Monday, 1 November 2010


I have had a fantastic last couple of weeks with so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things...

I attended the launch of the Leeds Children's University, having been invited to become the university's first chancellor. This is a fantastic initiative which will connect with and build on the brilliant work we have done with study support, playing for success and the Breeze initiative here in Leeds. I attended the 'Celebration of Inspirational Developments in Early Years Practice in Leeds' where colleagues, who in April this year took part in a Reggio Emilia study week in Italy funded by the British Council, shared the impact it has had on their practice. David Dickinson and I had breakfast at Roundhay School with a group of headteacher colleagues from the Meanwood and Moortown family of schools and the North East Leeds schools learning partnership. I attended the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard award ceremony 2010, which provided an opportunity to celebrate ten years of activities promoting race equality and community cohesion with the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard Partnership working with Education Leeds to change the landscape and build trust, respect, tolerance and understanding. I visited Quarry Mount Primary School during their open afternoon for parents and carers as part of their focus week on Black artists for Black History Month. I attended the official opening of the wonderful new buildings at the West SILC by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Jim McKenna and the Lady Mayoress, Councillor Andrea McKenna. The new modular build facilities are fantastic, and really extend and enhance the facilities available on the Milestone site. I went to the Year 11 reunion and presentation evening at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School to present the certificates and awards to some fantastic young people who had achieved the school's best ever GCSE results. I attended Beecroft Primary School's harvest assembly and music awards. The school gives every child the opportunity to play a musical instrument and the school enters the children for awards through the Royal School of Music. The whole school and orchestra delivered a great harvest assembly which included some of my favourite songs. We also held a special evening for some of our extraordinary colleagues at the banqueting suite at the Civic Hall. It was a wonderful evening attended by around 150 colleagues, most of whom had been nominated for one of our Spirit Awards. The evening had been organised by Stephanie Rayford and Danielle Brearley, who had done a brilliant job to create such a successful and memorable evening for everyone.

Over half term I visited Manchester, to attend a couple of concerts at the Bridgewater Hall, and Oxford, a lovely city which grows on me each time I visit. I also opened the Primary Schools Art Exhibition at Middleton Railway. This was a wonderful project involving Middleton Primary School, Middleton St Mary's Church of England Primary School, Middleton St Phillip's Catholic Primary School and Westwood Primary School supported by colleagues from Cockburn Arts College. It was great to see the children's work on display and to visit this little bit of railway history. I also started reading a lot of great books over half-term. I read the new Terry Prachett novel 'I Shall Wear Midnight' and re-read 'A Hat Full of Sky'. I am also reading 'Talent is Overrated' by Geoff Colvin, 'The Flipside' by Adam Jackson and 'The Snowman' by Jo Nesbo which was recommended by a friend!

This wonderful couple of weeks and everything I have been reading recently has once again reminded me that the potential to be exceptional exists within everyone, and there are no exceptions. Being exceptional is not defined by what you have or what you do, rather it depends critically on your attitude and the decisions you make. The Spirit Awards showed us that extraordinary achievers are ordinary people who make extraordinary decisions about the events in their lives. It would be easy to justify reasons for other peoples success – such as lucky breaks, better education, wealthy parents, etc. Yet the truth of the matter is attitude makes the difference between extraordinary achievements and mediocre results. All exceptional achievers make clear deliberate decisions about themselves, their future and their role in the world. Our decisions drive our destinies and shape our futures. While you can’t change your past and the challenges in your present may “seem” insurmountable, almost every aspect about your future is yet to be decided.

I know that this half-term is going to fly by and these are challenging and difficult times for us all but the choice is yours. You can choose a path of struggle, hard work and mediocrity or you can choose to rewrite your future and become exceptional.

Let me know if I can help!

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