Friday, 10 December 2010


I met Hilary Benn MP again today...

Hilary isn't able to attend the session with the Council on Thursday next wek and had wanted to come in and thank me for everything I had done here in Leeds over the last ten years. It has been a real privilege to be able to work with Hilary over the years. He has been a strong supporter of our programmes and our schools and it was great to see him before I leave.


I moved on to visit Bruntcliffe High School again...

I wanted to visit Bruntcliffe again before I leave Leeds to see some of the outstanding work Linda Johnson, the headteacher, and her colleagues are doing both on the academic pathway  and on the vocational pathway with the amazing and award winning work they are doing on enterprise. Linda took me on a brief tour where we looked at their new science block and visited their vocational centre where they are doing some pioneering and outstanding work. This is a great school which has been transformed over the last few years through the hard work of a passionate and committed team working with some great young people.


I started the day today at Oulton Primary School...

It was wonderful to see my colleague Maria Townsend, the headteacher at this great little primary school, again. Maria has transformed Oulton Primary School and it was great to visit 'Jamaica', their nurture unit, to see the brilliant work Maria's colleagues are doing with some of her most special children who are receiving some of the additional help and support they need. The children had made me an 'achieve - a-ball', a solid, three-dimensional icosahedron, and on its twenty faces the children had drawn and illustrated some of the things they were proud of in their lives. I'll miss Maria and the team at Oulton Primary School.


I visited one of my favourite schools last night... 

Cockburn College of Arts is a school that captures so well the Education Leeds story and where over the last ten years I have learnt so much and shared so many moments of real magic. It was a real honour to be invited by Dave Gurney, the headteacher, and Dave Westwell, the Chir of Governors, to officially open the school after all the remodelling work on the school site had been completed. Our Building Schools for the Future programme has been an amazing success and this is a fantastic transformation which alongside the school's brilliant results and their simply outstanding contextual value added indicators means that this has to be one of the best secondary schools in the city. The evening was rounded off by an outstanding performance of West Side Story by some talented students from this brilliant Performing Arts College.


I moved on again to visit the East SILC where Oakwood PSC were doing their Christmas production...

'The Animal Nativity' was a view of the traditional nativity story as seen through the eyes of the animals. It was a wonderful show and the children and the staff team were brilliant. We all sang Little Donkey, Silent Night, Starry Night, Follow the Star and the Calypso Carol before people headed back to Oakwood for tea and biscuits.  I'll miss this little oasis of magic where Barrie Whitney, the principal, and his team are doing some extraordinary things and it was great to share this little bit of Christmas with these very special children and some of their mums and dads.


I moved on again to visit the David Young Community Academy again...

I wanted to visit the Academy and see my colleague Ros McMullen, the Principal, at what has become a hugely successful school serving this complex and challenging bit of Leeds. It is great to see what Ros and her colleagues have achieved here in Seacroft and to remember where we started ten years ago with educational priovision in this bit of the city.


I moved on to Horforth School...

Horsforth School is a specialist science college and it was great to see Steve Jex, the headteacher at this great school, again. Under Steve's intelligent and determined leadership over the last ten years the school has developed as one of the most successful secondary schools here in Leeds.


I moved on to St Margaret's CE Primary School in Horsforth...

This is another school rebuilt through the PFI programme and now a fantastic school in a glorious building. It was great to see my colleague Alan Willey, the headteacher, and catch a little bit of Christmas magic with their 'Wriggly Christmas' nativity.


On Thursday morning I visited Bankside Primary School again...

It was great to see my colleague Sarah Rutty again and to travel on the bus with the children up to the Fir Tree site . The school is being rebuilt as a three form entry primary school on the existing site and Sarah and her team are managing the transformation using the Fir Tree site for around three hundred of her children who are bussed up daily. It is an extraordinary logistical operation which the team and the children at Bankside appear to be taking in their stride!

I will miss this extraordinary school but I look forward to visiting when the new school opens in September 2011 to once again see Bankside at its brilliant best!


On Wednesday evening we had 'The Party at the End of the Universe' to mark the end of the Education Leeds contract...

The party, at 'The Loft', was funded by Capita and it was great to see my colleagues Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl at the party with around 300 Education Leeds colleagues. Ian and Parin manage the Children's Services arm of Capita's work and have been partnered and connected with Education Leeds during the whole of its ten year contract with the Council.
A good time was apparently had by everyone


I visited the West Oaks Foundation during the afternoon...

This little bit of magic is just off the High Street in Boston Spa and my colleagues Andrew Hodgkinson had asked mt to come and officially open the West Oaks Foundation shop where students from West Oaks will be able to have their work experience and where the products of the West Oaks enterprise projects will be sold. It is a simply brilliant additional element at what must be one of the most innovative and successful special schools in the country.


I moved on to Carr Manor Primary School...

It was great to visit this wonderful school again and see Linda Bowles, the headteacher, and some of her colleagues. Linda and the team do an amazing job and the Children's Centre has added a little bit of magic to the school. It has been brilliant working with Linda over the last ten years and watching the school develop into a real centre of primary excellence under Linda's skilful and passionate leadership.


I started the day on Wednesday at Ralph Thoresby High School...

I wanted to visit Ralph Thoresby High School because it is another of our great success stories. Stuart Hemingway, the headteacher, and his team have done a great job and the PFI building is specatacular with the banners and the light and colour and space as you walk through the school. It was wonderful to see the school again and to talk to Stuart and Billy Flynn, the chair of the governing body, about what has been achieved and their aspirations for the school.

As I walked around the school I realised once again what we have achieved with the learning landscape and the step change in outcomes we've achieved for our young people. Ralph Thoresby is another of our real success stories and shows what can be done with vision, passion, belief and hard work.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


I finished the day yeaterday at the Town Hall for the Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Festival Concert 2010...

It was a wonderful celebration of our young people with over 500 young performers and some older ones releasing an extra-ordinary magic. The Festival Choir of around 360 children was drawn from 49 Leeds primary schools and they were magic! The City of Leeds Youth Orchestra were brilliant, the Leeds Youth Choir and the Leeds Youth Choir sang beautifully and the Leeds Silver Doves were amazing. The conductor and compere for the evening was Dougie Scarfe and for the packed house, with Cllr Jim McKenna, the Lord Mayor, and Cllr Andrea McKenna, the Lady Mayoress and colleagues from St George's Crypt, the concert marked the beginning of Christmas. FRom the cheers an d the applause it was obvious that everyone had a simply brilliant evening which ended with a rousing encore of Saviour's Day.


I spent the early part of the evening with headteacher and governor colleagues at Space@Hillcrest...

It was the start of the final long goodbye to colleagues here in Leeds and it was great to see so many colleagues and friends had managed to find the time to come. Children from Hillcrest Primary School sang for us all  before Bernadette Young, headteacher at Royd's School, spoke on behalf of the Leeds secondary headteachers, Rod Ash, chair of the Leeds Governors Forum, spoke on behalf of the Leeds governors and Sally-Ann Boulton, headteacher at Haigh Road Infant School spoke on behalf of the Leeds primary headteachers.Colleagues had also recorded messages which were shown at the end of what was a wonderful moment at the end of some precious times here in Leeds. Sally had made me a cake which I will photograph and add to the blog later!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues at St Bartholomew's CE Primary School with headteachers from the Inner West and Inner South Families of Schools...

This was a special breakfast because it is the 100th Headteacher Breakfast since we started having them in January 2007. It was also special because Pauline Gavin and her team don't do things by halves at St Barts! Breakfast was brilliant; the food, the venue and the company were all outstanding. The Inner West  and Inner South headteachers talked about the many challenges we all face and how schools must maintain their focus on standards and safeguarding despite the challenges we are currently facing with change, cuts and uncertainty.

These schools are creative and inspiring places working at the heart of their communities 365-24-7. We need to continue to develop brilliant early years practice and to ensure that Every Child is a Reader and Every Child Counts by the time they are seven or eight... and we need to ensure that as far as possible all our children became brilliant little learners by the time they leave primary school and are on a pathway to success by the time they are sixteen.  Our greatest challenge at the heart of the city is to make sure that we 'Think Team' as we release the magic, the potential and the WOW factor for all our children, young people and their parents and carers.

These are great colleagues leading great schools where front line provision is wrapped in a stimulating, creative and imaginative curriculum offer that aims to turn out happy, healthy, safe and successful little learners, whatever it takes. Whenever I visit these schools and meet colleagues like these I know that I am in the presence of the real heroes of education in Leeds who fight the good fight day-in day-out because of their passion, commitment, determination, belief and because they care deeply about their children, their families and the communities they serve.


It has been an extraordinary week for all the wrong reasons as the weather buried us in snow and ice, schools closed and traffic around the city ground to a halt...

I still managed to meet with a small group of secondary headteachers who had made it to their regular meeting at Weetwood Hall. It was great to sit and listen to these talented colleagues as they discussed the Schools White Paper; 'The Importance of Teaching' which signals a radical reform agenda with an ambition to be world-class. I also spent an afternoon with five hundred children, parents, teachers and dance coaches at the Town Hall where we all celebrated RJC 'Dance Heats Project 9'. This is the ninth year that this wonderful project has run and this afternoon was a brilliant celebration of the work and the achievements of the children and teachers who have participated in the project over the last three months. Over 500 young people from sixteen schools in the Elmet Partnership of Schools have taken part in what is a unique and exciting dance project with the fabulous team from RJC Dance. And finally I spent a morning at the STEPS celebration at Weetwood Hall. It was another wonderful celebration of some amazing colleagues and some wonderful parents and carers. STEPS changes lives and the stories we have heard from these talented individuals make this programme one of the most important things we do and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues Chris Bennett and Val Cain who have worked so hard to deliver these programmes across Leeds over the last six years.

Colleagues also attended the fifth Local Government Yorkshire and Humber 'Making a Difference' awards last week. These awards celebrate the achievements of local authorities across the region and recognise the hard work and commitment of teams and individuals across councils, police, fire service and national park authorities. This year there was only one nomination from Leeds and it is brilliant that this was a partnership between the council's International Relations team and the Gypsy Roma Traveller achievement service within Education Leeds - and they won!

After a tough week, where I wrestled with a bad back, snow and ice, I was interviewed by Andrew Edwards on BBC Radio Leeds Drive Time about the snow and school closures. We are once again being criticised for shutting schools but as I woke up very early this week I heard that phrase again and again... "if your journey is not essential the advice is to stay indoors". I am encouraged by the uproar about school closures because it reminds us that schools, at the heart of what we do, are an essential service for so many children and young people and their parents and carers. While the weather has challenged everyone of us this week, as we struggled in through blizzard conditions along icy and treacherous roads, we should always remember that we provide a vital and essential service to the children and young people of Leeds.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


McKinsey have just published a really interesting report 'How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better'...

It recognises the journey we have made with schools and learning and suggests ways to move from good to outstanding. If you want to know more visit my other blog at