Saturday, 28 June 2008

My colleague Mike Cooper e-mailed me after the 'Showcase and Celebration Event : Social Enterprise - the Journey so Far' which was a fantastic success to let me know who the winners were...
  • Best stand - John Smeaton Community College;
  • Best marketing - St Augustine's RC Primary School;
  • Best team - St Augustine's RC Primary School;
  • Best Business Plan - Woodkidk High School;
  • Best Social Enterprise - Cockburn Arts College;
  • Primary Entrepreneur of the Year - Kellen Midgely from Ebor Gardens Primary School;
  • Secondary Entrepreneur of the Year - Melissa Green from Cockburn Arts College.
These young business leaders of the future are amazing. Today Leeds, tomorrow the UK... then we take over the world!

Friday, 27 June 2008

I then visited Oakwood Primary School where Anne Matthias and Becky Ingram are doing brilliant work and releasing their own very special magic particularly in the Foundation Stage...

Anne had asked me to visit to look at the impact a visit to 'Reggio Emilia' had had and to see their brilliant Foundation Stage practice which has been showcased on Teachers TV and in CPD materials for QCA/NAA. I had three wonderful little guides to the Foundation Stage who wouldn't let go of my hands and excitedly showed me all the areas of provision. It was truly wonderful; an oasis of superb early years practice and just being there you knew that you were in a very special place where every child really did matter. Becky also gave me a quick tour of the rest of the school where the atmosphere, ethos, purpose and relationships showed me what a wonderful school this is. This community is so lucky to have at its heart Oakwood Primary School and Anne Matthias. Sadly Anne retires this Summer but what a brilliant legacy she leaves in Becky's capable hands.

My personal challenge is to take what Anne showed me and the impact the Reggio Emilia experience has had at Oakwood Primary School and build on it so that more schools and more children and families experience the magic. Anyone out there want to help?
I moved on to the Annual Leeds Governors Conference at The Village Hotel...

The theme of this years conference was 'A Vision for the Future: governance and succession planning' with Liz Cross as the keynote speaker whose energy, creativity and transformational approach has made a real difference in Manchester and Northern Ireland and she was brilliant! Stephen Rennie, Chair of the Governors' Forum, chaired the conference and a great day was had by all from all accounts.
I started the day early with colleagues and governors from Wetherby High School...

The school is embarking on the next stage of its development as a brilliant learning place and it was great to listen to the vision and strategies they are developing to build brilliant at the heart of the Wetherby community.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

I finished the day at the Leeds Schools Music Association Festival Concert at the Town Hall...

Take two evenings in June, nearly 700 children from forty primary schools and a little bit extra from St Peter's, St Matthew's and Hovingham primary schools. Sprinkle a little bit of magic from my colleagues at Artforms and you get two incredible evening. This evening ended with 'You Raise Me Up', a brilliant finale, which received a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience.

Thanks to Fiona Pacey and everyone involved in producing such brilliant performances from these wonderful children.
I went on to have lunch with Doug Stoup, explorer, expedition leader, climber and motivational speaker...

Doug had been in Leeds to talk to our international visitors to the Breeze Festival. He was accompanied by Monica Westin, President and Founder of the World of Hope International a charitable organisation working to bring water and hope to communities in Africa. Doug and Monica are keen to work with any schools with links with schools and communities in Africa and can be contacted through their websites and
It's OFFICIAL! Education Leeds is now the FIRST recipient of the ALL NEW Government standard of 'Customer Service Excellence' formerly known as Chartermark...

This has been a fantastic team effort and reflects the work of colleagues across the company who have worked very hard to embed brilliant customer service within all our services based on customer feedback and insights. The assessor said in his report that "Education Leeds was found to have a deep understanding and commitment to Customer Service Excellence. The commitment was found from senior management through to operation and front line colleagues."
Thanks to everyone involved particularly to Jenny Marshall and Liz White who have brilliantly managed the process for us and helped us secure this wonderful endorsement of our work.
I moved on to the 'Showcase and Celebration Event : Social Enterprise - the Journey so Far' at Weetwood Hall...

It was brilliant to see the work that Mike Cooper, Christine Marsden and colleagues are nurturing and supporting. Their passion, commitment, energy and hard work have created something really special which was showcased by young people from Bramley St Peter's CE Primary School who talked about their 'Events Management Company', by Woodlands Primary School who talked about their 'Community Newspaper', by Cockburn Arts College who talked about their 'Glassroom' and by Prince Henry's Grammar School who talked about their 'Fair Trade and Social Enterprise' work. These amazing young people were wonderful ambassadors and advocates for their schools and from what I saw the future of Leeds as a centre of enterprise and innovation is very safe in their capable and creative hands.
I started the day early with breakfast with the Otley and Aireborough headteachers at the Chevin Country Park Hotel...

Ros Vahey and I were having breakfast with headteachers from this talented bunch of colleagues. These breakfast meetings are opportunities for us to create space and time to share, network and reflect with colleagues on some of the opportunities and challenges facing us... and they are brilliant ways for us to get feedback and look for ways to further improve our services and support for our schools.
I missed the North Of England Teaching Awards Ceremony in Sheffield last week but Leeds schools brought home a hat full of trophies...
  • Meanwood CE Primary School won the DCSF Award for Sustainable Schools;
  • In the NCSL Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School category distinctions went to Helen Sanderson, headteacher at Meanwood CE Primary School and Jim Vincent headteacher at the Whartons Primary School in Otley;
  • In the Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year category a distinction went to Jan Pulham from the NW SILC based at the Pennyfields site and a commendation went to Karin Scattergood from St Theresa's RC Primary School;
  • In the BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School a distinction went to Siobhan Leonard from Rothwell St Mary's RC Primary School;
  • In the Ted Wragg Award for Lifetime Achievement sponsored by The Innovation Unit a distinction went to Peter Woodhead headteacher at St Peter's CE Primary School;
  • In the Guardian Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School a commendation went to David Pearce from Roundhay School and Technology College.
Meanwood CE Primary School will now go on to the national finals of the Teaching Awards to be held in London on October 19. Good luck to Helen and her fantastic team.
My colleague Richard Boughey our Service Delivery and Transformation Manager within the Information Management team has joined in on the conversation about the RM Asus Minibook...

"For me the Asus Eee PC has always been a pointer to the future rather than a solution. My view is that these lower cost solid state devices will make an impact on all of us over the coming years.
At this point I normally talk about satellite navigation devices and the impact that mainstream retailers have on prices and ubiquitous usage – imagine talking to the board of Psion in the 90’s about your idea to introduce personal satellite navigation devices sold for £100 odd in high street retailers. In 2003 Psion’s Mark Gretton joined a small Dutch PDA software company, TomTom, run by former Psion Computer MD Harold Goddijn. As chief technology officer, Gretton assembled a team of former Psion engineers to create its first hardware products. In fiscal year 2006, TomTom reported revenues of €1.36bn making a net profit of €222m.

Again imagine high street retailers selling low cost laptops, and personal devices like the Eee PC for a price point around £100 (or maybe even 2 for 1!). I have been working with schools for a year or so talking about this and the impact it will have on all of us but clearly from Peter’s perspective we’re not reaching enough schools quickly enough – this is something that has been said to me before and I really do try to reach as many schools as possible.

You’ll see other devices coming along very quickly over the summer; there’s the HP 2133, Dell’s producing one, the Elonex One, the MSI PR210, and the Acer Aspire to name a few. I agree with Peter that this new class of low cost device provides as many challenges as it resolves. Try changing the default language on an Eee PC…

The enthusiasm that Chris and others have for these devices comes from their immediacy; they are closer to mobile phones than traditional computer technologies. As Andrew has mentioned, there are many programmes out there looking at the impact and use of these and many other devices; the BSF heads have been working with RM about the Eee PC’s since January and we’re looking forward to sharing this work across the city. You can also attend the RM conference on the 8th July and join the workshop showcasing "…some of the excellent outcomes following the use of new technology in some of our BSF schools. Equipment such as Play Station Portable (PSP), games consoles and minibook computers have been used in a variety of ways to engage our youngsters and improve their learning". Richard"

It's great to have this debate about ICT and the potential it has to revolutionise teaching and learning. Any further contributions would be very welcome.


Wednesday, 25 June 2008

I finished the day at the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Achievement Awards Ceremony at the Civic Hall...

These awards were planned as part of the first national Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month and provided an opportunity for us to celebrate the winners of the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month Poster Competition and to recognise the personal and academic achievements of some of our young people from these communities. This recognition of talent and potential will help us continue to build confidence and self-esteem as well as developing understanding of the culture, traditions and heritage of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

The evening included wonderful music and dance by Romipen, a gypsy ensemble from Slovakia, and two powerful inputs by Jess Smith and Sheila Stewart, internationally renowned Scottish storytellers, authors and singers. The awards were presented by international Roma artist Ferdinand Koci whose wonderful work is on display at the Leeds Central Library with our poster award winners.

It was another brilliant evening celebrating the work Peter Saunders and his colleagues have been doing to promote the culture, heritage, traditions and achievements of the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities both here in Leeds and on a national stage.
I moved on to Blenheim Primary School to see Mo Duffy, the headteacher, and her colleagues and children...

The school has made real progress since my last visit with improvements to their building and their foundation stage provision. I was impressed by Mo's focus and passion and by her brilliant children; particularly the Year 6 children who were rehearsing for their Summer Concert performance and shared a little bit of magic with Mo and I.
I moved on to a meeting with a group of colleagues from Sweden...

Colleagues from Hjulsta schools and Kunskapsskolan were looking at our work with assylum seekers, refugees, minority groups and special educational needs and autism. They had visited Hillcrest Primary School, the Primrose site of the Central Leeds Learning Federation and the North East SILC and were so positive about what they had seen here in Leeds.
I started the day early for breakfast at Boston Spa School with a group of our talented headteachers...

Ros Vahey, Dirk Gilleard and I were having breakfast with headteachers from the Elmet Partnership of Schools. These breakfast meetings are opportunities for us to create space and time to share, network and reflect with colleagues on some of the opportunities and challenges facing us... and they are brilliant ways for us to get feedback and look for ways to further improve our services and support for our schools.
My colleague Kimberley Goulden, BSF Project assistant in our Building Schools for the Future team sent me this e-mail after her induction session...

"Chris, I was at the corporate induction day yesterday and Eamonn mentioned that you love to receive idea's for new ways of working. I have been here since April and in that time I have heard several people complain that the teams within Education Leeds don't communicate with each other and often schools are invited to conflicting events. I have raised this previously and it has been passed on to the communications team, however I feel that a wider approach needs to be taken and each team should be taking responsibility to ensure any event they arrange is passed through to the events calendar. I have a few idea's how this problem can be overcome and I think from a business perspective we need to give a good consistent approach from all teams to all of our colleagues and partners. If you think this is an issue, maybe I have experienced a blip in an otherwise well working company, I'd be happy to work with the appropriate team to resolve this. Kind regards, Kim.
P.S Dirk's presentation to the group yesterday was very well received - when everyone summarised their favourite part of the day, most people said it was Dirk's presence and enthusiasm."

I think Kim has picked up on something that we need to work on here at Education Leeds. There is so much going on and so many new initiatives that we sometimes forget about the schools seeing all this activity as unconnected and lacking understanding of the complex nature of their work. Is anyone else keen to help Kim and the communications team improve this aspect of our work for next year?
My colleague Andrew McGlen read the blog and sent me this fantastic response...

"Hi Chris, As you will be aware, here at the Derek Fatchett CLC we have been working with the MiniBook and other ultraportable devices for some time. We recognise some of the issues raised by Peter and in order to move the agenda on for Leeds Schools we have planned a project that will see up to 50 devices, including a number of MiniBooks, rolled out to one Leeds High School. The purpose of this project is to identify and where possible find solutions to the issues we will undoubtedly encounter. In addition, sets of the devices will be used in different ways by different groups of staff and pupils to try and identify the most appropriate/effective solutions. Our aim will be to provide some guidance to schools on the practicalities of implementing this type of device. We have lots of questions to answer…
  • Should the devices be issued to students giving them ownership?
  • Should the school issue and collect the devices each day, each lesson, by subject?
  • Which subjects benefit most from the use of these devices?
  • Which students benefit most?
  • Which device works best with the school network, learning portal, applications?
  • Do you have to have full wireless coverage in school to make them worthwhile?
  • How durable are the devices, batteries, chargers?
  • How is insurance dealt with?
  • What if a student doesn’t bring their device?
  • How do we keep the student connected out of school?…and many many more.

Although researching new technology is only one small part of what we do here in the CLCs we should hopefully be able to provide some useful insight. I would also encourage schools that have questions around the use of new technologies to come along to one of our annual Technology Futures days this July. There are still places left and a good mix of workshops available on both the Primary and Secondary days. Anyone interested can get more details and register online for free at Andrew"

Thanks Andrew. It is wonderful to know that I have colleagues, like you, ahead of the game and working these things out.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

My colleague Peter Harris, headteacher at Farsley Farfield Primary School, clearly isn't as passionate about the RM Asus Minibook as I am. Unlike me Peter is seriously into ICT in schools and I respect and welcome his views...

"Hi Chris,

Are you on an RM commission or what? As I said before, the RM Minibook appears to have some serious limitations, not least the inability to easily combine with existing networks and the screen size that messes up the appearance of our learning platform. They have also yet to provide a mobile internet 'dongle-type' solution. The Windows version will probably be expensive and the LINUX can't run most of our legacy software.

The TES article was very basic and didn't address these issues. Have any Leeds schools actually tried using a job lot of these? I hear almost nothing strategic from Ed Leeds ICT in terms of really detailed case studies. I appreciate that you have had a positive personal experience but does that necessarily translate at a school level? I have a Mac at home that is the absolute business, but integrating ten into school has been a pain for many of the reasons I suggest could apply to the minibooks. People always go 'Wow you've got a cool set of Macs', but I always explain the pros and cons in practice.

What do your ICT colleagues think of the minibooks, and how do they disseminate their professional opinions to the likes of me? Peter"

For me it is a brilliant little notebook but Peter is right we need some case studies and to find out the real strengths and limitations in a school setting. Anyone out there want to comment and talk from their experience.

Monday, 23 June 2008

I finished the day at the Higher Level Teaching Assistant Celebration at the Village Hotel..

My colleague Monica Tomkiss invited me to this, the ninth, celebration we have done to recognise the achievements of some talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues. Amazingly, we now have 618 HLTAs in Leeds with another 43 awaiting their results and a further 45 in training. This includes some who have followed the specialist route in primary PE, secondary mathematics and secondary science.

I am in awe of these colleagues who manage work, home and working for a qualification. The impact these fantastic colleagues are making is incredible and they have changed the learning landscape over the seven years I have been in Leeds.

I started the day a the second annual Heads of Physical Education Conference at Leeds Carnegie Stadium in Headingley...

My colleague Helen Plimmer had invited me to open the conference and it was great to be able to talk to this important group of colleagues who are making such a difference across Leeds working on our PE and School Sport Strategy. The strategy has five key themes:
  • Leadership and volunteering;
  • High quality physical education;
  • Continuing professional development;
  • Communication;
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

The success of the strategy has meant that schools and clubs across the city have achieved our national targets and the stretch targets which has released additional resources which will be targeted at Key Stage 4 to further increase participation and continue to improve the quality of provision.

PE colleagues lead the way in so many areas: leadership, volunteering, coaching, teamwork, creativity, passion, quality and it is wonderful to see the impact on self-esteem, health and well-being.
I had this e-mail from my colleague Pauline Potter, headteacher at Seven Hills Primary School...

"Hi Chris, Hope you're well. I'm taking time out of a busy week to raise my head and think about the positives. I'm one of those people who gets bogged down by all the rubbish and negatives. So I thought I'd share with you my list of fab people who unfailingly are helpful, patient, professional and supportive -
  • Steve Bland and Tiana Farqhoy -Finance
  • Jane Irving -Extended Schools finance
  • Robert Thirtle -Estate Management
  • Janet in Admissions
  • Richard Lewis -Ogden -PACE
  • Noleta Bryant -Pay+Grading (deserves a medal!!)
  • Phil Riozzi -SIP

There, that feels better! Take care, Pauline"

It is great when a colleague simply takes the time to thank those people who help us make it through the day. It's also amazing how good it makes you fell just saying thank you.



Social and emotional aspects of life seem to have dominated my week and it made me realise, once again, how important emotional intelligence is in our world...

Lats week I had lunch with colleagues from a European project looking at the education of young people in public care. They were in Leeds to look at our Stepping Stones project; the fabulous work that Ken Campbell and his colleagues are doing with some amazing young people. We had colleagues from the Bertelsmann Prize team over in Leeds for a couple of days filming our work for the symposium and award ceremony in September; which will celebrate the brilliant work that Pauline Rosenthal, Denise Trickett, Peter Saunders, Steve Smith and their colleagues are doing. I spoke at the secondary 'Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning' Conference at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel; Chris Pollard and her colleagues organised a really special day to build on the fantastic work they have been doing on SEAL in primary schools. I also visited Wykebeck Primary School where Helen Cockerham and her colleagues are doing a brilliant job and releasing the magic with some wonderful children. I also saw Shirley Parks who is having a great time working for Partnerships for Schools on the Building Schools for the Future programme and now making a real difference on a national stage.

What is it about these colleagues that mark them out as special? They are all emotionally intelligent and recognise that if we are really serious about excellence, high quality and creating a culture where everyone is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful it is vitally important that we connect with colleagues, with young people and their parents and carers; notice them, notice how they are feeling, look into their eyes, pick up on their body language and show them that we are interested and that we care... whatever it takes!
My colleague Robin Jahdi, our ContactPoint Support Officer, has been reading my blog and sent me this update...

"Hi Chris, A regular reader of your blog(s) here. Just a note regarding those Asus minibooks. Depending on what size screen you currently have, they may already have grown. While initially 7 inches, there is now the Eee 900 Series, which boasts a 9.1 inch screen. I personally am going to get the 901, which launches on 1st July, and has the larger screen and Bluetooth capability. I know that there is a 10 inch screen that has launched in the Far East, though I'm unsure as to its release situation over here. I think the 901 will retail at about £310 after VAT, so that's not too bad.

Speaking of computers and websites, I'd like to direct your attention, however briefly, as I know you're busy, to the Computers for Pupils website. My Team Leader, Richard Irvine, is heading up this great project as well as leading implementation on ContactPoint, and as a result I have helped that small team (just Richard and Lizzie Guinness on the Education Leeds side of things, though they work with Steph from Stone Computers and our various High School contacts) develop their website. It's nothing too flashy, but the emphasis has been on getting information directly to our young people, and their parents and carers, in as few words and clicks as possible. It's a worthy project, as it means a lot of young people who may otherwise not get to use information technology for their school work will miss out no longer! We are also planning on going online with ContactPoint, in order to keep our professional friends informed; I'll be sure to let you know when we go live with that. Best regards, Robin."

Richard, Robin and colleagues are doing some great stuff with our 'Computers for Pupils' project and Contact Point.