Saturday, 14 March 2009

I finished the day yesterday at the David Young Community Academy...

I had been invited to their production of 'Oliver' and it was a wonderful evening. The leads were all brilliant; Oliver had a lovely voice; Nancy was a real rough diamond; the Artful Dodger was a wonderful young actor; Fagin was creepy and Bill Sykes was really scary! The rest of the cast were great and the set and the production were outstanding. It was a real tribute to Ros McMullen, the Principal, and her colleagues who managed to get such a fabulous performance from these amazing young people from East Leeds.

Friday, 13 March 2009

I moved on to an 'outstanding' secondary school...

Morley High School has achieved that rare compliment from our friends at OFSTED and I popped in to the school to give John Townsley, the headteacher, a bottle of champagne to celebrate a truly remarkable journey for the school and truly remarkable headteacher and learning team. I look forward to reading the report when it is published.
I started the day at East Garforth Primary School where Kirsty Godfrey, the headteacher, and her team are doing great things...

Kirsty is a real breath of fresh air and just what the school needs to follow on from John North and take the school forward from being a great school to build simply brilliant provision; provision that is stimulating, exciting and creative to build on the real strengths around the basics. Kirsty is also passionate about food, grow your own, locally sourced food and ensuring that all her children get 'five a day. The school has a great cook who has significantly increased the number of children having school dinners. It was great to start another day with such an inspiring young headteacher.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

I had lunch with senior colleagues from our School Improvement team...

This team led by Dorothy Smith have achieved some incredible things over the last few years; from primary schools to secondary schools, from City Learning Centres to Artforms, from Health Initiatives to National Strategies. We are all involved in school improvement and helping schools with the relentless and uncompromising focus on building brilliant provision to serve every community across the city.
I had breakfast with a great group of headteacher colleagues at Weetwood Hall...

These colleagues from East and North East Leeds are doing great things in some fantastic schools. We talked about 21st Century Schools, behaviour, inclusion, ICT and how school leadership is changing. We certainly live in interesting times.
My colleague Elaine Bown is one of our Primary School Improvement Advisers and she sent me this bit of great news...

"Hi Chris, given that we want a "world class" education system in Leeds, I thought you would enjoy hearing that Gledhow Primary School took part in World Maths Day and entered an on-line maths challenge initiated in Australia but entered by schools world wide. Throughout the day pupils have to answer maths questions and at one point Gledhow pupils were sitting 4th in the world!! One pupil managed to get into the top 50 of all the pupils internationally in the challenge and the school ranked very highly in the final count. The school does have some outstanding teachers and is moving from good to outstanding overall, so nice to have a story we can feel proud of! Elaine."

It's fantastic to hear about things like this, where our schools prove that they really are world class.
My colleague Jo Fiddes, headteacher at Five Lanes Primary School, sent me this bit of good news...

"Hi Chris, Something to celebrate or boast about, depending on your point of view - after reading your blog I thought I would share it with you..... I had an absolutely wonderful time as an invited speaker at The Houses of Parliament last week, to coincide with the launch of Dyslexia Action's Partnership for Literacy report. I was the only head teacher speaking, and the only representative from Leeds. Ed Balls was fulsome in his praise of the work we are doing at Five Lanes, and publicly gave me a couple of very head swelling compliments. It was a really good day, and I was even quoted very briefly in the TES last week. Hopefully my new best mate Ed will be visiting us in person some time soon, so we can further impress him. Regards, Jo."

It's great to know that Jo was flying the flag for Leeds.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

I moved on to talk to the Inner East Family of Schools at Oakwood Primary School...

This is a great Family of Schools doing brilliant work at the heart of Leeds. We talked about 21st Century Schools, inclusion, behaviour and ICT and the challenges we all face in building brilliant provision to serve these communities.
I started the day early with the secondary headteachers at the David Lloyd Centre...

The heads had invited Rosemary Archer Director of Children's Services to talk to them about the challenges and the opportunities we face with developing 21st Century Schools; in continuing to improve universal provision by driving up standards, improving attendance and managing behaviour as well as targeting work around our most vulnerable young people and their families.

Monday, 9 March 2009

I am still struck by how good the Asus Eee PC workbook is, and how it has changed my life...

I love it and use it all the time for the blog because it is really quick and I can work between the internet, e-mail, pictures and files every evening when I review my day. It's like my mobile phone small, neat and very functional. I know that it won't do everything but what I need it to do, it does brilliantly.
I ended the day at the 'Long Service Awards' at the Civic Hall Banqueting Suite...

It looked fantastic thanks to my colleagues Danni, Iram, Steph and Paul, who had worked so hard to make it a very special evening for a very special group of colleagues. These colleagues, from, cooks, cleaners and caretakers to nursery nurses, teaching assistants and teachers,to heads of departments, assitant headteachers and headteachers had served schools here in Leeds for over 3500 years and made an incredible difference to so many young lives.
I started the day with Tessa Mason who now works for the TDA...

Tessa was helping us plan a day for Susannah Todd, Deputy Director for Children's Centres and Extended Services at the DCSF. It was great to be able to plan a day where we could show off the best of our work on workforce development and family support.
We need to remember that we are all talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful; all potential high achievers wherever we work in this crazy enterprise; in the school kitchen, the playground or the playing field, the classroom, the laboratory, the workshop, the office or at Education Leeds...

We all try out new recipes and approaches, we test assumptions, we experiment with new concepts and ideas, we look at data and outcomes and we constantly search for the magic ingredient that can lead to a breakthrough and help us make even more of a difference to the lives of our children and young people. In our constant search for brilliant; brilliant food, brilliant systems, briliant provision and brilliant outcomes, we must be creative, methodical, pragmatic and demanding and our personal standards have to be focused, relentless and uncompromising. Only our brilliant best is good enough for the children and young people, the families and the communities we serve. It is important that we all remember that achieving the outstanding, the brilliant, the magical comes from putting your heart and soul into your work. It is about being passionate and loving what you are doing to bring out your absolute incredible potential. The words 'passion' and 'love' are there because they are the secret to brilliant. If you don't love what you are doing with a real passion, you are wasting your life and you should take your magic and your potential and go and do something else!
It has been an incredibly difficult week full of meetings, challenge and frustration but interspersed as always with little interludes of real magic. I visited South Leeds High School as part of the Corporate Assessment tour we arranged for the city's inspectors and auditors. We celebrated the achievements of yet another cohort of fantastic Higher Level Teaching Assistants. I attended the beginning of the RM/Education Leeds 'Demonstrating Transformation Conference where Professor Tim Brighouse gave the keynote address. I visited East Ardsley and Kirkstall St Stephen's CE Primary Schools. I had breakfast with some of the Templenewsam Halton Family of Schools headteachers and lunch with the Seacroft and Manston Family of Schools headteachers.

I have to admit that I have struggled over the last three weeks and I am sorry to say that on occasions I have lost the plot. I have become very tired, depressed and negative and I recognise that I have started to undermine the very special culture, values and relationships we have all worked so hard to nurture and develop here at Education Leeds. However, thanks to some friends and colleagues, I am pleased to say that at the end of the week and over the weekend I have readjusted the volume and the balance. I have managed to relax, unwind, refocus and re-read Dale Carnegie’s "How to Win Friends and Influence People". It’s a great book, first published in 1937, and things don’t get any clearer than this:
  • Don’t criticise, condemn or complain;
  • Give honest and sincere feedback;
  • Be genuinely interested;
  • Smile and laugh;
  • Remember colleagues names;
  • Be a good listener;
  • Make colleagues feel valued;
  • Avoid arguments;
  • Respect colleagues opinions;
  • Admit it when you are wrong;
  • Be friendly and supportive;
  • Get colleagues to agree with you;
  • Let colleagues do the talking;
  • Let others feel that ideas are theirs;
  • See things from colleagues’s viewpoints;
  • Be sympathetic to other ideas;
  • Appeal to the moral purpose;
  • Tell powerful stories;
  • Set colleagues challenges;
  • Begin with praise and appreciation;
  • Identify mistakes indirectly;
  • Talk about your own mistakes;
  • Ask questions;
  • Help colleagues save face;
  • Praise every little thing;
  • Talk colleagues up;
  • Use encouragement;
  • Encourage people to be happy at work;
  • Keep it simple.

'Whatever you do, keep it simple' should be etched on the wall in every staff room, every office and every room at Education Leeds. Complexity is the curse of the digital age. It is a type of intellectual pollution that drives out clarity of purpose, smothers thinking and common sense and impacts negatively and destructively on colleagues happiness, productivity and engagement. We all know that achieving absolute simplicity is something none of us will ever achieve but if we don't make some real effort, if we don't train ourselves to look for ways to simplify, we can guarantee our lives will become more complex, busier, less efficient and even more stressful and destructive.
Keep the faith.