Saturday, 7 November 2009

My colleague Sally Threlfall, Chief Officer for Early Years and Youth Service, sent me this e-mail which I managed to pick up today...

"Dear Chris, I have just seen a National Strategies publication on the web - Building Futures, Developing Trust- a focus on provision for children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds in the Early Years Foundation Stage. The publication has a significant contribution from Sue Gold ( EL) and Elizabeth Bradley ( EYS) and demonstrates the excellent work that is being delivered in Leeds with some of our most excluded children. I was really proud and it is good to see us acknowledged for best practice. Cheered me up on a Friday. Sally."

Sue and Elizabeth have been doing some extra-ordinary work with our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and it was great to have our contribution to this wonderful publication highlighted by Sally.

Friday, 6 November 2009

I spent most of today travelling to provide an input at the 'RM Kudos '09' Conference at the Four Pillars Hotel at the Cotswold Water Park...

Our strategic partnership with RM has already won national awards and acclaim and David Brooks, RM's Sales and Marketing Director, had asked me to talk to his Sales and Marketing workforce at their annual event looking back at 2009 and forward to 2010. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to talk to a great group of people about the journey we've been on to build brilliant and release the magic here in Leeds. The group were incredibly positive and appreciative.

I'll let you know if I get any more structured feedback.
I received a copy of the new 'Developing your playground? Leeds Time to Play' publication today and it's brilliant...

We know that high quality training combined with structured play in positive learning environments can enhance outcomes, reduce behavioural problems and reduce bullying, accidents and stress. The 'Leeds Time to Play'toolkit has therefore been designed to support schools and other settings with the development of their play and outdoor areas. Shelagh Dixon, our Active Schools Development Officer, has been working with colleagues to produce this really wonderful little resource which provides a smooth and speedy journey through the design, procurement and delivery of stimulating, inviting and exciting environments. This toolkit complements and supports the 'Happy, healthy, active lunchtimes' publication which includes support, resources and courses to enrich breaktimes and lunchtimes and make them more active and productive parts o the school day. Shelagh and the team have also produced a register of exemplar schools willing to share their ideas, their creativity and their mistakes!

We need to understand the critical importance of creating real centres of learning where the outdoor and play environments contribute, enhance and enrich provision in our constant search for happier, healthier, safer and more successful schools. If you want to find out more about 'Leeds Time to Play', 'Happy, healthy, active lunchtimes' and the register of exemplar schools please contact my colleague Shelagh Dixon at who will be happy to help.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

I moved on to Whitecotes Primary School which is another fantastic little primary school...

It was great to see Karen Allen, the headteacher and her team who are doing some brilliant work in this bit of West Leeds. It was wonderful to see the school at work, to see the recent additions to the learning environment and the new playground markings and apparatus and to meet some of Karen's amazing colleagues and children. The school has been pioneering work on Every Child Counts which is having a really significant impact and working with its girls to raise expectations and aspirations since boys in this school outperform the girls and achieve outstanding results.

Karen and her team are doing some extra-ordinary things at Whitecote Primary School and releasing real magic with their children.
I started the day early at Winmoor St Paul's CE Primary School which is a great little school...

It was a really wonderful start to my day with Sheila Storey, the headteacher, and her team who are doing some amazing work in this bit of East Leeds and were incredibly positive despite the thieves who had overnight dismantled a significant part of the scaffolding that had been put on the roof before the major re-roofing project starts. It was great to see the school at work, attend the infant assembly, to meet some of Sheila's inspiring colleagues and to be shown around the school by two fantastic young people. Sheila and her team have generally created a brilliant learning environment for their children from early years and foundation through to Year six which sadly includes water features where the rain gets in! I met several of Sheila's colleagues who were real inspirations and the passion and commitment is very evident around the school as the team continue to build brilliant learning for all their children... whatever it takes!

I hope that Sheila will send me some photos from my visit to put on the blog.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

This afternoon I attended the Leeds launch of Envision...

The launch was at the Carriageworks and was attended by sixth form students from twelve secondary schools across the city who attended a series of workshops during the afternoon. Envision is a national education charity that was set up by young people ten years ago to challenge the stereotype of the ‘youth’ as apathetic and disengaged. Envision supports 16-19 year olds from schools and colleges in Greater London, Birmingham and is now coming to Leeds. They aim to help young people to design their own local community projects tackling issues ranging from street crime to climate change. Their programmes build confidence, aspirations and skills – aiming to inspire the next generation of young community leaders.They provide hands-on support for young people in schools and colleges on issues relating to citizenship education, sustainable development and the local community.

Envision is based at the old Hillside Primary School building in Beeston. If you want to find out more about their work or contact them you can visit their their website at

Monday, 2 November 2009

I received some more good news last week from Councillor John Bale who represents Guiseley & Rawdon Ward...

"Dear Chris, You may like to know that Martin Brown, from Interserve Project Services, the Construction Manager for Allerton High School won a medal in the Construction Manager of the Year Awards Ceremony in London last night. (see Councillor John Bale."

The award recognises Martin's drive, vision and commitment to this wonderful project which is just one of our new-build schools in the Leeds’ Building Schools for the Future programme. The commendation states that Martin worked hard to establish positive relationships with the school, which already had existing buildings onsite that it continued to use during the construction project. He explained his plans and spoke in school assembly about the site, judged a student design project and helped physics students doing research on forces and power. Martin also built a capable and integrated delivery team that performed as a cohesive body. His decisive pre-planning and detailed understanding delivered a brilliant project.
"Education is the most powerful weapon we have to change the world"
Nelson Mandela

Congratulations to Peter Harris, headteacher at Farsley Farfield Primary School, and Matthew Browne, who teaches at Austhorpe Primary School, who flew the flag so brilliantly for Leeds winning the regional event and being one of the finalists at The Teaching Awards Ceremony last week. It was fantastic to have these two colleagues representing us at these prestigious awards.

We have hundreds of brilliant schools and colleagues here in Leeds and it's now time to start the process for 2010. I hope that everyone will carefully consider nominating a school, a school team, a teaching assistant, a teacher, a headteacher or a governor to fly the flag for colleagues here in Leeds. To find out more visit Go on, what have you got to lose?
"What a fantastic time to be alive."
John Nesbilt

Before half-term my whole computer system failed to work and I couldn’t log on, log off or do anything. Over half term I normally stay in touch but I couldn’t log in from home either and so with time on my hands I decided to relax, unwind, read and do the things that had had to wait...
I read the final Stieg Larsson Millenium Trilogy novel "The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest", the latest Terry Pratchett Discworld novel "Unseen Academicals", the Malcolm Gladwell collection of articles "What the Dog Saw", the Sebastian Faulks novel "A Week in December" and re-read several of my favourites! I also visited Leicester, Oxford and Lichfield to catch up with family and friends. During the week I found myself thinking constantly about the opportunities and challenges we face here in Leeds; the unrelenting pressure from DCSF, Ofsted, the Audit Commission, National Strategies, Government Office, Uncle Tom Cobley and all; the need to do more, to do it faster and better and more efficiently and effectively; the need to eliminate the things that don’t make a difference; and the need to focus relentlessly on outcomes as well as processes. As Woody Allen put it…
"Most of the time I don’t have much fun and the rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all."

Increasingly you realise that the things that make a difference and the things that matter are the same as they always were:

  • drive;
  • determination;
  • commitment;
  • inspiration;
  • creativity;
  • enthusiasm;
  • passion;
  • achievement; and
  • hard work.

Pablo Casals, the great cellist, was asked why he still practiced for five hours every day at eighty five years of age and he simply replied "Because I think I am getting better."

We all need to understand that if you are willing to take risks, open to change and prepared to work hard you have the ability to create a better future. Releasing potential is about:

  • growth;
  • learning;
  • education;
  • adventure;
  • discovery; and
  • hard work.

We all need to develop a culture and a working environment where we stretch ourselves, challenge each other and try to do better, while at the same time thinking team, and looking after each other. In this kind of culture mistakes don’t matter, failures don’t matter because the mistake riddled life is richer, interesting and more stimulating and that’s how we all learn, grow and develop. The only people who don’t make mistakes, remember, are those that do nothing.
Of course there will be those colleagues who say I’m not clever enough, not talented enough, not special or unique enough to make a real difference, so why should I bother? Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times reported recently on a five year study looking at great artists athletes, scholars, scientists. What made these people unique, special, talented was not that they were specially unique, specially talented or different, it was their drive and determination and hard work that made them extra-ordinary.

So it’s true, no-one can make anything of their lives by simply being talented, gifted or a genius. The message we need to give our children, our young people, our colleagues and our families and friends is that everyone has talents, gifts and potential and it’s work, sheer determination, persistence and hard work, that transforms those gifts and talents into genius.