Saturday, 2 February 2008

I went on to Ralph Thorsby High School to attend a performance of James Still's drama, 'And then they came for me - remembering the world of Anne Frank'...

The play sets out to show the experiences of a group of Jewish children sixty years ago in Nazi-occupied Europe. It was introduced by Greg Mulholland MP who has brought the play to Leeds and by Nic Careem, the Crestive Director of the Blue Sky Club, a non-profit making organisation which uses the arts to promote tolerance and understanding.

The play was a powerful and moving experience for everyone there and vividly demonstrated what happened, how hatred and prejudice was fostered and encouraged, how people were unable to resist hatred and evil and committed terrible acts against fellow human beings. Sadly we continue to see such things happening today and it makes it even more important that young people across Leeds see this play.
I started the day yesterday at Hunslet Moor Primary School...

They were launching 'The National Year of Reading' and had asked me to visit to be interviewed by their News Flash Journalists, to look at their Family Learning Event where partners and agengies were showing parents, carers and the local community the range of learning opportunities on offer and to be part of their 'Everyone has a story to tell' balloon launch. Everyone in school had completed a tag describing their favourite story and the 'owner' of the balloon travelling the farthest will win a prize!

It was a great start to my day with Narinder Gill, one of the most talented primary headteachers in Leeds. Her passion, energy and enthusiasm is infectious and the children were simply brilliant ambassadors and a wonderful advert for Hunslet Moor Primary School. I hope to get some pictures for the blog this week.

I wonder where my balloon is?

Thursday, 31 January 2008

I started the day at the Leeds City Centre Vision Conference at Leeds Town Hall …

The conference focused on developing an International City Centre, cultural life, city centre living, connectivity and sustainability. It was chaired by BBC TVs Harry Gration and included presentations by the Council Leader Cllr Andrew Carter, Jean Dent, Director of City Development, John Thorpe, Civic Architect, Sir Terry Farrell, Guy Lawrence, Martha Schwartz and Wayne Hemingway. It also involved a young people’s perspective from the Leeds Youth Council.

I was struck by Guy Lawrence who said …
“The future is crazy, chaotic and unpredictable. We need to start with the outcomes we want to achieve and paint a compelling and powerful picture for the future of Leeds … one that people will want to buy into and be part of”.

I received an e-mail from my colleague Laura Wilson, one of our School Admissions Officer...

"Hi Chris, As you suggested to me this morning, I just wanted to drop you a quick line about some of the fantastic schools I have recently been working with. Both Five Lanes Primary School and Lower Wortley Primary School have been a pleasure to work with since I took over the West wedge in August. The headteachers show an exceptional commitment in helping their new admissions to settle in and are amongst the most cooperative primary schools when placing children who are new to the UK in to education. Regards, Laura."

It is wonderful to hear about the fantastic work some of our schools are doing with talented colleagues like Laura.

My colleague John Normington, who has been working with our friends at the Coop on the Holidays in Term Time programme which is supported by the Coop Travel Service, sent me this e-mail and photo...

"Hi Chris, Attached is a photo of the poster we are displaying at the local train stations, hope you like them. The stations they are at are East Garforth, Headingley, Horsforth, Burley Park, Manston and Pudsey. John"
John and the team are doing a brilliant job.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

I went on to visit Mill Field Primary School...

Stephen Watkins, the headteacher, and his colleagues are doing a great job at the new school which was formed from the amalgamation of Miles Hill and Potternewton Primary Schools last September. The atmosphere around the school is calm, purposeful and happy and the children are the greatest advert for what Stephen and the team have done. I was deeply impressed by one fantastic Year 6 student who told Stephen that if he hadn't been a great headteacher he would have been a great comedian! Relationships are one of the keys to great schools and the relationships are one of the great strengths at this wonderful little school.
I started the day early with the Meanwood and Moortown Family of Schools headteachers for a breakfast meeting at the David Lloyd Centre...

They are an inspiring bunch of incredibly talented colleagues who are releasing a very special kind of magic in their schools. We talked about the successes we have had with Bluewave SWIFT winning the BETT Award for Leadership and Management Innovation and Carr Manor High School as the first PfI school to win a Leeds Architecture Award. We also discussed the DCSF's new Children's Plan, the outcome of the Joint Area Review, the work we are doing on the Leeds Inclusive Learning Strategy, the developing 14 - 19 Strategy, the Building Schools for the Future and the Primary Capital Programmes and the opportunities within the new world of Trusts, Federations and Academies.

I am always engaged, stimulated and inspired by these meetings with headteacher colleagues and this morning was an example of this at its best!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

I know that often the hardest bit of what we do is the human bit and it's important because it affects everything we do, one way or another...

On a day where we have been meeting with secondary headteachers, each of us needs to look carefully at the way we work with our colleagues - conversation by conversation, project by project, meeting by meeting - and work even harder to:
  • cultivate relationships and cultures to create openness, honesty, trust and understanding;
  • build an open-minded culture where change, innovation and ideas and 'our shared agenda' isn't overshadowed and undermined by personal agendas.
  • create intense debate about ideas to ensure we continue to make real progress and minimise the draining effect of conflict, preciousness and compartmentalisation;
  • maximise individual talent and organisational strength through networking, sharing ideas and pooling information;
  • effectively deal with individual egos which can limit performance and prevent innovation and change.



I went to the West park Centre to celebrate the achievements of some of our talented colleagues who had been on our management programme...

I had been asked by Sarah Forrest to pop in to West Park to present Institute of Leadership and Management Certificates to colleagues who had successfully completed the Modular Management Programme. The Artforms colleagues were Jane Kaye, Diane Paterson and Helen Taylor... the Attendance colleagues were Eddie Colquhoun and Jan Andrew. Sally Jameson and John Normington also achieved the award but were unable to be there.

It is inspiring to see how these amazing colleagues are juggling work, home and their professional development. The photos were taken by Paul Kaiserman of the Artforms colleagues.
I started the day early at Holy Rosary and St Anne's Catholic Primary School...

Kathryn Carter, the school's headteacher, and Elizabeth McDonagh-Smith, the new deputy headteacher, welcomed me and talked to me about the journey the school had been on and the real successes the team were seeing; including being in the top 100 primary schools nationally for sustained improvement over the last three years!

The school has seen a lot of change with Kathryn being in post for just over a year, a new deputy and four newly qualified teachers. There is a real energy and commitment about the school and some brilliant young people.

I also visited classrooms to meet the learning team and the children and to be interviewed by a group of Year 6 students who were producing a school newspaper. The atmosphere around the school was calm and purposeful and relationships were good. I have attached the photographs of my meeting with a fantastic group of Year 6 students.

Kathryn and Elizabeth and their colleagues are clearly doing a great job, setting ambitious targets and achieving great things.



TRUST is the key...

  • Do what you say;
  • Trust others;
  • Keep colleages informed;
  • Give constructive feedbackon behaviour;
  • Act with integrity and sincerity;
  • Treat others as you want to be treated yourself;
  • Be dutiful, diligent and consistent;
  • Recognise every success however small;
  • Reward performance.



We must focus on VALUE-ADDED...

We must all:
  • improve everything we do;
  • challenge assumptions;
  • question everything;
  • be even more ambitious;
  • focus on the bigger picture;
  • look beyond the current reality; and
  • think laterally.


Remember that it is all about the 3P's...
  • passion;
  • performance;
  • people.



I attended the 'Leeds Architecture Awards 2007: Excellence in Places and Spaces' last night...

Carr Manor High School won an award in the Outside City Centre category. The school was designed by Seymour Harris Architecture for Investors in the Community and this is more recognition for another of our great schools. We want all our schools to be brilliant learning places and this fabulous and now award-winning building has been brought alive by Simon Flowers and his talented team, who are releasing a very special magic at Carr Manor High School.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Holocaust Memorial Day

My colleague Rehana Minhas, Strategic Manager for Equalities with Education Leeds attended the Holocaust Memorial Day event yesterday at Leeds Town Hall. Rehana told me that...

"The event was well attended by families, children and Faith Leaders, the Lord Mayor opened the event and two of our schools played a key part. Children from Adel Primary School gave origami peace doves to participants and asked for the message of peace to be passed on to others, and to post on the Adel Primary School website where the dove had 'travelled'. The school has maintained the work on peace, having produced an anthology of peace poems last year.

Priesthorpe High School's drama students worked with the 'Blah Blah' theatre group and Holocaust survivors to produce a very powerful multi media presentation to help the audience imagine the horrors of the Holocaust. The 'Blah Blah' theatre director said that they felt the experience of working in one school for the production made the experience meaningful for the young people and more learning took place which will be sustained. The young people interviewed some of the Holocaust survivors and used the recordings in the production."

The event explored the theme 'imagine, remember, reflect and react' which helps us all think about what mankind is still capable of and how we must never forget the need to challenge racism, intolerence, indifference and hatred wherever we find it.


City of Leeds Youth Music Prom - Tuesday 26 February 2008

Frances Berstien also told me about an exciting music event at Leeds Town Hall...

The City of Leeds Youth Music Prom is on Tuesday 26 February 2008 and these fabulous concerts will be showcasing the best of Leeds' young musical talent. There are two concerts - one in the morning, aimed at primary schools, and one in the afternoon, for high schools. The afternoon concert is a performance of Sinfonia Antartica , film music by Vaughan Williams. This concert is an excellent opportunity for students taking or thinking of taking Music GCSE, or doing Media Studies, to hear film music played live. To find out more please contact
My colleague Frances Bernstein, Coordinator, Music Centres and CLYM Groups, with Artforms contacted me...

"Hi Chris, Re your blog about the meeting with the Minister of Education from Kwazulu Natal.
You might be interested to know that, following their visit to Durban last year, the Leeds Youth Jazz & Rock Orchestra are raising money to buy instruments for a township arts centre - during their visit they turned up to do a workshop for young people there and found they had virtually no instruments with which to work. Our young musicians have already raised over £1,600, and rising, by performing locally and attracting business sponsors. Anyone wanting to add their support could contact me. Frances"

This is another of those great causes and anyone with spare instruments or spare cash or who simply wants to help should contact Frances at the West Park Centre.
Another week and only two weeks left to half-term. Another round of meetings was punctuated by a wonderful lunchtime session, visits to two of our fantastic primary schools, a meeting with the Radiowaves team and signing up to the Children's Workforce Development Council's 'The Big Deal'.

Dirk Gilleard and I had a lunch meeting with the Education business partnership team who talked to us about the fantastic work they are doing. This amazing group of talented colleagues are delivering some innovative and creative projects in primary and secondary schools.
I visited two great primary schools; I went to Quarry Mount Primary School to catch up with Jan Warton and her colleagues and to Adel Primary School to spend the afternoon with Stephen Boothroyd and his colleagues.

I met with Tim Riches and Sharon Middleton from Radiowaves. Radiowaves aims to harness young people's natural enthusiasm for creating media to engage them in compelling learning opportunities. Radiowaves uses social networking and web technologies to provide unique and safe platforms to connect and inspire young people. We are looking for ways to work with the Radiowaves team.

Rosemary Archer and I signed up to 'The Big Deal', the Children's Workforce Development Council's Sector Skills Agreement which sets out what we need to do to build a world class workforce to deliver the very best outcomes for children, young people and families. It sets out the skills, knowledge and competencies the children's workforce needs for the future. We are the first authority to sign up to 'The Big Deal'.

I also met with headteacher colleagues last week and they asked me an interesting question which made me think about how we communicate with our schools. The question was "Okay, you’ve made great progress and achieved a lot over the last few years, but how do you know what schools want from Education Leeds in this new world of Extended Services, Trusts and Academies...a world where schools are increasingly autonomous and increasingly taking responsibility and ownership at the local level?"

It's a great question which we need to consider carefully as we develop our new strategic plan and position ourselves for the future.
This morning I met Mrs Ina Cronje, Minister of Education for Kwazulu Natal, ...

Mrs Cronje is leading a delegation from the Ministry of Education to Leeds. It is a fact finding visit for the delegation to look at school links and our international schools work. They are going on to a conference organised by the Youth Sports Trust. Mrs Cronje put it all in context when she told me that they have 2.65 million children and young people and a workforce of 100000, including 85000 teachers, working across 6000 schools.

The delegation were really interested in funding, vocational provision, and special educational needs and wanted to know more about our work on quality standards, Bluewave SWIFT, Inclusion Chartermark, Stephen Lawrence, Healthy Schools, 'The Power of Me' and Emotional Well-being. Over the next three days they are visiting some of our best 'international schools' who have strong and developing links with South Africa: Gledhow Primary School, St Mary's RC High School, Prince Henry's Grammar School, Bramley Primary School and Garforth Community College.

“Emotions are contagious... you can spread happiness or sadness, delight or despair, sunshine or darkness.. it's your choice!”

We need to continue to develop emotional intelligence and learn to:

  • be self-aware;
  • manage our emotions;
  • motivate colleagues;
  • show empathy and understanding; and
  • stay connected!


Our BRAND is very special. Education Leeds is recognised locally, regionally, nationally and internationally...

Critically this image and the messsages we send by our behaviours has to match and be seen, heard, believed and accepted. How do we want people to see us...
  • approachable;
  • children-focused;
  • Learner focused;
  • confident.
  • considerate;
  • creative;
  • dynamic;
  • flexible;
  • friendly;
  • organised;
  • professional;
  • reliable;
  • successful;
  • trustworthy;
  • visionary.

What would be on your list?

Sunday, 27 January 2008


I heard on Friday that our friends at OFSTED had decided that John Smeaton Community College was a good school with outstanding features...

I know that some of us already knew but this is a truly remarkable result taking the school out of an OFSTED category and putting it right up there with other great secondary schools across Leeds. John Daulby, Marilyn Steele and their colleagues have achieved something fantastic and I look forward to reading the report!


We need bright, talented and creative individuals to help us create a vibrant and exciting learning community. I want us to get involved in an improvement conversation that will reach beyond the virtual and impact on outcomes for children and young people. We all know that the bigger the collective brain we can develop and the greater the variety of ideas, views and information the better. So why not join in?
I read a fantastic book about the power of the collective, the power of together, the power of team...

'WE ARE SMARTER THAN ME: HOW TO UNLEASH THE POWER OF CROWDS IN YOUR BUSINESS' by Barry Libert and Jon Spector is a great read in a time where social and community netorks are reaching into every aspect of our personal and professional lives. The authors argue convincingly that the smartest leaders are taking social networks and using them to re-engineer their businesses.