Friday, 18 December 2009

I attended four Christmas fuddles over the last two days...

One at each of Elmete, Blenheim, Merrion and West Park and it was simply wonderful to see so many talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues at the end of yet another year here in Leeds; this is my ninth Leeds Christmas and again what a year we have had.

We all know that having bought the banks the next few years are going to be tough and that we will need to work smarter and more effectively and carefully watch all our resources to eliminate waste and drive efficiencies wherever we can. However hard it gets you must remember that talent will out and that you have skills and abilities that are in demand and in short supply. Our culture and values are rare in the public sector and the focus on creativity, innovation, trust and equality rarer still.

The OFSTED Inspection Report on Safeguarding and Looked After Children's Services is published on 7 January and the Review of Children's Services will drive change as the Council appoints its new Director of Children's Services. So change is going to be constantly with us as usual and our job will be to stay focused on the things that matter: ensuring that young people in Leeds are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!

We live in interesting times is a Chinese curse but I am even more certain now that the future is simply what you make it. So, make it brilliant one. Have a great Christmas; one that brings you and those you love… delight and simplicity, foolishness and fantasy, and noise, angels, miracles, wonder, innocence and magic.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

I received this e-mail from Alison Carrick headteachera t Victoria Primary School this evening after the visit by the school choir to Merron House this morning...

"Chris, can you thank you team for making our children so welcome. They came back buzzing about the trip. Will you thank Pat for taking care of them and keeping them supplied with drinks and chocolates. They had a great time and were complemented on the bus (they were, apparently practicing) for their great attitude and behaviour. Thanks from everyone here for the goodies - nearly all gone, thanks from the children for the books to add to our library (children have already decided which ones they are going to get out during their next library visit) and a massive thanks from me firstly for the flowers but more importantly for all your support and friendship. It is great to know that someone really values the children and what we bring to their lives - I truely believe we transform lives on a daily basis here at Victoria Primary School. Have a great break with your family and see you in 2010. Love, Alison."

It was brilliant to have the choir at Merrion House and for everyone to share a little bit of Christmas magic with some wonderful children.
I finished the day at our 'Schools Got Talent 2009: The Final' at Ralph Thoresby High School...

The evening was introduced and compered by my colleague Sheila Howarth who teaches at City of Leeds School. I had been invited to be one of the judges with Dorothy Smith, Cllr Sue Bentley and Jo-Jo from Galaxy 105. There were fourteen wonderful acts and the three overall winners were:


Mitchell Smith

from Bruntcliffe High School;


Oakley Pilotille

from Farnley Park High School;


Tessa Koenig

from St Mary's Menston Catholic High School.

It was a brilliant evening with some incredibly talented young people whose magic was there for all to see in the wonderful theatre at Ralph Thoresby High School.


I moved on to Kerr Mackie Primary School to see Maisie Child who designed our wonderful Christmas card this year...

Angela Ronicle, headteacher at Kerr Mackie, had organised a special assembly for me to present Maisie with a framed copy of her card and a gift from Education Leeds. Maisie's mum and dad were there as well and we were all entertained by the children who sang some of their Christmas songs.
Another little bit of magic on the way to Christmas.
We were entertained this morning, on the tenth floor at Merrion House, by the wonderful choir from Victoria Primary School...

Thanks to Alison Carrick, headteacher, and her talented colleagues for bringing us a little bit of magic.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

I was delighted to her that New Bewerley Community Primary School had been visited by our friends from OFSTED and found to be a good school...

Congratulations to Patrick Wilkins, headteacher, and all his brilliant team who are releasing the magic at New Bewerley Primary School.
I finished the day at another brilliant little school...

It was great to be invited by Andrea Padden, headteacher at Hawksworth Wood Primary School, to their Key Stage 2 'Egyptian Nativity'. It was a different nativity brilliantly performed by some wonderful young people and amazingly choreographed by one amazing young woman.
I attended the 'retirement do' for Jean Lumb late this afternoon...

Jean is headteacher at Ninelands Primary School in Garforth and her vision, commitment, enthusiasm and hard work has created something remarkable at the school. She leaves behind a great school with a great team and she will be missed by all of us who share her passion for learning, love her commitment to the arts and creativity and remember her joy and her laughter.
This lunchtime I popped in on the 'Retirement Do' for Dave Page, Deputy Chief Executive...

We will all be sad to see Dave go. He has been on the Education Leeds Board since the company started and has helped us achieve some brilliant buildings through PfI and BSF funds. We will miss his common sense, his connections and his political sensitivity.
I attended a Congregation for the Conferment of Degrees at the University of Leeds this morning...

My son was receiving his Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism which he had studied at Leeds Trinity University College. It was great to also see that Professor Freda Bridge also presented a group of our colleagues who received their Foundation Degrees at the ceremony.
I ended the day yesterday at Horsforth School, Specialist Science College for their Senior Prize Evening...

It was a wonderful opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of some talented young people who took GCSEs and A-Levels in the Summer. It was a real privilege to be asked by Steve Jex, headteacher, to present the certificates and prizes at this important event in the life of one of the best schools in Leeds. The evening was introduced by Roland Meredith, Chair of Governors who was followed by Steve who talked about the successes of the last year. I talked briefly to the young people and their parents and carers before presenting the certificates and prizes. The evening finished with a wonderful performance by 'Close Harmony' and the School Choir.

Steve and his team are doing wonderful things and achieving some extraordinary outcomes at this great school.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

My colleague Tracy Waud sent me this wonderful e-mail...

"Dear Chris, Colton Primary School choir were invited to sing at an event at Temple Newsam House last Friday evening and I went along accompanying my daughter Alix, who is in the choir. The event was attended by and for 'Friends of Temple Newsam' so there were lots of people there. The children were dressed very smartly in their school uniforms and every single child behaved impeccably and were fantastic ambassadors for the school. They sang several traditional christmas songs to live keyboard music and more modern ones to a recording which they had previously sung in their school play. The recording did keep hiccuping but like true professionals they didnt let it phase them and they just carried on regardless, much to the amusement of everyone there. Sarah Haasz, one of the teachers at the school put together the choir and continues to support it both in and out of school by giving up her own time. It was just lovely to see the efforts continuing to bear fruit. I was so proud of my daughter and all of the children and I wanted to share this with you. Tracy."

Colton Primary School is a great little school and it's great to hear about the wonderful things our schools and colleagues are doing to release the magic.

Monday, 14 December 2009

I started the day with the Healthy Schools team...

I wanted to thank them for the incredible work they have been doing to get to 95% of Leeds schools achieving National Healthy Schools status. Their passion, commitment, energy, enthusiasm and sheer persistence has achieved remarkable things over the last three years and as a result brought considerable additional resources to Leeds. You cannot be successful unless you are happy and healthy and Anne Cowling and her talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues work lies at the heart of what we are doing to build brilliant.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

I expect that along with millions we all watched the X Factor this evening and the final song, their Christmas song, has brilliant lyrics...

The Climb lyrics
Songwriters: Alexander, J; Mabe, J;

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb.

Whatever happens in the future, it's true, it's all about the climb.
Keep the faith.
Nearly there now; the end of yet another term in Leeds and another Christmas rapidly approaching...

We have had another incredible year, and at the end of this amazing year I want to thank the education and learning team here in Leeds for all their hard work; and encourage everyone to celebrate our many achievements over Christmas and the New Year. These are not mediocre times, and your contribution to the education in Leeds story has been one of passion, commitment, energy, courage and hard work and I am really grateful because whatever anyone says the evidence shows that the impact has been fantastic.

Last week included the usual round of meetings: children's services leadership team, corporate leadership team, cabinet, councillor briefings, meeting with Councillor Harker, executive board meeting, children's services scrutiny board, meetings with school colleagues, Education Leeds colleagues, children's services colleagues and NHS Leeds colleagues. On Monday I attended the beginning of the Leeds secondary school headteachers meeting and visited Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School to talk to the staff. On Thursday I opened the Education Leeds/RM Evolve conference at the Queen's Hotel before I moved on to officially open the brilliant 'Interactive Zone' at the North East SILC at West Oaks. And finally, I attended a performance of Sweet Charity at Leeds West Academy. On Friday I was interviewed on the morning show on Radio Leeds by Andrew Edwards about primary places and provision, before speaking to colleagues at leadership forum about the opportunities and challenges facing us over the next few years, and finally visiting Beeston Primary School with Hilary Benn MP to look at the great work they have been doing with Barclays.

This latest snapshop simply demonstrates what makes Leeds so brilliant, and I am grateful to everyone for their persistence and determination to make a difference. Our brilliant schools, and our fantastic children and young people, have achieved more than ever thanks to the energy, patience, and commitment of the many talented teams working so hard across the city. Together here in Leeds we have made a tremendous difference and we must continue to find, nurture and release the magic. Next year we must continue to celebrate our schools’ successes, and work smarter and harder to create an even better tomorrow for all our children and young people.

I hope that this Christmas brings you and those you love… delight and simplicity, foolishness and fantasy, and noise, angels, miracles, wonder, innocence and magic… we have certainly proved this year that you are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful!
Lats night I attended Northern Ballet Theatre's 40th Anniversary Gala at the Leeds Grand Theatre...

It ws a brilliant celebration of dance featuring Pheonix Dance Theatre, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Les Ballet de Monte Carlo, Rambert Dance Company, Zurich Ballet, Ballet de Rhin, The Royal Ballet and our own Northern Ballet Theatre. If you missed it you missed something simple wonderful.