Friday, 18 January 2008

Another week gone and I simply don't know where the time goes...

I am sitting here at Merrion House reflecting on what I have achieved this week and the difference we are making to outcomes for children and young people across Leeds... I know that the further away you get from the classroom the longer it takes to see the impact but it is important that we constantly stand in our colleagues shoes and ask those questions. In a week where the latest secondary performance tables state that we are now sixth from the bottom in terms of the value we add from the end of the primary years to the end of the secondary years, which is a marked improvement on last year when we were second from the bottom, we must all reflect and consider whether our efforts are making a real difference to children, young people and their families and what else we need to do to achieve a step change in outcomes.

What I do know is that although we are making good progress on so many fronts, what we are currently doing isn't enough. We must continue to challenge everyone to do better and build brilliant provision consistently across all our schools... whatever it takes!
I went on to a meeting with colleagues from the Outer East Family of Schools...

The group of talented headteachers represent the Garforth and Brigshaw clusters and they are an inspiring bunch doing some real cutting-edge work around extended services, staff training and development, teenage pregnancy, Trusts and so much more.
I started the day early at Wetherby High School...

We want all our schools to be brilliant learning places where every learner is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes! This raises a number of challenges for schools across Leeds:
  • How do you build and model strong and efffective learning-centred leadership?
  • How do you build consistently brilliant and highly effective teaching and learning ?
  • How do you create an offer that engages, inspires and stimulates your students and your learning team?
  • How do you coach the learning team to develop and improve their practice?
  • How do you coach the students to take ownership for their learning?
  • How do you create passionate engagement consistently across the learning community?

Andrea Barnes, Acting Headteacher, had asked me to come to meet with her Leadership Team. I also met with Damian Murray, Chair of Governors, who wanted to talk to me about governance, leadership, buildings and post-16. Wetherby High School is a satisfactory school according to our friends from OFSTED... a school with some great leaders doing some really effective work. Andrea, Damian and the Leadership Team are wrestling with the things all schools are searching for... how do you make it outstanding; spread the excellence, share the best practice and develop consistently great provision.

I don't get into enough secondary schools and it was a stimulating and refreshing start to the day. It would be interesting to hear how you think we can build brilliant!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

My colleague David Bateson sent me this...

"Hi Chris, another 21 participants started on the National Programme for Specialist Leaders of Behaviour and Attendance on the 14th of Jan and hopefully will complete the programme in December 2008. They are a really interesting group of people some; from High Schools, some from AIS; some from PDCs and one from the Eastmoor Secure Estate. It's great to know that we will be improving outcomes for children and young people and building capacity in our provision. Cheers David"

The work going on around behaviour and attendance management is really impressive especially when you can remember the real challenges we have faced with this over the last six years. David and his colleagues have really made a difference and we are developing a reputation for real excellence in these areas.
I am sitting on a train flying back to Leeds and thinking about how we up the pace and raise the bar and move things forward...

Interestingly we have Bluewave SWIFT as a self-improvement toolkit for schools but we don't have the equivalent toolkit for us as a learning organisation. How do we know if a team is a great team, an average team or a problem? It seems to me that pieces of the existing Bluewave SWIFT framework would be helpful alongside the Chartermark stuff. Is this something we need to explore?

Flying Higher in Leeds

I don't know if you have seen the Education Leeds 'Flying Higher in Leeds'. It builds on our reputation for innovation, creativity and can-do and it's brilliant...

The toolkit is aimed at supporting and developing brilliant teams of highly performing individuals to enhance and develop our capacity to:
  • get things done;
  • solve problems;
  • learn from each other;
  • exercise creativity;
  • innovate;
  • coach each other;
  • feel happy and fulfilled at work.
If you haven't seen it it's on InfoBase.
I know it's a bit late but I received my termly letter from my colleague John Gibson who I bumped into just before Christmas when I visited Sharp Lane Primary School...

John let me know his top twelve schools...
  • Crossley Street Primary School;
  • Farsley Farfield Primary School;
  • Sharp Lane Primary School;
  • St Edwards CE Primary School;
  • Ash Tree Primary School;
  • Bankside primary School;
  • Whingate Primary School;
  • Hillcrest Primary School;
  • Hovingham Primary School;
  • Cross Flatts Park Primary School;
  • Upper Armley Christ Church CE Primary School;
  • Chapel Allerton Primary School.
It's always great to hear about successful schools from different perspectives and I would welcome hearing your top ten schools in Leeds so that we can add to the celebration of what colleagues across Leeds do day-in day-out working with the most important and valuable resource this city has... it's children and young people.
Of the many people I spend time with, Mick Waters is like a breath of fresh air...

Whenever I spend time with Mick I realise that we are both trying in our own ways to build brilliant and to find ways of trusting, empowering and engaging talented practitioners to release their magic in classrooms with young people.

It's sad that so much of the national infrastructure conspires against this and prevents our colleagues from doing this. We must nurture the creative mavericks; those who are prepared to do things differently, to challenge the status-quo, to take risks, push the boundaries and break the rules. Our headteachers need to be encouraged and given permission to continue to be simply brilliant.
I attended the Executive Board Meeting of the Leading Aspect Award which was started in Birmingham in the 1990's by Tim Brighouse and Mick Waters as a way of recognising and celebrating brilliant practice in some aspect of a schools work...

I wanted to see how we might use the Award in Leeds to recognise and celebrate those little pieces of magical practice that you find in every school.

All ideas welcome!


Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Leading Aspect Award

I am now on a train to London for an overnight meeting of the Leading Aspect Award Executive Board...

For those of you out there who don't know, the Leading Aspect Award is a framework that has been developed to recognise and celebrate leading practice . The framework consists of 8 criteria with an establishment / group / provider using its own examples of activities to demonstrate how they meet each criteria. Evidence has to be identified to show where activities take place.
I went on to meet with the Inner West Family of Schools at St Bartholomew's CE Primary School...

I talked about the Joint Area Review, Building Schools for the Future, the Primary Capital Programme, the 14 - 19 Strategy and the LSC Review of FE, the 2008-09 budget and pay and grading issues, our Inclusive Learning Strategy and support for children from overseas. This is a great group of colleagues doing wonderful work and achieving some great outcomes.
I started the day with the Education Leeds Board...

The Board, while recognising the real progress we are making, challenged us to do better and to continue to tackle the ongoing issues around school improvement, coasting schools, contextual value-added, post-16 provision, progress in English and mathematics, underachieving groups, gifted and talented provision and leadership development.

We must work hard to research and understand the challenges we face; finding out what works and what doesn't work and building consistently brilliant provision in every classroom and every school... whatever it takes! Importantly, we must continue to learn from best practice both here in Leeds, regionally, nationally and internationally... developing learning leadership which trusts, empowers, engages and drives brilliant outcomes.
It's funny but this is the 800th post and I really feel that a lot of the time I am talking to myself...

Seriously, I know how many of you are reading the blog but I am not really convinced that it is good us of my limited time, other than it gives me a way of sending out key messages. I would welcome feedback on how I could make it a better way of reaching out to everyone who shares my passion, my enthusiasm and wants to release the magic in every classroom and every school, in every colleague and most importantly in every child and young person.

Monday, 14 January 2008

I started the day early at Deighton Gates Primary School in Wetherby...

Jeremy Dunford, the headteacher, talked to me about the school and some of the challenges they are facing in Wetherby with pupil numbers and surplus capacity. We also talked about literacy, numeracy, ICT, art, music, standards, homework, autism, extended services and developing a rich curriculum offer for every child. Charles King, Chair of Governors also visited the school and we went on a whistle stop tour of the buildings while most of the school were in assembly.

Jeremy and his colleagues have made a real impact on standards, on provision and on the buildings.
The beginning of yet another term and the first week has simply flown by...

I had the usual suspects in my diary... meetings with Leadership Team, Cllr Harker, Cllr Mulherin, Dirk Gilleard, Ros Vahey, David Smith from the DCSF Academies Team, and the Council's Corporate Leadership Team. I had lunch with the Artemis Team, made a quick visit to the David Young Community Academy to meet with headteachers from the Seacroft and Manston Family of Schools and attended the launch of 'Funky Feet', a new activity programme for primary schools.

I did squeeze in some school visits. I went to John Smeaton Community College to meet with John Daulby, to Royd's School to meet with Bernadette Young and to Primrose Lane Primary School to meet with Stefan Frontczak, his colleagues and his wonderful children,
It was also a brilliant week with the publication of the secondary performance tables which revealed the real progress we are making in Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 and our success at the BETT Awards 2008 where Bluewave SWIFT won the award for leadership and management innovation.

It helps to have brilliant materials like Bluewave SWIFT but you don't need extraordinary products to be extraordinary; all you actually need is a group of special people. And before you ask me how you get them... we have them already! Here's how you get extraordinary performance from your colleagues:
1. delegate decision-making and stand well back!
2. push decision making down to the lowest level!
3. make change routine and regular;
4. be well read, keep in touch and embrace technology;
5. coach colleagues and agree goals; and
6. praise and thank colleagues wherever and whenever you can.

Go on surprise yourself... and help your colleagues become extraordinary!
I know from experience that many of us who lead schools and learning organizations go through a very similar routine this time of the year...

We start by reviewing the past year - we quickly skip over the successes and focus on the things that haven't happened, the things that went wrong, the things left undone and the opportunities we didn't pick up and run with. We smile about the things that went well but grit our teeth, clean off our desks and resolve to make really significant progress in the coming year.

We tell ourselves that the answers are simple...I’ve just got to get organized, deal with the relentless stream of e-mail, improve my diary management, sort out the paperwork and spend more time doing the really important stuff... I've just got to set priorities; stop doing so much and really discipline myself to do the strategic stuff... promise to delegate more; get others to do things and to work as hard as me... SIMPLE!

Sadly it's not that simple, but Gregg Thompson, President of Bluepoint Leadership Development has identified seven things that will make a real difference in your school, your team, your organization in the coming year. Do all seven, and Gregg says you will release real magic!

"1. Craft a big, bold, breath-taking story and tell it every day.
What is the most exciting, rewarding, and scariest future you can imagine? What great battles will be won, treasures found and people freed? Paint the story in full color. What does the future look like? How are we going to get there? How is tomorrow going to be much better than today? People want to be part of an important story. Tell it to them and help them find their own starring role.

2. Multiply the strength of your leadership connections.
Consider for a moment the 8-10 individuals with whom you share management and leadership responsibilities. How much more effective would your leadership team become if you dramatically strengthened your personal connection with every one of these people? You have probably created a mutually acceptable status quo with these individuals so change will not be easy. Are there some difficult conversations that you need to have? Try this: honor their uniqueness; share more of yourself; learn about them; ask how you can serve them. Be careful, this is very potent.

3. Act with exceptional compassion and kindness.
You are not the only one feeling a bit beaten up these days. Seek out ways to show your humanity every day. Treat everyone in the organization with dignity and respect, especially those who are struggling. They will walk through walls for you, but do not do it for that reason. Do it because it is the right thing to do. We spend much of our waking lives inside organizations and you have the power to make these places where the human spirit can thrive or die. Use this power well.

4. Tell the absolute truth.
Stop spinning, sugar-coating and avoiding. You’ll be amazed at how many people start listening to you. Everyone wants to improve the communication throughout their organization but what about simply setting a new standard for honesty…starting with you. How much more effective would your organization be if the half-truths, positioning, sacred elephants and face-saving were eradicated? The tough part is that you cannot make this happen by mandating it. You must go first. You must model it.

5. Hold everyone accountable.
Accountability is a very good thing. It is not tyranny. The caring leader insists that people do what they say they will do. When you hold people accountable, you are saying that their work is important. You are saying that they are important. Every time you let a deadline slip or a deliverable go incomplete, you are discounting the person whose job it is to deliver on these commitments. Make it a habit to ensure that every piece of work is accompanied by a personal commitment. Measure. Give feedback. Initiate consequences.

6. Celebrate being part of an organization that keeps its promises.
Confront underperformance with a twist. You know in your heart-of-hearts who is under-performing in your organization. Make a list. Commit to seeing that this performance changes early this year. Now here’s the tough part. Before you take any action, ask yourself these questions – “What is my part in this situation? How have my actions or lack thereof contributed to this situation? What do I need to do differently?” Approach the individuals in question and describe your responsibilities and personal commitments to change. Then, and only then, it’s their turn. You may need to do nothing else.

7. Be distinctively you.
What would you get if you could put all of the leadership qualities of Bill Gates, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, George Washington, Jack Welch and Winston Churchill into one individual? Probably a bland, non-descript person indistinguishable in the crowd. These men and women made a difference because they had the courage to be themselves. Have you forgotten who you really are? What excites you these days? What are your passions? Your obsessions? Where do you want to make your mark? When you are at your best, what are you doing? Maybe it’s time to figure out what is most important to you, tell everyone around you, and let this fuel your leadership."

Why not make this your best year ever as a leader.

Ten ways to success

  1. make a good first impression;
  2. increase your expert knowledge;
  3. develop your wider knowledge;
  4. try to see the bigger picture;
  5. be flexible;
  6. be enthusiastic;
  7. develop your self-esteem;
  8. take risks;
  9. be creative;
  10. don't take yourself too seriously.


Keys to Success

  • Look to be different;
  • Make your own luck;
  • Be self-disciplined;
  • Focus on your own personal development;
  • Plan every day in advance;
  • Set priorities on your time and activities;
  • Get regular exercise;
  • Create thinking time;
  • Ask yourself these questions after everything you do:
  1. what difference did I make?
  2. how will I do it better next time?