Monday, 13 December 2010


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,

1 comment:

Ali said...

And what a brilliant part you have played in the story. I am honoured to have worked with you Chris. I hope you are able to spread your magic, work wonders for children and adults and think our loss is their gain. Good luck and I will keep in touch.

Thanks for everything you have done for and given to the staff, parents, children and carers at Victoria Primary School.