Saturday, 15 November 2008

After my visit to Templenewsam Halton Primary School I wondered if there was any research evidence to support the sugestion that singing promotes well-being...

I found this study on the web that explored the possible beneficial effects of singing on well-being during a singing lesson. Volunteers were given continuous ECG which was recorded and computerized spectral analysis was performed as they sang. Serum concentrations of TNF-alpha, prolactin, cortisol, and oxytocin were measured before and 30 min after the lesson. Five aspects, sad-joyful, anxious-calm, worried-elated, listless-energetic, and tense-relaxed, were scored before and after the lesson. In addition, a semi-structured interview was performed. Singing increases joy and elatedness, and singers are more energetic and relaxed after any singing lesson.

In summary, in this study, singing definitely promotes well-being. So everyone should sing!
This coming week is the fifth annual Enterprise Week...

It's an opportunity for all those budding entrepreneurs to release their magic. Apparently last year more than 500,000 young people got involved in events all over the country. Thursday is apparently set aside specifically for 'social enterprise' events.

It is reassuring to know that Mike Cooper, Christine Marsden and their enterprise ambassadors are doing brilliant work is this area.

Friday, 14 November 2008

My colleague Inari sent me this after her wonderful week in Leeds...

"Dear Chris, Thank you for being such good host, for your warm attitudes and behaviour to children, young people, your staff. It was wonderful to see how kindly and with respect you talked even with the smallest children. I'll write as soon as I'm in Finland. Kind regards, Inari."

We all really enjoyed having Inari here in Leeds and I am grateful to everyone who helped.
I finally popped in to Austhorpe Primary School...

I wanted to personally congratulate Caroline Robinson and her colleagues who have all worked incredibly hard to get the school out of Special Measures. Sadly Caroline wasn't there but I was able to thank the new deputy and some of his colleagues.... BRILLIANT!
I moved on to a brilliant learning place...

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 and 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 Templenewsam Halton Primary School with Vicky to present the socond iPod shuffle.

It was a great visit to see some wonderful young people and the work that Kay Crellin and her fantastic team at Templenewsam Halton Pimary School are doing. This is an amazing school where colleagues are releasing real magic and boy can the children sing!
I went back to Elland Road to talk to colleagues again and to encourage them to rise to the challenge we have been given by Ed Balls and Jim Knight...

We have had a brilliant year and we are releasing a real magic across the city but we need to build 'brilliant' consistently around all our young people, whatever it takes. Ed Balls and Jim Knight recognised our success today and these amazing colleagues lie at the heart of our success.

I also talked to colleagues about how we continue to develop our 'can do' culture and the power of the Pacific Institute programmes we are using across the city; IIE, STEPS and Go for It. These programmes have transformed our culture, they change lives and have created a positive approach which helps us dream big and believe in ourselves even on the dark days.

Everyone I spoke to had a great day and it appears to have energised and motivated the colleagues who were there... which is fantastic.We also had a collection for 'Children in Leeds' which I hope raised a huge amount for this great cause.
I moved on to a meeting with Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and Jim Knight, Minister for Schools...

They met with Cllr Brett, Cllr Galton, Cllr Harker, Cllr Harrand and I to discuss the National Challenge, Academies and school improvement and to be reassured that we were continuing to drive up standards across Leeds. It was a really interesting and helpful meeting which reviewed the progress we have been making and how we can continue the relentless drive to ensure that no schools in Leeds are below the floor targets, we address complacency and that every child and young person in Leeds is happy, healthy, safe and successful, whatever it takes.

Ed Balls said that he wished that "every authority were as focused, determined and successful as Leeds has been." recognising the real successes we have had with GCSE outcomes, attendance, exclusions, John Smeaton Community College, the David Young Community Academy, Cockburn Community College, Wortley High School and West Leeds High School. Clearly they also recognised that we had made real progress but challenged us to do more at Intake high School, South Leeds High School, Parklands High School, Primrose High School and City of Leeds School.

My line as always was trust us, give us the resources and we will deliver brilliant outcomes for all our children and young people.
I started the day at the Education Leeds Narrowing the Gap Conference at Elland Road...

It was absolutely brilliant to have so many of my talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues together to listen to some inspirational speakers and to share, learn and network. We also had two magical sessions with children from Castleton Primary School singing and children from Chapel Allerton Primary School encouraging everyone to Wake Up Shake Up. The speakers were Maggie Farrah, Operational Director with the National College for School Leadership, Kevan Collins, Director of Children's Services at Tower Hamlets Borough Council and Hardial Hayer, Headteacher at The Radclyffe School in Oldham.

My colleagues Mark Hopkins, Dorothy Smith and Dirk Gilleard had organised and delivered a great day which will help us continue to drive up standards across Leeds.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

I finished the day at Mount St Mary's Catholic High School's Presentation Evening...

I was really pleased that Bernadette King, headteacher, had asked me to come to present the awards and certificates at this really successful school which is making such a difference at the heart of the city. The evening started with Mount St Mary's Choir who were great and finished with a performance by Ciara Houton, Ciaran Houton and Francesca Walsh doing Irish dancing and they were fantastic. The whole evening was brilliantly organised and executed like a military operation after they had got over a slight technical hitch with a faulty microphone. I was thanked by Jack Crosby, Head Boy, and Louise Passmore, Head Girl, who gave me some wonderful art work for my office.

It was a great evening celebrating the gifts and talents of a wonderful group of young people and a tremendous team led by Bernadette.
Over lunch I helped judge the Attendance Champions Holiday Photo Competition...

John Normington and his colleagues had organised this great competition supported by the Regional Managers of Co-op Travel. There were over 150 entries and I look forward to hearing about the winners.

The Spirit Awards

Do you know someone who goes the extra mile? Reward them, nominate them for a Spirit Award...

Who are the real stars making a difference to improving the health and wellbeing of a group, an individual, or all children and young people in Leeds? Who inspires you and who would you aspire to be like?

The Spirit Awards recognise our colleagues who embody the spirit of Education Leeds – inspirational, visionary people who make a difference and a contribution. These awards value the contribution that this dedicated group of individuals make towards helping us to achieve our vision for happy, healthy, safe and successful schools, children and young people, with no child left behind.

Everyone is encouraged to nominate a person, team or group for an award. You can nominate a friend, colleague, team member, manager – anyone! There are eight categories to nominate for. You can nominate online by clicking on this link or collect a paper copy from the central reception in your building.
Nominations cannot be considered unless they are on a nominations form, and the closing date for nominations is Friday 5 December. The top three finalists in each category will receive free entry to the Education Leeds Christmas party.

Sprit Awards nomination categories

  • Looking after Leeds - partnerships and innovation
  • Colleague of the year Putting customers first Team of the year
  • Health and Wellbeing (making a difference to children and young people)
  • Personal achievement
  • Leader of the year
  • Treating people fairly - equality and diversity

Make sure that you nominate someone special.


Leeds shortlisted for three national BSF awards

Leeds’ Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has been shortlisted for the first national annual awards to celebrate the transformation of education across the country...

The submissions for three prestigious Excellence in BSF National Awards will compete with others from 19 nominated local authorities from across England which have been selected by judges from the design community, construction industry, educationalists, students and BSF delivery partners. The three categories Leeds has been shortlisted in at the Excellence in BSF Awards are:
  • Innovation in ICT (competing against Haringey and Lambeth);
  • Best School Team (competing against Brislington Enterprise College, Bristol) and;
  • Best Operational LEP (competing against Newcastle and STaG - South Tyneside and Gateshead).
Let's hope we win all three!
I have just got back from an insprational session with the Black and Minority Ethnic School Staff Network at Space@Hillcrest...

The session was led by the Steering Group and featured Andrew Muhammad, historian, author, lecturer and ione of the UK's leading Black History and Culture specialists. His presentation was incredibly good and he is one of us! His book Free Your Mind captures his personal philosophy and is a real source of enlightenment and inspiration. We need him to help us reach every young person from a Black and Minority Ethnic community here in Leeds. You can find out more about Andrew's work by visiting his website at Thanks to the Steering group for a session which I found so good, it was hard to drag myself away from it.

Fiona Triller and her colleagues are certainly doing brilliant things with this talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful group.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

I recieved this e-mail form my colleague Julie Cooper, headteacher at Carlton Primary School after she attended breakfast this morning...

"Dear Chris, Thank you for the opportunity to meet together this morning in a very supportive environment. Having experienced belonging to both Garforth and Morley F.O.S. I found it quite difficult initially joining the Rothwell group which was not as well established. However I now think we are beginning to become much more proactive and hopefully some profitable collaborative work is emerging. Since you last visited Carlton I know that our Foundation Stage has greatly improved. Several factors have contributed to its growing success including a strong and visionary age phase manager and my own committment to Early Years, inspired by my advisory role working alongside Pat Booth and Jenny Woodbridge. We are now eager to step forward from our OFSTED rating of 2 and are currently seeking to observe what does 'excellent' Early Years practice look like across the city. I have colleagues in Kirklees who have adopted much of the excellent Reggio Emilia practice and I would love our school to be considered for any involvement in collaborative work with Reggio. I believe we would have the capacity to disseminate any outcomes across the city. Best wishes Julie Cooper"

It is wonderful to get such positive and constructive feedback after breakfast. I know that Oakwood Primary School and Victoria Primary School are both also passionate about this project which will link practice in the early years with Reggio Emilia through a Comenius funded programme. Is anyone else out there keen to get involved?
After a brief stop for lunch, Inari and I visited Lady Elizabeth Hastings CE Primary School at Thorp Arch...
It was a brilliant couple of hours at a really special little school. Inari and I visited classrooms, listened to a fantastic performance the children had created, talked to the wonderfully articulate and impressive School Council, listened to the newly formed and already very impressive school choir and attended their worship at the end of the school day.

Suzanne Ulyett and her team are doing a great job and releasing real magic at Lady Elizabeth Hastings CE Primary School.
Inari and I moved on to Benton Park School...

I was visiting the school to meet with David Foley, the new headteacher, who has brought a new energy and focus to the school. We were both impressed by the very calm and purposeful atmosphere around the school, the work going on in the classrooms we visited, the artwork and the student support centre which is making a real difference to some of their most vulnerable and special students.
I started the day with Inari Solanen, Dirk Gilleard and Ros Vahey and a group of colleagues from the Rothwell Family of Schools...

We were together for breakfast at Royds School and it was a stimulating and really enjoyable couple of hours with some talented headteacher colleagues who are doing some really inteesting work together as a cluster to address behavioural issues, transition and extended services.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

I spent the day today with Corporate Leadership Team looking some of the challenges we are facing...

It was great to be able to look creatively at ways in which we can improve and develop our provision across the city to develop better services for children and young people, families and communities.

Annual CookIt! and WriteIt! competition

Entries are invited for the Guild of Food Writer’s annual CookIt! and WriteIt! competitions from children and students between 10 and 18 years of age...

These hotly contested competitions are a great way of encouraging the younger generation to have a greater interest in good food, something the members of the Guild of Food Writers feel passionate about.

The CookIt! competition is open to all young cooks aged between 10 and 14 years of age. The theme for 2009 is ‘High Five!’ and entrants are asked to create a delicious two-course family meal using five or more different fruit and vegetables. The importance of eating fruit and vegetables is well known, but the judges will be looking for entrants that can really show just how delicious they are too! The six finalists will be invited to London, with all expenses paid, on Thursday 4 June 2009, where in the kitchens of the BBC Good Food Magazine, they will prepare their meals for a panel of judges including Xanthe Clay (Saturday Telegraph and author of Recipes to Know by Heart) and Mike Robinson (of The Pot Kiln in Berkshire). There will be some great prizes to be won and the final will also feature in a future edition of BBC Good Food Magazine. Closing date for entries is Thursday 23 April 2009. For more details on the competition visit:

For food writers of the future the WriteIt! competition is a must! Open to students aged between 15 and 18 years of age, the competition invites articles on a food related subject. The judging panel includes respected food writer and critic, Charles Campion, broadcaster and restaurateur, Thomasina Miers and Alex James, formerly of Blur and now a successful cheese maker and food columnist. The judges will be looking for a real passion and understanding of the chosen subject, whatever that might be! It could be as simple as a description of a person or place that inspired an interest in food and cooking or a review of a restaurant or a campaigning article on a food-related subject. There will be some great prizes to be won. Closing date for entries is Tuesday 3 February. For more details on the competition visit:

I know that there must be loads of budding Jamie Oliver's and Delia Smith's out there and I hope that schools will encourage their students to enter this great competition.
My colleague Richard Boughey showed me an article in the Rothwell & District Record...

It was called 'Technology to transform teaching at Rodillian' and recorded interviews with students and teachers at Rodillian School about their new school half a term in. Jasmine Lunn from Year 10 was impressed with the new computers and the dance studio. Ella Briggs from Year 11 likes the new arrangements at lunchtime with split sessions providing better access to the new dining facilities. Jemima Rudd from Year 9 was so impressed that she couldn't find anything she didn't like. Jack Stone from Year 8 was similarly impressed by the bright building where everything works! Amber Haley from Year 7 liked the signs and the computers but felt squashed in corridors and staircases. Ms Harrington, Head of Performing Arts, highlighted how the new building had opened up opportunities, built teamwork and improved communication as well as improving behaviour.

The future is certainly bright and positive at Rodillian School.

Monday, 10 November 2008

I was asked to support the ongoing Beacon bid on tackling child poverty by attending the assessors visit to the East Leeds Family Learning Centre...

I had been asked to talk to the assessors about the work we are doing that contributes to this vitally important work. After the session I received this e-mail from Lisa Martin who is Service Development Manager in our Early Years Service.

"Dear all , Many thanks for yesterday. The stalls looked stunning and key points were communicated well to the assessors and addressed the things that they had said they wanted to hear more about. In addition, our work and services were really brought to life by the people who attended the focus groups. So thanks also to everyone who encouraged the children, young people and parents to come along and speak to the assessors. We will get formal feedback from the visit on 9/12/08 and our presentation to the assessors in London is on 12/1/09. However whether or not we achieve Beacon status for Tackling Child Poverty, the importance of acting in a more coordinated and focussed way has been underlined and the joint work that has been put into this bid will assist greatly the Child Poverty Outcome Group. Best wishes, Lisa."

I spoke to Paul Rogerson, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, as well and he agreed that the marketplace was really impressive and a tremendous advert for the partnership working we are doing around some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged families and whatever happens the young people and families showed us that what we are doing to tackle child poverty and close the gap is making a real difference. Well done to everyone involved.
I had a meeting with Liz Talmadge Executive Headteacher at the Central Leeds Learning Federation, Lori Beckett from Leeds Metropolitan University and Marie Brennan from the University of Adelaide...

There has been some really impressive work with Leeds Met at Little London Community Primary School and City of Leeds site of the Central Leeds Learning Federation and Lori and Liz were keen to talk about how we build on the success and where the work goes from here.
I started the day with Inari Solanen...

Inari is a colleague from Helsinki where she leads on Staff Development and Leadership. She is spending a week with us looking at our work to inform her programmes in Helsinki and helping us develop the 'Three Cities' project between Stockholm, Helsinki and Leeds.
Another week on the long march to Christmas with its bright lights, cold winds, magic, mystery and sparkle...

It's been a week full of social, political and historical significance with the appointment of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States and as usual it has been a busy week here in Leeds.

I attended the celebration dinner for the new Leeds City College at Leeds Thomas Danby. It was a fantastic celebration of our young people who prepared, managed and served a wonderful meal for the assembled colleagues who have been involved in this long and interesting journey for FE provision in the city.

I also went to the 3rd assessment and development centre for aspiring headteachers at Weetwood Hall. It was organised by Peter Laurence and an army of colleagues and recognises the critical importance of leadership on our journey to brilliant and how hard we are working to encourage and support talented colleagues on their personal pathways to headship.
I didn't manage to get to the launch of the 'Building Bridges 2' intergenerational resource which was held at the Derek Fatchett Centre. However Dorothy Smith attended on my behalf and told me that it was fantastic and showcased the work of colleagues and students at City of Leeds School.

We celebrated '11 Million Takeover Day' at the banqueting suite at Elland Road working with young people from twelve secondary schools from across the city to look together at the key issues we are facing with building brilliant learning places, and to listen to them about what they want from us to help them achieve their goals. You can watch some of our inspriring young people talk about the difference we are making with them on our new BSF film at

I finally attended the official launch of 'Striking' at Lawnswood School. Striking is a smoking cessation project developed between NHS Leeds, Education Leeds and three Leeds secondary schools to help young people avoid starting to smoke and to help those who are smokers give up.
At an awards ceremony at the Civic Hall, 46 of our looked after children and young people received awards and recognition for their fantastic achievements in the categories of sport, academic, arts, drama, improvement, and community/voluntary achievement. Many of the young people who attended had overcome difficult personal circumstances to achieve success in their academic lives, behaviour, attendance and commitment, and were praised by their teachers and peers alike. I was unfortunately unable to attend, but Ros Vahey went in my place and came away feeling truly moved by the achievements of those young people and those who work with them.

The highlight of my week was the visit by Mick Waters, director of curriculum at QCA, who delivered the 4th Education Leeds Annual Lecture in front of 300 talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues at the banqueting suite at Elland Road. Mick was his usual brilliant self; held the audience captivated with his stories, energy and passion for the curriculum and learning, and made us all feel special. He reminded us that the future belongs to a very special kind of person with a very special kind of mind - creators and empathisers, pattern recognisers and meaning makers. These people - artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers - are the future and we must help them re-imagine and re-engineer the curriculum to inspire our colleagues, energise our schools and to bring learning alive for all our children and young people.

And whatever you do this week...
"Think, reflect, research, analyse and learn;
Be visible, accessible and available;
Walk the talk and constantly connect with colleagues;
Tell stories; celebrate, praise and challenge;
Teach, coach and model behaviours you want to see;
Get a life... live, love and regularly escape;"

and above all...
"Do things to make people feel special."

Sunday, 9 November 2008

I saw this in the Yorkshire Evening Post over the weekend...

"IS THIS Leeds's youngest head teacher?

Ten-year-old Caitlin Lawton took the hot seat at Whitecote Primary in Bramley yesterday, showing VIPs around the school and holding an assembly. Meanwhile, her classmates performed duties ranging from catering manager to IT technician, and even taught a physics lesson.The eye-opening day for the youngsters was part of a national campaign called 11 Million Takeover Day in which pupils were encouraged to help run their schools.DutiesAfter usual head Karen Allan stood down for a few hours, Caitlin's duties included overseeing a visit by local MP John Battle, who opened three new rooms, including a well-resourced ICT suite."
It is great to see good news in the YEP.