Saturday, 10 May 2008

It has been one of those weeks where I have been thinking about our service to schools and to young people and their families...

I was talking at the induction session earlier in the week and I repeated the Education Leeds mantra about 'happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes'. We need to remember that 'happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes' applies not only to our colleagues but to schools, young people and their families who sit right at the heart of everything we do. This is fundamentally what we are all about... our culture, ethos and values are about openness, honesty, trust, engagement and empowerment and must continue to shape the way we work, live and breathe. We must all lead by example and continue to listen to our colleagues, our colleagues in schools and our young people and allow them to help us refine, develop and improve what we do, to influence policy and practice and to develop more intelligent systems of accountability.

Keep the faith

Calling ALL secondary colleagues

I don't know if you saw it but Npower are looking for are searching for 100 passionate Year 7 'Green-agers' from ten secondary school for their 'Green SOS' competition...

Schools are invited to send a 3-5 minute DVD by 13 June illustrating a 'Green SOS' project they ant to tackle in their local community. The prizes are fantastic...
ten Year 7 students from each of the ten schools will attend a 'Buzz' media training day in London and go on the first ever Green Outward Bound course in the Lake District to develop their leadership skills and learn about environmental issues. They will then have cash, a video camera and until next March to do their project and film the results.

The winning project will receive a #20,000 green fund and the students will all receive a Mac Notebook. The two runners up will receive a #10,000 green fund and the students will all receive a top of the range mountain bike.

To find out more please visit the Npower Green SOS website at or contact my colleague Steve Ruse in the Healthy School team at Elmete who would be very happy to help.

Friday, 9 May 2008

I went to the Derek Fatchett CLC today to attend yet another Education Leeds Staff Induction session...

These sessions are really inspiring because I get the chance to meet the new starters who have such enormous potential to add-value to what we are doing and really bring something special to the company. They are some of our most positive, committed and enthusiastic colleagues since they have recently made the choice to join the team. The group were young, apart from Peter Lawrence, Consultant Headteacher working on the 14 - 19 agenda, who is young at heart. They were everything you would want our new colleagues to be; interested, engaged and enthusiastic. There was a significant group of colleagues from the attendance team who are working with schools to tackle on of our key priorities... this is yet another area where, led by Jane Hall, we are doing some brilliant work here in Leeds.

Everyone needs to be happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful. We all need to coach, support and work with these new colleagues to release their potential and continue to make Education Leeds such a great place to work.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

My colleague Laura Wilson, School Admissions Officer (West), sent me this message...

"Hi Chris, I just wanted to let you know about another of my fantastic primary schools. Park Spring Primary School in Bramley have agreed to take an unusually large number of children this week despite the enormous pressure/chaos of SATs. I think that I am justified in saying that Martin Bennett has proven himself to be a Headteacher who is dedicated to making Park Spring an inclusive school. It has always been a pleasure to work with Martin and his staff, but this week more than ever Park Spring have shown themselves to be a brilliant example of some of the many Leeds school that take a real interest in the wellbeing of particularly vulnerable families. Best wishes, Laura."

It's great to hear from my talented colleagues about best practice across the city.
As I said, I started the day at the Royal York Hotel at a National College for School Leadership regional conference on 'New Form of School Leadership and Governance'...

I think that the real highlight was the session that Edna Sutton, Director of Children's Services in Barnsley, led. It was brilliant and clearly demonstrated what has been achieved with passion, commitment, determination and political support in one of the most deprived pieces of our region.

We need to connect with Edna and her colleagues to see what we can learn from Barnsley.
How do we lead and create the future while at the same time managing and safeguarding the present.”

'The Fundamental Maintenance/Development Dilemma'

I started the day at the Royal York Hotel at a National College for School Leadership regional conference on 'New Form of School Leadership and Governance'...

It was wonderful to see so many old colleagues from across the Yorkshire and the Humber region coming together to look at what must be one of the key issues facing us all. The Conference was facilitated by Mark Pattison and Patrick Scott, National Succession Consultants for the region, and the keynote speakers were Valerie Hannon, Director of the Innovation Unit talking about 'System Leadership: Emergent Models and Building Capacity' and Mel Ainscow, Professor of Education and Co-director of the Centre for Equity in Education at the University of Manchester talking about 'New Structures, New Practices'.

Both keynote inputs highlighted the critical importance of new models of governance to deliver and balance accountability, representation and strategic management. They also stressed the need for system level reflection and intervention leading to local action and system learning in communities.

Mel Ainscow highlighted that the research suggests that:

  1. the system has untapped potential to improve itself at both school and authority level;

  2. National Strategies have focused minds BUT limited local innovation and creativity;

  3. there is a need to strengthen collaboration within and between institutions;

  4. evidence, intelligence and engagement can be used to bring a critical edge to this work;

  5. improvement work has to be linked to social, economic and community development and improvement;

  6. we need new models of leadership and management based on the principle of shared responsibility.

If you want to find out more you can visit the National College for School Leadership website where you will find case studies, including the work Liz and her colleagues have been doing at the Central Leeds Learning Federation. You will also find the 'Next Practice Toolkit' to support system leadership.


I heard the terribly sad news about the death of our colleague Deborah Wood this morning...

Deborah was headteacher at Middleton St Mary's CE Primary School having worked previously at Ninelands Primary School here in Leeds and in Barnsley, Doncaster and Wakefield where she worked as a Primary Consultant. She was a talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful woman who brought a real magic to St Mary's in the short time she was with us.

Deborah's passion, commitment, focus and energy were wonderful and she was much loved by her colleagues, her children, her parents and carers and by other headteachers and colleagues in Education Leeds. We were blessed to have her as a colleague.

Our thoughts are with her partner at this very sad time.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

This afternoon I attended Headteacher Forum at the West Park Centre...

It was a really useful session with a great group of headteacher colleagues. Alan Key, headteacher at Abbey Grange CE High School, chaired the session and we had a series of really good presentations... Mary Armitage and Jackie Goodwin talked about the work we are doing to implement the Common Assessment Framework, Dirk Gilleard talked about the developing e-Learning Strategy and Rob Hodgson talked about our e-Individual Learning Plan initiative.

Sessions like this make me realise how much is going on and how difficult it must be to simply keep up with it all if you are a headteacher wrestling with SATs, the standards agenda, workforce reform, pay and grading, attendance, behaviour, health and well-being, governors and everything else the DCSF choose to throw at us.

I sometiimes wonder why we keep on turning up and then I remember... it's simply the best job in the world!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

I can't say that I get much feedback as Chief Executive of Education Leeds but I know it's great to get feedback, especially when it is good feedback...

My colleague Doug Meeson sent me the feedback from the Council's Financial Management Team's Away Day I attended at Herd Farm in March. The thing is that the feedback, which was almost entirely incredibly positive, made me feel fantastic. The feedback was actually so good that I have suggested to Doug that we transfer some of his team over to join us here at Education Leeds.

What do I learn from how I felt this morning on reading Doug's e-mail? We need to ensure that we give positive feedback wherever and whenever we can and we should constantly try to catch our colleagues doing the right things and tell them privately and publicly how talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful they are.

Just think what we could do if we could capture and bottle how I felt this morning.
I started the day early at Space@Hillcrest where Leadership Forum were meeting...

Colleagues were looking at our Human Resources and Development Strategy, the Education Leeds Strategic Plan and the NEW InfoBase system. I am reliably informed that it was a great session despite a low turnout... if you missed it you missed out!
On Thursday last week, 1st May 2008, I reached a significant milestone in my life...

I have been in Leeds now for seven years. and I want to thank everyone who, over those seven gloriously wonderful years, has released a really special magic and achieved brilliant outcomes for our children and young people.

Another year, another week. I was asked by my colleagues Jane Hall and Richard Irvine to open the Children Missing Education Conference at the Carriageworks. This is yet another aspect of our work where we are doing some vitally important work for some of our most vulnerable and special children and young people.

I visited Hugh Gaitskell Primary School where Margaret Beesley and her team are doing great things balancing wonderful care, guidance and support and a fantastic learning culture and learning environment with high quality early years provision and a developing focus on assessment for learning to secure better standards and improving outcomes

We continued Professor Stephen Parkinson’s induction with a visit to the Central Leeds Learning Federation to meet Liz Talmadge and to the West Park Centre to talk to Paul Kaiserman, Clare Biggs and Fiona Pacey about Artforms. The passion, energy and commitment we saw was impressive.

I was also asked to present certificates to a group of Higher Level Teaching Assistants who had gone on to complete our own Education Leeds ‘Certificate in Physical Education’. These 20 brilliant colleagues are helping us change the learning landscape and have been wonderfully trained and developed by Max Amesbury supported by Helen Plimmer, Monica Tomkiss and Linda Gibson.

What really makes life special here in Leeds is our people... from inspirational headteachers and talented teachers to amazing HLTAs and brilliant support staff from the creative and innovative Artforms team to my unsung heroes; Althea, Barbara, Bernie, Shakeela and the fantastic team who support me at Merrion House.

I have never worked anywhere with so many incredible people, so many great teams and so many wonderful initiatives. Leeds is a place where we have so much potential, so much ability, so much talent and such an opportunity to continue to make an enormous difference... and still so much to do. We must continue to stay at the cutting edge, to think differently and simply to be the best learning team in the country... whatever it takes!

I am looking forward to making it ten years in Leeds!
I was delighted to read that my colleague Karen Le Sage, ICT Co-ordinator at Temple Moor High School Science College, also loves the Asus Minibook, having used it now for a couple of months...

On the RM site Karen says "At this stage, it has only been used for personal use although this did involve giving a demonstration to year 6 students in a school in the Bahamas about new technology! These students found the computer great and could not believe the cost. They quickly learnt how to use the web camera and found the portability excellent. The school is going to buy some for it's students based on the demonstration they saw. The design is great in that it has a good size keyboard and well balanced. It is easy to use anywhere and has everything you need in a minibook. I was only able to test wireless connectivity at home but it was excellent. It also worked very easily with airport wireless as well. Extremely easy to use. The interfaces were very good and self explanatory. It even allowed me to play music from my ipod without itunes. The built in camera was also another excellent feature. Excellent value for money as it stands and I know there will be further improvements that will make it even better. I like it's portability, it's excellent wireless and the ease with which you can record sound and vision etc. Overall I think it is excellent for use in schools and consequently we have planned for 170 of them in the new build."

It's great to know that talented colleagues at the front line see the potential of the Asus Minibook and are beginning to order them for the new schools where I know they will have a massive impact on teaching and learning.
My colleague John Ellard sent me this following the visit by colleagues from Stockholm...

"Hi Chris, Glad to see that you are back blogging. As I wrote to you by email- we had a fantastic trip to Leeds and the whole of the group from Stockholm was so impressed by what they saw. I can truly say that two places of real note hit me very hard when in your city- the commitment and progress which were apparent. I was so impressed by West Oaks SILC and the absolutely wondeful atmosphere we saw amongst staff, pupils and the Head teacher. Also of real note was the visit to South Leeds High and the remarkable improvements through difficult times that Colin Bell has led. Our colleagues from Stockholm came away with some wonderful impressions. I hope to hear from you soon Chris. Best regards John Ellard, ICG Sweden"

It was great to be able to showcase some of the best of Leeds. Thanks to all the schools involved, the colleagues who gave up their time and the team here at Merrion, led by my colleague Allyn Pazienza, who did a brilliant job organising and managing the visit.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

'One Million Green Fingers'

It was great to hear about Yorkshire Water's latest project which will help create sustainable and healthy gardens in schools across Yorkshire...

In the first year the following schools in Leeds will be involved:
Strawberry Fields Primary School
Kippax Greenfield Primary School
Fountain Primary School
Rothwell St Mary's RC Primary School
Middleton Primary School
Harewood CE Primary School
St Theresa's RC Primary School
Bramhope Primary School
Westgate Primary School
Hunslet Moor Primary School
Whitecote Primary School
Cobden Primary School
Pudsey Greenside Primary School
Pudsey Tyersal Primary School
Horsforth St Mary's RC Primary School
Yeadon Westfield Junior School
Pudsey Primrose Hill Primary School

I hope that more schools will take up this fantastic opportunity to create something special in their school grounds either an allotment, a sensory garden, a woodland corner to help children learn about their environment, sustainability, energy conservation, locally sourced and healthy food, water conservation and recycling.

CONGRATULATIONS to Yorkshire Water who are building on the success of their water cooler scheme with another real winner! If you want to know more you can visit Yorkshire Water's website at
My colleague Mike Haworth contacted me about the blog entry after we talked at Blenheim...

Mike reminded me that the remarkable behavioural provision here in Leeds is down to the hard work and dedication of colleagues working at the sharp end. The hard work, passion and commitment of colleagues in the SILCs has helped us focus and deliver at the hardest end of our provision.

I know that there is still a lot to do but it is brilliant to see the progress we have made and it's impact on these young people.

National Excellence in Supplementary Education Awards 2008

Colleagues have told me that as in so many areas of our work we have here in Leeds two of the five national winners of Excellence Awards for supplementary awards. The Leeds Chinese Community School and the Leeds Community Mandarin School received their awards at the House of Lords.
Fantastic news.