Saturday, 20 March 2010

Even more good news!

The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust has named three Leeds schools as amongst the most improved in the country...

Cockburn Arts College, Crawshaw School and Rodillian School were praised by the SSAT for the progress their students have been making and these schools clearly show what is posssible with strong and highly effective leadership, great teaching, high expectations and a coaching culture.
I moved on again to a meeting with the Leeds Colleges Principals at the Leeds College of Building's Stourton site...

I was there with my colleague Gary Milner, who heads up our 14 - 19 team, to talk to the principals about commissioning, provision, pathways, confederations and the review of children's services.

Friday, 19 March 2010

I moved on to the Official Opening of Rodillian School by Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families...

The opening ceremony was a wonderful celebration of the students at this rapidly improving school where Andy Goulty, headteacher, and his talented team are achieving great things. We had performances from the school's recent production of 'Hairspray', a presentation by six students from the South SILC partnership with Rodillian, performances by the Year 10, 12 and 13 dance students as well as inputs from Jasmine Lunn and Will Bedford, two Year 11 students, and Chris Day, the Head Boy. We also had comments and thanks by Brian Sheldrake, Chair of Governors, and Cllr Richard Harker, Portfolio Holder for Education and Learning, before Ed Balls officially opened this wonderful new school building.

Our Building Schools for the Future programme has achieved brilliant results largely because everyone involved understands that the initiative is about much more than bricks and mortar. It is a once in a generation investment in the citiy's communities and a chance to transform learning, raise aspirations and achieve transformational outcomes. The entire approach in Leeds is focused on working together towards this shared vision. Environments 4 Learning, Interserve and RM have worked with Leeds City Council and Education Leeds in this award winning partnership to deliver world-class learning environments like Rodillian School.


I started the day at the Carriageworks with Leadership Forum...

Eleanor Brazil and I talked to colleagues about the opportunities and challenges ahead and how we can build a better children's services world. It was great to talk to colleagues and hopefully reassure them about the future.

More Success for Leeds Schools

Seven Leeds schools have been recognised as being among the highest achievers in the country...
Woodkirk High Specialist Science School; St Mary's School, Menston; Otley Prince Henry's Grammar School Specialist Language College; Horsforth School ; Guiseley School Technology College; Garforth Community College and Abbey Grange CE High School feature on a list of high-attaining schools published by the Specialist Schools and Academic Trust after all hit targets of 60 per cent or more students achieving five or more A*-C GCSEs including English and mathematics; 53.7 per cent or more with two or more A* -C GCSEs in science subjects and 31.6 per cent or more with at least one A*-C GCSEs in modern foreign languages.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

'The End of an Era in Leeds'

In case you missed Debbie Leigh's double page spread in the Yorkshire Evening Post this evening here it is...

"Ten years ago Leeds City Council's Education Department was left reeling after a damning report by Ofsted. At the time Chris Woodhead, then HM chief inspector of schools, said of all LEA reports published by the education watchdog, "the report on Leeds gives me the most concern." Among the issues raised were allegations of political interference in the running of the department, poor relationships with schools, as well as lack of a clear strategy for special educational needs. Mr Woodhead said: "To put it bluntly, in these schools (inner-city secondaries) the LEA does more harm than good, often to the most vulnerable children in the most disadvantaged areas."

In 2001 Education Leeds – a company owned by the council to provide support services to schools – was established, tasked with transforming the city's educational landscape. The team has been streamlined from 1,700 to around 1,150 now, including 350 of the original employees. And the organisation, which has an annual budget of £60m, has also downsized from four deputies and 17 directors to one deputy and five directors. A report by Ofsted in 2005 found it was the most improved local education authority in the country. It successes range from exam results to pupils' health, attendance and efforts to combat racism.

However, it's not been gold stars all round. In January, it was revealed four Leeds schools were in the bottom 20 in the country for achieving at least five good GCSE grades, according to Government figures for 2009. Leeds City Council was in the bottom third of 151 local authorities, with 45.9 per cent of youngsters at state schools gaining five or more passes at grades A* to C – including core subjects English and maths. The national pass rate is 49.8 per cent.

But now, sparked by concerns over safeguarding and the idea that children are better protected by integrated services, the council is planning to create a new children's services directorate headed by a director whose responsibilities will include education. The move follows a series of critical reports which have found the department is failing youngsters. As part of the plans to co-ordinate services for young people, staff at Education Leeds will transfer to the directorate and the council's contract with Education Leeds will end on March 31 next year.

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, was consulted over the proposals and has been working with newly-appointed interim director of children's services Eleanor Brazil on transitional plans. He said the aim was to build on the best of what had been achieved over the last nine years.

"What we have said to the politicians is, this is an extraordinary organisation that has done an amazing job." He added: "What I said is, I must be convinced that what you replace it with is even better." He confessed: "I've gone through anger and sadness to resignation. "Education Leeds has been the best thing that's ever happened to me and to see the end of it will be incredibly sad. My commitment is that what comes next is going to be even better. This city deserves brilliant children's services." He said it was testament to the organisation's success that it was still in place after nine years. He added: "My only regret is there's more to do – there's another five years to do."

But he is proud of the changes that have been made. He said five years ago people didn't want to send their children to their local schools but there had been a cultural change and now with schools like Morley High – one of the top 20 most improved schools in the country – plus David Young Community Academy in Seacroft and John Smeaton Community College, Swarcliffe, people were "banging on the door to come in." He said: "It's a very different place to 2001 when I came."

The irony of Education Leeds being named as one of the 75 Best Places to work in the Public Sector, around a week after the decision to terminate its contract, was not lost on Mr Edwards. And he argued that for him, the reasons Education Leeds was needed in 2001 still stand today. He said: "We are more efficient, more effective than the previous education department by a mile." He added: "Politicians have said, in the last five years you have done what we couldn't in 20."

And perhaps understandably, for someone who led the campaign for change across the city and succeeded in many areas, Mr Edwards is not convinced the transfer of power is necessary and questions the wisdom of creating an integrated directorate – something in place in almost every other local authority around the country. He said: "I think in five years time we may think differently about that – but that's where we are." He added: "The best way you can safeguard a child is to give them a great education."

I am disappointed that Debbie included so little of what I said to her about what we have achieved together. She has also interpreted some of what I said to her about the future as a lack of understanding of or support for the changes the Council is proposing. However, it clearly is the end of a very special era in Leeds where we have achieved so much and we must ensure that whatever comes next builds on those achievements and delivers even better outcomes for children and young people, their familes and communities.
This evening I attended the Governing Body meeting at the West SILC...

I wanted to talk to them about the consultation we have been conducting on the relocation of the SILC provision at Farnley Park High School. The staff and governors at the SILC were delighted
with the new proposals and the new modular build we are proposing to put on the Milestone site. The governors were concerned about the condition of the SILC buildings and wanted to know what we were doing to address the special school estate having done so much on the secondary school estate. We must hope that the Building Schools for the Future funding will eventually arrive which will allow us to address the isues on all the SILC sites across the city.
I moved on to yet another induction session for colleagues new to Education Leeds at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the A Team... the best education team anywhere! It was a small but perfectly formed group of colleagues, from DAHIT, Blenheim, Study Support and the Youth Offending Service, who bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience and they certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams.
I moved on to the Conference for Support Staff at Weetwood Hall...

The 'Be the Best You Can Be: A Positive Approach to Learning and Staff Development' Conference was organised by Sue Roe, our Consultant for School Staff Development, who had agreed to let me to provide an input at the start of the day.

The conference was packed with colleagues from schools across Leeds and I talked to them about Building Brilliant and releasing potential and magic! The keys to brilliant are :
  • people;
  • places;
  • leadership;
  • teamwork;
  • attitude;
  • culture;
  • performance;
  • ownership.
I stayed for the case study by Sue Robson and Sally Gowland from Bay Primary School in Bridlington. Sue and Sally are two incredible colleagues who talked about their journey to establish their 'Endeavour Room' at Bay Primary School. The 'Endeavour Room' is a nurture facility based on the theory of attachment, children being able to talk about their anxieties and worries, having positive role models and removing barriers to learning. It's based on our 'happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful' approach to learning here in Leeds. They also showed us the 'Endeavour Room Rap' video performed by children who Sue and Sally had nurtured, supported and worked with. It was brilliant!
I started the day early having breakfast with the EPOS Family of Schools headteachers at Boston Spa School...

This was a great group of colleagues and it would be very interesting to add up the years of experience in the room and we must ensure that the Council builds on their understanding of, and insights into, the real issues we are facing as we move forward to create a new children's services directorate. We agreed that, over the next few months, we must maintain the focus on quality, standards and outcomes while we continue to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience across the children's services workforce. We talked about the importance of confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understood the learning process and were working imaginatively and positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to 'Think Family' and to build powerful and sustainable communities. We talked about confident, passionate and dynamic leaders who had a clear view of what was needed to drive change and achieve that step change in outcomes we all want to see.

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 as we build the future together. It's great to talk.


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

I spent this evening at the Education Leeds 'Long Service Awards' at the Civic Hall...

We were there to celebrate the achievements of over 130 colleagues who had between them amassed over 3000 years service for Leeds City Council. This is what I said to the colleagues who attended...

Over the last nine years here in Leeds we have achieved something simply extra-ordinary and transformed the learning environment, the learning estate and the outcomes our children and young people achieve. Whatever anyone says education in Leeds is simply amazing.

We live in a world where we are facing a huge number of apparently intractable issues… the meltdown of the financial system, job losses, low standards, poor attendance, anti-social behaviour, teenage pregnancy, child obesity, mental health problems… but again this year the educational community in Leeds have achieved our best results ever.

This is my twelth celebration of Long Service here in Leeds. We are here to celebrate this evening 130 colleagues who have given an amazing 3000 years of service to children and young people, their families and their communities here in Leeds! We are celebrating tonight the work of dinner money collectors, site managers, superintendents, cleaners, cooks, kitchen and catering assistants, midday supervisors, learning support assistants, office and business managers, finance managers, admin managers and assistants, exams officers, learning mentors, nursery nurses, personnel officers, pupil welfare colleagues, key skills officers, teaching assistants and higher level teaching assistants, learning mentors, technicians, supervisory assistants, year leaders, higher learning leaders, inclusion team leaders, curriculum leaders, teachers, heads of technology, mathematics, music, sport and PE, physics and modern foreign languages, school leadership team members, headteachers and colleagues from Education Leeds.

Margaret Chase Smith said… "My creed is that public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people with full recognition that every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration, that constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought, that smears are not only to be expected but fought, that honour is to be earned, not bought."

We all know that despite the press coverage, at its best, education in Leeds is brilliant. We are building a passionate learning community here in Leeds with a focus on great leadership, brilliant teaching and learning, a wonderful coaching, nurturing and caring culture, powerful performance management, intelligent accountability, efficient and effective resource management alongside ownership, engagement, choice and voice. We are working together to create a powerful learning network where the 18000 colleagues in 265 schools and Education Leeds share and learn from each other and together discuss and develop our learning, our creativity and our ideas to build brilliant provision consistently across the city.

Martin Luther King said… "Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve."

The colleagues here this evening are wonderful examples of this and your achievements show what can be done with persistence, determination and hard work…through a life of service to young people, families and communities.

Albert Einstein said… "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

As you probably know, especially if you read my blog, I spend a lot of my time visiting brilliant primary schools, brilliant special schools and brilliant secondary schools and our own brilliant centres. And it is increasingly obvious that success here in Leeds doesn’t depend on Academies, OFSTED, National Strategies or synthetic phonics. It depends on amazingly talented individuals, like yourselves, whose work day-in, day-out is building brilliant and making such a difference.

Marian Wright Edelman said… "We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee."

It is great to see talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues releasing their magic and through their service, persistence and determination making a real difference for the most important resource we have in this City… our children and young people. Congratulations on all your achievements and enjoy this evening and remember James M Barrie who said "Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves."

During my visit to White Laith Primary School I met the wonderful Year 2 class who had been releasing a very special magic in their community...

The children told me about last Friday when they visited the local Tesco store and handed out 1000 daffodils to customers. It was an extra-ordinary experience being with these fantastic young children children as they talked about the smiles, the tears, the happiness and the surprise these simple acts of kindness had released.
This afternoon I visited White Laith Primary School where Nicola Sheerin and her team are doing great things...

It's a great school. The atmosphere is calm, purposeful and well-managed with some great provision in the early years. The children are wonderful , particularly Year 2 and I'll tell you about them in the next post.

The things that make White Laith Primary School so good are...

  • strong, focused and passionate leadership;
  • talented, energetic and enthusiastic individuals;
  • great early years provision;
  • a bright, stimulating and attractive learning environment;
  • dynamic teaching and learning within a nurturing climate;
  • tracking of children's progress and achievements;
  • early, appropriate and focused interventions; and
  • great children.

This is a wonderful learning place with a great learning environment and an excellent team who are releasing a special kind of White Laith magic.


I started the day early at Aberford CE Primary School where Jo Heggie and her team are doing great things...

It was great visiting this little oasis of learning where Jo, Keri and the team are very obviously building outstanding provision. The atmosphere is wonderful: purposeful, engaging and stimulating with a real focus on learning, responsibility and ownership. The children are wonderful and the school is certainly releasing the X-Factor, the WOW factor and the magic.

What make Aberford CE Primary School so good...
  • focused and passionate leadership from Jo and Keri;
  • talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative individuals;
  • a rich and creative curriculum;
  • a bright, stimulating and interesting learning environment;
  • inspiring teaching and learning;
  • high expectations; and
  • brilliant children.

This is a great learning place with a wonderful learning environment and a team with enormous potential who are releasing a very special kind of Aberford magic.


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Vote for your Children’s Stars of 2010!

Once again, 4Children is searching for those stars among us, who work in early years, childcare, extended services, children’s centres and youth services, whose work inspires us and fills us with admiration and gratitude...

The Children’s Stars 2010 Award categories are:
  • NEW for 2010! Award for Supporting Parents and Families
  • CWDC Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Award for Safeguarding Children and Young People
  • Morton Michel Childcare Team of the Year
  • Early Years Practitioner of the Year
  • Childminder of the Year
  • Newcomer of the Year
  • Make Space Youth Team of the Year
  • TDA Extended Services Team of the Year
  • Children’s Centre Team of the Year
  • Integrated Children’s Team of the Year

Nominations are welcome from parents, friends, family, work colleagues, nurseries, pre-schools, childcare networks, Children’s Centres, schools, extended services, out of school clubs and holiday schemes. You can even nominate yourself!

The deadline for nominations: 23 April 2010. If you need more information or a description of each award or the full nomination form you can visit the 4children website at

Monday, 15 March 2010

I finished the day at Woodkirk High Specialist Science School for their Gala Night Performance of Hairspray...
I had been invited by Jonathan White, headteacher at Woodkirk, to see their latest show in a long line of brilliant productions dating back to 'Annie Get Your Gun' in 1978! And it was a simply fantastic performance with some extra-ordinary performances from the young cast and the wonderful team of young musicians. I know that it's hard and unfair to pick anyone out but the future stars who really stood out for me this evening were Vicki Holmes as Tracy Turnblad, and Jordan Smith as Edna Turnblad who are pictured here with Cllr Judith Elliott, Lord Mayor of Leeds, and I.

The other stars of the show were Anna Wilson as Penny Pingleton, Tom Lillywhite as Corny Collins and Katie Osborne as Motormouth Maybelle. These young performers could easily have been on a West End Stage and were supported by a really stunningly good chorus whose singing was just fantastic.

It was a wonderful evening at a great school at the beginning of a long week and made me wish I was back at school working with such talented young people.
I visited Parklands Primary School this lunchtime...

I had been asked to visit by my colleague Cath Hindmarch, the headteacher, and Anne Gandy, who leads on attendance for the school. Cath had told me last week that she had take my advice and worn sensible shoes and eaten far too much chocolate, but that one really BIG thing was worrying her and she and Anne wanted to talk to me about it.

It was great to visit Parklands Primary School where Cath and the team are releasing a very special magic and achieving remarkable outcomes often against a complicated context of poverty, deprivation and health issues. The problems facing Cath and Anne, as always, are about how we can 'Think Family' and understand that children don't exist in isolation but often in complex families who need joined up coherent and systematic support.

Think Big

O2 want to change the way young people think about themselves and their communities. And in doing so, change the way young people are perceived...

Think Big is a new campaign that brings together all their environmental ansd community activity to focus on supporting young people who want to make a positive difference in their communities. Young people are full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. But they need the right support to turn their ideas into reality. That’s where Think Big comes in. The scheme is aimed at young people with great ideas and helps them get going by giving them the training and funding to make their ideas work. O2 is the driving force behind Think Big because they believe in the power of young people and their ideas. And as one of the biggest companies in the UK, O2 can back them, invest in them, campaign for them, give them a platform and a voice.

Think Big want to hear from young people with bright ideas for projects. Successful applicants will receive a grant of £300 and a day's training to get their project up and running. They can then apply for an additional grant of up to £2500 and four days leadership training. They plan to fund at least 400 projects this year. O2 have joined with the National Youth Agency, UK Youth and 35 youth charities to deliver this creative and interesting scheme.

If you want to know more about Think Big you can visit
I have signed up to the Leeds Climate Pledge and I received this e-mail from them this morning...

"Hello pledgers! As we said earlier this month, March is exceptionally busy so we’re emailing you twice this month. So, we’ll stop chatting and get on with the hints, tips and events to help you keep your pledges. Oh, but before we do, hello and welcome to our new pledgers! Thanks for taking the time to show that you care about climate change. Know your carbon footprint...with a new type of reader in your library You can now borrow an energy reader (or monitor, whichever you prefer) from selected libraries in Leeds. Amaze your family with how much energy and money hair straighters, games consoles, kettles and lights use up. See Environment Leeds for more. ...and light up with an energy efficient bulb Right, you already know that switching to energy efficient light bulbs will save you money and energy and cut your carbon emissions. But if you have a few old style bulbs lurking round the house, here’s a reminder of a few energy efficient bulb facts:
  • Low energy light bulbs use up to 80% less electricity but produce an equal amount of light in comparison to a traditional bulb. And they’ll save you around £40 over the lifetime of the light bulb.
  • Since the Government announced the phase out of traditional bulbs from 1 September 2009, technology has advanced to provide a much brighter, variety of light bulbs now available on the market including halogen and dimmable energy saving bulbs.
  • To ensure your bulb is an energy saving one look out for the Energy Saving Recommended logo. Remember, the wattage of the bulb tells you how much electricity it uses, not how much light it produces; a 100W traditional bulb should be replaced with a 20-23W low energy bulb.

Enjoying Leeds and the UK...things to do in the dark...

8.30pm on Saturday 27 March is WWF’s Earth Hour. Iconic buildings and landmarks around the world are plunged into darkness to show they care about climate change. Leeds City Council will be switching off lights at some of their buildings. The Earth Hour website is full of brilliant ideas to make an event night out of it – parties, games, quizzes, wildlife walks, fashions shows, plant bulbs, make and exhibit art from recycled stuff – let your creative side loose! You can sign up on the Earth Hour website to show that you’re getting involved. For the competitive amongst you, West Yorkshire is 107th out of all the UK counties in the sign up challenge.

...and things to do during the holidays.

With the Easter break just around the corner, you should be checking out Welcome to Yorkshire and Leeds Live it Love it if you’re looking for something local to do. Love off...switch off before you go It’s stating the obvious, but if you do plan to go away for a few days over the Easter break, don’t forget to switch electrical gizmos off before you go. Eating well...where to find local suppliers If you haven’t visited one of Leeds’ local markets yet, then you should! You can find local suppliers and producers like Voakes Pies – award winning pies and savouries – and veg, salad and herbs from Goosemoor Organics at Kirkgate Market. There’s plenty to tempt your tastebuds from suppliers across Yorkshire. ...keeping busy in the garden And for those of you who want your food even more local, ie in your own garden or windowsill, here’s what you should be doing in March:

  • cover up strawberries with cloches (make your own by cutting off the bottom of clear plastic bottles)
  • plant early potatoes in large pots of compost
  • sow carrots, beetroot, broad beans, salad onions, cauliflowers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, leeks, lettuce, rocket, coriander, mixed salad and stir fry leaves, radish, turnip, peas and Swiss chard outside or under cloches

Slimming your waste collections

If you have a brown bin for garden waste, don’t forget that as of this month they’ll be collected fortnightly again.

Your feedback

If you have any other feedback, ideas or suggestions, please let us know. You can contact us at "

Unsurprisingly, schools use a huge amount of the city's electricity and gas, consume vast quantities of the city's water and produce an equally monstrous amount of the city's waste. We must all engage with this agenda by recycling, reusing and reducing the amount of rubbish we produce. The future is all about sustainable schools and how we all work together to develop approaches that tackle:

  • food and drink;
  • energy and water;
  • travel and traffic;
  • purchasing and waste;
  • buildings and grounds;
  • inclusion and participation;
  • local well-being; and
  • global citizenship.

My colleague Steve Ruse is working with pilot schools to develop a school based approach to sustainability. If any colleagues are interested you can contact Steve at


It's a difficult, challenging yet exciting time to be in children's services in Leeds...

On Monday, I met with Sue Davies who is head of learning and audience development at Leeds Museums and Galleries to talk about how we could work better together. On Tuesday I was in London with Dirk Gilleard and Dee Reid to attend a great session with Sir Ken Robinson who was talking about talent management and the importance of doing something you love. On Wednesday I attended the executive board meeting, where executive board approved the recommendation to end 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. On Thursday Eleanor Brazil, our interim director of children's services and I had breakfast with the Inner East family of schools headteachers before I met with Debbie Leigh from the Yorkshire Evening Post who is writing a story about Education Leeds. I then went to London for The Sunday Times 'Best Places to Work in the Public Sector' Awards Ceremony with Stephen Parkinson, chair of the Education Leeds board, Pat Toner, Dee Reid and Fiona Triller.

It is wonderful to know that Education Leeds is one of the best places to work in the public sector. We know that it is an extra-ordinary organisation on which the council will be able to build the new children's services arrangements. We are all facing relentless pressure, higher and higher expectations, along with the increased and increasing demands of driving and guiding the children's services world in Leeds towards improved performance and better outcomes for every child and very young person... whatever it takes! The real challenge now is how do we maintain the momentum and stay focused on what really matters while we bring our collective energies and efforts to bear on the task of building the new children's services directorate? How do we further develop the leadership, the culture, the environment and the structures that support, challenge and enable our provision and our colleagues to deliver significantly better outcomes for children, young people and their families? This challenge involves not only us as individuals, operating from our respective vantage points in a highly complex system, but all of us together... the power of TEAM! We must re-imagine our systems, processes and provision and be brave enough to ask ourselves the difficult questions about what works, why things are currently not working and what we can do to ensure that there is step change in outcomes for all young people here in Leeds.

I know times are uncertain, but the constants must be: do something; be happy; keep healthy; and stay safe.