Friday, 26 November 2010


I was really sorry that I missed the 8th Peace Poetry Celebration at the Civic Hall last night but my colleague Rehana Minhas, Director for Equality and Entitlement, sent me this e-mail after last night's event...

"Dear Chris, Our 8th annual peace poetry celebration was a great success. Families turned up to support their children as well as Head teachers and teaching staff. Our chief judge was Rommi Smith. The Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr. Patrick Davey opened the event and stayed to make presentations to the winners and runners up and certificates to all who had been short listed. The New World Steel Symphony Orchestra provided wonderful musical entertainment. The partnership between Education Leeds, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Evening Post, Together for Peace , Trinity and all Saints and Arts at Trinity has grown and been sustained bringing creativity and innovation to the fore.

The primary school winner was Jameel from Hunslet Moor Primary School, and the runners up were Bethany Pinder and Carla House also from Hunslet Moor. The secondary school winner was Charlie Sykes from Woodkirk High. The runners up were Joshua Brown from Abbey Grange and Whitney Downing from Woodkirk Hiigh The Yorkshire Evening Post will be providing coverage of the event.

We had a surprise guest at the event, Ed Balls M.P. who spoke to the audience and as ever was very enthusiastic about the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard. He asked about the progress we have made in rolling out the standard nationally. Getting Ed Balls to our event form his meeting at the Civic was the genius of the Deputy Lord Mayor. Kind regards, Rehana."

It is great to see that the Peace Poetry Competition continues to excite schools and produce some wonderful poetry. I hope that it will continue to grow and develop and encourage more of our children and young people to see themselves as young poets.


I moved on again to Roundhay St John's CE Primary School...

Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School is a wonderful little school where Barbara Custance,acting headteacher, Libby Harrison, acting deputy headteacher and their colleagues are clearly doing great things. It was great to talk to Barbara and Libby and to see that the school is making real progress under their energetic leadership until the new headteacher arrives in January.  Like on my last visit we all went outside and took part in their innovative collective worship and 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session with a colleague whose energy and enthusiasm as we approach the end of term was amazing! The whole session was great. Barbara passionately led the collective worship and the 'Wake Up and Shake Up' was led by Sarah, a really talented, enthusiastic and energetic colleague, and the children were fabulous!

There is something really special at Roundhay St John's Church of England Primary School . A talented, gorgeous and wonderful team led by Barbara and Libby who are doing a brilliant job.


I moved on to visit Temple Moor High School Science College again...

It was wonderful to see the brilliant new building again and to walk around the school with Martin Fleetwood, the headteacher, who has a wonderful rapport and relationship with his students. Martin showed me the inclusion areas and the work the school is doing with the East SILC to include 16 young people into the Temple Moor learning community and to access key elements of the curriculum. It is another real success story in our ongoing journey to create great, inclusive and reflective local schools for all our children and young people. Martin and his team are doing a brilliant job and have created a wonderful foundation on which they are building brilliant provision to secure outstanding outcomes.


I started the day today at the BBC Radio Leeds studios...

I had been asked by BBC Radio Leeds to talk about exclusions and the report produced by Barnardo's which highlighted the case of Ben who lives in Leeds and who had been excluded from school and supported by Leeds Reach@Barnardo's. We have a great track record here in Leeds with exclusions and more importantly wherever possible finding alternatives to exclusion. We know that we need to work closer with partner organisations, like Barnardo's, who can provide more personalised and targeted support to some of our young people with the most challenging lives. Exclusion is a disaster for young people and we must all continue to work to avoid permanant exclusions.. whatever it takes!


And finally last night I attended the Awards Evening at Corpus Christ Catholic College...

It was a real honour to be asked by Mike Woods, headteacher at this highly successful school, to be part of this very special evening. Martin Dowling, chair of the governing body, introduced the evening which also included performances by the College Band who played 'Swinging Brown Jug' and the theme from The 'Great Escape' and the College Choir who sang 'Can you hear me', 'Run' and 'Walking on sunshine'.  The Class of 2010 were very clearly everything you could want from a group of young people... talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful! Mike Wood the headteacher at this great school reviewed the last five years with some great photographs of the young people on their journey through the school from starting in Year 7 in 2005 to their GCSE results and Graduation Ball in 2010. The school achieved their best GCSE results this year and George Mudie MP presented the young people with their certificates and prizes.
It was great to share this very special evening with the team at Corpus Christi.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


I visited the South Leeds Academy this afternoon to see my colleague Colin Bell, the Principal at this remarkable learning place...

Colin is the remarkable principal at this wonderful learning place and I wanted to visit the Academy again before I leave Leeds because the story of South Leeds Academy is yet another of our successes. I am particularly grateful to Colin and his colleagues at the South Leeds Academy who have achieved something quite remarkable over the last five years. Colin's leadership, in particular, has transformed provision as we moved from two failing schools with massive problems of underachievement, low expectations and disaffection in awful buildings with little hope or aspiration to a position where we have passion, commitment and success in a wonderful newly built learning environment where young people are more positive and optimistic. We are also on a trajectory that will achieve the previous Government's magical 30%, and the current Government's new 35%, achieving 5A*-C grades at GCSE including English and mathematics. They are also on track to achieve 80% of the young people getting five good GCSEs or the equivalent; which is simply unheard of in South Leeds. 

The challenge of course is to build on this real success story; to build on what Colin and his team have achieved... whatever it takes!


And finally last night I attended 'Celebrating 10 Years of Success'; Leeds Mentoring Annual Awards Ceremony at the Civic Hall...

This year there have once again been over 4000 mentoring partnerships here in Leeds and the evening provided us with another wonderful opportunity to listen to young people's stories of success encouraged and supported by brilliant mentors. The awards were presented by Steve Matthews, Chief Executive of the 'Mentoring and Befriending Foundation', Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council,  Cllr Jim McKenna, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Paul Caddick, Cllr Judith Blake, Lead Member for Children's Services  and Cllr Jane Dowson, Lead Member for Learning. We also had brilliant performances by the 'Temple Moor Singers' from Temple Moor High School and 'Revelations' from City of Leeds School.

Thanks to Barry Hilton and the talented Leeds Mentoring team who, with our mentoring team from schools, universities, businesses and individuals from across the city, are making such an incredible difference to the lives of some of our very special young people.


I moved on again to visit Castleton Primary School...

Judith Norfolk and her team are doing something wonderful at this little oasis of brilliant primary practice tucked away where it is. We all know that inner city schools must be creative and inspiring places at the heart of their communities 365-24-7 releasing the magic and the WOW factor and that is what you get at Castleton Primary School and some! It is an outstanding school which is busy and rich and has a real family feel where everyone feels special and valued.

This is another brilliant community school where Judith and her colleagues are doing great things and releasing an extraordinary magic. Judith and some of her governors took me on a tour of this wonderful learning place and showed me the new Children's Centre which has been developed since my last visit. This is yet another incredible learning place that I will really miss!


I moved on again to St Bartholomew's CE Primary School...

Pauline Gavin and her team don't do things by halves at St Barts which is a glorious mix of children from cultures and religions from all over the world! We talked about the many challenges we all face and how schools like St Bart's can maintain their focus on standards and safeguarding despite the challenges we are currently facing with change, cuts and uncertainty. Inner city schools must be creative and inspiring places at the heart of their communities 365-24-7 releasing the magic and the WOW factor and that is what you get at St Bart's and some!. 

This is a brilliant school where Pauline Gavin and her colleagues are doing great things and releasing an extraordinary magic.Pauline took me on a tour of this wonderful learning place and showed me the new areas she has developed since my last visit. This is another incredible learning place that I will really miss!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


I moved on to visit Swallow Hill Community College...

I hadn't visited the school for over a year and it was great to see Gill Knutsson, acting headteacher, again.  Gill talked to me about the journey ths school had been on since September and the impact and outcomes they were achieving, I was impressed by the calm and very purposeful atmosphere around the school and the building which is bright, light and a wonderful environment for learning. Everyone I spoke to was very positive and optimistic about the school while recognising the very real challenges the staff team still face with creating a shared culture, addressing behaviour, managing attendance and driving up standards. It's only three weeks until the end of term and the team, although tired, have certainly achieved a lot recently and are really confident about the journey to build a brilliant learning place to serve the people of West Leeds.


I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues at Pudsey Grangefield School...

These headteachers from the Pudsey and the West Families of Schools are great colleagues doing some amazing work with children and families. We talked about the new children's services arrangements, increasing reception numbers, the White Paper, acdemies and Team Leeds. We agreed that we need to maintain a focus on outstanding teaching and learning, on the WOW factor, on quality provision and how we nurture passion, enthusiasm, creativity and imagination. We also talked about th need to work positively with colleagues from Social Care, health, the police and the voluntary sector to support families and build healthier and more sustainable communities.

It was a brilliant start to the day with some great colleagues and we need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more and to celebrate more. We talked about the challenges that lie ahead and the need to be more creative and more collaborative and to stop the merry go round of meetings, bureaucracy and things that made no difference to children and families and focus on those we know do.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


I had dinner this evening with my friend and colleague Sir Tim Brighouse...

Tim is one of Britain’s most respected educationalists.  He started his career as a classroom teacher and  going on to become Deputy Education Officer in ILEA and Chief Education Officer for Oxfordshire. He became Professor of Education and Head of the Education Department at Keele University and founded the Centre for Successful Schools. Tim returned to the role of Chief Education Officer for Birmingham City Council and was also appointed Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, London University. Most recently, Tim served as London Schools Commissioner and then Chief Adviser for London Schools where he set up the London Challenge which transformed outcomes in some of the most disadvantaged schools in the country.

It was wonderful to catch up with Tim who was on his way to Hull where he has been involved in leading the Hull Challenge where again he has helped transform standards and outcomes in another one of the most disadvantaged parts of the country.


This afternoon I visited Carr Manor High School...

Carr Manor High School is another of those places where you can see, through their  real success story, the Education Leeds story. It was great to sit and talk to Simon Flowers, the school's inspirational headteacher, about the journey they have been on from potential closure in split site and unloved accommodation to an oversubscribed, increasingly successful and innovative school occupying a fantastic PFI building which was opened by Tony Blair. I sometimes need to pinch myself because what we have achieved at Carr Manor High School and at so many other great schools across the city is simply unbelievable. It has been a privilege to work with Simon and his brilliant team and to watch the transformation of teaching and learning take place.

Simon took me on a last tour around the school before we went to a special reception he had arranged for me with some of his team, some of his governors and some of his students to thank me for everything I had done for the school over the last ten years. They gave me a wonderful picture which was a montage of photographs of important moments over the last ten years including some of me, which I will treasure.


In May I told you about the Stepping Stones Celebration at Tiger Tiger where I spent the evening with Olivia and Kari, two of our fantastic looked-after young people, and their foster carers. I was so impressed with these two young women that I asked them to write to me about their experiences and Olivia has justsent me this...

"During the summer holidays I took part in two summer schools – one at Hull University and one at Cambridge University. I enjoyed both summer schools and gained a better knowledge on life as a university student. I attended Hull University at the beginning of July. I felt very welcome when I arrived and soon settled in. We stayed in the student accommodation which wasn’t too bad apart from the fact I had no television. During the day we travelled down to the university and sat through lectures on university life, law and computer science. These were very interesting and expanded my knowledge of university. We also had practical lessons on medical science where we were given real life scenarios and had the chance to examine evidence and play the role of doctors and use medical equipment to solve the mysterious illnesses. During the evenings we did a range of activities from going to the cinema to having a disco. Throughout the week we worked with university students and had the chance to ask them our questions. During the first week of August I attended Cambridge summer school. We also stayed in student accommodation but I didn’t really like these as they were like flats and quite frightening. Throughout the day we travelled to the university and had lectures on student life and finances. We also had lectures from a top law firm, Clifford Chance, and had the chance to solve a real case as lawyers either for or against the defendant. I really enjoyed this as I hope to go to university to study law and maybe one day become a lawyer. We worked with university students who made us feel at home and gave us an insight on their experiences as a student.  Overall I enjoyed both summer schools and now have a better understanding on university life. I would definitely recommend the summer schools and am glad I was given this opportunity.This story show us what is possible for our looked-after children and the brilliant work that Julie Pocklington and Ken Campbell, our Stepping Stones team, are doing with the CLCs and students from the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan Iniversity. It's great to know what a difference this fantastic intiative that is making where it really matters.


Monday, 22 November 2010


I started the day at the Education Leeds Leadership Forum...

This will be the last time I spend time with this group of colleagues who were looking at the developing structure within the new children's services arrangements. We talked about the future and how we can shape it. We talked about passion, purpose and culture. We talked about people, teamwork, attitude and ownership and engagement as keys to releasing the magic in our teams and our schools.


Only four weeks left and the time is flying by...

It has been another extraordinary week. 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. I visited Methley Primary School again. It's an extraordinary school and the school's inspirational headteacher Tracy Dell's leadership, passion, commitment and hard work has built an outstanding team and the learning environment is simply fantastic. I visited Willow Young Carers with Councillor Jane Dowson, my colleague John Paxton, and Al Berry, a student at Temple Moor High School who represents Leeds on the Youth Parliament. 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. 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. I visited Gledhow Primary School again. This is a popular and successful school and Steve Archer, the headteacher, took me around the school and showed me the improvements they have made since my last visit. I visited Brigshaw High School again. It was great to be able to catch up with Cath Lennon, the headteacher at this wonderful school, and talk about the progress the school has made over the last few years. I also 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.

During the week I attended the the Guardian Social Enterprise Summit which was sub-titled 'The Key to Big Society? Scaling up social enterprises to deliver public services'. The event comes at a particularly interesting time for public 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. 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 and to think team...

The last ten years have shown that great learning happens in teams: in groups and networks who share ideas about what works; and what doesn't. Great learning develops and grows through co-operation, collaboration, networking and sharing. Great organisations, great schools, great classrooms are about great individuals who operate in and with great teams. AND... you don't need to look elsewhere to see great teams and brilliant leadership. Simply look at the schools I visited last week. Wherever I look there are simply extraordinary colleagues releasing the magic where it really matters. The future is full of opportunities for outstanding colleagues and outstanding teams who are creating outstanding learning places.