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