Leeds City Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Leeds City Academy's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Leeds City Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Mrs Jackie Rose, academy
Students have the desire
to succeed
Many people advised against application to the role of
principal of Leeds City Academy. ”It is a lost school”
and “It can never be successful because the children
have such low ability” were two of the whispered statements by
existing head teachers within the Leeds borough. The decision
to apply rested on one factor. The children deserved better.
Eight different head teachers in five years, and a shocking
local reputation. Numbers had dwindled to 240. It was time
for radical change, and change that would make a lasting
difference to these children’s lives.
Transforming a “lost” school
Leeds City Academy is part of the White Rose Academies Trust. The trust’s mission
in partnership with our sponsors, Leeds City College, is to provide high-quality
education to all students, as the future workforce of Leeds. Over the last two years
we have been on a continual journey of academy improvement, transforming
the culture to one of student-centred focus, high aspiration and pride. “Aspire
together, achieve together” is our motto and encompasses the very heart of what
we believe. The choice to use “together” twice is deliberate and powerful as it
reflects the first observation of visitors to the academy. People comment on the
“family” feel, and the warmth of the students, their openness and desire to learn.
We have built a scaffold of success around this heart, while at the same time being
outward facing in our quest to learn more, be better, and create the environment
for unlocking the potential of our students.
»Executive principal:
»Principal: Jackie Rose
»Founded in 2014
»Based in Leeds
»No. of students: 563
»No. of teachers: 48
»Ofsted: “Requires
improvement”, May 2017
Leeds City Academy
The context of the academy is highly
unique. Seventy-eight per cent of our
students have English as an additional
language and over forty per cent of
these are either new to English or
have very low competency English.
Twenty per cent come from the Gypsy
Roma community of Romania or the
Czech Republic. Also unique is that
less than half of our students are
legacy students coming from local or
English primary schools. Officially our
Progress 8 score doesn’t count because
of the high numbers of students who
enter the academy in year 10 from
other countries. Mobility is very high,
although as numbers have risen (240
in 2015 to 563 currently) we are
gaining more than we are losing.
In the early months when I joined
the academy, it was most definitely
inadequate, English teaching was
beyond poor, SEND practice was so
poor that children were reaching year
11 having had no access testing for
exams. One student with cerebral palsy
had someone booked to do her hair
once a week, but no laptop to be able
to access her lessons. The misuse of
resources was quite astonishing! We
set about unpicking and tackling each
inadequate area until in June 2016 a
mock Ofsted review validated some
positive movement. The unpublished
phrase was “You have turned this tanker
around in the dock, and it is beginning
to head in the right direction.”
Within this desert, however, were
oases of fantastic practice. In English
as an additional language, in art and
citizenship we had great GCSE results,
indicating the potential of the students
and the disjointed previous leadership
that had allowed these gaps to develop.
The 2016 summer results revealed
some significant positive movement.
Maths results had risen by 27 per cent,
our basics figure to 26 per cent from
19 and the green shoots were now
there in black-and-white numerical
figures. Our student with cerebral palsy
achieved tremendous results because
our new SENDCo had arranged for
her to have the necessary access
arrangements to take her exams.
From September 2016 we set
about real transformation under
the executive leadership of Andrew
Whitaker. I had the freedom to
appoint new senior leaders and finally
we had a team who shared the same
vision and fearlessness. Our journey to
outstanding had begun in earnest.
The journey to outstanding
Raising attainment through developing
teaching and learning became our
key focus, with developing literacy
The joy of learning
Achieving together
The new
principal and
the trust have
taken decisive
action to
strengthen the
Highlighting best practice
a close second. In September 2016,
ourexecutive principal, Andrew
Whitaker, brokered a service level
agreement with Sir John Townsley,
of the Gorse Academies Trust. This
trust is “outstanding”. Suddenly we
had access to outstanding colleagues,
people who had already travelled on
the journey we had now embarked
upon. This early foray into their world
was daunting but valuable; even
though many of the things they were
doing seemed beyond reach in the
early days, there were branches we
could grasp onto and immediate ideas
we could implement.
One of these ideas was “red zone”.
New exam specifications require high
levels of student resilience, questions
are tougher and concentration and
independence are essential. “Red zone”
aims to tackle these issues. All classes
at Leeds City Academy require students
to spend some period of the lesson in
the “red zone” where they tackle a
silent independent learning task that
stretches their thinking and pushes
the boundaries of their learning like
a rubber band. Pitching it correctly is
crucial; too far and the band will snap,
confidence destroyed. Just right and
students gain the independent learning
skills to succeed in exams, work alone
and not rely on the teachers’ constant
help and support. Red zone is having a
positive impact on student learning.
Our other teaching and learning
strategies seek to draw upon the best
national practice in core subjects. Our
wider leadership group are outward
facing in their quest to find the very best
practice in similar school communities.
One of our maths teachers writes the
infamous website “Maths Bot”.
Reducing teacher workload
Fully aware that driving any school
requires time and effort, we are
committed to reducing workload
for teachers, knowing that happy
teachers are more productive.
Ourmarkingandfeedback policy is
one example of that; cursory marking
in student books but very careful
attention to the misconceptions within
learning. These are then addressed in
specific focus lessons. This has radically
reduced the time spent on marking.
We do not grade individual teachers,
nor do we expect written lesson plans.
Teachers are afforded the professional
freedom to develop their own teaching
style, as long as they are committed
to developing their practice. Continual
professional development sessions
support this and staff are given one
lesson a week to observe and pinch
ideas from other colleagues.
We are on a mission. We are committed
to our student community and the
challenges they and their families
face. We have recently launched a
community hub, teaching English
and providing valuable support and
advice. Ofsted validated our work in
May 2017 with a very positive Requires
Improvement judgment. Since then
the 2017 results yielded a basics 4+
of 41 per cent, 27 per cent 5+ and a
Progress 8 score of 0.08. We will reach
our goal of becoming an outstanding
academy. Iam extremely proud of the
contribution of our highly talented
teachers and support staff, “Aspiring
together and achieving together”.
There is
support for
those who arrive
at the school
not speaking
English and this
quickly prepares
them to be
included in
education. This is
a good example
of the school’s
commitment to
equality of
Outstanding education
for outstanding learners


This article was sponsored by Leeds City Academy. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy