Saturday, 10 March 2007

I had a message from Sarah Rutty, Headteacher at Bankside Primary School which I wanted to share...

"I fully agree with your list of 'what makes brilliant' and would like to add one more attribute to the list: that of generosity. I am writing this at the North Leeds CLC, where I come every Saturday with two children from Bankside School, so that they - along with 50 other of our city's 'gifted' children can enjoy 2 hours of fantastic maths enrichment in this wonderful learning space. I really want to let you know how much our school appreciates the hard work of Mo Aslam, a maths teacher at Allerton Grange, and Hilary Eyles from Burley St Matthias PS, who have dedicated a term's worth of Saturday mornings to ensure that our wonderful children are given the wonderful opportunities they deserve to be the best that they can be! Hurrah for Mo and Hilary and all the other generous leaders of our little learners!"

Thanks Sarah

Friday, 9 March 2007

I received some letters from children at Talbot Primary School. They were doing persuasive writing and had decided to write to me about their concerns about the environment. Here's my reply to the children...

Dear Aavaiz, Alice, Ben, Carys, Ellie, Emma, Fatima, Faye, Jack, Jed, Jonathan, Joanne, Joe, Manjinder, Michael, Nicholas, Olivia, Rajpreet, Sadie, Thomas and William,

Thank you for all your letters, which your teacher Mr Edwards sent to me. I was very impressed with your enthusiasm and your persuasive writing. After reading your letters I have chosen to reply to you all in the most environmentally friendly way I can think of, on my blog.

I strongly believe that if everyone in Leeds, from my colleagues here at Education Leeds and the Council to everyone who works in a Leeds school, makes small changes to the way in which they live, and work, and learn every day, we can work together to achieve fantastic results in being environmentally friendly and saving our planet.

Passion and commitment from children and young people will encourage people to listen about environmental and climate change issues, and to make a difference. I agree with Alice when she writes that we can all work together to save the planet. We can truly make a difference to the environment if we all work in partnership - schools, Education Leeds, Leeds City Council, and, most importantly, all the children and young people in Leeds.

With your passion, enthusiasm and commitment to helping our environment, you would make excellent ‘green’ ambassadors for your school. We are already encouraging our schools, school staff, and children and young people to ‘make a positive contribution’ through the Leeds Healthy Schools programme. You could form an eco-committee and work towards making your school a more environmentally friendly place. If every school in Leeds made this commitment, think what we could all achieve together!

You already have some brilliant ideas in your letters which you could use, and I’m sure you have even more than those! Joe’s idea for recycling paper in arts projects, and in bedding for school pets is a very good one, and one that you could use now in your school. You may even do it already! Sadie mentions walking more, and turning off electrical equipment and lights. You can start this yourselves, by asking your parents and carers to walk you to school whenever they can, and making sure everything in your school is turned off when it does not need to be on – such as lights, taps, and computers. Emma makes an excellent point about the damage people are doing to the environment by driving independently to recycling bins in terms of pollution from cars. You could try setting up a rota for your parents to pick up recyclable waste from school and either recycle it at home, or in local recycling facilities. Remember, you have the power to change the environment and the way you live in it – all you have to do is convince your friends, family and teachers about how brilliant your ideas are! And don’t just stop at school – take your environmental ideas into your homes and your friends’ and relatives’ homes as well.

I am sure you will all be interested to hear since 2004, the council and Education Leeds have had a contract for waste disposal and recycling that all Leeds schools can choose to join if they want to. We must reduce the waste heading for landfill sites and instead reduce, re-use or recycle our waste.

I wish you all the best with taking forward your recycling and environmental ideas in your school, homes, and anywhere else you can use them, and I hope you will keep me posted about any exciting and innovative developments you come up with in the future. Can I take this opportunity to thank you for bringing this important issue to my attention, and urge you to keep shouting about the environment and recycling to anyone who will listen to you!


Thursday, 8 March 2007

I have been thinking about the characteristics of successful people...

What makes brilliant? Certainly a good leader is needed but what makes a good leader?
Here's my starter for ten...
  • optimism;
  • vision;
  • hard work;
  • discipline;
  • intuition;
  • curiosity;
  • capacity to learn;
  • risk taking;
  • action focused;
  • mastery.

I also think that things like appreciation, determination, expectation and creativity are important aspects of great leadership.

Please let me know your list.


'Leading your Team', by Andrew Leigh and Michael Maynard, explores what kind of team leaders do we want to be. The world is shifting very rapidly and we are all becoming members of many teams... including virtual teams... with new forms of relationships and new challenges.

Being ateam leader is a great job but I know that it can be really frustrating. This is because while managemnet is about getting things done, leadership is about providing direction and then getting out of the way. Leaders are not judged by what they personally achieve but by how you get your colleagues to do what they are able to do... how well you release the magic!

Team, leadership is not a technical challenge of project management coordination and action it is essentially test of character. The best team leaders are committed learners; they are never satisfied with their own performance and are constantly looking to grow and develop their leadership skills.
I have been reading again...

In 'Purpose', Nikos Mourkogiannis turns the idea of leadership on its head and shows that wherever you are, in business, in the public sector or in schools, the choice between values and success is no choice at all. He agrues that a company, a council or a schoolmust satisfy the need for purpose... a set of values that uniquely define it and that inspire and motivate its employees.

Rather than organisation and structure, ideas... great ideas are what cause organisations to go from OK, to good, to great, to brilliant!
I then went to talk at the young people's consultation event at the Carriageworks...

The theme of the event was 'Be Safe' with a focus on how we tackle bullying in schools. Eighty young people and colleagues from schools across Leeds were there to explore the issues and to help us develop our Anti-bullying Strategy. It looked like a great day had been planned by the team for a really wonderful group of young people. If you were there, please let me know how it went? If you weren't there please let me know what you think we can do to make the world a safe and better place. Please speak out now to make tomorrow better!
I went on to open the 'Hard to Shift' Primary Schools Conference at the Park Plaza Hotel...

The Conference was a National Strategies regional event hosted by Leeds for regional primary advisers. Lesley Dolben, from Harehills Primary School, and Patrick Wilkins, from New Bewerley Primary School, were giving the view from schools and Professor Jane Reed,Head of the International Network for School Improvement at the London Institute of Education, was facilitating the day on the theme of "Making the Dancers Visible" with three themes:
  • making learning public and visible;
  • building a learning culture; and
  • leadership for learning.

Chris Halsall and her colleagues had organised the day... which I hope will help us focus on what makes brilliant in the most challenging contexts. Five of our schools have been given this 'hard to shift' label by the DFES... sounds like a stain we are trying to remove. I don't think it is useful or helpful as a term since we all know that every school in Leeds has its hard bits, its stubborn and resistant bits but equally every school in Leeds has its outstanding bits, it's bits of magic. Our job as educators and as a learning team is to celebrate the excellence and make all our practice more consistently good. Chris and her colleagues have renamed the work as the 'Leeds Challenge' which helpfully suggests that this is something we all need to address on our journey from OK, to good, to great, to brilliant.


I started the day at Hovingham Primary School...

I dropped in to thank Janet Spence for sending me the stuff about their 'Healthy Week' and to get another infusion of the magic that Janet and her colleagues are dispensing on a daily basis to this unique and special little community. On my walk round the school I was, as always, really impressed at the quality of the learning environment but what really caught my eye was some brilliant art work from Year 5 children. It is simply amazing the talent we have in our schools... colleagues and children together producing some simply wonderful and inspiring work.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

"What did you do today that made you feel proud?"

I went to the West Leeds CLC at Wortley High School to meet the 'West Youth on Health' group who were spending the day with Charlee Brewster and her colleagues looking at crime, bullying, well-being and healthy eating.

It was brilliant... a great group of young people with fantastic ideas about healthy food, Fair Trade, tackling bullying and racism and generally about how we make our schools happier, healthier and safer places where every child and young person can be successful.

We were challenged, entertained and I learned a lot... what more can you ask over lunch!
I had a message from Janet Spence, Headteacher at Hovingham Primary School about their brilliant blog...

I visited the blog to discover that I had missed their "Health Week". The school had organised a "Health Week". and had a Parents evening on Thursday 1st March, to show some of the work undertaken during the week, so that all parents can see what has happened during "Health Week" and to encourage them to join in.

The blog is really interesting and includes the ideas to be included in the Health Week...

  • Looking at food from different cultures cooked at home. eg Indian Porridge, Dal and chick peas.
  • Tips on hygene- eg handwashing.
  • Clean classrooms.
  • Making healthy food with parents.
  • Promise of no Junk foods.
  • All classes to wask fruit before eating.
  • Parent and children educated on E numbers.
  • Making lunch time a more pleasant experience.
  • Children to bring healthy snacks into school.
  • Having more fruit for dinnertimes.
  • More variety of fruit for everyone.
  • Some sort of breakfast club in every classroom.
  • Education for all on how to make healthy pacled lunches.
  • Fruit salad available every lunchtime.
  • Educating parents and childrenabout alternative healthy snacks.
  • Exercise.
  • Discuss and try interesting alternative snacks and food.
  • Reading labels, understanding effect of E no's, sugar and salt content.
  • Dental decay, and education about sugary drinks like coca cola.
  • Not eating sweets.
  • Jogging around the playground.
  • Everyone to walk to school, if they can.
  • Making fruit salads.
  • Going to bed early.
  • Everybody to bring water bottles.
  • Water for all.
  • Cleaning the school, inside and outside.
  • More exercise... including Wake and Shake!
  • International food focus with partents involved.
  • Fruit for all, including KS2.
  • Learning to cook healthy food.
  • Making healthy packed lunches.
  • Relaxation / Yoga / essential oils- so less stress for teachers!
  • Personal targets for staff to, for example, leave work on time once a week, or take exercise during the school day.
  • KS1 to make fruit salad with their daily fruit to share with KS2.
  • Breakfast club children to take a "Healthy Breakfast" collage or drawing back to their classrooms and discuss it.

With all these super ideas,I am certain that it was a fantastic week!

I am just sorry that I missed it...


I am getting more forgetful in my old age...

I read an article yesterday in the Guardian about how to improve your memory. It identified five steps which would help:
  • use your memory and break things down into bite size chunks;
  • develop new mental skills using things like Sudoku, learn a language or to play a musical instrument;
  • be a clever eater by eating Omega 3 fatty acids and slow release carbohydrates like porridge;
  • reduce your stress... relax, chill and forget it all; and
  • meditate to improve decision making, attention and recall.

I am going to have to focus on the last two so if you see me meditating you'll understand why!


Tuesday, 6 March 2007

I have been reading Charles Handy's book 'The Empty Raincoat: New Thinking for a New World'. It Identifies the paradoxes of our times. A paradox is an apparently true statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition... and there are a lot of them about...
  • the paradox of intelligence;
  • the paradox of work;
  • the paradox of productivity;
  • the pardox of time;
  • the paradox of riches;
  • the paradox of organisations;
  • the paradox of age;
  • the paradox of the individual;
  • the paradox of justice.

Handy identifies a solution for those of us who sometimes wonder what it is all about. The reason for our doing and our being, he argues, is built on three senses:

  • the sense of continuity;
  • the sense of connection; and
  • the sense of direction.

It's worth reading...


In replying to an earlier post Set referred me to the wikipedia website at where I found the following...

"In game theory, the prisoner's dilemma is a type of non-zero-sum game in which two players can "cooperate" with or "defect" (i.e. betray) the other player. In the classic form of this game, cooperating is strictly dominated by defecting, so that the only possible equilibrium for the game is for all players to defect. In simpler terms, no matter what the other player does, one player will always gain a greater payoff by playing defect. Since in any situation playing defect is more beneficial than cooperating, all rational players will play defect."

I suppose we should all be grateful that the evidence from California is that when it comes to the crunch we behave irrationally and co-operate!
I went to open the Bursars' and Financial Administrators' Conference at Elland Road...

The Conference had an amazing turnout... around 250 colleagues from across the city were there and it was buzzing. The programme was brilliant... a great set of workshops, an interesting exhibition and some inputs from Andrew Webster, Team Leader in the Value for Money Unit at the DfES and Doug Meeson, Chief Officer, Financial Management with the Council.

The Conference was brilliantly organised by Fiona Meeson and colleagues from Financial Services... a bit like a military operation with a hugely successful outcome! Interestingly, feedback from last year had requested more workshops, healthier options at lunch time and a pudding... life is full of those delightful contradictions!

I had breakfast this morning with a group of headteacher colleagues from West Leeds...

Over breakfast, we talked about the challenges and opportunities facing schools in this new Children's Services world. We talked about what makes brilliant... brilliant learners, brilliant classrooms and brilliant schools. We talked about whether the term outstanding was helpful or destructive. We were all very sure that every school in Leeds has bits of brilliant, bits of outstanding practice and that we had to find it, share it and nurture it... whatever it takes.

It's good to talk...

Monday, 5 March 2007

I had lunch today with a group of new colleagues as part of their induction programme...

I am always amazed at the brilliant, talented, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues who are choosing to join our team. The great thing about Education Leeds is the enormous pool of talent we have at our disposal... the colleagues I met today had experience in the Ambulance Service, Yorkshire Water and Barclays Bank and brought an enormous expertise to the company. They were energetic, passionate and highly committed colleagues who have so much to contribute to Education Leeds and the schools in Leeds.

We need to work even harder to release the magic and develop the skills and abilities of all our colleagues. We must ensure that schools continue get imaginative, creative and high value services and that our schools continue to get the support they need to develop as brilliant learning places... whatever it takes!
I was reading the Times Educational Supplement over the weekend and the TES magazine had an article on free stuff...

It's amazing how much there is out there that is free. The Resource Bank at the TES website at has accumulated over 4500 free resources during the last year. You can get Busy Bee certificates and pupil self registration flowers from You can also get the free teaching resources for red nose day from It's the BIG ONE!
Another Monday, another week...

I started my day in Bradford with colleagues from the LSC looking the 14 - 19 Review and how we deliver a learner entitlement and not an institutional entitlement here in Leeds. The challenge is to build learning pathways, pathways to excellence linking our provision powerfully with the colleges, the universities and the businesses. We need to be really creative and lock all the pieces together to deliver outstanding provision across Leeds... so that wherever you live you have access and pathways that will engage, motivate and deliver brilliant learning.

I remember a colleague telling me once to keep it simple; simply set the goals and you would find the way.