Saturday, 6 September 2008

We have a new member of the family at home...

He's called Eugene and he's a hamster. He spends much of his time in his wheel and like me he works so hard and expends so much energy only to find that things haven't moved on and he is more or less where he started from. Still he manages to sleep a lot and everyday he goes for it regardless of the setbacks and the problems.

So what have I learnt from Eugene... whatever the setbacks he's not stressed, he's not downhearted, he keeps trying to get there, he never gives up and he ensures that his work-life balance remains in balance!
Peter and I got back from Gutersloh in Germany late on Thursday evening after an amazing couple of days with the Bertlesmann Foundation...

The Bertlesmann Foundation is, an amazing organisation, working, against a background of increasing social diversity, demographic change and increasing globalisation, to develop community engagement, social cohesion and to release potential. They share our belief that our children are the future and that we all must work to develop their potential and encourage and support them in playing a active role in society. They also see the need to focus on young people being happy, healthy, safe as well as successful, the power of music and the arts and the need to listen to young people.

This year the focus was to identify examples from across the world of integration and participation and particularly to find examples which reach and support children and young people from disadvantaged communities: our work with gypsy, roma and travellers, migrants and assylum seekers and black and minority ethnic communities meant that we can been selected as one of 60 nominees from 21 countries across the world. This had been slimmed down through a detailed evaluation and monitoring process to four finalists... Leeds, Malmo, Toronto and Zurich. The prize was won by the Toronto District School Board for their wonderful work on 'Integration through Education: Fairness for All'.

As part of this year's competition the Bertelsmann Foundation has developed a programme called 'All Kids are VIPs' and you can find our more about this and the Foundation by visiting or

Peter and I had a fantastic time in Germany with colleagues from Toronto, Malmo and Zurich supported by brilliant team from the Bertlesmann Foundation. We learnt so much and while politician and professionals argue that change takes time and talk about it taking ten years, the seminar showed that the real issue is about attitudes, values and beliefs. My belief, as you know, is that change actually takes commitment, passion and hard work and that we can actually change the world right now... let's start on Monday!

Friday, 5 September 2008

My colleague Peter Saunders, who heads up the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Achievement Service, and I have just got back from Germany...

And while we didn't win the Carl Bertelsmann Prize 2008 it was the most fantastic experience to be one of the four nominees for this prestigious and amazing award and to simply be part of the Symposium and Award Ceremony. The Toronto District School Board won the Prize for their incredible work on 'Integration through Education: Fairness for All' so we'll be sending an expedition to Toronto to learn.

I am very tired so I'll write more about this wonderful experience later.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

We had three new Building Schools for the Future PFI buildings handed over and from everything I have heard they are simply brilliant learning places...

My colleague Heather Scott, Deputy Headteacher at Allerton High School sent me these pictures of her fabulous new school.

The other two new schools are at Pudsey Grangefield and Rodillian and they are apparently equally stunning!

We are transforming the learning landscape here in Leeds and the future is certainly bright!


Monday, 1 September 2008

Looking back over the last year, our seventh year here in Leeds, we have had another great year with some extraordinary successes...

Remember, the CPA and JAR reported that children's services in Leeds was good, we were one of the first teams in the country to achieve the new Customer Service Excellence standard, our intergenerational work on 'Building Bridges' with Social Care won an international award, our innovative Artforms 'Find Your Talent' project was one of ten selected nationally to be developed, colleagues developed and delivered the first national Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month and Poster Competition, colleagues in Study Support developed the 'Backstage Past' initiative which won a regional 'Making a Difference' award, the VI Team were the first team in the country to receive the new VI Quality Mark, we were nominated for the international Carl Bertlesmann Prize for our work supporting assylum seekers, refugees, travellers and minority groups, we won the BETT Award for Leadership and Management Solutions for 'Bluewave Swift', we have also seen brilliant intitiatives and projects like 'Be Healthy, Stay Safe', Attendance Champions, 'The Power of Me' and STEPS going from strength to strength. OFSTED inspection results generally have been good, particularly around our behavioural provision, and the GCSE results have improved significantly...what more can you want?

At it's brilliant best provision and services here in Leeds are outstanding; are simply world class. However, when it comes to some of the most important things we need to constantly ask ourselves whether we have really changed the deeply embedded culture and attitudes which seem to simply accept things as they are, and why we still suffer from pockets of poor attendance, poor behaviour and poor standards. Just imagine what we could achieve together if everyone believed in our young people and everyone was as passionate, as committed and determined, as prepared to go the extra mile and as focused and as excellent as the most inspiring and exceptional colleagues in Education Leeds and in our schools.

I know that I say this every year but these next few months are critical for Education Leeds and Children Services as we approach the a new set of opportunities and challenges with more DCSF initiatives, even more focus on standards from the National Strategies, the Post 14 Review, the National Challenge and more Academies rolling across the learning landscape. We need to use this opportunity to refresh and rethink, to renew the vision, to recharge the batteries and to boldly go into 2009 to change the world and release the enormous potential in our teams, our schools, our colleagues and our children and young people.

As another academic year begins, we need extraordinary colleagues to bravely and boldly go where we’ve never been and we need an extraordinary back up team to provide support as and when they need it. Whenever someone does something extraordinary, it shows us all what is possible… you just have to look at what we have achieved as a team over the last year! We must continue to challenge each other; to clearly articulate our goals and our roles and make belonging to Children's Services, Education Leeds and the learning team here in Leeds a vibrant, exciting and dynamic part of our lives. I’ll try to get to as many team meetings and talk to as many of you as I can to listen to your views and to get your advice, help and support for the next stage in our journey to excellence, our journey to world class.

Just don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

We have had another great year and whatever happens this year, it will be another interesting one...

We will face new challenges, new opportunities and new demands in a year where we need to continue to be unique, special and different, to be creative and imaginative, to try new things, to learn new tricks and to continue to make a real difference… whatever it takes!

We must continue to develop respect and trust with our colleagues, with our schools and with the communities we serve. We must expect great things of each other; to embrace change and to celebrate the opportunities it brings. We all know that change is hard but it allows us all the chance to reflect, to review and to focus. It allows us the opportunity to spring clean and to ensure that we continue to do the right things.

Finally, it is also really important that we continue to be passionate and enthusiastic and to have fun and enjoy ourselves. And remember to never take yourself or anyone else too seriously and never forget that you choose everyday to be part of this team because you share its values, its beliefs and its mission here in Leeds... to make every school a good, improving and inclusive school where very child and every young person is happy, healthy, safe and successful... whatever it takes!

All I ask is that you come to work nd simply be your brilliant best!