Sunday, October 17, 2010

After nearly ten years here in Leeds we know how to deliver outstanding outcomes and build brilliant teams...

You don't need to look elsewhere to see great teams and brilliant leadership. Simply look around. Start with Jim Hopkinson and the Youth Offending Team or Bridget Mork and the Parent Partnership Team or Sally Threlfall and the Early Years Team or Ann Cowling and the Healthy Schools Team or simply fill in your own nomination for team of the year. Wherever you look there are simply extraordinary colleagues releasing the magic where it really matters.

So what are the ten tips?
  1. Get to know your colleagues.
  2. Keep asking your colleagues how things are going, what needs improving and what we can do better.
  3. Delegate twice as much as you're currently doing to trust and empower your colleagues.
  4. Constantly check colleague's understanding of what you are expecting them to do.
  5. Set the direction and always be totally clear what you want.
  6. Constantly and genuinely praise colleagues for doing the right things.
  7. Constantly communicate and keep colleagues informed.
  8. Consult with everyone about as much as you possibly can.
  9. Listen constantly and ask your colleagues how they'd do things.
  10. When colleagues are not performing well be really hard on the problem not on the people.
It's not rocket science we can continue to build brilliant and release the magic if we simply understand that everyone can do it and the keys are simply persistence, determination and sheer hard work.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You may have seen the article in the Yorkshire Evening Post and the headline 'Education Leeds chief executive quits'...

The article, with that great picture of me, correctly goes on to say that:

"Education Leeds chief executive Chris Edwards will leave his post at the end of the year. His contract was due to end on March 31 as Education Leeds merges into a new Children's Services department. Education Leeds is a not-for-profit company set up in response to a damning Ofsted report on the council's education department. Mr Edwards told the YEP: "I thought it was important we should move on in terms of the new arrangements, and I have got other things to do. I can't say what they are at the moment. I am going through a series of options, which are a mix of business and pleasure. I have spent nine years in Leeds and, before that, five years in York in helping young people achieve their potential. I am basically a teacher at heart and will continue to work with children and young people."

Mr Edwards has commuted from York as he did not wish to upset his three children's education. He said: "My biggest satisfaction is the results we have achieved in Leeds with 3,300 more children each year getting five GCSEs at grades A to C." Persistent absence in secondary schools is a key government measure and in the last three years alone Leeds has seen a decrease of 22 per cent. During Mr Edwards's tenure, nearly £500m has been secured from central government. Since 2006, some £260m of Building Schools for The Future money has been invested in secondary schools. Education Leeds was also listed this year in The Times top 75 'Best Companies to work for in the Public Sector' category.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: "I wish to thank Chris for his hard work and dedication to improving learning across the city. Over the last nine years, there has been a significant improvement in educational achievement."

Sally Boulton, head teacher at Rothwell Haigh Road Infant School and chairman of Leeds Head Teachers' Forum, said: "Chris has worked tirelessly to encourage head teachers and their staff to explore creatively how learning can be made real, exciting and lasting."

I'll be around for the next nine and a bit weeks to say goodbye to all those friends and colleagues who have made this job such an extra-ordinary experience. Big cities are simply wonderful places full of amazing people, creativity, innovation, imagination and the WOW factor. I can honestly say that I have never had a single dull day during, what will be at 31 December, 500 weeks in this wonderfully rich, diverse and brilliant city.


"The last 20 years have seen lots of new school types - and they have made no difference"...

I suspect many colleagues will have missed Ron Glatter's insight in last week's TES but it makes really interesting reading about what we need to do to build brilliant and ensure that every young person attends a great school. In case you missed it:

"The apparent reluctance of schools to accept Education Secretary Michael Gove's invitation to convert to academy status may be due to a growing realisation that structural change can bring more costs than benefits. Along with other parts of the public sector, education has experienced almost a quarter of a century of continual restructuring, what the political scientist Christopher Pollitt called "redisorganisation". This appeals to politicians because they think they will be able to demonstrate a quick fix - that the structural buttons they have pressed will rapidly transform results. There is no convincing evidence for this belief. When I recently reviewed studies of the effects of the varieties of new school formats of the past 20 years, notably grant-maintained and specialist ones, it became clear that the status of the school didn't in itself contribute to any improvements. Any gains were the result of outside factors such as differences in intake or extra funding.
 A typical finding was that from the five-year evaluation of the academies programme by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the last government: "There is insufficient evidence to make a judgment about the academies as a model for school improvement." Nor does increasing competition between schools reliably lead to higher standards, according to a recent review of international research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. But there are huge costs to these changes that are generally not taken into account. For example, making the school system very complex for parents to understand disadvantages many and produces more social division. The holy grail of these policies is to give schools more independence. But how beneficial is this? Anthony Seldon, the Master of Wellington College, has said there are three factors that mainly account for the stronger academic performance of the top private schools: a far higher ratio of subject specialists; much smaller sizes of classes - around half the size of those in state schools; and higher parental expectations. None of these is to do with their degree of independence, nor with some mystical ethos that could be transferred. So expecting state schools to mimic the private school set-up without bestowing similar advantages on them won't bring equivalent success.

 In practice, the extra autonomy is never given to every state school, which would make the system unmanageable. It's given differentially, so some get more powers over admissions, the curriculum and buildings, together with extra funding, while others remain as they are. The dangers with the conferment of this kind of privileged status are obvious: academic and social divisions and false hierarchies are likely to multiply. Some categories of school, currently academies in particular, become political "favourites" and their success has to be engineered. International research points up the risks of persisting with such an approach. Studies by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that the most successful countries, both in terms of overall performance and the relative performance of disadvantaged students, have secondary education systems that are unified not divided. Sweden, so often cited now in discussion about schools policy, has been making strenuous efforts, not least in a very recent Education Act, to bring all its schools, whether state or independent, into a common administrative and regulatory framework.

A number of lessons emerge. We should be very sceptical about the predicted benefits of structural changes, especially those designed to put some types of publicly funded school, such as academies, on a radically different footing from others. The National Audit Office has warned that the planned expansion of academies carries significant risks. The costs of such changes, including the non-financial ones such as disruption, distraction and public confusion, should be fully factored in. A mature democracy should provide for the genuine assent of stakeholders to be sought and obtained. The heavy vote against the academies policy at the recent Lib Dem conference in Liverpool tells its own story about the policy's legitimacy. Most importantly, rather than structural change whose educational value has not been demonstrated, attention should focus on less headline grabbing and more productive tasks, such as enhancing teacher quality and school leadership. The initial response to Gove's blandishments suggests these lessons have not been lost on the educational community."

Ron Glatter is emeritus professor of educational administration and management at the Open University.
 This is a really thought provoking piece and if we are serious about all our children and if it's true that there are no quick fixes then the solutions to the problems we all face are to think team and to build team. It would be great to think that there was a magic bullet which could ensure the success of every young person and mean that every school becomes a brilliant learning place overnight.

Actually I do know what makes brilliant and that is partly what the blog has been about for the last four years. Imagine what would happen if we could get everyone engaged, committed and passionate about learning, the craft of the classroom and to focus on sharing our best practice and making it consistent.  Imagine what would happen if we created a unified, united and combined approach so that every child and every young person whatever their background goes to a great school where they have the opportunities and the support to achieve their potential. We would simply have a world class learning system here in Leeds.

What I do know, after 36 years in this business, is that it isn't rocket science and we can all do it!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I have spent ten wonderful years here in Leeds and we have achieved extra-ordinary things together...

My last ten years have been incredible and wherever you look together we have transformed the learning landscape and achieved brilliant outcomes. I am deeply proud of what we have achieved; grateful for your support, encouragement and feedback and blessed to have been part of an experiment that has achieved so much. With the Education Leeds contract coming to an end, I have decided to leave Education Leeds at Christmas and my last working day will be 17 December.

In case anyone out there missed it, Stephen Parkinson PhD, Professor Emeritus and Chairman of the Education Leeds Board, sent this message out yesterday...

"Dear Colleagues, Chris Edwards, Chief Executive of Education Leeds will be leaving the company on 31st December 2010. Chris has made an outstanding contribution to the work of Education Leeds in transforming the learning experience of young people in Leeds and the Board is very grateful for his visionary leadership and commitment over the years. Between now and the end of December there will be several opportunities to fully record our appreciation before Chris leaves. For now, many thanks Chris for a brilliant job, well done! Stephen Parkinson."

Monday, October 04, 2010

We all know, that it is the quality of the teaching team that makes for brilliant learning...

Research has shown that there is a fourfold difference between the most effective and least effective classrooms and that ensuring greater consistency is one of our greatest challenge. Teachers and classroom assistants must be the best learners in their classroom because children pick up 'learning power' by example as much as anything. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I joined a gym recently and the calorie counter on the machines is simply scary...

It's difficult to believe that:
  • 15 minutes lifting weights equals the 100 calories in one small cappuccino;
  • 75 minutes of stretching equals the 220 calories in a small mars bar;
  • 15 minutes on the stairclimber equals the 129 calories in a can of coke;
  • 30 minutes running on the treadmill at 10kmph equals the 400 calories in one blueberry muffin;
  • 50 minutes on indoor rower equals the 450 calories in a large slice of cheesecake;
  • 19 minutes on elliptical trainer equals the 95 calories in a medium size banana;
  • 30 minutes of aerobics equals the 163 calories in a small pack of raisins;
  • 10 minutes on the exercise bike equals the 55 calories in a low-fat fruit yoghurt.
Scary stuff really!
People constantly tell me that exercise is the best way to lose weight and I am increasingly worried about predictions that 50 per cent of our children will be overweight or obese adults by 2030...

Everything I have read recently suggests that exercise as a means of losing weight has been exaggerated and that putting the emphasis on exercise means that we are unlikely to tackle obesity. I know that exercise releases endorphins, reduces depression, and has a major impact on heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and dementia and it is obvious that we live longer and healthier when we exercise. The truth, I am told, is that other than stopping smoking, there is nothing you can do for yourself that is better than exercise or is there! Isn't it true that we are what we eat!

Please let me know what you think!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Over the last ten years I hav spent time with so many exceptional people...

It's actually encouraging that the potential to be exceptional exists within everyone of us and personally over thirty five years experience has taught me that 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. I know from personal experience that extraordinary achievers are ordinary people, like you and me, who make extraordinary decisions about the events in their lives. Our decisions drive our destiny and shape our future.

It would be easy to explain away other peoples success–- they had a lucky break, they had a better education, they had wealthier parents, they went to a better school, they lived on a better estate. Yet the truth of the matter is that attitude makes the difference between extraordinary achievements and mediocre results. You can achieve anything you believe you can achieve with persistence, determination and hard work. All the exceptional people I know have made clear decisions about themselves, their future and their goals.

While you can’t change your past and the challenges we are all facing may “seem” insurmountable, almost every aspect about your future is yet to be decided. You can choose to write your own future and become exceptional. As we face an uncertain and changing learning landscape the choice is yours.
I know times are tough but we all need to stay positive...

Make sure that over the next few weeks and months you:
  • Manage your diary to create space to think and plan;
  • Focus on the things that have gone really well;
  • Find allies and friends to give you support and encouragement;
  • Give colleagues things to do that will build capacity;
  • Stay in touch with the real world of schools and classrooms;
  • Look for the little things that make a big difference;
  • Collect bits of magic to keep the soul alive!

Whatever you do… do something positive!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Whatever happens as we move forward into 2011 and the new Children's Services arrangements, it will be a year of new beginnings, new colleagues, new challenges and new opportunities…

Next year is going to be a year where we all need to continue to be different, to be creative, to try new things, to learn new tricks and to continue to make a real difference… whatever it takes! I suppose the most important thing is to embrace change and to celebrate the opportunities it brings. I know that change is hard but it allows us all the chance to reflect, to review and to focus. It allows us the opportunity to spring clean, to ensure that we are doing the right things and to stop doing the things that don't make a difference.

Leeds is a great city and we must continue to develop and support 'Team Leeds'. We all have choices to make about where we work and what we do but we have invested so much and shed so much blood, sweat and tears in building what everyone agrees about; a highly effective and highly efficient education and learning service. Things are going to be tough but we all know what we do when the going gets tough; we roll up our sleeves and get on with the most important thing any society or community or Government or country does... we work even harder to ensure that our children and our young people are happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful... whatever it takes!
Education Leeds is going to wind up as a company at the end of March 2011 after ten extra-ordinary years making a difference here in Leeds...

In Education Leeds we have created a real centre of learning excellence where brilliant, taklented colleagues do amazing things. Simply look at some of the creative, innovative materials and ideas we have developed over the last few years; the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard, Bluewave Swift, the Leeds Inclusion Chartermark, Investors in Pupils and Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month. Simply look at the teams that have established themselves as best in class; the Parent Partnership Service, our Admissions Team, our Deaf and Hearing Impaired Team, our Visually Impaired Team, Our Families and Schools Together Team, our Finance Team, our HR Team, our Governor Support Service, our Healthy Schools Team, Leeds Mentoring and Education Leeds itself. We have won awards for everything from Building Schools for the Future to Customer Service Excellence, from Beacon Awards to Times 100 Best Places to Work in the Public Sector.

What makes Education Leeds such an amazing place?
I have reflected on this for a long time since the Council made it's decision to end the contract with Education Leeds. Especially as the review stated that the new arrangements should build on the achievements of the company. The answers are simple:
  • Distributed intelligent leadership;
  • An empowering, engaging and creative culture;
  • Beautiful systems that reinforce and develop the culture; and
  • A belief in people's extra-ordinary potential and talent.

Let me know what you think makes Education Leeds such a great place to work, to learn and to be part of?