Friday, 19 October 2007

I’ve been reflecting on the progress we’ve made...

We have actually had another great year, the Corporate Assessment says we are good and most things are ok, but progress on the important things aren’t exactly as it should be, there are frustrations and to be totally honest there are times when I wish I was somewhere else. While I recognise that I have a great job, like you I suspect not everything in my life is creative or fun, there are things that are fragile, places where progress is depressingly slow and things that are not going the way we would hope. Sadly I don’t look forward with real pleasure to every meeting and I don’t love every colleague, every head teacher and every councillor but that’s life!

This weekend and this half-term, I am going to forget about Education Leeds, forget about work, forget the highs and lows we are experiencing at the moment. Instead, I am going to remember that I am a partner, a parent, a friend to some important people and recognise that the weekend and the holiday is a time for them.

I am going to:
  • enjoy myself;
  • leave the ‘work me’ at work;
  • be myself for once;
  • accept the criticism;
  • clean the toilet;
  • talk to the people I love and care about;
  • talk nicely in case I have to eat my words.

Take care.


e-mail free Fridays?

One thing I have learnt is how hard it is to get people to respond...

According to the sociologist Stanley Milgram, everyone in the world can be reached through a short chain of social acquaintances. The world is certainly getting smaller and smaller and more interconnected with the advances in digital networks and mobile communications. However as our inboxes clog, and the superhighway of digital bits and bytes draws us ever closer we must be careful that we don’t lose the personal, the face to face, the people bit of what we do.

As you know I love e-mail; it’s efficient and effective but totally impersonal, lacking emotion, inflection and intent and dangerous because it is open to misunderstanding and mistrust. I read over the weekend that even our colleagues at Intel the chip makers get fed up with e-mail and they have decided to have an e-mail free Friday in the hope that it will cut down traffic by 20%. So why don’t we try it. Every Friday let’s use email as little as possible. Let’s pick up the phone, walk along the corridor, climb the stairs and make it a day where we all talk to each other. After all conversation makes us what we are.
We can all make a real difference but we must always remember that actions speak louder than words. Whether it is the 14 – 19 agenda or the new inclusion strategy or our work with looked after children; hard times and tough issues require bold ideas, big ideas, brilliant ideas. But while ideas are incredibly important the thing that really matters is action, and the impact and the outcomes we achieve. So don’t just talk about our brilliant ideas.. start now.. don’t wait for permission.. find an excuse and do something.. do anything.. but get going. The important thing is that we do something, do anything, risk anything, try anything to make that difference. And occasionally of course we will make mistakes, get things wrong and sometimes muck things up big time.. but always driven by a genuine and passionate desire to make a difference for children and young people and our schools.

We must all break down the walls and the barriers which limit creativity and stubbornly maintain the status quo and limit our opportunities to make that step change in outcomes. We must build on the real excellence in the system and challenge the systems and hierarchies that nourish and perpetuate the irrelevant, the second rate and the obsolete.

So, what have you done in the last the last two the last damn cut out the rubbish, to knock down the walls, to focus on the things that really matter and to do the things that will really make a difference!

We can all make a real difference, so what is holding you back…
…just do it!
Don’t the weeks go quickly… I am told it’s a sure sign that I am getting older…

Whatever anyone says, Education Leeds has become a brilliant organisation and the most impressive thing about it is the combination of strong, energetic, dynamic and distributed leadership coupled to trusting, empowered and powerful relationships with our schools and our partners! We must always remember that ours is a people business where relationships and people really matter….in fact they are probably the only things that really matter in the end.

I have had another interesting half-term… challenging, annoying, frustrating, refreshing, encouraging, enlightening and uplifting… in roughly equal measures. We must all continue to listen to our colleagues and our critics and to learn from them and from our successes and our mistakes. We must continue to carefully coach, nurture and release the enormous talent that exists in our colleagues, in our teams, in our schools and across the Children’s Services world! That way we will continue to really make a difference and enable and empower our colleagues to do the things that need doing… the simple things, the straight-forward things, the necessary things, the hard things and the sometimes downright impossible things.

We must always remember that outcomes are everything. It is only as a result of our focused, determined and disciplined actions that we will have an impact and achieve the outcomes we want for our children and young people and ensure that they are all happy, healthy, safe and successful.

The agenda is enormous... developing new and improved models of leadership and governance, supporting underperforming and disaffected young people, tackling underperforming and coasting schools, driving forward with the 'Building Schools for the Future' programme, delivering the 14 - 19 transformational programme and making our schools more inclusive and effective as learning places at the heart of healthy, thriving and harmonious communities. Whatever you do after half-term, do something to take this agenda forward and to improve outcomes for children and young people here in Leeds!

Keep the faith
I received this e-mail from my colleague Tracy Dell, Headteacher at Methley Primary School...

"Hi Chris, Today Radio 4 came to school to record some of our work on visualisation for their Learning Curve programme-it will be screened on 29th October at 9pm. How privileged I felt and humbled by watching/listening to the staff and pupils and hearing them verbalise what an amazing learning culture we have built together. They were all truly brilliant! They owned everything we have nurtured and strived to achieve and this is only the beginning!!
Thank you for the letter about Swedish visitors-it was a pleasure-they are great! Tracy"

Tracy runs a brilliant little primary school which is doing so much to release the magic.


Message of the Week Eight

As you know I am attracted by beautiful systems and the need to make things simple. At times our lives can be very complicated, and yet we sometimes add to this by making things even more complex and more difficult for each other. The real trouble with common sense is that it isn’t all that common and, despite the fact that the world is full of experienced, skilled and clever people even the best of us can make mistakes. But it doesn’t have to be that way and it is reassuring to know that the best ideas are often the simplest.

This last week has been a really hard and incredibly busy one, but a week as always where I have learnt a lot. My life as always was full of meetings… councillors, headteachers, partners and colleagues. I was invited to speak at a number of events… the Rotary Club of Headingley, the Primary Headteachers Induction conference and the Challenging Racism Together event which was organised with the trade unions. We had an overnight session with the Education Leeds Board to look at the future and our strategic priorities and I had dinner with colleagues from RM and the chief executive of the Kunskapsskolan, a company running schools in Sweden. I also attended the Annual CBI regional dinner as the guest of Maxine Room the new chief executive and principal at Park Lane College. As usual, I visited some great schools… Cookridge Holy Trinity CE Primary School, Drighlington Primary School and Hovingham Primary School… where talented colleagues are making a real difference. I also attended meetings about the Joint Area Review; our children’s services inspection which takes place later this term with a focus on looked after children, children with disabilities, safeguarding, mental health services and 14 – 19 provision! I think, however, that the highlight of my week was an invitation to take part in the ‘Civic Gospel’ seminar which formed a small part of the wonderful Sikh Religious, Educational and Interfaith event at Roundhay Park.

This is simply going to be another incredible few months and we need to work even harder to engage and focus the potential within Education Leeds and our schools if we are to secure better outcomes for children and young people. As a learning organisation we must face up to the challenges of the Annual Performance Assessment, the Joint Area Review, the 14 – 19 Review, the new Inclusive Learning Strategy, Academies, shifting floor targets, progression targets and more Ofsted inspections. We must all feel a real sense of ownership and responsibility for all of this agenda, the issues and the problems we face together and we must all constantly learn from everything that we do.

I re-read a book over the weekend called Simply Brilliant by Fergus O’Connell which outlined the competitive advantage of common sense. I have adapted his principles as follows:
· most things are simple;
· know what you are trying to do;
· work to a plan and stick to it;
· things don’t get done unless you do them;
· things rarely turn out as you expect;
· look at things from others’ points of view; and
· work to get things done in the shortest possible time.
Remember to keep it simple and be your brilliant best.
My colleague Richard Jerome, Area Manager of the Learning Communities Team North-East based at the North-East City Learning Centre at Allerton Grange contacted me about some brilliant news...

"Dear Chris, I am delighted to be able to inform you that Catriona MacLeod, based at North-East Leeds City Learning Centre and a star of Aimhigher, has been awarded the prestigious Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Special Commendation. She is to be presented with the trophy, originally given by Professor David Crystal, by HRH Prince Michael on 15th November 2007 in London in recognition of her work in ‘fostering the study of languages’.

This follows our recent success with North-East Leeds City Learning Centre being recognised as a Yorkshire and Humber Business Language Champion by what was the DFES and CILT (National Centre for Languages). Cat’s award is totally deserved and it’s good that her outstanding work in Leeds has received national recognition. Best wishes. Richard."

We are so lucky to be working with so many talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues here in Leeds.
My colleague Hannah Lamplugh is Participation Officer in the Health Initiatives Team here at Education Leeds. Hannah contacted me about Local Democracy Week...

"Dear Chris, I thought you might find it useful to know what preparations we have made in order to take part in this year's Local Democracy Week which runs from 15th October - 21st October. The national theme is "Take part, take power" and once more, we are running the successful 'Mayor for a Day' initiative which has proved to be a high profile event.
This year the schools who have come forward to take part are Allerton Grange, Boston Spa, Cardinal Heenan and City Of Leeds schools

Candidates for 'Mayor for the Day' have submitted a manifesto based upon the theme of "If I were running Leeds for the day I would..." which will be focussed on such issues as: Environmental Issues; Caring for Vulnerable People; Leisure Activities for Young People.
All manifestos will appear, along with photos of the 'candidates' in the Yorkshire Evening Post today and will appear on the LCC web site for the duration of Local Democracy Week.
Please visit the website to see the manifestos at

Members of the public being invited to vote during Local Democracy Week and a dedicated email address has been set up specifically for the vote So please register your vote! The eventual winner will be invited to take tea with the Lord Mayor, wear mayoral robes and help switch on the Leeds Christmas Lights. As last year, the winner will also have the opportunity of presenting their ideas in the form of a delegation to full Council in January 2008."

This is a great initiative and I hope that colleagues will read the manifestos and vote.
My colleague Loraine Lambert is the Learning Mentor at Farsley Farfield Primary School and Loraine sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, Just reading your blog and you want to know what motivates us. I am the learning mentor at Farsley Farfield and am very proud of our school. We have just completed our Ofsted inspection, and if you read the report, we are highly praised for our innovative farm. I know other schools are starting to follow our lead (farm wise) - but we have just had our Harvest Festival complete with food harvested on our own farm by our own children, parents and staff. Our farm motivates me. I garden (badly) with children with behavioural, social or emotional issues. Our two fabulous gardeners do the most wonderful work with the children. Most of all, I am motivated by the inspiration, and dynamic leadership of Peter Harris (also praised by Ofsted).
Will you come to our school again please and see our farm now for yourself? Will you have lunch on a day when we provide our own vegetables? Please bring a recycled bag and take some produce home with you - if there's any left! Please bring with you some packets of seeds, or some cuttings, or a tree for planting, and please take a moment to look at our website. You too will be inspired. Cheers Loraine"

It is a great school and I will have to try to visit and have lunch.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

I ended my hectic and slightly schizophrenic day at the North Eastern Region CIPFA Conference at the Park Inn , York...

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) is one of the leading professional accountancy bodies in the UK and the only one which specialises in the public sector. It is responsible for the education and training of professional accountants and for their regulation through the setting and monitoring of professional standards. Uniquely among the professional accountancy bodies in the UK, CIPFA has responsibility for setting accounting standards for a significant part of the economy, namely local government. CIPFA’s members work, often at the most senior levels, in public service bodies, in the national audit agencies and major accountancy firms. They are respected throughout for their high technical and ethical standards, and professional integrity. CIPFA also provides a range of high quality advisory, information and training and consultancy services to public service organisations.

I had been asked to talk to around 80 accountants about 'Building brilliant learning organisations and releasing the potential of your team!' I don't know what you call a collection of accountants but they were a brilliant audience and the feedback was great.
I went on to the Derek Fatchett CLC to another Education Leeds Staff Induction session...

These sessions are really inspiring because I meet the new starters who really add something special to the company. They should be our most positive and enthusiastic colleagues since they have recently made the choice to join the team. The group were young, gorgeous, talented, brilliant and wonderful... eevrything you would want our new colleagues to be. There was a significant group of passionate and highly committed 'Enterprise Ambassadors' who are working with schools to support enterprise activities... another brilliant initiative here in Leeds.
I moved on to Colton Primary School for my annual session with a small group of concerned parents...

Colton finds itself between two very good and oversubscribed secondary schools and parents worry each year about whether they will get into one of their local schools. My colleague Viv Buckland and I talked to the parents about the situation this year and agreed to meet them again later in the year.

Afterwards, Andy Syers, one of the two headteachers at the school showed me around the school and talked to me about the real benefits of the job share as well as some of their strengths and successes. The school has a wonderfully calm, positive and purposeful atmosphere and delivers ouitstanding care alongside high standards. They have introduced the SEAL materials and a brilliant 'Learning Log' which is supporting a very creative and personalised approach. The teaching of French has also enriched the curriculum offer.

This is a great little school doing some brilliant things with some wonderful children.
I started the day early at Kippax Ash Tree Primary School...

The school was part of the ten primary school PfI project we completed a couple of years ago and it looks great although there are clearly problems with space and subsidence. Victoria Ford, the new headteacher, showed me round and talked to me about some of the challenges she and her colleagues are facing particularly in raising standards in maths. The SILC partnership with the East SILC means that the school is home to a group of children with complex needs and it seems to be going really well apart from the problems with space.

Victoria is very obviously a talented and experienced headteacher who has brought a real focus on standards, tracking, monitoring and intervention and the school is moving forward well under her very committed and passionate leadership supported by her strong and developing leadership team.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

I wemnt to the South Leeds CLC the other day and it is brilliant. The Centre has been transformed and the team are great.... at least that is what Sally said I should say! It certainly was buzzing when I visited!
I went on to Executive Board...

“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman,
before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.”
John Quincy Adams

The Board endorsed our approach to the 14 - 19 Review and so begins a huge programme of consultation and option appraisals to develop a coherent and well thought out set of proposals that we can take back to Executive Board in the Spring. This represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform 14 - 19 provision and achieve the sort of outcomes that we need to underpin the ongoing success of the city.
I went on to a hugely impressive event organised and managed by Sue Knights, Sue Williamson and Ian Falkingham on behalf of the NW SILC Parents Forum...

The City wide Market Place Event at the Civic hall brought together colleagues from agencies and the voluntary and community sector who work with children with special and additional needs. It was officailly opened by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Brain Cleasby and it enabled parents and carers to see the range of support available to them:
  • Aiming High for Diabled Children
  • Choice Advice Service;
  • Early Years SILC;
  • Parent Partnership Service;
  • Early Years Service;
  • Inclusion Support Team;
  • Leeds Play Network;
  • Deaf and Hearing Impaired Team;
  • Visually Impaired Team;
  • Community Paediatric Audiology Service;
  • Leeds PCT Learning Disabilities Service;
  • martin House;
  • Leeds University Student Action Group;
  • Wilf Ward;
  • Children's Social Care Services;
  • Herd Farm;
  • Youth Services;
  • ComnneXions;
  • Donkey Sanctuary;
  • Pyramid of Arts;
  • Snaps;
  • The Hub;
  • Disability Benefits Team;
  • Job Centre Plus;
  • association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus;
  • Hawthorn Family support Centre;
  • Cerebral Palsy Sport;
  • Disabled Sports;
  • Willows young Carers;
  • Library Service;
  • Carers Leeds.

I know that I will have missed some of those who were there and if you missed it you missed something really special. I hope that we can make it an annual event!


I started the day early with a headteachers breakfast at the Manor Golf Club in Drighlington...

The meeting was with the Rothwell and Morley families of Schools and although breakfast was delayed because the chef was stuck on the motorway it was a great opportunity to share and talk about the challenges we face in Leeds and in these Families.

We talked about the wicked issues which challenge us all everyday:
  • developing leadership and governance;
  • building brilliant learning;
  • tackling underachieving groups;
  • supporting underachieving schools;
  • developing inclusive learning;
  • building better schools.

We alos briefly looked at succession planning, Trusts, federations and new models of governance. These are great headteachers doing a brilliant job driving up standards, developing extended services and working together to share their practice.


I ended the day yesterday at Governor Forum...

Stephen Rennie chairs the Forum and it was another great meeting covering some really critical issues:
  • Education under Gordon Brown;
  • Governance of extended services;
  • our new Inclusive Learning Strategy;
  • Locality working in a Children's Services world;
  • the 14 - 19 review.

The Governor Forum is a vital mechanism for sharing and learning with a representative group of our key strategic leaders who help us shape our services, continue to hold us to account and challenge us to do better.


I went on to the South Leeds CLC to meet with the secondary headteachers and the college principals to talk about the 14 - 19 review...

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform the outcomes our young people achieve at 16 and 19 and to use the funding from Building Schools for the Future and the Learning and Skills Council to transform the learning landscape. It is great to see that their is a real commitment to work together to do this and tackle some of the endemic issues facing us here in Leeds. Our challenge now is to turn the rhetoric into action anfd outcomes!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

I started the day early at Christ Church Upper Armley Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School with Pat Richards and her team...

I chatted to Pat over a cup of coffee before we did 'Wake Up and Shake Up' at 8.50 to 'When the Going Gets Tough!' with the whole school in the playground led by the young PE coordinator and Pat... and it was wonderful to see the way the children responded and the real buzz it gave everyone including me! I then moved on with Pat and her Assistant Headteacher to Year 6 who were having a French breakfast with coffee and croissants for the big people... c'est magnifique! After a brief tour of the school, which was playing host to the West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Blah Blah Theatre Company, finished my visit with Pat and Doreen Armitage, her Chair of Governors.

The school has made real progress under Pat's leadership over the last few years and as I walked around the school with Pat I could see that these are very special children and the culture and ethos Pat has worked so hard to create was there in the Wake Up and Shake Up session and in the French breakfast.

What makes Christ Church Upper Armley Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School such a great place? The answers...

  • Pat's strong and passionate leadership;
  • a talented, energetic Assistant Headteacher and some enthusiastic colleagues;
  • clear values and beliefs driving the work of the school;
  • a focus on purposeful teaching within a positive learning environment; and
  • some fantastic young people!

Pat and her team are working hard to create something really special at Christ Church Upper Armley Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School .


I spent the evening with Shirley Parks and other colleagues from the Leadership Team...

Shirley is leaving us this week to join Partnership for Schools and we will all miss her energy and enthusiasm; her passion and commitment and just miss her for what she has brought to Education Leeds. Still PfS will gain an extraordinary colleague who knows how to release the magic!
Yesterday was one of those days when I am unsure who I am...

I attended Leadership Team as Chief Executive of Education Leeds, Children's Services Leadership Development Session as a member of Rosemary Archer's leadership team and the Inner North East Area Committee as a member of Paul Rogerson's Corporate Leadership Team.
Interestingly in all three what came through powerfully was a sense of real pride to work here in Leeds and to serve the people of this great city.