Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Children’s centre shows dedication to celebrating diversity

Picture caption "Visitors to Meadowfield children's centre enjoyed a balloon release to celebrate signing up to a race equality programme."

Staff and families from the Meadowfield children’s centre in Halton Moor have shown they are standing up to racism and celebrating diversity in their community by signing up to a race equality programme established in Leeds schools.

Over 80 people from the Halton Moor community and specially invited guests attended a launch event on Wednesday 2 February to celebrate the centre signing up to the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard (SLES).

The celebration event began with a balloon release and guests enjoyed taking part in some activities with an international flavour, including; movement play to world music, Makaton sign-language lessons, Polish language lessons and Chinese New Year card making.

The event was attended by local Police Community Support Officers, early years service representatives and members of the Temple Newsam Learning Partnership Trust. Families also met with professionals on information stands representing East North East Homes Leeds; Intensive Family Support workers; The Hub; Job Centre plus; Stop Hate UK and the arson taskforce at West Yorkshire Fire Service.

Emma Anderton, deputy and inclusion manager at Meadowfield children’s centre said:
“By signing up to the standard we want to show that we are committed to challenging racism and creating cohesion within the Halton Moor community. We will be working with families to raise awareness of equality and diversity and working with key partners to provide families with opportunities to build their future.

“All of the activities at our launch event represented and celebrated the diverse make-up of our community. We are proud to be working towards the standard and wanted to showcase the work taking place in our community”

Developed by Education Leeds in 2003, the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard is awarded to schools, early years centres and colleges which demonstrate knowledge, understanding and evidence of promoting inclusion and race equality to help transform education. Around 75 per cent of Leeds’ 264 schools have already achieved the award, with many more working towards it and 12 of Leeds’ 58 children’s centres have also achieved the award.

Councillor Judith Blake executive member responsible for children’s services said:
“Children’s centres are at the heart of the community so they are the ideal place to spread the message of equality and community cohesion. By signing up to the Stephen Lawrence standard Meadowfield is showing that it is never to early to teach children to challenge racism and treat everyone with respect and tolerance.”

The success of the Leeds-based programme meant it received national recognition as has been available to schools up and down the country since last year.

The Stephen Lawrence Education Standard was developed in partnership between Education Leeds, Leeds City Council and black and minority community representatives in response to the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and the publication of the MacPherson Inquiry Report six years later.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Services for children in care in Leeds are on the up

Children in the care of Leeds City Council have improved chances of a better outcomes, according to a report being discussed by senior councillors next week.

At the meeting of the executive board on Friday 11 February, members will hear how the council’s improvement plan, which has been in place for the past year, is producing positive results for children and young people who are looked after by the council.

Since 2007 there has been a concerted effort between the council and partner organisations to coordinate work with and for looked after children. These efforts have already raised the profile of children in care, built closer working relationships between partners; raised the expectations of the achievements of young people in care and developed a more strategic approach to improving their lives.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services said:
“I am delighted that the outcomes for our looked after children are improving. We are absolutely committed to protecting our most vulnerable children and this report shows that we are moving in the right direction.

“We now have more children staying with their carers for longer with fewer relationship breakdowns, this is the sort of stability every child has a right to and this stable home life will translate into every other area of a child’s life.

“We have seen significant improvements in the levels of educational attainment, and although the gap between looked after children and others is still too big, we are confident that we can continue this upward trend. Every child in Leeds deserves a happy childhood and although we acknowledge there is work still to be done, we are making great strides in ensuring our looked after children receive just that.”

Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services said:
“We are already well underway with a major transformation of children’s services across the city and it has always been our intention that this will further strengthen support for looked after children.

“This report definitely shows we’re going in the right direction in the majority of outcomes, however there are many challenges ahead, not least the financial pressure we are under – but we have plans in place to help continue this initial success.”

Additional educational support available to looked after children at the Virtual School has helped improve attainment. The virtual school offers young people one to one tuition outside the school day, Saturday activities for carers and children, homework clubs and study support supervised by undergraduates, mentoring, and grants to schools to support children at risk of exclusion.

Notes to editors:
The improvements detailed in the report, include:
• The percentage of looked after children who have been identified as having a substance misuse problem has declined significantly from 5.2% in 2007 to 2% in 2010.
• Effectively matching carers and children has resulted in placements being much more stable than those of similar cities, at 71%.
• Care reviews are now carried out on time in 84% of cases compared with 71% in 2009-2010.
• Social care staff, particularly those working in residential homes have received targeted training in child sexual exploitation.
• Leeds virtual school has risen two places in the league table of Leeds high schools since 2009.
• Priority access to restorative intervention, support and positive activities to divert from further offending, and strong links with neighbourhood policing teams have helped lead to a decline in the number of looked after children committing offences. There were 113 in 2006/7 compared to 88 in 2009/10.
• Looked after children and care leavers were involved with every senior appointment in the council’s children and young people’s social care department, including the director of children’s services.
• The percentage of looked after children who ended year 11 in 2010 and are now in education, training or employment is 88% , compared to 85% in 2009 and 79% in 2008.
• 32 care leavers are currently in higher education.
• All of Leeds’ 13 children’s homes have been judged by Ofsted as either satisfactory or good.
• The fostering service was judged as ‘good’ by Ofsted in June 2010. And the adoption services was judged as good with outstanding features last month.

The report acknowledges ongoing challenges for children’s social care, including placement costs and ongoing funding pressures, for which action plans are in place.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Business breakfast talks values of apprenticeships

A meeting to discuss the importance and benefits of apprenticeships within the city gave local businesses food for thought this morning.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from Monday 7 February to Friday 11 February, the CBI Yorkshire and Humber are running seminars on the importance of apprenticeships to businesses, one of which was held at Civic Hall this morning.

Presentations were given by the National Apprenticeship Service, the Regional Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network and various apprenticeship employers, with Cllr Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council’s executive member for jobs & skills, welcoming delegates to the event.

There are over 30,000 young people aged 16-18 in the city and only 9.3% are currently accessing apprenticeships, whilst over 6,000 18 -24 year olds are claiming JobSeekers Allowance. Leeds has a target of making sure 20% of young people are in apprenticeships by 2020, so clearly there is work that needs to be done.

Leeds City Council has made jobs and skills one of its top priorities and is thoroughly committed to apprenticeships. Of the 424 apprentices the council have supported within the last two years, 32% were young people.

The council has also recently added it’s name to the National Apprenticeship Services roll of honour, which has been launched to recognise businesses who are committed to Apprenticeships and the benefits gained from employing apprentices.

Speaking at the event this morning, Cllr Gruen, executive board member with responsibility for jobs and skills said:

“There can be fewer priorities which hold more promise than creating sustainable employment opportunities for our young people. In so doing we can increase the benefits to business and in turn their contribution to the economy – this will be vital if we are to hit the target of 20% of young people in apprenticeships by 2020.

“We have some significant and exciting developments coming to the city over the next two years. Major retail and entertainment projects within the city centre will provide excellent, sustainable opportunities across a range of occupations including the construction phase. National Apprenticeship Week is all about celebrating and maximising such opportunities for apprenticeships, and we are very much behind this at the council.”


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450

Love is in the air at the market

Kirkgate market will be transformed this valentines day with help from traders and Leeds City Council.

The council invited its own traders to provide the decorations, and placed an order with a trader on the indoor market to make one kilometre of Valentines bunting to be hung throughout the market, with the fabric being supplied by another stall.

A number of traders will be offering special deals throughout the day, from Oysters ‘that really work’, right through to 12 red roses for that special someone.

As part of an ongoing initiative to find out what people love most about the markets, a ‘Wall of Love’ has been erected just off Butchers Row in the indoor market. In return for a small donation the wall will allow people to write any treasured memories they have of Kirkgate, tell us whether they found love at the market or even make a romantic proposal to a loved one! Yorkshire Air Ambulance will be manning the wall from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and all donations will go to their charity appeal.

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All media are invited to Kirkgate market on Saturday 12 February. Please call Cat Milburn in the press office on 0113 247 4450 to arrange attendance or for further information.
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Look out for balloons and raffle tickets being given away in the city centre on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 February, with the winning numbers posted at the Love Wall next to Butchers Row. Prizes include a romantic meal for two, flowers and other valentines gifts.

Sue Burgess, markets manager for Leeds City Council said:
“I would encourage everyone to come down to Kirkgate for a completely different shopping experience this Saturday. The market can offer everything you need for the perfect Valentines Day with your loved one.

“It has been fantastic that we have been able to order from the traders to create our decorations for the market – it looks great, and we will definitely be doing this again for future events. It is good to be able to support local businesses during these tough times, and knowing exactly where your products are from really makes them special.

“I am really excited to see what people will be writing on the love wall, and no doubt it will reveal some fascinating stories.”

To find out more about valentines at the market, and some romantic recipe ideas, visit

Notes to editors:

B&M Fabrics have supplied the fabric to Mims Couture which have made all the valentines bunting throughout the market.

Let’s Party has supplied all the balloons that have been used to decorate the market, and also the 2000 which will be part of a giveaway.

Chapel Allerton’s Sunshine Bakery/The Supper Club are providing a dinner for two as a prize.


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450