Saturday, 12 December 2009

We are doing brilliant work here in Leeds developing global citizens and a strong and vibrant international dimension to the curriculum. I was pleased that colleagues sent me this e-mail from John Rolfe at the British Council...

"Dear all, Haringey's Children and Young People's Implementation Plan makes a fantastic commitment to supporting the international dimensions of teaching and learning. See page 28; Priority 8: Develop Global Citizens: ECM – Making a Positive Contribution.
Best wishes, John."

We need to carefully consider this as we further develop our Children and Young People's Plan.

Friday, 11 December 2009

I moved on again to Beeston Primary School where Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, was visiting to look at the work Barclays Bank were doing...

Beeston Primary School is a great school and Chris Lees, headteacher, and his team are doing an amazing job and releasing real magic with some fantastic young people. Barclays and others have helped the school really develop their environment and their financial literacy skills.
I moved on to the Leadership Forum meeting at the Leeds City Museum...

It was great to be able to spend some time with some great colleagues who are responsible for making Education Leeds success a successful organisation. I talked about people and places, opportunities and challenges and persistence, determination and hard work. We need to re-imagine the offer we make our schools in the same way that schools are having to re-imagine the offer they make their children and students. Organisations will change over the next few years with elections and the budget reshaping everything we do but brilliant people will always be there ensuring that our values and beliefs drive a learning system where by seven every child knows the difference between right and wrong, is a reader, can count, play, sing, dance and create; by eleven every child is a brilliant little learner experiencing a rich, vibrant, exciting and creative curriculum and by sixteen every young person is in charge of their own learning journey, has high expectations, high self-esteem and is on a pathway to success... whatever it takes!
I started the day early being interviewed on Radio Leeds by Andrew Edwards...

Radio Leeds were following up the front page Yorkshire Evening Post story from yesterday about how we have been managing the provision for our increasing reception age children. I talked about the challange we face with 600 additional reception age children arriving in our schools but also stressed that this was an opportunity to expand and develop great primary provision in popular and successful schools..We certainly live in interesting times!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

I finished the day at the Leeds West Academy...

I had been invited to their production of Sweet Charity which was great. It was wonderful to see the place packed for this ambitious production. The young woman playing charity was fantastic and clearly has a great future ahead of her.
I moved on to the NE SILC at West Oaks to officially open their brilliant new interactive zone...

West Oaks School has specialist status as a Technology College, Leading Edge and Applied Learning school and was recently inspected under the new OFSTED framework and was judged to be a good school with outstanding features in this new and challenging inspection framework.

OFSTED also acknowledged some of the school's national work through their leading edge partnerships and the fact that Technology status has “enabled the development of some exemplary provision. An example of this is the impressive interactive zone, which has contributed outstandingly to the curriculum” and it was brilliant to be asked to officially open this cutting edge facility.
I opened the Education Leeds/RM EVOLVE Transforming Technology Conference this morning at the Queen's Hotel...

Colleagues from Becta also presented alongside schools pioneering great things. It was particularly interesting to see the new Evolve site which is a menu of ideas and services for schools in Leeds that w hope will support and guide the journey towards the effective use of technology for learning. The whole concept of Evolve is inspiring and the new Evolve site which was launched today has "butterflies" of brilliant practice which are well worth a view. I am looking forward to watching this site develop in the coming months as more butterflies of brilliant things from across Leeds schools are added.
A friend shared this quote with me today at the Children's Services Scrutiny Board meeting...

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter."

Martin Luther King

It reminded me of the Goethe quote “things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least” and made me think about what does and doesn't really matter if we are serious about our children and young people being happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.

I would welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Another day, another Executive Board meeting...

We covered a huge agenda including the Audit Commission's Area Assessment and the OFSTED Children's Services Annual Rating. Our papers were on on Building Schools for the Future , the transfer of responsibilities from the Learning and Skills Council to the Local Authority, consultation on increasing admission limits at another group of Leeds primary schools, consultation on tranferring the West SILC base from Farnley Park High School to Bruntcliffe High School, outcomes for looked-after Children and Children's Services governance arrangements.

All in all, an interesting day at the office!

More Brilliant News!

I have just had an e-mail from my colleague Anne Cowling who leads the Leeds Healthy School and Wellbeing Programme...

"Dear Chris, We've just officially confirmed that Wendy Kershaw and the healthy schools team have now met the LPSA2 stretch target for Leeds: 95% schools achieve healthy school status by December 2009. Many thanks, Anne."

This is brilliant news and reflects an enormous amount of hard work. Congratulations to everyone involved in Anne's team and in the schools.


I am really sorry that I missed the Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Concert last night at the Town Hall. My colleague Rehana Minhas, Director for Equality and Entitlement, did get there and copied me into this e-mail she had sent Paul Kaiserman and the Artforms team...

"Dear Paul and the brilliant team at ArtForms, Congratulations on last nights Leeds Schools Music Christmas Festival Concert. It was a wonderful evening and the musicians were phenomenal. The Orchestra from Soweto "The Melodi Music Trust" were magical and their performance from Mozart's Overture, the Magic Flute, together with the South African National Anthem were both a joy to the ears and brought an interesting addition to a very traditional Christmas carol concert. Best wishes. Rehana."

Christmas is coming and it is wonderful to spend time listening to young children perform at this very magical time of year. Make sure that you catch some of the magic.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

You may have seen the front page of the Yorkshire Post today or looked at the DSCF website where it details the intervention the DCSF are making here in Leeds and the threat of more to come if the OFSTED inspection result highlights more concerns...

We all need to stay positive, optimistic, calm and focussed during what are undoubtedly interesting times - travelling through very dangerous shark-infested waters, surrounded by crocodile-infested swamps. We have been inspected, scrutinised, examined, and reviewed…. and they have gone and we’re still here doing whatever it takes to transform outcomes for the children and young people in Leeds. The DCSF confirmed yesterday the announcement of an Improvement Board for Leeds children’s services with Bill McCarthy as the independent chair. Tomorrow we have the publication of the annual rating of children’s services which says that Leeds children's services is performing poorly; the worst category. However, the report goes on to say that the majority of services here in Leeds are good or better.

We don’t yet know the outcome of the council’s review of children’s services and the announced inspection result won’t be published until January. What we do know is that here at Education Leeds we are surrounded by talented, passionate and committed colleagues who come to work every day believing that they can make a difference and we have the evidence that we are. We know that inspections and reviews will come and go, but deep and long-lasting change and progress is achieved through the everyday actions of the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues in our teams and in our schools. We know that we have already achieved remarkable things together and that no matter what happens over the next few weeks we will still be passionate about Leeds; still be creative and imaginative; and still look for ways to achieve better outcomes for all our children and young people and their families.

Yes, these are interesting times; yes these are difficult and challenging times and I am deeply grateful to you for your continued support. It is more important than ever that we continue to think and act team and look after each other. As always, I’m here if you need to talk.
Keep the faith

Monday, 7 December 2009

I went to Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School this afternoon to talk to the talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who work there...

They were concerned about the transition to the new school which will serve the Richmond Hill community from Easter 2012. We discussed how Education Leeds could work with the two schools to build trust and confidence with families and the community about the future and to manage provision during the five terms after Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School closes at the end of the academic year.
I started the day early with some of the Leeds Secondary Headteachers at Weetwood Hall. As we approach the end of yet another manic term it was reassuring to see so many secondary headteacher colleagues had managed to prioritise the morning together...

We had a brief video and presentation on '360 People' by Kathryn Burns, Chief Executive of 360 People and an input by Peter Roberts, Chief Executive and Principal of Leeds City College who talked about the parnership working around 14 - 19 confederations we are establishing across the city. Peter Laurence then talked about the work he is doing with Dorothy Smith and headteacher colleagues to develop new models of leadership in a 21st Century world, the progress with 14+ Area Partnership Working through confederations and shared some initial findings from an audit of headteacher roles and responsibilities in a Children's Services world.

Dirk Gilleard tells me that the workshop sessions after the break went very well. There were sessions focused on 'improving learning outcomes' led by Andrea Barnes, headteacher at Wetherby High School, and 'monitoring, tracking and improving performance' led by Andy Goulty, headteacher at Rodillian High School and the 'implementation of Rarely Cover' led by Ken Hall, headteacher at Priesthorpe High School.

We do need to think how we get all the secondary headteachers to these important sessions; the suggestions of cash incentives is something we must explore!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

This last week has once again been non stop and whatever the next couple of weeks bring we need to continue to stick to the basics. We must continue to nurture and support our colleagues to ensure that they continue to deliver for our children and young people, their families and communities. To build world class provision here in Leeds, every one of them needs to feel supported, trusted, valued and cared for, particularly those facing the greatest challenges and working in the most deprived communities...

This has been the second and, thankfully, the final week of the OFSTED inspection of safeguarding and looked-after children's services in Leeds and Dirk Gilleard, Ros Vahey and I met with the colleague leading on standards for the team. I also met with colleagues from the Health and Safety Executive to talk about how we ensure that headteachers are trained and supported to oversee construction work on their school sites following an accident earlier this year. I also attended Corporate Leadership Team, Education Leeds Board and Headteacher Forum.

I managed to squeeze in another staff induction session as well as attending the official opening of the brilliant new hall and classrooms at Carlton Primary School. I popped in to the 'Talking Heads' event celebrating the International Day of Disabled People at Kirkstall Abbey's visitor centre before attending the very moving and inspiring Memorial Celebration for Bill Pullen at Farnley Park High School. And finally I attended and talked at the event to publicise the research into 'Progression to Post-16 and Higher Education in Inner South Leeds' at Hillside in Beeston before attending the feedback session by the OFSTED team.

I attended a brilliant session a couple of weeks ago where an Australian academic talked about the fact that inspection reports are only valid if, faced with the evidence and applying intelligent analysis to the context and the reality on the ground, we would all come to the same conclusions and would all recognise the picture painted of practice, provision and outcomes. These are dangerous times for those of us who work in and with the most challenging and deprived communities; with children and families living in poverty; with the challenges around worklessness, ill-health, migration, anti-social behaviour and disengagement from learning. To achieve transformational outcomes and to release the magic we need to be brave not frightened; fearless not timid; confident not confused. We all understand that we need to do things differently to reach the marginalised and the hard to reach and to do this we need colleagues in schools facing the greatest challenges to feel challenged but also, more importantly, to feel trusted, empowered and supported.

We must never be complacent about the challenges we face and what we still have to do to ensure that every child is happy, healthy, safe and successful. But as we move into the run up to Christmas we must all remember and celebrate the quite extra-ordinary things we are doing here in schools across Leeds. We are doing a brilliant job... and don't believe anyone who says anything different!
My colleague Ken Campbell, Stepping Stones Programme Manager in the Aimhigher team here at Education Leeds sent me this...

"Hi Chris, I am attaching a letter from Sophia, a former pupil of Parklands HS. The experience of attending the programmes at Derek Fatchett, supported by undergraduates from Leeds University, has quite literally changed her life. Sophia writes...

"I have been attending the Stepping Stones mentoring project at Derek Fatchett CLC for 3 years now and I’m sad it’s ended. It has helped me in so many ways that I have the confidence that I can do the best in many exams and achieve the grades I need to help me go further in my life. It has also helped me make new friends and try things I would never have wanted to try without the support from the mentoring team. Visiting Herd Farm helped me learn cooking skills which have been helpful to me in later life. Also I am doing my Duke of Edinburgh. I am on my Silver Level as I have completed my Bronze the second time we tried. I have learned not to give up but keep trying and you will succeed in the end. Also it has helped me build team work skills, as I was not very good at it at first, but now I can say I am quite good now."

Sophia thoroughly enjoyed the residential summer school and will be our guest at our annual summer school evening on 21st January when she will describe her 'journey' and the benefits of summer school. I hope that Dinneka will also come along to give her perspective on first term at university. I am also inviting students and carers from other West Yorkshire authorities as well as reps from the universities.Best wishes, Ken."

It is wonderful to hear from some of our young people that the programmes we are delivering are making a difference and helping young people like Sophia and Dinneka achieve their potential.

Great news!

I heard on the grapevine that two of our schools achieved great outcomes with their OFSTED Inspections during the week...

Brigshaw High School and the West SILC both were graded good with outstanding features. Congratulations to Cath Lennon and her team at Brigshaw and Michelle Wilman and her team at the West SILC.