Tuesday, 7 December 2010


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.

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