Saturday, 18 December 2010


I have now left Education Leeds...

'You raised me up, so I could stand on mountains;
You raised me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raised me up: To more than I could be.'

Education Leeds is winding up over the next three months and everyone keeps asking about the legacy we will leave in Leeds. Always remember that it wasn't about Education Leeds, the stars, the quotes and the messages; it was about talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful human beings who believed in the power to change and have changed forever to become the extraordinary people you all are.

I have so many friends and colleagues who will continue to be part of my life and who I promise I will keep in touch with and who knows we may work together again sometime in the future. And finally always remember that if you ever need me you know where I am. You can e-mail me at or just visit my new blog

Keep the faith.
Bye for now!


"Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said that it’d be easy, they just promised it would be worth it."

However you look at it 2010 has been another great year with more successes, more surprises, more brilliant stories, more shared adventures and, like a Puccini opera, a really sad ending!.

Together, over the last ten years we have built something wonderful. The journey from cause for concern to cause for celebration has been a long and at times difficult one but just look at what we’ve achieved together. c rooted in shared values, common behaviours and beliefs and a consistently positive and supportive language and culture.

I know that sometimes the journey has been really hard and I want to thank you for your passion, your persistence, your patience and your hard work, for forgiving the mistakes I have made, understanding the things I have overlooked and coping with the pressure and the problems I have often passed your way.

This is the tenth time I have done Christmas in Leeds and my last as Chief Executive of this extraordinary organisation. So finally, I wish you, and those you love and care about, delight and simplicity, foolishness and fantasy and noise, angels and miracles and wonder, and innocence and magic. Have a great time… be happy, keep healthy, stay safe and think of me on the 4th January as you start the next stage of your journey together from good to outstanding. And always remember that the future is what you make it!

Best wishes for the future
Keep the faith!


At lunchtime Dirk Gilleard, David Dickinson and I went to the Education Leeds Fuddle at Adams Court...

It was great to see the new centre which is a great improvement on Elmete and Blenheim and will provide a fantastic base for the new teams that are being developed within the new children's services arrangements. We recognised and celebrated Margaret Dalby's 23 years working in education in Leeds and I presented Margaret with her Spirit award.


After the children from Victoria Primary School had sung all their Christmas carols ysterday colleagues from Merrion House gathered on the tenth floor to say goodbye...

I really wasn't expecting this and many colleagues were wearing black shirts and red ties which used to be my uniform during the early days of Education Leeds. The 'A Team' from communications and executive support all sang a specially composed song for me before David Dickinson and Dirk Gilleard, my two talented deputies did the honours. It was a really sad but gloriously special gathering and my team gave my some more gifts including some red wine, a new and very exclusive briefcase and some silver starfish cufflinks which are lovely.

I gave my last thank you speech and we listened to one of the songs that the children at Hovingham Primary School have made very special for me.

"I can do anything at all,I can climb the highest mountain,
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free.
I can be anything I want,
With this hope to drive me onward,
If I can just believe in me

When the skies are dark and grey,
We still know the sun is shining:
Though it’s out of sight, its light is glowing still.
And as long as I believe,
There is nothing I can’t wish for;
Not a dream that I’m unable to fulfill.

I can do anything at all,I can climb the highest mountain,
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free.
I can be anything I want,
With this hope to drive me onward,
If I can just believe in me

While the world is spinning round,
I can sometimes lose direction
And I know how hard it is to find my way.
But with friends around to care,
There is nothing I can’t handle,
And I’ll face the future treasuring each day.

I can do anything at all,I can climb the highest mountain,
I can feel the ocean calling wild and free.
I can be anything I want,
With this hope to drive me onward,
If I can just believe in me." 

Thank you


We were visited by the choir from Victoria Primary School who sang Christmas carols on the tenth floor at Merrion House...

The children were wonderful and they sang a range of Christmas carols for the Education Leeds team.My personal thanks to Alison Carrick, headteacher, and her talented colleagues for bringing us this little bit of magic as I sadly and finally leave Education Leeds.

Friday, 17 December 2010


I started the day at the Carriageworks with colleagues from our Perfomance Management and Information Team...

The team were having a development session before their Christmas lunch so I wouldn't have seen them unless I went to the Carriageworks. I wanted to thank these fantastic colleagues for everything they have done over the years to develop the information systems and the performance culture that underpins everything we do. I also wanted to take them some chocolate for the last time.

Thursday, 16 December 2010



I am really grateful to everyone who attended my leaving presentation at the Civic Hall at lunchtime today...

My colleague Dirk Gilleard celebrated my unique contribution and the difference I have made here in Leeds and we had contributions from Nigel Richardson, Director of Children's Services, Professor Stephen Parkinson, Chairman of the Board of Education Leeds, Cllr Judith Blake, Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council and Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, Cllr Andrew Carter, Leader of the Conservative Group on Leeds City Council, and Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council. It was wonderful to see so many colleagues and friends from schools, the Council and Education Leeds who have been part of the journey and helped write the story of Education Leeds... and Brian Walker who led the Council when the company was established... and Richard Harker who held the portfolio for six of the ten years... and Paul Rogerson who was Chief Executive of the Council for most of the contract... and Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl, from Capita SCS, who provided advice and support throughout our ten years. We also watched a series of video clips from children, young people, colleagues and friends who wanted to say thank you and goodbye.

I am as always particularly grateful to Steph, Danni and Dee and those colleagues who organised and managed this event for me.


I moved on at attend my last Children's Services Scrutiny Board...

Cllr Dowson was very generous in her comments about what Education Leeds under my leadership has achieved over the last ten years and it was wonderful to receive so many positive comments from the members of Scrutiny Board about the difference we have made here in Leeds.


I had coffee this morning with my colleague Sandie Keene who heads up Adult Services here in Leeds...

It was great to catch up with Sandie at the end of my time here in Leeds and reflect on the journey Education Leeds has made from cause for concern to cause for celebration.


I had lunch yesterday with three amazing colleagues who have provided brilliant support for me over the last ten years...

Althea, Dee and Danni capture for me the essence of the magic that is Education Leeds. They are truly talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful and are three colleagues I will deeply miss.It was lovely to have lunch with them and be able to say thank you for everything they have done to help me manage my life over the last ten incredible years here in Leeds.


I had coffee yesterday with Chief Superintendent Mark Milsom from West Yorkshire Police...

It was great to be able to catch up with Mark who wanted to personally thank me for everything I have done to build the relationship between the schools here in Leeds and the West Yorkshire Police. Through the Safer Schools initiative we have developed a strong, dynamic and successful partnership where colleagues from the Police are part of the teaching and learning teams in secondary schools across the city. This builds on the work that PC Bob Bowman has brilliantly pioneered and has developed as a model of best practice across the region. I hope that despite the financial challenges facing the schools and the police this work will continue and further develop to continue to develop the relationship young people have with the police and reach those young people most vulnearble to and those at risk of crime and criminal behaviour.


My colleague Debbie Hawkins, Community Co-ordinator at Cookridge Primary School sent me this update about their bluebell planting...

Dear Chris, On Friday 10th December, Cookridge Primary School's Year 4 pupils walked to Breary Marsh to meet Steve Clavering, Leeds City Council Parks and Countryside Ranger and his colleagues, Graham and Jackie where they had organised a morning's Bluebell planting. With the council creating a new path through the woods for easier access, it had meant digging up the existing bluebell bulbs from the proposed path and relocating them. With the plants already dug up and put in pots, Steve now had some 200 pots for us to replant! Armed with spades and gloves, the children set to work and work they did! They dug holes, took out the bluebells from the pots and planted them near the pathway heading towards Paul's Pond. They planted all 200 pots within one and a half hours! The weather was mild at a balmy 5 degrees and with the snow melting, were able to dig fairly easily. The children loved it and wanted to carry on! Covered in mud, tired, but happy we said goodbye to Steve, Graham and Jackie and walked back to Cookridge Primary School, looking forward for a revisit in May to see the new carpet of bluebells that we have created and to be able to say "We did that!" Many thanks, Debbie."

It is great to see the difference Debbie's work is making in the community and through some small but significant steps they are building brilliant.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


I had breakfast this morning with headteachers from the North West and Inner North West Families of Schools...

I turned up late having been stuck in an accident but it was great to see so many wonderful colleagues who are doing great things and releasing the magic for young people and their families. I will miss these opportunities to connect and catch up with headteacher colleagues, to take the temperature and to see what issues are causing concern. It is vitally important that people who lead and manage services understand the reality of what we do by walking the estate and talking to children, young people and colleagues on the front line. We have created an extraordinary culture here in Leeds; one that values people and challenges and supports colleagues to be reflective and constantly look for ways to imporve, develop and do even better.
We must continue to Think Team and work together to build safer, stronger and more successful schools and communities.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


I saw Cllr Judith Blake this afternoon before I had dinner this evening with Richard Harker...

It was really good to see Richard again and to be able to thank Judith and Richard for the leadership and support they both provided over the ten years they held the education portfolio. During these wonderful years we achieved so much;  transforming teaching and learning and rebuilding the school estate. The legacy is everywhere and we owe both Judith and Richard a great deal for their trust, faith and belief.


This afternoon I visited Hovingham Primary School again...

Sadly my colleague Janet Spence, the headteacher at this wonderful school, was poorly but the hall was packed and Jane Fisher and her colleagues and Year 2 performed 'A Snowman at Sunset' which was great. Jane also gave me a copy of her 'Now Hovingham 2011' CD which will always remind me of the special times I have spent at this extraordinary learning place. The children finished with a wonderful song called  Feliz Navidad a Spanish Christmas song which you can listen to by visiting this link


"Take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go"

I returned to my bleak and miserable office with its blank walls to find this lovely surprise...

My colleague Becca had left me a card, a chocolate rudolf and a bookmark with the message above. Thank you, Becca. The message is a great one as we move on to face our next challenges!


I visited Roundhay School this morning to attend the launch event for our Free School Meals...

It was great to see Neil Clephan, the headteacher, and some of his colleagues again and to see how the school has adopted the 'Grab and Go' system which encourages more young people to take up their free school meal allocation. My colleague Rosie Molinari has done a brilliant job developing our school food strategy and encouraging the uptake of free school meals which have risen by 10%!


I visited Allerton CE Primary School again today...

It was great to see Helen Stott, the schools' talented headteacher, who gave me a beautiful framed piece of her childrens artwork to keep to remember my visits to the school.  I was also given a guided tour by Georgia, Josephine and Tyler from Year 6 who were three brilliant adverts and ambassadors for this amazing little school.


I had dinner with my colleagues from the Education Leeds leadership team last night...

It was great to spend the evening with this very special group of colleagues who over the years have helped transform education and learning here in Leeds.


I visited the former Carter and Carter building on Pontefract Lane this afternoon...

I had been asked to visit by Cllr Richard Brett and I met John Webster and some of his colleagues who are trying to establish the Donovan S Webster Training Centre in this old training base. The aim is to provide a vocational skills base for young people focused on motor mechanics, accountancy, gardening, sports and recreation, IT and basic English and mathematics. The centre has enormous potential and the passion, commitment and enthusiasm on display should mean that this project gets the support it needs to provide vocational pathways and job opportunities for some of our young people.

Monday, 13 December 2010


I had lunch today with two wonderful colleagues who wanted to say goodbye...

Claire Macklam and Maxine Parker were both members of the School Partnership Team who have gone on to bigger and better things but have stayed in touch. It was great to see these two brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who, like so many of you, have brought a bit of sparkle and magic to my life over the years.


I've finally reached the end of my time here in Leeds and I am grateful to all those people who have sent me cards, messages and presents and told me what a difference I have made and how much they will miss me. I recognise the challenges we all face going forward but schools must maintain their focus on standards and safeguarding despite the changes, the cuts and the uncertainty. Our schools must become even more creative and inspiring places working at the heart of their communities 365-24-7. We must continue to develop brilliant early years practice and to ensure that Every Child is a Reader and Every Child Counts by the time they are seven or eight. We must ensure that as far as possible all our children became brilliant little learners by the time they leave primary school and are on a pathway to success by the time they are sixteen. The greatest challenge at the heart of the city is to make sure that we continue the work we've done together and continue to 'Think Team' as we work to release the magic, the potential and the WOW factor in all our children, young people and their parents and carers...

The last week has again been an emotional rollercoaster ride. I had breakfast at St Bartholomew's Church of England Primary School with headteacher colleagues from the Inner West and Inner South families of schools. This was a special breakfast because it is the 100th headteacher breakfast since we started having them in January 2007. It was also special because Pauline Gavin and her team don't do things by halves at St Barts! Breakfast was brilliant: the food; the venue; and the company were all outstanding. I had a goodbye session with headteacher and governor colleagues at Space@Hillcrest. It was great to see so many colleagues and friends had managed to find the time to come. Children from Hillcrest Primary School sang for us all before Bernadette Young, headteacher at Royd's School, spoke on behalf of the Leeds secondary headteachers; Rod Ash, chair of the Leeds Governors Forum, spoke on behalf of the Leeds governors; and Sally-Ann Boulton, headteacher at Haigh Road Infant School spoke on behalf of the Leeds primary headteachers. Colleagues had also recorded messages which were shown at the end of what was a wonderful moment at the end of some precious times here in Leeds.

I also attended the Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Festival Concert 2010 at the Town Hall which was a wonderful celebration of our young people with over 500 young performers and some older ones releasing an extra-ordinary magic. The Festival Choir of around 360 children was drawn from 49 Leeds primary schools and they were magic! The City of Leeds Youth Orchestra were brilliant, the Leeds Youth Choir and the Leeds Youth Choir sang beautifully, and the Leeds Silver Doves were amazing. I visited Ralph Thoresby High School which is another of our great success stories. Stuart Hemingway, the headteacher, and his team have done a great job and the PFI building is spectacular with the banners and the light and colour and space as you walk through the school. It was wonderful to see the school again. I visited Carr Manor Primary School to see Linda Bowles, the headteacher, and some of her colleagues. Linda and the team do an amazing job and the Children's Centre has added a little bit of extra magic to the school. It has been brilliant working with Linda over the last ten years and watching the school develop into a real centre of primary excellence under Linda's skilful and passionate leadership. I visited the West Oaks Foundation which is another little bit of magic just off the High Street in Boston Spa. My colleague Andrew Hodgkinson, the principal, had asked me to come and officially open their West Oaks Foundation shop where students from West Oaks will be able to have their work experience and where the products of the West Oaks enterprise projects will be sold. It is a simply brilliant additional element at what must be one of the most innovative and successful special schools in the country. On Wednesday evening we had 'The Party at the End of the Universe' to mark the end of the Education Leeds contract. The party, at 'The Loft', was funded by Capita and it was great to see my colleagues Ian Harrison and Parin Bahl at the party with around 300 Education Leeds colleagues having a wonderful time. I visited Bankside Primary School and it was great to see my colleague Sarah Rutty again and to travel on the bus with the children up to the Fir Tree site. This amazing school is being rebuilt as a three form entry primary school on the existing site and Sarah and her incredible team are managing the transformation using the Fir Tree site for around three hundred of her children who are bussed up daily. It is an extraordinary logistical operation which the team and the children at Bankside appear to be taking in their stride! I visited St Margaret's Church of England Primary School in Horsforth; another school rebuilt through the PFI programme and now a fantastic school in a glorious building. It was great to see my colleague Alan Willey, the headteacher, and catch a little bit of Christmas magic with their 'Wriggly Christmas' nativity. I also visited Horforth School which is a specialist science college and it was great to see Steve Jex, the headteacher at this great school, again. Under Steve's intelligent and determined leadership over the last ten years the school has developed as one of the most successful secondary schools here in Leeds. I visited the David Young Community Academy to see my colleague Ros McMullen, the principal, at what has become a hugely successful school serving this complex and challenging bit of Leeds. It is great to see what Ros and her colleagues have achieved here in Seacroft and to remember where we started ten years ago with educational provision in this bit of the city. I visited the East SILC where Oakwood PSC were doing their Christmas production 'The Animal Nativity', which was a view of the traditional nativity story as seen through the eyes of the animals. It was a wonderful show and the children and the staff team were brilliant. I'll miss this little oasis of magic where Barrie Whitney, the principal, and his team are doing some extraordinary things and it was great to share this little bit of Christmas with these very special children and some of their mums and dads. I also visited one of my favourite schools. Cockburn College of Arts is a school that captures so well the Education Leeds story and where over the last ten years I have learnt so much and shared so many moments of real magic. It was a real honour to be invited by Dave Gurney, the headteacher, and Dave Westwell, the chair of governors, to officially open the school after all the remodelling work on the school site had been completed. Our Building Schools for the Future programme has been an amazing success and this is a fantastic transformation which alongside the school's brilliant results and their simply outstanding contextual value added indicators means that this has to be one of the best secondary schools in the city. The evening was rounded off by an outstanding performance of West Side Story by some talented students from this brilliant Performing Arts College. I visited Oulton Primary School to see my colleague Maria Townsend, the headteacher at this great little primary school, again. Maria has transformed Oulton Primary School and it was great to visit 'Jamaica', their nurture unit, to see the brilliant work Maria's colleagues are doing with some of her most special children who are receiving some of the additional help and support they need. I visited Bruntcliffe High School to see some of the outstanding work Linda Johnson, the headteacher, and her colleagues are doing including the amazing and award winning work they are doing on enterprise. Linda took me on a brief tour where we looked at their new science block and visited their vocational centre where they are doing some pioneering and outstanding work.

I am really sorry it hasn't been possible to get to see everyone before I leave, but the sheer scale and size of the city with 265 schools and over 17,000 school based colleagues as well as four Education Leeds centres with around 1000 colleagues has made it logistically impossible to see everyone who I would have liked to personally thank for their passion, commitment, determination, energy and hard work which has achieved so much over the last ten great years. During this last week in Leeds I hope to get to see colleagues at New Bewerley Community Primary School, Allerton Church of England Primary School and Hovingham Primary School, as well as fitting in the launch event for our work on free school meals at Roundhay School. I will also be having my last breakfast session with headteacher colleagues from the North West and Inner North West families of schools. I may also get see some of you at the council's leaving do at the Banqueting Suite at the Civic Hall at lunchtime on Thursday... everyone is welcome!

This is my last message of the week, and it marks 500 weeks of service to the schools in this great city. Together, we have built something extraordinary and we have quite simply transformed the leadership, the culture and the outcomes our schools and our children and young people achieve. There is always more to do to build a world class education and learning system at the heart of a child friendly and world class city, but ten years on the foundations are strong, deep and increasingly making a real difference where it matters. Education Leeds will continue until the end of March 2011 and I know that Nigel Richardson working with Dirk Gilleard and David Dickinson, my two brilliant deputies, and the great team we've built over the last ten years will continue to champion, challenge and support the amazing schools who do such brilliant work at the heart of children's services.

I know that you'll understand that I am desperately sad to be leaving Leeds and sorry to be saying goodbye to so many colleagues and friends and I hope to see as many of you as possible this week to say goodbye.

As far as my part in the story that's it... THE END!

Keep the faith!
With love,


I visited New Bewerley Primary School again today...

It was great to visit this amazing learning place again and see Patrick Wilkins and his team who are doing such a great job working at the heart of Leeds. The school is being expanded to become a two form entry school and with the Children's Centre, the resourced provision for children with  special educational needs and the extended services provision this is very much children's services in action. The school had a wonderful OFSTED and is on the journey to outstanding.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


My colleague Carol Jordan, Director of Integrated Children's Services sent me this bit of great news...

"Dear Chris, The Teaching and Learning Centre had a really positive HMI visit today. Lots of really positive praise for the progress made in all areas and the excellent support from Education Leeds. Wendy Winterburn,  Kevin Payne, Mark Barnett, TLC staff and everyone else involved have all worked really hard to get to this position – really good progress. The HMI said they would come back in the Spring term as part of the inspection process to take them out of special measures. What a great result – in one year. Well done to everyone involved. Excellent news. Carol."

This is fantastic news because the provision for our young people with the most complex behaviour is the most difficlut to get right and to sustain. Colleagues like Carol, Wendy, Kevin and Mark have worked with the TLC team and together they have achieved something outstanding. Congratulations to everyone involved.