Friday, 13 February 2009

I received this e-mail from my colleague Adrian Stygall who is headteacher at Morley Newlands Primary School...

"Dear Chris, Newlands children won the primary section of the Design my Learning Space Competition sponsored by EC Harris at the BSEC exhibition and conference. Prizes should have been presented by Jim Knight, but he could not attend. The Y5 children have won, with their design, £25 000 to design their own room/s. We presume that we will be able to share the winnings between the two Y5 classrooms. I am absolutely delighted for the children, and proud of my colleagues, Mrs Ann Nall and Mrs Debbie Crabtree, HLTAs, who led the project. Adrian"

Brilliant result. Congratulations to Ann, Debbie and Adrian.
My colleague Matt Shillito who is Deputy Head Teacher at Shire Oak CE (VC) Primary School sent me this wonderful story...

"Dear Chris, I just thought contact you to let you know about the great day out pupils from Shire Oak Primary and Morley Newlands Primary had today. Both schools got to the final of the 'Design My Learning Space' Competition along with a school from Tyneside. We were invited to the BSEC Building Schools for the Future Conference at the G-MEX conference centre in Manchester. We shared a coach and were greeted by conference staff who handed our pupils their own delegate lanyards and a conference satchel to carry around with them. The children's work had been professionally produced on canvas and a special display in the conference hall had been set up. Before we visited our stand, we were invited into the main auditorium to find out who had won the main prize of a £25,000 makeover for their learning space. It was then that the pupils found out that their entries had been chosen from over 120 individual entries from schools in the north of England. Each school in turn were invited on stage (in front of over 200 conference delegates) and interviewed. Every pupil without exception spoke very eloquently and in detail about their project and how they had worked as a team.
Morley Newlands were the eventual winners- you'll see on the photo how excited they were!

We finished the afternoon by having lunch together in a local hotel before heading home- a great experience for the Y5s and 6s involved. Regards, Matt."

It is fantastic to see Leeds schools doing great things in competitions like this. Congratulations to everyone involved at Shire Oak.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

We have had a week of snow, ice and freezing temperatures, chaos on the roads, untreated side roads and school closures and apparently there is more on the way...

On Monday, as the snow came, I attended the EOTAS service day at Elland Road with over 100 colleagues who work at the hardest end of what we do. I visited Elizabeth Hastings Church of England Primary School, Ledston, where Amanda Leathey and her team are doing great work. I was interviewed by two young university students, Jessica and Kim, on aspects of our work. I attended Headteacher Forum at West Park to talk and listen to a group of very special colleagues discussing some of the wicked issues facing us. I visited Carr Manor High School to talk to Simon Flowers about some of the issues he is dealing with. I attended another staff induction session at the Derek Fatchett CLC and talked to a great group of new colleagues whose enthusiasm, energy and ideas will add something really special to Education Leeds. I visited Harehills Primary School where Margaret Broughton and her colleagues are doing some great work with some wonderful young people. And finally, I visited Low Road Primary School with Hilary Benn MP, to celebrate the school's 25th birthday assembly.

As you will be only too aware this week the severe weather has brought difficulties and frustrations to us all, but it has also presented a huge challenge to our headteachers. Faced with conflicting information and advice from the Met Office, our headteachers had to balance health and safety concerns with the needs of all our children and young people, and their families, and make difficult decisions when considering whether to keep their schools open.

We know that access to school is important to all our children and young people but especially to our vulnerable groups, including more than 30,000 who rely on our schools for a hot meal, over 20,000 who come from homes with inadequate heating, and upwards of 25,000 from one parent/carer families where there is enormous pressure on the parent/carer to get to work. Such severe weather comes as a surprise to us as it happens so infrequently, but it is vital we do all we can to support our headteachers in these circumstances, and make sure our children and young people continue to get what they need from us and our schools.

What we have learnt is that we need clear strategies for these circumstances, no matter how infrequently they may arise, and I feel confident that through setting up a "snow plan" we can ensure we are fully prepared for the future, and that all our children and young people continue to be happy, healthy, successful and above all else, safe, at school.
My colleague Jane Hallam, Headteacher at Moor Allerton Hall Primary School sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, Last week on the snowiest of snowy days ( Monday and Tuesday) Moor Allerton Hall Primary stayed open. We had 49% attendance on the Monday and 41% on the Tuesday. This has meant that our overall attendance figure at the end of last week was 91%.
It is such a shame that those schools who stayed open are penalised for doing what I felt be the right thing. I felt quite strongly that if we could open we should open... even in the face of criticism from pupils saying, it's not fair we have to come to school today when no one else does! Is there anything we can do to acknowledge that we stayed open? Is there no way of adding or adapting some of the codes that are used for absence? Kind regards. Keep warm. Jane."

Many colleagues who opened on Monday and Tuesday have raised this with me and we will take this up with colleagues at the DCSF.

Monday, 9 February 2009

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

"Chris, Yesterday I attended the Parish Church of St Mary at Whitkirk to celebrate Education Sunday as the choir of Colton Primary School had been invited to sing. They are a very small choir (7 or 8 members) comprised of children from both key stages but despite this they filled the church with beautiful singing! Before the service they stood at the front of the church and sang-performing all songs with actions-all the children looked really smart in their school uniforms and were a real credit to themselves, the school and in a wider sense were ambassadors for Leeds without even realising it! During the service they sat with the church choir at the back of the church and gave a subtle and moving performance during the communion. The sermon focused on the days off school lost to the snow last week and the children were asked whether they were pleased (of course they were all delighted as they had been sledging etc). The preacher was a teacher, his school twinned with a school in Sri Lanka where the children who do attend have to buy their own text books, exercise books, pencils etc-and would be really disappointed to miss even a day off, education being the only tool to improve their outcomes in life. We were reminded how lucky our children are to have such good quality teaching and learning-which many children in the developing world just don't have. I'm personally not a church go-er, but when the preacher asked people to stand if they were in any way connected to education-I stood up and felt really proud to be a small part of what we do here-and of course I was immensely proud of my daughter for representing the school so well. Regards Tracy."

It's wonderful to hear about little bits of real magic like this.


I received this e-mail from my colleague Andrew Eastwood, Headteacher at St. Matthew's Church of England (Aided) Primary School...

"Chris, sorry to be a burden, but last week was very difficult and I could do with a little help. We remained open all week, including Monday despite Radio Aire saying we were shut! We got staff to school, cleared paths and kept the school warm and inviting. The children came in and lessons went on. All this despite getting no help at all from Leeds Council – and this is where I hope you may have some influence. The road up to school was lethal. I attach a photo that I took on the Friday morning on my walk in to school. It was early in the morning and a local resident was getting ready to go to work. I include the photo as you can clearly see the headlights reflected in the glassy ice that the road had become. Surely such a route to a school should be gritted!! I know there is a shortage, but I thought we were trying to keep schools open. On Wednesday, one of my teachers slipped on Wensley Drive taking a class to the bus on Scott Hall Road. She spent two days in hospital having her bones pinned and ankle re-locating. She will be off for at least 6 weeks. I then went on the trip so the children would not miss out. Then on Friday, whilst parents parked in the safer area of Harrogate road and the end of Wood Lane, away from the snow and ice, they got a ticket from the traffic warden!!! I always try to keep open, but then wonder why I bothered… just to add insult to injury, I am now told that because I opened, I have spoiled my attendance figures – as all the children stuck in snow or helping us out as we struggled to stay open are ‘away’ – if we had shut the school we would not need to count them – how unfair is that? Sorry to be a pain for things that I accept are outside your control, however, I am hoping you will know to whom this mail could be forwarded to try to get some help in ‘doing the right thing’. All the best… Andrew"

Colleagues have done brilliantly over the last week and we need to all work together to address the issues that the last week has thrown at us. Roll on half-term!


Sunday, 8 February 2009

I have been reading the Cabinet Office publication 'Aspiration and Attainment amongst Young People in Deprived Communities'. This excellent report was published at the end of last year and it is essential reading for all of us.
The key findings are that:
  • young people's aspirations and those of their parents and carers influence their educational attainment and outcomes; with 11 - 14 being a key time when young people's ambitions become fixed;
  • young people are more likely to achieve positive outcomes when they develop ambitious, achievable aspirations combined with the self-esteem, self-efficacy, information and inspiration they need to work towards their goals;
  • aspirations vary by gender, ethnicity, social class and area, with white boys having the lowest aspirations;
  • Parents are the most important influence on children and both are strongly influenced by the people and places where they live;
  • communities matter and young people are less likely to develop ambitious, achievable aspirations if they live in neighbourhoods with high levels of deprivation;
  • not all deprived communities are the same and some young people in very deprived communities have high aspirations;
  • locally tailored behavioural change programmes can shift attitudes, change behaviours and improve outcomes.
If you want to read this important report it is available at
My colleague Frances Bernstein sent me details of the Travelling Schools Prom on Friday 13th February...

Artforms are taking 170 talented young performers on the road to showcase the very best of Leeds' young musical talent. There will be three concerts at each of two venues - Boston Spa School and Cockburn Community College. These schools are inviting children from their local primary schools as well as their own young people to experience these wonderful concerts.

This is a brilliant way of bringing music to young people.