Thursday, 25 March 2010


I finished the day with a group of colleagues at our first staff briefing session at Merrion House...

I wanted to discuss with interested colleagues the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we all work to build better children's services here in Leeds. I wanted colleagues to understand why the review was necessary, the big challenges we still face, the opportunities to work in a more joined up and integrated way and most importantly to recognise and celebrate what we have achieved together over the last nine years; the outstanding initiatives, the extraordinary buildings and the outcomes we have achieved... all of which have been recognised by awards, feedback and celebrations locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

We have achieved something quite remarkable because of the culture we have created, because of the leadership we all provide and because of these talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who make Education Leeds such a special organisation to work in. As a colleague said this evening we must all constantly celebrate our achievements, challenge the critics, the moaners and the negative and destructive voices and most importantly we must look after each other through this period of uncertainty and change and THINK TEAM!
I returned to the Civic Hall this afternoon for the 2009-2010 Stan Kenyon School Challenge Award Ceremony...

The Stan Kenyon School Challenge is longest running Leeds City Council corporate social responsibility project. These are the sixteenth annual awards which were inspired by a former Director of Planning, Stan Kenyon, who retired in 1995 but is still active in encouraging young people to get to grips with local environmental issues and to come up with ways of making Leeds a better place for all its citizens. It was great to see the amazing work the ten award winning schools had created this year in response to the challenge which was focused on the 'Lungs of the City'... the many green spaces and parks schools use and enjoy.

The ten great schools were:
  • Pudsey Primrose Hill Primary School;
  • Raynville Primary School;
  • Whitecote Primary School;
  • Hill Top Primary School;
  • Ashfield Primary School;
  • Burley St Matthias CE Primary School;
  • Manston St James CE Primary School;
  • Meanwood CE Primary School;
  • East SILC;
  • South SILC.

Great schools doing great things with some wonderful young people.


After lunch I visited Lineham Farm with Cllr Richard Harker...

It is a brilliant resource for Leeds schools offering a unique and very special experience to our primary age children from schools all over Leeds who might not have the opportunity to stay for a week of activity, fun and discovery in a safe and well managed learning environment. You name it, they do it - looking after the animals, climbing the high-ropes course, night walks, orienteering and mini beast discovery, mountain biking and organic gardening, heart start - Lineham's very own first aid course and the infamous cook shops. The Farm takes up to 24 children accompanied by three or four school staff at a time from schools within Leeds. The fully qualified Lineham Farm team, works together with visiting colleagues, leading the daily activities and looking after the children during these sessions. School colleagues are then responsible for free time, overnight care and shower time.
This morning I spent some time with our Integrated Children's Services team leaders...

I wanted to talk to them about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we move towards the new children's services directorate. I also wanted to reassure them about the brilliant work they have been doing for children with special educational needs and disabilities and encourage them to share and celebrate the outstanding practice we have here in Leeds. I wanted to encourage them to continue to 'Think Team' and recognise that everything they are doing is everyones issue... improving attendance, managing behaviour, assessing and supporting childrens special needs and disabilities... and that it was all about school improvement, personalisation and our search for excellence in everything we are doing.

These are great colleagues working with some of our most special and most challenging young people.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

And finally this afternoon Dirk Gilleard and I met with Jan Bennett HMI and Mike Cladingbowl HMI...

We'd agreed to meet to to discuss OFSTED inspections in Leeds, how the new OFSTED framework is bedding down and how we can work more closely together to drive up standards, support great schools further develop their practice and get greater consistency around our school improvement work. It was a really good meeting.
This afternoon I managed to attend the end of Headteacher Forum...

This is a hugely important group and I have missed a couple of meetings recently because of clashes with Cabinet or Executive Board. When I arrived colleagues were discussing the Children's Services Review and how headteachers want to see the new Children's Services directorate develop. We must all work to create a culture and relationships where we can challenge and discuss issues openly and honestly... we must be prepared to challenge the status-quo, to question some of the assumptions we all make and to push the boundarises of what is possible. I know, and welcome the fact, that passionate, committed colleagues will disagree with me and I know that I am not always right but I tell you it's good to talk and even better to listen!
Keep the faith...
I received this e-mail from my colleague Cath Hindmarch, Headteacher at Parklands Primary School...

"Dear Chris, I spoke at the CPPS seminar in London yesterday. The seminar addressed the question 'How can we most effectively tackle child poverty, health and well-being?' Firstly, I can highly recommend these seminars as they get people from the public sector, from all over the country, talking, but also sharing good practice. I do feel that this approach is something that we could tap into in Leeds and CPPS (based in Hebden Bridge) could maybe support us??

Dawn Primarolo (Minster for children, young people and families) spoke at the end and told us that:
  • closeer partnership working is the way forward;
  • local authorities and partners should work together to tackle child poverty and produce a child poverty strategy;
  • we should direct services according to need;
  • we must support and enhance a sustainable community strategy;
  • there is a moral imperative on private sector too and we should be looking increasingly to them as partners;
  • we need data about poverty to inform strategy and target action.

I spoke about my leadership of extended schools and how I view lack of opportunity as one of the biggest outcomes of the poverty our children and young people face and the one that people rarely discuss and of the consequent need for a culture of ambition and aspiration to follow. I made specific mention to the fabulous work Viv and Catherine are the many partners we work with. Of how we will evaluate the impact of the opportunities presented to children and young people by CU and FYT programmes and how significant these are to raising attainment and achievement.

I met many people who were understandably impressed with our work and it felt a real honour to be speaking and sharing this great work. It also struck me how important it is to celebrate such work and effort-it was actually refreshing to be able to share and not to be made to feel that there is 'some other initiative that we could/should try next'. I feel very strongly that schools like ours need more positive recognition for our effort, vision and sheer determination to make a difference!! People CAN learn from schools like ours.

There were various speakers, including two MPs, but the most inspiring was Marie Hanson, the founder of STORM. I still feel tearful today thinking about her experience as a mum living on an estate in Battersea. We MUST get Marie up to Leeds. The work she and her charity are doing is the same as that we are trying to do at cluster level!!! Marie was/is parent of the year and outstanding practitioner at London Child Poverty Awards 2009. We certainly need to learn more from voluntary organsiations. Cath."

Cath is right wedo need to engage with partners, wherever they are, who share our passion, commitment, determination and are prepared to put in the work. The CPPS seminars are great and we should do more in Leeds to share, network and learn. Cath is right that lack of opportunity is one of the biggest outcomes of the poverty our children and young people face.
So much of the work we have been doing in so many areas is driven by the need for us to help families and communities build a culture of ambition and aspiration. It’s great to have Cath's work at Parklands Primary School showcased like this. I know that schools like Parklands Primary School are releasing an extra-ordinary magic in their communities and are beacons of real excellence if only we look beyond the simplistic data based approach to what makes a great school. Cath and her colleagues effort, vision and sheer determination to make a difference is inspiring and people ARE learning from schools like Parklands Primary School that we be the change we want to see in the world.


I started the day early having breakfast with the Meanwood and Moortown Family of Schools headteachers...

We talked about the brilliant work going on in these schools, the successes we have had over the last nine years, the outcome of the Children's Services Review, the Building Schools for the Future and the Primary Capital Programmes and the opportunities within the new world of Trusts, Federations and Academies. This is 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 continue to build brilliant porvison consistently across Leeds and share and network the extra-ordinary practice in our schools. We must continue to focus on quality, standards and outcomes while we use the opportunities with the new curriculum to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience across the children's services workforce. We talked about the opportunities that lie ahead, the importance of confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understand the learning process and are working creatively, imaginatively and positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to 'Think Family' and to build powerful and sustainable communities.

We also 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. The Meanwood and Moortown Family of Schools group is a fantastic group of schools and having breakfast with Linda Bowles, Julie Colley, Maria Cabry, Jane Cavadino, Simon Flowers, Jane Langley, Helen Sanderson, Helen Stott and Stephen Watkins is always going to be interesting. What makes brilliant... simple, people like this. You only have to visit their schools to know that you are in the presence of talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful colleagues who are releasing an extra-ordinary magic.

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.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Even more great news!

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

Bruntcliffe High School were praised by the SSAT for the progress their students have been making and as a school where 5A*-C results have improved between 2006 - 2009 by 15 percantage points or more. Again, it clearly shows what is posssible with strong, talented and focused leadership, great teaching, high expectations and a coaching culture.

Monday, 22 March 2010

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.”
Soren Kirkgaard

It's been another extra-ordinary week where I have been constantly reminded what a fantastic place Leeds is and that whatever happens there can be no regrets...

On Monday , I visited Parklands Primary School and in the evening I went to Woodkirk High School to see their production of Hairspray. On Tuesday, I had the usual day of meetings. On Wednesday, I visited Aberford Church of England Primary School and White Laith Primary School before attending the Long Service Awards in the evening. On Thursday, I had breakfast with the Elmete partnership of schools family of schools headteachers and then attended the support staff conference at Weetwood Hall. I also visited another induction event at the Derek Fatchett City Learning Centre before in the evening I attended the West SILC governing body meeting in the evening. On Friday, I attended the leadership forum at the Carriageworks before I went on with Eleanor Brazil to the official opening of Rodillian School by Ed Balls MP, secretary of state for children, schools and families. And finally, I went on to meet with the Leeds College principals.

You can hate change or love change, embrace change or reject change. It doesn't matter, it's happening and we must simply get on with it. We must all adjust our attitudes, see the changes that are coming as positive, and look for opportunities to grow and develop. We must focus on the things that are important: on outcomes; on solutions; and on action. We must pay particular attention to where we are going in a new children's services directorate and ensure that we take the best of what we have achieved together into that new world. We must 'Think Family' and help build powerful communities around our brilliant learning places. We need to understand that when things don't go the way we hoped it isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity to learn. We must continue to be brave, to do the right things: the things that will secure better outcomes for young people; their families; and communities. If we are going to achieve what our critics constantly tell us is ‘the impossible’, we must continue to transform, re-invent and re-imagine.

As always, it is important that we don't get stuck in the past. We must be flexible, have several options and be comfortable with taking risks. We must learn constantly, keep sharp and stay ahead. And above everything we must all remember...

"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."

Let’s all determine that when we get to the end of this journey we might look back and regret some of the things we have done but we will never regret that we did nothing!
Keep the faith.