Friday, 2 July 2010

This evening I attended the first Yorkshire Evening Post 'Best in School Awards 2010 at the University of Leeds...

The awards were sponsored by Standby Teachers, Ringways, Thackray Museum, Viking Direct, Vital, Kumon, Leeds Rhinos and Education Leeds and it was brilliant to see around three hundred children and adults cheering on the nominees for these wonderful celebrations of the best of Leeds.

There were four shortlisted entries for each of the twelve awards and the winners were:
  • Best Lunchtime Assistant was Sharon Hodgson from Pudsey Tyersal Primary School;
  • Best Lollypop Man or Lady was Janet Deighton from Whinmoor St Paul's CE Primary School;
  • Best Caretaker was Tony Dobb from Middleton St Mary's CE Primary School;
  • Best After-school Club was the rugby league club at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Primary School;
  • Best Secretary or Receptionist was Margaret Frost from St Anthony's Catholic Primary School;
  • Best Volunteer was Carol Grey from Woodlands Primary School;
  • Best Sports Team was the Under 11 Netball Team from the Grammar School at Leeds;
  • Best Mentor was Julie Wilson from Moortown Primary School;
  • Best Teaching Assistant was Sue Holroyd from Oulton Primary School;
  • Best Class Project was the Heroes topic from Moortown Primary School;
  • Best Teacher was Laura Lumley from Holy Name Catholic Primary School;
  • Best Headteacher was Pauline Gavin from St Bartholomew's CE Primary School.
It was a great evening celebrating the very best of primary education here in Leeds. Thanks to colleagues at the Yorkshire Evening Post for creating and managing these wonderful awards.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

I know that as we face this perfect storm, where nothing seems to provide comfort and reassurance about the future, colleagues are becoming increasingly frustrated...

However, it may be reassuring to know that we are not alone! A recent Hay Group study found that nearly 60% of people were seriously considering leaving or actively looking for new jobs. Worse still, a further 35% said they were only holding off because there weren't any jobs to go to! I have discussed this with colleagues and the question is how do we manage in such uncertain times?

These are some of the suggestions colleagues have come up with:

1. DEVELOP NEW MODELS Have we got a “lean enough and mean enough” structure to survive after the storm? Are are obsessive about reducing hierarchy, simplifying decision making, and shortening lines of communication? Can we generate a list of unnecessary things that are getting in our way, and then work on removing them. Send me your list and I'll show you mine!

2. BUILD BRILLIANT LEARNING PLACES How do we make sure that all our work places are great places to work and places where talented people want to work? How do we improve and develop the workplace and show some more interest in people as people? Send me your list and I'll show you mine!

3. BUILD BEAUTIFUL SYSTEMS Are our systems, processes and procedures beautiful: clear, efficient and elegant so that they support our culture and our work? Can you think of ways to make things better, or make the work more interesting? Send me your list and I'll show you mine!

4. USE TECHNOLOGY How do we exploit the latest IT and web-based solutions to deliver our services more efficiently and more effectively to provide a more intimate and personalised service to our customers and clients? Send me your list and I'll show you mine!

5. CELEBRATE EXCELLENCE How do we reward and recognise colleagues contributions to ensure that people feel part of something special and they are appreciated for their unique added value? Send me your list and I'll show you mine!

What are your suggestions and additions to this starter for five?
This lunchtime I went to another induction event at the Derek Fatchett Centre...

These sessions always inspire me as I meet great new colleagues who have made that decision to join the best education team anywhere and now are to be part of an outstanding children's services arrangement which will serve the children and young people of Leeds!

This small but perfectly formed group of young colleagues bring creativity, imagination, ideas and experience and they certainly are talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful additions to their teams. They were totally committed, totally engaged and not at all cynical about the future... or why join us at a time like this? We talked about our mission, our job, our opportunity, our challenge which, as we move into the new children's services arrangements, is to continue to develop the leadership and culture that will build on what we have already achieved. We must all continue to release colleagues potential, magic and passion and target their hard work to our priorities to make a real difference for our children and young people who need us most, which after all is why we all work here!

It was great to talk to these colleagues who reminded me to stay positive and keep the faith!
I saw my colleague Jamil Khan who manages the Harehills Youth in Partnership initiative the other day and he sent me this picture and this e-mail...

"Hi Chris, Thanks for the encouraging and most wonderful words and belief in this project, you gave me yesterday. I have forwarded the picture to my contact in Evening Post for a press release. I would like your support to encourage other schools to be part of this partnership and to get in touch with me rather then the school to move this partnership forward. Many thanks again. Jamil."
Jamil's work picks up on the important issue of how we manage learning during the extended holiday many of our children are taking with their families in Pakistan. Through his work Jamil has established educational links with education bosses and schools in Pakistan so that the children can access schooling while they are away from school here in Leeds. His award, from the authorities in Pakistan, recognises the important of this work. If you want to find out more about the work that Harehills Youth in Partnership are doing you can contact Jamil on 07955939610 or alternatively you can email him at

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

This evening I attended the third Annual Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Competition Prize-giving and Achievement Awards Ceremony at the Civic Hall...

Th Awards Ceremony came at the end of the Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month and we were delighted that the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress were able to join us for the evening. We were also pleased that a delegation from Brno in the Czech Republic who had provided the Roma Embroidery Exhibition that has been on display at the West Park Centre also joined us for the evening. We were also proud that Jimmy Lowther, International Boxing Champion, and Richard Naylor, Captain of Leeds United, were able to join us and present the certificates and prizes. It was great that Arthur Ivatts, Consultant, and Andrea Smith, Gypsy Roma Traveller Adviser at the Department for Education were able to make the Awards Ceremony and help us celebrate the achievements of some of ur wonderful children.

We were also entertained by the brilliant Harehills Primary School Choir, by Marek and Milan Cina from South Leeds Academy and by Tibor Geki, Peter Zsiga and Janny Diaz from Primrose High School. Thanks to Sentabell Mabbott and Dominika Helferova who managed the evening for our Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service and to Peter Saunders and the rest of his colleagues for all their hard work over the last year which culminated this evening with these awards and this celebration.
I visited a great school this morning...

I was at Ninelands Primary School in Garforth to see Jillian Sabourn, the new headteacher, who took over in January. It was wonderful to visit and talk to Jillian about her hopes and dreams for the school. It was also great to be able to walk around the school with Jillian and some of her children and hear about their 'Green Day' and watch some brilliant presentations, hear the Year 6 children singing and practicing for their 'Bugsy Malone' Leavers Production, see some great nursery and early years provision and visit Class 12's Ancient Greek Museum where I completed a quiz and was marked out of 10!

This is a school with enormous potential and I was really impressed by the children who were doing great work everywhere Jillian and I went.


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

This evening I attended Woodkirk High School's Summer Concert...

It was a glorious Summer evening and it was wonderful to spend it at Woodkirk High School being entertained with the Mayor and Mayoress of Morley by some really amazing young people. In the first half we had Swind Band, Chris Winter who sang Mr Cellophane, the Lower School Choir, Mollie and Paige who sang 'I know him so well', the Orchestra and the BTEC Group performing Rock and Roll. In the second half we had the BTEC Group performing Street Dance, the Upper School Choir, the AS Performance Studies group and finally the Soul Band who brought the house down. It was a brilliant evening.
I moved on to our 'Be Healthy! Be Creative!' Challenge Celebration at the Ghandi Hall at Leeds Met...

The Be Healthy Challenge has been running every year for the last five years and every year thousands of young people get involved by this year by getting involved in activities in their schools that encourage them to be healthy and be creative! This year activities ranged from drama, slam poetry, dance, singing, African drumming and circus skills. There was a real energy and enthusiasm among the sixty odd schools involved and the highlights were the performances by Gledhow Primary School's African Choir and the NW SILC's Green Meadows Choir who were both brilliant!
I started the day at Carr Manor High School...

I had been invited by my colleague Simon Flowers, headteacher at Carr Manor High School and Specialist Sports College, to the Celebration Assembly launching their Robinson House with Jason Robinson, the Great Britain, England, Barbarians, Wigan, Sale Sharks and World Cup winning rugby player. Carr Manor High School currently has three houses named after Fred Trueman, Billy Bremner and Jane Tomlinson which have been in place since the move to their new building in September 2006. The school has grown by more than 200 students since then and needed a fourth house to continue its great work on coaching as part of the entitlement for every student.
Jason Robinson was born in Harehills and went to school at Harehills Primary School and Merlyn Rees High School. Jason is a brilliant role model who spoke to the students with real passion and commitment about his life and how he had become successful world class rugby player. His regret was that he didn't do well at school and he encouraged all the students to work hard and achieve at school and in life.

It was an inspiring story and a great start to the day.

Monday, 28 June 2010

This evening I attended our first ever Diploma Graduation Ceremony at the Civic Hall...

I had been invited to the celebration by my colleague Gary Milner and his colleagues in the 14-19 Team at Education Leeds to celebrate the achievements and successes of groups of students who had completed their Diplomas in Creative and Media, Construction and the Built Environment and Hair and Beauty. Students here in Leeds have been amongst the first young people in the country to study the new 14-19 Diplomas; qualifications that were introduced in 2008 as part of the wider 14-19 reform programme.

The Creative and Media Diploma line has been pioneered by the Inner West Consortium of schools; Farnley Park High School, Leeds West Academy and Swallow Hill Community College, and the programme has been led by Caroline Bolton. The Construction and the Built Environment Diploma line has been pioneered by Leeds College of Building and the programme has been led by Chris Yates. The Hair and Beauty Diploma line has been pioneeered by Leeds City College and the programme has been led by Hazel Gilmartin.

It was a wonderful evening celebrating the achievements of some great young people who have achieved some outstanding results through these Diploma programmes.
This morning I attended the 'Power of Me' Anti-bullying Ambassadors Celebration and Showcase Event at the Ghandi Hall at Leeds Met...

I had been invited by my colleague Hilary Farmery who leads this brilliant programme for Education Leeds and it was great to talk to children from the fantastic schools involved about the work they have been doing. The children were able to share their ideas as well as being involved in workshops and a wonderful drama production.
My colleague Dave Lawrence who is Senior Research & Information Support Officer (14-19)within our Performance Management & Information Team sent me this e-mail this afternoon...

"Hi Chris, I thought I would email you some positive news - I am currently trying to raise funds for the Jane Tomlinson appeal (Children’s charities and cancer charities in the UK) by racing in the Leeds 10k this Sunday. I have set up a website that enables people to donate safely through this link: .The running total last time I checked was about £150 but I am hoping to increase this even more throughout the week. Donations are still accepted after Sunday. Colleagues that I have managed to speak to have been very generous to date. Thanks, Dave."

This is a brilliant cause and I hope everyone will support Dave.
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty and to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; ... this is to have succeeded."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last week was yet another week full of meetings, briefings and updates...

I attended our leadership team, the Leeds children's services improvement board, Leeds Children's Trust board, our children's services programme board, executive board and executive team meetings. I also provided councillor briefings for the executive board meeting, and met with headteachers from three of our families of schools. I started with the Inner North West family of schools headteachers, before having breakfast with headteachers from the Inner South family of schools and another breakfast with headteachers from the Inner West. These are great groups of colleagues all doing brilliant work with children and families against a background of poverty and deprivation. They have a fundamental and unshakeable belief in what can be achieved with their children and their communities, and it was brilliant to spend some time with these colleagues who are at the front line of children's services here in Leeds. These colleagues lead some great schools where frontline provision is wrapped in a stimulating, creative and imaginative curriculum offer that aims to turn out happy, healthy, safe and successful little learners, whatever it takes. Their energy, enthusiasm, passion and commitment is releasing the magic in some of the toughest parts of Leeds!

Later in the week I visited Whitecote Primary School for the launch of Education Leeds schools green day. This brilliant little primary school had arranged a whole day of activity for it's 400+ children including: a recycling assembly: recycled art activities; a visit to a local organic farm; a visit by npower's climate cops; and the launch of their 'eco-monitors' team. I also attended the first ever Leeds City College awards ceremony at Leeds Town Hall. It was a wonderful evening celebrating some talented young people who have achieved outstanding academic results, and others who had achieved great things against the odds. I attended the Primary African Caribbean Excellence/Black Children's Achievement programme celebration event at the Civic Hall, where St Peter's Church of England Primary School and Allerton Church of England Primary School did wonderful performances, and they were stunning. I finally finished the week video conferencing with students at Crawshaw School as part of our green day. These great young people wanted to tell me what they were doing, and asked me what Education Leeds was doing as an organisation and how we were helping schools develop environmental education and understanding to become sustainable schools.

Those of you who know me well know that I don't like meetings because, with some notable exceptions, they are one of the biggest institutional time wasters around. I remember someone telling me that on an average day in the UK there are around 5 million meetings. I don't know how they worked that out, but if it is true it makes you wonder how anything ever gets done! I know that some meetings are important and often essential elements of our work, so the real question is: how are we going to improve the productivity of our meetings? We must constantly look at what was accomplished in our meetings and ask ourselves - was it worth it? I know that the answer is sometimes "yes", but a lot of the time the answer is "no". We need to ask ourselves some questions about each of the meetings we arrange:
  • Is it necessary?
  • What would happen if it did not take place?
  • What if we did not meet quite so often?

We also need to ask ourselves these questions about each of the meetings we attend:

  • Do I need to attend?
  • Do I get anything out of it?
  • Do I contribute anything?

If the answers to these questions is "no", try to avoid attending the meeting and do something that makes a real difference instead... help a child, grow a garden or help tackle poverty!


My colleague Tracy Waud who is PA to Jackie Green here at Education Leeds HQ sent me this...

"Chris, As part of the room refurb project, I approached Tranmere Park primary school to see whether they could produce some art for us on a theme of 'cultures within our city'. Y5 and Y6 children from the Kingfisher class very kindly drew some fabulous pictures...

They now have pride of place within our directors room on 10 East accompanied by the following quote...
'When I meet people in different parts of the world, I am always reminded that we are all basically alike: we are all human beings. Maybe we have different clothes, our skin is of a different colour, or we speak different languages. That is on the surface. But basically, we are the same human beings.' 14th Dalai Lama-His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso.
Thanks, Tracy"

It is fantastic to have more children's work around Education Leeds offices. It brightens the place and constantly lifts the spirits.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

My colleague Chris Walsh, headteacher at Boston Spa School, sent me these extraordinary photos after they launched a balloon

"Chris, you may remember a feature from the BBC news round programme about the Boston Spa balloon launch. I must pass our congratulations on to Steve Hugill, one of our Science team for this successful launch, I attach a sample of what he has achieved. They are magnificent photos, a real triumph! I am delighted for Steve who has worked so hard on the project, and grateful for the brilliant opportunity he has created for our young people. The calculations suggest that we reached 17.5 miles high! Enjoy, Chris."

I am pleased that Chris sent me these amazing photos from this wonderful science project. Good to hear about some more great things happening at Boston Spa School.