Saturday, 28 March 2009

I have been in Leeds for nearly eight years and last week I visited some great places and spent time with some incredible colleagues who are delivering brilliant outcomes for young people...

I visited Cockburn College of Arts and Wortley High School; good schools where colleagues are doing wonderful things and achieving outstanding results. I attended a 'Festival of Ideas'; a unique collaboration between the Innovation Exchange and Education Leeds looking at how we develop provision for some of our young people exhibiting challenging behaviour. I had breakfast with the North East secondary headteachers and the Elmete family of schools headteachers. It was great to spend time with these colleagues looking at the opportunities we have to build brilliant learning in brilliant learning places. I also attended the headteacher forum where we discussed how together we can deal with some of the big issues facing us here in Leeds. I opened the anti-bullying consultation day where we were looking, with some of our young people, at how we can further develop the wonderful 'Power of Me' initiative. I went to BBC Leeds to watch Look North on BBC School News Report day, and finally, I visited Kippax North Junior and Infant School who were being visited by the judging panel to look at some of the work the school is doing for the 'Sustainable School' award for the North of England section of the Teaching Awards.

After twenty four terms here in Leeds I recognise more and more what a privilege is it to work with some truly extraordinary colleagues serving young people, their families and the communities they live in. From South Leeds, to West Leeds, to North West Leeds, to North East Leeds, to East Leeds together we are transforming lives, delivering fantastic outcomes and building brilliant learning in brilliant learning places.

Of course we need to do more. We must continue our relentless and uncompromising focus to deliver world class outcomes for all our young people. We must work harder and commit ourselves to every child achieving the passport to success at every stage of their learning; being a reader by eight, having the functional, social and emotional skills they need by eleven, and achieving success, however we choose to define it, by sixteen.

This Easter let's celebrate what we are achieving together in brilliant learning places across Leeds. After Easter let's get back to seeing how we can continue to change the world for those who need us most.

Friday, 27 March 2009

My colleague Bernadette Youing, headteacher at Royd's School, sent me some great news about her students and Rock Challenge...

AS you probably know, Rock Challenge is for students and their teachers to create and be involved in their own production from conceptualisation through to the live performance. The challenge is also to be the best that they can without the use of nicotine, alcohol or other drugs, and there are penalties for anyone who fails that challenge on any event day and for their team too.

"Dear Chris, Months of hard work and dedication went in to this year's Rock Challenge. A student committee was set up in September. The committee chose the theme, researched around the theme selected the music tracks and begun to choreograph the piece. They then held the auditions to select the team which was not just about how well they could dance but on how well they worked as a team during the auditions so that everyone had an equal and fair opportunity. This gave us the best group of students to work with. On Wednesday 25th March 75 students headed off to St George's Hall in Bradford for a day of fun and performing. The students were true Embassadors for Royds, they were encouraging and friendly to students from other schools as well as each other when the nerves kicked in. Their performance in the evening was extremely professional and resulted in them being placed third. They were also successful in being awarded Student Leadership, Best Lighting Design and the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council award for Performance Skill. Overall this year was a fantastic success with many students becoming much more confident and having improved self esteem. Although it was a late evening and a long drive back home, it was fantastic and so pleasing to see the enjoyment of all youngsters, from all schools. The atmosphere was great!! I wish a chauffeur came with the job!!! Bernadette."

It's great to hear about events like this where, supported by brilliant colleagues, our young people excel and show the world what they are capable of.
I moved on to Kippax North Junior and Infant School...

The school has been nominated for the Sustainable Schools Award as part of the National Teaching Awards and the regional assessment was taking place today. Over the last two years we have had nominations for this award for some great schools and we hope that this year we, do the third time lucky and, win!

This is a wonderful little school where Barbara Clark, headteacher, and Chris Clarke, learning mentor, are passionate advocates of sustainability and last year I was honoured to be asked to open their wind turbine. The school has achieved National and Advanced Healthy Schools Awards and is pursuing Green Flag status as part of Eco Schools, the international award programme. They already have achieved the bronze and silver awards. They believe in educating about, for and in the environment and there is a long term commitment to their holistic vision for sustainability focused on positive outcomes for the children, their families and the community they serve. They have some incredible plans developed by and with the children for continuing their journey as a model sustainable school and a centre of real excellence for Leeds.

I am keeping my fingers crossed.
I satrted the day early at South Leeds High School...

I was there to see Colin Bell, headteacher, to talk about progress with this year's Year 11 students and to check that everything was moving on well with the arrangements for the new Academy. We are hoping to see a significant improvement in student outcomes this Summer and Colin and the team are working hard to ensure that we continue to build brilliant at South Leeds.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Today is BBC School News Report Day and I moved on again to the BBC Leeds studios...

I ahd been invited to watch Look North from the Gallery where they manage the programme and Harry Gration, Christa Ackroyd and Paul Hudson.

Paul Hudson, Christa Ackroyd and Harry Gration

It was interesting to watch how the programme is delivered and the School Report element was from a Bradford school. I hope next year that they will include a young person alongside Harry and Christa in the studio.
I moved on to visit Wortley High School...

This is another real success story for us and Gill Knutsson and her team have achieved fantastic things at Wortley High School over the last three years. Gill wasn't at school but I was met by the rest of the leadership team; Bryan Pearce, Helen Kilkenny and Donna Mitchell. These brilliant colleagues are all moving to the new team at Swallow Hill Community College in September which is taking on both current specialisms; performing arts and technology.

It has been a fantastic period for the school which was recognised and celebrated in their recent OFSTED inspection which identified the school as good with outstanding features. The staff team are young and delivering a personalised learning approach which is very clearly delivering some brilliant outcomes for some great young people. I am looking forward to celebrating another great year with the team this Summer as Wortley High School becomes a vibrant and exciting part of the new Swallow Hill Community College.
I moved on to the Opening of the Anti-bullying Consultation Day at the Ghandi Hall at Leeds Metropolitan University...

Hilary Farmery and colleagues had planned the day to help us shape and inform the "Power of Me' strategy for 2009 - 2014. The consultation day gave a group of our young people the opportunity to tell us what we should be doing to prevent and tackle bullying in Leeds. The event featured a performance by the Odd Theatre Company who had been commissioned by the anti-bullying alliance.
I started the day today at Boston Spa School having breakfast with a small group of headteacher colleagues from EPOS...

It was great to be able to discuss some of the opportunities we face as well as some of the challenges. 21st Century Schools provides us with powerful framework against which we can measure the progress we are making with extended services, confederations, partnerships and Trusts. We need to remember to always start the debate with brilliant local schools and build up from that the structures, systems and processes that add value and help us deliver better outcomes for young people, their families and the communities we all serve.
I also attended the Headteacher Forum at West Park yesterday...

It was great to be with the Headteacher Forum which I usually miss because it often clashes with Executive Board. The group looked at our developing approach to managing severe weather including snowy days. We also looked at the progress we are making with Extended Services, Children's Services, Social Care and the new Children and Young People's Plan. Great stuff!
I started the day yesterday with the North East Secondary Headteachers...

I was at Roundhay School with these colleagues looking at the challenges and opportunities we face in Central and East Leeds as we continue to build brilliant provision.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

I visited the Elmete Centre yesterday and saw some fantastic photographs of the recent Higher Level Teaching Assistant Celebration...

These are the latest HLTAs taking our overall total above 500! It was a fantastic evening and Sue Roe and her team had done an incredible job. Louise and Rebecca had worked really hard to create a very special evening to celebrate these great colleagues achievements.

And this is me with Sue, Louise and Rebecca, the fabulous team who arranged and delivered the event.
I attended a 'Festival of Ideas' at the Carriageworks this morning...

The 'Festival of Ideas' was a unique collaboration between the Innovation Exchange and Education Leeds focused on creative ideas for dealing with challenging behaviour. It brought together colleagues from the public sector from Bradford, Leeds, Kirklees, North Yorkshire and Wakefield and colleagues from the third sector from across Yorkshire and the Humber. My colleagues Brian Hogg, Wendy Winterburn and Danielle Brearley worked with Raj Cheema and John Craig from the Innovation Exchange to deliver this brilliant event where everyone who attended learned about some great ways of working with young people with challenging behaviour.

This model of looking at creative and innovative approaches to key issues provides us with a way of addressing the really difficult issues we face here in Leeds and I hope we can continue to work with the Innovation Exchange to develop more Festivals of Ideas.

Last week, I met Peanut the Clown (Pete Turner) at the opening of the Hovingham Cabin...

Pete sent me some information about the Taster Sessions in Circus Skills he is running for us as part of our ‘Be Healthy/Be Safe’ programme this year. These sessions are intended to give a taste of what circus skills can do for our young people and our schools. Apparently, he covers a range of circus skills and how to teach them effectively across a range of ages and abilities. Juggling is the start of all the skills so there will be a special emphasis in learning how to juggle three balls and how to teach juggling across the age range in these sessions. Pete is also working with ‘ECLIPSE - Surpass Yourself’ (a not-for-profit company based in Harehills) to establish a series of children’s circus clubs across Leeds, with a central project supporting teachers, learning mentors and parents in running circus clubs as part of our after-school provision.

The Healthy Schools team have already told me that this year I need to learn to juggle so I'll have to try to get to one of Peanut's sessions. If you want to find out more you can visit Peanut the Clown’s website at

Monday, 23 March 2009

While I was at Cockburn College of Arts I was given a brilliant folder of information...

Anne-Marie Holdsworth gave me a copy of the 'Middleton Cluster Extended Schools and Services' Cluster Profile. The folder contained details of the cluster management and steering group, the schools, Children's Centre services and partners working in the community. It also contained maps, data, plans and an evaluation of the current effectiveness of provision. It was a really helpful guide to the area, what's on offer and the challenges and opportunities facing this piece of Leeds.
I visited Cockburn College of Arts this morning...

This is a brilliant learning place where Dave Gurney, headteacher, and his young, energetic and totally committed team are releasing real magic. My friend John Ellis, previous Chair of Governors, had asked me to visit the school to talk to the senior team and to see what has been achieved. I walked around the school with Dave and it was incredible to see talented colleagues working with young people who were enagaged, involved and really focused on learning in drama, art, technology, English and mathematics. The whole school was calm, the atmosphere positive and the relationships exceptional. The building work at the school has been handled fantastically and the new building certainly has the WOW factor.

This is a school very clearly on a flight path to brilliant and everyone I spoke to was determined to give all their young people the passport to the next stage of learning. The school is oversubscribed, results have been improving year on year and the school's contextual value-added from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4 is simply brilliant.

It was wonderful, as I approach eight great years here in Leeds, to visit Cockburn College of Arts and see what has been achieved over those eight years through strong and highly effective leadership and governance, great teaching, a focused and personalised curriculum, highly structured behaviour management and rigorous attendance management.

This makes you realise what we can achieve and what is possible with persistence, determination and sheer hard work and a brilliant team!