"If I were absolutely certain about all things, I would spend my life in anxious misery, fearful of losing my way. But since everything and anything are always possible, the miraculous is always nearby and wonders shall never, ever cease."
However, it was a week tinged with concerns and sadness as we wrestled with the implications of the rapidly rising birth rate, had our first case of swine flu affecting a colleague at Parklands Girls High School and mourned the loss of an ex-student from Guiseley School who died after falling into the River Wharfe at a local beauty spot called Loop Scar and of a young student from Morley High School was killed in a road accident when a car mounted the pavement and hit her as she walked to school.
My life is a constant and never-ending mixture of concerns and sadness blended with a cocktail of school visits, celebrations, conferences and meetings and mixed around in a sea of e-mails, letters, reports, papers, agendas,interviews and briefings... it's certainly never dull here in Leeds.
During the week, I attended the '2013: From Policy to Practice' conference at the Civic Hall where Gary Milner and his colleagues had done great job and produced an ambitious, informative and interesting programme with local and national speakers. I attended the Yorkshire Bank's '150th Anniversary Dinner' at Nostell Priory to talk about the contribution Yorkshire Bank is making to education and to announce the education category of their £150,000 initiative in four key areas: environment, volunteering, regeneration and education. I was interviewed by Andrew Edwards and Georgey Spanswick from BBC Radio Leeds breakfast show about the paper we took to executive board about the increasing demand for primary places in Leeds primary schools, and by the international peer review team as part of the DIVE project which is looking at our work on equality, diversity and cohesion here in Leeds. I attended the second annual Chamber of Commerce and Education Leeds diploma event for students starting the diplomas in September and their parents and carers at the University of Leeds. I visited Ninelands Primary School which is an outstanding school doing a brilliant job under Jean Lumb's inspirational, committed and passionate leadership. I also visited Shakespeare Children's Centre where Chris Raddelar, the Children's Centre manager, and her team are doing wonderful things for some of our youngest children. The centre also provides a base for the Deaf and hearing impaired team to run their resourced nursery and do early intervention work with children and their families. And finally, I attended the healthy schools and wellbeing celebration event at Castle Grove to celebrate the achievements of around 50 primary schools, secondary schools, SILCs and PRUs. The session started with a 'Hand Jive' performance by some children from Swarcliffe Primary School who were brilliant!
We also heard about the North of England Teaching Awards 2009 where Peter Harris headteacher at Farsley Farfield Primary won 'The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning' and Matthew Browne from Austhorpe Primary won 'The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School' and both go on to represent the North of England at the National Event in the Autumn. Other colleagues receiving recognition of their work were:
- Caroline Robinson, Austhorpe Primary: The NCSL Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School.
- Sarah Plumb, Hawksworth Wood Primary: The DCSF Award for Enterprise.
- Sam Bailey, Robin Hood Primary: The Becta Award for Next Generation Learning.
- Helen Rhodes, Hunslet Moor Primary: The BT Award for Teacher of the Year in a Primary School.
- Kippax North Junior, Infant and Nursery School, Leeds: The DCSF Award for Sustainable Schools.
- Jane Curran, Thorner CoE Primary: The Award for Special Needs Teacher of the Year.
- Prof Janie Percy Smith, Shire Oak CoE Primary: The DCSF Award for Governor of the Year.
Congratulations to them all on their success at the Regional Awards. Let's hope that Peter and Matthew bring home the top awards.
I also learned last week that Dorothy Smith, our director of school improvement, was nominated for the Education Award in the Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards 2009 held at the Royal Armouries on Friday. Dorothy was nominated for her role as an outstanding and inspirational teacher, headteacher and director of school improvement, and her work in improving outcomes as a personal mentor to a number of Afro-Carribean primary school children in addition to young people across Leeds. I'm sure you will all join me in congratulating Dorothy on her fantastic achievement in being nominated for such a prestigious award.
As yet another academic year rushes by and we all wait to see what has been achieved at Key Stage 2, at GCSE, at A2 and AS it is encouraging to pause, reflect and remember why we do this; why we bother, why this matters. We must be visible, accessible and available to colleagues. We must walk the talk and constantly connect with colleagues to understand how it feels to stand in their shoes. We must tell our stories, celebrate and praise wherever possible and challenge all unacceptable work and behaviour. We must teach, coach and model the behaviours we want to see and do things to make people feel special. We need to think, research, analyse and learn. Above all, we must all live, love and regularly escape to keep ourselves happy, healthy safe and increasingly successful.
I would welcome your reflections on yet another year in Leeds; your highlights, your up and downs, your highs and the lows, your winners and losers. I'll let you know mine at the end of term.