Friday, 22 February 2008

I heard the terribly sad news about the death of our colleague Glenn Pickersgill this morning...

Glenn was a lovely man... talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful... and as I sit here I can see Glenn's face and hear his wonderful voice. He brought something special to Education Leeds and to our Admissions Team. His sensitivity, care, concern and generosity of spirit was wonderful and deeply appreciated by so many colleagues, parents and carers and headteachers and colleagues in schools. He will be sorely missed as a colleague and as a friend.

Our thoughts are with his wife and family at this very sad time.
I spent the early part of yesterday evening with the Enjoy and Achieve Group of the Leeds Youth Council. It was fascinating to listen to a small group of young people talking passionately and positively about their schools; what as great and what needed to improve. We need to do more to listen to our young people and to respond to their ideas and concerns.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

If you are 'painting by numbers' in a world monitored and policed and controlled by 'bean' counters and 'keep within the line' checkers and 'weigh the pig' consultants, sadly all you get is mediocre outcomes... red lights flashing on the bridge and millions wasted on initiatives that make little or no real long term difference to outcomes for our children and young people.

Command and control doesn't work and we all need to wake up to the fact that critically what really, really matters is the quality of the learning teams, the quality of the leadership and the quality of the local services supporting our learning places. We need trusted, empowered and talented colleagues to release the magic!

We are trapped in a viscious spiral of negativity, of it's not good enough so let's do something else, let's create another intiative, let's get more consultants when we really need to reflect, think and get back to basics... vision, discipline, focus, passion, engagement, relationships and leadership. Let us nurture and support our learning teams to ensure that they deliver for our children and young people and let's take the best of what we do here in Leeds and learn from the best practice nationally and from Reggio Emilia, and from Sweden and Finland and Denmark and anywhere that will help us to build brilliant local provision.
I attended a workshop on RACI this morning with colleagues from the Children's Services Leadership Team...

The workshop was delivered by the HayGroup and based on the following RACI aspects:
  • Responsible... “Doer”;
  • Accountable... “Buck Stops Here”;
  • Consulted... “In the Loop”;
  • Informed... “For Your Information”.

1. Remember the vision and the associated change programme are critical when defining roles and responsibilities:

  • Eliminate “checkers checking checkers”;
  • Encourage teamwork;
  • Specific roles will develop during implementation and evolve over time.

2. Place accountability and responsibility at the lowest possible level;
3. Authority must accompany accountability;
4. Minimise the number of consultation and information sessions;
5. All roles and responsibilities must be documented and communicated.

This is a really powerful model which helps us all as we develop our provision in a new Children's Services world.


Wednesday, 20 February 2008

After lunch I visited Kerr Mackie Primary School...

Jon Farley, the headteacher had invited me to their Asian Heritage Week which celebrated the rich diversity of children's backgrounds and cultures and promoted community cohesion and understanding. The school was working with a range of partners including Hansa's Restaurant and the Annapurna Indian Dance Company. Children from Year 5 had been working on a Fairtrade project and were running a Fairtrade shop in the school.

I had the chance to look around the school and to attend a performance by the school's brilliant Dhol drummers and their fabulous Bollywood dancers. The school has a strong partnership with the Beaconhouse School in Lahore. Pakistan and one of the teachers, Mrs Lubna Malik, is currently in Leeds and she talked about her school, its curriculum and its achievements.

The thing that really hits you about Kerr Mackie is the wonderful children and its inclusive approach. It's a great school doing some amazing things and certainly when I visited John and his colleagues were releasing a very special kind of magic.
I started the day early at Wetherby High School with Andrea Barnes...

Andrea is the Acting Headteacher and she told me about the work they are doing at Wetherby High School to develop teaching and learning... and it is hugely impressive! Andrea is a passionate and intelligent colleague whose plans for the school are built around a shared vision focused on learning and involving and engaging young people, their parents and carers and the learning team at the school.

It was a brilliant start to the day.
Before half-term I visited Hunslet Moor Primary School...

They were launching 'The National Year of Reading' and had asked me to visit to be interviewed by their News Flash Journalists.

I also got the chance to look at their Family Learning Event where partners and agengies were showing parents, carers and the local community the range of learning opportunities on offer.

And to be part of their 'Everyone has a story to tell' balloon launch.

I said that I hoped to get some pictures for the blog and Jordan has just sent them to me.

I had an e-mail from my colleague Colin Richardson, headteacher at Cockburn College...

"Chris, Just to let you know I have been invited to attend a celebratory dinner in London. It is to acknowledge our improvement in GCSE results. There will be some press coverage. I didn't go last year but they have persuaded me to go this year. Hope you are OK. Colin"

Cockburn is one of the most improved schools in the country and it is great that Colin is going to the 'Celebration of the Most Improved Schools' to have his inspirational contribution to education in Leeds acknowledged in this way.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

I had lunch today with Sir Christopher Meyer, Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission...

Sir Christopher and his colleagues had invited a small group to lunch including Chris Green, Managing Director of Yorkshire Post Newspapers, Peter Charlton, Editor of the Yorkshire Post and Paul Napier, Editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post. We talked about social responsibility and moral purpose and how we should all work in the best interest of the city.

I returned to find a copy of the Yorkshire Evening Post on my desk open at the page whose headline was 'Could do better!' the second section of the Post's five day review of 'Seven Years of Education Leeds'. Interestingly, we could all do better and it would certainly help if the Post bothered to get it's facts right! I was reminded once again of that Theodore Roosevelt quote "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

I received this e-mail from my colleague David Bateson...

"Hi Chris, I hope you are well just a quick update on the National Programme for Specialist Leaders of Behaviour and Attendance. We now have another 3 participants who have successfully submitted a completion folder. All of them from the BESD SILC with another four
members of the group still working on their folders...

  • Colette Hussey
  • Emma Leonard
  • Catherine Beal.

Would it be possible for you to present the certificates to the 4 participants including Julie Kay was the 1st from this group to submit a folder. Cheers David"

It is wonderful to be asked to celebrate publicly the achievements of another group of talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues; particularly those working in the behavioural area which is the most complex bit of what we do.


It was terrible to hear about the new Stephen Lawrence Centre being vandalised only a week after it's official opening...

The Stephen Lawrence Education Standard is a constant reminder here in Leeds of the senseless racist act that killed Stephen and our thoughts and support are with Doreen Lawrence who has worked tirelessly and passionately to challenge racism and all forms of hate crime. We must all redouble our efforts and in the light of this appalling act to continue to build respect, tolerance and understanding and to challenge racism wherever and whenever we see it.

Monday, 18 February 2008

I was talking to my colleague Dirk Gilleard about why, when we know the recipe for brilliant teaching, brilliant learning and brilliant leadership, so much of what we do achieves such mediocre outcomes...

Dirk talked to me about the dangers of 'painting by numbers'... the production line approach that ensures that everyone goes through the process and produces the same thing... a mediocre painting, a mediocre service, a mediocre team, a mediocre school or a mediocre organisation. We need to free the system up within a clear shared vision of what we want to achieve and let colleagues do it their way. Painting by numbers didn't produce Picasso's, Turner's, Van Gogh's or Monet's.. inspired brilliant individuals did!

Be your brilliant best!
I received this e-mail from my colleague Jenny Marshall who works in the Performance Management and Information Team...

"Chris, I was reading you blog today and saw you advocating the best services and best provision and skilling teams accordingly. As you know we are currently complying evidence for our Corporate Charter Mark submission especially as we have our pre-assessment on Friday. We have a great deal of evidence on how well our teams perform, how they change policies and procedures through customer feedback, how they develop their staff's skill set and where they see areas to improve our support and services for all our customer.

This is the strength of the standard, not only is it a benchmark of where we are now, but it is a tool for continuous improvement that is so vital to us as we enter an ever changing world. We are working on the new criteria for the new standard and it really works well corporately and will extend our excellent practice already developed in our 9 Charter Mark teams. We have a very committed, active and involved user group made up of staff from across Education Leeds who drive the work forward and are working collectively to support and champion the standard.

The new standard will be officially launched, with details of the new name, on 10 - 11 March by the Cabinet Office. As we are early adopters of the standard, I was asked to do some testing for them on their new website and the Cabinet Office want our feedback on our journey through the assessment process, who knows we may be a case study for them on our journey to excellence.!. Jenny."

I am delighted that colleagues across Education Leeds and our schools are constantly striving to improve and develop their practice and get feedback to help them deliver outstanding provision to children and young people across Leeds.


I received another e-mail from my colleague Simon Camby, Headteacher at Brodetsky Primary School...

"Dear Chris, I sent you a letter earlier in the week about the EL Crisis Line. I would like to make an addition as little did I know how my week would unfold! I cannot express how impressed and grateful I have been during the week as a result of the EL Crisis Line. In doing so, I draw a direct comparison with headship in a different authority where no such service was offered. I would like to pay particular credit to Wendy Winterburn, Dee Reid, Gareth Wilce and the Health and Safety Team. Wendy has been fantastic and thoroughly supportive of the school. Whilst as a Head you always take ultimate responsibility for all actions taken in your school, it is always reassuring to know you are receiving high quality advice and support. People are always quick to criticise but slow to credit and thank. Some brilliant people! Thanks Simon"

Simon is right. It is easy to be critical and destructive and so much harder to say thank you and help us further improve our services and our support to colleagues in schools. Wherever you are in this endeavour I passionately believe that we are all trying to build brilliant, to provide outstanding services and provision and to do even better. It's great to get feedback and suggestions on how we are doing so I am really grateful that Simon took the time again to thank outstanding colleagues for being brilliant.
Education Leeds has a new chair, appointed today by Leeds City Council...

Our new chair is Professor Stephen Parkinson, Pro-Vice Chancellor at Leeds Metropolitan University and previously Dean of the University Business School. I spent a wonderful couple of hours with Stephen at Little London Community Primary School, where Jill Wood and her team are releasing a very special kind of magic. This is an outstanding school by any description and one of the most improved schools in the country... and most importantly you are knocked out when you meet Jill's children, who are brilliant, gorgeous, talented and wonderful!

The ethos and culture of the school is 'can-do' and inspiring. It was a brilliant start back after half -term and reminded me that the real challenge we face is to build outstanding provision like this consistently across the city. Places where every one of our children and young people becomes a powerful, committed and outstanding learner with the right attitude and self-belief, and understands the power of hard work, persistence and determination.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

I've been thinking about how we continue to develop as an outstanding team...

We are keen to improve everything we do. We need to train our teams, upgrade our systems, improve our services, detect our mistakes, improve our consistency and do everything we can to develop outstanding people who deliver outstanding provision and outstanding services . You can help with this but don't moan, grumble or just accept second-rate, help us to make things better.

Contact me on my blog, send me an e-mail or even write to me.