Saturday, 18 December 2010

AND FINALLY!

I have now left Education Leeds...

'You raised me up, so I could stand on mountains;
You raised me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raised me up: To more than I could be.'


Education Leeds is winding up over the next three months and everyone keeps asking about the legacy we will leave in Leeds. Always remember that it wasn't about Education Leeds, the stars, the quotes and the messages; it was about talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful human beings who believed in the power to change and have changed forever to become the extraordinary people you all are.

I have so many friends and colleagues who will continue to be part of my life and who I promise I will keep in touch with and who knows we may work together again sometime in the future. And finally always remember that if you ever need me you know where I am. You can e-mail me at chrisedwards51@hotmail.com or just visit my new blog http://releasing-the-magic.blogspot.com.

Keep the faith.
Bye for now!
Chris

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

"Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said that it’d be easy, they just promised it would be worth it."

However you look at it 2010 has been another great year with more successes, more surprises, more brilliant stories, more shared adventures and, like a Puccini opera, a really sad ending!.

Together, over the last ten years we have built something wonderful. The journey from cause for concern to cause for celebration has been a long and at times difficult one but just look at what we’ve achieved together. c rooted in shared values, common behaviours and beliefs and a consistently positive and supportive language and culture.

I know that sometimes the journey has been really hard and I want to thank you for your passion, your persistence, your patience and your hard work, for forgiving the mistakes I have made, understanding the things I have overlooked and coping with the pressure and the problems I have often passed your way.

This is the tenth time I have done Christmas in Leeds and my last as Chief Executive of this extraordinary organisation. So finally, I wish you, and those you love and care about, delight and simplicity, foolishness and fantasy and noise, angels and miracles and wonder, and innocence and magic. Have a great time… be happy, keep healthy, stay safe and think of me on the 4th January as you start the next stage of your journey together from good to outstanding. And always remember that the future is what you make it!

Best wishes for the future
Keep the faith!
Chris

ADAMS COURT FUDDLE

At lunchtime Dirk Gilleard, David Dickinson and I went to the Education Leeds Fuddle at Adams Court...

It was great to see the new centre which is a great improvement on Elmete and Blenheim and will provide a fantastic base for the new teams that are being developed within the new children's services arrangements. We recognised and celebrated Margaret Dalby's 23 years working in education in Leeds and I presented Margaret with her Spirit award.
Chris

MY FINAL FINAL LEAVING EVENT!

After the children from Victoria Primary School had sung all their Christmas carols ysterday colleagues from Merrion House gathered on the tenth floor to say goodbye...

I really wasn't expecting this and many colleagues were wearing black shirts and red ties which used to be my uniform during the early days of Education Leeds. The 'A Team' from communications and executive support all sang a specially composed song for me before David Dickinson and Dirk Gilleard, my two talented deputies did the honours. It was a really sad but gloriously special gathering and my team gave my some more gifts including some red wine, a new and very exclusive briefcase and some silver starfish cufflinks which are lovely.

I gave my last thank you speech and we listened to one of the songs that the children at Hovingham Primary School have made very special for me.

"I can do anything at all,I can climb the highest mountain,
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free.
I can be anything I want,
With this hope to drive me onward,
If I can just believe in me
.

When the skies are dark and grey,
We still know the sun is shining:
Though it’s out of sight, its light is glowing still.
And as long as I believe,
There is nothing I can’t wish for;
Not a dream that I’m unable to fulfill.

I can do anything at all,I can climb the highest mountain,
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free.
I can be anything I want,
With this hope to drive me onward,
If I can just believe in me
.

While the world is spinning round,
I can sometimes lose direction
And I know how hard it is to find my way.
But with friends around to care,
There is nothing I can’t handle,
And I’ll face the future treasuring each day.

I can do anything at all,I can climb the highest mountain,
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free.
I can be anything I want,
With this hope to drive me onward,
If I can just believe in me." 


Thank you
Chris 

VICTORIA PRIMARY SCHOOL CHOIR

We were visited by the choir from Victoria Primary School who sang Christmas carols on the tenth floor at Merrion House...

The children were wonderful and they sang a range of Christmas carols for the Education Leeds team.My personal thanks to Alison Carrick, headteacher, and her talented colleagues for bringing us this little bit of magic as I sadly and finally leave Education Leeds.
Chris

Friday, 17 December 2010

PMIT

I started the day at the Carriageworks with colleagues from our Perfomance Management and Information Team...

The team were having a development session before their Christmas lunch so I wouldn't have seen them unless I went to the Carriageworks. I wanted to thank these fantastic colleagues for everything they have done over the years to develop the information systems and the performance culture that underpins everything we do. I also wanted to take them some chocolate for the last time.
Chris

Thursday, 16 December 2010

EDUCATION LEEDS LEAVING CELEBRATION

MY LEAVING PRESENTATION

I am really grateful to everyone who attended my leaving presentation at the Civic Hall at lunchtime today...

My colleague Dirk Gilleard celebrated my unique contribution and the difference I have made here in Leeds and we had contributions from Nigel Richardson, Director of Children's Services, Professor Stephen Parkinson, Chairman of the Board of Education Leeds, Cllr Judith Blake, Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council and Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, Cllr Andrew Carter, Leader of the Conservative Group on Leeds City Council, and Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council. It was wonderful to see so many colleagues and friends from schools, the Council and Education Leeds who have been part of the journey and helped write the story of Education Leeds... and Brian Walker who led the Council when the company was established... and Richard Harker who held the portfolio for six of the ten years... and Paul Rogerson who was Chief Executive of the Council for most of the contract... and Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl, from Capita SCS, who provided advice and support throughout our ten years. We also watched a series of video clips from children, young people, colleagues and friends who wanted to say thank you and goodbye.

I am as always particularly grateful to Steph, Danni and Dee and those colleagues who organised and managed this event for me.
Chris

CHILDREN'S SERVICES SCRUTINY BOARD

I moved on at attend my last Children's Services Scrutiny Board...

Cllr Dowson was very generous in her comments about what Education Leeds under my leadership has achieved over the last ten years and it was wonderful to receive so many positive comments from the members of Scrutiny Board about the difference we have made here in Leeds.
Chris

SANDIE KEENE

I had coffee this morning with my colleague Sandie Keene who heads up Adult Services here in Leeds...

It was great to catch up with Sandie at the end of my time here in Leeds and reflect on the journey Education Leeds has made from cause for concern to cause for celebration.
Chris

ALTHEA, DEE AND DANNI

I had lunch yesterday with three amazing colleagues who have provided brilliant support for me over the last ten years...

Althea, Dee and Danni capture for me the essence of the magic that is Education Leeds. They are truly talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful and are three colleagues I will deeply miss.It was lovely to have lunch with them and be able to say thank you for everything they have done to help me manage my life over the last ten incredible years here in Leeds.
Chris

MARK MILSOM

I had coffee yesterday with Chief Superintendent Mark Milsom from West Yorkshire Police...

It was great to be able to catch up with Mark who wanted to personally thank me for everything I have done to build the relationship between the schools here in Leeds and the West Yorkshire Police. Through the Safer Schools initiative we have developed a strong, dynamic and successful partnership where colleagues from the Police are part of the teaching and learning teams in secondary schools across the city. This builds on the work that PC Bob Bowman has brilliantly pioneered and has developed as a model of best practice across the region. I hope that despite the financial challenges facing the schools and the police this work will continue and further develop to continue to develop the relationship young people have with the police and reach those young people most vulnearble to and those at risk of crime and criminal behaviour.
CHris

COOKRIDGE PRIMARY SCHOOL

My colleague Debbie Hawkins, Community Co-ordinator at Cookridge Primary School sent me this update about their bluebell planting...

Dear Chris, On Friday 10th December, Cookridge Primary School's Year 4 pupils walked to Breary Marsh to meet Steve Clavering, Leeds City Council Parks and Countryside Ranger and his colleagues, Graham and Jackie where they had organised a morning's Bluebell planting. With the council creating a new path through the woods for easier access, it had meant digging up the existing bluebell bulbs from the proposed path and relocating them. With the plants already dug up and put in pots, Steve now had some 200 pots for us to replant! Armed with spades and gloves, the children set to work and work they did! They dug holes, took out the bluebells from the pots and planted them near the pathway heading towards Paul's Pond. They planted all 200 pots within one and a half hours! The weather was mild at a balmy 5 degrees and with the snow melting, were able to dig fairly easily. The children loved it and wanted to carry on! Covered in mud, tired, but happy we said goodbye to Steve, Graham and Jackie and walked back to Cookridge Primary School, looking forward for a revisit in May to see the new carpet of bluebells that we have created and to be able to say "We did that!" Many thanks, Debbie."

It is great to see the difference Debbie's work is making in the community and through some small but significant steps they are building brilliant.
Chris

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

MY LAST HEADEACHER BREAKFAST MEETING

I had breakfast this morning with headteachers from the North West and Inner North West Families of Schools...

I turned up late having been stuck in an accident but it was great to see so many wonderful colleagues who are doing great things and releasing the magic for young people and their families. I will miss these opportunities to connect and catch up with headteacher colleagues, to take the temperature and to see what issues are causing concern. It is vitally important that people who lead and manage services understand the reality of what we do by walking the estate and talking to children, young people and colleagues on the front line. We have created an extraordinary culture here in Leeds; one that values people and challenges and supports colleagues to be reflective and constantly look for ways to imporve, develop and do even better.
We must continue to Think Team and work together to build safer, stronger and more successful schools and communities.
Chris

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

JUDITH BLAKE AND RICHARD HARKER

I saw Cllr Judith Blake this afternoon before I had dinner this evening with Richard Harker...

It was really good to see Richard again and to be able to thank Judith and Richard for the leadership and support they both provided over the ten years they held the education portfolio. During these wonderful years we achieved so much;  transforming teaching and learning and rebuilding the school estate. The legacy is everywhere and we owe both Judith and Richard a great deal for their trust, faith and belief.
Chris

HOVINGHAM PRIMARY SCHOOL

This afternoon I visited Hovingham Primary School again...

Sadly my colleague Janet Spence, the headteacher at this wonderful school, was poorly but the hall was packed and Jane Fisher and her colleagues and Year 2 performed 'A Snowman at Sunset' which was great. Jane also gave me a copy of her 'Now Hovingham 2011' CD which will always remind me of the special times I have spent at this extraordinary learning place. The children finished with a wonderful song called  Feliz Navidad a Spanish Christmas song which you can listen to by visiting this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihW56Xa3XGQ&feature=related
Chris

THANK YOU!

"Take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go"


I returned to my bleak and miserable office with its blank walls to find this lovely surprise...

My colleague Becca had left me a card, a chocolate rudolf and a bookmark with the message above. Thank you, Becca. The message is a great one as we move on to face our next challenges!
Chris

FREE SCHOOL MEALS LAUNCH EVENT

I visited Roundhay School this morning to attend the launch event for our Free School Meals...

It was great to see Neil Clephan, the headteacher, and some of his colleagues again and to see how the school has adopted the 'Grab and Go' system which encourages more young people to take up their free school meal allocation. My colleague Rosie Molinari has done a brilliant job developing our school food strategy and encouraging the uptake of free school meals which have risen by 10%!
Chris

ALLERTON CE PRIMARY SCHOOL

I visited Allerton CE Primary School again today...

It was great to see Helen Stott, the schools' talented headteacher, who gave me a beautiful framed piece of her childrens artwork to keep to remember my visits to the school.  I was also given a guided tour by Georgia, Josephine and Tyler from Year 6 who were three brilliant adverts and ambassadors for this amazing little school.
Chris

DINNER WITH LEADERSHIP TEAM

I had dinner with my colleagues from the Education Leeds leadership team last night...

It was great to spend the evening with this very special group of colleagues who over the years have helped transform education and learning here in Leeds.
Chris

DONOVAN S WEBSTER TRAINING CENTRE

I visited the former Carter and Carter building on Pontefract Lane this afternoon...

I had been asked to visit by Cllr Richard Brett and I met John Webster and some of his colleagues who are trying to establish the Donovan S Webster Training Centre in this old training base. The aim is to provide a vocational skills base for young people focused on motor mechanics, accountancy, gardening, sports and recreation, IT and basic English and mathematics. The centre has enormous potential and the passion, commitment and enthusiasm on display should mean that this project gets the support it needs to provide vocational pathways and job opportunities for some of our young people.
Chris

Monday, 13 December 2010

LUNCH

I had lunch today with two wonderful colleagues who wanted to say goodbye...

Claire Macklam and Maxine Parker were both members of the School Partnership Team who have gone on to bigger and better things but have stayed in touch. It was great to see these two brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who, like so many of you, have brought a bit of sparkle and magic to my life over the years.
Chris

THE END!

I've finally reached the end of my time here in Leeds and I am grateful to all those people who have sent me cards, messages and presents and told me what a difference I have made and how much they will miss me. I recognise the challenges we all face going forward but schools must maintain their focus on standards and safeguarding despite the changes, the cuts and the uncertainty. Our schools must become even more creative and inspiring places working at the heart of their communities 365-24-7. We must continue to develop brilliant early years practice and to ensure that Every Child is a Reader and Every Child Counts by the time they are seven or eight. We must ensure that as far as possible all our children became brilliant little learners by the time they leave primary school and are on a pathway to success by the time they are sixteen. The greatest challenge at the heart of the city is to make sure that we continue the work we've done together and continue to 'Think Team' as we work to release the magic, the potential and the WOW factor in all our children, young people and their parents and carers...


The last week has again been an emotional rollercoaster ride. I had breakfast at St Bartholomew's Church of England Primary School with headteacher colleagues from the Inner West and Inner South families of schools. This was a special breakfast because it is the 100th headteacher breakfast since we started having them in January 2007. It was also special because Pauline Gavin and her team don't do things by halves at St Barts! Breakfast was brilliant: the food; the venue; and the company were all outstanding. I had a goodbye session with headteacher and governor colleagues at Space@Hillcrest. It was great to see so many colleagues and friends had managed to find the time to come. Children from Hillcrest Primary School sang for us all before Bernadette Young, headteacher at Royd's School, spoke on behalf of the Leeds secondary headteachers; Rod Ash, chair of the Leeds Governors Forum, spoke on behalf of the Leeds governors; and Sally-Ann Boulton, headteacher at Haigh Road Infant School spoke on behalf of the Leeds primary headteachers. Colleagues had also recorded messages which were shown at the end of what was a wonderful moment at the end of some precious times here in Leeds.

I also attended the Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Festival Concert 2010 at the Town Hall which was a wonderful celebration of our young people with over 500 young performers and some older ones releasing an extra-ordinary magic. The Festival Choir of around 360 children was drawn from 49 Leeds primary schools and they were magic! The City of Leeds Youth Orchestra were brilliant, the Leeds Youth Choir and the Leeds Youth Choir sang beautifully, and the Leeds Silver Doves were amazing. I visited Ralph Thoresby High School which is another of our great success stories. Stuart Hemingway, the headteacher, and his team have done a great job and the PFI building is spectacular with the banners and the light and colour and space as you walk through the school. It was wonderful to see the school again. I visited Carr Manor Primary School to see Linda Bowles, the headteacher, and some of her colleagues. Linda and the team do an amazing job and the Children's Centre has added a little bit of extra magic to the school. It has been brilliant working with Linda over the last ten years and watching the school develop into a real centre of primary excellence under Linda's skilful and passionate leadership. I visited the West Oaks Foundation which is another little bit of magic just off the High Street in Boston Spa. My colleague Andrew Hodgkinson, the principal, had asked me to come and officially open their West Oaks Foundation shop where students from West Oaks will be able to have their work experience and where the products of the West Oaks enterprise projects will be sold. It is a simply brilliant additional element at what must be one of the most innovative and successful special schools in the country. On Wednesday evening we had 'The Party at the End of the Universe' to mark the end of the Education Leeds contract. The party, at 'The Loft', was funded by Capita and it was great to see my colleagues Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl at the party with around 300 Education Leeds colleagues having a wonderful time. I visited Bankside Primary School and it was great to see my colleague Sarah Rutty again and to travel on the bus with the children up to the Fir Tree site. This amazing school is being rebuilt as a three form entry primary school on the existing site and Sarah and her incredible team are managing the transformation using the Fir Tree site for around three hundred of her children who are bussed up daily. It is an extraordinary logistical operation which the team and the children at Bankside appear to be taking in their stride! I visited St Margaret's Church of England Primary School in Horsforth; another school rebuilt through the PFI programme and now a fantastic school in a glorious building. It was great to see my colleague Alan Willey, the headteacher, and catch a little bit of Christmas magic with their 'Wriggly Christmas' nativity. I also visited Horforth School which is a specialist science college and it was great to see Steve Jex, the headteacher at this great school, again. Under Steve's intelligent and determined leadership over the last ten years the school has developed as one of the most successful secondary schools here in Leeds. I visited the David Young Community Academy to see my colleague Ros McMullen, the principal, at what has become a hugely successful school serving this complex and challenging bit of Leeds. It is great to see what Ros and her colleagues have achieved here in Seacroft and to remember where we started ten years ago with educational provision in this bit of the city. I visited the East SILC where Oakwood PSC were doing their Christmas production 'The Animal Nativity', which was a view of the traditional nativity story as seen through the eyes of the animals. It was a wonderful show and the children and the staff team were brilliant. I'll miss this little oasis of magic where Barrie Whitney, the principal, and his team are doing some extraordinary things and it was great to share this little bit of Christmas with these very special children and some of their mums and dads. I also visited one of my favourite schools. Cockburn College of Arts is a school that captures so well the Education Leeds story and where over the last ten years I have learnt so much and shared so many moments of real magic. It was a real honour to be invited by Dave Gurney, the headteacher, and Dave Westwell, the chair of governors, to officially open the school after all the remodelling work on the school site had been completed. Our Building Schools for the Future programme has been an amazing success and this is a fantastic transformation which alongside the school's brilliant results and their simply outstanding contextual value added indicators means that this has to be one of the best secondary schools in the city. The evening was rounded off by an outstanding performance of West Side Story by some talented students from this brilliant Performing Arts College. I visited Oulton Primary School to see my colleague Maria Townsend, the headteacher at this great little primary school, again. Maria has transformed Oulton Primary School and it was great to visit 'Jamaica', their nurture unit, to see the brilliant work Maria's colleagues are doing with some of her most special children who are receiving some of the additional help and support they need. I visited Bruntcliffe High School to see some of the outstanding work Linda Johnson, the headteacher, and her colleagues are doing including the amazing and award winning work they are doing on enterprise. Linda took me on a brief tour where we looked at their new science block and visited their vocational centre where they are doing some pioneering and outstanding work.

I am really sorry it hasn't been possible to get to see everyone before I leave, but the sheer scale and size of the city with 265 schools and over 17,000 school based colleagues as well as four Education Leeds centres with around 1000 colleagues has made it logistically impossible to see everyone who I would have liked to personally thank for their passion, commitment, determination, energy and hard work which has achieved so much over the last ten great years. During this last week in Leeds I hope to get to see colleagues at New Bewerley Community Primary School, Allerton Church of England Primary School and Hovingham Primary School, as well as fitting in the launch event for our work on free school meals at Roundhay School. I will also be having my last breakfast session with headteacher colleagues from the North West and Inner North West families of schools. I may also get see some of you at the council's leaving do at the Banqueting Suite at the Civic Hall at lunchtime on Thursday... everyone is welcome!

This is my last message of the week, and it marks 500 weeks of service to the schools in this great city. Together, we have built something extraordinary and we have quite simply transformed the leadership, the culture and the outcomes our schools and our children and young people achieve. There is always more to do to build a world class education and learning system at the heart of a child friendly and world class city, but ten years on the foundations are strong, deep and increasingly making a real difference where it matters. Education Leeds will continue until the end of March 2011 and I know that Nigel Richardson working with Dirk Gilleard and David Dickinson, my two brilliant deputies, and the great team we've built over the last ten years will continue to champion, challenge and support the amazing schools who do such brilliant work at the heart of children's services.

I know that you'll understand that I am desperately sad to be leaving Leeds and sorry to be saying goodbye to so many colleagues and friends and I hope to see as many of you as possible this week to say goodbye.

As far as my part in the story that's it... THE END!

Keep the faith!
With love,
Chris

NEW BEWERLEY PRIMARY SCHOOL

I visited New Bewerley Primary School again today...

It was great to visit this amazing learning place again and see Patrick Wilkins and his team who are doing such a great job working at the heart of Leeds. The school is being expanded to become a two form entry school and with the Children's Centre, the resourced provision for children with  special educational needs and the extended services provision this is very much children's services in action. The school had a wonderful OFSTED and is on the journey to outstanding.
Chris

Sunday, 12 December 2010

THE TEACHING AND LEARNING CENTRE

My colleague Carol Jordan, Director of Integrated Children's Services sent me this bit of great news...

"Dear Chris, The Teaching and Learning Centre had a really positive HMI visit today. Lots of really positive praise for the progress made in all areas and the excellent support from Education Leeds. Wendy Winterburn,  Kevin Payne, Mark Barnett, TLC staff and everyone else involved have all worked really hard to get to this position – really good progress. The HMI said they would come back in the Spring term as part of the inspection process to take them out of special measures. What a great result – in one year. Well done to everyone involved. Excellent news. Carol."

This is fantastic news because the provision for our young people with the most complex behaviour is the most difficlut to get right and to sustain. Colleagues like Carol, Wendy, Kevin and Mark have worked with the TLC team and together they have achieved something outstanding. Congratulations to everyone involved.
Chris

Friday, 10 December 2010

HILARY BENN MP

I met Hilary Benn MP again today...

Hilary isn't able to attend the session with the Council on Thursday next wek and had wanted to come in and thank me for everything I had done here in Leeds over the last ten years. It has been a real privilege to be able to work with Hilary over the years. He has been a strong supporter of our programmes and our schools and it was great to see him before I leave.
Chris

BRUNTCLIFFE HIGH SCHOOL

I moved on to visit Bruntcliffe High School again...

I wanted to visit Bruntcliffe again before I leave Leeds to see some of the outstanding work Linda Johnson, the headteacher, and her colleagues are doing both on the academic pathway  and on the vocational pathway with the amazing and award winning work they are doing on enterprise. Linda took me on a brief tour where we looked at their new science block and visited their vocational centre where they are doing some pioneering and outstanding work. This is a great school which has been transformed over the last few years through the hard work of a passionate and committed team working with some great young people.
Chris

OULTON PRMARY SCHOOL

I started the day today at Oulton Primary School...

It was wonderful to see my colleague Maria Townsend, the headteacher at this great little primary school, again. Maria has transformed Oulton Primary School and it was great to visit 'Jamaica', their nurture unit, to see the brilliant work Maria's colleagues are doing with some of her most special children who are receiving some of the additional help and support they need. The children had made me an 'achieve - a-ball', a solid, three-dimensional icosahedron, and on its twenty faces the children had drawn and illustrated some of the things they were proud of in their lives. I'll miss Maria and the team at Oulton Primary School.
Chris

COCKBURN COLLEGE OF ARTS

I visited one of my favourite schools last night... 

Cockburn College of Arts is a school that captures so well the Education Leeds story and where over the last ten years I have learnt so much and shared so many moments of real magic. It was a real honour to be invited by Dave Gurney, the headteacher, and Dave Westwell, the Chir of Governors, to officially open the school after all the remodelling work on the school site had been completed. Our Building Schools for the Future programme has been an amazing success and this is a fantastic transformation which alongside the school's brilliant results and their simply outstanding contextual value added indicators means that this has to be one of the best secondary schools in the city. The evening was rounded off by an outstanding performance of West Side Story by some talented students from this brilliant Performing Arts College.
Chris

OAKWOOD PRU/EAST SILC

I moved on again to visit the East SILC where Oakwood PSC were doing their Christmas production...

'The Animal Nativity' was a view of the traditional nativity story as seen through the eyes of the animals. It was a wonderful show and the children and the staff team were brilliant. We all sang Little Donkey, Silent Night, Starry Night, Follow the Star and the Calypso Carol before people headed back to Oakwood for tea and biscuits.  I'll miss this little oasis of magic where Barrie Whitney, the principal, and his team are doing some extraordinary things and it was great to share this little bit of Christmas with these very special children and some of their mums and dads.
Chris

DAVID YOUNG COMMUNITY ACADEMY

I moved on again to visit the David Young Community Academy again...

I wanted to visit the Academy and see my colleague Ros McMullen, the Principal, at what has become a hugely successful school serving this complex and challenging bit of Leeds. It is great to see what Ros and her colleagues have achieved here in Seacroft and to remember where we started ten years ago with educational priovision in this bit of the city.
Chris

HORSFORTH SCHOOL

I moved on to Horforth School...

Horsforth School is a specialist science college and it was great to see Steve Jex, the headteacher at this great school, again. Under Steve's intelligent and determined leadership over the last ten years the school has developed as one of the most successful secondary schools here in Leeds.
Chris

ST. MARGARET'S CE PRIMARY SCHOOL

I moved on to St Margaret's CE Primary School in Horsforth...

This is another school rebuilt through the PFI programme and now a fantastic school in a glorious building. It was great to see my colleague Alan Willey, the headteacher, and catch a little bit of Christmas magic with their 'Wriggly Christmas' nativity.
Chris

BANKSIDE BEST!

On Thursday morning I visited Bankside Primary School again...

It was great to see my colleague Sarah Rutty again and to travel on the bus with the children up to the Fir Tree site . The school is being rebuilt as a three form entry primary school on the existing site and Sarah and her team are managing the transformation using the Fir Tree site for around three hundred of her children who are bussed up daily. It is an extraordinary logistical operation which the team and the children at Bankside appear to be taking in their stride!

I will miss this extraordinary school but I look forward to visiting when the new school opens in September 2011 to once again see Bankside at its brilliant best!
Chris

THE PARTY AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE!

On Wednesday evening we had 'The Party at the End of the Universe' to mark the end of the Education Leeds contract...

The party, at 'The Loft', was funded by Capita and it was great to see my colleagues Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl at the party with around 300 Education Leeds colleagues. Ian and Parin manage the Children's Services arm of Capita's work and have been partnered and connected with Education Leeds during the whole of its ten year contract with the Council.
A good time was apparently had by everyone
Chris

WEST OAKS FOUNDATION!

I visited the West Oaks Foundation during the afternoon...

This little bit of magic is just off the High Street in Boston Spa and my colleagues Andrew Hodgkinson had asked mt to come and officially open the West Oaks Foundation shop where students from West Oaks will be able to have their work experience and where the products of the West Oaks enterprise projects will be sold. It is a simply brilliant additional element at what must be one of the most innovative and successful special schools in the country.
Chris

CARR MANOR PRIMARY SCHOOL

I moved on to Carr Manor Primary School...

It was great to visit this wonderful school again and see Linda Bowles, the headteacher, and some of her colleagues. Linda and the team do an amazing job and the Children's Centre has added a little bit of magic to the school. It has been brilliant working with Linda over the last ten years and watching the school develop into a real centre of primary excellence under Linda's skilful and passionate leadership.
Chris

RALPH THORESBY HIGH SCHOOL

I started the day on Wednesday at Ralph Thoresby High School...


I wanted to visit Ralph Thoresby High School because it is another of our great success stories. Stuart Hemingway, the headteacher, and his team have done a great job and the PFI building is specatacular with the banners and the light and colour and space as you walk through the school. It was wonderful to see the school again and to talk to Stuart and Billy Flynn, the chair of the governing body, about what has been achieved and their aspirations for the school.

As I walked around the school I realised once again what we have achieved with the learning landscape and the step change in outcomes we've achieved for our young people. Ralph Thoresby is another of our real success stories and shows what can be done with vision, passion, belief and hard work.
Chris

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL CONCERT 2010

I finished the day yeaterday at the Town Hall for the Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Festival Concert 2010...

It was a wonderful celebration of our young people with over 500 young performers and some older ones releasing an extra-ordinary magic. The Festival Choir of around 360 children was drawn from 49 Leeds primary schools and they were magic! The City of Leeds Youth Orchestra were brilliant, the Leeds Youth Choir and the Leeds Youth Choir sang beautifully and the Leeds Silver Doves were amazing. The conductor and compere for the evening was Dougie Scarfe and for the packed house, with Cllr Jim McKenna, the Lord Mayor, and Cllr Andrea McKenna, the Lady Mayoress and colleagues from St George's Crypt, the concert marked the beginning of Christmas. FRom the cheers an d the applause it was obvious that everyone had a simply brilliant evening which ended with a rousing encore of Saviour's Day.
Chris

HEADTEACHER AND GOVERNOR SESSION

I spent the early part of the evening with headteacher and governor colleagues at Space@Hillcrest...

It was the start of the final long goodbye to colleagues here in Leeds and it was great to see so many colleagues and friends had managed to find the time to come. Children from Hillcrest Primary School sang for us all  before Bernadette Young, headteacher at Royd's School, spoke on behalf of the Leeds secondary headteachers, Rod Ash, chair of the Leeds Governors Forum, spoke on behalf of the Leeds governors and Sally-Ann Boulton, headteacher at Haigh Road Infant School spoke on behalf of the Leeds primary headteachers.Colleagues had also recorded messages which were shown at the end of what was a wonderful moment at the end of some precious times here in Leeds. Sally had made me a cake which I will photograph and add to the blog later!
Chris

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

100th HEADTEACHER BREAKFAST

I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues at St Bartholomew's CE Primary School with headteachers from the Inner West and Inner South Families of Schools...



This was a special breakfast because it is the 100th Headteacher Breakfast since we started having them in January 2007. It was also special because Pauline Gavin and her team don't do things by halves at St Barts! Breakfast was brilliant; the food, the venue and the company were all outstanding. The Inner West  and Inner South headteachers talked about the many challenges we all face and how schools must maintain their focus on standards and safeguarding despite the challenges we are currently facing with change, cuts and uncertainty.

These schools are creative and inspiring places working at the heart of their communities 365-24-7. We need to continue to develop brilliant early years practice and to ensure that Every Child is a Reader and Every Child Counts by the time they are seven or eight... and we need to ensure that as far as possible all our children became brilliant little learners by the time they leave primary school and are on a pathway to success by the time they are sixteen.  Our greatest challenge at the heart of the city is to make sure that we 'Think Team' as we release the magic, the potential and the WOW factor for all our children, young people and their parents and carers.


These are great colleagues leading great schools where front line provision is wrapped in a stimulating, creative and imaginative curriculum offer that aims to turn out happy, healthy, safe and successful little learners, whatever it takes. Whenever I visit these schools and meet colleagues like these I know that I am in the presence of the real heroes of education in Leeds who fight the good fight day-in day-out because of their passion, commitment, determination, belief and because they care deeply about their children, their families and the communities they serve.
Chris

WE PROVIDE A VITAL AND ESSENTIAL SERVICE!

It has been an extraordinary week for all the wrong reasons as the weather buried us in snow and ice, schools closed and traffic around the city ground to a halt...

I still managed to meet with a small group of secondary headteachers who had made it to their regular meeting at Weetwood Hall. It was great to sit and listen to these talented colleagues as they discussed the Schools White Paper; 'The Importance of Teaching' which signals a radical reform agenda with an ambition to be world-class. I also spent an afternoon with five hundred children, parents, teachers and dance coaches at the Town Hall where we all celebrated RJC 'Dance Heats Project 9'. This is the ninth year that this wonderful project has run and this afternoon was a brilliant celebration of the work and the achievements of the children and teachers who have participated in the project over the last three months. Over 500 young people from sixteen schools in the Elmet Partnership of Schools have taken part in what is a unique and exciting dance project with the fabulous team from RJC Dance. And finally I spent a morning at the STEPS celebration at Weetwood Hall. It was another wonderful celebration of some amazing colleagues and some wonderful parents and carers. STEPS changes lives and the stories we have heard from these talented individuals make this programme one of the most important things we do and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues Chris Bennett and Val Cain who have worked so hard to deliver these programmes across Leeds over the last six years.


Colleagues also attended the fifth Local Government Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' awards last week. These 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. This year there was only one nomination from Leeds and it is brilliant that this was a partnership between the council's International Relations team and the Gypsy Roma Traveller achievement service within Education Leeds - and they won!

After a tough week, where I wrestled with a bad back, snow and ice, I was interviewed by Andrew Edwards on BBC Radio Leeds Drive Time about the snow and school closures. We are once again being criticised for shutting schools but as I woke up very early this week I heard that phrase again and again... "if your journey is not essential the advice is to stay indoors". I am encouraged by the uproar about school closures because it reminds us that schools, at the heart of what we do, are an essential service for so many children and young people and their parents and carers. While the weather has challenged everyone of us this week, as we struggled in through blizzard conditions along icy and treacherous roads, we should always remember that we provide a vital and essential service to the children and young people of Leeds.
Chris

Sunday, 5 December 2010

HOW THE WORLD'S MOST IMPROVED SCHOOL SYSTEMS KEEP GETTING BETTER

McKinsey have just published a really interesting report 'How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better'...

It recognises the journey we have made with schools and learning and suggests ways to move from good to outstanding. If you want to know more visit my other blog at http://releasing-the-magic.blogspot.com/.
Chris

Friday, 3 December 2010

STEPS CELEBRATION 2010

I attended the Steps Celebration at Weetwood Hall this morning...

This was another wonderful celebration of some amazing colleagues and some wonderful parents and carers. STEPS changes lives and the stories we have heard from these talented individuals make this programme one of the most important things we do and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues Chris Bennett and Val Cain who have worked so hard to deliver these programmes across Leeds over the last six years. It was great that Neil Straker also found the time to come and celebrate some incredible people's achievements. Neil has attended everyone of the STEPS Celebrations and is a great friend to Leeds. We all listened to two incredible stories this morning; Paul Hudson's story and Anna Travers' story and everyone there was simply inspired by these two ordinary, yet extra-ordinary, people who had changed their lives after attending the STEPS programme. It was also wonderful that Lou Tice, the founder of The Pacific Institute, had recorded a message for us earlier this week celebrating our achievements together here in Leeds and thanking me for everything I have done to make STEPS such a success. He told us that we had become an international centre of excellence that demonstrated the real power and impact of STEPS.

At the end of the morning my colleagues presented me with red wine and chocolate to thank me for bringing STEPS to Leeds and championing this incredible programme over the last ten years. I was also given The Pacific Institute's 'Keith Jackson' Award to keep. The award has been presented every year in memory of our dear friend and colleague and Neil Straker announced that from next year there will be a new award called The Pacific Institute's 'Chris Edwards' Award. It was a real surprise and a great honour. I was also deeply touched by the gift I received from my colleague Paul Hudson who gave me the first guitar he had made after he attended a STEPS course, which had clearly changed his life.

This morning provided even more evidence about the effectiveness of the STEPS programme and we must ensure that it continues here in Leeds. We must continue to work with and support the 300 facilitators we have trained and the 4000 plus colleagues, parents and carers who have been through the programme and whose lives have been touched by this brilliant programme. We must all continue to be powerful ambassadors and advocates for a programme that changes lives, saves lives and makes such an incredible difference where it really matters.
Chris

MAKING A DIFFERENCE AWARDS 2010

Colleagues attended the fifth Local Government Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' Awards last week....



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. This year there was only one nomination from Leeds and it is brilliant that this was a partnership between the Council's International Relations team and the Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievment Service within Education Leeds! My colleague Claire Lockwood, the Manager of the Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service sent me this bit of good news.


"Hi Chris, Just to let you know that GRTAS together with International Relation in Leeds won making a difference award for outstanding Achievement in International Working last week. This is the work we did with Brno last year and the embroidery exhibition coming to Leeds. Cheers, Claire."

Congratulations and well done to these great colleagues. This is wonderful news and builds on the success of our Visually Impaired team last year. The GRTAS has pioneered and led some incredible work, locally, regionally and nationally over the last ten years under Peter Saunders determined leadership. The International Relations team has also been doing some brilliant work and part of the legacy we are leaving is the thriving partnerships which schools across the city have established with colleagues in countries across the world.
Chris

Thursday, 2 December 2010

WHAT MAKES BRILLIANT!

The DfE have increased expectations of all of us and have continued to raise the bar...


The White Paper sets us all more challenges and asks us to account for what we are doing around failing schools and disadvantaged groups. OfSTED have also rasied the bar with Christine Gilbert's Annual Report establishing good as the new baseline for everything we do. Increasing numbers of schools find themselves below the new floor targets and in a category... more notices to improve and more schools in special measures. 'The Importance of Teaching' White Paper restates the role of local authorities as the champion and advocate for the child and their parents and carers and as the commissioner of services with outtstanding schools at the heart of school improvement, system leadership and innovation and change. It also ratchetes up the game with more Academies and Free Schools at the heart of a new and exciting learning landscape.


We also face a series of challenges because of three aspects of the rapidly changing world we all inhabit... abundance, automation and Asia requires us to look carefully at the skills we all need in this new conceptual age. Dan Pink in his book 'A Whole New Mind' suggests that we need to focus on the following six key skills... design, story, empathy, symphony and play. We also need to focus on the golden threads and together build a cooperative and collaborative critical mass of understanding and teamwork here in Leeds. And we need to be clear about what makes brilliant...
  • shared vision, values and beliefs;
  • strong, passionate leadership;
  • a culture of high expectations, celebration of achievement and high self-esteem;
  • inspiring teaching in brilliant learning environments;
  • assessment for learning and the powerful use of data and information;
  • a strong outcomes focus to deliver happy, healthy, safe and successful;
  • a coaching and mentoring culture; and last but not least
  • intelligent accountability.
We must also learn to listen... to parents and carers, to communities and to faith groups, to businesses and to our colleagues in further and higher education... but most importantly we must learn to listen to our children and young people.
Chris

SORRY!

I haven't managed to get in again today but it wasn't the snow that stopped me...

I was eventually ejected from Merrion House yesterday afternoon at 4.00 and after having coffee at Costa with my colleagues Wendy Winterburn and Carolyn Eyre I set off to dig my car out of the car park at Belgrave House. That was the mistake I made! My car was covered by about ten centimetres of dry powdery snow and as I was clearing it off I damaged my back again. It was relatively easy to get home but I had a terrible night and I am struggling this morning to get moving. It's a catch twenty two problem because to stop the pain and the ache I need to move and stretch which if I am not careful can just make it worse.

I am again sorry to those colleagues who were expecting me today... I will try again tomorrow for the STEPS Celebration.
Chris

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

CRITICISM OF SCHOOL CLOSURES

I was interviewed this afternoon by Andrew Edwards on BBC Radio Leeds Drive Time about the snow and school closures...

We are once again being criticised for shutting schools but as I woke up very early this morning I heard that phrase again... "if your journey is not essential the advice is to stay indoors".  I suppose it simply reminds us that we are an essential service for so many children and young people and their parents and carers. I recognise that this morning the weather has challenged everyone of us as we struggled in through blizzard conditions along icy and treacherous roads to provide a vital service to the children and young people of Leeds. I was in by 7.30 having dug the car out and managed to escape from the village where I live.

Faced with conflicting information and advice from the Met Office, our headteachers have to balance health and safety concerns with the needs of all our children and young people, and their families, and make difficult decisions when considering whether to keep their schools open. I know headteachers will once again have made that difficult assessment this morning about whether to stay open and I am grateful to everyone for their efforts today to keep providing a service to children and families wherever possible. It has been a very difficult day for everyone but around 100 of our schools did manage to stay open and enjoy the snow. We know that access to school is important to all our children and young people but especially to our vulnerable groups, including more than 30,000 who rely on our schools for a hot meal, over 20,000 who come from homes with inadequate heating, and upwards of 25,000 from one parent/carer families where there is enormous pressure on the parent/carer to get to work. I know that for some colleagues this simply hasn't been possible today and tomorrow looks cold and snowy so it isn't going to get any better for a while. I suppose we should be reassured that the weather people are saying that this only happens once in thirty years... but didn't we have something very similar last year and the year before?

Howver much criticism we get, these decisions must be taken by headteachers who have the best knowledge and information about their school and is vital we do all we can to support our headteachers in these very difficult circumstances. What we have learnt is that we need clear strategies, no matter how infrequently they may arise, and I hope that every school will set up a "snow plan" we can ensure we are fully prepared for the future, and that all our children and young people continue to be happy, healthy, successful and above all else, safe, at school. 
Chris

TEAM PARKLANDS!

My colleague Cath Hindmarch, headteacher at Parklands Primary School sent me this e-mail...

"Morning Chris! I wonder what is on your list for a snowy and icy morning? Sensible shoes?? No-sensible boots. Red wine-too dodgey for slippy pavements. On mine is the great team I work with and some chocolate about half 10. We've had a very challenging week but Team Parklands does its stuff. 2 people need special mention-our marvellous and fab Christine who has done open up and lock up in the absence of a caretaker since October and many times before that over the last 3 years. She stayed in school all day yesterday so that there was access for workmen. The other person is her daughter Chloe. Chloe left us last Summer to go to the DYCA. She took a call from me very early on Monday morning and told me that her mum had already set off for work to open up. Without prompting, Chloe offered to go out into the snow and walk up to school to pass my message on. She did this and saved the day. When I listen to people moaning about young people, I always feel quite angry. We all know the most fantastic young people and they really do deserve more credit. Have a good day! Cath."

It's funny, I know what I won't miss after Christmas but, I will miss people like Cath and her brilliant team at Parklands Primary School.  They and an army of colleagues in outstanding schools across Leeds constantly remind me why I stayed here for the last ten years and why I am here today sitting at the top of Merrion House watching the snow falling on the city. Our children and young people are blessed to have people like Cath and her colleagues to care for them and to help them be happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes! Chris

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

GREAT NEWS!

My colleague Jancis Andrew who heads up our Attendance Strategy Team sent me this bit of good news...

"Dear Chris, Only seven of our high schools have not reduced their number of PA pupils. In the whole of the city there were 632 fewer young people who were persistently absent in Half Term 1 this year when compared to last year. Many schools go on to improve their performance across the year and we only need 73 more young people to stop being PA to achieve the 5% reduction as a city and achieve the goal we have been working towards! This would be BRILLIANT news for Leeds!  This is a really positive start to the year! Thanks. Regards, Jancis."
We all know the consequences of poor attendance and it is great to see all the hard work paying off with another 632 young people being better engaged in learning. Congratulations to all the schools and to Jancis and her team. More to do, but a great start to the year.
Chris

RJC DANCE HEATS PROJECT 9

I spent the afternoon with five hundred children, parents, teachers and dance coaches at the Town Hall where we all celebrated RJC 'Dance Heats Project 9'...

This is the ninth year that this wonderful project has run and this afternoon was a brilliant celebration of the work and the achievements of the children and teachers who have participated in the project over the last three months. Over 500 young people from sixteen schools in the Elmet Partnership of Schools have taken part in what is a unique and exciting dance project with the fabulous team from RJC Dance. The schools involved were Shadwell and Bramham Primary Schools, Scholes Primary School, Collingham Lady Elizabeth Hastings CE Primary School, St Mary's CE Primary School, Thorpe Arch Primary School, St John's School for the Deaf, Thorner CE Primary School, Bardsey Primary School, Deighton Gates Primary School, Barwick-in-Elmet CE Primary School, Wigton Moor Primary School, Harewood CE Primary School, Crossley Street Primary School, St Edward's Catholic Primary School and St Joseph's Catholic Primary School. The fabulous RJC 'Dance Heat Project 9' tutors were De-Napoli Clarke, Helen Wilson, Stacy Wraith and Amy Manancourt and they helped the schools deliver some great performances... and the audience made so much noise that they nearly lifted the Town Hall roof off!

It was great to see Cllr Adam Ogilvie at the event. Adam holds the portfolio for leisure on the Council's Executive Board and is a great supporter of the arts. I hope we can ensure that projects like this continue to inspire young dancers and that 'Dance Heats Project 10' is an even bigger and even better celebration of dance in Leeds.
Chris

SECONDARY HEADTEACHERS MEETING

I made it in today to meet with a small group of secondary headteachers who had made it to their regular meeting at Weetwood Hall...

It was great to sit and listen to these talented colleagues as they discussed the Schools White Paper; 'The Importance of Teaching' and it's implications for teaching and learning. The White Paper signals a radical reform agenda with an ambition to be world-class. It covers teaching and leadership, behaviour, curriculum, assessment and qualifications, the new school system, accountability, school improvement and school funding. A Schools Bill is expected shortly but most of the reforms will be introduced progressively between now and 2014.

We discussed the implications for Leeds schools as they face the perfect storm with Education Leeds disappearing, the new Children's Services arrangements coming into place, huge reductions in funding for public services nationally and locally, organisations disappearing regionally and nationally and this very radical schools agenda. Whatever anyone says this is the time for the optimists amongst us to stand up and be counted. There is an opportunity to shape the future; to be brave, creative and to lead the way. What we have achieved together over the last few years is a strong set of partnerships where collaboration, co-operation and teamwork has achieved extra-ordinary results. Our challenge now, and the opportunity for those who are able to see it, is to THINK TEAM and build TEAM LEEDS on the strong foundations we have laid. Only then will we really be able to claim that Leeds is a truly world class city with a truly world class education and schools system for all its young people.
Chris

Monday, 29 November 2010

LET IT SNOW!

Well the weather outside is certainly frightful and from looking at the weather forecasts there is more cold weather and snow on the way...

Sadly the snow didn't stop me getting in today but I have damaged my back again. I have had a disc problem for a long time but it hasn't been a problem recently. Once I get started it's generally OK but if I sit still or lie down I get stuck and it's almost impossible to move in the morning. Sorry to those schools who were expecting me today. I will try to get in tomorrow if I can move!
Chris

SUCCESS DEPENDS ON PASSION, COMMITMENT, DETERMINATION AND SHEER HARD WORK!

Only three weeks left now and last week flew by because I was so busy...


I started the week at the Education Leeds leadership forum. This will be the last occasion where I spend time with this group of colleagues who were looking at the developing structure within the new children's services arrangements. I visited Carr Manor High School again. It was great to sit and talk to Simon Flowers, the school's inspirational headteacher, about the journey they have been on from potential closure in split site and unloved accommodation to an oversubscribed, increasingly successful and innovative school occupying a fantastic PFI building which was opened by Tony Blair. I had breakfast with headteacher colleagues from the Pudsey and the West families of schools at Pudsey Grangefield School. These headteachers are great colleagues doing some amazing work with children and families. I visited Swallow Hill Community College. I hadn't visited the school for over a year and it was great to see Gill Knutsson, acting headteacher, again. I was impressed by the calm and very purposeful atmosphere around the school and the building which is bright, light and a wonderful environment for learning. I visited St Bartholomew's Church of England Primary School again. Pauline Gavin and her team don't do things by halves at St Barts. It is a creative and inspiring place working at the heart of its community to release the magic and the WOW factor. I visited Castleton Primary School where Judith Norfolk and her team are doing something wonderful at this little oasis of brilliant primary practice tucked away at the heart of West Leeds. I attended 'Celebrating 10 Years of Success'; the Leeds Mentoring annual awards ceremony at the Civic Hall. This year there have once again been over 4000 mentoring partnerships here in Leeds and the evening provided us with another wonderful opportunity to listen to young people's stories of success encouraged and supported by brilliant mentors. I visited the South Leeds Academy again to see my colleague Colin Bell. I am particularly grateful to Colin and his colleagues at the South Leeds Academy who have achieved something quite remarkable over the last five years. I attended the awards evening at Corpus Christ Catholic College. It was a real honour to be asked by Mike Woods, headteacher at this highly successful school, to be part of this very special evening where George Mudie MP presented the awards. Sadly there was a clash and I missed the Peace Poetry Celebration at the Civic Hall, but it is great to see that the Peace Poetry competition continues to excite schools and produce some wonderful poetry. I went on BBC Radio Leeds to talk about the report produced by Barnardos on the consequences of exclusions. It was great to be able to talk about the impressive track record we have here in Leeds with reducing exclusions and more importantly wherever possible finding alternatives to exclusion. I visited Temple Moor High School Science College again. It was wonderful to see the brilliant new building again and to walk around the school with Martin Fleetwood, the headteacher, who has a wonderful rapport and relationship with his students. I visited Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School which is a wonderful little school where Barbara Custance, acting headteacher, Libby Harrison, acting deputy headteacher, and their colleagues are clearly doing great things. I finished the week at Woodkirk High Specialist Science School. My colleague Jonathan White, headteacher at Woodkirk High Specialist Science School, had invited me to present the certificates and awards at their awards ceremony. It was wonderful to be part of this very special evening and to present the certificates and awards to some fantastic young people.

Wherever I go colleagues are talking about the future and how we can shape it. We need to remember that what we have achieved together in Education Leeds, in secondary schools like Carr Manor, Swallow Hill, South Leeds Academy, Corpus Christi, Temple Moor and Woodkirk and in primary schools like St Bartholomew's, Castleton and Roundhay St John's is critically about people, teamwork, attitude and ownership and engagement. We also know that whatever comes our way success depends on passion, commitment, determination and sheer hard work... which are the keys to releasing the magic in all our colleagues and all our children and young people.
Chris

Sunday, 28 November 2010

WOODKIRK HIGH SPECIALIST SCIENCE SCHOOL

I finished the day on Friday at Woodkirk High Specialist Science School...

My colleague Jonathan White, Headteacher at Woodkirk High Specialist Science School, had invited me to present the certificates and awards at their Awards Ceremony. It was a real honour to be asked by Jonathan to be part of this very special evening and to present the certificates and awards to some fantastic young people. Dennis Fisher introduced the evening for the fourteenth time as chair of governors which is an incredible achievement. We also had wonderful performances by the Upper School Choir who sang 'Happy Ending', 'Flying Home' and 'We are the Champions'. 

The school achieved some extraordinary GCSE results this year; their best ever GCSE results placing the school amongst the most successful and highest achieving comprehensive schools in Leeds. The school is a Science College and the specialism has clearly made a huge impact alongside the work they have been doing in sport, music and the arts and their community. The Class of 2010 were very clearly everything you could want from a group of young people... talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful and it was great to share this very special evening with the team at Woodkirk.
Chris

Friday, 26 November 2010

PEACE POETRY CELEBRATION

I was really sorry that I missed the 8th Peace Poetry Celebration at the Civic Hall last night but my colleague Rehana Minhas, Director for Equality and Entitlement, sent me this e-mail after last night's event...

"Dear Chris, Our 8th annual peace poetry celebration was a great success. Families turned up to support their children as well as Head teachers and teaching staff. Our chief judge was Rommi Smith. The Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr. Patrick Davey opened the event and stayed to make presentations to the winners and runners up and certificates to all who had been short listed. The New World Steel Symphony Orchestra provided wonderful musical entertainment. The partnership between Education Leeds, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Evening Post, Together for Peace , Trinity and all Saints and Arts at Trinity has grown and been sustained bringing creativity and innovation to the fore.


The primary school winner was Jameel from Hunslet Moor Primary School, and the runners up were Bethany Pinder and Carla House also from Hunslet Moor. The secondary school winner was Charlie Sykes from Woodkirk High. The runners up were Joshua Brown from Abbey Grange and Whitney Downing from Woodkirk Hiigh The Yorkshire Evening Post will be providing coverage of the event.

We had a surprise guest at the event, Ed Balls M.P. who spoke to the audience and as ever was very enthusiastic about the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard. He asked about the progress we have made in rolling out the standard nationally. Getting Ed Balls to our event form his meeting at the Civic was the genius of the Deputy Lord Mayor. Kind regards, Rehana."

It is great to see that the Peace Poetry Competition continues to excite schools and produce some wonderful poetry. I hope that it will continue to grow and develop and encourage more of our children and young people to see themselves as young poets.
Chris

ROUNDHAY ST JOHN'S CE PRIMARY SCHOOL

I moved on again to Roundhay St John's CE Primary School...

Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School is a wonderful little school where Barbara Custance,acting headteacher, Libby Harrison, acting deputy headteacher and their colleagues are clearly doing great things. It was great to talk to Barbara and Libby and to see that the school is making real progress under their energetic leadership until the new headteacher arrives in January.  Like on my last visit we all went outside and took part in their innovative collective worship and 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session with a colleague whose energy and enthusiasm as we approach the end of term was amazing! The whole session was great. Barbara passionately led the collective worship and the 'Wake Up and Shake Up' was led by Sarah, a really talented, enthusiastic and energetic colleague, and the children were fabulous!

There is something really special at Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School . A talented, gorgeous and wonderful team led by Barbara and Libby who are doing a brilliant job.
Chris

TEMPLE MOOR HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE COLLEGE

I moved on to visit Temple Moor High School Science College again...

It was wonderful to see the brilliant new building again and to walk around the school with Martin Fleetwood, the headteacher, who has a wonderful rapport and relationship with his students. Martin showed me the inclusion areas and the work the school is doing with the East SILC to include 16 young people into the Temple Moor learning community and to access key elements of the curriculum. It is another real success story in our ongoing journey to create great, inclusive and reflective local schools for all our children and young people. Martin and his team are doing a brilliant job and have created a wonderful foundation on which they are building brilliant provision to secure outstanding outcomes.
Chris

BBC RADIO LEEDS

I started the day today at the BBC Radio Leeds studios...

I had been asked by BBC Radio Leeds to talk about exclusions and the report produced by Barnardo's which highlighted the case of Ben who lives in Leeds and who had been excluded from school and supported by Leeds Reach@Barnardo's. We have a great track record here in Leeds with exclusions and more importantly wherever possible finding alternatives to exclusion. We know that we need to work closer with partner organisations, like Barnardo's, who can provide more personalised and targeted support to some of our young people with the most challenging lives. Exclusion is a disaster for young people and we must all continue to work to avoid permanant exclusions.. whatever it takes!
Chris

CORPUS CHRISTI CATHOLIC COLLEGE

And finally last night I attended the Awards Evening at Corpus Christ Catholic College...

It was a real honour to be asked by Mike Woods, headteacher at this highly successful school, to be part of this very special evening. Martin Dowling, chair of the governing body, introduced the evening which also included performances by the College Band who played 'Swinging Brown Jug' and the theme from The 'Great Escape' and the College Choir who sang 'Can you hear me', 'Run' and 'Walking on sunshine'.  The Class of 2010 were very clearly everything you could want from a group of young people... talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful! Mike Wood the headteacher at this great school reviewed the last five years with some great photographs of the young people on their journey through the school from starting in Year 7 in 2005 to their GCSE results and Graduation Ball in 2010. The school achieved their best GCSE results this year and George Mudie MP presented the young people with their certificates and prizes.
It was great to share this very special evening with the team at Corpus Christi.
Chris

Thursday, 25 November 2010

SOUTH LEEDS ACADEMY

I visited the South Leeds Academy this afternoon to see my colleague Colin Bell, the Principal at this remarkable learning place...


Colin is the remarkable principal at this wonderful learning place and I wanted to visit the Academy again before I leave Leeds because the story of South Leeds Academy is yet another of our successes. I am particularly grateful to Colin and his colleagues at the South Leeds Academy who have achieved something quite remarkable over the last five years. Colin's leadership, in particular, has transformed provision as we moved from two failing schools with massive problems of underachievement, low expectations and disaffection in awful buildings with little hope or aspiration to a position where we have passion, commitment and success in a wonderful newly built learning environment where young people are more positive and optimistic. We are also on a trajectory that will achieve the previous Government's magical 30%, and the current Government's new 35%, achieving 5A*-C grades at GCSE including English and mathematics. They are also on track to achieve 80% of the young people getting five good GCSEs or the equivalent; which is simply unheard of in South Leeds. 



The challenge of course is to build on this real success story; to build on what Colin and his team have achieved... whatever it takes!
Chris

LEEDS MENTORING ANNUAL AWARDS

And finally last night I attended 'Celebrating 10 Years of Success'; Leeds Mentoring Annual Awards Ceremony at the Civic Hall...

This year there have once again been over 4000 mentoring partnerships here in Leeds and the evening provided us with another wonderful opportunity to listen to young people's stories of success encouraged and supported by brilliant mentors. The awards were presented by Steve Matthews, Chief Executive of the 'Mentoring and Befriending Foundation', Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council,  Cllr Jim McKenna, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Paul Caddick, Cllr Judith Blake, Lead Member for Children's Services  and Cllr Jane Dowson, Lead Member for Learning. We also had brilliant performances by the 'Temple Moor Singers' from Temple Moor High School and 'Revelations' from City of Leeds School.



Thanks to Barry Hilton and the talented Leeds Mentoring team who, with our mentoring team from schools, universities, businesses and individuals from across the city, are making such an incredible difference to the lives of some of our very special young people.
Chris

CASTLETON PRIMARY SCHOOL

I moved on again to visit Castleton Primary School...

Judith Norfolk and her team are doing something wonderful at this little oasis of brilliant primary practice tucked away where it is. We all know that inner city schools must be creative and inspiring places at the heart of their communities 365-24-7 releasing the magic and the WOW factor and that is what you get at Castleton Primary School and some! It is an outstanding school which is busy and rich and has a real family feel where everyone feels special and valued.


This is another brilliant community school where Judith and her colleagues are doing great things and releasing an extraordinary magic. Judith and some of her governors took me on a tour of this wonderful learning place and showed me the new Children's Centre which has been developed since my last visit. This is yet another incredible learning place that I will really miss!
Chris

ST BARTHOLOMEW'S CE PRIMARY SCHOOL

I moved on again to St Bartholomew's CE Primary School...

Pauline Gavin and her team don't do things by halves at St Barts which is a glorious mix of children from cultures and religions from all over the world! We talked about the many challenges we all face and how schools like St Bart's can maintain their focus on standards and safeguarding despite the challenges we are currently facing with change, cuts and uncertainty. Inner city schools must be creative and inspiring places at the heart of their communities 365-24-7 releasing the magic and the WOW factor and that is what you get at St Bart's and some!. 

This is a brilliant school where Pauline Gavin and her colleagues are doing great things and releasing an extraordinary magic.Pauline took me on a tour of this wonderful learning place and showed me the new areas she has developed since my last visit. This is another incredible learning place that I will really miss!
Chris

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

SWALLOW HILL COMMUNITY COLLEGE

I moved on to visit Swallow Hill Community College...


I hadn't visited the school for over a year and it was great to see Gill Knutsson, acting headteacher, again.  Gill talked to me about the journey ths school had been on since September and the impact and outcomes they were achieving, I was impressed by the calm and very purposeful atmosphere around the school and the building which is bright, light and a wonderful environment for learning. Everyone I spoke to was very positive and optimistic about the school while recognising the very real challenges the staff team still face with creating a shared culture, addressing behaviour, managing attendance and driving up standards. It's only three weeks until the end of term and the team, although tired, have certainly achieved a lot recently and are really confident about the journey to build a brilliant learning place to serve the people of West Leeds.
Chris

ANOTHER HEADTACHER BREAKFAST

I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues at Pudsey Grangefield School...

These headteachers from the Pudsey and the West Families of Schools are great colleagues doing some amazing work with children and families. We talked about the new children's services arrangements, increasing reception numbers, the White Paper, acdemies and Team Leeds. We agreed that we need to maintain a focus on outstanding teaching and learning, on the WOW factor, on quality provision and how we nurture passion, enthusiasm, creativity and imagination. We also talked about th need to work positively with colleagues from Social Care, health, the police and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities.

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.
Chris

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

TIM BRIGHOUSE

I had dinner this evening with my friend and colleague Sir Tim Brighouse...

Tim is one of Britain’s most respected educationalists.  He started his career as a classroom teacher and  going on to become Deputy Education Officer in ILEA and Chief Education Officer for Oxfordshire. He became Professor of Education and Head of the Education Department at Keele University and founded the Centre for Successful Schools. Tim returned to the role of Chief Education Officer for Birmingham City Council and was also appointed Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, London University. Most recently, Tim served as London Schools Commissioner and then Chief Adviser for London Schools where he set up the London Challenge which transformed outcomes in some of the most disadvantaged schools in the country.

It was wonderful to catch up with Tim who was on his way to Hull where he has been involved in leading the Hull Challenge where again he has helped transform standards and outcomes in another one of the most disadvantaged parts of the country.
Chris

CARR MANOR HIGH SCHOOL

This afternoon I visited Carr Manor High School...

Carr Manor High School is another of those places where you can see, through their  real success story, the Education Leeds story. It was great to sit and talk to Simon Flowers, the school's inspirational headteacher, about the journey they have been on from potential closure in split site and unloved accommodation to an oversubscribed, increasingly successful and innovative school occupying a fantastic PFI building which was opened by Tony Blair. I sometimes need to pinch myself because what we have achieved at Carr Manor High School and at so many other great schools across the city is simply unbelievable. It has been a privilege to work with Simon and his brilliant team and to watch the transformation of teaching and learning take place.

Simon took me on a last tour around the school before we went to a special reception he had arranged for me with some of his team, some of his governors and some of his students to thank me for everything I had done for the school over the last ten years. They gave me a wonderful picture which was a montage of photographs of important moments over the last ten years including some of me, which I will treasure.
Chris

OLIVIA'S STORY

In May I told you about the Stepping Stones Celebration at Tiger Tiger where I spent the evening with Olivia and Kari, two of our fantastic looked-after young people, and their foster carers. I was so impressed with these two young women that I asked them to write to me about their experiences and Olivia has justsent me this...

"During the summer holidays I took part in two summer schools – one at Hull University and one at Cambridge University. I enjoyed both summer schools and gained a better knowledge on life as a university student. I attended Hull University at the beginning of July. I felt very welcome when I arrived and soon settled in. We stayed in the student accommodation which wasn’t too bad apart from the fact I had no television. During the day we travelled down to the university and sat through lectures on university life, law and computer science. These were very interesting and expanded my knowledge of university. We also had practical lessons on medical science where we were given real life scenarios and had the chance to examine evidence and play the role of doctors and use medical equipment to solve the mysterious illnesses. During the evenings we did a range of activities from going to the cinema to having a disco. Throughout the week we worked with university students and had the chance to ask them our questions. During the first week of August I attended Cambridge summer school. We also stayed in student accommodation but I didn’t really like these as they were like flats and quite frightening. Throughout the day we travelled to the university and had lectures on student life and finances. We also had lectures from a top law firm, Clifford Chance, and had the chance to solve a real case as lawyers either for or against the defendant. I really enjoyed this as I hope to go to university to study law and maybe one day become a lawyer. We worked with university students who made us feel at home and gave us an insight on their experiences as a student.  Overall I enjoyed both summer schools and now have a better understanding on university life. I would definitely recommend the summer schools and am glad I was given this opportunity.This story show us what is possible for our looked-after children and the brilliant work that Julie Pocklington and Ken Campbell, our Stepping Stones team, are doing with the CLCs and students from the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan Iniversity. It's great to know what a difference this fantastic intiative that is making where it really matters.
Olivia."


Chris

Monday, 22 November 2010

LEADERSHIP FORUM

I started the day at the Education Leeds Leadership Forum...



This will be the last time I spend time with this group of colleagues who were looking at the developing structure within the new children's services arrangements. We talked about the future and how we can shape it. We talked about passion, purpose and culture. We talked about people, teamwork, attitude and ownership and engagement as keys to releasing the magic in our teams and our schools.
Chris

THE FUTURE IS FULL OF OPPORTUNITIES!

Only four weeks left and the time is flying by...




It has been another extraordinary week. I visited Benton Park School again. My colleague David Foley, headteacher, had asked me to come to talk to his leadership team about the future. I visited Methley Primary School again. It's an extraordinary school and the school's inspirational headteacher Tracy Dell's leadership, passion, commitment and hard work has built an outstanding team and the learning environment is simply fantastic. I visited Willow Young Carers with Councillor Jane Dowson, my colleague John Paxton, and Al Berry, a student at Temple Moor High School who represents Leeds on the Youth Parliament. Willow Young Carers is a brilliant project that reaches some of our most special and simply extraordinary young people who care for someone in their family as well as managing their home life, their friends and their school work. I attended the Year 11 Achievement Evening at St Mary's Catholic High School. It was a real honour to be asked by Cath McMahon, headteacher at this highly successful school, to be part of this very special evening and to present the certificates and awards to some fantastic young people. I visited Gledhow Primary School again. This is a popular and successful school and Steve Archer, the headteacher, took me around the school and showed me the improvements they have made since my last visit. I visited Brigshaw High School again. It was great to be able to catch up with Cath Lennon, the headteacher at this wonderful school, and talk about the progress the school has made over the last few years. I also attended the city council's Excellence Awards. I was there to present one of the awards and it was great to spend time with Education Leeds colleagues who had won our Spirit Awards, and had subsequently been nominated for these awards.


During the week I attended the the Guardian Social Enterprise Summit which was sub-titled 'The Key to Big Society? Scaling up social enterprises to deliver public services'. The event comes at a particularly interesting time for public services, who are facing the cuts announced in the comprehensive spending review. The government has also made it clear that they expect social enterprise, volunteering and the Big Society to help fill the gaps. Everyone was talking about ‘savage and horrendous cuts’ to all our budgets to balance the budget deficit the country currently faces. We clearly need to work smarter, better, more closely and be more efficient and effective in everything we do and to think team...


The last ten years have shown that great learning happens in teams: in groups and networks who share ideas about what works; and what doesn't. Great learning develops and grows through co-operation, collaboration, networking and sharing. Great organisations, great schools, great classrooms are about great individuals who operate in and with great teams. AND... you don't need to look elsewhere to see great teams and brilliant leadership. Simply look at the schools I visited last week. Wherever I look there are simply extraordinary colleagues releasing the magic where it really matters. The future is full of opportunities for outstanding colleagues and outstanding teams who are creating outstanding learning places.
Chris