Saturday, 6 October 2007

I went back to the office for yet another meeting and to face another barrage of e-mails. My colleague Carol Jordan cheered me up by telling me about one of her success stories...

Carol told me about the success of some of our looked after children who go to school at Prince Henry's Grammar School. These young people live at the Inglewood Theraputic Children's Home in Otley or are being fostered and their stories are fantastic.

Prince Henry's does a brilliant job with its' young people and these examples show what we can achieve with passion, commitment, belief, determination and hard work.
I went on to the Leeds Chamber of Commerce Dinner at the Queen's Hotel...

I had been invited to the dinner by Frank Griffiths, Chair of the Igen Board, and Steve Higginbotham, Igen's Chief Executive. The President of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce is Alan Gill, one of Education Leeds Non-Executive Directors. Alan talked about the challenges facing the city around transport, competitiveness and skills. He talked about the real progress we have made with driving up standards in our secondary schools but emphasised that there was still more to do to build a world class education system here in Leeds and across the UK. The guest speaker was Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families who talked about the economy and business and the critical importance of the schools in delivering the skills our young people need to be successful and contribute to the further development of Leeds as a major international city. He mentioned the progress Education Leeds was making, the potential of Academies to break the mould and drive up standards in some of our most deprived communities and challenged all the businesses there to make a contribution to their local schools.
I went to the official opening of the Hunslet Children's Centre yesterday morning...

The Children's Centre initiative in Leeds is fantastic and the centres as they open and begin to work across the city are simply wonderful. Lesley Crampton, the Children's Centre Manager and mark Ford, Headteacher at Hunslet St Mary's CE Primary School have worked together to develop this initiative which is currently based on two sites; the primary school and the under 3's site.

The opening was performed by Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Hilary is the local MP and, as always, was great with everyone particularly the children. He and I decorated our own gingerbread man with some of the children.

This is a great Centre with a brilliant team releasing a very special kind of magic in Hunslet. My colleague Sally Threlfall and her colleagues in Early Years are doing an amazing job with the roll out of Children's Centres in Leeds and making an incredible difference in some of the most deserving communities in the city.

Friday, 5 October 2007

I know why I love Leeds, it's the people...

I received e-mails from my colleague, Sally Threlfall, and I have just received a box of chocolates from my colleague, Edwina Harrison, who had picked up how flat I was feeling after yesterday with the inspectors. Sally looks after the early years and youth bits of children's services and Edwina looks after the children's social care team here in Leeds and they are both doing a great job in some of the toughest bits of what we do around our children.

Edwina and Sally both understand that we are all the sort of people who reflect on our work and constantly ask ourselves how we can do better... we don't need inspectors or auditors or consultants to tell us what we get it wrong and where we are failing... it's deeply etched into our brains, our souls and our hearts. We are constantly monitoring, reviewing and using intelligent accountability systems to identify our strengths, our weaknesses and areas for improvement. And, we are juggling the resources we have to target and focus everything we have to continue to make that real difference where it matters; for a child, a family and a community.

What we all need, every so often, is someone like Sally or Edwina, whose sensitivity and care shines through, to say actually you are doing a great job! Make sure today that you do the same for someone who needs that extra bit of encouragement and support to continue to release the magic.
I ended a long and difficult day at West Leeds High School...

They were celebrating 100 years of learning at West Leeds High School. Maggie Brown, their headteacher, showed my around the school where each department and learning team had taken a decade and were dressed up and showing off their talents. My only concerns were the science team who seemed intent on setting the world on fire or at least the science labs!

The history of West Leeds High School is a fascinating one and their wonderful archive was on display in the school hall. They are also developing a new archive by interviewing elderley local residents and collecting their memories and stories. The school will move into a new era with Building Schools for the Future in 2009 and it was great to see the story of West Leeds High School over the last 100 years and think about what we will see in the next 100 years as education and learning in West Leeds goes on to bigger and better things.
We faced our own inspection yesterday, the Annual Performance Assessment by OFSTED and the Audit Commission! Like everyone else it involved a self-assessment against the Five Outcomes, huge amounts of work by colleagues from across Children's Services, mountains of paper, e-mail overload and incredible amounts of stress for everyone involved.

Colleagues again were brilliant. Led by Rosemary Archer, our Director of Children's Services, some incredibly talented people argued their case and demonstrated the real progress we are making here in Leeds to ensure that every child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and successful and free from the effects of poverty. What came through was passion, determination, commitment, energy, hard work and inspirational leadership.

I just hope and pray that we convinced them that we are doing a good job and that the only thing that really matters, the outcomes we achieve for our children and young people, continue to show real progress and demonstrate the difference we are all making together.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

I went on to South Leeds High School where Colin Bell and his colleagues have made a great start to the new year...

Colin is an exceptional colleague whose personal commitment, energy and determination have achieved great things at South Leeds despite the fact that it sits in the dreaded Special Measures. Colin tells me, and the grapevine has confirmed this, that things are going well this term and that the school is much more at ease with itself.

We must all work with Colin and his team to ensure that the success story that is South Leeds High School continues to be told and that we help with the continuing challenges around teaching and learning and behaviour and attendance.
I went to another of our brilliant primary schools first thing this morning..

I visited Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School where Georgina Winterburn and her colleagues are releasing a very special kind of magic. I met with the team for a coffee before school and we talked about the challenges we all face and why the work they do is so important... after all the most important thing we do here in Leeds is educate the future!

The school has made real progress under Georgina's leadership and the standards are flying, but it can seem like hard work in terms of all the changes we are managing.. changes to the curriculum, new assessment, tracking and monitoring, intervention programmes and everything that is going on with phonics, the curriculum and assessment in the Foundation Stage.

The key is to ensure that everyone is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... children, the learning team and the patents and carers. Chocolate helps, red wine and laughter are also good but exercise is one of the keys. Not surprisingly then, we all went outside and took part in their innovative collective worship and 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session to, yes you've already guessed, YMCA! The whole session was great. Barbara, the Deputy Headteacher, passionately led the collective worship and the 'Wake Up and Shake Up' was led by Sarah, a really talented, enthusiastic and energetic colleague, and the children were fabulous!

What makes Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School such a brilliant learning place? The answers...

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

This is a brilliant, talented, gorgeous and wonderful team led by a great headteacher. Georgina, Barbara, Sarah and their learning team are doing a brilliant job and are building something really special at Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School .


Jane Grunseid from RM sent me these photos from the wonderful session the Leadership Team had with Stephen Heppell and colleagues from RM...


Wednesday, 3 October 2007

"Our greatest danger is not that we aim too high and we miss but that we aim too low and we reach it."

What is stopping you being amazing? What is stopping you losing weight? What is stopping you giving up smoking? What is stopping you being talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful? What else can you be? What else can you do?

Talent is everywhere in this wonderful organisation. We must continue to work hard to support and develop our colleagues and we must push the limits…. push what we believe is possible. It is important to remember that we tend to do what is good enough, not what we are capable of doing; we simply live up to other peoples expectations of us. Unless we choose to do things differently, we always tend to go back to what is normal for us or the way things are supposed to be.

Our thoughts accumulate to become beliefs. We act and behave in accordance with our beliefs about ourselves. So we are what we believe ourselves to be. Change our beliefs and our performance follows! It is great to know that this is only how it is, not how it could be. We have to be tough enough and strong enough to make it happen.

The answer then is to simply believe that we all have enormous potential.. that we can lose weight, that we can stop smoking, that we can be talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful. We simply need to convince ourselves because we become the people we imagine ourselves to be. What is possible is conditioned by what we believe we can be; what we believe we can do; and what we be believe we are.

So this is not as good as it gets! This is not all we can be. We must not allow people to tell us what we are, what we can do and what we can become, because we become the people we are told we are, unless we choose a different way. We all act in accordance with the truth as we believe it.

So don’t simply take things as they come at you. Imagine things as you want them to be.. and make it happen.
¨ Set the goal and build the future;
¨ Set the goal and figure it out;
¨ Set the goal and make it happen.
Don’t worry about it. Simply set the goal and invent the way!

Change comes from within. All meaningful and lasting change starts with the inside.. you can’t do it from the outside and you can’t do it for someone else… we must do it for ourselves.

We must be careful because history has a terrible habit of repeating itself. We must ensure that we are not trapped in our own history. Unless we are careful all our tomorrows will be like all our yesterdays.

You must build the future on what you want.
So… start small, believe in yourself and...
… practice… practice… practice.
The world is changing rapidly, becoming more complex as we juggle the apparently impossible pressures that seem to increase daily. Your journey to work takes longer, your colleagues moan about everything, your diary is impossible, you’ve missed your latest deadlines, your e-mails stack up, complaints tumble across your desk, your in-tray never seems to empty, you’ve got more work to do than ever… and your work-life balance doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

I know that sometimes the challenges we face can seem impossible to manage. It’s at times like this that we all need to regain our perspective, take a deep breath, relax and unwind and remember what is important. We want all our schools to be good, improving and inclusive and we want all our children and young people to be happy, healthy, safe and successful… and it is only these outcomes that really matter.

We need to understand that, against this background, when things go wrong it isn’t a problem… it’s an opportunity to learn. We need to understand that, in our world, the only people who don’t make mistakes and don’t get things wrong are those sad individuals who do nothing, say nothing and subsequently achieve nothing. We must continue to do the right things but as we do we mustn’t be frightened of the dark forces, of the critics, of the angry voices, of those people who don’t want us to be successful.

If we are going to see a step change in outcomes for our children and young people especially those who are most at risk this isn’t going to be easy. If we are going to achieve ‘the impossible’ we must transform, re-invent and re-imagine our schools, our communities and our organisations. If we are going to build brilliant learning places we must all continue to be brave and we must continue to lead, inspire and release the magic. Let’s all determine that when we get to the end of this journey we might look back and regret some of the things we have done but we will never regret that we did nothing!

Keep the faith
Our colleagues from Stockholm sent me this message following the visit by Swedish headteachers last week...

"Hello Chris, I have mailed this text to you as well as uploading it to your blog for the second time as I lost the first version. Firstly, I would like to thank you and all of the Education Leeds personnel and school personnel involved in making the visit to Leeds a resounding success last week. The feedback we have had has been tremendous. Everyone in the group was very impressed by the programme, the commitment of staff both at the discussion tables and at the schools. I think Frances needs commending on the great programme.Secondly, Mats has had some great personal feedback from participants as well as feeling that he got most of his message across. I think he could be an inspiration to schools and parents alike and it would be a good thing if we could arrange for him to give a seminar to just these people sometime in the future. Thirdly, I am meeting Håkan Edman on the 10th October to discuss the points we discussed with you somewhat further and to try and cement a way forward now for Stockholm and Leeds. I will mention your visit in February and ask Stockholm stad to host the visit in terms of venue etc. I am preparing an information flyer, which we shall have ready in the next week or so. We will make the arrangements as planned. I will send the flyer to you for final approval prior to distribution. I think that your idea of a seminar in the morning and a duplicate in the afternoon sounds good and we will likely ask the lea’s in the Greater Stockholm city to attend.We have spoken to Frances about a group of Heads keen to visit in April and hopefully to have a near identical programme. When you are over here Chris it would be a great opportunity to sit down with Håkan and others, to move things forward.The Education Director at Sollentuna kommun (Stockholm) was extremely impressed with what she saw and I am sure Leeds can benefit from the successes in the schools in that suburban community.A number of your staff expressed a great interest in visiting Stockholm and to this end we again offer our services for the total arrangements if a visit is envisaged soon.Once again, Chris thank you for speaking to the group, thank you for your kind words about ICG, Jonathan, and I. We look forward to our next meeting and seeing you in Stockholm ‘Inspiring Sweden’Best Regards John & Jonathan"

It was a great success and I hope that we can continue to build on the relationship we have developed with Stockholm as part of the transformational learning programme we are developing with our schools.
I received this message from Professor Stephen Heppell after his visit on Monday...

"Chris - I enjoyed it too. there were some very bright eyes in that audience who I could see were properly excited by just how good your learners might be. And I meant what I said about "if you are up for this..." I really got the sense that you all were. If so, count me in, if I can help in ANY way! I know we have some good Notschool practice with schools in Leeds - it would be good to systematise that a bit too. Stephen."

I think we are all up for the challenge and the stimulation of working with people like Stephen Heppell to challenge and change the outcomes we are getting for our young people.
I finished the day having tea with another group of our new headteachers...

We are piloting tea-time meetings as well as breakfasts and this was yet another wonderful meeting with a fantastic group of new colleagues whose passion and creativity shone through the meeting. They were really complimentary about the support they had received as new headteachers.
I went on to the Leeds Initiative Board...

Rob Wolfe, Project Manager for Construction Leeds talked passionately about the work Construction Leeds are doing and the real difference they are making for some of the most deprived communities here in Leeds. Rob used a brilliant quote "Cranes breed optimism but their is no pride without ownership!"

Cllr Brett and Rosemary Archer then talked about Children Leeds and the real impact that we are making here in Leeds around our children and young people. The discussion was really good and we were challenged to demonstrate the real difference we are making and the connectivity with all the other important agendas.

It's great to work in Leeds.
I started the day with brilliant colleagues...

We have started the headteacher breakfasts again and today I met up with a small group of our new headteachers at the Space @ Little London centre. We talked about the issues we all face; leadership, learning, teaching, standards, extended services, five outcomes, parents and communities, the list goes on and on! We also talked about the fantastic things about Leeds.
What an inspiring bunch!

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

My colleague Carol Jordan, Strategy Manager Integrated Children's Services, sent me this e-mail about some work she picked up for me...

"Hi Chris, I had a great morning with Ali the BEST team manager from Intake; the mental health practitioner from the CAMM'S service and Staningley Primary school plus staff from other primaries in the cluster participating in the launch of the Webster Stratton programme that supports positive social and emotional behaviour strategies in the classroom. Whilst the staff were attending the training 13 parents were attending a parenting course that runs alongside it. Great package.

Thankyou for recognising the potential of the programme and pointing it my way so we could fund the pilot. It is a very well produced programme that should make a significant impact to the social and emotional health of children and families in the area. The BEST team at Intake have already used the checklist to screen 100 children entering Intake this year so as to ensure there social, emotional and health needs could be taken account of as well as their academic profile when they have arranged the year 7 groups. Already they can see the difference in the school. What was really good was that a year 7 form tutor attended so as to ensure the good work going on in the primaries can be built upon at secondary level. Brian Hogg has done another great job working with the school to agree a service specification for the programme so that we can demonstrate outcomes from the project and Jackie has agreed to promote it at the Inclusion launch. I am going back to visit the school next week and again in December to see the difference. I will also present the certificates to the staff involved in the programme.

The programme looks like it will provide a good foundation for the wide range of social and emotional health programmes already offered by the BEST team across the cluster of schools. Ali is mapping these out for me so that we can ensure they are fully reflected in the emotional health strategy that CAMM's are producing. Regards Carol."

I always think that the best way to get things done is to lock into other people's enthusiasm, passion and ingenuity. This is a great project that Jackie Reid, Headteacher at Stanningley Primary School, told me about because she believed that it would make a real difference in her school with her staff, her children and her families.

It is amazing the energy and potential that is released when talented and creative colleagues get together on something like this and the results usually are stunning. Thanks to everyone involved.
My colleague David Ingham, Business Development Manager within the BSF team sent me this reminder and some photographs from last week's Design Festival...

"Hi Chris,thanks for the mention on the blog! Must mention that our colleague Rachel Gilby deserves most of the credit for her brilliant organisation of the event. Claire asked that I send through some photos from the Design Festival. I hope they fit the bill, let me know if you would like to see any of the others I hope to gather over the next few days. Thanks Dave"

It was a great couple of days.

Thanks Rachel!


Following the Stephen Heppell event Lesley Dixon, RM's Project Director for the Leeds BSF Project sent me this message...

"Hello Chris, many thanks for your time today and for hosting such an amazing event. It has certainly set everyone thinking. To ensure that we don’t lose that momentum, Ian Todd and I spoke afterwards about the best way to keep the messages alive. Our suggestions are:
  • At your next meeting ask for everyone to suggest 2/3 things which Stephen raised that they want to see in Leeds – such as the innovative us of outside space with the ‘oval classroom’.
  • Once you have these, to agree a priority and the ones that you really want to take forward.

I have asked for Stephen’s availability for the remainder of the year and next, so we can schedule in a number of days to really work through some ideas. This will give us the backbone of termly review meetings and opportunities to continuously evaluate the proposals. In addition, we will try and secure 2 back to back dates for Stephen to provide a number of different opportunities – afternoon sessions, a dinner session and a meeting format, as examples. This way we could invite a slightly different audience for each session. Let me know if we can provide any additional support. I have also asked for some dates from Tim Pearson to ensure that you get an opportunity to discuss progress and are personally briefed on future developments within RM. Kind regards Lesley"

It is brilliant to be working with RM on the learning agenda here in Leeds. They bring such expertise and I know that they will help us take our provision forawrd in new and ingenious ways. As Stephen Heppel said at the meeting yesterday... "Leeds has such a unique history and is such a great place."

It is such an exciting place to work!


My colleague Steve Smith, Playing for Success and Quality Assurance in Study Support Manager in the Learning Communities Team sent me some really good news...

"Dear Chris, just to let you know that at the QiSS (Quality in Study Support) recognition Meeting held last week, the White Rose Learning Centre was successful in gaining Established status for the quality of their study support provision. Their presentation charted the path of a pupil from first involvement with the Centre as a pupil with low confidence and self esteem - through to her involvement as a peer mentor - to 9 GCSEs at A*-C ... to lead mentor ... the interesting thing was that the pupil Jess Fletcher (Morley High) - co-hosted the event and presented alongside Rachael the Centre Manager with great confidence. Their portfolio was exemplary and they did Education Leeds proud!! Jess, Rachael Holdgate, Shabana Mughal and Dave Crighton as well as Peter Smith the Shopping Centre Manager answered the scrutiny panel's questions and made it a great 'learning day' for all involved. Regards Steve"

The White Rose Study Support Centre is another of our brilliant learning places and Rachael and her team have made a real difference for so many young people through the work of the Centre. It is great to know that this work has now been officially recognised by this award.
I went on to the Children's Fund celebration event at the Civic Hall...

Like all the best things here in Leeds the Children's Fund is six years old and Jody Sheppard and her team had created the 'All Aboard' event which was a wonderful celebration of the project work the Fund has carried out over the last year with partner organisations. These projects have helped us develop a wonderful range of exciting and innovative work around our most vulnerable children and young people , their families and communities.
You can find out more about the work of the Leeds Children's Fund by visiting their website at
I had a great day yesterday. It started with a meeting with Professor Stephen Heppel, and colleagues from RM,who had come to meet the Leadership Team to talk about the future and the power of ICT.

Stephen Heppel is one of the gurus of learning and his session was brilliant. It inspired us all and made everyone think about how they can take that next step with learning in Leeds, our new buildings, our provision for excluded young people, the Learning City and so much more. You can visit Stephen's website at or his phoneblog at We intend to get Stephen back in the Spring to talk to a larger group and do some more work to help us as we move from 'Good to Great'.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Message of the Week Six

I had a brilliant week last week or should I say a ‘Good to Great’ week. I learnt so much and I have been reminded once again of the things that are truly important in our lives… people, places, action and outcomes.

I went to meet a brilliant group of colleagues at the Higher Level Teaching Assistant celebration at Weetwood Hall, colleagues who have changed their schools for the better. I talked to our Swedish visitors about our vision for Leeds and they were bowled over by the programme and being told about the best of Leeds. I went to the stimulating and interesting Mats Petttersson seminar at ‘The Venue’ at the Leeds College of Music. I went to the council’s ‘Good to Great’ event at the Royal Armouries where Mike O’Brien talked powerfully and passionately about leadership, culture and performance. I talked to a group of young people from our school councils at the Building Schools for the Future Design Festival about our plans and how they could help us shape the future. I visited two great little schools, White Laith Primary School and Pudsey Tyersal Primary School where colleagues are releasing the magic. I finished the week at the ‘14 – 19 Learning in Leeds’ Conference at the David Young Community Academy where again I talked about our vision for learning in Leeds.

As I said it was a fantastic week full of incredible people who are all making such a difference. What amazes me about my life is the things I learn as I do this brilliant job. These are the things we should all do to build on the real excellence here in Leeds, to eradicate the irrelevant and the obsolete and I intend to lead by example.
1. Stay focused and disciplined.
2. Smile and laugh at life.
3. Read and learn.
4. Hug a friend or keep a pet.
5. Celebrate real excellence and always say thank you.
6. Share your experiences and your successes.
7. Search for ways to have fun.
8. Work hard but wear comfortable shoes!
9. Breathe deeply when the going gets tough.
10. Stretch and exercise regularly.
11. Get cross and stamp your feet.
12. Dance and sing.
13. Touch your toes.
14. Get enough sleep.
15. Regularly take a break.
16. Clean up the clutter.
17. Get some sunshine.
18. Count your blessings.
19. Don’t dwell on the negatives.
20. Find some silence.
21. Live for today.
22. Do something you love.
23. Listen to music.
24. Watch the sunrise or the sunset.
25. Never lie about anything important.
AND keep the faith!
Over the weekend, I read an article by Bryn Meridith, President of Bluepoint Leadership Development Canada...

Bryn asks us to imagine our organisation as a tropical fish tank in need of a good clean. You remove all the guppies and send them off to the local guppy innovation spa where they experience several fun-filled exercises that teach them to be more creative. When the spa is finished these energised and creatively enhanced guppies return to the same dirty water. Strain as they might they are beaten back by the daily regime that never falters. They cannot get past the Save the Plants Committee or the Waste Removal Union, so their efforts and new ideas get shot down at every turn. They try taking their ideas to the angel fish that hover around the treasure chest but these angels are too busy worrying about purification and aeration to pay any attention. Plus, there are rumours that this tank is soon to merge with a larger tank. Everyone is scrambling to gain some information about the kind of fish they will meet, whether or not the other tank is cleaner and which fish will not make the transfer because everyone knows that when you merge tanks some fish get caught in the transfer net. All the guppies get dirty again amid the rumours and the tank’s decreasing visibility, communication gets clogged, trust in the ecosystem erodes and people’s ideas are numbed by the humdrum of being in the same old water.

Remember, leading innovation is about cleaning the tank not the fish!

Keep the faith