Friday, 17 September 2010


I have been doing the blog now since 1st January 2007...

There are now getting on for 2500 posts and it is always great to know that people are out there reading my ramblings about my life here in Leeds especially as that life is rapidly coming to an end with the end of the Education Leeds contract. Blogger has introduced this fantastic new feature which provides me with the data about the people who have visited the blog and it is great to know that it has attracted over 10000 hits with 3500 hits last month and about 100 hits every day. Most of the interest is here in Leeds but it also attracts interest from across the country and from countries across the world including the United States, France, South Korea, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, China, Canada, Austria and Sweden.

My life has been brilliant and it has been a truly incredible ten years here in this great city. We have transformed the learning landscape and released the magic in so many places and in so many people. The last three years of my life are recorded here on this blog and funnily enough it makes a real difference to know that somewhere out there someone is reading this.


Our colleague Jenny Marshall is taking early retirement and leaves us today...

Jenny has been an amazing colleague who has helped me personally with the Education Leeds Board and been one of the team pioneering Customer Service Excellence and our achievement of our Times 100; Best Places to Work in the Public Sector Award. Jenny is leaving us to live her dream having, as she said this morning, spent the best eight years of her working life here with us in Education Leeds which she described as the best place she has ever worked! We will all miss Jenny's bright and enthusiastic persona and her sheer enthusiasm, passion, determination and hard work. She is a brilliant example of what Education Leeds stands for and I personally, and all those colleagues who know her and love her, will really miss her.

As Jenny reminded us this morning of the message at the top of this blog...
"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."


My colleague Scott Jacques, Teaching and Learning Adviser, sent me this timely reminder about the wonderful EVOLVE website which is there to share and network the magic...

"Hi Chris, I don’t know if you’ve had chance to have a look at the Evolve website recently There are now over 30 short videos on the site, showing examples of fantastic practice in Leeds schools. Each clip shows teachers and students explaining and demonstrating how effective use of technology is positively impacting on learning in their school. The site is getting an ever increasing number of hits from within Leeds and beyond, with one clip, from Pudsey Waterloo school having over 1000 views. It really is developing into a fabulous resource for sharing and celebrating practice in Leeds and as each video is no longer than a couple of minutes, you can quickly get a sense of the wonderful work going on around the city. Regards Scott."

This is an amazing resource for schools to share a little bit of their magic across the Team Leeds partnership. As it says on the blog every school I have ever visited has outstanding practice, outstanding colleagues and things worth sharing! Please let us know if there is anything you want to share and celebrate about the magic in your school or your service so we can put it on EVOLVE!



I visited the Leeds Art Gallery this morning...

I had been invited by my colleague Sue Davies who is Head of Learning and Audience Development at Leeds Museums and Galleries. I have been trying for the last nine years to get children's work exhibited at the Art Gallery and Sue has this year persuaded colleagues to include children's work in the Open Show 2010. It is simply wonderful to see the impressive collection of children's art in the middle of the Open Show and some of it is brilliant. Who knows there may be another David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst or Pablo Picasso displayed there. There are certainly pieces that if the were included amongst the adult works no-one would have a clue that they were produced by children!

This is a real landmark and I hope will encourage the Art Gallery to be more imaginative and creative. We must continue to use the Art Gallery to display and celebrate the best of Leeds. My next suggestion would be why don't we every Summer display the best of our GCSE and A-Level work in the Art Gallery. It is world class and would attract an audience of parents and carers and those who are passionate about nurturing the artists of the future.

I understand that this requires leadership and commitment and I am grateful to Sue and everyone involved for their faith and trust which has achieved something outstanding at the Art Gallery this year. If you haven't seen it, pop in, you'll be amazed!

CONGRATULATIONS TO Holy Rosary and St Anne's Catholic Primary School

It is simply wonderful to know that the choir from Holy Rosary and St Anne's Catholic Primary School here in Leeds will be entertaining the Pope this morning...

This amazing little choir from Harehills is the only primary school choir performing for the Pope during his visit and are part of todays Big Assembly in Twickenham.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


This morning I visited Hillcrest Pprimary School...

I had arranged to visit the school to see Teena Thompson, who was started as headteacher at this vibrant, multi-cultural school in April. It was great to walk around the school with Teena and meet some of her children and some of her team. The culture and atmosphere around the school was purposeful and positive and I also had the opportunity to see the wonderful changes that have been made to Space@, the arts and sports community space at the school, which includes the brilliant 'Playing for Success' base. It was really encouraging to meet Teena who brings a great deal of experience to Leeds and is passionate about values based education. I know that under Teena's intelligent and sensitive leadership the school will continue to develop, building on some really good early years provision, to become a brilliant learning place where every child is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


This evening I attended the Upper School Awards Evening at Temple Moor High School...

My colleague Martin Fleetwood, headteacher, had invited me to the Awards evening and it was great to be part of such a wonderful celebration of achievement and talent with great performances by Raven Percussion, three young dancers who performed with real power, passion and grace and a young singer who was amazing. The school team worked really hard to recognise and celebrate the achievements of some wonderful young people who had achieved the best results the school has ever seen.


This afternoon I visited Victoria Primary School to see their new Early Years and Foundation Stage unit...

I haven't visited the school since February but Alison Carrick, the headteacher at this great little primary school, had invited me to their official opening afternoon for the new Early Years and Foundation Stage unit. The unit caters for 60 children in the Foundation Satge and a 26 place nursery... sounds like hard work and it's brilliant! Alison's colleagues have worked incredibly hard and the unit looks wonderful and is the Early Years and Foundation Stage unit everyone would want! Victoria Primary School serves a very deprived area of central Leeds but just walking around this wonderful, spacious, bright new unit you realise that Alison and her colleagues are doing something really special and that they are releasing a very special kind of magic where it really, really matters.

Alison certainly leads by example and has high expectations of everyone; children and colleagues alike. Over the last couple of years she has transformed the school with her strong, focused and passionate leadership; her focus on standards, tracking, monitoring and intervention working with the talented and enthusiastic teaching and learning team at the school. What is impressive is the clear values and the belief driving every aspect of the work of the school backed up by Alison's persistence, determination and hard work; guess who was in most of the Summer supervising and checking the building work?

Alison and her learning team are doing a brilliant job and have built something really special in the new Early Years and Foundation unit at Victoria Primary School.


I met with my colleague Danielle Brearley this morning...

Danni works in our wonderful Communications Team and we met to look at what we put in the latest, and the last, Education Leeds Annual Report whcih will also be a celebration of the ten extra-ordinary years of the company, its achievements and its people. Danni had done a brilliant job pulling an initial draft together which will showcase the outstanding initiatives, projects and programmes that have released the magic here in Leeds over the last ten great years. Clearly it cannot include everything and everyone who has been a part of this incredible adventure but we'll be doing our best to capture the things that really matter. Let me know your highlights and the things you would include so we can check that we've not missed something special.
I started the day having breakfast with the SILC Principals...

It was a great start to the day. Bill Chatwin, John Fryer, Andrew Hodkinson, Michael Purches, Diane Reynard and Michelle Wilman are leading our special educational needs work at the front line and we were talking about the journey we have been on with special needs provision and the development of the SILCs. We have achieved so much together in this vitally important area over the last few years and we have seen a transformation in provision and outcomes for these very special children. The SILCs provide brilliant core provision which is supported by innovative and creative partnerships which the SILCs have established with primary and special schools. As centres of excellent around inclusion they also provide some amazing outreach and development work pioneered by the SILCs in areas like hospital provision, work on the autistic spectrum and emotional and behavioural provision.

We also talked about how we take the SILC model into the new world of Children's Services to connect with the well-being teams, the complex needs teams and the continuum of provision around behavioural support. We have built something wonderful in the SILC model which we need to use as some of the foundations for the next stage in our constant and relentless search for excellence. What must remain central to everything we are doing here in Leeds are the unique promises we continue to make to our children and young people, their families and the communities we serve. Promises that make a reality of the statement that 'every child does matter' and that ensure that we continue to work to ensure that every child is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

I moved on to another Education Leeds Induction Event at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the best education team anywhere and now are to be part of the outstanding children's services arrangements which will serve the children and young people of Leeds! This group of colleagues were from the special educational needs support teams, the educational psychology team, the attendance service, the headteacher support service and Artemis and will bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience. They certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams.

I talked about our mission, our jobs, our opportunities and our challenges as we continue to build brilliant provision consistently across every community in this great city. As we build the new children's services arrangements we must continue to develop strong and dynamic leadership, an inclusive and empowering culture and the structural arrangements that build on what we have already achieved to create even better provision and support for children, young people and their families.

It was great to talk to these colleagues who helped me to stay positive and keep the faith!
I started the day early with the Leeds Secondary Headteachers at Weetwood Hall...

These are a great group of colleagues who together have transformed outcomes for young people here in Leeds. This years results mean that, compared to when Education Leeds started when only 39% achieved 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, this year 77% achieved this standard... a simply remarkable increase which has meant huge additional numbers of our young people getting the passport to learning, to work and to success. Particular success stories include Abbey Grange CE High School, Allerton Grange High School, Allerton High School, Boston Spa School, Brigshaw High School, Bruntcliffe High School, Cardinal Heenan RC High School, Carr Manor High School, City of Leeds School, Cockburn Community College, Crawshaw School, David Young Academy, Farnley Park High School, Garforth Community College, Horsforth School, Leeds West Academy, John Smeaton Community College, Lawnswood High School, Morley High School, Mount St Mary's RC High School, Parklands Girls high School, Priesthorpe School, Primrose High School, Pudsey Grangefield High School, Ralph Thoresby High School, Rodillian High School, Roundhay School, Royds School, South Leeds Academy, St Mary's RC School, Menston, Temple Moor High School and Woodkirk High School we have seen outstanding results and great individual achievements. It has been a real team effort with schools supporting schools, departments supporting departments and colleagues supporting colleagues through the powerful application ofour School Improvement Policy framework.

The meeting today also looked at the developing blueprint for the new Children's Services arrangements with presentations by my colleagues Mariana Pexton and Dirk Gilleard. Mariana outlined the blueprint which builds on the work that we have been doing over the last five years to build extended services arrangements within clusters across the city. It continues to build well-being and child protection teams around schools and Children's Centres connected to area teams working with looked-after children and children with complex needs. These teams around the child and the family must powerfully connect with the universal offer to ensure that every child in Leeds has a key worker and has the support, resources and encourgement they need to achieve their potential. Dirk talked about the developing thinking around school improvement within this overarching blueprint building on the work we have developed and pioneered here in Leeds over the last few years. The model would secure strategic support with additional support on a traded basis and regional programmes making some developments more sustainable and secure in the new and austere world that is coming.

We need to continue to work to refine and develop the models and the structural arrangements to ensure that everychild and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!

Monday, 13 September 2010

This afternoon I attended the Leeds Children's Trust Board meeting at Temple Moor High School...

It was great to be at one of our successful and improving schools which has been transformed by our 'Building Schools for the Future' programme and everyone at the meeting agreed that the learning environment looks fantastic! The Leeds Children's Trust Board is the strategic body responsible for setting the vision and the priorities for the Children and Young People's Plan which will drive all our work for children, young people and families. The meeting today looked at the developing blueprint for the new Children's Services arrangements with a presentation by my colleague Ken Morton. The blueprint builds on the work that we have been doing over the last five years to build extended services arrangements within clusters across the city. It continues to build well-being and child protection teams around schools and Children's Centres connected to area teams working with looked-after children and children with complex needs. These teams around the child and the family must powerfully connect with the universal offer to ensure that every child in Leeds has a key worker and has the support, resources and encourgement they need to achieve their potential. We need to continue to work to refine and develop the models and the structural arrangements to ensure that everychild and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!
I caught up with two old colleagues this morning...

I met Peter Hall-Jones, who used to be headteacher at Little London Primary School, and Jonathan Crossley-Holland, who used to be Director of Children's Services in Sheffield. These colleagues have moved on from their key and successful roles in the public sector to do some brilliant work in the private sector. What is deeply encouraging is that they have both created new careers having made a personal choice and taken control of their lives. They are both sources of real inspiration as we face the challenges with savage public sector cuts, changes in Government policy, the transformed schools landscape and the end of grant funding for many of our brilliant projects. There is, after all, life after Education Leeds and creative opportunities for talented, creative and passionate people. It's true, whatever you decide to do, the future is bright.
"Brilliant!", "Fantastic", "Great" is the response I always try to give to the question "How are you?" and it always seems to confuse some people who would clearly prefer it if I said "I'm OK!"...

Especially at the moment as we face the perfect storm with more cuts coming and Education Leeds contract coming to an end and uncertainty for many of us about the future and our jobs. My life, like yours I suspect, isn't always great. In fact, sometimes my life can be dreadful. But most people don't want to hear about the things that are going wrong in my life. It's not that I live in a world where everything is always brilliant and I expect everyone else lives in that same world. I live in the real world where we all have difficulties, awful days, family tragedies, financial worries, accidents and illnesses and where things often go badly. I hope that like me you have colleagues with whom you can share the ups and downs and who share their lives with you. I am grateful to have people like that in my life. They are the ones I know I can call when my life is falling apart and they can call me too.

However bad things are, I believe that I have a choice each day. You can choose to see things positively and be an optimist or you can choose to see things negatively and be a pessimist.' Since I discovered Investment in Excellence every new day, whatever anyone throws at me, I choose to be positive. Each time something goes wrong or mistakes happen, I can choose to live under a black cloud or I can choose to learn from it. I use affirmations and visualisations and I choose to learn from everything that happens to me. Every time someone comes to me moaning and complaining about what isn't working, what is going wrong and what has happened to them, I can choose to accept their negativity and go under with more and more problems landing on my desk or alternatively I can point out that when you are working at the cutting edge things go wrong, things get screwed up and that we need to look at the learning striving for excellence provides and the opportunities we have to improve what we do and provide better services for children, young people, their families, schools and the Council. I choose to be positive, to be optimistic and to be a learner! And that makes my life great, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. So as we struggle with the future what are you going to choose?

I know what you are thinking... it's not that easy... but it is. Life is all about choices and when you cut away all the rubbish and clutter, everything is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. You choose the attitudes you take into each new day. It's your choice how you live your life. I choose to be positive!