Saturday, 7 March 2009

On Monday I started the day with Cllr Richard Brett, Paul Rogerson and other colleagues at the Leeds Museum...

We were all showing our inspectors and auditors a picture of Leeds. Starting with the fantastic map on the floor at the Leeds Museum we then set off on a bus tour around the city. We stopped at one of the new lift health centres on Dewsbury Road where Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health, and Sandie Keene, Director of of Adult Services, talked about the health challenges we are facing in Leeds and the differences between the richest and most advantaged areas and the poorest and most disadvantaged areas of Leeds. We then moved on the South Leeds High School to meet Colin Bell, Headteacher, and two of his students, Dave Richmond, Area Manager, and Chief Superintendent Mark Milsom from West Yorkshire Police. They all talked about the challenges and opportunities facing us in South Leeds and one young female student who talked about her experiences at the school and how Peace Jam had changed her life. She was a brilliant advert and ambassador for the school. We moved on again to Tech North for more presentations; this time on Teenage Pregnancy by Sarah Sinclair from Children's Services and NHS Leeds, on Care and Safeguarding by Rosemary Archer, Director of Children's Services, and Sandie Keene and on NEET by John Paxton who heads up our Integrated Youth Support Service. John also brought a team from Archway and again a fantastic young woman stole the show.

All in all it was a great start to the day and I hope that the inspectors learnt a lot about Leeds, because I certainly did.

Friday, 6 March 2009

I attended another inspiring Celebration Event this week...

The Higher Level Teaching Assistant Celebration Evening brought together another fifty talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues from schools across the city. Colleagues who are transforming outcomes for young people. It was a fantastic evening and Sue Roe and her team had done an incredible job. Louise and Rebecca had worked really hard to create a very special evening to celebrate these great colleagues achievements.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

My colleague Kevin Burke from the BESD SILC sent me this after reading the poem a friend sent me...

"Dear Chris, I work at Elmete Central BESD SILC and often read your blog (mainly to catch up with the city's excellent learning journey!) As well as a rant, my e-letter is to thank you really for putting the poem onto your site. As you know it's extreme where we work and sometimes the possible seems to be the impossible! Our kids complexities are beyond belief. We have a dedicated team in our school. All working above and beyond to ensure that the most Leeds' kids achieve, succeed and have the best start to their life. Our outstanding team know exactly what our kids need to achieve and this will hopefully be idenitifed in the next few years' examination results. I feel that more than often BESD practitioners are slamemd for trying to achieve the unachievable. For example, in my opinion our year 11's aren't ready for GCSE Shakespeare- nor interested, why would they be!? So why are we judged on the fact that they can't read it, let alone understand? It makes my mind boggle to wonder where these standards for BESD come from. As the dedicated team of profressionals we work above and beyond to sustain our kids. I know we give them a good start. If we didn't I for one wouldn't work here. A day in the SILC can't be described. Sometimes, this challenging enviroment seems unachievable, but with our visionary head, who always ensures our safety and practise is consistent and spot on, the extreme job becomes easier. I currently lead music and have a lot of passion for creativity and believe that it anchors progression. The poem has encouraged me tonight, so thanks. Sorry for my rant, it just picked me up after a heavy day. Kevin."

We all know that we all need to do more on this critical element of our work and I am deeply thankful to all those colleagues who work so hard in our behaviour continuum with some of the most challenging and difficult young people in Leeds. The success of our efforts here are so important to what we are trying to achieve so I am grateful that those talented, committed and fantastic colleagues who are making such a difference for this group of our children.
I have been having a hard time dealing with some impossible challenges and a friend who saw that I was not my usual self sent me this...

"When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow,
Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit."

It is always important that we remember why we do what we do here in Leeds. We are climbing a mountain and while we have so much more to do to reach the heights of real excellence and world class standards, we must never forget what we have achieved over the last few years to drive up standards and continue our relentless and uncompromising focus on improving outcomes, attendance and behaviour. We are all working hard to deliver brilliant outcomes for all our children and young people.

I am grateful for the message and the support I have received from so many colleagues.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I moved on to Kirkstall St Stephen's CE Primary School...

This is an amazing little school where Stephen Viles, the new headteacher, and his talented team are doing outstanding work and releasing a real magic. The school has recently achieved the Advanced Healthy School Standard and it was great to walk around this brilliant learning place to meet so many talented colleagues and so many fantastic young people.
I started the day early at East Ardsley Primary School...

This is a great little school where Jane Wedlinscky, the headteacher, and her talented colleagues are doing a wonderful job. The PFI building is in fantastic condition largely due to the way it is managed and the great caretaking and cleaning team; it looks as good as new! Jane is working hard on a range of exciting initiatives; Inclusion Chartermark, Healthy Schools and developing Foundation Stage provision. I was shown around the school by two wonderful young ambassadors who are the best possible adverts for the work that Jane and her colleagues are doing at this great little school.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

I started the day at the RM and Education Leeds 'Demonstrating Transformation through the effective use of ICT' Conference at the Garforth Holiday Inn...

I was there to open the conference with Dirk Gilleard who was talking about Evolve, our e-learning vision for Leeds, and to listen to my friend and colleague Professor Tim Brighouse talk about 'Outstanding Teachers in Leeds and the Learning Technologies'. It was a fantastic start to the day with a group of talented colleagues who are working together to unlock the potential of every child in Leeds.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

It has been a very hard couple of weeks..

We all face relentless and uncompromising pressure and higher and higher expectations. The real challenge is how do we continue to improve learning and outcomes for all our students? And how do we create provision that delivers significantly better learning outcomes? The challenges remain driving up secondary standards, improving the very low secondary contextual value added, improving attendance and improving behaviour. We must work even harder to address the needs of young people achieving very little after eleven years of statutory education, tackling those not in education, employment and training and we must ensure that no schools in Leeds achieve below the floor targets; whatever they are!

I often wonder why some of our provision is so fragile, so prone to failure, so limited in its effectiveness and so poorly performing when compared to the best in Leeds let alone the best in the country. Wherever we are not achieving brilliant outcomes we must do something. We must re-imagine our systems, processes and provision and be brave enough to ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that there is step change in outcomes for all young people here in Leeds... and then get on and do it!

I have been to some incredible learning places recently. Across the city, brilliant colleagues working in schools and classrooms are releasing the magic and delivering world class outcomes, often against the odds. We know what it takes to build brilliant... it's alive and well here in Leeds.
  • leadership matters;
  • attendance is crucial;
  • managing behaviour vital;
  • enthusiasm is contagious;
  • small is beautiful;
  • relationships are key;
  • passion creates ownership;
  • coaching counts;
  • persistence and determination go a long way; and
  • you tend to get what you expect.

This job we do is too important for any of us to be ordinary. We must all strive. each and every day to be extra-ordinary, to be outstanding and to be brilliant.