Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Teaching Awards 2010

It's that time again...

The Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of teaching and learning and we should all be thinking about who we want to recognise and celebrate in these very important national and regional awards. We have so many brilliant learning places and brilliant people here in Leeds and we should be nominating schools, teams, headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants and governors who have achieved something extra-ordinary, gone the extra mile and made a real difference in their community. This year the Awards include three additional categories:
  • The Outstanding School Team of the Year;
  • 'Film my School' where young people create a short film showcasing their school;
  • The Henry Winkler Award for Special Needs.

You can find out more at the website at Let's hope we will have loads of nominations this year.


Friday, 9 October 2009

I attended the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Award Ceremony this morning and it was simply brilliant...

The morning started with a performance by the 'Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows' winners of the 2009 International and Traditional World Music Award and was followed by the opening presentation by children from Kippax Ash Tree Primary School which was wonderful. This was followed by a performance by children from Ebor Gardens Primary School whose passionate singing brought tears to many of the audience. Louise Crumbie, Chair of the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Partnership and I did short presentations which were followed by wonderful performances by young people from the East SILC and Rayneville Primary School an inspired us all.

After coffee we had another strong performance by students from the South Leeds Academy and the showstopper from Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary School who gave their unique, brilliant and very powerful presentation of the Eva Schloss story. Every one of the children performed brilliantly and the child who danced the role of Eva was incredible; dancing with such emotion and feeling.

The arrival of Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families with Cllr Judith Elliott, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, capped a simply extra-ordinary morning. Rawdon St Peter's children performed again for the Secretary of State before he spoke about the amazing work we were doing here in Leeds. He also announced that the DCSF would host a national conference and use it to promote the Stephen Lawrence Educational Standard to local authorities across the country.

Sadly after a brilliant lunch with the Secretary of State I had to go back to the office but I am assured that the Celebration continued with an address by Fabian Hamilton MP, presentations from st Oswald's CE Junior School, Kirkstall Valley Primary School and the Aireborough cluster of schools before Patricia Farrell from the Stephen Lawrence Education Partnership gave the closing remarks and vote of thanks. Thanks to everyone for all the hard work that made this event such a brilliant success.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

I started the day with colleagues from the North West Family of Schools...

It was a small but great group of headteachers who are working hard to build brilliant provision for their children, their families and their communities. We talked about increasing numbers, special needs and behaviour provision, early years, extended services and 'Every Child a Reader'. We also discussed how schools can maintain their focus on standards with the new OFSTED Framework, so many National initiatives, 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 learning and standards and to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience while being able to phone a friend when help was needed. We agreed that we all need to think team and work together to share and build brilliant provision consistently across the city. We also 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, 7 October 2009

I was in London today...

I had lunch with Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl who manage the Capita Children's Services team and the National Strategies organisation before I met Kate Chhatwall who manages the National Challenge at the DCSF. I had arranged to see Kate to discuss our ongoing work with our fourteen National Challenge schools and to discuss whether there was any additional support they could give us to continue to drive up standards and ensure that every school exceeds the 2011 floor target and reaches 30% of its students achieving 5+A*-C grades at GCSE including English and maths. We also discussed the structural changes that will secure a transformational and sustainable learning landscape where every school in Leeds is achieving world class outcomes.

It was encouraging to spend time with these three colleagues who understood the challenges we are facing and were totally focused like me on the strategies, solutions and provision we need to put in place to provide great outcomes for every young person in Leeds... whatever it takes!
I was delighted to hear that Temple Moor High School Science College had come through it's recent OFSTED inspection so well and really pleased to receive this message from Martin Fleetwood...

"Dear Chris, I feel compelled to write to you to share with you an example of your vision of Team Leeds in action. The messages of support from Templenewsam Halton Family, as we went into OFSTED, were fantastic. Clive HOwlett, our School Improvement Partner, was equally fantastic and Cath Lennon ensured that our Joint Head of 6th Form and Deputy Leader of 6th Form were released for a sustantial part of last week. Amonst all this support was the truly outstanding service that Kevin Payne gave me and the Senior Leadership Team, in being contactable at a moment's notice and in staying with us into Wednesday to help in rehearsing our thematic responses. Our outcomes of overall satisfactory and good for the 6th Form are a way to mark on our journey to become an outstanding world class school. The journey made easier by the care and support of Team Leeds. Best wishes, Martin."

Martin's letter reminds us all that we are in this together and that together we are stronger, more effective and more connected around our young people, their families and their communities. We need to work together to ensure that everything we do is effective, efficient and demonstrates value for money; that every school in Leeds is full, that every school is good, improving and inclusive and that every young person and every one of our colleagues is happy, healthy, safe and successful... there can be no excuses, and we must all work with passion, enthusiasm, commitment, determination and energy however tough the going gets and whatever it takes!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Don't let anyone tell you that at its brilliant best Leeds isn't world class! I received this message from Vladimir Moskovan who led the group of colleagues who visited us recently from Brno in the Czech Republic...

"Dear Chris, I would like to thank you for your very warm hospitality. Yes, meeting you always means inspiration. Relaxation. Good mood. New Ideas. That is why I love to come back to Leeds. There are so many nice people and the cosmopolitan atmosphere I enjoy. You always emanate positive energy and we know that such an attitide can boost people, change opinions, spark new ideas and in the end change our environment at schools completely. It is a grand feeling to plan together and share together. I am very excited about our future planning and cherish our absolutely positive contacts. Keep your charming guru-style going - I am sure it helps a lot all people who follow your blog. We are looking forward to meeting you here in Brno or in Leeds. Lots of health. Vladimir :-)"

Vladimir and his colleagues from Brno in the Czech Republic are pioneering work on personalisation, enterprise and really engaging young people in learning. It is wonderful to get such positive feedback from these wonderful colleagues. Thanks to everyone involved in their recent visit.


Don't let anyone tell you that at its brilliant best Leeds isn't world class! I also recieved this message for Hakan Edman, Head of Compulsory School in Stockholm...

"Dear Chris, Many thanks for hosting our visit to Leeds. We all appreciated the discussions and your great hospitality. We now look forward to move our projects into the next phase where the school-leaders have a direct contact building the relationships and communicate in order to fulfill the aims in both projects. Best wishes, Håkan."

Hakan and his colleagues from Stockholm are transforming learning in their great city. It is wonderful to get such positive feedback from these wonderful colleagues. Thanks to everyone involved in their recent visit.


Don't let anyone tell you that at its brilliant best Leeds isn't world class! I received this message from Roel Rhoner, one of our recent visitors from Brno in the Czech Republic...

"Dear Chris, Thank you for your E letter. It was again an inspiring visit and especially exchanging thoughts and information with you and Jenny was valuable. I was seriously thinking to come back in order to join the happening on 25/11 with Ken Robinson, but it will be a problem in my schedule of next weeks. Thank you for the advice to see the TED site. In reaction on that I asked our webmaster to bring an example of his speech under Dalton connected in . There you will find a link to your own weblog too. The whole group went back with new impulses and great admiration for the achievement of the school teams and they all are proud to have a partnership in Leeds. And representing the Dalton network I can tell you that we can be proud to have such an inspiring partner in Education Leeds, with that great magician at the top. Hope to meet you soon. All the best and kind regards, Roel."

Roel and his colleagues from the Dalton International network are pioneering work on personalisation, enterprise and really engaging young people in learning. It is wonderful to get such positive feedback from these wonderful colleagues. Thanks to everyone involved in their recent visit.
At lunchtime I gave a press conference as the 'National Challenge and Structural Change in Secondary Schools' paper was published...

The paper will be going to next week's Executive Board meeting for approval but we wanted to brief the local media about the issues raised in the paper. I hope colleagues will read the paper because any media coverage simply glosses over the issues and inevitably the editors and reporters chop and change the briefings and interviews. The paper explores the options, the available capital funding and recommends formal consultation on the closure of the three National Challenge schools, City Of Leeds, Parklands and Primrose, and their replacement with two co-educational Academies and a 14 - 19 Vocational Learning Hub.

We recognise the real progress the schools have made over the last few years but to complete these last pieces of the secondary schools estate we need to find a Leeds solution which uses radically different struuctures,strategies and provision supported by strong and innovative partners. The paper also highlights the need to continue to work with all three schools to drive up standards and to manage the transition for all the students currently in the three schools.

Please read the paper and as always I am happy to discuss these issues, opportunities and challenges and would welcome your feedback.
I popped in to Stanningley Primary School for the official open day for their new Key Stage 2 block...

Jackie Reid, headteacher, and her colleagues have, through this project, removed four old temporary classrooms, which the children described a smelly, mouldy and bug infested, and replaced them with a brilliant four classroom and community room unit. The rooms are bright, spacious, warm and attractive and Jackie and her team have achieved a remarkable transformation. Jackie also showed me her new Foundation Stage accommodation which is fantastic.

It was great to visit Stanningley Primary School again and see what Jackie and her colleagues have achieved... something simply brilliant!
I started the day early at Seven Hills Primary School...

It was great to visit the school again and to see Pauline Potter, the headteacher, and some of her colleagues who are doing wonderful things and releasing real magic. Pauline's passion, commitment, enthusiasm and energy is infectious and the whole school is calm and purposeful and the learning environment is bright and attractive. Pauline has a great team and they have transformed the school since Pauline arrived as headteacher five years ago.

Monday, 5 October 2009

I finally popped in to the Elmete Centre...

It was great to see the Healthy Schools colleagues who are doing such a great job working on this vitally important agenda with schools across Leeds. Remarkably, 245 schools have achieved the healthy schools standard and there are only 27 schools who haven't. We'll continue to support these schools to reach this important certification and to ensure that every school in Leeds is happy, healthy and safe!

If anyone reading this is in a school that hasn't achieved this important benchmark I would welcome discussing the issues, the challenges and how we can help.
I moved on to join the Governor Support Team at St Gemma's Hospice Conference Centre...

It was great to be able to talk to the team which has increased now to a team of twenty colleagues with the appointment of the new clerks. Successful schools need brilliant governing bodies and they need great clerks. These colleagues are bringing a new rigour and focus to governance in Leeds which is so important in terms of the strategic leadership of our schools. We want every school in Leeds to be a brilliant learning places with strong and highly effective leadership and strong governing bodies supporting the schools and holding their leadership teams to account. This will require more intelligent accountability and developing a more comprehensive picture of what our fantastic schools are doing at the heart of vibrant, harmonious and richly diverse communities.

And by the way the Conference Centre at St Gemma's Hospice is a great place for training events and meetings.
Dee Reid, our Communications Team Leader, and I had lunch today with Paul Napier, the Editor, Nicola Megson, the Deputy Editor and Nicola Atkinson, the Advertisement Manager, from the Yorkshire Evening Post...

It was really good to see Paul and Nicola again and to talk about how we continue to build on the relationship Education Leeds has with Yorkshire Post Newspapers. We discussed some of the issues we are facing; the impact of the recession and the cuts in public expenditure. We agreed to explore the opportunities we have for working together to highlight the challenges and to celebrate some of our successes. We are planning to develop a campaign to recognise all the brilliant work the unsung heroes are doing in our primary schools.

Watch this space!
My colleague Jane Fisher, who teaches Year 2 at Hovingham Primary School, sent me this message over the weekend...

"Dear Chris, It so saddens and frustrates me that Ofsted now seem to being going to judge schools with their key focus being SATs results. How sad..... education is about so much more. Surely in the light of the Rose report they should begin to understand the important of raising a child's emotional intelligence alongside their academic achievements. If we focus on SATs results we can miss so much of the other wonderful things that children are achieving. You might like to look at my website, which I have just updated with a small part of what is happening at Hovingham. .
All the best, Jane."

Jane is right, we need to build a more intelligent accountability system where we look at what schools are doing for children, families and communities. That doesn't of course mean that every child shouldn't be a reader, a writer, a storyteller, a maths wiz and connected to the world of ICT, of course they should... but they must also understand right and wrong and be an artist, a singer, a dancer, a friend and supporter of others, an ambassador for peace, truth and justice, an eco-warrior caring for their environment and a brilliant little learner with high expectations and high self-esteem. Makes you realise what a brilliant job our primary schools do!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

My colleague Steve Ruse who heads up our work on sustainable schools sent me this message at the end of the week...

"Hi Chris, Hopefully you know me well enough by now to know that I don't do doom and gloom. However, having seen the starkly powerful film 'The Age of Stupid' last week and appreciating the timescales and the tiny window of opportunity being discussed, I thought you might be interested in this quote...
" We would not be the first life form to wipe itself out
but what would be unique is that we di it knowingly...
now what does that say about us!"
I would recommend seeing 'The Age of Stupid' if you get a chance. Regards Steve."

The scientists are increasingly clear that we have until 2015 to act and we know how important it is that the countries of the world reach an agreement
on climate change at the Copenhagen Summit in December. But, I am not holding my breath! You can watch the short trailer for 'The Age of Stupid" at
At Extended Leadership Team this week, I mentioned that I was awake at 2.30am and had thought about other colleagues doing exactly what I was doing, hungering as I hungered, wondering as I wondered and unable to sleep and that we were all members of the 'Fellowship of the Fridge'. This is where that came from..

"Leftovers in their less visible forms are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and cupboards of the heart.

These are just few of mine that came up tonight: the laughter of a friend, the last embers of a great fire, the long glance of love from my spouse from across a room full of people, an unexpected snowfall, the year everything went wrong and turned out right, and a chunk of poetry I learned in high school. These precious things - these leftovers from living on - remain to serve as survival rations for the heart and the soul. You can't entirely live off them. But life is not worth living without them.

My solitary late-night forays for food in the fridge are often garnished with such thoughts. I don't go to the refrigerator just to eat. But to think. To sort it all out. And sometimes I think about the other people who must be at the same place in their kitchen at this very moment, doing exactly what I'm doing, hungering as I hunger, wondering as I wonder. We will never get together. There will never be an international convention of us. No kitchen is big enough. But we are bound together. We make up the secret society of the Fellowship of the Fridge. Somehow muddling through and getting by. And not really as alone as we often think we are, after all."
Robert Fulghum

On yet another night when my mind is refusing to let me sleep, I wonder who else is out there.