Friday, 26 June 2009

I missed the Black Children's Achievement Celebrations today at the Civic Hall but Marcia Hutchinson, Managing Director of PrimaryColours, sent me this e-mail afterwards...

"Dear Chris, Earlier today we were the MC's for the Black Children's Achievement Project (BCAP) End of Year Celebrations at the Civic Hall. It was fantastic to see pupils from nine Leeds schools singing, dancing, reciting poetry and generally being completely proud of their culture and Heritage. This is the fourth year that Primary Colours have been involved in BCAP in Leeds and we're delighted to see the progress that has been made with the children. Of the ten BCAP primary schools we have performed in Carr Manor, Chapel Allerton and Hillcrest schools. I was delighted to be asked to give the Keynote Speech by Pauline Rosenthal and tried to encourage the children to believe in themselves at all times. " Yes you can!" We managed to get a performance by the children of Elvis Presley's Hound Dog on video which we've uploaded to our website for you. Click here to see the video

We have now been booked to return to Carr Manor with our unique brand of fun-filled interactive drama productions so make a date in your diary to come and see us there on 1st October as we kick of Black History Month with Rock 'n' Role play celebrating the progress of black people from Rosa Parks to Barrack Obama via Nelson Mandela. We only have one slot
left for Black History Month so do get in touch if you would like to book the Primary Colours Experience for your school. Kind Regards Marcia.

PS We are also in today's Times Educational Supplement showing how our work can be used to fight racial prejudice. ."

Marcia and Primary Colours are brilliant and I hope to be able to catch up with her and her team in October. I am sorry that I missed the Black Children's Achievement event and I am particularly grateful to my colleagues Pauline Rosenthal and Jahardine Farrell who have been working with the schools and clearly doing a great job.


I spend valuable time in schools every week and I meet some incredible colleagues from schools and Education Leeds...

Colleagues whose passion, commitment, energy, enthusiasm and hard work are changing the world for so many of our young people. However, I often wonder why some people work in our schools and our services when they are so miserable and clearly don't enjoy what they do. There lives are not inspiring, their relationships are negative and destructive and they are not being engaged or used effectively. Surely life is too short and too important to be working somewhere that you don't find stimulating, rewarding and challenging... especially if like me you work out the percentage of your life that you spend at work.

My colleague Liz Rushton, science and sustainability co-ordinator at Moor Allerton Hall Primary School sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, We want to tell you about some amazing work going on at our school for sustainability during our Community Week this week. The Million Green Fingers teams from Yorkshire Water have supported us in tranforming our tired and overgrown wildlife garden into a truly wonderful teaching resource. In partnership with Laing Rourke, to provide excavation services and structures and CP Gill to provide wood chippings and timber they have drawn on their skills and passion for gardening to provide a pathway trail, willow tunnel, bench and seating, a huge insect hotel, a hedgehog shelter, bird boxes and many shrubs and trees to attract a great variety of minibeasts. The children have been fascinated watching the construction and have helped with the planting. They can't wait to get in and use the garden. Next week on Thursday after school - 2nd July 3:45, we are having an official opening and thank you ceremony. Steve Ruse will be there and he urged me to let you know about it. It would be great if you could drop by and see the garden and hear all about our recent Green Week and this week's Caribbean Carnival Community Week. Best wishes Liz."

We are so lucky having passionate, enthusiastic and brilliant colleagues like Liz transforming our schools and with her partners and supporters building such a wonderful teaching and learning resource for her children. I passionately believe that every school in Leeds should be developing facilities like these and creating gardens, allotments and habitats where children can grow and learn and become little eco-warriors helping us all re-use, re-cycle, re-new.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

I visited the Blenheim Centre this afternoon...

I was there to thank Teresa Chamberlain for her wonderful service over the last twenty five years.
Teresa is one of those colleagues whose commitment, dedication and hard work makes such a difference to everyone working at the Blenheim Centre. Teresa has been a great colleague, a wonderful cleaner, an unstinting key holderand someone who you could always talk to, someone who was there if you needed cheering up and someone who could always see the funny side of things.

We will all miss Teresa's kindness, care and concern and I know we all wish her well in her retirement.
I went to Hill Top Primary School this afternoon...

I had been invited by Duncan Grant who as a new headteacher has been really bowled over by the building and is coming to terms with some of the limitations of the PFI contract. Duncan and his colleagues are doing great things and have wonderful plans to extend their early years and foundation stage provision. The school is a very inclusive school and they have developed their own Pupil Development Centre which is also doing great things.

Duncan had arranged for me to talk to some of the classes. I talked to Year 2 about their Cultural Routes Project where they had worked with Trish Cooke and created a brilliant jigsaw quilt with each child designing and making one of the jigsaw pieces to illustrate their cultural routes. The finished work, which is wonderful, will hang in the hall. I also talked to Year 6 children who had organised their Spirit Alive week raising £250 by organising amongst other things a Teddy Bears Picnic. This was added to the £200 Education Leeds had provided to allow the children to plan, organise and pay for the opening and closing ceremonies, the events, the medals and the refreshments. This afternoon the infants were having their Spirit Alive Sportsday and the sun shone and everyone appeared to be having a great time. I also spoke to some of the School Council who were brilliant ambassadors for the school and talked to me about the book fair, Spirit Alive and the improvements they want to see in the playgrounds.

It was great to spend a couple of hours at Hill Top which is a highly effective little school doing wonderful things in this little bit of Leeds.
I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues at Cross Gates Primary School...

The Seacroft Manston Family of Schools headteachers are an amazing group of colleagues doing brilliant work with children and families against a background of poverty, disadvantage and ill-health in these highly mobile and complex communities. We considered increasing numbers, 21st Century Schools, 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 while being able to phone a friend when help was needed. We talked about the importance of developing confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understood the learning process and working positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities. We talked about the many challenges we all face but what was deeply encouraging was that, alongside their passionate commitment to their children, there was a total focus on ensuring that their children were exposed to rigorous, pacey and brilliant teaching to ensure that as far as possible they all became literate, numerate and had the necessary social and emotional skills to succeed.

It was a brilliant start to the day with some great colleagues and 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 and the need to be more creative and more collaborative 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.


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

I attended the Storytellers Awards and Achievement Awards Ceremony at the Civic Hall this evening...

The Awards were part of Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month here in Leeds and featured music by William Langton and portraits by Ferdinand Koci. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are the largest ethnic minority community in the European Union with over 300,000 here in the UK. These communities have enriched our culture through their history, storytelling, music and dance. They are also the most marginalised communities suffering extreme levels of prejudice, discrimination and under-achievement.

The Awards were presented by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Judith Elliott and celebrated the achievements of some wonderful young people from primary and secondary schools across the city. I was particularly pleased to see that amongst the winners receiving an award was Liam Collins from Corpus Christi Catholic College. Liam was nominated by Peter Fusco, Deputy Headteacher, at Corpus Christi who has brilliantly supported Liam during his time at the school. I first met Liam six years ago with Tommy Collins,his dad and it is deeply encouraging that Liam's academic and social progress has been so good and it was great to see that Liam has become a confident, sensible and objective young man who is going on to study ICT at college.

Peter Saunders and his talented colleagues have championed the education of Gypsy Roma Traveller children and their pioneering work led to the introduction nationally of Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month. This second celebration was even bigger and better that last year and recognised so many wonderful young people with so much potential.
This afternoon I attended the Leeds Initiative Assembly at the Leeds City Museum...

The session provided an opportunity to look at the challenges and opportunities facing Leeds over the next 20 years. The keynote address was given by Terry Hodgkinson, Chair of Yorkshire Forward, who highlighted the following issues facing the city:
  • how we manage the population growth;
  • how we create a sustainable city;
  • developing the transport infrastructure;
  • growing world class skills and education;
  • developing creativity and enterprise;
  • nurturing the financial and legal services;
  • focusing on environmental and green issues.

Our new Vision for Leeds will need to address these issues.


I moved on to the Official Opening of the new Garden and Playground at Hugh Gaitskell Primary School...

I had been asked by Margaret Beesley, headteacher, to open this wonderful new feature which adds yet another little piece of magic at this great school. It was a real honour to be asked rather that a TV star, a sports personality or a senior politician. Margaret and her talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful team are doing amazing things at the school and have already achieved a fantastic transformation which I know they will continue to build on to create a truly brilliant learning place to serve this little piece of Leeds.
I started the day early at Wetherby St James CE Primary School...

Duncan Walsh, headteacher, and his colleagues are doing great things at this little primary school. They have made real progress over the last few years and there is a real passion and energy about the place. I was impressed by the focus and commitment to the children, their families and the community the school serves so well.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

I finished the day at Morley High School at yet another STEPS Celebration...

My colleague Kate Jones, a parent support adviser and STEPS facilitator, had asked me to attend the final evening of her STEPS programme for a group of parents at Morley High School whose children are on the Aim Higher and Gifted and Talented programmes at the school.

The parents, including a group of dads, were so incredibly enthusiastic about the impact the programme has had on their lives, their children and their families and it is brilliant.My colleagues Chris Bennett and Val Cain, who have driven and managed this incredible programme here in Leeds, were also there to congratulate the parents on completing the course. Morley High School is an outstanding school and Kate Jones is doing a great job there with this programme, changing lives and making a real difference for young people and their families.

Sir Ken Robinson comes to Leeds!

We have managed to get Sir Ken Robinson to deliver the Education Leeds Annual Lecture on the evening of Wednesday 25 November 2009...

Sir Ken Robinson is a brilliant speaker, an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity, innovation and education, and a best selling author. This years' Annual Lecture will provide colleagues with the opportunity to share an evening with one of the world's great speakers and thinkers and with colleagues and friends. More details about this year's event will be available soon, but please keep this date free in your diary.

The Spirit Awards

Do your colleagues have brilliant ideas…? Do they make a difference…? Do they go that extra mile…? Do they always put the customer first…? Are they helpful and supportive…?

If they do, reward them, nominate them for a Spirit Award. The Awards this year are for:
  • Looking after Leeds
  • Colleague of the year
  • Putting customers first
  • Team of the year
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Personal achievement
  • Leader of the year
  • Treating people fairly
To nominate your colleague for a Spirit Award go to QuickLink P419 and fill in a Spirit Award nomination form. The Spirit Awards recognise inspirational, visionary people who make a difference and a contribution. This year, the winners of the Spirit Awards will also be nominated for Leeds City Council ‘One Council’ Awards for Excellence - another great reason to nominate one of your colleagues!
It's great news that Dorothy Smith, our director of school improvement, was nominated for the Education Award in the Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards 2009 held at the Royal Armouries last Friday...

Dorothy was nominated for her role as an outstanding and inspirational teacher, headteacher and director of school improvement, and her work in improving outcomes as a personal mentor to a number of Afro-Carribean primary school children in addition to young people across Leeds. I'm sure you will all join me in congratulating Dorothy on her fantastic achievement in being nominated for such a prestigious award.
Visiting the Regional Social Enterprise Event this afternoon made me think...

Mike Cooper told me last year that a social enterprise is a profit-making business set up to tackle a social or environmental need and where the profits go back to improve the enterprise. Sounds a bit like Education Leeds! There are about 55000 social enterprises employing around 1.3 million people in this country with an annual turnover of about £27 billion. The work Mike Cooper and his talented colleagues are doing in schools across Leeds is building the next generation of entrepreneurs, designers and marketeers who will have the skills to thrive in the business world and also give something back to their communities. The two events the team orgainised show the talent we have in our schools and the potential this sort of activity has to build brilliant learning. It should be an entitlement for every young person to develop a school business; to organise school events, to run a smoothie bar or a fruit shop, to open a card shop, to publish a school or community magazine, to make and sell key rings, to grow your own fruit and vegetables and sell them, to make and sell hanging baskets, ... the list is endless... let me have your ideas!
I moved on to the Regional Social Enterprise Showcase and Celebration Event at the Holiday Inn, Garforth...

I had been invited to the event by my colleague Parminder Smedley, Regional Social Enterprise Advisor. Sadly I had missed the Leeds Showcase and Celebration Event last week but I am really pleased that I managed to make this one. There were twelve schools at the event from across the Yorkshire and the Humber region and to be honest I wish all the schools were here in Leeds or at least all the young people who were a credit to their schools and some of the young entrepreneurs of the future. I was really impressed by the Castle Hill School and their Green Brick Company.

We were brilliantly represented by young people from Bruntcliffe High School, Intake High School Arts College and John Smeaton Community College. Bruntcliffe stole the show for me winning Best Concept, Best Stand, Best Business Plan and Runners up in Best Marketing and Best Social Enterprise. Their students were a real credit to Linda Johnson, headteacher, and her colleagues and did us all proud!
I started the day at the LMU Rosebowl at an event looking at the 'Future BSF Programme' here in Leeds...

It was an opportunity for colleagues and governors from secondary schools and SILCs who haven't yet benefitted from the BSF programme to look at the opportunities and challenges we face. My colleague Vicki DiStasi had asked me to open the event, welcome colleagues and talk about 21st Century Schools. It was a great turnout by colleagues from across Education Leeds and shows how the transformational work we are doing to continue building brilliant learning in brilliant learning places affects us all.

We now simply need to persuade the DCSF and 'Partnerships for Schools' to give us the money!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Some outstanding colleagues from schools here in Leeds were acknowledged at the North of England 2009 Teaching Awards on Friday...

The colleagues going on to represent the region in the National Awards are:

  • 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.

  • The colleagues receiving distinctions for their work were:

    • Caroline Robinson, Austhorpe Primary: The NCSL Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School.
    • Sarah Plumb, Hawksworth Wood Primary: The DCSF Award for Enterprise.
    • Sam Bailey, Robin Hood Primary: The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning.
    • Helen Rhodes, Hunslet Moor Primary: The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School.
    • Kippax North Junior, Infant and Nursery School, Leeds: The DCSF Award for Sustainable Schools.

    The colleagues receiving commendations for their work were

    • Jane Curran, Thorner CoE Primary: The Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year.
    • Prof Janie Percy Smith, Shire Oak CoE Primary: The DCSF Award for Governor of the Year.

    Congratulations to them all on their success at the Regional Awards. Let's hope that Peter and Matthew, who are going on to the National Awards to fly the flag for Leeds, bring home the top awards.

    I moved on to the third 'Annual Heads of PE Conference' at the Leeds Carnegie Stadium...

    I have attended all three conferences and it is a real priviledge to spend time with this group of colleagues. They are an amazing bunch and they have in many ways led some of the most important work we have been doing to transform learning in Leeds. The Department of Health's 'Health Profile of England 2008' provides a snapshot of health and well-being and contains loads of good newsand highlights the fact that the proportion of schoolchildren engaging in physical activity has risen significantly. However, at the same time child and adult obesity has increased alarmingly and cases of diabetes have increased alarmingly.

    And the bad news is that the picture is different across the country with Yorkshire and the Humber lying towards the bottom of many of the indicators. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently published guidance on Promoting Physical Activity for Children and Young People. The recommendations are that children and young people should undertake a range of moderate to vigorous-intensity activities for at least 60 minutes every day with at least two sessions a week of activities that improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility.

    Clearly, we should all focus our energy and efforts on addressing the following issues; encouraging healthy lifestyles; tackling obesity through better diet and increased activity and continuing to work towards every young person in Leeds engaging in five hours of PE and Sport every week. My colleague Helen Plimmer, Adviser for PE, had invited me to talk to the Conference about the success we have had with the PE and School Sport Strategy with over 90% of our children and young people are doing the two hours a week of PE and School Sport. Our challenge now is to build on our success and ensure that every child engages in five hours of PE and School Sport every week including those who are not that interested.

    I also talked to the group about the brilliant 'Spirit Alive' project Max Amesbury has been managing for us. The initiative started with four schools in 2007, involved 30 schools in 2008 and we hope will involve at least 70 schools this year. Our aim is for every school in Leeds to be involved in organising their own mini-olympic games in 2012.

    I also talked about the vitally important work Shelagh Dixon is doing with the production of another hugely impressive development and training programme for colleagues working in schools. This is such an important aspect of our work here in Leeds and I hope that today's conference has provided colleagues with a pool of great ideas to help us build on our success and move on to achieve this ambitious and incredibly importnat target for all our children and young people.


    I started the day early at John Smeaton Comunity College...

    I was there to see John Daulby to talk about the extraordinary journey the school has been on over recent years, the opportunities and challenges the school still faces and how we continue to build trust, respect and strong partnerships at the heart of everything we do here in Leeds. It's always important to spent time simple sharing how things are; important that we stand in each others shoes and see the world from the very different perspectives of the teacher, the headteacher, the Education Leeds colleague, the parent and carer and perhaps most importantly the young person. We have transformed learning in Leeds over recent years but we still need to do more to build brilliant and to ensure that every young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.

    Sunday, 21 June 2009

    Last week was yet another incredible week on the way to the end of another great year here in Leeds...

    "If I were absolutely certain about all things, I would spend my life in anxious misery, fearful of losing my way. But since everything and anything are always possible, the miraculous is always nearby and wonders shall never, ever cease."
    Robert Fulghum

    However, it was a week tinged with concerns and sadness as we wrestled with the implications of the rapidly rising birth rate, had our first case of swine flu affecting a colleague at Parklands Girls High School and mourned the loss of an ex-student from Guiseley School who died after falling into the River Wharfe at a local beauty spot called Loop Scar and of a young student from Morley High School was killed in a road accident when a car mounted the pavement and hit her as she walked to school.

    My life is a constant and never-ending mixture of concerns and sadness blended with a cocktail of school visits, celebrations, conferences and meetings and mixed around in a sea of e-mails, letters, reports, papers, agendas,interviews and briefings... it's certainly never dull here in Leeds.
    During the week, I attended the '2013: From Policy to Practice' conference at the Civic Hall where Gary Milner and his colleagues had done great job and produced an ambitious, informative and interesting programme with local and national speakers. I attended the Yorkshire Bank's '150th Anniversary Dinner' at Nostell Priory to talk about the contribution Yorkshire Bank is making to education and to announce the education category of their £150,000 initiative in four key areas: environment, volunteering, regeneration and education. I was interviewed by Andrew Edwards and Georgey Spanswick from BBC Radio Leeds breakfast show about the paper we took to executive board about the increasing demand for primary places in Leeds primary schools, and by the international peer review team as part of the DIVE project which is looking at our work on equality, diversity and cohesion here in Leeds. I attended the second annual Chamber of Commerce and Education Leeds diploma event for students starting the diplomas in September and their parents and carers at the University of Leeds. I visited Ninelands Primary School which is an outstanding school doing a brilliant job under Jean Lumb's inspirational, committed and passionate leadership. I also visited Shakespeare Children's Centre where Chris Raddelar, the Children's Centre manager, and her team are doing wonderful things for some of our youngest children. The centre also provides a base for the Deaf and hearing impaired team to run their resourced nursery and do early intervention work with children and their families. And finally, I attended the healthy schools and wellbeing celebration event at Castle Grove to celebrate the achievements of around 50 primary schools, secondary schools, SILCs and PRUs. The session started with a 'Hand Jive' performance by some children from Swarcliffe Primary School who were brilliant!

    We also heard about the North of England Teaching Awards 2009 where Peter Harris headteacher at Farsley Farfield Primary won 'The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning' and Matthew Browne from Austhorpe Primary won 'The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School' and both go on to represent the North of England at the National Event in the Autumn. Other colleagues receiving recognition of their work were:

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

    Congratulations to them all on their success at the Regional Awards. Let's hope that Peter and Matthew bring home the top awards.

    I also learned last week that Dorothy Smith, our director of school improvement, was nominated for the Education Award in the Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards 2009 held at the Royal Armouries on Friday. Dorothy was nominated for her role as an outstanding and inspirational teacher, headteacher and director of school improvement, and her work in improving outcomes as a personal mentor to a number of Afro-Carribean primary school children in addition to young people across Leeds. I'm sure you will all join me in congratulating Dorothy on her fantastic achievement in being nominated for such a prestigious award.

    As yet another academic year rushes by and we all wait to see what has been achieved at Key Stage 2, at GCSE, at A2 and AS it is encouraging to pause, reflect and remember why we do this; why we bother, why this matters. We must be visible, accessible and available to colleagues. We must walk the talk and constantly connect with colleagues to understand how it feels to stand in their shoes. We must tell our stories, celebrate and praise wherever possible and challenge all unacceptable work and behaviour. We must teach, coach and model the behaviours we want to see and do things to make people feel special. We need to think, research, analyse and learn. Above all, we must all live, love and regularly escape to keep ourselves happy, healthy safe and increasingly successful.

    I would welcome your reflections on yet another year in Leeds; your highlights, your up and downs, your highs and the lows, your winners and losers. I'll let you know mine at the end of term.