Friday, 6 June 2008

Everyone should read Warwick Mansell's comment in this week's Times Educational supplement...

In the article he argues that if Ofsted wants better results from schools, it needs to encourage and support teachers, not frighten them. He accepts that we need to continue to raise standards and that standards have indeed stalled. The fact that we have the most intrusive and punitive systems of accountability in the world means that the solution to the problem is not more of the same . He argues that Christine Gilbert and the DCFS should look to develop a more rounded assessment of a school's provision rather that focus so relentlessly on test and exam results. We must encourage professionalism and support those who work with the hardest to educate children and young people.

If you only read one thing in this week's TES read this article.
My colleague Steve Ruse, our Sustainable Schools Consultant, has done a brilliant job over the last few days organising our first Green Day here in Leeds and he sent me this late this afternoon...

"Hi Chris
, Just returned from the photo opportunity with Hilary Benn and wanted to quickly report what a fantastic job he did for us. He was brilliant with the pupils and amenable to all the different photo requests including separate shots with the sponsors, Asda Stores Ltd and Connaught Partnerships Ltd, who both sent senior colleagues. The Yorkshire Evening Post sent a photographer and Hilary recorded a lengthy interview with Radio Aire. Hilary also sent his best wishes to you. Headteacher Julian Gorton, class teacher Teresa Walker and the wonderful children all did the school proud. Hilary planted sunflowers with the children and talked to them about their musical instruments and bags all made from recycled materials. A full report of all the activities of the last 2 days will follow in due course but for now I'm away for a well earned break. Have a nice week-end. Regards Steve."

Hilary Benn helped us finish a very special week on a high. It was important for all of us, who are passionate about the environment and sustainability, to have Hilary add some of his very special magic to our efforts to turn the schools green here in Leeds.

Leeds Rhinos stars will be at a Ralph Thoresby High School on Monday to take part in the ‘positive playtimes’ initiative which we hope will bring an end to bullying and boredom in school...

Rhinos’ southern hemisphere stars, prop Kylie Leuluai and winger Scott Donald, will join young people at th school as they cook, skip and run through their afternoon break. The ‘positive playtimes’ pilot, developed by Education Leeds and the Leeds Rugby Foundation with the school’s young people, offers a choice of activities every break and lunchtime. The young people can choose from a range of physical activities, the incredibly popular cooking course and a host of other clubs covering everything from dance to design and science to solving Japanese puzzles. The school is piloting the range of anti bullying schemes as part of ‘The Power of Me’, the first city-wide anti-bullying initiative launched last year by Rhinos legend Barrie McDermott, himself an unlikely victim of bullying at school. The Power of Me was launched with a strong campaign, designed with young people in Leeds, urging everyone in the city to use their power to stop bullying wherever and whenever they see it happening.

We hope that every school in Leeds will adopt the scheme to help us tackle bullying and make our schools happier and healthier places.

Jenny Allison, Green Day Coordinator at Otley All Saints Primary School, sent me this following their great Green Day...

"Good Morning Chris, Just to let you know that children at Otley All Saints Primary had a fantastic day yesterday celebrating 'Green Day'. Some of our activities are now being posted on our blog. Please do take a look at our website!
Thanks Jenny"

We have some great schools here in Leeds and some talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues releasing some very special magic with our children. The website is really interesting and it's great to see the blog. Why not have a look?
Is e-mail getting you down? I received 186 e-mails yesterday and it is getting beyond a joke...

I think we should start e-mail free Fridays where we can clear our in boxes and talk to each other instead. What do you think?

Thursday, 5 June 2008

I finished the day with children and colleagues from Hollybush Primary School, Ingram Road Primary School, Raynville Primary School and Wykebeck Primary School...

The schools had been involved in the 'Leeds Hippo Project', an environmental education project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and run by the University of Leeds in partnership with Leeds Museum and Gallery Service and the Royal Armouries. Unbelievably, the skeletons of four hippos were found in Armley in 1852. The animals were believed to have died in some sort of natural disaster 120,000 years ago. Through a series of engaging, fun and innovative workshops the children have learnt about science, geography, history, environmental change, climate change and sustainability.

This is a brilliant project and you will be able to see the hippos at the new Leeds Museum in Millenium Square from 12th September.
Today was World Environment Day and we had worked with schools to organise a Green Day...

Over thirty schools were involved and I went to Kippax North Junior and Infant School to a special assembly which celebrated the school's wonderful Green Week. Barbara Clark, the headteacher, and Chris Clarke, the learning mentor had invited me to be part of their celebrations. It was fantastic and the children are becoming Eco-Warriers. They used the day to open their Magical Garden at the new Children's Centre and their incredible Wind Turbine. The Turbine compliments the solar panels which the school was given by the Co-op in recognition of their Eco Schools work. The turbine cost £25000 and was funded by local councillors, the Council, businesses and children and their families.

Every school in Leeds should become a sustainable school where children and colleagues work on recycling, re-using, energy and water conservation, locally grown and sourced food and reducing our carbon footprints. They should all have a turbine and solar panels, an allotment and garden, walking buses, recycling facilities and a water butt to collect rain water and it is brilliant to see Kippax North under Barbara's leadership showing us the way.
I met with Patrick Salami, Chief Executive of REEMAP...

Patrick wanted to update me on REEMAP's activities and their new Business Plan 'Learning, Achieving and Aspiring'. He also wanted to talk to me about two new programmes; Junior Fellowship for non-BME students and a targeted programme aimed at dads.

REEMAP is a brilliant organisation doing great work here in Leeds and it was really interesting to talk about their new plans with Patrick.
I met Maria Bourke today...

Maria is the Founder and Managing Director of 'Let's Get Healthy' and wanted to talk to me about her "jump on board" programme which was developed with Leeds Metropolitan University. The programme is targeted at children and families and is held over twelve weeks and includes physical activity, educational sessions, 'talk about' cards, educational resources, healthy meals shopping lists, pedometer, goal setting folder, friendship bracelets and games.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

My colleague Maqsood Sheikh in our Performance Management and Information Team sent me this briefing about this year's Audit Commission survey...

"Chris, the 2008 Audit Commission School Survey is now open for schools to complete on-line at Any help you could offer when in contact with school leaders, including governors, to encourage completion of the survey would be appreciated. This is an established national survey participated in by virtually all authorities. It captures schools perceptions of services provided locally for children and young people. It is important that we get a good return, as the information from the survey will inform and help develop partnership working with a view to improving outcomes for children and young people in Leeds. Last year 54% of Leeds schools (including SILCs and PRUs) responded to the survey. This year every school completing the survey will be entered into a prize draw, and will have the chance to win five RM Asus minibooks. In addition to this, one in every fifty schools completing the survey will win a minibook and Canon camcorder. These fantastic prizes are being provided by our strategic ICT partner RM, which is supporting the delivery of our ICT vision across Leeds. The survey will remain open for the next six weeks until 16th July 2008. Results will be reported to schools in the autumn term 2008. Please contact me if you would like any further information. Thank you for your help. Maqsood"

We use the survey to help us improve our services to schools and I hope as many schools as possible will complete the survey this year to give us feedback on what is working well, what is not working well and what we need to do to further improve.
My colleague Peter Saunders who manages the Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service here in Leeds wanted me to know about the feedback he has received from the winner of the GRTHM Poster Competition...

"Hi Chris, Thought that you would want to see this from a parent regarding the great success of the GRTHM Poster Prize-giving giving ceremony in the House of Lords on Monday. Best wishes Peter"

"Dear Peter, My wife and I and Jonathan would like to thank you for organising such a splendid prize giving presentation. Please also pass on our thanks to Lord Avebury, Lord Adonis and Arthur Ivatts for making this presentation possible in the House of Lords. Jonathan had a wonderful time and is very appreciative for his prize and being honoured in this way. It will be an occasion that he will remember for the rest of his life as shall we. As parents this was for us a very special occasion and we are very proud of our son and glad that we were able to support him and to be a part of this historic month of the Gypsy Roma Travellers. Many thanks. Yours sincerely, Costa, Marion and Jonathan Georgiades"

Peter also sent me some wonderful pictures from the event at the House of Lords.

Peter and the team have done a brilliant job organising the GRTHM nationally as well as in Leeds and the impact on young people from these communities as evidenced in this letter is wonderful.
I started the day at Farsley Farfield Primary School...

I had been invited by Loraine Lambert, the Learning Mentor at the school, to see their farm which has won loads of awards including a Civic Pride Award. They have two gardeners who have taken career changes and now work part time at the school to release a little bit of green magic with the children... and it is simply brilliant; every school should have one!

I started the visit with Peter Harris, the headteacher, who is a passionate advocate for ICT, the garden and the school. Peter talked to me about the work the team have been doing with the building, the grounds and his plans for the future. We visited the garden and had a brief tour around the school.

Farsley Farfield Primary School is a wonderful primary school with fantastic grounds. A school leading the way in so many areas... the use of ICT, sport and PE and the garden to name but three. If you want to find out more you can visit their great web-site and see why Peter is so proud of his school. The address is

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

This evening I attended the 14 - 19 Diploma Event at the University of Leeds...

It was a great evening with a wonderful attendance by young people starting the Diplomas in 'Construction and the Built Environment' and 'Creative and Media Industries' this September, their teachers and parents and carers, business partners and colleagues from the university and colleges. I was delighted with what the Leeds Chamber and Education Leeds have achieved together and the way we are promoting Diplomas here in Leeds.
I also went to the Royal Armouries to meet up with Peter Armstrong, the Museum Director, to talk about how we can work more closely together...

The Royal Armouries is a fantastic resource on our doorstep and it's free! Peter talked to me about the exhibition they are hosting this Summer and Autumn with articles from the 'Lord of the Rings' films, the 'Narnia' films, the 'Last Samurai' film and others... sounds fantastic. We also discussed the work we are doing on weapons awareness and Be Safe! and how we might further develop this work to support all Leeds schools with this critical aspect of our work with young people.
Watch this space for further information.
I was invited to yet another STEPS celebration event yesterday...

These are all special events but this one was different in that it was for foster carers and it was facilitated by our first group of parent facilitators! It was another case of simply being there to listen to some wonderful foster carers telling their stories about the impact the programme has had on their lives and the lives of the children they care for... and it was magic!
Over half term I've been to two of my favourite places...Edinburgh and Oxford... to recharge the batteries, to relax and unwind and get ready for the challenges ahead.

Before the break, I did a brief presentation to the whole team involved in the Building Schools for the Future programme and another at the North East Area Management Board's 'Primary to High School Transfer' event. I went to Whitkirk Primary School to see Sheila Davenport and the Barnardo's Willows Young Carers team in action and to Brigshaw High School to see Kippax Ash Tree Primary School launch their Stephen Lawrence Education Standard with the 'Mighty Zulu Nation'.

I went to the South Leeds CLC to see the first judging of the 'Formula Schools' event where students from seven Leeds High Schools design and build a radio controlled racing car to compete at Silverstone! I also went to the 'Investors in Pupils' conference in Wakefield where young people from Blackgates Primary School and Boston Spa School were brilliant advocates and ambassadors for this fantastic programme.

The week before half term we were being assessed for the Customer Service Excellence Award which replaced the Chartermark Standard. We will find out the result of our assessment over the next couple of weeks, but in a week when the Education Leeds VI Team achieved the VI Quality Mark, the first team in the country to achieve this award, and we discovered that we are one of the four final nominations for the international Carl Bertelsmann Foundation Prize, we are as always expecting the best.

Whatever you do this week, remember that we have a lot to live up to and be your brilliant best.

Monday, 2 June 2008

One of the things that constantly hits me here at Education Leeds is our inability to keep it simple...
"The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity. We have a tendency it seems to over complicate our lives and forget what's important and what's not."

Robert Stuberg

We are constantly looking for connections, partnerships and networks in a world that is increasingly complex and where there are so many experts, consultants and enablers. What we need is action people - colleagues who see a problem and pick it up and do something about it. Let's all agree that whatever we do, we will do the simple things that make a difference.