Saturday, 22 September 2007

Interestingly, talking about speading myself around and making the best use of my time, I missed my first 'Standards Meeting' yesterday...

In case you don't know 'Standards Meetings' are meetings between local authority colleagues and the DfCSF about standards in schools. They happen at this time every year and together we review progress, consider individual schools which might be causing concern and set targets for attendance, exclusions and Key Stage performance for the future. It's a really important meeting and shapes in many ways the working relationship between us and the DfCSF.

This year for the first time since I came to Leeds I knew that I didn't need to be there. That my colleagues would be brilliant without me, that I wouldn't add any value and that my time was better used with Terry Waite at the 'Respect for All Faiths' event. The question is was I right?

I am reliably informed that the meeting was a great success and that my team were fantastic! It makes me so proud when I realise that we all share the same values, that we live eat and breathe this stuff and that these highly intelligent, passionate and committed colleagues understand the challanges we face, the journey we have been on and whwt we have achieved over the years and importantly constantly and brilliantly fly the flag for Leeds, Children Leeds and Education Leeds.

Who were these powerful advocates and heroes... Gary Nixon, Jane Hall, Carol Jordan, Chris Pollard, Brian Tuffin, Dorothy Smith and Dirk Gilleard... I know that I will have missed some but I'll complete the list later.

Friday, 21 September 2007

I spent the morning with Terry Waite who had joined us to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace, 21 September 2007...

We had arranged a Respect for All Faiths Conference and invited Terry as the main speaker.

The conference was chaired by Mohammed Kamran, Chair of the Muslim Youth Council here in Leeds. He is an amazing young man who talked confidently and positively about peace, respect and difference. Terry Waite talked, with great authority and passion, to the audience of young people and key stakholders and partners about peace, understanding, faith and respect. The highlight of the morning, however, was the performance by children from Hugh Gaitskell Primary School led by their teacher and coach Colin Trenholme... they were brilliant!
"Work on relationships, not schedules.
Work on effectiveness, not efficiency.
If you know where you are going in life,
it does not matter how long it takes to get there."
Stephen Covey

I spent the afternoon with the Leadership Team looking at how we continue to build and develop a brilliantly effective team to manage the opportunities that lie ahead. It's strange but focusing on the people is not as easy as you think because there are always things happening, new opportunities, new challenges and there are simply too many distractions. However hard I try, I find it impossible to spread myself around enough to engage and talk to all the colleagues who are doing such a great job here in Leeds. We need discipline and focus to achieve a higher level of trust and to really appreciate and celebrate the contribution of others.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

I went on to Brodetsky Primary School to meet Simon Camby, the new headteacher...

It was really refreshing to talk to Simon about his school and what he is trying to achieve... his focus on quality teaching and learning, on simple systems and on monitoring, tracking and interventions. Walking around the school with Simon the early indications are that there is a real energy and commitment and importantly some great young people. I will watch the school with interest to see how Simon and his team get on.
I spent this morning with Rosemary Archer, Director of Children's Services, and her extended leadership team...

It is important for us all to think team, to wear the Children Leeds T-shirt and to always remember what a great team it is and what we have achieved for children and young people over the last few years here in Leeds. However, we all agreed that it is also important that we understand and respect the diversity and richness of that team. We are not trying to create some new sort of professional workforce that blends together all the skills, knowledge and understanding that exists across that brilliant team... we still want brilliant social workers, brilliant teachers, brilliant youth workers and brilliant early years practitioners who work together around the child and the family to make a difference. As Rosemary herself puts it we are after a salad not a soup!
I sometimes wonder why I am so tired...

I know some of you are saying that it's my age or that I do too much but I have been reading again and the latest research from the business world suggests that 15% of the people in any organisation do nothing while another 60% are disengaged. I calculate that that leaves 25% of us doing all the work... no wonder I am tired!
Brilliant colleagues are incredibly optimistic, positive, creative and intelligent people...

I know because I am surrounded by these people... Dirk, Ros, Pat, Carol, Rehana, Dorothy, Martin, Jackie and Shirley are all good examples but it reaches down to the Team Leaders and down throughout Education Leeds, Leeds City Council and into many of the organisations and partners we work with. These are people who focus on solutions, not problems. They possess a compelling vision for their piece of the jigsaw puzzle. They spend most of their time working on goals to achieve the vision. They persist at things and take total responsibility for successes and failures.

Whatever you are doing...
1. You have to be optimistic.
"Optimism Fuels Our Success.
Pessimism never won any battle."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

2. You have to be positive.
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. You have to be creative.
“There is no security in this life.
here is only opportunity.”
General Douglas MacArthur

4. You have to be intelligent
"To the dull mind, all of nature is leaden.
To the illuminated mind, the whole world sparkles with light."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

So whatever you do, above all, be optimistic, positive, creative and intelligent.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

I dashed to London on Tuesday afternoon for a meeting with Lord Adonis and colleagues at the DfCSF in Sanctuary Buildings...

Cllr Richard Harker and I have been trying to arrange a meeting with Lord Adonis to discuss our developing secondary school improvement strategy for the central area of Leeds and whether Academies can add to the mix and enhance what we are doing. It was a really helpful meeting which agreed that we should work with all our partners and stakeholders to develop a 'Central Leeds School Improvement and Learning Model'. The DfCSF will work with us and support us as we take forward Building Schools for the Future, the Learning and Skills Council's Review of FE Provision and together we will look where Academies would help us drive the school improvement agenda and achieve faster and more sustainable progress.
I started the day with the Leadership Forum at Space @ Little London Primary School...

The Team Leaders are a fantastic bunch of colleagues and we reviewed the last year and started to set the agenda for the coming term and the coming year. My colleague Dirk Gilleard did a really brilliant session on the learner entitlement in Leeds. We also had a brief input on the Joint Area Review from Jackie Wilson who is working in the Director of Children's Services Unit here in Leeds.

Monday, 17 September 2007

I started the day today with the Leadership Team for our regular fortnightly meeting...

The Strategy Managers are a great team... bright, capable, focused and totally committed to our mission here in Leeds. The challenge we face is how we coach 17000 colleagues to greatness. Impossible the sceptics chorus but all it requires is simplicity, persistence and clarity. It demands each of us to focus on what is vital and to eliminate all of the distractions.

After six years of research, I'm absolutely convinced that if we just focus our attention on the right things and stop doing the irrelevant things that consume so much time and energy we can create an amazing effect without increasing the number of hours we work. I'm also convinced that this applies to whatever we're engaged in, including our personal and private lives.

So long as we can choose the people we want to put on our own bus, each of us can create a team of brilliant colleagues. Each of us can take our own area of work and can concentrate on moving it from OK to good to brilliant. Focus on results, tackle mediocrity and create a massive impact within your own area of responsibility.

By the way it doesn't really matter whether everyone gets it. It only matters that you and I do. Now, it's time to get to work.
I was contacted by a colleague from Bolton Children's Services today about the blog...

John Bidder had been researching 'blogs' as a way for his boss to connect with colleagues more directly and he had found mine. John told me how impressed he was with the blog and that he hadn't found anything similar in Children's Services anywhere. It's good to know that as usual Education Leeds is setting the standard and leading the way.
I have been thinking about the many challenges we face here in Leeds and how we get started. When it comes to getting started, we need to understand some simple truths... the first is that it's all about people; disciplined, extraordinary people.

If you begin with "brilliant people" you can more easily adapt to a rapidly-changing and complex world. If colleagues get on your bus because of where they think it's going, you'll be in trouble when you get a little way down the road and discover that you need to change direction because things have changed. But if colleagues get on board the bus because of all the other brilliant colleagues on the bus, you'll be much more able to respond to change and the challenges that lie ahead.

If you have the right colleagues with you on your bus, you don't need to worry about motivating them because the right colleagues are self-motivated. Nothing beats being a part of a team that is expected to produce brilliant results.

And always remember, if you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. You may be headed in the right direction, but you still won't achieve great things. Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results.
I recieved an e-mail from Jane Fisher, a colleague who works at Hovingham Primary School. Jane has s fantastic series of blogs...

"Dear Chris, I enjoy looking at your blog... especially the quotes and lists. I went to South Africa in the summer and visited a school there. It was very interesting the classes were huge.. between 60 and 100 per class! On the wall at the front of each class they had a quote up... the head said they changed them weekly... like our ethos statements. It read "Hard work pays." Next to it was another sign which read... "God gives every bird a worm, but he doesn't put it in the nest." Interesting, and thought provoking... as indeed was the whole S.A. experience.

I have moved all my blogs to You might find the work during Enterprise Week, Fitness Week and Environment Week, all under the Get Hovingham healthy section interesting. All the best, Jane Fisher"

Jane is one of those wonderful colleagues whose creativity, imagination and energy are an inspiration to us all. Just visit her blogs and you'll see what I mean.
I received a copy of a wonderful letter from Sarah Rutty, Headteacher at Bankside Primary School...

Sarah wanted to let us know what a brilliant job Tony Palmer and his colleagues had done in contracting and helping deliver the new 'Orange Base' project at the school over the Summer. Sarah says in her letter that "Jon and Michael Stancliffe and their excellent Eurolink team were a pleasure to have on site, demonstrating the highest standards of both manners and work ethic at all times." " The school is looking lovely and the community is very pleased with the results. The Governors have asked me to express thanks to you and your team."

It doesn't take much to say thankyou and to ensure that a team of colleagues who have worked hard to secure something wonderful for a school feel great as we start a new year. The Learning Environments team do a brilliant job in difficult circumstances and have helped transform the school estate over the last few years. I am really grateful to Sarah and her governors for taking the time to write.

Message of the Week Four

"Be fanatics.
When it comes to
being and doing and dreaming,
be maniacs."
A.M. Rosenthal

I have had a roller-coaster week full of ups and downs; exciting adrenalin rushes followed by those slow crawling bits when you have to be dragged up to the top of the hill to start the thing all over again.

I attended the Children Leeds Partnership, talked to members of the Labour Group, attended Executive Board and contributed to the Leeds Initiative’s BME Consultation Event where about 200 colleagues, partners and activists were asked for their views of the new Vision for Leeds. I attended a meeting at the University of Leeds to discuss with both universities and colleagues from the DfCSF the ways that the universities could support the central area schools and any future Academies here in Leeds. I spent a stimulating, very challenging but rewarding day with the secondary headteachers, college principals and other key partners discussing our 14 -19 strategy and I contributed to the Education Leeds Induction Programme for an amazing group of new starters who are already making a difference across the company.

Amongst the meetings, presentations and paperwork , I also managed to visit four great schools; places releasing a very special kind of magic here in Leeds. I visited Woodlands Primary School to talk to Chris Walton about the really incredible progress they are making to address their challenges and to drive up standards. I visited Woodkirk High School to attend another brilliant STEPS celebration led by the wonderful learning mentors from Woodkirk and from Fountain and Blackgates Primary Schools. I visited Parklands Primary School to attend the first birthday party of ‘The Bridge Centre’; brilliant provision working with children with emotional problems that can lead to behavioural difficulties. I also visited Middleton St Mary’s CE Primary School, whose headteacher is seriously ill to check that they were alright.

We face some real challenges to achieve our mission... every school in Leeds to be a good school, an inclusive school and an improving school… brilliant learning places where every child, every colleague are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful… whatever it takes. And, I know that some people continue to say that it is impossible, against a background chorus that mutters that it’s unlikely here in Leeds with kids like these. However, it has been done and is being done at Boston Spa School, Carr Manor High School, Cockburn College, Crawshaw School, David Young Community Academy, Garforth Community College, John Smeaton Community College and Morley High School... individual schools and young people's performances speak volumes about what is possible with commitment, passion, courage, talent and sheer hard work.

OK, but what stops us all from achieving it? We spend too much of our lives drifting along, excusing the mundane and the ordinary, not pushing ourselves to the limit. We find excuses and reasons for not doing things, for not setting goals and achieving our dreams. As I said to the secondary headteachers and the BME group, we must all be brave enough to step up and accept the challenge and not simply sit back and say ‘what can I do?’

So, no more excuses. Everyone of us should look at our lives, our work and ask ourselves am I trying hard enough? Could I do better? We need to have a winning mindset, a positive attitude and remember there are no hiding places and no excuses. And always remember…
"People who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."

Don’t look for the person to do it for you, get up and do it yourself.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

An American study has found that a school pupil’s self-discipline is a stronger predictor of their future academic success than their IQ, leading researchers to conclude that self-discipline may be the “royal road” to building academic achievement.

In a first study, Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman recruited 140 school children (average age 13 years) at the start of the academic year. In the Autumn, the children, their parents and teachers, all completed questionnaires about the children’s self-discipline. The measures asked things about the children’s ability to follow rules, to avoid acting impulsively, and to put off instant rewards for later gratification. Scores from the different measures were combined to create an overall indicator of self-discipline.The researchers found self-discipline predicted all sorts of academic measures taken seven months later, including the children’s average grade for the academic year, their Spring exam result and their selection into High School. A second study with 164 children (average age 13) followed a similar procedure but also involved the children taking an IQ test in the Autumn. Self-discipline again predicted later academic performance, as measured by their average grade for the year and their Spring exam result. Moreover, the researchers found that the children’s self-discipline scores accounted for twice as much of the variation in their later academic performance as their IQ did. The researchers said “Underachievement among American youth is often blamed on inadequate teachers, boring textbooks, and large class sizes. We suggest another reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline”.

If you want to find out more you can read the report Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents in the Journal of Pyschological Science at