Saturday, 14 July 2007

I received this message from Lesley Hart who used to be a colleague here in Leeds and now does consultancy work for the IdEA...

"Dear Chris, I was at the Beacon Council Dissemination Conference in Manchester yesterday at which the Leeds Healthy Schools team did a workshop and had a display. The staff and young people did an excellent job as ambassadors for Leeds and the work which they are doing was similarly excellent. It was lovely to see such confidence and enthusiasm and I just wanted to congratulate them and you!"

As I always say the work we are doing here in Leeds on Healthy Schools, and so much else, is simply brilliant!

Friday, 13 July 2007

I started the day at the 'Be Healthy' Celebration at Leeds Metropolitan University...

The day started with a 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session led by the brilliant Kerr Mackie Primary School team who recently won the Leeds 'Wake Up and Shake Up' Schools Competition. Everyone who arrived early was invited to join in!

The 'Be Healthy' Celebration had been organised by a group of young people who also managed the day with the help and support of the Healthy Schools team. The day started with the Kerr Mackie Primary School group demonstrating their routine to the conference before evryone had the opportunity to take part in series of workshops focusing on the
'Be Healthy' theme.

A brilliant day organised and delivered by a brilliant team!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

I have had a bad day...

I used to be able to work continuously. Long days one after another didn't use to be a problem. I don't know about you but as I get older I find it is becoming more and more difficult to keep it up. Migraine always strikes when I am really tired and when the world is simply too demanding and, although I take tablets that are really good at tackling the symptoms, when I am passed it they simply don't work ...

Today I woke early with the headache from hell and sadly, I missed the Leadership Team away day and the 'Bolly Rock' gig at Allerton Grange High School both of which I know would have been fantastic but I suppose what my brain is telling me is that I need a rest.

I am really looking forward to a holiday.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

I went to another retirement do today...

My colleagues Margery Page is retiring after 34 years as an Educational Psychologist here in Leeds. Margery has had an enormous impact here in Leeds and affected the lives of a huge number of children. I will personally miss her insight, her dedication and commitment.
My colleague Margaret Dalby sent me this after visiting Morley Victoria Primary School last night...

"Last night was my last primary school concert at Morley Victoria. I am now available as rent a crowd at any primary concerts throughout the year. As usual it was sensational with brass,woodwind, strings and singing. The Yr 6 boys did the Haka! and sang YMCA with all the actions, Yr 5 did an Elvis medley and they ended the concert with Shine from Take That. So many smiling faces happy confident children every child in Yr 5 &6 took part. I have had a bad two weeks with the loss of a 37 yr old nephew but children are a great healer I can see why you like your job. Margaret"

You're right, Margaret, I love my job. Thanks for sharing this with me.
I was reading this article about stress and the impact it has on the nervous, hormonal and immune systems...

Stress is of course something we all live with but I am told that diet can play a significant and important part in improving your physical and emotional well-being. So to quote the article "if stess is turning you into a moody chocoholic insomniac, with no sex drive, constant colds, tummy trouble, dire concentration and heart palpitations here is what you need to do"...
  • boost your magnesium intake... magnesium helps the body make energy, balance blood-sugar levels and maintain healthy blood pressure.... magnesium is found in green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and pulses.

  • Ideally don't drink coffee and certainly don't drink coffee before 10 am.

  • Never skip meals. Eat three low-GI meals a day with snacks if necessary.

  • Beef up your vitamins B5 and C... stress reduces these vitamins. B5 is found in eggs, fish, meat, lentils and whole grains. C is found in berries, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and all fruit and vegetables.

  • Raise your serotonin levels... eat yoghurt, bananas, figs and dates and drink milk.

  • Eat oats for breakfast!

  • Ditch caffeine, sugar and alcohol!

  • Take gentle exercise but don't overdo it!

It's be healthy week so look after yourself; de-stress and unwind whenever you can.


Tuesday, 10 July 2007

It has been one of those days when I have been forced to think about what LOCAL means...

I totally agree with those colleagues who tell me that we must continue to build local solutions and restructure all our services and provision... starting from and building with those fundamentally important local pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up this wonderful city of ours. But it is also important to recognise that local isn't simply about the structures and services it's a commitment to looking at everything we do through the same lens... the local lens.

It can't simply be acceptable to think local when it comes to the partnerships and services we provide. It also applies to where we shop, where we eat, where we walk, where we build our relatonships and where we send our children to school. You can't have it both ways if we believe in local solutions and local services we have to embrace local services for us... how many of us don't choose local schools for our children and then complain about the local area; the anti-social behaviour, the rubbish and the lack of care and respect?

We won't get great local schools, great local services and great local communities unless we all buy in... and it's not about pick and mix... you can't choose which bits you want and which bits you don't... it's all or nothing!

I know that people continually tell me that they agree with me but they are not prepared to experiment with their own children. All I would say is whose children should we experiment on if not the children of people who care and are passionate about what we do. After all if things are not good enough for your children surely they aren't good enough for anyone's children.
I finished the day at Allerton High School at a North East Governors' Wedge Meeting...

The meeting was well attended by a really good group of governors and we had updates on the Parent Partnership Service, the Leeds Healthy Schools Strategy, Alcohol Misuse and 14 - 19 Provision. These all stimulated some really good discussions and some interesting questions at a really excellent meeting.
I went on to talk to the Secondary Headteachers at the Headingley Experience...

The headteachers were looking at the 14 - 19 Review and Dirk Gilleard, Gary Milner and Christina George from the LSC joined me. We face some real challenges to ensure that we build a system which puts the needs of the learner first and build local solutions that link into and connect with city pathways.

We all agreed to spend a day together in early September to continue to work on the models.
I was invited at short notice to drop in to Victoria Primary School...

I managed to drop in at lunchtime and I am so glad I did because this is a wonderful school doing brilliant work in so many areas. Tessa Mason had invited me to look at the work which resulted from a visit the the Leeds Art Gallery and I also managed to fit in a look at their new ICT portal which is truly amazing!

The school had organised the hall to become their own art gallery and the work I saw was outstanding... the children had produced photographs, written poetry, focused on their special people, made picture frames, produced keepsake boxes and decorated tents... and it had pulled in the crowds from the community to look at the work.

The new ICT portal is opening a new world for the learning team and the children. Again it is inspiring to see what they are doing and how it is engaging young people and colleagues. You can visit their website at
I started the day with breakfast at Roundhay School Technology College...

I had breakfast with the North East Leeds Learning Partnership headteachers and while we all wondered what we were doing there at this time of year it was a really good discussion about some of the things that matter. Interestingly Jon Farley, Headteacher at Kerr Mackie, asked if we could offer some tea-time meetings for the headteachers who are not at their best early in the morning. We will arrange a series of tea-time sessions for next year.
A good news story for you...

On Friday, 6 July 2007, Harehills Primary School were runners up at the Drax Cup 2007 cricket event. This took place at Headingley Carnegie Cricket Ground and involved schools from all over Yorkshire.

Monday, 9 July 2007

I finished the day at the West Yorkshire Playhouse at 'One Leeds'...

'One Leeds' is a partnership event between Land Securities Trillium Property Partnerships, Investors in the Community (Leeds Schools) Ltd, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Carr Manor High School, South Leeds High School, Primrose High School, City of Leeds School and Shakespeare Primary School.

The Parnership aims to promote culture and the arts, support extended schools and link with the curriculum. To deliver an initiative that would enrich the offer, boost morale and support achievement and to create and strengthen links with the community.

It was an amazing celebration of the talent in our schools and I hope it will become an annual event.
I went on to the launch of the Leeds Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education...

We are building brilliant learning places where all our young people can be happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful. The Agreed Syllabus has been revised following consultations with our schools an sets out a clear and relevant rationale for religious education and the contribution it makes to wider learning. The Syllabus embeds the knowledge, skills, understanding and themes from the National Framework for Religious Education in a new and powerful local document that actively promotes truth, justice, respect and care.

Speakers at the event included Cllr Peter Harrand, Chair of SACRE, The Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Reverend Alan Taylor and Liz Guild our SACRE consultant. The Syllabus reflects our ongoing commitment to equality, inclusion and community cohesion and seeks to break down barriers, tackle prejudice and provide opportunities for young people to learn about, and listen to, and learn to respect people from a variety of faiths. This agenda is probably more important than ever before and I hope all our schools will use the new Agreed Syllabus to help them shape this vitally important aspect of their provision.
Cllr Richard Harker and I had lunch with Paul Napier and Nicola Megson from the Evening Post...

Paul and Nicola and really great people and we talked about how we could continue to promote and highlight the best of education in Leeds by working with the Evening Post. I think it is important that we continue to send colleagues at the Evening Post our stories where individual schools, children, young people and families are achieving great things.
I started the day at Christ the King RC Primary School...

I had been invited by the children to attend the grand opening of their Outdoor Classroom by the Rt Hon. John Battle MP. It was an amazing event showcasing some of the best features and some of the successes of this brilliant little primary school.

We were treated to a fantastic Wake Up & Shake Up session by a group of children who had made up their own routine. They had won the Wake Up & Shake Up competition in the West of the city and finally come second in the city wide Wake Up & Shake Up competition. We also had a musical performance by the school recorder group. The school was also presented with its National Healthy Schools Award by my colleague Steve Ruse since they had been unable to attend the Central Awards Ceremony a few weeks back.

The Outdoor Classroom is a wonderful feature designed by the school and delivered by the team at Holly Bush BTCV Centre. It complements and extends the excellent work the school is doing on sustainability... you will remember that the school won the regional Sustainable Schools award and went forward to the Northern Finals of this year's Teaching Awards as one of only four schools from the thousand nominated in the Northern Region. The won a commendation at the Northern Awards at Harrogate last week.

There was a lovely touch at the end of the ceremony when the Outdoor Classroom was dedicated to Martin Kromer, the schools' long serving headteacher who retires this Summer after 23 years at the school.
My colleague Wendy Winterburn met with the wonderful Parent Support Advisers last week and sent me this...

Dear Chris, I thought you might like to see the story below from Vivienne Gibbons one of our Parent Support Advisers. Hope you are well, Wendy.

"Hi Rebecca,
Tony Beswick the Centre Manager at the St George's Crypt who I have worked with briefly in the past sent me a leaflet which I feel sums up the sentiment of some of the work as PSA's we are trying to do. I have typed out below the transcript of the leaflet...... 'does it make a difference'. An old, old story claimed by many as theirs, but probably belongs to all of us ...

"While walking along a beach, a man saw in the distance what looked like a boy dancing. He was encouraged by the outward expression of someone dancing to the new day on the beach, and he approached the young man. As he got closer, he realized that the young man was actually running, leaning down, picking something up and then gently throwing it far into the ocean.

As he came closer, he saw thousands of starfish the tide had thrown onto the beach. Unable to return to the ocean during the low tide, the starfish were dying. He observed the young man picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back.

After watching the seemingly futile effort, the observer said to the young man, "There must be thousands of starfish on this beach. It would be impossible for you to get to all of them. There is simply too many. You can't possibly save enough to make a difference."

"It made a difference to that one," he replied.

The older man shook his head at the impossible optimism of the young man, and then turned away and walked home. That night, he sat for a long time thinking of the young man, and determined that the young man was to really affecting the world and taking action to make a difference. Something that the older man would like to do. That night he slept fitfully.

In the morning, he awoke, went down to the beach and found the young man again. Then together, they went along the beach shore tossing starfish back into the ocean."

I'm not usually into too much gush or sentimentality but I thought this was quite a reflective piece and sums up alot of what some of the psa's experiences shared on Tuesday.
Viv Gibbons"

However many times I read that story, and there are so many different versions, it makes me realise why I do what I do.
Someone asked me what makes a good school, what makes a successful school...

Successful schools are:
  • happy places;
  • healthy places;
  • safe places;
  • places which are rigorous in terms of their focus on standards, on tracking, on the powerful and intelligent use of data; and
  • places where every child matters and no child gets left behind.

To build brilliant schools we need to continue to coach, nurture and develop:

  • inspirational, passionate distributed leadership;
  • brilliant teaching by talented colleagues;
  • a coaching and nurturing culture;
  • an engaging, powerful and stimulating curriculum;
  • wonderful learning environments;
  • brilliant learning;
  • high expectations of children and colleagues;
  • positive and constructive relationships;
  • parents and carers as partners in learning.

Easy really!


Sunday, 8 July 2007

My colleague Pat asked me if I was doing the right things and if I was using my time to best effect...

The scary thing isn’t what we have achieved, but our potential to achieve so much more if only we can release the magic and switch people on who are currently stitched off... switched off by a lack of interest, a lack of motivation, a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of energy and drive. We all have so much potential. Our job as leaders, as managers, as coaches, as teachers, as parents, as people who care, is to help individuals set their goals, realise their enormous potential and understand that this is not as good as it gets!

We must change the language and reinvent our vocabulary. We must scrap the language which carries so much baggage and history and start using more inclusive and supportive terms… learning places, learning teams, colleagues and partners. We must incentivise and reward co-operation, teamwork, networking and partnering. We must encourage BRILLIANT projects, challenges and initiatives. We must celebrate our successes with t-shirts, buttons, badges, wristbands, certificates, awards and chocolate! We must dig deep to find, nurture and sustain talent. We must declare war on complexity… keep it simple and create simply beautiful systems. We must above all communicate, communicate, communicate.

We must create opportunities and learn to understand that we all have our blindspots. We must trust everyone and give them total access to everything we have. We must admit it when we don’t know the answers. We must talk to each other, talk to everyone and constantly search for solutions. We must manage everything as close as possible to the young people, the schools, the parents and the communities we serve. We must partner with the best and learn from them.

Our challenges as many. We must...
  • Be GREAT learners… by constantly questioning and asking why.
  • Be GREAT performers… by being confident and energetic.
  • Be GREAT storytellers… by bringing strategies and policies alive.
  • Accept responsibility… for decisions and outcomes.
  • Focus on what really matters!
  • AND above all be passionate.


Why is it that girls fly high while boys fall into crime and poor behaviour? Girls do better than boys. It's official...

The new Department for Children, Schools and Families has published a report which say that the gender gap is becoming a chasm. Girls are forging ahead in achievement at all levels of education. The gap starts extraordinarily early according to Sue Palmer author of Toxic Childhood who argues that the early start disaadvantages our boys. I suppose the question is where do our boys do better and under what conditions?
I read this article in the Times Educational Supplement this weekend...

Sport and activity activates the brain, aids concentration and levels of alertness, can improve attendance, develops key skills such as teamwork, stragic thinking and self-discipline,helps with confidence and motivation and can reduce behavioural problems.

Why isn't everyone Waking Up and Shaking Up?
I expect most of us caught some of the Live Earth concerts that went on around the world yesterday...

I think the real question is what are we as individuals, as schools and organisations and as an educational community here in Leeds going to do to save the planet? The Sustainable Schools movement has many of the answers and I hope that next term we can seriously pick this up and start to make a real difference. It would be good to hear from anyone who has ideas about how we can do this.