Saturday, 9 January 2010

I received this email and the pictures from Sue Sanderson, Headteacher at Swarcliffe Primary School...

"Hi Chris! I have attached some photos taken at Swarcliffe Primary School this week. We have been open all week, all our staff have managed to get in to school ~ its been tricky but we have all made it in! It has been frustrating to watch images of children sledging with their parents in the media giving the perception that every child enjoys snow days and are warm, well fed and safe. Here in East Leeds we know that image does not represent the experience of many of our children ~ this has strengthened staff resolve to make it to work. As you can see the children and staff had a fantastic time.

Year 3 even created their own Viking Longship!

Unfortunately we were forced to close school to children at the end of the week as we had a burst water main and gas leak! Staff were still on site armed with their own portable heaters! This weekend we will have contractors on site working to replace the main gas pipe so we can open to everyone on Monday! The school staff have been fantastic in supporting the school! I know they argue they are just doing their job but everyone has given over and above this week. Education Leeds Estate Management, especially Robert Furtle have also been very supportive liaising with contractors and H&S. I would like to mention Tony Morley (Superintendent) and Clare Mosby (Office Manager) who deserve an extra special mention both of whom have been in work extremely early and stayed very late to ensure children, parents and staff were safe and kept up to date! Sue."

It is brilliant to hear about the way colleagues are keeping the show on the road against the odds. Congratulations to Sue and her colleagues at Swarcliffe Primary School My personal thanks to Tony and Clare who have clearly been brilliant!
My colleague Elaine Kay-Devanney, headteacher at Blackgates Primary School, sent me this message...

"Hello Chris, We are enjoying ourselves as usual at sunny Blackgates. We do not allow the adverse weather to cloud our fun! Please feel free to come and build snowmen and snow-women (very PC!) We WILL be open! Love from the hardy folk at Blackgates."

Most of our schools have managed to stay open despite the worst weather conditions in 30 years and it is brilliant to hear about the way colleagues are keeping the show on the road against the odds. Congratulations to Elaine and her team at Blackgates Primary School!

These are extraordinary times and most of us can't remember a Christmas and New Year like this. Please send in your pictures in jpeg format and I'll put them on the blog.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Another snowy day struggling to get to anywhere...

I attended the 2010 NEEC YORK 'Unlocking Children's Potential' Conference again today. The morning started with a session by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown author, journalist, speaker and performer who talked about the political and cultural forces that impede the educational potential of our children. This was followed by three inputs by Michael Gove MP (Conservative Shadow Secretary of State), David Laws MP (Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State) and Vernon Coaker MP (Minister for Schools and Learners) who all talked about their policies and priorities for the future. We also had a brief and very stimulating input by Joe Sweeney, York's Member of the UK Youth Parliament.

The Conference finished with an invitation to NEEC Blackpool in 2011and the announcement that Leeds had been successful in it's bid to host the NEEC in 2012, the year of the London Olympics.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Gary Milner and I met with some of the FE College Principals this afternoon...

It is encouraging to spend time with these colleagues who like me are impatient about action, frustrated by the bureaucracy and desperate to connect our provision. We talked about the further development of the relationship between Education Leeds, the schools and the colleges based on trust, understanding and partnership. We agreed that we need to continue to work closely together to improve quality, reduce costs and strip out duplication recognising the real achievements of the last few years. We must improve the universal offer and ensure that we additionally target focus groups to reduce NEETs, tackle the long tail of underachievement, improve progression rates and narrow the gap.
I attended the NEEC 2010 YORK 'Unlocking Children's Potential' Conference this morning...

The North of England Education Conference, the country's most prestigious education conference, has been running for over a hundred years, and has always attracted the key professionals from education. However, since the introduction of Children's Services Departments, the NEEC is now aimed at all the professions within Children's Services, the major partners who help deliver Every Child Matters, key politicians as well as those engaged with research and higher education

The Conference was chaired by Sir Michael Bichard who recognised that within us all is the potential to learn more, grow spiritually, contribute to society and build communities. This potential needs identifying, developing and nurturing in young people. It is the responsibility of all the professions who work with them to foster this potential and enable young people to value who they are and to be comfortable with themselves and others. Such professionals are rewarded by seeing young people grow, and by learning themselves about the joy of education and a future full of hope.

The Conference theme "unlocking children's potential"focused during the morning on developing a deeper understanding of poverty and well-being, imagination and writing and poetry and assessment for learning. Professor Jonathan Bradshaw's session on 'Understanding Child Poverty and Child Well-being' provided some real challenges. Andrew Motion, the previous Poet Laureate's session on imagination, writing and poetry, explored the urgent need to reinforce the requirement that all young people are emmersed in language, writing and poetry to stimulate the imagination and create human beings who are rounded and literate. My morning finished with Dylan Wiliam, Deputy Director of the Institute of Education,'s session on Leadership and Learning in a Changing World which actually was all about school improvemnet and the key role of assessment for learning an professional development.

It was great to see so many old friends at the Conference and to spend such a stimulating and enjoyable morning in York.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

I received another e-mail about the magnificent efforts colleagues have put in to keep schools open from David Foley, Headteacher at Benton Park High School...

"Chris, having seen messages from Chris and Alison on the blog, I thought I'd let you know what a fantastic effort the whole staff at Benton Park have made in the last two days to ensure that we have been able to operate as smoothly and as normally as possible. Their professionalism has been exemplary. Those staff who have been able to, have got to school early to help man the phones. Particularly on Tuesday, colleagues showed great determination in getting here and speedily & efficiently slipped into their normal routines. We closed early yesterday, so that we could get pupils home safely on the buses - the bus-park was inaccessible, so the buses had to park on the main road. We also sent staff away as early as possible, so we could get a JCB in to clear the car-parks and roadways, to ensure that everyone would be less at risk today following the low temperatures overnight. A number of colleagues had to cope with very difficult conditions again this morning but did so and we have been able to function as normal today. Let's see what the rest of the week brings! Best Wishes, David."

Three quarters of our schools managed to stay open yesterday and it is brilliant to hear about the way colleagues are keeping the show on the road against the odds. Congratulations to David and the team at Benton Park High School!


We had a very special visitor at the 10th Floor of Merrion House today...
Our colleague Rosie Fluin brought Scarlett Rebecca in to see us and she was simply beautiful!

Rosie and Scarlett Rebecca.

After all everything we are doing here in Leeds is to ensure that every Scarlett Rebecca is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful over the next 18 years. Shame they live in York!
My life is brilliant and this is the view I have everyday, splashed at the moment with snow...

Any time you are passing drop in and see why I still think Leeds is magic after eight and a half years serving its' children and young people.
I also received this message from Alison Carrick, Headteacher at Victoria Primary School...

"Hi Chris, thanks for the messages on the blog - they make interesting reading. I just wanted to let you know what the situation is in school (guess you already know but just in case!). We have opened as usual, few staff unable to get in but we are managing and really enjoying the snow. Not often we have enough to make 4 giant snow men in our playgrounds. Take care, drive carefully and if stuck at home for any reason follow your own advice and read a good book! Best wishes, see you soon. Ali."

Three quarters of our schools managed to stay open yesterday and it is brilliant to hear about the way colleagues are keeping the show on the road against the odds. Congratulations to Ali and the team at Victoria Primary School!


Chris Walsh, Headteacher at Boston Spa School sent me this last night...

"Chris, We texted all our parents last night telling them we were to remain open. I have written to all parents of young people with spring term exams (internal and external) explaining that we will remain open. We have kept the school open today, it has not been without challenge and staff have been brilliant. We did not have a bus service, but have kept telling the communities we serve that we are open. It has been another day of hot chocolate, good spirits and learning, with some staff are going the extra mile at the end of the day (before making their own journeys home) to take our more vulnerable young people, and those stranded by the cancelled 770 service, home. We will be open tomorrow and I would like our young people here, safe and learning. Chris"

It is brilliant to hear about the way colleagues are keeping the show on the road against the odds. Congratulations to Chris and the team at Boston Spa!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A friend sent me this quote after Christmas...
"Great spirits
have always encountered violent opposition
from mediocre minds"
Albert Einstein

"Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going"...

As I woke up 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.
Once again this morning the weather has challenged everyone of us as we struggled in through blizzard conditions along icy and treacherous roads to serve the children and young people of Leeds. The important thing is to ensure that everyone is safe and I know headteachers will once again have made that difficult assessment this morning about whether to stay open. I am grateful to everyone for their efforts today to keep providing a service to children and families wherever possible. It has been a difficult day for everyone but the vast majority of our schools managed to stay open and enjoy the snow.

I know that for some colleagues this simply hasn't been possible and the rest of the week 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 somthing very similar last year?
"You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself."

I was thinking about responsibility as I struggled against the elements this morning. My journey this morning took me two and a quarter hours including digging the car out of the snowdrift at home, but I made it. I am not sure how I am going to get home tonight but I'll face that obstacle when I need to. I don't know why, listening to the radio, I didn't simply roll over and stay in bed but I blame my parents and the work and service ethic they built into my very being. Whatever you are doing today take responsibility, stay safe and keep warm.

Monday, 4 January 2010

I received this message this evening from Sir Ken Robinson...

"Dear Chris, A quick note of thanks for the invitation to give the Education Leeds Annual Lecture. I enjoyed being able to spend time with the team before the lecture and also the event itself. As I said, I have a long association with Leeds and it was a genuine pleasure to be in the city again. Very best wishes for 2010. Ken."

It was a great evening and the feedback from colleagues has been fantastic. I hope that Ken will visit us again in the future to see how we have responded to the challenges he gave us if we really want to build brilliant provision here in Leeds.


Well Christmas is over for another year; the goose is cooked and eaten, the money is spent or given away, and the decorations are boxed and packed away until the next time kings, angels, mystery and magic come our way...

This looks like being an even more interesting year than usual with inspections, interventions, reviews, appointments and elections to deal with; and whatever happens, 2010 is going to be another year full of opportunities for those of us who believe we can continue to make a difference, continue to deliver brilliant outcomes and continue to change the world. We must be positive and optimistic about ourselves and about our future. We must enjoy ourselves while we chase success; we must look after each other; we must read good books, enjoy the arts and continue to be inspired. We must continue to learn, and continue to improve and develop our talents, our abilities and our skills. Whatever it is that you are trying to achieve this year, success won't depend on genius, talent or innate ability. It will have a lot to do with luck, being in the right place at the right time and who is on your side supporting you, and even more importantly it will be about persistence, determination and sheer hard work. We must be optimistic and remember these key messages so that we nurture the magic, maintain our creative edge, foster innovation and imagination and strive to keep all our colleagues happy, healthy, safe and successful… whatever it takes.

In case you’ve forgotten the key messages:
  • focus and work hard;
  • take personal responsibility;
  • read lots and learn from everything you do;
  • celebrate other people’s achievements and always say thank you;
  • share your experiences, your learning and your successes;
  • reduce the paper and clean up the clutter;
  • always think about how you can make a difference;
  • be positive, don’t put up with negative people or dwell on the negatives; and
  • never lie about anything important.

And when the going gets tough and the challenges seem impossible:

  • look after yourself and your colleagues;
  • spend time with positive and optimistic colleagues;
  • smile, laugh at life and search for ways to have fun;
  • breathe deeply, stretch and exercise regularly;
  • get enough sleep and take regular breaks;
  • appreciate what you have; and
  • celebrate everything that goes well.

2010 will be a year to remember; a year of opportunity and discovery for us all, and we must work hard to make all our dreams turn into reality and all our efforts and hard work turn into great achievements.
Keep the faith!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

I went to Sadler's Wells to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake for the fourth time this weekend and it was once again a brilliant experience which everyone who loves the arts should try to get to see...

The choreography was tighter, the male swans were stronger and everything was accompanied by Tchaikovsky's brilliant score wonderfully performed at Sadler's Wells by an excellent orchestra. The new cast was also good; Charlotte Broom gave a chilly performance as the Queen, Dominic North was the disturbed and disturbing Prince and Jonathan Ollivier gave a wonderful performance as the Swan with his responsiveness to the music and his classical training.
The production is at Sadler's Wells until 24 January and then tours at the Milton Keynes Theatre, the Birmingham Hippodrome, the Liverpool Empire and the Lowry in Manchester. Catch it if you can or miss out on one of the experiences of a lifetime.