Friday, 16 May 2008

Surprisingly, I am working from home today...

I haven't had a day working from home for absolute ages but, despite the best efforts of my colleagues to help, I am overwhelmed with paper, reports, presentations and the usual daily grind of meetings, e-mail, phone calls and visitors doesn't let me either catch up or get ahead even if I work late every evening.

Sadly, I can't afford to miss deadlines and meetings and I must read the relevant papers so I decided that, to lead by example, I should have day where I try to get on top of it all... and that day is today! Interestingly, I don't know why but like leaving early on occasions, I feel really guilty as I sit here working through papers while someone else manages the fort. Still I am only a phone call away.
I went to see the Kirov Ballet last night at the Lowry in Manchester...

The Gala programme included Chopiniana, Divertissements and the Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadere. It wasn't as inspiring as seeing Sylvie Guillem or as uplifting as Leeds United making it to the Playoff Final at Wembley, but the discipline, precision and team work was incredible and some of it was also breathtakingly beautiful.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

I visited Parklands Girls High School today...

Liz Bisson, the headteacher, and her colleagues have recently been given a notice to improve by our friends from OFSTED largely on the basis of standards and low contextual value added. Liz was very positive and incredibly complimentary about the work that Marcia Harding and colleagues from the School Improvement Service have been doing at the school following the inspection. Liz recognises the challenge thrown down by OFSTED and what it means to be one of Ed Balls 638 schools across the country stuck below the new floor targets. She also recognises the need to move quickly to address the issues the inspection team had raised.

The challenge for us is how do we help Liz and her colleagues who work in one of the most deprived areas of Leeds and are delivering some excellent care and support, some excellent teaching and some great sixth form provision. We need to be more creative, develop our intelligence and target our support where it can really help and really make a difference and we need above all to listen.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

I started the day with colleagues from the Bertelsmann Foundation...

Education Leeds has been nominated for the Annual Carl Bertelsmann Prize 2008 which this year focuses on 'Integration through Education' and Dr Ulrich Kober, Dr Iris Pfeiffer, Christal Morehouse and Simone Kaiser from the Prize Project Team were spending the day with us looking at our work on supporting children from assylum seeker and refugee families, migrant workers and ethnic minorities and traveller communities.

We were joined by Cllr Richard Harker and Professor Stephen Parkinson and preparing for the visit provided me with a wonderful opportunity to look carefully and critically at all the work we are doing in this area. Rehana Minhas and I outlined for the team through two brief presentations the incredible work we are doing here in Leeds... from our STEPS parenting work, to our Mentoring work, from Artforms to Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Achievement to EMA, from the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard to the Inclusion Chartermark to Healthy Schools, from Bluewave Swift to 'Be Healthy! Stay Safe' to The Power of Me, from National Strategies to Aim Higher to programmes to reduce NEET, and much, much more... simply amazing!

The team were also visiting some of our brilliant learning places: Hillcrest Primary School, Hovingham Primary School, St Bartholomew's Primary School and South Leeds High School. They are finishing the day at Leeds United Football Club to look at our 'Playing for Success' work.

Feedback from colleagues suggests that the Project Team had an amazing day here in Leeds and you never know!


Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Another week – how time flies when you are busy!

Last week was Key Stage 3 SATs. This week we have Key Stage 2 SATs. And GCSE, AS and A2 examinations are looming large. Not surprising then that the weather has changed and we are facing sunburn and heat stroke!. Remember ‘slip, slap, slop’ is the name of the game!

My four day week was full of important meetings...leadership forum, children’s services leadership team, corporate leadership team, Education Leeds board, headteacher forum, leader management team, leadership team and executive team. I also managed to squeeze in sessions with Councillor Harker, Ken Cornforth and Mike Pyle and attended a staff induction session at the Derek Fatchett CLC.

I think the highlight of a busy week was attending the National College for School Leadership’s Regional Conference on ‘New Forms of School Leadership and Governance’. It provided an opportunity to catch up with old friends from across the region and the three keynote inputs were great. Valerie Hannon, Director of the Innovation Unit, talked about System Leadership, Mel Ainscow, Professor of Education at Manchester University, now leading the Manchester Challenge talked about New Structures, New Practices? And Edna Sutton, Director of Children’s Services in Barnsley, talked about the innovative 21st century provision they are developing.

The challenge that remains for us here in Leeds is: to continue to listen to young people, families and communities; to continue to nurture innovation, creativity and local solutions; to continue to deliver responsive and brilliant services; and to connect together the pieces of this tapestry of outstanding provision to really make a difference for every child, every young person, every family and every community…whatever it takes!

We must build a ‘Learning City’ here in Leeds with a learning culture, a learning landscape and learning communities. We must all work hard to develop the skills we need to make Leeds a truly world class city….a city of enterprise, a city of culture, a city of opportunity where everyone matters and no-one is left behind.

We have a unique opportunity to do this. Let’s hope that we will look back and remember what we did, the successes, the triumphs, the mistakes, rather than look back and remember that because it was difficult we did nothing.
Best wishes
A schools resource pack has been launched to target spending on children with special and additional educational needs...

An interactive website was published today by the Audit Commission, The National Strategies and the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) to help schools determine whether their spending on children with special and additional educational needs is offering value for money and making real improvements to these children’s education.

The website will enable head teachers and their management teams to:
• Identify sources of special educational needs (SEN) and additional needs (AEN) funding for their school;
• Identify their actual annual expenditure on special and additional educational needs;
• Compare their total SEN/ AEN budget with their actual expenditure;
• Identify pupils for whom this funding is to be used;
• Identify what services/facilities are being provided for those children;
• Compare identified outcomes with need and expectations for these children;
• Evaluating the impact of services and facilities on outcomes; and
• Determine whether the school achieves good value for money in its SEN/AEN provision.

The electronic resource is being made available to schools across England and is intended to help schools target their SEN/ AEN funding – a key recommendation of the recent Education and Skills Select Committee report on Special Educational Needs. Information on the schools resource pack is available on the Audit Commission website at:

Monday, 12 May 2008

My colleagues, Robert Hodgson and Rachel MacHutchon, gave me a flier today outlining the work they have been doing on i-Leeds...

i-Leedsis the Leeds electronic Individual Learning Plan. It's a web-based tool that facilitates conversations between young people aged 9 to 19 and their key adults, helping to support the young person to identify, express and achieve their goals. i- Leeds has been developed with partners across the city building on national best practice around personalised learning and the 'Every Child Matters' agenda.

Robert and Rachel tell me that i-Leeds will help;
  • reduce learning loss during transfer and transition;
  • signpost to providers of information, advice and guidance;
  • increase participation and reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training;
  • provide a communications tool for all extended services;
  • support mentoring and coaching approaches;
  • support tracking of learners attending work-based learning and Diplomas;
  • improve etention, progression and achievement.
If you are interested in using i-Leeds or would like to book a demonstration please contact Rachel at
I had a brilliant lunch today with Rosie Denison and Belinda Roy from the School Meals Team...

They told me about the work they are doing to improve school food and drink, monitoring the quality of the catering providers here in Leeds and trying to improve the take up of free school meals. They also told me about two hugely important project they are working on; a policy on 'Packed Lunches' and 'School Meal Ambassadors'.

The brilliant 'School Meals Ambassadors' project has operated at three secondary schools: Cockburn College, Crawshaw School and Woodkirk High School, and two primary schools: Middleton Primary School and Park Spring Primary School. A group of young people in each school has been trained to monitor school food and to work with the school's catering provider to improve school food. Rosie and Belinda have commissioned Swift researchers to evaluate the impact and sustainability of the initiative. The initiative has helped us develop a toolkit to help all schools adopt this brilliant strategy.

It is important with a huge number of our young people eating packed lunches that we work with schools to ensure that schools help parents and carers provide a healthy and nutritious packed lunch... after all we are what we eat!
We want every child in Leeds to be happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes.This work is hugely important in our drive to improve standards and improve outcomes. If you want to find out more about the Packed Lunch policy, the School Meal Ambassadors or the work on Free School Meals contact the team at
Jane Fisher, my colleague from Hovingham Primary School who contacts me regularly, sent me this e-mail about her brilliant website...

"Hi Chris, I have been enjoying your 2 blogs! Is blogging addictive!
I thought you might like to catch up on what new on
You might enjoy .....

  • the Monet pictures on 2Reds page,
  • The Food for the Brain group on Get Hovingham healthy, and
  • the pictures from round Leeds on the Maths Action Zone.

SATs week coming up - so slightly less time planning, and more time to send emails!read, walk the dog, visit friends and family, and enjoy the wonderful weather.

Thought for the day, from my calendar - "The Secret"
'Your are here on this glorious planet, endowed with this wonderful power, to create your life!
There are no limits to what you can create for you, because your ability to think is unlimited!'
All the best, Jane."

I visited the website and the areas Jane had highlighted and Jane's superschool site is a fantastic celebration of her children's work and the brilliant work colleagues are doing in this wonderful little multi-cultural school serving this very special little bit of Leeds. Why not have a look?