Thursday, 7 October 2010


This afternoon I visited Valley View Primary School...

It was brilliant to visit the school again and see what Sarah Griggs, the headteacher, and her team have achieved. They have transformed the school and built something extra-ordinary. The children were an amazing advert for this great school; positive, polite, respectful and well-behaved. The atmosphere and learning environment is fantastic; relationships are wonderful and the learning is simply amazing! I had my portrait painted by children in the early years and I was made a wonderfully magic tie by children in Year 3 and I was interviewed about my job by children in Years 5 and 6.

As someone who is always learning, I always ask myself questions after visiting schools like Valley View Primary School, whose learning journey has been simply amazing. What are Sarah and her team doing to release such magic? What is it that makes this little school so fantastic? What can we learn from what is happening here? The answers...

  • Sarah's passionate and committed leadership;
  • an inclusive learning culture within a highly focused and consistent system;
  • a great teaching and learning team;
  • clear values and beliefs driving all the work of the school;
  • a focus on excellence, high standards and positive behaviour;
  • outstanding teaching and learning;
  • a positive, attractive and stimulating learning environment;
  • high expectations and hard work!
This is a brilliant school with a great team led by a wonderful headteacher. Sarah Griggs and her learning team are doing an incredible job and have built something really amazing at Valley View Primary School .


I visited Westbrook Lane Primary School this morning...

This is another outstanding little primary school where Joan Kay, headteacher, and her talented team are doing great things and releasing a very special magic. As someone who is always learning, I always ask myself after visiting schools like Westbrook Lane Primary School, what is it that makes this little school such a brilliant learning place and what can we learn from what Joan and her team are doing 

The answers...
  • Joan's outstanding, focused and passionate leadership;
  • an inclusive learning culture within a highly focused and consistent system;
  • a great teaching and learning team;
  • clear values and beliefs driving all the work of the school;
  • a focus on excellence, high standards and positive behaviour;
  • outstanding teaching;
  • an attractive and stimulating learning environment;
  • high expectations and hard work!
This is a brilliant school with a great team led by a great headteacher. Joan Kay and her learning team are doing an incredible job and have built something really wonderful at Westbrook Lane Primary School .

I have spent ten wonderful years here in Leeds and we have achieved extra-ordinary things together...

My last ten years have been incredible and wherever you look together we have transformed the learning landscape and achieved brilliant outcomes. I am deeply proud of what we have achieved; grateful for your support, encouragement and feedback and blessed to have been part of an experiment that has achieved so much. With the Education Leeds contract coming to an end, I have decided to leave Education Leeds at Christmas and my last working day will be 17 December.

In case anyone out there missed it, Stephen Parkinson PhD, Professor Emeritus and Chairman of the Education Leeds Board, sent this message out yesterday...

"Dear Colleagues, Chris Edwards, Chief Executive of Education Leeds will be leaving the company on 31st December 2010. Chris has made an outstanding contribution to the work of Education Leeds in transforming the learning experience of young people in Leeds and the Board is very grateful for his visionary leadership and commitment over the years. Between now and the end of December there will be several opportunities to fully record our appreciation before Chris leaves. For now, many thanks Chris for a brilliant job, well done! Stephen Parkinson."

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

My colleague Richard Boughey who is our Transformation Programme Manager here at Education Leeds sent me this e-mail about our recent visitors from Stckholm...

"Hello Chris, Last week teachers from five schools in Sweden spent two days working with their partner schools in Leeds as part of a Comenius Regio project into the use of ICT to support learning outcomes. I had the privilege to sit into their collective working session on the last day of their visit and I’ve recorded just some of the amazing things I heard;

“I am gobsmacked, as you would say, ICT is a such a big part of the British curriculum and Sweden prides itself on being with companies such as Sony Erickson and yet children are left to their own devices. We can’t reach all the children like we saw in the school and I hope that somebody sees the light soon enough and changes it and included it in the national curriculum in Sweden”
“My strong impression is how dedicated the teachers are, I was really impressed by that, they worked hard and were so dedicated. This school is a safe haven, many didn’t want to leave school when is was over and wanted to stay.”
 “Lovely inspiration from everything we saw. It was fun all the time between teacher and student, very relaxed, they were both warm, soft and hard at the same time.”

“Went to visit the Grafton Learning Centre and I was personally very impressed with that as we don’t have anything like it in Sweden and then visited the hospital school which was even more impressive.”

“We took part in a pancake race and we saw this teacher who was so dedicated in what she was doing with those children and it was so much fun. They raced in their wheelchairs the assistant helping them flip the pancake, it was fantastic. We had a great time and met so many dedicated teachers and saw pupils that are so different from ours, but yet not.”

“The dedication of the teachers, wonderful pupils who were very curious about Sweden and interested in the projects. Everything is planned in so much detail, how do you think outside the box, but you obviously do.”

“The children were so polite and very curious about our Swedish kids and we are really looking forward to getting going on the project.”

As you know, projects like this are not easy to set up and occasions like this are truly inspirational because the hard work to get them going is repaid hundreds of times over by the enthusiasm of the participants, the excitement and the knowledge that so many young people in two countries will benefit. Thanks, Richard"

Visits like this remind us all that what really, really matters is the quality of the teams we build around our children and young people. We need trusted, empowered and talented colleagues to release the magic! We need to get out of this viscious spiral of negativity, of it's not good enough so let's do something else, let's create another intiative, let's get more academies when we really need to reflect, think and get back to basics so that every child attends a great school with  compelling vision, positive behaviour and discipline, a relentless focus on outcomes, passionate learning, strong engagement of parents and carers, great relationships between young people and their learning team and inspirational and distributed leadership. Let us nurture and support our learning teams to ensure that they deliver for our children and young people and let's take the best of what we do here in Leeds and learn from the best practice nationally and from Reggio Emilia, and from Sweden and Finland and Denmark and anywhere that will help us to build brilliant local provision.


I told you last week about the award Jo Speak at Cookridge Primary School received to celebrate excellence and innovation in international schools partnerships... 

These awards are organised by the British Council and supported by HSBC Global Education Trust  and when I visited the web-site today I discovered that Karen Kershaw from Bramley Primary School was also recognised. She was highly commended for her work as an international coordinator.

Karen is another brilliant colleague whose passion, enthusiasm, commitment and hard work shines through everything she does and I am delighted that she has also received this fantastic recognition.

The Kwik Fit Insurance Lollipop Person of the Year

Alec Shelbrooke MP sent me details about the Kwik Fit Insurance Lollipop Person of the Year campaign, which is open to all primary schools in the UK, which aims to find Britain’s favourite lollipop person...

The campaign, which attracted more than 19,000 entries last year, highlights the importance of having adequate supervision for children who have to cross roads on the way to school. A UK-wide survey of schoolchildren, commissioned by Kwik Fit Insurance also highlights the dangers children face on their daily journey to and from school. The research revealed that 40 per cent of kids between the age of seven and 14, or 2.2million children, are risking their lives running across the road without looking, and even more concerning was the fact that 1.1m, or half again admitted to running across the road without checking for traffic all the time.

According to the most recent Government figures, 1,660 child pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in road accidents in 2009, a drop of seven percent on the previous year’s figures. Brendan Devine, group managing director of Kwik Fit Financial Services, added: “We are determined to help further improve the UK’s road safety record for children. There’s some great work going on throughout the country by government road safety bodies and national charities such as Brake, but our findings show there is still work to be done. We think the Lollipop Person of the Year campaign is a good way of raising awareness to both children and motorists alike.

Last year’s winning lollipop man John Foley from Bushes Primary School in Paisley, Scotland, enjoyed a holiday of a lifetime whilst the children and staff of Bushes Primary School created a new community garden with their £3000 prize money. Nominations for the Kwik Fit Insurance Lollipop Person of the Year Awards 2010 will close on Friday, November 19th 2010. More information and entry details can be found at

Go on nominate someone. You never know they might win!


This afternoon I attended Headteacher Forum with Nigel Richardson, our new Director of Children's Services...

Nigel talked passionately to colleagues about his vision for a 'Child Friendly City' based on the UNICEF Child Friendly City initiative. Which is a city, or more generally a system of local governance, committed to fulfilling children's rights, including their right to:
  • Influence decisions about their city
  • Express their opinion on the city they want
  • Participate in family, community and social life
  • Receive basic services such as health care and education
  • Drink safe water and have access to proper sanitation
  • Be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse
  • Walk safely in the streets on their own
  • Meet friends and play
  • Have green spaces for plants and animals
  • Live in an unpolluted environment
  • Participate in cultural and social events
  • Be an equal citizen of their city with access to every service, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or disability
A child friendly city is the embodiment of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child at the local level, which in practice means that children’s rights are reflected in policies, laws, programmes and budgets.

Nigel also talked about simplifying things with a relentless focus on vision, outcomes, priorities and action. He urged us to ask ourselves the 'so what?' question. We need to know what it is like as a child growing up in Leeds and how together we can make it better! He also urged colleagues to ask everyone how they are contributing to making Leeds a great place for children young people and families.


I moved on to the South SILC Broomfield to see John Fryer, the new principal, who I had met over breakfast earlier this term...

I visited the South SILC in June before John took up his post to see the transformation that had happened at the SILC supported by colleagues from the East SILC whose passion, commitment, determination and hard work had really made an extraordinary difference as evidenced by the OFSTED judgements which identified the South SILC as a good school with outstanding features. I was really impressed by the improvements that have been made to the building and the bright, attractive and stimulating learning environment that the team have created despite the real challenges the building presents which must remain one of our highest priorities.
We must maintain our relentless and uncompromising focus on improving the learning landscape particularly for the very special group of children who attend the SILCs. The new children's services arrangements provide us with an opportunity to re-imagine, re-engineer and remodel our special needs provision around these centres of excellence. We know that we must continue to further develop the SILC estate and connect with provision in mainstream schools based on the outstanding provision we have already established at Windmill Primary School and Rodillian School.


I started the day at the Newly Qualified Primary Teachers Induction  & Welcome Event at The Village Hotel in Headingley...

My colleagues from our Primary Advisory Team, and from our Hunman Resources Team, had worked really hard to set up this day for the 150 talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful teachers who have joined our primary schools and SILCs this year. It was inspiring to be able to talk to so many young colleagues starting their learning journey here in Leeds as members of a simply wonderful primary and special school workforce. I talked about the critical importance of the work we do in the early years where we build the foundations for learning and the importance of programmes like Every Child a Reader and Every Child Counts to ensure that every child is becomes a brilliant little learner by the time they leave their primary school. I talked about the work we are doing with healthy schools, healthy playtimes, PE and school sport, school food, sustainable schools, inclusion and the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard. I talked about the WOW factor and how every school had to continue to strive to be outstanding. The difference between being in a classroom with a great teacher and a classroom with an OK teacher is enormous in terms of achievment and attainment. So eevryone has to be a learner and develop their craft and their practice so that we are constantly learning from each other and learning from the best.

Standing talking to these wonderful colleagues reminds me of being in a school assembly and looking at the talent, the potential and the magic and again you wonder what we can't achieve together here in Leeds. The future is certainly bright for primaary education in Leeds if these colleagues are anything to go by!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I visited Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary School this afternoon...

Caroline Sibson, the headteacher of this great little school, had invited me to the official opening of their new  community room and Extended Services building, which includes Peter Pan Pre – School and Emma’s Angels. Cllr Brian Cleasby performed the opening ceremony along with a number of special visitors who have contributed to the project. Caroline also showed me the new Reception Base where they have just finished work on new early years provision and the team are rightly very proud of what they have achieved.

Caroline and the team have transformed provision at Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary School and the new provision is brilliant.  This is a unique school doing extraordinary things which also acts as a base for the North West Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre. Their 'Orchard' base allows children with specific needs to be full members of this very special school community.


Another week closer to Christmas...

It has been a great week spent with some more extra-ordinary colleagues, and some great leaders. I visited Primrose Lane Primary School to see Catherine Holmes, the new headteacher, who had started at the school at Easter. Catherine is a talented colleague who brings successful experience of headship from Hertfordshire, and it was great to be able to meet her and see first-hand what an intelligent and capable headteacher we have at Primrose Lane Primary School. I visited Hugh Gaitskell Primary School where Margaret Beesley and her team have made more progress opening a new community room, office, staff room, teaching areas; and a primary-age inclusion unit building on the excellent work they do with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. David Dickinson and I had breakfast with nine of our new headteachers, an amazing group of colleagues, and we talked about the brilliant provision we have built here in Leeds over the last nine and a half years and how their schools can continue to maintain the focus on standards with so much changing locally and nationally; the challenges with safeguarding, child protection, multi-agency working and extended services; and so much expected of schools.

I visited Benton Park School to see David Foley, the headteacher, whose enthusiasm and commitment has transformed the leadership and the culture at the school over the last couple of years. I had been invited to the school because Benton Park was holding a careers fair over two days and had attracted 48 providers from the universities and colleges to the armed forces; and from Morrisons to a local hairdressing salon. I visited the West Park Centre to attend the official opening of Ferdinand Koci's wonderful Art Exhibition. Ferdinand Koci is a Roma from Albania who has exhibited his work all over Europe. The artwork is loaned from Ferdinand's own private collection, and shows off his talent and amazing ability to tell stories through these fascinating and beautiful pictures. This free exhibition is at the West Park Centre until Christmas, and schools have a unique opportunity to visit the exhibition with groups of children. I visited Fieldhead Carr Primary School, an amazing little school, to see the real progress the school is making on its journey to outstanding. Nik Edensor is an inspirational young headteacher whose passion, drive, determination, commitment and hard work with a brilliant team is achieving some extraordinary results. I visited St Theresa's Catholic Primary School where John Hutchinson, the headteacher, and his strong senior leadership team are driving school improvement and achieving some impressive results, particularly with their boys. And finally I attended the Leadership Challenge Event 2010 where the real highlight was being able to listen to Chris Pilling, head of direct banking at HSBC, who's energy, passion, commitment and leadership style has had a powerful impact at First Direct and now HSBC. His approach focuses on developing a culture which empowers, engages and gives ownership to his team and also draws on intelligence and performance management to drive world class outcomes. Now where have I heard that before!

A week spent with great leaders and great colleagues reminds you about the importance of leadership. Great leaders are great learners… by constantly questioning and asking why. Great leaders are great performers… by being confident and energetic. Great leaders are great storytellers… by bringing strategies and policies alive. Great leaders accept responsibility… for decisions and outcomes and focus on what really matters. And above all, great leaders are passionate.
Be passionate!


Julia Norton the headteacher at Wigton Moor Primary has let me know about the recognition her deputy has achieved...

Janina Wincerz is a finalist in the Teaching Awards ceremony in London on 31st October, which will be shown on BBC2. She is nominated in the Lifetime Achievements Category; an honour which everyone who knows Janina recognises is fully deserved. She is in the final six from nine thousand nominees. What an incredible achievement and recognition of a lifetime's commitment to education and learning.

Monday, 4 October 2010


I attended the official sod-turning ceremony at Farnley Park Maths and Computing College this afternoon...

Young people from Farnley Park, Lawns Park Primary School and the West SILC carried out the ceremony to mark the start of this fantastic £23 million building project. We were joined by John Townsley, our consultant headteacher, Robert Greaves, the chair of the school's governing body, Cllr Judith Blake, deputy leader of Leeds City Council and executive board member for children's services and the three ward councillors; Cllr Ann Blackburn, Cllr David Blackburn and Cllr John Hardy. Colleagues from the LEP, Interserve, Education Leeds and the schools also joined us as we celebrated achieving this first step which will see the school's new facilities being completed in July 2012.

The school has been through a very challenging period following the tragic death of Bill Pullen,the previous headteacher, whose passion and vision had been shaping the new school. After the school's brilliant GCSE results this Summer we can look forward to the school now going from strength to strength as it's new buildings are constructed through our wonderful Building Schools for the Future programme.


I visited Lawns Park Primary School this afternoon...

It was great to visit this little school and talk to Rebecca Ford, the school's talented headteacher, about the approach the school has developed using Guy Claxton's work which is based on the principle that all students can develop their learning power.Rebecca and her team don't see children's ability as fixed at birth but something that can be continually expanded by developing their 'learning muscles'. These 'learning power' capacities need, as mentioned, to be part of all learning and they permeate the culture of this great little school. I was taken around the school by two great examples of the effectiveness of the work the school is doing. Katrina and George were wonderful ambassadors for the school and talked passionately about their wonderful Magic Garden, the Foundation Stage provision, the allotment, the classrooms, the displays, the buddying system, the gymnastics club, the gardening club, the cookery club and much, much more. Rebecca, George, Katrina and I had tea with the Year 5 group who were cooking pizzas using some of the vegetables they had grown in the school allotment... the puff pastry pizza was fantastic and I was given one to take away for my supper!

This is a great primary school where Rebecca and her team are releasing a real magic. They have created a wonderful learning environment for their little learners and are modelling how the children can develop their learning muscles.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

I saw the brilliant Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on Saturday evening...

This is 'possibly the most successful modern dance company on the planet' to quote The New York Times and the combination of strength, technique and energy inspired by the blues, spirituals and gospel music was fantastic and uplifting. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater started in 1958 with a performance, by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that changed forever the perception of American dance. They have now performed for an estimated 23 million people in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents. If like me you love modern dance you can catch them at the Alhambra in Bradford on 15 and 16 October.


There was a great article in the Times Educational Supplement this week...

We all know from Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences that he identified seven distinct intelligences. This approach emerged from research and "documents the extent to which learners possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways". Gardner argues that "we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences - the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains." In the first of an occasional TES series professors Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas argue that the science of learnable intelligence should also be changing the way we work. They debunk these myths:
  • intelligence is essentially a one dimensional commodity;
  • intelligence is relatively fixed;
  • intelligent activity is focused in the mind;
  • intelligence is rational and conscious;
  • ntelligence is a personal possession;
  • intelligence is an individual not a social concept;
  • intelligence is universally valid;
  • intelligence is an intellectual function.
In their book, New Kinds of Smart, they explore the science that is overturning the way we see intelligence and the advantages of this apporach for teaching and young people's learning. They argue that:
  • intelligence is composite;
  • intelligence is axpandable;
  • intelligence is practical;
  • intelligence is intuitive;
  • intelligence is distributed;
  • intelligence is social;
  • intelligence is transferable;
  • intelligence is ethical.
It's true that if we are going to build world class learning in our schools and colleges we must accept that we can develop and grow young people's intelligence and that one of the keys is coaching. It true then we can all get smarter!


I attended the Leadership Challenge Event 2010 this morning...

It was an interesting morning and the real highlight was being able to listen to Chris Pilling, Head of Direct Banking at HSBC, who was First Direct's chief executive before he took over a new role at parent company HSBC as head of direct banking in a move to beef up their telephone and online services. Chris Pilling is still in charge of Leeds-based First Direct, but he also has responsibility for all of HSBC UK's internet and telephone banking. Chris' energy, passion, commitment and leadership style has had a powerful impact at First Direct and now HSBC. His approach focuses on developing a culture which empowers, engages and gives ownership to his team and also draws on intelligence and performance management to drive world class outcomes. Now where have I heard that before!