Sunday, 23 May 2010

My week started under an ash cloud, connected with the wonderful Ella, Georgia, Marcus, Callum, Caitlin, Kyle and Kelly and finished with a little bit of sunshine called Mollie...

Sadly, I didn't get to the Stockholm Summit because the local airports were closed under the latest swirl of the ash cloud. So, instead of spending three days in Stockholm, my week started with the usual set of meetings, reviews and paperwork. Things picked up on Wednesday when Eleanor Brazil and I started early, meeting the secondary headteachers at Weetwood Hall before we moved on to visit the impressive South Leeds 'myplace' hub which Wates are building for us. The afternoon started with the Council's executive board, before I moved on to the West Park Centre to talk to headteacher colleagues at the headteacher forum meeting. On Thursday, David Dickinson, Dirk Gilleard and I started early again having breakfast with a great group of headteachers from the Morley family of schools, before I moved on to the official opening of Pudsey Grangefield Science College's amazing new building by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Judith Elliott, and the school council. I then returned to Merrion House for a meeting with the learning environments and planning heads of service, and later that afternoon I attended the launch of the Willow Young Carers brilliant new DVD and met Ella, Georgia, Marcus, Callum, Caitlin, Kyle and Kelly; a group of our wonderful young carers. And finally, on Friday, after leadership team, I attended the official opening of the fantastic new 'Learning Zone' at the Children's Hospital by Christa Ackroyd and Harry Gration from BBC Look North, and we all met Mollie.

I know that many colleagues are searching for direction at the moment and are desperately trying to find exactly where they fit in this new children's services world, especially when we are facing significant reductions in funding and the new coalition government has indicated that their focus will be on education, schools, and teaching and learning. It's also easy to forget about the things that are really important as we wrestle with the bureaucracy, the meetings, the papers, the plans, the policies, the frameworks, the dashboards, the progress checks, the reviews and how we structure the future. We all know that our schools are at the front line of what we are doing and reach out into every community across the city, touching and shaping young lives and making a real difference where it really matters. But we all need to understand that nothing we do exists in isolation, and that to release the magic, during our 15% of a child's time, we must also powerfully connect with the child's family and the community where the child lives. We must continue to think about how we build the team around the school and connect that to the team around the child and the team around the family as we reinvent, re-imagine and renew children's services here in Leeds.

We must revisit the culture of children's services, refocus on leadership development, and we must all think team. I recognise of course that some colleagues feel that they are on the barricades; feeling beleaguered, disillusioned and worn down by the relentless and uncompromising pressure that never goes away. I also know some colleagues are sick of, and turned off by, our optimism, positivity and constant search for the outstanding, the exceptional and the brilliant. But, so much of what we do here in Leeds is world class: so what can't we achieve together if we aspire to excellence in everything we do; and build on, and learn from, what is working really well. We must continue to be flexible, creative and action focused, and we must cut through the bureaucracy to keep things as simple as possible while making the best possible use of increasingly limited resources.

And when the going gets really tough remember why we are here...
I'll simply remember Ella, Georgia, Marcus, Callum, Caitlin, Kyle, Kelly and Mollie!

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