Saturday, 17 October 2009

Colleagues gave me a copy of our new 'The Education Leeds Learning and Development Guide' which I read over the weekend...

It's a powerful little statement about the support for talent management and highlights three golden threads:
  • equalities and diversity in everything we do;
  • working in collaboration - in teams, within Education Leeds and with our partners;
  • Leaders and people managers - developing a culture, inspiring and managing colleagues.
The booklet covers induction, personal development, enabling programme, aspiring programme, inspiring programme, health, safety and well-being, child protection and information technology. The document sets out our commitment to our colleagues and their professional and personal development. We need to help colleagues with their own progression pathways to ensure that each and every one achieves their potential and releases their magic.
It was great to hear that the regional 2012 Legacy Trust funded initiative 'imove' is supporting 'Don't Just Sit There', an exciting project linking art and sport in the run up to the 2012 Olympics...

The Northern Ballet Project, working with Education Leeds, the College of Chinese Physical Culture, Open Minds Theatre Company, Phoenix Dance Theatre and the Rugby Football League, tackles issues arising from sedentary lifestyles in 'Don't Just Sit There'. Planned activities include:
  • 'Spirit Alive' our child-led mini-Olympics;
  • 'Energisers' mass participation events for adults and students;
  • Work in schools involving classical and contemporary dance, physical theatre, Chinese movement and music, Indian and African dance, West Indian Carnival and New Zealand Haka.
It is great to see work in schools being supported through brilliant initiatives like this.

Friday, 16 October 2009

I went on to a meeting of the Leeds Skills Board with Phil Willis MP, Chair of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee...

Phil Willis talked about the fact that although we can see some green shoots the current economic climate is worrying. Unemployment is still rising and we are expecting another dip in the housing market. All the evidence suggests that we need a new three to five year strategy for skills which recognises that centrally driven programmes focused on qualifications don't work. Train to Gain, great in principle, fails because it isn't owned by employers and businesses but is simplistically a top down Government strategy with all the associated bureaucracy and processes that fail to connect with company and business approaches.

We need to move the UK to achieve top quartile skills to allow us to compete in a global economy. This requires a coherent and coordinated approach to the delivery of the skills agenda. We need to develop trust, ownership and partnership. We must keep things simple, connect and limit the paperwork. We need to develop aspiration, ambition and get away from the 'it's good enough' philosophy.

Does any of this sound familiar?


I moved on to the Secondary Headteachers meeting at Weetwood Hall...

I wanted to talk to these colleagues about the wicked issues facing us over the next couple of years:
  • Budget;
  • Children's Services;
  • 21st Century Schools;
  • Elections.

And our need to focus on:

  • Secondary standards;
  • National Challenge schools;
  • Attendance; and
  • Behaviour.

We know that the National Challenge baseline will continue to rise and that we should establish our own curriculum and outcomes framework, share what works and ensure that every young person achieves their potential through experiencing a broad, rich, dynamic and exciting offer which develops ownership, creativity, enterprise and responsibility.


I started the day at Leadership Forum at the West Park Centre...

I wanted to talk to colleagues about the wicked issues facing us over the next couple of years:
  • Budget;
  • Children's Services;
  • 21st Century Schools;
  • Elections.

And our need to focus on:

  • Primary numbers;
  • Primary standards;
  • Secondary standards;
  • National Challenge schools;
  • Attendance; and
  • Behaviour.

And to stress the importance of people, partnerships and relationships as we work to take advantage of the opportunities this huge agenda and the rapidly changing landscape will bring.


Thursday, 15 October 2009

My colleague Clare Price who is Head of Arts Development at Artforms sent me this after I missed her 'Drawing across the Curriculum' launch event on Wednesday...

"Hi Chris, In amidst all the difficulties you are dealing with currently - I wanted to give you some good news and let you know the Drawing event yesterday at the gallery was a fantastic success. We had great feedback from the teachers who attended and everyone left feeling inspired, it was a very enjoyable day. I hope we begin to see an explosion of drawing across Leeds schools! That's all for now - take care. Best wishes Clare."

Clare and her colleagues do a brilliant job promoting and developing the arts and the booklet they have produced with the National Campaign for Drawing is wonderful based on 15 case studies where artists worked with schools here in Leeds. The booklet will be sent to all Leeds schools as part of this fantastic project. It's great to know that the arts are alive and well here in Leeds.


Remembrance Festival

I was really pleased to receive details of Abbey Grange CE High School's Remembrance Festival from Cllr Brenda Lancaster...

It is vitally important that our young people understand how the lives of people in Leeds have been affected by conflicts across the world and great to see Abbey Grange colleagues developing this Festival of Remembrance which will run from 2nd November to 15th November. It is a hugely ambitious project involving veterans, students, staff, BBC Look North, BBC Radio Leeds and the Evening Post.

Students and staff at Abbey Grange have also been inspired to create their own website with study trips focusing on World War 1 and World War 2 and remembrance activities in school as the stimulus. They have also collected relatives memories and researched the role Leeds played during major conflicts. They have dedicated Project Inspire to the brave men and women who continue to inspire them. You can visit their website at
My colleague Rosie Molinari, our School Meals Strategy Adviser, sent me this e-mail today...

"Hello Chris, students from Mount St Mary's have developed a range of films that aim to raise the importance of free school meals and most important make them normal and to prevent children/parents feeling uncomfortable about taking them. The students designed and presented 11 ideas - all were brilliant - of which only 4 were selected ( some a mix of 2 or more ideas). They will each make a 30 minute advertisement promoting free school meals. Two will be animated and 2 real. The filming will be on the 20th November - and together - we hope to launch the film at start of term in January 2010. The film will be available nationally on all Life Channel TV schools and Doctors surgery - the call to action for each film strip will encourage pupils/ families to contact their school to learn more about school meals. We aim to develop lesson plans to support the films in PSHCE. We are also producing 300 DVD's which will have the film and lesson plans so that all schools in Leeds have access to the film. The NHS-Leeds child hood obesity team are also working with me on this programme. This is a unique film by students for students addressing health inequalities by dealing with food poverty. Thanks Rosie."

This is a brilliant initiaitive to promote healthy eating and free school meal uptake. Our best ambassadors are our young people and it is wonderful to hear about things like this.
I started the day early meeting an old colleague from York...

Mark Barnett, Consultant Headteacher "Behaviour Matters", has been working on the behaviour continuum in York since he left Westfield Primary School, one of the largest and most successful primary schools in the region. Mark was named as Yorkshire Teacher of the Year last year and it was great to catch up with him and hear how my old authority is doing... sounds like it is doing great things as always.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I moved on to the Council's Executive Board who were considering a number of important papers...

The Board looked at expanding primary provision to meet the needs of the growing population in the inner areas of the city and agreed to consult on proposals relating to fifteen primary schools. They also considered the consultation on the further development of Special Educational Needs provision building on the real successes we have had with the SILCs, the PRUs, the partnership bases and the resourced provision. The Board highlighted in particular the need to focus on improving behavioural provision across the city.

The Board also looked at a report analysing the latest admissions round which highlighted the slight drop in first preferences due in primary to the increase in reception numbers and due in secondary to the reduction in provision due to school closures. The main report focussed on our response to the National Challenge where we were recommending consultation on proposals to close City of Leeds, Parklands and Primrose High Schools and replace them with two Acadenies and a 14 - 19 Centre.

All the reports were approved and we are now planning a major consultation exercise to gather opinions and shape the final proposals which will come back to the Executive Board after Christmas.
I started the day early at Swallow Hill Community College...

I was there for a meeting of the Education Leeds Board which we are taking, whenever we can, out to schools to see our successes, our challenges and the opportunities we face to do even better and continue our relentless and uncompromising drive for excellence in every school in Leeds. The Education Leeds Board meeting focused on the National Challenge and the Children's Services Review and agreed that we should also look at budget strategy and issues and a school improvement case study over the next two meetings.

Board members were given a brief guided tour of the school by Bernard Knowles, headteacher. They were all impressed by the calm and very purposeful atmosphere around the school and the building which is bright, light and a wonderful environment for learning. Everyone I spoke to was very positive and optimistic about the school while recognising the very real challenges the staff team face with creating a shared culture, addressing behaviour, managing attendance and driving up standards. It's only five weeks into the project but clearly the team have achieved a lot so far and are really confident about the journey to build a brilliant learning place to serve the people of West Leeds.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I attended a celebration of international education in Leeds this evening...

The reception hosted by the British Council, Leeds City Council and Education Leeds was part of a programme for Carole Sweeney, Head of International Education, Partnerships and Visits at the Joint International Unit, who was visiting Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.

The celebration started with a performance by children from Little London Community Primary School. Cllr Richard Harker introduced the evening before Carole announced the names of the 23 schools that had gained the full International Schools Award. Those attending the celebration were:
  • Blackgates Primary School;
  • Bramhope Primary School;
  • Bramley Primary School;
  • Calverley Parside Primary School;
  • Cookridge Primary School;
  • Hunslet Moor Primary School;
  • Iveson Primary School;
  • Roundhay St John's CE Primary School
  • St Anthony's Catholic Primary School;
  • Yeadon Westfield Junior School;
  • Abbey Grange CE High School;
  • Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School;
  • Brigshaw High School;
  • Guiseley School;
  • Royd's Language College;
  • St Mary's Catholic High School, Menston;
Carol also announced the names of the schools receiving commendations in the recent Link2Learn Awards. It was a great evening with colleague who share my passion for international links, global citizenship and learning from and sharing with the rest and the best in the world.
We also discovered today that we've been short-listed for four of our entries for the Local Government Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' Awards...

These are:
  • Leeds Local Education Partnership for 'Transforming through efficiency'
  • Spirit Alive for 'Building Cultural Spaces'
  • Visually Impaired Team for 'Outstanding contribution'
  • Be Smart: Use a condom for 'Making the connections'.

Thanks to everyone for their hard work in getting such a strong set of nominations in from Education Leeds.


It was brilliant to hear that despite much more competition this year with many more authorities able to enter, Leeds has once again secured places on the shortlist in three categories of Partnerships for Schools' Excellence in BSF awards...

The categories in which we have been shorltisted are:

  • Most versatile learning environment - Pudsey Grangefield
  • Local Education Partnership of the Year (Leeds LEP)
  • Most effective ICT partnering (EL/RM)

The awards ceremony is on November 12th in London when I am certain we will win another set of stars!


My colleague Georgina Winterburn, Headteacher at Roundhay St John's CE Primary School sent me this e-mail after reading the blog...

"Hi Chris, I don't know what difficult things you are dealing with but perhaps as well as "hanging in there" you should also remember that "nobody can do everything but everybody can do something". Take a dose of your own medicine, red wine, chocolate and family! Georgina."

It's good to be reminded now and then about the things that really, really matter.
I attended the Bramley Schools and Children's Centres Celebration launch of their Stephen Lawrence Education Standard project...

The ten schools, two children's centres and the SILC serving the Bramley Community came together at the Bramley Shopping Centre to release balloons and encourage the whole community to share in their vision for children and young people and to build trust, respect, tolerance and understanding. The brilliant learning places involved were:
  • Bramley Children's Centre;
  • Bramley Primary School;
  • Bramley St Peter's CE Primary School;
  • Christ the King Catholic Primary School;
  • Hollybush Children's Centre;
  • Hollybush Primary School;
  • Raynville Primary School;
  • Stanningley Primary School;
  • Summerfield Primary School;
  • Valley View Community Primary School;
  • Whitecote Primary School;
  • Leeds West Academy; and
  • West SILC.

It was great to see the children, young people and the colleagues from these wonderful schools working together to release the magic through the Stepehen Lawrence Education Standard. I hope to have some pictures to put on the blog soon.


Monday, 12 October 2009

I met today with colleagues from Hangzhou in China...

Jo Hall and Stella Li from the International Relations team and three interpreters accompanied the Vice-Inspector of Hangzhou Education Bureau, two headteachers, a deputy headteacher and a head of English Teaching and Research. The school based colleagues are partnered with Bramley and Talbot Primary Schools and Brigshaw and Pudsey Grangefield High Schools who they had visited this morning. They are going to John Smeaton Community College tomorrow before attending a Civic Celebration tomorrow evening where we will be celebrating our international schools with colleagues from the DCSF and the British Council.

The colleagues from Hangzhou were really impressed with their school visits and from what they had learnt about Education Leeds and told me that their teachers and students would really benefit from the links and from visiting schools here in Leeds.
'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'

As many of you know I've been dealing with a lot of difficult things, difficult people and difficult issues and I am grateful to those colleagues and friends who have helped me manage my demons recently,. Those of you who have made me laugh at myself as I rage against the world, made me cry with my colleagues as I watch and talk to our wonderful young people and again made me recognise how lucky I am to work here in Leeds with so many brilliantly talented colleagues who are releasing the magic in so many ways...

On Monday I started the week having lunch with Paul Napier and Nicola Megson from the Yorkshire Evening Post before having tea with the governor support service and their new colleagues. On Tuesday I visited Seven Hills and Stanningley Primary Schools before meeting the press to discuss the latest chapter of the National Challenge story, before attending corporate leadership team. On Wednesday I went to London to meet Kate Chhatwall who heads up the National Challenge team at the DCSF. On Thursday I started the day having breakfast with the North West family of schools' headteachers at Ralph Thoresby High School before a series of meetings and briefings on: the next Education Leeds Board meeting; the review of Children's Services here in Leeds; the next Executive Board Meeting; the National Challenge; and the other challenges we currently face. And finally, on Friday I attended the 2009 Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Celebration recognising the achievements of 47 schools and a Children's Centre. It was great that Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, managed to attend some of the event. After watching Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary Schools brilliant presentation following Eva Schloss' visit to the school for Holocaust Memorial Day - he announced that the DCSF would support us in showcasing our work to all authorities across the country and recommending the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard as a toolkit to address community cohesion, tackling racism and building tolerence and respect.

What you realise when the going gets tough is that success is all about attitude, determination, persistence and hard work. If you want to be successful in any aspect of your life you need to be persistent and determined and release the powerful forces that keep pushing you on when that little voice in your head is telling you to quit. We must nurture that intense desire to succeed and trust and empower our colleagues to be their brilliant best. And we must never forget that there are so many fantastic things happening across the city. This week's school visits and celebrations have helped me realise that there are seven steps which help us manage the impossible:
  • Step 1: Remember that problems are what we make them.
  • Step 2: Remember that you have a choice in how you handle challenging things.
  • Step 3: Remember to never give up or give in when faced with a challenge.
  • Step 4: Remember to deal with your emotions and let colleagues help.
  • Step 5: Remember that problems and difficulties help us to grow as individuals.
  • Step 6: Remember to learn to laugh at your situation and mistakes no matter how bad they are.
  • Step 7: Remember that no one is perfect and that we all need help and support.
We must all work harder, step up and be more persistent than ever. So whatever you do when the going gets tough, hang in there!

"The Stephen Lawrence Education Award is a sign of a good, cohesive and tolerant school"

This appeared on the DCSF website over the weekend...

"Ed Balls today praised a race equality initiative in Leeds and announced plans to promote the Stephen Lawrence Education Awards to all local authorities across the country. The awards, which are supported by Stephen Lawrence’s mother Doreen, help schools to promote race equality by formally recognising and ‘kitemarking’ good practice in schools. The Stephen Lawrence Standard was developed in partnership between Education Leeds, Leeds City Council and Black and minority community representatives, in response to the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and the publication of the MacPherson Inquiry Report into Stephen’s death in 1999. Two-thirds of schools in Leeds are already taking part in the initiative and Ed Balls now aims to promote this to all local authorities across the country.

Attending a ceremony celebrating the achievements of the participating schools in Leeds, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:

"Schools have a key role to play in building a fair, integrated and tolerant society for all children growing up in Britain today. I believe a Stephen Lawrence Education Award is a sign of a good school. It means they’re committed to doing all they can to show that racism has no place in their school and that pupils understand different cultures and backgrounds.

“Winning a Stephen Lawrence Education Award is a great achievement and I congratulate all of the schools, teachers and pupils who are leading the way in Leeds. I want to do more to spread what Leeds is doing to other areas where it can also make a real difference.”"

It is testament to the successes of the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard that the Secretary of State attended the ceremony this year. The award is unique to Leeds but is a fantastic example of what can be done to promote the importance of race equality to all children and young people. We want all schools to be inclusive, brilliant learning places and this amazing scheme is really helping. It enriches learning, broadens young people’s horizons and embeds a culture of equality in our schools and communities. I hope that this initiative by the DCSF will enable schools across the country to benefit from our learning here in Leeds.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

I watched Puccini's wonderful opera Tosca live last night at the New York Met...

It was a brilliant performance by Karita Mattila as Tosca, Marcelo Alvarez as Cavaradossi and George Gagnidze as Scarpia. The orchestra were fantastic, the setting wonderful and the whole evening was spectacular. Sadly, I wasn't actually in New York but watching the performance in high definition live at my local cinema. The performance was being seen in more than 900 theaters in 42 countries around the world... amazing.


I watched a wonderfully inspiring DVD over the weekend...

Colleagues and children at Swinnow Primary School have been working with their basketball coach, Claude Bandawe who is Basketball Development Officer with Leeds City Council, to support Namiwawa Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi. A number of school based events have raised sufficient funds to supply Namiwawa Primary School with desks for one of its many classrooms.

Claude Bandawe, who is also the head coach of the Leeds Tigers whose teams were formed over twenty years ago in the Gipton, Seacroft, Chapeltown and surrounding areas, was himself raised in Malawi. Claude travelled to Blantyre to present the desks to the school and filmed his visit as the official record of the first stage in the partnership between Swinnow and Namiwawa Primary Schools. The DVD is being used to assist further fund raising events.

You can find out more and how to support this wonderful project by visiting or by contacting Alison Chin, headteacher at Swinnow Primary School.