Friday, 3 October 2008


Our schools are on the brink of being transformed by learning technologies...

Our children live in an enthusiastic, animated and passionate world; a digital world of YouTube, PS, Wii, DS and much, much more... and schools sadly lag behind with many of us still chasing whiteboards, workstations and suites. But how do we do this? I know that schools like Robin Hood Primary School and Pudsey Grangefield are leading the way with this.

Answers on a postcard.

Awards for Governors

The National Governors' Association has introduced a new set of awards to recognise brilliant governors...

The new awards are aimed at recognising governors who have excelled in challenging circumstances, pioneered new and innovative ways of working or run brilliant projects. Do we know of anyone worth nominating? You can nominate a governor on the NGA website at
I managed to get to the Elmete and Blenheim Centres this morning...

I have been so busy that I haven't managed to get to see the colleagues based there as often as I would like. However, I was struck during my visits by the amazing colleagues who I work with; their enthusiasm, passion, commitment, creativity, imagination and sheer hard work shone out as they talked to me about new courses and materials, schools and colleagues and the difference we are making.

It is such a privilege to work with such talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful people who are releasing so much magic across Leeds.
I was really sad that a colleague I have known and respected for the last seven years decided to resign this week...

Liz Bisson, who was headteacher at Parklands Girls High School in Seacroft, decided to go after spending significant part of her professional life at the school. Liz was fiercely proud and independent, a thoughtful, dedicated and passionate colleague who cared deeply about Parklands and the hugely significant contribution it made to the young women it served, their families and the community.

Personally, in this crazy world of the National Challenge, I will miss Liz and the considerable contribution she made to learning and achievement, in its widest and most important sense, here in Leeds.
I was contacted by my colleague Georgina Winterburn, headteacher at Roundhay St John's CE Primary School...

"Good afternoon Chris If I tell you about some successes we're having first, can I then have a great big moan?
Success: We have been "consulting with stakeholders" using some of the TDA school improvement stuff and it has really helped us to be focussed and get to the root of what we need to do. It has also highlighted to me the difference it makes when staff are involved, I know it's a cliche but having ownership works. I'm feeling really positive about how things are going and am excited for our future.
Moan: Please can someone do something about emails? Everyday I get emails to me, not the secretary, but ones to me that should be going to subject leaders. Why can't Education Leeds staff stop being lazy by just using the headteacher email list to send info, but get the email addresses of the relevant staff. Everytime people go on courses they are asked to give their email address so why aren't they used? Forwarding emails is using up too much headteacher time. If you can affect change at all in this area I would be forever grateful .... honest.

In the meantime, have a good weekend with plenty of red wine and dark chocolate. Georgina"

Georgina is right, as always, that ownership, empowerment and trust are the keys to success. We do need to help headteachers by routing materials to colleagues in schools rather than clogging up headteachers inboxes. Any suggestions as to how we do this would be welcome.
I heard from one of my favourite schools this week. My colleagues Jane Fisher sent me this...

"Dear Chris, Just a quick update on all the exciting things happening here! I have redone the long term planning for Year 2 and we are putting SEAL at the heart of's an experiment... but so far the children are really enjoying their learning experience. We also have some new have done lots of work on new school rules. Hope you enjoy the updates on my site.. Jane"

You can visit the wonderful Hovingham Primary School website at and it's well worth the visit. I know that Jane would be really pleased if people did take a look and maybe share some feedback which she could pass on to her children.


Nomination for National Aimhigher Awards Scheme

My colleague Ken Campbell who heads up our Stepping Stones project let me know about another of our successes...

Dinneka Smillie was nominated in the 6th Form Aimhigher Learner category for the 2008 National Aimhigher Awards Scheme... and she won! There were over 130 entries in total, and so being chosen as a winner is a wonderful celebration of and recognition of the quality of Ken's work and the high level of involvement Education Leeds has with the Aimhigher programme. Dinneka and her grandad went to the awards ceremony on the evening of 1st October in London, where she received her award from the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the Right Honourable John Denham MP. Dinneka was also presented with a signed certificate on the evening, and had the opportunity to meet others who are involved in the Aimhigher programme.

Dinneka has been mentored by Andrew Edwards host of BBC Radio Leeds 'Breakfast Show' and she is a brilliant advert for the City of Leeds, mentoring, AimHigher and the work we are all doing to promote and develop our fantastic young people... she is simply magic!
My colleague Andrew Hodkinson who heads up the West Oaks SILC sent me this e-mail...

Dear Chris, I have just got back from London and attach an extract from our weekly newsletter to staff; which I thought you might be interested in. Kind regards Andrew.

"Travelling back on the train from London last night gives you plenty of time to reflect on your and others practice. I have attended the Leading Edge National Conference and Impact and Innovation awards ceremony in London. There are 218 Leading edge partnerships ( LEPP) in the country involving some 800+ schools. Leading edge was established in 2003 to encourage schools to work in partnership to solve some of the most intractable problems in education. LEPP consultant heads were asked to nominate any partnership that stood out for them this year. LEPP wanted to recognise some of the outstanding work that is taking place and selected schools who have been particularly innovative and had clear impact in raising achievement across their partnership. Amazingly; West Oaks were one of the 24 Impact and Innovation winners and in a group dominated by southern partnerships we are clearly proud. This is yet another fantastic achievement for the school and in particular Jane Harrison who has developed and driven this project. Well done also to Oakwood PRU, Oakwood Primary, Parklands Primary, Shakespeare Primary, Seacroft Grange, Kulvinder Kaur, Preeti Mistry and Peter Galvin who have all contributed to this fantastic achievement."

There is so much brilliant work going on across Leeds and it is great to see some of it, and the contributions of great colleagues and great schools, acknowledged and celebrated in this way .

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I went to Wykebeck Primary School this morning...

As we walked around, Jenny Millington, the new headteacher, talked to me about her hopes and dreams for her school which is serving an exceptionally challenging community. Several staff talked to me about the culture and ethos Jenny has nurtured at the school; which was very evident. The school's greatest asset must be its children who were sparky, open, friendly and interested. This is a happy, safe and civilised little community and I know that Jenny and her team will be working to make it even more successful.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

We agreed today to work with Stockholm and Helsinki on an exciting three cities initiative...

The first international conference will be in Stockholm in early March 2009. We aim to start at midday on Monday 2 March, spend all day Tuesday together and finish Tuesday evening with the possibility of a longer stay to visit and shadow. A second meeting will be held in Helsinki w/b 21 September. This will be planned for a week and we will meet again in Leeds w/b 8 March 2010.

We need to develop a long term sustainable initiative perhaps over three years focused around leadership for tomorrow and the power of technology in shaping learning and provision for young people. We all agreed that we need to prepare a group of schools and agree with them the detailed objectives and outcomes from the programme.

Exciting times! We are hoping to get five schools, including at least one primary school and one post-16 setting, involved in this initiative so if anyone is interested please let me know.

I am flying home later this evening after a meeting with colleagues from Stockholm and Helsinki...

We hope to agree a series of small scale projects linking the three cities in three key areas; leadership development, ICT development and international links. I'll let you know how things go. I also hope to get to see a little bit of Helsinki this afternoon.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Having spent two days in Helsinki I have to ask myself whether this has been good use of my time...

As you know I always try to be optimistic and I know that however strange this conference has been, I have learnt something, made new contacts and if nothing else seen that we are doing great things and addressing the real challenges in Stockholm and Leeds.

I think the thing I have learnt most is that we need to develop a new framework for learning. A framework that answers three key questions...
  • What are the skills, competencies, knowledge and understanding we need to develop in our young people to stimulate design, creativity, imagination, teamwork,individuality, talent and to release the magic?
  • What kinds of learning pathways, learning platforms and learning environments do we need to provide for our young people to help them develop these skills, competencies, knowledge and understanding?
  • Which innovations and reforms are needed to enable us to create these learning pathways, learning platforms and learning environments?

Help me out with this. Answers on a postcard.
Interestingly the Makelanrinne Upper Secondary School coordinates the Metropolitan Area Sports Academy...

This is a network organisation which helps top level young athletes with their studies in school, polytechnic and university by creating opportunities for high quality training during the school day. The network works with 1000 young athletes; 65 Olympic level, an 250 national team level. It includes 18 educational establishments involving 20 different sports and their national federations employing 35 full-time coaches, ten supported by the Finnish Olympic Committee.

It is an incredible arrangement and we met members of the Olympic Committee team, coaches and world class young athletes who all talked passionately and enthusiastically about the Sports Academy Network which by creating partnerships that develop a synergy around the young athlete aims to guarantee success in sport and studies.

This is the future and exactly what we need in terms of our Post-16 provision.
I visited a brilliant Post-16 institution this morning...

I went to Makelanrinne Upper Secondary School for Sports. It's an upper secondary school with 820 students, around 600 of them young sports men and women. We were guided to the school by two of its talented students; Pihla Nikkarinen and Hannu Hastbacka. Pihla is a basketball player and Hannu is a footballer at this exceptional school where they combine their high level sports programme with their studies. Competition for places is fierce and the non-sport students are highly academic.

The students at this school choose the length of their studies, the length of their school day, the subjects they study to matriculation examination, their teachers and their schoolmates. A student programme runs for between two and four years with five eight week blocks of study every year. Students must study a minimum of 75 courses, with between 47 - 51 compulsory courses, and matriculate in four separate examinations at the end of their chosen courses in each of their chosen subjects. The compulsory elements are Finnish, another two languages, mathematics, history, religion and ethics with basic programmes in biology, geography, physics, chemistry, philosophy, psychology, social studies, art, music, health education, physical education and study counselling for all young people. The focus is on their studies, their training, sleeping and eating and managing their spare time within a framework of support and a culture of student responsibility.

I have seen the future. I saw it in Stockholm and now I have seen it in Helsinki... real Post - 16 excellence. It is amazing to see what these Post-16 institutions are like and the standards achieved by these young people in both their sports and their studies.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The afternoon session ended with work on futures education...

The Government, the principality and the schools have been exploring ways of developing futures education using a strategy called critical action scenarios. They start with their goals which are quite like the goals we all have:
  • securing equity and excellence;
  • securing health and well-being;
  • making everyone a life-long learner;
  • developing futures learning to maintain international competitiveness.
They then develop the means to these ends or the sub-goals which lead to the critical action scenarios. These are tested in multiple stakeholder critical evaluations to engage partners in refining and developing the scenarios.

I sometime wonder whether we are all speaking the same language... is this really the language of the learner, the language of brilliant learning, the language of brilliant learning organisations and brilliant learning places. Somehow, I doubt it. It would have been interesting to have young people listen to these conversations and see if they made any sense of it all.
You realise at conferences like this that thinkers, academics and researchers approach things very differently...

I feel that I have been doing this for ever and I know that we can't make people learn and that engaging and connecting with our young learners is the key to our success. Perhaps we also need to better understand the contradictions in the system and the fact that, however hard we work at it, school is an outdated learning platform and that we need to completely transform our learning places bearing in mind the power of technology to empower and transform learning for our young people. We need to reframe learning for a conceptual age developing creativity, communication, enterprise, flexibility, teamwork, design.


I am sitting here in Helsinki and I realise that the challenges we face are the same the world over...

"The future is already here - it's just unevenly distributed"

The OECD/CERI Conference on 'Schooling for Tomorrow' highlighted the major forces impacting on the future of schooling, the future of learning; demographic, economic, technological, social, political and cultural forces are changing our learning places.

I think the challenge for us all is in managing the contradictions between inclusion and exclusion. It is very obvious that our shared vision, values and beliefs are creating brilliant: brilliant learning, a brilliant workforce, brilliant leadership and brilliant learning places connecting with home and the communities we serve. However, as we struggle with this task re-imagining and re-engineering the learning landscape we risk forgetting many of the very young people we serve who through their attendance, choices, marginalisation and failure are excluded by these brilliant systems. We need to balance the search for brilliant with attempting to engage and work with young people and to listen and learn from their voices and choices.

I am not yet convinced that many of the colleagues at the OECD Conference understand these contradictions and the real challenges we are facing on the front line!


Sunday, 28 September 2008

I am in Helsinki for the OECD/CERI International Conference on Schooling for Tomorrow...

Allyn Pazienza and I are here to develop a three cities initiative linking Leeds with Stockholm and Helsinki which we hope will have three main elements:
  • Leadership and culture building on Dirk Gilleard's work on Brilliant Learning, Brilliant Leadership;
  • ICT building on the use of the ASUS notebook to link young people across the three cities;
  • School links connecting Leeds with Stockholm and Helsinki.
I'll let you know how things develop.