Friday, 3 July 2009

I was given a brilliant book today at the National Sustainable Schools Conference...

'Teach Your Granny to Text & Other Ways to Change the World', by Tanis Taylor and 4,386 children, more or less, is a 'We Are What We Do' publication and it's simply brilliant. This is the latest book in the series which includes 'Change the World for a Fiver' and 'Change the World 9 to 5'.

'We Are What We Do' are a global social change movement that believe that ordinary people like you and me can change the world for the better. That simple ordinary actions can create big change. For those of you into maths the formula is small actions x lots of people = big change.

The book has thirty small actions and my favourites are:
  • make someone smile;
  • grow something and eat it;
  • stand up for something;
  • switch things off when you leave the room;
  • love where you live;
  • play;
  • give lots of compliments;
  • don't worry if you make a mistake;
  • involve everyone.
Everyone should buy a copy of this book and give it to a child who could then help us change the world for the better. I've bought three and I am trying to find children to give them to. If you want to find out more about 'We Are What We Do', you can visit their website at
I moved on to join colleagues at Weetwood Hall...

They were there for the Leadership Forum which was looking at partnership working which is one of the most important aspects of our work with schools going forward into a 21st Century Schools world.
I started the day at the National Sustainable Schools Conference at Skelton Grange Environmental Centre...

I had been asked to welcome colleagues from across the region to this important event supported by DCSF, SEEd, WWF and DEA and to talk about the brilliant work Steve Ruse and colleagues in schools are doing here in Leeds to develop and support sustainable schools. It was great to visit Skelton Grange Environmental Centre again, which is a little jewel hidden away in South Leeds, and to meet some great colleagues who are equally passionate about the work we are doing in this vitally important area.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Nicola Megson, Deputy Editor at the Yorkshire Evening Post sent me this e-mail...

"Dear Chris, I wanted to let you know that the YEP is setting up a Reader Panel. We want to find out as much as we can about what people like - and don't like - about the YEP as a paper and as a website. In the longer term, as we find out more about people's interests, we hope to communicate even more efficiently with them regarding specific stories and subjects. I think you'll agree that any opportunity to increase the dialogue we have with our readers has to be a good thing. The key is getting as many people as possible to join - and I'm hoping that you will sign up and also help push the message to as many people as possible. The bigger the numbers, the more effective the panel. You'll find the details of how to sign up in the pages of the YEP today and on the website Your help in spreading the message to your own associates, friends, colleagues and contacts would be much appreciated. Best wishes, Nicola."

I read the YEP everyday and I have signed up to help Nicola and her colleagues improve and develop the paper and the website. I hope that other colleagues will also join me.
I finished the day at Moor Allerton Hall Primary School...

The Million Green Fingers teams from Yorkshire Water had supported Liz Rushton, science and sustainability co-ordinator at the school, in tranforming their tired and overgrown wildlife garden into a truly wonderful teaching resource. In partnership with Laing Rourke, who provided excavation services and structures and CP Gill who provided wood chippings and timber the Yorkshire Water team have drawn on their skills and passion for gardening to provide a pathway trail, willow tunnel, bench and seating, a huge insect hotel, a hedgehog shelter, bird boxes and many shrubs and trees to attract a great variety of minibeasts... and it's fantastic!

We are so lucky having passionate, enthusiastic and brilliant colleagues like Liz transforming our schools and with her partners and supporters building such a wonderful teaching and learning resource for her children. At the official opening by Cllr Richard Harker we ate sandwiches made from salad vegetables and smoothies made with strawberries and raspberries the children had grown on their allotment.

I passionately believe that every school in Leeds should be developing facilities like these and creating gardens, allotments and habitats where children can grow and learn and become little eco-warriors helping us all re-use, re-cycle, re-new.
I moved on to Oakwood Primary School...

Another brilliant school doing great things in East Leeds under Becky Ingram's intelligent and very focused leadership. It was great to be able to talk to Becky and to walk around the school to meet some of her colleagues and some of her wonderful children. It was great to visit the Foundation Stage which is outstanding and draws on the work in Reggio Emilia. The talented team there were running a session for colleagues across the city showcasing their quite brilliant work.
I started the day at the RM Conference...

The 'Celebrating Success' Conference at the Queen's Hotel was a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of our best ICT and e-learning practice. The morning was focused on Foundation, Key Stage 1 and 2 while the afternoon looked at Key Stage 3 and 4 and Post 16. Two of the key note speakers at the event were Carol Allen, SEN Consultant and Claire Garside, Educational Consultant while Dirk Gilleard and I talked about the Leeds vision and Evolve, our menu of services, ideas and learning to support and guide schools in the effective use of technologies for learning.

The highlights of the two sessions were the brilliant presentations by Stephen Heppell who talked about the race for new learning across the UK and across the world. These wonderfully inspiring sessions were complemented in the morning by showcase sessions by colleagues and young people from Farsley Farfield Primary School, Alwoodley Primary School, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Primary School, St Anthony's CE Primary School, Hugh Gaitskell Primary School, Windmill Primary School, colleagues from the South Leeds CLC and our National Strategies team. And in the afternoon by sessions by colleagues and students from Allerton High Business and Enterprise Specialist School, Ralph Thoresby High School, City of Leeds School, Mount St Mary's Catholic High School and Creative Arts and Media Diploma students.

It was an amazing day celebrating our unique and powerful partnership with RM.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

And finally for today, I attended the Leeds 2012 Olympics Project Board...

It was great to hear about the work happening across the city to prepare for the London Olympics and the benefits the games will bring to Yorkshire. The opportunities for international teams to use facilities here in Leeds are being explored with Serbia, United States, Holland, China, India, Jamaica and Bangladesh; focused in areas like diving, equestrianism and more general provision. We are also talking to Paralympics GB who are exploring where they will base their whole team.

It was great to be able to talk about the wonderful work developing with 'Spirit Alive' in around 70 schools across the city where children organise and manage their own mini-olympics. I was also able to mention the work Boston Spa School and Sports College is leading with West Oaks SILC through the "International Inspirations" 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. The programme is being led by UK Sport, UNICEF, the British Council, the FA Premier League and the Department for Culture Media and Sport and Boston Spa and West Oaks are leading the 'International Inspiration' for Bangladesh.

Tempo Newsam - we think … we do!

I have just been interviewed by some wonderful young people from Templenewsam Halton Primary School...
The children are taking to the airways at East Leeds FM and were interviewing me for their show. Templenewsam Halton Primary School is a great school and these young people were brilliant ambassadors for the school. East Leeds FM and the children from Temple Newsam Halton Primary School will be broadcasting on Thursday.

There will be a series of programmes during the day:

  • 9am .... Sowing the Seeds: Gardening tips and an introduction to the day’s broadcasting

  • 10am .... On the Beat: Chatting with local PC Peatfield and an introduction to the School Council

  • 11.15am .... Top of the Class: What we think of our school and interviews with Mrs Mannion - Chair of Governors - and one of our old teachers - Mr Cooney

  • 12pm .... Caravan of Love: a tribute to Michael Jackson from the Caravan of Love on the field… Moonwalking anyone?

  • 1.15pm .... Making Moves: As our Year 6s prepare to move we talk to some students from Temple Moor… and Mr C prepares for his own journey…

  • 2.30pm .... Who do we think we are …. Reports from the recent multicultural week at Templenewsam Halton (and a special feature on cycle-training and road safety.

Tomorrow, I'll be listening to the radio stars of the future.

I moved on to another Induction Session for Education Leeds colleagues at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the A Team... the best education team anywhere! I shouldn't really be surprised because this is the group who have just signed up and should be totally committed, totally engaged and not at all cynical about the future... or why join us? These colleagues bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience and they certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams. Our job is to continue to develop the leadership and culture that will release their potential, their magic, their passion and target their hard work to make a real difference for our children and young people.

Colleagues today asked why the blog is so overwhelmingly positive. It is important to state once again that things are incredibly positive in our world if you are bothered to look for the magic!. I always think it is strange to think about the potential we have here in Leeds to change the world if only we could get everyone to believe... to believe passionately in themselves and understand that they really are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful. What couldn't we do if we put our minds to it?
I started the day early at Bramley St Peter's CE Primary School where Cath Harbrow, the headteacher, and her team are doing great things...

I was there to see an 'Every Child a Reader' session taught by Pam Galley. John Shute is leading this brilliantly effective programme here in Leeds. I also met Helen Rumsby who is leading the 'Every Child Counts' programme which is having equally impressive results with mathematics. Cath had arranged for me to attend their music assembly which celebrated the children's singing and playing led by the amazing Betsy Whiting. I also had the opportunity to walk around the school with Cath and to meet some of her colleagues who are obviously doing something wonderful to release such magic from the children at St Peter's.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The research is deeply depressing around how happy, healthy and safe our children are...

"Good mental health isn't something you have, but something you do.
To be mentally healthy you must value and accept yourself"


I was reading a report on mental health and it suggests that one million British children, one in ten between the ages of 5 and 16, are estimated to have mental illnesses. In any secondary school with 1000 students, 50 will be severely depressed, 100 will be distressed, 10 - 20 will be suffering with obsessive-compulsive disorder and 5 - 10 girls will have an eating disorder. The Good Childhood Inquiry in 2008 commissioned by the Children 's Society reported increasing numbers of young people with mental health problems with over a quarter regularly feeling depressed, mainly as a result of family problems and peer pressure.

Anyone who thinks that in our schools we simply deal with the standards agenda is living in cloud cuckoo land!
Ed Balls, Secretary of State, today published the 21st Century Schools White Paper...

The White Paper is based on:
  • new guarantees for pupils and parents;

  • a significant devolution of power and responsibility to school leaders, matched by strengthened school accountability;

  • an uncompromising approach to school improvement.

The Pupil Guarantee

  • all young people get a broad and balanced curriculum and high quality qualifications, whether their strengths are practical, academic or both;
  • every secondary pupil has a personal tutor;
  • all pupils get 5 hours of PE and sport every week and access to cultural activities too;
  • gifted and talented pupils get written confirmation of the extra challenge and support they will receive;
  • all pupils with additional needs get extra help, with 4,000 extra dyslexia teachers;
  • all pupils in Years 3 to 6 falling behind in English or maths get one-to-one tuition to help them get back on track;
  • extend the offer of one to one or small group tuition to all pupils at the start of secondary school who were behind at the end of primary school.
  • following the report of the expert group on assessment, introduce a new progress check at the end of Year 7 so parents can be confident their children have made up the lost ground.

Parents Guarantee

  • regular online information about their child’s progress, behaviour and attendance;
  • access to their child’s personal tutor;
  • fair school admissions in line with the Admissions Code;
  • that parents’ views will be listened to and reported on the School Report Card so parents know what other parents think when choosing a school;
  • and where parents are unhappy with the choice of schools on offer to them, based on an annual survey of parents, local authorities will have to listen and respond to their concerns.

Home-School Agreements

  • all pupils and parents will accept the school’s rules when they apply for a school place and expected to sign up to renew their commitment every year;
  • schools will have stronger powers to enforce discipline through intensive support, parenting contracts and parenting orders;
  • parents will have the right to complain and expect action if schools fail to act to enforce the Home School Agreement.

Strong Leadership

  • The National Strategies’ literacy and numeracy hours will continue in all schools, with Ofsted continuing to inspect them as now;
  • Devolve power and funding to school leaders to decide, with ring-fenced funding, what support they need to further drive up standards.
  • Ensure that schools can get the support they need from other services through Children’s Trust Boards and encourage multi-agency teams based in schools.
  • Building on the success of the National Leaders in Education and Academies programmes, the best head teachers will be able to run more than one school – with better pay for Executive Heads.
  • High performing schools, colleges and universities will be accredited to run chains of schools in not-for-profit Accredited Schools Groups – with the first providers up and running by January.

Strengthened Accountability

The new School Report Card will include full information on school attainment, but will go well beyond it. It will set out clearly for parents:

  • how the school is improving standards;
  • how well it is helping those pupils who have fallen behind to catch up, and stretching the most able;
  • it will report on discipline, attendance, sport, healthy eating and partnership working;
  • it will set out what parents and pupils think of the school.
Pilots of the School Report Card will begin this September and will include a single, overall grade.

The Workforce

  • A world-class schools system needs a world-class workforce, we are making teaching a Masters-level profession and a new ‘licence to teach’ will be introduced similar to that used by other high-status professionals like doctors and lawyers and they will be given a new entitlement for continued professional development.
  • Governing bodies will become slimmer, more highly-skilled and all Chairs will be required to undergo specific new training.
We certainly live in interesting times!
I started the afternoon at the Aireborough Family of Schools Portfolio Celebration Event at the Civic Hall...

It is really encouraging to see the schools in Aireborough working together to achieve the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard. We all need to continue to develop respect, tolerance and understanding and to tackle racism, bullying and anti-social behaviour.

The afternoon started with an introduction by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Judith Elliott, and involved music and performances by young people from Benton Park School, Tranmere Park Primary school, Queensway Primary School and Children's centre, Aireborough Youth Council and Rawdon St Peters CE Primary School. And finally all the young people sang 'World in Unison' which showed us all that the young people from these thirteen great schools are brilliant ambassadors and advocates for all the things that really matter.

The Leeds TreeAthlon 2009

Councillor John Procter, Executive Member for Leisure, sent me this e-mail...

"The third Leeds TreeAthlon will be held at Temple Newsam Park on Sunday 27th September this year. It would be fantastic if you could get involved in the event in some way this year - by either participating in the 5k run, or by sponsoring somebody who is taking part. The event last year grew to 500 runners from the 200 in 2007, and as a result of the efforts of these people over the last two years, Leeds has received almost £60,000 worth of funds for trees and has planted 17,000 trees. Can you imagine the difference this has made to our environment ? Trees alleviate the effects of pollution and flooding and also help reduce temperatures particularly in city centres. In terms of reducing carbon footprints and putting something back into the environment, there is nothing better than planting trees.

So please, log onto and see how you can help by participating in this years event. If you can't participate then see how you can help the Trees for Cities charity by making a regular donation to them - you can visit their website Manchester held their first TreeAthlon last year and managed to get 500 runners! We must make our third TreeAthlon extra special with 1000 runners so please start joining up! Best wishes, JOHN."

This is an amazing event and enables us to hit two of our biggest issues at the same time; increasing activity and tackling obesity and helping the environment. I hope every school in Leeds will take part alongside colleagues from Education Leeds and ensure that the event is a brilliant success.

Anything Manchester can do we can do better!


Monday, 29 June 2009

We must always remember that we are doing amazing things here in Leeds...

We need to continue to build BRILLIANT learning in BRILLIANT learning places in every locality with strong community engagement and powerful and modern governance. We need to build deep learning in all our learning places; deep learning that equips all our little learners with the functional, personal and social skills they need to become successful bigger learners in a world that is increasingly automated, and where the routine, the repetitive and the ordinary are done by machine. We need to powerfully use ICT and local networks to develop and nurture excellence, talent, creativity and imagination and share good practice and great ideas, wherever we can find them.

Last week, I started the week at the heads of PE conference at the Carnegie Stadium in Headingley with some great colleagues who are achieving some incredible outcomes. I attended the BSF wave 13 conference at the Leeds Metropolitan University Rosebowl where we talked about how we can continue to transform the learning estate here in Leeds. I attended the regional showcase and celebration event at the Holiday Inn at Garforth where Mike Cooper and his colleagues were celebrating some outstanding social enterprise activities from across Yorkshire and the Humber. I attended another STEPS celebration to hand out certificates to parents of students at Morley High School. I also managed to visit three of our primary schools where colleagues are doing great things: Wetherby St James Church of England Primary School, Hill Top Primary School and Hugh Gaitskell Primary School where I officially opened their wonderful new garden and playground. I attended the Leeds Initiative Assembly at the Leeds City Museum to look at the opportunities and challenges facing Leeds over the next twenty years. I had breakfast with an amazing group of headteacher colleagues from the Seacroft and Manston family of schools at Crossgates Primary School and I also attended the Gypsy Roma Traveller 'Storytelling and Achievement Awards' at the Civic Hall where we celebrated some wonderful young people. I finally visited the Blenheim centre to thank Teresa Chamberlain for her wonderful service over the last twenty five years.

It seems to me after such an incredible week, with some amazing colleagues like Vicki Di Stasi, Mike Cooper, Peter Saunders, Duncan Grant, Margaret Beesley, Duncan Walsh and Teresa Chamberlain, that successful organisations, successful schools and successful teams, all have the following characteristics...
  • vision, values and a sense of purpose which shapes the way colleagues behave and helps everyone know they are making a difference;
  • the courage to set challenging goals and to develop new and cutting-edge solutions;
  • an innovative and creative culture that values people and makes them feel special and that trusts, empowers and engages colleagues' distinct and unique talents;
  • a rigorous and relentless approach to evaluating performance and individuals’ contributions;
  • a passionate concern for young people, families, the wider community and the bigger picture; and
  • a reputation for excellence, hard work and commitment.

Tom Peters said... "Leadership is the process of engaging people in building the future, creating a legacy of excellence and making a difference"... so what difference are you making for the young people, the families and the communities that we serve and that need us most?

I received this e-mail today from my colleague Dorothy Smith, Director of School Improvement...

"Dear Chris, I attended the Schools Linking Celebration on Wednesday at the Civic Hall. I wanted to let you know about the amazing work that was presented by the 21 schools and SILCs represented. The pupils spoke confidently of the impact that meeting and making new friends from different cultures had on them. Val Forster and Pauline Rosenthal have done a really great job getting this off the ground and more schools are to be involved in next year. I have a copy of some writing by Alex age 15 from West SILC which talks about his feelings having been aprt of the programme which is particularly moving which I will share with you when I see you. Best wishes, Dorothy."

Another great event celebrating equality, culture and difference.
I moved on this afternoon to the 5th Birthday Party for the Ireland Wood Children's Centre...

Ireland Wood Children's Centre is the only Children's Centre in Leeds run by a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. The Centre achieved Children's Centre status in 2006 and was officially opened by the Lord Mayor in July 2006. However, the centre has been providing childcare and family support since June 2004 when they were known as Little Acorns and were based at Ralph Thoresby High School.

It was great to visit and see the brilliant work that Linda Parkin, the Centre Manager, and her team are doing working alongside Ian Blackburn and his great team at Ireland Wood Primary School. The birthday party was also attended by Greg Mulholland MP and we were treated to an 'Old MacDonald had a Farm' sing and sign session by the children. Brilliant!
I know that I am not the only one having sleepless nights about the explosion in the early years population but according to the latest figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families overall the number of children and young people continues to fall in our schools...

I find it hard to believe but the figures suggest that between 2005 and 2009, primary schools lost about 130,000 children, or a reduction of about 3%. In secondary schools, the decline has been nearly 110,000, concentrated in the 11-16 age group with numbers in sixth forms actually increasing by about 35,000. Interestingly, the number of children being educated in special schools remained constant at about 84,500; falling slightly over the period before rising again over the past two years.

The number of young people in our secondary schools is projected to fall further as the current small age cohorts move through from the primary schools. However the number of under-5s has increased by about 40,000 in the past five years, and, according to the Office for National Statistics, the current record birth rate means this rise is set to continue into the foreseeable future.

Makes planning for the future really interesting.
I know that we should constantly be raising the bar and searching for even better outcomes in better schools but I wonder if the new OFSTED Framework is the answer...

Christine Gilbert, HMCI, has said that things are going to be tougher from September. Schools with 'poor raw data' and where progress is not good or better and there is 'little evidence' of improvement will automatically be placed in a category. From September to get an 'outstanding' judgement from our friends at OFSTED attainment must be at least 'above average'.

It seems bizarre that except in the most exceptional circumstances schools where attainment is low will not be able to get a good inspection outcome. There are exceptional schools here in Leeds where attainment is low but perhaps I am missing something!
I started the day early at Carr Manor High School...

I was there to see Simon Flowers, headteacher, to catch up on the progress the school is making, the challenges we all face and how we look at a twenty year vision for 21st Century Schools here in Leeds. It's always great to spend time at Carr Manor High School and this morning was no different.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

We are on the edge of a radical and important transformation but one that may be lost unless we are very careful...

More than ever we need schools to connect more powerfully with young people, their families and the communities they serve. The research suggests that a great school can achieve great things but it's impact on a child's life only amounts to around 12-15% of the child's success. A great family and a great mum has a massively more important and influential role accounting for up to 30% of a child's success. And surprisingly a great community, an aspirational community, also matters hugely to a child's success. Sadly, while it helps, going to a great school is not the only answer to the problems we face and we must recognise that the answers to the real challenges we all face in raising standards and achieving world class outcomes for our children lie in tackling poverty, deprivation and poor parenting and in building equality and equity at the heart of everything we do.

Happy to discuss.
I nearly forgot this piece of good news...

Pudsey Grangefield school was highly commended at the national British Council for School Environments awards last Wednesday evening. The state-of-the-art school, built as part of the Leeds Building Schools for the Future programme, opened in September 2008 to high praise from students, staff and the local community. The school was nominated in the ‘Inspiring Design’ category at the BCSE Awards which took place at The Emirate’s Stadium in London.

If you haven't visited the school, it combines a range of learning spaces with state-of-the art ICT equipment. It is loosely faculty based with innovative open learning areas, break-out spaces and show-and-tell rooms which provide informal briefing, discussion and presentation areas where students can learn in a relaxed atmosphere. The building has a minimal amount of corridors to ensure it is as open and welcoming as possible while the central ‘street’ and general teaching areas are linked by a three-floor hub of ICT facilities, library and resource areas.

The school design reflects Ken Cornforth personal vision for personalised learning and working with colleagues and his students Ken has designed the school to reflect that vision. The flexible classrooms are equipped with Promethean ActivBoards and wireless learning is available across the school to encourage young people to take control of their learning and develop their skills as much as possible.

Ty Goddard, chief executive of the BCSE, said: “The quality of entries led to intense debate amongst the judges, which is how it should be. Pudsey Grangefield School shows that the right resources and approach can produce great projects which we can be proud of. Our thanks go to everyone involved for being willing to invest their time and energy in a project which ensures pupils and teachers have such an inspirational centre to learn, play and teach in.”

Ken Cornforth and his colleagues have created something really impressive at Pudsey Grangefield and they are building brilliant learning in this brilliant learning place.