Friday, 21 May 2010

And then this afternoon I met Mollie who reminded me why I do this crazy job...

I met Mollie and her dad when I attended the Official Opening of the 'Learning Zone' at the Leeds Children's Hospital. It was wonderful to be there this afternoon, to meet Mollie and to receive the 'Learning Zone' wall plaque from Christa Ackroyd and Harry Gration from BBC Look North who officially opened the 'Learning Zone' for us.

Over the last nine years here in Leeds, we have transformed education and learning in the city. In our primary schools, our secondary schools and our SILCs, our special schools, we are delivering brilliant learning in brilliant learning places to ensure that our children and young people are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful… whatever it takes… and the 'Learning Zone' is more of what it takes!

Working with Maggie Boyle, the Chief Executive, and her colleagues in the Leeds Hospital Trust, together we have created this fantastic 'Learning Zone'. The 'Learning Zone' reflects our passion, commitment and determination to make a real difference for every child and every young person… even when they are in hospital like Mollie. The Hospital and Home Teaching Service working through the 'Learning Zone' is another of our bits of brilliant here in Leeds and we are blessed as parents and carers to have such outstanding provision delivered here by Penny Woodhead and her talented team of teachers, Higher Level Teaching Assistants and Learning Mentors. It is also a great privilege to be working with Diane Reynard the Principal of the East SILC which manages and delivers the Hospital and Home Teaching Service. Diane's inspiration and leadership has shaped and secured some extra-ordinary provision for this group of our most special children and young people. And by the way it was Mollie who told Harry, Christa and I that the Learning Zone was simply brilliant and it was our fruiends from OFSTED who said the Hospital and Home Teaching Service was outstanding!

We are grateful to Christa and Harry for their time today and for their support over the years, which has been tremendous. Thank you to Maggie and her colleagues in the Trust for everything they do and their shared commitment to the 'Learning Zone'. My personal thanks and congratulations go to Diane, Penny and the team from the East SILC who are continuing to release the magic, the potential and the WOW factor for every child and every young person whose lives they touch in the children’s hospital.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

I moved on again to meet with the Heads of Service from our Learning Environments and Planning team...

They are a great group of colleagues whose work in so many areas has transformed the learning landscape here in Leeds. Their passion, commitment, enthusiasm and hard work connects with so much that is brilliant about Education Leeds and learning in Leeds. We talked about the opportunities and the challenges that lie ahead as we continue our relentless and uncompromising focus on improving outcomes for children and young people. Everyone agrees that whatever the future holds we must ensure that all our young people in Leeds are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes! We must continue to work to improve, develop and re-imagine our learning places at the heart of their communities working with powerful communities to release potential and magic. And together with our partners we must concentrate our energy and efforts where the needs are greatest and target and commission additional work to address the wicked issues of child poverty, low aspiration, poor parenting, teenage pregnancy, young people who are NEET and poor outcomes at 19.
I moved on to the Official Opening of Pudsey Grangefield Maths and Computing College...

It was great to see the school again and to listen to James Allen and Matthew Popple, two Post-16 students, talking about their Millenium Development Goals project and showing a powerful DVD about the challenges we face with giving every child an education. I talked about brilliant learning in brilliant learning places and what we have achieved through Building Schools for the Future here in Leeds and in particular at Pudsey Grangefield. Our vision for our school buildings is that impressive school buildings are important but that this has to be the backdrop for a clear shared vision, powerful leadership, a culture of success, outstanding teaching and learning and a 'Think Team' approach that brings the building alive and helps release the potential and the magic in our young people. Ken Cornforth, the headteacher, talked about the journey the school had been on and what they had achieved with the support of colleagues from Education Leeds, Leeds City Council, the LEP, Interserve, Environments for Learning, RM, Partnerships for Schools and the community. The Lord Mayor, Cllr Judith Elliott, then presented the plaque to the School Council who officially opened the school.

The opening ceremony summed up everything that is great about Pudsey Grangefield with young people at its heart and an inspirational team coaching and nurturing everyone on a pathway to success.
Dirk Gilleard, David Dickinson and I started the day early having breakfast with headteachers from the Morley Family of Schools...

We talked about the brilliant work going on in the Morley schools, the successes we have had over the last nine years, the progress we are making as we move towards the new Children's Services arrangements. We agreed that, over the next few months, we must continue to ensure that all our children are happy, healthy, safe and successful and to maintain our focus on teaching and learning. We must continue to build brilliant provision consistently across Leeds and share and network the extra-ordinary practice in our schools, our children's centres and our clusters.

We talked about the challenges we are facing and the opportunities that lie ahead as we focus on the basics and strip out the inefficiencies and the waste. We all agreed that we must use the opportunities that we have to build a brilliant children's services landscape where brilliant schools are supported by the 'Think Family' approach and engaged within a powerful and supportive community. We discussed the importance of confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understand the learning process and are working creatively, imaginatively and positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to create the team around the child, the team around the family and the team around the school.

It was a wonderful start to the day with some great colleagues and we need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more, to celebrate more and to learn more as we build the future together.

Learning Outside the Classroom Awards for Excellence & Innovation 2010

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) has launched the 3rd annual Learning Outside the Classroom Awards for Excellence & Innovation...

These awards recognise the commitment of schools,colleges and early years settings in providing valuable and positive learning experiences for young people (0-19yrs) beyond the classroom. Learning outside the classroom (LOtC) is about raising achievement through direct, hands-on, practical approaches to learning that bridge the gap between theory and reality. Whether it takes place in the school grounds, on visits to museums, art galleries or farms; through adventure activities or on cultural exchanges abroad, LOtC is a powerful tool that adds value to classroom learning and offers rich, memorable experiences to young people.

Last year, competition for the Awards was fierce with Sandhill View School in Sunderland scooping the top national prize for its determination to get all of its students out and about through regular educational visits and creative approaches to the curriculum. This year, the panel of judges are looking for nominations which showcase establishments that are working hard to create novel, innovative and inspirational approaches to learning beyond the classroom.

If you’d like to nominate a school or you work in a school which sets a shining example and be in the running for the top national award click here for details of how to apply.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

My colleague Sue Davies, who is Head of Learning and Audience Development at Leeds Museums and Galleries, sent me this bit of good news...

"Dear Chris I hope you're well; no doubt you are incredibly busy with all the changes that are taking place in Education Leeds. I thought I'd send you some good news especially pertinent given our discussion in early March. Finally at long last I have effected some change in the Art Gallery as this year for the first time young people are being invited to submit their art work as part of a junior Open Show alongside the adult annual submissions. A team of young would -be curators will act as judges ( part of a partnership we have with Leeds Met Art Gallery who have such a group). I'll make sure you get an invitation to the private view which is mid day on Sunday 8 August. The exhibition of winners( 0-100 years of age) will be from 8 August until the end of September so schools will catch it on the return after the holidays. I do hope that teachers will encourage pupils to enter. Kindest regards, Sue"

We have so many talented young artists here in Leeds and I am delighted that Sue has managed to get artwork from young people exhibited alonside adult work at the Art Gallery Open Show this Summer. I hope that colleagues in schools will submit children and young people's work and that eventaully we will have our own Open Exhibition of young peoples work to celebrate our young artists and show the talent we have here in the city.
Envision is looking for dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers to become Team Mentors and Skills Mentors and help inspire young people to make a difference...

Every year Envision supports over 3000 young people to speak out about the issues they know are important, to take action and lead change in their communities. You can volunteer as a Team Mentor or a Skills Mentor and be part of their experience.
You can join an Envision team in a school or college close to where you live, work or study and help young people explore local and global issues. You can facilitate their meetings, support the teams with their youth-led projects and help build key skills and inspire confidence and ambition. Envision will provide full training, support and a chance to engage with some fantastic young people. Their volunteers have a range of skills and interests and this is a great way to gain experience in the youth or education sector.

For more information about volunteering with Envision visit
My colleague Jim Hopkinson who heads up the Leeds Youth Offending Service sent me this e-mail today...

"Dear Chris, Leeds Youth Offending Service is subject to an annual evaluation of its Capability and Capacity by the Youth Justice Board. This is a robust and comprehensive audit of our performance and activities across the entire range of our responsibilities and activities. I am delighted to report that the for the third consecutive year Leeds YOS has been assessed “excellent”. We understand that we are the only Youth Offending Service in the Yorkshire and Humber region to have achieved excellent status. In arriving at their validation, the Youth Justice Board commented on clear evidence of outstanding partnership arrangements across Children’s Services, Safer Leeds, the Courts, West Yorkshire Criminal Justice Board and the third sector. The award of excellent status is not only a reflection of comprehensive partnership working but is also a testament to the continued hard work of Youth Offending Service staff, at every grade, who consistently go the extra mile to ensure that they achieve the best possible outcomes for young people, their families and victims of crime. as with last year our partnerships with the various sections of Education Leeds were particularly seen as noteworthy by the YJB in arriving at their excellent assessment of Leeds YOS. The relationship with Education Leeds goes from strength to strength and Wendy Winterburn and her team are passionate in the work they do with Leeds Youth Offending Service to ensure no child is left behind.The support and dedication of Education Leeds staff is fantastic - but then I am not telling you anything you did not already know! Regards, Jim."

This is a wonderful achievement by Jim and his colleagues who do a brilliant job working with some of our most challenging young people to ensure that they are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes.
Eleanor Brazil and I attended the Headteacher Forum this afternoon...

We talked about the perfect storm we are facing and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we build the new children's services arrangements here in Leeds. We all recognised that we need to continue to work to deliver outstanding provision for all our children and young people. We must work to build the team around the school, the team around the child and the team around the family as our response to '21st Century Schools' within 'Total Place'.
I moved on to Executive Board...

Senior politicians agreed the changes to the admission limits to primary schools and the recommendations from the Children's Services Scrutiny Board report on Meadowfield Primary School.
Eleanor and I moved on to meet John Paxton, who leads our Integrated Youth Support Service, and together we went to visit the new 'myplace' youth hub we are building in Belle Isle...

The Big Lottery Fund has helped us deliver 'myplace' on behalf of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). 'myplace' aims to deliver world class youth facilities driven by the active participation of young people and their views and needs. 'myplace' has funded 70 projects across England and you can learn more about the projects funded by visiting the myplace news section. It is a brilliant addition to the landscape in this bit of South Leeds and will provide us with a wonderful opportunity to reach and serve young people. Interestingly, young people have helped John and his colleagues create this new building which includes garage facilities, a hair and beauty salon, social spaces ans sports facilities. John and his colleagues vision, ambition, and driveworking with Wates, the construction company, has delivered a world class place for young people to go to in Belle Isle. It will offer young people the widest possible range of high quality activities and co-located support services and enable young people to lead, to plan and to deliver dedicated youth projects driven by their views and needs.
Eleanor Brazil, our Interim Director of Children's Services, and I started the day with the secondary headteachers at Weetwood Hall...

We talked about the opportunities and challenges that we are facing and the need to stay focused on teaching and learning. We all understand that many of the issues determining our success with 5 A*-Cs at GCSE, level 2 outcomes at 16 and 19, level 3 outcomes at 16 and 19 and young people who are NEET require us to 'Think Family'. Our work on the 'Common Factors', which looked at persistent absence, teenage conceptions and looked after children's outcomes, powerfully connects with free school meals uptake, disadvantage and poverty. We all agreed that we need to think about the team around the school, the team around the child and the team around the family as we reinvent, re-imagine and renew children's services here in Leeds. Schools are at the front line of what we are doing and we must focus on:
  • Our shared values which must be inclusive and outcome and action focused;
  • Seeing the bigger picture around our families and their children;
  • Shaping that bigger picture around our schools;
  • Thinking team and what we can achieve together;
  • Aspiring to excellence in everything we do;
  • Building on, and learning from, what works well;
  • Keeping it simple as far as possible;
  • Being flexible, creative and action focused;
  • Making the best possible use of limited resources.

It's great to talk and even better to listen!


Tuesday, 18 May 2010

National Walk to School Week

My colleague Jane Almond, Assistant Travel Adviser in the Council's Highways team, sent me this update on National Walk to School Week ...

"Dear Chris, Just to let you know, this week is National Walk to School Week (17 -21st May), and we are delighted at the number of Leeds school who have agreed to take part. This year’s theme is getting to know your local neighbourhood and we seemed to have picked a week with a promising weather forecast! 88 Primary Schools and Primrose High School have told us they intend to organise walking events during the week. This is a total of almost 25,000 children! Schools have arranged lots of initiatives including; the launch of new walking buses, treasure hunts and i-spy events, themed walks, special assemblies, orienteering events, pedometer challenges and class competitions. We have supplied resource packs to all the schools who registered an interest. The packs include: stickers, posters and a variety of prizes, plus a quiz with a chance for one child in each school to win a £10 voucher. A photographer is going out to Kippax North Primary and St Josephs RC Primary at Hunslet on Wednesday and Thursday morning to take pictures of their events.We are hoping for a similarly excellent response for Bike Week which is taking place between 19th and 27th June and will update you about the progress of this event. Kind regards, Jane."

Jane and her colleagues are doing brilliant work encouraging children and young people and their parents and carers to get out of their cars and walk to their local school. Through these fantastic initiatives we can encourage healthier lifestyles and reduce traffic and pollution. I hope schools will also get involved with Bike Week.


My colleague Bridget Mork, Co-ordinator of our Parent Partnership Service, sent me this piece of good news...

"Hi Chris, I thought you would like to share in this news about our Charter Mark reassessment- another great achievement for the team. Bridget"

"Dear Bridget, following your recent Charter Mark Review visit, I am pleased to inform you that the service described above was found as continuing to meet the Charter Mark Standard. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on continuing to demonstrate compliance with Charter Mark. Yours sincerely, Charlotte Gadd."

The Parent Partnership Service is a fantastic team working with our parents and carers whose children have special educational needs, and it is brilliant that they have kept their Charter Mark award, and that they have met the criteria in full. The team are passionate, committed, focussed, hard working and incredibly well managed by Bridget - they are a credit and a real asset to Leeds.

Monday, 17 May 2010

My colleague Pauline Potter, Headteacher at Seven Hills Primary School, sent me some great news this morning...

"Good morning Chris, I thought I'd share with you something good that happened last Friday. Four of our pupils won prizes in the Morley Literature Festival short story competition, and one won a prize for a Morley in Bloom poster competition. I was privileged to go to Morley Town Hall, along with the Chair of Seven Hills School council, where the Mayor of Morley presented prizes to our children. The pupils were wonderful, talking about how our school council works, asking questions, and generally being the delightful people we are so proud of. Whatever happens, the work remains the same. Encouraging the best from every child, making sure they have a great time whilst learning, and promoting success wherever possible. Have a good week! Pauline"

Pauline's right and her passion, enthusiasm and commitment is contagious. We must all remember that whatever we are struggling with; political change, financial pressures, children's services re-organisation, contracts finishing or ash clouds, our continuing challenge is to eradicate the redundant, the obsolete, the irrelevant and the things that don't make a difference and to continue to raise our game and build brilliant learning places where we deliver outstanding provision. Every school in Leeds, every early years setting, every classroom, every workshop and every learning space has to have the WOW factor where talented colleagues work to release the magic so that every child, every young person and every colleague can be happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!


I was supposed to be in Stockholm today...

I was due to be speaking at The Stockholm Summit 'Leaders in School Education' 2010 about our work and what we have achieved here in Leeds but the ash cloud cometh again and I wasn't able to get there. It's a shame because the speakers also included Andy Hargreaves, Brian Annan, John Mann and David Hopkins who are all inspirational. Still I suppose as always it is better to be safe than sorry!