South of the River – The Long Run

Compass-SouthIt’s the Leeds Half Marathon this Sunday and I have a confession to make.

Back in September, in this column, I told you that the Olympics had inspired me to start running again and my target was to run in the 2013 Leeds Half Marathon. I’m sorry folks, it’s not going to happen. As I feared back then, I managed to reactivate my niggling calf injury and my training fell to pieces over the winter.

So does that mean I failed? Does that mean there was no Olympic legacy for me?

I don’t think so. I’m determined to see the glass as half full. I am still running. Not as far or as fast, or as often as I would like. Sometimes there are long breaks between runs, but I’m still running.

I have latched onto Parkrun, which recently set up in Cross Flatts Park. This is a free event for runners and walkers with any level of fitness or ability. The organisers offer a measured 5km course and they time you. There are some club runners who go round ridiculously quickly, but most of us are just running against ourselves and our personal targets.

I’m usually quite an anti-social runner, I prefer to go out on my own. But Parkrun offers friendly faces, a round of applause at the end of the course and most importantly for me some discipline. I’m not always good at making time for a run, there’s always something more important to do – usually to do for someone else. Parkrun is at 9:00am on Saturday morning, so I prioritise that time and make sure I’m there.

Speaking of the long run, of slow steady progression, New Bewerley Community School was recently inspected by Ofsted. You will recall that I’m Chair of Governors at New Bewerley and have been involved since the school was formed eight years ago.

Over those eight years the staff have worked tirelessly to help the children achieve more. Our results in the national Year 6 SATS have improved year on year and Ofsted have graded us as a “Good” school. If you’re not familiar with Ofsted (lucky you) you may not realise just how good “Good” is. There are four grades: 1 Outstanding, 2 Good, 3 Requires Improvement and 4 Inadequate.

The point is that New Bewerley hasn’t got to where it is today by any quick fixes. We have had a stable leadership and stable staff group who are committed to the project of doing the best for the children. We knew it would take time and so it has proved, but we’ve got to where we wanted and now we have ambitions to do even better. We seem to have won a bit more time so that we can avoid the enforced (and still unproven) quick fix of having to become an academy.

Unfortunately schools and projects are not always given the time they need. Take Sure Start for instance, the project of innovative interventions for pre-school children in deprived neighbourhoods.

I was so full of hope for Sure Start when it started. It didn’t come out of the Department for Education, it was a Treasury initiative. Someone had looked at the big picture and understood that investing money in young children would save money being spent later on “problem families”, anti-social behaviour, crime, ill health, unemployment. So Sure Start was set up as a ten year programme with an understanding that the full results wouldn’t be known for twenty years.

But the politicians couldn’t wait. Five years in they declared it a success (too early) and decided that it should be rolled out to every neighbourhood. Well, that sounds good, except that in rolling it out they diluted it because there wasn’t enough money to do what Sure Start did everywhere. Now Sure Start isn’t done anywhere.

Going back to Olympic legacy, sport in school is another example. We had the Schools Sports Partnership which helped schools provide more sport for children and routed the more talented children through to city and county squads. That programme was cut by the government, but when we went through the school budget last month, there was a new chunk of money – for sport. And it’s ringfenced – we can’t spend it on anything else. The problem is that that sum pooled across Leeds would produce a much more effective programme than splitting it up school by school.

So what’s the lesson of all this? Well, stop me if I’ve said this before, but social change – education, health, housing – runs on a much longer timescale than the political agenda. Ideally, politicians would understand that, but until that time those of us trying to deliver change had better just keep on keeping on.

Jeremy MortonAs for my running, I’m not going to set myself any more rash public targets. Lets just see how I progress shall we?

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.

One Reply to “South of the River – The Long Run”

  1. Good blog Jeremy, and you didn’t even refer to #SirAlex. How long is long enough?

    Reminded me of Chou En Lai’s comment when asked if the French Revolution had been a success, “it’s too early to tell”.

    A lot of the neighbourhood renewal initiatives started as generational timescales but were too swiftly panicked into simply spending money, and forgetting the community development work required.

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