Wednesday, 5 September 2007

There are no excuses...

"Do you know people who talk about kids who can learn and kids who can't? Or, kids who can be helped and kids who can't? Well, they are wrong, and I'll tell you why. Some 30-odd years ago, the great Japanese teacher, Dr. Suzuki, who taught over 20,000 children to understand and play the violin like virtuosi, had some words of wisdom to share with us. He said, " People today are like gardeners who look sadly at ruined saplings and shake their heads, saying the seeds must have been bad to start with - not realizing that the seed was all right, and that it was their method of cultivation that was wrong. They go on their mistaken way, ruining plant after plant. It is imperative that the human race escape from this vicious circle."

"Dr. Suzuki did not believe that some children were gifted while others were not. He believed that every child could be superior, and that every child could be educated. Talent, he believed, was no accident of birth, but a purposeful effort, a powerful creation. Let's teach our children to understand that when they see someone of ability, they see a person who has been carefully taught, and who has worked hard to realize their unlimited potential. Let's teach them that they have the same unlimited potential. And let's teach them to believe in sustained effort, self-discipline and self-determination. We have the opportunity and the ability to raise an entire generation of superstars every day."

Why would we settle for less?
'The Seven Secrets of Inspired Leaders' is by Phil Dourado and Phil Blackburn of The Inspired Leaders Network...

What are the seven secrets... well they actually identify eight!

Secret Number One...
Inspired leaders let their colleagues get on with it... our job is to create more leaders, not more followers;
Secret Number Two...
Inspired leaders ditch all the games... our job is to reveal our real, authentic and individual selves;
Secret Number Three...
Inspired leaders engage people's energies, talents and beliefs... our job is to create meaning and purpose for our colleagues;
Secret Number Four...
Inspired leaders are innovators and creators... our job is about being different and making a real difference;
Secret Number Five...
Inspired leaders run edgy organisations... our job is to understand that the action takes place at the frontline where is where you should find us;
Secret Number Six...
Inspired leaders see the world differently... our job is to see that it's not out there, it's all around us;
Secret Number Seven...
Inspired leaders know that nothing is impossible... our job is to think the unthinkable and do the undoable.
Secret Number Eight... the bonus secret...
Inspired leaders see their organisations differently... our job is to turn our structures on their heads and see ourselves as the support team!

Our challenge as always is what are we going to do about it.
Be inspired!
I have come to the disturbing conclusion that negative feedback, when given in a constructive way, has the greatest impact on changing behaviour and improving performance...
WE all need to know what we've done wrong, or poorly, or when we have performed in some other way which is inappropriate. And, immediately and always, we need to know in what respects it was wrong or poor or inappropriate, and we need suggestions on ways in which it could have been correct or better or more effective.
It's hard to handle this aspect of our work and when dealing with negative feedback we need to think carefully about the language we are using - we need to use questions rather than statements and criticisms and we must offer both challenge and support. Our most constructive feedback must high on support and high on challenge and we need to work with colleagues to explore alternatives.

Clearly it is always important to note how the feedback is received and to anticipate an emotional response. We need to make time for the feedback and consider when is a good time to give feedback. We need to be supportive but don't get distracted from your aims.

Finally, always end of a positive note of encouragement. Say whatever you can that's encouraging and truthful.
PS I am grateful to my colleagues at Elmete for the feedback!
Feedback is an essential part of what we do...

So what are the ground rules for positive feedback.
  • Do it now.
  • Make it public.
  • Be specific.
  • Make a big deal out of it.
  • Do it often.
  • Do it evenly.
  • Be sincere.


The meeting finished early so I went to the Elmete Centre...

I knew from the flurry of e-mails I have received from colleagues that the letters I sent to Primary Headteachers after my initial analysis of the Key Stage 2 results had caused some concerns. The Primary Advisers were concerned that I hadn't spoken to them about the results and the progress individual schools were making. I am sorry about that and that my letter has upset colleagues in schools... it was intended to be a way I could get into some schools where we need to understand the nature of the challenges they are facing.

I think that we are ALL increasingly aware of what works and how we can drive the standards agenda to maximise outcomes for all our children. I am really keen to visit schools where we have some interesting challenges and where progress hasn't been as we might have hoped or as we expected.

I will continue to challenge, ask the difficult questions and to occasionally put my foot in it!. We do need to strive to do better and to understand what works and how we can use all our resources to improve standards and outcomes.

Always remember that I am here to provide help and support wherever and whenever I can and that it's good to talk!
I spent the afternoon with Cabinet and Corporate Management Team looking at the year ahead...

We looked at the preparations we are making for the Corporate Assessment of the Council and the Joint Area Review of Children's Services and at the Resource Allocation Strategy and the challenges we face with the budget.
I started the day with the Education Leeds Board for our regular monthly meeting which was followed by my appraisal...

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Message of the Week Two

As we start a new school year, it is important that we realise that we are all facing a learning revolution in a rapidly changing landscape. A landscape of DfCSF, DfIUS, Children’s Services, consultants, commissioning, hosting and targets. The next two terms are going to require strict discipline, intense focus, research and analysis, coaching and stronger partnerships with those colleagues and stakeholders who share our objectives. We need to stay ahead of the game and we need to understand what works and why. We need to continue to provide outstanding services and support and continue to innovate and develop new and more powerful approaches to secure better outcomes for every child, every young person, every learner in our schools and in Education Leeds. This will require even more passion, commitment, determination and hard work but I also hope that we can have more fun, laughter and develop even better relationships and teamwork.

How are you feeling at the beginning of another year? How do you feel about your work? It’s important because how you feel determines our success. We all know that work gets a really bad press. It is continually portrayed as an endeavour and an endurance test rather than a source of enjoyment and an opportunity to make a difference. People talk about stress, overwork, pressure, and how hard their jobs are, but are they really that bad? Yes, we all work hard and many of us work very long hours, but we all work in a positive and rewarding environment with great colleagues where we are making an enormous difference, so it can’t be that bad. Sure, we are busy but it’s not really stress. Sure, it’s hard work but its brilliant and if it isn’t, are you sure that you are in the right job and doing the right things? A little pressure never really did anyone any harm ….. actually it releases endorphins which make you more responsive, more alert and make you brighter and cleverer.

I suppose what is important, above all, is that we all believe and have faith in ourselves and in each other. I promise that I won’t let you down and I know from experience over the last six years that the harder and longer I work at this crazy endeavour the better I get. Sometimes things may feel fragile, progress may feel slow and some things may appear to get worse before they get better. At times in the past our journey has been turbulent, rocky and difficult, and no doubt there will be challenges in the future. But if the last six years has taught me anything, it is that our hard work, focus, belief, passion, commitment and enthusiasm can get us through anything. If you lose your way, stumble or fall, remember how important this is. Remember that I will continue to support you and simply let me know so I can meet you and buy you a cup of coffee.

Keep the faith.

Do you know what makes a great colleague, a great teacher or a great coach?

Hilary Wilce in the TES on Friday had read the judges reports on the 70 odd winners of this year’s Teachers Awards. Her top tips are…

  • Like children. Really, really, really like children.
  • Respect children and expect great things from them.
  • Don’t stick slavishly to the National Curriculum.
  • Have a passion for what you are teaching.
  • Be really well organised.
  • Have a laugh.
  • Never take yourself, or anyone else, too seriously.

So what are the equivalents for a great colleague?

  • Like your colleagues.
  • Respect and trust your colleagues.
  • Be creative and imaginative.
  • Expect the best.
  • Be passionate and enthusiastic.
  • Be organised.
  • Have fun and enjoy yourself.


Our Key Stage 4 performance has increased yet again, particularly the percentage of young people achieving 5 A* - C grades. An extra 2500+ young people achieved this important benchmark compared to last year...

There were some extraordinary results from our brilliant schools especially Boston Spa School, Crawshaw High School, Garforth Community College, Morley High School, Cockburn High School and John Smeaton Community School. Congratulations to all those colleagues who have shown what can be achieved with strong leadership, relevant curriculum pathways, highly effective teaching, student tracking, monitoring and support and strong systems of positive discipline and rewards.

The challenge for us all is to continue to build these characteristics consistently and powerfully across all our provision to ensure that we drive transformational change and achieve the step change in outcomes necessary to secure the economic and social well-being of individuals, families and the City of Leeds.
I spent the day with Corporate Management Team at Monk Fryston Hall...

We were looking at the strategic agenda and how we shape, and support a city of enterprise, learning and culture with a transport system and environment that supports healthy, thriving and harmonios communities. A city where every child, young person and adult matters and where no-one is left behind.

Think about it and I know that you will see that this is a hugely important agenda for all of us and we need to work corporately, collectively and in partnership to build brilliant learning provision as a key building block for the future.
We all need to continue to learn. To learn new skills, to develop new ideas and approaches and to learn how to better lead and manage the future...

The best news is that we know that you can learn whatever skills you need to be more productive and more effective. You can become a touch typist if necessary. You can become an expert with a computer. You can learn another language. You can become a terrific negotiator or a super salesperson. You can learn to speak in public. You can learn to play a musical instrument. You can learn to write effectively and well. These are all skills you can acquire, as soon as you decide to and make them a priority.