I’ve been out working late.
But what a treat to come home and read this article. It made my day! Thank you so much for sharing it.
You do underplay your unquestionable charisma, dedication, passion and belief in the power of positivity.
In truth, there is only one Chris Dyson! You are unique. And I pray to god that you will be blessed with the stamina and good health to forever continue in the work that you do. You are a shining light that sets an example to all in education.
It is both a pleasure and an honour to know you, to be aware of the sterling work that you do and the infectious and unique spell that you cast that has a transforming effect on the lives of children and teachers alike!
It’s so good to know that you are out there doing what you do – making a huge positive difference to the perceptions, aspirations and pathways impacting upon children and the way that they and their teachers tackle and navigate the sometimes turbulent road through schooling and life!
You are a treasure and a diamond to hold, to look up to, and to emulate.
You never cease to gain my respect and admiration.
Chris Dyson has been Headteacher of Parklands Primary School since 2014. He took over a school with low expectations of its pupils and with similarly low staff morale. Exclusion numbers had been very high, and behaviour was poor including the now infamous games of tig on the roof. Often described as the most deprived school in Britain, Parklands has 74% of its children receiving Free School Meals. Chris inherited a staff used to a regular verbal battering behind closed doors. If the school had been inspected at that time, ‘inadequate’ was the most likely judgement just as the Local Authority had graded the school.
Four years on and Parklands is OFSTED rated ‘Outstanding’ and Chris is a regular at the TES Awards, collecting the prize for community collaboration in 2017 (and being shortlisted for HeadTeacher of the Year and Maths School of the Year in 2018) and in that time, Chris has seen very little change in the make up of his staff. How does he do it?
Chris loves a visitor at Parklands, adults and children. Arriving at his office at lunchtime, door wide open as it always is with the exception of the most sensitive meetings, I was greeted by walls of notes, cards, pictures and gifts from the children. Children came and went, talked freely and honestly and enjoyed the friendly banter of their Headteacher. Make no mistake though; they know Chris is in charge and they know their boundaries, but they also know that their wellbeing is at the top of the Parklands agenda.
Chris applies a similar attitude towards his staff. Little movement in the staff save for moves abroad and promotion is testament to the positive culture that Chris has grown. To keep hold of staff, young teachers in particular, at a time when some schools experience close to 100% turnover each year or two is an admirable achievement. He embraces the opportunity that part-time teachers offer. Whereas some heads would baulk at this prospect, at Parklands it is recognised that this is a means to retain staff, look after their wellbeing through reduced hours and to reward them by trusting them. Though the Parklands Twitter feed is full of celebration such as ‘The Parklands Fun Palace’ and the ‘Best Seats in the House’ and this would suggest that life is one long party, this is far from the case. Book looks, and drop-in observations are conducted as rigorously as anywhere else. They are however accompanied and supported by an atmosphere in which teachers are coached and given constructive feedback, rather than be in an environment of critique and fear.
‘Look after your staff and they will look after you’ is the Dyson philosophy, words echoed by the staff I spoke to. Days in lieu are granted for attending Saturday INSET and events such as Primary Rocks and Northern Rocks. Days off are also given to staff, teaching assistants included, who attend residential trips. In many schools this is not the usual practice at all. Time is given during the day for marking with a vital twenty minute window being opened for an assembly of PSHE lesson, enabling immediate feedback for the day’s mathematics teaching. Teachers aren’t expected to mark homework as it is either completed on an online platform or in the form of home projects. Written planning is not required, as planning and preparation time is given over to the production of flipcharts and teaching resources. Chris’s young teachers feel like he wishes to empower them and that crucially he trusts them. One became NQT mentor having just completed her first year of teaching, unheard of in some establishments, but here Dyson provides an invaluable learning experience in giving the opportunity to lead from an early stage in one’s teaching career.
There is a feeling of a very positive culture at Parklands. In Chapter One I discussed how wellbeing couldn’t be covered in a training day. The Dyson way is to have a team building day, a few days before the start of the Autumn Term in the last days of August. There is no compulsion to attend, again because of family commitments, holiday or simply because it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the day of bowling, boating or laser tagging is rewarded with time off in lieu also. Carried by the force of Chris’s personality, most staff choose to attend this day. They feel a sense of team bonding, that Chris values them and that they begin the term on a positive note. Contrast this with the sometimes rather staid and awkward training day team building experiences described earlier in the book; the difference lies in choice for the members of the team and a very clear purpose for Chris.
It was intriguing to talk to the teaching assistants, many of whom had served through five previous headteacher’s appointments. Though they recognised Chris’s role in forging the positive and vibrant culture that Parklands has at present, they all believed that they had a tight bond before he arrived. They felt this was important under the previous regime as during that time there was a lot of ‘sneaking about’ and tale telling to the Head, staff crying in stock cupboards and a ‘ruthless’ attitude from the school leadership, where people feared for their jobs and their mental health. The most refreshing aspect of the Dyson headship was his open door policy and his very obvious desire to care and to put children first. Described as ‘Brilliantly Bonkers’, everyone feels able to challenge him if necessary but there is a degree of comfort and confidence in doing so. They might not always see entirely eye-to-eye, but nobody has their head bitten off. He has allowed teaching assistants the opportunity to work flexibly and child care commitments are accommodated and written into working hours.
Chris Dyson is a character, as large and ebullient in real life as he is on Twitter, his assemblies are a performance, his energy engaging and his enthusiasm infectious; a spur of the moment thinker with a passion for everything and anything that will benefit his school, his children and his staff. OFSTED agree: “The Headteacher is an inspirational leader who lives and breathes Parklands Primary School. His enthusiasm and ambition for pupils and the community are boundless,” ( ) and the summary of the report recognises the trust and respect that exist and have grown between pupils, parents and staff. He is also a man of great humanity and sensitivity as one particular example demonstrates with great clarity.
Many Twitter users will be familiar with the sad loss of one of his members of staff’s husband in the summer of 2017. Chris, like many of the rest of us, found this news from Twitter whilst on holiday abroad. Immediately he put in place a program of support for the MOS. He didn’t require her to begin work in September but allowed her to set her own time when she felt ready to. OFSTED came in the second week of September and given her treatment she came to meet the inspectors despite her recent loss. Chris has continued to support her to work flexibly in her semi-retirement. The MOS’s ‘pinned Tweet’ sums the support she has received in a sentence: I can never thank @chrisdysonHT enough for believing in me when I didn’t and saving me from myself!
Chris has the force of personality to drive his school forward, to show a genuine care for his teachers and teaching assistants and uses an inspired and clearly values led approach to the wellbeing of the whole school community. He is ‘The Wellbeing Toolkit’ personified.
I am currently Headteacher of a Good school in Luton, Bedfordshire, and I strongly believe that in our job, you can never stop learning. Through social media and some publications that I have read, I came across your Parklands School and have been really inspired by your approach to primary education. I have followed you on Twitter and quite simply love some of the things that you seem to do at your school. It is certainly inspirational. When I joined my current school, I was talking to one of the Assistant Heads and she was saying about this amazing school in Leeds that she often follows. I was saying about a school in Leeds that I was inspired by and long and behold, we were both talking separately about the same school! We were both saying that we would really like to learn more about the things that you do and the way things work at Parklands. I was wondering if I could ask if it would be at all possible for myself and my Senior Leadership Team (four of us altogether) to come and visit your school for a few hours one day towards the end of the autumn term? This would be an amazing Professional Development opportunity for us. Each term I like to take my Senior Leadership Team on an away day to visit a different local school so that we can see new ways of working and keep ourselves inspired and ‘fresh on our feet’. It has been really useful for us but I would particularly like to venture away from our own Local Authority and from our neighbouring London, and see how things are done in other areas of the country. I was hoping that we could visit and possibly have a tour around the school and then a short discussion time with yourself to talk about leadership and your school. We would be very interested to find out how you organise everything and lead your school as well as ‘picking your brains’ at how you have developed all of your business links. Currently, I am struggling with maximising our income and as a Community school, we are looking to try to start to develop business links. I have noticed your brilliant work on preparing children for a working world and this approach of aspiration and ambition, along with happiness and self-belief, is something that we are so keen on here too. I appreciate that you are very busy and that you could probably do with out us asking for a visit, but it would be such an amazing opportunity for my SLT and would really continue to inspire them as they are all very driven and ambitious leaders. We are very keen to spend some quality time together looking at ‘what makes an outstanding school’ and Parklands will undoubtedly have so many good answers. Anything that we talked about on a visit to your school, and anything that we learn, would be so valuable. To look at how another leader works is so powerful and beneficial. An away day like this for us also provides a good opportunity for us to talk as a SLT too and spend the long journey up north reflecting on all that we are doing back at base. I of course appreciate that we may have to pay you for this opportunity too so please do consider this. I really hope that you don’t mind me getting in touch with you like this, and during the summer holiday too. I thought that it was best to email and ask now as diaries get so filled up so quickly and by sorting something early, it would give us chance to sort train travel and / or accommodation if you are happy for us to visit. We could arrive mid to late morning and then just spend some short time learning all about Parklands. Your school really does seem sensational. Many thanks for your time and I hope that you are having a lovely summer holiday. I really hope you don’t mind me getting in touch and asking.
Richard Fordham, Headteacher
Dear Parklands Primary School, I recently came to your school on a few visits with a young girl who is transitioning to your school in September and I wanted to send an email saying a huge thank you to all of the staff in the resource provision class for making our visits so nice and for being so welcoming towards both the young child and towards me. As I have worked with this child all through her time at nursery I have felt somewhat apprehensive about her move so it was lovely to see how much effort all the staff in R.P have and are putting in to make sure her transition goes as smoothly as possible and I can see that she will be highly supported as well as her parents. I highly enjoyed my time spent in R.P and I couldn’t have felt more welcomed than what i did. Your staff in the R.P are all fantastic and it’s clear to see that they work very hard to ensure all the children in their care are well looked after and supported. Please pass on my thanks to them.
Just want to thank you and your team for allowing us to visits and being so fabulous to work with – thought I’d share our Maths success with you.
95% Attained with 33% at Higher Standard – so you can imagine how chuffed we are!
Many things have given us the 31% increase; having a fab team is a huge part of it, however your openness and allowing us to see how you teach maths and lead maths has made a big impact. Our arithmetic scores were virtually all over 30 and many 35+. Not yet at your amazing standard but we will keep on working. With these scores you are over half way there!
Working with Parklands has been the best CPD this year and I shall share that in my LA meeting in half an hour…
To Mr Dyson
As I work in a school myself I sometimes feel we receive more complaints than we do compliments. Well this email is full of compliments. So I hope this brings a smile to yours and your teams faces.
Firstly I would just like to say the progress Layla has made in a year at this school has been out of this world. She has been celebrated twice in assembly and I love this. Before she started here Layla couldn’t even sit down for 2 minutes and now my child sits for long periods of time and completes activties. The help she has received from all staff has been so lovely. She really has found her feet.
I remember feeling worried about where Layla would receive the best care, a mainstream or in a resources provision. I am so glad I chose R.P.
What a team you have in the R.P unit. They are amazing.
The activties that happen in this unit are great and meet the needs of every individual child in there. But also the out of school activties such as soft play and swimming are just fantastic. Layla really enjoys these and it’s a good way to get children with special needs involved in exercise as it’s so enjoyable to them. I love picking Layla up after one of these activties as I know she has had a fun and productive day at school and she has really enjoyed herself and done some fun exercise. I have also noticed that Layla has lost weight since starting the school and it all comes down to the environment and the extra activties that you provide from them.
I really can’t wait to see what the next year brings for Layla and the progress she will make.
Please pass my Thankyou’s on to your fab team.
Zoe McGowan and Layla
Thank you again for allowing me to visit your school today – I loved it! I have taken so many things away from the visit (not literally lol!) that I know will help to develop our school further. My head Chris Tolson is very interested in speaking to you in person about your journey (he has already pinched lots of ideas from you via Twitter, and they work!) He took your booklet off me the minute I returned to school today and I haven’t managed to get it back! Please could you send me electronic copies of those documents and explain again how your colour coding worked for monitoring teachers/teaching. I would also really appreciate the template for the x tables certificate too if possible.
I was so excited by the fact that I had videoed one young man’s fingers as he fractically tapped on the keyboard for TT rockstars, only to get back to school to realise that I had the camera on camera shot not video – gutted! My class would have loved to see that speed and would have been in competition to try it themselves! Maybe if Chris arranges a visit, he could video it for me!
Thanks again – you really are inspirational and your school is fab! The children were so lovely and polite – they made me feel very welcome. Your staff and yourself are the most inspirational educators I have ever met.
Just dropping a note to say thank you ever so much for letting us come to your school to bring Jurassic Kingdom to life. We all adored coming to your school so much, you have incredibly polite children and they were brilliant to talk too! It was a perfect setting to bring Rexy in! If only every school could be like Parklands.
Dean Lomax tours the world giving Palaeontologist talks and has never had such an enthusiastic audience. He was thrilled his session over ran by 25 minutes. He just wishes his Headteacher was like you!
You will be my first port of call should we have any future partnerships!
Jess - Jurassic Kingdom and Dean R Lomax - Presenter of BBC 1 Dinosaur Britain
“Impossible is nothing”
On Thursday I was lucky to be invited to have a nosey around Parklands Primary School in Leeds. I was well prepared for what I was going to see, having already watched video clips of the kids doing times tables stupidly quickly. I also had previously met the main man: Chris Dyson, at primary rocks and I was intrigued as to what sort of school he had created. When we arrived BBC breakfast were busy filming in the hall (around 60 kids and loads of the staff had slept at school the night before) you can find the video here: TT Rock Stars
I deliberately didn’t take any notes – I just wanted to enjoy myself – so this is all from memory. Love
Parklands is full of love. It’s a warm welcoming place. The kids are great – they may look a bit rough around the edges, but you cannot fail to be impressed by their behaviour around school and their politeness towards everyone. It’s a hugging school. The love the kids have for that place, their teachers and Chris, is immense. It shows – every child wanted to talk to Chris and he bothered to stop and listen to them, he values them and they value him. And understandably so, Chris explained the situation when he took over: police in every day, kids climbing on the roof, colouring all afternoon because the kids couldn’t manage anything else without wanting to kill each other, numerous exclusions, staff restraining children daily, all kind of stuff. Now three years down the line: no exclusions, no shouting, great behaviour, awesome. Maths
I mentioned I was prepared to see the kids doing crazily fast calculations, but actually witnessing it was something else. I assumed Chris always wheeled out the top dogs for the cameras and was certain it wouldn’t be everyone. But it was. Year 3. Insanely good. Then Chris says: “come and see my year 4’s, they are the stars.” It was totally overwhelming. Decimal times tables, done instantaneously. When the question was 12 x 0.12 and there was a disagreement over the answer (some said 14.4 others 1.44) the kids sorted it out, had a discussion and agreed on the correct answer. It went on, decimal times tables with number bonds to 10. 6 x 0.6 = 6.4, done in seconds. My colleague said to be walking out of year 4 – “if they can do that, what can the year 6’s do?” I tried to compete: I failed. In every classroom I looked around to try to find the person who wasn’t doing it – there weren’t any. Year ones working out the 12 times table (correctly). Endless. I was literally gobsmacked. I honestly felt like bursting into tears because I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Walking through KS2 was possibly the most incredible experience I have had in a school ever. And I’m not a person easily impressed. I hate TED talks and Ken Robinson books and ‘inspirational’ quotes and teacher facebook posts about ‘teaching being a vocation’ blah blah blah. High expectations
Parklands has 72% pupil premium children. In schools with this close to 40% you feel achievement is impossible, so 72% is mind-blowing. It makes the job that is being done even more incredible. The 63% who passed maths at greater depth: a leafy school in grammar-school authorities where the parents teach the kids, would struggle to get even half of that %. But listening to Chris is isn’t rocket science. Ultimately it comes down to three things: 1. high expectations 2. amazing staff and 3. kids who want to be there. If you have high enough expectations of the children, they can reach them. The message I gleaned for my practice was to forget about children being behind, expect them to do better. Set targets. Reach them. Set more. Reach them. It’s not difficult to do, its hard work, but we all work hard anyway. It’s about knowing where to set the ceiling for achievement. Can I finish by saying thanks to Chris and all at Parklands for having us.
When a small primary school is able to rally the support of over 1,000 volunteers from their local community to support children’s learning, it is surely a sign that there is something special going on. Parklands Primary School is based in an area of Leeds where 84 per cent of pupils receive free school meals. Yet despite the deprivation that the school faces, staff have worked tirelessly to secure many successful partnerships, including reading volunteers for the most vulnerable, solicitors offering weekly maths support, and the local bank supporting the teaching of mental arithmetic. Many pupils come from workless households and have benefitted greatly from this exposure to the world of industry. Mentors work with pupils on enterprise and the fundamentals of business and children are regularly taken off site to work in companies in order to raise aspirations. The collaborative spirit of staff never rests. When they learnt that just six families out of 304 students had ever visited a Christmas grotto, the staff pooled their resources to open the school on Christmas Eve, bringing together several hundred families within the community. A total of 796 presents and Christmas lunches were given; one company even donated a team of real reindeers to welcome the children. The judges said: “Collaboration is in the DNA of Parklands Primary School. Their innovative partnership stems from resourceful leaders working collaboratively for the benefit of the school and the local community. So much of what this outstanding school does will endure for years to come.”
TES National Awards
I am writing to congratulate Parklands Primary School on your outstanding success at the Tes Schools Awards and the award of Collaboration. We know that schools are known for their inclusive, family-like environments and their place at the heart of the communities they serve. Therefore this award is indeed a happy and proud moment for the whole school and the community it serves. The hard work of you and your staff has certainly prevailed and I hope you continue.
Vicky Beer CBE
Thank you for allowing my team & I to spend time in your school yesterday, I know you were keen to call out your appreciation of our support but supporting your school really does boost the morale of my team – they love it. I have received many call from them telling me just how much they got out of the day. I was proud of the efforts they put in, although I am sure like me they have a few aches and pains this morning!
I also wanted to call out just how pleasant and incredibly polite your children are, every time I walked down a corridor they said hello or opened a door. Personally for me the most amazing part of yesterday was seeing how you and your teachers interact with the Children. I was working outside a couple of classrooms and with the windows opened I could hear the engaging way teachers were interacting with the children, but most of all I could hear laughter. I don’t want to embarrass you but your personal approach is brilliant and therefore I am not surprised at what I saw in your school. Please keep up your great work as without doubt you are making a real difference – it was very humbling to be part of your school for a day.
Thank you so so much for the lovely feedback Chris. I have passed on to Adam and Beth. Once again a pleasure and the best school I have ever been to without doubt. The kids and staff were a joy to perform to. When teachers are enjoying themselves that impacts on the kids and that was evident. Congrats on all your hard work.
My name is Natasha and I am currently a first year student studying at the University of Leeds. I also happen to be a member of Leeds Student Television (LSTV), which is a television station that was created and is run by students of the university. I recently came across the incredible story of your Headteacher, Mr Chris Dyson. All I can say is that I was really inspired and would like to produce a short television feature/documentary on his life and impact on Parklands Primary. Just to let you know a bit more about LSTV, we are a student-run television station that currently create live shows and variety content that air on Made In Leeds. with around 50,000 viewers on a weekly basis. All of our content is made in and around Leeds, and as a station we’ve won multiple student television awards. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Just wanted to send you a quick message about today. It was simply inspirational
. What a school and team you have developed. You can really see why children are doing so well in mathematics. The children were so happy and well behaved. The teachers and TAs were passionate about their teaching and clearly enjoyed being at the school and knew they are making a difference. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that you and the team are changing lives. It has to be one of my favourite visits around any school ever. Thank you so much for your time and if we can support you in any way in the future, do not hesitate to get in touch. I really hope you and the team are recognised by Ofsted and the authority for the amazing work you are doing. Please pass on my thanks to the whole team and I look forward to visiting again sometime in the future.
I just wanted to say how ‘blown away’ I was with Parklands School – it is very rare I am speechless but just didn’t know what to say to you after the assembly. I have worked and visited a great number of schools and never seen or felt the buzz of positivity, happiness, support and fun exuded by the staff, students and parents at Parklands. I really look forward to working with the School in a creative and meaningful way and will arrange to visit again with some more solid ideas, plans and timescales before Christmas with Jo Buck if that is Ok with you? Again many thanks for my visit – I left your school, not with that Friday feeling, but energised by the Parklands induced ‘high’!
I am genuinely delighted that we are able to help make a difference to some of the more deprived children in the area. I know that all of the guys who support Parklands, either through the reading project, activities on-site or simply through donations of some kind get a huge amount out of being able to help in some way and I am very grateful to you for acknowledging this. As you rightly say, we have a wonderful partnership and I am sure it will continue long into the future. Carole and Sarah Well done to you and everyone who has been involved here – it is great to see the difference we can make in our local communities; keep it up. Perhaps when I am next in Leeds (after the school holidays I guess), I could visit the school on one of our activity days? It would be great to see how we support…I will even brush up on my reading skills – just in case!
We had a lovely day at Parklands and were made to feel very welcome. Please can you pass on our thanks to all the pupils who took part in the workshops – they were so well behaved and polite throughout the sessions. They all worked really hard and worked well together, coming up with some great creative ideas. All of the pupils that we met during the course of the day were polite and helpful, and we loved having lunch with some of them and getting to know more about your wonderful school. We have appointed our former Apprentice, Keisha, into the role of Dance Education Officer (she delivered the first workshop) which is great for the team and so you may well see her again for the START workshops in the autumn! Thanks again for making us so welcome, we hope that you all have a wonderful summer and we look forward to working with you again in September.
Jo, Leanne and Sophie
It’s really important that young people develop their strength to lead active and enjoyable lives. I was delighted that Parklands Primary School has embraced that approach and sees being strong so important in everyone’s lives. At British Weight Lifting, we were delighted to share Rebekah’s experience with the pupils and encourage them into sport in general.
“Where do I start? The atmosphere in school was unbelievable, I honestly thought there was a dance class on when I first arrived but no the music being played was just a tool to create a happy peaceful atmosphere which encourages children and staff to shine. I didn’t see anyone in 4 hours at the ‘Fun Palace’ who didn’t have the biggest smile on their faces… staff and children. The welcome I had was inspiring, I was touched by the DVD and the ‘Wall of Fame’ that the children had done for me. I have worked with both Ronaldo’s, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldinho, Zinidine Zidane but none of them have left an impact on me like the children at Parklands. The workshop saw real potential and the way the 400 children responded to my skill show was humbling. I will ensure that when I return I will bring my brother in law Mo Farah to see what you can achieve when you believe in children. Enjoy my new Aldi advert (I am the grandma). Check all the action @colinnell and @parklandsleeds twitter accounts. Keep believing and keep making a difference.”
What an outstanding days learning we had at Parklands today working with the brilliant Y5 children. Seriously we didn’t want to leave. You have such polite, intelligent, brilliant children who excel with their ideas. They speak so confidently and will make a real difference to any work place in later years. We can’t speak highly enough of this wonderful school. The music played puts smiles on faces, the atmosphere is sensational, the assembly was an added bonus as too the delicious lunch. We can’t wait to return.
The Ahead Partnership and Calbee UK
Can you please pass on our thanks to Mr Dyson and all of the children at Parklands Primary School for a wonderful day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, we had a fantastic time, you were the best company and given us some special memories, everyone was a credit to their families/school and Theatre Company. We were particularly impressed by the Seniors who displayed a tremendous level of maturity Thank you, we hope we were of some use, would love to be invited again
John and Ann Hughes
You would be so proud (again) of the Parklands children. They have been a delight to have in work today. I am sure that you will hear all about their time in the office when they arrive back. Looking forward to seeing the next group. Keep up the great work!!
Well what can I say – what a fantastic few hours we got to spend at Parklands today. The reception and welcome you put on for me (Louis Smith) was amazing, a real credit to the amazing kids you have at the school! The hard work they put into the questions, Wall of Fame and routine was second to none and felt by the whole team. We event got a proper school lunch (which I must add was delicious) and enjoyed greatly by everyone! You are doing fantastic work at the school and we are so happy we were able to contribute to inspiring the children and raising their aspirations. Your passion and dedication to the kids in the school can be seen throughout and long may it last.
Louis Smith MBE
Sarah Neild and I spent two remarkable days at Parklands school in Leeds and found both the staff and children up for all the challenges offered to them. The staff were open and perceptive. They shared and discussed with the learning of the children always at the heart of what they developed and took on. Extending the remarkable things they already do for their charges. The children were a really special bunch. Up for challenges and open to ideas with alacrity and style. They showed themselves to have humour (but kept well in check where needed) They were remarkably polite and helpful, naturally and readily, making both of us instantly comfortable and were open for new challenges. Their ideas were remarkable, their confidence and love for writing shone. Our time at Parklands was unique and truly special. Thank you to Chris, his staff and children and well done all.
Hello Chris It is a fact that it is your school which is the inspiration. I have never left a school,with such a buzz and sense of real,achievement. Every member of staff, every child lifted me and I am sure the the other judges felt similarly proud to have been part of it.. Well done to all. Regards Harry Harry Gration said live on Look North 20.11.15 @ 6.52pm ” I have had a great day, I have been at Parklands Primary School in Leeds and have been inspired by a wonderful staff and incredible children today, I have to say that it is a credit to the City of Leeds, they are a wonderful school and made me feel so welcome as well……” Harry Grations twitter account said….. I have just visited a remarkable school.Parkland Primary school in Seacroft Leeds..Inspirational staff and wonderful children.Marvellous
Thank you for submitting your EYFS Profile data. Early Year’s practitioners should be warmly congratulated for all their hard work. The data for Parklands shows a significant rise in the GLD this year; this is an immense achievement for your EY team given the children’s low starting points. We know how hard everyone must have worked to achieve this outcome and a big well done to all.
Dear Chris Thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality during my visit to your lovely school yesterday (1st October). It was a real privilege to meet so many fantastic children and staff. I was enormously lifted by my visit because of the tremendous culture that has been created. High support and high challenge…… There is clear evidence of a rich broad and balanced curriculum, a powerful drive to raise standards and a determination to improve the quality of Teaching and Learning. The standards achieved this year along with the dramatic improved behaviour are tribute to these changes and improvements…… In addition you are developing a truly inclusive learning community that values all members equally as individuals. Parklands Primary school is a special learning place and I will be recommending other schools to visit. Please pass on my special thanks to the School Council for their time and providing such erudite insight into the school…. a special thanks to Owen in Y2 for the owl that he made and gave to me. I will keep it in my office to remind me of the wonderful children of Parklands. The children were incredibly smart, polite, friendly and clearly hard working and talented.
I just wanted to thank you for tweeting about your fabulous school and for being such an inspiration to schools up and down the country. What an amazing head you are! I have followed you are on twitter for some time but it was the blog by @Southgloshead that made me realise just what an impact you are making on Parklands’ children. In these days of gloom about school funding, you are also a voice of optimism showing us other headteachers there are other ways to get round a shortage of funds.
Your vision is admirable and the impact you have made goes far beyond the children in your school as so many of us other teachers and school leaders have learnt from you. I wanted to say too much for a tweet so forgive me for emailing but your influence has touched so many of us.
THANK YOU from a headteacher down south who also firmly believes in smiles and love!
Hi Nick I found your video clips and messages heart-warming as they are thought provoking. I began by giving them a generous one-hour slot only to find that three hours had passed by and I still hadn’t had any intention of stopping. I defy any teacher who looks at these not to reflect on their own practice. For me, one big question arose: “What would I say was the biggest impact that I had made in my teaching career?” It was surprisingly simple and quick to recall: “Jodie!!” It was early 1996 and I had just returned back to Cambridgeshire as Advisor where fifteen years earlier I had taken up my first headship. In this new role I used every opportunity to take my guitar into school to generate interest and promote a problem-solving approach through songs and rhymes. So it was with this in mind that I was asked to lead on a School Assembly with 110 four to seven year olds. Fortune favours the brave! (Am I starting to sound like Seth Godwin!!!! – Your links led me to his ‘How to Dance with Fear!’) So, I asked the congregation of youngsters in front of me if anyone had a song that they would like to sing to get us all started. I only got one response. A five year old put up her hand. I asked of her name and she told me it was Jodie, and she responded when I asked her if she would like to sing her song for everyone. At this point there was a noticeable intake of air from around the hall (to my ears at least). “This is going to be interesting!” I thought. Anyway, Jodie sang a delightful song. I completed the assembly and then went off to work with the seven year olds. At lunchtime it was time to go so I popped into the staff room to bid farewell and was greeted by overwhelming comments, interest and disbelief. “That little girl Jodie that you got to sing ….”. “Yes ….? ….?” “She’s an elective mute. We have never heard her speak before. She never speaks in school at any time!” “What?!” “Wow!!” As I left the school I knew that this day would never be bettered and would stay with me forever. Such encounters are joyous occasions and we teachers are so fortunate to experience these life changing events. Your video clips re-affirmed that such encounters deserve a voice. Thank you for sharing them with me. Best wishes. John
Thank you so much for the wonderful invitation to join you at the amazing Parklands Christmas Show yesterday — I had a fantastic time! What talent — if I had been Simon Cowell I wouldn’t have known where to start — there would have been bus loads down to the bright lights! You must be very proud of your wonderful pupils, such skill and talent, everybody delightful, polite and so very happy — what a wonderful community exists at Parklands! Sincere good wishes to you, your talented pupils and staff for a fantastic Christmas and a very happy and healthy 2019.
Can I once again say a huge thank you for allowing the South Gloucestershire HT delegating to visit your amazing school – I’ve been evangelising about your work to everyone I meet! ‘Bolty’ (I forget his real name) is now a bit of a legend in this part of the SW! So much so that we were wondering whether you’d allow another group (this time comprising Maths Leaders and PP champions) to pay you a visit? I know this is a big ask (and we’d be happy to pay any costs) but I think that they’d learn a lot from your approach to removing barriers.
I just want to say a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE thank you for a fabulous day visiting your incredible school on Thursday. Myself and my SLT were so inspired – by your leadership but also by your amazing pupils. It really was an incredible day… probably the most beneficial and enjoyable one that I have ever had in my 20+ year career in education so far! It was summed up by young Thomas seeing us off in our taxi, with a cup of tea in his hand, telling us that when he is older he is going to be the next Headteacher of Parklands… Wow!! I wish you and your staff a great end to the autumn term and a very happy Christmas. Thank you for all of the resources that you have sent us and for all of the knowledge and tips that you gave us during our visit. Huge thanks and hopefully, more of my staff can be inspired by Parklands in the future.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to you, your staff and your children who are all a credit to the school. Benjamin, our school councillor in Yr. 5 yesterday was an amazing guide to the school and a real advocate for what you have achieved. He was lovely and very polite – holding the door open for us and always saying you’re welcome when thanked. Please can you pass on our thanks for his time yesterday. I am came back to school buzzing with ideas, especially for funding.
Once again, many thanks for inspiring 25 Head Teachers yesterday in the happiest school in the world.
I just wanted to send you an email to say thank you very much for allowing me to visit your school today. Your children and staff were all so welcoming and incredibly helpful and I had a really enjoyable morning. I have heard lots of positive things whether from Tom Clarke who was also a governor at Beechwood when I worked there or from others who work at schools you currently have involvement with. I thoroughly enjoyed your key note speech at the White Rose Maths conference a few weeks ago and it was good to come and see lots of things that I have heard about in action. Parklands has clearly been on an incredible journey over the last 4 years and everyone who has been part of that must be very proud.
Dear Chris and all at Parklands Many thanks for allowing me to visit your fantastic school. It was great to see what you give to your children and your community. Everyone in education knows how hard it is to get to outstanding, particularly when you are in an area where many families struggle financially. The thing that struck me most as soon as I arrived is that you are not your typical outstanding school- you don’t have a new fancy building and you do it your way!! You have achieved so much but completely prioritised the children’s needs and not just learning needs. You take care of their emotional needs and you nurture them, ensuring all are well fed, well clothed and ensuring all children access all aspects of life- enriching through fantastic opportunities outside the curriculum, whether that is visiting a grotto, taking part in competitions, meeting famous people or going to the sea side. All of these things clearly make the children feel very special and valued. The learning for children is obviously very engaging alongside the highest expectations and a can do attitude. There is obviously a total belief that ALL children CAN and WILL be successful. The children showing us around were a delight (I was honoured to have Jessica and Alex as guides. The classrooms were calm, purposeful and filled with learning. Children were keen to explain the learning they were doing and why they love Parklands. Every single person I met seemed to have Parklands at their heart. The teachers and leaders are clearly driven and share the load in striving for excellence. The children’s books, your improvement plans etc all showed me that. The children were a pleasure to be around and are an absolute credit to you all and the hard work you do. A real team effort. And then there is you Chris- Parklands are very lucky to have you- not least because of the additional funding you bring in but because of your obvious commitment to the families and the positivity and creativity you bring to the role. You are a big figure in the life of the school but it is completely obvious that you use your big personality not to benefit you but to benefit the school. So thanks again- I have taken much away with me to help me within my own school and already my children and staff are now listening to some great music in our corridors with a new sound system. Keep on being brilliant and keep on having fun doing it
Hi All, Just to thank you ALL for what has been a truly OUTSTANDING year! Parkland is a real example to the city & nationwide,a real success story for the area, but more so for our Pupils Parents and wider community. YOU the Head ,SLT, and Staff together have achieved what was considered unachievable by some, YOU have changed the game plan! More importantly your outstanding work has changed the life choices for our Pupils, YOU have effected that change in mindset for Pupils,Families,Community! its all Positive! WE can now see that hard work pays off! PARKLANDS is the proof!!!!!! Many thanks to the Whole TEAM! PUPILS! & PARENTS. May I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Great new year!
I am writing to thank you for your input at the ‘Diminishing Differences’ training on Thursday 16th November 2017. Your contribution to the morning was extremely well received and generated great interest amongst the group. Your passion and dedication to your pupils and staff shone through and what you delivered was perfect for the occasion. Some feedback comments from the delegates included: “Speaker from Parklands was inspirational.” “Very inspired by what they are doing at Parklands.” “Inspirational real life issues dealt with by Chris” “Chris Dyson was excellent” Once again, thank you very much for your support.
Hi Chris – thank you for today. Battling man flu and hosting our visit was a mean feat. We’ve come away with so many ideas we want to steal. The school, the children and the staff were inspirational – and a great credit to your leadership. Thank you again – we are indebted to you for your generosity.
Mathematical fluency, a school filled with love, and an enormous radish
Since I got back in touch with Chris, the Twittersphere has been full of testimonials about the quality of mathematical learning and teaching at Parklands Leeds. Today, Chris invited three colleagues and me for a road trip up north. Chris’s open invitations to the UK’s best educators is an opportunity for him to showcase the work he does with the young people and families at Parklands. In many schools inviting a conveyer belt of teachers into school each week would fill staff with fear and apprehension, but this is no vanity project, and in my view, the open door policy fulfills two purposes: • it makes the children and staff at Parklands feel immensely proud of their school • Chris and his team get the opportunity to learn from others. Our day started at 10:30 am with Chris sharing his leadership journey. Here he generously credited support from colleague Headteachers, a supportive LA and an HMI Maths inspector who invested a large amount of time post inspection to shape an improvement plan with the aim of making the teaching of mathematics outstanding. Chris then took us on a tour of all the classrooms. Our pre-visit brief was to see high-quality mathematics learning and the school generously flipped their morning timetable to facilitate this. As a long-serving school improvement advisor and serving Headteacher, I have been privileged to see some brilliant teachers, inspiring classroom environments, and many wonderful motivated children. However, the level of mathematical engagement and understanding I observed this morning took my breath away. The numerical fluency at Parklands was simply the best I have ever seen. Young children fired back number bonds, a KS1 child, with complex needs, knew all their tables and children in KS2 could recite multiplication facts and calculate the number bond to 100 quicker than my University educated maths brain could compute. This was not just an example of children robotically regurgitating multiplication facts; there was clear evidence that the children’s secure knowledge of multiplication facts and number bonds were applied to real-life problem solving and mastery mathematics. In addition to the outstanding mathematicians, we observed the highest standards behaviour and kindness. Three children were chosen to eat lunch with us; they helped us navigate the routines of an unfamiliar dinner hall, and demonstrated wonderful manners and conversational skills over our meal. Walking through the lunchtime corridors, the children smiled and politely waved to us as we toured their school. I observed a year two child patiently teaching one of their peers how to tie a shoelace. In summary, the standards of arithmetic at Parklands Leeds are the highest I have seen in any Primary School and I do not doubt that the determined team at Parklands will reach the same standards in reading and writing. Parklands serve a community with the highest rates of deprivation in Leeds. Chris, and his team is proving that if you have a relentless focus on what children can do and build on these achievements you can build a magical palace of learning.
I hope you are well, I have been meaning to call or pop in but time has flown. The seaside pictures were amazing and I loved looking through them and seeing the smiles on the children’s faces. What a wonderful school, filled with amazing staff and leadership!! I wanted to let you know that I am moving on to pastures new. I leave the business next Friday after 18 happy years but feel it’s a good time to move on and try something new. It’s been an absolute pleasure and delight working with you and the children and I look forward to hearing more about your successes. I don’t think that the company are replacing my role so I don’t have a new contact name for you. If I hear different, I will be in touch with the details. Thanks for being so easy to work with and for all the laughs along the way
Hello Parklands! I am the Head of School at Thackley Primary School in Idle, Bradford. I have been following you on twitter for some time and am constantly amazed and inspired by the exciting things you get up to to make your school a brilliant place to be. I imagine you get many requests like this, especially since you won your TES award, but I was wondering if there was any chance I could come and visit and see your school in ‘real life’? I know you are all in Bridlington for the day tomorrow and that there is not much of the term left so would be happy to arrange a visit in September if that is more suitable for you? Hope to hear from you soon Fingers crossed for sunshine in Bridlington!
I am emailing, really to make contact and say hello after your appearance on BBC breakfast! I’m sure you probably don’t remember me, after having taught so many pupils, but I was one of group that took extra maths classes with you at Ravensmead primary school in Audley. I just wanted to say how great it is to see that the kids are loving their timetables (although I bet they don’t get to listen to oasis and blur whilst doing them), and that you are still inspiring young people to enjoy maths. I’m currently a lecturer at the University of Exeter, one of the modules I teach is statistics, and find it extremely difficult to encourage the student to embrace the topic. Anyway, mainly I wanted to say thank you, it was great to have such an inspiring and patient teacher, and I hope the children at your current school continue to enjoy and benefit from your unique teaching style.
Lisa Price, PhD, FHEA
Rock on Chris. Lovely piece on BBC News today! Those children are amazing!!! And I should know! Tell them I said so. But you won’t get me challenging them! It was tough enough at Poppy Road! I’ll try and get my daughter to make contact with you. At age twenty six and with a first class maths degree and MA under her belt she is already 2nd in the maths department in a secondary school near Nottingham. I don’t think though that many are onto her wave length of singing maths rhymes to her GCSE students. But you’d get it straight away! And, of course, all requests for support and now coming your way!! Keep waving the flag!
We’ve had this passed to our team in recognition of the award which the school has been given, and just wanted to say it brought a tear to my eye! What a lovely lovely thing to do at Christmas. I won’t go on, but wanted to say you must be so proud.
Hi Chris, Thanks for sharing. Very emotional. Congratulations to you and all the team for their hard work. Well deserved. School of the Year next year! Well done also on your SATs success. It continues to be a great good news story nd is great testimony to your leadership. Good luck to you and the team in today’s rock wrangle. Don’t let me down! Finally Pearson Education are going to send you a present. Myself and some of the team have been working on some materials to go alongside the scheme. I was asked who I wanted to receive a copy and I wanted you to get one as a reward to all the brilliant work your children do. Well done and good luck.
I messaged you via Twitter with regard to visiting your school. Quite simply put, I think you’re an inspirational individual and I’m drawn to your energy and the ethos of Parklands School.
Your investment in staff and pupil well-being is what I admire most. I’d love to learn how you’ve developed this throughout school as this is an area that I’d love to invest in at Robert Wilkinson.
I’m also a lover of Literacy – it’s my passion as I truly believe that writing captures the heart and soul of children if they are interested, enthused and engaged. I’d love to share some of my children’s SATs work with you. Technology is also high on the agenda at RWPA; I’d love to share some digital portfolios with you via SeeSaw. (We’re lucky to have Chromebooks).
I appreciate that Summer 2 is a hectic time of year; if you are unable to meet me this half term, I’d relish the opportunity to meet you in September. Please let me know when’s best for you and I’ll work around your availability.
Thank you once again for your kindness and welcoming a visit. You truly are a credit to the profession.
Dear Children of Parklands Primary School, I am the head teacher of a one form entry primary school in Sunderland. At this point I have to add that I actually live in Newcastle and do not support Sunderland! As a young girl I use to passionately follow Leeds United, I lived in Hull and for many years Leeds was THE team to support. With my dad, I travelled through to Elland Road for as many home matches as we could fit in. I actually had the privilege of meeting Don Revie, Billy Bremner and the rest of the first team way back in the 1970s. Ask your grandparents about Don Revie and his team! Yes I’m that old. I am writing to you to say how amazing you all are. I watched the clip from Look North and saw how hard you have worked to learn your times tables. During a staff meeting I showed my teachers the video clip too. Their jaws practically dropped to their knees when they saw how fast you could recall number / multiplication facts. The speed of your recall is fantastic. Your parents and teachers must be so proud of you. I spoke to Mr Dyson on the phone last week. I asked him how the times table work started. Mr Dyson was really helpful and told me how you do things in Parklands. His voice was full of pride, delight and enthusiasm as he described your assemblies and the fun you have learning your tables. I have been inspired to introduce something similar in my school. The staff are busy working on our times table strategy as I write. Thank you for being inspirational.
Mr Dyson, I am a former pupil from Poppleton Road, York (Year 6 in 2000). I keep seeing you pop-up on various TV clips with pupils and awards. I just wanted to send you a message of thanks and good luck with everything which you are doing. You always showed a great deal of care and respect to all pupils regardless of ability and inspired myself to work hard and get better grades. Other teachers were not as easy to relate to. Seeing the enthusiasm which you had for hard work and sports with 8am Cricket matches in the playground meant a lot to all those involved. Even hearing about the trip you had for the 2002 World Cup via Singapore while you were teaching my brother is still remembered. I ended up with a degree and a Regional Director position for a football coaching company in America for 6 years so it must have had some influence. I am very pleased to see that you are having continued success and inspiring pupils like myself to achieve great things as well as self-belief. Though the suit has replaced the Le Coq Sportif polo and the baggy tracksuit bottoms I am sure that all the pupils still hold you in the same regard. Remind them about our time on Look North in 1999 and the Strategy song. Currently I am working in smoking cessation in York and North Yorkshire and have taught PE as PPA cover in York primary schools. I hope that one day our paths shall cross again.
What can I say, thank you so so much for all of your kind words, praise and support last night. Many of the businesses there said it was the greatest speech they had ever heard. Your enthusiasm and passion was infectious, without Head Teachers such as yourself we couldn’t continue to engage and re-engage all of our business partners. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to come and speak on our behalf last night – you lit up the room with your stories! You are the most inspirational person I and the team have ever met. Everyone wants to be in your wonderful school, you bring tears to peoples eyes with your love. I think Georgie might have mentioned this already but I’m keen to pop across in the New Year to get a bit of advice from you on how to ensure all of our primary partnerships are as successful as yours. We work with lots of primaries on different levels and I’d like to pick your brains on how to get the most out of our work. Could we schedule a catch up in the New Year?
Thank you both for a very informative and enjoyable morning. You gave us a lot of things to think about and discuss.
We both felt inspired. I’m really looking forward to looking through the resources you have sent us and giving them a go in the classroom. I’ll let you know how we get on.
Thank you both once again for your time. We look forward to returning the favour in February when (hopefully) the building work is completed.
It was lovely to meet you this morning- i’d heard so much about you and your school from Gerry. I was inspired by your presentation on improving maths attainment and it sounds like it is just what we need this year! I would love to get in at the front of the queue and come and see you as soon as possible!
We are so glad you all enjoyed your day at Bridlington, it was brilliant to see the children having fun.
We could not believe how well behaved, polite and happy they all were.
We hope to see you again soon.
Tracey & Wayne
Thankyou for your hospitality yesterday, and your kind words about our team and their support work in Parklands, which I will of course feed back. As a visitor, the standout things for me were the energy and vitality in the school and the sense of everyone being an individual. The staff team all looked happy and engaged, and the children were unfailingly polite, motivated and confident- it was lovely to see. As for the mental maths- brilliant- and so much additional evidence of making a difference to these children’s lives and aspirations. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with you. Have a great summer.
WOW WOW WOW!!!!!! What a morning! Can’t thank you enough for the efforts you went to and for sending me to such an inspiring school Parklands Primary School – Seacroft!!. I think Caroline felt the same way. I’ve never seen a school so passionate and determined to support and improve the lives of everyone in a community. Completely bowled me over.
It was amazing to see maths in action using your Long Term plan. The ‘conceptual, pictorial, abstract’ process was clearly evident across the school and the children absolutely loved maths. The teaching was also incredible – my ears are still echoing with, “Why / Show me how / Explain how you know that / Prove it.”
I’m now going to go back to school and revisit the White Rose resources again. I’m now convinced it’s the right way forward to try and teach in this way.
Please pass on a massive thank you to your transformative team and for being so open and willing to share everything you’re doing. I hope other areas of education take a leaf out of your hub’s book.
Thank you so much for inviting me to come into school this afternoon and see the celebration assembly for myself. It was so wonderful to see how excited the children were about all the awards, how involved they were in every part of the assembly and just how many different ways you have of celebrating their achievements! It was great to see so much parental support too. Sitting amongst them at the back of the room, it was clear that they were all loving it as much as the children and they clearly hold you in very high regard. I do hope to be back at Parklands soon – I need to see the singing in action and must see the completed gate once it is fully painted!
I want to say a HUGE thank you to you and everyone at Parklands Primary school for being so welcoming to the business volunteers and for helping to make Give & Gain Day 2016 so successful. The staff and children where incredible and particular thanks to Anthony for helping organise everyone. People left the premises on Friday enriched, the volunteers were amazed with the children and their friendliness and their drive and enthusiasm. 140 volunteers know what a special place Parklands is. What a day!!!
Thanks again to you and TJ for being willing to be guests with Georgey on BBC Radio York this morning. Georgey loved chatting to you both. I also wanted to let you know that we had a couple of phone calls after you were on from listeners saying how much they had enjoyed hearing TJ tell his joke. These include a message from a lady called Jean who said this: “TJ’s joke made her morning! She also remembers Mr Dyson teaching her grandchildren at Poppleton Road Primary and says he was a great teacher too. Gold stars all round – says Jean.”
A massive thank you for all of the support in today’s visit. Both Calbee and Louis were absolutely thrilled at the engagement and attitudes of your students. You should be so so proud of all of your students and staff. Thank you for organising lunch and for your patience around the press and pr. We’ll let you know where we get to with news stories and the video with your students. Keep an eye out on Made in Leeds tonight for your students! Thanks once again for inviting us into your amazing school to speak to your fabulous children!
The children were an absolute delight and a real credit to the school. It’s very clear that it’s a happy, lovely environment for the kids to grow in, and I think the volunteers were extremely impressed with their behaviour and intelligence. I was taken aback at the end of the day by their posters, the pupils are so creative and talented.
I don’t remember ever having such a knowledgeable group of children to visit our centre. They knew a lot and they were willing and enthusiastic to learn more. I look forward to hosting more pupils from Parklands Primary School in the future.
I just wanted to say a massive thank you for looking after us so well yesterday and making us feel like very special guests. All of the staff and pupils were incredibly friendly and helpful and the day couldn’t have run more smoothly. Please could you pass on our thanks to the classes who took part in the workshops. All of the pupils were polite and impeccably behaved, listening well to instructions and working together really well. Everyone got involved in the activities and were enthusiastic, creative and a credit to the school.
What a fantastic school you have created Chris. You are truly inspiring, as are the children and your staff, you can feel your enthusiasm and passion really has rubbed off and totally changed the ethos and atmosphere of the school. I have had such an inspiring morning, and working with people like you really makes me realise what an amazing job I have and why we do this – so thank you!
Great day at Parklands on Monday. An enthusiastic bunch, some really determined riding and lots of smiles! The children showed great potential, listening carefully and demonstrating lots of new skills. Despite fierce competition, especially in the sprints, the children were very supportive of one another, always polite and keen to cheer each other on all the way to the finish. Look out Sir Bradley, Parkland’s on your heals!
It was a real pleasure for Hannah and I to visit Parklands Primary School to do an assembly. What amazing children! They sang beautifully, listened really well and I hope they had as much fun as we did. We’d love to come again!
I just wanted to say what an absolute pleasure it was to visit Parklands today. The welcome we received from the students, the obvious pride they and the staff have for their school, and the love, care, and respect everybody has for each other is amazing. This is the culture I want for my students! Behaviour is exemplary but not because the ‘b’ word is used as a stick to beat the children with. The precepts of PIVOTAL practice are clear for all to see and the difference you are making to these young people and their life chances is inspirational. I want to bring all my staff across to see what you are doing. As ever Paul, you was inspirational and gave Alicia and I much to think about. I agree we have to get the basics right before we change ahead and have already spoken to my Director of PB at Leeds West about that this afternoon. Pivotal practice is life changing for these young people we serve and is making an impact on those at Leeds West…..on a very basic level, they are not excluded as much meaning they are in school, and we can ensure they are safe. It is teaching the value of respect to these young people who have chaotic home lives with the adults being the role model. We have found the toughest battle is changing the mindset of the adults, and with the strategies you suggested today, I am confident we can create seismic shifts in our culture. We would be more than happy Paul if Pivotal wished to consider Leeds West as a case study. As I said, we are from from having it nailed but I do believe our move from being the highest excluder in Leeds to seeing a 55.4% reduction in FTE, being congratulated by the Area Inclusion Partnership as “changing the face of exclusions across Leeds”, and our work being highlighted in a Parliamentary Review is down to the shift towards Pivotal practice and staff attitudes towards behaviour. I have included some detail below as an introduction. Chris, I would love to be able to visit again for a focused look at your alternative to Seclusion/Isolation. I wish you all the best with the East 17 Tribute!
Dear Chris I just wanted to say a huge thank you for sparing time for us today and allowing us to visit your inspiring school. The things which you and your team have achieved with the cohorts which you have are truly exceptional. The warmth shown to every child by you and your staff make Parklands a very special place to be – and it showed all over their faces. I have already taken away so much and will be sharing the school’s story for weeks to come – not least the young chap and his Yorkshire pudding dinner, or the other lad who felt compelled to give you a hug on the way out! What you’ve created is very special.
‘Nailing it’ (Also known as: how to shift serious school improvement while bringing a community with you)
- There is a magical atmosphere at Parklands. While every setting is unique and has its particular atmosphere, there is something remarkable about this school. And it is evident in the ‘small’ stuff: the way that children greet one another, their teachers and visitors. It comes from a place of deep security and acceptance, which mean that children are free to both be themselves and take part in the full life of the community.
- There is an extraordinary balance of discipline, including self-discipline and freedom, including being free to be happy, to sing, to embrace one another and to embrace their teachers.
- Some observations on the embracing: this is done naturally and spontaneously. It emerges from the deep warmth and connection that pupils have for the adults and peers they work with. It appears not to be ‘needy’ but rather an expression of joy and deep connection. Both deep and light touch. Very interesting.
- Year 4 assembly showcasing pupils’ work. Pupils self confident in standing up and projecting their voices to tell the headlines of what they have been learning this half term. Incredibly slick transitions, honest joy in sharing their work with the school and their families.
- Very interesting to see how much pupils enjoy the assembly, how welcome their families are and how self regulated they are. They are able to dance and sing to the music and yet also know when to leave the hall and return sensibly to their classrooms. Extraordinary.
- Stunning work in the year 5 maths lesson. A real sense of purpose and energy conveyed to the pupils by the teacher. They in turn were self-regulated to a very high degree: immediately to work, no fiddling or dawdling, but because they are keen to crack on. Fast paced but all pupils on board and small group received good support from the teaching assistant.
- When introducing factors to the class, all pupils were concentrating and following closely. This was a result both of strong embedded routines and more importantly their absolute fascination and love of the subject. Use of the concrete and pictorial meant pupils were able to grasp the principles quickly and were able to move to work of greater depth and complexity.
- Very effective use of language in the maths lesson: call and response; pupils and teacher chanting definitions and processes of operations; pupils creating rhymes as mnemonics; pupils reasoning and justifying their answers both to one another and to the class. Teacher regularly saying ‘how would we do this systematically?’ – very powerful in ensuring that pupils appreciate the logic, pattern and structure underlying the subject.
- Maths completely inclusive, real joy expressed by pupils, pupils testing one another informally at break time, simply for the joy of it. Quite remarkable.
- Two pupils, Thomas and Lucy were excellent advocates for the school. Their courtesy to one another as well as to me was lovely to witness – a sign of their maturity and their deep attachment to the school.
- Very strong, experienced, committed board of governors who have deep insight into the school’s work, achievements and areas to develop.
- Chris has made the school irresistible not only to pupils and their families but to the wider community.
Just wanted to say thank you so much to you and all your staff for being so helpful and friendly when we came to visit on Wednesday. The children were absolutely gorgeous and so polite – I didn’t want to leave! Please pass on my thanks in particular to Billy and Ben from 4BT who showed me round. I wondered if possible, if my Year 1&2 teachers could come in and see your early bird maths and a maths lesson in those Year groups? Basically, I’m on the primary maths specialist course with the West Yorkshire Hub at the moment and I’m working on embedding mastery across our school. We are looking to introduce split lessons like you guys have so it would really help them to see it in action. We do the early bird maths here too, but the Year 1 class that I saw on Wednesday at Parklands blew me away – sitting at tables and writing in the squares in their books is a way off for our current Year 1, so I want the teacher to see what is possible! Fingers crossed you can help us out.
First and foremost, I am a leader of education. However, in addition to this superpower, I also offer staff CPD based around the resources and approaches I have created. Each day over 10,000 children use my website/resources and approach — something that I am so proud of.
So why the email? Well, I am contacting you because I am a big fan of Chris Dyson’s methods and the Parklands energy and ethos. So much so, I would love to come and work with the staff, of course free of charge. I have so many resources that I’d like to share (all free — this is not a plug). In particular, I run a two-hour twilight called SPaGtacular, focusing on innovative ways to teach and learn grammar and punctuation: dance, rapping, cartoons, drama, games and loads of FUN!
Essentially, my purpose in life is to make learning fun, always — like you do every day for the children at Parklands. If I can add to this magic, that would be just wonderful. With that being said, and if you’d be interested, please do let me know. I promise, it will be an event to remember!
I just wanted to say a huge thank you for hosting my senior leadership team yesterday. We were buzzing with ideas during the 5 hour journey back to Swindon. I can see why you are so proud of your school; it really is a special place.
Thank you for asking me to attend your Friday assembly on 5 January. I really enjoyed seeing the school and meeting the young people and your fantastic staff. The achievements of the children are clear to see – they are confident, talented individuals and it was my pleasure to meet them. Please do pass on my thanks to all of the staff and children for making my visit such a pleasure.
Councillor Jane Dowson
Parklands is a school with quite a high twitter profile, due largely to the extremely large as life head and recent outstanding ofsted. The opportunity to visit schools as part of CPD came along in my own school so this was were I went.
I have come to think of the advice Alix Ferguson gives to young managers is very apt for teacher. Choose the right chairman is basically choose the right Headteacher. As a teacher you manage a squad (read class) and the results reflect your performance. Realism and support are what teachers need as do football managers. So is Chris Dyson a Simon Jordan (perma-tanned regular on Sky Sports) or Elton John (well… You know Elton John) of chairmen?
First thing that hit me wasn’t the Bear-like hug welcome or the blaring music in the hall that plays all day, it was the ‘fridge’. Most heads offices look the same and can be picked up and placed in most other work places. Not this one, covered with work, letter and pictures that the children have brought in. Imagine the fridge of a nursery child which is covered with paintings multiplied by 1000. That’s the office the head ‘works’ in.
The tour begins and it is basically lots of smiles, praise and of course times table questions. Each class we walk in Mr Dyson throws out a question that children must multiply then subtract from 100. In. An. Instant. This passion for maths bleeds through the day with a great example being later a Y2 busting to share his 4 x’s knowledge with me. This isn’t for show, this is a key part of Parklands. Practice for a purpose. Each coach (read teacher) knows the goal of their team: become times tables masters.
Then the first BIG event of the day, Funday Friday assembly number 1. Wow. In an age were heads can tend to delegate assembly duties to staff, Chris Dyson leads it with input of the kids. Not just any assembly, but a pure and utter celebration of joy. Prizes for great attendance in the form of dodgeball, cakes and lessons with the Head! Handshakes replaced by double hi-5s and hugs, awkward walks to the front with celebrations with the crowd, movement and music – all these aspects are part of what is basically a kids game show in a school hall. No wonder the kids buzz and love school. There is even a catch-phrase like a chant at a football match.
Time in a class was spent watching a rising star in Miss Nolan teach maths. The way AFL is applied in a same day intervention, in fact about 20 mins later due to the use of an assembly or PHSCE oral lesson led by a TA, means that reteaching can occur and improve learning. This same day intervention, burning passion for instant tables recall from the head and the use of TTrockstars means that the children make fabulous progress.
There are no high-stakes tests at Parklands, instead the system of assessment means that teacher collect data based on the learning they see and a team of leaders select a sample of children to assess. Again, the chairman placing trust in the coaches to know what their team can do and what they need to work on to improve.
This picture may appear in every office up and down the country. At some point in the hyper-active day I had to ask Chris if he found time to actually do his job, you know the boring stuff. Turns out he does. In his own words the kids graft Monday to Thursday, making it easy for him to crack on. When Funday Friday comes, well it is non-stop.
- Assembly with array of awards which impact on attendance and behaviour
- Breakfast with the head – sausage butties
- Assembly number 2 (more on that soon)
Times Tables Champs is the final assembly of the day (I have to point out that while writing this that I feel I’m not doing it justice). Starting like a circus by a child announcer and filled with parents who want to come along, the stars of the week find out why they have been selected. It quickly moves into a times table battle in which class champs compete for the right to be the best. All of this is watched by some children who have earned the right to have the best seats in the house (pizza and drinks on sofas at the front). Every child is greeted with sheer love by the head as they go to the front with their achievements held up as the best thing ever… Until the next child. This passion is quite a sight to witness.
It’s clear what type of chairman Chris Dyson is… The Rocket Man he is.
Things I learnt:
- Cash is key – beg, borrow and steal to ensure the best. Small class sizes make a difference.
- Work hard, play hard – if kids love school they will will love learning.
- Work hard, play hard – make the systems work for you staff to reduce workloads
- Passion – enough said.
A huge thanks to all the staff who. Made me feel very welcome as well.
Disclaimer: I’m part of a fantasy football league with @chrisdysonHT hence shoehorned football references!
Paul does Parklands Primary
Thank you so much for the invitation to Parklands School last Friday. There is so much to admire and celebrate. The energy, involvement and engagement showed by the children are truly impressive. The whole experience was invigorating and uplifting. It was a nice and a welcomed touch to get Bradley and Riley to greet me at the approach to the school. Their manner and interest set the whole tone for a positive visit. As a visitor this is so valued but I can honestly say it so rarely happens. Well done to Parklands – putting people as a positive priority. It immediately made me think – what I can do for Parklands in return? Creating this atmosphere set the positive tone for the whole visit. Many thanks to Daisy, Lucy and Ella for guiding me through the (potentially terrifying for an adult) routine of getting a school meal without falling foul of the school rules, and for the polite way in which everyone in the dining room greeted me (with respect and interest). I can’t end this note without mentioning the humour that I encountered in Mr Cunliffe’s class where I was entertained by a rendition of “Don’t stick your knife in the toaster” – showing that health, safety and humour are all valued at Parklands! And I showed great strength in not taking up the offer to play the guitar to the class – I really am so disruptive that I have imposed a self-styled ban (and I was impressed that I stuck to my resolution!). When I was a very young teacher I was fortunate enough to have a Year 4 child in my class (Julie Jones) who taught me all the “two-ball”, hand clapping and skipping rhymes that were being sung in the playground – a lost past era that expanded my song singing repertoire that drew upon the research undertaken by Peter and Iona Opie (songs and rhymes which children love but some parents not so!). And thank you Mr Cunliffe for your rendition of Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ – beautifully played and sung. There is so much more that I can recount but I had better stop here. But just to say, thank you for allowing me to meet you, the staff and all the children, some of whom I recognise from the BBC TV programme, including the irrepressible Tyler. So please thank everyone (and I do mean everyone) who made me so welcome and gave me such a memorable visit. I wish all of you a well-earned and relaxing summer break.
I enjoyed eating my breakfast to your times tables challenge this morning! Well done mate, prime time national exposure! Hope you and the family enjoy the summer.
I have just watched Breakfast TV and am amazed by the children’s ability and wonder if there are any schools near Brighton and Hove that use the technique to teach times tables and number bonds? If not I wonder if there is anyway staff involved could train/share their expertise and set up sessions particularly for some homes school groups that could come together.
It was a pleasure to see the report on how amazing your children are at their timetables. Seeing the clip of you fab inspired me to write to you. I wondered if you could give me a little information about the set up for getting the children so excited by timetables. Last term we bought in to TT RockStars. We haven’t got to grips, as yet, with using it to its full potential. I think I saw a photo of you somewhere with Mr TT Rockstar! How do you organise to competitive side of the times table learning? Any ideas to kick start out TT campaign will be gratefully received.
Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed the TV spot about how you are not only teaching your children the ‘ times’ tables but taking it one step further by adding/subtracting from 100 etc. The children obviously loved doing this and all seemed eager to give their answers, fantastic. We learned the times tables at junior school too by reciting/chanting different tables every day before home time and I have to say I still remember them and use them regularly in day to day life. Sadly, my Grandchildren (14 and 17) were never taught them in their school in Halifax ( or so I am told!) Anyway, all the best to your lovely school and pupils, just felt I had to let you know how refreshing it was to see so many happy, enthusiastic children wanting to learn and take part and how clever and quick they were with their answers.
Alan and Christine Moore
Thank you for your letter regarding your Christmas appeal. From the Twitter activity it looked like the day was a hit with all involved and it’s a wonderful thing for a school to do for its local community. Well done to you and all involved in giving up their time to make it happen.
Thank you once again! 20 Managing Directors of some of the UK’s biggest companies attended your school today. I can honestly say that all of those business people left Parklands feeling inspired … Several shed tears as you shared the journey of Parklands and It was great to relive all the great work the businesses have done over the last 18 month. I’m sure we’ll have many more volunteering days to come. Your school is one of a kind!
Just thought I’d quickly get in touch to say how well Year 4s visit to White Quarry Farm went last week, Tom and all of the other members of staff were really supportive and helped keep everyone engaged. The children were so excited and got stuck into everything that was on offer to them, they were also very polite and considerate and I saw lots of evidence of them looking out for each other. Children and staff alike are a credit to your school! Looking forward to this week’s visit too.
Dear Chris, Great to meet you and see around your school. We left with big smiles on our faces. You’ve given me a flavour of the kind of headteacher I want to be and the kind of atmosphere in school I want to develop.
I am writing to thank you and Laura for delivering a very informative session at the Leeds mathematics subject leader meeting on 14th September 2016. Fifty seven delegates including head teachers, deputy head teachers and mathematics subject leaders attended the day and really appreciated your honest and open approach to sharing how you have improved the outcomes in mathematics at Parklands Primary School. Below are comments from delegates: ‘Very inspirational talk from Chris and Laura at Parklands, what a fabulous start to the day. Lots of great ideas were shared and a realistic view of school life and how to improve maths.’ ‘Inspirational listening to such a passionate head that has had such a focus (and impact) on the delivery of maths.’ ‘Really useful to listen to staff from Parklands, lots of brilliant ideas that we can ‘magpie.’ Many thanks for making the day a great success. I look forward to working with you again in the future and many thanks for your time.
Such an inspirational visit today! Your children and teaching team were wonderful. I’ll get in touch in September to arrange for teachers to visit if that’s ok. You’ve created a wonderful school, Chris.
Well what a morning we have just spent in Parklands Leeds. We came from Trinity Academy in Halifax, home to the White Rose Maths Hub, to see for ourselves the amazing job that you are doing adding depth and reasoning to your Maths development. We can honestly say that every class we visited had an amazing buzz around maths. The resources were plentiful and the children really could explain the depth of their thinking. The times tables from Y1 to Y6 simply was breathtaking. How on earth is it possible to answer a times table and giving the answer as a number bond to 100 in a fraction of a second? 6×8 = 52 (6×8 = 48 so its 52 to 100) Seeing is believing. It was a pleasure meeting the amazing Mr Dyson who quite simply is inspiring a whole community. Thank you for showcasing your brilliant maths (and school) and being an excellent partner to us at the White Rose Maths Hub.
As a GB Weightlifter, it is rare I get to visit schools, so it was great to see such enthusiasm from everyone towards physical activity and receive such a fantastic welcome! It really is a great place to learn with lots of fun activities going on and I hope to see some of them in the future succeeding in their chosen paths. Thank you again!
Who said we couldn’t keep a secret! You so deserved recognition and your success will no doubt rub off on our lovely children in the school. I couldn’t be more proud of our relationship. Its just the beginning! I have been working on apprenticeships this week and one day it would be great to employee one from Parklands school. Its on my list of things to do. Thanks for the job offer, I might just take you up on that one day!
What a fantastic assembly – loved it. As a maths teacher, I was really impressed with the tables challenge. I also thought ‘the best seats in the house’ was an excellent idea. I plan to talk to our head of maths to see if we can do a similar tables challenge with Y7/Y8 and then maybe have a grand final with your guys?
Thank you so much for todays invite. Lucy and I loved visiting your school today – Lucy feels very privileged that she is able to share her story with other people. She absolutely loved talking to your staff and children, and found the whole atmosphere in your assembly fantastic. I remember feeling exactly the same when I came in to do supply at Parklands in the Autumn term, the children all seemed very engaged in an energetic and warm learning environment.
Another amazing morning Mr Dyson here at Parklands. I love and look forward to coming here all the time. The kids were so responsive and I saw some real talent out there, they express themselves so well and put 100% into everything. You have an amazing school… see you soon.
I also wanted to thank you for letting me come along and spend time with the children as I cannot remember when I had a more enjoyable and rewarding few hours.
I would just like to thank yourselves, Miss Wetherby and the students at Parklands for allowing myself and Alex to come and visit you on Friday for Takeover. Firstly, we would just like to say ‘WOW’! We were really impressed with the takeover, and I was blown away by the response you had from students (applications) and also the commitment from the staff at your school. It really is incredible that 15 of your students got to experience undertaking jobs within the schools. Myself and Alex both left on such a high, and there was a real buzz within the school. So congratulations to all involved. We obviously want to promote the work you have done as a ‘good example’ to other schools, and also include this in our report that will be distributed locally and send to Children’s Commissioner. Miss Wetherby mentioned that the students involved would be giving their feedback at the end of the day, would it be possible to have a copy of this along with some ‘action’ photos for the day that we can use this to show the great work you have done at Parkland’s as part of Takeover. Secondly, I would also just like to say how impressed I was to hear about the work the School Council are doing. I think this is fantastic. And a real credit to your school. Thanks again for allowing us to visit on Friday, and I look forward to receiving the children’s feedback and photos.
Just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for giving up your time yesterday to meet with me. I was really struck by your ‘can do’ attitude to putting the child at the heart of everything you do, your warmth and your infectious good humour! It was a real privilege to walk round the school with Brooke – a brilliant start to the week.
It was a real pleasure working with the HT and the Senior Leaders today at Parklands looking at the impact of Pupil Premium spending, they certainly had all the information to hand. The school should feel really proud of the school. There is such a happy atmosphere on every corridor you walk down. I had every door opened for me with a smile and the children showed wonderful manners.
Mrs. Jill O’Connell
My daughter has been doing absolutely great with her reading and writing and I couldn’t be more happy with her progress. She shocks me more and more each day and the best thing is she is enjoying doing it. Even at home she’s reading more books and practices her sentences. Sometimes I do it wring on purpose and she goes through them pretending to be the teacher and corrects my mistakes, this gives her more confidence.
The children of Parklands showed excellent listening skills; an eagerness to learn and modelled excellent behaviour. It was brilliant to see how they worked together during the workshop developing some wonderful interpretations of movement to Romeo and Juliet. In addition it was wonderful to see how much the children respected each other when watching each group. It was an excellent day spent with children who want to learn. We can’t wait to see you all at the Grand Theatre on Tuesday to watch the ballet Romeo and Juliet.
The pupils from Parklands really were fantastic on the last programme!
Literacy Day, Headingley
The session with year 5 was supposed to last an hour, however they were so attentive and so full of enthusiasm we had no choice but to extend our session; we had to stop the discussion after 1hr 30mins because we had to do a session after school at another school in Leeds. They concentrated, listened and remained on task throughout. As did the year 6s. The staff were great as well. Not scared of the issues and attentive and caring. We really did have a great time.
This was the best grilling I have ever experienced. Wow the school council at Parklands put me under pressure wanting answers on topics such as Syria and Trident ….. you should all feel really proud of East Leeds, people try to put us down, but today you spoke as professionals. It makes me proud, you proud, your parents proud, your community proud. Brilliant. You have an outstanding caring staff team that develops you each and everyday. I would like to take this opportunity to invite the whole school council down to London to visit the Houses of Parliament…. I can’t wait to return to this place.
Year 6 worked brilliantly in their Romeo & Juliet workshop. All of the students tried their best and created some excellent trios which they shared to the rest of the group with confidence. They had an excellent understanding of Friar Laurence and managed to portray his emotions through their choreography and quality of movement with maturity and insight. The students also created some lovely classical lines in the arabesque exercise and asked and answered lots of questions about ballet and the theatre. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them and I hope to return to Parklands Primary School to work with more students. Many thanks to all of the pupils and staff for such a pleasant day.
On Monday I attended the Leeds Law Education Day at your school. I just wanted to say thank you to all the staff and pupils for making it such a great experience. I would especially like to thank Alex, Robert and Alyssa for being so very well behaved and working together to produce a really good magazine cover. I live locally in Crossgates and work as a HR Manager if I can help your school or the Academy in any other way please let me know.
The children from Parklands were great fun, superbly behaved and asked brilliant questions. It was a pleasure to have them and we would LOVE to have them back.
Theatre In Education with Years 5 and 6 yesterday (February12th 2015) and they were brilliant! They all contributed, talking about very difficult issues, they were insightful and mature, showing respect and empathy and excellent listening skills. They were an absolute pleasure to work with, a credit to themselves and the school.
Parklands School children were a pleasure to work with on their recent residential trip to Nell Bank.Their enthusiasm and readiness to learn about the outdoors reflects great credit to the school staff.
Nell Bank Staff
What a great set of pupils, they were so full of confidence and enthusiasm. They gave it 100%. The staff were so happy as well.
I had a ball working with your children and I hope the children enjoyed it too.