Saturday, 28 April 2007

I went on to Windmill Primary School to their good work assembly...

Windmill Primary School is a great school with a fantastic team and I was there to present certificates to a group of parents who had completed the volunteering course my colleague Jane Haswell has developed and which now can be accredited through the Open College Network. The parenting programmes in Leeds are brilliant and reaching groups of mums and dads who missed out on qualifications and courses at school and it is wonderful to see and celebrate their successses.

Jane will send me some photos of the group next week.

Friday, 27 April 2007

I started the day at the Inter-agency Day organised by our fantastic Travellers' Education Team...

The day was about developing best practice to promote the 'Every Child Matters' agenda for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities here in Leeds and the team had invited Rosemary Archer and I to start the day and take questions.... and it was great!

We want every child in Leeds to be happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful. We want to support brilliant learners, in brilliant learning places in brilliant learning communities. This is the most important thing this city does!

We must constantly celebrate the talents and the potential of ALL our children, their families and their communities. Over the last six years here in Leeds Peter Saunders and his colleagues and friends have opened my eyes to the magic, the talent and the richness in the Travelling communities; their arts, their music, their storytelling, their history and their culture.

Lets hope that this inter-agency day leads to greater understanding, greater engagement and participation and better outcomes for these children, their families and this wonderful community.
I had lunch with Joan Haines and some of her colleagues in the Sensory Services Team...

These are some of the real jewels in terms of what we do here in Leeds; services that reach out to children, with hearing and visual impairment and with complex special needs, and their families. It is about inclusion at its best and the world has changed so much over the last six years here in Leeds. Joan and her colleagues do brilliant stuff and it is absolutely wonderful to feel that you are connected to and even part of those magical teams.
I went on to Brigshaw High School to talk to Peter Lawrence and Paul Brough Jones...

The local primary schools have been successful in securing DfES 'Early Adopter' funding and support and I wanted to talk to Peter and Paul about how Education Leeds could help take the agenda forward. We already know that the Brigshaw cluster is at the forefront of extended services developments and it was a great meeting where we explored how multi-agency partnerships are developing between and around the schools and how we can establish local structures to deliver the entitlement to children, young people and families.

As always great things are happening in this very special bit of Leeds through a very thoughtful, collaborative and intelligent approach to these issues.
I started the day yesterday at Valley View Primary School...

What a transformation! Sarah Griggs and her team have created something really special and are certainly beginning to build a strong and successful primary school to serve this piece of Leeds. Once you step inside the building you realise how much work Sarah and her colleagues have put into this. The place feels so different... light, bright, modern and a wonderfully stimulating learning environment for the children.

I briefly visited Sarah's breakfast club, had breakfast with the whole school learning team and was then shown around the school by Ashley, Jade, Kerryn, Louise and Rachel. The children were fantastic advocates for the school; three had come from Aireview Primary School and two from Rodley Primary School and they made a brilliant team... confident, knowledgeable, articulate and helpful.

It is wonderful to see what has been achieved in such a short time at Valley View Primary School and anyone who took the time to visit would understand that Sarah and her team are working hard to release a very special kind of magic.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Those of you who know me well know that I don't like meetings...

Meetings are one of the biggest institutional time wasters. Someone told me recently that on an average day in the UK, there are around 5 million meetings. I don't know how they worked that out, but if it is true it makes you wonder how anything ever gets done!

It helps if you work out the cost of the meetings you attend. A person earning £20,000 per year represents an hourly salary cost to the organization of around £15. If ten people at this salary level meet for a one hour meeting, the cost of the meeting is £150. Meetings are important and often essential elements of our work so the real question is how are we going to improve the productivity of our meetings. We must constantly look at what was accomplished in our meetings and ask ourselves if it was worth it? I know that the answer is sometimes "yes" but a lot of the time the answer is "no".

1. Some questions to ask about each of the meetings you attend
  • Is it necessary?
  • What would happen if it did not take place?
  • What if we did not meet quite so often?
  • How about if we met once a month instead of every week?

2. Ask yourself these questions about each of the meetings you attend

  • Am I necessary at the meeting?
  • Do I get anything out of the meeting?
  • Do I contribute anything to the meeting?"
If the answers to these questions is "no", try to avoid attending the meeting.
I ended the day at Methley Primary School...

Methley Primary School is one of the 'Ten School PfI' Schools and it is a wonderful building brought alive by Tracy Dell and her talented team. We still have some work to do to ensure that the community can use the building and that they see the facilities at the school as a fantastic addition to the village.

The meeting with the governors was constructive and positive and really helpful in looking at how we move this on in a new world where Children's Services and 'Think Local' seem to be the themes of the day.
I went on to the Official Opening of the new John Smeaton Leisure Centre...

It has been a long and often tortuous process but it is certainly worth it... the Centre is fantastic and a real testament to the hard work colleagues in Education Leeds and Leisure Services have put in to making this a Beacon of Excellence. My personal thanks go to Jenny Cooper and Tony Palmer who secured the resources and headed up this project... they have created a brilliant legacy for the community.
I started the day at a fantastic primary school...

I visited Swarcliffe Primary School to have breakfast with the School Council, to unveil a plaque on their storyteller seat and to see the school.

I had breakfast with a talented group of young people... sportmen, dancers, artists, actors and academics. The amazing Swarcliffe School Council were brilliant advocates and adverts for this fantastic little primary school... confident, articulate, passionate, enthusiatsic and committed.

We then had a brief ceremony in the reception outdoor area in memory of Anne Lazenby, one of the teaching team at the school, who died last year. After Anne's very sad death the school organised a fundraising day which raised a staggering £1400. They split the money between Cancer Research and equipment for the reception outdoor area. The School Council chose to buy a wonderful and unique storyteller seat to remember Anne's passion and commitment to the school, it's children and the community. .. 'a very special teacher'.

After the ceremony, Sue Sanderson, the headteacher, showed me around the school with Philip Oddy, the Chair of Governors. This is an amazing school doing brilliant things. What makes Swarcliffe Primary School such a brilliant school?
  • a talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful learning team;
  • strong and passionate leadership throughout the school;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs driving all aspects of the work of the school;
  • inspiring and brilliant teaching within a wonderful learning environment;
  • strong, positive and dynamic relationships;
  • high expectations of every child and the whole learning team; and
  • some talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful young people!

Sue and her learning team are doing a brilliant job and have created a fantastic learning environment for the children in a really great school.


Danielle Brearley, one of my colleagues in the fantastic Communications Team here at Education Leeds, had a meeting with the people from Martin House last week and thought we might like to know what they had to say...

They were so happy with the fundraising we'd done so far for them, and the amount of Leeds schools that had come on board. What was noticeable was that they are so excited about the over £13,000 we've raised for them so far. To them, it's a great deal of money and they can do some absolutely amazing things with it for their children and young people, and their families.

Danielle also wanted to let me know in advance what the plans for the next campaign are. We are going to be promoting their lottery scheme, which costs £1 a week, with weekly prizes of £1000, £200, £100 and 20x £10. You can join for a set number of weeks, or set up a standing order or direct debit for a year, and it costs just £4.34 a month. You can also buy someone a certificate for the lottery as a gift. We're going to be promoting this to EL staff and schools, and the money from everyone who joins will go towards our total.

It's fantastic to know that we are making a real difference for some of the most special children in Yorkshire! Please buy a lottery ticket.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Did you hear about the wonderful Meanwood CE Primary School Choir?

Helen Sanderson, the headteacher, let us know that they have been successful in reaching the final stage of the BBC School Choir competition. They now get to sing live in London on Saturday morning at 8.30 on Radio 6. Three schools have gone through to this stage where they sing in front of three judges at the BBC Maida Vale Studios. The winner gets two weeks of airplay on the BBC... 'Let it Be'!
"Here’s to the crazy ones… the misfits, the rebels, the trouble makers… the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do!”
‘Think Different’ Apple advert

I started the day with some of our most talented and effective headteachers...

I was supposed to be having breakfast with the Chairs from the Families of Schools but the busy lives these people lead meant that only a small select group managed to get there. Still as they say small is beautiful... and who wouldn't want to start the day with Linda Bowles, Lesley Dolben, Sue Mudie, Liz Snelling and Alan Toothill.

Our discussions ranged far and wide... we talked about extended services, Children's Centres, early years, Looked After Children, workforce reform, contextual value-added, clusters, Trusts, standards, health and well being and the day job! It is obvious to me that these people are the guardians of the basic building blocks we need for the future delivery of Children's Services here in Leeds... whatever we call it: the universal offer, the entitlment... the promises we make to children and families and communities will be secured through our brilliant primary schools supported by an advanced and more targeted offer for those groups who need additional help and support.
We need to continue to talk and more importantly listen to these amazing colleagues on the front line.

Monday, 23 April 2007

"Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those who are led. The most essential work of leaders is to create more leaders."
The foundations of excellence are based on individual effort captured and focused within our collective energy and efforts. It is all about creating a passionate enterprise where all our colleagues show initiative and creativity and where we build together a real sense of community.
We know from the research that our individual efforts build…
  • a 20% effort simply means Obedience
  • a 40% effort simply means Diligence
  • a 60% effort starts to deliver Intelligence
  • an 80% effort begins to deliver Initiative
  • a 100% effort delivers Creativity
  • a 120% effort delivers Passion
With intelligence, initiative, creativity and passion our collective effort creates community and releases the magic!
“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results.”
Colleagues continue to tell me that they are unsure about our future. Our journey is about releasing the magic in a Children’s Services world! It’s about re-imagining our learning places! It’s about re-imagining our services! We must continue to build strong partnerships, powerful networks and we must continue to listen to our colleagues, our partners and our young people!
Our journey together is about deciding what we want for our children and young people! What do we do to make them Happy! Healthy! Safe! and Successful! What do we do about family and home.. the FIRST Space for Learning! What do we do about school.. the SECOND Space for Learning! What do we do about community.. the THIRD Space for Learning!
Our journey is about creativity and imagination and it’s not about more of the same! It’s about what we add; what is our unique contribution! The future is in our hands. We must build this future and we must start small, believe in ourselves and practice, practice, practice.
My colleague Ben Beninyo sent me this and I thought you might like to read it...

It's from an article called 'Setting Unreasonable Goals' by Robert Middleton from Action Plan Marketing...

"Here's a few things I've learned...

  • IMAGINE you're on your death bed looking back. And you say to your loved ones gathered around, "You know I've had a pretty good life, but I really wish I'd done X." What is X? That's your unreasonable goal.
  • THINK about it all the time. Don't push it out of your mind. Obsess about it; brainstorm and draw mind maps. Get the idea out of the abstract and into the concrete. Form a mastermind group and kick around ideas. Make it real.
  • Be aware of OPPORTUNITIES and coincidences that present themselves. You couldn't see them before, but now, with increased focus on your goal, you'll start seeing, reading, hearing about things that are connected to your goal. Explore these things. They're there to help you.
  • When the time is right, make a COMMITMENT. On the TV poker shows they talk about going "ALL IN." Don't hold back. Make a promise, not based on knowing how to achieve your goal, but on your desire to make it real. If you have to know how ahead of time, you'll never take the leap.
  • ACTION. Now it's time for the real work, and that consists of putting one foot in front of the other every single day. Keep things alive by creating action plans, researching, asking for assistance, and networking with like-minded people. In other words, create an environment in which the goal can be realized.

Imagine, Think, Opportunities, Commitment, Action: I.T.O.C.A. Now that's a pretty bad acronym compared to S.M.A.R.T., but I promise you it's a better formula for getting what you truly desire. "

Thanks Ben, a really great addition to the blog which should make everyone think about what they are doing. My question for everyone out there...
Are you setting yourself unreasonable goals?
I started the day at the Leeds Grand Mosque...

Their 9th Annual Exhibition for Schools was officially opened by Councillor Jack Dunn, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Leeds. I had also been asked to say a few words before we all looked at the exhibition. Thirty of our schools are visiting the exhibition this week and over the years this programme has reached thousands of Leeds school children to help them learn more about Islam.