Monday, 26 December 2011


My colleague and friend Geoff Roberts sent me this important reminder as we approach 2012...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The future is what you make it!

"Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said that it’d be easy, they just promised it would be worth it."

However you look at it 2011 has been a great year with successes, surprises,  brilliant stories and shared adventures!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"There is nothing in life so difficult that it cannot be overcome. 
This faith can move mountains. It can change people. It can change the world."
Norman Vincent Peale

The 'A Team'!

Saw the 'A Team' yesterday for lunch.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


We must work hard to make success commonplace. To see what works, what is successful and figure out what are the characteristics of success are so that we can make it commonplace, so that we recognise and celebrate success and continuously learn, network, co-operate and collaborate to improve and develop.

Friday, 9 December 2011

"Life is happening right now. So let's appreciate the beauty of today, because once its gone we can't get it back."
OFSTED GRADES ARE SIMPLISTIC AND DAMAGING! We need intelligent accountability driving a culture of excellence and improvement!

Children's University Annual Conference

I have just got back from the national Children's University's fourth annual conference at Shrigley Hall Hotel in Cheshire.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Festival Concert!

I finished the day yesterday at the Town Hall for the Leeds Schools Music Association's Christmas Festival Concert 2011.

"In times of change, learners will inherit the earth,
while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped 
to deal with a world that no longer exists"
Eric Hoffer

Sheffield College!

I visited the Hillsborough site of Sheffield College today to talk to the College Leadership Team.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Silverdale School!

I visited Silverdale School in Sheffield this morning to see Chas Ponsford Deputy Headteacher.

"When you reach for the stars, 
you may not quite get them, 
but you won't come up with a handful of mud."
Leo Burnett

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Brilliant news! The national Children's University won an award at the 'Directory of Social Change Awards 2011'. This brilliant initiative won the 'The Everyday Impact Award - New Enterprise'.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


We face an incredible opportunity to improve and develop provision in schools.
"Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by
the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do."
Mark Twain

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Looking carefully at how we address the huge inequalities in this country constantly means that we return to the key role of parents and carers.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

"Four things will come not back:
The spoken word,
The sped arrow,
The past life,
The neglected opportunity." 
Arabian Proverb

Monday, 28 November 2011

Friday, 25 November 2011

'The McEwan Quad'

Today was a very special day because I was attending the opening of 'The McEwan Quad' at West Oaks School.
"Never use the words, "I can't".
Say, "I'll try".
Ruby Forsythe

Six Tips for Brain-Based Learning

I found this wonderful edutopia resource on twitter and wanted to share it with you.

"If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you...
you may have a fresh start any moment you choose,
for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down but the staying down."
Mary Pickford

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Blog Blog Blog!

All the evidence suggests that getting children blogging can have a massive impact on their learning. Personally, I love my blog and I have been blogging now almost every day, and sometimes many times a day, for the last six years.  

I am the master of my fate!

When I can't sleep, I read and last night I came across this great poem again which sums up exactly the attitude we need and the character we must show during these dark times.

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole.

I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

“Most true happiness comes from one's inner life, from the disposition of the mind and soul.
Admittedly, a good inner life is difficult to achieve, especially in these trying times. 
It takes reflection and contemplation and self-discipline.”
William L Shirer

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


What makes educational provision in Finland so good?

"Determine that the thing can and shall be done,
and then we shall find the way."
Abraham Lincoln

Better, Faster, More Efficiently!

We are challenged all the time to do better, faster and more effectively in our schools, our classrooms and our communities.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Learning from Finland!

As England struggles to find a new education and learning framework, it is worth studying what is happening in Finland.
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering can we be strengthened, 
our vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
Hellen Keller

Sunday, 20 November 2011


We need to search out, learn from and celebrate the pieces of magic that happen in schools across the country on a daily basis. These moments of magic change lives, shape outcomes, inspire us as learners and help us reach for the stars!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." Mahatma Gandhi


The challenge we face as an educational community is how do we create a world class learning landscape with world class outcomes?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Victoria Primary School!

And finally I dropped in at Victoria Primary School to see my colleague and friend Alison Carrick who with her colleagues is transforming outcomes and changing lives.

Hovingham Primary School!

I moved on to Hovingham Primary School in Harehills to see Janet Spence, Headteacher, and Jane Fisher, Assistant Headteacher. This is one of my favourite learning places and the work they are doing on maths is brilliant and the outcomes they are achieving are staggering!

Parklands Primary School!

I started the day at Parklands Primary School in Seacroft in East Leeds. This extraordinary little school is achieving some fantastic results for it's diverse, complex and very special population.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sheffield Secondary Headteachers!

I was at Sheffield's Bannerdale Centre this morning to talk to the secondary headteachers about the Cutlers project I am working on.

"There is nothing in life so difficult that it cannot be overcome. 
This faith can move mountains. 
It can change people. 
It can change the world."
Norman Vincent Peale

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Dirk Gilleard

I saw my friend and colleague Dirk Gilleard this week and he reminded me that we mustn't let anyone tell us or tell our children and young people that we are not bright, not clever and not full of potential.

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity;
and I'm not sure about the the universe."
Albert Einstein


I know things have been tough for many colleagues and friends recently. If you don't know this poem it is worth a read as we all try to stay positive and manage the challenges life throws at us.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

I visited King Edward VII School this morning to meet Jeremy Twyman, assistant headteacher, to talk to him about the Cutlers initiative I am working on.

Monday, 14 November 2011

"Patience and perseverence have a magical affect 
before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."
John Quincy Adams
I visited Yewlands Technology College this afternoon to meet Angela Armytage, headteacher, to talk to her about the Cutlers initiative I am working on.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

"Life isn't measured by the number of breaths we take
but the moments that take our breath away."
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Martin Luther King Jr. 
"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." Mahatma Gandhi
"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and woman to win them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself;
but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, 
and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."
Robert F. Kennedy

Friday, 11 November 2011

I visited Parkwood Academy in Sheffield this afternoon to meet Mike Westerdale, Prrincipal, and Vicky Simcock, Vice Principal to talk to them about the Cutlers initiative I am working on.



There is a growing body of evidence that as we face this perfect storm, where nothing seems to provide comfort and reassurance about the future, colleagues are becoming increasingly frustrated. We even have the head teachers threatening strike action!
"There is nothing in life so difficult that it cannot be overcome. 
This faith can move mountains. 
It can change people. 
It can change the world."
Norman Vincent Peale

Thursday, 10 November 2011

"The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows,
it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts."
Booker T Washington


We need to constantly learn from successful examples of what works. In his brilliant article 'Singapore: Five days in thinking schools and a learning nation', which is on the OECD Education Today blog, Andreas SCHLEICHER says that he was struck most by the following features; meritocracy, vision, leadership and competency, coherence, clear goals, rigorous standards and high stakes gateways, high quality teachers and principals and intelligent accountability.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors,
and the most patient of teachers."
Charles Eliot

'Reading Matters' in Sheffield

Those of you who know me know that I read constantly and that I care passionately about reading and believe that every child has an entitlement to be taught to read; preferably before they are eight! If you can't read your life chances are diminished and the opportunities to learn, grow and develop are severely limited.

While I was in Leeds I actively supported 'Reading Matters', a brilliant little social enterprise, which, for over 12 years, has recruited, trained and supported thousands of volunteer reading mentors in schools across Yorkshire. I have become a trustee and want to help them continue the outstanding work they are doing in schools across the region.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

“If you do what you’ve always done,
you’ll get what you always got.” 
Mark Twain


Colleagues have taught me over the years that if you don't set goals for yourself, you will probably carry on through life believing that this is as good as it gets.

Monday, 7 November 2011

"Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed 
by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do."
Mark Twain

Skills, Creativity, Enterprise and Hard Work!

It is strange sitting on the touchline after spending so long on the pitch. I have spent the last year in Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield learning, listening and trying to understand how we create a learning landscape where every child and every community have access to a great school... which after all is what everyone claims to want!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Extra-ordinary Enterprise!

It has been a real privilege working in Sheffield over the last few months and having the opportunity to discover and learn about some of the best the city has to offer. The city has an extraordinary heritage in term of industry, innovation and enterprise and it was wonderful to be able to meet this week with their BIG Team who encourage, nurture, challenge and support schools to make enterprise part of their curriculum.

I was at the City Screen in York yesterday evening to watch the Metropolitan Opera perform Richard Wagner's Siegfried; the third opera in the wonderful Ring Cycle.

Friday, 4 November 2011

"If I were to wish for anything,
I should not wish for wealth and power,
but for the passionate sense of the potential. 
For the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible!"
Soren Kierkegaard

Talent, Creativity and Imagination!

We need to build a new schools and learning system for this new world; for this new conceptual age. A learning system to equip all our little learners with the skills they need to be successful bigger learners and to be successful in a world that is changing beyond recognition.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

"There is nothing in life so difficult that it cannot be overcome. 
This faith can move mountains. It can change people. 
It can change the world."
Norman Vincent Peale

The Struggle!

Over the last fifteen years I have worked with some simply extra-ordinary colleagues working in school improvement services across the country; talented, intelligent, committed and experienced people who brought a rigor and focus to their work and who had over this period achieved a remarkable transformation of the learning landscape and helped schools deliver some outstanding outcomes.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


We must be brave enough to expose the myth that environment and deprivation rather than character are a better explanation of why people behave and act as they do.
"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
Beverly Sills

Excellence, Character, Innovation and Creativity!

Research from DfE, OFSTED, OECD, PISA suggests that we need to develop a new approach to learning to create world class outcomes for our children. Everything points to the fact that to help young people achieve and succeed we must recognise that character is at least as important as intelligence!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

"Things never go so well that one should have no fear; 
and never so ill that one should have no hope" 
Turkish proverb

World Class!

Our universities are still the envy of the world and attract large numbers of outstanding young people from across the world and for some of our young people our education system is amongst the best in the world! Sadly for many it is not and the gap in attainment and achievement between the highest performing young people and the poorest performing young people is amongst the worst in the world.

Monday, 31 October 2011

"Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig.
If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time.
Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then  ripen."

Character and Functional Skills!

Employers argue that we can only realise and release the potential of our children and young people if they are better prepared for life and work in the twenty first century. In recent years we have made considerable progress in raising standards and in improving the educational attainment of our children and young people, but the pace of change remains insufficient.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

"In times of change, learners will inherit the earth,
while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped 
to deal with a world that no longer exists" 
Eric Hoffer


It's strange when you understand the school improvement research that we seem to be heading down the current rather narrow and fragmented approach to school improvement.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

"At the heart of every child... is a unique genius and personality.
What we should be doing is to allow the spark of that genius
to catch fire, to burn brightly and shine."
Michael Morpurgo

The Real Answers!

If we want to create great schools for every child and every community the real answers lie where they have always been.

Friday, 28 October 2011

"The ultimate measure of a man is not
where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, 
but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." 
Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

"Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young"

I love the Sunscreen Song which you probably don't know came from this column by Mary Schmich, which was published by the Chicago Tribune on 01 June 1997. Make sure you read it and I hope it makes you smile.
“You can program yourself to be positive.
Being Positive is a discipline … and the more adversity you face, the more positive you have to be.
Being positive helps build confidence and self-esteem”
Rick Pitino, University of Louisville Head Basketball Coach

Monday, 24 October 2011


In January The Guardian launched the School I'd Like, asking schoolchildren what would make their perfect school.
"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment 
rarely sat back and let things happen to them. 
They went out and happened to things." 
Elinor Smith

Sunday, 23 October 2011

"Life isn't measured by the number of breaths we take 
but the moments that take our breath away." 


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. 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

"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, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, 21 October 2011


"The principal goal of education... should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things... men and women who are creative, inventive, and discoverers." Jean Piaget

Life is never ever dull, and my travels have once again showed me the outstanding practice, the incredible young people, and the inspirational colleagues that exist in Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and other places up and down the country.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again,
and expecting a different result.”
Albert Einstein

Thursday, 20 October 2011

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; 
and I'm not sure about the the universe." 
Albert Einstein


I got back to the gym this week after struggling with a bad back and it's true everytime that exercise makes me feel better but I am not convinced by those people who constantly tell me that exercise is the best way to lose weight.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


I was in Sheffield again today meeting with colleagues to look at how we can co-create a new curriculum based on a competency model focused around five key aspects highlighted in the DEMOS report, 'The Forgotten Half'.
"To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves
and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows."
Jean Anouilh


"All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pit at school. These are the things I learned:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

“If we are to achieve things never before accomplished,
we must employ methods never before attempted.”
Francis Bacon


Hovingham Primary School is a very special place and work going on at this wonderful little school shows us why we should be encouraging children in every primary school to blog, tweet and use technology to develop, nurture and encourage their literacy, numeracy and basic skills.

Monday, 17 October 2011


IAs you know I visited one of my favourite schools again on Friday for their latest 'Mathletics Celebration'. Jane Fisher, assistant headteacher, who leads the work on Mathletics put some pictures on her blog over the weekend. 

If you want to visit Hovingham Primary School's blog and find out more about this amazing little primary school you can go to the school website at or you can visit Year 2 Palm's site to see the pictures at

"Patience and perseverence have a magical affect 
before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." 
John Quincy Adams


Where is the vision? A vision for education, learning and schooling supported by research about what works. Where is the strategic framework? A strategic framework driving the system reform we need to create great schools for every child and great schools to serve every community?

Sunday, 16 October 2011


To support these developments, we must:


Research clearly shows that:


I have been thinking about some of the schools I really love in Leeds and the challenges they are facing in this new world of Academies and Free Schools.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Friday, 14 October 2011

"There is nothing in life so difficult that it cannot be overcome. 
This faith can move mountains. It can change people. It can change the world." 
Norman Vincent Peale

Mathletics at Hovingham Primary School!

I visited one of my favourite schools again this afternoon. I was at Hovingham Primary School which serves the Chapeltown and Harehills communities in Leeds for their latest 'Mathletics Celebration'.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and woman to win them." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson


We can all make a real difference and we must always remember that actions speak louder than words. Whether it is care for the elderly, unemployment in young people, concerns about special educational needs and inclusion or the underachievement of looked after children; hard times and tough issues require bold ideas, big ideas, brilliant ideas.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

"The value of experience is not in seeing much, 
but seeing it wisely."
Sir William Osler


If we want to build brilliant learning places we need to develop a culture where we welcome feedback and help everyone in the school workforce to continuously update their knowledge and skills and have opportunities for good quality professional development.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


We need to further develop the beautiful systems and powerful practices for reviewing and developing the work that goes on in our schools, recognising and rewarding good teaching and great learning, and supporting the development of every young person and the whole school workforce.

Family, Friends and Faith!

I remember what Martin Sheen said on Desert Island Discs about the most important things in life. He said they were family, friends and faith and it is important at times like this that we don't forget that these are the things that really, really matter although I think friends should be expanded to be community. Remember

Monday, 10 October 2011


I was in Sheffield again today and saw this amazing rainbow...

"To be happy, drop the words "if only"
and substitute instead the words "next time".
Smiley Blanton


Research clearly shows that the leadership of schools can have a hugely positive impact on the educational outcomes of young people.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

"Much wisdom often goes with the fewest words..."

"Leading a Self-Improving School System"

In "Leading a Self-Improving School System" David Hargreaves argues that the government's offer to the profession to lead the construction of a self-improving school system is an exciting one that should be taken up with enthusiasm.

Friday, 7 October 2011

"Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another."
Nelson Mandela

Collaboration and Partnership Matter!

How do we encourage collaboration and partnership working in an increasingly fragmented and unco-ordinated educational landscape.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

"If you can't explain it simply,
you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

Be Brilliant!

I am struggling to understand why we are so focused on structures as the key to success. Over the last fifteen years I have visited so many amazing places and learned so much about the things that make brilliant learning places...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Sheffield Springs Academy!

I finished the day at Sheffield Springs Academy at their Employer Engagement Event.

The Sheffield College!

I started the day at The Sheffield College with Heather MacDonald, Chief Executive, and Bill Jones, Executive Director of Planning and Performance.

"Ability is what you're capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it."
Lou Holtz

The Choice is Yours!

Being exceptional is not defined by what you have or what you do, it depends critically on your attitude and the decisions you choose to make.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision,
the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. 
It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” 
Henry Ford
"From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
from the laziness that is content with half-truths, 
from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, 
deliver us."
Ancient Prayer

How are we doing?

What does the latest release of Key Stage 1 data tell us about how well we are doing, the challenges we face, the things we need to rethink and the things we need to do better?

Monday, 3 October 2011

OFSTED Inspections from January 2012!

From January 2012, school inspections are changing again and will report on four key judgements:
  • achievement; 
  • the quality of teaching; 
  • the quality of leadership and management; 
  • behaviour and safety. 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement!

I visited the Royal Academy this afternoon to see the 'Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement' exhibition.


I went to the amazing Tamarind restaurant last night as recommended by my good friend Parin Bahl!

Resilience Matters!

I am developing a new curriculum framework and Martin Seligman, Carol Dweck and Alison Duckworth all stress that resilience is a key aspect of success in learning and whether you are a parent, a teaching assistant, a teacher, a headteacher or a Director of Learning this is a critical issue!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

'Pret A Manger' colleagues wear a shirt bearing the logo 'Team * Pret'. How do we build and develop 'Team * Learning'?

Releasing the Magic!

Another week has flown by and my travels around the North of England have been brought alive by so many extraordinary people in so many different settings releasing an extraordinary magic. I was talking to Mick Waters again on Sheffield Station and it is not a surprise that it's people who make the difference but depressing how little understanding there is at the DfE that you don't change anything by simply changing structures. Those people who believe that Academies, Free Schools or Teaching Schools are going to sort out the fundamental issues facing us in terms of underperformance are failing the thousands of young people who need us most! We need 'beautiful systems' but more importantly we need a cultural change that trusts, empowers and releases the extraordinary potential dormant in so many places. We need a new curriculum that develops life skills, basic skills and employability skills. We need to build character alongside academic and vocational excellence. And, from the earliest opportunity we must develop passion, persistence, determination, self-discipline, self-control, emotional intelligence, gratitude, optimism, curiosity and enterprise as we educate our children and young people. I am working on a new curriculum model and would welcome feedback from those who are searching for the way to release potential and magic in every school, every colleague and every young person... whatever it takes! Chris

Friday, 30 September 2011

"Take time to laugh. 
It is the music of the soul."
Old English Prayer

Be extra-ordinary! Be outstanding! Be brilliant!

I have been to some incredible learning places recently. Across the country, brilliant colleagues working in schools and classrooms are releasing the magic and delivering world class outcomes, often against the odds. We know what it takes to build brilliant... it's alive and well in so many places.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

"What a wise parent would wish for their children,
so the state must wish for all it's children."
RH Tawney

Trust, Empower and Enable!

Michael Gove spoke passionately about the difference we can make at the launch of the 'Teaching Schools' initiative.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Interpersonal Skills, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Problem-solving Matter!

Fifty-three percent of employers in the United States say their companies face a significant challenge in recruiting non-managerial employees with the skills, training, and education their company needs. 

Get On and Do It!

I often wonder why some of our provision is so fragile, so prone to failure, so limited in its effectiveness and so poorly performing when compared to the best in the country let alone the best in the world!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Over the last fifteen years I have become more and more convinced that character is just as important as academic and vocational excellence. We must develop a new curriculum that from the earliest opportunity develops passion, persistence, determination, self-discipline, self-control, emotional intelligence, gratitude, optimism, curiosity and enterprise as we educate our children. What else? 

Five Ways to Release the Magic!

I know that as we face this perfect storm, where nothing seems to provide comfort and reassurance about the future, colleagues want to know how we should respond to the challenges we face and continue to release the magic. Here are some suggestions.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Forgotten Half!

Because what we do is so important, we all face relentless and uncompromising pressure and higher and higher expectations. The real challenge is how do we continue to improve learning for all our students? And how do we create provision that delivers significantly better learning outcomes? Having read the DEMOS report 'The Forgotten Half' it reminded me that we must work harder to address the needs of young people achieving very little after eleven years of statutory education, tackling those not in education, employment and training and we must ensure that no schools achieve below the floor targets!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
I visited Foxton Locks yesterday and if you've never been it is such an amazing place!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The 80:20 Rule!

How do we create great schools for every child, every young person and every community? Personally, I passionately believe that the answers lie in creative learning organisations built on beautiful systems, deep research, intelligent accountability and the importance of discipline and character. I have known this for years and I constantly wrestle with the fact that in so many of our learning places we haven't cracked it! I was reading about the 80:20 rule and it made me think about how we might simplify and focus what we are doing to achieve brilliant outcomes.

Spectrum of Challenges!

It's not easy at the moment as we face the 'perfect storm' and wrestle with the problems we face leading and managing the organisations we are part of; schools, businesses or families. I found this really helpful table on the web which shows just how hard it is and wanted to share it with you.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Leadership in Difficult Times!

The older I get the more I understand what I don't know. However, what I am more and more convinced about is that leadership is a critical factor, especially in difficult times.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Made in Sheffield!

I spent the morning in Sheffield talking about the opportunities we face to build a new curriculum.
"Dare and the world always yields;
or if it beats you sometimes, 
dare it again and it will succumb."
William Makepeace Thackeray

Every School an Outstanding School!

Don't tell me that every school can't be an outstanding school.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

An Entitlement for Every Child!

A colleague left this message on the blog which made me think about why those of us who have dedicated our lives to creating great provision with brilliant outcomes haven't cracked it!
"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Eleanor Roosevelt

Mick Waters!

I bumped into my colleague and friend Mick Waters on Nottingham Station yesterday. It was great to see Mick and to very briefly catch up with what he is doing.

We miss so much by simply not looking!

Travelling by train has provided me with opportunities to think and reflect.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Five Things I Learned!

We face new and ever growing challenges as we reorganise, downsize, and ‘cut to the bone’ the systems that underpin school effectiveness and achievement. The question is how do we lead in this perfect storm?”

Don't Ignore the Sunset!

Glorious sunset and cloud formation coming back from Nottingham this evening!
Sky alight with glorious colours!!! Makes you glad to be alive!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Leeds Children's University Graduation Picture!

My colleague Viv Gibbins who co-ordinates the Leeds Children's University sent me this fantastic picture from last week's celebration.

 If anyone out there wants to help us give more young people the opportunity to graduate and achieve please let Viv know by contacting her at
"Whether you think you can or you can't,
you're right!"
Henry Ford

Strategic Thinking!

Knowing where you are going and how to get there — strategy — is everything.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

"Progress results only from the fact that there are some men and women 
who refuse to believe that what they know to be right cannot be done."
Russell Davenport
I went to the Leeds Grand Theatre last night and watched Opera North's wonderful performance of Puccini's wonderful opera 'Madam Butterfly'.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

20 Tips for Managing Project-Based Learning!

I think Edutopia is probably my favourite educational site and as it's their 20th anniversary, they are producing a series of Top 20 lists, from the practical to the sublime. This is from the first one on the hot topic of project based learning.

Friday, 16 September 2011

"...forget pursuing happiness. 
Pin your hopes on work, on family, on learning, on knowing, on loving."
William Bennett

We certainly live in interesting times!

I know that is actually a Chinese curse, so we need to be careful as well as optimistic. With so much change and challenge coming from the DfE and OFSTED we have a unique opportunity to take the initiative and create a new learning agenda; one that delivers world class outcomes... whatever it takes!.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Every School a Great School!

We need to start a new movement which aims to ensure that every school in this country is a great school. Not just 24 Free Schools, not just 1300 Academies, but every one of the 24000 schools across the country must become a great school delivering brilliant outcomes, learning from what works wherever it is and being uncompromising in the relentless pursuit of excellence!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I spent this afternoon in Nottingham at William Booth Primary School for the monthly IEB meeting.
"Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire." 
William Butler Yeats

The pieces that build brilliant!

Following my visits to John Smeaton Community College and Victoria Primary School and meeting colleagues from Fieldhead Carr Primary School, Parklands Primary School and Seacroft Grange Primary School at the Leeds Children's University celebrations yesterday, I was thinking again about what it takes to build brilliant...

What are the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Leeds Children's University Celebrates!

The second Leeds Children's University celebration event this afternoon featured children from Fieldhead Carr Primary School and it was great to see Nik Edensor and Sheena Critchley who are doing incredible things with the Children's University at this wonderful little primary school.

Leeds Children's University Celebrates!

"There is always one moment in childhood
when the door opens and lets the future in."
Graham Greene 'The Power and the Glory'

I moved on to the new 'Moyes Centre' at David Young Community Academy for the first 'Leeds Children's University' celebration. Viv Gibbons has done a brilliant job co-ordinating the Leeds Children's University which is being developed in the Seacroft and Manston Family of Schools and I was delighted to be able to attend this first celebration as the university's first chancellor along with my colleague Ger Graus who is Chief Executive of the national Children's University.

Victoria Primary School!

I moved on to Victoria Primary School, another great little school where Ali Carrick is releasing her extraordinary magic!

John Smeaton Community College!

I started the day at John Smeaton Community College where John Daulby and Marilyn Steele have achieved something outstanding over the last five years.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Project-Based Learning!

Looking at the brilliant work going on at High Tech High and through the innovative and powerful 'Learning Futures" initiative, great 'Project-based Learning' provides a structure that transforms teaching from "teachers telling" to "students doing."

World of Work!

We need to develop a ‘World of Work’ Curriculum to take forward the new curriculum offer from September 2013. This should provide a practical and competency based approach to learning and the world of work.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A NEW Curriculum!

We need a new curriculum that develops:
· Learning and basic skills;
· Science, technology, engineering and maths excellence;
· Advanced skills;
· Academic and vocational excellence;
· Learning challenges;
· Creativity, innovation and enterprise;
· Resilience and well-being;
· Character and grit;
· ‘World of work’ skills.

The National Curriculum!

Everyone welcomes the Government’s ambition to reduce unnecessary prescription, bureaucracy and central control throughout the education system. That means taking a new approach to the curriculum.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Survival Skills!

The challenge we face is how do we create world-class learning consistently across our schools and release the talent and potential trapped and lying dormant in so many young people. This means reshaping our educational system to create outstanding institutions for every stage of learning; from early years and primary education through to college and university. We also need to rethink and re-imagine how we develop character, grit, determination and passion for learning.

'Brilliant Enquiries and Beautiful Products'

I have been reading the draft of a fantastic teacher's guide to project-based learning called 'Brilliant Enquiries and Beautiful Products' which has been developed by the Innovation Unit and Learning Futures working with High Tech High and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Our Top Priority!

A Young Enterprise poll has revealed that two thirds of us think schools should teach honesty, reliability, teamwork and punctuality to boost young people’s job prospects.

Friday, 9 September 2011

What do we want?

I was over in Sheffield this week and spent some time with three employers who were very clear about the skills, knowledge and understanding they wanted young people arriving in the work place to have.

Eight Big Ideas!

Change is happening wherever we look at a frightening pace, and all of the organisations we currently know and understand are being completely reinvented as I write. We need to work within the opportunities this presents to build a new schools and learning system for this new world.
"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare;
it is because we do not dare that they are difficult."
Chinese Proverb

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Serious Doubts about School Effectiveness!

I have been following the BERA Conference and read this extra-ordinary paper by Professor Stephen Gorard from Birmingham University.

The Future Demands Science Technology, Engineering and Maths!

I found this poster outlining why the future demands STEM subjects (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths); which are vital elements of any curriculum we develop for our children and critical aspects of future growth plans.
New research from the United States identifies the top three careers that parents want their kids to pursue. Any guesses?
"This one step -
choosing a goal and sticking to it
- changes everything."
Scott Reed

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Power of Effective Feedback!

The Sutton Trust research sees effective feedback as the single most important part of any organisational improvement toolkit.

What Works!

As we start another year where resources are increasingly tight and we are looking for value for money in every decision we make, everyone who cares about learning, closing the attainment gap and achieving world class outcomes for all our children and young people should re-read the The Sutton Trust publication; 'Toolkit of Strategies to Improve Learning'.

Monday, 5 September 2011

A Climate of Trust and Respect!

I spent the early part pf this morning at William Booth Primary School in Nottingham at the first of two training days starting the new avademic year. Success, whether it is in a classroom with a class of children or a staffroom with a team of colleagues or in an authority with all aspects of children's services depends on creating a culture that empowers, enables and expects real excellence.

Another Beginning!

It's the start of yet another academic year and I am sitting on another train heading off across the country. Exciting times as we see another wave of new Academies opening alongside the first of Michael Gove's Free Schools. As always the changing landscape provides us all with the opportunity to think, to reflect and to review. We must ensure that all our provision continues to improve as we strive to create world class education for every child in every community... whatever it takes!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Adria Steinberg’s 6 A’s of project-based learning!

Project-based Learning provides us with the opportunity to connect with young people's interests and passions in a way that is authentic, academic, rigorous, applied and active.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Missing Link!

Carrie Leana argues that it isn't the power of the individual, the wisdom of the outsider or the principal as instructional leader that are the keys to building brilliant learning places. She instead argues that it is the power of the collective that hold the answers.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Howard Gardner's Good Work Project!

"Success is being evaluated in one dimension only, and that is getting wealthy at all costs." 
Howard Gardner

I read this interesting article about Howard Gardner's study of Good Work. The GoodWork™ Project is a large scale effort to identify individuals and institutions that exemplify good work – work that is excellent in quality, socially responsible, and meaningful to its practitioners – and to determine how best to increase the incidence of good work in our society. Gardner and his colleagues have developed a model for forward thinking that should be explored by anyone really interested in developing our educational system.
"Lost yesterday somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered for they are gone forever."
Lydia Sigourney

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

“Human capital and education are the cornerstones upon which hinge the social, economic and cultural well-being of our society”

At the start of the academic year it is becoming increasingly obvious that things are going to get a lot more interesting...

Culture Counts!

Culture is 'the way we do things around here'.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The trains on the East coast line have had a horrendous day and it bodes well as I start another period of train travel in the morning. I am currently waiting at York station with four trains queuing up to go up to Newcastle stuck after an accident on the line between Doncaster and York. Late night for lots of travellers!

Start Now!

The important thing is to…

Monday, 29 August 2011

"The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation."
Pearl Buck

Sign Up!

We have to get people to sign up to the following courses:

Saturday, 27 August 2011

"At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a partner, a child, a friend or a parent."
Barbara Bush

Not as Good as it Gets!

As a new school year starts I always think that the scary thing isn’t what we have achieved, but our potential to achieve so much more if only we can release the magic...

Friday, 26 August 2011


A chance to reflect, to review and to re-focus!

Whatever happens this will be another school year full of new beginnings and opportunities for growth and development… the challenges we face in education, learning and skills highlighted again by this years results at Key Stage 2, GCSE and A-Level mean that new opportunities, new contracts, and new challenges are out there for people who are prepared to roll up their sleeves, learn and work hard.
"To have enough is happiness, to have more than enough is harmful. That is true of all things, but especially of money."

Thursday, 25 August 2011

GCSE Results!

CONGRATULATIONS! It is another great day for young people, their families and their teachers as 650000 young people receive their GCSE results today and figures published by exam boards showed that around 70% of entries were awarded at least a C – the 23rd straight increase and up 0.8 percentage points on last year.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

"I moaned because I had no shoes, 
until I met someone who had no feet."
Persian Proverb

Not Failure, just Feedback!

There is a great difference between failing to achieve a result and the conclusion you draw about yourself.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

"When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."
Jacob Riis

Learning to deal creatively with challenges, with setbacks and failure!

When we are dealing with the challenges we currently face and when the going gets tough we need to stay positive and stay focused on the things that matter, in our lives, our work, and in our relationships.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Great GCSE Results on the way!

Another year and we are promised more great GCSE results on Thursday from secondary schools across the country along with the associated cries about standards falling as more and more young people achieve A and A* grades.

Refocus and Re-imagine!

We must refocus/reimagine our education/learning systems to encourage growth/enterprise through a project based/competency driven approach! Who is already doing this and where? Let me know if there are projects happening anywhere which develop these ideas.
"Life isn't measured by the number of breaths we take but the moments that take our breath away."