Friday, 23 January 2009

I had lunch with Professor Stephen Parkinson, Chair of Education Leeds Board, Cllr Richard Harker , Lead Member for Learning, Paul Napier, Editor of the Yorkshire Evening Press and Nicola Megson, Deputy Editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post...

It was great to see Paul and Nicola again and to share some of the issues we are facing and the opportunities we have for working together. We agreed that we need to celebrate some of our successes and to develop some campaigns where we share a common agenda. We talked about 'Every Child a Reader', 'Making Leeds a Better Place' and 'Schools Awards'.
I started the day at Boston Spa School...

I was there to see Chris Walsh, Headteacher at Boston Spa School, Andrea Barnes, headteacher at Wetherby High School and Andrew Hodkinson, principal of the NE SILC West Oaks. We were there to talk about the opportunities we have for these schools to work together to develop brilliant provision to serve the communities in the North East of Leeds.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

My colleagues Linda Sibbons one of our Primary Strategy Advisers and School Improvement Partners sent me this e-mail about the work she has been doing with Hollybush Primary School...

"Hi Chris, We had a very successful Taster Twilight for Head teachers and Senior Leaders at Hollybush Primary School last night. Around 50 people attended from a wide range of schools across the city to find out how Learning Walks can be used for more than simply monitoring. Hollybush generously invited everyone to take a Learning Walk around school and 'test a hypothesis' around the quality of the maths learning environment. Everyone was bowled over by the beautiful building (naturally!) but equally by the quality of the environment in each classroom and in shared areas and by the way the building has been so well respected in the three years since it opened. Danny Kenny had only been in place for 12 days as new head teacher and was very pleased at the response of his head teacher colleagues. Kathleen Alderson, the deputy, gave a very good presentation about the impact of Learning Walks and the Subject Leaders for Maths and Literacy took everyone round the school. I know you are visiting Hollybush in the next few weeks and know too that you will be pleased to hear what a brilliant contribution they are making. Best wishes, Linda."

It is great to hear from colleagues about some of the great things that are happening across Leeds.
I was introduced to 'Teach First' today...

'Teach First' is a powerful initiative aimed at addressing educational disadvantage in some of the UK's most challenging urban schools. The aim is to attract high-calibre highly motivated graduates into a programme of teaching and leadership development through which the scheme develops inspiring teachers, transforming leaders, role models and agents of change.

Great scheme which would bring some outstanding individuals to the National Challenge schools in Leeds. I will be arranging a meeting so that interested schools can find out more.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

We have just published the secondary performance tables and they are our best results ever…..

  • permanent exclusions are down again;
  • fixed term exclusions are down; and
  • attendance is up.

We have also seen…

  • GCSE 5A*-C increase by 5% to 62.4% (nationally 65.3%);
  • GCSE 5A*-C inc English & Maths increase by 4% to 46.4% (nationally 47.6%); and importantly
  • the number of young people achieving nothing after eleven years of statutory education reduced by over 25%!

We all know what works…

  • strong, discipline, focused and passionate leadership,
  • clear vision, values and beliefs driving all aspects of the school,
  • talented, energetic, enthusiastic, creative teams,
  • stimulating, relevant and engaging programmes of work,
  • stimulating and interesting learning environments,
  • high expectations of everyone,
  • tracking, coaching and mentoring,
  • the engagement of young people,
  • strong partnerships with parents and carers,
  • comprehensive partnerships with other agencies and organisations.

We have proved the doubters wrong and we are building really solid foundations which are engaging young people, parents and carers and communities. These foundations focus on individualised challenge and support, real excellence in teaching and learning and an uncompromising commitment to continuous improvement.

We need to produce a 'Great Schools Report' to celebrate what we’ve achieved at places like Cockburn Community College, John Smeaton Community College, the David Young Community Academy, Pudsey Grangefield School and Morley High School. Places where we have got parents involved, raised expectations, raised standards, improved the quality of teaching, improved the quality of leadership and provided a rich, relevant and engaging curriculum in brilliant facilities.

However, we can never be complacent because we have so much more to do and the answers lie in developing:

  • new models of governance, leadership and management,
  • structural solutions involving small units - 250 or less students,
  • high expectations for all,
  • local control and local accountability,
  • ways of maximising funding to schools,
  • parent participation, and
  • provision that opens long and often.

To really achieve outstanding and sustainable outcomes in some of the poorest and lowest performing communities we need to do three things:

  • Increase the time young people are learning. Start early and finish late. Open on Saturdays. Cut the summer holidays. Focus on the basics within a rich offer of the arts, music, sport and visits.
  • Focus on teaching and goal setting. Use data and information to target effort and energy. Train and retain the teaching and learning team. Coach and develop the teaching and learning team. Focus on results but also on team building, cooperation, enterprise, creativity and rewards.
  • Focus on behaviours, values and character. Use slogans, posters, encouragements and rudiments to encourage teamwork, optimism, aspirations, effort and hard work.

Ownership, partnership, accountability and responsibility are the keys to our relentless and uncompromising drive to become world class. We must target programmes around our disadvantaged young people. We must embrace change and use Academies, Trusts, through schools and anything else we can think of to drive the re-engineering of our provision. If we are really serious about great schools we need to recruit, retain and develop great leaders, great teachers and great colleagues who will work with us to make it happen.


I told you in November that The Times Educational Supplement has announced its' inaugural TES Schools Awards...

These awards aim to celebrate and reward teams making an outstanding contribution in primary and secondary schools. Celebrate your colleagues, stakeholders, suppliers and children and young people by entering The TES Schools Awards.

The Awards are for:
Primary School of the Year
Secondary School of the Year
Outstanding Special Needs Initiative of the Year
Outstanding Community Involvement Award
Outstanding Leadership Team Award
Outstanding Literacy Initiative
Outstanding Numeracy Initiative
Outstanding Sporting Initiative
Outstanding Sustainable School of the Year
Best e-learning Initiative
Outstanding Personalised Learning Initiative of the Year
Best School Dinners Award
Outstanding Staff Training/Development Initiative
Outstanding New or Refurbished Primary School
Outstanding New or Refurbished Secondary School
Outstanding Recruitment Advertisements Campaign

The deadline for nominations is 20 February and it would be great to have schools and initiatives in Leeds winning these awards.
Here is another way you can support Martin House...

My colleague Alan Taylor sent me this message this morning.

"Hi Chris, Thought i'd drop you an email to let you know what myself and a couple of friends are planning for this June. We are going to do a sponsored walk in aid of Martin House. But not just any old walk in the woods! No, this is going to be a proper walk, an incredible 84 miles over 5 days. Ok ok, most experienced walkers wouldn't blink at that distance but we shall be dressed as authentic Roman Legionnaires (with a few added comforts, such as walking boots and flasks). We have got our armour and helmets and it does weight around 12kilo's! As you have probably guessed by now, we shall be following the route of Hadrians wall, starting in Wallsend and finishing in Bowness on Solway. We hope you can support us in walk. we have set up a blog site, which you can visit at :

The aim is to raise a thousand pounds initially, tho we believe we should be able to hit higher targets. If you can pass the word, to people you know, that would be a brilliant way of raising the profile and donations! Cheers, Alan."

This is a brilliant way to get some exercise and at the same time support Martin House. I hope colleagues will support Alan in this wonderful walk to raise money for some very special children and their families.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I finished the day at Guiseley School...

I had been invited by Andrew Nelson to a community event launching the school's Stephen Lawrence Education Standard programme. There were loads of things happening from music, dance, talks and workshops as well as coverage of the Barack Obama's inauguration. It was great to see that the school were taking on this important piece of work and I look forward to visiting the school again to see the progress they have made.
Later I met Cllr Richard Harker and we went back to the David Lloyd Centre to see the East and North East secondary headteachers...

This group of colleagues are working together with us on the re-engineering of provision to deliver the National Challenge and ensure that all schools in Leeds achieve above the 2011 target that 30% of young people achieve 5A*-C at GCSE including English and mathematics. We are working on structural strategies for City of Leeds, Primrose and Parklands but the impact of any changes affect provision in South Leeds, Central Leeds and East and North East Leeds. This requires a more holistic and comprehensive approach but with that relentless and uncompromising short term focus on teaching, learning and standards for Years 9, 10 and 11.

I am particularly grateful to all those colleagues who are working with us to find sustainable and powerful solutions which will deliver great schools achieving great outcomes to serve these communities.
I started the day with the secondary headteachers at the David Lloyd Centre...

It was great to spend some time with the secondary heads to talk about what we hav achieved together over the last few years and the challenges and opportunities that face us over the next few years. We must continue our relentless and uncompromising focus on standards and outcomes for all our young people with a renewed emphasis on our target groups; our looked-after children, our children on free-school meals and our children from some ethnic-minority communities.

There is no question about the change in culture, attitudes and intelligence which is driving this agenda across the secondary schools and has achieved some brilliant results this year. Colleagues in our secondary schools have achieved something quite remarkable and let's hope we can continue to deliver these improvements until we reach our goals for 2015 when we have committed ourselves to 80% achieving 5A*-C grades at GCSE with 65% achieving this with English and mathematics.
On a hugely important day for the United States of America and the world here are some quotes to keep us focused on what really matters...

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"If we do not learn to live together as friends, we will die apart as fools."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verbs agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today marks the beginning of a new opportunity to build a better world for all our children. Be optimistic. Be hopeful. Be your brilliant best!
Keep the faith.

Monday, 19 January 2009

I think the things that make brilliant are...
  • strong, disciplined, focused and passionate leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs driving all aspects of the school;
  • a talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative team;
  • stimulating, exciting and engaging programmes of work built on the basics;
  • a powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environment;
  • high shared expectations, engagement and involvement of colleagues.;
  • strong, dynamic and meaningful relationships with parents and carers;
  • inspiring teaching and learning within a nurturing climate;
  • tracking of childrens progress and achievements;
  • early, appropriate and focused interventions.

We must maintain our relentless and undiminished focus on standards and outcomes but if your school has these features it will be a great school, and a school releasing a very special kind of magic.

"Mankind owes to children the best it has to give.
Their life is fragile
If they are to have a tomorrow
Their needs must be met today.
Many things can wait but not the children."
Gabriella Mistral
I started the day with Chris Halsall and her team talking about the brilliant work that is going on in primary schools across Leeds and the need to maintain the real emphasis on excellence in terms of leadership, early years provision, the curriculum offer, the rigorous and relentless focus on the basics, standards and outcomes and deep connected work with families and communities as partners in learning. It was a really stimulating and engaging sesssion with a group of colleagues who are making a real difference acrioss Leeds.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

It has been a week full of meetings: Education Leeds Leadership Team, Children's Services Leadership Team, Corporate Leadership Team, Leader Management Team, Executive Board and meetings with Councillors filled my week...

We also had the Coaching Skills session for members of the Leadership Forum and I did manage to fit in a school visit to Armley Primary School where Kath Andrews and her team are doing great work. However, the highlight of the week was the publication of the secondary performance tables. The percentage of our young people gaining five or more good grades at GCSE including English and maths increased by over 4% over last year from 42.4% to 46.4% and closing the gap with the national figure of 47.6%. The figures also reveal that 62.4% of Leeds students achieved 5 or more good GCSEs, an increase of over 5% over last year and closing the gap with the national figure of 65.3%. We have seen dramatic improvements this year where we celebrated our best ever GCSE results. Overall our GCSE results have improved by over 50% since 2001.

We are making a difference in so many ways and we must continue to make a difference by:
challenging colleagues, building their confidence and coaching them to succeed;
  • creating a compelling and shared vision for the future;
  • agreeing our shared values, beliefs and behaviours;
  • establishing shared goals that stretch and challenge;
  • constantly asking ourselves challenging questions;
  • recognising colleagues strengths, talents and abilities;
  • rewarding and recognising progress and improvement;
  • empowering,trusting and supporting colleagues;
  • identifying what brilliant performance looks like;
  • conducting learning and practice sessions; and
  • providing helpful and constructive feedback.

What are you doing to make a difference?