Saturday, 13 March 2010

I was delighted to recieve this e-mail from Yvonne Sinclair, Northern Regional Operations Manager for 'Volunteer Reading Help'...

"Dear Chris, I just wanted to drop you a quick line to thank you personally for your ongoing support for Volunteer Reading Help and for the funding you secured for us for 2009/2010. I have had regular meetings with Anne Fells, Sally Hughes and Alison Yorke, who I must say have been and continue to be fantastic and very supportive to our cause. At our meeting last week we agreed that I will produce a summary of the support that we have been able to provide with the funding this will be available after I have collated the data which I should be able to access at the end of March, which I will of course copy you, Dorothy Smith and Chris Pollard in on. I acknowledge that in our last meeting that you quite clearly advised me that you may not be able to provide funding for 2010/2011 but if you feel that there are any underspends or funding blocks that we may be able to apply for we would really appreciate your guidance. Thank you again on behalf of Volunteer Reading Help and the West Yorkshire branch for all your valuable support we really do appreciate it. Kind regards, Yvonne."

'Volunteer Reading Help' has done a great job here in Leeds and is one of those organisations that will help us shape and manage the very different future we are facing in the public sector. We need to constantly challenge ourselves about who does what and how we can secure best value for money with everything we are doing.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Long Service Awards 2010

This year’s Long Service Awards will take place at Leeds Civic Hall on Wednesday 17 March 2010...

The awards celebrate the commitment, hard work and passion of those colleagues who have dedicated 25 years to education services in the city. Their work has made a huge contribution to improving the lives of the children and young people in Leeds. The event will be attended by Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of Leeds City Council and Councillor Richard Harker, portfolio holder for education and learning, who will present the awards.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

IT'S OFFICIAL: Education Leeds is one of the Best Places to Work in the Public Sector!

Each year Best Companies and The Sunday Times celebrates, through a series of supplements, the best small, medium-size and big workplaces in the country...

This year Best Companies and The Sunday Times for the very first time celebrate and recognise the 'Best Places to work in the Public Sector' and this evening we are at the award ceremony being celebrated as one of the best places to work in the public sector.

Stephen Parkinson, Chiar of the Education Leeds Board, Pat Toner, Dee Reid, Fiona Triller and I attended the awards ceremony at the Park Plaza Hotel in London. Presenting the award is Glenn Dimelow, Director of Best Companies. The details will be in The Sunday Times this weekend.


Eleanor Brazil and I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues at Oakwood Primary School...

The Inner East Family of Schools headteachers are an amazing group doing brilliant work with children and families against a background of poverty, disadvantage and ill-health in these highly mobile and complex communities. We all agreed that we need an approach which was focused on 'Think Family' and connecting with colleagues in Adult Services, Neighbourhoods and Housing, NHS Leeds and the West Yorkshire Police to build and support powerful, thriving and harmonious communities. We talked about the many challenges we all face but what was deeply encouraging was that, alongside their passionate commitment to their children and their families, there was a total focus on ensuring that their children were exposed to rigorous, pacey and brilliant teaching to ensure that as far as possible they all became literate, numerate and had the necessary social and emotional skills to succeed.

These are great colleagues leading great schools where all this is wrapped in a stimulating, creative and imaginative curriculum offer that aims to turn out happy, healthy, safe and successful little learners, whatever it takes!
A coleague sent me this quote this morning...

"Success - To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded."

Brilliant to be reminded about what really matters.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Each year Best Companies and The Sunday Times celebrates, through a series of supplements, the best small, medium-size and big workplaces in the country...

Each year employees from participating organisations are surveyed based on a rigorous methodology. This enables Best Companies to compile lists of the top companies in each size category which 'The Sunday Times' has been publishing over the last two weeks. This year Best Companies and The Sunday Times for the very first time celebrate and recognise the 'Best Places to work in the Public Sector' and on 14 March 'The Sunday Times' will publish the supplement.

Watch this space!
I attended the Council's Executive Board this afternoon...

The Executive Board have approved the recommendation to terminate the Education Leeds' contract on 31 March 2011, and to create an integrated children's services directorate building on the best of what we have achieved together over the last nine years. I know that this decision brings a period of enormous change and that many colleagues will be uncertain about what the future might hold. As I said in the meetings last week, I am here to listen, to help and to support all of my colleagues. A series of meetings for colleagues, headteachers and governors are being arranged where we can answer your questions and discuss your concerns. As soon as the dates and venues are confirmed, we'll let you know.

Eleanor Brazil, our new Director of Children's Services, and I will be working with colleagues, partners, stakeholders, headteachers and governors to develop transitional plans alongside a communications strategy so that everyone is kept fully informed, involved and engaged as we develop the new arrangements together.
As ever, keep the faith!
I met with Alison Shafner and Bronwen Holden this morning about the 'Building Bridges' intergenerational work we have been doing...

This is a brilliant project linking children and young people with older people. The work has been developing at Whitkirk Primary school and Alison and Bronwen were keen to maintain the momentum and ensure that we continue to train colleagues in secondary and primary schools so that we continue to build bridges between the generations here in Leeds.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Sir Ken Robinson told us today about Dance United, an extra-ordinary initiative working with the Youth Offending Services in Bradford and Leeds...

Dance United was founded in 2000 on the conviction and evidence that dance has the power to change lives. Since then, the organisation has delivered projects across the UK and around the world, and has seen hundreds of children, young people, elderly men and women, street and working children, prisoners and many more constituent groups inspired and empowered through dance. Dance as an art form tacitly demands commitment, creativity, teamwork, technical ability, problem-solving, reflection, emotional experience and trust of participants. Dancers can discover or learn these skills without even understanding what the words mean. For this reason, dance can engage everyone, even those who have been excluded, marginalised or written-off by society.

Innovation is at the heart of Dance United's work in the field of social inclusion. For the first five years of its criminal justice programme, Dance United collaborated intensively with prisoners and young offenders. These projects demonstrated the marked success that can be achieved in challenging the lives of offenders through their engagement with dance. Dance United's current work, The Academy, in partnership with Bradford Youth Offending Team and Nacro, harnesses the Dance United approach in a dance-led rehabilitation programme devised for young offenders serving Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programmes. The Academy is the first project of its kind successfully to develop a sustained engagement with participants through an extended programme of intensive contemporary dance training work. The Academy is a tough and demanding process, one that can lead to great personal and social change and growth. The company has already seen significant positive effects on participants: a number of young Academy 'graduates' have returned to education programmes, others have been accepted for further education on BTEC courses at Bradford College and one graduate has just been accepted as a student at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. If you want to find out more visit their website at and watch the video at It's brilliant!
I was in London today for a London Business Forum event...

'Be the change you want to see in the world'

Dirk Gilleard, Dee Reid and I attended a great morning with Sir Ken Robinson who was talking about talent management. Ken inspired us all at the Education Leeds annual lecture last November and we were keen to here him again and talk to him about the North of England Education Conference coming to Leeds in 2012.

'Imagination is the most powerful force on earth'

Ken talked about the period of unprecedented change we are facing, the crisis in human resources and the need to manage talent to release potential. He also argued that most people simply don't know what they are capable of. He said that it was sad that most people don't love what they do but some of us were incredibly lucky individuals because we love our jobs. Being good at something, he argued, isn't a good enough reason to do it... you need to love what you do. He encouraged us to go back to basics and identify what is at the heart of our work; really understand what is our core business and then make sure that everything we add to that business doesn't in any way distract from it or take anything away from it.

Ken suggested that we create a 'learning academy' in our organisations to share expertise and develop collective understanding on every aspect of the organisations work. We need to create a culture of innovation, rethink leadership and nurture creativity and talent. He shared some research from the United States where 1500 children were tested for their creativity:
  • at 3 - 5 years old 98% were creative/divergent thinkers;
  • at 8 - 110 years old 32% were creative/divergent thinkers;
  • at 13 - 15 years old 10% were creative/divergent thinkers;
  • at 25+ years old only 2% were creative/divergent thinkers.
What on earth happens to drive out creativity, innovation and talent? His message at the end of the session was that we need to understand, nurture and develop the unique and extraordinary potential within each and everyone of us.

Now where have I heard that before?
I started the day yesterday with my colleague Sue Davies who is Head of Learning and Audience Development at Leeds Museums and Galleries...

We were talking about how we could work closer together and use the wonderful resources in the museums and galleries in the city, more creatively and imaginatively, to inspire children and young people. It was very useful to be able to talk to Sue about ways in which museums might work more closely with schools and Education Leeds. Sue agreed to send me copies of Leeds Museums & Galleries' schools brochure and some of the teachers' packs they produce. Sue also told me about Langley Academy and the museum agenda they have developed that is integral to the school's philosophy and approach. Sue wanted to talk to us about the main primary and secondary school curriculum changes and how they will affect schools.

Sue also asked me to recommend some schools she could approach to include in a museums' exhibition project she is hoping to develop. If anyone is intetested in working with the museums on initiatives linked to the new curriculum please let me know and I'll put you in touch with Sue.
My colleague Helen Carpenter sent me this message after my visit to Hovingham Primary School...

'Hi Chris, as senior maths consultant, it's always great to hear when children are enthusiastic about maths! You might also like to know that the top performing class in the whole country for 9-13 year-olds on World Maths Day this year was 6N at Whingate Primary School, who between them answered 212083 questions correctly. Pretty impressive! Helen.'

It is wonderful to hear stories like this about some great schools working at the heart of Leeds and inspiring young children to love maths.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Yorkshire Evening Post 2010 “Best in School” Awards

The Yorkshire Evening Post wants to use their "Best in School" awards to celebrate success and give recognition not just to the teachers but to all the other members of staff that help make our primary schools such brilliant places...

That’s why we’re supporting the first Yorkshire Evening Post 2010 "Best in School" Awards, to honour some of the city’s unsung heroes from the world of education. The awards will be focusing on the human side of schooling - the people and activities that change lives or put smiles on pupils’, parents’ and colleagues’ faces. They’ve come up with 13 categories which recognise the hard work that goes into making the city’s primary schools the special places they are and the people who make a difference.

The categories are:

Best Lunch-time Assistant of the Year

Best Lollypop Man or Lady of the Year

Best Caretaker of the Year

Best Teaching Assistant of the Year

Best Volunteer of the Year

Best Secretary or Receptionist of the Year

Best Head Teacher of the Year

Best After-schools Club of the Year

Best Mentor of the Year

Best Sports Team of the Year

Best Individual Sports Player of the Year

Best Class Project of the Year

Best Teacher of the Year

There are prizes across the board. All you have to do is ask yourself who and what deserves a gold star, then simply fill in the nomination form. You'll find the nomination forms on the Yorkshire Evening Post website at