Saturday, 11 July 2009

After receiving Helen Davies' e-mail I checked the research about singing and intelligence and well-being...

There’s a huge amount of evidence now from all over the world that singing improves the intelligence and wellbeing of children; it actually helps your brain work better. A lot of research clearly shows that the brain is much more complex than we thought it was and that particularly for young children, when their brains are developing, music and singing in particular actually helps your brain wire better, helps your memory work better and simply makes you feel good.

The best schools, the best learning places; places where brilliant learning thrives and children do best at literacy, numeracy and develop wonderful personal learning skills are very often places where there is lots of singing going on and lots of music and arts activity. There's no question about it, and it's what I've known for many years, the arts are one of the keys to releasing the magic in our little learners. So it's 'every child a singer' now!

Friday, 10 July 2009

Local authorities all over the country are facing unprecedented levels of demand for new primary school places...

This is more focused in the big cities with most authorities looking to use temporary classrooms in the short term to accommodate these additional children. Evidence locally, regionally and nationally suggests that unless funding issues are addressed we will struggle to provide enough primary school places over the next five years. It is obvious that current capital funding arrangements are not sufficient to fund the necessary new primary school places.

We are really pleased that, after alerting the DCSF to these issues, the Government is going to
provide local authorities facing these issues with additional capital funding to meet this shortfall.
My colleague Helen Davies from Calverley Parkside Primary School sent me this bit of magic...

"Hi Chris, My name is Helen Davies and I work at Calverley Parkside Primary. I work two days a week (or should I say I'm paid for two days? haha). For the last three years I have been Music Co-ordinator and for one day a week I teach KS2 music - I love my job. I love doing something practical and creative and fun with the children. I am not what you might call a music specialist, but I have had such success and I couldn't have done it so well without the resources of Sing Up and Music Leader. I'm sure you know about them, but do you realize how fantastic they are? I'm sure there are a lot of Leeds schools who don't know about the training and resources they provide. The main reason I am buzzing today is that yesterday we celebrated gaining the Silver Award from Sing Up. This recognises that we are putting singing at the heart of our school - yes in dedicated lessons but also across the curriculum. In to as many lessons as possible to enhance learning but also for the sheer pleasure of singing! Singing helps the children remember things they have learnt and encourages confidence. I have seen children blossom as they sing their hearts out, as they did yesterday. We had over 100 parents into school to hear the children perform some of the songs they had been taught using Sing Up resources. We invited governors and Stephen Wilde from Artforms, who was our official endorser of the award. We got parent involved with warm up games/songs and I explained about the Music Manefesto consortium and our aims to put music at the heart of our school. The feedback I received was fantastic and I just thought you'd like to know. We are not perfect but that's not the point! We will enjoy our success and use this to go onto achieve the gold award very soon. By the way, your blog is a great idea, it makes you so accessible - its a bit scary though too! I wanted to tell you of our success but feel as though I'm putting my head above the parapet! LOL! All the best, Helen."

I am really grateful to Helen for her message; it's very easy to forget how important singing is. Like Helen, I believe that every child should sing and that the impact will be remarkable. It is wonderful to hear about her work and to feel through the e-mail the passion, energy and enthusiam she brings to Calverley Parkside Primary School.
I started the day early at the Partnerships for Schools (PfS) 'Building Schools for the Future' Open Day at Allerton High School...

It was great to visit Allerton High School again and to see what Elaine Silson, headteacher, and her talented team have achieved in this wonderful building. Tim Byles, Chief Executive, of PfS opened the session which is the first of a series of termly events sharing best practice nationally. The open day had attracted colleagues from across the country including Barking and Dagenham, Blackpool, Bournemouth & Poole, Derby, Durham, East Riding, Lancashire, North East Lincs, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Oldham, Redcar and Cleveland, Wakefield and the DCSF.

It was great to be able to talk about learning in Leeds and the vision locally with Cllr Richard Harker and Rosemary Archer and to listen to Fionuala McGlynn, General Manager of the Leeds LEP and Lawrence Seed, Senior Design Manager at Interserve Education talka bout translating that vision into reality.

I couldn't stay for the rest of the programme but feedback suggests that it was a brilliant session and that we should all get out more to see more examples like this, of brilliant learning places across the country.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

I think that the blog lacks something...

We need more pictures to bring some of this stuff alive and show visitors to the blog some of the real magic here in Leeds. The faces of the mums I met recently, the colleagues in schools and their classrooms and of course our children and young people. I'll simply have to travel with a camera!
This afternoon I attended the annual Headteachers Retirement Celebration in the Jacobean Room at Weetwood Hall...

Thia is always a sad time as we say goodbye to some remarkable colleagues who have given their lives to serve children, families and communities across Leeds. The headteachers retiring this year have given nearly 300 years service in schools and over 100 years of headship experience is leaving with them. They have touched so many lives and generations of children and colleagues owe them a debt of gratitude. Their influence as mentors, colleagues and friends reaches out across Leeds, the region and the country and they will all be sadly missed. These wonderful colleagues are:
  • Sue Steward, Broomfield SILC;
  • Pauline O’Connor, Holy Family Catholic Primary School;
  • Janet Poynting, Southroyd Primary School;
  • Paul Tindle, Highfield Primary School;
  • David Wisnia, Fieldhead Carr Primary;
  • Andy Syers, Colton Primary School;
  • Steve Kelsey, West Leeds High School;
  • Kath Andrews, Armley Primary School; and
  • Jane McMillan, All Saints C of E Primary School.
Pauline O’Connor, Janet Poynting, Paul Tindle, David Wisnia and Andy Syers attended the meal with Cllr Richard Harker, Dirk Gilleard, Dorothy Smith and I and received their engraved glass bowls. Sadly, Sue Steward, Steve Kelsey, Kath Andrews and Jane McMillan were all unable to attend the ceremony but we will ensure that they receive their bowls over the next week. It was a wonderful way to thank these colleagues for their leadership, passion, commitment and hard work over a lifetime of teaching and learning.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

My colleague Helen Pemberton, one of our school improvement advisers, sent me this wonderful piece of news...

"Hi Chris, I thought you might be interested. I've been lucky enough to win a place on the fourth plinth - 10am 14th July. I'm going to say 'Good morning London' in as many languages as I can and throw a souvenir off the plinth for every time I say one - the souvenir will have a sticker on it which will have my name, date and time and 'Fourth Plinth' on it. I'm being taught quite a lot of the anguages by City of Leeds pupils which should be good fun. I've also been taught Good morning London in PECS and Makaton by the NW SILC. Best wishes, Helen."

The Fourth Plinth is the name given to the empty plinth in the north-west corner of Trafalgar Square in London. It was originally designed by Sir Charles Barry and built in 1841 to display an equestrian statue. There were not enough funds available at the time to create a statue and so the plinth was sometimes referred to as the 'empty plinth'. Helen is one of the first group of people selected from thousands of applicants across the UK to occupy the empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in July for celebrated artist Antony Gormley’s One & Other project. You can watch Helen on Sky Active!
I moved on to Victoria Primary School and met an extraordinary group of women supported by a wonderfully talented young colleague...

I was attending yet another STEPS programme with my colleague Val Cain. This programme like so many across the city had changed the lives of the mums who were simply brilliant advocates and ambassadors for the STEPS programme. Each mum's story revealed the real difference the programme had made and their new sense of self, self-esteem and confidence was great. They were all doing things as a result, had set and achieved goals and were planning for the future.

This brilliant programme had been run by talented, briliant, gorgeous and wonderful Amie Morton whose passion, energy, enthusiasm and commitment was fantastic. Amie is an incredible young woman working as a Parent Support Adviser between Victoria Primary School and Brownhill Primary School to support, encourage and challenge parents and carers. Amie has quite simply changed these womens lives. I presented certificates to these wonderful women and I hope Amie will send me the photos for the blog!

I also managed to briefly meet with Alison Carrick, the wonderful headteacher at Victoria Primary School, who is very obviously doing a great job, releasing real magic and is focused on continuing to drive up standards in this happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful school. Alison's energy, enthusiasm and care and concern shone out as we walked around the school and talked about her plans for the future.

I must go back soon.
I started the day early at Cobden Primary School...

I had been invited By Paula Head, headteacher, who wanted me to visit the school at the end of her second year as headteacher to see what the team have achieved. She also wanted me to meet Riccardo Paffetti who was paralysed from the waist down in a skiing accident last December. Riccardo is an inspirational young man who has achieved something quite remarkable and is back now teaching in his wheelchair and doing it brilliantly.

Cobden Primary School is very obviously a very good school brilliantly led by Paula, with some great teachers and support staff looking after some fantastic young people. Paula's enegy, passion, commitment, persistence and determination are achieving something wonderful and releasing real magic.
I work with some amazing colleagues who do some extraordinary things to help others...

My colleagues Alan Taylor, Simon Townsend and Robert Ward-Pound recently under went a week of sheer pain walking from Wallsend on the East Coast to Bowness on Solway on the West Coast. Following the Hadrian's Wall path, the three completed the walk on Friday 26 June 2009.
As part of their fundraising for Martin House children's hospice, Alan, Simon and Robert have collected a number of items which they are now auctioning off. Why not take a look at the items on InfoBase and submit your bids to Alan and remember that Martin House is an organisation that helps children and families facing some of the most difficult things any parent can ever face.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

My colleague Alex MacLeod who is Head of Contract Compliance ( PFI) sent me this e-mail about the third 'One Leeds' event last night...

"Dear Chris, Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd "One Leeds" event at West Yorkshire Playhouse. As you are aware this event is sponsored by our PFI partners, Mill Asset Management , and is a celebration of performing arts presented by the pupils of Carr Manor High School, John Smeaton Community College, Ralph Thoresby High School, South Leeds High School, Primrose High School, Shakespeare Primary School and City Of Leeds School. The performances were truly sensational, a diverse cultural mix wholly representative of Leeds. There were some real stars of the future in particular the pupil from City of Leeds School who sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", and received a standing ovation for her truly outstanding performance. All the performers were a credit to themselves, their schools and proof of our ongoing success in Leeds. Kindest Regards, Alex."

It was great to hear about the event last night. I attended the first two 'One Leeds' events and they were also brilliant. It is wonderful to have PFI partners like Mill Asset Management who believe in these communities and are prepared to invest in events like this.


I moved on to the Leeds Inclusion Chartermark Award Ceremony at the Civic Hall...

The ceremony recognised the work of 42 schools across the city who had either achieved the Chartermark for the first time or had been reaccredited. The presentations were interspersed with a series of performances by some of the schools which were simply brilliant!

Meanwood CE Primary School's choir performed wonderfully. Children from Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary School talked about Eva Schloss' life and performed an inspirational short dance. Jack, an inspiring young man, from Year 7 at Ralph Thoresby High School zoomed up in his wheelchair and talked confidently about inclusion and transition. Children from Hunslet Moor Primary School talked about their enterprise evening, how the school worked to make them more confident and gave an extraordinary performance of Michael Jackson's Earth Song. Parents from Morley Victoria Primary School talked passionately about supporting the school through their Parents Council and their SPACE initiative. And finally, children from Wigton Moor Primary School talked about inclusion, assemblies, food, culture and awards and performed a short and catchy rap.

At the end of yet another year when we ask ourselves how do we continue to improve and develop the things we do an afternoon like this simply makes you realise that small steps can change the world; can and are making an extraordinary difference in these brilliant schools. Our mission here in Leeds is to ensure that all our children and young people are happy, healthy, safe and successful; whatever it takes! Eva Schloss said that she wanted to be 'safe, loved and cared for' shouldn't that be what we want for all our children.
I started the day at the Secondary Headteachers/Education Leeds Conference at Hazlewood Castle...

The Conference theme was 'Making a Difference, Transforming Learning' and it had been organised by Bernadette Young, headteacher at Royd's School, and Dirk Gilleard. I had been asked to introduce the day by talking about 21st Century Schools and Education Leeds Vision and my session was followed by Peter Laurence talking about transformational leadership across services in a Children's Services world before Dorothy Smith and Brian Tuffin finished the introductory session by talking about working together on school improvement.

It was a great turnout by the secondary headteachers which resulted in a very good day.

Monday, 6 July 2009

My colleague Maqsood Sheikh from our Performance Management and Information Team sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris,We are now in to the last ten days of the 2009 Audit Commission School Survey which closes next Wednesday on 15th July. Only twenty nine schools have completed the on-line survey so far, which gives us a response rate of 11%. Schools completing the survey by phase are:
  • Primary 24 schools... 11%
  • Secondary 4 schools... 11%
  • SILCs none... 0%
  • PRUs one... 25%

In addition to this, another 4 primaries and 1 secondary have started completing the survey but have not signed it off as completed. One secondary has logged on to the survey website, but has not started the survey. As our total number of schools is 268, this means that 233 (87%) schools have not yet responded at all to the survey so far. Currently, we are behind our response rate at the same point in the survey last year and the national average response rate which is better than it was at the same point in the survey last year.

Every school completing the survey will be entered in to a prize draw and will have the chance to win a visit from a member of our Leadership Team. As the survey now only takes place every two years, there will not be another national school survey until 2011, so we need to do everything we can to get as many schools as possible to complete the survey this year.
Schools can access the survey on-line at by using the LEA No 383 and their DCSF No.

Many thanks for your help. Maqsood."

I hope colleagues in schools will find the time to complete this important survey which will help us further improve what we do and the services we provide.


This afternoon at the end of a long day I visited Boston Spa School with a small select group of interested colleagues and governors...

We were there to launch the 'International Inspiration' programme. As a successful Sports College, Boston Spa School was invited to take a lead in an important programme that is designed to support sporting projects in five developing countries around the world. This is the 'International Inspiration' programme which will deliver on the LOCOG promise made to the IOC in Singapore that they would engage and inspire the youth of the world through sport. Boston Spa School with West Oaks SILC are leading the 'International Inspiration' programme for Bangladesh.

The resulting "Included" programme 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. These schools and these children have very very little and the schools are hoping to collect sports equipment to send to Bangladesh... from old tennis balls to old sports shirts, please don't throw anything away. If you can help in any way contact Chris Walsh at Boston Spa School or Andrew Hodgkinson at West Oaks SILC.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Only two weeks left now before the end of another term and the end of another successful year and last week was a really hot and busy week in every sense...

However I seem to look at it, success is about determination, passion, persistence, commitment and resolve and it's funny how many people constantly tell me why they can’t do things; not enough time, not enough money, not enough experience or they are not clever enough. But actually the more brilliant places I visit and the more brilliant people I meet the more I realise that they are all excuses.

As the sun shone and I dodged the torrential downpours, I popped in to Carr Manor High School before I visited Ireland Wood Children's Centre with Greg Mulholland MP for their fifth birthday party. I attended the Aireborough Family of Schools celebration of their Stephen Lawrence Education Standard portfolios at the Civic Hall with the Lord Mayor. I visited Bramley St Peter's Church of England Primary School to be entertained by the children and to watch an 'Every Child a Reader' session before I managed yet another Education Leeds induction session. I also attended the Leeds 2012 Olympics Board meeting to talk about the work going on in schools across the city. I attended the morning session of the RM 'Celebrating Success' conference with Sir Tim Brighouse and listened to Stephen Heppell talk about the future of learning. I visited Oakwood Primary School and saw their early years provision before I attended the official opening of the new garden at Moor Allerton Hall Primary School with Cllr Richard Harker and Fabian Hamilton MP. And finally, I attended the National Sustainable Schools Conference at Skelton Grange Environment Centre.

It seems to me that Carr Manor High School, Ireland Wood Children's Centre, the Aireborough schools, Bramley St Peter's Church of England Primary School, Oakwood Primary School, Moor Allerton Hall Primary School, RM, Skelton Grange Environmental Centre; successful organisations with successful teams, all have the following characteristics...
  • a vision, values and sense of purpose which shapes the way colleagues behave and helps everyone know they are making a difference;
  • the courage to set challenging goals and to develop new and cutting-edge solutions;
  • an innovative and creative culture that values people and makes them feel special;
  • an innovative and creative culture that trusts, empowers and engages colleagues distinct and unique talents;
  • a rigorous and inclusive approach to evaluating performance and individuals’ contributions;
  • a concern for the wider community and the bigger picture;
  • a reputation for excellence, hard work and passionate commitment.

Experience tells me that if you are brave enough, energetic enough, determined enough and work hard enough you can do just about anything.

My colleague Georgina Sykes, the Science Coordinator at Cross Flatts Park Primary School, sent me this over the weekend...

"Dear Chris, Cross Flatts Park Primary School in Beeston are transforming their allotment with the help of Yorkshire Water, staff, governors and pupils on Wednesday 8th July-why not come and see how this project can work brilliantly in the inner city areas of Leeds.Georgina."

There are great things happening across the city to build brilliant provision for our children and it is wonderful to see how far Yorkshire Water's Million Green Fingers have reached.