Swedish visitors.
I was sent this quote today by a friend...

"If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity
of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces,
then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for
uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning."

Carl Rogers


Monday, 24 September 2007

I spent the earlier part of this evening at the HLTA Celebration at Weetwood Hall...

Higher Level Teaching Assistants are one of the many real success stories here in Leeds. We now have around 450 HLTAs in Leeds schools and this evening we were celebrating the success of another 65 colleagues. These people have changed the way our schools operate and we now have a completely different workforce making an incredible difference to the learning outcomes our children and young people are achieving.

This wonderful programme is run in partnership with Leeds Trinity and All Saints College who have worked with Education Leeds to make this programme such a success. However the real driving force behind the programme is my colleague Monica Tomkiss whose passion, commitment, energy, enthusiasm and hard work has driven this programme to become a national beacon of excellence. Monica has been supported brilliantly by another colleague Grace Knight who does all the administration and organisation for the programme and who organised the celebration.

Grace has promised to send me a list of all the new HLTAs which I'll add here as soon as I get them. These are some amazing people who I am in total awe of as they manage their work, theri home lives and their studies.


I went to another of our highly effective primary schools today...

I visited White Laith Primary School where Nicola Sheerin and her colleagues are releasing a very special kind of magic. Nicola is currently Acting Headteacher but is being interviewed on Wednesday for the post as Headteacher of this great little school.

What makes White Laith Primary School such a brilliant learning place? The answers...

  • Nicola's strong, focused and passionate leadership;
  • a talented and enthusiastic teaching team;
  • clear values and beliefs driving the work of the school;
  • an exceptional Foundation Stage ethos and culture;
  • a focus on standards, positive behaviour and discipline;
  • good teaching within a positive learning environment;
  • high expectations and hard work!

Nicola, Helen and their learning team are doing a brilliant job and are building something really special at White Laith Primary School.

My colleague Sheila Davenport contacted me about the work the Willow Young Carers have been involved in...

ITV filmed in Brigshaw High School and Language College earlier this month as part of a programme on carers to be screened at 7.30pm on Tuesday 25 September 2007...
Focusing on young carers, they've been speaking to the Willow project, a project run in partnership between Leeds City Council, Barnados and Education Leeds. The programme is called 'Local Heroes' and will be screened tomorrow on ITV 1 from 7.30-8.00pm. 'Local Heroes' is a special programme highlighting the essential, often under-appreciated work of carers, paying tribute to their inspirational support and devotion, and revealing how viewers and a celebrity panel of judges chose London's Carer of the Year. For more information on the Willow project, visit the website at
My colleague Steve Smith, who leads on Playing for Success and Quality Assurance in Study Support sent me this...

"Dear Chris, Just to let you know that some of the films made during the 'Film Makers' summer school at the BBC Media Centre are being shown 3x a day all this week on the big screen in Millennium Square. Probably not a good idea to stand there and wait for them to come round - but thought you would like to know. Also ..... we start building today at Elland Road and should have the new 'Leeds United Learning Zone' in about a month. Regards Steve"

So if you are in Millenium Square watch out. Steve and his coleagues do a brilliant job in Study Support and it is great to know that things are falling into place at Leeds United again.


Message of the Week Five

Our success as individuals, as great teams, as great organisations, as great schools, critically depends on our ability to inspire each other and to help release the enormous potential that sits within our colleagues, our teams and our schools. We must provide strong leadership and continue to motivate each other. We must communicate a clear, passionate and consistent message about the mission we are on and the attitudes and behaviours we all need to demonstrate to release that magic, that passion and that brilliance.

It has been another great week here at the Merrion Centre. Meetings occupied a lot of my time as usual.. meetings with the leadership team, leadership forum, corporate management team and the Learning and Skills Council. I also attended a couple of development sessions; one with Rosemary Archer and her leadership team and another with our leadership team.

I managed one school visit to Brodetsky Primary School to see Simon Camby to talk about the opportunities and challenges he faces as a new headteacher in Leeds. I also managed a flying visit to London with Cllr Richard Harker to see Lord Adonis. We discussed the developing secondary and post-16 agenda here in Leeds and how Building Schools for the Future, the Learning and Skills Council’s review of FE provision and the development of Academies, Trusts and other new models can help us achieve a real step change in outcomes at 16 and 19.

On Friday, I attended the ‘Respect for All Faiths’ event which marked the United Nations International Day of Peace. The event was brilliantly chaired by Mohammed Kamran from the Muslim Youth Council and Terry Waite was the keynote speaker. We even had messages of support from wonderful Corrine Bailey Rae and the sadly less impressive Kaiser Chiefs. However, the highlight of the session was the performance by children from Hugh Gaitskell Primary School who were amazing as always!

Those of you who know me well, know that the arts are one of loves of my life. The arts can excite us, strain every emotion and sometimes simply take your breath away. A dance group or an orchestra of wonderfully talented artists in their own right working together as a team to create magic… brilliant! It’s the same with individuals, Darcy Bussell, Joshua, Bell, Katie Melua, etc, all artists whose passion, energy, talent and ability capture your attention, your imagination, your soul.

In every case outstanding talent produces dazzling, brilliant performances. We need to continue to play like this here at Education Leeds. We must compose and orchestrate, lead and motivate each other and communicate a clear passionate and consistent message about the mission we are on and the attitudes and behaviours we all need to demonstrate to release our magic and our passion and our brilliance.
After another weekend I received this wonderful e-mail from Sue Sanderson, Headteacher at Swarcliffe Primary School...

"Dear Chris, We are busy redeveloping our website we would like to include a picture of yourself sitting with the school as you opened the memorial seat to Anne Lazenby. Please could we have your permission to use this photograph.

The school continues to go from strength to strength! This term got off to an exciting start with two training days (held in August voluntarily by the staff to enable Year 5 to visit Lineham Farm the first week of term!) where we bravely completely redesigned our whole school curriculum ~ at the end of which we rewrote our ethos ~ Enrich, Enhance, Excite! This year will take us in a new direction the future is exciting! uncertain, scary but its a privilege to work with staff with the courage to follow their convictions!

I came across this quote many years ago those training days I experienced could be best described by it...

"Come to the edge , he said
They said;we are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came.
He pushed them...
.....And they flew....."
Guillaume Apollinaire

Isn't Leeds a fantastic place to be? Sue"

Leeds is a fantastic place to work and it is made special by colleagues like Sue and her team who are releasing something very special at Swarcliffe Primary School!


Sunday, 23 September 2007

I thought you would like to see this page from the Teachers TV web site...

"A look at how two teachers interpret personalised learning and use various techniques to give their pupils ownership of lessons, ensuring a high degree of engagement. Personalisation is sometimes difficult to define. Charlotte Smith, a Year 6 teacher at Victoria Primary School in Leeds, believes it's all about asking yourself not, "what do I want to teach?" but, "what do I want to learn?"

Charlotte and the school's assistant headteacher, John Crawley, put into practice their very clear ideas about personalised learning. Charlotte runs a series of lessons based on pupils producing a virtual tour of a local football stadium, while John uses a variety of personalisation techniques to teach a lesson about the angles of a triangle.

Both teachers provide practical insight into translating the theory of personalisation into actual lessons. They speak informatively about the way they use group composition and differentiated tasks to introduce a high degree of personalisation into all their teaching."

Well done to Charlotte and John and the children in Year 6 at Victoria Primary School. You can find out more and watch the programme by visiting
I was contacted at the end of last week by Kirsten Finley, Headteacher at Tranmere Park Primary School who wanted to let me know the sad news about her colleague Joan Crowther...

"Dear Chris, Please forgive me for adding to your already overflowing mail box but I felt I should let you know about a very sad loss for your colleagues here at Tranmere Park Primary School. Last week we lost a fantastic person. Joan Crowther, a teaching assistant at the school for over 15 years who had endured a 10 month battle with an aggressive brain cancer, sadly passed away on Tuesday at the age of 55.

Joan was a truly fantastic person, she was always smiling, always busy and ALWAYS put the children first. There are many children who have benefitted from her dedication to her job, and the donations for Wheatfields Hospice of almost £600 evidence the high regard she was held in by her colleagues and the parents and children of our school.

I think it would mean a lot to her family if Joan's outstanding contribution to the education of so many children could be recognised in some way by Education Leeds.

Best Regards, Kirsten"

We seem to have lost a large number of very special people this year, people who have touched our lives and the lives of so many children and their families. It's really important that we all remember these coleagues whose energy, passion and joy changes lives and makes such a difference in our schools. I hope that we can all find a way to commemorate the lives of colleagues like Joan and the many others we have lost this year.
It's funny how many people complain about their lives...

They are too fat, too skinny, not clever enough, smoke too much, drink too much, never have enough time, never have enough money... the complaints go on and on. They often blame others or they claim it is due to ‘bad luck’ or how ‘unfair’ the world is. They seem to blame everything except themselves but they don’t seem to understand that life doesn’t happen TO us, it happens BECAUSE of us. Perhaps no other life-skill is as important to develop as self-discipline. It is the key to anything you want to do... to success, to self-belief and the achievement of your dreams.

But how do you do it?
  • Acknowledge that if you sit around doing nothing, you will achieve nothing.
  • Take a few deep breaths, relax and visualize the action as if it were already completed.
  • Now do something about it..
  • It is important to be successful, so start small and work your way up.
  • Face your task, accept it, and accomplish it.
  • Finish what you start.
  • Follow through on every project.
  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Don’t scatter your attention.
  • Start slowly, but gradually pick up the pace as you develop your skills.

Expect to be tempted to avoid your tasks. Your mind will come up with excuses for putting off till ‘tomorrow’ what can be done today but once you learn how to quickly act on all the tasks, responsibilities, and challenges facing you, you've cracked it. Once you can keep your level of self-discipline, you will be ready to move on to the next level by stretching yourself to seek out difficult and complex challenges that you only dared to dream about in the past. Remember, life is not something that happens to you, but you are something that happens to life. Decide today to take responsibility for your own life by mastering the art of self-discipline.