During the last week I attended the usual mix of meetings, and managed to attend some of the important things that always cluster together at the end of Summer terms. I met with a small group of our outstanding primary schools with Dirk Gilleard to talk about the Academies Bill, with the governing body at Parklands Girls High School to talk about our proposals and the important next steps for the school. I attended two fantastic events: the Inclusion Chartermark awards ceremony, another wonderful celebration of our work on inclusion; and the Inner West family of schools launch of their work towards the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard, a powerful statement of their shared commitment to tackling racism, intolerance, bullying and indifference; and building together respect, understanding and partnership. The power and impact of these events shouldn't ever be underestimated with children performing together, showing the power of team work, and demonstrating again and again what we can achieve through passion, commitment, determination, persistence and sheer hard work.
Sadly, I also missed some great events and important milestones which other colleagues tried to manage on my behalf. This included the launch of our PSE and Citizenship toolkit, Shadwell Primary School's fashion show, the RM 'Evolve' celebrating success conference with Stephen Hepple, the Leeds secondary headteachers conference, headteachers' forum, the Children Leeds learning partnership, the National Strategies secondary conference, and the retirement celebrations for Kay Crellin who has been headteacher at Templenewsam Halton Primary School for the last twenty five years and started her teaching career in 1960!
This is my tenth end-of-the-year here in Leeds, and through ten long years of purposeful practice I have built up a deep respect and understanding for what it takes to achieve great things here in Leeds. During the week, I was away for 24 hours at a conference where I talked about the Education Leeds story and the impact of our work in schools and the communities we serve. I also had the opportunity to listen to Jack Carney, vice-principal at Manchester College, who talked about the journey the college has been on over the last few years as it developed into the largest FE college in Europe. I also met Matthew Syed who talked about his new book 'Bounce'. Matthew now works for The Times but was three-time Commonwealth table-tennis champion, and in his book he reveals what really lies behind world-beating achievement in sport and other walks of life. His conclusions are that persistence, determination and hard work are the keys to success. Now where have I heard that before!
We can sometimes forget the extra-ordinary journey we have been on together over the last ten years, and more importantly what that incredible journey from one of the worst education teams in the country to one of the best has taught us. These are the things I have learned:
- leadership matters;
- enthusiasm is contagious;
- small is beautiful;
- relationships are key;
- passion is paramount;
- coaching really counts;
- persistence and determination go a long way;
- hard work and practice can achieve almost anything; and
- you tend to get what you expect.
This job we do is too important for any of us to be ordinary, and I don't really understand why anyone would settle for satisfactory when you can be outstanding. OK, satisfactory is easy, predictable and anyone can do it... well almost anyone! At the end of yet another great year in Leeds, I really wonder why we settle for things that are just good enough when with a bit of energy and effort we can be outstanding. We must all set new goals and to strive, work and struggle, each and every day, to be extraordinary, to be outstanding, to be brilliant.