Saturday, 21 March 2009

My life is brilliant and it has been a week of visits and meetings...

I had meetings with Cllr Harker, Dirk Gilleard, the council's Corporate Leadership Team, NAHT colleagues and Education Leeds Leadership Team. I had breakfast with the Inner East Family of Schools headteachers. I managed visits to Ralph Thoresby High School, Garforth Community College and Leeds Grammar School. I attended the Civic Reception for the 'Connecting Classrooms: Africa' project and another Education Leeds induction session. I also visited Crossley Street Primary School, Bramhope Primary School, Hollybush Primary School and I opened the new Harehills Children's Centre Cabin at Hovingham Primary School. And finally, I went to the exhibition of schools entries for this year's Stan Kenyon Schools Challenge at the Civic Hall.

We are all working hard to create brilliant schools, brilliant teams or brilliant organisations. After nearly eight years here in Leeds I realise, more and more, that to build brilliant we must...
  • Treat others in a way we would wish to be treated ourselves.
  • Understand what is important, be open, honest and keep our promises.
  • Be caring and supportive and make sure we treat colleagues with respect.
  • Nurture growth and challenge, and recognise that colleagues just want to do well and enjoy the roles they have, and do a great job.
  • Acknowledge good performance and recognise it every and any way we can... thank yous, hugs, letters, stickers, flowers and chocolate all help.
  • Be truly interested in what colleagues have to say and ensure that they are appreciated, information is openly shared and everyone contributes fully.
  • Help colleagues do what they are best at. We must all let go of the things we don't need to do and use delegation to develop colleagues skills and abilities.
  • Develop great relationships where colleagues care, share and connect their ideas, successes and concerns.
  • Understand that every colleague can contribute their particular and unique skills and abilities to build real success.
  • Ensure that every Friday, if not every day, we smile, laugh and eat chocolate.
Keep the faith.

Friday, 20 March 2009

I went to see West Side Story this evening at the Leeds Grand Theatre...

It's the 50th Anniversary production and it still has that magic and relevance today. With groundbreaking choreography by the legendary Jerome Robbins, an unforgettable score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, it was a great evening. Tony's voice was brilliant and the rest of the cast and the orchestra made it an evening to remember.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

My colleague Ros vahey sent me this after attending the Guardian BSF Conference in London...

"Chris, Jackie, Scott & Richard have done a great job here. Richard ran a workshop, Jackie and Scott did a keynote speech. All on ICT. Richard & Jackie have spent 2 days networking and promoting Leeds and BSF. Richard was a real gem! Elaine Silson was simply superb. Very focused, very illuminating, grounded and the voice of experience. We showed our DVD which went down really well too. All in all very successful and very good ambassadorial work for Leeds. We are definitely light years ahead of the game nationally and we got good feedback. PfS were impressed & grateful. Ros"

It is great to hear about our work being showcased on a national stage. The work we are doing on BSF is fantastic thanks to a great team.

My colleague Shelagh Dixon, our Active Schools Development Officer, sent me this...

"Hi Chris, In your daily life of high level meeting and serious matters I suspect you value some moments of light relief. I know you enjoy watching / joining in with Wake Up and Shake Up, but to maintain interest, things have to move on.............. so, here are a couple of 'new' focus activities I am introducing in our primary schools. Through Leeds Time to Play and other input, some primary schools now have a Boogie Box; a portable music centre, and prompt cards for Hand Jiving and Cheer Leading. Also, to support 'Be Healthy Stay Safe Challenges' in the summer term, the focus training for staff this year is Circus Skills. These 4 twilight sessions will be run in April by Peanut the Clown, who I think you met very recently in a school and promise to be fun. Hopefully, you will see more of these creative and skilful activities engaging our pupils out in the playground . So, be prepared to re-live your youth and join in with hand jiving and maybe impress pupils and staff with long forgotten juggling skills ! The challenge is out there !! Kind regards, Shelagh."

It's great to hear about the developments Shelagh and her colleagues are bringing to schools. I can 'Wake Up and Shake Up', failed miserably with the hoola hooping but look forward to hand jiving and juggling.


I also managed to get to the Civic Hall to see the entries for this year's Stan Kenyon Annual School Challenge...

This year's theme is 'Too Hot to Handle' and there were brilliant entries from eight schools:
  • Ashfield Primary School;
  • Meanwood CE Primary School;
  • Moor Allerton Hall Primary School;
  • Pudsey Primrose Hill Primary School;
  • Raynville Primary School;
  • Whitecote Primary School;
  • David Young Community Academy;
  • East SILC.


I moved on to another fantastic learning place...

I visited Hollybush Primary School where Danny Kenny, headteacher, Kathleen Alderson, deputy headteacher and their team are doing an incredible job. The building is now five years old but it is still fantastic and contains not just the primary school but a Children's Centre and a SILC partnership base.

Danny has brought a real energy and passion to Hollybush. He, Kathleen and Dave Foxton, Chair of Governors, talked to me about the opportunities, the challenges and the sheer magic at Hollybush. We also walked around the school which is a calm, purposeful and simply wonderful learning environment brought alive by a talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful team of colleagues. They are also using Nintendo DS consoles to develop the childrens mental maths and are evaluating the impact on motivation and outcomes.


I moved on to a brilliant learning place...

I visited Bramhope Primary School to see Pauline Lawson, headteacher, and her great team. I arrived to see a group of Year 6 children rehearsing their 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session which had a Bollywood twist. It was wonderful later to see the children going through their fantastic routine with a large group of children who were very obviously loving it!

This is a great little school. I discussed their 'Academy' which over the last few years has focused on football, rugby and dance and provides groups of older children with the opportunity to coach and support younger children. I talked to a group of boys who had set up a mini-enterprise selling bookmarks and stickers. I watched a small group of children using Nintendo DS consoles to improve their mental maths. I also visited Year 6 where I met some incredible children being inspired by a fantastic teacher.

Bramhope Primary School is a very special learning place and Pauline and her team have done a brilliant job over the last few years and are releasing an incredible magic.
I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues at Oakwood Primary School...

The Inner East Family of Schools headteachers are an amazing group doing brilliant work with children and families against a background of poverty, disadvantage and ill-health in these highly mobile and complex 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. These are great colleagues leading great schools where all this is wrapped in a stimulating, creative and imaginative curriculum offer that aims to turn out happy, healthy, safe and successful little learners, whatever it takes!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

I was re-reading the Cabinet Office Report ' Aspirations and Attainment in Deprived Communities'...

‘Aspirations and attainment in deprived communities’ is a joint project between the Social Exclusion Task Force, DCSF and CLG. It explores the potential to raise the attainment of young people in deprived communities, by raising aspirations and changing attitudes within these communities.

Key findings:

  • Young people in certain types of neighbourhood are less likely to develop high aspirations. These neighbourhoods tend to have high levels of deprivation.
  • However, not all deprived communities are the same. Our analysis has shown that in some very deprived communities – often ethnically diverse, mobile, urban neighbourhoods – young people tend to have high aspirations for the future. In other areas – often traditional working class communities in ex-industrial areas – low aspirations may be preventing young people from achieving their potential.
  • Certain community characteristics are associated with low aspirations – such as insular social networks, low population mobility and a sense of decline. These may be close knit, strong and cohesive communities. However, people may lack more diverse connections with people and places outside their immediate neighbourhood.
  • Young people’s aspirations have a significant influence on their educational attainment and future outcomes. 11-14 is a key age range, when young people move from idealistic to more realistic ambitions.
  • Aspirations vary by gender, ethnicity, social class and area deprivation. White boys have the lowest aspirations. The educational attainment of white boys is also failing to improve at the rates of most other ethnic groups.
  • Parents are the most important influence on children. But young people and their parents are also influenced by the people and places where they live.
This is a significant report which everyone should read and understand if we are serious about building world class schools here in Leeds.
I finished the day with colleagues from the NAHT...

It was great to be able to talk about the brilliant work that is going on in schools across Leeds and to discuss some of the challenges headteacher colleagues are facing. We must constantly strive for more and continue our relentless and uncompromising focus on standards and outcomes. We need to work together to celebrate the real excellence of what we do and to develop more intelligent accountability systems. We need to continue to develop strong, trusting relationships where it is acceptable to ask for help. We need to adopt the same approach to headteachers and colleagues in schools as we do for our children; seeing potential and possibilities and providing strong, creative and effective support alongside the challenge.
I visited one of my favourite schools this afternoon...

I had been asked by Janet Spence, headteacher at Hovingham Primary School to officially open their new Harehills Children's Centre at Hovingham Cabin.which is the outcome of along period of planning, consultation and partnership working between the schools, Education Leeds and Early Years and clearly demontstrates what can be achieved when partners work together for communities.

This facility provides a base for so much work with young people, parents, carers and the community. Currently the programmes include ESOL, Family Literacy, Play and Stay, INVEST, STEPS, a baby clinic, Feel Good Factor and drop in sessions for families. They also provide sessions on aerobics, computing and sewing. Plans are in place to provide Kidscope, PCSO surgeries and possibly a supplementary school. This is coordinated by Ferhat Sadiq, the school's Family Support Worker, who clearly does a brilliant job.

It was a great afternoon with dhol drumming by the children, bubbles and balloons and Peanut the Clown and of course the sun shone on this little bit of magic in this rich, diverse and very special part of Leeds.
I moved on to Crossley Street Primary School in Wetherby...

It's a great little school and Sandra Clynes, the headteacher, has achieved so much over the last few years with the building, which has been transformed. It was good to be able to walk around the school with Sandra and Ann Lister, Chair of Governors, and to meet some of Sandra's team and some of her wonderful children.
I started the day early at Leeds Grammar School...

I was there to meet Dr Mark Bailey to talk about our school improvement work and to explore how we could work more closely with colleagues at Leeds Grammar School to further develop our provision, our curriculum offer, our work with gifted and talented young people and to develop the partnerships we have already established here in Leeds to include the Leeds Grammar School. The building is fantastic although the traffic around the school is incredible.

It was great to share coffee and bacon rolls with Mark and explore our shared and common agendas to see how we can do even better for the young people, the families and the communities we serve.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

I attended another Education Leeds induction session at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions are really inspiring because I get the chance to meet the new starters who have such enormous potential to add-value to what we are doing and really bring something special to the company. They are some of our most positive, committed and enthusiastic colleagues since they have recently made the choice to join the team. The group were young, talented and gorgeous and were everything you would want our new colleagues to be; interested, engaged and enthusiastic. Everyone of us, along with our children and young people, needs to be happy, healthy and safe to be increasingly successful.

We all need to coach, support and work with these new colleagues to release their potential and magic.


I started the day early at Garforth Community College...

I was there for a meeting with Ian Garforth, Chair of Governors, and Sir Robert Edwards, headteacher. We were catching up on the progress of the School Partnership Trust and the work the Trust is doing as the sponsor for the Academy at South Leeds.

Monday, 16 March 2009

I finished the day at a 'Connecting Classrooms' reception at the Civic Hall...

The 'Connecting Classrooms' project links Robin Hood Primary School, Yeadon Westfield Junior School and Royd's School here in Leeds with schools in Uganda and Senegal. This evening there was a civic reception hosted by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Leeds. The colleagues from Africa talked about the challenges they face in Uganda and Senegal with huge classes and limited resources and children who walk up to seven kilometres a day to get to school. These colleagues were passionate about the 'Connecting Classrooms' project and the need to educate colleagues here in Leeds about what life in Africa is like. Sometimes sessions like this make you realise how lucky we are here in Leeds and how much we need to learn.
I started the day early at Ralph Thoresby High School...

Billy Flynn, Chair of Governors, had asked to see me to talk about the various roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of governing bodies, headteachers and the local authority. I met Billy with Stuart Hemingway, headteacher, at Ralph Thoresby to discuss these issues. I searched the DCSF website for guidance:

"Governors are at the heart of how a school operates. It is important they get things right. How they do their jobaffects the interests of pupils, staff morale and how the school is seen by parents and others in the community. Governing bodies are responsible to parents, carers and the community. The governing body's main role is to help raise standards of achievement. It:
  • is accountable for the performance of the school to parents and the wider community
  • plans the school's future direction
  • selects the head teacher
  • makes decisions on the school's budget and staffing
  • makes sure the national curriculum is taught
  • decides how the school can encourage pupil's spiritual, moral and social development
  • makes sure the school provides for all its pupils, including those with special needs"

    "The head teacher provides vision, leadership and direction for the school and ensures that it is managed and organised to meet its aims and targets, which are established by the Governing Body. The head teacher:

    • is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school

    • advises on, and implements the governing bodies strategic framework

    • formulates aims and objectives, policies and targets for the Governing Body to consider adopting

    • reports on progress to the Governing Body at least once a year

    • formulates and implements the policies for leading the school towards the set targets

    • gives the Governing Body enough information to ensure that the governors are confident that delegated responsibilities and the head teacher’s responsibilities have been met

    • is along with the other professional staff accountable to the Governing Body for the school’s performance

    • draws up and submits to the Governing Body an annual budget plan for the school’s voluntary fund, and any proposals for revisions to the budget plan as required by the LA scheme."

    I couldn't get the role of the authority on the page!


  • My colleague Jeremy Dunford, headteacher at Deighton Gates Primary School in Wetherby sent me this after red nose day...

    "Hello Chris, A quick note with some pictures...

    A great day, initiated and planned by pupils with staff support. Activities included gunging me, painting the staff in the style of Jackson Pollock, faces in jelly, toe nail painting, cross dressing and bun sales.
    It raised well over £1000 and pupils were a credit to the school thoughout. Jeremy"

    Jeremy and his team are doing fantastic things at Deighton Gates Primary School. It is an amazing amount of money raised for a great cause.
    It has been a good week and I have been lucky enough to spend time with some outstanding colleagues. Talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues with a positive attitude who are achieving great things in schools and at Education Leeds...

    Apart from the usual round of meetings I had a meeting with Tessa Mason to plan a visit by Susannah Todd, deputy director at the DCSF, to showcase the best of Leeds. We held yet another long service awards at the banqueting suite at the Civic Hall, where we celebrated the dedication and service of a group of fabulous colleagues who have given their working lives to the children and young people of Leeds. With Rosemary Archer I attended a meeting with the Leeds secondary headteachers to talk about 21st century schools, and the key role our schools play in delivering brilliant outcomes for our children and young people. I had meetings with headteachers from the Inner East family of schools, and from the North East schools learning partnership. We talked about the opportunities we face to continue to build brilliant provision consistently for all our children and young people, their families and the communities we serve. I attended an away day with the Education Leeds board at Weetwood Hall, where we talked about how Education Leeds continues to develop to support schools and learners to achieve outstanding outcomes. I met with Suzy Alderton from the young people's enterprise forum to talk about how we could contribute to the Education Day at the Yorkshire international business conference in June, and showcase the best of our work on creativity, enterprise and innovation. I also managed a couple of school visits. I went to East Garforth Primary School where Kirsty Godfrey is doing great things and releasing the magic, and I went to Morley High School to congratulate John Townsley on his brilliant Ofsted report. And finally I went to the David Young Community Academy where Ros McMullen and her colleagues were releasing their own very special magic with a wonderful production of 'Oliver'.

    We all want to be outstanding and we all want success in our lives. We want success at home, at work, at school and in our relationships. The most important single factor that guarantees our success in every aspect of our lives is having a positive attitude. Without a positive attitude, nothing else is possible, and if you're constantly thinking about problems you will find them. And it's true that you will attract positive things into your life if all of your thoughts are positive. Simply, if you tell yourself something often enough your subconscious will eventually come to believe it. If you repeat something often enough whether it be positive or negative it will become your reality. It's all a matter of conditioning and the great thing is that you can train your mind to think positive thoughts the same way you can learn anything else. Then, make a habit of avoiding negative people and stopping negative thoughts any time they appear and replacing them with positive thoughts. You simply need to replace, "I can't do it" with "I can do it" and you'll find your attitude and your life will change for the better.

    Sunday, 15 March 2009

    Over the weekend I read the OFSTED publication "twelve outstanding secondary schools: Excelling against the odds"...

    We have some outstanding secondary schools here in Leeds, schools like Carr Manor, Cockburn, Roundhay, John Smeaton, Morley High and David Young. These schools have achieved great things and reading the OFSTED report you understand that these are the characteristics we need to build consistently across all our secondary provision. The outstanding schools in the OFSTED sample succeed for the following reasons.
    ■ They excel at what they do, not just occasionally
    but for a high proportion of the time.
    ■ They prove constantly that disadvantage need
    not be a barrier to achievement, that speaking
    English as an additional language can support
    academic success and that schools really can be
    learning communities.
    ■ They put students first, invest in their staff and
    nurture their communities.
    ■ They have strong values and high expectations
    that are applied consistently and never relaxed.
    ■ They fulfil individual potential through providing
    outstanding teaching, rich opportunities for
    learning, and encouragement and support for
    each student.
    ■ They are highly inclusive, having complete
    regard for the educational progress, personal
    development and well-being of every student.
    ■ Their achievements do not happen by chance,
    but by highly reflective, carefully planned and
    implemented strategies which serve these
    schools well in meeting the many challenges
    which obstruct the path to success.
    ■ They operate with a very high degree of
    internal consistency.
    ■ They are constantly looking for ways to improve
    ■ They have outstanding and well-distributed

    We must learn from the success stories captured in this OFSTED report and continue our relentless and uncompromising focus on building brilliant provision to serve every community in Leeds; whatever it takes!