Friday, 12 November 2010


I moved on again to the Little London Primary School Lantern Festival...

I had been invited by Sue Knights, chair of governors,and Jill Wood, headteacher, at this amazing little primary school. This is the third year that the school has organised the  lantern festival where children and their families and the team at the school carry their lanterns around the streets of Little London. It was wonderful to see so many families and friends gathering together to carry their home made and spectacular lanterns and to share and celebrate the magic of Little London Primary School.

It was a simple amazing gathering of this rich multicultural community and it was amazing to look back and see the string of multiculoured  lanterns lights stretched around the streets and alleyways of Little London for about 500 metres. We followed the choir and we were followed by the Silver Sparrows steel pans. On our return to Little London Primary School everyone gathered together to share some food and drink and listen again to the brilliant little choir.

It was an amazing end to another great week here in Leeds.


I spent lunchtime and the start of the afternoon with young people from Bramley St Peter's CE Primary School and Leeds West Academy...

I have agreed that they will write the blog entry so watch this space!


I moved on to the New Primary Headteachers Conference at Oulton Hall...

My colleague Elaine Bown who looks after the induction of new primary headteachers had asked me to speak to the group about the vision, the expectations and the support for headteachers in Leeds, especially as we face such uncertainty around school improvement, funding and what comes after Education Leeds. Because I was in London yesterday I was unable to get to the first day of the conference and Dirk Gilleard did the session for Elaine. I did manage to pop in for coffee and talk briefly to these great colleagues about the future.

The induction and support for new headteachers is vitally important and Elaine does a great job. It was wonderful to be able to spend some time with these brilliant colleagues and to emphasise the 'Think Team' approach we are developing across the city and that the best way to predict the future, in uncertain times, is to invent it for yourself!



I started the day at the Leeds Governors Conference at The Village Hotel...

It was great to see so many governors had managed to find the time to attend this years' conference... the best attendance we have ever had! The day started with a session led by Rod Ash, chair of the governor's forum, who introduced brief presentations by Cllr Judith Blake, Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council and Lead Member for Children's Services, Nigel Richardson, Director of Children's Services, and me. We were followed by a session by Rosemary Campbell-Stephens from the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services, who talked about diversifying the school leadership team.

It has been a privilege to work with school governors over the past ten years as together we have transformed the learning landscape and achieved outcomes that no one eevr believed were possible. I recognise that here is still much more to do but we have established strong, dynamic and creative foundations for the Council to build a truly child friendly city.


My colleague Sheena Critchley, deputy headteacher at Fieldhead Carr Primary School sent me this yesterday...

"Dear Chris, Thank you so much for coming to our school to present the 50,000 passport for Childrens University. The YEP asked for a photo of myself, you and Chloe for their Education Page this week and I've attached the photo that I sent to them.

Kind regards, Sheena."

It was wonderful to share in the magic the Children's University has released at Fieldhead Carr Primary School and to see the impact of the work Sheena has led so brilliantly. Just think what we could do if we all shared our passion and the things we love doing with our children!

Thursday, 11 November 2010


I attended the Education Guardian's 'Innovation in Education' Conference in London today...

The conference was subtitled '21st Learning in an Age of Austerity' and aimed to explore the models, principles and discliplines that will help us rise to the challenges we face in a changing world. I attended three sessions;
  • 'Developing 21st Century Skills' delivered by Yong Zhao, professor and director of the US-China Centre for research on Educational Excellence at Michigan State University;
  •  'Radical Innovation for Learning' delivered by Nelson Gonzales, Chief Strategy Officer at the Stupski Foundation;
  • 'Rethinking Education' by Josephine Green, former Senior Director of Trends and Strategy at Philips.
These sessions and the discussions around them reinforced the fact that we need to create learning hubs where we nurture and support innovation and creativity. We all know that incremental change is simply not going to deliver enough to maintain the competitive edge and that many of the assumptions that we make about learning are unjust and unacceptable. We don't need to be better than China or India; we simply need to be different! We also need to underpin everything we do with  value-based approaches that ensure equity and fairness and ensure that we get it right for those who are harder to reach and harder to teach by starting early, re-imagining learning and doing more. The key to the future is to create a collaborative and cooperative network of brilliant learning places and a learning platform where we can share great ideas and enable colleagues to learn together.
  • personalised approaches;
  • a focus on developing world class skills;
  • real engagement with young people;
  • performance based learning;
  • a comprehensive programme of support;
  • anytime, anywhere learning. 
We must above all continue to question, to challenge, to dream, to imagine, to experiment, to explore and to discover.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


I moved on again to Seven Hills Primary School...

I had been invited by Olivia, Thomas, Jack and McKenna from Year 3 to the 'Diners Club'. The children had worked with Mrs Wigglesworth during the morning to prepare a brilliant meal for themselves and three special guests including me! It was an amazing experience to sit with these four wonderful children and eat the meal they had cooked. Our meal consisted of chicken tikka marsala and rice, lemon tart, grapes and chocolate mints and it was exceptionally good. I hope to have a picture soon beacuse the children had also prepared the table and arranged the flowers. Mrs Wigglesworth has also published her recipes in her cookery book which was on sale for £1; the proceeds, which have now exceeded £1000, are going to support a school in Africa. 

Colleagues like Mrs Wigglesworth are like gold dust and they sprinkle their magic on those whose lives they touch. She brings passion, commitment, care and love to Seven Hills Primary School and its children. This is an experience that Olivia, Thomas, Jack and McKenna won't forget in a hurry and neither will I!


I moved on to visit Blackgates Primary School...

It is a brilliant learning place and the quality of the learning environment is simply fantastic. I walked around the school with my colleague Elaine Kay-Devanney who introduced me to somne of her team and some of her children. It is a welcoming, caring and inclusive school doing wonderful work in so many areas; from the arts to sport, from the international curriculum to investors in pupils and from Stephen Lawrence to Healthy Schools not to mention the school's own inclusion base.


I started the day early at The Aviation Academy next to Leeds Bradford Airport...

In was there for the headteachers breakfast session with the Aireborough and Otley Families of Schools and we talked about the challenges that lie ahead with public sector budget cuts, the White Paper, new Academies, free schools, milestones, floor standards and a constant stream of announcements about cuts locally, regionally and nationally. We all recognised that whatever the future holds we the need to work more creatively and more collaboratively and to invent the new future for ourselves. We also considered increasing numbers, special needs and behaviour provision, early years, extended services, 'Every Child a Reader' and talked about the characteristics of brilliant provision and how schools could maintain their focus on standards with so much change.

We need to nurture confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understand the learning process and are working positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health , the Police and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities. We must continue to develop and support 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; outcomes not simply measured in terms of Level 4 at Key Stage 2 or 5 A*-C Grades at GCSE .

It was a brilliant start to the day with some great colleagues amd we need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more and we must all ensure that we continue to have conversations like this to help shape the future.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

My colleague Sarah Coltman, Early Years Consultant (Moderation), sent me these very positive comments about our colleagues in the City Learning Centres...

"Dear Chris,

It is great to have feedback like this about the support colleagues provided for Sarah as she managed these moderation meetings.
I am coming to the end of a series of Early Years Foundation Stage Moderation Cluster meetings attended by over 200 practitioners; there have been ten of these planned across the city and all have been held in CLCs. The staff at all the centres have been exceptionally helpful in a range of ways which has made the meetings run much more smoothly. They go out of their way to check you have all you need and assist you in any way they can. It has made a huge difference to my work both this week and last and I thought you might like to know. Best wishes, Sarah."


I visited another great little primary school this afternoon...

I had been asked to visit Brudenell Primary School to talk to the two Year 5/6 classes as part of their Aspirations Week. They had spent part of the day at Leeds University at the Medical Department and I talked to these wonderful young people about my job and what inspires me. I explained to the children that everyone they looked up to as heroes and role models and everyone famous and special had once sat in a similar classroom learning. I stressed that each of them is unique, original, special and a one-off and that no-one anywhere in the world has their mix of talents and potential and that each of them can achieve anything they really really want if they have self-belief, if they practice, practice, practice and if they really work hard. I also talked to them about the importance of passion, commitment, determination and persistence backed up by great teaching, coaching and support from family and friends.

They were two great groups of young people who asked me some great questions about my job and my journey to become Chief Executive of Education Leeds. It was a privilege to spend time with these wonderful young people in a school that is definitely releasing a very special magic.


I moved on to visit Ebor Gardens Primary School...

It was great to visit this wonderful little school and to see Kath Depledge, the headteacher, again. The school is being expanded from one form entry to two form entry with the current reception class already having 60 children. We are now working on an extension to the building which will see the school grow to accommodate over 420 children over the next few years. It was great to walk around the school with Kath and also to visit the nurture facility which provides targeted support and respite care for children with the most challenging behaviour from other local schools.


I started the day at Aberford CE Primary School...

It was great to see the school again and to talk to Jo Heggie, the headteacher, and Keri Tracey, her deputy. They have a real energy, passion, and enthusiasm that is simply infectious. I also watched children in the junior classes undertaking a simple daily exercise programme. The programme comes from the Institute for Neuro - Psychological Psychology (INPP) and is based on a growing body of evidence that control of balance, motor skills and integration of early reflexes are linked to academic achievement.

Monday, 8 November 2010


This afternoon I visited Meanwood Primary School...

It was great to be able to visit this wonderful little primary school again. It is an extraordinary place led by an outstanding headteacher whose energy, passion, commitment, determination and hard work is releasing the magic and potential in a great team and some wonderful children. Many people fail to understand but the keys to brilliant are on display at this little centre of excellence; inspirational leadership, determined practice, intelligent accountability and lots of hard work.


I popped into the Arooj Creative Writing workshops this morning at the Civic Hall...

My colleague Pauline Rosenthal had asked me to see if I could attend these sessions. Arooj (an Urdu word, loosely translated as ‘pinnacle of success’) consists of creative writing workshops, in which children will participate in sessions led by world-class writers and performers of Muslim heritage. These workshops aim to introduce young people to role models who will help them develop their talents, give them confidence to become front-runners in their chosen fields, and foster a desire for life-long learning. The students will be coached by acclaimed writers including John Siddique and their efforts will be celebrated at an awards event next term. The children will be also be encouraged to submit their work to the Muslim Writers Awards.


I visited Shakespeare Primary School this morning...

I had been asked to visit by my colleague Julian Gorton, the headteacher at this wonderful little school, to see the progress they are making and have made over the last ten years. The school reflects the journey we have been on here in Leeds; the opportunities we've had, the challenges we've faced and the successes we've seen. Julian has coached and nurtured his really committed, talented, enthusiastic, passionate and hard working team to achieve something really remarkable at the heart of the city.

It was great to talk to Julian and to walk aroung the school and meet the team and some of the children; who were simply wonderful and reflect the diversity and richness of our great city. This is a school that is releasing the magic and one that I will miss!


Another week, on our shared journey to Christmas, has simply flown by...
I have been reading 'Talent is Overrated' by Geoff Colvin and it stresses once again the messages we have heard from Malcolm Gladwell and Matthew Syed about the importance of hard work and practice if you want to be a high performer in any discipline. Geoff also talks about the importance of deliberate practice, coaching and feedback alongside inspirational leadership.

This last week I managed to visit some of our most interesting primary schools where some inspirational leaders, working in a deliberate and very focused way with their talented colleagues, are releasing the magic and achieving great things often against a backdrop of poverty, low aspirations, deprivation and the many challenges we face in this multicultural, rich and diverse city. Dirk Gilleard and I visited Brodetsky Primary School to see Jeremy Dunford, the headteacher, to talk about his ambitious plans for the school. I visited Blenheim Primary School to see Mo Duffy, the headteacher, to talk about some of the challenges she is facing. I visited St Patrick's Catholic Primary School where Susan Kneeshaw, the headteacher, and her colleagues are doing great things at this little oasis of wonderful primary practice in Burmantofts. I visited Rufford Park Primary School and walked around this brilliant little PFI school with Alison Anslow, the headteacher. I visited Queensway Primary School because Gail Palmer-Smeaton, headteacher at this great little school, had asked me to come in and talk to the children in their aspirational assembly. I also visited Fieldhead Carr Primary School to see the work headteacher Nik Edensor and his team are doing with the Children's University. On Wednesday I attended the monthly Education Leeds Board meeting which focused on the way we are managing the business through these very challenging transitional times and what we have achieved in terms of outcomes for our children and young people. It was great to receive really positive support from the Board for the work we are doing and for what we have achieved as a team.

Visiting these six schools and attending the Education Leeds Board meeting reminded me why I came to Leeds and really illustrated what we have achieved together over the last ten years. We have transformed the learning landscape through the powerful use of our school improvement policy and through using National Strategies programmes like Every Child a Reader, Every Child Counts and the Intensifying Support programme. But most importantly we have created a culture of excellence through passion, persistence, self-belief and determined, focused and deliberate practice and hard work.
P.S. We are organising 'The Party at the End of the Universe', the last Education Leeds Christmas party, on Wednesday 8 December. I hope that this party, which is sponsored by Capita, will be an opportunity for us all to get together for one last time to celebrate what we have achieved here in Leeds and for me to say thank you to some extraordinary colleagues who I will really miss. Make sure you save the date!