Saturday, 13 September 2008

My colleague Jane Haswell sent me this...

"Chris, Thanks for attending the celebration yesterday Chris. I know in my speech yesterday I mentioned that some of the ladies there yesterday were receiving their first qualification since leaving school and also the lady from OCN echoed that in her talk. In your blog you have also mentioned this, I would like to redress the balance a bit by pointing out that many of the parents who attend INVEST, including attendees yesterday, are in fact graduates and that the course is inclusive and there really is something in it for everyone."

Thanks for the reminder, Jane. it's great to know that our brilliant programmes reach everyone with a child in Leeds.

Friday, 12 September 2008

This evening I attended the official opening of the new Leeds City Museum...

It is simply brilliant and brings a 21st century museum to the heart of Leeds, occupying the wonderful Leeds Institute Building in Millenium Square. It houses, on four fantastic floors, five exciting galleries: the Leeds Story, the Leeds Arena, Life on Earth, World View: Out of Africa and Ancient Worlds as well as special exhibitions, a cafe, shop and learning centre. And best of all, it's free!

My highlight at the opening was the performance by children from Westgate Primary School in Otley who sang and were wonderful. This amazing Museum was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Leeds City Council and I hope that every school in Leeds will want to visit and experience the magic.
My colleague Liz Talmadge sent me a wonderful paper called 'Leading through Adversity: What to do when 'failing' becomes the latest fashion' a Hay Group Viewpoint publication. This is a little bit of the common sense from the paper...

"How then do schools persuade talent from walking when the going gets tough? Hay Group believes in focusing on the basics:
  • Provide clarity of strategy direction and pace.
  • Instil trust and confidence in the most driven, focused staff.
  • Address fundamental concerns – everyone needs to know what is expected of them, what their objectives are and the behaviours they should be exhibiting.
  • Put staff in roles most suited to their skills and ambitions.
  • Provide the resources for people to do their jobs properly.
  • Act quickly – the longer a school waits, the more they create a vacuum, leaving employees to worry and draw their own conclusions about what the National Challenge means to them.

Leaders must set the tone and model the behaviours around honesty, telling people what is known and admitting what is not, explaining why, how and when things need to happen. For the National Challenge, this means collaborating with a broad group of people and inviting them to share their concerns and ideas.

At the same time, healthy levels of stress and pressure are important levers for change. Honesty about the direction of travel and the expectations of staff will provide the school with a way of monitoring and addressing performance. Poor performing staff should be held to account. It may even be the right time for some of them to part company with the school.

Local solutions are the answer. Doubtless the National Challenge will be an ongoing and complex initiative. However, we should not lose sight of the opportunities it creates for schools and local authorities to solidify their partnership. They should adopt broad strategies to harness the emotional resources within their workforce, get the best performance from their staff and ultimately deliver better outcomes for children. Authorities must assess leadership capacity across all schools in their region and consider which leaders could make a system contribution beyond their own organisation by offering support for schools involved in the National Challenge."

Everyone should read this paper. You can download a copy at the Hay Group website at It sits in the organisational effectiveness section.


My colleague Allan Hudson, Transport Services Manager in our Admissions & Transport team sent me this at the end of a long hard week...

"Chris, I thought you might be interested in some cutting edge developmental work we are engaged in which will link our home to school transport and sustainable travel policies with the roll out of Yellow School buses.

As you can see, zero emissions and if they take it in turns to pedal, stronger, fitter and healthier kids! Allan."


Heather sent me some more photographs from Allerton High...

Thanks Heather.

Come on colleagues where are the pictures of Pudsey Grangefield and Rodillian?


Thursday, 11 September 2008

I spend lunchtime today at the Civic Hall with a group of parents who had been through our INVEST programme...

The INVEST programme is the volunteering programme developed by Jane Haswell in our Families and Schools Together Team. I was there to present certificates to a group of parents who had completed the volunteering course my colleague Jane has developed and which now can be accredited through the Open College Network. The event started with a DVD showing the impact this programme is having across Leeds with What have you done today to make you feel proud as the musical background.... and this event made me deeply proud to be part of the team here at Education Leeds.

The parenting programmes in Leeds are brilliant and reaching groups of mums and dads who missed out on qualifications and courses at school and it is wonderful to see and celebrate their successses. This event celebrated the achievements of parents, mums, at five great Leeds primary schools and a wonderful Children's Centre:
  • Cottingley Primary School;
  • Five Lanes Primary School;
  • Harehills Primary School
  • Hovingham Primary School;
  • Raynville Primary School;
  • Hawksworth Wood Children's Centre.

These programmes are changing lives and clearly having an extra-ordinary impact in some of our most diverse communities. Chris Bennett, Val Cain and the FAST team are doing a brilliant job. I hope that we will have some photos later.


My colleague Andy Humphreys has sent me another set of figures...

"Chris, Here's the extra value at KS4 added since Education Leeds started in 2001.
An extra 8176 pupils have achieved 5+A*-C since 2001; almost a whole additional Leeds year group cohort achieving 5+A*-C. Now that IS value added !! Andy"

Seems we are making a difference!


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

My colleague Andy Humphreys, Research and Information Officer in our fantastic Performance Management and Information Team responded to my request about the number of young people getting good GCSEs now compared to 2001...

"Hi Chris, Your recent blog entry regarding KS4 improvements since 2001.... well, since you asked, I thought I'd work it out. In 2001, 39.6% of 8271 pupils in Leeds schools achieved 5+ A*-C, which is 3275 pupils. In 2008 we believe that more than 62% of pupils will have achieved 5+A*-C, which is at least 5355. Which means an extra 2080 pupils will have achieved the 5+A*-C standard at KS4 - great stuff !

OK Andy, so over the years from 2001 to 2008 how many young people have achieved good GCSEs compared to the 2001 baseline?


I have seen the future and it's here now at Allerton High School and it is simply brilliant...

I visited Allerton High School this morning with Rosie Winterton MP ,Minister for Yorkshire, and her team and they were bowled over by the new building which has taken our buildings programme to new heights and the future is certainly bright! Elaiane Silson, Headteacher and Heather Scott, Deputy Headteacher and their fantastic team have worked a miracle which I know has been replicated at Pudsey Grangefield by Ken Cornforth and his team and at Rodillian School by Andrew Goulty and his team. These brilliant colleagues have taken the 'Building Schools for the Future' programme to create some truly inspiration learning places.
My colleague Victoria Relton who is Marketing and Communications Officer with the Leeds Learning Network team has just been to see me to ask me to help her with a competition linked to the new learning platform...

Apple have provided two iPod shuffles and two young people from Fountain Primary School and Temple Newsam Halton Primary School have won these fantastic prizes... brilliant.
Yesterday was one of those crazy days where you dash from meeting to meeting and at the end of it all wonder what difference you have actually made...

In terms of making a difference, I was asked by a colleague about the progress we have made since 2001 with our GCSE results and since I couldn't sleep last night I worked it out. I calculate that over the last seven years across Leeds over 6500 more young people achieved 5+ good GCSE grades than the baseline we inherited in 2001. In 2008 an around 1850 young people across Leeds achieved 5+ good GCSE grade compared to 2001 and this year over 500 more achieved this benchmark compared to last year.

I know that the mathematicians amonst us will check my calculations and if anyone want to correct or update this please let me know.

Monday, 8 September 2008

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

These sessions are inspiring because I get the chance to meet the new starters who 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 everything you would want our new colleagues to be; bright, energetic, interested, engaged and enthusiastic... as well as talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful!

All our colleagues need to be happy, healthy and safe if we want to release their potential and help them really make a difference as part of the team. We all need to coach, support and work with these new colleagues to release their potential and continue to make Education Leeds an even better place to work.
My colleague Peter Saunders sent me some pictures of our time in Germany with the Bertelsmann Foundation team...

I hope that there will be some more pictures later.
My colleague Ken Campbell e-mailed me with some good news today...

We are delighted that Dinneka Smilie has been shortlisted for one of this year’s National Aimhigher Awards. Dinneka was shortlisted by a panel of representatives from HEFCE, DIUS and Action on Access for the Aimhigher Learner Achievement 6th Form / FE Learner Award. Anyone who knows Dinneka is aware what a fantastic and talented young woman she is, so let's all hope that Dinneka goes on to win the award when she goes to the ceremony at the Tower Hotel in London on 1st October.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

You have another chance to enter the annual Leeds Peace Poetry competition...

The competition started in 2002 and is supported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, Leeds Trinity and All Saints College and Leeds Metropolitan University as well as Education Leeds. This year the theme is 'Picture Peace' and the competition is open to all primary and secondary schools here in Leeds.

Over the last six years, thousands of children have written peace poems and I hope that once again this year children and young people will take this opportunity to think about why peace is important in our world and picture peace! Competition entries should be sent to Nicola Megson, Deputy Editor at the Yorkshire Evening Post, Wellington Street, Leeds LS1 1RF.
We are currently consulting on developing a new Children and Young People's Plan for 2009 - 2014...

The consultation provides colleagues with an opportunity to reflect on where we are now with our support for children, young people and their families and the progress we have made. It will also help us determine what we need to change in the light of the changing national and local context to continue to improve the lives of the children and young people in Leeds. The new CYPP will help us provide a shared framework and a renewed focus for all the partners in Children Leeds and help inform our work, our planning and the way we target and prioritise our efforts.

The consultation ends on 30 September and I hope that colleagues in schools and Education Leeds will engage with this by going on the Leeds Initiative's Children Leeds web-site at
There was an interesting article in the Sunday Times today about Martin Seligman's work on 'positive psychology' being launched as a national programme following a small scale pilot in South Tyneside, Hertfordshire and Manchester...

I remember this initiative starting and this was on the blog in May 2007!

Despite everything research suggests that we are no happier now than we were 50 years ago. In his book 'Authentic Happiness' Martin Seligman argues that happiness is not the result of good genes or good luck and that we can teach people to be happy by cultivating and using many of the strengths and traits colleagues possess including kindness, originality, humour, optimism and generosity. by identifying the very best in ourselves Seligman argues that we can improve the world around us and achieve new and sustainable levels of commitment, contentment and meaning.

Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-being Programme in the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, argues that the key to success is to give higher priority to promoting better human relationships. He believes that the revolution to build character should be a major aim in every school with expert teachers of PSHE for whom that is their full-time mission and passion. Richard argues that PSHE is an extraordinarily difficult subject to teach but that we increasingly know what works and what does not. PSHE teaching must be based increasingly on evidence based research about what changes children and young people.

And this was on the blog in September 2007!

An American study has found that a school pupil’s self-discipline is a stronger predictor of their future academic success than their IQ, leading researchers to conclude that self-discipline may be the “royal road” to building academic achievement. In a first study, Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman recruited 140 school children (average age 13 years) at the start of the academic year. In the Autumn, the children, their parents and teachers, all completed questionnaires about the children’s self-discipline. The measures asked things about the children’s ability to follow rules, to avoid acting impulsively, and to put off instant rewards for later gratification. Scores from the different measures were combined to create an overall indicator of self-discipline.The researchers found self-discipline predicted all sorts of academic measures taken seven months later, including the children’s average grade for the academic year, their Spring exam result and their selection into High School. A second study with 164 children (average age 13) followed a similar procedure but also involved the children taking an IQ test in the Autumn. Self-discipline again predicted later academic performance, as measured by their average grade for the year and their Spring exam result. Moreover, the researchers found that the children’s self-discipline scores accounted for twice as much of the variation in their later academic performance as their IQ did. The researchers said “Underachievement among American youth is often blamed on inadequate teachers, boring textbooks, and large class sizes. We suggest another reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline”.

If you want to find out more you can read the report Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents in the Journal of Pyschological Science at and what does not!

Both Martin Seligman and Richard Layard use the example of the Penn Resiliency Programme in Pennsylvania which focuses on children understanding their own emotions and caring for others. I am not saying that this programme is the answer but it has had incredible outcomes and you can find out more at

This initiative began after the Pacific Institute's Global Conference in York a couple of years ago where Martin Seligman spoke about the Penn Resiliency Programme. The work on well-being and happiness will apparently be showcased at a DCSF supported conference on Tuesday. It has the same basic elements as the Investment in Excellence, STEPS and 'Go For It' programmes we are already developing and delivering here in Leeds... and we know that it works so it is great to see that the DCSF are taking this important work forward.
It has been a funny week; schools back at work, fantastic new buildings being handed over and a quick trip to Germany and back...

My trip to Gutersloh made me realise once again, as I escaped from the intensity of being in Leeds, what a fantastic and very special organisation Education Leeds is. The accolades, the praise and the recognition we received from colleagues at the Bertelsmann Foundation for our work on 'Integration through Education: Fairness for All' and the feedback after the seminar where I talked about Education Leeds and its mission was humbling in so many ways.

To be nominated and taken forward as one of four examples of brilliant practice from across the world, four examples out of sixty nominations, is hard to take in but they also understood the critical importance and uniqueness of our culture, our leadership, our attitudes, our values and our people; all of which, they recognised, shape and drive every aspect of our work here in this wonderful city.

The Bertelsmann Foundation is, like Education Leeds, a unique and very special organisation: one from which we can learn and one with which we can share ideas and approaches. They share our search for what makes brilliant, our passion for equity and fairness, our commitment to music and the arts, our belief in our children and young people and like us they want to change the world to make it a better place for children, families and communities. They understand the need to listen and learn, to research and reflect, to influence and understand and most importantly to strive, to act and to get things done. They understand that actions speak louder than words, that blood, sweat and tears change the world and that it is not the critic who counts but the actor on the stage.

Peter and I were fired up by our visit and by what we learned. I keep thinking of the Calvin Coolidge quote..."Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." After a year where we have seen real success and achieved great things our slogan must be 'press on'. We have still got a lot to do to change the world for the children, families and communities we serve but reassuringly we are not alone and the solutions are out there in Toronto, Malmo, Zurich and at the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Keep the faith.