Thursday, 22 April 2010

This afternoon I visited Shadwell Primary School...

It was wonderful to visit the school again and talk to Sue Pyatt, the headteacher, and Ruth Drew, the chair of governors, about the opportunities and challenges the school is facing with the proposal to federate with Bramham Primary School. It was also great to have the opportunity to look around the school and see the quality of provision in this wonderful little primary school where excellence and inclusion go hand in hand. Sue is an outstanding headteacher whose leadership has created brilliant provision which they hope will be further developed through the federation.
This morning I visited Kerr Mackie Primary School...

It was great to meet Angela Ronicle, the headteacher, and Gillian Hayward, the chair of governors, and talk about the opportunities and challenges we are facing. We also looked around the school to see the real progress the school is making under Angela's skilful leadership. The quality of the work in the Foundation Stage, the quality of teaching and learning and the culture and ethos around the school is really impressive. Angela and her team are building brilliant provision by establishing the systems and procedures needed to secure consistency.

It's true, for every school in Leeds, that consistency is our biggest challenge and securing it will ensure that outcomes continue to improve, that teaching and learning further develops and that every classroom releases the WOW factor and the magic and potential in our wonderful children.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Eleanor Brazil, David Dickinson and I started the day early having breakfast with some of the North East Leeds Learning Partnership Family of Schools headteachers...

At the heart of our work here in Leeds lies a 21st Century School supported by the 'Think Family' approach and engaged within a powerful community. We talked about the brilliant work going on in these schools, the successes we have had over the last nine years, the outcome of the Children's Services Review and the opportunities within the new world of Trusts, Federations and Academies. Colleagues talked passionately about the changing nature of headship and the things that distract us all from our relentless and uncompromising focus on teaching and learning. We agreed that, over the next few months, we must continue to ensure that all our children are happy, healthy, safe and successful and to maintain our focus on teaching and learning. We must continue to build brilliant provision consistently across Leeds and share and network the extra-ordinary practice in our schools, our children's centres and our clusters.

We talked about the challenges we are facing and the opportunities that lie ahead. We must continue to focus on quality, standards and outcomes while we use the opportunities that we have with the new curriculum and the new children's services directorate to build a brilliant children's services landscape. We discussed the importance of confident, self-critical and reflective practitioners who understand the learning process and are working creatively, imaginatively and positively with colleagues from Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector to create the team around the child, the team around the family and the team around the school. to nurture passion, enthusiasm, determination, persistence and patience across the children's services workforce. We also talked about the importance of leaders of learning who had a clear view of what was needed to drive change and achieve that step change in outcomes we all want to see so that eevry child is a reader, every child can count and every child is a brilliant little learner by the time they leave primary school and on a pathway to success by the time they leave secondary school.

It was a wonderful start to the day with some great colleagues and we need to do more of this; to talk more, to share more, to network more, to celebrate more and to learn more as we build the future together.

Monday, 19 April 2010

I hope colleagues have had a great break, that you are all hopefully fighting fit and ready for anything that comes our way...

I have spent the Easter break reading, learning and watching some more great ballet and just for a brief moment I managed to forget about attendance, admissions, behaviour, Building Schools for the Future, the National Challenge, safeguarding, SATs, special educational needs, standards, targets and World Class Primary Schools. What my Easter break and my reading has reminded me is that it is discipline, focus and action that will help us continue to deliver outstanding schools, great outcomes and brilliant results for our children, our young people, their families and communities. With elections, public spending cuts and change looming we need to be brave enough to challenge every aspect of our work so that we can focus our energy and efforts on the things that really, really matter. We must continue to carefully evaluate everything we do and ask whether it is really adding value and making a difference.

I don't think it's rocket science. We need early years programmes where we release the magic; support every childs' personal and social development and ensure that every child reads and counts. We need to nurture great primary schools as they develop a rich, stimulating and rewarding curriculum where children read and write and count and study and sing and dance and create. We need all our wonderful primary schools to deliver the WOW factor and work even harder to create brilliant little learners. We also need extraordinary secondary schools where small is beautiful in terms of organisation, where coaching is supporting teaching and learning, where every young person is on a pathway to success and where more and more of our young people achieve good qualifications as the passport to adult life and work. We need every school to become a healthy school, a green school, a Stephen Lawrence school and an inclusive school where we develop and nurture the values and behaviours that will help us ensure that every child and young person is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!

We also need to develop self-reliance, self-esteem and self-discipline through behavioural change programmes that understand and build on the critical importance of mothers, families and communities and to make a real difference we need to start earlier and stay longer with those children and those communities that need us most. We need to be uncompromising and relentless in rooting out the inefficient, the ineffective and the obsolete wherever it is and focus on developing real excellence in every aspect of everything we do!

Colleagues in Education Leeds and children's services needs to understand the need to be totally focused, totally committed and totally disciplined over the next year as we build the new children's services world here in Leeds. A world built around and supporting 'Twenty First Century Schools', 'Think Family' and powerful communities... whatever it takes!

And when the going gets tough always remember...
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena... who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings... and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly."
Theodore Roosevelt

And as we face volcanoes, ash and flight restrictions I am incredibly impressed by colleagues responses to these latest challenges. Whilst some of our colleagues are stuck abroad unable to return home, as ever it is business as usual in Leeds. I would like to thank everyone for their passion, detetrmination, persistence, dedication and commitment to ensuring our children continue to be happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!

Keep the faith!