Saturday, 3 November 2007

At the end of the day yesterday, I spent a stimulating and interesting hour with Paul Kaiserman, Claire Biggs and Jo Richardson from our Artforms team...

I am going to London on Monday to the 'Next Practice in Radical Pedagogy Workshop' with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the DCSF Innovation Unit. The workshop builds on the Musical Futures work that we have been doing here in Leeds and Paul, Claire and Jo talked me through the learning that has gone on. They had spent the morning at the 'Embracing Diversity, Cultural Literacy and Reaping the Benefits' session led by Rosemary Campbell-Stephens during the morning. She had apparently been brilliant and the session had been both stimulating and challenging.

I am constantly amazed at the real insights colleagues bring to their work and the deep learning that is going on across Education Leeds. Paul, Claire and Jo are brilliant colleagues who helped me think and made some real connections for me in terms of how we can re-engineer secondary provision to deliver brilliant learning more consistently and ensure that young people are powerfully and passionately engaged in their learning.


I noticed how tired many colleagues were looking after half-term and worry about the relentless pressure we all face...

It is vitally important that we keep the three aspects of our lives in balance and don't neglect ourselves and our relationships while we struggle with the immense and complex agenda we are juggling, managing and delivering at work.

We need passion in all aspects of our lives but unless you keep a balance between work, relationships and looking after yourself we will struggle to get to Christmas.

Let me know how you are feeling and what we can do to improve your life-work balance


I am more and more convinced that the seven things we all need to do to be happy:
  • make you body work by exercising regularly;
  • make your brain work by getting mental stimulation;
  • make you spirit work by getting artistic stimulation;
  • do a good turn for someone else every day;
  • do something great with a friend;
  • give yourself a treat every now and then;
  • celebrate and congratulate yourself on the things you do well.

What do you think?


I was reading again last night, this time about the 80:20 rule...

Causes, inputs and efforts lead to results, outputs and rewards. The 80:20 principle asserts that a minority of what you do usually leads to a majority of what you achieve. Looking at it another way, 80% of what you achieve in your life comes from 20% of the time you spend doing it.

I am passionate about beautiful systems, deep research, intelligent accountability, learning organisations and the importance of discipline. The researchers Pareto, Zipf and Juran have all demonstrated the truth of the 80:20 rule. 80:20 thinking is:
  • reflective;
  • unconventional;
  • strategic;
  • ambitious;
  • confident;
  • focused on progress and outcomes.

Just think about it... the rule suggests that what you achieve in one day of your working week delivers 4 days of your results. If we could capture what that magic day was all about and increase how often it happens our outcomes would go through the roof. Our 'brilliant learning, brilliant leadership' initiative is how we begin to understand how we can go from good to great and focus on learning-centred leadership, learning organisations and learning classrooms.


Friday, 2 November 2007

Fantastic. A day without migraine!

Thanks to everyone who showed they care by tiptoeing past my office, whispering while they talked to me, turning off the lights, taking some of the responsibility and the burden and just showing some thought and consideration by asking how I was. It's appreciated!
The real problem with my migraine...

I have had migraine since I was very young and spent a considerable slice of my life in darkened rooms with my senses on fire and my head being ravaged by pain. I used to get it every weekend as I relaxed and I think the worst thing is that bit when you wake up in the morning and find it's with you again. I have had this headache now for the best part of a week and tonight it seems to have finally gone. However, I am thinking of staying up all night to try to break the cycle and avoid waking up... If anyone out there is a fellow sufferer and has found a solution please let me know because I have tried everything.
There are so many great schools in Leeds and it was encouraging recently to read the OFSTED inspection report on Bankside Primary School. I wrote to Sarah Rutty and her team to congratulate them and Sarah wrote back...

"Dear Chris, Having read one of your more recent blog entries and marvelling (and commiserating) at the number of hours you work in order to help us achieve 'Bankside Best' on a city-wide scale, I am even more touched and grateful for the time you found in order to send us your 'well done' note, in the wake of our recent OFSTED. As you once pointed out to me, you do have many schools to run in Leeds, I am always impressed at how you still manage to stay in touch with us all... Well done back to you!

We too were delighted with the report; it was my first ever as a headteacher and I too was really pleased with the very positive comments it made about our leadership team. Leadership, as you know so well, is critical to the creation - and maintainence - of a successful and vibrant team... all my Bankside Best wishes to you, our 'primus inter pares', as you boldly stride out at the vanguard of that team provision, here in Leeds! As your blog makes clear, this is not always a straightforward journey and I very much hope that the indomitable Edwards' spirit will prevail - even when the going gets rough. I often bring to mind Tim Brighouse's set of 'desirable qualities' in leadership, when sets of lips tighten yet more firmly and cardigans are buttoned up TO THE TOP with savage intent during staff meetings; the one I find most re-assuring at troubling times like this, is his view that successful leaders need to have a quality that he characterises as 'unwarranted optimism'...Long may your optimism be 'unwarranted' and abundant - even when the lips of challengers tighten and (metaphorical) cardies are buttoned up against you ...Lots of Bankside Best wishes. Sarah"

We all need to understand the challenges we face here in Leeds and the real difference we are making together is why we continue to turn up when the easy life is so available to talented people. We must continue to be optismistic and positive and to fly the flag for everything that is brilliant about Leeds including its' primary schools like Bankside, its' people like Sarah and her team and most importantly its' children like the wonderful young people at Bankside Primary School.
I received an e-mail from Richard O’Neill a traveller storyteller who has visited Leeds over the last few years to work with Peter Saunders and his colleagues in the Travellers Service...

"Hi Chris, Just a quick note about a children's programme I recently recorded for BBC radio 4. 'Go for It.' will feature Gypsy Traveller storytelling, music and culture will be broadcast on the 4th of November at 7.15pm, just after the Archers. You can listen again on the website for up to a week after. All the best. Richard"

Richard is one of those amazing human beings with real energy and enthusiasm and the ability to inspire with his stories. I have personally been on a journey of discovery about the history, the culture, the music and the stories of the Traveller communities and I will be listening to Richard on 4 November. Why not join me?


I also received this e-mail today from Diane Law the Youth Work Manager at BARCA-Leeds...

"Hi All, Just to let you know BARCA-Leeds has won a place on the ‘People’s Millions’ final list of projects going to the public vote in the Yorkshire & Humberside region. We will be featured on ITV regional news on the 29th November against The Yorkshire Waterways Museum. We now have a 5 in 8 chance of being successful. This Funding will enable us to develop our information advice and guidance services for young people across West Leeds. The project with the most telephone vote is awarded the funding. The ITV regional company will be contacting us shortly to make a short film about the project.

So please put the 29th November in your diaries, your family and friends diaries and please watch & cast your vote on the day, by phone or text. The Telephone numbers will only be revealed that day. Let all your networks know. More Information will follow shortly….with a campaign for the public’s votes. Any assistance in raising the project in the media etc to get the public vote would be more than welcome. Please don’t let us down!!!!!!!! Diane."

I hope that everyone will help Diane and her colleagues secure the funding for this project.


Thursday, 1 November 2007

After the event at the Royal Armouries I received this e-mail from Geoff Roberts a governor at the NW SILC...

"Hi Chris – I picked up your blog about the event at the Armouries. I was there too and want to congratulate the team on an excellent piece of engagement.

The day was thought provoking and challenging and I took a lot away to think about. We need to move this engagement process much closer to the ground - visits to governing bodies, school councils, staff meetings, etc because early and extensive involvement is the key to effective implementation – it needs to be part of the development process not merely implementation. And don't let this become an excuse for procrastination and delay - we need to move quickly to establish the vision and act on those parts that we can act upon asap. It's only when we take action that anything really changes and we are able to find out what the real obstacles are.

I am increasingly convinced that the SILCs have a future role as a centre of excellence seeking out, developing and pushing out best practice whilst also being a host site for the small number of most disadvantaged pupils requiring very special support. This will require a change of mindset within some governors, teachers and parents and may also require a new look at funding as the reality is that we can barely afford to do any of this at present.

Good luck with the journey and I will do all I can to help. Geoff Roberts

PS Hope the migraine has gone away by now."

I am grateful to Geoff for the feedback and the offer of support. This is a vitally important agenda and only a shame that more headteachers and more schools weren't represented at what was a great and really significant day.
I went to the celebration of the achievements of some of our looked after children this evening and it was brilliant...

Til Wright and her team had organised something really special and we must certainly do it again next year and make it bigger and even better. The carers are an amazing bunch and they were so proud of their fantastic children!
Another day another migraine...

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

There has been a lot on the news today about a new research report by the World Cancer Research Fund...

If you read the report or visit their website you find the following recommendations for cancer prevention:
1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity to help keep your risk lower.
2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Any type of activity counts – the more you do the better! Try to build some into your everyday life.
3. Avoid sugary drinks and limit consumption of energy-dense foods particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fibre, or high in fat. Try to eat lower energy-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits and wholegrains instead. Opt for water or unsweetened tea or coffee in place of sugary drinks.
4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and pulses such as beans. As well as eating your 5 A DAY, try to include wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta) and/or pulses with every meal.
5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats. Aim to limit intake of red meat to less than 500g cooked weight (about 700-750g raw weight) a week. Try to avoid processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages.
6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation.
7. Limit consumption of salty foods and food processed with salt. Remember that processed foods, including bread and breakfast cereals, can contain large amounts of salt.
8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer. Opt for a balanced diet without supplements.

This contains some really important messages for how we educate our children and young people. If you want to find out more you can visit the World Cancer Research Fund website at
I went to see the Ballet Rambert Dance Company this evening at the Grand Theatre and Opera House...

They were really good and the third piece featuring the male dancers was brilliant. I am always amazed at the discipline, strength and precision that good dancers display and again this evening you wonder how much coaching and practice it takes to perform so well.
I started the day at the Royal Armouries for the second launch event for the Leeds Inclusive Learning Strategy with colleagues from Children's Services, Education Leeds, the SILCs and the PRUs, parents and carers and partners...

This is a hugely important agenda and a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle we are putting together around our children, our young people and their families. Again it isn't rocket science and while I am constantly told that we can't have a focus on standards and inclusion they are simply the same thing.

The really great thing about today was the contribution by a young woman who had been a student at Shakespeare Primary School and was now at Roundhay High School. Her story was fantastic and proved that when we have passionate advocates and people who will fight for us to get the help we all need, at different times in our lives, we can all be successful. This young woman was an inspiration to everyone at the Royal Armouries.
I should have known it was coming. I should have known why I was feeling strange...

I have suffered from migraine since I was small and even though I am now on an amazing drug called Imigran sometimes I simply can't escape. It happens about twice a year and however hard I try eventually it gets me and yesterday was one of those days. It hit me like a train and I have been through hell for the last twenty four hours. I had been taking the tablets for about a week trying desperately to get over it but no way was it goingto let me off the hook.

I am sorry to those people I let down yesterday but I know that the world will have gone on without me and that my colleagues will have done a brilliant job covering my diary. Please keep the noise down and the lights low for the rest of the week!

Monday, 29 October 2007

I went on to South Leeds High School to talk to the staff about the Transformation of Secondary and Post-16 Learning, the associated Academies in Leeds Strategy and the role of the Leeds Learning Alliance...

The school has made a great start to the year and the atmosphere, commitment and energy were very obvious as I spoke to these colleagues who are working in one of the most complex and challenging contexts in Leeds. They are really focused on ensuring that the OFSTED visit later this term is a success and that it recognises the real progress the school has made over the Summer. Colin Bell has certainly built a strong and determined team who are up for the challenge.
I started the day at the Ramada Jarvis Parkway Hotel for the launch of the Leeds Inclusive Learning Strategy with colleagues from Education Leeds, the SILCs and the PRUs...

This is another hugely important agenda and a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle we are putting together around our children, our young people and their families. Again it isn't rocket science and while I am constantly told that we can't have a focus on standards and inclusion they are simply the same thing.
I have had a very strange day today. A day when everything seems difficult and I simply feel angry with the world...

I think it is about getting back up to speed and being able to cope with the enormous number of complex and challenging issues we are dealing with. But it is also about my frustration with the pace of progress and how slowly things are moving forward in so many critical areas. Change isn't so difficult and while colleagues tell me that it takes time to change cultures and attitudes, I know from over 30 years of doing this that change can happen tomorrow if we are all prepared to make it happen!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

I read the HMCI Annual Report over the half-term and once again Leeds schools are well represented among the list of outstanding providers...

Our brilliant learning places are as follows:
  • Beecroft Primary School,
  • Carr Manor Primary School,
  • East Garforth Primary School,
  • Featherbank Infant School,
  • Garforth Community College,
  • Ireland Wood Primary School,
  • Ninelands Primary School,
  • Parklands Children's Centre,
  • Scholes (Elmet) Primary School,
  • St Paul's Catholic Primary School,
  • West Oaks School North East Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre,
  • Westbrook Lane Primary School,
  • Westerton Primary School.

Well done to each and everyone of our colleagues who work so hard in these learning places to release the magic.


Like you, I am constantly working to be the best I can be, trying to do a good job or even a great job…

I find however, that I am working so hard on today’s non-urgent emergency stuff, that I’m finding it hard to find enough time to think and to plan for tomorrow. However great today’s challenges are, the only way that we are going to achieve really outstanding outcomes for our children and young people is by focusing on what we need to do tomorrow, to ensure that today, is not simply another day doing the same things and achieving the same outcomes.

I don’t know about you but I keep a diary, or to be honest Althea does, and recently I looked back at what I do in a typical week. In a typical week, whatever that means, I work around 60 hours, about 45 hours in Leeds and about 15 hours at home. I also spend about 10 hours in my car! In that typical week I spend about:
  • 30 managing the office, the paper, the e-mails and generally fire-fighting;
  • 15 hours at routine meetings;
  • 10 hours on current initiatives and projects;
  • 5 hours of refection and thinking time.

Put it into the Leeds context; there are eight weeks or forty working days until Christmas and so much to do! I’ve been looking through my diary and alongside the usual stuff the rest of this term looks incredible. Christmas will be here before we know it and while we will have ratcheted up another catalogue of incredible stuff will we have spent enough time thinking about how we can drive the change agenda here in Leeds.

This is just a slice of the best stuff…

  • The launch of the ‘Inclusive Learning Strategy’;
  • The official opening of the new Ralph Thorsby High School building;
  • The Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Celebration;
  • The launch of the Business Education Strategy Group;
  • The Leeds Healthy Schools Celebration;
  • The Education Leeds Annual Lecture by Tim Brighouse;
  • ‘Children in Need’ day;
  • The launch of our ‘Brilliant Learning, Brilliant Leadership’ programme;
  • The Leeds Mentoring Celebration;
  • The Annual LCC Retirement Receptions;
  • 11 Million Takeover Day;
  • Parent and Family Support Strategy event;
  • The ‘STEPS’ Celebration;
  • Leeds Trinity and All Saints Foundation Degree Celebration;
  • University of Leeds Student Volunteering Awards;
  • Governor Area Meetings;
  • The Education Leeds Christmas Party.

This is alongside the Council’s Executive and Scrutiny Boards agendas, the Education Leeds Board agendas, the Joint Area Review schedule, headteacher breakfast and tea-time meetings and the incredible agenda we are working on with the 14 – 19 agenda, Trusts, Academies, extended services and locality working. It’s true that there is never a dull moment here in Leeds… just make sure that you can find time to think and to reflect as well as to juggle!

As you get back, after another half-term break; back to the day-to-day business, the cut and thrust, the ups and downs, the roller-coaster ride, I hope that things aren’t getting too hard, too difficult or too stressful. Our business has never been for the faint hearted, the uncommitted, of those looking for an easy life. Over half-term, I re-read the Audit Commission’s School Survey and we all know or so people tell us, we are only as good as our last piece of work, as our last decision, our last conversation, our last design, our last piece of advice. However, thinking about it, it’s not true… the truth is that we are as good as the next one, the one we are going to do today, tomorrow, this week, next week, this month, next month. We must always remember that there are constant opportunities to do better, to improve and develop and to learn.

Whoever you are, you don’t win every race you enter, but you can try to win the next one. You can try to do a better and better job on everything you manage, you touch and you are involved with. Always remember, because no-one else will tell you, that we are making real progress, we are going the right way, things are getting better … even if it is sometimes slow, difficult and challenging… and that progress is down to you, your enthusiasm, your passion and commitment and your sheer hard work.

We must all find the time to think; to constantly reflect on our abilities, our targets and what we have achieved. But we must all have the determination, the courage and the self-belief to aim higher and to look to achieve more. Success is all about attitude, ownership and self-belief, so, above all, you must believe in yourself.

As the days get darker and the nights get longer we must retain a ruthless focus and concentrate on activities which deliver the outcomes we want to see. We must,
· be disciplined and determined;
· think and behave long term;
· except the unexpected;
· always stay positive.

Thank you for the significant effort you are making to make education in Leeds such a success and for making a real difference for children, young people, families and carers and communities here in Leeds.
If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we need to all work together to avoid a major catastrophe. Climate change is one of the biggest issues we face as individuals, as families, as organisations and as communities. Unless we act, we face an uncertain future or our children and grandchildren do… and it’s a catastrophe of our own making.

We all need to lead by example, and listen to our Recycling and Climate Change Champions, because we can be part of the solution… individually and collectively we can make a real difference. These are some simple things we can all do to save the world…
  • Change to low energy light bulbs;
  • Drive less… walk, cycle, car share or take the bus;
  • Recycle more… at home and here at work;
  • Use less hot water… bath with a friend;
  • Avoid buying things with lots of packaging… or unpack it and leave the packaging where you bought it;
  • Turn down your central heating… just 1C makes a real difference;
  • Plant a tree;
  • Don’t leave things on standby mode;
  • Turn off electrical devices.

But whatever you do… do something!

“A team of brilliant individuals is less effective than a brilliant team of individuals.”
Robert Falcon Scott

I have often said that leadership is one of the keys to unlocking the future. Whatever level you are in this organisation, people will be looking to you for guidance, motivation, encouragement and support. Leadership requires a clear shared vision and a strategic direction that engages and motivates everyone in the team. This vision must drive the culture of Education Leeds, be built into our values and behaviours and be part of everything we do. I promise to set an example for everyone and I expect everyone in the company to play their part.

I want us to continue to motivate everyone and support everyone who is doing the right things. Together we must set ourselves clear and unambiguous targets and hold each other personally accountable for getting things done.

We will never succeed by micro-managing our colleagues. We will only succeed if they are inspired, engaged and passionately believe in what we are doing. We must continue to trust colleagues, give them responsibility and let them get one with things in ways they know best.

11 Mllion Takeover Day

Don't forget that the first ever 11 Million Takeover Day will be on 23 November 2007. It is a chance for the 11million children and young people in England to take over from adults. It is a way of celebrating the importance of young people in our society and for businesses and organisations across the country will demonstrate their commitment to children and young people for the day. I hope that every school in Leeds will get involved in some way.
To find out more about 11 Million Takeover Day you can visit

The Education Leeds Annual Lecture

Make sure that you have booked a place at the Education Leeds Annual Lecture on 20 November where Tim Brighouse will talk about the challenges and the opportunities we face in the big cities. Tim transformed Birmingham and has had a massive impact on standards in London secondary schools. Be there and be inspired by one of the great educationalists of our times.
We are launching our new Inclusive Learning Strategy this week and it is important that we all understand the importance of this piece of work...

We have been working on this agenda here in Education Leeds for the last six years and we all recognise and understand that developing inclusive practice and inclusive provision is an on-going process... a work in progress!

We are working to develop brilliant learning places: good, improving and inclusive provision where all our children, young people and adults including those with disabilities and/or learning difficulties are included and valued for what they contribute and add to our provision. We must work with our colleagues in Children's Services, Leeds City Council and other agencies to support and develop inclusive provision that helps build healthy, thriving, harmonious and inclusive communities where everyone is equally valued and has the same opportunities for participation and engagement.

How are you going to help with this agenda and support us as we build brilliantly inclusive provision for all our children and young people?