Saturday, 2 May 2009

"If a school can't get the toilets right, it can make you wonder how much they care about their pupils." OFSTED Inspector

Toilets matter and we have seen a transformation over the last few years. The TES Magazine had a great article about this which included the School Toilet Charter; Setting bog standards;
  1. Pupils must be allowed to use the toilet whenever they need to.
  2. There must be enough toilet cubicles for all pupils.
  3. Toilet cubicles must be private and have doors that lock.
  4. Pupils with special needs must have suitable, easily accessible toilets.
  5. Toilets must be looked after properly and not smell.
  6. Warm water and soap must be provided, plus towels or hand dryers.
  7. There must be enough toilet paper in all cubicles.
  8. Sanitary products and disposal units must be provided in toilets for girls aged eight and over.
  9. Toilets must be free from bullies and smokers.
  10. Schools must have a policy to keep pupils’ toilets clean and in good condition.
  11. Pupils must be involved in managing and improving their toilets.
  12. All complaints about toilets must be taken seriously.

You can find out more about the School Toilet Charter at


Did you see the article about Nick Edensor, our colleague, who takes up his first headship at Fieldhead Carr Primary School in September...

Nick was the subject of 'The Interview' in the TES this week. He trained as a nursery nurse in 1989 before teaching at Sharp Lane and Carr Manor primary schools. He was acting deputy headteacher at Cobden and deputy headteacher at Fieldhead Carr before being appointed as acting headteacher at the school.

It's a great article which you can read at the TES website at

Friday, 1 May 2009

My colleague Geoff Roberts Chair of Governors at the West SILC and Vice-Chair of Governors at the NW SILC sent me this after reading the message in Headteachers' Update...

"Hi Chris, hope you are well… I was reading your message in the Headteachers’ Update and came across this line: "What my Easter break and my reading has taught me is that the challenges we face require us all to carefully evaluate everything we do and ask whether it is making a real difference." I find this a constant challenge as a governor. It is very easy to get sucked into too much detail of finances, staffing levels, dealing with exclusion/disciplinary reviews etc and to run the risk of forgetting that what we are there for is to make a difference for the pupils. So perhaps we need to ask a question at the end of every meeting we have (and I include phone calls and corridor conversations…) "How have we improved the chances for our pupils in this meeting?" I am going to include it as the final item on all my agendas from now onwards. Best Wishes, Geoff."

It is reassuring to hear from Geoff that people do read the Headteachers' Update and that they do something as a result to maintain our relentless and uncompromising focus on improving outcomes for our children and young people.


My colleague Val Cain from our FAST team sent me this e-mail and these photos after the Lou Tice PX2 launch...

"Hi Chris, Attached photos from the PX2 event, a truly inspiring morning. Sarah and Shelley are our 2 facilitators from the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, and Hannah and Jade are pupils at Allerton High.

I am sure the PX2 programme will can only make a huge difference in Leeds. Thanks once again for all your support, Have a wonderful, well deserved long weekend. Kind regards. Val"
I agree with Val that the new PX2 programme offers us another piece of the toolkit to tackle the problems with underachievement amongst some of our most vulnerable and disengaged young people. I look forward to seeing the impact and outcomes over the next year.
My colleague Sarah Tarrant from Middleton St Mary's Church of England Primary School sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, I wrote to you around this time last year, to tell you about our garden project and the support we were receiving from Yorkshire Water. Since then I have secured over £20,000 in funding from The National Lottery Breathing Places programme and Aire Valley Homes to create a new community garden based in our school grounds. Ian Chadwick and Paul Ackroyd at Red Hall Nurseries have generously supported the project with their designs, planting and their team's superb workmanship. They are a credit to the council. Despite all the stresses of Chelsea, they are continuing to support our project and particular children within our gardening club. Neil Diamond and the Inner South Team at Aire Valley Homes, have supported us by dontating £10,000 to create and outdoor classroom for the garden. This was on our long term wish list but has been made possible by their committee. Their support has been invaluable in enabling us to now open up the garden to the public at appropriate times in the school day. We are inviting Middleton Elderly Aid to come for tea on the lawn in June which will be served by year 6. A local school has booked the garden for 2 afternoons next month to study the wildlife and enjoy the space to write and paint. The National Lottery have given us almost £10,000 to create the path, planters and organise a community event to open the community garden. The whole community is invited with guests coming from 3 schools in Europe that we are in partnership with through the Comenius programme. The opening event is to coincide with the Breathing Places weekend and representatives from the National Lottery will also be attending. They will be publicising the event. I would like to personally invite you to the opening event. You were very encouraging when I last wrote to you and your words meant a great deal. I have since made links with Middleton Primary School who's Head, Sam Williams, is inspirational in her tireless work to regenerate the school and give her children the opportunity to work outside and within the whole community. I am currently working on links with corporate funding for her project so she can move on and create an outdoor classroom in her grounds. The open event will start at 3pm until...well...we have all relaxed and (hopefully) enjoyed the sunshine! There will be live music from our school choir and Seikou Susso, a parent at school who teaches traditional music. Middleton Primary will have a stall, to raise funds for their project, selling home grown vegetables and plants, alongside gifts and crafts. For me personally, it would mean a great deal if you were to attend and to the children and staff involved. I have asked Ian Chadwick to be there of course, I owe him a large glass of bubbly! It is one year next week, since our previous Head, Debbie Wood, passed away. We have named the garden "Woodlands" in her honour. Groundworks have also featured the garden in their banners which are going to be put in place in Middleton during May. It was such an honour to be chosen. One boy, who I teach, has had his model garden photographed and will be in the Hesco Garden brochure for Chelsea this year. The Red Hall team have shown this young man just how much he can achieve and that he has a true talent. We are so proud of him. I hope you are well and look forward to speaking with you soon. Hope to see you at the garden opening, if not before. Yours, Sarah."

It is brilliant to hear about Sarah's passion, commitment and hard work which has achieved something quite remarkable at Middleton St Mary's CE Primary School. The partnership working she has developed and the impact it has had at the school shows us all what is possible with Sarah's persistence, determination and energy. It is also wonderful that the garden has been named in memory of Debbie Wood who was a talented, gorgeous, wonderful and inspiring headteacher who we all miss.



Today, 1st May 2009, I have reached an important milestone in my professional life...

I have been here in Leeds for eight great years. The important thing is the longer I stay the better it gets and surprisingly perhaps the more we are achieving and more importantly the more our children and young people are achieving. Our positive, relentless and persistent approach reaching out and releasing the magic; creating brilliant learning in brilliant learning places serving healthier and more harmonious communities.

We have built a new world of learning in Leeds by nurturing, developing and searching for potential and coaching that talent and potential through self-efficacy, self-esteem and behavioural change programmes. Our energy, passion, enthusiasm, commitment and belief has released a special magic which is contagious.

The more I look, the more I realise that I am surrounded by talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues whose energy, passion, enthusiasm, commitment and belief burn so brightly and who are day-in day-out making a real difference for children and young people and everyday building a better tomorrow for every child and every young person in Leeds.

Thanks to everyone who has made the last eight years, the best eight years of my professional life.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Eight Great Years!

Today, 1st May 2009, I have reached an important milestone in my professional life...

I have been here in Leeds for eight great years. The important thing is the longer I stay the better it gets and surprisingly perhaps the more we are achieving and more importantly the more our children and young people are achieving. Our positive, relentless and persistent approach reaching out and releasing the magic; creating brilliant learning in brilliant learning places serving healthier and more harmonious communities.

We have built a new world of learning in Leeds by nurturing, developing and searching for potential and coaching that talent and potential through self-efficacy, self-esteem and behavioural change programmes. Our energy, passion, enthusiasm, commitment and belief has released a special magic which is contagious.

The more I look, the more I realise that I am surrounded by talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues whose energy, passion, enthusiasm, commitment and belief burn so brightly and who are day-in day-out making a real difference for children and young people and everyday building a better tomorrow for every child and every young person in Leeds.

Thanks to everyone who has made the last eight years, the best eight years of my professional life.
I finished the day at the University of Leeds Volunteering Awards 2009...

I had been asked by the University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur to present the Education Award.The awards have been going for three years and each year I have had the privilidge to present this award to a student who has made a significant difference in one of our schools.

This year the nominees were Will Sadler, who has been working in Hollybush Primary School; Laura Fairfax who has been working at Iveson Primary School; Frances Moore who has been working at Farnley Park Maths and Computing College and Nicola Kober who as been working at Ralph Thoresby High School.

And the winner was Nicola Kober whose project R:Edit with Year 7 in an after school clubinvolved the group editing an unpublished short story for Barrington Stoke, who specialise n producing books for reluctant and struggling readers. Each child involved will be named on the book's inside sleeve and receive a copy of the book.

We also had a 'Hairspray' Dance Performance by children from Spring Bank Primary School which was great and '1 Knife, 1 Life' a brilliant theatre and dance production by young people from City of Leeds School which my colleague Sheila Howarth had produced.

Volunteering at the University of Leeds through 'vinvolved Leeds' is part of the nation's biggest ever youth volunteering programme and aims to provide interesting volunteering opportunities for young people aged 16 to 25 years old.
The project is run in partnership with Learning Partnerships and Children Leeds.

This was another brilliant evening celebrating young people a the University of Leeds who through their volunteering are making a real difference here in Leeds.
My colleague Louise Vardey, our Head of Human Resources, let me know this piece of good news...

"Dear Chris, I'm really pleased to be able to confirm that Education Leeds has been re-accredited with the Investors in People standard for a further 3 years. Coupled with the news that we're 'one to watch' in the Best Companies survey, I think that we have a lot to be proud of, while acknowledging there's still lots of room to improve still further. Best regards, Louise."

Congratulations to everyone involved.
I received this e-mail from my colleague John Ellard, Managing Director of the International Communications Group following his visit to Leeds with a party from Vaxjo...

"Hi Chris, I am writing to let you know just how impressed the Swedish group from Växjö Council were with the professionalism and atmosphere in Leeds schools. They have said to us that they were blown away by the dedication of the staff they met, thought that the experts professionals they had discussions with in the morning sessions were superb representatives of Leeds and overall were left with so many ideas, thoughts and views on how the visit may help them improve education in their city. I am writing to thank you Chris, Jenny Hill, for superb arrangements and planning and the schools, professionals and all those involved. You are all truly outstanding representatives of a great city that is constantly improving and developing.
We look forward to the next visit in October and once again Chris thank you so much on behalf of the group. Best wishes, John"

It was great to be able to host the visit for our colleagues from Vaxjo. You might also want to visit John's blog where he talks about the visit. The blog address is

A message from Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health...

"You will undoubtedly have seen on the news that there have been a number of cases of swine ‘flu in Mexico and other parts of the world over the last week or so. We don’t yet know if this variant of ‘flu will become a pandemic and so our advice is to be vigilant but not to be unduly concerned at the moment. It is always beneficial, however, to maintain good respiratory and hand hygiene.

What measures can I take to protect against infection? General infection control practices and good respiratory hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including the human swine influenza. This includes:

  • Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible
  • Disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully
  • Maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people
  • Cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product
  • Making sure your children follow this advice"

It's what I have always said that the most important thing we can do is to wash our hands regularly!


After lunch, I did a presentation for the Executive Leadership Team from Liverpool...

The political and professional leadership team from Liverpool City Council were here in Leeds to spend the day looking at the best of Leeds. I was asked to talk about school standards, Building Schools for the Future and Healthy Schools but I also talked about Stephen Lawrence, Bluewave Swift, STEPS, Inclusion, The Power of Me, Attendance Champions and Artforms. As always we received rave reviews and I hope that we will be able to follow some of this work up with colleagues in Liverpool to continue our relentless and uncompromising drive to build brilliant learning in brilliant learning places!

Thanks to everyone who helped me put together the presentation and the packs for the Liverpool team to take away.
I started the day at the dentist but after that I went to the West Park Centre for the opening of 'The Store'...

My colleagues Paul Kaiserman and Clare Biggs had asked me to open the event and I was sandwiched between the brilliant 'Silver Sparrows' steel-pans and the incredible 'Bitz' dance group. This is the third 'The Store' event showcasing an incredible range of partners and providers. Partners and providers who are available to work with our schools to develop the entitlement that every child has to the arts here in Leeds. This year there were over 90 offers from music, dance and drama to street art, cheerleading and storytelling. The buzz and magic that was there, wherever you went in the West Park Centre, was fantastic. We are so lucky to be here in Leeds with this range of support to release the magic and the talent in our schools, Children's Centres and community centres.

Picasso said that 'every child is born an artist' and I hope that the outcome of 'The Store' will be that every child gets the opportunity to develop their talent within the arts. Who knows where the future Sylvie Guillem, Adam Cooper, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Bryn Terfel or Kylie Minogue are sitting, but they are out there somewhere. Our job is to ensure that every child sings and dances and acts and plays and creates so that we immerse our young people in a rich and brilliant arts offer, we find our talent and we release their magic.

It makes you proud to be part of something which will have such a brilliant impact on children and young people over the next eighteen months. Congratulations to the Paul, Clare and the Artforms team for pulling off something so spectacular!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

This afternoon I met Stephen Briggs and Gareth Lucas-Howells from Accipio Learning...

Accipio Learning provide live on-line teaching to secondary school students who are unable to attend a mainstream school or are at school but at risk of exclusion. The programme enables young people to access learning and to gain core qualifications. They are working with a large number of hard to reach and hard to teach students in authorities like Hull, Kent, Sunderland and West Sussex.
The materials look very good and I hope that we can explore how Accipio Learning can help us continue to drive up standards and reach those young people currently disengaged from learning wherever they are.
I popped in to the Elmete Centre on the way back to the office...

It was great to see so many colleagues and to catch up on some of the news.
I started the day early at yet another of our brilliant little primary schools...

I was visiting Shadwell Primary School where Sue Pyatt, headteacher, and her team are doing brilliant things and releasing real magic with some wonderful children. OFSTED said it was outstanding and their value-added performance places the school in the top quartile of primary schools nationally. Sue gave me a guided tour of her school and I was also interviewed by two Year 4 children for their school newspaper.

It was a wonderful start to the day.
My colleague Kes Sowerby, the manager at the Hunslet Hawks Learning Centre & Leeds United Learning Zone sent me this wonderful picture from the Leeds United Learning Centre's Celebration Evening just before Easter...

As you can see the place was packed and the real difference Kes and the team are making is there for all to see. It's magic!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

I was delighted that the Association for Physical Education has honoured Dave Geldart, Assistant Headteacher at St Mary's Catholic High School, for his 'outstanding contribution to the physical education profession'...

This picture shows Dave receiving his reward from Baroness Estelle Morris at the Royal Society of Arts. Dave has worked for over 25 years and gained a local, national and international acclaim for his work in physical education and sport.
He is a brilliant ambassador for St mary's and for Leeds.

I started the day at the European launch of PX2, the Pacific Institute's new 14 - 19 programme...

"Dream, dream big and dream early"
It was a session introduced by Neil Straker and Lynne Oliver who is leading the PX2 programme with a key note presentation by Lou Tice, the founder of the Pacific Institute, who never fails to inspire me with his messages. The messages today were:
  • we all need a dream, an inspiration, a goal;
  • we need a burning passion to learn, grow and develop;
  • we need to attach learning to our dreams and goals;
  • we need the freedom to become what we have the potential to be;
  • we need to take responsibility for ourselves and for our futures;
  • we need to find ways to give colleagues, young people, families and communities the tools to help them become extraordinary;

The PX2 materials look really good and we will need to arrange a session for secondary schools to enable them to see what is available especially as it can be accredited as a Level 2 Award through ncfe.

As I have always said the best way to predict the future is to invent it for yourself!


I finished the day having dinner with Lou Tice, Neil Straker and colleagues from the Pacific Institute...

It was great to see Lou and Neil and to be able to catch up before the launch of PX2, the new Pacific Institute 14 - 19 materials here in Leeds today. The materials look fantastic and take the STEPS and IIE messages to a new audience in a really powerful and highly effective way. I'll let you know how the launch goes if you aren't able to be there!
I met up again with the visitors from Vaxjo at the Civic Reception we had arranged at the Civic Hall with the Lord Major and the Lady Mayoress...

They had a wonderful day and were simply amazed at what they saw at Carr Manor and Pudsey Grangefield High Schools. They were looking forward to their visits to New Bewerley and Robin Hood Primary Schools today. The Deputy Director of Education for Vaxjo told the Lord Major that I had told them that Leeds was brilliant and now they all new that it was true!

It is simply wonderful to get this sort of feedback about what we are doing here in Leeds and the recognition that we are building world class provision for our children and young people. Brilliant learning in brilliant learning places a serving vibrant and successful communities is not a dream it is alive and well here in Leeds.
I started the day yesterday with a group of Swedish visitors from Vaxjo (pronounced vecshow) at the Old School Board building...

We were doing a two day programme for the group which involved presentations on Learning in Leeds, Stephen Lawrence, Building Schools for the Future, 14 - 19 provision, Healthy Schools, Inclusion and leadership development. The group were also due to visit Carr Manor and Pudsey Grangefield High Schools and New Bewerley and Robin Hood Primary Schools.

It was wonderful to once again be able to celebrate with a group of Swedish educationalists the best of Leeds.
I received this e-mail from my colleague Tony Grayson who wanted me to know about the work a colleague was doing...

"Dear Chris, I expect you get more grumbling e-mails than ones of praise, but here's one of commendation regarding a member of your staff - Angela Cox. At the request of Angela, I have been acting as an additional governor for Allerton Bywater Primary since it went into special measures and the school is making great progress and should soon be satisfactory, moving onto good and before long outstanding. Angela sent me a card yesterday to say thank you for the extra time and effort that I have given the school and do you know it made my day. So often we just get on with the task as governors without any expectation of thanks and when we receive some lovely comments out of the blue it really does boost one's sense of having done a worthwhile job. As you must know, Angela is a such a nice person and I thought I would let you know how behind the scenes she works so hard at keeping up the moral of Ed. Leeds' volunteer army of governors. Regards, Tony."

Angela is a wonderful colleague and it is great to be told about the small acts of kindness colleagues do on a daily basis to thank, congratulate, reward and simply acknowledge the work people are doing in Leeds to release the magic. If everyone did it, the world would be a much happier and a much better place!

Monday, 27 April 2009

My colleague Chris Walsh, headteacher at Boston Spa School sent me this piece of brilliant news...

"Dear Chris, As a successful Sports College we have been invited to take a lead in a £9 million investment program that is designed to support sporting projects initially in five developing countries around the world. This is the 'International Inspiration' programme which will deliver on the LOCOG promise made to the IOC in Singapore that they would engage and inspire the youth of the world through sport. We have been asked to lead 'International Inspiration' for Bangladesh. The other pilot programmes are taking place in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Palau and Zambia and project work has already started in each of these countries, and we are beginning the work in Asia, with each project representing one of the Olympic rings. The programme is being led by UK Sport, UNICEF, the British Council, the FA Premier League and the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

'International Inspiration' intends to use what we have learnt, as a Sports College, about sports development to transform the lives of millions of children and young people in schools and communities in countries across the world. It will seek not only to help deliver the ambitions on a world wide Olympic legacy but also to lay the foundations for a long term international legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Para Olympic Games. The programme will look to create opportunities for children and young people of all abilities from the most disadvantaged communities in the world to enrich their lives by playing and excelling in sport.

The programme aims include ensuring that any work done is sustainable and will have a lasting benefit across the communities it embraces. Each pilot country will benefit from a number of mutually agreed programmes across the following three strands:
• physical education in schools and school links
• sport development and sporting excellence,
• human and social development through sport
'International Inspiration' will also have a strong link back into the UK through our school links, providing opportunities for us to raise awareness of the issues faced in the developing world.

We consider it a privilege to be asked to undertake this work, not only does it represents the cornerstone of the Olympic legacy, but it will create such brilliant opportunities for young people in both countries. Part of the success of the 2012 bid was the promise that London would inspire children across the world and 'international Inspirations' is LOCOG's key strategy towards fulfilling that ambition. Lord Coe, Chairman of LOCOG, said of 'international Inspiration',

"Our vision is to use the power of the games to inspire change - and changing the lives of young people in particular is the driving force behind our plans. As part of our pledge to the IOC in Singapore, we committed to inspire young people around the world to choose sport. This is a tangible example of how we are delivering on this promise and using the power and magic of sport to change the lives of young people around the world - and leave a lasting international legacy."


It is wonderful that Boston Spa has been selected to lead on 'International Inspiration' for Bangladesh and a real compliment to Chris and his talented team.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

While I worked through a sea of e-mails, letters and documents, I attended a series of meetings with councillors, Education Leeds' board, corporate leadership team, the Leeds Skills Board and this month's council meeting. I also had breakfast with an amazing group of headteacher colleagues from the West Leeds family of schools and spent Friday with a brilliant group of colleagues from our leadership forum. I also managed to get into a school when Susannah Todd, deputy director for children's centres and extended services at the DCSF, visited Leeds.

Rosemary Archer and I visited Ebor Gardens Primary School to talk to Susannah at the start of her day here in the city. Susannah was deeply impressed by her visit which included Ebor Gardens Primary School, the new SHINE Centre in Harehills, and Brigshaw High School and Language College. She met headteachers, parent support advisers, higher level teaching assistants, parents and carers, and young people who talked passionately about the work we are doing to build brilliant learning in brilliant learning places serving healthy, harmonious and vibrant communities.

We all know that children's centres and extended services are key elements of the increasingly universal offer we are making to those vulnerable children and families who need us most and it was great to see our achievements through Susannah's eyes.

Keep up the brilliant work!
So much of what we do is exceptional but that doesn't mean that we always know best or always get it right. Over the weekend I read through the feedback and the comments colleagues had made on the 'Best Companies' survey where we were identified as 'One to Watch'...

The survey asked colleagues to rate us on eight aspects; leadership , my company, my manager, my team, personal growth, fair deal, well-being and giving something back. It was great to read the positive and the negative comments particularly about the leadership of Education Leeds. Colleagues in personnel will be visiting teams to share the feedback and to help develop strategies to respond to people's concerns.

I am really grateful for the positive and negative feedback you have given us through this survey. I love the positives but as I have said many times if things go wrong, we foul up or we are driving you up the wall I want you to tell me. Please, don't just moan to other people, just grumble with your colleagues or just accept second-rate. If I, or we, get it wrong tell me and more importantly help me by telling me how we can do better.

You can contact me, anonymously, on my blog, send me an e-mail or even write to me. We all want to continue to improve and develop everything we do and your feedback will help.