Saturday, 8 November 2008

I received this e-mail from my colleague Sarah Sinclair...

"Dear Chris, Last week was the latest Department of Health/DCSF national meeting for areas facing challenges with the teenage conception targets. whilst much of the news was the same, there was a big difference................Leeds was cited as an example of good practice!
Alison Hadley, national director, teenage pregnancy unit, talked very positively about the re-launch of the Leeds TP strategy and the very effective involvement and leadership of young people in both the day itself and their 'holding to account' role. Whilst this in itself is not huge, it does signify a growing confidence both in Leeds and with our national partners, that we can sort out this issue, and we can. Many thanks. Sarah"

I am particularly grateful to Kiera Swift and colleagues who have worked so hard on this vitally important agenda. Great news!


The talents, skills and achievements of the Leeds' looked after children were rewarded at a special celebration event on Thursday night...

A fantastic group of children and young people in the care of Leeds City Council had their achievements recognised at the award ceremony, organised by Education Leeds and the council, in Leeds Civic Hall’s banqueting suite. They were joined for an evening of food and a performance by the Leeds Flute Ensemble by over 100 guests including friends, carers, and many of the people responsible for shaping and delivering the city’s children’s services. The presentations were made by Councillor Stewart Golton, the executive member responsible for children’s services and representatives from the council’s children’s services department and Education Leeds.

Nominations were invited from schools and social workers for young people who had achieved in the categories of sport, academic, arts, drama, improvement, and community/voluntary achievement. The achievements include young people who have overcome often very difficult personal circumstances to achieve academic success, including gaining a place at university, successes in sport, music and the arts as well as achievements personal development.
There were also nominees whose teachers praised huge improvements they were making in behaviour, attendance and commitment and achievements in school.

It was a brilliant event celebrating some fantastic young people.
My colleague Gill Wyatt who is the Extended Services Development Manager for the Aireborough cluster...

"Dear Chris, I would like to let you know about a few of the activities taking place in the next two weeks to promote the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard in Aireborough schools. This year the 14 schools in Aireborough are working together to achieve the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard. In doing this our aim is to promote, champion and embed race equality in our schools, ensuring that similar life opportunities are available to all. We aim to prepare our children and young people to become responsible citizens of the world, recognising the part that they play both within our local community in Aireborough, and in society as a whole. We want our children and young people to appreciate and value the diversity of people’s backgrounds, and to create strong and positive relationships within schools and the wider community. If you need any additional information or have any comments please do not hestitate to contact me. Many thanks. Regards, Gill."

It is wonderful to hear that the Aireborough schools are taking on the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard together. I hope colleagues will support them wherever they can.


My colleagues at Fountain Primary School sent me this e-mail after my visit yesterday...

"Hi Chris, It was great to hear Mick Waters at the Education Leeds Annual Lecture. Thank you for coming to our school to present the prizes to the LLN competition winners, they have done some fabulous work. We have brilliant children at Fountain Primary and we want to offer the very best education which they deserve. Hope you like the photos.
Best wishes, Joscelyne Durrant and Nick Payling."

It was a great visit to see some wonderful young people and the work that Joscelyne and Nick are doing at Fountain Primary School.
My colleague Dorothy Smith attended the launch of a new resource pack this week...

"Dear Chris, The "Building Bridges 2" launch was fantastic. The partnership between Education Leeds, Adult Social Care and the Voluntary Sector was strong evidence of what effective partnerships can achieve. The presentation of work done by City of Leeds i.e. Circle Time with the older generation was outstanding. Sean Duggan has been a key driver as you know and the team were particularly appreciative of the way that you had personally championed this programme and said so at the launch. All in all a brilliant morning. Best wishes, Dorothy."

Building Bridges has been a great success since it started at Oakwood Primary School. It has won awards and been widely recognised as an innovative and creative way of connecting young and old across the city. It is great to see the fantastic Building Bridges intergenerational work which has involved so many talented colleagues developing to embrace secondary schools.
My colleague Scott Jacques who is National Strategies Advisor for ICT sent me this bit of great news...

"Hi Chris, I thought that you'd be delighted to hear the fantastic news that one of our schools, Robin Hood Primary, has won the prestigious ICT Excellence Awards 2008 - Best whole-school for the Yorkshire and the Humber region. This nationwide event is run by BECTA and is hotly contested. The award recognises the wonderful, ICT rich learning experience that the children of Robin Hood receive, thanks to the excellent ICT leadership and vision of Mark Wilson and his team - Sam Bailey (Deputy Headteacher), Alison Darroch (ICT Leader) and James Watson (Primary ICT Support). The award means that they have been recognised as the best whole school use of ICT across the region, primary or secondary - a wonderful achievement. They are also, as far as I am aware the first winner of a BECTA ICT Excellence Award from Leeds. Mark and his team received the award at the ceremony in Sheffield last night. Further details can be found at:
Regards Scott."

I have visited Robin Hood Primary School recently and seen the magic that Mark, Sam, Alison and James are releasing and it is brilliant. As I have said before the future's here and it is at Robin Hood Primary School.

Friday, 7 November 2008

I moved on to Fountain Primary School...

You may remember that my colleague Victoria Relton, who is Marketing and Communications Officer with the Leeds Learning Network team, had been working with two focus groups of young people to get the children insights and feedback on ICT in school and home with particular focus on social networking sites nd their LLN My Site. Apple had provided two iPod shuffles and two young people from Fountain Primary School and Temple Newsam Halton Primary School had won these fantastic prizes.

This afternoon I was at Fountain Primary School with Vicky to present the first iPod shuffle. It was a great visit to see some wonderful young people and the work that Joscelyne and Nick are doing at Fountain Primary School. Picture later!
I moved on to Lawnswood School to attend the launch of an innovative and creative approach to stopping young people smoking...

NHS Leeds, the Primary Care Trust, in partnership with Education Leeds and three secondary schools; Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, Lawnswood School and Ralph Thoresby High School. A comprehensive strategy has been developed to help young people steer clear of the habit that is still the greatest cause of illness and preventable death. The twelve week programme looks at both prevention and cessation and involves help and advice, a curriculum programme aimed at Years 7 and 8, staff training, family support and interactive theatre.

I hope that this wonderful project will help us further develop progarmmes across the city to help young people avoid smoking in the first place s well s helping those on the habit to give up.

The whole school, whole community approach will be followed up by NHS Leeds and Education Leeds to maintain the incentives over the school year.

Take on 11 Million Takeover!

I started the day at Elland Road with young people from twelve of our secondary schools...

My colleague Hannah Lamplugh, who is Participation Officer in the Healthy Schools team, working with Sara Kane, in the Communications team, and an army of committed colleagues had organised a brilliant programme with loads of support materials to help the young people consider how they could:
  • write/review a school policy;
  • plan and deliver a school lesson;
  • plan and deliver a school assembly;
  • shadow a member of staff.
They had also organised workshops on:
  • behaviour;
  • student rights;
  • recruitment of staff;
  • sex and relationships education;
  • attendance.
It was a great morning and these young people were once again an inspiration. If you want to find out more about 11 Million you can visit their website at

Thursday, 6 November 2008

I was delighted to attend the Fourth Education Leeds Annual Lecture at Elland Road this evening...

It doesn't seem a year since we were listening to Tim Brighouse or three years since Alan November delivered the first lecture at the Royal Armouries. This year the lecture was delivered by my friend and colleague Mick Waters.

We have had another great year and as some of you know I have been searching for the magic ingredient. I have visited Stockholm and Helsinki, who have some of the best results in Europe, to try to find it. It may surprise you but it isn't in Stockholm or Helsinki it's here in Leeds and the magic ingredient is the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues working across Leeds to release the magic... a great slice of whom were at the lecture!

Now a man who has worked throughout his life to release that magic is Mick Waters who is now at QCA working as Director of Curriculum and this evening he talked with great passion about leading curriculum innovation... and it was brilliant!

Penny Field SILC needs your vote!

Penny Field Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre will compete in ITV’s Big Lottery Fund, People’s Millions 2008 on Monday 24th November. To win £50,000 of Big Lottery money, they need your vote...

The Penny Field Centre provides education for children and young people aged 2 to 19 with a range of special needs. A multi-sensory environment is the ultimate teaching tool to support and reach children, young people and adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural difficulties, communication difficulties and physical and sensory impairment.

Penny Field has made it through to the final eight groups in the Yorkshire & Humber region to compete for the fund and are the only Leeds based finalists. They will go head to head with one of the other finalists to compete for one of four £50,000 funds – so they have a 50% chance of winning. If they win, they will use the money to install a new state of the art multi-sensory studio at the centre. This new equipment will be used by children and young people who regularly visit the centre, as well as groups from the wider community and will massively improve the children's and young people’s quality of life".

On Monday 24th November, ITV will publish the telephone number you need to vote for Penny Field. Penny Field will feature on Calendar Evening News at 6.00pm that evening, but you can vote from 9.00am and any telephone can be used up to 10 times to vote.

Please make sure you help to make this difference by voting on Monday 24th November.
My colleague Maxine Squire, one of our Secondary School Improvement Advisers sent me this...

"Chris, I just wanted to let you know about a really wonderful event I attended at the West SILC (Milestone) today. The SILC has been recognised as a regional centre of excellence for MOVE and it was really wonderful to see the impact of the work that has been done by Sarah and the team at Hollybush and Milestone resulting in the young people involved gaining increased mobility as a result of the dedication and hard work of the staff.

The representatives from MOVE spoke about how impressed they are with the quality of the work being done at the West SILC and described the Hollybush partnership as being "inclusion in its truest sense".

It was fantastic to be able to share in the celebrations with the pupils and staff and to recognise their briliant achievement in becoming a regional centre of excellence - which is why I wanted to share their achievement with you. Kind regards Maxine."

Thank Maxine for letting me know about this. I couldn't make it but I am really glad you did and were able to celebrate the brilliant work they are doing at the West SILC.
I was asked for more details of the Time to Play initiative...

The Leeds TIMEtoPLAY resource has been developed to help schools improve their playgrounds and recreational areas. It contains a free menu of services including training opportunities, design guidance, project management and access to quality assured providers. It is intended to help colleagues in schools overcome the problems and uncertainties with planning, designing, consulting, choosing, procuring and supervising the upgrading, installation or expansion of paly and recreational areas in schools.

We hope the resources will be in schools after Christmas.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


I was sent this letter which Carol Stevens and Rebecca sent to the Yorkshire Evening Post after yesterday's headline and article...

"I am extremely disappointed with your front page reporting, as you do not mention that this "Taxi" bill actually applies to young people with learning difficulties until page 2. When you read the rest of the article it does explain that these young people are incapable of independent travel, therefore I am absolutely disgusted with Councillor Keith Wakefield’s comment that "This money currently being wasted should be spent on children’s education and the needs of people in our city".

My daughter is one of those taxi occupants – is she not entitled to a decent education? She is also a resident since birth of Leeds and are her needs need not to be met too? Rebecca went to mainstream Catholic schools and was well supported and managed to gain a GCSE in Science despite her Down’s Syndrome. She got the yellow MYBUS dedicated school bus to school with her siblings and managed reasonably well but that is a safe service directly into her school and would not work with college students dotted all over the city. Her sister did try to help her to use normal buses, but she got upset when people laughed at her as she lost her balance.

However, now she is attending Thomas Danby College and doing a course including life skills. Students would normally be expected to make their own way there, but as Rebecca struggles with money, time and cannot use a mobile phone, at this point in her life independent travel is not safe or possible for her. As it is Education Leeds do try to save money on taxis - it means that special needs students may have up to a two hour wait for their taxi home because they have to wait for other students going the same way as they are.

We hope Rebecca will be independent at some point in the future and indeed college are working on her "Life Skills", but her school and college education are preparing her to hopefully get a job and be a tax paying member of our city. So, Councillor Wakefield that money IS being spent on children’s education and the needs of people in our city – but as they are disabled does that mean they don’t count?

Carol Stevens & Rebecca"

I hope the Evening Post team are listening to Carol and Rebecca and that they receive many more letters from parents and carers and young people. This money recognises that everyone of our children and young people matter and have talent, abilities and so much to offer given the opportunities. Our job is to help them to live happy, full and successful lives by removing the barriers to learning and opening up opportunities, wherever we can, to release the magic in each and every one of them.
I received this very sad news from Anne-Marie Edwardes and Helen Higham, colleagues at Government Office...

"Friends and colleagues, Many of you have been asking after Roy Porritt over the last few weeks and months. Sadly we have to tell you that Roy died yesterday in St James Hospital, Leeds, with his family around him. He had been ill since August 2007 and was diagnosed with cancer last Autumn. Anne and Helen"

I have known Roy for a long time and colleagues who knew Roy will share my sadness and reflect on the things we have done with Roy over the years to improve outcomes for young people across the region. Roy was another one of those special people who we will all miss.
I received this e-mail from my colleagues in our Pay and Grading Team ...

"Dear Chris, Just a quick note to let you know that we are pleased to confirm that in the end there have been no compulsory dismissals of school-based staff under the implementation of phase 1. What this means in practice is that all staff who were at risk of dismissal either signed their acceptance forms and have been re-engaged onto posts on the new pay and grading structure, or voluntarily resigned from their posts (with the affected schools completing SAP leaver forms). We would like to pass on our sincere thanks to all headteachers and other managers within our schools who have worked with us to achieve this - we know it's not been easy! Thanks again from all of us"

This is an incredible achievment by Joss Ivory and a tremendous team whose passion, hard work, persistence and commitment was commented on by Governors Forum last night. I am personally deeply proud of them all!


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

We hit the front page of the Yorkshire Evening Post again today...

The exclusive headline was '£4.2M SCHOOL RUN SHOCK' and the story highlighted that we are spending £21500 every day to ferry young people to schools in taxis quoting Susie Squire who argued that this shows our "total failure to plan properly for the needs of local people" and Cllr Keith Wakefield who said that "the money is currently being wasted".

Why does everyone firstly assume that this is wrong and not look at the facts to see if actually this is Leeds doing the very best for its most special children. People conveniently forget that we have a statutory duty to provide home to school transport for children in care and for children and young people with special educational needs up to the age of 25. This money actually provides for taxis and escorts for children with special educational needs and some of the most vulnerable children in our care.

Wherever possible we are developing independent travel training to reduce dependency on taxis and minibuses and we only use taxis when public transport is inappropriate or unsafe. However, if we didn't provide taxis and escorts for these very special young people to get to school, I wonder what the headlines would say?
This evening I attended the Leeds Governors' Forum at the Civic Hall...

We had some brilliant sessions. Jenny Cooper talked about the 'Time for Play' initiative, Mike Cooper talked about the Leeds Enterprise Challenge, Dorothy Smith talked about the National Challenge schools and developing a learning entitlement and Gary Milner talked about the 14 - 19 review.

Stephen Rennie, as always, chaired the Forum really well and encouraged everyone to think positively about the opportunities we face here in Leeds. He had recently attended an excellent session led by George Munson from Leeds City Council who talked about the available funding for schools to become carbon neutral and suggested that George should be invited to the next meeting to help all schools achieve this over the next few years.
I started the day at the Assessment and Development Centre for Aspiring Headteachers at Weetwood Hall...

The day was intended to identify strengths and reassure colleagues about our ongoing commitment to potential and future leaders here in Leeds. Leadership is very obviously one of the magic ingredients for building brilliant provision consistently across the city. We know that we need passionate, committed and determined leaders to drive provision and to help us continue to close the gap so that our children and young people achieve world class outcomes.

Peter Laurence and the army of colleagues he had assembled for the Assessment and Development Centre certainly reflects our commitment to this vital aspect of our work and to these talented colleagues.
Susan McDonagh sent me a copy of the latest ABC Newsletter today...

Leeds and District ABC Support Group is a regional resource for parents of children with an autistic spectrum condition. They aim to provide help, support and advice about services, facilities, education, care and welfare for parents and families of children displaying Autistic Spectrum Conditions including Asperger's Syndrome in Leeds and surrounding areas.

The latest newsletter is a really interesting read and full of great stuff including this wonderful quote.
"The place to be happy is here,
the time to be happy is now,
the way to be happy is to make others so."

You can read the latest ABC Newsletter by visiting their website at .
My colleague Geoff Roberts who is Vice-Chair of Governors at the NW SILC sent me this e-mail...

"Hi Chris, Your item on stress reminded me of the CIA acronym, which I have found very helpful:
C - can I Control the situation, in which case do so
I - do I choose to Influence the situation, in which case do so
A - failing the above, then just Accept it and get on with stuff that I can Control or Influence.

In particular, note the deliberate use of 'choose' to influence - we can all influence much more than we believe so make a positive decision about whether or not to actively influence or not. If you choose not to influence then stop fretting and get on with something else.
Best Wishes, Geoff"

Geoff always comes up with some really good advice. We all need to focus on the things we can influence and effect and forget the rest.
The RSA Academy in Tipton is pioneering a radical new approach to teaching...

The Academy operates with five terms, three hour lessons, and classes of 90 pupils. If this sounds interesting you can find out more by visiting

Monday, 3 November 2008

My colleague Carol Jordan, Director of Integrated Children's Services, sent me some great news...

The Oakwood Primary PRU was inspected by our friends at OFSTED and was judged as outstanding, which is simply incredible. Barry Whitney and the team at Oakwood have done a fantastic job supported by great colleagues at Education Leeds. They are an exceptionally talented team with fantastic leadership and support and are leading some extraordinary work across the city and making a real difference to some of our most vulnerable young people. Carol tells me that the learning environment they have created at Oakwood is brilliant.

I want all our provision to be outstanding and it is great to see the Oakwood PRU showing us what is possible.
There is a brilliant child locked inside every student
Marva Collins

It is important to remember that while everything here is going well we still have more to do.
I know that I have a great job, but not everything is creative or fun, there are things that are fragile, places where progress is slow, and things that are not going the way we would hope, however hard we try. We have more young lives to touch, more schools to improve, more families to support. We need to work harder, smarter and better to ensure that every child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.

I didn't want another half-term where I try and fail to wrench myself away from the office, the paper, the e-mails, and the meetings, visits, issues, priorities and new initiatives. This half-term, I remembered that I am a partner, a parent, a friend to some important people and recognised that the weekend was a time for them. Sometimes we need to take time for ourselves to be able to give something back when we return.

Don't forget to care about yourself and your colleagues and always remember that you are part of something special and magical and unique here at Education Leeds.
Keep the faith!


Do you know a young person who has taken action to make a difference in their community?

Does a young person you know have an idea to create change? If so, why not nominate them for a CHANGEit award! CHANGEit, run by Common Purpose and sponsored by Deutsche Bank, recognises, supports and rewards young campaigners aged 11-18 who want to create a positive change in their communities.

CHANGEit has nothing to do with academic achievement, and everything to do with good citizenship and positive action. Campaigns can be big or small and deal with any issue. Judges are looking for passion, innovation and the determination to create change.

Nominate today - the closing date is 12 January 2009! Every young person nominated will receive a certificate of recognition. Winners will be announced at an award ceremony in spring 2009. CHANGEit will award prizes of up to £750 in three categories:

  • Innovation – for young people with ideas to improve their community, who need training or support to get their campaign off the ground
  • Performance – to celebrate the achievements of young campaigners who have already taken positive action.
  • Photo contest – young people’s photos that capture ‘campaigning in action’ that was started or helped by young people

To find out more or to submit nominations online, for individuals and groups, go to