Saturday, 29 May 2010

OK, that's it for another half-term and what a half-term it's been...

I am exhausted so I am switching off the blog, unplugging the batteries, pulling up the drawbridge and repelling boarders. I'll be back soon but remember if you are out in the world, hold hands, stick together and take care.
I moved on to the International Week Celebration Assembly at Guiseley St Oswald's CE Junior School...

I had been invited to the assembly and for lunch at the Top Table. The assembly was fantastic celebration of the international work the children had been doing over the week. The lunch was an Australian theme created by a brilliant cook whose lunches over the week had each day taken a country as the theme covering Morocco, Spain, Italy, France and now Australia. It was great to have lunch with Cllt Latty and a very special group of young people from each yeargroup who were a real credit to their school. It was a wonderful to spend some time at this great school and showed what passionate, talented and wonderful colleagues can do to bring the curriculum, the kitchen and the school alive.
I went to the Official Opening of Beeston St Luke's Catholic Primary School's new nursery by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds...

The school has struggled with the nursery provision in temporary accommodation for the last 25 years and the new facilities are fantastic; light, bright and attractive and with a fantastic outside area. It's the nursery provison this great school deserves to help them do the most important job in the world!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

I finished the day at this years Stepping Stones Celebration at Tiger Tiger...

I spent the evening with Olivia and Kari and their foster carers.These two wonderful young people show us what is possible and the brilliant work that Julie Pocklington and Ken Campbell our Stepping Stones team are doing with the CLCs and students from the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan Iniversity. It was a great evening celebrating a fantastic intiative that is making a real difference where it really matters.
I moved on again to Quarry Mount Primary School for their International Family Feast Celebration Evening...

It was an amazing celebration of the diverse and wonderful multicultural community the school serves so well. Everyone had brought food and there was enough to feed the five thousand! The evening started with the brilliant Dhol Indian Drummers from Year 3 who are now going to Birmingham to perform. The team at Quarry Mount Primary School are doing a great job and releasing a very special magic!
I moved on to Cookridge Primary School for their Community Gardening Afternoon funded by the Green Generations Festival supported by people from OPAL Holt Park, Leeds Organic Growers and the Saudi community...

It was a wonderful afternoon. The Leeds Organic Growers have achieved something remarkable with their magnificent garden at the edge of the school field and the Saudi community provided food and drink. We also watched a football tournament between the three 'Connecting Classrooms' schools; Cookridge, Ireland Wood and Iveson Primary Schools.
I moved on to have coffee with Bobbie Syrett, who used to be the headteacher at Beeston Primary School...

It was great to see Bobbie again and catch up.
I started the day being interviewed for Radio Leeds by Alice Bailey...

Alice wanted to talk to me about our Easter holiday dates for 2011 after concerns were expressed by parents and carers in Menston who live and work between Leeds and Bradford. As always we did try to fix the dates with other local authorities but both Bradford and North Yorkshire were planning different dates so it was impossible to co-ordinate across the region. We recognise and apologise for the problems that the different holiday dates will cause for parents and carers who live and work between Leeds and Bradford but unless the Government takes control over the term dates we will continue to have these problems and challenges. The upside of course is that different holiday dates tends to mean less traffic, cheaper holidays and more staggered attendance at local attractions over a longer period.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

This afternoon I attended the 'GRAND Opening' of the new early years extension at Hill Top Primary School...

My colleague Duncan Grant, headteacher at this great little school, had asked me to officially open the brilliant new early years extension to their PFI building. The new building represents a powerful statement about the successful partnership working between the school, Leeds City Council, Education Leeds and Corillian. We think that this is the first significant extension of a PfI school and what has been achieved is breathtaking.
I moved on again to the Parent Partnership Service Celebration of their 'Charter Mark' success...
The Parent Partnership Service does a brilliant job working with and supporting our parents and carers with children with special educational needs. Bridget Mork, who leads the team, and her talented colleagues have once again achieved Charter Mark; a wonderful achievement. Their passion, enthusiasm, energy, commitment and hard work make the Parent Partnership Service a real beacon of excellence and showcase Education Leeds at its brilliant best!
I moved on to the Children's Services Transformational Event at the Lorimer Suite at Elland Road...

It was great to hear from some of our young people about the things they want from us; to be listened to, to be respected, to be understood and to be helped and supported and to hear about the things that are important to them; their family, their friends, their school and their community. It was also encouraging to fell the energy and enthusiasm for change from colleagues across children's services who powerfully articulated what they want as we move towards a new children's services world; intelligent, focused and passionate leadership and direction, focused team work around the child and the family, focused and consistent teamwork around the school and locality and above all action to continue to build on the brilliant work we have been doing together to ensure that every child and young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes.
David Dickinson, Dirk Gilleard and I started the day early having breakfast with headteacher colleagues from the Rothwell Family of Schools...

We talked about the brilliant work going on in these schools, the successes and the challenges we face, the progress with the Children's Services Review and the opportunities that exist within the new world where everyone is going to be offered the opportunity to become an Academy. This is a great group of colleagues and we must ensure that the Council builds on their understanding of, and insights into, the real issues we are facing as we move forward to create a new children's services directorate and particularly the challenges around the most complex and challenging families these schools are working with. We talked about the opportunities that lie ahead and we agreed that, over the next few months, we must continue to build brilliant multi-agency provision consistently across Leeds and share and network with colleagues in social care, the police and health. We must continue to focus on quality, standards and outcomes while we use the opportunities with the new curriculum to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience across the children's services workforce.

It was a brilliant 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 and to celebrate more as we build the future together.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Micklefield Magic!!

I ended the day with a little bit of Micklefield magic...

I had been invited by my colleague Gillian Dodsworth, the headteacher, to the celebration evening for the new learning environment at Micklefield CE Primary School. The school has been completely transformed since my last visit to their Open Evening in September 2008. I met Melissa last time I visited the school and it was great to meet her again. She is now in Year 6 and heading off to Garforth Community College after the Summer.

It was incredible to see what has been achieved at the school and to see that the brilliant team are releasing a quite extra-ordinary magic. Jacob and Jordan were my wonderful guides this time and great adverts for the school as they took me on a whistle stop tour and told me everything I needed to know about Micklefield CE Primary School. I also met Maggie, who is the crossing patrol lady as well as being the school cook, and the sort of fantastic person who makes a school come alive within its community... I must go back for a school dinner!

Micklefield Primary Church of England Primary School is a small village school, situated in the centre of Micklefield with wonderful views across open fields. The school has developed some brilliant facilities and Gillian and her colleagues have created a wonderful learning environment which is bright, attractive and really well resourced. The school is very obviously a safe, happy and successful learning place providing fantastic opportunities to release the magic in each and every one of its little learners.

Monday, 24 May 2010

This afternoon I met Greg White who is the principal at St Mary's Catholic Primary School...

St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School serves a multicultural community in Dandenong in Melbourne, Australia. Greg and his team aim to provide a safe, happy, caring and supportive learning environment for all their children by respecting and appreciating the diversity of their community and providing a broad, integrated curriculum, relevant to the childrens individual needs that will prepare them to meet the challenges of the future... so we have a lot in common!

Greg was visiting colleagues at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Primary School and was also visiting other Leeds schools. He was deeply impressed by what he had seen in our amazing schools and it was great to spend some time with Greg and talk about what we have achieved here in Leeds over the last nine years. It is interesting that colleagues in Australia are facing the introduction of a National Curriculum and national testing at key points in their childrens learning so it was interesting to discuss with Greg what we have learned over the last twenty years developing a creative primary curriculum and the associated assessment for learning.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

My week started under an ash cloud, connected with the wonderful Ella, Georgia, Marcus, Callum, Caitlin, Kyle and Kelly and finished with a little bit of sunshine called Mollie...

Sadly, I didn't get to the Stockholm Summit because the local airports were closed under the latest swirl of the ash cloud. So, instead of spending three days in Stockholm, my week started with the usual set of meetings, reviews and paperwork. Things picked up on Wednesday when Eleanor Brazil and I started early, meeting the secondary headteachers at Weetwood Hall before we moved on to visit the impressive South Leeds 'myplace' hub which Wates are building for us. The afternoon started with the Council's executive board, before I moved on to the West Park Centre to talk to headteacher colleagues at the headteacher forum meeting. On Thursday, David Dickinson, Dirk Gilleard and I started early again having breakfast with a great group of headteachers from the Morley family of schools, before I moved on to the official opening of Pudsey Grangefield Science College's amazing new building by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Judith Elliott, and the school council. I then returned to Merrion House for a meeting with the learning environments and planning heads of service, and later that afternoon I attended the launch of the Willow Young Carers brilliant new DVD and met Ella, Georgia, Marcus, Callum, Caitlin, Kyle and Kelly; a group of our wonderful young carers. And finally, on Friday, after leadership team, I attended the official opening of the fantastic new 'Learning Zone' at the Children's Hospital by Christa Ackroyd and Harry Gration from BBC Look North, and we all met Mollie.

I know that many colleagues are searching for direction at the moment and are desperately trying to find exactly where they fit in this new children's services world, especially when we are facing significant reductions in funding and the new coalition government has indicated that their focus will be on education, schools, and teaching and learning. It's also easy to forget about the things that are really important as we wrestle with the bureaucracy, the meetings, the papers, the plans, the policies, the frameworks, the dashboards, the progress checks, the reviews and how we structure the future. We all know that our schools are at the front line of what we are doing and reach out into every community across the city, touching and shaping young lives and making a real difference where it really matters. But we all need to understand that nothing we do exists in isolation, and that to release the magic, during our 15% of a child's time, we must also powerfully connect with the child's family and the community where the child lives. We must continue to think about how we build the team around the school and connect that to the team around the child and the team around the family as we reinvent, re-imagine and renew children's services here in Leeds.

We must revisit the culture of children's services, refocus on leadership development, and we must all think team. I recognise of course that some colleagues feel that they are on the barricades; feeling beleaguered, disillusioned and worn down by the relentless and uncompromising pressure that never goes away. I also know some colleagues are sick of, and turned off by, our optimism, positivity and constant search for the outstanding, the exceptional and the brilliant. But, so much of what we do here in Leeds is world class: so what can't we achieve together if we aspire to excellence in everything we do; and build on, and learn from, what is working really well. We must continue to be flexible, creative and action focused, and we must cut through the bureaucracy to keep things as simple as possible while making the best possible use of increasingly limited resources.

And when the going gets really tough remember why we are here...
I'll simply remember Ella, Georgia, Marcus, Callum, Caitlin, Kyle, Kelly and Mollie!