Monday, 20 April 2009

I am back after a wonderful break, hopefully fighting fit and ready for anything and anyone life decides to throw my way...

I have spent the Easter break reading, learning and watching some more great ballet. Sadly, once again, I missed the opportunity to see the brilliant Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra and its conductor Gustavo Dudamel but I did manage to get to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet production of 'Still Life at the Penguin Cafe' which was truly fabulous. I re-read Nelson Mandela's 'Long Walk to Freedom', read Barack Obama's 'Dreams from my Father' and 'The Audacity of Hope', and just for a while managed to forget about attendance, admissions, behaviour, special educational needs, standards and schools.

What my Easter break and my reading has taught me is that the challenges we face require us all to carefully evaluate everything we do and ask whether it is making a real difference. With public spending cuts looming we need to be brave enough to challenge every aspect of our work so that we can focus on the things that really, really matter.

And I personally don't think it's rocket science. We need to develop early years programmes that ensure that every child reads and counts by eight in a rich, stimulating and rewarding curriculum that creates brilliant little learners by eleven. We need to start earlier and stay longer with those children and those communities that need us most. We need to develop self-reliance, self-esteem and self-discipline through behavioural change programmes that understand and build on the critical importance of mothers, families and communities. And we need every school to become a healthy school, a green school, a Stephen Lawrence school and an inclusive school where we develop and nurture the values and behaviours that will help us ensure that every child and young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!

Everyone in Education Leeds and Children's Services needs to understand that we need to be totally focused and totally disciplined in this as we build world class teaching and learning in twenty first century schools at the heart of everything we do. And we need to be uncompromising and relentless in rooting out the inefficient, the ineffective and the plain useless wherever it is and focus on developing real excellence in everything we do!

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