Saturday, 23 October 2010


Last night we held a special evening for some of our extraordinary colleagues at the Banqueting Suite at the Civic Hall...

It was a wonderful evening attended by around 150 colleagues most of whom had been nominated for one of our Spirit Awards. The winners of the 2010 Spirit Awards were:
  • Bernadette Robinson - Personal Development;
  • Til Wright - Health and Well-being;
  • Hannah Oldfield and Jayne Conway - Putting Customers First;
  • Margaret Dalby - Treating People Fairly;
  • Gareth Wilce - Looking After Leeds;
  • Jane Robinson - Leader of the Year;
  • Angela Bernard-Ferguson - Colleague of the Year;
  • Wendy Winterburn and the EOTAS Team - Team of the Year.
David Dickinson and Dirk Gilleard then presented me with a Spirit Award as Leader of the Decade!

The evening had been organised by Stephanie Rayford and Danielle Brearley who had done a brilliant job to create such a successful and memorable evening for everyone.

Friday, 22 October 2010


As I face my last half-term here in Leeds I wanted to write to thank you for everything you have done over the last half-term, the last year and the last ten years...

We have once achieved so much together and you have made such a difference…


We have been part of an extraordinary team and experienced so much together. Over the last ten years we have shared so much and developed a common memory, common insights and a common understanding of what it takes to build brilliant. And while the vision has been great we have also delivered... and how... brilliant learning in brilliant learning places. We all need to continue 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 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."

People keep telling me how tired I look and to be honest I am really tired so I am going to take a short break now before I start the last chapter of my Leeds story; the last seven weeks of an incredible 500 weeks here in this great city serving its children and young poeple, their families and communities. Again thank you…it’s been fun… it’s been a tremendous “hands on experience”… and it has certainly been worth it!



I started the day today at another one of my favourite schools...

I attended Beecroft Primary School's Harvest Assembly and Music Awards. The school under June Turner's powerful leadership has developed an initiative which gives every child the opportunity to play a musical instrument and the school enters the children for awards through the Royal School of Music. This reflects a huge commitment by the learning team at Beecroft and again this morning I was priviledged to see the results.

The whole school and orchestra delivered a great harvest assembly which included some of my favourite songs. We were treated to strong and important messages about why we should help others, some powerful poetry, lots of fantastic singing and some really wonderful playing led by a great team. At the end of the assembly, I was delighted to present a talented group of young musicians with their awards and medals... simply brilliant!

This is a great school with an amazing team doing a wonderful job.


Last night I went to the Year 11 Reunion and Presentation of Certificates Evening at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School to present the certificates and awards to some fantastic young people...

It was a real honour to be asked by Liz Cox, headteacher at this great school, to be part of this very special evening. Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School had a fantastic OFSTED inspection this year and these young people achieved the school's best ever GCSE results. Dianne Ward, the students Head of Year, introduced the evening which also included their glorious Madrigal Group directed by Mrs Barnes and Mrs Armitage. We were also entertained by Luke Kay, head boy and Ruth DiClemente, head girl, who like many of the other young people are now studying at Notre Dame Sixth Form College. The Class of 2010 were very clearly everything you could want from a group of young people... talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful!

It was wonderful to share in this very special evening for the team at Cardinal Heenan and I was delighted that the school very generously made a donation of £50 to my favourite charity, Martin House.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


I moved on to attend the Official Opening of the wonderful new buildings at the West SILC...

My colleague Michelle Wilman, the principal at the West SILC, had invited me to the opening by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Jim McKenna and the Lady Mayoress, Cllr Andrea McKenna. I arrived in time for the Harvest Assembly which was great with the children singing 'The Whole World' and the 'Cauliflower and Cabbages' Song. The new modular build facilities are fantastic and really extend and enhance the facilities available on the Milestone site. It was great to walk around the new areas and to have toast and talk to some of these very special young people.
I started the day having coffee with my colleague and friend Mark Barnett...

Mark is helping us with some really important work at the PRUs and the BESD SILC and it was great to catch up with Mark about the progress he thinks we are making and the challenges that we still need to be working on if we want to build brilliant provision consistently across the city for all our young people.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


I moved on to visit Quarry Mount Primary School...

I love this school and it was great that my colleague Jackie Twaites had invited me to visit the school again during their open afternoon for parents and carers as part of their Focus Week on Black artists for Black History Month. There were art workshops in all the classes for parents and carers to join in with and it was great to walk around the school with Jackie and see some of Jackie's brilliant colleagues and some of Jackie's amazing children weaving, drawing, painting and creating some brilliant art work.


I moved on to the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Award Ceremony 2010 at Space@Hillcrest...

The programme provided an opportunity to celebrate ten years of activities promoting race equality and community cohesion with the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Partnership working with Education Leeds to change the landscape and build trust, respect, tolerance and understanding. The morning started with a performance by the 'New World Symphony Steel Orchestra' and was followed by the Official Opening by the Deputy Lord Mayor. The children from Little London Primary School then sang brilliantly for everyone and their passion, enthusiasm and sheer joy was wonderful. This was followed by Louise Crumbie who Chairs the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Partnership who talked about the history of the award ceremony. Students from Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School then delivered a powerful performance which they had prepared as part of their work for Black History Month highlighting the contributions of significant black leaders and champions. My colleague Rehana Minhas then reviewed the last ten years and what we have achieved together before introducing our guest speaker His Excellency Dr James Williams, the High Commissioner for St Kitts and Nevis. We were then treated to a fantastic poetry performance by students from Ralph Thoresby High School, whose passion, delivery and energy was incredible.We also had an incredible performance by children from Wigton Moor Primary School. And finally before lunch we had an amazing performance by children from  Hillcrest  Primary School whose fabulous singing made everyone in the audience smile. It was wonderful that the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Partnership had decided to award me one of their community awards for my leadership and championing of the work we have been doing on equality, diversity and community cohesion. I was in great company because the other award winners were Louise Crombie, Sheila Howarth and Rehana Minhas.

After lunch the programme included performances by students from the Otley Prince Henry's Grammar School, Broomfield SILC, St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Horsforth, Benton Park High School, Rawdon St Peter's CE Primary School and Pudsey Southroyd Primary School. 

Together we have achieved so much over the last ten great years. We have transformed the culture and the expectations we all have of our children and young people. Where in the past people simply saw problems and challenges now so many more of us see potential and magic. Thanks to everyone for all the hard work that made this event such a brilliant success.


David Dickinson and I started the day really early having breakfast at Roundhay School with a group of headteacher colleagues from the Meanwood and Moortown Family of Schools and the North East Leeds Schools Learning Partnership...

These are some amazing group of colleagues and we talked about the future children's services arrangements, increasing numbers, special needs and behaviour provision, extended services, and how schools could maintain their focus on standards with the budget challenges we are facing.
 We all agreed about the importance of developing confident, self-critical and reflective schools at the heart of our Children's Services arrangements. We all understand that we need to focus on meeting the needs of every child, working closely with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities through our community hubs; the primary schools. We talked about the challenges we all face but what was deeply encouraging was that, alongside their passionate commitment to their children, there was a total focus on ensuring that as early as possible children became literate, numerate and had the necessary social and emotional skills to succeed.

We talked about the challenges that lie ahead and the need to be more creative and more collaborative and to stop doing things that made no difference to children and families and focus on those we know do. Everyone understaood the need to 'Think Team' and work together; talking, sharing, networking and learning together. 

It was a brilliant start to the day with some great colleagues and we need to do more of this.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


In April this year a group of Foundation Stage teachers from eight primary schools and three early years consultants took part in a Reggio Emilia Study Week in Italy funded by the British Council...

The Hundred Languages of Children
No way.
The hundred is there.
The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
a hundred, always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds to discover
a hundred worlds to invent
a hundred worlds to dream.
The child has a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and Christmas.
They tell the child
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says
“No way – The hundred is there.”
Loris Malaguzzi
(translated by Lella Gandini) 

Late this afternoon I attended the 'Celebration of Inspirational Developments in Early Years Practice in Leeds' where colleagues who went on the study week shared the impact it has had on their practice. It was fantastic to see the work going on in these eight schools as a result of this visit. It was also wonderful to hear from Becky Ingram and her colleagues in the Foundation Stage at Oakwood Primary School. The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is a city-run and sponsored system designed for all children from birth through to six years of age. The approach can be viewed as a resource and inspiration to help educators, parents, and children as they work together to further develop their own educational programs. The approach is based upon the following principles:
  • A curriculum that builds on the interests of children.
  • Projects are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests which arise within the group.
  • The Reggio Emilia approach uses the arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development.
  • The teacher's role is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children.
  • Documentation and display of children's work in progress is an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents.
  • Within the Reggio Emilia schools the learning environment is considered the "third teacher."
I had promised my colleague Anne Matthias that we would continue to improve and develop our practice using the Reggio Emilia approach to provide us with inspiration, principles and practice which our early years practitioners can draw on to learn and build brilliant provision.Chris


I moved on to the Blenheim Centre...

What always strikes me when I visit the Blenheim Centre is the intelligence, analysis and insights these brilliant colleagues have working with some of the most special children here in Leeds. Whether we are talking about Educational Psychologists, the Visually Impaired team, the Deaf and Hearing Impaired team, the Parent Partnership team or the Early Years team, it's great to talk and even better to listen. Whatever happens with the perfect storm we are facing we will need these colleagues to continue releasing the magic as we face the challenges of the budget and the opportunities within the new Children's Services arrangements.



I visited the Elmete Centre first thing this morning...

We all know that great organisations are about great individuals who operate in great teams. Education Leeds has been blessed to have so many brilliant colleagues working at Elmete in strong and highly effective teams... secondary advisers, primary advisers, healthy schools team, FAST team, learning communities team, extended services team... everywhere you look there are wonderful colleagues who have made and will continue to make an extraordinary difference for children, young people, their families and their communities.

Great organisations, great schools and great teams build and reinforce collaborative working. We all need to:
  • select team players;
  • induct team players;
  • mentor team players;
  • coach team players;
  • collectively reward team players;
  • encourage team working;
  • develop social responsibility.
Whatever the future holds we all need to be great team players?

Monday, 18 October 2010


"There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in."
                            Graham Greene 'The Power and the Glory'

This lunchtime I attended the launch of the Leeds Children's University having been invited to become the university's first chancellor...

This is a fantastic initiative which will connect with and build on the brilliant work we have done with Study Support, Playing for Success and the Breeze initiative here in Leeds. The session was an opportunity to share with partner organisations how the Children's University movement, which is now operating in over 50 locations nationally, can provide a framework for validated and quality assured activities for 7 to 14 year olds. There are now 50000 young people with Children's University Learning Passports which they use to capture their out of school hours learning journeys and learning  activities at validated centres and schools. Mark Winder and Jane Wardman talked about the scheme and how organisations like our museums, libraries, our study support centres, our playing for success centres and other attractions like Middleton Railway, the Thackray Medical Museum, the Royal Armouries and Harewood House can get involved. Ros Hamer, headteacher at Crossgates Primary School, also talked passionately about her school's learning journey with the Children's University pilot work Viv Gibbons has led in the Seacroft and Manston Extended Services cluster in East Leeds.

This is a fantastic initiative and I hope as many as possible of our places where young people can learn will join the scheme. If you want to find out more about the Children's University you can visit their website at


We all know that we face some enormous challenges over the next few months and years...

Uncertainty is everywhere as we wrestle with structures, budgets, reorganisations and general uncertainty about the future. We need to get organised, to be more consistent, to improve our management, to sort out the paperwork and to spend more time doing the really important stuff. We need to set our priorities, stop doing things that don't make a difference, discipline ourselves to do the strategic stuff, delegate more, get others to do things and work harder. Everyone's talking about these challenges, but wherever I look there is talent; optimism; hope; and extraordinary people, places and provision.

I started the week meeting with NAHT colleagues before I opened the global curriculum project international study visit, which is being led by the Development Education Centre, and brings together a group of thirty teachers from Austria, Benin, Brazil and the Czech Republic to discuss with teachers from Leeds strategies for engaging young people in discussions about sustainability, fair trade, climate change, cultural diversity and social justice. I attended the primary headteachers seminar to talk to the primary headteachers as a group about our achievements and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. I attended the newly qualified secondary teachers' induction and welcome event and talked to the 70 young teachers who are starting their learning journey here in Leeds as members of our secondary and special school workforce. Dirk Gilleard and I had breakfast with a group of headteacher colleagues who are chairs of their families of schools groups, and I also visited some great schools. I visited St Urban's Catholic Primary School where Jane Cavadino and her team are releasing a wonderful magic working with some great children. I visited Shire Oak Church of England Primary School to see what Jane Devane, the headteacher and her colleagues are doing on what is a simply extra-ordinary school site. I visited Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School where Gaby Nieland, the headteacher, and her colleagues are also doing great things. However, the highlight of a simply extraordinary week was my visit to present the awards to some wonderful young people at John Smeaton Community College awards evening. This was an evening I will never forget because, at the end of the evening, the choir sang 'I did it my way' and, like most things at John Smeaton Community College, it was simply brilliant!

We all want to continue to build brilliant here in Leeds and Gregg Thompson, president of Bluepoint Leadership Development, has identified seven things that will make a real difference in your school, your team, or your organisation in the coming year. Do all seven, and you will release real magic!

"Craft a big, bold, breath-taking story and tell it every day.
What is the most exciting, rewarding, and scariest future you can imagine? What great battles will be won, treasures found and people freed? Paint the story in full colour. What does the future look like? How are we going to get there? How is tomorrow going to be much better than today? People want to be part of an important story. Tell it to them and help them find their own starring role.

Multiply the strength of your leadership connections.
Consider for a moment the colleagues with whom you share management and leadership responsibilities. How much more effective would your leadership team become if you dramatically strengthened your personal connection with every one of these people? Try this: honour their uniqueness; share more of yourself; learn about them; ask how you can serve them. Be careful, this is very potent.

Act with exceptional compassion and kindness.
Seek out ways to show your humanity every day. Treat everyone in the organisation with dignity and respect, especially those who are struggling. They will walk through walls for you, but do not do it for that reason. Do it because it is the right thing to do. We spend much of our waking lives inside organisations and you have the power to make these places where the human spirit can thrive or die. Use this power well.

Tell the absolute truth.
Everyone wants to improve the communication throughout their organisation but what about simply setting a new standard for honesty…starting with you. How much more effective would your organisation be if the half-truths, positioning, sacred elephants and face-saving were eradicated? The tough part is that you cannot make this happen by mandating it. You must go first. You must model it.

Hold everyone accountable.
The caring leader insists that people do what they say they will do. When you hold people accountable, you are saying that their work is important. You are saying that they are important. Every time you let a deadline slip or a deliverable go incomplete, you are discounting the person whose job it is to deliver on these commitments. Make it a habit to ensure that every piece of work is accompanied by a personal commitment. Measure. Give feedback. Initiate consequences.

Celebrate being part of an organisation that keeps its promises.
Confront underperformance and make a list. Commit to seeing that this performance changes. Before you take any action, ask yourself these questions – “What is my part in this situation? How have my actions or lack thereof contributed to this situation? What do I need to do differently?” Approach the individuals in question and describe your responsibilities and personal commitments to change. Then, and only then, it’s their turn. You may need to do nothing else.

Be distinctively you.
What would you get if you could put all of the leadership qualities of Bill Gates, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, George Washington, Jack Welch and Winston Churchill into one individual? These men and women made a difference because they had the courage to be themselves. What excites you these days? What are your passions? Your obsessions? Where do you want to make your mark? When you are at your best, what are you doing? Maybe it’s time to figure out what is most important to you, tell everyone around you, and let this fuel your leadership."

We all know the keys to brilliant: people, leadership, teamwork, attitude, trust, determination, commitment, partnership, ownership and engagement. Together, we have created something quite extra-ordinary over the last ten years. An organisation which has helped transform learning and our learning places. I have been blessed to be able to work here in Leeds and to be able to play a small part in some incredible success stories here in this wonderful city. Colleagues' passion, commitment and belief; and our determination and hard work as a teaching and learning team has transformed provision and outcomes for young people and the communities we all serve so well.
Keep the faith!


My colleague Claire Dodd, Child Protection Training and Support Officer at the Blenheim Centre sent me this message...

"Hi  Chris, a member of Parent Partnership team had a large number of baking apples from her garden and rather them go to waste, brought them into the office for anyone to help themselves. As a result, the Child Protection team, Parent partnership, TPPI and LEX service decided to run a bake off competition using apples as the main ingredient during the summer holidays and into this term. We also decided it would be a good way to raise some money for the Pakistan flood appeal. We managed to raise about £60 during this period. It would be very nice to try and get this to £100.

I would like to invite you to join us for our last push, to raise this money, to a tasting session on Wednesday morning at 10.30-11.30 at the table downstairs near to all the teams involved. As we have seen so many apples over the last few weeks, there may not be many items with this as an ingredient, but there will be many delights to sample and purchase and all at very cheap prices.

Look forward to seeing you there. Cheers, Claire."

Sadly I am elsewhere but I hope as many colleagues as possible help Claire and colleagues reach their target.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


You don't need to look elsewhere to see great teams and brilliant leadership. Simply look around. Start with Jim Hopkinson and the Youth Offending Team or Bridget Mork and the Parent Partnership Team or Sally Threlfall and the Early Years Team or Ann Cowling and the Healthy Schools Team or simply fill in your own nomination for team of the year. Wherever you look there are simply extraordinary colleagues releasing the magic where it really matters.

So what are the ten tips?

  1. Get to know your colleagues.
  2. Keep asking your colleagues how things are going, what needs improving and what we can do better.
  3. Delegate twice as much as you're currently doing to trust and empower your colleagues.
  4. Constantly check colleague's understanding of what you are expecting them to do.
  5. Set the direction and always be totally clear what you want.
  6. Constantly and genuinely praise colleagues for doing the right things.
  7. Constantly communicate and keep colleagues informed.
  8. Consult with everyone about as much as you possibly can.
  9. Listen constantly and ask your colleagues how they'd do things.
  10. When colleagues are not performing well be really hard on the problem not on the people.
It's not rocket science we can continue to build brilliant and release the magic if we simply understand that everyone can do it and the keys are simply persistence, determination and sheer hard work.