Saturday, 26 September 2009

What a week: a rollercoaster ride of simply incredible highs and some gut-wrenching lows as we wrestle with the reality of life in the big city and the latest developments from our friends at Oftsted and the DCSF...

The week started with the visit by our colleagues from Helsinki and Stockholm as we launched the Three Cities project. I moved on to have lunch with Vernon Coaker MP, minister of state for schools and learners when he visited Parklands Girls High School and finished the day at a dinner with the guests from Helsinki and Stockholm. On Tuesday I attended John Prescott's 'New Earth Deal' school tour event at Pudsey Grangefield School, before moving on to the corporate leadership team weekly meeting. I finished the day at the civic reception for our international visitors. Wednesday started with 'The Power to Change' conference on developing and promoting community cohesion in our schools before I moved on to the latest Common Purpose 'Meet the People' group at Pudsey Grangefield School. I managed to squeeze in another colleague induction event before attending the latest Higher Level Teaching Assistants celebration evening with another fifty talented and wonderful colleagues from schools across Leeds. And finally, on Thursday evening I attended the Spirit Awards; celebrating our colleagues achievements in a wonderful ceremony at the Civic Hall.

In between I managed to visit Rodillian School where Andy Goulty, headteacher, and his colleagues are building something sustainable and successful. I also popped in to Lawnswood School who have just been visited by our friends from Ofsted and were coming to terms with the harder test Ofsted is applying to all schools from this term; with the increased emphasis on safeguarding and behaviour. Colleagues at the DCSF have also ratcheted up the pressure around the secondary National Challenge schools with Ed Balls, secretary for state for children, schools and families, asking for our plans to be finalised within a month showing how we are going to deal with every school in Leeds below or vulnerable to the 30% A*-C at GCSE including English and maths floor target.

I suppose that is why I love what I do. It's never dull. It's never boring. It's always challenging. It's always real and in your face. And there are always opportunities to really make a difference, even if it is only for one child, one parent, one family, one colleague or one school. The important thing is to remain focused on the basics and our core business and not to get distracted. We must all simply roll up our collective sleeves and work harder and smarter together to get the job done. And in case you've forgotten the job is to ensure that every young person in Leeds is happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes! People often tell me that Leeds is impossible and that the challenges we face are simply too complicated and too difficult. The trick is to remember that all those little acts of kindness, all those little pieces of magic, all those little things can add up to something extraordinary. Something that will change the world for the better.

Friday, 25 September 2009

I finished the day at the 'Spirit Awards' at the Civic Hall...

Faye Mallinson and her colleagues from our Communications Team had done a brilliant job preparing for these awards and it was great to see so many colleagues talking, sharing, networking and having a really good time. Faye and her colleagues had worked really hard to bring a sparkle at the venue and to make the awards go so well.

The winners of the second 'Spirit Awards' recognising brilliant colleagues and teams in the eight categories were:

CATEGORY: Putting customers first:
WINNER: Jenny Marshall and Deborah Harper

CATEGORY: Looking after Leeds
WINNER: Heather EyreCATEGORY: Health and Wellbeing:
WINNER: Adele BaranCATEGORY: Personal Achievement:
WINNER: Wendy Winterburn

CATEGORY: Leader of the Year:
WINNER: Alex McLeod

CATEGORY: Treating people fairly:
WINNER: Abdul JallohCATEGORY: Colleague of the year:
WINNER: Louise Montgomery
CATEGORY: Team of the year:
WINNER: The Visually Impaired Team

Everyone who was nominated received a certificate and all those shortlisted were recognised at the ceremony. These are some amazing colleagues and teams who have achieved great things this year and it was brilliant to see their work recognised like this.

I met another group of colleagues from Sweden yesterday...

As part of another Comenius Regio Project, Pauline Rosenthal and Denise Trickett brought our four visitors from Nykoping which is just outside Stockholm in Sweden to see me. There were two headteachers, a deputyheadteacher and a member of the local authority. The project links with Ralph Thoreby School and our visitors were really impressed by their visit to the school; its new building, the teaching and learning team and the students. Colleagues are proposing delivering some Investment in Excellence training in Sweden as part of the project to the school and the authority staff.
I started the day yesterday at Lawnswood School...

I had popped in to see Milan Davidovic, the headteacher, after his OFSTED inspection. The new OFSTED Framework provides a much harder test and we will need to watch these early inspections to see how the system is working. I look forward to reading the report.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

After the Power of Change Conference yesterday I received this wonderful message from Joe Brian, headteacher, at Conisbrough Ivanhoe Primary School in Doncaster...

"Hello Chris, I am the head at Conisbrough Ivanhoe Primary School from Doncaster. I was at the 'Power to Change' conference in Leeds yesterday and saw you speak. I was really impressed with the day... and with the Leeds approach to community cohesion.

Conisbrough Ivanhoe is almost entirely white British (99%+) but we need to take community cohesion really seriously - for all the obvious reasons. It struck me that you being a hands on sort of person might be able to find the time to recommend a school in Leeds that I could visit to see some great practice in general and in the area of community cohesion in particular - particularly if they also don't have a huge multicultural intake.

I like to visit good schools just because it's always fascinating to see another school - but I enjoyed myself so much yesterday that I'd like to get a bit more of the Leeds experience. I liked the fact that you felt confident enough to tell your delegates that we all had to work hard to release the magic in kids - and if we didn't want to do that then perhaps we should be thinking about other careers!

So. Thanks for that conference - and I'd be grateful if you could suggest a school I might vist. At Ivanhoe we do plenty of releasing the magic ( but we do it by constantly trying to do better, and I think a visit to a Leeds school might help usalong. Thanks for your time. Joe Brian."

I have visited Joe's school website and it's fantastic and Joe clearly runs a very good school. What's great is Joe's passion, commitment and desire to be better and to do better for the children at Conisbrough Ivanhoe Primary School.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

I attended another inspiring 'Higher Level Teaching Assistant' Celebration Event this evening at The Village Hotel...

The Higher Level Teaching Assistant Celebration Evening brought together another fifty talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues from schools across the city. I believe we have the largest cohort of HLTAs anywhere in the country and these colleagues are transforming outcomes for our young people and making a real difference in our communities.

It was a fantastic evening. Sue Roe and her team had done an incredible job yet again and the room looked wonderful.
We even had music with a young jazz band from Garforth Community College who were fantastic.
Sue, Louise and Rebecca had worked really hard to create a very special evening to celebrate these great colleagues achievements.
I moved on to yet another Induction Session at Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the A Team... the best education team anywhere! These colleagues bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience and they certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams. Our job is to continue to develop the leadership and culture that will release their potential, their magic, their passion and target their hard work to make a real difference for our children and young people.


I moved on to Talk to the Common Purpose Meridian 'Meet the People' group at Pudsey Grangefield School...

Ken Cornforth and I talked to the group about our ambitions, what we have achieved so far, what's worked, what's still to do, partnership working and the future. The group asked some interesting and challenging questions about engagement with communities, support for families, how we make schools hubs for learning and communities, teaching and learning and the pace of change and what's stopping us.

It was a great group and a really stimulating session with some of the movers and shakers from across Leeds.
I started the day at 'The Power to Change' Conference at the Garforth Holiday Inn...

The Conference was looking at how we continue to promote and further develop community cohesion in schools across the city. It was a fantastic turn out from schools and included another group of visitors from Sweden. The Conference involved a huge amount of work by colleagues and included presentations by Sir Keith Ajegbo, Mike Berrill, Ceri Morgan HMI, Marcia Hutchinson and Robin Richardson.

The highlight for me was the Little London Community Primary School Choir. When they sang 'Were you there?' it made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Everyone should listen to this wonderfully rich and diverse group of children sing; the passion, the energy, the feeling was quite simply astonishing!

Please let me know what you thought if you were there.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

I attended a Civic Reception this evening for our colleagues from Helsinki and Stockholm...

The Deputy Lord-Mayor welcomed our visitors to the Civic Hall and to Leeds and was presented with gifts from each of these two great European cities. These colleagues had another great day in their partner schools and were looking forward to another tow days learning about Leeds and working with us to agree the next steps with this initiative linking some of the best of Leeds with best practice in Helsinki and Stockholm.
I started the day at the John Prescott's 'New Earth Deal' School Tour at Pudsey Grangefield School...

The UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference is being held in early December and is seen as the last chance to secure a global agreement to tackle climate change. A Copenhagen Treaty would succeed the Kyoto Agreement which was the first binding agreement on climate change. John Prescott, then Deputy Prime Minister, signed the Agreement with Al Gore, then Vice-President of the United States.

John Prescott's 'New Earth Deal' School Tour is visiting schools in London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham focusing on the causes of climate change, his experience in negotiating the Kyoto Treaty and his view that the Copenhagen agreement should be efficient, effective and equitable. The session was similar in style to the Al Gore presentation and film 'An Inconvenient Truth' and John has been working with the team behind the 'Age of Stupid' film and the presentation included a 20 minute edited version of the film.

The 'New Earth Deal' campaign calls upon us all to show our support for a global deal to combat climate change through a range of activities online and offline. You can dfind out more at their website at The young people were also introduced to '10:10' the national effort to cut the UK's emissions by 10% in 2010. You can find out more about '10:10' at their website at
Another stimulating and interesting week has simply flown by, and once again I spent time with talented colleagues who share my passion, commitment, enthusiasm, energy and commitment; and who like me are determined to continue our learning journey together to build brilliant here in Leeds...

I started the week at the 'Youth Justice: The Scaled Approach' stakeholder event at the Civic Hall where Jim Hopkinson, the youth offending service manager here in Leeds; some of his colleagues; and Frances Done, chair of the Youth Justice Board talked about the successes we have had tackling youth offending and the way the service will change from December. I moved on to the Children Leeds partnership at the City Museum where we focused on our developing our attendance strategy, the Ofsted inspection update, our family support and parenting review, our care matters 'promises', our workforce development strategy and our intergenerational strategy. On Tuesday, Dirk Gilleard, Helen Dumville and I attended "The Science of Success" with Daniel Goleman and Malcolm Gladwell at Manchester University. We were all inspired by the two sessions which helped us understand the science of success, and all came away keen to continue to build brilliant here in Leeds.

On Wednesday we had the Education Leeds board meeting where we covered a huge agenda including a review of the year and a presentation on the issues and challenges we face over the next year. I moved on to the Leeds City Council meeting which ranged across another huge agenda focusing on waste services, adult day care services and children's services in the light of the unannounced inspection, and which went on late into the evening. On Thursday I attended the scrutiny board meeting with Councillor Golton, Councillor Harker and colleagues for the first quarter monitoring report which looked our performance as children's services during the start of the financial year. I think the consistent message was we've done a lot, and we've achieved a lot, but we still could do better!

On Friday I started the day with colleagues from leadership forum at the Leeds Metropolitan University Rosebowl where we focused on corporate assessment, the new Ofsted inspection framework, and safeguarding which sits at the heart of all our work. I also talked to colleagues about the opportunities and challenges we continue to face around standards, outcomes and our contract. I managed to pop out to attend the official opening of the new nursery extension at Yeadon Westfield Infant School by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Judith Elliott. The new nursery is a fantastic, spacious building and really wonderful.

At the start of another year and recognising that we live in uncertain times it is important to know who your friends are, who will stand beside you when the going gets tough, where the challenges are and where any support is going to come from. For me the key message is THINK TEAM! Looking around this week I realise what a diverse, creative, talented and knowledgeable group of colleagues we have driving this agenda forwards here in Leeds.

We certainly live in interesting times and we all know that it's going to be a great year!
I fin9shed the day having dinner at The Aagrah resturant in St Peter's Square with our guests from Stockholm and Helsinki...

They had a wonderful day and were really struck by Dirk's session in the morning and inspired by the visits to Pudsey Grangefield and Carr Manor where Ken Cornforth and Simon Flowers were there usual brilliant selves and truly wonderful ambassadors for the city.

Let's hope that today with the partners schools continues to build the brilliant partnership with these two great cities.

Monday, 21 September 2009

I had lunch with Vernon Coaker MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners...

Vernon Coaker is responsible in the Government for raising school standards, including public examinations and national tests, the National Curriculum, 14-19 education and Diplomas; school funding and capital, including Building Schools for the Future; and schools workforce issues. Vernon Coaker has been MP for Gedling in Nottinghamshire since 1997 and before becoming an MP, he was deputy headteacher at Bigwood School in Nottingham. He was parliamentary private secretary to Estelle Morris when she was secretary of state for education.

Vernon was at Parklands Girls High School with his colleagues looking at the progress the school has made under Helen Lane's dynamic and very focused leadership. Helen has been supported by Neil Clephan who, as well as being headteacher at Roundhay School, is one of our National Leaders of Education. It was great to be able to talk to the Minister about the real successes we have had with this years' GCSE results at Parklands Girls High School and across the city and to discuss the challenges we still face with the 'National Challenge' schools and our so called 'Coasting' schools.

I assured Vernon about our vision for learning in Leeds, our shared commitment to excellence and the sign up by secondary headteachers to results where no school in Leeds would be below the 'floor targets' by 2011... whatever it takes!

We now must make sure that we deliver.


My colleague Laura Wilson, Senior Admissions Officer in our Admissions & Transport Team sent me this...

"Hi Chris, I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know about some of the fantastic people I have met in the last few weeks who are really reaching out to families and ensuring that they get the information and support they need. In the last two weeks my colleague, Darren Shaw, and I have visited a number of Children's Centres in Leeds to talk about how teachers, outreach workers and nursery nurses can help parents and advise them about the admissions process. The enthusiasm and support they have shown us has been overwhelming. They have taken the issues of helping parents complete and return their preference forms on time, and how parents can get impartial advice and information, really seriously and have offered a number of brilliant solutions to help us in our work - everything from parent drop-in shops to help them apply online from leaflet drops all over the city!

It has been just excellent to work with the staff at Hollybush, Burley Park, Horsforth, Farnley, Windmill, Chapel Town, Seacroft and Harehills Children's Centres and to know that they are so dedicated to helping the children and families in their local communities. This is the first year we have worked so closely with the centres and has certainly been a worthwhile, positive experience! Regards, Laura."

Laura is right that our colleagues in these Children's Centres are an amzing group of colleagues doing some amazing work with families. It is great to hear about the work Laura and Darren are doing with these colleagues to help parents and carers understand and use the admissions process.


I started the day at the launch event for the 'Three Cities Project'...

We are starting a two year initiative linking schools in Stockholm, Helsinki and Leeds together to share and develop the magic. Colleagues from the schools in Helsinki and Stockholm are on a four day visit to Leeds with colleagues from the two cities education teams. Our schools involved in the project are Methley Primary School, John Smeaton Community College, the East SILC, Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School and Temple Moor High School, Science College.

Dirk Gilleard and I talked to our visitors about Learning in Leeds, Education Leeds and the 'Brilliant Learning, Brilliant Leadership' programme. They were then having a presentation by RM on the 'Evolve' approach before visiting Pudsey Grangefield and Carr Manor High Schools where Ken Cornforth and Simon Flowers will undoubtedly demonstrate that the WOW factor is alive and well in Leeds.

I am having dinner with these colleagues this evening to share what colleagues have learnt today.