Friday, 12 February 2010

I moved on again to 'The Big Conversation' at Leeds Metropolitan University...

'The Big Conversation: Turning Work Experience into Work Inspiration' was hosted by Stefan Barden, CEO at Northern Foods and Chair of Business in the Community Yorkshire and the Humber. It involved fifty young people and fifty Chief Executives talking about how we could improve work experience, which is currently a rather hit and miss experience for too many young people, and turn it into an inspiring experience which helps develop young people's understanding and skills. The group were also addressed by Liz Needleman, Regional Director, Business in the Community, Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Forward and by Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
I moved on to the NE SILC at West Oaks in Boston Spa...

We were there to do some filming to show the transformational work we are doing with Building Schools for the Future and facilities like the 'Interactive Zone'. It's great to visit West Oaks and see their fantastic 'Interactive Zone' which is using cutting edge technology to provide a wonderful stimulus for learning for some of our children with the most complex needs.
I started the day early at the John Charles Centre for Sport...

I was there for a Children's Services leadership event with colleagues from across all the partners involved in securing brilliant outcomes for all our children and young people; ensuring that they are happy, healthy, safe, successful and free from the effects of poverty. At the start of the day we had an input from Sandie Keene, Interim Director of Children's Services, and Martyn Stenson who is working on the new governance arrangements for Children's Services.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

I also met Gail McIntyre to talk about the West Yorkshire Playhouse Schools Touring Company who have recently been performing 'The Worm Collector'...

Gail talked to me about her latest project and showed me the brilliant exhibition of our childrens work and the wonderful support pack for teachers which had been put together by my colleague Andrew Howdle from Quarry Mount Primary School. If you get the chance catch 'The Worm Collector'. We are so fortunate to have the Schools Touring Company and 'Play' their programme of activities for secondary schools and colleges is simply brilliant. From 'Theatre Days' to tailor made activities linked to Diplomas and from Key Stage 3 projects to 'Designing for Theatre' workshops there is an incredible range of opportunities here for young people.

If you want to find out more contact Jessica Farmer at or by telephone on 01132137800 ext 384.
I moved on to another of Leeds best kept secrets...

I went to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to see Sam Perkins, the Director of Arts Development, and to visit 'First Floor' which is the Playhouse's place for young people who are interested in drama, music and art. In its first year 'First Floor' worked with over 700 young people connecting with professional directors, designers, film-makers, artists, musicians and composers. It also houses the Breeze Arts Foundation ; a brilliant termly project where groups of NEET young people develop a piece of theatre and gain an arts award.

This is a fantastic resource with a visual arts studio, two performing arts studios and a green room and they are keen to work with primary and secondary schools in the following areas:
  • Creative and Media Diploma;
  • GCSE or BTEC drama, music and art courses;
  • A-Level and post-16 studies in drama, music and art;
  • Alternative curriculum programmes;
  • gifted and talented groups;

They have arranged a 'First Floor' consultation event for teachers to experience what they have to offer. It runs from 4.30 - 6.00 on Tuesday 9 March and is followed by a free performance of 'Rum and Coca Cola'. For more information contact Jessica Farmer at or phone 0113 2137800 ext 384. Catch it or you'll miss something extra-ordinary.


I moved on to a brilliant little primary school...

Victoria Primary School serves a very deprived area of central Leeds but just walking around the school with Alison Carrick, the headteacher, you realise that Alison and her colleagues are doing something really special and that they are releasing a very special kind of magic. Alison certainly leads by example and has high expectations of everyone; children and colleagues alike.

What makes Victoria Primary School such a great learning place...

  • Alison's strong, focused and passionate leadership;
  • the real focus on standards, tracking, monitoring and intervention
  • the talented and enthusiastic teaching and learning team;
  • clear values and beliefs driving every aspect of the work of the school;
  • the focus on high expectations, positive behaviour and good discipline;
  • lots of persistence, determination and hard work!

Alison and her learning team are doing a brilliant job and are building something really special at Victoria Primary School.


Dirk and I started the day early having breakfast with headteachers from the Pudsey Family of Schools...

These headteachers are a great group of colleagues doing some amazing work with children and families. We considered increasing numbers, 21st Century Schools, special needs and behaviour provision, early years, extended services and talked about the characteristics of brilliant provision. We agreed that we need to maintain a focus on teaching and learning, on the WOW factor, on quality provision and how we nurture passion, enthusiasm, creativity and imagination. We talked about the importance of improving the quality of what happens in classrooms and developing self-critical and reflective classroom practitioners who understand the learning and teaching process. We also need to work positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities.

We need 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. And we need to 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. It was a brilliant start to the day with some great colleagues and we need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more and to celebrate more. We talked about the challenges that lie ahead and the need to be more creative and more collaborative and to stop the merry go round of meetings, bureaucracy and things that made no difference to children and families and focus on those we know do.
A friend sent me this brilliant quote to help steady the nerves...

"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities
and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."
Harry Truman

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Launch of 2010 Junior Run & Mini Fun Ru

I bumped into Mike Tomlinson this morning at BBC Radio Leeds...

Mike was there to publicise the fact that the Leeds Half Marathon on Sunday 9th May will incorporate a 2.5km Junior run for ages 9-15years and a separate 1.5km Mini Run for all ages between 3-8 years, accompanied by an adult. This year the Junior and Mini Fun runs will be FREE to all participants and there will also be a school challenge with team prizes in both primary and secondary categories.

I hope that schools across Leeds will enter a team and encourage their students to get out there and take part in this great community event. This year the money raised from the event will go towards the refurbishment of the Children’s waiting area in the Paediatric x-ray and ultra sound department at Leeds General Infirmary.

A wonderful cause well worth running for.


I moved on to another meeting of the Education Leeds Board...

It was a great meeting focusing on how we continue to deliver brilliant services to schools here in Leeds, to Children's Services and to the Council. Education Leeds has achieved great things here in Leeds over the last eight and a half years and the contribution that the Board has made to these outcomes is very obvious. The culture, leadership and focus on performance management and resource management has driven the company to constantly reflect on what it is achieving but also to constantly ask ourselves how we can do even better. Whatever the next year brings; the budget challenges we face in the public sector and the implications of 21st Century Schools, we need to continue to simply focus on delivering better outcomes for young people so that they are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!
I was on BBC Radio Leeds again early this morning...

I started the day early with Andrew Edwards and Georgey Spanswick on BBC Radio Leeds Breakfast Show to talk about the consultation we are carrying out on behalf of Leeds City Council on proposals to close the City of Leeds School. It was an opportunity to explain the challenges we are facing with sustaining efficient and highly effective provision at the heart of the city. I acknowledged the school is doing some great things but that the raw results, the value-added and the number of first preferences for the school were the lowest in the city so that the school was unsustainable. We need to do something different and I stressed that we wanted to hear from parents and carers, understand why local primary schools weren't currently sending their children to the school and that this consultation was an opportunity to help us shape how we further develop school provision.
It has been a simply manic and magic fortnight...

In and amongst the usual suspects; leadership team meetings, corporate leadership team meetings, cabinet meetings, executive team meetings and children's services leadership team meetings I attended a National Strategies meeting and the Children Leeds partnership. I was interviewed by Martin Wainwright from The Guardian and Andrew Edwards and Georgey Stanswick from Radio Leeds. I visited Pudsey Waterloo Primary School to present certificates and prizes for the Pudsey Civic Society's 'What's it like to live in Pudsey' competition, and All Saints Church of England Primary School to meet the new headteacher and his team. I attended another staff induction session and had a useful meeting about the development of the Leeds Children's University. I attended the 'Mind the Gap 2010' premiere at the Shine Centre, met with Carol Armitage about the Teaching Awards, and with NAHT colleagues about the challenges facing headteachers here in Leeds. I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Shortage Subject event for trainee teachers at the Park Plaza Hotel and attended the Vision for Leeds 2013 - 2030 steering group meeting at the Civic Hall. I met with Sue Roe to talk about the support staff conference she is organising on 18 March and had a meeting about developing the Magistrates in the Community programme. I visited the Leeds Development Education Centre and managed to get to the primary headteachers' curriculum conference at Elland Road, before popping in to the 'Show Racism the Red Card' event at the Civic Hall and the prevent gold group meeting at the Leonardo Building. We had another headteacher breakfast meeting at Little London Primary School and I visited Leeds City College to present certificates and prizes to students from the East SILC attending a independent travel training course. And finally, I attended The Guardian Public Services Summit 2010 at The Grove, Chandlers Cross.

It has been an extraordinary fortnight spent with extraordinary people in some extraordinary places. Whether it was Bobbie Roberts, the wonderful young man I met at Leeds City College; or the great Year 5 children at All Saints Church of England Primary School; or The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Michael Bichard, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, Mike Freer, Phillip Blond and Charlie Leadbeater; the brilliant speakers at The Guardian Public Services Summit; the issues are the same. How do we develop ownership, responsibility, empowerment and engagement? How do we create new and powerful relationships that enable choice, develop voice and support personalisation of services? How do we intelligently explore alternative approaches to deliver even better outcomes more efficiently and more effectively... whatever it takes!

This is an opportunity to remould our services to enhance the role of communities; an opportunity to unleash the enthusiasm, flexibility and entrepreneurial flair of colleagues; an opportunity to increase procurement of services from social enterprises and to move away from restrictive commissioning models which limit creativity, innovation and personalisation. We need to understand that we don't necessarily know best, and we must allow schools and colleagues to challenge the way services are delivered whilst recognising that one size doesn't fit all. We need targeted interventions based on need alongside a high-quality personalised universal offer. We need to continue to focus on self-help, empowerment and responsibility alongside a relentless drive for transformational leadership, complete transparency, performance management and resource management.

And finally we simply need to focus our energy and efforts on outcomes, not structures, not processes, just outcomes.

Monday, 8 February 2010

This morning I attended the first ever joint meeting of the Going Up a League' and 'Narrowing the Gap' Boards of the Leeds Initiative...

Colleagues from the Leeds Initiative are working with groups across the city to develop a new vision for Leeds. They want 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?
  • How do we address equality and diversity?

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?

My colleague Cathy Morgan, Strategic Education Development Manager at RM Education, sent me this e-mail today...

"Hi Chris, It was ‘back to the floor’ for me today and I loved it! The RM team worked with staff from Swallow Hill during an e-safety/transition day for 75 youngsters from year 6 at Castleton and Greenhill Primary schools and it was perfect. We all worked with small groups of youngsters using role play and a range of ICT to create animations, podcasts and videos to be used as e-safety resources for their peers. It was truly brilliant! The feedback from the youngsters was incredible ….’the best day I’ve had at school’ …. ‘I enjoyed it all’ … ‘could we have props next time please?’ We have taken lots of photographs and Chris Boylan from Derek Fatchett CLC kindly attended to capture a ‘butterfly’ which I can’t wait to see. It was worth leaving my ‘to do’ list to watch Evolve in practice. The Yr6 youngsters, Yr11 helpers, staff from all schools and the RM team were amazing. A special thank you to Claire Garside from RM and Cate Jarvis from Swallow Hill for organising such an exceptional event. Now… back to the list. Best wishes,Cathy."

It is great to hear about brilliant e-safety/transition work like this and shows the fantastic partnership between Education Leeds, RM Educationa dn our schools.