Thursday, 6 December 2007

I ended the day at Benton Park School...

It was their Celebration of Success Evening and I had been invited to present the awards at the last Celebration for Anne Clarke who has been headtecher at Benton Park for ten years. It was a great evening with some brilliant music perfromed by some fabulously talented young people.
I had lunch with colleagues from the Families and Schools Together Team...

The Team have been doing brilliant work with STEPS, Parent Volunteering and Family Learning programmes and it was great to spend time with these colleagues talking about how we take this work forward. We discussed an entitlement for parents and carers, pathways to learning and some sort of chartermark.
I started the day at the dentist having a crown fitted.
I received this comment from Craig Clarkson...

"Hi Chris,I wanted to share with you a real success story from Intake High School. One of the school bands "Unknown Cause" have been going from strength to strength sinve the summer when they went out on the Breeze on Tour events, they have been playing some of the established music venues in the city, getting great support from Intake staff especially Matt Evens (Head of Music)and also BARCA-Leeds who have helped with a grant for equipment. On Sunday they attended regional heats for live and unsigned event in Manchester and successfully made the semi finals to be held in February.The increase in confidence in performance and stage presence over the last few months has been impressive. We are really proud of them all and what they are achieving.Have a listen @ I hope you'll agree its very professional. Thanks, Craig"

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


The Guild of Food Writers has announced the launch of an exciting new competition CookIt–WriteIt! The Guild is looking for young food writers of the future and is asking entrants, aged between 15 and 18, to put together a 750-word piece on any food related subject.

Their two competitions are:
Children’s Cookery Competition: CookIt! 2008
The Guild is asking budding young cooks, aged between 10 and 14, to create a two-course family meal for a special occasion using mainly fresh and healthy ingredients. The main course and pudding should serve between 2 and 4 people and cost a maximum of £20.00 to make. Recipes should also take no longer than 1 hour 30 minutes to prepare and cook. The closing date for entries is Monday 7 April 2008.
Young People’s Food Writing Competition: CookIt–WriteIt! 2008
This year the Guild has introduced a food writing section to its annual Cook It! competition: CookIt–WriteIt! Open to applicants aged between 15 and 18, entrants are required to write a descriptive 750-word piece based on any food-related subject such as a visit to a restaurant, market or food shop, either in Britain or abroad.

Entries should be emailed with a completed entry form by Monday 21 April 2008.
For entry forms and further information for both competitions go to
My colleague Paul Kaiserman sent me some more good news...

"Hi Chris, Sorry, but I can't resist sharing some more good news for this week. Some comments below from schools after our recent project week when small teams go in to schools to deliver jointly-planned programmes:

  • Swarcliffe: ENORMOUS thank you for all the hard work you put was fantastic to see the children come alive & work so enthusiastically towards a common goal. Not only was the music work great fun....but the sense of team that you inspired will remain with the children....we will DEFINITELY see you again very soon!!
  • Newlaithes: ....both staff & pupils had a wonderful time with the ArtForms all sounded amazing. We were surprised & impressed at how much the children learnt and thrilled at how they responded to the experience. Quote; Reece "I feel alive!"
  • Calverley: The children had a real sense of achievement.....[and] began to understand how music is "put together". There was real cooperation and collaboration. The team was friendly, approachable, enthusiastic & had high expectations of the children. I feel more confident about my own understanding of music and will be better able to ask for specific help & advice.
  • St Bartholomew: predicted, brilliant.
  • EPOS: .......absolutely fantastic. Beyond our expectations. Great to link up with the High School......inspirational for the children.
  • Castleton: Come back next year. A real success again. This continues to be a real highlight of the school year, with pupils entering year 6 & asking "When do we do the Steel Pans?". A motivating and "carrot" tool and always perform to a well attended concert of parents, governors, staff and pupils

Also the launch of the great anti-bullying pack with Hilary Farmery. We're feeling somewhat pleased with ourselves! Paul"

It is great to see what the Artforms team are doing is really appreciated.


My colleague Paul Kaiserman sent me this e-mail about the CHristmas Concert at the Town Hall last night...

"Hi Chris, I know you couldn't make it last night, but we did miss you (no pressure there, then!). It was absolutely fantastic - a standing ovation from a packed hall. The programme was really varied, including songs and carols to mark the end of the anniversary of the abolition of slavery. We had about 350 primary children in the choir and they sang like I've never heard before, mainly due to the inspirational leadership of Dougie Scarfe the conductor. He has a unique ability to draw out the best in everyone - a leader committed to bringing out the voice of others without any sense of self-promotion. We're very lucky to have him (he's also the chorus and orchestra director at Opera North). One mark of the quality was that not one child went to the toilet throughout the whole performance - another first! Also the collection at the end for the Jane Tomlinson appeal raised the record amount of nearly £1,500.
Hope you'll be able to make it next year....Regards Paul"

My colleagues in Artforms do it every year. They manage to release a very special kind of magic from our brilliant young people. I am sorry that I missed it this year.
I visited an amazing school today...

Meadowfield Primary School and Children's Centre replaced Osmondthorpe and Whitebridge Primary Schools and the new facilities are fantastic! There are, as always with new builds, some snagging problems, space issues and the school field needs attention but it is a wonderful journey that the team have been on and they have achieved something really special. Richard Mellard, the headteacher, and Mike Shaw, the Chair of Governors, showed me round the school and it was fantastic. The learning team are young, energetic and creative; with one class I went into using De Bono's thinking hats and across the school purposeful and very focused learning taking place, including a session by The Blah Blah Blah Theatre Company who were performing Theseus & The Bull Dancers and you could have heard a pin drop!

I think the things that make Meadowfield Primary School so good are...

  • focused and passionate distributed leadership;
  • a clear, shared vision driving all aspects of the school;
  • a talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative learning team;
  • a rich, exciting and engaging curriculum offer;
  • a powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environment;
  • inspiring teaching and learning within a nurturing climate;
  • individual tracking of childrens progress and achievements;
  • early, appropriate and focused interventions.

This is a great school, serving a very complex population and releasing a very special kind of magic. Congratulations to Richard and the team!


Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The other highlight of the University of Leeds Volunteering Awards was a performance by Leeds Young Authors...

Charmaine Riley, Saju Ahmed and Zodwa Nyoni recited their poetry and brought the Great Hall alive. They were inspiring, passionate and powerful young poets all with a strong personal message. I also picked up a copy of 'Journey of the Heart II' an amazing collection of poems and life stories written by the participants of the Young People in Public Care Language Project 2006-07.

I am constantly surprised by the people I meet and the places I go and it's wonderful to know the talent out there releasing the magic in our young people.
I went to the University of Leeds Volunteering Awards this afternoon...

I had been asked to go to present the Education Award but I was struck by the information I discovered about the University's volunteering scheme. It involves 2000 volunteers working over 6500 hours in 250 schools... that's about 100 full time equivalent posts! We all know the difference schemes like this make and the impact these wonderful young people have in our schools. The nominees for the Education Award were Kayleigh Orr, Beth Atkinson and Victoria Edwards.Kayleigh worked as an arts mentor accompanying young people on field trips and attending sessions in school as well as completing 260 hours of volunteering. Beth volunteered at Lawnswood School working with two students who have decided to pursue further studies at Art School. Victoria led a project called Changing Futures for Young People in Public Care mentoring young people in care.

The judging panel were so impressed with these nominees that they awarded Kayleigh Orr the individual award and Changing Futures an additional award for the project. It was an inspiring afternoon where students showed their real passion, commitment and determination to make a real difference to young people and the communities where they live.
'We can all adopt sustainable development, respecting both man and nature - and alter our production and consumption habits. Everyone can make a difference, starting right now.'

I met with colleagues to look at Sustainable Schools today and we agreed that this is a really important issue for young people and that we need to raise the profile. We agreed to look at how we might develop a local or regional standard for an award with associated resources to help schools give this the priority it deserves. WATCH THIS SPACE

You can find out more about the DCSF approach by visiting
I have just received my THE POWER OF ME pack...

It has been produced by young people from 21 schools across Leeds supported by Artforms and our Education Leeds anti-bullying team.The art work is fantastic with sections on what to do if you are being bullied, Childline's top 10 tips, creating a bully free school, how to have an effective anti-bullying policy, tackling cyberbullying and building emotional resilience.

It is a powerful and really helpful resource for schools and you can get your copy from my colleague Hilary Farmery.
They say that singing makes you cleverer...

It's great to see that twelve schools are fighting it win the Yorkshire Evening Post's Christmas Carol Factor. The schools are:
  • Meanwood CE Primary Schol;
  • Strawberry Fioelds Primary School;
  • Adel Primary School;
  • Hugh Gaitskell Primary School;
  • Grinmes Dyke Primary School;
  • Raynville Primary School;
  • Primrose Hill Primary School;
  • St Joseph's RC Primary School;
  • Blackgates Primary School;
  • Ingram Road Primary School;
  • Little London Primary School;
  • Robin Hodd Primary School.
Each school has recorded a version of a Christmas classic and you can see them at before voting for your favourite!

Message of the Week Fourteen

Another great week full of fantastic people, great places, wonderful celebrations and important launches...

I visited John Smeaton Community College with colleagues from the Leadership Team, attended part of the council's corporate leadership team's awayday at Monk Fryston Hall and attended Headteacher Forum at the David Lloyd Centre. I also visited three small primary schools, Calverley Parkside, Pudsey Lowtown and Summerfield, where colleagues are working hard to drive up standards and release the magic.
We launched the Family Support and Parenting Strategy at Primrose High School where colleagues put on a wonderful display of the services supporting parents, carers and families across Leeds. We also launched the Deaf and hearing impaired team's DVD 'Inspired to learn' which featured the amazing story of Sam Green and her daughter. It was a truly inspiring and tear-jerking story of brilliant support.
The other highlights of my week were the Big STEPS celebration and the Foundation Degree ceremony at Leeds Trinity & All Saints. Both inspiring events with wonderful colleagues also have achieved brilliant results.
Sadly I finished the week with another terrible migraine which lasted 36 hours. Sorry to anyone I let down by not being around on Friday!


What is it about Finland?
They top the OECD league tables for 11 and 15 year olds!
Anyone know what they do that is so special?
I visited a group of schools last week that set me thinking again about what makes brilliant...

I think the things that make brilliant are...
  • strong, disciplined, focused and passionate distributed leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs driving all aspects of the school;
  • a talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative learning team;
  • a rich, exciting and engaging curriculum offer, inside and outside the classroom;
  • a powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environment for everyone;
  • confident, creative and passionate use of appropriate strategies and approaches to raise standards and achieve the five outcomes;
  • high shared expectations of children and the whole learning team;
  • strong, dynamic and meaningful relationships;
  • inspiring teaching and learning within a nurturing culture;
  • individual tracking of childrens progress and achievements;
  • early, appropriate and focused interventions;
  • high engagement and involvement of young people;
  • high parental engagement and involvement.

I need your help here and would welcome feedback... is this the recipe for outstanding schools releasing a very special magic or have I missed something?


I had a brief working lunch with Dirk Gilleard and Ros Vahey where we talked through the week ahead and how we felt things were going generally.
I went on to a meeting with Dirk Gilleard, our weekly one to one session...

Dirk is a great colleague; an intelligent and thoughtful colleague and we talked about some of the real challenges we are facing with driving the learning agenda here in Leeds and about how we can continue to develop and support colleagues to release their potential.
I started the day yesterday having breakfast with Maxine Room, the new Principal and Chief Executive at Park Lane College...

Maxine is a real breath of fresh air and it was great just talking to her about the challenges and opportunities we face here in Leeds. We are both looking forward to Christmas!
Manchester is another great city and they do really do things well...

It's on a different scale to Leeds. The whole shopping and entertainment scene is huge and their Christmas markets are incredible although I thought that their Christmas lights were not up to the Leeds standard!
I went to Manchester's Bridgewater Hall over the weekend to see a performance of Verdi's Requiem. It's an incredibly powerful work and the Halle Orchestra and chorus were wonderful.

Monday, 3 December 2007

These are the photographs from last week's Foundation Degree Ceremony at Leeds Trinity and All Saints...


Steve Smith, our Playing for Success and Quality Assurance in Study Support Manager sent me this bit of news...

"Dear Chris, As you may know the 'Backstage Past' Study Support project which ran at the Grand Theatre in partnership with Learning and Leisure was nominated for an award at the Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' Awards. The ceremony was presented by Claire Frisby (BBC) at the Queen's Hotel in Leeds last night. The project was up against some high profile competition including the Wilberforce Anti-Slavery Museum in Hull; the Sheffield International Indian Festival; and the West Yorkshire Young Firefighter Scheme to name but three.

The section they were nominated for was the Cultural Places Award - an award for making a difference through culture. The category recognised "significant impact through cultural activities" and was sponsored by the Arts Council, English Heritage, Sport England, and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. I am delighted to say that it was worth Rachael and Shabana putting on their best frocks and bling as they scooped the award! This is a real accolade and I'm sure you will join with me in congratulating the White Rose Learning Centre Team who designed, developed and delivered the project.
Well done Rachael and Shabana. Best wishes Steve"

This is more good news at the end of yet another great term here in Leeds!


Sunday, 2 December 2007

Friday was another wash out for me with the start of yet another migraine attack that lasted over 36 hours...

I am sorry to anyone I didn't reach on Friday as a result.
My third school was Summerfield Primary School...

Karon Wittman, the headteacher, has a real vision for this little primary school with a strong focus on standards, inclusion and improvement.
I moved on to Pudsey Lowtown Primary School...

I was impressed by my visit to this little school; the quality of the learning environment, the relationships and purposeful learning and Rebecca Howells very focused leadership. It is clearly an inclusive and increasingly successful school with a strong focus on standards, tracking and intervention within a rich global curriculum and a focus on equality, health and environmental awareness.
I started the day on Thursday at Calverley Parkside Primary School...

It's a happy, friendly and welcoming little school where headteacher, Alan Duncalf, has achieved a great deal over the last couple of years. Matthew and Amy showed me around their school and talked powerfully and positively about the really great aspects of being a student at Calverley Parkside.