Saturday, 14 November 2009

Schools Got Talent!

This year 'Schools Got Talent' has attracted 46 acts involving 98 young performers from 14 secondary schools...
The semi-finals and finals will be streamed live and anyone with an Education Leeds, Leeds Learning Net or LCC e-mail account can register and vote. The website address is I hope as many colleagues as possible will want to log on and vote for their favourite from this pool of young talent here in Leeds.
My colleague Duncan Grant, Headteacher at Hill Top Primary School sent me this e-mail after we met at the New Headteachers Conference earlier in the week...

"Hi Chris, good to see you again yesterday at the new Heads conference at Oulton Hall. The two days provided a lot of good networking, support, advice and time to reflect. As always, being away made me wonder how things were back at school but, again as always, I needn't have had any worries. Getting home and clicking onto our website to find out what had happened on our 11 million takeover day it filled me with immense pride to sit back and take an objective and reflective view on the fantastic things that are going on...11 million takeover, rocket lauching with help from Leeds University, Indian Dance, numerous fundraising activities...I could go on but instead I'm asking you to just have a quick glance for yourself if you have time have a look under 'events', 'childrens work', newsletter, or indeed any other heading or link. It is of great credit to our TLR and Community Cohesion co-ordinator, Lindsey Towler, who tirelessly manages the website and promotes the school. I think you'll agree she's doing a stunning job. Also on there you'll see a link to a Muhazi Primary Powerpoint. This is the school in Rwanda that we are linking with through pictures and letters via Michael Tennant who, as you know, is out there with VSO. You'll even see him on the slides themselves. Anyway, just thought I'd point you in the direction to see for yourself if you have time. Let me know your thoughts. Oh, AND we are school of the week on Radio Aire next week! It's non-stop! Kind regards, Duncan."

I looked at Duncan's website over the weekend.It's a wonderful celebration of the work going on at the school. Brilliant photos and a lot of hard work! I loved the 11 Million Takeover section, Wear it Pink, the Annapurna Dance Company and Lift Off! I also really enjoyed the Muhazi Primary Powerpoint showing the school in Rwanda where Michael Tennant is doing VSO. It makes you realise how fortunate we all are... I think everyone should watch it! I look forward to seeing what they get up to on Friday with Children in Need!

Friday, 13 November 2009

I went back to the School Improvement Conference for the afternoon...

Colleagues were working in groups doing structured team work following the sessions in the morning. We had a quick collection for 'Children In Need' which we will be continuing all this coming week and raised an astonishing £522. Let's hope we can get it up to £1000 by Friday!

Feedback on the day suggested that colleagues had a stimulating and enjoyable day which reflected a lot of hard work by Mark Hopkins, Dorothy Smith and colleagues.
I went back to Merrion House to attend the set up meeting for the OFSTED inspection of Children's Services which focuses on safeguarding and looked after children...

The meeting chaired by Rosemary Archer, director of Children's Services, was attended by Gary Lamb HMI, from OFSTED, who will be leading the inspection and Elizabeth Oxford, from the Care Quality Commission. Gary talked us through the process and shared the commentary and the keylines of enquiry that the inspection team will be exploring when the inspection starts on 23 November until 4 December.

We certainly live in interesting times!
I started the day early at the 'Learning Landscapes' School Improvement Conference at Elland Road and it was wonderful to spend some time with around 300 colleagues whose passion, energy, commitment, determination and hard work has transformed, and is transforming, outcomes in so many areas...

We were entertained by children from Little London Community Primary School and Uni4m a talented group of young people from Carr Manor High School. We also had young people from Boston Spa School who listened and commented from a student perspective.

I talked to colleagues about our ambition for children and young people here in Leeds and about the the keys to brilliant outcomes for our children, their families and communities. I was followed by Sue Hackman, Chief Adviser on School Standards at the DCSF, who talked about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead about standards, excellent teaching and learning and the developing roles for local authorities and schools in a 21st century world. After coffee, Hilary Emery, Executive Director for Development and Improvement at the TDA, talked to colleagues about workforce reform, teamwork and partnership working before Dirk Gilleard talked about personalisation Evolve and butterflies.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

I received this e-mail from Bridget Emery, who is Head of Housing Strategy and Solutions in Leeds City Council...

"Dear Chris, I am writing to let you know how brilliantly the Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows performed at the Music For Youth Schools Prom held at the Albert Hall on Monday evening.
As you probably know the band are a collection of young people from various high schools and colleges across Leeds although the band is based and rehearses at City of Leeds. My son, for example, attends Allerton Grange and there are also some pupils from Swallow Hill Community College and various others. The band is led by Victoria Jaquiss, Steel Pan Development Officer at Artsform, who is absolutely inspirational and who puts in an incredible amount of very hard work all through the year supporting the band members and encouraging them to believe in their own talent. She is very well supported by Natalie Marks, Joe Mooney and Bex Ainge - who all work for Artsform. Monday evening was very nerve-wracking as a parent but the band seemed to take to the big stage like it was an everyday event. The music they played was magical and the applause from the 5000-strong audience deafening. What a credit this band is to Leeds as a city and to Artsform/Education Leeds. The rest of the evening was equally fantastic with bands and choirs from across the country - I highly recommend you to attend a future Schools Prom if you haven't done so before. And I hope you get the chance to see the Sparrow play in the near future. Maybe they could play at a future Education Leeds event? I'm sure they would love to. With regards, Bridget."

It is wonderful to hear about the continued success of the Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows who I know are brilliant!


I had lunch today with members of the School Teachers Review Body who were visiting Leeds as part of their national programme consulting and listening to local opinions...

They had visited Carr Manor High School yesterday and this morning they visited Carr Manor Primary School. In both schools they spent time with the headteachers and groups of teachers to discuss a range of issues from headteacher pay, system leadership, leadership competencies and responsibilities, pay and conditions, relationships between schools, Education Leeds and the City Council, SEN responsibilities, Mathematics shortages, other hard to fill posts, teacher's working time and pay and conditions. We also raised issues around the need for complimentary pay structures to recognise Higher Level Teaching Assistants, classroom assistants, support staff and the partnership working by multi-agency teams across Children's Services.

They said that they were really impressed with Leeds; with Carr Manor High School and Carr Manor Primary School, our headteachers, our teachers, our colleagues, our realationships, our creativity, our ideas and our partnership working. Congratulations to everyone involved for showing Leeds off to it's brilliant best!
I started the day at the Newly Appointed Headteacher's Conference at Outlon Hall...

My colleague Elaine Bown who looks after the induction of new primary headteachers had asked me to speak to the group about the vision, the expectations and the support for headteachers in Leeds. The induction and support for new headteachers is vitally importnat and it was great to be able to spend some time with these brilliant colleagues and to emphasise the 'Think Team' approach we are developing across the city.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

I spent a brilliant lunchtime and the early part of the afternoon with some amazing children from Moortown Primary School and Stanningley Primary School as part of our '11 Million Takeover' activities...

Young people often amaze me and this session was no different; their confidence, passion, engagement and energy was wonderful to see and reflected the work our colleagues working in these two schools are doing... they are very obviously doing a brilliant job.

We talked about Education Leeds, education in Leeds, the environment and sustainability, school food and drink and school buildings. We also discussed their apirations an waht they wanted to be when they left school, university or college... we had lawyers, judges, doctors, surgeons, teachers and police officers of the future. It was great to spend some time with such wonderful young people.

I hope to have some pictures soon.
My colleague Nicola Palmer our Information Policy Access Officer sent me this e-mail after her visit to Ireland Wood Primary School and Lawnswood School...

"Hi Chris , Hope you are well. Just thought I'd send you a quick email to let you know about our visit to Ireland Wood Primary School and Lawnswood School. It is very unusual for our section to visit schools - so its always a bit of an outing! We went to have a look at their pupil records as we are developing further records management guidance for schools. Ian, the Head teacher at Ireland Wood, and all his staff were so very welcoming and made us feel right at home. They answered all our questions and gave us a really good starting point for our development work. We also visited Sara Hart and Sue Cooper at Lawnswood who again made us very welcome and answered all our questions - obvious or otherwise! We really enjoy going into our schools, especially when we have such a good experience. Many thanks to Ireland Wood Primary School and Lawnswood School for their time. Best wishes Nicola."

It's great to get good feedback about colleagues visits to schools. Everyone should get out to see the golden threads that connect everything we do to a child, a young person and a school and to see what we are doing and why.
I attended the launch of 'Connecting Communities' at Headingley Carnegie Stadium yesterday...

THe scheme is a groundbreaking new initiative under the auspices of the Leeds Rugby Foundation and aims to substantially increase the number of people from minority communities engaging in regular sporting activity. The scheme is backed by Sport England and Leeds Metropolitan University aims to devekop confidence and understanding and will focus not only on sport but on health, education and well-being. The project is led by Ikram Butt, the first British Muslim international rugby player. You can find out more about the scheme by visiting their website at

Monday, 9 November 2009

I ended the day with an early evening meeting at the Houses of Parliament...

Cllr Richard Brett, Leader of the Council, Cllr Stewart Golton, Lead Member for Children's Services, Paul Rogerson, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, Rosemary Archer, Director of Children's Services and I had been invited down to London to see Dawn Primarolo MP, Minister for Children, and Vernon Coaker MP, Minister for Schools, who were supported by a small army of Civil Servants. We discussed Children's Services, Children's Social Care, safeguarding, the unnannounced inspection result, the Corporate Area Assessment and the Government's National Challenge. It was a stimulating and challenging discussion and provided a great opportunity for us to talk about the opportunities and challenges we face and the progress we are making with building brilliant provision here in Leeds.

We certainly live in interested times!
After lunch I attended a really brilliant session by Larry Rosenstock CEO at High Tech High...

"Planning is for pessimists"
In an amazing non-stop outpouring of passion, enthusiasm, energy and creativity, Larry argued that understanding arises from activity and that they believe that young people should be designing, inventing, building and creating things.High Tech High's key principles are all about
  • integration:
  • integration of cultures and classes;
  • integration of head and hand;
  • integration of pre and post secondary learning;
  • integration of private and public sectors.

High Tech High began in 2000 as a single charter high school launched by a coalition of San Diego business leaders and educators. It has evolved into an integrated network of schools housing a comprehensive teacher certification program and a new, innovative Graduate School of Education. They believe in a collaborative approach with small teams of teachers working together who have complete control of what they offer their young people; like in Finland they are not into command and control from the centre but believe that you should empower, engage and trust colleagues at teh front line to powerfully match work to students interests and needs. Larry believes that you don't learn anything by studying it, you have to do it and be it. Behaving like a biologist, a photographer, a writer, a designer encourages young people to do the job. They encourage their young people to work hard and have fun!

Four design principles underlie the work of High Tech High: personalization, adult world connection, common intellectual mission, and teacher as designer and reverses the separations of conventional schooling by integrating students, connecting school and community, and linking technical and academic studies. They believe that if you want to build a good learning environment for students, it must also be a good learning place for adults. The school measures and assesses the quality of the staff by the quality of the work their students produce and has achieved extraordinary success with a diverse student population, admitted by a post-code based lottery. High Tech High also has a fairly unique approach to staff development and trainingbased on the fact that ideas, energy and inspiration are high at the beginning of the day. They start work an hour before their students to provide 180 hours of training and development time every year for all their colleagues.

You can find out more about this extraordinary school by visiting

Before lunch I attended a workshop session on Assessment for the 21st Century...

The workshop led by Dr Sue Horner from QCDA, had sessions by Matt Buxton, from Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham, Lotta Valentin, from Kunskapsskolan in Sweden and Dr Lorna Earl, from Aporia Consulting in Canada. Dr Earl was really good and highlighted some of the flaws in our current assessment systems and the importance of open, transparent evidence based assessment which is fit for purpose and which stands up to independent and expert scrutiny. She stressed that any assessment tool should be designed for the assessment of the thing you are measuring... a student, a school, an authority... and the problems of using single indicators to measure the effectiveness of the lot. She also pointed out that unless the assessments stand up to independent and rigorous scrutiny of the evidence they were meaningless.

Sadly, our friends at OFSTED weren't here and weren't listening.
When times are challenging, I remind myself what we have achieved together here in Leeds over the last few years, of how we have released a very special magic and achieved some extraordinary outcomes, produced some fantastic materials, developed an amazing 'can do anything' culture and built some brilliant relationships and partnerships. I am also struck by the uniqueness of the place and its special people...

Talking about people and relationships, I bumped into several colleagues this week who were worried about friends and colleagues struggling against the tide of things to do, the bureaucracy, the paperwork and the rules. I personally don't think that we are any different from our children and young people because we all work best when we feel loved, valued, nurtured and understand that we are making a difference. If we live in fear and feel unloved, undervalued and unsupported we are never going to cope with the enormous pressure and stress that we all live with day in day out, and we are never going to release the magic and create brilliant learning for our children and young people. The immense pressure colleagues are under regarding standards and safeguarding alone can be simply overwhelming, and that's not to mention the other issues and challenges we are all juggling with on top of the normal day job. I know that it is at times like this that I need to recharge and re-imagine; to refresh and rethink and be inspired.

It has been another week full of meetings, briefings and updates but amongst those there were four little bits of magic. I attended a launch for Envision, a national education charity set up by young people ten years ago to challenge the stereotype of ‘youth’ as apathetic and disengaged, who support 16-19 year olds from schools and colleges in Greater London and Birmingham and are now coming to Leeds. I visited Whinmoor St Paul's Church of England Primary School, and Whitecotes Primary School, where Sheila Storey and Karen Allen, the headteachers, and their teams are doing some amazing work and achieving wonderful outcomes. And finally, I spoke at the 'RM Kudos '09' Conference at the Four Pillars Hotel at the Cotswold Water Park near Swindon. RM colleagues were simply blown away by what we have achieved together and what we are doing to release the magic and the potential here in Leeds.

So as we roll on towards Christmas, whatever we do and however challenging it is we must maintain our focus on our core business - educating children and providing them with the best possible life chances; and we must support each other through these uncertain times. This years' Annual Lecture with Ken Robinson gives us all a real opportunity to come together as a learning community; to reconnect; to inspire and be inspired, to share what really matters; and to think team. We have a chance to hear an outstanding speaker and to eat, drink and spend some time with other brilliant colleagues who share our passion, our determination and our commitment to children and young people and their learning and to simply remind ourselves why we are here.

I hope that you will be able to make it.
The next session was an international case study on 21st Century learning in practice by Timo Lankinen, director general of the Finnish National Board of Education...

As we know, Finland tops the OECD league tables for educational outcomes and Timo Lankinen talked about the possible xplanations for their success, the innovations happening in Finland and the challenges ahead for Finnish schools. He stressed the focus on quality, equity and efficiency in Finnish schools with a strong focus on individual support, high quality Masters educated teachers along side curricular flexibility and pedagogical freedom. He also acknowldege the relative homogeneity of culture, religion and population in Finland.

Timo highlighted eight factors which mark out their education system;
  • flexibility of the system;
  • trust, support and empowerment;
  • valuing the professionalism of teachers;
  • evidence based and consensual appproach to curriculum and school change;
  • broad consensus about the importance of education across society;
  • individual support for students and learners falling behind;
  • collaborative and social-constructivist approach to learning and schooling;
  • high quality learning environments.

Finnish class sizes and school sizes are also small. To sum up Timo talked about high standards, professionalism and a supportive ethos within a learning culture based on trust and respect.


'The Global Education Leaders Program' sets out a framework to cope, manage and harness the perfect storm we are currently facing in education and learning...

The framework is based on the principles of CISCO's 'The Learning Society' and is based on a fundamental transformation where we shift from running education and schools to enabling learners and learning.
Michael argued that we need 21st Century skills, 21st Century pedagogy, 21st Century technology and 21st Century reform all working together to build brilliant learning in brilliant learning places...

The questions are:
  • what skills?
  • what pedagogy?
  • what technologies?
  • what reforms?

The barriers to re-imagining learning are:

  • access;
  • traditional methods;
  • design.



The second input was 'Enabling Genuine 21st Century Learning' by Michael Stevenson from CISCO...

Michael argued that we need a coherent system change involving all aspects of the system working together to re-imagine learning with strong partnerships between Government, localities and schools. He sees the key drivers of educational change as globalisation, new technologies and demography. We should develop a powerful vision for 21st Century learning, explore the skills and competencies we need to secure success and understand what re-imagined learning looks like and how we can work locally to achieve this transformation.
The first speaker was Lord David Puttnam who showed us a clip from a new film which highlighted the need for a re-imagined education and learning system...

He argued that we must take this opportunity to create better, smarter and more engaged young people who will change the world for the better. He argued that we need to grasp the opportunities that digital technology provides while maintaining the relentless and uncompromising focus on literacy and numeracy. We need to create learning environmments where young people engage with learning 24 x 7 x 365 ... whatever it takes!
I am attending the 'Innovation in Education: Enabling Genuine 21st Century Learning' Conference today at the Victoria Park Plaza Hotel in London...

The conference is a partnership event between the Education Guardian and the Inovation Unit and has hopefully brought together people who share our passion, our commitment, our enthusiasm and our energy for change. The Conference is sponsored by CISCO, BDP, qedis and steljes. I'll let you know how it goes.