Friday, 24 September 2010


And finally today I attended the Children's Services Awards for Excellence at the Banqueting Suite at the Civic Hall...
These awards recognise and celebrate the work of colleagues and teams who have made a real difference for children, young people and their families. There were 120 nominations for 13 of the Council's 18 categories and I had been asked to present the awards for Looking After Leeds, Putting Customers First and Health & Well Being.

The award for Looking after Leeds is awarded to a team that has shown exceptional commitment to Improving quality of life in Leeds and encouraging pride in our city. This team had gone the extra mile to organise the Armley fun Day in their own time for the community which has been a huge success.
The winners were Armley Care Management Team.

Putting Customers First Award goes to somebody who has made an outstanding contribution by helping to ensure our services meet the needs of our customers and communities. The nominations were:
• Angela Walker
• Audrey Woodbine
• Pam Frisby
• Bernie Jackson
These colleagues have all made atremendous difference and the commendation went to Angela Walker. However, the winner for Putting Customers First went to somebody who has made an outstanding contribution by helping to ensure our services meet the needs of our customers and communities. With her experience and tenacity, she has been key to the successful implementation of the FGC project in South Leeds that is now being developed city-wide. The direct feedback from families, young people and professionals alike has been fantastic.
The winner was Bernie Jackson.

The award for Health and Well Being is awarded to somebody who has made an outstanding contribution to Improving the health, quality of life and enhancing safety and support of vulnerable groups in Leeds. The nominations were:
• Jawad Nizami
• Mathew Orton
• Claire Penten
The winner had been chosen for their dedication, continual hard work with young people and support to other staff members. This person has bridged the gap between health services and young people resulting in a huge impact on improving the health of looked after children in Leeds.
The winner was Claire Penten.

All the colleagues at the award ceremony have made a real difference for children, young people and families across the city and it was great to be able to recognise all their achievements and say thank you so publicly.


I moved on again to Morley Victoria Primary School...

Sadly Richard Elstub, the headteacher, was unwell but I was welcomed to the school by Julie Hardaker, the deputy headteacher. It was brilliant to visit this outstanding school again, to talk to Julie and to be able to walk around the school and meet some of Julie's colleagues and some of her children. This is a consistently high performing school with great teaching and learning awonderful climate for learning and some fantastic children. The curriculum model they have developed is brilliant and the leadership Richard and Julie provide drives a culture of real excellence with a strong commitment to mentoring, coaching and professional development. Early years provision is outstanding and their outdoor play provision is magical.

I was also asked to judge a house art competition and the children had produced some really exceptional work but the Nightingale design stood out and was my winner.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


I heard some great news today...

Seacroft Children's Centre has been visited by our friends from OFSTED and their judgement was that the Centre was outstanding in every aspect of the inspection framework. This is brilliant recognition for colleagues in Early Years whose passion, commitment and hard work is making such a difference at the heart of some of our most challenging communities. Sally Threlfall, who leads the service, along with her colleagues have built something simply wonderful which provides the foundations for all the work we are doing with children and families.


"Success is not measured simply by what you accomplish, but by the things you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against the odds."

I met with and Sheila Davenport this afternoon to talk about how we can promote the briliant resource our young carers have produced for schools in Leeds...

There are over 2000 young carers in Leeds with more than 1200 under 16. Thinking about it that means on average around 150 young carers in each age group; 2 or 3 in every primary school and 20 in every secondary school. This amazing project works with around 250 young carers every year. It operates in partnership with Barnardo's, supporting children and young people who care for a member of their family. I have attended all the Celebration Events and this year some of these inspirational young people have been working with students from Leeds City College at the Thomas Danby site to produce some wonderful drama to tell their stories as carers. Sheila Davenport and her fabulous colleagues at Willow Young Carers are releasing something very special working with this wonderful group of young people.

This meeting was with colleagues from Barnardo's to see whether we could work together to make this resource, which we are sending free to every school in Leeds, available nationally.


I moved on to Morley Newlands Primary School...

Adrian Stygall, the headteacher, and his colleagues have transformed the school over the last few years and it was great to see the real progress the school has made since my last visit. It was good to be able to walk round the school with Adrian and meet some of his colleagues and some of his children. The new nursery unit is a brilliant addition to the learning landscape with its parents room and a base for cluster and family support workers. The school is achieving some real success with the fantastic 'Every Child Counts' and 'Every Child a Reader' programmes. The school has also achieved National Healthy Schools Status.


I started the day at Westerton Primary School...

Westerton Primary School is an outstanding school where James Reid, the headteacher, and his team are doing great things and it was brilliant to walk around the school with James. The school is doing pioneering work around sustainability, enterprise and music. The learning environment is fantastic and the learning around the school impressive. Early years provision is outstanding and the school is characterised by great leadership and a commitment to the coaching and development of the teaching and learning team.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

My colleague Dirk Gilleard and I started the day meeting with Kevin Massey, our Regional Adviser from the National Strategies team...

We generally meet half-termly to review the use of National Strategies support and target additional support where it can make the greatest impact on outcomes for children and young people. It was great to be able to celebrate with Kevin the real progress we have made this year building on the trajectory of significant progress over the last few years. The improvements in Foundation Stage outcomes, the reduction in the number of primary schools below the floor targets and the real gains in GCSE outcomes were the highlights of a great year where most schools saw real progress especially those where we were working intensively using many of the National Strategies programmes. Every Child a Reader, Every Child Counts and the Primary Intensifying Support Programme alonside the massive increase in 1:1 tuition have made a huge impact where these programmes have been embraced by schools and been supported by the National Strategies team.

What we know is that if we can get children and young people to attend school regularly, to be self-disciplined and work hard and to have high self esteem and if we can build great teaching and learning and high expectations around them we can achieve great results. However, within the results there are still some significant and worrying issues and we agreed that we need to refocus and reprioritise our energies and efforts to target those young people who still seem disengaged from learning, are persistently absent from school and are the hardest to reach and to teach. These are, of course, the same groups of young people and the same families that our colleagues in the the police, probation and youth offending, social care and health are working intensively with.

I know from my visits to great schools across the city that we are doing some amazing work in these areas using Smart Risk, STEPS, study support, mentoring and enterprise but we need to adopt and develop some radically different approaches to these young people and their families because what works well for most young people clearly is still not reaching these families. We need to develop our system leadership, our culture and the intelligence to help us understand these issues better. We need to continue to learn from those places like London and Birmingham who appear to be making in roads into these challenging aspects of our work here in Leeds.

I would as always welcome your comments and feedback about how we can connect with the hardest to reach and the hardest to teach as funding and grants are becoming increasingly scarce. Perhaps the pupil premium will help?


I received some great news yesterday about the redesignation of four of our specialist schools...

Brigshaw High School and Language College was successful in its Specialist Language College application. Cockburn College of Arts was successful in its Specialist Arts College application. Corpus Christi Catholic College was successful in its Specialist Technology College application. West Oaks School North East Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre was successful in its Specialist SEN Communication and Interaction College application.

Congratulations to the teams at these four great schools who are continuing to develop as centres of excellence working at the heart of their communities to deliver outstanding provision and are achieving some exceptional outcomes for young people, their families and the communities they serve so well.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I had lunch today with Dina Martin, headteacher at Firs Hill Community Primary School in Sheffield...

Dina is a National Leader of Learning, an energetic and enthusiastic headteacher and a real breath of fresh air. Her passion, commitment and inspirational leadership are clearly releasing magic and achieving extra-ordinary results at Firs Hill Community Primary School. Her school is a community resource, open early, late and at the weekends and her mission is to reach and change the lives of those children who are hardest to reach. Like me she believes that one of the best ways to safeguard a child is to teach them to read, to build their self-esteem and aspiration and to help their parents and carers as partners in learning. It was great to spend time with Dina; I must visit her school.


Toby Howard who chairs the UK Schools Computer Animation Competition sent me the details about Animation11; the 4th Annual UK Schools Computer Animation Competition which has now been launched...

"Animation11 is a not-for-profit competition run by The University of Manchester, designed to enthuse young people about Computer Science. For full details, and to register, please visit: . Apparently if you registered for Animation10, you don't need to re-register, but you need to login using your credentials. If you've forgotten your password, please visit:

The 2010 competition attracted over 1,300 entries from more than 200 schools, with 50 prize-winning students, and over 400 children, teachers and familiies attending the Animation Festival and Inspirational Computer Science Day at The Lowry, Salford Quays. You can see a video about the day, and see all the winning entries, at:
This years competition is open to all UK schoolchildren aged between 7 and 19 and the deadline for entries is 1 April 2011. Entrants can create their animations (maximum duration: 1 minute) using any of the following programs: Alice, Scratch, Flash, or Serif DrawPlus. There are great prizes, and the Animation Festival and Inspirational Computer Science Day will be held at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry on 1 July 2011.
With best wishes! Toby."

I hope that those who love Wallace and Gromit and have aspiring Nick Parks to work with will want to enter this exciting competition.


Monday, 20 September 2010


This afternoon I attended the Leeds Children's Services Improvement Board which is chaired by Bill McCarthy, Chief Executive of NHS Yorkshire and Humber...

I had been asked to talk to the Board about the progress we are making with educational outcomes particularly for underachieving target groups, tackling persistent absence, improving attendance and reducing the number of our young people who are not in education, employment or training. John Lawlor, Chief Executive of NHS Leeds, also talked about the changes facing the NHS over the next few years which strongly parallel those facing the education sector.


It's a difficult time to be in the public sector as we wrestle with change on an unprecedented scale...

However, the last week reminded me what talent and potential we have here in Leeds and what a difference we are making. I visited Hillcrest Primary School and Victoria Primary School; two great primary schools serving very different communities with outstanding early years provision and helping children make the best possible start in life. I visited Temple Moor High School where with their students, their parents and carers and the staff team we celebrated the school's best ever examination results in their brilliant remodelled building. I spent time talking to the secondary headteachers and the SILC principals whose leadership, passion and commitment has built some outstanding provision and transformed the learning landscape here in Leeds. I also attended the Children's Trust Board and the children's services transformation programme leadership event where we shared the latest thinking about the new children's services arrangements for the city.

It was a wonderful week where I spent time with so many great colleagues who are changing things for the better, transforming little lives and building strong and effective local partnerships to secure better outcomes for children, families and communities. Over the last ten years we have achieved so much. We have transformed the learning landscape and the learning environment here in Leeds. We have achieved some incredible outcomes for our children and young people and their families and communities. Together, we have released the talent, magic and potential in so many of our children and young people, in our colleagues and in our schools. But we can never be complacent because, as always, there is much more to do!

We all know that we must work even closer together now because we now face a powerful combination of elements that will change the shape of everything we do whether we like it or not. Public spending cuts loom alongside the end of grant funding for a lot of our work. Education Leeds along with National Strategies; Government Office, the Building Schools for the Future programme, Becta, the General Teaching Council, the Qualifications, Curriculum and Development Agency and the Rose Review are all going to be consigned to the history books. Together, we must ensure that the new arrangements build on the best of what we have created over the last ten years and our collective challenge now is to continue the work we have been doing to ensure that every child in Leeds is happier, healthier, safer, even more successful and free from the effects of poverty… whatever it takes!

The climate of higher and higher accountability increases the weight of expectations facing all of us and as always the stakes are high. The biggest challenge lies in how we build intelligent leadership and create a culture of learning, a culture of safeguarding, and a culture of excellence. These challenges require all of us to work together... to take control and to re-imagine systems, processes and provision and to further develop the power of TEAM LEEDS!


“If you think you are beaten, you are. If you think you dare not, you don't! If you want to win, but think you can't, It's almost a cinch you won't. If you think you'll lose, you're lost; For out in the world we find success begins with a fellow's will; It's all in the state of the mind. Life's battles don't always go to the strongest and the fastest, But sooner or later the colleague who wins is the colleague who thinks they can.”

I was at Children's Services Scrutiny Board this morning talking about this Summer's results and a colleague raised the issue about morale and communication across Education Leeds. Then as I returned to Merrion House another colleague was looking thoughtful and said that it would be good to know where he fitted in the new world and the new arrangements. We have been through a lot together over the last ten glorious years; good times and bad times, and there have always been opportunities and challenges and we've shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I know times are tough but above all we need to stay positive and constantly remind each other about the journey we've been on, our achievements and the recognition Education Leeds has received for it's outstanding work in so many areas.

Whatever you do, over the next few weeks and months, make sure that you:

  • Manage your diary and your life to create space to think and plan;
  • Focus on the things that have gone really well;
  • Find allies and friends to give you support and encouragement;
  • Give colleagues things to do that will build capacity;
  • Stay in touch with the real world of schools and classrooms;
  • Look for the little things that make a big difference;
  • Exercise, stay fit and look after your self; and
  • Collect bits of magic to keep the soul alive!

And whatever you do… be positive!