Friday, 26 September 2008

I had lunch with Alison Chin, headteacher at Swinnow Primary School ,Peter Harris, headteacher at Farsley Farfield Primary School and Jackie Reid from Stanningley Primary School...

We had all been invited to The Yorkshire Band of Hope celebration event at the Loft Leeds Creative Event Space. The Yorkshire Band of Hope was founded in 1847, the same year that Armley Prison opened. The organisation is working with schools to help young people make positive choices and steer them away from the hrmful use of drugs. They have produced 'Breaking the Cycle' software which is a series of lessons designed to be used with an interactive whiteboard and is targeted at Key Stage 2 and 3. They also run 'Drug Proofing Your Kids' a six week course for parents and carers. You can find out more by visiting their website at
It's great to receive good news about our schools so I was delighted to recieve this e-mail from Cllr Brenda Lancaster...

"Hello Chris, I am e-mailing to let you know about some favourable comments about the City of Leeds School from Foster Carers in Leeds. The Foster Carers held a very successful Playscheme for our Looked After Children and said how helpful the staff were, what a super venue and how much all the children and young people had enjoyed the three week activities. Kind Regards. Brenda Lancaster"

Cllr Lancaster chairs the Foster Carers Liaison Group and it is deeply encouraging to hear about the great work they are doing and the support they have received from colleagues at City of Leeds School.
I moved on to the Headingley Experience to attend an Eco Project led by Mark Edwards, headteacher at Shire Oak Primary School...

Shire Oak CE Primary School was awarded a grant by NCSL and ENCAMS to develop a community of practice and the leadership to develop sustainable schools. Mark and his colleagues t Shire Oak CE Primary School are working with colleagues and children from St Chad's CE Primary School, Weetwood Primary School, Kirkstall Valley Primary School and Little London Community Primary School to discuss sustainability and plan a project in their own school.

It was great to see 125 children in groups looking at issues to do with school buildings and grounds, energy and water, food and drink, purchasing and waste, travel and transport, inclusion and participation, local well-being and global dimensions. The children and colleagues had all walked to Headingley, were having fair trade drinks and snacks and had brought their own packed lunch with a focus on composting, recycling and reusing. I hope that these 125 children, some of whom are in the picture with me, will become great ambassadors for the environment and sustainable schools.

This is a great project which I know my colleague Steve Ruse will be keen to connect to our developing work on sustainable schools.
I started the day at Victoria Primary School...

Alison Carrick, the new headteacher, is working on some of the key issues for her and her team: attendance, behaviour and engagement with families and the community. Alison is so enthusiastic about her new school and it's potential to further develop building on the work in the early years to become a brilliant learning place serving this interesting little piece of Leeds.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

I went on to Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School to meet some of their School Council...

Vicki Stagg had invited me to the school to meet these young people, to look around and to discuss some of the problems they were experiencing with the PFI contract. It was great to meet this talented group of students and listen to them clearly articulating the things that they liked about the building, the things that simply weren't working well and the things that weren't working at all.

PFI has transformed the learning landscape here in Leeds but the success of each scheme critically depends on the quality of the partner organisations and their commitment to what we are trying to achieve. It is important to remember that in every scheme the school 'belongs' in the most important sense not to the company, not to the Council or Education Leeds but to the young people and the community it serves. It cannot be acceptable that the school isn't clean, that the toilets are not properly maintained and that the site should be covered in litter. It is also important that the building supports the delivery of the curriculum and the learning pathways we are building for our young people. We can do better than this and we must all work with the students to make the school somewhere we can all be proud of.
I moved on to Rosebank Primary School...

This is a great little primary school serving a hugely rich and diverse population. Gillian Young, the headteacher, and her talented team are doing a wonderful job particularly in the early years. The positive and inclusive culture and ethos are real strengths and this is a wonderful oasis of green space, play space and art space.
I moved swiftly on to Hillcrest Primary School to attend the Breakfast Meeting for new headteachers at the Space@ Centre...

Having been at the wrong Space@ Dirk Gilleard and I arrived late for breakfast with this group of colleagues. It was great to share some time with these newly or recently appointed headteachers and explore what it takes to build brilliant.
If we want to build brilliant schools where children and young people are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful we need to work to ensure that all our colleagues are happy, healthy, safe and successful and we need to model the behaviours we want to see from our colleagues and from our young people.

We are fortunate to have this great group of colleagues leading our schools and shaping the future for our children and young people. We must work with them as part of their team and as part of Team Children Leeds to release the magic.
I started the day at Little London Primary School...

It was a surprise for Jill Wood, headteacher at this great little school, who wasn't expecting me but showed me round and introduced me to some of her team. We looked at the new area based facilities being built on site and explored the garden which has grown a lot since I last visited the school. I am always impressed by Jill's enthusiasm, passion and energy which is releasing a real magic at Little London Primary School.
My colleague Rosie Denison wants to add the following element to my list of things needed by brilliant organisations...

"Hello Chris, To complete your recipe I would include: ... transparent communication promoting a culture of openess and reassurance for colleagues to be confident at all levels to release the magic. Rosie"

Has anyone else anything to add?
My colleague Linda Bowles, headteacher at Carr Manor Primary School sent us this wonderful message...

"Dear Chris & Dorothy, Just a note to let you both know that I went to the NCSL event in Leeds today that Dorothy had recommended me to attend. The invitees were a range of people from both Primary & Secondary backgrounds .........heads, NCSL people, Mark Pattison etc. The people there were either involved in leadership roles and/or succession planning. What emerged during the day was the link between growing leaders in good schools , heads being better heads because of their involvemnt "outside" the school and succession planning.

Anyway the point of my writing is to let you know that what is happening in the Primary sector in Leeds is a credit to you both. Heads have been encouraged for quite a few years now to participate in Leadership programmes like Primary Strategy Leaders, Progress Matters, sharing expertise by working alongside other HT colleagues, encouraging schools to share their expertise at middle leader level, encouraging all categories of schools to enter into a partnership whatever their "category" etc etc. Anyway just thought you needed a pat on the back for the work in Leeds. Linda"

It's greatv to have this sort of encouragement from one of our best primary headteachers.


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

I visited Micklefield CE Primary School this afternoon...

I had been invited by Melissa, who is in Year 5, to the school's open evening which was an opportunity for everyone to meet Mrs Dodsworth, the new headteacher, and to show everyone what this little primary school was doing to release the magic. Melissa was a wonderful guide and probably one of the best adverts for the school as she told me everything she could about Micklefield CE Primary School.

It was great to visit the school again and to see the real progress the school is making.
Everyone is raving about our new schools and it is fantastic to see that we are re-imagining our schools to better reflect the needs of our learners...

Our experience with PfI and Building Schools for the Future, influenced by visits to Stockholm, has created new brilliant learning places that begin to see our young learners as active partners in developing their own learning pathways, their learning choices, their learning curriculum and their learning experiences. At Roundhay, Lawnswood, Carr Manor, John Smeaton, Ralph Thoresby, South Leeds, Primrose, Allerton High, Pudsey Grangefield and Rodillian we have created buildings which respond to the different learning styles, needs and interests of our young people.

In these brilliant learning places we are developing new ‘learning contracts’ between learner and school and between school and learner. These contracts are being used to redefine the relationships and practices that occur in our schools and the learning opportunities that exist across and beyond institutions. We are giving learners greater choice over the following:
  • When they learn;
  • Where they learn;
  • What they learn;
  • Who they learn with;
  • How they learn.
To build world class provision consistently across Leeds we must continue to work with our learners to give them even greater choices and greater responsibility over their learning.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

This afternoon I attended the launch of "No Limits"...

Our brilliant Visually Impaired Team has been working to personalise the curriculum to address the needs of young people with visual impairment across the City. They have been working with young people from over 30 schools on a programme of sporting and adventurous activities. The "No Limits" programme took place at John Charles Sports Centre involving rugby, football, goalball, gymnastics, cricket and ju jitsu. Some young people also took part in a three day programme where they erected a tent, went orienteering, sailing, walking and tree climbing.

The Team are now extending the programme during this year and Mike Brace was at the launch of this new approach. Mike was blinded by a firework when he was ten and has used his passion for sport to enrich his life, undertaking over 50 sports ranging from surfing and sailing to skiing and cricket. Mike has run marathons, skiied marathons and canoed marathons as well as representing his country in three world championships, six paralympics and two European championships. Mike has managed athletics teams in European and world championships, managed the first England Blind Cricket Team, founded the Metro Sports Club for the Blind and was involved in setting up British Blind Sport, British Ski Club for the Disabled and the British Paralympic Association. Mike has been Chairman of British Blind Sport and Chairman of the British Paralympic Association. Mike is Chief Executive of Vision 2020 UK and is a Board Member of London 2012.

Mike's passion, energy and belief shone through his session where he argued that every child should have a fundamental entitlement to sport and activity and that we need to work to remove the barriers that limit the potential of any child with a disability.
My colleague Philip Docherty, from our Families and Schools Together team, sent me some great photos from the INVEST Celebration at the Civic Hall...

Wonderful memories of a great group of mums.
I started the day today at the Safer Schools Event at the Royal Armouries...

The morning, demonstrated for me, the developing partnership here in Leeds between Education Leeds, the City Council, the Royal Armouries, the West Yorkshire Police and some of our schools to ensure that our young people are safe. I know that we all recognise that this is a hugely important local, regional and national issue, so where were the headteachers!

As always there are so many areas where Leeds is leading the way with this vital agenda:
  • Our 'No to Knives' Campaign;
  • Our Weapons Awareness Programmes;
  • Our 'Be Healthy, Stay Safe' Programme;
  • Our 'The Power of Me' Initiative;
  • Our creative approaches throuigh Artforms;
  • Our Alternative Programmes;
  • The South Leeds Partnership;
  • And much, much more!

I recognise that everyone is busy but we must all work hard to develop an entitlement for all young people in Leeds; through a coherent and joined up approach with intensive programmes that additionally target the most vulnerable and those at risk of offending as well as those who fall into the Youth Justice System.

With an issue like this we need to engage young people, parents and carers, communities, faith groups, local politicians and school based colleagues to build consensus, commitment and local action. This would help us build strong, vibrant and harmonious communities around our increasingly successful schools.

This morning provided a strong platform on which we must continue to build brilliant!


Monday, 22 September 2008

I received a present in the post today...

My colleague Elaine Kay-Devanney, headteacher at Blackgates Primary School sent me a copy of 'We Are Writers!' a collection of creative writing by her children. It is a wonderful celebration of their imagination and talent and gives a real glimpse of their passions and interests.

The introduction to this wonderful little publication is by Michael Morpurgo and it says "Every writer you know and love, Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Anthony Horowitz, JK Rowling, all of us, have all done what you've done. Like you they've faced the empty page, dreamed their dream, crafted their tale, made their magic. That's what storymaking is, it's magic making, and we can all do it because each of us in our own way is a dream maker, a tale teller and a magician."

What a wonderful way to introduce children to writing and the power and magic of the storyteller and I love it!.
I went on to one of our brilliant primary schools to celebrate with the Mighty Zulu Nation...

Robin Hood Primary School is committed to developing international links to extend their children's experiences. They are one of the small group of schools in Leeds holding the full International Schools Award and have links with schools in Ceuta, India, Iceland, Martinique, Spain and Turkey. We were celebrating the launch of their new international adventure with Yeadon Westfield Junior School and Royd's School and Language College. They have received funding from the British Council for a Connecting Classroom project with schools from Uganda and Senegal.

The celebration included the Mighty Zuly Nation; a multi-talented and versatile group; theatre company, band, dance troupe, storytellers and educators all rolled into one. This brilliant group of singers, dancers and percussionists were doing workshops during the day and had certainly released a real WOW factor on very special day.

I met with members of the school councils from Robin Hood Primary School and Westfield Junior School as well as the team who had organised the Connecting Classroom project and some of the Mighty Zulu Nation. It was great to listen to these magnificent dancers talking about their culture, their education and what they are doing. The children were wonderful advocates for their schools: bright, articulate, engaged and interested . I also had the opportunity to look around this fantastic primary school where a really talented team are releasing the magic and doing incredible things with ICT. You can find out more at their amazing website at If you want to book the Mighty Zulu Nation visit their website at
I started the day at the Narrowing the Gap Board at the Hamara Healthy Living Centre...

Irene Lucas, Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council, talked about the journey she had been on over the last seven years guiding South Tyneside from problem authority to somewhere with a mission to deliver great services and providing voice and choice for its communities and individuals. Irene has placed well-being and innovation at the heart of this small authority.

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."

Well-being, happiness and culture have shaped their big initiatives:
  • positive parenting;
  • emotional resilience;
  • guaranteed apprenticeships;
  • reducing depression;
  • reducing financial exclusion;
  • reducing isolation of older people;
  • neighbourhood working;
  • sense of place.
Irene talked about the importance of a Total Partnership approach where 'people will innovate if they are allowed to.' A whole system approach releasing the potential of everyone... because they are worth it!

Irene's passion, commitment and energy has clearly transformed South Tyneside... and I am sure that we can learn a lot from what their focus on well-being, happiness and culture.
What a week!

Three great events and three great schools spliced together with meetings about provision in Zhejiang Province in China, further developing the Breeze youth festival and managing the National Challenge.

The three events were the 'Good to Great' conference at the Town Hall, the Bursars and School Administrators Conference at Elland Road and the Leadership Forum at Weetwood Hall. The three schools were Haigh Road Infant School, Harewood CE Primary School and St Luke's CE Primary School. Three wonderful little schools releasing the magic in their communities.

So after such an exhausting week what have I learned? I think the things that make brilliant events, brilliant schools and brilliant organisations are...
  • strong, disciplined, focused and passionate leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs underpinning everything;
  • a talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative team;
  • a rich, exciting and engaging offer;
  • a powerful, stimulating and interesting learning place;
  • confident, creative and passionate use of appropriate strategies and approaches to release the magic;
  • high shared expectations of everyone;
  • deep and meaningful relationships;
  • beautiful systems to track and support high performance; and
  • high engagement and involvement.

I need your help here and would welcome feedback... is this the recipe for outstanding... for releasing a very special magic or have I missed something?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

I read about the Green Energy for Schools scheme...

The co-op has already invested in solar panels at 100 schools and is looking to invest an additional million pounds to take this initiative forward. If you are interested visit
Today is the United Nations International Day of Peace...

"There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace." Kofi Annan

Those of us looking for peace will today remember that we must continue to work to make the world a better place for our children and young people. Each year, events take place all around the world for the International Day of Peace which provide an opportunity to inspire individuals and empower communities to bring peace to our children and young people.

But what can I do I hear you ask. Simple, you can light a candle, providing a little bit of light in the darkness, and just think about the millions of children whose lives are blighted by poverty, fear and war.