Friday, 22 January 2010

I moved on to the DCSF National Launch of the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard at the Royal Armouries...

It was an extra-ordinary celebration of the best of Leeds with contributions from Cllr Judith Elliott, Lord Mayor of Leeds, Doreen Lawrence, Stephen's mum and Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the highlights for me were the performances by young people; young people from Wigton Moor Primary School, Rawdon St Peter's Church of England Primary School, Otley Prince Henry's Grammar School, the East SILC, Hillcrest Primary School, Woodkirk High School, Pudsey Bolton Royd Primary School, Raynville Primary School and Talbot Primary School who all brought a little bit of magic to the conference. Headteacher colleagues from Prince Henry's Grammar School, Asquith Primary School, Blackgates Primary School, East Ardsely Primary School and South Leeds Academy also talked powerfully and with great personal commitment about the impact the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard has had in their school and their community.

The conference attracted a huge audience from across the country and we were able to showcase the remarkable work that has been the product of ten years dedication, commitment, passion, determination and hard work by an extra-ordinary group of colleagues, partners and schools. The Stephen Lawrence Education Standard is a unique tool kit which we all hope will help other colleagues, other authorities and other schools continue to build respect, trust, tolerance and understanding at the core of their work on school improvement, community cohesion and equality. WE are happy to help anyone who shares our passion, our determination to build brilliant and our commitment to every child being happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!
I started the day at Leadership Forum at the Carriageworks...

It was an opportunity to talk to colleagues about the opportunities and challenges ahead and the need to stay focused and not be distracted as we wrestle with interims, appointments, inspections, reviews and elections. The reason we are here is to help our schools continue on their journey to outstanding, to help all our children and young people achieve better outcomes and to help those special and vulnerable groups narrow the gap.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

This afternoon I attended the 'Inclusion Chartermark' Award Ceremony in the Banqueting Hall at the Civic Hall...

It was a wonderful celebration of the inclusion work going on in our primary schools, our secondary schools and our SILCs. Narinder Gill, headteacher at Hunslet Moor Primary School, talked about her school and their 'One World' enterprise project where Year 6 planned, organised and delivered an evening of arts and culture for their community and invited guests. She showed a DVD of the evening to the music of Take That. Mark Wilson, headteacher at Robin Hood Primary School, talked about some of his children and the ways the school has overcome children's problems and disabilities with the creative and imaginative use of ICT.

The afternoon also included brilliant performances by Holy Rosary and St Anne's Catholic Primary School, St Augustine's Catholic Primary School, Brodetsky Primary School, Whitecotes Primary School,and Tranmere Park Primary School.
I presented awards to the following schools. I hope to havr some pictures soon to shre with you.
I met with Peter Roberts, Chief Executive and Principal of the Leeds City College, this morning...

It was encouraging to be able to share thinking with Peter and to discuss the opportunities nd challenges we face in building a learning and skills framework which starts with our primary schools in terms of first steps learning and into secondary schools, clusters and partnerships with their connections with the FE Colleges. This developing, simple and coherent framework should help us establish learning pathways for young people and increasingly tackle the issues around increasing the participation age, progression into further and higher education and those not in education, employment or training.
I started the day at the Children Leeds Learning Partnership...

We were talking about our NEET and unknown figures and how we work more collectively to continue to drive down the numbers. We also discussed the new 13 - 19 Board which will bring together our 14 - 19 strategy and our Integrated Youth Support strategy. We also covered the revised terms and conditions for the Children Leeds Learning Partnership and its connection with the new Children's Trust.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I started the day at Crawshaw School...

I met with Joanna Ruse, Headteacher and Jon Norden, Deputy Headteacher, who showed me around the school. I haven't visited the school for four years and it was great to see the school again; to visit some classrooms, see the new Building Schools for the Future pieces of the school estate and meet some of the talented team working with Joanna and Jon.

It was really interesting to visit maths, science, modern foreign languages, design, art, drama, pre-voc and their new hairdressing salon and meet some great colleagues whose passion, commitment, enthusiasm and experience is really making a difference for the young people at the school. It was also great to hear about the partnership the school has developed with the GAV School in Kangra in India which they will showcase in a 'Living Local, Thinking Global' celebration in April.

The refurbishment under the BSF Programme is going well and like the other schools where we are remodelling around a working school the flexible and creative way the school has coped with the upheaval is quite remarkable. The project should be finished later in the year and it looks like being another impressive project finished by our colleagues from Interserve and with some transformational strategic support from colleagues at RM.

It was a great way to start the day.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

This afternoon I talked to the Outer East Deputy Headteachers group at Fusion Court in Garforth...

My message was we want to be world class; whatever it takes! We want every child to experience the very best early years provision to build the foundations for learning. We want every child to be reader by eight and to be about to count and use number. We want every child to become a brilliant little learner by eleven with high aspirations and expectations working within a vibrant, exciting and creative curriculum designed and delivered locally. And we want every young person to be supported and coached as they transfer to their secondry school and be on a pathway to success by sixteen.

It was great to be able to talk to these colleagues about how we continue to release the magic and the WOW factor in every school and every classroom. We need to ensure that everyone shares our passion, enthusiasm, persistence, determination and hard work as we build brilliant learning where every child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.
Dee Reid, Jon Crampton and I met with Debbie Leigh today...

Debbie is the new education journalist at the Yorkshire Evening Post and we were keen to establish a relationship with Debbie to ensure that we help her understand the key issues facing us here in Leeds and celebrate the best provision, practice and initiatives. We talked about the current round of consultations, the National Challenge schools, the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard, our Healthy Schools work, 'The Power of Me', our intergenerational work, Leeds Mentoring, our behaviour and attendance initiatives, Investors in Pupils and much, much more.

It was great meeting Debbie and I hope colleagues will invite her into their schools to help her understand the brilliant work we are doing and see some of the wonderful learning places we are doing it in. I hope they will also give her opportunities to meet some of our extra-ordinary young people.

More great news...

Barry Hilton, leader of the Leeds Mentoring Team sent me this e-mail after Education Leeds Performance Management team forwarded him the analysis of last years school mentoring programme and it's brilliant news...

"Dear Chris, Over the last year nearly 4,000 young people (14 – 19 years old) most from disadvantaged backgrounds received 1 – 1 mentor support. The analysis covered 1634 Year 11 students. 43.3% of these students are from homes within the bottom 10% of the Index of Multiple deprivation and 23.2% of students were on school action+ or statemented. The value added for these 1634 Year 11 students was 1019 and mentoring adds on average 5 to 6 extra GCSE A* - C grades per mentored student. 6.3% of students who were predicted NOT to gain 5A* - C’s gained them. Exceptional value added results applied to Looked After Children (1007) and young people on the BME Junior Windsor Fellowship (1028)."

We know that having a mentor makes a real difference to student outcomes and this data proves it. There are over 16000 young people in Key Stage 4 across the city and we need to ensure that every one of them who will benefit has a mentor.

Monday, 18 January 2010

I started the day with our Primary School Improvement Advisers at Weetwood Hall...

Chris Halsall had invited me to talk to this group of colleagues and sit in on their first sessions of the day. I talked about the opportunities and challenges that we face as we implement 21st Century Schools, work on the National Primary Programme tackling schools below the floor targets and struggle to improve consistency and classroom performance. I also talked about poverty and parenting which we all know both really matter and that there is a strong relationship between well-being and child poverty and between well-being and inequality. The fact that 30,000 of our children and young people live in poverty here in Leeds means that we must continue to work to eradicate child poverty if we are going to continue to make a real difference where it matters.

Interestingly as well, the key to school improvement is not the school, not the headteachers, not the class size. Specifically it’s the quality of what goes on in the classrooms and everything points to the fact that teacher quality is the key to success. And importantly subject knowledge and professional qualifications make little difference. Pedagogy is more significant but largely being a brilliant teacher is unexplained. We need to focus on how we improve teacher quality and the key must be for us to love, develop and grow the one’s we’ve got. If we could get most teachers and most classrooms up to the performance of the best we wouldn't just be good, we'd be world class!

The School Improvement Partners are a talented group of colleagues who are at the heart of our work improving primary schools and it was great to spend some time with Chris and her team.
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning."
Albert Einstein

Another week down and another week closer to the Summer holidays. I know many colleagues are longing for the sun and the warm because it has been another tough week with the snow, ice, wind and freezing weather. I am really grateful to everyone who in typical education-in-Leeds fashion simply rolled their sleeves up, put on their boots, coats, hats, gloves and scarves, dug themselves out and got on with it... some even managed to enjoy it! We had very few schools closed in Leeds, despite the worst weather most of us have ever seen, and those that did close largely did so because of burst or broken down boilers or impossibly icy and dangerous approaches to their schools. Our 'heroic' efforts in keeping our schools open even was even mentioned in the House of Commons by Greg Mulholland MP, who said: "Teachers, headteachers and staff have heroically kept many schools open in Leeds compared to other areas of the country." Thanks again to everyone who made such an extra-ordinary effort over the last two weeks.

The last week has been the usual round of meetings with the odd addition. The Education Leeds board met, and we had the launch of the Leeds Year of Volunteering at the City Museum. I didn't manage to get to the BETT Show but I did get to a school despite the weather. I visited Benton Park School for a breakfast meeting that was cancelled because of the snow and ice and instead talked to David Foley, headteacher, about the opportunities and challenges we all face in 2010. A year of: intensive activity following inspections; of uncertainty with elections and reviews; of challenges with problematic budgets; and of real opportunities with the revisions to the curriculum. We must continue to build a learning community here in Leeds that helps us share the best of what we do, connect with the ideas that are delivering brilliant results elsewhere in the country and the rest of the world, and look carefully at the research to focus our energy and efforts where we can make the greatest difference.

We must stay focused through this very interesting and challenging period for all of us. We must be persistent, determined and creative as we work together across Children's Services to improve outcomes and drive up standards. We must always remember that structural solutions and change don't automatically bring success and that vision, values, leadership and culture shared and owned by empowered, engaged and talented individuals lies at the heart of our success over the last few years.
Keep the faith!