Friday, 2 October 2009

I spend this evening at the Beeston Community Forum and quite rightly the questions come down to why haven't we cracked it and why aren't we delivering brilliant learning and fantastic outcomes in Beeston, Seacroft, Armley and across the whole of Leeds...

It's one of the questions I often ask myself and I wish it were that easy. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves as a society why we haven't tackled poverty, deprivation, worklessness and the common factors that conspire to prevent young people achieving good outcomes however hard we all work. I know from countless school visits over the years that talented colleagues here in Leeds and amazing colleagues up and down the country are releasing the magic and driving up standards and outcomes in some of the most challenging contexts. You only have to look at our stories here in Leeds.

Interestingly many schools where 'radical measures' are needed are achieving fantastic results when you are prepared to look for them. When you are prepared to look more intelligently at their outcomes and where you better understand the context within which they work and when you look at the progress of different cohorts and target groups. It is important to understand that this isn't an excuse for underachievement or poor outcomes and it isn't an alternative to a school culture where we demand discipline, hard work and constantly strive for excellence. But more than ever we need to challenge the current obsession with unrelenting critical analysis and develop more intelligent accountability.

Those of us who have spent our lives at and on the front line know the real answers lie where they have always been...
  • strong, disciplined, focused and passionate leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs;
  • talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative teaching teams;
  • empowered, trusted and disciplined colleagues;
  • brilliant teaching supported by strong assessment for learning;
  • stimulating, exciting and engaging curriculum pathways;
  • powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environments;
  • rigorous tracking, monitoring and intervention;
  • high self-esteem and high expectations of everyone;
  • strong, dynamic and meaningful coaching relationships;
  • high engagement and involvement of young people;
  • positive engagement and involvement of parents and carers.
My answers to the challenges we face? We must trust, empower and engage colleagues and invest in local authorities and schools as the front line of an attack on poverty, deprivation, worklessness and under-achievement. Of course in a world where appearing tough and delivering soundbites is seen as important, these things take leadership, persistence, determination and courage.

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