Thursday, 6 May 2010

What makes a great primary school?

I visited Queensway Primary School this morning...

I was feeling down so I popped in to see Gail Palmer-Smeaton and her wonderful team for a quick cup of coffee. Last time I visited the school Gail was is in the middle of building work as the new children's centre was being built. The building now looks fantastic and Gail and the team were their usual high octane selves and are releasing a very special kind of magic. I talked to Gail about the future, children's services and the Key Stage 2 SATS and I also got the chance to briefly walk around the school to see things in action.

The 'can do' culture is everywhere reinforcing that this is the most important thing we do here in Leeds; educating the future and recognising it's incredible potential! The key is to ensure that everyone is happy, healthy, safe and then focusing on them being increasingly successful... the children, the learning team and the parents and carers. This is a wonderful school with a great team led by an inspirational headteacher who together have built something really special at Queensway Primary School .

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I visited Chapel Allerton Primary School this afternoon...

I had been invited by Fran Hall to visit the school to look at the work she was doing with 'Every Child Counts'. This intensive programme is achieving some extra-ordinary results and Fran allowed me to sit in and watch one of her sessions. Through this work children are making huge gains and becoming more confident about number. It is also important that the improved outcomes appear to last after the twelve week programme. We need to continue to release the magic and reach more children through wonderful interventions like 'Every Child Counts' and 'Every Child a Reader' building on Fran's passion, commitment and enthusiasm for maths and her belief that every child can succeed. I also had the opportunity to look around the school with Nicholas Sykes, headteacher, and meet some of his colleagues and some of his wonderful children. Whenever I visit a school I ask myself the same question... what makes this school, Chapel Allerton Primary School, successful?
  • a talented and developing learning team;
  • a clear and developing vision driving the work of the school;
  • some strong and highly effective teaching;
  • positive relationships and high expectations; and
  • some talented and wonderful young people!

The school has enormous potential and Nicholas and his learning team are clearly making a real difference through brilliant initiatives like 'Every Child Counts'. They have created an attractive and stimulating learning environment for the children, supported by an effective extended services programme working at the heart of this diverse, rich and multicultural community.


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The time is simply flying by and we are heading for an interesting couple of weeks as we run up to half-term with the elections, the KS2 SATs and the ongoing programme to develop the new children's services arrangements. Blink once and it will be the Summer holidays, blink twice and we will be at the start of a new term. This has been another week where trust, respect, equality, inclusion and our constant search for excellence has shone through despite the challenges we are all facing...

I started the week with Chris Halsall and her colleagues at our primary school improvement partners professional development day at Weetwood Hall. It was great to be able to talk to these colleagues about the opportunities and the challenges we face with building outstanding children's services here in Leeds. I finished the day at the supplementary schools celebration at Weetwood Hall. The event was to recognise the fantastic achievements of the supplementary schools in Leeds who had gained the Quality Framework Awards. Wesley Wu, our supplementary education coordinator who has led this important aspect of our work, told us all that we were the most successful area in the Yorkshire and Humber region with over twenty supplementary schools in the Leeds area achieving these important awards. On Wednesday, I had breakfast with colleagues from the Templenewsam Halton family of schools where we considered: the Key Stage 2 SATs boycott; the new children's services arrangements; 21st Century Schools; special needs and behaviour provision; early years; and extended services, and talked about the characteristics of brilliant provision. On Thursday, I attended the first meeting of the statutory Children Leeds trust board which will play a vital role in shaping provision for children and young people here in Leeds, and deciding on our shared priorities so that we can target our collective energies and resources to make a real difference. I moved on to chair the community safety launch of the Department of Health toolkit 'Improving Safety, Reducing Harm'. The event brought together colleagues from agencies across the city who are working with girls and young women with a particular focus on how together we can improve their safety and reduce harm. I moved on again to the South Seacroft community cohesion event 'Get Up, Get Out, Take Action' at Parklands Primary School. The school was packed with children, parents and carers, staff and partners who were attending this brilliant celebration managed by Viv Gibbons, cluster activities manager for the Seacroft Manston family of schools. They were also holding a volunteer awards ceremony and I had been asked to present awards to children, parents and carers, groups and individuals who were working to make a difference here in Seacroft. I finished the day at the 'Leeds for Life' Citizenship Awards at the University of Leeds. There are over 2000 students volunteering at the University of Leeds who run and support local, regional, national and international projects which were showcased during this wonderful evening with some extraordinary young people. I was there to present the 'Education Award' and the winner was Katherine Hamilton who is hoping to become a primary teacher following her experience at Hollybush Primary School.

This week has been brought alive by some extraordinary people, provision and places: Chris Halsall and her school improvement partner colleagues; Wesley Wu and colleagues from the supplementary schools; headteacher colleagues from the Templenewsam family of schools; colleagues at the community safety launch; and Viv Gibbons, Cath Hindmarch and colleagues at the South Seacroft community cohesion event. Wherever I have been this week has reinforced the fact that we need to powerfully connect together the team around the school, the team around the child and the team around the family to ensure that every child in Leeds is happy, healthy, safe and successful.

We need to continue to focus our energies and efforts on the things that really make a difference and eradicate the irrelevant, the obsolete and the things that simply get in the way. Together, we must work to release the potential and magic in all our children, in all our colleagues and in all our communities... whatever it takes! We need to think local and think about how we streamline our work to create beautiful systems around our brilliant learning places. Beautiful systems that reinforce and support a culture based on trust, respect, equality, inclusion and excellence.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

On Thursday, at the South Seacroft Community Event, I met Donna Sayce, who is Education Officer at the Dogs Trust here in Leeds...

Donna talked to me about the work that the Dogs Trust do and wanted me to help her by promoting their FREE workshops. The Dogs Trust provides a range of themed workshops delivered by their education team. The workshops provide curriculum links to literacy, numeracy, citizenship and PSHE and a range of activities that provide real opportunities to develop responsibility, self-esteem, respect, confidence and teamwork. The workshops are aimed at primary aged children and focus around responsible dog ownership. The Dogs Trust believes that by educating children we can make a huge impact on animal welfare, communities, environments and reduce anti-social behaviour often associated with dogs.

Donna told me that the workshops are very interactive and fun as they include her two Jack Russell terriers, Dennis and Maisy! You can contact Donna by e-mail at or by phone on 0113 2814938. If you want to find out more you can visit their website at where there are also free resources you can download.