Friday, 29 January 2010

Another Award!

I heard that we won another award at the Leeds Architecture Awards 2010...

The fantastic Pudsey Grangefield School building won one of the awards at the Leeds Architecture Awards 2010 dinner last night. I hope colleagues will send me more details of the award.
This morning I attended the 'Vision for Leeds 2013 - 2030' Steering Group meeting at the Civic Hall...

The group is working with colleagues from the Leeds Initiative to develop a new vision for Leeds. The Leeds Initiative team has been working with partners and groups across the city to answer some fairly basic questions:
  • What do we want Leeds to be like in 2030?
  • What are the big themes and issues we need to address?
  • How do we put people at the heart of this work?
  • How do we cope with the increasing population?
  • How do we involve young people?
  • How do we address sustainability?
  • How do we address health and well-being?

This is a great theme for schools to explore with their children and young people who will be between 25 and 40 years old in 2030. I hope that every school in Leeds will get involved in this important piece of work through their school councils and their curriculum?


Thursday, 28 January 2010

I ended the day at the Shortage Subjects Trainee Teachers Recruitment Event at the Park Plaza Hotel...

I had been asked by my colleague Rachael Dearns to talk to these young potential mathematics, science, modern foreign languages and ICT teachers about Education Leeds and our vision for learning. The trainee teachers also were able to attend subject-specific workshops, learn about NQT induction, writing applications and interview techniques. They were also given the opportunity to meet our teaching supply agencies and some headteachers and colleagues from schools.

Rachael and the team had organised another brilliant event which this year attracted around 90 potential colleagues in specific shortage areas in our secondary schools. I hope that it means that we will be joined by some wonderful new colleagues in September.
This afternoon I met with NAHT colleagues...

We talked about a range of issues including:
  • The NAHT SATs campaign;
  • Lessons from the severe weather;
  • Strategies to fill vacancies, recruit and retain headteachers;
  • Children's Services, the recent inspection and the review;
  • OFSTED inspections of schools;
  • NEEC 2012; and
  • The Teaching Awards.
We are constantly looking to improve and develop our core business of raising standards and improving outcomes for all our children and young people. The relationship we have established with headteachers is strong and increasingly effective and it is great to have feedback highlighting the things we've got right and the areas where we can do better. Honest, direct and constructive feedback from colleagues has helped us over the years to refine, focus and improve our services to our schools. The trust, respect and partnership we have developed over the last eight and a half years continues to shape our improvement strategies and to further develop our support for headteacher colleagues.
I moved on to the 'Mind the Gap' Premiere event at the Shine Enterprise Centre...

'Mind the Gap' is an media project which this year involved Allerton Grange High School, Leeds West Academy and Woodkirk High School. Three teams of young people created their own documentaries to explore the statement in a Learning and Skills Network publication that 'only 13% of businesses feel confident that young people leave school with the right skills for the workplace'.

This innovative and successful project was co-ordinated by Becky Cumberworth, one of our Enterprise Ambassadors, who had worked with the three schools on the project. Each group of young people presented their documentaries before an invited audience. The three presentations all explored aspects of the issue really well and demostrated that young people across Leeds have high aspirations and are developing the skills needed for the workplace. Groups then discussed the folowing questions:
  • What can we do to make young people more aware of the skills needed by employers?
  • How can schools and businesses work together to ensure that young people are able to secure and keep a job by the time they leave school?
  • If there isn't a skills gap, what is making employers believe that there is?

It was a really stimulating and interesting morning with three groups of young people who were brilliant ambassadors for their schools wonderfully supported by Becky, Mike Cooper and his team. The challenge and the gap seems to be a more about misunderstanding and ignorance on both sides and requires more communication, more initiatives and more projects like this to bridge the divide and build intelligence and understanding.


"The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born"
I met with Alison Shaffner and Jane Wardman this morning to talk about the pilot work for a Children's University developing here in Leeds...

The Children's University is a national organisation that provides support to 7 to 14 year olds accessing an exciting and innovative menu of learning activities and experiences outside normal school hours. It celebrates the learning journey through a 'Passport to Learning' and recognises achievement and rewards participation through certificates and ceremonies. Raising children's aspirations is important to the Children's University which aims to develop the understanding that learning can help us all on our journeys to better places in life! We hope that the Children's University will build on the brilliant work already going on in Leeds in Playing for Success, Study Support, Breeze, Find Your Talent and connect with every sports venue, museum, gallery, library, attraction, business and learning place in Leeds and across the City Region.

We need to take this forward and connect some of the pieces of brilliant work we are already doing to establish more of a learner entitlement for our 7 - 14 year olds across the city. I am grateful to Alison and Jane for their hard work with the Seacroft and Manston Family of Schools who are piloting this hugely important piece of work.


The Teaching Awards

"The Teaching Awards provides a unique opportunity for us to celebrate those who, tirelessly and often selflessly, dedicate their lives to securing a future for the next generation"
Lord Puttnam of Queensgate CBE

We are not very good at shouting about our heroes... those incredible people in every school who through their daily work make a real difference. There are hundreds of them across Leeds and at least one in every school I visit. So why not nominate a school, a teacher, a headteacher, a classroom assistant, a learning partner or a school governor for a Teaching Award. We all know that these are inspirational people who help change lives for the better. Help us celebrate their achievements and reward their dedication by nominating the unsung heroes in our schools. Anyone can nominate online at It is a quick and easy process which only takes a few minutes, but it's the best way to say thank you to some of our talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful colleagues who are transforming young people's lives.

The Teaching Awards categories for 2009 are as follows:
  • The Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year
  • The TDA Award for Teaching Assistant of the Year
  • The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning
  • The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School
  • The DCSF Award for Governor of the Year
  • The DCSF Award for Sustainable Schools
  • The Guardian Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School
  • The NCSL Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School
  • The Royal Air Force Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School
  • The SSAT Award for Outstanding New Teacher of the Year
  • The DCSF Award for Enterprise
  • The Ted Wragg Award for Lifetime Achievement
The closing date is 1 March 2010 so why not nominate a colleague, a school or someone who has made that difference?!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

I ended the day with Rachel Walmsley, a colleague who shares my passion for strategies that support motivation and emotional intelligence, that build self-esteem and confidence and that constantly celebrate progress and personal achievements...

Rachel Walmsley is co-author of 'The Little Book of Visualisation'. She was formerly a classroom assistant and a teacher and has worked with over a hundred schools delivering a programme called 'Creating a Coaching Culture' which uses strategies like relaxation, visualisation and coaching. Rachel is working with Sue Roe and Peter Coverdale to deliver a workshop called 'Being the Best You Can Be' as part of a Support Staff Conference on 18th March at Weetwood Hall. It was great to talk to Rachel who is doing sme really interesting work with some wonderful schools across the city.
I moved on again to yet another induction session at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions for new colleagues to Education Leeds are inspiring as I get to meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the A Team... to join the best education team anywhere! These colleagues bring energy, creativity, imagination, ideas and experience and they certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams. These colleagues worked in our Hearing Impaired and Visually Impaired Teams, our Admissions and Transport Team, our Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood Team, our School Improvement Team, our Inclusive Learning Team and it was great to be able to spend some time with them.
I moved on to visit All Saints Church of England Primary School...

The headteacher, David Pattison, who has been in post for just four weeks, showed me around his new school and introduced me to some of his talented colleagues and some of his wonderful children; especially Year 5 who asked me some brilliant questions and have promised to write to me.

I haven't visited the school for a long time but it was obvious from my visit that the school has enormous potential. I was really impressed by the targeted and very focused work led by the Deputy Headteacher to ensure that children make good progress across the school. It was also encouraging to see the 'Every Child a Reader' initiative and to hear about the developing work on the creative curriculum.
I started the day early with Andrew Edwards and Georgey Spanswick on BBC Radio Leeds Breakfast Show...

They wanted to know more about the consultation we are carrying out on the proposal to stop providing girls only education here in Leeds. It was an opportunity to explain the challenges we are facing with sustaining efficient and effective provision for girls and that the number of first preferences for our girls only provision at Parklands Girls High School had fallen significantly so that the school was increasingly becoming unsustainable. I stressed that we wanted to hear from parents and carers across the city about what they wanted for their girls and that this consultation was a unique opportunity to help us shape how we further develop school provision in the city.
My colleague Rehana Minhas received this wonderful letter from Maura Docherty, Primary Advisor & School Improvement Partner within the School Improvement Service, Children, Schools and Families at the London Borough of Camden, after the DCSF Roll-out Conference for the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard...

"Dear Rehana, I’m writing to congratulate you on the national launch of the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard on Friday 22 January 2010. It was a wonderful showcase of the tremendous impact this award has had on the education of children and young people in Leeds. The excellent portfolios and displays of work gave very strong evidence of how well schools had met the criteria and responded to the duty and moral obligation to promote race equality and minority ethnic achievement in schools. You planned an amazing programme. It was wonderful to hear from Doreen Lawrence OBE, the Right Hon. Ed Balls, the mayor, and also from the many headteachers who are developing strategies to raise achievement and improve community cohesion in their schools. I was greatly impressed by the personal contributions from children and young people who are being inspired to achieve more and whose lives are being demonstrably transformed. I will be talking to colleagues in Camden’s School Improvement Service at senior leadership level about the award and how it has supported schools in Leeds. Much good work in this area is already happening in Camden, but I’m certain that schools would see gaining the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard as an opportunity to review their policies and practices and examine the achievement of all their pupils to ensure that no group is disadvantaged. Thank you for the invitation. Yours sincerely, Maura."

It is deeply encouraging to receive feedback like this after all the hard work that went into the launch conference.


My colleague Nicholas Edensor, headteacher at Fieldhead Carr Primary School, sent me this message this morning...

"Good morning Chris, I hope you are well. Wendy Winterburn came to visit me yesterday to offer support and advice regarding a pupil at our school. I was very impressed with her and felt extremely supported by her. She had also actioned every request for the school and left my staff and I with smiles on our faces. She is an asset to Education Leeds and I look forward to working with her in the near future. Best wishes, Nik."

This is what customer service from Education Leeds should be like. Colleagues who go the extra mile to support colleagues in school do the really hard stuff. I am grateful to Nik for letting me know and to Wendy for setting such a brilliant example to us all.


My colleague Peter Harris, headteacher at Farsley Farfield Primary School sent me this post about the Teaching Awards...

"Chris, Leeds did have a couple of regional teaching award winners and other shortlisted regional finalists last year. As a recipient of an award last year I can confirm that it is a fantastic experience. I knew nothing of my nomination and I was embarrassed at first. It was a considerable amount of work for the person nominating and I imagine that they would have been very disappointed had I not been shortlisted. When we asked parents for support for the nomination it was wonderful to read their positive comments about my work and, most importantly, the impact of the school as a whole. The teaching award is now a source of pride for me and for the school - it is displayed prominently in our foyer!As a head teacher I find it hard to nominate for fear of that accusation of favouritism. Perhaps the publicity for the award should be directed more at other staff, directly to governors and to parents?Having been a bit of a sceptic previously, I can now recommend involvement in the awards as a really positive experience. Peter."

Perhaps if more of us nominated some of our brilliant colleagues, as a matter of course and simply to recognise great people, it would become less of an issue. The challenge for every school is not shall I nominate someone but who should I nominate?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

My colleague Rehana Minhas received this e-mail from Noel Singh, Policy Officer in the Policy & Partnerships Team at Leicestershire County Council after he attended the DCSF Roll-Out for the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard on Friday...

"Dear Rehana, I attended the Launch event in Leeds last Friday and I would just like to congratulate you and your team on a truly fantastic event!! I can safely say it was one of the best - if not, the best - conference I've ever been to. A very inspiring and impressive event; particularly the performances/contributions from the school children. Well done to everyone involved, there has obviously been a huge amount of hard work, energy, dedication and commitment in promoting equality and cohesion within schools in Leeds. I will be having discussions with colleagues here in Leicestershire about whether or not the Stephen Lawrence Standard is something we can realistically work towards. Once we have had these discussions, Im sure we'll be in touch to get some advice from yourselves. Thank you once again for putting together such a positive and inspiring event. Kind regards and all the best, Noel."

It is wonderful to get feedback like this after all the hard work that went into the launch event.


My colleague Carol Armitage, Prevent Education Coordinator in our Equality and Entitlement Team, sent me this e-mail today...

"Hi Chris, Just to say I read your weekly comment with interest. It is always positive and still reminds me of why I became a teacher. You talk about the outstanding and inspirational staff working in schools and I would agree with you. What I find difficult to understand is that the teaching awards receive relatively few nominations from the Education Leeds area. As a judge part of my role is to promote the awards, sadly because of my role I cannot nominate. I wondered if you had any thoughts on how we could encourage schools to become involved. Where there has been involvement the impact on the school community has been far reaching.
Best wishes, Carol."

It frustrates me that more Leeds schools don't get involved with the Teaching Awards. Like Carol I think they encourage, motivate and inspire colleagues and schools and I fail to understand why so many people are so resistant to being associated or nominated. There is still something about awards and the connections for some colleagues with elitism, the concept of excellence and being the best at something.

We have so many extra-ordinary colleagues here in Leeds who should be nominated and I hope every school in Leeds will think about who they might nominate for an award. Carol is right that where schools have got involved with the teaching awards the impact is far reaching. I remember when Tony Blair visited one of our schools, when I worked in York, to personally present a colleague with the Primary Teacher of the Year Award and it was fantastic.

I would welcome feedback from colleagues about how we might further encourage colleagues and schools to enter for the Teaching Awards. All ideas welcome.


I visited another great little primary school this afternoon...

I visited Pudsey Waterloo Primary School to present the school with a cheque for £500. The school had won the Pudsey Civic Society's competition promoting local history entitled 'Young Citizen: What makes Pudsey Special?'.
I also presented certificates and prizes to three talented young people whose individual entries were judged by the Pudsey Civic Society to be exceptional.

It was great to visit the school again. Kay Priestley the headteacher and her team have achieved something wonderful and the building still looks fantastic.
I attended the Corporate Leadership Team Away-day today which focused on 'Delivering Efficient Corporate and Transactional Services (DECATS)'...

The workshop was run by PricewaterhouseCoopers colleagues who talked through the transformational approach which focuses on:
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What do we need to do better?
  • What do we want to achieve?
  • How do we manage this?
  • Where do we find the resources?
  • How do we win hearts and minds?

The key drivers for change are:

'The Perfect Storm'

  • financial pressures building;
  • grant income reducing;
  • increasing demand for services;
  • one off factors like the recession, local government pensions and elections.

The Modernisation Agenda

  • customer service excellence;
  • focus on improving outcomes;
  • focus on effeciency and effectiveness.

These are challenging times and we need to see that there are opportunities for us to continue to build on what we have achieved.


2010 Spirit Awards

It's hard to believe but it's that time again. Now's the time to nominate colleagues and teams for the 2010 Spirit Awards...

The Spirit Awards recognise colleagues who embody the spirit of Education Leeds; inspirational, creative, imaginative and visionary people who make a real difference and a big contribution to what we are about as Education Leeds. Who are the real stars making a difference to Education Leeds, our customers and the city as whole? The colleagues making valuable contributions; helping us to achieve our vision for happy, healthy, safe and successful schools, children and young people, with no child left behind. For more information and to make your nominations go to InfoBase Quicklink: P419

Sunday, 24 January 2010

We are facing another onslaught from our friends at OFSTED who are also visiting our 'satisfactory schools' and ratcheting up the bar and focusing relentlessly and ruthlessly on data, outcomes and progress...

At times like this I often ask myself what are we trying to achieve together here in Leeds? What is our vision for our children and young people? How do we continue to build brilliant learning, in brilliant learning places to serve brilliant learning communities? What is the trick to releasing the magic and unlocking the potential of each and every child, of each and every colleague and of every family and every community to be their brilliant best? Our culture, our beliefs, attitudes, and values, determines our choices, our decisions, and our effectiveness. We know that beliefs, attitudes and values are the best predictors of individual behaviour and that these things influence our perceptions, our judgements, and our behaviours. Research also indicates that beliefs, attitudes and values are powerful and highly resistant to change. ‘The way we do things round here’ is the culture and it is really important that we regularly check out what it is we all believe should be the beliefs, values and attitudes driving our work and shaping our behaviours.

And back to our schools and OFSTED, we know the key to school improvement. 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. We need to focus on how we improve teacher quality and the key must be to love the one’s we’ve got. Evidence suggests that big improvements are possible provided we focus vigorously on the things that make a difference. There is also a strong relationship between well-being and child poverty and between well-being and inequality. Research shows that poverty and parenting both matter and that the eradication of child poverty is a great cause which must remain a high priority. I have worked for over thirty years trying to answer these challenges and those of us who have spent our lives at the front line know the real answers lie where they have always been...
  • strong, disciplined, focused and passionate leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs;
  • talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative teaching teams;
  • empowered, trusted and disciplined colleagues;
  • brilliant teaching supported by strong assessment for learning;
  • stimulating, exciting and engaging curriculum pathways;
  • powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environments;
  • high self-esteem and high expectations of everyone;
  • strong, dynamic and meaningful coaching relationships;
  • high engagement and involvement of young people;
  • positive engagement and involvement of parents and carers.

We need to be determined, persistent and focused even if it is hard.… whatever it takes!

My colleague Laura Wilson, performance management project officer in our Performance Management and Information Team, sent me this e-mail about our Bright Ideas scheme...

"Hi Chris,the Bright ideas scheme has been re launched this week and I am trying to publicise the scheme as much as possible. There is some information about the scheme below, more information and the submission form can be found on InfoBase quicklink P593. The scheme fits within our Be Your Brilliant Best (BYBB) and gives colleagues the opportunity to contribute and make a difference. BYBB recognises and rewards colleagues so that they all feel valued, capable, involved, bright and listened to.

We will use monthly themes to categorise Bright ideas and direct colleagues towards thinking about specific areas that are important to Education Leeds. Bright ideas unrelated to the theme will also be welcome. The theme for the next four months are as follows;
  • January: Changing the workplace
  • February: Environmental sustainability
  • March: ‘My company’
  • April: Personal growth

Colleagues will be encouraged to submit a Bright idea on the submission form which is available now on InfoBase quicklink P593. When an idea has been submitted it will be sent to a relevant head of service or senior colleague, and we will aim for a full response to be received within 10 working days. All ideas and responses will be reported quarterly to the Customer service project board. Thank you, Laura."

This is a great scheme and will help us continue to be the most innovative, creative and imaginative education team in the country. Everyone has something to contribute to improving outcomes for our children and young people, improving our schools and improving our services and I hope that colleagues will share their Bright ideas to help us continue to build brilliant learning in brilliant learning places. If you would like any more information about the Bright ideas scheme please contact Laura on 395 0916 or by email at


I received this e-mail from my colleague Helen Plimmer our Adviser for PE, after the Learning Outside the Classroom Conference...

"Hello Chris, Just a quick note to let you know we had a very successful Learning Outside the Classroom conference at Leeds Met on Wednesday. The event was organised in partnership with Leeds City College and even better that they sponsored it! We had about 170 delegates mainly primary, secondary and FE staff and a few from outside the authority. 17 different local agencies promoted their organisations at the market place. We had 2 excellent key note speakers and there were 3 really top presentations from local schools; Peter Harris from Farsley Fairfield Primary School, Graeme Jones from Castleton Primary School and Vicky Shaw from Crawshaw High School. All of them brought young people to help with their presentations and they were excellent. Phil Jackson was MC for the day and was great, setting a lovely relaxed atmosphere for the event. And the admin team Linda Gibson et al were also priceless. Have a great weekend. Regards Helen."

It is great to hear about things like this and the brilliant contributions colleagues in schools and Education Leeds made. It was another opportunity to showcase the best of Leeds. Congratulations to Helen, Peter, Graeme, Vicky, Phil, Linda and everyone involved in making the conference such a great success.
It is important during these challenging times that we are all clear about the agenda as we move forward into the next stage of the development of children's services here in Leeds. So much is going on that we could easily be distracted from our core business. We need to carefully, systematically and intelligently build on the real progress we have made and continue to ensure that every child and young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!

I am not sure where this last week went, other than it seems to have flown by. The usual round of meetings was interspersed with some really brilliant stuff. On Monday, I talked to our primary school improvement partners at Weetwood Hall. On Tuesday, I attended the first meeting of the new children's services improvement board; met Debbie Leigh, the Yorkshire Evening Post's new education journalist; and talked to the Outer East primary deputy headteachers' group. On Wednesday, I visited Crawshaw School before attending the council meeting. On Thursday, I attended the Children Leeds learning partnership, before attending the latest Leeds Inclusion Chartermark award ceremony at the Civic Hall. And finally, on Friday, I attended the DCSF national roll-out event for the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard at the Royal Armouries. The real highlights of the last week were the opportunities to showcase our best advert: our children and young people who; at the Leeds Inclusion Chartermark and the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard events; were simply extra-ordinary as they sang and danced and talked and shared their stories, successes and achievements.

Over the next few months we must continue to share and celebrate the best of Leeds to ensure that every school in Leeds is: improving; inclusive; and doing the best it can for all its learners. We must listen carefully to our young people and their parents, carers, and communities; and make sure that we have enough brilliant learning places for all our children. We must continue to improve and develop the school estate through the Primary Capital Programme, Building Schools for the Future, and the creative use of developed capital; and make 21st Century Schools come alive in Leeds. We must continue to improve attendance, tackle persistent absence, and improve behaviour; and ensure that our most special and vulnerable children's needs are met and that they all achieve. We must make sure that our most valuable resource, our workforce, continues to be well-trained, developed and supported; and that we share, network, learn from and make consistent the very best practice locally, nationally and internationally.

Above all, we must ensure that we consistently model the values, behaviours and expectations we have for our colleagues and our young people. At the heart of this work is a unique culture based on trust, respect, tolerance, equality and understanding. If we want to continue to release potential and magic, we must eliminate the blame culture and continue to talk and act "team". We must coach, nurture and support each other; encouraging everyone to be their unique and extra-ordinary best. I expect everyone to step up to this challenge. I expect everyone to continue to raise their game and show the world what we stand for and why Education Leeds is a 'Times 100' company, a 'Customer Service Excellence' company, and an award-winning company that has transformed learning in Leeds.
Keep the faith.

Sad News!

I received the sad news on Friday that our colleague Andy Wollski had died in the early hours of the morning...

Andy had collapsed at the Burley Park Centre earlier in the week and never regained consciousness. I know that our thoughts, prayers and wishes are with his family and friends at this terribly sad time. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues and the young people whose lives he touched.