Thursday, 13 December 2007

At the Education Leeds Board yesterday we looked at the new Strategic Plan and the importance of understanding that our job is to build brilliant. We all need to be passionately engaged, have a sense of purpose and agree what are the shared values that shape the work we are doing here at Education Leeds. We need to balance our individual needs, our team needs and the needs of the various communities we serve and it is never easy. We also have to acknowledge and recognise that we are all basically selfish and that whatever we do our lives start with us, our needs and wants and those of people closest to us. However, the really positive piece of the jigsaw puzzle is that all the research suggests that we are all searching for something bigger, some higher purpose and that we are all ultimately decent people wanting to make a difference.

I am convinced that much of life is a self–fulfilling prophecy and that if you think the best of colleagues and show it they will most often prove you right. Interestingly, if you trust people and believe that most people can be relied on colleagues will most often live up to your expectations. My approach has always been that we all have a magic and a talent that simply needs to be released.

I mean who wouldn't want to be part of what we are doing in Leeds. We are a unique and very special team and everyone who gets to know us really well says that. I know that optimists are always prey to disappointment but life without hope and being positive about the future is no real life at all.

Be your brilliant best and surprise yourself.


"Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow."
William Pollard

I spent a couple of hours with Valerie Hannon, colleagues from the Innovation Unit and a select group of Directors of Children's Services having lunch at the Commonwealth Club in London. Charles Leadbeater talked to a paper he had written on 'New Platforms for Learning' which really connected with what we are doing here in Leeds. He connected three key elements: leadership, capacity building and empowerment across three platforms... schools, colleges and children's centres, families and neighbourhoods and learning across the community. He was challenging some of the basic assumptions that underpin our learning systems:
  • where learning takes place;
  • who we learn from;
  • when we learn;
  • how we learn;
  • how our learning is monitored and assessed;
  • how our learning is funded;
  • who sets the standards;
  • how we are supported as learners.
It was a stimulating session and I hope Charles will come to Leeds in the New Year to see what we are doing at the cutting edge of innovation and helps us take it further.
I was sorry to have missed this year's Christmas Carol Concert at the Town Hall but really grateful that some kind soul sent me a copy of the CD which I have been playing in my car. Everyone told me how good the concert was this year and it is wonderful to be able to sing along.
I heard on the radio this morning that my favourite author, Terry Pratchett, has a rare form of Alzheimer's...

I have read all his books and love the Discworld novels. He used to produce a novel every year, usually in time for a good Christmas read, but he hasn't been writing as much recently. Let's hope that he continues to write for a long time yet!
I am going to London for a meeting and lunch with colleagues from the Innovations Unit...

The session is called "The Next Education: New Platforms for Learning". I'll let you know what I learn!
It was Leslie Wagner's last Education Leeds Board meeting yesterday and last night we all went out for a meal to say thank you to Leslie for steering Education Leeds over the last four interesting and challenging years. We will miss his focus and clarity, his advice and support and his good humour and honesty.
I am sitting on a train heading towards London using my new Eee PC...

It is an amazing little machine. Everyone should have one!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

I had lunch yesterday with Tim Pearson and Ian Todd from RM...

RM are our strategic ICT partner within the Building Schools for the Future programme. They have already helped us arrange visits by Stephen Hepple and Tim Brighouse and we are keen to do some 'blue sky' thinking about learners, learning and learning places of the future. This is an exciting, creative and innovative partnership which will really add value to what we are doing here in Leeds.

You can find out more about RM by visiting their website at
The Government wants to make this country the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up...

The Children’s Plan sets out how the Department for Children, Schools and Families is going to achieve that – by putting the needs of families, children and young people at the centre of everything we do. Five principles underpin the Children’s Plan:
  • government does not bring up children – parents do – so
    government needs to do more to back parents and families;
  • all children have the potential to succeed and should go as
    far as their talents can take them;
  • children and young people need to enjoy their childhood as
    well as grow up prepared for adult life;
  • services need to be shaped by and responsive to children,
    young people and families, not designed around professional
    boundaries; and
  • it is always better to prevent failure than tackle a crisis late.
You can download the full Children's Plan or a summary at the DCSF website at
The Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service (GRTAS) in Leeds has launched it's new website. It's for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, those that work with them and those that wish to find out more about these fascinating communities...

The team were formerly the Travellers Education Service (TES) but have changed their name to reflect the nature of their business more accurately. The site is recommended by the Department of Children, Schools and Families. You can visit the site at

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Message of the Week Fourteen

I‘ve been thinking about my Mum and Dad a lot recently. They brought me up in a working class home, to believe in family, the work ethic, discipline and service. They taught me that I had responsibilities to my family, my community and to others and that is how I live my life...

It has been another hectic week... I started the week having breakfast with Maxine Room, the Principal at Park Lane College and ended it having tea with the Wetherby primary headteachers and Chairs of Governors. I had the usual round of meetings with Cabinet, Cllr Brett, Cllr Harker, Ros Vahey and Dirk Gilleard, David McDermott, Rosie Denison, Bob Vince and Adrian Ringrose from Interserve, Gabby Harris from the Artz Academy and the North East Governors at their area meeting In between we have been wrestling with the Joint Area Review, sustainable schools and recycling and the 14 – 19 review. The highlights of the week were lunch with colleagues from the Families and Schools Together Team, the University of Leeds Student Volunteering Awards, my visit to Meadowfield Primary School and Benton Park School's Celebration of Success Evening.

It's funny how much the world of work engulfs our lives…. I daren’t count the hours I spend working, and the mobile phone, PDA and the internet simply blur the edges between work and life. My doctor is constantly telling me to slow down. It's sad really that many people tell me that the only reason they work is to earn a living. It's not the same for me... this is above all a pasionate enterprise we are engaged in and too important to just be a job. We need to ensure that we all work hard but we must at the same time look after ourselves and our relationships... put simply we need to have a life! This coming week make sure that you go out and enjoy yourself. Use your time well, whatever you do do something creative, imaginative and stimulating. But also make sure that you spend time with those you love and care about and ensure that you find space for yourself.

Whatever you are doing this week enjoy yourself, focus on work but also focus on the priorities in your life and get a life!

Monday, 10 December 2007

I knew that mentoring made a difference but until know I didn't have the evidence...

My colleague Andy Humphries has looked at the latest Year 11 Fisher Family Trust outcomes and the results make interesting reading. The Leeds value added is 985 with the 'best school' achieving 1012 and the 'worst school' achieving 954. These are the figures for the young people we have mentored over the last year:
  • adult mentors 1012;
  • peer mentors 1022;
  • business mentors 1017;
  • BME mentoring 1028;
  • Making the Difference BME mentors 1003;
  • Looked-after Children mentors 1007
  • Junior windsor fellowship BME mentors 1045.

If this doesn't persuade you to become a mentor for one of our young people nothing will. If you are interested contact my colleague Barry Hilton who will send you a pack! Become a mentor and change a life!


INVEST Volunteer Training

My colleague Jane Haswell from the Families and Schools Together team told me about this message she had received from Whitecote Primary School recently...

"Hi Jane - The volunteer course : we feel its given our parents a thorough training and a more professional approach to working in school. Parents involved with the course have fed back that its also helped them both with their own children's learning and they've found themselves using some of the display skills in their jobs. From our point of view we feel we have set ground rules for volunteering which are very difficult to do with parents who just appear in the classroom. The volunteers seem more open than expected to working outside their child's year group, I think because they have a better view of whole school needs. One parent is also looking to eventually apply for classroom assistant roles from previous nursery nurse qualifications so we feel more confident in giving her opportunities to develop some group work skills because of the training she has gone through. The accreditation element of the course seemed to motivate parents to remain committed and gave them access to learning which I know in one case will continue now her confidence has built through this course and others. Whitecote staff also commented how good it was to have the assembly and celebrate parents achievements in front of the children, who were very excited. Our Learning Mentor has accessed the training and we are planning the next course for the Spring term to hopefully reach volunteers that couldn't make your slot. We could update you after the spring term if you want as to response to the second round of training and number of volunteers that we have managed to retain.Thankyou once again. Karen Tatham Whitecote Primary"

The FAST team do a brilliant job reaching and supporting parents and carers. If you want to find out more contact Chris Bennett , Jane Haswell or Val Cain.

More great news!

Congratulations go to Jill Wood, Headteacher at Little London Community Primary School. Jill has received a letter from Lord Adonis confirming that the school (at Key Stage 2) is amongst the top 100 performing schools nationally, based on the most improved schools showing sustained improvement over the period 2004 - 07. Brilliant news for Jill and her team.

My colleague Rehana Minhas went to the South Leeds Celebration of Success while I was at Benton Park. She sent me this message about her evening...

"Dear Chris, I attended the South Leeds High School Awards evening to talk about their programme, Children for Peace, and to make presentations to pupils who have been ambassadors for peace. It was an impressive evening with great performances from pupils and an increased number of young people getting awards for academic achievement. Colin Bell's closing remarks about the journey South Leeds High School has made to date and the challenges ahead, was an honest account and very inspirational. The school has also been short-listed for the National Community Cohesion Award which will be decided some time in January. Kind Regards. Rehana"

South Leeds High School has achieved a great deal this term under Colin Bell's skilful leadership.

Looking for a great place to bring up the kids? Try Leeds

This was in the Observer on Sunday December 09 2007..

Looking for a great place to bring up the kids, try Leeds. '4Children' which used to be called Kids' Club Network has done the resaearch and...

"Cambridge and Leeds are two of the best places for children to grow up, while Northampton is one of the worst, according to a report out today. Researchers looked at factors such as school results, leisure centre facilities and the number of parks to rank areas for child-friendliness. The charity 4Children, which produced the report, believes the creation of safe neighbourhoods where young people can play outdoors should be at the heart of government plans to improve childhood. In many of the poorest areas of Britain, there are no safe playgrounds and children play in streets where traffic is heavy.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of the charity, which campaigns for more community help for families, said the government had been putting childhood high on its agenda but warned there were still large inequalities. 'Those families that are affluent are able to buy houses in areas deemed to be good to bring up children,' she said. 'But those who do not have that ability and rely on social housing have to make do with what they have got.'

Cambridge scored highly because there are a number of parks and open spaces, and it is pedestrian and cycle friendly. Leeds has eight health centres which cater for those from the least and most affluent areas. Specialist services reach out to the most disadvantaged families and provide affordable childcare.

Anne Longfield said regeneration in deprived areas had been occurring for decades, but the focus was on buildings and roads. 'That is important, but if we want places to flourish we need to start with families and children.'

The charity has called for every local and national policy to be 'child-proofed', so that their impact on children is taken into account. 4Children found that what parents wanted most was support when their children were young, including centres where they could get advice and meet other parents.

Anne went on to say: 'They want communities where families are valued, where there are lots of kids who are welcomed into restaurants and shops and have access to good playgrounds and parks.' What they did not want, she added, were 'signs that say "no kids" or "this is not a playground". These things indicate the culture of the community.'

The best and the worst
The most child-friendly places:
Somerset, Leeds, Cambridge
The least child-friendly:
Northampton, Blackpool, Merthyr Tydfil
Child-friendly but needs improvement:

You can find out more by visiting

Sunday, 9 December 2007

I have been using one of these little Eee PCs and it is simply brilliant...

I was given one to try by colleagues at RM after I saw the little thing at the Tim Brighouse lecture and then saw one in action at the Derek Fatchett City Learning Centre. It is a real addition to the toolkit available to schools to support and enhance young people's learning. I can't believe what you get for the price... the one I am using has it's own wordprocessor programme, spreadsheet programme, presentation programme, e-mail, file manager, music manager, photo manager, it's own webcam and skype plus loads of other educational and games stuff!

I'll let you know more when I have used it more.
I also heard on Friday that the first monitoring visit by OFSTED to South Leeds had gone as well as we could have possibly hoped...

Progress since the inspection has been satisfactory and the school team are on a real high especially as the school has also just been awarded Sportsmark, won a business enterprise competition against other Leeds schools and wona dance competition at the West Yorkshire Playhouse! They have also been nominated for a community cohesion award.

Clearly it has been a brilliant week in the life of South Leeds High School! Congratulations to Colin Bell and his team who are working some real magic in South Leeds.
I finished the week at Deighton Gates Primary School in Wetherby talking to the Wetherby primary headteachers and chairs of governors about the challenges we are facing with falling rolls. The meeting was also attended by Colin Burgon MP who was keen to help us find a way ahead which maintained as much provision as possible in Wetherby. It was a very useful meeting. It helps to talk and share ideas.
I went on to the University of Leeds Dinner to celebrate 800 years of the City of Leeds...

I met Melvyn Bragg, who is Chancellor of the University of Leeds, and really enjoyed a quiet lunchtime at the end to the week with a lot of the great and good of Leeds!
I started the day on Friday with Cllr Harker looking at the next term...

It looks like being another really exciting term with lots of things going on.