Saturday, 20 November 2010


Our 2010 Christmas party will be the last time we get together as a team so I hope as many colleagues as possible will try to make it...

The party is on Wednesday 8 December, 7.30pm until midnight at The Loft, Leeds City Centre: As this is the last-ever Education Leeds party, and to recognise that this has been a collaborative and collective team effort, where everyone who has ever worked for Education Leeds has contributed to our success, we'd like all colleagues - past and present - to join us for our final celebration. So tell your friends and please pass on the invitation to your former colleagues. Tickets cost just £2 and all money from ticket sales will go to charity. You can get your ticket from the reception at any of the main Education Leeds sites and if you are not based at one of the main sites please contact Stephanie in the communications team, phone 247 5499 or email her at

Our party this year is being sponsored by Capita and we are grateful to Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl who have worked with me over the last ten years providing fantastic support and challenge which has helped us achieve such brilliant results.


I spent the morning in Leeds with a small group of Labour party local authority governors...

I had been asked to attend the session which was organised by Cllr Jane Dowson and attended by Cllr Judith Blake, Cllr Peter Gruen and Cllr Lisa Mulherin. We talked about the progress we have made over the last ten years and the challenges that remain in delivering world class outcomes for children in Leeds. We also talked about the new Government's policies and the implications of the comprehensive spending review on schools, extended services, the capital programme and the Council's children's services.

It was great to spend a couple of hours with this group of governors who as volunteers give so much time to our schools and make such a difference.

Friday, 19 November 2010


This afternoon I attended the City Council's Excellence Awards...

I was there to present one of the awards and it was great to spend time with Education Leeds colleagues who had won our Spirit Awards and had subsequently been nominated for these awards.

Sadly, none of our colleagues won, although being nominated meant that they were all winners.


I moved on to Gledhow Primary School...

I arrived as Steve Archer was doing the 'spotty' infants assembly showing the work they had been doing for Children in Need. This is a popular and successful school and after the assembly Steve took me around the school and showed me the improvements they have made since my last visit. The new Children's Centre and the reception classrooms are wonderful additions to the learning environment.


I started the day at Brigshaw High School...

It was great to be able to catch up with Cath Lennon, hedteacher at this wonderful school, and talk about the progress the school has made over the last few years. This Summer's GCSE results were their best ever, OFSTED rated the school as good with outstanding features last December and the Brigshaw Partnership Trust was established in April this year as a co-operative trust. Brigshaw also achieved the National Mentoring and Befriending Foundation's 'approved provider standard'.

The thing that attracts me about co-operative trust schools is the values that underpin the approach. Co-operative trusts also combine school partnerships with a membership structure that enables parents, learners, staff and community organisations to be directly involved. The stake-holding model puts the community at the heart of education provision, based on the belief that it is only through the active engagement of communities that the aspirations and expectations of educational achievement can be transformed. The co-operative values are self help, self responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity and are supported by these ethical values; honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Cath had also arranged for me to meet four great young people who had just returned from the Czech Republic where they were on a Comenius funded exchange programme. They were simply wonderful adverts for the school. It's a school I will miss.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


This evening I attended the Year 11 Achievement Evening at St Mary's Catholic High School...

It was a real honour to be asked by Cath McMahon, headteacher at this highly successful school, to be part of this very special evening and to present the certificates and awards to some fantastic young people. The school achieved some extraordinary GCSE results this year; their best ever GCSE results placing the school amongst the most successful and highest achieving comprehensive schools in the country. The school is a Sports College and the specialism has clearly made a huge impact in terms of coaching and leadership as well as health and well-being. 

Mr Priestley, the students Head of Year, introduced the evening which also included performances by Matthew Roberts, who sang the cafe song from Les Miserables, and Jack Loughlin, who played classical gas. The Class of 2010 were very clearly everything you could want from a group of young people... talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful!

It was great to share this very special evening with the team at St Mary's.
My colleague Debbie Hawkins who is Community Co-ordinator at Cookridge Primary School sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, On Friday 5th November, two groups of pupils from Cookridge Primary School joined Sam Parry and his Groundworks team to plant daffodil bulbs in Cookridge.

This had been organised by the "Bulb planting in the Community" project which Councillors Sue Bentley, Judith Chapman and Ben Chastney have been involved in and as Cookridge Primary School has Friday as their own school gardening day, this was a perfect opportunity for the children to experience gardening and community work together. The children were able to walk around the corner to Otley Old Road and spent the morning planting bulbs on the grass verge opposite Holt Park. Councillor Bentley dropped by to say hello and thank the children for their hard work.

Though chilly, the recent heavy downpours of rain held off and the groups thoroughly enjoyed themselves working outside the school with other adults. They now can't wait until the Spring to see the results of all their digging and planting! What a show it will be! Debbie."

It is wonderful to see children making a difference in their community like this!
My colleague Charlie Pyatt, who is Partnership Development Manager for the Leeds School Sports Partnership ( West ) sent me this e-mail celabrating some of the outstanding work colleagues have been doing...

"Dear Chris, All the schools listed have participated fully in the work of the partnership and they provide an exciting and motivating PE and School Sport programme for their pupils. I would like to highlight one particular area for each school where their work has been outstanding.
  • Five Lanes- PLT- Fiona Lynch. Fiona organises an excellent Sport , Health and Activity week each year with a wide variety of partners and providers coming into the school to work with young people.
  • Castleton- PLT Graham Jones. Graham has developed an outstanding programme of OAA and residentials which deliver not only PE outcomes but develop the pupils in so many ways and help them to achieve.
  • Hollybush- PLT Katie Ibbotson. The school has developed an excellent school club link with Bramley Pheonix FC which greatly benefits both the school, the club and the community.
  • St Bart's- PLT Dave Needham. The now famous St Bart's U11 girls football competition run each Summer at JCCS. There are regularly around 70 - 80 schools entering, the tournament is one the sporting highlights of the year. An excellent event which take a fantastic amount of time and commitment from the school.
  • Swallow Hill Community College- School Sports Coordinator- Becky Milner. Becky has developed an outstanding programme to develop young sports leaders. She also leads the Addistar programme which brings together Young Ambassadors from all High Schools in the West to lead the work in involving young people in the build up to the 2012 Olympics.
As I am sure you will know the funding for the School Sport Partnership has been withdrawn but we are working hard to ensure the excellent work of our colleagues within the partnership will not be lost. Thank you very much for all your support on numerous occasions during my 8 years as Partnership Development Manager and please accept my very best wishes for the future. Charlie."

It has been a privilege to work with Charlie and his colleagues who have been doing brilliant things and releasing an energy and magic that we simply can't afford to lose. As we approach the London Olympics, it seems strange that we should be disconnecting the funding that will secure the legacy of the games. I know Charlie and everyone who is passionate about sport will work even harder to ensure that this fantastic work continues... whatever it takes!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I moved on to visit Willow Young Carers...

There has been a lot on the news and in the papers about the number of young carers looking after family members in this country. Research suggests that up to 700,000 children could be acting as carers for members of their families, which is more than four times the previous official estimate.

A survey of over 4,000 secondary school pupils across the UK for BBC News suggested that 8% of them – around one in 12 – had moderate or high levels of care responsibilities. Translated across the UK as a whole that would mean 700,000 children under 18 are regularly caring intimately for a close relative, including helping them bathe, dress or go to the toliet. The previous estimate, based on the 2001 census, put the figure at 175,000.

A survey of 4,029 pupils from ten UK secondary schools asked about the level of responsibility a young person has in the home and the types of caring activity undertaken by the young person. Of these 4,029 school pupils, 337 (8%, or 1 in 12) said they had over the preceding month carried out personal care of someone in their home either "a lot of the time" or "some of the time". This includes helping the person they care for to dress, undress, wash, bath or shower. These types of personal or intimate tasks are recognised as the most difficult and embarrassing types of care both for young people to give, and for adults to receive.

Of those who responded to the survey, 29% said they had carried out "emotional care or supervision" of someone in their home either "a lot of the time" or "some of the time" over the preceding month. This includes keeping the person they care for company. While it's impossible to class all of these as young carers, many will be coping with mental illness or substance abuse in their homes.

I was at Willow Young Carers with Cllr Jane Dowson, my colleague John Paxton, who heads up- the Integrated Youth Support Service, and Al Berry, a student at Temple Moor High School who represents Leeds on the Youth Parliament. Al had contacted Cllr Dowson with some ideas which would support our young carers which we discussed with my colleague Sheila Davenport and her colleagues from Barnardo's who host the Willow Young Carers project.

Willow Young Carers is a brilliant project that reaches some of our most special and simply extraordinary young people who care for someone in their family as well as managing their home life, their friends and their school work. Sheila has over the years raised the profile of young carers through some fantastic projects and initiatives and it's great that Al and the Youth Parliament also want to support our young carers. We need to change the culture of our schools, particularly our secondary schools, and create 'carers friendly' organisations who understand the issues our young carers face everyday as they juggle their caring responsibilities and their home and school lives.


I visited Methley Primary School this morning...

It was great to visit this wonderful primary school and see Tracy Dell, the schools' inspirational headteacher, again. The Methley story is another example of what has been achieved over the last ten years. I remember how the story started with the separate infant and junior schools and it is brilliant that we have built a wonderful PFI school to serve this community.

It's an extraordinary school building and Tracy's leadership, passion, commitment and hard work has built an outstanding team and the learning environment is simply fantastic. The school is also part of our linked project with colleagues in Sweden and I also met Year 3 who showed me the great presentation they had produced to share with their partner school in Stockholm.

Spending time with Tracy makes you realise that Methley Primary School is a great school and brilliant learning and magic shines through all aspects of what the team are doing.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I spent the day in London at the Guardian Social Enterprise Summit...

The conference was sub-titled 'Th key to Big Society? Scaling up social enterprises to deliver public services'. The event comes at a particularly interesting time for pubic services who are facing the cuts announced in the comprehensive spending review. The Government has also made it clear that they expect social enterprise, volunteering and the Big Society to help fill the gaps.

The conference ran late, was poorly organised and felt very flat but for me the highlights were inputs by Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive of Turning Point, Mervyn Wilson, Chief Executive and Principal of the Co-operative College, Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, and Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health.

Victor Adebowale talked about Turning Point and the need to be good rather than big and that the key is to find out what works and do it again and again tweaked for the new contexts. Mervyn Wilson talked about the collaborative culture and spirit of enterprise that characterises the co-operative approach to delivering education which now reaches over 100 schools across the country. Nick Hurd MP talked about fairer approaches to grow the market and the opportunities for social investment and the importance of encouraging intelligent investment in social enterprise.

Andrew Lansley MP talked about the importance of ownership, engagement and empowerment at the heart of successful organisations. He stressed that trust and respect strengthen bonds and relationships within organisations and that top down micro-management and bureaucracy simply don't work. He believes that independence and freedom unleashes creativity and enterprise and that diversity and plurality should be at the heart of the development of new models within the health service. He argued that innovation and social enterprise provide proven and successful models for delivering change and growth.

Everyone was talking about ‘savage and horrendous cuts’ to all our budgets to balance the budget deficit the country currently faces. We clearly need to work smarter, better, more closely and be more efficient and effective in everything we do. We all know that public services can and must deliver excellent, outstanding and brilliant services to the children, young people, families, citizens and communities we all serve. We need to think differently, think creatively and imaginatively and connect and use all our resources better. We need to look at how we can develop trust and empower communities and think family. We need to encourage and support more social enterprise, more volunteering, more use of the third sector, more use of public companies and more focus on shared responsibilities and community engagement.

Monday, 15 November 2010


I have had an incredible week visiting some brilliant schools and spent time with some great colleagues and some wonderful young people...

I visited some great schools: Shakespeare Primary School; Meanwood Primary School; Aberford Church of England Primary School; Ebor Gardens Primary School; Brudenell Primary School; Blackgates Primary School; and Seven Hills Primary School. Spending time with Julian Golton, Helen Sanderson, Jo Heggie, Keri Tracey, Cath Depledge, Year 5 and Year 6 at Brudenell Primary School, Elaine Kay-Devanney and Olivia, Thomas, Jack, McKenna and Mrs Wigglesworth at Seven Hills Primary School makes you realise that these are brilliant learning places led by outstanding headteachers whose energy, passion, commitment, determination and hard work is releasing the magic and potential in some great teams and some simply wonderful children. Many people fail to understand what it takes to achieve outstanding provision but the keys to brilliant are on display at these little centres of excellence: passionate leadership; great teamwork; amazing teaching and learning; determined practice; intelligent accountability; and lots and lots of hard work.

I also spent time with some extra-ordinary colleagues: breakfast with headteachers from the Aireborough and Otley families of schools; talking at the Leeds governors conference at The Village Hotel; and speaking to the new primary headteachers at their conference at Oulton Hall. Against a background of public sector budget cuts, the imminent White Paper, new Academies, free schools, milestones, floor standards and a constant stream of announcements about cuts locally, regionally and nationally, we must remain positive. Over the past ten years, we have transformed the learning landscape and achieved outcomes that no one ever believed were possible. Each group recognised that there is still much more to do to achieve brilliant outcomes consistently across all our provision, but together we have established strong, dynamic and creative foundations for the council to now build a truly child-friendly city.

I finished the week on Friday evening at the Little London Primary School lantern festival. 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 homemade and spectacular lanterns, and to share and celebrate the magic of Little London Primary School.

It was an amazing end to another great week where I also attended the Education Guardian's 'Innovation in Education' conference in London which simply reinforced the fact that we need to continue to create world class learning hubs and centres of learning excellence where we nurture and support innovation and creativity. The key to the future is to create a culture of excellence working across a collaborative and cooperative network of brilliant learning places supported by a learning platform where we can share great ideas and enable colleagues to learn together.

We must above all continue to question, to challenge, to dream, to imagine, to experiment, to explore and to discover.


"The principal goal of education... should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things... men and women who are creative, inventive, and discoverers."
Jean Piaget

This afternoon I visited Benton Park School again...

My colleague David Foley, headteacher, had asked me to come to talk to his leadership team about the future. We all know that change is happening wherever we look at a frightening pace and young people live in a digital world that is so different from the one we grew up in. We need to work within the opportunities this presents to build a new schools and learning system for this new world. A learning system to equip our little learners with the skills they need to be successful bigger learners and to be successful in a world that is changing beyond recognition. A learning system where every little learner is a reader, write and counter by seven or eight, a powerful little learner by the time they leave primary school and on a pathway to success by the time they leave secondary school. We need to nurture talent, creativity and imagination wherever we can find it, and we need to share and network and learn from the things that work well and stop doing those that don’t! And whatever we do we must re-engineer our culture and the current systems that leave so many of our children and young people thinking that they are not clever enough, talented enough or bright enough to be successful.

We need to ask ourselves what works well, what doesn’t and what do we need to do about it. We need to develop new models of learning and we need to create learning places and learning environments that find and release the talent, the potential and the magic in all our young people. Picasso said that every child is born an artist and Einstein said that every child is born a genius. Interestingly, in a study of divergent thinking researchers discovered that children in the early years are extraordinarily good divergent thinkers and that the ability get worse with age so that by the time our children leave school almost none of them can do it any more. Our schools and learning systems must nurture creativity, innovation and potential because the standardised and systematised model of learning many young people are being offered isn't actually fit for purpose. We have to think differently and recognise that everyone has talent, potential and magic and we have to get over this old, and dangerous idea that splits people into clever and not so clever, bright and not so bright, academic and non-academic and recognise that it simply isn’t true!

The last ten years have shown that great learning happens in teams and groups and networks who share ideas about what works and what doesn't. Great learning develops and grows through cooperation, collaboration, networking and sharing. Great organisations, great schools, great classrooms are about great individuals who operate in and with great teams. don't need to look elsewhere to see great teams and brilliant leadership. Simply look around. Wherever you look there are simply extraordinary colleagues releasing the magic where it really matters. The future is full of opportunities for outstanding colleagues, outstanding teams and outstanding learning places. AND FINALLY... always remember that the best way to predict the future is to invent it for yourself.


Our Takeover Day on 12th November was all about making Leeds a ‘Child Friendly City’.

We met with lots of staff including Nigel, Chris, Dirk and David and helped them come up with ideas about what makes a city child friendly. Then we moved on to a tour of Merrion House where we had to judge how child friendly it was. We think it could be made more child friendly by making it more colourful and by including more work from children around the city!
Adam, Mitchell and Laura – Bramley St. Peters Primary School