Wednesday, 30 December 2009

'Life is Good'

I received a wonderful present from the special people in my life...

It was a plaque with the main message 'Life is Good' and listed some themes which I wanted to share with the other people in my life:
  • Be kind;
  • Be true;
  • Keep the faith;
  • Be a friend;
  • Sing and dance;
  • Be in love;
  • Treasure family;
  • Cherish laughter.
The world gets more complicated all the time but I think that just about captures what really matters as we approach another New Year.
Best wishes to everyone for 2010. Stick with these messages and you will be OK.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

"There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life happiness, freedom and peace of mind - are always attained by giving them to someone else."

Peyton Conway March

Tomorrow is my last day now until Monday 4th January so the blog will go quiet for a few days while I unwind, relax, recharge and get ready for yet another interesting and challenging year here in Leeds... I hope everyone out there manages to do the same. And remember when you are out there... think team, think family, think about the things that really, really matter and hold hands and stick together. I hope that this Christmas brings you and those you love and care for, happiness, freedom and peace. See you in 2010!
Take care.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

This is my final message of 2009 and thankfully the end of term has come at last...

Last week started with the healthy schools team at Elmete before the usual round of Monday meetings. On Tuesday I attended the regional launch of the Healthy Schools Enhancement Model, sandwiched between the children services leadership team and corporate leadership team meetings. In the evening I had the honour of presenting certificates and prizes to some amazing young people at Horsforth School, Specialist Science College. On Wednesday I attended my son's graduation ceremony at the University of Leeds before the leaders' Christmas fuddle where we all said goodbye and thank you to Dave Page. After Cabinet, I managed to pop into Jean Lumb's retirement do before attending Hawksworth Wood Primary School's brilliant Egyptian Nativity. On Thursday Victoria Primary School's choir visited us at Merrion House to get us in the mood for Christmas. I popped in to Kerr Mackie Primary School to personally thank Maisie Child for designing our Christmas card for 2009 before attending fuddles at Elmete and Blenheim to thank colleagues for all their hard work this year. I finished the day judging some extraordinary young people at the wonderful School's Got Talent finals at Ralph Thoresby School. And finally, on Friday after leadership team I went to fuddles at Merrion and West Park to thank colleagues for all their hard work this year, before attending the final executive team meeting of the year.

Another week at the end of what has been a really interesting and challenging twelve months. I know that when things got really tough it was easy for some colleagues to fall into the blame trap and see it as some else's problem. I am grateful to those special colleagues who have simply rolled up their sleeves and got on with it; caught the ball when it came their way and dealt with it; saw the problem and just sorted it out. We are here to ensure that children and young people in Leeds achieve brilliant outcomes and to ensure that our schools achieve some really fantastic results. We must stay positive and optimistic when the going gets tough and laugh, joke and smile to get us through the dark times; and we have had plenty of those. We can't ever walk away and simply leave it.

So this Christmas, at the end of 2009, I want to thank you for everything you have done this term to achieve some brilliant outcomes and I want to thank those colleagues and teams who have gone the extra mile and released that special Education Leeds magic. They know who they are and they are all winners, all stars, all talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful.

Friday, 18 December 2009

I attended four Christmas fuddles over the last two days...

One at each of Elmete, Blenheim, Merrion and West Park and it was simply wonderful to see so many talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues at the end of yet another year here in Leeds; this is my ninth Leeds Christmas and again what a year we have had.

We all know that having bought the banks the next few years are going to be tough and that we will need to work smarter and more effectively and carefully watch all our resources to eliminate waste and drive efficiencies wherever we can. However hard it gets you must remember that talent will out and that you have skills and abilities that are in demand and in short supply. Our culture and values are rare in the public sector and the focus on creativity, innovation, trust and equality rarer still.

The OFSTED Inspection Report on Safeguarding and Looked After Children's Services is published on 7 January and the Review of Children's Services will drive change as the Council appoints its new Director of Children's Services. So change is going to be constantly with us as usual and our job will be to stay focused on the things that matter: ensuring that young people in Leeds are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!

We live in interesting times is a Chinese curse but I am even more certain now that the future is simply what you make it. So, make it brilliant one. Have a great Christmas; one that brings you and those you love… delight and simplicity, foolishness and fantasy, and noise, angels, miracles, wonder, innocence and magic.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

I received this e-mail from Alison Carrick headteachera t Victoria Primary School this evening after the visit by the school choir to Merron House this morning...

"Chris, can you thank you team for making our children so welcome. They came back buzzing about the trip. Will you thank Pat for taking care of them and keeping them supplied with drinks and chocolates. They had a great time and were complemented on the bus (they were, apparently practicing) for their great attitude and behaviour. Thanks from everyone here for the goodies - nearly all gone, thanks from the children for the books to add to our library (children have already decided which ones they are going to get out during their next library visit) and a massive thanks from me firstly for the flowers but more importantly for all your support and friendship. It is great to know that someone really values the children and what we bring to their lives - I truely believe we transform lives on a daily basis here at Victoria Primary School. Have a great break with your family and see you in 2010. Love, Alison."

It was brilliant to have the choir at Merrion House and for everyone to share a little bit of Christmas magic with some wonderful children.
I finished the day at our 'Schools Got Talent 2009: The Final' at Ralph Thoresby High School...

The evening was introduced and compered by my colleague Sheila Howarth who teaches at City of Leeds School. I had been invited to be one of the judges with Dorothy Smith, Cllr Sue Bentley and Jo-Jo from Galaxy 105. There were fourteen wonderful acts and the three overall winners were:


Mitchell Smith

from Bruntcliffe High School;


Oakley Pilotille

from Farnley Park High School;


Tessa Koenig

from St Mary's Menston Catholic High School.

It was a brilliant evening with some incredibly talented young people whose magic was there for all to see in the wonderful theatre at Ralph Thoresby High School.


I moved on to Kerr Mackie Primary School to see Maisie Child who designed our wonderful Christmas card this year...

Angela Ronicle, headteacher at Kerr Mackie, had organised a special assembly for me to present Maisie with a framed copy of her card and a gift from Education Leeds. Maisie's mum and dad were there as well and we were all entertained by the children who sang some of their Christmas songs.
Another little bit of magic on the way to Christmas.
We were entertained this morning, on the tenth floor at Merrion House, by the wonderful choir from Victoria Primary School...

Thanks to Alison Carrick, headteacher, and her talented colleagues for bringing us a little bit of magic.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

I was delighted to her that New Bewerley Community Primary School had been visited by our friends from OFSTED and found to be a good school...

Congratulations to Patrick Wilkins, headteacher, and all his brilliant team who are releasing the magic at New Bewerley Primary School.
I finished the day at another brilliant little school...

It was great to be invited by Andrea Padden, headteacher at Hawksworth Wood Primary School, to their Key Stage 2 'Egyptian Nativity'. It was a different nativity brilliantly performed by some wonderful young people and amazingly choreographed by one amazing young woman.
I attended the 'retirement do' for Jean Lumb late this afternoon...

Jean is headteacher at Ninelands Primary School in Garforth and her vision, commitment, enthusiasm and hard work has created something remarkable at the school. She leaves behind a great school with a great team and she will be missed by all of us who share her passion for learning, love her commitment to the arts and creativity and remember her joy and her laughter.
This lunchtime I popped in on the 'Retirement Do' for Dave Page, Deputy Chief Executive...

We will all be sad to see Dave go. He has been on the Education Leeds Board since the company started and has helped us achieve some brilliant buildings through PfI and BSF funds. We will miss his common sense, his connections and his political sensitivity.
I attended a Congregation for the Conferment of Degrees at the University of Leeds this morning...

My son was receiving his Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism which he had studied at Leeds Trinity University College. It was great to also see that Professor Freda Bridge also presented a group of our colleagues who received their Foundation Degrees at the ceremony.
I ended the day yesterday at Horsforth School, Specialist Science College for their Senior Prize Evening...

It was a wonderful opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of some talented young people who took GCSEs and A-Levels in the Summer. It was a real privilege to be asked by Steve Jex, headteacher, to present the certificates and prizes at this important event in the life of one of the best schools in Leeds. The evening was introduced by Roland Meredith, Chair of Governors who was followed by Steve who talked about the successes of the last year. I talked briefly to the young people and their parents and carers before presenting the certificates and prizes. The evening finished with a wonderful performance by 'Close Harmony' and the School Choir.

Steve and his team are doing wonderful things and achieving some extraordinary outcomes at this great school.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

My colleague Tracy Waud sent me this wonderful e-mail...

"Dear Chris, Colton Primary School choir were invited to sing at an event at Temple Newsam House last Friday evening and I went along accompanying my daughter Alix, who is in the choir. The event was attended by and for 'Friends of Temple Newsam' so there were lots of people there. The children were dressed very smartly in their school uniforms and every single child behaved impeccably and were fantastic ambassadors for the school. They sang several traditional christmas songs to live keyboard music and more modern ones to a recording which they had previously sung in their school play. The recording did keep hiccuping but like true professionals they didnt let it phase them and they just carried on regardless, much to the amusement of everyone there. Sarah Haasz, one of the teachers at the school put together the choir and continues to support it both in and out of school by giving up her own time. It was just lovely to see the efforts continuing to bear fruit. I was so proud of my daughter and all of the children and I wanted to share this with you. Tracy."

Colton Primary School is a great little school and it's great to hear about the wonderful things our schools and colleagues are doing to release the magic.

Monday, 14 December 2009

I started the day with the Healthy Schools team...

I wanted to thank them for the incredible work they have been doing to get to 95% of Leeds schools achieving National Healthy Schools status. Their passion, commitment, energy, enthusiasm and sheer persistence has achieved remarkable things over the last three years and as a result brought considerable additional resources to Leeds. You cannot be successful unless you are happy and healthy and Anne Cowling and her talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues work lies at the heart of what we are doing to build brilliant.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

I expect that along with millions we all watched the X Factor this evening and the final song, their Christmas song, has brilliant lyrics...

The Climb lyrics
Songwriters: Alexander, J; Mabe, J;

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb.

Whatever happens in the future, it's true, it's all about the climb.
Keep the faith.
Nearly there now; the end of yet another term in Leeds and another Christmas rapidly approaching...

We have had another incredible year, and at the end of this amazing year I want to thank the education and learning team here in Leeds for all their hard work; and encourage everyone to celebrate our many achievements over Christmas and the New Year. These are not mediocre times, and your contribution to the education in Leeds story has been one of passion, commitment, energy, courage and hard work and I am really grateful because whatever anyone says the evidence shows that the impact has been fantastic.

Last week included the usual round of meetings: children's services leadership team, corporate leadership team, cabinet, councillor briefings, meeting with Councillor Harker, executive board meeting, children's services scrutiny board, meetings with school colleagues, Education Leeds colleagues, children's services colleagues and NHS Leeds colleagues. On Monday I attended the beginning of the Leeds secondary school headteachers meeting and visited Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School to talk to the staff. On Thursday I opened the Education Leeds/RM Evolve conference at the Queen's Hotel before I moved on to officially open the brilliant 'Interactive Zone' at the North East SILC at West Oaks. And finally, I attended a performance of Sweet Charity at Leeds West Academy. On Friday I was interviewed on the morning show on Radio Leeds by Andrew Edwards about primary places and provision, before speaking to colleagues at leadership forum about the opportunities and challenges facing us over the next few years, and finally visiting Beeston Primary School with Hilary Benn MP to look at the great work they have been doing with Barclays.

This latest snapshop simply demonstrates what makes Leeds so brilliant, and I am grateful to everyone for their persistence and determination to make a difference. Our brilliant schools, and our fantastic children and young people, have achieved more than ever thanks to the energy, patience, and commitment of the many talented teams working so hard across the city. Together here in Leeds we have made a tremendous difference and we must continue to find, nurture and release the magic. Next year we must continue to celebrate our schools’ successes, and work smarter and harder to create an even better tomorrow for all our children and young people.

I hope that this Christmas brings you and those you love… delight and simplicity, foolishness and fantasy, and noise, angels, miracles, wonder, innocence and magic… we have certainly proved this year that you are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful!
Lats night I attended Northern Ballet Theatre's 40th Anniversary Gala at the Leeds Grand Theatre...

It ws a brilliant celebration of dance featuring Pheonix Dance Theatre, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Les Ballet de Monte Carlo, Rambert Dance Company, Zurich Ballet, Ballet de Rhin, The Royal Ballet and our own Northern Ballet Theatre. If you missed it you missed something simple wonderful.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

We are doing brilliant work here in Leeds developing global citizens and a strong and vibrant international dimension to the curriculum. I was pleased that colleagues sent me this e-mail from John Rolfe at the British Council...

"Dear all, Haringey's Children and Young People's Implementation Plan makes a fantastic commitment to supporting the international dimensions of teaching and learning. See page 28; Priority 8: Develop Global Citizens: ECM – Making a Positive Contribution.
Best wishes, John."

We need to carefully consider this as we further develop our Children and Young People's Plan.

Friday, 11 December 2009

I moved on again to Beeston Primary School where Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, was visiting to look at the work Barclays Bank were doing...

Beeston Primary School is a great school and Chris Lees, headteacher, and his team are doing an amazing job and releasing real magic with some fantastic young people. Barclays and others have helped the school really develop their environment and their financial literacy skills.
I moved on to the Leadership Forum meeting at the Leeds City Museum...

It was great to be able to spend some time with some great colleagues who are responsible for making Education Leeds success a successful organisation. I talked about people and places, opportunities and challenges and persistence, determination and hard work. We need to re-imagine the offer we make our schools in the same way that schools are having to re-imagine the offer they make their children and students. Organisations will change over the next few years with elections and the budget reshaping everything we do but brilliant people will always be there ensuring that our values and beliefs drive a learning system where by seven every child knows the difference between right and wrong, is a reader, can count, play, sing, dance and create; by eleven every child is a brilliant little learner experiencing a rich, vibrant, exciting and creative curriculum and by sixteen every young person is in charge of their own learning journey, has high expectations, high self-esteem and is on a pathway to success... whatever it takes!
I started the day early being interviewed on Radio Leeds by Andrew Edwards...

Radio Leeds were following up the front page Yorkshire Evening Post story from yesterday about how we have been managing the provision for our increasing reception age children. I talked about the challange we face with 600 additional reception age children arriving in our schools but also stressed that this was an opportunity to expand and develop great primary provision in popular and successful schools..We certainly live in interesting times!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

I finished the day at the Leeds West Academy...

I had been invited to their production of Sweet Charity which was great. It was wonderful to see the place packed for this ambitious production. The young woman playing charity was fantastic and clearly has a great future ahead of her.
I moved on to the NE SILC at West Oaks to officially open their brilliant new interactive zone...

West Oaks School has specialist status as a Technology College, Leading Edge and Applied Learning school and was recently inspected under the new OFSTED framework and was judged to be a good school with outstanding features in this new and challenging inspection framework.

OFSTED also acknowledged some of the school's national work through their leading edge partnerships and the fact that Technology status has “enabled the development of some exemplary provision. An example of this is the impressive interactive zone, which has contributed outstandingly to the curriculum” and it was brilliant to be asked to officially open this cutting edge facility.
I opened the Education Leeds/RM EVOLVE Transforming Technology Conference this morning at the Queen's Hotel...

Colleagues from Becta also presented alongside schools pioneering great things. It was particularly interesting to see the new Evolve site which is a menu of ideas and services for schools in Leeds that w hope will support and guide the journey towards the effective use of technology for learning. The whole concept of Evolve is inspiring and the new Evolve site which was launched today has "butterflies" of brilliant practice which are well worth a view. I am looking forward to watching this site develop in the coming months as more butterflies of brilliant things from across Leeds schools are added.
A friend shared this quote with me today at the Children's Services Scrutiny Board meeting...

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."

Martin Luther King

It reminded me of the Goethe quote “things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least” and made me think about what does and doesn't really matter if we are serious about our children and young people being happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.

I would welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Another day, another Executive Board meeting...

We covered a huge agenda including the Audit Commission's Area Assessment and the OFSTED Children's Services Annual Rating. Our papers were on on Building Schools for the Future , the transfer of responsibilities from the Learning and Skills Council to the Local Authority, consultation on increasing admission limits at another group of Leeds primary schools, consultation on tranferring the West SILC base from Farnley Park High School to Bruntcliffe High School, outcomes for looked-after Children and Children's Services governance arrangements.

All in all, an interesting day at the office!

More Brilliant News!

I have just had an e-mail from my colleague Anne Cowling who leads the Leeds Healthy School and Wellbeing Programme...

"Dear Chris, We've just officially confirmed that Wendy Kershaw and the healthy schools team have now met the LPSA2 stretch target for Leeds: 95% schools achieve healthy school status by December 2009. Many thanks, Anne."

This is brilliant news and reflects an enormous amount of hard work. Congratulations to everyone involved in Anne's team and in the schools.


I am really sorry that I missed the Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Concert last night at the Town Hall. My colleague Rehana Minhas, Director for Equality and Entitlement, did get there and copied me into this e-mail she had sent Paul Kaiserman and the Artforms team...

"Dear Paul and the brilliant team at ArtForms, Congratulations on last nights Leeds Schools Music Christmas Festival Concert. It was a wonderful evening and the musicians were phenomenal. The Orchestra from Soweto "The Melodi Music Trust" were magical and their performance from Mozart's Overture, the Magic Flute, together with the South African National Anthem were both a joy to the ears and brought an interesting addition to a very traditional Christmas carol concert. Best wishes. Rehana."

Christmas is coming and it is wonderful to spend time listening to young children perform at this very magical time of year. Make sure that you catch some of the magic.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

You may have seen the front page of the Yorkshire Post today or looked at the DSCF website where it details the intervention the DCSF are making here in Leeds and the threat of more to come if the OFSTED inspection result highlights more concerns...

We all need to stay positive, optimistic, calm and focussed during what are undoubtedly interesting times - travelling through very dangerous shark-infested waters, surrounded by crocodile-infested swamps. We have been inspected, scrutinised, examined, and reviewed…. and they have gone and we’re still here doing whatever it takes to transform outcomes for the children and young people in Leeds. The DCSF confirmed yesterday the announcement of an Improvement Board for Leeds children’s services with Bill McCarthy as the independent chair. Tomorrow we have the publication of the annual rating of children’s services which says that Leeds children's services is performing poorly; the worst category. However, the report goes on to say that the majority of services here in Leeds are good or better.

We don’t yet know the outcome of the council’s review of children’s services and the announced inspection result won’t be published until January. What we do know is that here at Education Leeds we are surrounded by talented, passionate and committed colleagues who come to work every day believing that they can make a difference and we have the evidence that we are. We know that inspections and reviews will come and go, but deep and long-lasting change and progress is achieved through the everyday actions of the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues in our teams and in our schools. We know that we have already achieved remarkable things together and that no matter what happens over the next few weeks we will still be passionate about Leeds; still be creative and imaginative; and still look for ways to achieve better outcomes for all our children and young people and their families.

Yes, these are interesting times; yes these are difficult and challenging times and I am deeply grateful to you for your continued support. It is more important than ever that we continue to think and act team and look after each other. As always, I’m here if you need to talk.
Keep the faith

Monday, 7 December 2009

I went to Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School this afternoon to talk to the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who work there...

They were concerned about the transition to the new school which will serve the Richmond Hill community from Easter 2012. We discussed how Education Leeds could work with the two schools to build trust and confidence with families and the community about the future and to manage provision during the five terms after Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School closes at the end of the academic year.
I started the day early with some of the Leeds Secondary Headteachers at Weetwood Hall. As we approach the end of yet another manic term it was reassuring to see so many secondary headteacher colleagues had managed to prioritise the morning together...

We had a brief video and presentation on '360 People' by Kathryn Burns, Chief Executive of 360 People and an input by Peter Roberts, Chief Executive and Principal of Leeds City College who talked about the parnership working around 14 - 19 confederations we are establishing across the city. Peter Laurence then talked about the work he is doing with Dorothy Smith and headteacher colleagues to develop new models of leadership in a 21st Century world, the progress with 14+ Area Partnership Working through confederations and shared some initial findings from an audit of headteacher roles and responsibilities in a Children's Services world.

Dirk Gilleard tells me that the workshop sessions after the break went very well. There were sessions focused on 'improving learning outcomes' led by Andrea Barnes, headteacher at Wetherby High School, and 'monitoring, tracking and improving performance' led by Andy Goulty, headteacher at Rodillian High School and the 'implementation of Rarely Cover' led by Ken Hall, headteacher at Priesthorpe High School.

We do need to think how we get all the secondary headteachers to these important sessions; the suggestions of cash incentives is something we must explore!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

This last week has once again been non stop and whatever the next couple of weeks bring we need to continue to stick to the basics. We must continue to nurture and support our colleagues to ensure that they continue to deliver for our children and young people, their families and communities. To build world class provision here in Leeds, every one of them needs to feel supported, trusted, valued and cared for, particularly those facing the greatest challenges and working in the most deprived communities...

This has been the second and, thankfully, the final week of the OFSTED inspection of safeguarding and looked-after children's services in Leeds and Dirk Gilleard, Ros Vahey and I met with the colleague leading on standards for the team. I also met with colleagues from the Health and Safety Executive to talk about how we ensure that headteachers are trained and supported to oversee construction work on their school sites following an accident earlier this year. I also attended Corporate Leadership Team, Education Leeds Board and Headteacher Forum.

I managed to squeeze in another staff induction session as well as attending the official opening of the brilliant new hall and classrooms at Carlton Primary School. I popped in to the 'Talking Heads' event celebrating the International Day of Disabled People at Kirkstall Abbey's visitor centre before attending the very moving and inspiring Memorial Celebration for Bill Pullen at Farnley Park High School. And finally I attended and talked at the event to publicise the research into 'Progression to Post-16 and Higher Education in Inner South Leeds' at Hillside in Beeston before attending the feedback session by the OFSTED team.

I attended a brilliant session a couple of weeks ago where an Australian academic talked about the fact that inspection reports are only valid if, faced with the evidence and applying intelligent analysis to the context and the reality on the ground, we would all come to the same conclusions and would all recognise the picture painted of practice, provision and outcomes. These are dangerous times for those of us who work in and with the most challenging and deprived communities; with children and families living in poverty; with the challenges around worklessness, ill-health, migration, anti-social behaviour and disengagement from learning. To achieve transformational outcomes and to release the magic we need to be brave not frightened; fearless not timid; confident not confused. We all understand that we need to do things differently to reach the marginalised and the hard to reach and to do this we need colleagues in schools facing the greatest challenges to feel challenged but also, more importantly, to feel trusted, empowered and supported.

We must never be complacent about the challenges we face and what we still have to do to ensure that every child is happy, healthy, safe and successful. But as we move into the run up to Christmas we must all remember and celebrate the quite extra-ordinary things we are doing here in schools across Leeds. We are doing a brilliant job... and don't believe anyone who says anything different!
My colleague Ken Campbell, Stepping Stones Programme Manager in the Aimhigher team here at Education Leeds sent me this...

"Hi Chris, I am attaching a letter from Sophia, a former pupil of Parklands HS. The experience of attending the programmes at Derek Fatchett, supported by undergraduates from Leeds University, has quite literally changed her life. Sophia writes...

"I have been attending the Stepping Stones mentoring project at Derek Fatchett CLC for 3 years now and I’m sad it’s ended. It has helped me in so many ways that I have the confidence that I can do the best in many exams and achieve the grades I need to help me go further in my life. It has also helped me make new friends and try things I would never have wanted to try without the support from the mentoring team. Visiting Herd Farm helped me learn cooking skills which have been helpful to me in later life. Also I am doing my Duke of Edinburgh. I am on my Silver Level as I have completed my Bronze the second time we tried. I have learned not to give up but keep trying and you will succeed in the end. Also it has helped me build team work skills, as I was not very good at it at first, but now I can say I am quite good now."

Sophia thoroughly enjoyed the residential summer school and will be our guest at our annual summer school evening on 21st January when she will describe her 'journey' and the benefits of summer school. I hope that Dinneka will also come along to give her perspective on first term at university. I am also inviting students and carers from other West Yorkshire authorities as well as reps from the universities.Best wishes, Ken."

It is wonderful to hear from some of our young people that the programmes we are delivering are making a difference and helping young people like Sophia and Dinneka achieve their potential.

Great news!

I heard on the grapevine that two of our schools achieved great outcomes with their OFSTED Inspections during the week...

Brigshaw High School and the West SILC both were graded good with outstanding features. Congratulations to Cath Lennon and her team at Brigshaw and Michelle Wilman and her team at the West SILC.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

I spent most of the morning with Ed Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families...

Ed and I were attending the Labour LEA Governors Conference at the Civic Hall chaired by Cllr Dowson and Cllr Mulherin. There were about twenty governors there and Ed talked about the national picture while I talked about our local successes and the challenges we still face. It was an interesting start to the weekend.

Friday, 4 December 2009

This morning I attended the 'Progression to Post-16 and Higher Education in Inner South Leeds' dissemination event at the new Hillside Centre in Beeston...

Dr Paul Sharp had conducted the research and produced the report which he summarised for the invited audience.A young student in her third year at Leeds University studying law talked about how she had enjoyed her time at Hugh Gaitskell Primary School, Cockburn Community College and Notre Dame Sixth Form College. I talked about the keys to brilliant outcomes for young people, families and communities; people, places, attitude and partnership.

The report and the event generally emphsised the need to do more to target our resources to ensure that young people and their families in deprived communities achieve basic skills, have high expectations and high self-esteem.
I received this e-mail from my colleague Laura Wilson, Senior Admissions Officer and wanted to share it with you...

‘We turn not older with years, but newer every day’
Emily Dickinson

"Hi Chris, I was decorating the Admissions & Transport team section of the 10th floor on Tuesday for Christmas and was discussing with my colleagues the fact that another year is over. We’re already one third in to the academic year and this year, like previous years, we expect to place some 22,000 school children in to schools in Leeds – whether that be mid-year or through the annual process for Year 7 and Reception for September 2010. We will also process approximately 6,000 applications from children and young people for help with transport to school or college. Every one of those applications is precious to us. Every child is dealt with individually. And this, understandably, takes time and effort and patience. I know that we can only achieve this because of the fantastic, talented and conscientious team that we have here at Admissions & Transport. And as Christmas is a time to be thankful, I am certainly thankful for my team mates – my colleagues. I am proud to work with such a diverse, hardworking, good humoured and kind group of people. Abdul Jalloh, our New Arrivals Officer, always says to new recruits ‘Welcome to our family!’ and he is right – we do work together like a family. Sometimes we may quarrel and may dispute with each other about what action is right, what path to take when confronted with something new or uncertain, but we do it because we care, because it matters to us about getting it right for families in Leeds.

I grew up in Leeds, I went to three Leeds schools, but never until I worked here did I realise what a multicultural city Leeds is. I was closed off from reality as a young person and only when I came to this team did I see how such a mix of ages, experiences, cultures and backgrounds could really work together to achieve fantastic things, things that a lot of people don’t see. I can honestly say that in the two and a half years I have been here I have never laughed so much or learned so much in my life. I do grow newer every day. Let me close by saying that I am thankful also for members of our extended family. Amy Williamson and Caron Tribble from Choice Advice, Steve Byrne at Parent Partnership, Jon Molton from Data Management, Jenny Marshall at PMIT, Bev Lloyd, Carl Whalley and Stephanie Rayford from Communications, Camille Wilkinson and Emma Mayhall on Merrion’s Reception who assist us in our work to reach these fantastic outcomes. I hope that this email serves as a small glimmer of something positive in weeks that have proved to be quite trying at Education Leeds. I look forward to 2010 knowing that the rest of my team grow newer with me and that we can only build upon the successes of this term so far. Regards, Laura."

As we face more and more criticism of Children's Services, it is really encouraging to remember and know what a great job Laura, Viv and colleagues are doing.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

This evening I attended the Memorial Celebration Evening at Farnley Park Maths and Computer College in memory of Dr Bill Pullen...
The evening was introduced by Phil McEvoy, Acting Headteacher at Farnley Park Maths and Computer College, and included brilliant performances by some of their talented young people; Charlotte Wainwright sang 'Footprints in the Sand', Oakley Pilotile performed a street dance called 'Down' and Lauren Brady sang 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow'. I had seen Oakley dance before with his sister when we opened Lower Wortley Primary School's new PFI building.

We have all been privileged to know Bill and his death is a sad, sad loss to education and learning in Leeds. Colleagues have talked to me of his commitment, his confidence and his expertise. But for me he was a man of passion, pace and purpose… thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate and with a deep sense of social justice. Our colleague Bill Pullen, took up the post of Headteacher at Farnley Park in September, 2005 after being Deputy Headteacher at Benton Park School. He also worked at Huntington School in York, Whitley Bay High School in North Tyneside and Allertonshire School in North Yorkshire.

Bill was one of those colleagues who could take your breath away; a giant of a man with a charismatic and friendly style and he will be sadly missed by us all... Farnley Park, West Leeds, Leeds and the world of education and learning have lost a remarkable human being and the world is a sadder and less special place without him. His family have asked us to support a charity Bill was passionate about; the 'House of Love Scholarship Programme' sponsors children to attend school in Uganda. You can find out more by visiting
This afternoon I attended the 'Talking Heads! Community Art Project' celebrating the International Day of Disabled People at Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre...

The project was funded by the Equality Team at Leeds City Council working with Leeds Museums and Galleries and Education Leeds Visually Impaired Team. This wonderful project involved children with visual impairment from across the city working with Seagulls community artists to create decorated heads based on the bust of Colonel North who gave Kirkstall Abbey to the people of Leeds. It was wonderful to talk to the children about the project. They all received certificates and goody bags from Cllr Richard Brett, Leader of the Council.

Their artwork will be on display in Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre for the next six month.
Following the Annual Lecture with Sir Ken Robinson, I was talking to Dirk about how we re-engineer our provision to encourage and support all our young people...

We do need to think differently about how we engage young people in learning; how we develop our young people as passionate and powerful learners; how we get young people to understand that the keys to success are attitude, discipline and hard work.

Interestingly we know what works; what makes the difference...
  • Opening early with breakfast.
  • 'Every Child a Reader'.
  • 'Every Child Counts'.
  • Brilliant teaching.
  • Singing.
  • Coaching.
  • Mentoring.
  • Small nurture groups.
  • Study support.
  • Family support through STEPS.
  • Enterprise activities.
  • Sport and activity.
  • Laughter.

What else works?


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I went to Carlton Primary School this evening...

The school was celebrating their brilliant new hall and classrooms extension with the Rothwell Temperance Band, their choir and their School Council. The School Council started the evening by talking about the Time Capsule they had created so that anyone discovering it in the future would know what it was like being a student at Carlton Primary School in 2009. The choir were brilliant and were accompanied, for some of their songs, by the Rothwell Temperance Band who were outstanding. The new hall and classrooms are fantastic additions to the school and the builders have done an excellent job to create such bright, airy and spacious areas.

This is a really good little school with a talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful teaching and learning team doing a great job and releasing something very special with some wonderful young people. It is one of those schools where you see happy, healthy, safe and successful in practice and it's magic!

The visit was the highlight of my week.
After the induction session I attended this week I received this wonderful bit of feedback from my colleague Jenny Sebright, who is an Education Officer in the West Leeds Youth Offending Service...

"Good Morning Chris, I met you yesterday at the Corporate Induction and I am taking you up on the offer of contacting you! I wanted to let you know that with all honesty I wasn't sure what the Induction would be like and how relevant I would find it. I was very wrong. I left feeling inspired and motivated. Not only by yourself but by Karen Cooper. I now feel I am part of a very successful team in terms of the whole of Education Leeds. As I am based in another service it is easy to feel unconnected to the wider service that I belong to and I am now excited by the challenges that faces me within the Youth Offending Service and working with schools and family's to ensure that Young Offenders receive an education. I have also in the last week put my name forward to be a parent governor at my sons school where he has recently joined in the Nursery so I am even more excited to be part of his Education and hope that I am successful in becoming a Governor. I am now looking forward with new and refreshed motivation to my new job with Education Leeds and will be following your blog with interest! Regards, Jenny."

It is great to get feedback from colleagues so we know what is working well and what we can do to improve and develop what we are doing here at Education Leeds.

More Good News!

I received some more good news this afternoon from my colleague Maqsood Sheikh...

"We should live our lives on this planet by following the secret to making perfect footprints in sand...... tread lightly, taking every step with care, leave your imprint without any lasting damage".

"Hi Chris, Just thought you’d be interested to know that as well as the Ofsted inspectors starting their onsite inspection on 23 November, we also had our external Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) auditors from BVQI carrying out their surveillance visit that same afternoon. The visit was an opportunity for us to showcase some of the areas of good environmental practice within the organisation. The auditor, Jonathan Wallace, met with: Alex Macleod and Victoria Stewart from our PFI Programme Management team to look at the way we manage PFI school contracts; Tony Palmer, David Ingham and James Saunders in Estate Management to talk about what we are doing to meet Zero Carbon School targets; and Steve Ruse in Health Initiatives about the Leeds Sustainable Schools Programme. Thanks to these colleagues, no non-conformances were raised by the auditor, and the visit was a success. This means that we continue to retain our EMAS accreditation. As part of the visit, Liz White and I also presented our Environmental Sustainability Statement to Jonathan, which, as you know, sets out our commitment to looking after the environment. Thanks for agreeing to support the delivery of our commitments in the statement, and I will be in touch with you over the next couple of weeks about supporting the recruitment of Environmental Champions from across Education Leeds.
Best Wishes, Maqsood."

It is brilliant to see colleagues in Education Leeds setting an example in terms of EMAS and that we are moving forward with Environmental Champions across the company. Remember..."Take only photographs, leave only footprints."

On 11 November I spent a brilliant lunchtime and the early part of the afternoon with some amazing children from Moortown Primary School and Stanningley Primary School as part of our '11 Million Takeover' activities...
It was great to spend some time with such wonderful young people.
I moved on to the West Park Centre for Headteacher Forum...

What always surprises me is the talent that turns up at these meetings. This meeting was really well chaired by Martin Fleetwood and was attended by some brilliant headteachers who as well as running great schools gave up some more of their time to share, network and learn. I am always impressed with the colleagues I work with from our schools. We have developed great teamwork and brilliant understanding here in Leeds and our headteachers are an amazing bunch... innovative, creative and imaginative and determined to do things their way because they passionately believe that it works for children and young people. We talked about how we can share more of the magic across schools and within schools to ensure that everything we do is outstanding.


I started the day at Little London Community Primary School for the Education Leeds Board Meeting...

It was great to be able to visit the school for the Board Meeting and to be able to show Board Members around the school with Jill Wood, headteacher. This little school is doing something extraordinary at the heart of the Little London community and everyone was deeply impressed at what we saw; the learning environment is brilliant, the children are wonderful, the school colleagues were fantastic and Jill was just Jill!

Christmas Party!

Sadly, Christmas has been cancelled due to a lack of interest...
We have had to cancel this year's Education Leeds Christmas Party. Thanks to those colleagues who have worked so hard to organise and arrange for us to have a Christmas Party. Sorry to everyone who was hoping to come and have a great time. Maybe next year!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I attended another of our induction sessions this lunchtime at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet some great new colleagues who bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience. They are some of our most positive, committed and enthusiastic colleagues since they have recently made the choice to join the 'A' team. The group were young, talented and gorgeous and were everything you would want in new colleagues.

Everyone of us, along with our children and young people, needs to be happy, healthy and safe to be increasingly successful. We need to continue to develop strong and highly effective leadership and a 'can do anything' culture that releases their potential, their magic, their passion and targets their hard work to make a real difference for our children and young people. We all need to coach, support and work with these new colleagues to release their potential and magic.

Remember that each of you is unique!

A friend sent me this fantastic quote to cheer me up while we struggle with the OFSTED inspection of safeguarding and looked-after children's services here in Leeds...

"We have every reason to look forward into the future with hope and excitement. Fear nothing and no one. Work honestly. Be good, be happy. And remember that each of you is unique, your soul your own, irreplaceable, and individual in the miracle of your mortal frame."
Pearl S. Buck (Walsh): 1892-1973; Nobel Prize Laureate
The truth is that whatever this week brings we will all be here next week, working with and for our children, their families and their communities to ensure that they are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!
My colleague Helen Gibson Davies sent me this last night...

"Hello again Chris. We at Calverley Parkside are still singing and having fun with our music! We joined thousands of other children at Sheffield Arena on the 24th Nov to take part in the Young Voices concert. I took 38, Y5 and 6 children and four staff and we had a fantastic experience. Lots of parents made the journey and enjoyed every moment with us. This was a once in a lifetime experience for the children and one that will linger in their memories long after SATS results have faded! I love my job, I love being with the children, I love singing and making music with them and I sometimes despair of the political football that education is! But we all battle on trying our best and really caring about the children in our care. That is why we have so many children who return to visit us when they have moved on; they miss us they say!All I need is happy children who love to come to school and parents who think our school is great! Helen."

Helen is right all our primary schools should be magical places full of the WOW factor; places where every child should sing, dance, read, count, play and create. Keep up the great work Helen.


Monday, 30 November 2009

I picked up a copy of 'We Are The People We've Been Waiting For' in the Guardian on Saturday. I managed to watch it this evening...

"The world is changing rapidly but our education system is not keeping pace."

The film is an independent documentary, inspired and guided by Lord Puttnam and Sir Michael Barber, which explores the education system in the UK. The film follows five young people and asks whether our current system provides young people with the opportunity to develop their talents and abilities. Sir Richard Branson, Professor Germaine Greer, Henry Winkler, Bill Bryson and Sir Ken Robinson share their personal experiences in this thought-provoking film which offers us all a unique insight and reveals a very inconvenient truth about education. Everyone who cares about education and learning should watch this film which you can find at

The film argues for a strong investment in teaching and learning where we respect and trust colleagues to inspire young people but also argues for a new pedagogy of learning that values flexibility, creativity and alternative ways of doing things. It argues that we need to re-imagine teaching and learning and to re-invent the curriculum to unlock the potential and magic in each and every learner. We need to consider what is possible and how we reach all our young people through more experimental approaches. We need a new generation of teachers to coach, guide and support our young learners and to make better use of technology to stretch and challenge and connect with young peoples interests.

This is the basis of the Dalton method and the Kunskapsskolan approach where we personalise and customise learning to meet the needs of each and everyone of our unique learners. We will always need great teachers to teach great lessons but these must be surrounded by a sea of opportunities which individual learners can access, adapt and use to reach their personal goals.
Happy to discuss.
This afternoon Ros Vahey, Dirk Gilleard and I met with Margaret Farrow HMI...

Margaret was interviewing us about our contribution to safeguarding and the educational outcomes of our looked after children. Ros, Dirk and I talked about the universal offer we make here in Leeds and its' critical importance to safeguarding. We looked at the range of targeted and focused initiatives we have developed from 'The Power of Me', 'Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month', the 'Stephen Lawrence Education Standard', the 'Inclusion Chartermark', 'Investors in Pupils', Leeds Healthy Schools, 'Stepping Stones', 'Leeds Mentoring' and the 'Virtual School for Looked After Children'.

We also talked about the outcomes we have achieved including a 10% increase for looked after children at the end of Key Stage 2 and a significant improvement for our looked after children at the end of Key Stage 4. We have also seen improvements in attendance and reductions in fixed term exclusions and feedback from our young people indicates that bullying is being reduced and tackled here in Leeds.
I moved on to Harewood CE Primary School...

I was there to talk about how we further develop the school site to meet the needs of 21st Century Schools.
I sgtrted the day early at a meeting with Health and Safety Executive...

We were discussing what we should do to ensure that every school's construction work is carried out safely and that headteachers are trained and supported with this work. It is vitally important that we remember that headteachers hould be great at what they do best... teaching and learning... and should engage people who are great at project management to oversee and monitor the construction work on school sites. This is to ensure that no Leeds headteacher ends up facing a charge of corporate manslaughter because they failed to follow health and safety legislation.

We'll be letting schools know about the training and the new procedures as soon as possible.
We need to continue to reflect, think, focus and stick to the basics... vision, discipline, focus, passion, engagement, creativity, partnerships, relationships and leadership. We must continue to nurture and support our learning teams to ensure that they continue to deliver for our children and young people so that every child is a reader and can count by seven, every child is a brilliant little learner by eleven and every young person is on a pathway to success by sixteen; whatever it takes...

This last week has been non stop; lunch with the OFSTED inspectors followed by the Yorkshire Bank 150th Anniversary Community Awards to present the education awards. Then Children's Services Leadership Team and Corporate Leadership Team before a visit to Yeadon Westfield Infant School and a meeting with Cabinet to look at the agenda for December's Executive Board Meeting before Sir Ken Robinson gave the fifth Education Leeds Annual Lecture at The Royal Armouries. Breakfast with the Seacroft Manston Family of Schools at John Smeaton Community College was followed by a visit to Millfield Primary School and a visit to Cookridge Primary School for their international celebration before I attended the Local Government Yorkshire and Humber Making a Difference Awards 2009. And finally a meeting with Leadership Team before meeting with Hilary Benn MP. What a week!

We need to ensure that we don't end up 'painting by numbers' in a world monitored, policed and controlled by the 'bean' counters and the 'keep within the line' checkers and the 'weigh the pig' consultants and that we avoid being trapped in a viscious spiral of negativity, of 'it's not good enough so let's do something else', of 'let's create another initiative', of 'let's get more consultants' and of 'let's make sure that we find someone to blame'.

Sir Ken Robinson reminded us all that these are dangerous times for those of us who understand that learning is a dynamic and creative process and that the current industrial model of schooling and 'command and control' doesn't work. To achieve transformational outcomes and to release the magic we need to do things differently; we need colleagues in schools facing the greatest challenges to feel trusted, empowered and supported to develop innovative and powerful ways of reaching and engaging learners!

We need to re-imagine learning for a digital age, as Dan Pink said "The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind... computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind - creators and empathisers, pattern recognisers and meaning makers. These people - artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers - will now reap society's richest rewards and share its greatest joys."

We need to continue the conversation and build learning places to deliver this new vision.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Cash for Kids Toy Appeal 2009

Last year over 7,000 children had a happier Christmas by receiving toys and gifts from Radio Aire and Magic 828's Cash for Kids Appeal. ...

For some of those children, without your generosity, they would have woken up on Christmas morning with nothing. The toys and gifts are distributed to Barnardo's, Candlelighters, Safe Anchor Trust, Getaway Girls, St. Vincent's, St. George's Crypt, Leeds Social Care, South and West Leeds Family Resource Centre, local refugees, all the children's wards at LGI and St James' and many many more. All gifts should be new and unwrapped. and they particularly need gifts for teenagers (13-18) and very young babies (0-3). If you would like to donate a gift, the nearest drop off point is Portland Cresent Reception at the Civic Hall . If you have a lot of donations you can arrange for a 'Christmas Convoy' on around the 10th or 18th of December to pick up your donations by contacting Ros or Kate at Radio Aire on 0113 283 5555 or by email to

This is a great cause which I hope as many people as possible will want to help.
My colleague Christine Marsden, Curriculum Development Manager at the Education Business Partnership talked to me at the Annual Lecture and told me about the Wykebeck Primary School art gallery project. I asked her to send me more so I could put it on the blog...

"Chris, On Wednesday 25th November I had the privilege of attending the Art Gallery exhibition put on by year 5/6 children from Wykebeck Primary School. The Education Business Partnership team had worked hard with the school to set up an Events Management social enterprise who decided that they wanted to show the community what the children at Wykebeck were capable of achieving and to celebrate this in a fun way. The project linked in with the topic being covered in science on life cycles. The children worked with an artist looking at work of Maurits Escher, Andy Warhol and Jean Jacques Rousseau to their own pieces using pastel, paint, collage and photography. They visited the art gallery and looked at how an exhibition is set up and how to display art which they then used to influence their own exhibition. The children voted for their best pieces which were printed as postcards and sold at the Art event. The Co-Op donated drinks and chocolate biscuits for the event, the sale of which raised money for the school Christmas activities. The Events Management team applied for a small business loan from the EBP to get them started and are looking to repay this through the sale of their postcards and other future work. The children really enjoyed the day and were proud of their achievements. They all said that they had spent more time on their work as they knew it was to be exhibited and this would be seen by others outside of school. They are now looking at how they can expand their exhibition, working with the Art gallery. Christine."

This sounds an extraordinary project and I am only sorry that I missed it. I could do with some pictures to capture the magic!
My colleague Sharon Hogan sent me this after the lecture...

"Hi Chris, First of all thanks to Education Leeds for the opportunity to hear Ken Robinson - it was a privilege of course and also to hear once again you remain so positive about young children and all those that work with them in Leeds. Quickly as i know you are so busy... a plea that the outstanding EY outcomes in July 2009 are shared wih colleagues whenever possible..this year we were 14th in the Local Authority League tables for Narrowing the Gap and in the top third of LA for a Good Level of Achievement. I know other key stages may have platued but EY is just as an important Key Stage. These assessments are conducted on over 8,000 children by EY practitioners in reception classes in Leeds schools. The outcomes of course represent the very good work with young children and families across all sectors and services. Once again many thanks for the wonderful evening Chris, Sharon."

Sharon is right that we need to recognise the importance of these results and celebrate them whenever and wherever we can. Everyone knows that education and learning is the one intervention that can most elevate our children above social disadvantage and the earlier we do this the better.
I received this e-mail from my colleague Mark Wilson, headteacher at Robin Hood Primary School...

"Hi Chris. Great conference last night... Thanks. The link to the Larry Rosenstock (High Tech High, San Diego) video that I'd said I'd send.... It's well worth a viewing. The Book Project: Briiliant Learning - 20 butterflies in Leeds. A 40 page booklet - a photograph on one page, description on the opposite page - a description of one 'quick win' pioneered/used to improve learning outcomes in one Leeds school. The book has a weblink that says 'more butterflies at X School'... with nine further butterflies on the website hosted within Evolve & using the materials that are being collected weekly for video... 200 butterflies in all. Mark."

I said at the lecture that we need to continue the conversation and this video does that and continues to challenge our ideas about what learning is and what it looks like. Mark's 'Brilliant Learning' book will also provide us with a way of sharing the magic in Leeds.

Two highly commended and yet another Award!

This evening I attended the fourth Local Government Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' Awards at the Royal Armouries....

The Awards celebrate the achievements of local authorities across the region and recognise the hard work and commitment of teams and individuals across councils, police, fire service and national park authorities. There were 165 submissions across ten categories and 46 were shortlisted. There were eleven nominations altogether from Leeds and it is brilliant that four of these came from Education Leeds!

Our four nominations were:
  • Leeds Local Education Partnership in the 'Transforming through Efficiency' category;
  • Be Smart: Use a Condom in the 'Making Connections' category;
  • Spirit Alive in the 'Building Cultural Spaces' category;
  • VI team in tthe 'Outstanding Contribution' category.

And we achieved highly commended for:

  • Leeds Local Education Partnership in the 'Transforming through Efficiency' category;
  • Be Smart: Use a Condom in the 'Making Connections' category.

And the fantastic news was that the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful VI team won the 'Outstanding Contribution' category!

Here's the whole team at our awards evening earlier this term.. talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wondeful!

It was a fantastic evening for Leeds with Paul Rogerson receiving a special award for his contribution to the leadership of the Yorkshire and the Humber region and Leeds winning the award for the authority that has made the most difference in terms of leadership and contribution to the development of Local Government in Yorkshire and Humber. Leeds was also highly commended for the Leeds Independent Living Project, the Children and Young Peoples' Participation Unit, the Breeze International Youth Festival International School Partnerships and won the Building Cultural Spaces award for Leeds City Museum's work on building community partnerships.

The evening's entertainment was provided by The Nightjars who were fantastic and by my old friend and ex-colleague Gervase Phinn who was his usual brilliant self and had everyone laughing so much that they were reduced to tears. All in all it was a great night for Leeds and Education Leeds.


Thursday, 26 November 2009

I moved on again to Cookridge Primary School to attend their International Celebration...

My colleague Jo Speak had asked me to attend and I arrived part way through their Cultural Cabaret which involved a rich blend of dance and singing from Spain, Mexico and Africa. I was particularly struck by the youngest children who were signing and signing to Spanish songs. The older children also sang 'Drop in the Ocean' which is one of my favourites. A colleague from the British Council had travelled up from London to present Stuart Tomlinson, the headteacher, with its 'International School Award' and I was asked to present Young Global Citizen of Cookridge Primary School Awards to a group of young people who had made a significant contribution already in the school. It was a great afternoon celebrating some incredible work at the school and everyone who attended had a wonderful time.
I moved on to Mill Field Primary School where Stephen Watkins and his team are releasing a very special magic...

Stephen and his colleagues have managed the transition brilliantly to create a great school working closely with families and the community it serves. The atmosphere around the school is positive, the learning environment is attractive with a focus on children's work. Stephen and his team are working relentlessly to improve standards, particularly in reading and writing and at Key Stage 2, and improving attendance building on the real strength in the Early Years and Foundation Stage and the outstanding care, guidance and support the children receive at the school. This is a happy, safe and successful little school doing great work in its community.
I started the day early having breakfast with a group of headteacher colleagues at John Smeaton Commuinity College...

The Seacroft Manston Family of Schools headteachers are an amazing group of colleagues doing brilliant work with children and families against a background of poverty, disadvantage and ill-health in these highly mobile and complex communities. We considered increasing numbers, 21st Century Schools, special needs and behaviour provision, early years, extended services, 'Every Child a Reader' and talked about the characteristics of brilliant provision and how schools could maintain their focus on standards and safeguarding with so many intiatives, so many pots of money to chase, so many consultants and experts and so much constant change.

We agreed that the key is to maintain a focus on learning, on quality provision and to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience while being able to phone a friend when help was needed. We talked about the importance of developing confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understood the learning process and working positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities. We talked about the many challenges we all face but what was deeply encouraging was that, alongside their passionate commitment to their children, there was a total focus on ensuring that their children were exposed to rigorous, pacey and brilliant teaching to ensure that as far as possible they all became literate, numerate and had the necessary social and emotional skills to succeed.

It was a brilliant start to the day with some great colleagues and we need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more and to celebrate more. We talked about the challenges that lie ahead and the need to be more creative and more collaborative and to stop the merry go round of meetings, bureaucracy and things that made no difference to children and families and focus on those we know do.


At the end of an extraordinary day I attended the fifth Education Leeds Annual Lecture and doesn't seem a year since we were listening to Mick Waters or two years since we had Tim Brighouse or four years since Alan November delivered the first lecture at the Royal Armouries...

We all know that at it's brilliant best provision and services here in Leeds are outstanding; are simply world class and you don't have to believe me simply talk to the constant stream of visitors from DCSF, OFSTED, NCSL, TDA, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Stockholm, Helsinki, Brno who are blown away by our new buildings, our provision, the materials and projects, our schools, our children and young people and our colleagues. And as I looked around the hall yesterday evening I could see the reason why provision in Leeds is so outstanding…

The lecture was an opportunity to refresh and rethink, to renew and re-imagine and to go into 2010 to continue to change the world and release the enormous potential and magic in our teams, our schools, our colleagues, our children and young people, our families and our communities. We need extraordinary colleagues to continue to build brilliant; to bravely and boldly go where we’ve never been and that is why we invited Sir Ken Robinson to give the Education Leeds Annual Lecture.

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments across the world, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies and some of the worlds leading cultural organisations. In 1998 he led the UK national commission on creativity, education and the economy and published ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’. He was knighted in 2003 for services to the arts and education. His latest book ‘The Element’ explores natural talent and personal passion, inspiration and achievement.

Thanks to Sir Ken Robinson, thanks to the team at Savilles, thanks to Dee Reid and the rest of my colleagues who made the evening possible and thanks to all of you who came and made it such a great evening.
Keep the faith!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I started the day early at Yeadon Westfield Infant School...

It was wonderful to visit this great little school and talk to Anne Parker, the headteacher, and some of her talented colleagues. Anne's vision, determination and hard work have created a wonderful learning environment for her children and developed an experienced and enthusiastic learning team who are clearly releasing something very special at the school. We need to do something about the enormous puddle which sits outside their nursery provision... makes the pirate ship look lovely surrounded as it is by a sea of water! School food is also a real success story with around 80% of the children having a school dinner and the fantastic school cook producing great food and working hard to locally source fruit, vegetables and meat... an example for other schools to follow.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

My colleague Steve Ruse, Sustainable Schools Consultant in our Leeds Healthy Schools and Wellbeing Team sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, Two Leeds schools have recently achieved the Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) Silver Award and as such deserve some recognition, perhaps a letter of congratulations from yourself would be appropriate. The Food for Life Partnership co-ordinators have also acknowledged the contribution of the Leeds Catering and Cleaning Services for working with the schools to ensure that FFLP Silver criteria has been achieved for the school meals. Mandy Snaith heads up that service and reports to Julie Meakin. Silver schools serve school meals on plates, not flight trays, and a range of locally sourced and organic items are served. All chicken, bacon and sausages served are Freedom Food certified or free range and no fish from unsustainable sources is served. The school has a cooking club, and pupils get to cook with and eat the produce grown in the school growing area. Parents and the wider community get involved in food education via food-themed events. There are only 22 schools in England that have achieved the Silver award and therefore this is a fantastic achievement! Details of the schools and teams involved are as follows:
  • Middleton Primary School - Samantha Williams (Head) and Katy Skelton (teacher) are the FFLP leads in school. Sheila Hunt is the Business Manager and has been very involved in FFLP. The school cook is Sandra Ballantyne.
  • Pudsey Primrose Hill Primary School - Lesley West (Head), Sarah Alderson (Assistant Head) and Kathryn Dickson (Assistant Head). Sonia (surnname not advised) is the school cook.

Regards, Steve"

It is great to hear about the brilliant work Sam and Lesley and their teams are doing to improve school food and drink working with the 'Food for Life Partnership'. They are part of a very exclusive club having achieved the Silver Award.


Monday, 23 November 2009

This afternoon I attended the Yorkshire Bank's 150th Anniversary Community Awards presentation event...

I had attended the launch event in June for the Yorkshire Bank's 150th Anniversary Community Awards which were focused in four key areas; environment, volunteering, regeneration and education and I was delighted to be asked to attend this afternoon's event to present the education awards. In each category the winning project received £10,000 with four runners up each receiving £5,000. A further twenty awards of £1,000 were made. The overall winning project also received a further £10,000.

It was a brilliant evening for Leeds..
  • Lineham Farm Children's Centre won the environment award;
  • Growing Zone Group from Kippax won the volunteering award;

  • Caudwell Children from Stoke on Trent won the regeneration award with Harehills Youth in Partnership achieving one of the runners up awards;

  • Lancashire Education Business Partnership won the education award; and finally

  • Caudwell Children won the overall award.

It was a wonderful way to recognise Yorkshire Bank's 150th by supporting charities and voluntary groups in these four key areas and fantastic that three Leeds organisations received major awards.


"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today.
It's already tomorrow in Australia."
Charles M Schulz
I had lunch with Gary Lamb, lead inspector and his team as they started the OFSTED inspection of safeguarding and looked-after children's services here in Leeds. It was reassuring to meet the colleagues carrying out the inspection and to start to establish a relationship which will, as always, help us do even better for our children and young people; particularly the most vulnerable, the most special and those who need us most. Roll on next Friday!
"I am an optimist.
It doesn't seem too much use being anything else."
Winston Churchill
It was another busy week at the office as we prepared for the visit by our friends from OFSTED. We need to remember that whatever the next two weeks bring the challenges will remain driving up standards, improving outcomes, addressing the needs of targeted individuals and groups of young people, narrowing the gap, and challenging and engaging those not in education, employment and training...

The real questions and challenges are:
  • how do we improve learning outcomes for all our young people?
  • how do we create provision that delivers significantly better learning outcomes for target groups of young people?
  • how do we tackle the common factors that impact on so many of our young people?

Last week was anti-bullying week and enterprise week, and we also had the annual Big STEPS Celebration Event at the Civic Hall before the Standards Meeting with colleagues from National Strategies and Government Office. I attended a briefing session on the OFSTED Inspection of Safeguarding and Looked-after Children as well as contributing to the Safer Leeds Inspection by the National Policing Inspection Authority. We held the National and International Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month Storytelling and 'O Baro Dive' Awards at the Civic Hall with visitors from across the country before I went to this week's Corporate Leadership Team meeting. On Wednesday, I visited the site where we’re building a brilliant new home for Bankside Primary School, travelling from the school to the Fir Tree site where half the school is currently working. On Thursday I had breakfast with new headteacher colleagues before visiting Woodkirk High School Specialist Science College and dropping in on the Anti-bullying Ambassadors Information Day at Leeds Metropolitan University. I ended the day at the wonderful Looked-after Children Celebration at the Civic Hall. On Friday, Children in Need: Do Something Different day, there was a great fundraising effort across Education Leeds, which included everything from cake sales to a special Education Leeds version of the Weakest Link. Over £1200 had been raised by the end of the day so thanks to everyone who made the special effort in what was already a challenging week. I also attended the Annual Leeds Governors' Conference at the Village Hotel before another Staff Induction Session at the Derek Fatchett Centre. And finally I ended the week at the Leeds City Council Awards for Excellence event at the Town Hall.

Everyone expects so much... as we drive and guide the school system in Leeds towards improved performance and better outcomes for every child and every young person we must...

  • 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
  • Do things to make people feel special.

I am grateful to all those colleagues who put in that little bit extra and went the extra mile last week. We must use this opportunity and the visit by OFSTED to further develop and re-imagine our systems, processes and provision and be brave enough to ask ourselves the difficult questions about why things are currently not working around some of our young people and what we can do to ensure that there is step change in outcomes for all those young people who are hardest to reach, hardest to teach and hardest to engage.

We all know that this climate of higher and higher accountability increases the weight of the expectations facing all of us and as always the stakes are high. The biggest challenge lies in how we develop learning leadership; connect with student learning and student voice, and then mobilise the energy and commitment of all our partners and stakeholders. This challenge involves all of us working together and releasing the potential and the power of our TEAM!

So...whatever you do, do something, and whatever you do be happy, keep healthy and stay safe.

Fantastic News!

My colleague Scott Jacques, National Strategies Advisor for ICT in our School Improvement
Team sent me this e-mail...

"Hi Chris, Just thought I'd share with you some fantastic news from the end of last week. Two Leeds primary schools won national recognition for their use of technologies for learning at the BECTA ICT Excellence Awards in Bristol. Added to this, RM also won an award for their support for schools, including their work with BSF in Leeds. The two winning primary schools were Alwoodley Primary, who won the national Primary Learning Experience Award and Robin Hood Primary School who won the national Leadership, Management and Collaboration award This is a wonderful achievement for both these schools and recognises the outstanding work in the area of ICT that Jane Langley and Mark Wilson and their respective teams are doing. Leeds was the only local authority to have schools win more than one award, so to have two, plus the recognition of RM's work in Leeds, was something special. You can see the very high quality of the competition plus more information about the Leeds winners at:
Regards, Scott."

It is great to have the ICT work going on across Leeds recognised like this and for Alwoodley and Robin Hood Primary Schools to fly the flag for Leeds. Congratulations to our colleagues and partners at RM!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

And finally at the end of yet another long, challenging and wonderful week in Leeds I attended the Leeds City Council Excellence Awards...

Sadly we didn't win any of the 16 awards but we were nominated in eight and shortlisted in two.
Congratulations to and the Visually Impaired Team and everyone else who was nominated having won the Education Leeds Spirit Awards.

Friday, 20 November 2009

We are the people we've been waiting for!

When I attended the education guardian 'Innovation in Education' Conference recently Lord Puttnam showed a clip from a film...

Everyone who cares about education and learning needs to see this film. You can see a clip from the film 'We are the People We've been Waiting For' here. It lasts six and a half minutes but I promise it will be worth it.
My colleague Christine Marsden, Curriculum Development Manager at the Education Business Partnership sent me this e-mail...

"Hi Chris, Bruntcliffe School made the Regional Social Enterprise Final but were just beaten to the post as overall Best Social Enterprise. However they went on to win the Leeds Best Social Enterprise in June and won the Schools category for the Business Links Yorkshire and Humber Social Enterprise award in October. They also appeared at the Footsey show in Doncaster in October. They have put themselves forward for the school category for the National Social Enterprise Awards. Many of you will have seen their stand at the Regional Social Enterprise or Leeds event and I’m sure you were impressed with their efforts. Ryan Hirst who manages the programme at Bruntcliffe is very passionate and this shows in the way the students respond and the quality of work they produce. They would be grateful for your votes to help them achieve this final accolade. They certainly deserve to be in the final.

If you would like to vote for Bruntcliffe School then could you please click on the link below. You have to vote for a business in each of the 4 categories but there is a short intro to each so it only takes a couple of minutes to complete. Please vote – lets make Bruntcliffe the first Leeds school not only to get to the final but also to win it.
Many thanks, Christine."

I hope as many colleagues as possible will vote for Bruntcliffe who are doing brilliant things in this area and reaching and engaging some very special young people .
I moved on to yet another Induction Session for new colleagues to Education Leeds at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the A Team... the best education team anywhere! These colleagues bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience and they certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams. Our job is to continue to develop the leadership and culture that will release their potential, their magic, their passion and target their hard work to make a real difference for our children and young people. They asked some great questions about how we build an education and learning system for the 21st Century focused on personal and social skills, sustainability, creativity, the arts, global citizenship and life skills and how we remove the fear factor which is stifling brilliant practioners.

Answers on a postcard.
I started the day at the Leeds Governors' Conference at the Village Hotel...

The conference was attended by over 150 governors from across the city and was focussed on student voice and safeguarding. Rosemary Archer and I talked to the governors about Children's Services and the keys to brilliant provision before children from the school councils at Castleton and Shadwell Primary Schools gave fantastic presentations about the impact they were having in their schools. I talk so often about magic but these young people certainly brought some to the conference.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

And finally today I attended the Looked-After Children Celebration Event at the Civic Hall...

The Banqueting Suite was packed with standing room only for this wonderful celebration of the achievements of some of our looked-after children. Cllr Stewart Golton, Lead Member for Children, and Cllr Richard Harker, Lead Member for Learning joined the Lord Mayor, Cllr Judith Elliott, for the event which recognised the personal, academic, social and sporting achievements of over sixty young people from across Leeds.

Some sad news!

Chris Pollard, Head of National Strategies within the School Improvement Service here at Education Leeds sent me this bit of sad news today...

"Dear Chris, I am very sorry to have to tell you about the death today of one of my team, Jane Rose, who has been fighting cancer for 6 years. Jane was a primary mathematics consultant, who worked with us for 8 years, and prior to that was a teacher in Leeds. She has put up an amazingly brave fight, and all her colleagues and friends are immensely saddened by her loss. She was in her early 40s and leaves a husband and two young daughters. Chris"

In a world where OFSTED, the DCSF and everyone else continue to give us hassle and are never satisfied with what we do, we must remember how fragile and precious life is and we all need to ensure that our colleagues know how much they have achieved here in Leeds, the difference they have made and are making and how much we value them and their contribution. Jane will be deeply missed by everyone who knew her, she made a real difference here in Leeds and our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this terribly sad time.


I moved on to the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors Information Day at Leeds Metropolitan University...

Hialry Farmery and her colleagues had oerganised another great day for some of our Anti- Bullying Ambassadors working with Childline, The Project and Leeds Rugby Foundation. The initiative now involves over 200 young people from 13 primary schools and 17 secondary schools across Leeds who are working with us to tackle bullying. Hilary and her colleagues are doing a brilliant job and the feedback from schools, from young people and from our ambassadors is that things are getting better but that we still have more to do to ensure that every child feels safe at school.