Wednesday, 28 July 2010

As I face my last Summer here in Leeds I wanted to write to thank you for everything you have done over the last year...

We have once again achieved so much together and you have made such a difference… THANK YOU! We have been part of an extraordinary team and experienced so much together over the last year. Over the last ten years we have shared so much together and developed a common memory, common insights and a common understanding. We have built brilliant learning in brilliant learning places and we all need to recognise and celebrate what we have achieved together; to talk about our successes and tell everyone who will listen about our unique and wonderful story.

Whatever the future holds we must continue to send letters and e-mails… to hang posters… to find quotes… to make buttons… to design the t-shirt… to even make people wear them… CELEBRATING TEN GREAT YEARS OF EDUCATION LEEDS !

People keep telling me how tired I look and to be honest I am really tired so I am going to take a break now. So finally…it’s been fun… it’s been a tremendous “hands on experience”… and I have loved every minute of it!

Monday, 26 July 2010

I received some more great news today from my colleague Jim Hopkinson who heads up our Leeds Youth Offending Service...

"Hi Chris, I am delighted to be able to report that Leeds Youth Offending Service has won a prestigious national award from the Howard League for Penal Reform. The Programmes Team at Leeds Youth Offending Service has won the award for the best community programme in the children and young people category. In response to the identified high rates of burglary offences in the city compared to other areas of the country, Leeds Youth Offending Service took on the task of creating a substantial community intervention, to work with young people convicted of burglary offences, which would work on preventing re-offending and be available as a sentencing option to the courts providing an alternative to a custodial sentence. John Drew, Chief Executive of the YJB was one of the judges. The particular strengths noted by the judges were adaptation to learning styles, our involvement of our Speech and Language therapist in programme development, not losing sight of working with children and young people and the collaboration with Safer Leeds, including shared statistical information and the money they gave us. The award is testament to the innovation, commitment and dedication of Leeds YOS staff to tackle offending and to make Leeds a safer place. Regards, Jim."

We are really lucky to have Jim and his multi-agency team doing such a brilliant job here in Leeds. It is yet another piece of the complex web of magic that makes Leeds such a great place.
My colleague Barry Hilton, who heads up our Leeds Mentoring service, sent me this great bit of news today...

"Hi Chris, Leeds Mentoring has recently undergone an OFSTED type inspection. This was carried out by external assessors from the National Mentoring & Befriending Foundation. They visited a number of our High Schools to check our processes and procedures. I am delighted to say that we are one of only 10 mentoring organisations in the UK to have achieved this new quality standard. This is their assessment summary...

The MBF team acknowledges the full co-operation of Leeds Mentoring during this assessment process – April to June 2010. Each mentoring manager was involved with a school assessment visit and was present throughout the interviewing of school co-ordinators and mentors and mentees. The organisation behind the school visits and interviews was recognised and appreciated by the assessment team. The LM management team explained the operations of their mentoring programmes in depth at the initial assessment meeting. All relevant supporting documentation was provided as requested.

The practicalities of assessing such a range of mentoring programmes at nearly 40 school locations meant that a limited number of ‘on-site’ reviews could be carried out, with more emphasis on peer mentoring (the more extensive strand) than adult mentoring. However, the assessment did not identify any areas of concern and there was clear evidence that the project has maintained the operating standards which were required for earlier APS accreditations.

The professionalism and commitment of the Leeds Mentoring Team was particularly noted throughout the assessment. They have the skills, expertise and general education experience to manage a mentoring project of this size and develop models which incorporate good practice. It was clear that positive and effective relationships with individual school co-ordinators are in place and that the mentoring programmes are valued and supported by senior school leadership.

The assessment highlighted a number of good practice features which included a comprehensive peer mentoring training process, the development of an extensive business network to support adult mentoring, a highly-structured monitoring format to record individual student progress and the use of added-value indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of mentoring support.

In view of the considerable uncertainty about future education expenditure (with Aimhigher funding finishing in 2011), this assessment would recommend the Leeds Mentoring schools project to prospective funders as clearly demonstrating outstanding practice and providing a highly-valued service to school communities. Similarly, should future arrangements require schools to buy in Leeds Mentoring support they will be contracting with a proven professional provider.


This is fantastic news and recognises the fact that our mentoring service is one of the best in the country. Barry and the team are dioing a brilliant job which we know from the research and the data is making a huge difference.
"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."

I have reached yet another important milestone. This term marks the end of my ninth full year here in Leeds and in a way the most special because it will be my last full year. This has been another great week spent with special people who after all make Leeds the place it is...

I attended the session for headteachers at Garforth Community College, the Leeds Children's Services Improvement Board, Corporate Leadership Team and the Council's Executive Board. I also attended the Attendance Strategy Team Service Development Day at Castle Grove to talk about the future, the challenges we face and the opportunities to continue to build brilliant provision for young people. I visited Hovingham Primary School for Hovingham's 'X' Factor, a maths based talent show. The energy, passion and enthusiasm of Janet Spence, Jane Fisher and their amazing colleagues is simply astonishing and they are releasing an extraordinary magic and energy at this great little school. I had meetings with Mark Barnett who is working with us to develop our behavioural provision and with Gill Ellis who has just been appointed as Director of Learning and Schools in Nottingham. I also managed to fit in a round of retirement events with Paul Rogerson's wonderful career as Chief Executive of Leeds City Council celebrated at the Town Hall and our colleagues Chris Pollard and Carol Stagg lifetime of service recognised at the Elmete Centre. I visited Templenewsam Halton Primary School to thank Kay Crellin, Manston St James CE Primary School to thank Lynne Gillions, Beeston St Anthony's RC Primary School to thank Maura Laverty and Grange Farm Primary School to thank Katherine Stoker. These four wonderful colleagues are all retiring after careers of passion, commitment and service here in Leeds.

After yet another wonderful year here in Leeds, the scary thing isn’t what we have achieved, but the potential we have to achieve so much more if only we can release the magic and build brilliant provision consistently across everything we do. What always surprises me is how much potential there is out there. Our job as leaders, as managers, as coaches, as teachers, as parents, as people who care, is to help individuals set their goals, realise their enormous potential and understand that this is not as good as it gets! We need to use Jan, Janet, Jane, Mark, Gill, Paul, Chris, Carol, Kay, Lynne, Maura and Katherine to model the way. We need to switch more people on by engaging their interest, connecting with things that motivate and enthuse them, nurturing and developing their energy and potential.

I’ve always known it, but this last year has reminded me that what we have achieved is all about co-operation, teamwork, networking and partnering and that no one can do this on their own. We must continue to encourage the BRILLIANT projects, challenges and initiatives that are making such a difference. We must dig deep to continue to find, nurture and sustain talent wherever it is. As we build the new children' services arrangements we must declare war on bureaucracy, complexity and mediocrity and keep it simple and create simply beautiful systems. Above all, we must communicate and share everything that is great about what we are doing across 265 schools with 17,000 colleagues working for and with 108,000 children and young people.

I have been to some incredible learning places this year and everywhere and wherever colleagues are releasing the magic they are trusted, talented, empowered and effective. Brilliant colleagues working in schools and classrooms, supported locally by focused and efficient teams, are releasing the magic and delivering world class outcomes. Don't let anyone tell you that we don't know what it takes to build brilliant... it's alive and well here in Leeds.

My colleague Michelle Corns who is one of the team at Elmete School Improvement Centre sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, First of all, on behalf of the admin team at Elmete I'd like to say that it will be such a shame when Education Leeds ceases to exist. I have really enjoyed working with the organisation and also you will be greatly missed as a leader. I thought that as part of the legacy you will leave behind you would like to know about some of the fundraising efforts the Elmete admin team have undertaken. Several colleagues including myself have raised over £2000 for charities including

  • Martin House
  • Cancer Research
  • Dogs Trust
  • Morley Exotic Animal Rescue
  • 100st Philips Osmondthorpe Girl Guides

A staggering £1103 of this was raised by the following colleagues: Keelie Wood, Mari Conolly, Gail Mason, Claire Brown, Sandra Miles, Yvonne Bosworth, Tracey Daysh and Linda Khammo in Race for Life on 27th June. £190 was raised for the Dogs Trust on Wednesday 21 July in a cake sale organised by Tracey Daysh, Tracy also raised over £250 for Haiti Relief a few months ago with another cake sale. It would appear that Elmete staff have very sweet tooths. I myself have raised over £500 for Martin House Children's Hospice and the 100st Philips Osmondthorpe Girl Guides by giving reiki holistic healing for donations and selling chocolates on reception plus organising two raffles. I am also organising a sponsored walk round Roundhay Park in August for Fibromyalgia Awareness.

We have all had our part to play in the successful work of Education Leeds.
Best wishes for the future. Kind regards, Michelle."

What makes Education Leeds such a wonderful organisation is summed up by Michelle and the team at Elmete. They are brilliant colleagues who are making a real difference.


My colleague Caroline Starkey who is Principal Officer, Health and Wellbeing in Later Life in our Adult Social Care team here in Leeds sent me this after her visit to City of Leeds School...

"Dear Chris, I hope you are well. This week, I went out to visit City of Leeds High School to see Ben and the boys from Yoob It! I just wanted to let you know how impressed I was with the scheme and the boys’ enthusiasm. I hope that the Neighbourhoods for All Ages Network can support them – both by promoting their work amongst our members and by offering support, particularly signposting them to people who may help. I also hope that we can do a feature on 'Yoob It' in our next Neighbourhoods for All Ages newsletter and at our next network meeting after the summer. I just wanted to let you know how pleased I am that these young people recognise the issues that face many older people in Leeds and are keen to do something about them! I felt very inspired when I left City last week! Best Wishes, Caroline."

It is wonderful to get feedback like this from Caroline about some of the wonderful initiatives and projects that are developing in schools across the city. This work, at City of Leeds School, shows the potential of our young people and their capacity to understand issues and develop innovative and creative approaches to really make a difference.


My colleague Jenny Marshall who is Communications Manager in the nerve centre here at Merrion House sent me this bit of good news this morning...

"Good morning Chris, What a wonderful way to start the week. I have just received our customer service excellence report and it states that our accreditation is continued. This is the culmination of a massive amount of improvement work undertaken by Education Leeds over the past few years working with our customers, partners and stakeholders. The report states that 'following the assessment, Education Leeds was found to have a deep understanding and commitment to Customer Service Excellence. The commitment was found from senior management levels through to operational and front line staff. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the overall assessment process. I has been a great pleasure meeting with your team and having an opportunity to see your service in action.'
Areas of good practice identified by the assessor included:

  • Education Leeds’ success in the Times 100 attaining a top 75 place for public sector employees to work in;
  • The success of on line admissions and the innovative ways being undertaken to operate more efficiently and effectively;
  • Progress in the City Learning Centres;
  • The implementation of the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard;
  • The implementation of the new Governors clerking services and the team meeting the target for new Governors, training and e learning;
  • The welcome at our reception on 10th Floor and the presentation undertaken by our talented team of receptionists; Camille, Emma and Thomas;
  • The work on outdoor activity, the healthy schools approach and the free school meals toolkit;
  • The improved filing systems data protection and security procedures at Blenheim;
  • The attendance team who are well organised and who have set up frameworks for improvement.

As you can see the assessor saw a whole cross section of the company and was impressed with all the improvements we have made over the past 3 years he has visited us. We have a fantastic project board and champions group which embeds a customer focus environment. I am sure we can bring that ethos to the new Directorate and champion the needs of all our customers. Personally, this is my last Customer Service Excellence message as I am retiring shortly but it has been a privilege to work with so many talented and committed colleagues. Best regards, Jenny."

Jenny has led this work brilliantly over the last three years and under her passionate, enthusiastic and determined stewardship we have seen the commitment to customer service improve and develop to the point where Education Leeds is now recognised as a real beacon of customer service excellence locally, regionally and nationally.