Saturday, 31 January 2009

"I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and killed by high school and college graduates. So I'm suspicious of education. My request is: help your students to be human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, or educated Eichmanns. Reading and Writing and spelling and history and arithmetic are only important if they serve to make our students more human."
Haim Ginott
I have just read the special issue of 'harmony', the new News Magazine of the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard in Leeds...

The special issue was produced to highlight the work we have been doing on the importance of Holocaust Education. It is a brilliant collection of stories and articles encouraging us all to remember the past and shape the future. I hope everyone will read and learn from this special edition.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently published guidance on Promoting Physical Activity for Children and Young People...

We have been saying this for ages and the recommendations are that children and young people should undertake a range of moderate to vigorous-intensity activities for at least 60 minutes every day with at least two sessions a week of activities that improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility. This amount of physical activity can be achieved in a number of short, ten-minute 'Wake-Up and Shake Up' style sessions.

You can find out more and download the guidance at

Friday, 30 January 2009

And finally I visited the Armley Children's Centre for another STEPS celebration...

It was great to meet and talk to yet another group of mums who had completed the STEPS course. Each one had a story to tell and each one talked about how the programme had changed their life for the better. All said that they were different and better parents as a result and many were planning to do more study; one had got a job, one was planning to go to university and another planning to set up her own company.

This brilliant initiative continues to change lives.
I moved on to the opening of the new Hunslet Hawks Learning Centre at the John Charles Centre for Sport...

We have achieved something quite remarkable with the new Hunslet Hawks Learning Centre which started life as a corridor and a cupboard space. It has been transformed into a brilliant learning place which is doing real magic for 200 young people at schools in South Leeds every week.

Playing for Success has achieved some remarkable results and it is great to hear that we are now looking at Performing for Success and Cooking for Success to take this added value to more and more young people across Leeds.
I moved on to Royd's School to meet Terry Sweeney, Chief Executive of RM...

Terry had accepted an invitation to see us again in Leeds and visited Rodillian School before coming to Royd's to meet with a group of secondary headteacher colleagues. We wanted to talk to Terry about the managed service and the strategic partnership Education Leeds has with RM.

We all need to recognise the potential of this partnership and the cutting edge work we are doing. We need to ensure that the infrastructure works well and that we have the capacity to support teaching and learning through the powerful use of ICT.
I started the day early at St Mary's Catholic High School in Menston...

Jackie Green and I had been invited by Mike Pyle, the headteacher, to meet with him, his chair and colleagues from Guiseley School to talk about the developing relationship between the two schools particularly around 14+ and 16+ provision. It was really encouraging to listen to colleagues talking so positively and creatively about partnership, extended services and collaboration.
I received an e-mail asking about i-Leeds...

i-Leeds is our new Leeds-wide electronic Individual Learning Plan (eILP). The eILP is hosted online and should be available to all young people wherever there is an Internet connection. The eILP is designed for and around the learner: it is their individual learning plan and will grow and develop with them throughout their learning and education career - from school through to college and / or work based learning and university. It will be a place for learners to state their goals and aspirations, get information on how to reach their targets, communicate and plan their development with their mentor or tutor, track their own progress, record their views, research applications and build their own CV.

It is a brilliant piece of work which will change the way 14-19 provision is planned, organised and delivered.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Ros Vahey and I had lunch with some of the 14 - 19 team...

It was great to spend a some time with this talented and very creative group of colleagues who are doing some brilliant work in this vital aspect of our work. The learner entitlement, i-Leeds, diplomas, apprenticeships, the area prospectus and personalisation lie at the heart of our work to transform provision. Gary Milner and his team have tackled some really important issues, transformed outcomes working with our schools, colleges and workplace providers and lead to our best ever Key Stage 4 outcomes this year.

We must continue our relentless and uncompromising drive to build brilliant provision for young people across Leeds... whatever it takes!
Simon Darby and I met with colleagues from the LSC to discuss the shortfall in Post-16 SEN/LLDD funding for Leeds schools...

We have been arguing with the DCSF and the LSC that decisions made in 2000/2001 disadvantaged Leeds because the authority delegated funding for statements to schools in the early 1990's. We calculate that this now means that we are around #2million underfunded for Post-16 SEN/LLDD. We hope that we can address this as the Machinery of Government changes are introduced and commissioning brings a more consistent approach across local authorities.
I went to the new offices of the 'Volunteer Reading Help' Scheme...

Volunteer Reading Help is a national charity which, since 1973, has been training, placing and supporting reading helpers to provide one-to-one personalised reading support to children aged between 6 and 11. The West Yorkshire branch currently supports 93 reader helpers providing reading support to 253 primary school children in 71 local schools.

The charity is doing some great work and I hope that more children will receive support from this brilliant initiative.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I finished the day in London to receive yet another award...

I was with another 224 companies who were receiving their 'Best Companies to work for':'One to Watch' award. Education Leeds took part last year for the first time in the 'Best Companies to work for' annual survey and although we didn't receive a star rating we were awarded 'One to Watch' status. After a brilliant year it is deeply encouraging to know that Education Leeds has received even more recognition and is now officially recognised as 'One to Watch'!
I moved on to Gildersome Primary School...

This is another little primary school making a difference at the heart of its community especially now that the new Children's Centre has been opened. It is encouraging to see the work that Stephan Kurth and his team are doing to develop a more creative curriculum and to develop the children's personal development and well-being.
I went to Birchfield Primary School this morning...

It was great to visit this wonderful little school and to see some of the outstanding things Philip Turner and his team are doing to release the magic and make a real difference to their children, their families and the community. I particularly enjoyed the Skills Challenge Games and the Wake Up and Shake Up session which the children organised and managed and very clearly demonstrated the school's commitment to ensuring that the children are healthy and active. I think that we must convince every child that they can be a reader, a storyteller, a poet, a mathematician, an artist and I believe that every child and young person should engage in an hour of rigorous activity every day to contribute to their health and well-being.

It is great to visit a school doing such fantastic work in this area and achieving brilliant standards at the same time.
My colleague Liz Taylor, Headteacher at St. Philip’s Catholic Primary and Nursery School in Middleton sent me this e-mail which cheered me up...

"Good afternoon Chris, I’ve just read your blog and was moved by your comment about so much negativity being around. I suppose I just wanted to say that it’s not everywhere! Our school is a very positive place where the challenges are seen as opportunities and where we never lose sight of the fact that we’re in this for the children and feel privileged to be so. I wish you could have been at our cluster planning meeting yesterday afternoon, where the four primary schools in the Middleton Cluster and Cockburn (along with our brilliant cluster co-ordinator) were represented by people who are excited, stimulated and thankful to be doing what we’re doing, for the good of our children and the benefit of their families! As you said as you signed off – keep the faith! Liz."

Liz is right there is so much great stuff going on in schools across Leeds; colleagues who are passionate, committed, engaged and working incredibly hard to release the magic.
I started the day being interviewed for Look North...

Look North wanted to know why we had two secondary schools in Leeds in the worst ten in the country for absence. I explained that we needed to put this in context. Overall attendance in secondary schools in Leeds increased last year by 0.71% to 91.64%; the highest it has ever been and the biggest increase we have ever seen. Unauthorised absence was 2.32% and we have seen a 10% improvement in the attendance of our persistently absent young people!

Clearly at Primrose High School and City of Leeds School we have two schools in the worst ten for attendance in the country and we must do better... whatever it takes!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I received this e-mail today after my colleague Rehana Minhas, Director for Equality and Entitlement, attended a special event in London yesterday...

"Dear Chris, The performance of 'And then they came for me' yesterday at the DCSF went well. Leeds schools were mentioned in the written information provided by Blue Sky productions, we received further acknowledgement from Nic Careem in his introduction. I had an opportunity to share with all the work we are doing in Leeds. The officer from the US Democratic office in London took a copy of Harmony, which featured Eva Schloss and Peace Jam as well as my contact details. The event was well attended, the opening address was given by Jim Knight. Rehana."

We are doing some great work in this area which features in the special edition of Harmony and it is brilliant to have this work acknowledged in this way.
The North of England launch of PX2, 'The Pacific Institute''s new 14 - 19 programme, will take place on 28th April here in Leeds with Lou Tice as the guest speaker...

The materials look great and we hope that those of you who are interested in 14 -19 provision will be there with colleagues from across the North of England .
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day...

A day when we remember where racism, intolerance and a lack of respect and understanding leads and the need for us all to be constantly vigilant. We must continue to build respect, tolerance and understanding and to celebrate difference. We must help our young people learn from the past and that we can stand up to hatred and create a safer, better future for us all.

Why not visit the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website and light a candle to support those who are standing up to hatred across the world. The website is at

Monday, 26 January 2009

Cllr Steve Smith, Executive Member for Environmental Services sent me this e-mail about the Leeds Climate Pledge...

"Dear Chris, Each year Leeds generates over 6 million tonnes of CO2 and in the last few years the people who work and live in Leeds are now starting to experience the effects of climate change. The Leeds Climate Pledge is a great opportunity to do something positive about climate change in our city. The Leeds Climate Pledge will help you calculate your carbon footprint, then all you have to do is to decide what steps you want to take (large or small) to reduce your carbon emissions. You may want to focus on reducing your energy bills and save money at the same time, start recycling or simply make up your own. It’s up to you. By emailing a pledge postcard you can show friends and family what you are doing to help the environment and encourage them at the same time. The more people you tell, the greater the impact for Leeds! Regards, Steve."

We all need to do something to reduce our carbon footprint and if you want to find out more about the Leeds Climate Pledge visit


“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide on, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage. Peace has its victories but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another week of early starts and long days...

I met Chris Halsall's team to talk about the outstanding primary schools, our successes and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead with our primary provision. I met the Leeds High School headteachers to talk about this years fantastic GCSE results and the challenges and opportunities we face with our secondary provision. I met with colleagues in the North East to talk about trust, trust schools, and the opportunities and challenges we face in developing coherent, inclusive and joined up secondary provision in this bit of Leeds. I had lunch with colleagues from the information management team who talked passionately about the work they are doing and the challenges we all face with communication, connections and retaining great staff. I met with colleagues from Teach First, an initiative that has been hugely successful in London and the North West putting graduates into challenging schools, and who are now looking to come to Leeds. I visited Guiseley School to support the exciting work they are doing to develop their provision and their community programmes using the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard. And finally, I had lunch with Paul Napier and Nicola Megson from the Yorkshire Evening Post where we talked about the opportunities and challenges facing us all and how we could develop more of a shared agenda.

There is so much negativity around; in people who only see the glass as half empty… who see problems not opportunities… who want to criticise rather than congratulate. We know that expectations and the challenges we face have increased, working hours are long, demands are relentless, and technology means there is nowhere to hide. But these challenges also provide opportunities for us to step up to the plate, to strive for excellence, and to prove that we are more capable than ever.

If we are going to continue to do what we do so well as a team, we must…

  • Prepare, review, coach and train.
  • Remember successes, and focus on what has gone well.
  • Learn from everything we do and review, analyse, and evaluate.
  • Don’t get bogged down by setbacks, but use them to learn and do better.
  • Control things, be prepared, and be organised.
  • Manage our attitudes to be optimistic and positive.
  • Seek challenges and get feedback to improve our performance.
  • Create a brilliant working environment and play to our strengths.
  • Look after ourselves and each other… eat well, exercise, relax, and sleep.

And remember that: "Winning is about individuals performing when the going gets tough, not when it’s easy."
Keep the faith