Monday, 29 March 2010

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage... Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another week of challenges and opportunities...

On Monday, after leadership team we had the third Leeds children's services improvement board. On Tuesday, it was the usual round of corporate meetings before Dirk Gilleard and I took our colleague Ros Vahey out for a meal to celebrate her success in being appointed director of children's services in Derby. Ros is the fifth deputy chief executive with Education Leeds to be appointed to a director of children's services post, and she is the latest in a long line of remarkable individuals who have made a real and unique difference here in Leeds. On Wednesday, I had breakfast with the Meanwood and Moortown family of schools headteachers before attending a meeting with cabinet. I also managed to visit the end of the headteachers forum at West Park, and then finally Dirk Gilleard and I met with Jan Bennett HMI and Mike Cladingbowl HMI to discuss Ofsted inspections in Leeds. Thursday was Ros' last day, and I spent some time with our integrated children's services team leaders in the morning to talk to them about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we move towards the new children's services directorate. After lunch I visited Lineham Farm with Cllr Richard Harker. It is a brilliant resource for Leeds schools offering a unique and very special experience to our primary age children from schools all over Leeds. I returned to the Civic Hall for the 2009-2010 Stan Kenyon school challenge award ceremony where ten great schools received awards, before finishing the day with a group of colleagues at our first staff briefing session at Merrion House to discuss with interested colleagues how we can all work together to build better children's services here in Leeds. And finally on Friday morning I started the day with a group of colleagues at our second staff briefing session at the West Park Centre to discuss with interested colleagues the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

You could argue that we are facing a combination of challenges that threaten to overwhelm what we have achieved together over the last nine years with budget cuts looming, capital funding disappearing and an increasing difficulty attracting and retaining talented colleagues. However if you look at it more creatively these challenges are really opportunities for talented colleagues, with the future depending on brilliant leadership, social enterprise, powerful communities, responsibilities alongside rights and civic companies enabling local authorities to champion and commission rather than provide services. It is important that we rise to these challenges and continue to focus on the things that really matter... whatever it takes!

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