Saturday, 16 May 2009

We are challenged all the time to do better, to work harder and to be more effective...

I currently work with the most creative, talented and effective team I have ever worked with. We are making a real difference to young people's lives and achieving better outcomes year on year, and I know that we have the processes, the materials, the passion, the discipline, the intellectual rigour and more importantly the people to deliver real magic and achieve brilliant outcomes.

I started the week at the SEN marketplace at the Civic Hall with the Lord Mayor. This was a wonderful celebration of the work we are doing with children with special educational needs and their families. I attended the secondary headteachers meeting at the David Lloyd Centre to talk to colleagues about the challenges and opportunities we face. I met a group of colleagues from India who were in Leeds experiencing the magic with colleagues from the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and ethnic minority achievement team. I attended the Leeds Further Forward Year 11 College Awards event at the Leeds Town Hall where a huge number of young people's achievements were recognised. I also attended another induction event at the Derek Fatchett CLC with a fantastic group of new colleagues. I managed to visit Ireland Wood Primary School where Ian Blackburn and his team are doing wonderful things at this inclusive and highly successful little primary school. And finally I met with Bob Mandy, our Customer Service Excellence assessor, to talk about the areas where we have seen further improvements this year and areas where we still need to further develop our services and support to our colleagues and to our schools.

I spent the week with hundreds of talented colleagues like Angela Bernard-Ferguson, Til Wright, Wendy Winterburn, Colin Bell, Bernadette Young, Simon Flowers, Rehana Minhas, Claire Lockwood, Denise Trickett, Carolyn Wright, Gary Milner, Andrea Cowans, Ian Blackburn and his team and Jenny Marshall. These special people's commitment, energy, enthusiasm and hard work make this organisation so brilliant, so unique, so innovative and so successful. Of course, I understand how important this all is and it's right that we must be knowledgeable, well informed and intelligently address the issue and challenges that are thrown at us. It's important that we avoid the mistakes of the past, work hard to predict the future and try to avoid making mistakes or getting things wrong. Like you, I am not in any way complacent about the challenges we face here in this wonderfully rich, diverse and incredibly challenging city. Like you, I am constantly looking for the answers and asking myself how much more we can do.

I passionately believe that the real key lies with our leaders and our learning teams and how we convince them that the journey we are on is the right journey and that they are in control and trusted as the talented leaders, coaches, guides, mentors and teachers on the pathways to excellence for each and every one of our young people. But, if anyone thinks that they can do better, I always say, simply roll up your sleeves and come on down.

Friday, 15 May 2009

I also met up with Bob Mandy...

Bob is our assessor for the 'Customer Excellence Standard' assessment which has been carried out this week. As I explained to Bob we are using the 'Customer Excellence Standard', alongside other tools like 'Investors in People' and 'Best Companies', to help us continue to improve and develop everything we do. The very positive feedback we get is great but we also want to know where we can do better.

I am really grateful to the group of colleagues who have been managing this for us. Let's hope that we get some good news about the re-assessment following this visit which involved talking to colleagues, visiting our bases and visiting schools.

Watch this space!
I met Yvonne Sinclair again today...

Yvonne heads up the Volunteer Reading Help organisation locally. VRH is an organisation that works with schools and trains up reading volunteers to target some of our harder to reach young people. If we are serious about every child a reader we need organisations like VRH to engage people in communities to get involved and help us.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

I moved on to Ireland Wood Primary School...

This is a great school where Ian Blackburn, the headteacher, and his wonderful young team are doing amazing things in one of the most inclusive primary schools in Leeds. I was interviewed by two children from their Resourced Provision who asked me about my job, what I liked best about working in Leeds, whether I liked football and what my favourite food is.

This is a 21st Century School, a great school with a special educational needs centre of excellence and a fabulous Children's Centre serving this developing and diverse community.
I attended another of our induction sessions today at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the A Team... the best education team anywhere! I shouldn't really be surprised because this is the group who have just signed up and should be totally committed, totally engaged and not at all cynical about the future... or why join us? These colleagues bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience and they certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams. Our job is to continue to develop the leadership and culture that will release their potential, their magic, their passion and target their hard work to make a real difference for our children and young people.

I always think it is strange to think about the power and the potential we have here in Leeds to change the world if only we could get everyone to believe... to believe passionately in themselves and understand that they really are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful. The question we must all ask ourselves is what couldn't 18000 plus human beings achieve if they work together as a team. What couldn't we learn in the 18000 plus years of experience that we collectively accumulate every year? What couldn't we do if we put our minds to it?

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

I attended the Leeds Further Forward Year 11 College Awards Event at the Town Hall this evening...

It was a brilliant evening celebrating the achievements of around 600 students from 40 secondary schools and SILCs who have been working on programmes at five of the Leeds Colleges. the evening was hosted by Gary Milner and Andrea Cowans from our 14 - 19 Team and the awards were presented, in front of a packed Town Hall audience, by The Pigeon Detectives. Last year it was the Kaiser Chiefs so someone on the team has links to some great local bands. Anyway the young people seemed very impressed!
My colleague Steve Ruse, our Sustainable Schools Consultant, sent me this e-mail...

"Hi Chris, I have been meaning to send through to you the following since I attended a wonderful launch event at Hunslet Moor PS on 30th April. Along with all the guests on the day I was presented with a sunflower seed by pupils. In the pot alongside the seed was a laminated bookmark on which the following appeared; Taking Small Steps to greater Things - "We should live our lives on this planet by following the secret to making perfect footprints in sand...... tread lightly, taking every step with care, leave your imprint without any lasting damage". This year as a school community we want to become better at reducing, reusing and recycling. We would like our children to take a real interest and become more proactive in caring for their local and global environments. Simple but wonderful. Regards, Steve."

It's great to see schools taking up the environment and global citizenship agendas so powerfully supported by Steve and other colleagues who share our passion for a greener, safer and more sustainable world. I know the quote from my days working on environmental education: 'take only memories, leave only footprints' or 'take only photographs, leave only footprints'.


I had a session today with a group of visitors from India...

We are doing a four day programme for the group which involved presentations and school visits. The group were also due to visit primary and secondary schools, study support centres and the Civic Hall to meet the Lord Mayor. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate our practice with a group of colleagues from India and to show them the best of Leeds.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

My colleague Wesley Wu who looks after the Supplementary Schools here in Leeds sent me this...

"Dear Chris, In order to celebrate the Quality Framework Awards five supplementary schools have achieved, a celebration was organised and went very well on 6 May. 17 people attended the event which not only celebrated the success the supplementary schools have achieved, but also provided an opportunity to network and share good experiences. All enjoyed the event very much.
I hope you enjoy the photo. Best wishes, Wesley."
Looks like a great opportunity to celebrate the work of some great colleagues working in the supplementary schools here in Leeds. Congratulations to everyone involved.
My colleague Barry Hilton, who heads up Leeds Mentoring sent me this e-mail...

'If you only do one thing this week ... inspire someone
Don't end up like your embittered colleagues wasting away until retirement.
Use your passion to make a difference and fuel someone else's fire.'
Giles Morris

"Hi Chris, there was an article in yesterdays Guardian about Gary Rimmer a mentor from Yorkshire Bank and Zaka a student at West Leeds High School. To read this story visit the site at Barry"
The Leeds Mentoring team do a brilliant job and it is wonderful to read about one of the young people who has benefitted from the support of our wonderful mentors.
I briefly met with colleagues from the new National Apprenticeship Service today...

There is a real opportunity to look creatively at developing public sector approaches to apprenticeships with the Government aiming for one in five of our young people undertaking apprenticeships within the next ten years. There are alraedy 3500 apprentices working in Leeds based employers with half of these places filled by 14 - 18 year olds. The public sector represents 20% of the workforce but we are only providing 10% of the apprenticeships.

The Government's public sector challenge is for us to deliver 21000 new public sector apprenticeships across the country with 4500 in schools and children's services and 1000 through BSF procurement. We need to identify areas where apprenticehsips could address workforce issues and find creative and imaginative ways of working with apprenticeship providers in areas like horticulture, health and social care and early years and childcare. There are over 180 apprenticeships to choose from in over 80 business sectors, all relating to a particular job. In the public sector, apprenticeships cover the following; health and social care, advice and guidance, community development, community justice, public services, teaching assistants, youth work, customer services, business administration, team leading, management, payroll and personnel.

If you want to find out more visit their website at
I started the day early with secondary headteacher colleagues at the David Lloyd Centre...

I was there for a question and answer session with the secondary headteachers. We need to find more opportunities like this where we can talk about the development of 21st Century Schools, ICT developements, Safer Schools arrangements and 14 - 19 arrangements, extended services and confederations. We need to spend time looking a t both the budget and capital strategies in the knowledge that public sector funding is going to become tougher but intitiatives like Apprenticeships, the Future Jobs Fund and various green intiativesprovide us with the opportunitiy to think creatively about the future. We need to connect to the developing Children's Services arrangemnets and look acrefully at the contribution we can make to the five outcomes through better relationships with the police, health, youth services, early years and children's social care.

We are building brilliant learning in brilliant learning places to serve healthy, harmonious and successful communities and we need to continue to explore and develop new ways of working that bring together elements of best practice more consistently and more cost-effectively.

We certainly live in interesting times!

Monday, 11 May 2009

I opened the SEN Market Place Event at the Civic Hall today with the Lord Mayor of Leeds...

It was wonderful to see so many partners and providers of services to our most special children at this celebration of the work we are doing to build brilliant provision for all our children and young people. The Banqueting Suite and the downstairs areas were buzzing with the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues from the SILCs, the Council, the FAST team, DAHIT, the VI team, the Parent Partnership Service and a fantastic range of charitable, voluntary and community partners.

Thanks to the group of colleagues who organised this very special event.
As you know I want all our children to be growing, cooking and eating fresh, seasonal and local food. So it was great to receive this today from the 'Food For Life Partnership'...

Want your pupils to be growing, cooking and eating fresh, seasonal, local and organic food and visiting the farms where their food in produced? Then join the Food for Life Partnership today! Our award scheme isn’t about classroom theory - it’s about using fun, practical learning experiences to connect young people to the food they eat. Other benefits of joining include:

  • Free introduction pack
  • Posters, recipe cards, and a DVD
  • Access to our advice lines
  • Resources for cooking, growing and farm links
  • Invitations to free CPD workshops
  • Your own school webpage on our site
  • Listing in our online schools database
  • Chance to be selected as a Flagship School"

Want to join? Fill in the online enrolment form by visiting their website at
"Food For Life Partnership"


Bringing out the best in people – in your family, at your school and at your work – is largely determined by the language we use about them and by how much we encourage individual creativity and responsibility...

If we want to bring out the best in the people we live with and work with we need to trust them, empower them, engage them, encourage them and celebrate everything they do well. Everywhere we look at the moment ‘the language of blame’ governs relationships, making someone ‘wrong’ and bringing out the worst in people who become frustrated, demoralised, anxious or bolshy. The language of blame is used to dominate and control and we all know that the outcome is to encourage people to simply become mediocre. Watch any ‘soap’, read any newspaper, listen to any journalist interviewing any politician, and you cannot fail to see how widespread and corrosive this approach is.

Education Leeds is based on a positive and constructive culture; an approach that values and recognises colleagues as the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful individuals they are. When I think about the way I act and the way I manage and lead, I ask myself how would I treat a child who was engaging in a task, doing a job or managing a team? How would I help them manage their own self-talk and build their self-esteem to develop their self-efficacy? Surely, then that's the way we should treat our colleagues to build a brilliant school, a brilliant team and a brilliant Education Leeds.

And talking about brilliant people and brilliant places, last week I visited Beechwood Primary School where John Beckett and his colleagues are doing great things aided by their Magical Garden. I talked at the first shortage subject PGCE student event at the Park Plaza Hotel organised by Rachael Dearns and her colleagues. I attended the annual Leeds Ahead conference at the new Leeds Metropolitan University Rosebowl where Gerald Ratner talked about his approach to life and work. I had a stimulating and really enjoyable breakfast with the Pudsey Family of Schools headteachers at Pudsey Civic Hall, and I also visited Aberford Church of England Primary School where Jo Heggie is building something really special.

We are continuing to build something extraordinary across the city. We have created a positive and constructive culture where colleagues are valued, trusted and their efforts celebrated wherever possible. This last week it has been wonderful to spend time with John, Rachael, Stephanie, Jo, the Pudsey headteachers and many other great colleagues. Their commitment, energy, enthusiasm and passion have created special places and special events that continue to help us release the magic.
Keep the faith!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

I recently met with Gary Lumby, Head of Retail banking at Yorkshire Bank and the newest member of the Education Leeds Board...

Gary sent me the framework Yorkshire Bank use to describe the way they do things. 'The way we do things around here' captures the five elements they believe are central to the Bank's success:
  • Customer: easy to do business with; be innovative, responsible, understanding, over-deliver and recognise that one size doesn't fit all.
  • Collaborate: working together to work faster; be co-operative, build strong teams, focus on customer needs and share knowledge and experiences.
  • Passionate owner: run it like it's your own business; take accountability, be obsessed with the competition, take risks, be passionate and be prepared to make tough calls.
  • Energise: release people's potential; involve and inform, coach and give feedback, recognise and reward, empower and support.
  • Executive: Deliver on promises; do what you say, work fast and do things, plan well, battle bureaucracy and win, face challenges and deal with them.

It's a great recipe for success wherever you are and whatever business you are in.


I am fed up with people telling me what they can't do, what we can't do and what our young people can't do. The scary thing about what we have achieved so far isn’t what we have achieved, but our potential to achieve so much more if only we can release the magic…

We need to switch people on who are currently stitched off. Colleagues who are switched off by a lack of interest, a lack of motivation, a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of energy and drive. Colleagues who are switched off by the fear factor and the blame culture which haunts us all. We need to help colleagues understand that we all have so much potential and so do our children and young people.

Our job as leaders, as managers, as coaches, as teachers, as parents, as people who care, is to help individuals set their goals, realise their enormous potential and understand that this is not as good as it gets! We have to sign up to the following courses:
  • STEPS to being your BRILLIANT BEST;
  • PATHWAYS to be simply GREAT at whatever you do;
  • STEPS on the way to being the BEST you can be.

By the way, I am on all these programmes!

The important thing is to…

  • Set the goal;
  • Keep it simple;
  • Stay focussed;
  • Invent the way;
  • Build the future.


I was thinking again about the things that we need to encourage, to achieve our dreams and our vision for brilliant learning in Leeds:
  • Every child is born a genius and an artist;
  • Families, and particularly mothers, are a child best, and most influential, teachers;
  • There are many different roads and pathways to success;
  • We must have high expectations of all our young people;
  • All our schools must be brilliant learning places;
  • Every child must be a reader and every child must count;
  • All roads and pathways must be rigorous and lead to further and higher education;
  • Educational investment must start early and support families;
  • Learning must take as much time as it takes;
  • Discipline and hard work are the keys to success;
  • Great schools must have great support;
  • Everyone needs high self-esteem and high self-efficacy;
  • Data and research must inform teaching and improve learning every day;
  • Funding must be predictable and sufficient to produce world-class performance;
  • Services for young people, and especially those with special needs, must emphasize outcomes, not processes;
  • Environmental education and global citizenship must be a core subjects.

I hope that this list might provide us with an interesting start to another debate. What have I left out? What shouldn't be on the list? Answers on a postcard if you can't post a message!


I don't know if you saw it but the TES has teamed up with business psychologists Crelos to analyse the personalities, motivations and behaviour of 15 award winning teachers to uncover the seven habits that make them successful in the classroom...

The research is based on the Stephen Covey book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which lists seven principles that. if adopted as habits, can help you become truly effective at what you do. The Crelos research suggests that these are the seven for those of us facing the classroom:

  • they build confidence;
  • they are not afraid to make difficult decisions;
  • they develop others;
  • they are good communicators;
  • they are non-conformists;
  • they thrive in the company of others;
  • they see the bigger picture.

If you want to read more you can visit the TES website at


I was reading the Comment in the TES this week by Michael Morpurgo, author, poet and former children's laureate...

"Children need to be motivated to learn by teachers who are motivated to teach. Motivation comes from loving it. So, if a teacher wishes to encourage children to love reading, they must love the books themselves. Teachers must have the confidence to bring a love of what they do - be it reading, writing, science, maths, languages, history, geography, sports, whatever - into school with them."

It's true wherever you are and whatever you do you should love what you do with a passion. The real trick in life is to find out what it is that really excites you and gives you that buzz and then find someone to pay you to do it!
My colleague Mike Cooper, Area Manager West in the Learning Communities Team, who leads on our EBP and enterprise work sent me this...

"Chris, We held the West Yorkshire Social Enterprise Trade Fair semi final at the Bradford Bulls last week as part of the Yorkshire Humber regional programme that we are running sponsored by Young People’s Enterprise Forum (Yorkshire Forward). A team of Y7 pupils from Morley High were runners up in the Best Stand category and a team of Y10 from Bruntcliffe won the top prize for Best Social Enterprise. They will now go forward to meet other schools from around the region at the final on 23rd June

I also attach a photo of the group from CastleHill Special School in Kirklees who were runners up in the best stand and best marketing categories for their solid fuel made from compressed paper.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this work is that students of all ages and abilities can take part and succeed. Regards , Mike"
Mike and his colleagues are doing some great work developing social enterprise work and it is wonderful that Bruntcliffe and Morley will be flying the flag for Leeds.
Friday was a quiet day at the office...

We had a collection for Andrea's Gift with the chocolate round and raised £205. Thanks to everyone who gave a little bit to help us make a big difference for this important Yorksire based charity that promotes research into brain tumours and provides support for families affected. I was also impressed to see that eighteen of our brilliant colleagues were running in the Leeds Half-Marathon on Sunday morning for the same great cause. We had three 'A Teams'; a womens team from PMIT runing in pink, a men's team from PMIT running in blue and a mixed team from Communications running in purple. Well done to them all!