Saturday, 5 December 2009

I spent most of the morning with Ed Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families...

Ed and I were attending the Labour LEA Governors Conference at the Civic Hall chaired by Cllr Dowson and Cllr Mulherin. There were about twenty governors there and Ed talked about the national picture while I talked about our local successes and the challenges we still face. It was an interesting start to the weekend.

Friday, 4 December 2009

This morning I attended the 'Progression to Post-16 and Higher Education in Inner South Leeds' dissemination event at the new Hillside Centre in Beeston...

Dr Paul Sharp had conducted the research and produced the report which he summarised for the invited audience.A young student in her third year at Leeds University studying law talked about how she had enjoyed her time at Hugh Gaitskell Primary School, Cockburn Community College and Notre Dame Sixth Form College. I talked about the keys to brilliant outcomes for young people, families and communities; people, places, attitude and partnership.

The report and the event generally emphsised the need to do more to target our resources to ensure that young people and their families in deprived communities achieve basic skills, have high expectations and high self-esteem.
I received this e-mail from my colleague Laura Wilson, Senior Admissions Officer and wanted to share it with you...

‘We turn not older with years, but newer every day’
Emily Dickinson

"Hi Chris, I was decorating the Admissions & Transport team section of the 10th floor on Tuesday for Christmas and was discussing with my colleagues the fact that another year is over. We’re already one third in to the academic year and this year, like previous years, we expect to place some 22,000 school children in to schools in Leeds – whether that be mid-year or through the annual process for Year 7 and Reception for September 2010. We will also process approximately 6,000 applications from children and young people for help with transport to school or college. Every one of those applications is precious to us. Every child is dealt with individually. And this, understandably, takes time and effort and patience. I know that we can only achieve this because of the fantastic, talented and conscientious team that we have here at Admissions & Transport. And as Christmas is a time to be thankful, I am certainly thankful for my team mates – my colleagues. I am proud to work with such a diverse, hardworking, good humoured and kind group of people. Abdul Jalloh, our New Arrivals Officer, always says to new recruits ‘Welcome to our family!’ and he is right – we do work together like a family. Sometimes we may quarrel and may dispute with each other about what action is right, what path to take when confronted with something new or uncertain, but we do it because we care, because it matters to us about getting it right for families in Leeds.

I grew up in Leeds, I went to three Leeds schools, but never until I worked here did I realise what a multicultural city Leeds is. I was closed off from reality as a young person and only when I came to this team did I see how such a mix of ages, experiences, cultures and backgrounds could really work together to achieve fantastic things, things that a lot of people don’t see. I can honestly say that in the two and a half years I have been here I have never laughed so much or learned so much in my life. I do grow newer every day. Let me close by saying that I am thankful also for members of our extended family. Amy Williamson and Caron Tribble from Choice Advice, Steve Byrne at Parent Partnership, Jon Molton from Data Management, Jenny Marshall at PMIT, Bev Lloyd, Carl Whalley and Stephanie Rayford from Communications, Camille Wilkinson and Emma Mayhall on Merrion’s Reception who assist us in our work to reach these fantastic outcomes. I hope that this email serves as a small glimmer of something positive in weeks that have proved to be quite trying at Education Leeds. I look forward to 2010 knowing that the rest of my team grow newer with me and that we can only build upon the successes of this term so far. Regards, Laura."

As we face more and more criticism of Children's Services, it is really encouraging to remember and know what a great job Laura, Viv and colleagues are doing.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

This evening I attended the Memorial Celebration Evening at Farnley Park Maths and Computer College in memory of Dr Bill Pullen...
The evening was introduced by Phil McEvoy, Acting Headteacher at Farnley Park Maths and Computer College, and included brilliant performances by some of their talented young people; Charlotte Wainwright sang 'Footprints in the Sand', Oakley Pilotile performed a street dance called 'Down' and Lauren Brady sang 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow'. I had seen Oakley dance before with his sister when we opened Lower Wortley Primary School's new PFI building.

We have all been privileged to know Bill and his death is a sad, sad loss to education and learning in Leeds. Colleagues have talked to me of his commitment, his confidence and his expertise. But for me he was a man of passion, pace and purpose… thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate and with a deep sense of social justice. Our colleague Bill Pullen, took up the post of Headteacher at Farnley Park in September, 2005 after being Deputy Headteacher at Benton Park School. He also worked at Huntington School in York, Whitley Bay High School in North Tyneside and Allertonshire School in North Yorkshire.

Bill was one of those colleagues who could take your breath away; a giant of a man with a charismatic and friendly style and he will be sadly missed by us all... Farnley Park, West Leeds, Leeds and the world of education and learning have lost a remarkable human being and the world is a sadder and less special place without him. His family have asked us to support a charity Bill was passionate about; the 'House of Love Scholarship Programme' sponsors children to attend school in Uganda. You can find out more by visiting
This afternoon I attended the 'Talking Heads! Community Art Project' celebrating the International Day of Disabled People at Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre...

The project was funded by the Equality Team at Leeds City Council working with Leeds Museums and Galleries and Education Leeds Visually Impaired Team. This wonderful project involved children with visual impairment from across the city working with Seagulls community artists to create decorated heads based on the bust of Colonel North who gave Kirkstall Abbey to the people of Leeds. It was wonderful to talk to the children about the project. They all received certificates and goody bags from Cllr Richard Brett, Leader of the Council.

Their artwork will be on display in Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre for the next six month.
Following the Annual Lecture with Sir Ken Robinson, I was talking to Dirk about how we re-engineer our provision to encourage and support all our young people...

We do need to think differently about how we engage young people in learning; how we develop our young people as passionate and powerful learners; how we get young people to understand that the keys to success are attitude, discipline and hard work.

Interestingly we know what works; what makes the difference...
  • Opening early with breakfast.
  • 'Every Child a Reader'.
  • 'Every Child Counts'.
  • Brilliant teaching.
  • Singing.
  • Coaching.
  • Mentoring.
  • Small nurture groups.
  • Study support.
  • Family support through STEPS.
  • Enterprise activities.
  • Sport and activity.
  • Laughter.

What else works?


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I went to Carlton Primary School this evening...

The school was celebrating their brilliant new hall and classrooms extension with the Rothwell Temperance Band, their choir and their School Council. The School Council started the evening by talking about the Time Capsule they had created so that anyone discovering it in the future would know what it was like being a student at Carlton Primary School in 2009. The choir were brilliant and were accompanied, for some of their songs, by the Rothwell Temperance Band who were outstanding. The new hall and classrooms are fantastic additions to the school and the builders have done an excellent job to create such bright, airy and spacious areas.

This is a really good little school with a talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful teaching and learning team doing a great job and releasing something very special with some wonderful young people. It is one of those schools where you see happy, healthy, safe and successful in practice and it's magic!

The visit was the highlight of my week.
After the induction session I attended this week I received this wonderful bit of feedback from my colleague Jenny Sebright, who is an Education Officer in the West Leeds Youth Offending Service...

"Good Morning Chris, I met you yesterday at the Corporate Induction and I am taking you up on the offer of contacting you! I wanted to let you know that with all honesty I wasn't sure what the Induction would be like and how relevant I would find it. I was very wrong. I left feeling inspired and motivated. Not only by yourself but by Karen Cooper. I now feel I am part of a very successful team in terms of the whole of Education Leeds. As I am based in another service it is easy to feel unconnected to the wider service that I belong to and I am now excited by the challenges that faces me within the Youth Offending Service and working with schools and family's to ensure that Young Offenders receive an education. I have also in the last week put my name forward to be a parent governor at my sons school where he has recently joined in the Nursery so I am even more excited to be part of his Education and hope that I am successful in becoming a Governor. I am now looking forward with new and refreshed motivation to my new job with Education Leeds and will be following your blog with interest! Regards, Jenny."

It is great to get feedback from colleagues so we know what is working well and what we can do to improve and develop what we are doing here at Education Leeds.

More Good News!

I received some more good news this afternoon from my colleague Maqsood Sheikh...

"We should live our lives on this planet by following the secret to making perfect footprints in sand...... tread lightly, taking every step with care, leave your imprint without any lasting damage".

"Hi Chris, Just thought you’d be interested to know that as well as the Ofsted inspectors starting their onsite inspection on 23 November, we also had our external Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) auditors from BVQI carrying out their surveillance visit that same afternoon. The visit was an opportunity for us to showcase some of the areas of good environmental practice within the organisation. The auditor, Jonathan Wallace, met with: Alex Macleod and Victoria Stewart from our PFI Programme Management team to look at the way we manage PFI school contracts; Tony Palmer, David Ingham and James Saunders in Estate Management to talk about what we are doing to meet Zero Carbon School targets; and Steve Ruse in Health Initiatives about the Leeds Sustainable Schools Programme. Thanks to these colleagues, no non-conformances were raised by the auditor, and the visit was a success. This means that we continue to retain our EMAS accreditation. As part of the visit, Liz White and I also presented our Environmental Sustainability Statement to Jonathan, which, as you know, sets out our commitment to looking after the environment. Thanks for agreeing to support the delivery of our commitments in the statement, and I will be in touch with you over the next couple of weeks about supporting the recruitment of Environmental Champions from across Education Leeds.
Best Wishes, Maqsood."

It is brilliant to see colleagues in Education Leeds setting an example in terms of EMAS and that we are moving forward with Environmental Champions across the company. Remember..."Take only photographs, leave only footprints."

On 11 November 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...
It was great to spend some time with such wonderful young people.
I moved on to the West Park Centre for Headteacher Forum...

What always surprises me is the talent that turns up at these meetings. This meeting was really well chaired by Martin Fleetwood and was attended by some brilliant headteachers who as well as running great schools gave up some more of their time to share, network and learn. I am always impressed with the colleagues I work with from our schools. We have developed great teamwork and brilliant understanding here in Leeds and our headteachers are an amazing bunch... innovative, creative and imaginative and determined to do things their way because they passionately believe that it works for children and young people. We talked about how we can share more of the magic across schools and within schools to ensure that everything we do is outstanding.


I started the day at Little London Community Primary School for the Education Leeds Board Meeting...

It was great to be able to visit the school for the Board Meeting and to be able to show Board Members around the school with Jill Wood, headteacher. This little school is doing something extraordinary at the heart of the Little London community and everyone was deeply impressed at what we saw; the learning environment is brilliant, the children are wonderful, the school colleagues were fantastic and Jill was just Jill!

Christmas Party!

Sadly, Christmas has been cancelled due to a lack of interest...
We have had to cancel this year's Education Leeds Christmas Party. Thanks to those colleagues who have worked so hard to organise and arrange for us to have a Christmas Party. Sorry to everyone who was hoping to come and have a great time. Maybe next year!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I attended another of our induction sessions this lunchtime at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet some great new colleagues who bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience. They are some of our most positive, committed and enthusiastic colleagues since they have recently made the choice to join the 'A' team. The group were young, talented and gorgeous and were everything you would want in new colleagues.

Everyone of us, along with our children and young people, needs to be happy, healthy and safe to be increasingly successful. We need to continue to develop strong and highly effective leadership and a 'can do anything' culture that releases their potential, their magic, their passion and targets their hard work to make a real difference for our children and young people. We all need to coach, support and work with these new colleagues to release their potential and magic.

Remember that each of you is unique!

A friend sent me this fantastic quote to cheer me up while we struggle with the OFSTED inspection of safeguarding and looked-after children's services here in Leeds...

"We have every reason to look forward into the future with hope and excitement. Fear nothing and no one. Work honestly. Be good, be happy. And remember that each of you is unique, your soul your own, irreplaceable, and individual in the miracle of your mortal frame."
Pearl S. Buck (Walsh): 1892-1973; Nobel Prize Laureate
The truth is that whatever this week brings we will all be here next week, working with and for our children, their families and their communities to ensure that they are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!
My colleague Helen Gibson Davies sent me this last night...

"Hello again Chris. We at Calverley Parkside are still singing and having fun with our music! We joined thousands of other children at Sheffield Arena on the 24th Nov to take part in the Young Voices concert. I took 38, Y5 and 6 children and four staff and we had a fantastic experience. Lots of parents made the journey and enjoyed every moment with us. This was a once in a lifetime experience for the children and one that will linger in their memories long after SATS results have faded! I love my job, I love being with the children, I love singing and making music with them and I sometimes despair of the political football that education is! But we all battle on trying our best and really caring about the children in our care. That is why we have so many children who return to visit us when they have moved on; they miss us they say!All I need is happy children who love to come to school and parents who think our school is great! Helen."

Helen is right all our primary schools should be magical places full of the WOW factor; places where every child should sing, dance, read, count, play and create. Keep up the great work Helen.


Monday, 30 November 2009

I picked up a copy of 'We Are The People We've Been Waiting For' in the Guardian on Saturday. I managed to watch it this evening...

"The world is changing rapidly but our education system is not keeping pace."

The film is an independent documentary, inspired and guided by Lord Puttnam and Sir Michael Barber, which explores the education system in the UK. The film follows five young people and asks whether our current system provides young people with the opportunity to develop their talents and abilities. Sir Richard Branson, Professor Germaine Greer, Henry Winkler, Bill Bryson and Sir Ken Robinson share their personal experiences in this thought-provoking film which offers us all a unique insight and reveals a very inconvenient truth about education. Everyone who cares about education and learning should watch this film which you can find at

The film argues for a strong investment in teaching and learning where we respect and trust colleagues to inspire young people but also argues for a new pedagogy of learning that values flexibility, creativity and alternative ways of doing things. It argues that we need to re-imagine teaching and learning and to re-invent the curriculum to unlock the potential and magic in each and every learner. We need to consider what is possible and how we reach all our young people through more experimental approaches. We need a new generation of teachers to coach, guide and support our young learners and to make better use of technology to stretch and challenge and connect with young peoples interests.

This is the basis of the Dalton method and the Kunskapsskolan approach where we personalise and customise learning to meet the needs of each and everyone of our unique learners. We will always need great teachers to teach great lessons but these must be surrounded by a sea of opportunities which individual learners can access, adapt and use to reach their personal goals.
Happy to discuss.
This afternoon Ros Vahey, Dirk Gilleard and I met with Margaret Farrow HMI...

Margaret was interviewing us about our contribution to safeguarding and the educational outcomes of our looked after children. Ros, Dirk and I talked about the universal offer we make here in Leeds and its' critical importance to safeguarding. We looked at the range of targeted and focused initiatives we have developed from 'The Power of Me', 'Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month', the 'Stephen Lawrence Education Standard', the 'Inclusion Chartermark', 'Investors in Pupils', Leeds Healthy Schools, 'Stepping Stones', 'Leeds Mentoring' and the 'Virtual School for Looked After Children'.

We also talked about the outcomes we have achieved including a 10% increase for looked after children at the end of Key Stage 2 and a significant improvement for our looked after children at the end of Key Stage 4. We have also seen improvements in attendance and reductions in fixed term exclusions and feedback from our young people indicates that bullying is being reduced and tackled here in Leeds.
I moved on to Harewood CE Primary School...

I was there to talk about how we further develop the school site to meet the needs of 21st Century Schools.
I sgtrted the day early at a meeting with Health and Safety Executive...

We were discussing what we should do to ensure that every school's construction work is carried out safely and that headteachers are trained and supported with this work. It is vitally important that we remember that headteachers hould be great at what they do best... teaching and learning... and should engage people who are great at project management to oversee and monitor the construction work on school sites. This is to ensure that no Leeds headteacher ends up facing a charge of corporate manslaughter because they failed to follow health and safety legislation.

We'll be letting schools know about the training and the new procedures as soon as possible.
We need to continue to reflect, think, focus and stick to the basics... vision, discipline, focus, passion, engagement, creativity, partnerships, relationships and leadership. We must continue to nurture and support our learning teams to ensure that they continue to deliver for our children and young people so that every child is a reader and can count by seven, every child is a brilliant little learner by eleven and every young person is on a pathway to success by sixteen; whatever it takes...

This last week has been non stop; lunch with the OFSTED inspectors followed by the Yorkshire Bank 150th Anniversary Community Awards to present the education awards. Then Children's Services Leadership Team and Corporate Leadership Team before a visit to Yeadon Westfield Infant School and a meeting with Cabinet to look at the agenda for December's Executive Board Meeting before Sir Ken Robinson gave the fifth Education Leeds Annual Lecture at The Royal Armouries. Breakfast with the Seacroft Manston Family of Schools at John Smeaton Community College was followed by a visit to Millfield Primary School and a visit to Cookridge Primary School for their international celebration before I attended the Local Government Yorkshire and Humber Making a Difference Awards 2009. And finally a meeting with Leadership Team before meeting with Hilary Benn MP. What a week!

We need to ensure that we don't end up 'painting by numbers' in a world monitored, policed and controlled by the 'bean' counters and the 'keep within the line' checkers and the 'weigh the pig' consultants and that we avoid being trapped in a viscious spiral of negativity, of 'it's not good enough so let's do something else', of 'let's create another initiative', of 'let's get more consultants' and of 'let's make sure that we find someone to blame'.

Sir Ken Robinson reminded us all that these are dangerous times for those of us who understand that learning is a dynamic and creative process and that the current industrial model of schooling and 'command and control' doesn't work. To achieve transformational outcomes and to release the magic we need to do things differently; we need colleagues in schools facing the greatest challenges to feel trusted, empowered and supported to develop innovative and powerful ways of reaching and engaging learners!

We need to re-imagine learning for a digital age, as Dan Pink said "The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind... computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind - creators and empathisers, pattern recognisers and meaning makers. These people - artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers - will now reap society's richest rewards and share its greatest joys."

We need to continue the conversation and build learning places to deliver this new vision.