Friday, 15 January 2010

"If you can't explain it simply,
you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein
It was fantastic to hear that our colleague John Daulby went to see Gordon Brown earlier this week to talk about school improvement...

John is headteacher at John Smeaton Community College which is one of the most successful schools in Leeds measured on the basis of value-added. He had been invited to see the Prime Minister as part of a group of headteachers who have transformed schools in some of the most challenging contexts. The idea is that their strategies and methods will be shared with other schools facing similar challenges. Congratulations to John and his colleagues who have made John Smeaton Community College such a success story!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

"Success is not the key to happiness.
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing,
you will be successful."
Albert Schweitzer
My colleague Rhona Bignell, Headteacher at Westgate Primary School sent me this e-mail this morning...

"Dear Chris, Westgate has been open every day over the last two weeks, despite this area suffering more than most from snow and ice. This has been due in no small measure to the tremendous effort each member of staff has made to get here and I am very proud of them and of all the children who have also made it here every day through the snow- apart from a handful whose home is much more rural. We have assumed we will get here and have found alternative means of doing so if necessary, instead of assuming bad weather means you can't travel. I can't however guarantee that there will be no occasions in the future when we might have to close! I must also give credit to my caretaker: he has salted Scarborough Road and the school paths every day and this has contributed in no small measure to my ability to stay open. The council grit bin has been essential in this. The council has in recent days, however, taken the decision not to refill the bins or to clear minor roads. I understand the national shortage of rock salt, and appreciate the need for rationing, but I wonder if you could forward this email to the relevant person/ exert any influence over the decision and make a special case again for schools, so we can all stay open. Yours, Rhona."

It is wonderful to hear about the way colleagues are keeping the show on the road against the odds. I am talking to colleagues in the Council about the critical importance of continuing gritting and clearing around our schools and that we must get the salt and grit stocks in schools replenished as soon as possible. Congratulations to Rhona and her colleagues at Westgate Primary School My personal thanks to Patrick Wardman, Rhona's Caretaker, who has clearly been brilliant!


DavidFoley, headteacher, at Benton Park School also showed me an article in REtoday magazine...

The article highlighted the school's 'World Religions Day' in June last year which was a celebration of religious education and world faiths organised by colleagues by Lisa Vann, Curriculum Leader for Religious Studies and Philosophical Education, and her colleagues. It's wonderful to see their work showcased in REtoday's Spring edition.
I started the day early after more snow overnight...

I arrived at Benton Park School before eight to find that the Breakfast Meeting had been cancelled because of the weather conditions. Still David Foley, headteacher, was there and Dirk Gilleard arrived shortly after me so the three of us had an opportunity to talk about some of the issues, opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. David is a great colleague and we talked about buildings, behaviour and engagement, culture and well-being, 14 - 19 provision and pathways, increasing numbers, 21st Century Schools, special needs and inclusion, extended services, and the characteristics of brilliant provision and how schools could maintain their focus on standards with so many intiatives, so many pots of money to chase, so many consultants and experts and so much constant change.

We agreed that the key is to maintain a focus on quality teaching and learning and coaching. We need to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience in our colleagfues and in our young people. It was a brilliant start to the day. We need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more and to celebrate more. We talked about the challenges that lie ahead and the need to be more creative and more collaborative.

Monday, 11 January 2010

My colleague Wendy Winterburn sent me this e-mail and the photo she received from Jayne Robinson, Headteacher at the Key Stage 3 PRU...

"Hi Chris, I tried to send this photo to your blog but I need to go on a course!!

The Key Stage 3 Pupil Referral Units were open for business all week despite the horror stories of their journeys to work. Wendy. PS All the PRU's were open all week."

Most of our provision has managed to stay open despite the worst weather conditions in 30 years and it is brilliant to hear about the way colleagues are keeping the show on the road against the odds. Congratulations to Jayne and her team at the Key Stage 3 PRU! These are extraordinary times and most of us can't remember a January like this. Please send in your pictures in jpeg format and I'll put them on the blog.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

My life is brilliant and I constantly interact with talented and creative people, often ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things...

And talking about extra-ordinary things, I don't know where all this snow has come from. It's quite amazing sitting here looking out at a snowfield about 30cms deep and hearing the weather forecasters talking about more snow overnight and tomorrow, and the weather staying cold and frosty for the next week. I dug the drive out again this morning so that I can manage to get the car on the road and fight my way over to Leeds again. Interestingly the weather seems to have changed and the snow is now melting.

The last week has been a real struggle as colleagues have worked hard to keep their schools open so that we can keep the show on the road. I would like to say a huge well-done and thank you to our headteachers and to all the school staff who have gone the extra mile to keep our schools open wherever possible, and an especial thanks to those secondary schools who have stayed open to make sure our young people can sit their important exams.

Last week's usual meetings all went ahead, with additional meetings with colleagues from Government Office, councillor briefings for executive board, a briefing for John Battle MP, budget meetings, executive board and a meeting with the Leeds college principals. The highlight of my week was attending some sessions at the North of England Education Conference in York. This year the conference focused on 'unlocking children's potential', and I was fortunate to be able to attend some interesting and stimulating sessions on poverty and wellbeing, formative assessment, imagination and creativity. The evidence seems to suggest that people with imagination, ideas and creativity get results.

Interestingly, most of the extra-ordinary colleagues I know are very similar to the rest of us: most have had successes; and most have struggled and made mistakes in their lives. Most have been lucky; most have had people to help them; but most importantly they all have been prepared to work hard. But how long does it take to become extra-ordinary? The answer is no time at all... you can begin now and do it as quickly or as slowly as you want.

It's your choice.