Friday, 27 November 2009

Cash for Kids Toy Appeal 2009

Last year over 7,000 children had a happier Christmas by receiving toys and gifts from Radio Aire and Magic 828's Cash for Kids Appeal. ...

For some of those children, without your generosity, they would have woken up on Christmas morning with nothing. The toys and gifts are distributed to Barnardo's, Candlelighters, Safe Anchor Trust, Getaway Girls, St. Vincent's, St. George's Crypt, Leeds Social Care, South and West Leeds Family Resource Centre, local refugees, all the children's wards at LGI and St James' and many many more. All gifts should be new and unwrapped. and they particularly need gifts for teenagers (13-18) and very young babies (0-3). If you would like to donate a gift, the nearest drop off point is Portland Cresent Reception at the Civic Hall . If you have a lot of donations you can arrange for a 'Christmas Convoy' on around the 10th or 18th of December to pick up your donations by contacting Ros or Kate at Radio Aire on 0113 283 5555 or by email to

This is a great cause which I hope as many people as possible will want to help.
My colleague Christine Marsden, Curriculum Development Manager at the Education Business Partnership talked to me at the Annual Lecture and told me about the Wykebeck Primary School art gallery project. I asked her to send me more so I could put it on the blog...

"Chris, On Wednesday 25th November I had the privilege of attending the Art Gallery exhibition put on by year 5/6 children from Wykebeck Primary School. The Education Business Partnership team had worked hard with the school to set up an Events Management social enterprise who decided that they wanted to show the community what the children at Wykebeck were capable of achieving and to celebrate this in a fun way. The project linked in with the topic being covered in science on life cycles. The children worked with an artist looking at work of Maurits Escher, Andy Warhol and Jean Jacques Rousseau to their own pieces using pastel, paint, collage and photography. They visited the art gallery and looked at how an exhibition is set up and how to display art which they then used to influence their own exhibition. The children voted for their best pieces which were printed as postcards and sold at the Art event. The Co-Op donated drinks and chocolate biscuits for the event, the sale of which raised money for the school Christmas activities. The Events Management team applied for a small business loan from the EBP to get them started and are looking to repay this through the sale of their postcards and other future work. The children really enjoyed the day and were proud of their achievements. They all said that they had spent more time on their work as they knew it was to be exhibited and this would be seen by others outside of school. They are now looking at how they can expand their exhibition, working with the Art gallery. Christine."

This sounds an extraordinary project and I am only sorry that I missed it. I could do with some pictures to capture the magic!
My colleague Sharon Hogan sent me this after the lecture...

"Hi Chris, First of all thanks to Education Leeds for the opportunity to hear Ken Robinson - it was a privilege of course and also to hear once again you remain so positive about young children and all those that work with them in Leeds. Quickly as i know you are so busy... a plea that the outstanding EY outcomes in July 2009 are shared wih colleagues whenever possible..this year we were 14th in the Local Authority League tables for Narrowing the Gap and in the top third of LA for a Good Level of Achievement. I know other key stages may have platued but EY is just as an important Key Stage. These assessments are conducted on over 8,000 children by EY practitioners in reception classes in Leeds schools. The outcomes of course represent the very good work with young children and families across all sectors and services. Once again many thanks for the wonderful evening Chris, Sharon."

Sharon is right that we need to recognise the importance of these results and celebrate them whenever and wherever we can. Everyone knows that education and learning is the one intervention that can most elevate our children above social disadvantage and the earlier we do this the better.
I received this e-mail from my colleague Mark Wilson, headteacher at Robin Hood Primary School...

"Hi Chris. Great conference last night... Thanks. The link to the Larry Rosenstock (High Tech High, San Diego) video that I'd said I'd send.... It's well worth a viewing. The Book Project: Briiliant Learning - 20 butterflies in Leeds. A 40 page booklet - a photograph on one page, description on the opposite page - a description of one 'quick win' pioneered/used to improve learning outcomes in one Leeds school. The book has a weblink that says 'more butterflies at X School'... with nine further butterflies on the website hosted within Evolve & using the materials that are being collected weekly for video... 200 butterflies in all. Mark."

I said at the lecture that we need to continue the conversation and this video does that and continues to challenge our ideas about what learning is and what it looks like. Mark's 'Brilliant Learning' book will also provide us with a way of sharing the magic in Leeds.

Two highly commended and yet another Award!

This evening I attended the fourth Local Government Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' Awards at the Royal Armouries....

The Awards celebrate the achievements of local authorities across the region and recognise the hard work and commitment of teams and individuals across councils, police, fire service and national park authorities. There were 165 submissions across ten categories and 46 were shortlisted. There were eleven nominations altogether from Leeds and it is brilliant that four of these came from Education Leeds!

Our four nominations were:
  • Leeds Local Education Partnership in the 'Transforming through Efficiency' category;
  • Be Smart: Use a Condom in the 'Making Connections' category;
  • Spirit Alive in the 'Building Cultural Spaces' category;
  • VI team in tthe 'Outstanding Contribution' category.

And we achieved highly commended for:

  • Leeds Local Education Partnership in the 'Transforming through Efficiency' category;
  • Be Smart: Use a Condom in the 'Making Connections' category.

And the fantastic news was that the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful VI team won the 'Outstanding Contribution' category!

Here's the whole team at our awards evening earlier this term.. talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wondeful!

It was a fantastic evening for Leeds with Paul Rogerson receiving a special award for his contribution to the leadership of the Yorkshire and the Humber region and Leeds winning the award for the authority that has made the most difference in terms of leadership and contribution to the development of Local Government in Yorkshire and Humber. Leeds was also highly commended for the Leeds Independent Living Project, the Children and Young Peoples' Participation Unit, the Breeze International Youth Festival International School Partnerships and won the Building Cultural Spaces award for Leeds City Museum's work on building community partnerships.

The evening's entertainment was provided by The Nightjars who were fantastic and by my old friend and ex-colleague Gervase Phinn who was his usual brilliant self and had everyone laughing so much that they were reduced to tears. All in all it was a great night for Leeds and Education Leeds.


Thursday, 26 November 2009

I moved on again to Cookridge Primary School to attend their International Celebration...

My colleague Jo Speak had asked me to attend and I arrived part way through their Cultural Cabaret which involved a rich blend of dance and singing from Spain, Mexico and Africa. I was particularly struck by the youngest children who were signing and signing to Spanish songs. The older children also sang 'Drop in the Ocean' which is one of my favourites. A colleague from the British Council had travelled up from London to present Stuart Tomlinson, the headteacher, with its 'International School Award' and I was asked to present Young Global Citizen of Cookridge Primary School Awards to a group of young people who had made a significant contribution already in the school. It was a great afternoon celebrating some incredible work at the school and everyone who attended had a wonderful time.
I moved on to Mill Field Primary School where Stephen Watkins and his team are releasing a very special magic...

Stephen and his colleagues have managed the transition brilliantly to create a great school working closely with families and the community it serves. The atmosphere around the school is positive, the learning environment is attractive with a focus on children's work. Stephen and his team are working relentlessly to improve standards, particularly in reading and writing and at Key Stage 2, and improving attendance building on the real strength in the Early Years and Foundation Stage and the outstanding care, guidance and support the children receive at the school. This is a happy, safe and successful little school doing great work in its community.
I started the day early having breakfast with a group of headteacher colleagues at John Smeaton Commuinity College...

The Seacroft Manston Family of Schools headteachers are an amazing group of colleagues doing brilliant work with children and families against a background of poverty, disadvantage and ill-health in these highly mobile and complex communities. We considered 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 and safeguarding with so many intiatives, 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, on quality provision 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. 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.


At the end of an extraordinary day I attended the fifth Education Leeds Annual Lecture and doesn't seem a year since we were listening to Mick Waters or two years since we had Tim Brighouse or four years since Alan November delivered the first lecture at the Royal Armouries...

We all know that at it's brilliant best provision and services here in Leeds are outstanding; are simply world class and you don't have to believe me simply talk to the constant stream of visitors from DCSF, OFSTED, NCSL, TDA, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Stockholm, Helsinki, Brno who are blown away by our new buildings, our provision, the materials and projects, our schools, our children and young people and our colleagues. And as I looked around the hall yesterday evening I could see the reason why provision in Leeds is so outstanding…

The lecture was an opportunity to refresh and rethink, to renew and re-imagine and to go into 2010 to continue to change the world and release the enormous potential and magic in our teams, our schools, our colleagues, our children and young people, our families and our communities. We need extraordinary colleagues to continue to build brilliant; to bravely and boldly go where we’ve never been and that is why we invited Sir Ken Robinson to give the Education Leeds Annual Lecture.

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with governments across the world, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies and some of the worlds leading cultural organisations. In 1998 he led the UK national commission on creativity, education and the economy and published ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’. He was knighted in 2003 for services to the arts and education. His latest book ‘The Element’ explores natural talent and personal passion, inspiration and achievement.

Thanks to Sir Ken Robinson, thanks to the team at Savilles, thanks to Dee Reid and the rest of my colleagues who made the evening possible and thanks to all of you who came and made it such a great evening.
Keep the faith!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I started the day early at Yeadon Westfield Infant School...

It was wonderful to visit this great little school and talk to Anne Parker, the headteacher, and some of her talented colleagues. Anne's vision, determination and hard work have created a wonderful learning environment for her children and developed an experienced and enthusiastic learning team who are clearly releasing something very special at the school. We need to do something about the enormous puddle which sits outside their nursery provision... makes the pirate ship look lovely surrounded as it is by a sea of water! School food is also a real success story with around 80% of the children having a school dinner and the fantastic school cook producing great food and working hard to locally source fruit, vegetables and meat... an example for other schools to follow.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

My colleague Steve Ruse, Sustainable Schools Consultant in our Leeds Healthy Schools and Wellbeing Team sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, Two Leeds schools have recently achieved the Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) Silver Award and as such deserve some recognition, perhaps a letter of congratulations from yourself would be appropriate. The Food for Life Partnership co-ordinators have also acknowledged the contribution of the Leeds Catering and Cleaning Services for working with the schools to ensure that FFLP Silver criteria has been achieved for the school meals. Mandy Snaith heads up that service and reports to Julie Meakin. Silver schools serve school meals on plates, not flight trays, and a range of locally sourced and organic items are served. All chicken, bacon and sausages served are Freedom Food certified or free range and no fish from unsustainable sources is served. The school has a cooking club, and pupils get to cook with and eat the produce grown in the school growing area. Parents and the wider community get involved in food education via food-themed events. There are only 22 schools in England that have achieved the Silver award and therefore this is a fantastic achievement! Details of the schools and teams involved are as follows:
  • Middleton Primary School - Samantha Williams (Head) and Katy Skelton (teacher) are the FFLP leads in school. Sheila Hunt is the Business Manager and has been very involved in FFLP. The school cook is Sandra Ballantyne.
  • Pudsey Primrose Hill Primary School - Lesley West (Head), Sarah Alderson (Assistant Head) and Kathryn Dickson (Assistant Head). Sonia (surnname not advised) is the school cook.

Regards, Steve"

It is great to hear about the brilliant work Sam and Lesley and their teams are doing to improve school food and drink working with the 'Food for Life Partnership'. They are part of a very exclusive club having achieved the Silver Award.


Monday, 23 November 2009

This afternoon I attended the Yorkshire Bank's 150th Anniversary Community Awards presentation event...

I had attended the launch event in June for the Yorkshire Bank's 150th Anniversary Community Awards which were focused in four key areas; environment, volunteering, regeneration and education and I was delighted to be asked to attend this afternoon's event to present the education awards. In each category the winning project received £10,000 with four runners up each receiving £5,000. A further twenty awards of £1,000 were made. The overall winning project also received a further £10,000.

It was a brilliant evening for Leeds..
  • Lineham Farm Children's Centre won the environment award;
  • Growing Zone Group from Kippax won the volunteering award;

  • Caudwell Children from Stoke on Trent won the regeneration award with Harehills Youth in Partnership achieving one of the runners up awards;

  • Lancashire Education Business Partnership won the education award; and finally

  • Caudwell Children won the overall award.

It was a wonderful way to recognise Yorkshire Bank's 150th by supporting charities and voluntary groups in these four key areas and fantastic that three Leeds organisations received major awards.


"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today.
It's already tomorrow in Australia."
Charles M Schulz
I had lunch with Gary Lamb, lead inspector and his team as they started the OFSTED inspection of safeguarding and looked-after children's services here in Leeds. It was reassuring to meet the colleagues carrying out the inspection and to start to establish a relationship which will, as always, help us do even better for our children and young people; particularly the most vulnerable, the most special and those who need us most. Roll on next Friday!
"I am an optimist.
It doesn't seem too much use being anything else."
Winston Churchill
It was another busy week at the office as we prepared for the visit by our friends from OFSTED. We need to remember that whatever the next two weeks bring the challenges will remain driving up standards, improving outcomes, addressing the needs of targeted individuals and groups of young people, narrowing the gap, and challenging and engaging those not in education, employment and training...

The real questions and challenges are:
  • how do we improve learning outcomes for all our young people?
  • how do we create provision that delivers significantly better learning outcomes for target groups of young people?
  • how do we tackle the common factors that impact on so many of our young people?

Last week was anti-bullying week and enterprise week, and we also had the annual Big STEPS Celebration Event at the Civic Hall before the Standards Meeting with colleagues from National Strategies and Government Office. I attended a briefing session on the OFSTED Inspection of Safeguarding and Looked-after Children as well as contributing to the Safer Leeds Inspection by the National Policing Inspection Authority. We held the National and International Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month Storytelling and 'O Baro Dive' Awards at the Civic Hall with visitors from across the country before I went to this week's Corporate Leadership Team meeting. On Wednesday, I visited the site where we’re building a brilliant new home for Bankside Primary School, travelling from the school to the Fir Tree site where half the school is currently working. On Thursday I had breakfast with new headteacher colleagues before visiting Woodkirk High School Specialist Science College and dropping in on the Anti-bullying Ambassadors Information Day at Leeds Metropolitan University. I ended the day at the wonderful Looked-after Children Celebration at the Civic Hall. On Friday, Children in Need: Do Something Different day, there was a great fundraising effort across Education Leeds, which included everything from cake sales to a special Education Leeds version of the Weakest Link. Over £1200 had been raised by the end of the day so thanks to everyone who made the special effort in what was already a challenging week. I also attended the Annual Leeds Governors' Conference at the Village Hotel before another Staff Induction Session at the Derek Fatchett Centre. And finally I ended the week at the Leeds City Council Awards for Excellence event at the Town Hall.

Everyone expects so much... as we drive and guide the school system in Leeds towards improved performance and better outcomes for every child and every young person we must...

  • Think, reflect, research, analyse and learn;
  • Be visible, accessible and available;
  • Walk the talk and constantly connect with colleagues;
  • Tell stories; celebrate, praise and challenge;
  • Teach, coach and model behaviours you want to see;
  • Get a life... live, love and regularly escape; and
  • Do things to make people feel special.

I am grateful to all those colleagues who put in that little bit extra and went the extra mile last week. We must use this opportunity and the visit by OFSTED to further develop and re-imagine our systems, processes and provision and be brave enough to ask ourselves the difficult questions about why things are currently not working around some of our young people and what we can do to ensure that there is step change in outcomes for all those young people who are hardest to reach, hardest to teach and hardest to engage.

We all know that this climate of higher and higher accountability increases the weight of the expectations facing all of us and as always the stakes are high. The biggest challenge lies in how we develop learning leadership; connect with student learning and student voice, and then mobilise the energy and commitment of all our partners and stakeholders. This challenge involves all of us working together and releasing the potential and the power of our TEAM!

So...whatever you do, do something, and whatever you do be happy, keep healthy and stay safe.

Fantastic News!

My colleague Scott Jacques, National Strategies Advisor for ICT in our School Improvement
Team sent me this e-mail...

"Hi Chris, Just thought I'd share with you some fantastic news from the end of last week. Two Leeds primary schools won national recognition for their use of technologies for learning at the BECTA ICT Excellence Awards in Bristol. Added to this, RM also won an award for their support for schools, including their work with BSF in Leeds. The two winning primary schools were Alwoodley Primary, who won the national Primary Learning Experience Award and Robin Hood Primary School who won the national Leadership, Management and Collaboration award This is a wonderful achievement for both these schools and recognises the outstanding work in the area of ICT that Jane Langley and Mark Wilson and their respective teams are doing. Leeds was the only local authority to have schools win more than one award, so to have two, plus the recognition of RM's work in Leeds, was something special. You can see the very high quality of the competition plus more information about the Leeds winners at:
Regards, Scott."

It is great to have the ICT work going on across Leeds recognised like this and for Alwoodley and Robin Hood Primary Schools to fly the flag for Leeds. Congratulations to our colleagues and partners at RM!