Sunday, 18 February 2007

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
Carl Sandburg

I went to London today with Rosemary Archer and Cllr Richard Harker to meet Lord Andrew Adonis. We were with about a dozen other authorities who had been invited to the meeting to discuss primary standards. The invitation followed the letter I had written to Lord Adonis after his letter criticising primary schools nationally and in Leeds. I think quite rightly the DfES were wanting to explore with us how we could achieve year on year improvements in primary outcomes.

I think we all accept that overall standards and outcomes are unacceptably low. It's true locally, regionally and nationally and too many children and young people are simply not making the progress we might expect. I was asked to contribute to the session from a Leeds perspective and I asked the group to look at the characteristics of our outstanding schools... and remember we have a huge number of outstanding primary schools here in Leeds. I suggested that these elements are the keys to outstanding schools:

  • strong and experienced leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs driving the work of the school;
  • confident, creative and passionate use of appropriate strategies and approaches to raise standards;
  • high shared expectations of children and the whole learning team;
  • strong, dynamic and open relationships;
  • inspiring teaching within a coaching culture;
  • individual tracking and focused interventions;
  • high parental engagement and involvement.

We all know that if we are to have inspiring teaching, building passionate learning in brilliant learning places we must move away from a command and control approach to develop personalisation, ownership, engagement, coaching and trust for the learning teams in our schools. We must get our brilliant headteachers and our brilliant classroom practitioners working alongside other colleagues to build capacity and to develop leadership. We must replace the current outdated governance model with a more professional and powerful one which must drive strategic planning and drive up standards. We must also work with our families to develop high self-esteem and belief in themselves and their children. We must also listen to our young people and get them to help us shape and focus the offer and to engage them as passionate learners.

We have to understand and believe that intelligence is hugely and richly diverse and that everyone is intelligent and it is simply our job as educators to find it! We have to develop three things in our children, our young people, our families, our communities and our workforce:

  • creativity
  • capability
  • confidence

We also need to develop real partnerships around the standards agenda and get everyone to understand that this is a community enterprise. As Dirk would say we must focus on developing a more vivid, more personal, more engaging, more stimulating offer for all our children and young people and to do that we must all share the passion.

We must invent pathways to learning... pathways to excellence for everyone.



Pat said...


But what was the response?

Oaf said...

I met Lord Adonis once.
He was buying a cheese and ham pasty in Greggs on the Tottenham Court Road.

Strong leadership is vital. We do need to move away from an egocentric hierarchical system to one where our school leaders have the confidence to stand back and let others do the job they do so well.

I suggested this to my head, but he is a tyrant and made me sit in the corner for an hour.
With no beer (which as you know, I love)

Pat said...


how dare you suggest that a Lord of this mighty ream buys his own food. You're obviously confusing him with a bluff Yorkshireman who has a shhep as his best friend.

Fancy a drink?

set said...

'The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Peity nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Not all your Tears wash out a Word of it.'

These lines translated from Omar Khayyam's 'The Rubaiyat' sums up the finality of each moment.

In my wilderness years I spent seven months contemplating this in a cave with my dear friend Katsu Hito. The question with which our master had presented us was, 'Can we improve time?'

We spent a week or two debating the nature of the problem before agreeing that to 'improve time' refered to our appreciation of it, and thus the quality of each moment we lived. Naturally we covered such topics as the cultural differences which exist about the relationship between quality of life and standard of living. This led us to consider global surveys in national levels of happiness; apparantly Dutch children are the happiest. It seemed logical to us at that point that improving time related closely to imroving happiness.

After a few months a team of French scientists moved into the cave next door. One of them descended deep into the darkness and lived there on his own for a while whilst the others monitored his sleep patterns from a near by pub.

This gave us the idea that we had been looking for.

From then on Katso lived by the clock. He got up at the same time, ate at the same time, and slept at the same time each day, regardless of any external conditions. In contrast I lived by my own time, sleeping and eating when I felt like it. To make it a fair test we did exactly the same things. We drank the same amount of beer in the pub. We ate the same take-aways. We even grew the same haircut.

As the months passed by Katso grew resentful of my easy-come-easy-go lifestyle so we agreed to swap roles for a while. The adjustment was difficult and as my anxiety levels grew we agreed to return to the monastery.

'Learned of time you have what?' asked our master.
We sat on the floor and explained that we had reached an accord that, we could only improve time in our own time.

I think about that when K makes me talk about curriculum design. Do children improve less in socially imposed time than they do in their own?

If we're in the mood for replicating good practise maybe we should examine what goes on in the Netherlands. Much of that research focussed on the domestic lives that children led. Family meals and the freedom to play without constant chastisement. I doubt it's about Edam, maybe more to do with security.

Is changing our philosophy to a more flexible approach to time the best way forward?