Saturday, 6 March 2010

My colleague Tracy Waud sent me this e-mail last night...

"Dear Chris, Just wanted to share with you that I went to Colton Primary Class 5 'good work' assembly today to see my daughter Alix and her friends. The class have been working on the theme of music during the last half term and the children demonstrated (and played) the instruments which they had made out of bits of drainpipe, wood, paper, copper pipe etc with one of them conducting this wonderful orchestra. They also did a fantastic 'wake up shake up' routine which I really wanted to join in with! The children had huge fun doing their performance with such energy and the biggest smiles you can imagine. The rest of the children (and adults) watching the assembly were captivated. It was so lovely to see the effort and enthusiasm and a great end to a difficult week. Makes you appreciate what you've got. Regards, Tracy"

It has been a difficult week and I am grateful to Tracy for reminding me what it is all about. I have also been in some incredible schools this week and these are the things we will all remember long after Education Leeds has gone!

Friday, 5 March 2010

I popped into one of my favourite schools this afternoon...

I visited Templenewsam Halton Primary School as they were having their celebration assembly and they had aked me if I could come and present some prizes to some of the children. I was great to see my colleague Kay Crellin, the simply amazing headteacher of this great little primary school, who told me about the wonderful work they have been doing with the Council's Highways Team to encourage children to walk, cycle, bus or scoot to school. This pilot project has seen a huge increase in children and their parents and carers getting out of their cars and using more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of getting to school. Over 150 scooters have been given out and Monday will see the whole area flooded with children travelling to school on their scooters.

Kay is retiring this Summer after a lifetime's commitment and this week also saw the appointment of the new headteacher. I had also taken some flowers for Karen Patel, the school's deputy headteacher, who had just been appointed to be headteacher at this fantastic school. A brilliant appointment!

"Death knell for education company"

Another great headline in the Yorkshire Post today. It was great to read the small piece...

'A Leadership shake-up of under-fire children's services in Leeds is likely to spell the end for an organisation which has run schools since 2011(?). Leeds Council is looking to abolish Education Leeds, a council owned company, next March and transfer its staff and responsibilities to the Council by April 2011. Council bosses say that the proposed reorganiastion is not a direct response to a recent Ofsted inspection which branded aspects of child protection services as "inadequate". The council said the merger would strengthen services by putting everything into one dedicated directorate. Council chief executive Paul Rogerson said "In the current climate it is clear that we need to harness all of the resources that are available to us and ensure that they are used consistently to the best possible effect".'

We should be grateful for small mercies and at least they didn't include another photograph!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

'Education Leeds set for axe in shake-up'

I visited Hovingham Primary School again this morning where Janet Spence, the hedteacher, and her team are doing a great job...

I had been invited by my colleague Jane Fisher to their 'Gold Mathletics Celebration Together Time'. It was 'World Maths Day' yesterday and Hovingham had an exciting day packed with fun maths activities and today the assembly was to celebrate the children's achievements. Matheletics is a commercial on-line website which aims to help develop maths learning and motivation. The children are set goals and achieve gold, silver and bronze certificates. Jane told me that the children have never been so keen on doing maths and that she is amazed at how excited and motivated the children were by the scheme. You can find out more about the scheme by visiting their website at

Dave Phillips, UK National Director for Mathletics, was at the assembly and told the children that they had been involved in a world record attempt involving solving the most maths problems in 48 hours and at 8am this morning they had broken the previous record. So, Hovingham is now a world record holder and Dave also said that Hovingham had achieved more than any other school in the country as part of this world record! He also said that this was the best school assembly he had ever visited and that he was simply amazed at the energy, commitment and work.

Jane and her brilliant colleagues have been running maths clubs every day at lunchtimes and with the help of parents running maths clubs every day after school. The children were apparently so enthusiastic that they even ran the clubs over half-term. The assembly was a real celebration of this extra-ordinary primary school and the children sang and cheered and clapped and were brilliant.

Don't tell me that these children can't be extra-ordinary... they are! Don't tell me that these children can't achieve outstanding results... they are! It's true what they say, that you tend to get what you expect and Janet, Jane and the team expect so much and what they are doing is wonderful. Through their passion, commitment, enthusiasm and hard work they are releasing something incredible and these children given the opportunities and the encouragement are simply magic. There are a lot of downsides to my job, especially at the moment with the end of Education Leeds looking very likely, but mornings like this make everything worthwhile!

Another Award!

My colleague Pete Thurlow, CLC Manager at the South Leeds City Learning Centre sent me this piece of great news...

"Chris, I’m sure you will recall that I sent you a copy of our short film ‘Out Of Bounds’ produced here at South Leeds CLC last year with our partners Equal Voices. It was created by young disabled students and documented the difficult issues that they have to face in their lives, and premiered in Leeds last year as part of Leeds Young People’s Film Festival at an event attended by Rehana Minhas, Shaid Mahmood and many others from Education Leeds and Leeds City Council.

I’m extremely pleased to report that this film has now won an award. This is the MediaBox ‘Impact’ award at the First Light Film Awards which took place this week in London. First Light concentrates on the next generation of film making talent, and the awards took place in the Odeon, Leicester Square, attended by luminaries such as Sir Ian McKellen, Sam Mendes, Joseph Fiennes and Bill Nighy. Our award was accepted by Laura (Equal Voices) and Ruth, one of our young disabled film makers.

I have been contacted by Screen Yorkshire about contributing to a news item and will let you know if there are any further developments. At the moment we are featured on Screen Yorkshire’s webpage . I am very proud of this outcome and would like to thank everyone who supported the project and came to the premiere. Regards Pete."

This is yet another brilliant piece of work and I am personally delighted that we've won this award for this important project. Pete and his colleagues do some amazing stuff at South Leeds City Learning Centre reaching some of the parts that are hardest to reach and doing it incredibly well. This project has given a voice and a platform for some wonderful young people with disabilities to show us all their unique talent and magic.


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My colleague Rosie Molinari, our School Meal Strategy Adviser, sent me this...

'Hello Chris, just a note to try to cheer you up. The launch of the free school meals film today was a huge success – we secured good media coverage and the pupils, parents, governors & Cllr Harker were really impressed with the films.

The child poverty action group (CPAG) sent us this message "I think this constitutes a really original way to raise understanding about child poverty within the education system in general and schools in particular. This particular initiative is great, because greater awareness on issues around FSM should have an impact on school policy on charging etc. I have to say, I think educational inclusion is extremely hard to achieve when poor parents are being so relentlessly stigmatised and blamed in the madia - so we should send it to politicians as well. This is something I feel passionately about as you know, so I may well be asking you to write an article about this piece of work within that wider context. I think this is a fantastically innnovative initiative, and if there is anything we can do to support and publicise this work, please do let us know."

I have dropped off the DVD in your office – I know you are terribly busy at the moment, but I am sure you will enjoy the films – each last about 1 minute each. They will be disseminated out to schools this next week – but launched on the national network today and will be shown in thousands of GP surgeries. Regards, Rosie.'

This is a hugely important piece of work and the films are brilliant.


I visited Bramham Primary School this afternoon...

I haven't visited the school for a long time but it was great to be back. I was met by Janet Hart, Acting Headteacher, Janet Gregson, Vice-Chair of Governors and some of the other governors who wanted to talk to me about their plans to federate with Shadwell Primary School. Janet showed me the two classes at work and it was very obvious that the school provides a very safe and caring environment for some wonderful children.

The governors remembered my last visit where I told them that they needed to work to get the numbers up to 100 to create a viable and successful small village primary school. Numbers are increasing with 13 children expected in September into reception and the school is planning before and after school provision to meet the needs of working parents.

Very small schools are wonderful if somewhat challenging places. Every child is at the heart of provision and every colleague, particularly the headteacher, needs to be able to juggle. It is wonderful to meet such an ethusiastic group of governors whose commitment, passion and hard work hopefully will encourage more parents to use the school.
My friend and ex-colleague Gervase Phinn sent me a lovely letter today which went a long way to cheer me up after the challenges of yesterday...

'Dear Chris, I was visiting Leeds Trinity University College earlier this week to receive a Fellowship and to give an evening lecture and, on the invitation of the headteacher, spent a day working with the children at Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary School. I thought I would drop you a line to say what a splendid school it is - cheerful, welcoming and optimistic with a keen staff and delightful children. I am speaking at the Lord Mayor of Leeds Charity Dinner later this year. Maybe you will be there and we can catch up on things. Keep up the good work Chris. Everyone speaks very highly of what you are doing in Leeds. With best wishes. Yours sincerely Gervase.

Gervase and I worked together in North Yorkshire and he is a fantastic speaker and like me loves great schools and great children. I am delighted that he liked his visit to Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary School which is one of my favourite places.
"Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets.
So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don’t
and believe that everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.
Nobody said that it’d be easy,
they just promised it would be worth it."

Many of you heard yesterday afternoon from Paul Rogerson, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, about the outcome of the Strategic Review of Children’s Services here in Leeds and the recommendations that are going to the Council’s Executive Board on Wednesday 10 March. We have sent a copy of the report and the review to colleagues, headteachers and chairs of governors so you all know what is proposed.

I passionately believe in what I am doing here in Leeds and I care deeply about my colleagues. This is the best job I have ever had and it will be incredibly hard to see the end of Education Leeds at the end of March 2011. Personally, I have been wrestling with the outcomes of this review for the last three months and I have been at times angry, at times sad and finally I have become resigned to the inevitable. After Wednesday, we must all work together to make this work and deliver better, more responsive, more integrated and more efficient services to children and young people and their families.

In Education Leeds, we have created a unique, award-winning organisation and together with colleagues in schools we have created an educational landscape which has done and is doing a brilliant job and every internal, external and impartial assessment and inspection carried out recently, including the latest OFSTED Inspection of Safeguarding and Looked-after Children, has recognised our success, the relationships we have built and the outcomes we have achieved for children and young people. The last nine years have been the best years of my professional life and I have been blessed to be able to work with some extraordinary colleagues; colleagues in Education Leeds, colleagues in Children’s Services and colleagues in schools. Together we have achieved so much; we have transformed the learning landscape and the learning environment here in Leeds and achieved some incredible outcomes for our children and young people and their families and communities. Together, we have released the talent, magic and potential in so many of our children and young people, in our colleagues and in our schools… but we can never be complacent because as always there is more to do!

I know that means we must work even closer together because we now face a powerful combination of elements that will change the shape of everything we do whether we like it or not. Leeds has faced challenges before: in 2001 when Education Leeds was established; and in 2006 when the new contracting and commissioning arrangements were put in place. And each time we rewrote the storyline and re-created a culture based on trust, powerful partnerships, dynamic and creative leadership, strong performance management and the efficient and effective use of resources.

And now Leeds must change again. We are going to see a new chief executive of the council, a new director of children’s services and this review proposes a new directorate based approach to children’s services replacing Education Leeds to build on the best of what we have created over the last nine years. The Council believes that this is the only way forward and our challenge now is to respond positively to the review and continue the work we have been doing to ensure that every child in Leeds is happier, healthier, safer, even more successful and free from the effects of poverty… whatever it takes!

These challenges will bring opportunities for all and I have agreed with Paul Rogerson that I will be here to help with the transition and to continue to work with Eleanor Brazil, Interim Director of Children’s Services and the new Director of Children’s Services, when she or he is appointed, to continue to secure the best possible outcomes for children, young people and their families here in Leeds and to continue to build on the work we have been doing to place schools at the heart of a chiildren’s services world.

I know of course that this next year will be about uncertainty and change and I do understand that for many colleagues, listening to the news yesterday, their only worry will be about their jobs and paying their bills and, as someone told me yesterday, to be honest it doesn’t matter who they are working for. Many colleagues will know that they are doing a job which will be needed whatever happens to schools, to Education Leeds or to Children’s Services. Many colleagues know that change is coming through 21st Century Schools, changes to the National Strategies and all our Government funding, and whatever the Council does with all its back office functions. This period of uncertainty and change will be unsettling for lots of us and I promise that I will be there to listen, to help, to coach and to support all my colleagues through the next year. We will be arranging team briefings and breakfast meetings and using every possible mechanism to keep you involved, engaged and informed in building the future. If you simply want to talk or have coffee please let me know.

I’d like to leave you with some important messages
· Be positive;
· Be optimistic;
· Stay open-minded;
· Keep things in perspective;
· See the opportunities;
· Look after each other; and
· Stay focused on the things that matter.

And finally as always…
Keep the faith!

Monday, 1 March 2010

I finished the day at Alwoodley Primary School...

Jan Langley, headteacher at this amazing school, had invited me to visit the school to look at the work they had been doing on the new learning platform. Their VLE is fantastic and they are working with us as a cente of excellence to share their expertise with other schools.
I started the day at a brilliant little school...

I had been asked by my colleague Jill Harland, headteacher at Brudenell Primary School, to talk to her children at one of her inspirational assemblies about my job, my life and how I had reached my goals. It was wonderful to visit the school for this assembly and to talk to Jill and walk around the school and meet some of Jill's children and some of Jill's colleagues.

This is a great school; diverse, vibrant and a real oasis of talent, imagination and potential. I was deeply impressed by Jill's passion, energy and enthusiasm, by her wonderful children, the calm, friendly and purposeful atmosphere, the rigour and focus, the attractive and stimulating learning environment, the Foundation Stage provision, the FAB groups and so much more. This is a great school with a great team who are clearly releasing a very special magic.
Jackie Reid, headteacher at Stanningey Primary School, and her colleague Susie Pritchatt came in to Merrion last week to put up a fantastic Mehndi display in the small directors' room here on the 10th Floor at Merrion House...

It's by KS2 children and is a wonderful showcase of the talent of our young people.

If you get a chance, pop in and see it.