Friday, 22 May 2009

OK, then that's it for another half-term...

I am switching off the blog, unplugging the batteries, pulling up the drawbridge and repelling boarders. I'll be back soon but remember if you are out in the world, hold hands and stick together.
My colleagues Andrew Hodkinson, Headteacher at West Oaks School, and Chris Walsh, Headteacher at Boston Spa School sent me this after their visit to Bangladesh...

"Dear Chris, Children always come first and are at the core of everything we do. Children – whether in Bangladesh or Britain are children first and foremost. Following our recent successful visit to Bangladesh on the 'International Inspiration' programme thought you might like to know how we got on. The young people were happy and enjoyed learning. 'International Inspiration' invited Boston Spa and West Oaks Schools to Bangladesh on the back of the Olympics and Paralympics events to transform the lives of children and young people in schools and communities in some of the poorest countries across the world through sport, activity and play. Not only were we able to grasp that opportunity, but we also were able to begin to lay the early foundations for a long term and broader legacy from both the 2012 events enabling us to share with our hosts our approaches to teaching and personalised learning. We were strong ambassadors for Leeds and feel we made a significant contribution to the programme. Our two Associate Staff members that accompanied us on the programme; Mark Swales (Boston Spa) and Michael Smith (West Oaks) made telling contributions and ensured that sport and inclusion impacted massively throughout the week. We spent two days in our Partner schools in Narayangja and Manikgongj in Greater Dhaka, where we introduced them to Rugby League, Football and Quick Cricket. We also made strong links with other agencies and in true partnership fashion we ‘stepped outside’ the organised itinerary. By passing on the opportunities to go sight seeing or shopping we were able to visit two very deprived areas to introduce sport as a lever for change. Some of this represented the most rewarding moments of the visit, including playing cricket and rugby with barefoot ‘street’ children, and it was to these young people that we distributed many of the football shirts that our schools had donated. Away, again, from the for the original itinerary we also had the fortunate opportunity of visiting the "Society for the Welfare of the Intellectually Disabled" (SWID-Bangladesh) at Eskaton Garden.

It was very humbling and a privilege because what we found was truly inspirational and real champion for the inclusive agenda. This was a school full of colour, pride and compassion. The young people and staff were extremely talented and the school was a vibrant place to be despite the fact that staff had not been paid for 7 months. Despite the challenges this organisation faces they had representatives at the Paralympics where their young people had won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in America and China in 95, 96 and 99. This is brilliant and so aspirational, and for many organisations an example of how the power of sport can and should inspire young people. After our visit we linked with Carel de Roy (Head of Unicef, Bangladesh) and he is going to try and help to ensure facilities like those at Eskaton should not be lost. We hope to develop strong links with this worthwhile project and help to drive its strong programmes and awareness raising of inclusive practice in Bangladesh. The Ramna branch is facing acute financial crisis as their donor NFU left in 1999. The funding they get from tuition fees and the Government does not cover staffing and we witnessed a passionate protest from staff and parents because of this

We were also fortunate to be guests of the SOS Children’s Village International in Bangladesh. This organisation works in 132 countries worldwide and was founded by Hermann Gmeiner in Austria in 1949. He was committed to help children in need –children who had lost their homes, security and families. Their philosophy of "family approach" to the long term care of orphaned and abandoned children was amazing and we can learn a great deal from them. We met the National Director for SOS and we were impressed by their Pastoral system , outreach support, preventative programmes and vocational centres. It was humbling to find such committed people making such a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable young people in Bangladesh, yet the need for the expansion of this work is so acute. This was a deeply emotionally literate organisation, driven by clear and admirable values; such is their ambition and hope for the young people in their care that they also run a school for their "looked after" children that is also a community school. These were inspirational people

Our visit ended with a huge celebration in a ‘Festival of Sport’, organised and led by the first young people to be formally trained as ‘Sports Leaders’ in Bangladesh. This was such an optimistic event, showcasing how much can be achieved for the many through sport with the right investment empowering young people to lead their peers. We also had time to link with the British High Commissioner who has asked us to contact him to discuss our "Included" project. "Included" will be directed by Boston Spa and West Oaks and will hopefully involve Leeds Schools, Bangladeshi Schools, our Bangladeshi community here in Leeds, the British Council, Education Leeds, Leeds Sports clubs, IOC, Paralympic organisations, SOS Village, and SWID School in Eskaton. Children – whether in Bangladesh or Britain are children first and foremost. We can and should do more! We will be holding a launch event for ‘Included’ in the second week of July. We would be delighted if you could attend, and give us your support. If you could let us know which dates you are available, we will fit it around your diary. As ever,
Andrew and Chris."
This is a simply wonderful initiative and a great advert for the best of what we do here in the city.
I received this wonderful letter from Geraldine Connor, Artistic Director, Musician, Composer, Arts Consultant, Academic and creator of Carnival Messiah...

"Dear Mr Edwards,

I write to apologise for my non-attendance at the Leeds Civic Hall yesterday. of such an historic and important event. I was really not well enough to attend, however, I was absolutely certain by just looking at the proposed programme, that the event was going to be an immense success. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity offer my heartfelt congratulations to you and your team for the outstanding impact you have and continue to make on the cultural and educational landscape of Leeds. The continued successful interventions of the Leeds Bi-Centenary Transformation Project in parallel with Education Leeds independently and through the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard in Leeds, are providing a template of excellence and good practice that is now set to be replicated nationally and internationally. I congratulate you all ! I look forward to, if not actually contributing to this Project’s continued success myself, at least monitoring at close quarter, its continued and dynamic, exponential growth. Yours sincerely, Geraldine Connor"

It was a brilliant event but it is fantastic to receive such praise from such a talented and influential woman who has done so much for the arts and to promote diversity, equality and talent here in Leeds, regionally and nationally.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

I finished the day at the Stepping Stones Looked After Children Celebration at Tiger Tiger...

I had been invited by Ken Campbell and Julie Pocklington who manage this fantastic initiative here in Leeds and it was brilliant to see the young people in care, their carers and the students and colleagues who are involved in making this project such a success. The talent and potential in the young people we shared a couple of hours with was simply amazing.
After breakfast Jill Wood, headteacher at Little London Primary School, took Dirk and I to see her 'learn to learn' group...

The 'learn to learn' initiative targets a small group of children who are struggling in their primary schools and over two terms the programme aims to get them back into learning through a very focused curriculum and intensive support. It was wonderful talking to some of the children in the 'learn to learn' setting and to see the impact it is having. Colleague heads were hugely supportive and complimentary about the initiative which we need to consider for other areas of the city.
Dirk and I started the day at Space @ Little London for a breakfast session with headteachers from the Inner North West Family of Schools...

It was great to talk through the issues facing this group of talented colleagues who are doing such amazing work at the heart of the city.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

I went to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet this evening at the York Theatre Royal...

It was three short ballets but I slept through most of Galanteries and The Dance House. However, Elite Syncopations was fantastic. Wonderful music by Scott Joplin and others and brilliant choreography by Kenneth MacMillan. A completely stripped back theatre burst into life as dancers in brilliantly coloured costumes gathered for a dance competition. An amazing rag-time band accompanied a string of sketches, spanning the dazzling, the witty and the touching, as each dancer at the competition took their turn. Elite Syncopations was beautiful, breathtaking and joyful.

The Recipe for Myself

My colleague Richard Boughey sent me this e-mail today...

"Hello Chris, Patricia, Liz and I have just come back from a great morning discussing Harnessing Technology. We met the Elmete Partnership of Schools Family, and then moved to Manston St James Church of England Primary School to meet with Lynne Gillions and Debra Twigg. As always I'm humbled by the amazing work going on in Leeds schools and the great openness in discussing the way forward for all of us. There is no simple "right way" in the technology debate and no simple answers so it's fantastic to be able to spend the quality time exploring options and experiences with enthusiastic people!

The Recipe for Myself subject title for this email comes from Manston St James. It comes from a pupils description of themselves as a recipe (my apologies if I get anything wrong as I'm trying to remember what they wrote!):
4 spoon fulls of crazy
7 cups of running
6 cups of healthy
2 slices of thin
1 tea spoon of nosiness
7 cakes of sports

What would our recipe for Leeds or ourselves be?
For me, mine would be:
5 cups for hope for the future
2 slices of skiing (and a dash of cycling)
4 cakes of meeting interesting people
8 spoon fulls of seeing it all happen
1 cup of wishing I was thin!
Thanks, Richard."

What would other colleagues put in their recipe?
My colleague Alex MacLeod, Acting Head of PFI Programme Management, sent me some great news about our PFI schools...

"Dear Chris, I am pleased to share two recent successes with you, which my service is very proud of.
1. Lawnswood- As you will recall, historically there have been challenges in the relationship between the school and the PFI contractor , however, relationships are at an all time high between all parties. So much progress has been made that we have successfully negotiated additional (no cost) after school hours access for the Friends of Lawnswood (community choir) and to support the schools recent recognition as a centre of excellence for badminton.
In addition my service (Kathy Page) has finalised a long outstanding dispute between the school and the original builders (Mowlem) resulting in a windfall of £7k to the school for lost utilities.
2. Headingley Springbank Primary School- I have for sometime tried to maximise our partnerships with PFI contractors and get them to support our broader Council and ECM objectives. As a pilot activity, representatives of my service, Carillion/ESCO (PFI partners), constructed a wildlife pond in the grounds of Springbamk school. The pupils were engaged as an ecology learning activity, and great fun was had by all, especially as the Fire Service from Kirkstall (Redwatch) filled the pond with water!!. Clearly this will help build relationships and fosters goodwill between all parties. Kindest Regards, Alex."

Alex and his team are doing a great job making the PFI schemes work to best effect. It is great to hear about brilliant things happening at Lawnswood and Springbank.


I attended Headteachers Forum this afternoon...

The forum was at the West Park Centre and it was a really stimulating afternoon with some great colleagues looking at the new School Improvement Policy which has been refined following feedback from headteacher colleagues, data collection and analysis using the fantastic materials Andy and his colleagues in our Performance Management and Information team have put together. We also discussed primary school places and the challenges we face.
I started the day early at the 'Find Your Talent' event at the Village Hotel, Tingley...
This was joint event between the Leeds Chamber of Commerce and Education Leeds targeting employers and businesses and trying to encourage even better uptake around diplomas and apprenticeships. Gary Milner and Sally Spofforth did a great job organising things and everyone had a great morning.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

I know that this will upset some of my colleagues but I read the article this evening in today's Times about why nursery care is bad for boys and it struck a chord...

The article by Sue Palmer was from her book '21st Century Boys' where she argues that daycare centres are rearing 'sadder, more stressed and aggressive children' and that 'young boys in particular need more personal attention'. To provide the best start in life for a boy you need either mum, dad or another family member, a trusted child minder or a work colleague who'd like to share both job and child-rearing responsibilities. One thousand days is roughly how long it takes for a new born baby to be miraculously transformed into a walking, talking little boy and the personal touch is the key to success.

Interestingly both Sue Palmer and internationally respected psychologist Steve Biddulph believe that nursery provision suitable for under 3's simply doesn't exist! Comments and suggestions on a postcard.
I started the day at the launch event for the Leeds Bi-Centenary Transformation Project...

The project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Education Leeds, aimed to highlight African achievements, liberation and aspiration in commemoration of the British Parliamentary Abolition Act 1807. The product of this unique initiative written, developed and compiled by Carl Hylton, Saluka Saul ans Michelle Wittleton, is a fantastic curriculum teaching pack containing 29 lesson plans and 'Trading Roots' a wonderful creative writing resource. Every school in Leeds will receive the materials later this term.

I would like to thank the curriculum development team, the education steering group and everyone else involved and supporting this fantastic project.

Monday, 18 May 2009

What difference can we make?

One of the issues we talked about at lunch today with PMIT was how we lead by example in areas like sustainability...

There are many definitions of sustainability, but in the end what it comes down to is care: caring for yourself, caring for each other and caring for the environment. Our success and prosperity as individuals, as teams, as families and as a company is tied to the health of the planet so no one’s well-being is secure unless we all look after the environment. Sustainability involves inspiring colleagues to find solutions that improve their quality of life without storing up problems for the future, or impacting unfairly on other people's lives. It must be much more than recycling, reusing or giving money to charity. It is about cultural change and thinking and working in a profoundly different way.

Happy to discuss.


What difference can a day make?

One of the issues we talked about at lunch today with PMIT was how we lead by example in areas like volunteering...

We need to think about how we use 'CSV Make a Difference Day': the UK's biggest annual day of volunteering!
The campaign is coordinated by the charity Community Service Volunteers, and will this year take place on 31 October 2009.

How to get your school involved!

Every year thousands of young people take part and have a fantastic day. Each school decides how they want to get involved - with children and young people take part as a class, year group or with the whole school. Children and young people can...
• Learn new skills
• Work as part of a team
• Play a key role in the community
• Feel valued
• Make a real difference regardless of academic ability
• Gain an understanding of local and global issues and take action
• Have fun!

School-based colleagues gain...
• Recognition for activities locally and nationally
• Free Action Packs with certificates, balloons, T shirts, stickers and more!
• Stronger links between the school and community
• Free resources for Citizenship classes on a variety of different subjects

How to get your team involved!

CSV Make a Difference Day is the perfect opportunity for teams to try out volunteering! Volunteering:
• Is a great way for teams to boost colleagues morale.
• Allows colleagues to develop new skills and encourages better working across teams.
• Is a fantastic way to boost our reputation and do something which has huge benefits for schools and the local community.

Want more information? Download their free factsheets from their website at or give them a call on Freephone 0800 284 533.

Dirk and I had lunch today with colleagues from our Performance Management and Information Team...

I am priviledged to work with colleagues like these... talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who are doing great work in so many areas that lie at the heart of our planning, intelligent accountability and research. There aren't many lunches where I turn up to a list of questions to answer. Most of the team have been through Investment in Excellence and it was wonderful to be able to talk to these colleagues about the culture of Education Leeds and what we have achieved together over the last few years. We talked about our school days, sustainability, the challenges we face, Academies, back-office functions, public spending, beautiful systems and how we are developing our performance management framework to support and drive our culture. What is obvious is that the two things go hand in hand. .. beautiful systems and a culture which encourages innovation, creativity and experiment. Peter Storrie and the team are doing some great stuff and these talented colleagues are available to help and support any colleagues on their journey to create truly beautiful systems!

We must always remember that performance management and information lie at the heart of our work as a company and these colleagues show us all what we can achieve with commitment, energy, enthusiasm and hard work. I am grateful to these colleagues for doing such a great job.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

My colleague Duncan Grant, headteacher at Hill Top Primary School, included this in his school newsletter to remind us all that in a week of SATs tests and impending GCSEs we all need to think and reflect on how lucky we all are...

"If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following. There would be:

  • 57 Asians
  • 21 Europeans
  • 14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
  • 8 would be Africans
  • 52 would be female
  • 48 would be male
  • 70 would be non-white
  • 30 would be white
  • 70 would be non-Christian
  • 30 would be Christian
  • 89 would be heterosexual
  • 11 would be homosexual
  • 6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.
  • 80 would live in substandard housing
  • 70 would be unable to read
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition
  • (ONE)1 would be near death;
  • (ONE)1 would be near birth;
  • (ONE)1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education;
  • (ONE)1 (yes, only 1) would own a computer.

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent. And, therefore . . .

  • If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
  • If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
  • If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
  • If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.
  • If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.
  • As you read this and are reminded how life is in the rest of the world, remember just how blessed you really are!"
Someone once said:
What goes around comes around.
Work like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody's watching.
Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's heaven on earth."

I included this on the blog in 2008 and as Duncan reminds us all, in his newsletter, we should count our blessings and understand how fortunate we all are!