Wednesday, 22 September 2010

My colleague Dirk Gilleard and I started the day meeting with Kevin Massey, our Regional Adviser from the National Strategies team...

We generally meet half-termly to review the use of National Strategies support and target additional support where it can make the greatest impact on outcomes for children and young people. It was great to be able to celebrate with Kevin the real progress we have made this year building on the trajectory of significant progress over the last few years. The improvements in Foundation Stage outcomes, the reduction in the number of primary schools below the floor targets and the real gains in GCSE outcomes were the highlights of a great year where most schools saw real progress especially those where we were working intensively using many of the National Strategies programmes. Every Child a Reader, Every Child Counts and the Primary Intensifying Support Programme alonside the massive increase in 1:1 tuition have made a huge impact where these programmes have been embraced by schools and been supported by the National Strategies team.

What we know is that if we can get children and young people to attend school regularly, to be self-disciplined and work hard and to have high self esteem and if we can build great teaching and learning and high expectations around them we can achieve great results. However, within the results there are still some significant and worrying issues and we agreed that we need to refocus and reprioritise our energies and efforts to target those young people who still seem disengaged from learning, are persistently absent from school and are the hardest to reach and to teach. These are, of course, the same groups of young people and the same families that our colleagues in the the police, probation and youth offending, social care and health are working intensively with.

I know from my visits to great schools across the city that we are doing some amazing work in these areas using Smart Risk, STEPS, study support, mentoring and enterprise but we need to adopt and develop some radically different approaches to these young people and their families because what works well for most young people clearly is still not reaching these families. We need to develop our system leadership, our culture and the intelligence to help us understand these issues better. We need to continue to learn from those places like London and Birmingham who appear to be making in roads into these challenging aspects of our work here in Leeds.

I would as always welcome your comments and feedback about how we can connect with the hardest to reach and the hardest to teach as funding and grants are becoming increasingly scarce. Perhaps the pupil premium will help?

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