Friday, 9 November 2007

Cllr Richard Harker, Dirk, Ros and I went to John Smeaton Community College to look at their fantastic new building... apart from the very small staff room and dining facilities it is absolutely amazing. The whole school was calm and quiet, the atmosphere was purposeful and the students all looked very smart in their new uniforms although very clearly some of the boys were not used to wearing ties!

John Daulby, the Headteacher and Marilyn Steele, the Deputy Headteacher, have done a brilliant job and their enthusiasm, commitment, ambition and energy shone through our brief visit. John Smeaton is a school going places!
I went back to Merrion to be briefed about an interview I am having next week with the Teenage Pregnancy National Support Team...

My colleague Jenny Midwinter talked me through the latest position and the issues the team were likely to be interested in... it is deeply reassuring to have such talented and intelligent colleagues working on issues like Teenage Sexual Health.
I moved on to Hollybush Primary School for another STEPS celebration...

Two wonderful colleagues who had trained as facilitators for the STEPS programme had run a course of a group of parents at Hollybush and I was invited to present this group of mums with their certificates. My colleagues, Chris Bennett and Val Cain, who manage the programme here in Leeds also attended the celebration. This is a brilliant programme delivered by some incredible colleagues and I am constantly staggered at the impact it is having.
I went on to St Oswald's CE Junior School to attend a special assembly marking the 420 years of the school and the official opening of their wonderful ICT suite. The suite was opened by the oldest ex-pupil who is 96 years old and their youngest child who is seven years old. The assembly was great and the children were amazing.
I started the day at Queensway Primary School...

I had arrived early in Guiseley and thought I'd pop in to see Gail Palmer-Smeaton and her wonderful team for a quick cup of coffee. The school is in the middle of building work as the new children's centre is being built but Gail and the team are their usual high octane selves and making the most of living on the edge of a building site.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

"Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst…a spark that creates extraordinary results."
Antoni Hadi

I went on to New Bewerley Community Primary School to talk to Patrick Wilkins, the headteacher, about the challenges he and his team were facing and how we could help. We talked about the really significant challenge Patrick and his team had faced and managed in setting up the new school in its brilliant new building with the SILC partnership, the Children's Centre and the Extended Services agenda in this very disadvantaged bit of Leeds. We also talked about the low standards, the monitoring of teaching and learning, target setting and the intervention strategies they are using.

The school faces a number of real challenges with high levels of mobility, high levels of free schools meals, a significant white working class population and low standards on entry and at the end of Key Stage 2. However, the thing that strikes you as you walk around the incredible building is that this is a healthy and happy school with a calm, purposeful learning environment and a team who are very focused on meeting the needs of their children.

The school also recently won the Royal Institution of Charterered Surveyors Judges Special Award for its Inclusive Environment having been shortlisted for three other categories.


I went on to join colleagues from the City Council's Corporate Leadership Team on a tour of the city...

We were rehearsing the tour we are planning for the inspection teams who are carrying out the Annual Performance Assessment of Leeds and the Joint Area Review of Children's Services. It was a great opportunity to listen and learn about the regeneration of Leeds and some of the brilliant provision we have developed including the Two Willows Children's Centre in Beeston and Carr Manor High School. I am really looking forward to doing it for real next week!
"A culture of discipline is a principle of greatness."

I started the day at Brownhills Primary School...

I visited the school to talk to Alan Scott, the headteacher, about the challenges he and his team were facing and how we could help. We spent time talking about the children; the school population has changed significantly over the last few years. They now have 32 different languages spoken at the school!

We also talked about the monitoring of teaching and learning, target setting and the intervention strategies they are using. Alan told me about the very rich and exciting curriculum provided for the children which complements the work on literacy and phonics, numeracy and numicon. The school is a leading school for SEAL and they are a healthy school. To prove it I went out into the playground with Alan to take part in a really fantastic 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session led by the schools wonderful PE coordinator. The children loved it and Alan and I found it really hard to keep up with the pacey and fun routine!

The school faces a number of real challenges with high levels of mobility, high levels of free schools meals, a growing ethnic minority population and low standards on entry and at the end of Key Stage 2. However, this is a healthy and happy school with a calm, purposeful learning environment and a team who are very focused with good systems developing for tracking children's progress and intervening as necessary.

It is deeply encouraging to visit schools and see the developing rigour and focus in schools which is more personalised and more intensive than ever before. Increasingly I am certain that we know how to achieve brilliant outcomes; we need disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined systems, disciplined governance, disciplined resourcing and disciplined action .

And the order is vitally important because it is all about brilliant colleagues, self-discipline and ownership!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

"The main characteristics of effective leadership are intelligence, integrity, loyalty, mystique, humour, discipline, courage, self sufficiency and confidence."
James Fisher

I went on to Intake High School to talk to their governing body about the chgallenges and opportunities we are facing with standards, Trusts, Academies and the LSC review.
'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

I went on to the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard awards ceremony at Space @ Hillcrest.It had been a great morning and we spent the afternoon celebrating the achievements of some great schools.


"The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity. We have a tendency it seems to over complicate our lives and forget what's important and what's not. We tend to mistake movement for achievement. We tend to focus on activities instead of results. And as the pace of life continues to race along in the outside world, we forget that we have the power to control our lives regardless of what's going on outside."
Robert Stuberg

I started the day back with the Education Leeds Board at the Haley's Hotel. Again we had a great session looking at the new HR Strategy, Organisational Health and Performance. Louise Vardy, Pat Toner and Jackie Green were excellent and the Board were again really complimentary about the reports and the quality of the work in these important areas.
I finished the very long day with the Education Leeds Board at an awayday at Haley's Hotel in Headingley...

What was impressive about the session was the two case studies we looked at and the learning we had taken from these two wonderful stories. Chris Halsall talked us through the Woodlands story while Brian Tuffin took us through the John Smeaton story. Brilliant!
I went on to the Official Opening of the new Ralph Thoresby building...

It was opened by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Brian Cleasby who spoke about his pride at being asked to do the official opening. The ceremony also included a performance by the school jazz band who were brilliant especially the young woman who sang. I was really impressed by Stuart Hemingway, the Acting Headteacher's contribution. Stuart is a fundamental building block for the future of the school and has been a pillar of strength and a passionate advocate for the school throughout the time I have been in Leeds.

It's an outstanding building which I know will be a catalyst for real progress for the Ralph Thoresby learning team and its community.
I started the day yesterday at Oulton Primary School...

I shouldn't have been there because Maria Townsend, the headteacher is off sick and I also discovered that Maria's deputy is off as well. However, the Assistant Headteacher talked to me and reassured me about Maria and that the school was OK. Since we closed Langdale Primary School, Oulton has become a more interesting primary school but Maria and her colleagues are doing a really good job building provision to respond to the new challenges and opportunities. Who wants to work somewhere boring!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Message of the Week Ten

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
Winston Churchill

The way I see it, you can either moan about your job, your work, your life, or you can look at all the opportunities you have to make a difference. We have never had it so good and work can be more fun, more fulfilling, more creative, more rewarding and, depending where you sit in this organisation, more sociable and more stimulating!

It has been a funny old week. I spent all day Tuesday and Thursday morning in bed with migraine and suffered all week from the fall out; intense pain, flashing lights, stomach cramps and nausea. Migraine is a curse but it also provides me with a warning when I am doing too much or my work-life balance has slipped.

There were some real highlights last week. We launched the Leeds Inclusive Learning Strategy and for good measure we did it on Monday at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel and again on Wednesday at the Royal Armouries. Carol Jordan and her colleagues did a really good job and the feedback, I have received so far, suggests that it was a great couple of days.

On Thursday evening, having partially recovered, I attended a celebration of the achievements of our looked after children at the Civic Hall. Til Wright and her colleagues had arranged a really special evening for the children and their carers and supporters.

On Friday I tried to get my life back together; sorting the paper, reading the mountain of e-mails and generally managing the backlog of things that had slipped while my head was in a bucket in a darkened room! And as I sat in Costa Coffee taking a break, I realised, once again, that my life is brilliant. The real challenge is recognising that you can choose the path you lead, you can decide whether your life will be boring or mediocre or whether it will be extraordinary. And to be extraordinary you simply have to find and nurture a passion for something; be it work, leisure or the love of your life.

Who wants to be anything other than extraordinary? So to build brilliant, we need to develop a work ethic, a culture and a set of attitudes and beliefs that engages, attracts, retains and develops outstanding, brilliant individuals. We must create and sustain a brilliant work place and a real sense of a learning community, so that everyone is positive and really enjoys coming to work.

I know that in our materialistic world the pursuit of riches has become an end in itself for lots of people, rather than the means to a comfortable and interesting life. Work has become the way we meet our need for money, rather than meeting our need as human beings for meaning, fulfilment and growth. Happiness for me is not about having more money, more toys and more things so that I can do more of what I want, so that I can be happier. Happiness for me is about being myself and doing what I need to do to make a real difference, to make life easier and more rewarding for those I love and care about and to serve those who need me.

So it’s up to you. Be part of the next chapter of this wonderful adventure. Help me build a brilliant organisation and live your work as you want to live your life. Hopefully migraine free!

Monday, 5 November 2007


I know that networking, listening, storytelling and engaging together are some of the keys to the future and that we need to work to find more time within our busy lives to do this and do it well.

A colleague challenged me about all the meetings last week and to be honest, meetings are the bane of my life. I am in more meetings than most and when I add up all the hours we spend in irrelevant and increasingly unfocused and repetitive talking shops I know that we can do better. I would like to suggest that we should apply some rules to cut down on our meetings, especially those which waste time and achieve very little.

  • Limit meeting times to an hour at most.
  • Keep meetings small and ensure that only people who need to be at the meetings attend.
  • Keep meetings focused on impact and outcomes.
  • Engage everyone by briefly celebrating relevant achievements and successes at the start of the meeting.
  • Keep meetings urgent, pacey and purposeful.
  • Ensure that information items are dealt with through InfoBase and other communication media.
  • Ensure that all papers have single page summaries with a clear action and next steps section. Focus on the summary in the meeting.
  • Check with the people who attend that the meeting has been worthwhile and made a difference.
  • Check at the end of every meeting what you have agreed to do and who is going to do it.



I haven’t been well and having a rare day off gave me time to recover but it also gave me time to think. I have said many times that this is a passionate enterprise and whatever you do and wherever you do it, it shouldn’t be boring, frustrating or dull. Our work here in Leeds is so important and makes such a difference that it should inspire us all. OK, we all have our off days and down moments but we must aim to have great times, magic times, brilliant times at work.
This is a passionate enterprise so what are you doing to make a difference and to have fun?
My leadership approach has always been about optimism, enthusiasm, energy, courage, discipline and hard work but critically it is also about values and behaviours. We all need to check that we are signed up to a clear and shared vision of the future, and that we all continue to live by our agreed values and behaviours.

We have always said that we would:
· Put the interests of our children and young people first;
· Keep our promises and meet our deadlines;
· Get the important things right and work to add real value;
· Learn from our successes and from our mistakes;
· Continuously review and improve our services;
· Share our ideas, learning and good practice;
· Celebrate our individual, team and organisational successes;
· Work together and with partners as learning teams;
· Create a dynamic, innovative and fun learning environment;
· Develop partnership, openness and trust;
· Create a no-blame culture and encourage colleagues to take risks;
· Trust and empower colleagues to get on and do the job;
· Listen to each others ideas and concerns.

We must all understand and embrace the changes we now face, develop intelligent accountability and ensure that we are building relationships and networking, partnering and sharing at the heart of a new Children’s Services world. Our key task is to coach our colleagues to be unstoppable. So seize the day, be bold, be different, assume nothing, expect everything, be you and be unstoppable.

Despite our success this year we still face a reality where about half our young people are achieving mediocre and unsatisfactory outcomes at the end of eleven years of statutory education and a significant proportion achieve nothing. The current inspection, testing and standards approach will slowly ratchet up the scores but it will not reform learning, improve outcomes and close the increasing gap between the best and the worst.

We all know that secondary schools need more than tinkering at the edges… we need a learning-centred transformation to achieve transformational outcomes. If schools are to be significantly better they must be significantly different and the answer lies in new institutional models that recognise the nature of learning and the nature of the learner. New community based learning centres with local leadership creating new dynamic institutions with creative and imaginative responses to a rapidly and constantly changing society.

We must rethink content, process, capacity and meaning in the light of an enormously complex and information rich society. We must build on our increasing understanding of how the brain actually works, of the different kinds of intelligence and the different learning styles of individual learners. And we must recognise that in a complex, modern society we need to address each of the three major forms of behaviour and discipline… authoritarian, autonomous and democratic.

To achieve this fundamental transformation we must:
¨ Make our institutions more flexible, open-learning centres that support 24:7:365 learning;
¨ Focus on learning not teaching, emphasising individual learning and core competencies with learning experiences that are learner-centred, life-centred and brain-based;
¨ Move away from the idea of the teacher to the coach, consultant or learning leader model;
¨ Ensure that each learner has a personal learning plan and a personal coach and mentor;
¨ Establish a creative future learning framework where ideas and issues are reviewed, considered and tried and where we experiment and look for feedback;
¨ Encourage competition but focus on partnership and collaboration;
¨ Focus on the powerful and imaginative use of ICT;
¨ Develop new systems of accountability, assessment, evaluation and review to encourage continuous innovation, development and improvement;
¨ Build learning teams and learning networks within, and across, schools and communities;
¨ Develop integrated multi-agency partnerships that link together all agencies that work with learners and their families;
¨ Decentralise and develop democratic control alongside democratic value-systems;
¨ Develop new ways of engaging and involving parents and carers and communities;
¨ Develop new ways of engaging and involving children and young people;

In this brave new world, we need to understand the importance of forming new connections… of people, of ideas, of networks… and we must to be open to new ideas and we must continue to thrive on chaos and transformation.
“There is a lot of research focused on best practice, but I focus on Next Practice. Next Practice by definition has three problems: firstly it is future-oriented; secondly, no single institution or company is an exemplar of everything that you think will happen; and third, next practice is about amplifying weak signals, connecting the dots. Next Practice is disciplined imagination.”
CK Prahalad,

I spent the day with a group of colleagues looking at ‘Next Practice in Radical Pedagogy’ at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The Foundation, with the Innovation Unit, have supported the Musical Futures initiative in Leeds, Nottingham and Hertfordshire and were asking the question what have we learned and what next.

The day was facilitated and supported by Tony Mackay and Valerie Hannon from the Innovation Unit, Estelle Morris and Denies Barrows from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and David Price who leads the Musical Futures initiative.

A good or best practice approach asks what is working. A next practice approach asks what could work better or more powerfully.

The Musical Futures approach has identified three key non-music themes:
Students as co-designers and co-leaders of learning;
Authenticity & Relevance of Learning Experiences;
Connections between Formal and Informal Learning Processes.

It was a really stimulating day with some brilliant colleagues.

Sunday, 4 November 2007


We need to learn from each other and remember some of the key messages so that we continue to nurture the magic, develop the creative edge and keep our people happy, healthy, safe and successful… whatever it takes:
  • Clean up the clutter;
  • Get some sunshine;
  • Count your blessings;
  • Don’t dwell on the negatives;
  • Find some silence;
  • Live for today;
  • Do something you love;
  • Listen to music;
  • Watch the sunrise or the sunset;
  • Never lie about anything important.



Our lives are full of stress, challenge and hastle and the pace never seems to let up. We all know what we need to do but we never seem to find the time. These are some of the things that will make a difference:
  • Breathe.
  • Exercise.
  • Stretch.
  • Walk.
  • Stamp your feet.
  • Dance.
  • Touch your toes.
  • Sing.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Regularly take a break.



It has been another funny old week. It is important that we remember the things that we should all do to keep Education Leeds a special place. My top ten work-life tips:
  • Relax;
  • Smile;
  • Laugh;
  • Read;
  • Hug a friend;
  • Keep a pet;
  • Say thank you;
  • Share experiences and successes;
  • Search for ways to have fun; and
  • Wear comfortable shoes!


As you know I think laughter is one of the indicators of a successful organisation, a successful school and a successful team...

It's not simply the best medicine, research has shown that laughing can:
  • lower blood pressure;
  • reduce stress;
  • increase your muscle strength;
  • boost your immune system;
  • increase levels of disease-busting antibodies;
  • trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers;
  • produce a general sense of well-being.

It's a bit like chocolate, red wine and exercise!


'what leads to success?'

  • passion;

  • hard work;

  • being good at what you do;

  • focusing on what you do;

  • pushing yourself;

  • giving great service;

  • having brilliant ideas; and

  • persistence.

AND, persistence is the number one reason for anyone's success.