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 We must replace the current outdated governance model with a more professional and powerful one which must drive strategic planning and drive up standards.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:
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.