Saturday, 21 November 2009

And finally at the end of yet another long, challenging and wonderful week in Leeds I attended the Leeds City Council Excellence Awards...

Sadly we didn't win any of the 16 awards but we were nominated in eight and shortlisted in two.
Congratulations to and the Visually Impaired Team and everyone else who was nominated having won the Education Leeds Spirit Awards.

Friday, 20 November 2009

We are the people we've been waiting for!

When I attended the education guardian 'Innovation in Education' Conference recently Lord Puttnam showed a clip from a film...

Everyone who cares about education and learning needs to see this film. You can see a clip from the film 'We are the People We've been Waiting For' here. It lasts six and a half minutes but I promise it will be worth it.
My colleague Christine Marsden, Curriculum Development Manager at the Education Business Partnership sent me this e-mail...

"Hi Chris, Bruntcliffe School made the Regional Social Enterprise Final but were just beaten to the post as overall Best Social Enterprise. However they went on to win the Leeds Best Social Enterprise in June and won the Schools category for the Business Links Yorkshire and Humber Social Enterprise award in October. They also appeared at the Footsey show in Doncaster in October. They have put themselves forward for the school category for the National Social Enterprise Awards. Many of you will have seen their stand at the Regional Social Enterprise or Leeds event and I’m sure you were impressed with their efforts. Ryan Hirst who manages the programme at Bruntcliffe is very passionate and this shows in the way the students respond and the quality of work they produce. They would be grateful for your votes to help them achieve this final accolade. They certainly deserve to be in the final.

If you would like to vote for Bruntcliffe School then could you please click on the link below. You have to vote for a business in each of the 4 categories but there is a short intro to each so it only takes a couple of minutes to complete. Please vote – lets make Bruntcliffe the first Leeds school not only to get to the final but also to win it.
Many thanks, Christine."

I hope as many colleagues as possible will vote for Bruntcliffe who are doing brilliant things in this area and reaching and engaging some very special young people .
I moved on to yet another Induction Session for new colleagues to Education Leeds at the 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. They asked some great questions about how we build an education and learning system for the 21st Century focused on personal and social skills, sustainability, creativity, the arts, global citizenship and life skills and how we remove the fear factor which is stifling brilliant practioners.

Answers on a postcard.
I started the day at the Leeds Governors' Conference at the Village Hotel...

The conference was attended by over 150 governors from across the city and was focussed on student voice and safeguarding. Rosemary Archer and I talked to the governors about Children's Services and the keys to brilliant provision before children from the school councils at Castleton and Shadwell Primary Schools gave fantastic presentations about the impact they were having in their schools. I talk so often about magic but these young people certainly brought some to the conference.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

And finally today I attended the Looked-After Children Celebration Event at the Civic Hall...

The Banqueting Suite was packed with standing room only for this wonderful celebration of the achievements of some of our looked-after children. Cllr Stewart Golton, Lead Member for Children, and Cllr Richard Harker, Lead Member for Learning joined the Lord Mayor, Cllr Judith Elliott, for the event which recognised the personal, academic, social and sporting achievements of over sixty young people from across Leeds.

Some sad news!

Chris Pollard, Head of National Strategies within the School Improvement Service here at Education Leeds sent me this bit of sad news today...

"Dear Chris, I am very sorry to have to tell you about the death today of one of my team, Jane Rose, who has been fighting cancer for 6 years. Jane was a primary mathematics consultant, who worked with us for 8 years, and prior to that was a teacher in Leeds. She has put up an amazingly brave fight, and all her colleagues and friends are immensely saddened by her loss. She was in her early 40s and leaves a husband and two young daughters. Chris"

In a world where OFSTED, the DCSF and everyone else continue to give us hassle and are never satisfied with what we do, we must remember how fragile and precious life is and we all need to ensure that our colleagues know how much they have achieved here in Leeds, the difference they have made and are making and how much we value them and their contribution. Jane will be deeply missed by everyone who knew her, she made a real difference here in Leeds and our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this terribly sad time.


I moved on to the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors Information Day at Leeds Metropolitan University...

Hialry Farmery and her colleagues had oerganised another great day for some of our Anti- Bullying Ambassadors working with Childline, The Project and Leeds Rugby Foundation. The initiative now involves over 200 young people from 13 primary schools and 17 secondary schools across Leeds who are working with us to tackle bullying. Hilary and her colleagues are doing a brilliant job and the feedback from schools, from young people and from our ambassadors is that things are getting better but that we still have more to do to ensure that every child feels safe at school.
I moved on to Woodkirk High School Specialist Science College...

Jonathan White, the headteacher, had invited me to visit the school after receiving one of my recent letters and I talked to the Leadership Team about some of the issues they are wrestling with in their quest to build outstanding provision consistently across the school. They also talked to me about problems with procuring building work and the need for a Leeds ICT approach to tracking, monitoring and intervention. We were joined by the Chair of Governors, who accompanied us on a quick tour of the school before one of the sixth form took over and showed me the best bits. Our whistle-stop tour covered English, history, geography, psychology, science, ICT... we looked in on classes in Year 7, Year 9, Year 10, Year 11, and the sixth form. What really struck me apart from the confidence, commitment and assurance of my guide was the atmosphere around the school, the positive behaviour, the wonderful relationships, the focused, enthusiastic, young and caring staff and Jonathan's relationships with his students. Lunch was pretty good as well!

Woodkirk is very obviously a good school but it is going to be a great one under Jonathan's leadership and with this great team of colleagues releasing the magic in their wonderful young people.
I started the day early having breakfast with some of the new headteachers here in Leeds...

These new headteachers are an amazing group of colleagues and we talked about Infobase, buildings, behaviour, healthy schools, increasing numbers, 21st Century Schools, special needs and behaviour provision, early years, extended services, 'Every Child a Reader' and talked about the characteristics of brilliant provision and how schools could maintain their focus on standards with so many intiatives, so many pots of money to chase, so many consultants and experts and so much constant change.

We all agreed that the key is to maintain a focus on quality and to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience while being able to phone a friend when help was needed. We talked about the importance of developing confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understood the learning process and working positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities through community hubs; the primary schools. We 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, 18 November 2009

This is my 2000th post on Interesting Times and it's fitting that it is about a simply brilliant school doing amazing things here in Leeds...

I started the day early at Bankside Primary School with Sarah Rutty, headteacher and some of her colleagues, before being joined by Cllr Roger Harrington, chair of governors. Bankside Primary School is an amazing example of primary education at its brilliant best serving a vibrant, interesting and exciting part of central Leeds.

The school is having a new building constructed on its' existing site and Sarah, Roger and I joined the team travelling on the school buses to the Fir Tree site where half the school is working while we build a brilliant new Bankside Primary School. I travelled with the reception classes; a wonderful group of children, and their teachers, who talked all the way to the Fir Tree site.

It was great to visit the Fir Tree site again; which has been transformed into a brilliant learning environment by Sarah's colleagues. It was wonderful to walk around with Sarah and Roger and to talk to Sarah's colleagues and some of their wonderful children including the impressive School Council who talked to us about the things they were putting in the time capsule we were going to bury underneath the new school.

Sarah, Roger and I went back to Bankside Primary School to visit the remaining classes and meet more of Sarah's colleagues and children before we had the photo shoot with colleagues from the builders, Kier Northern.

And finally, I met with the 'Green Team' a sub-group of the School Council, who are working with the builders to create the greenest school in Leeds. One of the highlights of the visit was that they made me an honorary member of the 'Green Team' and I look forward to working with the children to achieve this ambitious goal.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Over lunchtime I visited the Civic Hall where we were hosting the International Gipsy Roma Traveller History Awards...

The Awards Ceremony, which as held last year at the House of Lords, was attended by over 200 guests from across the country who were celebrating the achievement of the winners in the national storytelling competition and the international 'O Baro Dive' competition. The "O Baro Dive" poster which translates as "Celebration" was painted by Roma artist Ferdinand Koci to celebrate Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month 2009. Children and young people wrote short stories to enter the storytelling competition and 100 words to describe the 'O Baro Dive' poster. The events were organised by the Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month committee, Education Leeds Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service, the National Association of Teachers of Travellers and other professionals and community workers from around the country.

Over 1000 young people entered the competitions and the winners were presented with their prizes and certificates at the ceremony where they also had the opportunity to meet artists, storytellers and musicians from the Gypsy Roma Traveller communities.
I visited Leeming House this morning to talk to colleagues from the National Policing Inspection Agency about Safer Schools and the work we are doing with West Yorkshire Police...

The National Policing Inspection Agency is a bit like our OFSTED, working with authorities and the Home Office to help improve the way policing works and providing a central resource to the Association of Chief Police Officers and local police forces. They were looking at the Safer Leeds Partnership work and Superintendent Simon Whitehead who leads the work here in Leeds had asked me if I could attend and talk to the inspectors about our work and the impact it has been having across the city. It was great to be able to celebrate the work of colleagues who have made the Safer Schools initiative such a great success.
People are our most valauable resource and wherever possible we want people to feel valued and to give colleagues, partners and stakeholders a voice...

We have decided to use 'The Times 100 Best Companies to Work For' survey to allow us to find out exactly what colleagues working for Education Leeds think about the company; it's leadership, management, facilities and support and importantly we want to use this feedback to help us see where we can continue to improve and develop. If you have any questions about the survey you can talk to colleagues from employee development who are there to support you. The deadline for completed surveys is Friday 4 December. The information in the survey is completely confidential so if you are one of the randomly selected 695 employees, make sure you complete yours and have your say.

Christmas Party!

This year's Christmas party is being held on Friday 4 December from 8pm until late....

We have exclusive hire of the first floor at Oracle, Brewery Wharf. Tickets cost £20 each, for Education Leeds staff and guests – this includes a free drink on arrival, a buffet, and music until 2am. Everyone is welcome especially as the OFSTED inspection will have just finished so we can celebrate. See you all there!

Monday, 16 November 2009

I finished the day with colleagues from the National Strategies at the Standards Meeting...

We were looking at our results in Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4; primary schools below the floor targets and National Challenge secondary schools. They arrived en masse and wanted to focus on all aspects including attendance, persistent absence and special educational needs. They were incredibly positive about our primary team's work and recognised that many of the issues we face relate to poverty, parenting and expectations.
I started the day early at a meeting with my colleague Neil Straker who heads up the Pacific Institute here in the UK and Europe before we both attended the Big Steps Celebration event at the Civic Hall...

It was another opportunity to talk to around 120 parents, carers and colleagues who have been through the STEPS programme and many of whom are now facilitators working with us to roll the programme out in communities across the city. I hope to have some pictures later in the week.
"The longer I live, the more I realise the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."
Charles Swindoll

What a week! I know that the last few days have been manic. But instead of raging at the world, I took charge, focused, stayed positive and found I have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot we can be proud of, right here in Leeds...

On Monday, we heard that Children's Services in Leeds are being inspected by our friends at Ofsted between 23 November and 4 December, with a focus on safeguarding and looked after children. I attended the Education Guardian 'Innovation In Education Conference', before meeting Dawn Primarolo MP, children's minister, and Vernon Coaker MP, schools minister, at the Houses of Parliament to talk about the challenges we are facing with Children's Services and the National Challenge here in Leeds. During the week, I had meetings with Stephen Parkinson, Jill Wood, Mandy Hodgskinson, Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl, corporate leadership team and the Education Leeds board. I also attended the launch of the Leeds Rugby Foundation 'Connecting Communities' project at Headingley Stadium, which aims to open up opportunities for young people from black and minority ethnic communities to get into sport. On Wednesday, colleagues had organised an 11 Million Takeover Day event where children from Moortown Primary School and Stanningley Primary School visited Merrion House to talk to me about, and help me with, some of the challenges we are facing. On Thursday, I attended the new primary headteachers' conference at Oulton Hall to talk to some great colleagues, before meeting with the school teachers review body who were visiting Leeds as part of their fieldwork. And finally on Friday, I attended the Education Leeds annual school improvement 'Learning Landscapes' conference at Elland Road, and joined Rosemary Archer and colleagues for the set up meeting for the Ofsted inspection of Children's Services.

We all know that we have the most inspected, assessed, moderated and tested education system in the world. They say that the Finnish system has cracked the code, but whilst I have my doubts, they do have some elements which are worth considering. We need to establish a clear sense of what we are trying to achieve for our children, trust our schools and teachers, and then get out of the way. I have been to some incredible learning places recently, and everywhere and wherever colleagues are releasing the magic they are trusted, talented, empowered and effective... brilliant colleagues working in schools and classrooms supported locally by focused and efficient teams releasing the magic and delivering world class outcomes.

We know what it takes to build brilliant... it's alive and well here in Leeds:
  • dynamic leadership;
  • contagious enthusiasm;
  • small and beautiful provision;
  • learning relationships;
  • passionate people;
  • wonderful learning places;
  • learning coaches; and
  • persistence and determination.

This job we do is too important for any of us to be ordinary, since you tend to get what you expect. We must all strive, each and every day, to be extraordinary, to be outstanding, to be brilliant.

Whatever you do keep the faith, take charge of your attitude... and keep calm and carry on!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Over the weekend I received details about the Commonwealth Sports awards which were held at the Royal Armouries Leeds on 24th October 2009...

Usain Bolt was the winner of the Outstanding Male Athlete 2009 - and sent a wondeful message of acceptance to the event which contained an inspiring message for the young people of Leeds. You can watch and listen to Usain's message by visiting
It's Anti-bullying week..

'The Power of Me' is a brilliant initiative which has helped us address this issue across the city working with the Anti-bullying Ambassadors and some wonderful partners who share our commitment about tackling bullying and building resilience. However, we need to work even harder to tackle bullying in Leeds and ensure that every child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.
It was great to see that Caroline Bean, one of our brilliant colleagues, was identified as this week's 'Rising Star' in the Times Educational Supplement...

Caroline Bean has worked at Garforth Green Lane Primary School for more than 20 years - almost her entire teaching career. Caroline leads Key Stage 2 at the school, as well as heading up teaching and learning in the school and spearheading the Eco Schools Action team.

The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services nominates the rising stars but anyone can send in your nominations to, including 300 words and a picture.