Thursday, 22 May 2008

My colleague Anne Lomas who heads up the Visually Impaired Team sent me this bit of good news...

"Chris, I know that you have always been an enthusiastic supporter of my great team, so I wanted you to know about our great achievement today. The Regional Heads of Vi Services in our region have developed a VI Quality mark (similar to Chartermark), which was endorsed at Leeds University by the Regional Partnership in March.

Today, the Leeds VI team were the first team in the region,and the country, to be validated, and awarded this new Quality Mark. We have successfully met, and in many cases exceeded, a range of DCSF standards, for support and outreach services. For me, the most exciting and rewarding aspect was that the visiting team recognised the huge impact that is made by cross-service working of the staff, and "teamness". We look forward to receiving the full report, which I will be delighted to share with you. With best wishes. Anne"

The VI Team here in Leeds is one of the real jewels amongst some truly outstanding services we offer to parents and carers and children in Leeds. It is wonderful to see their work recognised in this way. Congratulations to Anne and everyone in the team.
Do you want to link up with colleagues in Sweden and Finland?

We have been working with colleagues in Stockholm for a couple of years and recently the relationship has further developed to include Helsinki to create a three city programme which we have agreed will focus in the first instance on leadership development, ICT development and cultural and language development as well as developing school links.

Interestingly, while Finland is the most successful country in Europe in terms of literacy, mathematics and science outcomes both at age 11 and at age 16 and while Sweden is highly successful in terms of personalisation, culture, and engaging young people, both of these great cities feel that they can learn from what we are doing here in Leeds... AND we all know that can certainly learn from practice in Stockholm and Finland.

We see these initiatives as learning opportunities and we are hoping to connect the best of Leeds with the best of Stockholm and Helsinki. We believe that this will help us continue to drive up standards and outcomes for all our young people.

We recognise that colleagues are busy and that initiatives and opportunities drop on your desktop everyday but if anyone is interested in getting involved in this really exciting, creative and powerful initiative please let me know.

This is my 1000th Post!

I am sitting at the Cedar Court Hotel near Wakefield...

My colleague Hannah Lamplugh, Investors in Pupils Coordinator, invited me to the 2008 Annual Investors in Pupils Conference. It is an amazing initiative with around 36% of the schools across West Yorkshire currently engaged with Investors in Pupils and 188 schools in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield have achieved Investors in Pupils status. I know the powerful impact the scheme is having in schools across Leeds and during the morning I've learned from schools using it about it's impact on improving attendance and behaviour, developing a stronger team ethos within schools, the Every Child Matters agenda, personalisation, Healthy Schools and the voice of young people.

Two of our schools delivered wonderful sessions describing how Investors in Pupils had impacted in their schools. Mrs Jones, Assistant Headteacher at Blackgates Primary School, along with Megan and Nelson from Year 6 and Mrs Craig and Mrs Blackley from Boston Spa School, along with Jordan, Beth and Hannah from Year 9 were all fantastic advocates for the initiative and did Leeds proud.

If you want to find out more about Investors in Pupils you can visit the website at www,

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

This afternoon I attended the Formula Schools event at the South Leeds CLC...

Pete Thurlow had invited me to the pre-judging session of this national engineering/design event where secondary students design and build a small scale radio controlled racing car. The teams go on to compete in a national event at Silverstone on 12 June. The teams have to raise sponsorship, show how they have designed and built their car and develop their own team branding.

Last year teams from Bruntcliffe and Woodkirk High Schools attended for the first time and both came away with trophies. This year, teams from Allerton Grange, Bruntcliffe, Cockburn, Horsforth, Temple Moor, Wetherby and Woodkirk High Schools are taking part with Wetherby setting the standard by fielding an all girls team!

This is a brilliant initiative which Pete Thurlow and his colleagues at the South Leeds CLC have pioneered here in Leeds. The national Project Director Rob Austin told everyone at the event that this was the best display he had seen at any of the pre-judging events he had attended across the country. In case you missed this wonderful initiative, where every team gets to go to Silverstone for a fantastic day's racing, you can find out more at
I have been looking at the work Charlotte Foley and her colleagues have done to produce the Primary Capital Programme submission to go to the DCSF by 16 June...

It is a fantastic statement of our values, priorities and commitment to continue to address the massive underfunding of the primary estate here in Leeds and has involved an enormous amount of work by a dedicated and very talented group of colleagues here at Education Leeds.

I know that we have seen a huge increase in the overall capital programme over the last ten years but the under-investment by successive governments over decades has left us with a legacy of problems that we are all working hard to manage and resolve. The Primary Capital Programme will start to address some of the real issues we are facing and allow us to rebuild 5% of the schools and modernise a further 45% which should mean that over 100 of our primary schools will see significant investment over the next fourteen years.

We are at the stage where we have the rationale and the approach sorted out thanks in part to a small group of headteacher colleagues along with colleagues from across the Council who have worked with us to ensure that we don't miss any opportunities to connect and engage with partners. Headteachers, elected members and other partners and stakeholders have been carefully consulted on the methodology and support for the approach and the model we are using has been massive.

The DCSF guidance requires us to allocate the Programme funding using three criteria... targetting the resources to low performance, deprivation and buildings issues. We have now run all our data through our computer model to generate a list of schools which is available on InfoBase. The good news is that if your school is one of the first 113 schools on the list you are likely to receive this additional funding sometime over the next fourteen years. If your school is not one of the first 113 schools we promise that we will continue to work with you on your buildings issues and continue to argue for all primary schools to be brought up to standard as brilliant learning places for the future.

Importantly if any school feels that we have got it wrong please let us know!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Together, we have done a brilliant job in tackling the huge number of young people who were being permanently excluded from school. We have moved over five years from around 250 PXs a year to hopefully this year less than 50PXs... which is of course still 50 too many!

We now need to take that energy, passion, commitment and leadership and in the same way address the huge number of young people leaving school without qualifications and drifting into worklessness, poverty, anti-social behaviour, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and crime. We currently have around 10% of our 16 to 18 year olds 'Not in Education, Employment or Training' (NEET). We need to understand the nature of the challenge we face but we also need to set visionary and aspirational goals so that every school, working with every agency and voluntary sector and community group, works to reduce this and as soon as possible eliminate it.

Together, as we have done with PXs, we must:
Set the goal and make it a priority.
Set the goal and invent the way.
Set the goal and make it happen.
And finally today I visited Brigshaw High School to attend the launch event for Kippax Ash Tree Primary School who are adopting the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard...

I had been invited by Victoria Ford, headteacher at Kippax Ash Tree Primary School, and it was great to see the place was packed with children, parents, staff and governors who listened to some great performances by the children and a fantastic session by the 'Mighty Zulu Nation'. It made you want to use your WOW words... brilliant, incredible, breathtaking, amazing etc etc!
I went on to Whitkirk Primary School...

My colleague Sheila Davenport who works for Barnardo's Willows Young Carers Project had invited me to visit the school to see the work Sheila's team were doing with the children to raise awareness of the role of young carers.

Steve Clark, headteacher, and Jean Hartburn, Learning Mentor, were delivering a health focus week which involved Willows Young Carers and D-Side. It was wonderful to be able to visit the school again and to be showed around the school by Steve, and Catherine and James from Year 6 who were great ambassadors for the school. What it highlighted for me was how hard the learning team at the school work to create a brilliant learning environment for some fantastic children.
I started the day at Weetwood Hall...

I was attending the North East Area Management Board Conference on 'Tranforming Transfer'. The Conference was facilitated by Andrew Eastwood who chairs the North East Area Management Board and included sessions by Brian Ward and Sarah Balfour, our Transition Consultants, Janet McDougall, Learning Mentor at Greenhill Primary School, and Carole Armitage, Assistant Headteacher at Allerton High School.

What I always think at sessions like this, where I talk to so many talented individuals, is our potential to transform outcomes by sharing and learning from the best practice here in Leeds.

Monday, 19 May 2008

I was asked to speak at a LEP/BSF event at the Carriageworks this afternoon...

The event brought together colleagues from Leeds City Council, Education Leeds, RM, our ICT strategic partner, and E4L, the consortium who secured the BSF contract and includes Interserve, Cambridge Education and Barclays Capital.

It was an opportunity for us to remember why we are in this unique collaboration and partnership... to build brilliant: to transform the learning estate and help secure improved outcomes for our young people, their families and communities.

I believe that we all want to make real difference and to leave a personal legacy and the great thing about the talented team involved in this fantastic initiative is that their legacy will be fourteen brilliant learning places where young people will be happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes!

Just watch this space!
I was listening to 'MoreOrLess' on the radio today...

'There are lies, damn lies and statistics' was how the programme started and it went on to focus on the work of Nassim Taleb the author of 'The Black Swan' and 'Fooled by Randomness'. In his books, Nassim argues that most of the time when we look at the sheer volume of information we are wading through we need to be careful that our explanations are not bogus. Because many times we construct a theory and then search to find the evidence to support the theory and unsurprisingly the more information we have the more likely it is that we can find statistically significant relationships... it is worrying to think that the more information we have the more we we are in danger of contaminating the truth. You can always find statistics to support the inference but it doesn't mean that it is true.

Interestingly today I also heard that Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, has published proposals to change the OFSTED inspection framework for schools. 'Weak' schools will be inspected annually while the 'best' schools will be inspected every six years. I thought we had established that you don't improve the pig by weighing it but Christine and her colleagues at OFSTED seem to think that inspecting schools makes them better. Personally, I don't believe it.
I’ve been thinking about the services we provide and the key role we play here in Leeds as we look to develop a new strategic plan to guide our work over the next three years leading up to 2012, Olympic Year. The last seven years have been about a relentless drive for service improvement, continuous improvement and striving for excellence. We must continue to put schools, young people and their families at the heart of everything we do…to listen to their needs and wants and to ensure that the culture of the organisation is about empowerment, equity, trust, openness, honesty, partnership, respect and service.

These things were highlighted for me during a frenetic week of briefings, meetings, partnerships and strategy groups. I had lunch with Rosie Denison and Belinda Roy from the School Meals Team who talked to me about their fantastic work and how young people as School Meals Ambassadors were monitoring, influencing and shaping provision. I met with my colleague, Preet Matharu and Jenny Barth and Ezz Witter from Children’s Services to talk about how we take forward the BME workers groups and continue to drive this important representation and equality issue. I also visited Parklands Girls High School to talk to Liz Bisson after the school was give a notice to improve by our friends from Ofsted.

However the highlight of the week was the opportunity to showcase our work on equality, diversity and raising standards for children from refugee and asylum seekers, migrant workers, BME communities and Gypsy, Roma and Travellers We had been nominated by the DCSF and we were visited by colleagues from the Carl Bertlesmann Foundation in relation to their International Prize 2008. Their feedback on the day was great…"Our visit to Education Leeds was wonderful. We were indeed very impressed by the equity work in Leeds and delighted to meet with so many enthusiastic people. Warmest regards to all the wonderful people we had the privilege to get to know. It was an unforgettable day!" They now want to send a film crew to capture some of the magic which is released in so many of our schools for children, families and communities.

Colleagues will know that the assessment for Customer Service Excellence takes place this week and I know that everyone will welcome our assessor, Bob Mandy, who will be visiting Merrion, Blenheim, Elmete, West Park, the Derek Fatchett Centre and the White Rose Study Support Centre. Bob will also be visiting four schools and meeting a Family of Schools event to hear from our customers how we are doing. I know Bob will see brilliant practice and brilliant provision and I know his visit will help us become an even more effective organisation.
Keep the faith.