Saturday, 6 June 2009

I was delighted to receive this bit of praise and support from Alison Ings, Chair of Governors at the NW SILC...

"Patience and perseverance have a magical affect
before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."

"Dear Chris, I feel compelled to write to inform you of the amazing progress, outside of school, of the students from Temple Moor High School. I live on Pinfold Lane, opposite Temple Moor High School. Eighteen months ago it was, as a resident, almost unbearable at the start and end of the school day. Students swearing, fighting in the road, smoking and making rude comments of my children going on the school bus to Penny Field School. What a turn around! Students dressed to attend school, instead of St Trinians! Much less, if no, smoking due to staff presence outside school. No comments made at special school buses and no abuse to me as a resident when trying to exit my driveway! On the contrary, students actually give me right of way!! Certainly no fighting in the road, or indeed my driveway! I was recently made aware, by a student from Temple Moor, that there is a 'new Headteacher'. Well Done to him and the staff! I am proud to live next door to Temple Moor High School! Praise where praise is due ........ a marvellous job done by Head, Staff and Pupils of Temple Moor. Regards, Alison."

It is great to receive feedback like this, especially when so often we are only told when things go wrong. Martin Fleetwood and his team deserve a special thank you especially as they are also managing a hugely complex building project and securing improving outcomes for the young people at Temple Moor High School.
I finished the day at the Rambert Dance Company's spectacular performance at the Leeds Grand Theatre...

"People with goals succeed because they know where they're going."

The evening was part of the Eternal Light Tour 2009 and involved three short works; Eternal Light, Hush and Infinity and it was a brilliant evening of outstanding modern ballet. Eternal Light was danced to Howard Goodall's 'Eternal Light: A Requiem' which was sung by the Leeds University Liturgical Choir accompanied by the London Musici Orchestra and the whole thing was simply fantastic! Hush was a quirky fun ballet danced to some wonderful music by Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma. Infinity was accompanied by a more modern score but showed the real strength and precision needed to dance modern ballet.

It was an evening to remember demonstrating the very best of modern ballet with a superb cast supported by a brilliant young choir and orchestra. If you get a chance go and see it!

Friday, 5 June 2009

I finished a crazy day at the Royal Armouries at the One Children's Workforce Conference...

" We do not quit playing because we grow old...
we grow old because we quit playing."

Ken Morton had asked me to talk to delegates about 21st Century Schools and how they fit into the new Children's Services world. It was great to be there with around 200 colleagues who share my passion and commitment to the children and young people of Leeds.
My colleague Carol Jordan received this wonderful piece of feedback from Adam Cayley at the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit after their visit to Leeds recently which Carol organised...

"Carol, Ahead of the more formal letters and on behalf of the team I would like to say a huge thank you for organising our visit to Leeds yesterday. Your hospitality and openess made the day effortless for us and we came away a lot of interesting examples of both the work that has been done and the work for the future. Please pass on our thanks to the staff and schools. I think my 45 minutes with the students at Cockburn will probably live with me forever.
Regards, Adam."

It is great to be able to share our practice with colleagues and that bit about young people at Cockburn makes you realise why we are all here! Thanks to Carol and everyone involved in organising, supporting and managing the visit by PMDU to Leeds at very short notice.


I moved on again to the new Swallow Hill Community College for one of our Green Day events...

The Swallow Hill Community College encouragingly includes a number of sustainable features:
  • timber from sustainable sources;
  • recycled stone;
  • reactive lighting that dims as natural light increases;
  • water saving devices;
  • outdoor habitat areas with wild and natural plants.

It was great to walk around the new building with John Battle MP, a passionate advocate for this wonderful project, and to see the progress we are making with the brilliant building. We were accompanied by young people from West Leeds and Wortley High Schools who were very obviously impressed with their new school and looking forward to starting there in September.


I moved on to the NW SILC to the official opening of the new sensory suite at the Penny Field site...

"We may run, walk, stumble, drive or fly,
but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey,
or miss the chance to see a rainbow on the way."

Alison Ings, Chair of Governors, had invited me to the opening of the new facilities made possible because of the SILC's success in the National Lottery 'People's Millions' competition organised by Calendar News. The SILC secured £50000 to fund the project which provides state of the art multi-sensory equipment in the sensory room, the library and the hydrotherapy pool. This project has been led by Alison, Sue Knights and other governors supported by Michael Purches and his team and will make an enormous difference to the very special group of children at the NW SILC.
I started the day early at Iveson Primary School...

"The main source of good discipline is growing up in a loving family,
being loved and learning to love in return."

It was wonderful to visit the school again and start the day with breakfast with the children. And what a breakfast... muesli, fresh fruit, yoghurt, salmon and cream cheese bagels, bread, croissants, 'dark chocolate' pain au chocolat, fruit juice... it was simply amazing!

I was there to meet and talk to some visitors from Germany and Spain who were involved with Liz Benfield and her colleagues at Iveson Primary School as part of a Comenius European Project. It is great to see colleagues opening windows into other countries, other cultures, other languages and building relationships. It was fantastic to see everyone 'Wake Up and Shake Up' and to see the relationships the vistors had established with the children. Liz and her team are doing a brilliant job and this project brings the international dimension alive for the children at Iveson Primary School.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Later I met Angela Ronicle who will take up the headteacher post at Kerr Mackie Primary School in September...

It was really encouraging to talk to Angela about the opportunities to build something really outstanding at Kerr Mackie. A school with great potential, wonderful children, supportive families and serving as it does such a rich and diverse community.
My colleague Christine Marsden, Curriculum Development Manager at the Education Business Partnership sent me this e-mail about the work Linda Livesey is doing at John Smeaton Community College...

"Chris, The CLD Unit at John Smeaton Community College is something very special. The unit is run by Linda Livesey and 3 support staff. The Education Business Partnership has been working with Linda Livesey, who runs the unit, for the past 2 years. She has developed a programme of activity which embraces enterprise and uses it as a vehicle to develop literacy and numeracy skills as well as self confidence and communication. The students have set up a business called ‘Bee Crafty’ which makes and sells seasonal goods and cards. The resource which Linda has developed is available to all SEN departments and SILCs. Last year Linda ran a teacher INSET session with the EBP looking at the Bee Crafty resource but also the approach to learning and teaching which she feels gives students with specific learning difficulties the best chance of success. Linda is very conscious of the need to give the students real life experiences and uses every opportunity to do so. She is currently working on number and money recognition. I was part of a 3 hour session yesterday which involved students having to ‘buy’ the item they had been presented with, in this case fruit, using money from the ‘bank’. They had to come to the bank and select the smallest number of coins to be able to ‘purchase’ their fruit item in preparation for a shopping trip so they could buy the fruit to make the fruit salad. Linda’s energy and passion and her approach to learning and teaching provides the highest quality learning experience and one which I believe provides these young people with an excellent start in life. It was a privilege to be part of her lesson and to work with the same students who had started the Bee Crafty Company and see the progress they had made not only in literacy and numeracy but in their self confidence. Best wishes, Christine."

We are lucky here in Leeds not only to have Christine and Mike Cooper and their colleagues developing a fantastic range of brilliant Enterprise activities but to have colleagues like Linda Livesey releasing the magic with some of our most special young people at John Smeaton Community College.
Another day, another breakfast meeting. I started the day early at with the Aireborough and a couple of the Otley Family of Schools headteachers...

This was a great group of colleagues and it would be very interesting to add up the years of experience in the room and to build on their understanding of, and insights into, the real issues we are facing. We considered increasing numbers, the School Report Card, special needs and behaviour provision, early years, extended services, 'Every Child a Reader' and talked about the characteristics of brilliant provision and how schools could maintain their focus on standards with so many intiatives, so many pots of money to chase, so many consultants and experts and so much constant change. We agreed that the key is to maintain a focus on quality and to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience.

We talked about the importance of confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understood the learning process and were working positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to build healthier and more sustainable communities. We talked about confident, passionate and dynamic leaders who had a clear view of what was needed to drive change and achieve that step change in outcomes we all want to see. outcomes not simply measured in terms of Level 4 at Key Stage 2 or 5 A*-C Grades at GCSE . We talked about aspiration and attainment and how we rebuild hope in communities and work more closely with mums and families.

It was a brilliant start to the day with some great colleagues amd we need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more and to celebrate more. We talked about the challenges that lie ahead with public sector budget cuts and the need to work more creatively and more collaboratively and to stop the merry go round of meetings, bureaucracy and things that made no difference to children and families and focus on those we know do.

It's great to talk.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

I went to another of our brilliant primary schools early this morning..

I visited Little London Primary School where Jill Wood and her colleagues are releasing a very special kind of magic. I met with Jill, her colleagues and some of her children for breakfast and a game of pool before school. I had been asked by Jill to talk in their 'World of Work' assembly about my job and the skills I had learnt at primary school. I also got the chance to briefly walk around the school to see things in action.

The school has made incredible progress under Jill's quite outstanding leadership and the standards are flying. The 'can do' culture is everywhere reinforcing that this is the most important thing we do here in Leeds; educating the future and recognising it's incredible potential!

The key is to ensure that everyone is happy, healthy, safe and then focusing on them being increasingly successful... the children, the learning team and the parents and carers. As someone who is always learning, I always ask myself after visiting schools, what is it that makes this little school such a brilliant learning place? The answers...

  • Jill's strong, focused, passionate and uncompromising leadership;
  • a talented, energetic and enthusiastic team;
  • clear values and beliefs driving all the work of the school;
  • a focus on excellence, standards, behaviour and discipline;
  • outstanding teaching within a positive, attractive and stimulating learning environment;
  • a focus on enthusiasm, determination and patience;
  • high expectations and hard work!

This is a brilliant school with a great team led by an inspirational headteacher. Jill Wood and her learning team are doing an incredible job and have built something really amazing at Little London Primary School .

It was great to hear some more good news from Bob Wolfson, at the National College for School Leadership, today...

"Chris, I was pleased to learn that you are making progress with the Local Leaders programme. I can tell you that the following headteachers were successful - I think it was all Leeds applicants:
  • Linda Bowles
  • Allison Chinn
  • Kathryn DePledge
  • Richard Elstub
  • Helen Sanderson
  • Jenny Wilde

Best wishes, Bob."

This is great news for Leeds with six colleagues becoming National Leaders of Learning. Congratulations to all of them on achieving this recognition of their brilliant leadership.


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

I started the day with my colleague Rosie Molinari who leads our work on school food and drink...

Rosie and her colleagues have researched attitudes to school meals and talked to young people, headteachers and providers. They have developed a policy framework to improve and develop school food and drink, including packed lunches. They have developed training and support for school based colleagues to ensure that the quality of school food and drink continues to improve. However, we need to do more.

Rosie and I passionately believe it is vitally important what our children eat. We currently have one of the lowest take-ups of free school meals regionally and nationally and we need schools to understand that school food and drink impacts on outcomes as well as health and well-being particularly for those young people on free school meals.

Rosie and I are clear that we all need to do more work to ensure that school food and drink is value for money, attractive and high quality.
OK, so how do we save the planet...

Here's a list of things we can all try:
  • Reduce our consumption and buy less stuff.
  • Reuse whenever we can and take unwanted stuff to your local charity shop or give it away.
  • Recycle as much of our household and office waste as we can.
  • Turn off electrical equipment, don't leave things on standby and always turn off lights in empty rooms.
  • Make the switch to a green energy supplier and use energy-efficient and energy-saving lightbulbs around the office and the home.
  • Always buy seasonal and locally-grown organic fruit and vegetables when they are available.
  • Cut down on our use of paper to create a 'less paper' world.
  • Always buy recycled paper products instead of the alternatives.
  • Take the bus or train whenever we can!
  • Leave the car at home whenever we can!
  • Walk or cycle whenever we can!
  • Enjoy fresh air and exercise!

WE all need to consume less, share more and live more simply.

What do you think?


Monday, 1 June 2009

I have decided that holidays are out after working all last night through my in-box and the 258 e-mails colleagues have sent me over the last week. There must be a better way...

Thoughts and suggestions welcome!
As you all know STEPS is one of the real successes we have developed here at Education Leeds, so it was great to receive this e-mail from my colleague Louise Lee, HLTA Admin/Support Assistant based at the Elmete Centre...

"Hi Chris, I would just like to thank you by letting you know how much I enjoyed the STEPS training I took part in a few weeks ago. It really helped me open my eyes and see my true potential and helped me realise that if I work hard at it, then nothing is impossible. I am a forward thinker, and I am always wondering about what steps to take next in order to hit my targets, in and out of my work life, and the STEPS training showed me that by combining Planning, Time, Determination and "The Initial Dream", you could be reaching your goals sooner than you think. I would recommend this training to anybody, as it has really helped me be a lot more positive towards coming to work, and I feel it should be more advertised within Education Leeds, as I feel it would have a positive effect on most, if not all who takes part. Thank you again for the opportunity to take part. Louise."

It is wonderful to hear from Louise about her experience of the STEPS programme. We need to think about how we make it more easily accessible to colleagues across the company. If the demand is there we will find ways to run more programmes for our teams.
It was brilliant to hear that the Leeds Youth Jazz Rock Orchestra has donated instruments to the Akhaya centre in Durban, South Africa...

The orchestra raised over £8,000 to pay for six trumpets and six trombones after visiting the Ekhaya Centre in the Ethekwini municipality of Durban in 2007 and discovering it had just a drum kit and piano. On returning to Leeds, the young people performed at gigs, parties and functions to raise money to purchase the instruments and send them out to South Africa. The link between the jazz rock orchestra and the Ekhaya Centre is the result of the partnership between Leeds and Durban which has been developed by Leeds City Council’s international relations team. The instruments recently arrived at the South African centre and are already being used by local children and young people.
I received this e-mail today from Amanda Carter, Community Fundraiser for West Yorkshire at Martin House...

"Chris, I hope you are well and enjoying our summer! You have been a fantastic support to Martin House and raised an amazing amount of money for us. We are organizing a Musical Talent Competition for the secondary schools in West Yorks for bands and vocalists, we expect the standard to be very high. The prize for the winning band will be to play on the Newcomers Stage at the 2010 Leeds Festival and the prize for the top vocalist will be to have a CD professionally produced and recorded. All the finalist will be spending the day with top professionals such as the Pigeons, Kaisers, Corin Bailey Ray, professional producers and talent scouts. We are intending it to be amazing! We do hope to raise a great deal of money for Martin House but at the same time we will be giving a tremendous opportunity to the kids in West Yorks schools. We don’t just want it to be about the winners we want the whole experience to be a very positive one from the very outset for ALL the schools and musicians. We are planning a big press launch in late Sept where we would like to invite all Directors of Education and the Heads of Music. I would very much appreciate your support. Kind Regards Amanda."

This is a brilliant initiative and I suspect every secondary school in Leeds will want to get involved. So watch this space!


Sunday, 31 May 2009

I have just got back from a break in Rome...

It was great simply to get away from it all and enjoy being in one of the most wonderful cities in the world; it's history, it's monuments and churches, its food and wine, it's drivers, it's approach to health and safety and it's people. I had time to think as well and to consider the agenda for the next seven weeks. We all need to keep it simple, be totally honest whatever the cost, think carefully about the best solutions to the many challenges we face and most importantly remember that actions speak louder than words.

I have just switched on my computer and my mobile phone and I discover that I am catapulted straight back into a crazy world of e-mails, letters, complaints, politics, news stories, admissions, pregnancies and births, school places and provision, exclusions, problems and mistakes, young deaths, OFSTED, Academies, governance and accountability, special needs and behavioural concerns. However, here too I believe that the answers are the same; we need to keep it simple, be totally honest, think carefully about the best solutions and remember that actions speak louder than words.

Our challenge over the next seven weeks is to keep the faith, preserve our culture and our values and continue to do what we believe is right to build brilliant learning in brilliant learning places for all our children, our young people and their families here in Leeds... whatever it takes!

And always remember...

"It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Believe in what you are doing and keep the faith!