Saturday, 24 March 2007

I had a great time yesterday lunchtime with a group of wonderful young people...

I went to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to attend a session run by Youth on Heath... YOH! We played games, that the group had dreamed up, to look at some important issues... bullying, school funding priorities and school lunchtimes. It was a fantastic hour and a bit and I learned a lot.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

And finally I went to the Children Missing Education Conference at Elland Road...

Jane Hall and her fantastic colleagues had put together a half-day programme which they were running twice today... Jane had asked me to talk at the afternoon session. The highlight of the session was a performance by Intake High School students who were brilliant!

My life is brilliant...

I went on to Holy Trinity CE Primary School in Cookridge where Kevin Dagg leads a wonderful team for another six days before he retires. I think Kevin has been headteacher for seventeen years and he has built an outstanding school. I had the opportunity to visit classroomswith Kevin and Rev. John Hamilton, the Chair of Governors. It was wonderful to see the calm and caring atmosphere, the purposeful learning and to meet the learning team and the children.

The highlights of my visit were meeting two of Kevin's team who have trained as teachers at the school having started as classroom assistants... these wonderful colleagues are examples to us all in terms of what you can achieve if you put your mind to it. I also met the fantastic Year 6 who were all learning British Sign Language and attended an inspiring assembly where the wonderful choir and two incredible children sang beautifully.

What makes Holy Trinity CE Primary School such a brilliant school?

  • strong, experienced and passionate leadership;
  • Christian vision, values and beliefs driving the work of the school;
  • a committed learning team who passionately believe in what they are doing;
  • high shared expectations of children and the whole learning team;
  • strong, dynamic and wonderful relationships;
  • inspiring teaching within a nurturing culture;
  • high parental support, engagement and involvement.... and
  • some talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful young people!

Kevin and his learning team do a brilliant job and have created a fantastic learning environment for the children in a really great school.


My life is brilliant...

I then went to Weetwood Primary School where Tarsem Wyatt and her team are releasing a very special magic. I was supposed to be at the school for breakfast but I arrived late because of my Radio 5 Live interview. The school are doing great things with before school and after school care and I talked to David Waterhouse, the school's Chair of Governors, about the challenges they had coped with as they developed this brilliant provision. If anyone is interested, David is willing to share his experience and expertise with others schools developing their 'core offer'.

I also had the opportunity to visit classrooms with Tarsem to meet some of her talented olleagues and her wonderful children. This is an amazing little school... the positive atmosphere and purposeful, passionate learning pervades everything the school does.

What makes Weetwood Primary School such a brilliant school?
  • strong and passionate leadership and governance;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs driving all aspects of the work of the school;
  • a wonderful learning team who passionately believe in what they are doing;
  • high expectations of every child and the whole learning team;
  • strong, dynamic and wonderful relationships;
  • inspiring teaching within a nurturing culture;
  • high parental support, engagement and involvement..... and
  • some talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful young people!

Tarsem and her learning team do a brilliant job and have created a fantastic learning environment for the children in a really great school.

My life is brilliant...

I have had a great day. I started early at Primrose High School. Radio 5 Live were broadcasting their Breakfast Show from the school library and the young people and Tonia Bowden and her learning team were inspiring. Shelagh Fogarty and the '5 Live' team were at the school where we have a BBC Studio as part of the 'Al-2-gether Now' Project. It's a great place with wonderful young people who came over as brilliant advocates for Leeds during the show!

My son heard my interview and rang me last night. I was interviewed about PfI and David said by the end of the interview he was almost totally convinced that PfI was a good thing!

In Leeds, of course, it is!

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

It's funny but a colleague today asked me why I don't put the negative stories on my blog. Interestingly I know that some of my colleagues won't like the answer...

It's a great question and one of my many failings is that I tend to praise in public and challenge in private. I know from experience that it can lead to people thinking I am the most positive person in the world but actually I'm not... I do get angry, I do get frustrated and I do get cross! I do get frustrated with the pace at which things are improving or changing. I do get angry with people who don't seem to care less about children and young people. I do think that some people I work with should look elsewhere for joy and job satisfaction. I would happily wave goodbye to people who don't share my passion, my enthusiasm, my energy and my commitment to children, young people, families and communities here in Leeds... because it is simply too important not to be totally engaged with this agenda!

I don't know if you saw the latest M&S advert but it's brilliant...

Plan A

Our Mission

To work with anyone who shares our vision, our values, our beliefs and our expectations to ensure that every school in Leeds is good, improving and inclusive and to work with colleagues in Children's Services, with parents, carers, and communities to ensure that every child and every young person in Leeds is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful.

... whatever it takes!

AND by the way...
... there is NO Plan B!

Keep the faith...
I also managed to get to Headteacher Forum for the end of the meeting...

This is a hugely important group and I have missed a couple of meetings recently because of clashes with Cabinet or Executive Board. The meeting had a very good discussion of Trust and Paul Edwards from Garforth explained the rationale for their Garforth Learning Trust pathfinder. Paul is a passionate advocate of local accountability and responsibility and wants through the Trust to build strong formal structures which develop commitment and buy in from partners and stakeholders. The meeting also looked at how Families of Schools might develop which encouraged some interesting debates about whose meetings these are and how better use of ICT can help us share important information.

I also discovered that I had upset some brillaint colleagues this morning at the Primary School Consultant Leaders session... if I did I apologise! We must all work to create a culture and relationships where we can challenge and discuss the difficult issues openly and honestly... we must be prepared to challenge the status-quo, to question some of the assumptions we all make and to push the boundarises of what is possible. I know, and welcome the fact, that passionate, committed colleagues will disagree with me and I know that I am not always right but I tell you it's good to talk and even better to listen!

Keep the faith...
I went on to Rodillian to talk to John Barrett, the headteacher and Alex Hudson, his Chair of Governors...

We had a really good discussion about the challenges facing the school during the transitional period while the new BSF school is being built. The new school is due to open in September next year and the designs and plans are fantastic! John was very focused and determined to continue to address teaching and learning issues during this critical period. We agreed that it was easy to get distracted onto buildings issues and forget that improved student outcomes must be the real game plan during the next 18 months. We must ensure that we take brilliant teaching and learning practice and strong student outcomes into the fantastic new school.
It has been an amazing day today...

I woke up at 5.15 to get ready and dash across London to catch a train back to Leeds. I was going to see the Primary School Consultant Leaders group at Boddington Hall... and simply walking into the room I knew I was in the presence of an extraordinary collection of talented colleagues. The challenge we face as an educational community is how do we take the learning from this group and build 'brilliant' consistently across Leeds.. brilliant leadership, brilliant learning, brilliant classrooms, brilliant schools. It isn't rocket science and the experience and expertise in that room could change the world... I suppose my only question is why hasn't it already! What stops us from transforming expectations and outcomes? What stops us from raising self-esteem and efficacy? How do we manage the comfortable complacency that exists in many classrooms and many schools?

And I am not being critical of those fantastic colleagues who work in the hardest and most challlenging contexts. We need to develop intelligent accountability that understands and powerfully uses data and intelligence to challenge assumptions and tackle colleagues limiting beliefs.

I hope that we can keep the conversation going...
Just an update on last night...

Both our beacon award bids this year were successful. Yesterday evening at the awards ceremony in London both 'Financial Inclusion &Tackling Over Indebtedness' and 'Healthy Schools' were presented with their awards. As well as being the first time we have achieved two awards in one year we are now the only local authority to have been awarded beacon status in each of the eight rounds.

The hard work now begins in terms of us using the Beacon Status to further develop health within schools across Leeds.

Interestingly the Round 9 themes were confirmed last night as follows:

  • better, brighter futures: 14 to 19 reform
  • better public places: liveability; cleaner, safer, greener
  • chances for life: improving life chances for looked-after children;
  • corporate parenting dignity in care
  • empowering communities, transforming services
  • improving accessibility
  • partnerships and agreements: local strategic partnerships and community engagement
  • reducing health inequalities
  • reducing re-offending
  • tackling climate change

The timescales for submitting bids have not yet been confirmed, but I will let you have this information when it becomes available.


Tuesday, 20 March 2007

I am sitting here in London with the brilliant Healthy Schools Team who have just won Beacon Status...

It is an amazing feeling to realise that we are officially simply the best... and that the Leeds Healthy Schools Programme goes from strength to strength. Anne Cowling and her fantastic colleagues have achieved something wonderful for Leeds.
I had breakfast today with a brilliant group of colleagues...

The Meanwood and Moortown Family of Schools group is a fantastic group of schools and having breakfast with Linda Bowles, Maria Cabry, Jane Cavadino, Helen Sanderson, Simon Flowers and Elaine Silson is always going to be interesting. What makes a brilliant school... simple, people like this. You only have to visit their schools to know that you are in the presence of talented, gorgeous, brilliant and wonderful. The conversation this morning ranged across Foundation Stage and 14 - 19 provision, behaviour and culture, curriculum and entitlement, passion and belief... and it was fantastic! These colleagues have that magic ingredient by the bucketload and what we must do is listen and learn!

Monday, 19 March 2007

I attended the North West Wedge Governors Meeting this evening...

Stephen Rennie, Chair at Hawksworth Wood Primary School, chaired the meeting which was well attended. My colleagues Liz White, Brian Ward and Pat Toner did really interesting sessions on the new communications strategy, the new transition support materials and the new and mysterious world of Trusts. I briefly talked about the developing 14 - 19 Strategy and took a few questions.
We have some amazing governors and too often we take their contribution forgranted. I would like to personally thank everyone who came to the session at St Chad's CE Primary School on Monday night and made it such a stimulating and enjoyable evening.

It's good to talk...
I attended a brilliant day at Leeds Trinity and All Saints College today...

Mike O'Brien, from the Pacific Institute, ran a whole day's training on 'Developing Leadership at All Levels'. His key messages were:
  • that we have to convince people that their efforts make a real difference;
  • that culture change is driven by leadership;
  • that managing change is about growth and focus.

If we are going to develop a belief across Education Leeds that my effort makes a difference we must focus on:

  • accountability... we must take responsibility for getting the job done;
  • initiative... we must be self-motivated and self-managed;
  • creativity and innovation... we must be free to take risks and try things out;
  • integrity... we must be honest and open in everything we do;
  • working effectively with others... we must develop teamwork and partnerships.

We must develop a constructive culture and create alignment through:

  • clear vision... where are we going?
  • clear strategy... how are we going to get there?
  • clear expectations... what do you expect of me?

Above all we must focus on the outcomes not on the process...


"Change comes from small initiatives which work, initiatives which initiated become the fashion. We cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply at the end of history. It is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness."
Charles Handy 'The Empty Raincoat'

My colleague Pat sent me this message after reading something on the blog...
"You know I absolutely agree with this vision. Your passion and energy and drive are fantastic. But are we carrying people with us on this vision. I attended a funeral of a lovely man recently. He used to be a painter and decorator until poor health forced him into retirement @ 59 without a pension. His last few years were riddled will ill health but he loved his time with his grandchildren and his extended family. At the service his son explained to those gathered to pay our respects and say farewell that his father taught him to be kind, to love his children, and to value friendships. He explained that at times some people took advantage of his father's kindness and generousity. Without any anger but with conviction he said "shame on those people". Maybe we should be satisfied by ensuring powerful and appropriate values and beliefs are instilled in our own children. Maybe our time and energy and passion should be rationed for loved ones and friends. Maybe that should be our enduring legacy. Maybe system improvement and change will happen organically anyway, without us striving to make it happen a few days or weeks or months earlier.My salutation to my children every time I leave for work or leave them at school or university is "have fun and learn a lot". We try to instill in them respect and kindness for others. Maybe we should simply work harder at being better parents, and loving partners."

No Pat, we can never be satisfied by ensuring powerful and appropriate values and beliefs are instilled in our own children. Our time and energy and passion can't simply be rationed for loved ones and friends. Our enduring legacy must be to change and transform the learning landscape here in this wonderful city. I am sorry, but system improvement and change will not happen organically.... culture change is driven by leadership and managing change is about growth, focus and direction. You are right that we should work harder at being better parents, and loving partners but our challenge is to make our colleagues recognise that their efforts make a real difference for all our children... all 190,000 of them.

If we are going to develop a belief that 'my effort' makes a difference we must focus on:

  • accountability... we must ALL take responsibility for getting the job done;
  • initiative... we must ALL be self-motivated and self-managing;
  • creativity and innovation... we must ALL be free to take risks and try things out;
  • integrity... we must ALL be honest and open in everything we do;
  • working effectively with others... we must ALL develop teamwork and partnerships.

Keep the faith...


Sunday, 18 March 2007

"We, as educators, must find that balance between the world of the mind and that or the heart and soul. It is the mind that preoccupies our time and that will take us to the information age. But it is the heart and soul that will allow us to remain connected to our own humanity, that will build that bridge between us...and create a good society."
Paul D. Houston

I found this American website which provided me with some ideas about some of the challenges we are facing. Apparently thousands of schools throughout the United States and Canada have become 'Tribes Learning Communities', safe and caring environments in which kids can do well! After years of "fix-it" programs focused on reducing student violence, conflict, drug and alcohol use, absenteeism, poor achievement, etc., educators and parents now agree, creating a positive school or classroom environment is the most effective way to improve behavior and learning.

The Tribes TLC® process is the way to do it. Students achieve because they feel included and appreciated by peers and teachers; are respected for their different abilities, cultures, gender, interests and dreams; are actively involved in their own learning and have positive expectations from others that they will succeed.

The clear purpose of the Tribes process is to assure the healthy development of every child so that each one has the knowledge, skills and resiliency to be successful in a rapidly changing world. The programme has identified the following character traits as the keys to success...respect, responsibility, honesty, trustworthiness, compassion, empathy, justice, fairness, participation/service, kindness, integrity, work ethic, caring social skills.

The programme looks at how can these best of human virtues be instilled in young people living in the midst of our mobile, media bombarded, and changing society? It argues that we need to develop a successful cooperative learning model because it teaches and gives daily practice to important individual and team building skills. Students are encouraged to:
  • Participate fully;
  • Listen attentively;
  • Express appreciation;
  • Reflect on learning experiences;
  • Value diversity of cultures / ideas;
  • Think constructively;
  • Make responsible decisions;
  • Resolve conflict;
  • Solve problems creatively;
  • Work collaboratively on tasks;
  • Assess improvement;
  • Celebrate achievement.

You can find out more about the programme by visiting their website at

What would you add to these list of qualities to transform the character of young people and thus our society? Let me know what you think...