Saturday, 21 April 2007

“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.”
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.
We must all continue to work to create an environment where all our colleagues and our young people can be happy, healthy, safe and successful, and where with rigour, pace and challenge we collectively move towards one common and shared vision where we achieve brilliant outcomes for all our young people. That takes courage, it takes patience, but most importantly it takes great leadership…and not just from me or the Executive Team… from all of us. We all need to understand the journey we are on… to celebrate our successes and our failures… to stand up and be counted... 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.
Have you read Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel 'The Truth'. The book is set in the newspaper industry and it's a great read... it paints a really wonderfully funny picture of the newspaper industry.

I don't know if you saw the Evening Post on Friday but it contained the usual mix of praise and criticism: the fantastic 'Leeds School Meals Strategy' and the horrendous secondary schools contextual value added results. As always with journalists you get a strange mix of fact and fiction, the accurate and the inaccurate, the up-to-date version of the truth and the strangely twisted history... hard to know what is the truth!

What really makes me cross is the negativity, the lack of balence and the ignorance. I am incredibly proud of the work that our secondary schools have done to transform outcomes for our young people... and yes we still have a lot to do, particularly for the young people who are disengaged, disinterested, disempowered or simply not there. I know that the journalists and others will say that they are there to hold us to account and to report the news. All I ask is that we have intelligent systems of accountability, intelligent and informed politicians and journalists who understand the issues they are talking about and most of all, in that balanced coverage, recognition for the talented colleagues in our secondary schools for the real impact they are making every single day.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

I then went on to the Metropole Hotel where we are hosting the 'British Council for School Environments' Study Tour of Leeds Schools...

I was there to welcome colleagues to Leeds before they went off on their bus tour to visit New Bewerley Community Primary School and Carr Manor High School. Ty Goddard, Director of the BCSE, also talked about the Study Tour and the transformation that had occurred in Leeds. He highlighted Leeds as a national success story and that we had a reputation for our vision and for getting things done. Shirley Parks and her colleagues and coleagues at New Bewerley Community Primary School, Carr Manor High School, Primrose High School and Shakespeare Primary School did a brilliant job showcasing Leeds.

The tour was a fantastic success and once again put Leeds on a national platform where we showed colleagues from across the country the Leeds vision, the transformation we are engaged in and the Leeds WOW factor!
I went on to another fantastic primary school...

I had been invited to the Good Work Assembly at Hovingham Primary School where Janet Spence and her talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues are releasing a very special kind of magic. They were also at the start of their OfSTED inspection!

I had been invited to present the Certificates to a group of wonderful mums who had completed theHealthy Cooks Course as part of a programme called the 'Feel Good Factor'. It was a six week course and clearly everyone had really enjoyed it and it had changed the way the mums were hopping and cooking for thei families. One of the mums told me that it was the first certificate she had ever received recognising her as successful learner... brilliant!

By the way OfSTED I think got this one wrong as well, I know standards are low and contextual value-added is only average but this is not a satisfactory school with some good features. Under Janets' passionate leadership this is a great school with some fabulous features... like the children, the learning team and the mums!
I started my day early at Garforth Green Lane Primary School...

I had been invited to breakfast and it was wonderful to sit and talk to some of the children as they munched through their rice crispies, shreddies and toast washed down with drinks of milk and water. It's an incredibly popular breakfast club which provides wrap around care from 8am until 6pm everyday of the week. Gill Martin and her small team at the Kids Club are doing a great job.

I also had the chance to talk to Hazel Willis, headteacher at Green Lane, and to walk around this wonderful school with Hazel where we managed to catch the first proper 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session the school had done. The things that struck me about Hazel's school were the really talented learning team, the quality of the learning environment and the fabulous art work.

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

Hazel and her learning team are doing a brilliant job and have created a fantastic learning environment for the children in a really great school.


Fantastic news is becoming common place...

The Leeds School Library Service received an award in the national "Libraries Change Lives Awards" for its work on developing a library service for children with a visual impairment. Margaret Drinkwater, the School Library Service Manager let me know that the award was presented yesterday at the 'Library and Information Show' by Roger McGough. The team also received a cheque for £2,000, which they are going to use to buy more large print books for the service. I know this fantastic team will continue to have an impact on children in our primary and secondary schools. There are currently 45 children with a visual impairment receiving books and/or tapes/CDs each term.
Well done to Margaret and her talented team!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

I had lunch at Farnley Park High School where we were launching the new 'Leeds School Meals Strategy'...

The Strategy, led by Rosie Denison and her team, aims to transform school food and drink by:
  • reducing foods high in fat, salt and sugar and providing balanced meals;
  • increasing the amount of freshly prepared vegatables, sald and fruit;
  • encouraging locally sourced and sustainable provision of fresh foods;
  • working with schools to transform the dining room environment;
  • exploring flexible lunches, priving policies and healtheir packed lunches;
  • providing bespoke trainingprogrammes for catering and non-catering colleagues;
  • engaging children and young people in transforming school food and drink;
  • engaging school communities in transforming school food and drink.

We launched the Strategy over lunch at Farnley Park High School where Bill Pullen and his talented team are doing great things as they gear up for their newly remodelled facilities under the Building Schools for the Future programme. I had lunch with Louise Shipman, Ben Lilley, Edward Vickers and Kaye Best; some of Bill's talented young people who were powerful and articulate advocates for the school. It certainly reminded me how fantastic our young people are! AND lunch was salads... coleslaw, red cabbage and beetroot salad, waldorf salad and tuna and pasta salad followed by fresh fruit salad... FANTASTIC!


I started my day early at one of our brilliant little primary schools...

Hill Top Primary School was built as part of the Seven School PfI Project in 2002 and it's clearly a school to die for! Danny Kenny, the headteacher, has been there for a year now and it's a wonderful school. I took part in their 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session as well as walking around the school with Danny. Great schools are built on strong, dynamic and open relationships and it is very obvious that Danny and the team have created something very special at Hill Top.

What makes Hill Top Primary School such a brilliant school?

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

Danny and his learning team are doing a brilliant job and have created a fantastic learning environment for the children in a really great PfI school. They also have a great web-site at why not take a look!


Tuesday, 17 April 2007

I went on to one of our brilliant learning places; one committed to the healthy schools agenda...

I visited Rosebank Primary School where Val Forster and her talented team are doing brilliant work on the health and well-being agenda. The work is led by Gill Young, Val's Deputy, and Emma Patterson, Arts Team Curriculum Leader, who are both inspiring women. The children told me that they are doing healthy lunches, Wake Up and Shake Up, more sport and circle time. It's clearly a great little school doing fantastic things to ensure that all its children are happy, healthy, safe and successful... and from what I saw during my brief visit the results are brilliant!
I started my day at Boston Spa School where I had breakfast with the Elmete Partnership of Schools...

I always find that spending time with brilliant colleagues makes me think and helps me learn although I know that I have a tendency to talk too much and not leave enough time to listen during these sessions. The thing is it's a passion and we live in such exciting times.

We talked about Children's Services, Extended Services, partnerships and trusts, Early Adopters, locality working, reconfiguring services around localities, standards and accountability, our promises to children and young people here in Leeds, parenting and brilliant learners.

It was a great start to a great day!

Monday, 16 April 2007

I have been thinking and it can be a dangerous thing...

The reality is that we are still not making enough of an inroad into the huge group of young people who are disconnected from learning, disengaged from secondary school, disillusioned by a seemingly inflexible, traditional and irrelevant offer.

So what do we actually do about this?

The simple answer can’t be more of the same because that surely delivers more of the same. The simple answer has to be more of what works and, more than ever, we now know what works…
  • inspirational teaching works;
  • targeted programmes work;
  • revision classes works;
  • individualised programmes works;
  • study support works;
  • Summer schools works;
  • mentoring works;
  • coaching works;
  • more works; and
  • I’m even told ‘chocolate’ works!

BUT only when the individual learner is passionately engaged, has high self-esteem and expectations and believes in themselves!

10 top tips that could change your life

I saw this is the Times Educational Supplement over the weekend...

It was part of an article titled 'You're happy and you know it' reporting the results of a TES Magazine survey.Wellington College, a private school in Berkshire is taking happiness serously. Well-being is a curriculum subject and the happiness ot students and the learning team is paramount. These 'top tips' are taken from the school's programme for developing well-being.
  • nurture constructive and caring relationships with friends, partners and family;
  • get eight hours sleep a day and avoid caffeine, alcohol or stress before going to bed;
  • eat well and exercise three times a week;
  • smile and laugh as much as possible;
  • take time every day to be still and attempt to clear your mind;
  • try to respond positively to difficult situations;
  • immerse yourself in activities until you lose track of time;
  • get an hour of broad daylight every day;
  • improve your learning space;
  • limit time spent texting, e-mailing and watching TV and have conversations instead;
  • learn a new skill;
  • take charge of your life by making positive choices.

Sounds good to me!


Sunday, 15 April 2007

Over the holidays I have been thinking about what makes a great leader, a great manager, a great headteacher...

It's a starter for ten but I think that really great leaders...
  • Let go of things others can do.
  • Encourage initiative, ideas, and risk taking.
  • Ensure that people have clear goals and know how they're doing.
  • Delegate to challenge, develop, and empower.
  • Coach to ensure success.
  • Constantly reinforce good work and good attempts.
  • Share information, knowledge, and skills.
  • Value, trust, and respect each colleague.
  • Provide support without taking over.
  • Practice what they preach.

I thought we should create a list...

  • Really great leaders coach, mentor and develop colleagues talents and abilities;
  • Really great leaders nurture, empathise and support colleagues through good and bad times;
  • Really great leaders constantly communicate, explain and clarify a shared vision, values and beliefs;
  • Really great leaders engage, trust and empower colleagues to be passionate and commited advocates;
  • Really great leaders develop colleagues and encourage their passionate participation;
  • Really great leaders develop the culture by recognising colleagues strengths and differences;
  • Really great leaders celebrate and reward colleagues achievements.

Let me know your list.