Saturday, 9 June 2007

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been so caring and supportive over the last week when to be honest my heart or my head hasn't really been in Leeds...

I have been overwhelmed by the cards, letters, notes and e-mails from people who understand what I am going through and who care about me.


Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible... promise.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

I managed to visit Grimes Dyke Primary School at long last...

Our dear friends at OfSTED placed Grimes Dyke Primary School in Special Measures in October last year but some colleagues believe that was a mistake and after my visit to the school I am certain that OfSTED got it wrong. This is not a failing school and Diana Mann and her team are very obviously doing a lot of things right.

I toured the school with Diana and Natalie, Joseph, Ryan and Natasha who are all in Year 6 and looking forward to moving on to secondary school in September. The children were confident, articulate and polite, and brilliant advocates for their school. We talked about their plans for a fantastic pond in their amazing grounds, their impressive programme of events and visits, their 'Worry Boxes', their new Children's Centre opening in September, plans for an satellite Pupil Development Centre linked to Woodlands Primary School, their Spanish and French lessons, the impact of 'Success for All' and we took part in a fantastic 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session led by a brilliant young colleague and some more of Diana's young people. Diana and her deputy also talked incredibly positively about the school's involvement in the Intensifying Support Programme and the real impact it was having.

Schools are complex beasts and it isn't easy to pick up the real school in a brief visit or a couple of days if you are an OfSTED team! However, I know what makes Grimes Dyke Primary School a special place...
  • strong and passionate leadership;
  • positive and dynamic relationships;
  • some great teaching and learning;
  • clear, shared values driving all aspects of the work of the school;
  • high expectations of every child and the whole learning team; and
  • some fantastic young people!


I went on to Children's Services Scrutiny Board with Cllr Brett, Cllr Harker and Rosemary Archer...

Scrutiny Board were looking at their work programme for the next year and the performance of Children's Services here in Leeds. I reminded members of Scrutiny Board that we were doing brilliant things in so many areas and that our outcomes are significantly better than the were two years ago. I also outlined some of the challenges we are facing:

Around standards:

  • secondary schools;
  • boys;
  • working -class boys;
  • looked after children;
  • some ethnic minority groups;
  • young people not in education, employment or training (the NEET group).

Around health and well-being:

  • sexual health;
  • mental health;
  • obesity.

Around sustainability:

  • green schools;
  • recycling;
  • energy use;
  • walking to school.

I also talked about our work to develop more coherent approaches to parenting, coaching, personalisation, choice and the use of ICT.The agenda as we all know is about standards and outcomes for children and young people and I am certain that Scrutiny Board will continue to challenge us all to do better!


I started my day early at Beechwood Primary School...

The school was inspected by OfSTED in January this year and they said that it was good school with outstanding leadership. Actually, this is a great school where John Beckett and his team are doing wonderful things. I had breakfast with some of John's young people, met some of his colleagues and had a brief look around the school. I simply must go back...

John and his colleagues are certainly doing something very special at Beechwood Primary School.


Wednesday, 6 June 2007

I started my day at Five Lanes Primary School...

Jo Fiddes and her team have achieved great things over the last year... Jo asked me to go a year ago and this was the follow up visit. It was great to see what has been achieved; they have also just had an OfSTED inspection which recognises the brilliant progress they have made and celebrates the outstanding leadership Jo and her Deputy have shown.

Walking around the school you understand the challenges our primary schools face but what is really wonderful is the teamwork, the quality of the teaching, the pace and purpose of the learning, the quality of the learning environment and the children!

OfSTED will say that it is a satisfactory school with good features but actually it's a great school... and Jo and her colleagues are not complacent in any way, there is always more to do. What makes Five Lanes Primary School such a great school?
  • a talented and committed learning team;
  • strong and passionate leadership;
  • strong, positive and dynamic relationships;
  • clear, shared vision and values driving all aspects of the work of the school;
  • great teaching within a wonderful learning environment;
  • high expectations of every child and the whole learning team; and
  • some fantastic young people!
I for one want to celebrate what Jo and her colleagues have achieved!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

“Leaders don’t simply emerge. If you want to create leadership at every level, we have to create the systems and the culture that allows this to happen. Authoritarian leadership is dead along with leaders who want predictability and to control the uncontrollable. The new leaders realise that they are part of the team, part of the overall agenda, not the master of it.”

It’s not the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent, nor the nastiest… it’s the one most adaptable to change. We need to develop intelligent learning communities within Education Leeds and across our schools. That means teams of colleagues who share information, insights, experience and toolkits about common interests and the things that we are passionate about. Virtual networks, working groups, clusters and teams building on the informal, non-documented and personal networks that exist across Education Leeds and the schools we serve.

Why an intelligent community? We need to be a dynamic organisation that can quickly adapt to change… can shrink and expand to meet identified needs. We have to develop some kind of structure within our organisation to make it intelligent.. to make it easy to join, to share and to connect. We know that building an intelligent community is always going to be a balancing act… too much structure and you lose creativity, imagination and innovation… too much creativity and you lose focus. The only way it works is if the systems are part of your culture, your day to day practice and your day to day work.

The facts are still the facts.. be true to yourself, your beliefs and values. Pretending to be someone else will make life at work far more complicated than it should be and you will never be effective as a leader. We must also connect our results with our people so that they can all see how what they do makes a real difference.

We must tell our colleagues and those we work with to come and join us… to come and join us if they are inspired, engaged and passionate.. to come and share their magic!

Rules for Stifling Initiative and Creating Mediocre

1. Regard any new idea with suspicion;
2. Insist that colleagues obtain your approval to act;
3. Ask individuals to challenge and criticise each others’ ideas and proposals
4. Express your criticism freely and withhold your praise;
5. Treat problems as a sign of failure;
6. Control everything carefully and count everything that can be counted;
7. Make decisions in secret or spring them on people unexpectedly;
8. Make sure that any request for information is fully justified and that information isn’t distributed too freely;
9. Above all, never forget that you know everything important.

The Change Masters
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
"What sort of organisation asks its’ workers to work for ten or more bosses every week, in three, four or more different work groups, to have no work stations or desk of their own and to always be on the move?
What sensible organisation would forbid its workers to ask their colleagues for help and would expect them to carry all relevant facts in their heads?

What intelligent organisation would require colleagues to work in 40 minute spells and then move them somewhere else, would work them in groups of 30 or over and prohibit any social interaction except at official break times?"
The Age of Unreason
Charles Handy
I went on to the Healthy Schools Beacon Celebration and Networking Event at Leeds United Conference Centre at Elland Road…

This was a truly wonderful celebration of the work going on across Leeds and allowed schools to share and learn from each other. The Healthy Schools Team had prepared a market place approach where every school had a stall so that they could present to everyone else what they were doing to promote the health and well-being agenda… and it was fantastic!

Matthew Lewis, ‘Neville Longbottom’ from the Harry Potter films, presented awards to partner organisations who had achieved the ‘ABC Quality Mark’, school nurses and teachers who had achieved the ‘PSHE Certificate’, schools who had achieved the ‘Investor in Pupils’ standard, schools who had achieved the ‘Smoke Free Schools’ standard and schools who had achieved the Leeds Advanced Healthy Schools Standard and the Leeds Healthy Schools Standard.

Anne Cowling and her colleagues did a brilliant job, and once again the session demonstrated that, as in so many areas, we are simply the best… a Beacon of excellence.
I started the day early having breakfast with a great group of headteacher colleagues…

The Inner West Family talked about the many challenges we all face but what was deeply encouraging was that, alongside their passionate commitment to their children, there was a total focus on ensuring that their children were exposed to rigorous, pacey and brilliant teaching. This to ensure that as far as possible they all became literate, numerate and had the necessary social and emotional skills to succeed. These are great colleagues leading great schools where all this is wrapped in a stimulating, creative and imaginative curriculum offer that aims to turn out happy, healthy, safe and successful little learners, whatever it takes… FANTASTIC!

Monday, 4 June 2007

I've been thinking about the areas where we still need to really make a difference and our priorities here in Leeds...

Here's my three things:

  • standards at 16;

  • health and well-being;

  • sustainability.

I would be interested to know your three things.

I heard another piece of advice on the radio today...

Apparently 90,000 people died last year in American hospitals of hospital acquired infections and the one piece of advice is to wash your hands. The evidence suggests that huge numbers of people never wash their hands and spread infections wherever they go!

So remember to WASH YOUR HANDS!

I went to a great school today to attend the Official Opening of their new classrooms by the new Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Brian Cleasby...

Janet Howard and her team at Pudsey Greenside Primary School are doing a wonderful job and have achieved a real transformation over the years. They have now managed to remove the temporary classrooms which were cut off by a footpath running across the site. The new mezzanine floor is a really creative and imaginative solution but the fantastic design has also kept something of the history of the school.

The children and the staff clearly love it!
They say small is beautiful...

I read an article in the TES over the weekend about Jon Whitcombe, Headteacher of The Westlands School in Sittingbourne. Jon had been to San Francisco to look at the small schools movement in the United States. He has broken his school into three small learning communities plus the sixth form. Westlands is one of 28 secondary schools involved in a Human Scale Education Project with the Gulbenkian Foundation aimed at creating small learning communities and a more human experience for their students.

This article, 'Thinking big, acting small', about the project was written by Human Scale Schools Advocate Sheila Dainton and Simon Richey, Education Director of the ulbenkian Foundation... "Nearly ten per cent of secondary schools in England have over 1,500 students. A handful have over 2,000 and at least one has over 2,500. The Government is encouraging popular schools to expand. Does big necessarily mean best or might smaller be better still?
No-one wants to be a cog in a machine. Time and again parents and teachers call for
smaller classes and smaller schools where students matter as human beings. Time and
again we hear from young people about how easy it is to feel lost and confused as they
struggle to find their feet in large secondary schools. And time and again we hear of
growing concerns about disaffection and truancy, bad behaviour and burgeoning street
crime. There could hardly be a better moment to ask if even bigger schools are a step in
the right direction or an accident waiting to happen.

Secondary school size is the nettle that has yet to be grasped. This is why the Gulbenkian
Foundation is funding a seminal new project to support up to 50 large secondary schools
develop human scale principles and practices. Over the next three years the Human Scale
Schools project aims to build a critical mass of secondary schools that can stand up as
effective examples of how its principles work. This ambitious project aims to combine the best of both worlds: large schools offeringchoice and diversity coupled with human scale structures which enable young people feel valued, respected and cared for, and where they can learn well.
Many schools are seeking innovative ways of ‘growing small’. As one headteacher wrote
in her application for a grant: ‘We want to make each student known and cherished so
that we can enhance their learning potential by giving them that all-important selfconfidence
and high self-esteem.’

Imagine what a human scale secondary school might look like. There are no one-size fits-
all answers, but the project’s flagship secondary school, Bishops Park College in
Essex, is helping to pave the way. Based in the coastal town of Clacton, staff and students
work together in three semi-autonomous schools – Lighthouses, Towers and Windmills.
Headteacher Mike Davies believes that developments at Bishops Park represent the
renewal of a true vision of education. “We need a coherent alternative to seeing schools
as high-performing factories with high-stakes accountability,” he said.
Looking to the future these are just some of the things we might see a human scale
school: A structure of three or four ‘mini-schools’: small learning communities each with
a cross-disciplinary team of teachers responsible for the learning and well-being
of a mixed-age group of learners. Students work with six or seven teachers a
week, not upwards of 16 as is often the case in secondary schools. And rather
than seeing several hundred students each week, teachers work with 80 or 90
young people. A thematic, cross curricular approach which also retains the integrity of
discipline-based knowledge and skills and makes connections between and across
them. Dialogue and inquiry feature strongly in learning and attention is given to
both the practical and the intellectual.

Assessment is integral to learning. It is based on dialogue, negotiation and critical
reflection, and includes students presenting portfolios of their work to their peers.
The timetable is flexible and responsive enough to promote different types of
teaching and learning, including masterclasses, whole class teaching, small group
work and individual learning. Teachers have time to plan and evaluate
collaboratively, and to reflect on their work. Students’ views are taken seriously and acted upon. There is a vibrant schoolcouncil where debates go beyond school dinners and the state of the toilets todiscuss teaching and learning and the curriculum and assessment. Students have a
sense of authorship over what goes on in their school. They appreciate that the school experience is genuinely provisional and open to change. Caring is seen as a part of teaching and learning, not as a separate role. There isno sharp distinction between ‘pastoral’ and ‘academic’ roles. There is a strong sense of community and partnership, both within the school and
beyond. The school is working collaboratively and responsively with parents,
families and the wider community. Last but not least, and mindful that ‘staying safe’ is one of the five outcomes at the heart of the Every Child Matters agenda, students feel safe and secure in a human scale school.

But we do most of this already you might say. What’s so different about human scale
education? We believe that the education of young people flourishes when it is built on
good human relationships. This has important consequences for the scale of
organisations and the number of people involved in learning and teaching. To quote the
American small schools pioneer Ted Sizer: ‘One cannot teach a student well if one does
not know that student well.’ Small per se is not enough – it is not an end in itself. But it
is an important first step in establishing the conditions necessary to create active,
collaborative communities where young people and their learning are taken seriously."

You can find out more at Schools seeking further information about the project, and those wishing to apply for agrant, should write to: Simon Richey, Assistant Director (Education) Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 98 Portland Place, London W1B 1ET.
Some people are just fantastic...

I dropped in to Elmete this morning and Margaret Dalby was a real star. She noticed that something was up and was fantastic... simply spending time talking about my Mum and her Mum. Some people are really special...
I heard the Bishop of Reading on the radio this morning...

The Bishop was giving egg timers to people on Reading Station and asking them to find time to sit and think. His line was that if we all simply found some to think we could make the world a better place. It's true... turn off the radio and the television and listen... go for a walk and listen... and you will be amazed.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Tonight I must write the saddest lines...

My Mum was a hugely important influence in my life... in many ways she made me the way I am. She died this morning so I may seen somewhat distracted for a while.