Saturday, 24 November 2007

Over the weekend I read a brilliant OFSTED report...

We don't have many secondary schools described as outstanding by our friends at OFSTED so it was wonderful to read Roundhay School Technology College's report where the school is described as outstanding, inclusive and highly successful. The team recognised Neil Clephen's strong and inspirational leadership, the quality of leadership, managemnet and team work across the school and the outstanding teaching and learning. I have rarely read such a celebration of secondary excellence.


  • Think, reflect, research, analyse and learn;
  • Be visible, accessible and available;
  • Walk the talk and constantly connect with colleagues;
  • Tell stories; celebrate, praise and challenge;
  • Teach, coach and model behaviours you want to see;
  • Get a life... live, love and regularly escape;
  • Do things to make people feel special.

Try it and see...


Friday, 23 November 2007

I spend a significant slice of the day with a group of young people from Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, City of Leeds School, South Leeds High School and West Leeds High School...

As part of 11 MILLION Takeover Day, this group of young people, who had been nominated to represent their schools, spent the afternoon with the Education Leeds executive team. They had a brief tour of Merrion House, had lunch with the team and and shared their views and experiences, discussed solutions, and had the chance to ask lots of questions!

The young people were wonderful ambassadors for their schools and we discussed the following:
  • the environment, recycling and school meals;
  • bullying and anti-social behaviour;
  • the limitations of PFI buildings and contracts;
  • the challenges associated with merging secondary schools;
  • the importance of an attractive and stimulating learning environment;
  • positive behaviour, rewards and sanctions; and
  • school uniform.

We all enjoyed meeting these young people and have agreed to meet them again in March to review these issues.


I started the day early at Hinsley Hall with Dierdre Rowe looking at some of the opportunities and challenges we face with Catholic provision here in Leeds...

It was a great start to the day; to sit, talk and share bacon butties!
They certainly know how to live at Hinsley Hall!
I finished another long day at the Civic Hall at the Fifth Annual Leeds Peace Poetry Competition Awards Evening which is a vital part of 'Together for Peace'...

And it was fantastic... dancing and singing from a group of children and young people called Arrows of Promise followed by three poets reading the primary school finalists... then classical guitar played by Ramtin followed by the secondary school finalists poems... then more from Arrows of Promise followed by the adult finalists poems which included Colin Trenholme from Hugh Gaitskell Primary School's brilliant 'Green Piece'. Special awards were given to two children from Tranmere Park Primary School as the youingest ever entrants to the competition.

It is great to know that poetry is alive and thriving in our primary and secondary schools and I hope that next year more schools will encourage and support the competition.
I then visited the NE SILC at West Oaks...

This is a brilliant school and Andrew Hodkinson, it's new headteacher, wanted to talk to me about his vision for the school and the behavioural continuum here in Leeds. It was an interesting and refreshing meeting with a lot of creative ideas and a real sense of how we can shift one of our wicked and challenging issues. I look forward to seeing how the school's work locks into the new Inclusive Learning Strategy and how we continue to build on our centres of excekllence to develop brilliant learning consistently across all our provision!
I have just heard some brilliant news...

The School Improvement Support Service at Elmete has been awarded Chartermark! This is a fantastic achievement and reflects the work some amazing colleagues have put into developing the service over the last few years. I am really grateful to Margaret Dalby for her leadership and care and to Linda Gibson who co-ordinated the work.... and to everyone in the team!
I moved on to the Elmete Centre to be interviewed by the Chartermark assessor...

The School Improvement Support team are going for Chartermark along side everyone else across the company and it was their turn to go through the assessment process which is rigorous and challenging against the 64 criteria of the award. The team have done a brilliant job at Elmete supporting the teams who are based there but also making a unique and special contribution to their community and to the wider city.
The reason I couldn't make the Leadership event was that I wanted to be at the launch of our new approach to tackling bullying....

Young people tell us that the biggest issue for them is not feeling safe and 'The Power of Me' is our response. The initiative was launched at the Headingley Experience with an invited audience of children and young people from schools who have helped us develop our new approach. The campaign has been developed with young people from 22 schools across the city and is a whole city approach to help us build resilience in our young people, to tackle cyber-bullying and to stamp out bullying wherever it happens.

The elements of the new approach are:
  • peer support teams trained by Childline as first point of contact for anyone who has been bullied or feels unsafe;
  • Leeds Rugby Foundation providing positive breaktime activities;
  • Anti-bullying Alliance training for staff;
  • Restorative Justice training involving the West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council's Youth Offending Team;
  • 'Mission Transition' a musical production to support transition to secondary school.

'The Power of Me' is sponsored by First Direct Bank and provides help and advice to anyone who is experiencing bullying or dealing with it in schools. Bus adverts are helping to raise the profile of the scheme which is supported by posters, postcards and stickers.

The launch was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and learn. If you want to find out more about this brilliant scheme contact my colleague Hilary Farmery on


I started the day yesterday at the Leeds Town Hall...

I was there very briefly to apologise for not being able to attend the Children's Services Leadership event.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

And another award...

Catriona MacLeod a Leeds language expert has received the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Special Commendation for her commitment to language learning...

Catriona, who is based at the North-East Leeds City Learning Centre in Moortown, was presented with the prestigious award by His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Kent, at an awards ceremony in London. Originally donated to the institute by Professor David Crystal, the award is presented every year to a linguist from the UK who is committed to promoting the study of languages. Catriona was nominated for the commendation for her work with the North East Leeds City Learning Centre - particularly in French, German and Spanish.

Catriona’s dedication to languages is helping hundreds of our young people learn an interesting and valuable skill which will help prepare them for life in an increasingly smaller world. This award is a reflection of the admiration and respect her work has on a national level and she thoroughly deserves the recognition and praise that comes with it.

Another award for our work!

A Leeds project that promotes deeper understanding between the city’s oldest and youngest citizens has won a major European award...

Leeds’s ‘Building Bridges’ has been nominated for a ‘Eurocities’ award and has been shortlisted alongside the cities of Oslo and Edinburgh. The winner will be announced at a judging ceremony in Poland on 23 November. ‘Building Bridges’ is a project that began in 2003 and over the years has brought pupils from over 20 primary schools together with members of around 15 older people’s voluntary organisations. Hundreds of youngsters and older people, have been involved. Groups of all ages meet in weekly sessions and, using a technique known as ‘Circle Time’ learn about each other as individuals, play games and share experiences, memories and aspirations for the future of their community. The scheme has been successful in helping school pupils and older people living in the same community develop a mutual understanding and overcome stereotyping. As a result, lasting relationships have been created that will break down barriers that exist between generations.

This is a brilliant initiative that started with Penny Vine's work at Oakwood Primary School and is speading across the city. Well done to everyone involved!
I finished the day at the Civic Hall at the Celebrating Success event for Leeds Mentoring...

It was another inspiring evening where we celebrated the achievements of one of the jewels of Leeds and Education Leeds. Mentoring makes an incredible difference across the city and last year we had 4200 mentoring partnerships linking young people in our schools with mentors from the universities, businesses, voluntary groups as well as a significant and important peer mentoring programme which has developed massively over the last couple of years. The Mentoring Team have been going for 15 years Mohsin Zulfiqar told me but over my six years here in Leeds it has developed into one of the best elements of our work and certainly the best mentoring service in the country.

Last nights highlights included...
    • the noisy but brilliant 'Silver Sparrows';
    • the wonderful Lludel Bryant, UK Young Citizen of the Year 2007, a passionate, brilliant and articulate young man who works for the Leeds Mentoring Team;
    • the fantastic Bex Cohen, an amazing trainee teacher at Leeds Trinity and All Saints, who ran a Hip Hop Summer School working with looked-after children;
    • the erudite and powerful Andrew Edwards, from BBC Radio Leeds, who talked about his magnificent seven people who had influenced and shaped his life; and
    • the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful Dinneka Smilie, one of the mentors of the year, who is now studying at Notre Dame College after achieving brilliant GCSE reasults.

Barry Hilton and his team do an incredible job shaping and driving a series of programmes which are making an enormous difference and really changing young peoples lives. If anyone out there wants to help, wants to make a differenece, wants to change lives and has the time to be a mentor contact Barry at


I went on to the Narrowing the Gap Executive for it's last meeting before it becomes the Narrowing the Gap Board...

The meeting was at the South Leeds Sikh Gudwara and the terrible thing is that I have been here in Leeds for over six years and I didn't know the Gudwara was there just across from St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School on Lady Pit Lane in Beeston.

The meeting looked at worklessness and financial inclusion as well as the Local Area Agreement and the progress we are making against our targets.
I started the day at Weetwood Hall with Dirk Gileard and some amazing colleagues...

We were launching the 'Brilliant Learning, Brilliant Leadership' programme which aims to capture the magic that exists in almost every schools in Leeds and try to understand how we can make it more consistent and more regular. I look forward to hearing from colleagues how the day went and seeing the product as it develops. Hopefully over time every school in Leeds will be involved in what I hope will be a key building block for our work together in building the future where every child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

I found the poem...

The Average Child by Mike Buscemi

"I don’t cause teachers trouble;
My grades have been okay.
I listen in my classes.
I’m in school every day.

My teachers think I’m average;
My parents think so too.
I wish I didn’t know that, though;
There’s lots I’d like to do.

I’d like to build a rocket;
I read a book on how.
Or start a stamp collection…
But no use trying now.

’Cause, since I found I’m average,
I’m smart enough you see
To know there’s nothing special
I should expect of me.

I’m part of that majority,
That hump part of the bell,
Who spends his life unnoticed
In an average kind of hell."

The challenge we all face is to make sure that everyone understands that they are extraordinary... including you!
My colleague Zoë Stead who is the Extended Schools Development Officer for the Inner Armley Cluster and based at St Bartholomew's C of E Primary School sent me this...

"An Armley school with a sense of community has reached the final of the People's Millions Big Lottery competition and is looking for your vote! St Bartholomew's C of E Primary school wants to transform a field behind the school into a real community space. At the moment the field is a blank canvas, unused by anybody. The school wants to find out what people would like to see on the field, whether it's a sensory garden, a play area, a sports area or seating. They will take those ideas and transform the field into a real community resource. But this can only happen if St Bart's wins an 'X Factor'-style public vote to get the money!

The project will feature on Calendar news on ITV1 starting at 6pm on Monday 26 th November. There will be a short film of the project and a short film about Henshaw's College, which is also bidding for the money. After the film, people will be asked to vote for their favourite. If you already know you want to vote for the Armley project, the number is available on from 9am on the 26th November and votes will be accepted up until midnight".

WE all need to help Pauline and colleagues to secure the resources to do this.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tim told us a poem about the curse of being described as normal.
Does anyone know where it comes from?
I finished the day at the Annual Education Leeds Lecture at the Hilton Hotel...

The evening started with a presentation by the fabulous children from Hugh Gaitskell Primary School. Then Professor Tim Brighouse talked to an audience of 250 of our most committed, passionate and creative colleagues about 'Creating a Positive Learning Climate - What Works?'. It was a stimulating and thought provoking evening and Tim's presentation will be available shortly on InfoBase Schools. The evening which was sponsored by RM, our strategic ICT partners, finished with a brief contribution by Cllr Richard Harker who thanked Tim for his contribution to a really enjoyable evening. The colleagues who organised and managed the evening did a brilliant job and a good time was had by all.

Tim suggested that we look to share more of our brilliant learning. Don't forget to tell me what is really great about what you are doing in your school or your service.
Later in the day I visited the new Leeds Museum in Millenium Square...

The Museum is fantastic and will really add to what is on offer from the museums here in Leeds. It has a 'learning centre' as well as a childrens lunch room and spaces which can be hired out. The Museum will open next Summer.
I started the day early at Templenewsam Halton Primary School...

I talked toKay and her wonderful deputy about the challenges they face around the building, support for children with special educational needs and standards. The school has seen a large turnover of teaching staff over the last two years and the team clearly work hard to create an attractive and stimulating learning environments for the children. The children are wonderful and 'Big Writing' is alive and well at TNHPS.

Kay Crellin and her team are doing a great job and releasing a special kind of magic.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Dirk Gilleard and I had lunch with Paul Kaiserman and the leadership team from Artforms at the West Park Centre...

Paul, Fiona, Ray and Clare wanted to talk through the contribution Artforms will be making over the next few years, the challenges and opportunities the team faces and how an Arts Centre can be used and developed.

It was a stimulating and interesting hour and a half with a brilliant group of colleagues.
I moved on to St Anthony's Catholic Primary School in Beeston...

St Anthony's is a good school well led by Maura Laverty, the headteacher. Maura and her team have created a wonderful learning environment. The children had very positive attitudes to learning, were well motivated and relationships were very good.
I started the day early with Chief Superintendent Mark Milsom at Holbeck Police Station...

West Yorkshire Police have been supporting South Leeds High School and we were meeting to catch up on the progress the school is making.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Tomorrow sees the start of Anti-bullying Week and we are launching another brilliant campaign which is called 'The Power of Me'...

The campaign has been developed with young people from 22 schools across the city and is a whole city approach to help us build resilience in our young people, to tackle cyber-bullying and to stamp out bullying wherever it happens. The pilot scheme at Ralph Thoresby High School has:
    • a peer support team trained by Childline as first point of contact for anyone who has been bullied or feels unsafe;
    • Leeds Rugby Foundation providing positive breaktime activities;
    • The Anti-bullying Alliance has trained the staff;
    • Restorative Justice training involving the West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council's Youth Offending Team;
    • 'Mission Transition' a musical productio to support transition to seciondary school.

'The Power of Me' is sponsored by First Direct Bank and provides help and advice to anyone who is experiencing bullying or dealing with it in schools. Bus adverts are helping to raise the profile of the scheme which is supported by posters, postcards and stickers. If you want to find out more about the scheme contact my colleague Hilary Farmery on


I don't know if you saw it, but I read in the Times Educational Supplement that The Ashden Trust, one of the Sainsbury trusts, makes awards to schools for their energy policies...

The awards are for £15000 and £5000 but entries close on 4 December so you need to be quick! The website is at