Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Message of the Week Seven

"When we experience something together we share a common memory, a common insight and develop a common wisdom. The more we share the easier it is to work together and the more we develop a common language and common understanding."

I had another great week last week. We had a brilliant meeting with Professor Stephen Heppell looking at the future and how ICT will transform what we do. I attended a wonderful event to celebrate the work of the Children’s Fund and their achievements over the last six years. I had stimulating breakfast and tea-time meetings with new headteacher colleagues. On Friday, I attended the Leeds Chamber of Commerce Annual Lunch where Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Families and Schools talked about the economy, transport and skills and the critical importance of schools in securing the future well-being of Leeds, the region and the country.
I also managed to fit in fantastic visits to Roundhay St John’s CE Primary School to meet with the team; Hunslet St Mary’s CE Primary School to attend the official opening of their Children’s Centre by Hilary Benn MP; South Leeds High School to talk to Colin Bell about the progress they are making; and West Leeds High School to attend their celebration of 100 years of learning in west Leeds.

We also faced yet another annual performance assessment, which went really well thanks to the passion, energy and efforts of everyone in Children’s Services. I wanted to thank colleagues for everything they have done over the last few weeks as we geared up for the annual performance assessment by our dear friends from Ofsted and the Audit Commission. We have achieved so much together and once again you have made such a difference… something that I know will be officially recognised once again when Ofsted and the Audit Commission visit us again for the joint area review.

Here in Leeds, in children's services, in Education Leeds, as with any large organisation, we have many different teams, different agendas, different perspectives, different beliefs, and different personalities. These "differences" help to make us unique and provide us with an opportunity to do things differently, to be creative, to be disciplined and to be focused. Just look at how successful so many of our teams are! However, I also know that unless we are careful the differences and tensions and the jealousies can stop change and innovation dead in its’ tracks. So what's the trick? We must all continue to work to create an environment where all our colleagues can be happy, healthy, safe and successful, and where we collectively move towards one common and shared vision for our children and young people, their families and communities.

This takes courage, it takes patience, but most importantly it takes great leadership…and not just from Rosemary Archer as Director of Children's Services, or from me, as Chief Executive of Education Leeds… from all of us. Over the next few weeks and particularly when the going gets tough we all need to be more visible… we all need to know when to calm the waters and when to ruffle the feathers. We all need, having established our shared vision, to repeat it time and time and time again. We all need to understand the journey we are on… to celebrate our successes and our failures… to send letters and e-mails… to hang posters… to find quotes… to make buttons… to design the t-shirt… even to make people wear them… whatever it takes.
Our work here at Children Leeds is about managing change… it’s about questions, answers, problems and solutions and we must invite everyone to comment… to criticise, to praise, to suggest alternatives and to question. We need all our colleagues, our partners and our stakeholders and most importantly our young people to understand that their opinions are valued and welcome.

As we approach yet another critical period in the Education Leeds story, some colleagues are finding the situation worrying; too many challenges, not enough time, too much change and not enough attention paid to the things that really matter. I prefer to see things differently. I feel energised and uplifted by the challenges we face. Wherever you are in this organisation these are opportunities to share, opportunities to grab the initiative and to make a difference. Remember that the real difference we have, our greatest advantage, our greatest asset is you.
Our colleagues are not like Mars bars… they are not identical in size, weight or shape. Each is a unique, fragile and brilliant human being with enormous potential - if only we can release the magic. So loosen up, relax, smile, laugh and enjoy yourself. Unless we are having fun it is impossible for the colleagues we are working with to have any fun… and unless they are having fun they will never release the magic and never be the people they are capable of being.

Thank you for all your hard work. It is always appreciated and is never taken for granted.

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