Friday, 12 June 2009

I moved on to the Specialist Inclusive Provision Group who were meeting at the East SILC...

Graham Newell who is leading this work for us had invited me to the meeting to support the colleagues who are helping us reshape and refocus our specialist and inclusive provision to build on the fantastic work that is going on across the city; in schools, learning support centres, pupil development centres, nurture groups, rainbows, bridges, partnership bases, resourced provision, PRUs, SILCs,and in our central SEN provision. We need to put this all together and see how we can organise and arrange the pieces to create real efficiencies and build a 'centres of excellence' model which retains and builds on the foundations we have so successfully laid over the last five years.

We need to ensure that we maintain real excellence around specialist provision for children with complex needs, sensory needs, physical disabilities, learning needs, emotional needs and behavioural needs. We also need to outreach training, support and expertise in these key areas from locality, area and city wide provision as appropriate. We also need to develop a new language and a new vocabulary to describe the new and exciting world we are building for our most special children and those who might need us at some point during their school years. And we need to build trust and confidence throughout the system to ensure that young people, their parents and carers and our partners understand and support the work we are doing to build truly world class provision for all our children and young people... whatever it takes!

We certainly live in interesting times!
I started the day early at Benton Park School...

I had been invited to their Year 7 World Religion Day which was a celebration of religious education and world faiths organised by colleagues from the school's RE team. I met David Foley, headteacher, who introduced me to colleagues and then attended the staff briefing which started with two fantastic dhol drummers.

I then attended a brief assembly for the Year 7 students where they were treated to dhol drumming and bhangra dancing. I was then taken to the workshops by two of David's students: Alex and Hannah who were my guides for the rest of my visit. We visited two workshops where we identified and tasted different foods. We visited a drumming and a percussion workshop and two workshops where everyone was trying bollywood dancing... Spanish lessons will never be the same for Alex and Hannah!

It was wonderful to start the day at Benton Park and to spend some time with Alex and Hannah, two hugely impressive and talented young people who were brilliant ambassadors for the school.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

I finished the day at the third Willow Young Carers Celebration Event at the Leeds City Museum...

"Success is not measured simply by what you accomplish, but by the things you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against the odds."

There are over 2000 young carers in Leeds with more than 1200 under 16. Thinking about it that means on average around 150 young carers in each age group; 2 or 3 in every primary school and 20 in every secondary school. This amazing project works with around 250 young carers every year. It operates in partnership with Barnardo's, supporting children and young people who care for a member of their family. I have attended all the Celebration Events and this year some of these inspirational young people have been working with students from Leeds City College at the Thomas Danby site to produce some wonderful drama to tell their stories as carers.

Sheila Davenport and her fabulous colleagues at Willow Young Carers are releasing something very special working with this wonderful group of young people.
I was personally delighted to see that two colleagues from Austhorpe Primary School have been shortlisted for awards at the Regional Finals of the Teaching Awards...

This is brilliant news for a school that has been on quite a journey over the last few years and fantastic that Caroline Robinson, headteacher, has been shortlisted for the NCSL Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School and Matthew Browne has been shortlisted for the BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School. Caroline and Matthew are two outstanding colleagues being recognised for their passion, energy, commitment and hard work which is making such a dfference at this little primary school.
Some outstanding colleagues from schools here in Leeds have been shortlisted as finalists at the North of England 2009 Teaching Awards...

They include:
  • Caroline Robinson, Austhorpe Primary: The NCSL Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School.
  • Jane Curran, Thorner CoE Primary: The Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year.
  • Sarah Plumb, Hawksworth Wood Primary: The DCSF Award for Enterprise.
  • Sam Bailey, Robin Hood Primary: The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning.
  • Peter Harris, Farsley Farfield Primary: The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning.
  • Matthew Browne, Austhorpe Primary: The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School.
  • Helen Rhodes, Hunslet Moor Primary: The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School.
  • Prof Janie Percy Smith, Shire Oak CoE Primary: The DCSF Award for Governor of the Year.
  • Kippax North Junior, Infant and Nursery School, Leeds: The DCSF Award for Sustainable Schools.

Congratulations to them all on their success in being shortlisted for the Regional Awards.

Let's hope that these brilliant colleagues all go on to win the Regional Awards and go to the National Awards to fly the flag for Leeds.


It was brilliant to hear that lots of our schools have been awarded 'Artsmark' this week in recognition of their excellence in arts education...

Schools picking up awards include:
  • Carr Manor High (Artsmark);
  • Guiseley School (Artsmark);
  • Swillington Primary (Artsmark);
  • Clapgate Primary (Artmark Silver);
  • Colton Primary(Artmark Silver);
  • Highfield Primary(Artmark Silver);
  • Hugh Gaitskell Primary(Artmark Silver);
  • Kippax Ash Tree Primary(Artmark Silver);
  • Queensway Primary(Artmark Silver);
  • Royd's School(Artmark Silver);
  • St Margaret's CoE Primary(Artmark Silver);
  • Westroyd Infant School and Nursery(Artmark Silver);
  • Adel Primary(Artsmark Gold);
  • Alwoodley Primary(Artsmark Gold);
  • Beeston Primary(Artsmark Gold);
  • Benton Park School(Artsmark Gold);
  • Garforth Community College(Artsmark Gold);
  • Garforth Green Lane Primary(Artsmark Gold);
  • Green Lane Primary(Artsmark Gold);
  • Rothwell St Mary's Primary(Artsmark Gold);
  • South Leeds High (Artsmark Gold).
It is fantastic to hear about the brilliant work in these great schools receiving these awards.
I spent a couple of hours this morning with Children's Services Scrutiny Board talking about the year ahead and the challenges and opportunities we all face...

I was there with Cllr Stuart Golton, Cllr Richard Harker and Rosemary Archer, Director of Children's Services. It was again really useful to be able to use the planning for the session to run through the issues we are dealing with and how they connect with our Strategic Plan. My personal review ranged across the following, in no particular order:
  • Developing Apprenticeships and Diplomas as part of a coherent 14 - 19 offer;
  • Developing 'Every Child a Reader' and 'Every Child Counts';
  • Developing PSCE and SRE provision in schools;
  • Developing 'Sustainable Schools' in Leeds;
  • Developing the Early Years and Foundation Stage curriculum and it's transition to Key Stage 1;
  • Developing the Safer Schools programme working with West Yorkshire Police and other partners;
  • Developing volunteering as part of the National Year of Volunteering 2010;
  • Further developing a programme of cultural change based on equity, equality and social justice;
  • Further developing our 'Leeds Healthy Schools' programme;
  • Further developing the Academies programme here in Leeds;
  • Further developing 'The Power of Me' programme;
  • Further developing the schools workforce to implement and deliver new local strategies,
  • National Strategies programmes and DCSF policy developments;
  • Further developing the skills agenda and managing the Machinery of Government changes and the disappearance of the Learning and Skills Council;
  • Further developing Trusts, Federations and partnerships to drive locality approaches to improved outcomes, behavioural provision and 14 - 19 pathways;
  • Implementing the Government's approach to 21st Century Schools;
  • Implementing the Leeds Inclusive Learning Strategy;
  • Introducing the Government's new School Report Card;
  • Maintaining a relentless and uncompromising focus on outcomes for looked-after children, children on free school meals and other target groups;
  • Maintaining our focus on excellence, standards and outcomes for all our children and young people;
  • Managing and responding to the significant increase in the primary population in Leeds;
  • Managing the impact of budget changes;
  • Managing the implications of the Rose Review;
  • Reorganising the behavioural provision in Leeds;
  • Successfully delivering two more Academies in Leeds;
  • Tackling obesity through exercise and diet.

Not really a lot to do then!

I would welcome your feedback.. is there anything I have missed?


I found another great quote last night when I couldn't sleep...

"Somehow I can't believe that there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable."
Walt Disney

It's true and we should all remember that we can achieve anything if we really believe. That's of course the Disney secret and the magic!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

I finished the day at Blackgates Primary School...

"The greatest things are accomplished by individual people, not by committees or companies."

I was there for their Summer Concert and it was a wonderful celebration of music, talent and Blackgates young people. Elaine Kay-Devanney, the headteacher, is a passionate supporter of the arts along with everything else that makes for an outstanding school. It is really great to see the brass band tradition alive and well in this community!

I had lunch today with colleagues from the Early Years Support Team (EYST)...

"I hope that my achievements in life shall be these -- that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need that I will have left the earth a better place for what I've done and who I've been."

In case you didn't know, the EYST aims to promote the inclusion and raise achievement of young children (0-5 years) with special educational needs in their homes and early years settings. The portage home visiting service offers training and family support groups alongside regular home visits as part of an early intervention package for parents and carers. The area co-ordinators offer specialist support to special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) and practitioners in a range of maintained and non-maintained early years settings targeting the level of support to the child, family and settings. Targeted, short-term practical support may also be provided by the inclusion support workers in the team.

It was great to have lunch with these colleagues who are making such a difference for some of our most special children and their families.
I started the day early at Tranmere Park Primary School …

"We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We are all meant to shine, as children do."

I talked to Kirsten Finley, the headteacher and I was given the guided tour by four of Kirsten’s little stars … Abby, Stan, Eshe and Daniel who were amazing ambassadors and advocates for everything the team are doing at Tranmere Park. I also met Shelley Allinson, who runs the Gardening Club, and Tom, Isabella, Katharine and Isobel, four more little stars, showed me what they have achieved so far to transform the school's grounds and gardens.

It is an outstanding learning place where Kirsten and her talented colleagues are releasing energy and magic with some fantastic young people. It’s easy in the busy and often hectic lives we lead to forget what is really important, but two hours with Kirsten and the team is all I need to remember why I do this.

Simply brilliant!
Following my visit to Middleton St Mary's CE Primary school yeaterday, my colleague Sarah Tarrant sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris,you do put great quotes on your web site so here is one from a New Zealand author Keri Hulme...

"They were nothing more than people, by themselves. Even paired, any pairing, they would have been nothing more that people by themselves. But all together, they become the heart and the muscles and mind of something perilous and new, something strange and growing and great. Together, all together, they are the instruments of change." (from The Bone People)

For me this sums up our community garden and all the people who have come together to make it happen.Take care, Sarah."

Sarah is right; this is a really important message for Middleton, for Leeds and for all of us. Together we can change the world and make it a better place for our children, our young people, our families and our communities.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

I met Heather Read this afternoon when I attended the opening of the "Woodlands Community Garden' at Middleton St Mary's CE Primary School...

Heather looks after the Leeds branch of Myasthenia Gravis Association; 'The Rag Doll Illness'. If like me you have never heard of Myasthenia Gravis, it is an auto immune disease characterised by fluctuating and sometimes fatal muscle weakness. It's a disease where the body's immune system, in the form of antibodies, attacks and damages the communication between nerve and muscle, which results in a loss of effectiveness of the muscle.

Heather told me that there are around 150 sufferers in Leeds and the Research Centre in Oxford, that the charity supports, hope that a breakthrough will come in the not too distant future. If you want to help, you can contact Helen, to find out more about the Myasthenia Gravis Association, on 0113 2502816.
This afternoon I attended the opening of the "Woodlands Community Garden' at Middleton St Mary's CE Primary School...

"Nothing in life is more exciting and rewarding than the sudden flash of insight that leaves you a changed person - not only changed but changed for the better"

Cllr Judith Elliott, the new Lord Mayor of Leeds, officially opened the garden which was named after the previous headteacher Debbie Wood who died just over two years ago. Middleton St Mary's CE Primary School is a wonderful little school and the garden is a brilliant project led by two passionate, committed and wonderful women; Sarah Graham, the headteacher, and Sarah Tarrant, Higher Level Teaching Assistant. This picture shows the Lord Mayor, both Sarah's and Debbie's family.

We were all expecting rain but the sun shone and it was a brilliant afternoon. The school was packed with children, families and members of the local community who were enjoying a barbeque, stalls and live music and dancing! The school was also celebrating its international links with Ireland, Turkey and Belgium and it was the Turkish men who were leading the dancing. Some of the children had produced model gardens and two Year 6 boys models were simply outstanding... one a Chelsea Garden and the other a model of the 'Woodlands Community garden'. These two boys have a great future in design, architecture, horticulture or whatever else they might choose to do!

There is a fantastic energy at Middleton St Mary's CE Primary School and a real sense of a school and its community building something truly wonderful.
I had lunch with colleagues from the Parent Partnership Service to celebrate that they have been re-accreditated and achieved the Cabinet Office's Chartermark for Customer Service Excellence...

“Change will not come if we wait
for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek”.

The Parent Partnership Service is one of the jewels of Education Leeds, although strictly speaking it is an arms length service offering impartial advice, guidance and support to parents and carers across the city. Bridget Mork, the Parent Partnership Service Co-ordinator, leads a brilliant team of talented colleagues who are doing a great job working for our most important client group after our children and young people. It has been real priviledge working with the team over the years and wonderful to see how the service has developed and grown and how well it is supported by our parents and carers. It was great to see Parent Power at the lunch and to hear more about there work.

A brilliant lunch with a truly amazing group of young, passionate and enthusiastic colleagues who are doing something wonderful with our parents and carers.
Another week full of meetings, inspections, visits and critical feedback helping us continue to improve and develop everything we do...

I attended the Chamber of Commerce and Education Leeds event on Apprenticeships as part of Leeds Business Week at the Rosebowl at Leeds Metropolitan University. I visited Little London Primary School for breakfast and to talk to the children at their 'World of Work' assembly. Dirk Gilleard and I had breakfast with a great group of headteacher colleagues at the Otley Chevin Hotel. I met Angela Ronicle the new headteacher at Kerr Mackie Primary School and I also met Melanie Poulson to talk about her Magical Gardens. I visited Iveson Primary School for the best school breakfast ever and to talk to their visitors from Spain and Germany. I attended the official opening of the National Lottery 'People's Millions' funded sensory suite at the NW SILC's Penny Field site. I visited the new Swallow Hill Community College building with John Battle MP as part of the celebrations for our Green Fortnight and World Environment Day. And finally I spoke at the One Children's Workforce Conference at the Royal Armouries about the opportunities we face as we develop our 21st Century Schools.

Actually, my day continued because I went on to the Grand Theatre to see the Rambert Dance Company's Eternal Light Tour 2009. It was a stunning performance by a visually wonderful and incredibly talented dance ensemble supported by the fantastic Leeds University Liturgical Choir who performed the beautiful Howard Goodall 'Requiem'. It's weeks like this and performances like 'Eternal Light' that convince me that the keys to our success; to building brilliant, to achieving world-class outcomes, to releasing the magic, lie in continuing to build a culture based on passionate engagement, enthusiasm, determination, discipline, persistance, patience and hard work. A culture that trusts, energises and empowers everyone who shares our mission, our belief and our relentless focus on serving the children, young people and families and communities here in Leeds; whatever it takes!

Keep the faith
I received this e-mail from Sue Knights...

"Dear Mr Edwards, Firstly thank you for attending the NW SILC sensory launch it was a wonderful time for the school. My main reason for contacting you was in the hope that you would put on your blog that one of my sons Dale Knights will be running the Jane Tomlinson run to raise funds for the NW SILC sensory and playground fundraising. Dale is a student at Allerton High school and has decided to do this fundraising after meeting the children at the NW SILC. Often as parents we forget just how great our kids are either because we are tired or busy but I can say I am very proud of him for this and know the NW SILC children will benefit from sensory and playground equipment from his fundraising. Please ask people to cheer him along the route if they are watching he will be RED 6509....many thanks .............Sue Knights"

Our young people are fantastic and every week I meet young people who inspire me and reassure me about the future. It is great to hear about young people, like Dale, who are doing something to help others less fortunate than themselves. I hope everyone who watches the Jane Tomlinson run will support and encourage Dale.

Monday, 8 June 2009

I spent lunchtime with a fantastic group of parents who had completed the INVEST programme...

If we want to invest in the prosperity of our nation, we must invest in the education of our children so that their talents may be fully employed.

The INVEST programme is the volunteering programme developed by Jane Haswell in our Families and Schools Together Team. I was there to present certificates to a group of parents who had completed the volunteering course my colleague Jane has developed and which now can be accredited through the Open College Network. The parenting programmes in Leeds are brilliant and reaching groups of mums and dads who are returning to learning or who missed out on qualifications and courses at school and it is wonderful to meet these talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful people and to celebrate their successses. This event celebrated the achievements of parents, mums, at eight great Leeds primary schools.

These programmes are having a real impact across Leeds; are changing lives and clearly are having an extra-ordinary impact in some of our most diverse communities. Jane Haswell, Val Cain and the FAST team are doing a brilliant job and this event has once again made me deeply proud to be part of the team here at Education Leeds. I hope that we will have some photos later.


I received this wonderful news from my colleague Jenny Marshall from our Performance Management and Information team...

"Dear Chris, Its official, the award of the Customer Service Excellence Standard is continued. The assessor states that 'following the assessment, Education Leeds was found to have a deep understanding and commitment to Customer Service Excellence. This commitment was found from senior Management levels through to operation and front line staff. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those people involved in the overall assessment process. It has been a pleasure meeting with your team and having the opportunity to see your service in action.' Jenny"

This is a really outstanding achievement and shows real progress from last year. I am delighted that those colleagues who were involved did such a great job and once again demonstrated our commitment to continuously improving all aspects of our work.
My colleague Maqsood Sheikh reminded me that the 2009 Audit Commission School Survey is now open for schools to complete on-line...

This national survey captures schools perceptions of services provided locally for children and young people. It is important that we get a good return, as the information from the survey will inform and help develop partnership working with a view to improving our services for children and young people and their families here in Leeds. Last year 45% of Leeds schools (including SILCs and PRUs) responded to the survey and this year we hope to get an even better return. To help with this, every school completing the survey will be entered in to a draw, and will have the chance of winning a member of our Leadership Team for half a day... including Dirk Gilleard, Ros Vahey and me!

The survey will remain open until 15th July 2009. Results will be reported in the autumn term 2009. You can find the survey by going to
Thank you for your help and feedback.