My Epilogue, My Swan Song and the Bru de Grace!

For my last ever weekly update I thought I’d mix in the odd bit of information about what’s going on in Sutton with a wee homage to my home city.

As you know I’ve spent the last week and a bit up there after my Dad passed away. People have been incredibly understanding and nice to me since I came back yesterday – but my Dad would want me to cheer up and I  think if there’s one thing Glasgow can do as well as anywhere in the world…it is cheer you up! And it’s also rather timely to finish my last blog post with a homage to my home city – as you all know last weekend a Scotsman became the greatest tennis player in the world (Go on Andy my son!) and this weekend Scotland will of course batter England in the European Football qualifier at Wembley on Friday night! And of course after a week and a half at home……if you thought my accent was strong before you should hear it now!

So, without any further jingoistic ado…….


After a huge amount of work by so many people and a massive commitment from staff and schools, the new spin out company Sutton Education Services Ltd has now gone live. We’ve completed the transfer of around 200 staff from the Council to the company for the start of this week and our new life as a trading company starts here. In so many ways I’ll be sorry not to be part of this but I will watch it from across the river with great interest – and with confidence that it will be the success that the schools and the staff who work in it deserve it to be.

While William will of course provide much more detailed feedback to staff in the company I thought I’d updated all of you on where we are. The contract with the Council (all 180 pages of it!) is now completed and signed off. The first interview process for the new company was held last week and successfully made an appointment of an Operations Director. School sign ups for traded services from the company have now passed £200K in value and the school shareholders have begun the process of choosing who will represent them on the Board of Directors. On the Council side of it we are already at work advertising for a Chair for the Board and for other Non-Exec Directors. And crucially the search for the Managing Director is now well under way working through a specialist recruitment agency.

There’s still a long way to go to make sure the company is financially secure and commercially successful but this feels like a bit of a watershed moment. So even though it’s early days, it’s taken some time and a fair bit of graft from a lot of people to get to this point so I think we can at least look back with some pride at what we’ve achieved so far and look forward with some confidence to what we’ll achieve in the future.


Tolis is currently on annual leave having gone home to Greece for a week and he will be back next week. It’s been an unfortunate consequence of me having to Glasgow last week that I won’t get to see him before I go but I will be writing to schools and staff later this week to give more detail about the handover and cover arrangements as we’ve now agreed these.


One of the best compliments I’ve ever had came from Cllr Hookway when he found out I was moving on from Sutton – he kindly said the only way that CFE meetings could be more entertaining was if the Council appointed Billy Connolly!

Much as I loved it I know I’m not in the great man’s league – when I was around 16 and actually talking seriously about wanting to be a stand-up comedian when I left school, my Dad got me a summer holiday job in the shipyards for two reasons – firstly so I could stop scrounging money from him and secondly so I could learn that in Glasgow, EVERYBODY thinks they are Billy Connolly!! Here are my favourite lines from the great man

‘Never trust a man who when left alone with a tea cosy……doesn’t try it on!’

‘Marriage is a wonderful invention – but then so is a bicycle repair kit!’

‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that, who cares, you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!’

‘There are two seasons in Scotland – June and Winter!’

‘Glaswegians are actually pale blue….it takes us at least a week of sunbathing before we start to turn white!!’

‘I’m a huge Hollywood film star you know….. but you have to hurry to the movies cos I usually play the guy who gets killed in the first 15 minutes!’

‘My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking ‘Ah yes…The Lone Ranger!!’


Jackie has now moved to her new role as one of Richard’s Heads of Service, having started in that job last week. As we’ve mentioned previously there are a number of follow on changes from that and from my decision to move on. As I guess you would expect this is continuing to evolve. So to update further, Kieran will remain as a Council officer and will effectively be the point of contact for most things linked to education and he will fulfil a number of the duties as the senior education officer in the same way as I do at the moment.

At the DMT meeting this week we had reports tabled on Commissioning from Voluntary Sector and on Crèche Service Provisions. The meeting was a fairly light agenda apart from these two items.


Officially more difficult for most of you than walking like an Egyptian, the Glasgow dialect isn’t easy to listen to – and as for speaking it –  you have no chance! When I was a teacher I used to get the kids in my classes down here to try saying a Glasgow dialect poem aloud – I pretended I was teaching them something about the rhythm of language but really it was just an excuse for me to giggle and fall about laughing as the kids tried to adapt their Essex and London voices to Glaswegian words. And if you think I’m exaggerating try and read this……………’s the Glasgow classic Lament For A Lost Dinner Ticket by Margaret Hamilton……..


The Council has set this board up as part of the governance structure for spin outs such as Sutton Education Services. In due course we’ll report in to this board for decisions on key issues like the appointment of a Chair of the SES Directors and provide updates on performance. But although the Board meets this week we don’t have any items on this agenda and so the focus is on the Council Housing delivery unit.

As mentioned before Orchard Hill Academy Trust were successful on a bid to government for a new Free Special School which will effectively replace the current Carew Academy. We are meeting Orchard Hill and their representatives this week to begin considering a preferred site option for the new school to be built upon. It will no doubt be some time yet before a site is confirmed but once it is work can then begin on considering design and planning issues. Notwithstanding any future considerations about a site it’s an exciting development and a chance to drastically improve the learning environment and facilities for Carew students into the future.


The strange twisted words of Glasgow not only allow us to talk to fellow Glaswegians in a code nobody else can understand, it also opens up a whole new world of possibilities for puns and plays on words. Here are a selection of Glaswegian shopkeepers with a sense of ……well the ridiculous really!






On a similar note the extension to Sherwood Park School, Sherwood Hill, is now complete up at the old Stanley Park High site. The school is another example of how we can create radically improved facilities and learning conditions for pupils with additional needs.

Following decisions by Schools Forum and the Children Family and Education Committee, we have now commenced a consultation on a proposal to merge Limes College with STARS Medical PRU. The merger proposal would see the settings have integrated leadership, governance and some support services but remain separate Education provisions on separate sites. If you are interested in the consultation I will publish a link to it through the Google Community later this week.


They might hail from Edinburgh – i.e. they are posh – but joining in with this is probably the closest you’ll get to being a Glaswegian…………….

As I’ve mentioned previously, the overall funding position for the DSG is challenging and likely to see a deficit in the future unless we implement a programme of activities to reduce costs. With that in mind we are about to consult schools on a range of DSG savings options and also begin to consult schools on revising the funding arrangements for individual pupils with Special Educational Needs. We’ll be publishing both this week and I will make the link to them available for those interested through the Google Community.

Sarah has recently provided an update to the LSCB on Early Help. Among the details in that report it confirms that work is now underway to analyse the risk factors in a sample of 100 CIN and CP cases so we can use this in the development of an Early Help data set. We know from experience that while there are lots of things we can ‘measure’ about impact and outcomes for children and young people, it’s crucial that we measure the things which make the biggest difference – and the review of cases will help steer that consideration of what does make the biggest difference.
The Early Help Multi-Agency Assessment Tool went live at the beginning of September and so we are visiting teams and schools and other settings to support its use. We’re using those visits to raise awareness of that assessment tool and other thinks like the new Early Help Directory, which is an extension and improvement on the previous Family Services Directory. Sarah has also started to provide regular updates on Early Help through a newsletter and if you’re on Twitter you can follow the work on @EarlyHelpSutton


Jokes are as much a part of Glasgow as how we say ‘Curly Wurly’, the perennial rain and asking for a ‘roll with square sausage’. These are particularly Glaswegian jokes though – so you have to think and say it as a Glaswegian would to get it – good luck – if you’ve any chance of getting these you’ll need it!

A woman goes to the dentist in Glasgow. He’s an Englishman. He invites her to sit in the chair and asks ‘Comfy there?’

‘Naw’ she replies. ‘I’m frae Govan!’

Following the members decision to set up a different kind of Targeted Youth Service, focused exclusively on children at risk of entering care and in children at risk of school exclusion, we’ve been working to set up a structure and establishment to deliver what’s needed. As part of that we’ve had to restructure our management in this area and so Laura Noulton will now head up this service. The first exclusion risk referrals into it came through at the October Vulnerable Pupil Panel and the service is now ‘live’.


A man goes into the bakers in Glasgow and says to the baker ‘Is that a donut or a meringue?’

‘Naw’ says the baker, ‘you’re right enough. It’s a donut!’

One of the key reasons for setting up the education spin out was the strength and quality of school leadership in Sutton. We already have a small number of schools who are recognised as teaching schools or as designated leaders in education. I was delighted to hear this week that Sharon Roberts, who heads up our Education Service and is the Headteacher at Stanley Park Infants has been selected as a National Leader in Education. I think those of us who’ve seen Sharon’s work as Head of Service won’t be surprised that she’s been chosen. So my congratulations to Sharon and her school on this richly deserved recognition.

We have had further changes with schools moving away from LA Maintained Status. Brookfield Primary has now become an Academy and is part of the Leo Trust led by Cheam Park Farm School.
In addition, a group of schools at Amy Johnson Primary, Beddington Infants, Culvers House Primary, Dorchester Primary,  Foresters Primary, Muschamp Primary, Nonsuch Primary, and Sherwood Park Special School have decided to set up a Foundation Trust together ased on Co-Op values. The schools are collectively consulting on the proposal between now and the 22ndof November. If it progresses after that consultation there will be a statutory notice period till December 22nd so effectively I’d expect any Trust to commence from January 2017.


Question – There are two cows standing in a field. Which one is on holiday?

Answer – The one with a wee calf!

And to continue the bovine theme to end

Question – There are ten cows in a field in Scotland. Which one is originally from the Middle East?

Answer – Coo Eight!


Lesley and the SEN service hosted a visit from Charlie Palmer from the DfE who came to review the set up and implementation of the SEND Reforms here. I know from initial feedback that the visit proved useful for us – however I also know that the timetable wasn’t followed as we’d intended so it left a number of people waiting around. So my thanks to Lesley and everyone else who did the preparatory work and hosted the visit from DfE. We don’t know what the feedback will be but when we receive it in due course we expect it to confirm that while we will still have things to change and improve, the pace of development and implementation in Sutton is broadly in line with the pace of change for SEND services everywhere else in the country.


I will of course have my last day here in Sutton this Friday.  I’ve been sent an invite to a lunch at the Quad on Friday so if you are there I hope to see you and say goodbye. But for those I don’t see I will post a short goodbye blog post on Friday


……………………………………………………… When I was in Scotland with my family last week, we did a lot of reminiscing as all families do at difficult times. As part of that we were looking through old photographs and my partner and daughter were especially thrilled to come across a photograph of me when I was in Year 7- and what they loved most was that my hairstyle then was exactly the same as it is now – 42 years later!!!!

As you can imagine I got a fair bit of abuse for that but I’m not too bothered…………………………….. I’m telling myself what it really means is that even though I’m in my 50’s,  I have been in style since 1973!!!!

………………………… I just hope that after the football on Friday night I’m not forced to add on ‘And I’ve been waiting for a win at Wembley since 1973 too!!!’

Enjoy the rest of your week


A Man Called Donato……… A Silverback Gorilla………………And The Walthamstow High Street Karaoke!


As I didn’t get a blog post out for the start of last week to look ahead I thought I’d at least update you with a look back at the week just gone as well as a look ahead to the one to come! So if you feel the need to read this all the way to the end of this blog post maybe do it in instalments!

Most mornings when I come through Victoria I meet Donato who sells The Big Issue from his pitch by WH Smith in the station. He’s now 70 years old, originally from Turin and a friendly, polite, lovely guy. I try and stop for him two or three times a week. This morning he proudly thrust the magazine into my hand because he’s featured in it. And he was doubly proud because it’s the 25th anniversary edition of the magazine. So if you can, both this week and in the weeks to follow, please spare a few quid for Donato and anybody else selling the Big Issue. Because as you can read for yourself if you buy this weeks edition, it really can make a difference to people who just need a bit of help.


We had a pretty full agenda for Forum last Monday night. With the DSG under considerable financial pressure as funding restrictions increasingly impact on schools and education, several papers related to how we try and address this problem. I won’t cover all the reports here but the key things I think you might need to know or be interested in.The Forum took one last opportunity to review the draft Service Level Agreement for Targeted Youth Service work aimed at preventing school exclusions. There are a few changes to make as a result in: clarifying the need to liaise with schools and Limes College; reporting arrangements for performance and the referral and tracking arrangements through VPP. I don’t see any of the final changes as problematic or lengthy and so I expect the final SLA to go to all schools as scheduled next week.Another key paper was a set of proposals for savings to the DSG. We’d prepared these in conjunction with the Formula Review Group of the Forum and the proposals that are agreed for consultation are options on: changing base budget to all schools; changing funding arrangements for ‘growth’ in pupil number; revising the top up provision into the PRU’s; revising the top up for Special Educational Needs; and changing capacity levels for supporting pupils with ASD, Speech and Language Needs and Education as an Additional Language. We will now draft the different options up into a consultation document that we will send to all schools and staff in due course.Connected to the above, Schools Forum also considered a detailed set of proposals for adjusting the way in which we determine the top up rates for pupils with SEN who are educated in Special Schools or in mainstream schools with Specialist Bases. Again we will be consulting schools and others on these changes.All of the consultation feedback on the things above, as well as further budget reports on the current position within the DSG, will go through Formula Review Group and then back to Schools Forum in December


Apart from being the lyric to one of David Bowie’s best tracks IMHO, it’s also rather appropriate as there’s a lot of these around at the moment! So I thought I’d just summarise what’s happening as best I can.
I’ve advised education staff at briefings that I hope to recruit three Headteachers, working together for 2.5 days a week each, to provide line management support between my departure and the new Managing Director joining the spin out company. I expect this MD appointment in January and I hope to confirm on the Headteacher support arrangements later this week.
We have long listed the 10 applicants for the Ops Director role in the spin out down to a shortlist of 5. We will be reviewing those further before interviews in the first week of November. Our plan is that William will continue until he is able to do a handover to the new OD.
Outside of the education services, Jackie will be moving to replace Jean Kelly one of Richards’ Heads of Service. Jackie will then run FSCP and the services Jackie currently leads ( Early Help, Children’s Centres, Families Matter and Family Support) will also move to report in to Richard.
Tolis is currently considering options for the senior education role within the LA and I will let you know what those arrangements are as soon as possible.
The Council has agreed to my request to leave as soon as is practical and so my last day with Sutton will be Friday November 11th – so only a few more of these blogs/War and Peace missives to endure!!!!!
The DfE released revised statutory guidance on this over the summer. It lands at a time when we have made changes to the way in which we will manage the support and oversight for Children Missing Education from here on, following staff changes last academic year. The provision to CME will now be managed through our school attendance service and so Gill Harp is working along with Peter Gasparelli from Admissions on revising the guidance for schools, briefing heads and teachers, putting interim data collection arrangements in place and working out the resource needs for meeting the revised LA duty on CME in the future.
As I mentioned in the last blog I went off to the Cheltenham Literature Festival the weekend before last with my beloved!
And as I also mentioned, my suspicions about the extent to which I was really being ‘accompanied’ to see Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Mary Beard etc were somewhat confirmed when the journey to Cheltenham was peppered with references to ‘having heard what a great city it was’ and ‘what a great shopping area it has’!!!!
However, very unexpectedly I was actually ‘accompanied’ to Mary Beard’s talk about the Ancient Romans in the early part of Saturday evening.  At least I was ‘accompanied’ if you define that as simply the ‘physical presence’! However if you nuance your definition of ‘accompanied’ to ‘physical presence AND awake'(!!!), then I was most definitely unaccompanied!!!!
Although afterwards I was treated to a literary critique of Mary Beard’s talk about her book ‘SPQR’ as you could apparently ‘hear every word in your sleep’!
And as if Sleeping Beauty’s critique of Mary Beard wasn’t enough, I had the unusual, nay unique experience, of being asked what I was reading by the bloke next to me on the Tube as we sat waiting to depart Walthamstow in the middle of the week.
‘It’s the new poetry collection ‘Loop of Jade’ by Sarah Howe!’ I said eagerly, adding in the hope of sparking the conversation that ….’She won the TS Eliot Prize for it this year!’.
‘Oh!’ said my new neighbour, ‘bit dull for me! I like fishing’.
At which he took out a copy of Angling Times or The Only Way is Fishing or something of that ilk. For the rest of the journey to Victoria we didn’t exchange as much as a glance, never mind a word!
But I know that you’re all DESPERATE to read Loop of Jade so here’s a snippet to entice you!!!!!!!
I watched the shadowplay
of trees
against the blinds one October – 
in the way sometimes
you stare
at a pale face across the bed
so long 
you hardly see it – 
And for those of you now thinking….’I think I’d rather read ‘The Only Way is Fishing’……shame on you!!
At the Panel meet last week, we reviewed a number of cases for possible admission to Limes and also some possible admissions to STARS. At the moment, there are still spaces in both provisions but this isn’t likely to be the case as the academic year progresses. As part of the attempts to reduce the risks for young people we have the new Targeted Youth Service starting and we used the VPP meet to identify a few young people where we will work in conjunction with Limes to try and prevent the risk of exclusion.
As well as the progress in recruiting an OD as mentioned above we had a further two staff briefings as part of the TUPE consultation last week. We are following this with a further two briefings this week and a separate meeting with Trade Union colleagues supporting those affected by the changes.
As well as discussing line management arrangements when William and I met with team managers this week, we also discussed the work being done on branding and marketing (where a small group of staff are starting to develop ideas and options, supported by an external provider, that we can share with Directors and School Shareholders in due course) and we gave an update on the draft documentation being developed such as the contract between the Council and the company and the draft shareholder agreements (which were sent to school shareholders last week)
Last week the Exec Heads from across People’s met with the various Lead Members for Children’s and Adults to talk through the savings programme and the link between the savings and the Council’s outcomes and ambitions as set out in the Council Commissioning Plan.  For our services the focus is of course on the final stages of the changes to education and youth services and the early preparation for making sure early help from both us and our partners is supporting the wider transformation programme for our social care services
This week I will be meeting with Finance to review the division’s budget position as at Month 6 and updating the year end projections. We have been able to make some in-roads into cost pressures in the last couple of months but with continued rising costs for CIN and for SEN within the DSG, I expect those pressures to continue to be challenging in the months ahead
Most mornings I drive into Walthamstow Underground station and I listen to the news on Radio 4. But on the way home I need the soothe of either XFM Radio or a CD. Last week I left the car park and got to the main lights by Walthamstow High Street. It was a warmish end to the day so I had the window down and was lustily, if tunelessly, singing along to Radiohead. As I sat at the lights track 9, House of Cards came up. I joined in from the off, belting out the first line ‘I don’t want to be your lover………I just want to be your friend’ and then realised the car next to me at the lights also had the window down. There was an older couple and the lady in the passenger seat looked at me, smiled, and said ‘Probably just as well love, as my husband’s here!’  At that they drove off turning right – I went straight on and didn’t sing another word all the way home!
And to set the scene, here’s House of Cards ( and for what it’s worth it is my absolute favourite Radiohead song – try it you might be pleasantly surprised!!)
And anyway the video is seriously clever as it was filmed without the use of cameras!!!!

Kieran and I met with our colleague from DfE, who will be the main link on academy conversions into the future.
We have seen a slow but ongoing transition to academy status in Sutton, so for example recently we saw Tweeddale Primary become part of the Greenshaw Trust and Cheam Fields Primary become part of the Leo Trust. In the months ahead we expect to see Brookfield Primary and Stanley Park High complete the process on converting from LA maintained to Academy status.
For those of you involved in school improvement and SEN/Inclusion, you’ll be well aware of Sutton’s Local Offer site which we developed in conjunction with parents and young people.  It’s currently hosted separately from the Council website but the company who host it have intimated that they now need to upgrade it. We are therefore taking the opportunity to review and consider our options for the future provision of the Local Offer site and Rosemary Brennan and I are meeting colleagues from IT this week to look at the scope for change. meantime though if you are interested in taking a look the current Local Offer site you can find it here. 
I went straight to Denmark Road on Friday, where several of education services are now based, as I had a briefing with staff first thing . As I had stuff to catch up on I went in early getting to Denmark Road just after 7:30. Alas the back door of the building was locked and I couldn’t get in. I went to the front and though I could get in to reception area the doors to the offices were locked. I guessed they were on a timer and my pass wouldn’t work till 8. Two minutes later a member of EHR staff came in and went on through as his pass worked. I followed him. My pass didn’t work. I sat back down to wait when another EHR staff member came in and went through. I followed. My pass still wouldn’t work. I began to mutter darkly about IT, EHR bias and the world in general after it happened twice more. But on the fifth go it all worked fine when I suddenly realised I’d spent the last twenty minutes trying to get into the building with my Oyster Card!!!!!
This week sees the next meeting of the Early Help Strategy Board, which provides the governance, oversight and co-ordination to the work that we and our partners do on early help. Among the papers are reports on: the Early Help Dashboard (which tracks progress in implementing the new revised Early Help Strategy); an update on the Social Care Transformation Programme and the links with Early Help; an update on Early Help Training Programme; Family Group Conference Arrangement changes; and an update on the recently launched Early Help Assessment Tool
Later this week, Tolis will chair the next meeting of the Children’s Transformation Programme Board and on the same day the Sutton Disability Partnership Board meet, which will include taking some feedback from us on SEN issues and on tracking the sufficiency of childcare for children with disabilities across the borough
At the weekend I flew out of London for a city somewhere else – but for reasons that will now become clear I don’t intend to name it to protect its anonymity and because you’ll never be able to guess where it was. So having flown to this not-to-be-named city I checked into the hotel. I got my key and headed off to my room on the second floor when at the foot of the stairs I saw the following notice – parked on a table and written in large red letters.
It was certainly the most unusual and unique welcome I’ve ever had in a hotel (if not quite the ‘friendliest’ perhaps!!!!!)
Alas you are unlikely to experience this level of hospitality for yourself as of course you have NO IDEA WHERE IT IS AND NO CHANCE OF WORKING IT OUT FOR YOURSELVES!!
As you know from Insight, the Council are embarking on the development of a new Sutton Plan which will become the key driver for both the Council and all of its partners. Through Insight I know that you’ll have been sent details of how you might get involved in those conversations.
In addition, on Wednesday of this week members and Council officers are coming together to talk more with representatives of partner agencies. The focus of the session is on exploring the future, working with partners to set out the shared ambitions and aims for the people who will live and work in Sutton now and in the future. While I’m not going to be attending the session itself I will definitely catch up with my colleagues who are going to be there and in due course I will update you where i can on the key messages and thinking from the session on Wednesday.
…………………………………………………………… And that’s a witty Liverpudlian’s witty daughter!
I’m sure you read of the Silver-back Gorilla at London Zoo last which must have been a pretty scary ordeal for those involved. And while the women in my life did have sympathy for those people it was also too good a chance to miss. They think I’m ever-so-slightly ‘alpha-male’ so just after the news broke my partner texted to say ‘Just heard about silver-back mayhem and what a relief when found out it was London Zoo and not Sutton!’ and this was soon followed by the younger half of my very own version of Morecambe and Wise who sent me the text that said ‘Stop misbehaving and get back in your cage and play nicely’.
And as if ruining the personality part of my self-esteem wasn’t enough – when I got home my entreaties that the personality comparison between me and gorillas was a bit unfair, I then met the riposte that it wasn’t all a personality comparison – the fact that I was so short my knuckles scrape on the ground too was used to add stature injury to personality insult!!




That blog headline comes from a quote from Ingrid Bergman. She described a kiss like this:

“A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop speech when words become superfluous!”

It’s beautiful and romantic but sometimes kissing can be more dangerous than you might think. Last Friday my partner dropped me off at the Tube station. She gave me a kiss – and why wouldn’t she as I am a handsome man!!!!!!!!! Anyway, I went out to Victoria on the Tube through Oxford Circus. The Tube was rammed. When I got to Victoria I bought a coffee – and the young woman serving me said ‘Interesting choice of lip colour!’……………………………………………….

And you know you get that moment when your mind just…….. you just suddenly know!!! She confirmed that I was rather overtly lipstick smeared!!!!  She gave me tissues and it took me a good 5 mins you wipe off the residue of what I was later told was ‘Fuschia Rose’.  Now Fuschia Rose is lovely and on my partner, who is beautiful, Fuschia Rose is a perfect adornment. On me however Fuschia Rose looked like a bit like Jack Nicholson did when he was playing the Joker in the Batman films.

When you get to my age you don’t have much street cred left  – but you have none whatsover if you try to go through London in the rush hour smeared with Fuschia Rose!

And for all you truly romantic members of staff feel, free to use that Ingrid Bergman line with your partners and pretend you’ve just become a hopeless romantic!!


If you haven ‘t yet done it I’d encourage you to do the Council Staff Survey, commissioned from BMG to ensure its fully confidential and independent. It doesn’t take long to do and the questions are all pretty straightforward and clear. There is still time to make your views known. While there’s always a query about what difference one person’s voice can make, I would still encourage you to add your voice to that of others – partly because in order to decide on next steps, it will be better if the views represent as wide a cross section of staff as possible.

When we were working on the SEN place projections for things like Free School bids which included Specialist bases and considering the scope for some place reductions in a couple of schools, Kieran and I discussed the potential for a wider overarching SEN Commissioning Strategy. We think it would be beneficial for both the management of SEN commissioning and a helpful addition to the approach to Pupil Place Planning. As a result Kieran and Colin Pates have been working up an initial draft and I will review that this week. Once we have something closer to a final draft we’ll share with others for comment and feedback

Sue Holmes from Finance will be joining me in meeting the Heads and Governors on this School Forum task group. The focus of the meeting will be on finalising the options for DSG Savings consultations which will need to be approved at the full Forum next week before being sent to schools and services for comment and response. At this meeting Sue and I will be presenting both the factual info and our own views about the scale of savings needed and securing a balanced range of options to make the necessary cost reductions.

We are having slightly more frequent meetings with Trade Union colleagues at the moment simply because we have a lot going on. As well as the formal consultations around Targeted Youth and Education Service Spin Out I met last week with the Teaching Unions and this week am meeting with the representatives of recognised Trade Unions across the Council more generally.

Strange as it may seem I actually think I might miss Google and Modern Desktop a bit now that I’ve got used to it. Talking to colleagues I get the sense that while we might not be at the forefront of modern technology, the way we use IT in Sutton is better than it is in several other boroughs! At Digital Programme Board this week we’ll be looking at next steps with the Digital Strategy which is largely centred on future use of Google Apps, developing a My Account provision for residents to manage their business/interaction with the Council and the work of the Digital Ambassadors who are looking at how we transform ways of working for staff and residents through IT.
Then later in the week I will be meeting the Digital Ambassadors from Children’s Services who are currently involved in that above-mentioned project work with colleagues from across the Council. Our ambassadors are Kelly in Integrated Services Young Children, Louise in Integrated Services Young People and Oonagh in QA/Commissioning

I’m going to the Cheltenham Literature Festival next weekend. I’m going to sessions with authors like Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks and Eimear McBride over the two days of the festival. Going to a Literature Festival is not unusual for me. What IS unusual this time is that my partner has decided to come with me!!!! Usually the book stuff is something she tolerates with mild amusement on a good day. Last night she asked me about the details and in particular where we’re staying. I explained I’d rented a house right in the middle of Cheltenham. ‘Is it near enough to the shopping centre to walk there?’ she asked! And the penny dropped – I’m might not be going to Cheltenham on my own but I’m going to the Book Festival unaccompanied!!!

In the brutal war in our house between books and shoes, the shoes win every time!


This is Helen’s last week with the Council having been here as PA to different officers for almost 19 years. She’s off to be a PA at Institute for Cancer Research now and I’d like to wish her well on behalf of all of us. We’re a pretty busy part of the Council and our business is both varied and complexed and Helen has done a great job getting her head round the complexities and intricacies of what we do since she moved to work for me from her previous job as PA to the Director of Adults Services.
Helen will be replaced by Kirstie Roartie. As with the current arrangements, Kirstie will work for both Nick the Head of Adults and I.

The government are making a number of changes to funding 2, 3 and 4 year old childcare arrangements, including new administration arrangements. Later this week I will be meeting with colleagues in both Early Years and Corporate Performance to consider what needs to be done and by when to ensure we are fully compliant.

Got my next one to one with Tolis this week. We’ll be focusing in the main on the transition arrangements for me moving on and on the detailed handover that will be needed. We are also going to be looking at the appointment of leaders and Directors to the Education spin out and the staffing structure and organisational arrangements for the Targeted Youth service post-consultation with staff.

I’ve also got one to one meets this week with Jackie and William and I’m also meeting up with Sheila about our future Learning Support Service.

I’ve been in Scotland quite a bit in the last few weeks visiting my parents. When I was up a few weeks ago there was an ad in the local paper which was titled Job Vacancy. It was a local Garden Centre advertising for a Father Christmas to man their Christmas Grotto! As well as stating that they were looking for somebody who would be available throughout December, the ad also contained the following classic lines:

‘ability to get on with children desirable ( but not essential!!! It’s still a no-nonsense world in Glasgow!!) and that the job had ‘excellent career opportunities’!!!!

So if the successful candidate does well at that Garden Centre, I think you should all get ready to host a Glaswegian on your roof on December 24th!!!!!!!!!


………………………………………………….. As you now know through Tolis and the subsequent note I sent on Friday, I’ve decided to leave my post in Sutton for a new job. I know from feedback that this has created anxiety, uncertainty and concern for some of you as it comes at a time of significant change in several services. As I mentioned above, the transition arrangements are still to be finalised and when they are I will write to all of you more fully. In the meantime I will also being working on handover arrangements with the Heads of Services, as well as with the management team in the Advisory and Inspection Service. However if you have any specific queries relating to you and what it might mean for the services you work in, then please don’t hesitate to contact me.



We had new statutory guidance out from DfE on this over the summer. Peter from Admissions and Gill from Attendance have prepared an initial review, self assessment and briefing notes on the changes. We’ll meet this week to go through those and from there we’ll be deciding what our priorities are in the weeks and months ahead.


The women in my life, and even the dog, seem to be consumed already with that irritating nonsense called X Factor. I can never quite tell whether this programme is really about talent spotting, Cowell making money or just finding a way to absolutely irritate the sweet life out of me! I can’t help but chunter and moan and grumble about it every time I pass through the room when they are watching it! But this weekend they got their own back – I was in another room singing and playing my guitar delivering what I thought was a romantic and uplifting version of a Bon Iver song. I was interrupted with a long and abusive critique of my performance which concluded by suggesting that my guitar playing sounded like it was being done by a man wearing oven gloves!!!! There’s a cruelty in our house that makes me realise that if X Factor judging needs really vicious comments and someone to play the role of a ‘nasty’ judge, they should forget Cowell and the others and just hold the auditions in our lounge! Continue reading IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE (LITERALLY)…..THEN I’M YOUR MAN!

All Hail Macbeth…….and Taggart and Rebus!

Am guessing that you’ll all be very much back into things following the summer breaks – I know I only have to look at my diary to know I am. I’ve flipped over to using WordPress for the update this week – will explain why in subsequent posts. But for now, here’s what’s on my horizon for this week.

I’m met with the Early Years team yesterday about how we might shape early years advice and support along with the early years offer we make to children and families. In addition I will be finalising our LA Response to the Government’s current consultation on Early Years funding tomorrow when I meet with Finance.


I am off to see Macbeth at The Globe this weekend. Ordinarily that would be simply a straight forward night at the theatre. But Macbeth is a bit different because anytime I watch it I can’t help thinking about the Scottish TV Detective series Taggart – I just get this almost irresistible urge when I watch Macbeth to shout out “There’s been another murder!”. If you know Taggart and its deep rolling ‘r’s’ then hopefully you’ll know what I’m on about – if you don’t know Taggart then apologies as you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about!!



The agenda and accompanying papers for the next committee meeting were published yesterday. In recent months the agenda has been pretty full as there were key decisions on things like Children’s Centres, Youth Services and the Education Spin Out. So by comparison the agenda for the next meet isn’t as hectic. The key reports are an update on Pupil Place Planning, which includes an update on the progress with Sutton Free School developments. The EFA and DfE made decisions on those on Friday of last week and will publish a further update on those decisions and what happens next in due course. The other key report is the draft Children’s Performance Report. At this stage Richard and I have made suggestions to members on the key indicators to track at committee and once it’s finalised will let you know what the Performance Indicator set will contain.


There are almost always a few of these in my diary each week and the next few days are no exception. The DV/VAWG Strategy Group meets today and  given the high reported rates and the prevalence of DV issues in cases we manage, this is one of the most important groups.

On Wednesday the Safer Sutton Young People Group meet and the agenda and papers for this have been published. A key focus for the group is the performance on youth crime and this group provides the oversight of the work of our YOT in Sutton.


You’ll have read through INSIGHT that an independent staff survey has been launched for all staff in the Council. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to feedback your views as it will give us a clearer insight into your experience of working for the Council at the moment and will allow us to compare and contrast your views with those of colleagues in other teams, other services, other buildings and other parts of the Council. Some people have asked me about how to balance any response you make

As some of you know I’m a big fan of Scottish author Ian Rankin who writes the DI Rebus detective novels, set in Edinburgh. His new novel comes out at the beginning of November, but if you are quick, Waterstones are currently offering a copy signed by Mr Rankin himself if you pre-order now! Yes I know it’s a bit pathetic….. ok it’s a LOT PATHETIC…. but I don’t care- I couldn’t resist!!!



This is now moving on from Children’s Centres and Youth Services to look at Social Care Transformation and will now include Early Help because the recent external review by iMPower bases almost 65% of the anticipated savings for Social Care services on a reconfiguration of early help across both what we do within the Council and what our partners do on early help. The Transformation Board, chaired by Tolis, meets today and then on Wednesday the People DMT meet with CMT to look at the transformation work from a savings perspective.


We are moving into the specifics of the TUPE consultation with staff in the education services and so over the next few weeks there will be a series of briefings with staff.  Invitations to these sessions have already been sent to staff, but just to confirm for this week there will be briefings on Tuesday at 12:30 at Denmark Road, on Wednesday morning at 9:30 at Bandon Hill and on Friday at 2:00 pm at Civic. As well as Council, HR and Education Spin Out representation, colleagues from trade unions have also been sent the dates and times


On Thursday morning we will have the first meeting of the new academic year with Primary Heads at Chaucer Centre. Among the items on the agenda are DSG Savings Programme, Primary School Results, Education Spin Out and Primary Pupil Place Planning. As part of other ‘items’ I’ve already been alerted to a few things to mention. If you’ve got something you want me to flag up to Primary Heads let me now by email before we meet on Thursday.


I’ve got my next cycle of one to ones coming up over the next few days with Claudette, Jackie, Lesley, Helen in HR and Jenny Sims, who is the Principal at Sutton College.


The Primary Panel met last week and the first meeting of the Secondary Vulnerable Pupil Panel is tomorrow at 10:00 am at Cheam High.

……..Those of you who are either hopeless romantics or hopelessly in love will probably know this already, but for the rest of you I thought I’d let you know that next Monday is National Love Note Day when you should be telling the special person in your life how much you love them. It can be a card, a post it on the fridge, a note on the dashboard of their car, a romantic photo sent by iMessage ( these are all things I do regularly for my loved one!). So I hope you’ll all join in. I’ve not finished my note to my beloved but am happy to share with you what I’ve written so far. It begins…
…………………………………………………………..’Dear Eric, No matter who Mourinho buys for Man Utd my heart will always belong to you………..for there is only one Cantona!’


Many Hands Make Light Work……….Apparently!

………………….. If you are linked in to our Education and Early Intervention Google Community then you will already know that the staff in the Quality Assurance and Category Management Service, where Jonathan Williams is the Head of Service, have now moved across to our division. So first up I’d like to welcome them and reiterate that I’m looking forward to working with them as we move through the year.

I was reading the HR Report for the People Directorate at the start of this week and one of the things I noticed was the actual number of staff in our division. There are quite a lot of you and with the addition of the staff who work with Jonathan it will bring us up to just under 450 people. It  makes us (in terms of numbers of people) the largest part of the Directorate and though I’ve not checked, it probably makes us the largest part of the Council too.

Now that number of staff isn’t that large in some ways as there are lots of organisations much bigger than us but nevertheless in Sutton Council terms, well it’s pretty big! And of course that brings its challenges – not least communicating with all of you. I do try and blog when I can but it’s not always possible to fit it in.  So, in line with an email I sent out recently I wanted to ask you all again if you could use your Google email to sign up to our Google community. It’s private to just those in our division and a much easier method for me to communicate with you because I can do it when I am out and about through my iPhone and iPad. But crucially communication is two-way and it’s not just a flow between me and all of you – it’s also a way for you to communicate with me and with each other.  And you can do that easily within the community. Anything you post, picture, text, link, video etc gets published immediately to everybody in our community can see it and it doesn’t sit waiting on me or someone else approving it.

So when you get the chance follow the link below and ask to join – we’ll confirm that almost immediately and from there its easy to use, to read and you yourself can access it on your own phone, tablet etc (you can get into it through an app or just use the internet).

Sign Up To Our Education and Early Intervention Google Community

Of course there are also benefits in having lots of people in our division. It simply increases the number of incredibly talented, hard working and clever people who work with us and that always make my day and my job much easier and more rewarding. It also means that we can do things that might be more difficult to do if there was only a handful of people – for example it makes it possible for us to run our own staff celebration events every 8 weeks and we can run our own staff briefings when we need them. But last night I was watching Modern Family ( my own family love Modern Family – and if you have seen it then we are a bit of a hybrid – my partner clearly models herself on Gloria – all gestures and fiery temper – and my daughter models herself on Haley with bits of Alex – and me……….well alas I’m essentially my families ‘Phil Dunphy’!!!!!! If you’ve not seen the programme then of course you have no idea what I am talking about – if you have you should by now feel very very very sorry for me!). Anyway, while watching Modern Family it was the episode where Mitchell joins a ‘flash mob’ to impress Cam – hilarious! And it got me thinking………………..could we use all those people in our division to do our own flash mob??????? Let me know what you think…………..and if you don’t know what a flash mob is here’s one of the best, done at Liverpool Street Station!!!!

A Good Blog Should…….

Well I know that of course the point of it is to inform – but as I’ve said before  a good blog should also amuse, entertain and educate (that’s a euphemism for ‘try to get you to like things I like!’) And of course, as you all know it also gives me a chance to pontificate about things I love or want to wax lyrical about……. the sort of stuff where if I do it at home everyone leaves the room?………………… sometimes apparently SO dull that even the dog leaves the room?! So for those of you who might be new to the blogs, some of what will follow might leave you wondering ‘what on earth is he on about?’ – if you do get that feel then just scroll down a bit!

And having said that it should educate/entertain/amuse, one of my loves is music and I frequently use ‘Shazam’ to capture bits of music I like but don’t recognise and then I go buy it and compile a playlist. So from my downloads for June, I’ve added five songs you really want in your life for you to check out! All wondrously fantastic – honest!


NUMBER 1 – This is a song called ‘Elation’ by the Isbells – you may not have heard of them but they are MASSIVE ………………….in Belgium (maybe because they are Belgian!) Anyway the song is uplifting and beautiful and I loved it…. if you like Bon Iver you’ll love it ……………and if you are thinking who on earth is Bon Iver……… well you should try him too!


We had DMT last Monday and the key points from the meeting were that performance in adults remains strong and the indicators are all largely positive. In Children’s the data shows that our numbers of LAC and Child in Need are stable and we’ve sen steady drops in the numbers subject to a plan – the current level is the lowest in over 14 months.

The HR report highlighted that the sickness and absence rate in our division is improving but it’s still on the high side compared to the rest of the Council so at the next Heads of Service meeting we will be looking at how we might improve it further. That report also showed that vacancy rates in Adults are low though they have gone up a bit recently while in Children’s the vacancy rate has gone up a little recently but there are a number of new appointments pending which should see that drop back again!


We have been continuing to review inclusion provision with schools and in recent weeks we have focused on the provision of education for children who can’t access mainstream education because they have either been excluded or because of their health needs. We’ve published a report to all schools with some thoughts and proposals for the future and through the managers I will also distribute that to staff who work in areas like SEN, School Improvement and Inclusion, so you know what the current proposals are. We’ll now take the views of the wider group of schools and from their feedback the Inclusion Review Steering Group will need to consider what the next steps might be.


Thank you to all of you who worked to ensure appraisals were in place when they were needed. About 90% are now complete where staff were due to have an appraisal review and to have new objectives set.  The remainder will be finished in the next few weeks, or in the case of staff in the Advisory and Inspection Service they will be done in September and October (as their appraisal cycle links to the academic year)

And to say thanks for getting things as they should be and for the aggregated performance here is your reward – this is Dilbert on Appraisal and no…………… before you ask……………… I categorically deny any suggestion of a similar plot between me and the Heads of Service!

Dilbert Performance Appraisal


NUMBER 2 – I try really hard to be an Indie Rock aficionado but I’m also a sucker for what is simply a pop song. This is Vance Joy’s ‘Dream Your Life Away’ – he’s an Australian who is currently supporting Taylor Swift on tour! Now this isn’t the kind of thing I’d tell my mates for fear of unbridled ridicule, but I figured you’d overlook the Taylor Swift thing! ( If you listen… be warned – video is really TERRIBLE!!!)


The Heads of Service and Team Managers in JAS, Sutton Family Centre and Families Matter, have been working on ways to improve the provision of services to children, young people and families. We’ve already identified some changes to make to the case closure processes and supervision recording as well as starting to look at how we make our assessments as analytical and focused as we can get them. The underlying principle we’ve taken is to see what we can do to make things quicker, less bureaucratic, iron out any blockages in our systems and processes, and scaffold support to the staff doing this work. The Heads of Service and the Team Managers will share the details with staff as we go along and as we refine things.


If you are new to the blog – quick upshot is that I travel in and out of Sutton from Essex every day – my journey is long, often complicated by Network Rail or London Underground, and frequently fascinating!

This week I did that classic thing of meeting somebody you know, starting to say hello and then realising you don’t know them after all!!!! At Bank Station I arrived and bumped into someone I knew well. I started to say hello and to raise my hand in greeting. Mind announcement and mid-gesture I realised I didn’t know the person at

Glenys - not a friend of mine after all alas!
Glenys – not a friend of mine after all alas!

all but it was Glenys Kinnock, wife of the former Labour Leader Neil Kinnock. So I smoothly turned the ‘hello’ into distorted  yawn and the wave gesture into running my hands exaggeratedly through my hair! My utter embarrassment weighed so heavily on me I virtually limped away down the platform!

But it was topped yesterday as there was a guy opposite me on the Central Line who like others had come prepared for the hot, sticky, humidity of the Tube at the moment. But where others had worn short leaves, brought fans and drunk water, his preparation was…….a bag of frozen peas!!!…………………………………….. which he placed on the back of his neck!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was dying to ask him if he was then going to have peas for lunch as it would have been the best example of thinking ahead ever!! Alas I had to get off at Oxford Circus and left him to the soothing properties of Captain Birds Eye!


NUMBER 3 – Well if you are still with me you are doing well to get this far – you must be new to my blogs – the staff who are used to them would normally have given up by now! But your perseverance is rewarded with a gem – this is James Struthers singing ‘Baby Blues!’ – and here is a little known fact about this song – it is very popular in Essex with people who walk their dog at five in the morning and have been known to sing this to the birds at the top of their voice…………………………….. you should try it sometime!


At the meeting of elected members on the committee in June they agreed a new Framework for SEN Transport. This is used mainly for SEN pupils to transport them to specialist schools and placements, though there’s also some use of it for children who we are safeguarding and for some adults. Members also agreed that we need to review the proposals for the future delivery of services from Children’s Centres again, to take account of the feedback from residents and service users to the first consultation we ran in the spring of this year. And lastly the committee agreed that we should move to develop outline business cases for a possible spin-out of services to schools and education. There are three options and members wanted us to explore all of them in detail and then report back.


Have I mentioned our Google Community before? I have? Well just in case don’t forget to sign up!

In addition the best way to get the blog is to sign up for it too – there’s a link to follow on the left hand side of the screen. And you can also leave comments – in fact PLEASE DO – I will respond – if you want to leave a comment – even if only to tell me my taste in music is rotten, or to get a haircut, or anything! –  then there’s a little speech bubble and a comment label just under the title of this post – try it……………………………….. go on……………………….. ………………………………………………I dare you to!


I met with our voluntary sector colleagues on the Children’s Forum last week. I gave them an update on the Children’s Centre Redesign and they have agreed to develop some proposals for how they might contribute to the wider offer of services for children and families through Children’s Centres in the future.


NUMBER 4 – If you made it this far then you either have the determination  of 7 ordinary humans or you are very bored! Anyway for your efforts here is the indie that I’m supposed to like instead of those guilty pleasure pop songs! So this is the fabulous Kid Wave and their song ‘Honey’ – it’s PERFECT for a mosh pit and a pogo……………………………… now you might think I’m too old for a mosh pit and a pogo………….. you’d be wrong! ( I accept that this is a confession too far and now you really DO feel sorry for me – but you can’t NOT jump up and down to the chorus of this!)


When we met as a group we agreed that we would look further at three specific issues: how to make appraisal more relevant and focused on each individual member of staff; streamlining our systems for completing and responding to complaints, enquiries and Freedom of Info requests; and the need for a new planning framework that will show how each team links to the Council’s priorities and to those of the Children’s Trust and LSCB.


NUMBER 5 – This is “I’ll Keep You Safe” by Sleeping At Last, a song about parenthood (at least that’s what I THINK it’s about) – it’s from a TV ad for a bank I think. I think it’s beautiful and reminds me that even though my daughter is sometimes horrible to me (see below!!!), she’s the best thing on planet earth and I LOVE being her Dad!

AND FINALLY……………………….

……………………………………………………………….When I was drafting this last night my daughter came up and looked over my shoulder. She read out loud the bit from above ‘as I’ve said before  a good blog should also amuse, entertain and educate’………….. she then paused and said “You’ve spelt that wrong”………………………………………………………

I walked into it –  “Spelt what wrong?” I asked.

“Entertain” she said, “for your blog you spell it…….. P – U – T – Y – O – U – T – O – S – L – E – E – P” and then left the room. There are two things that struck me – firstly why do girls turn into carbon copies of their mums???? – and secondly when you get to the end of these blogs I guess I should really thank you for having seen it through to the end… thanks for persevering……………. and staying awake!




Most of us will be moving across in the next few weeks to the modern desktop arrangement as part of the next stage in the delivery of the Council’s IT Strategy. Some parts of the Council have gone ‘live’ on the new system recently and now the preparations are underway for the transfer of all of the People Directorate. We will be moving to Modern Desktop in phases and we will be going ‘live’ across June and July.

The modern desktop is a key part of the infrastructure we need to have in place for the flexible working programme, which will essentially see us able to log onto ‘our’ screen from any workstation in the Council. FlintstonesAlthough the flexible working arrangement will focus largely on the staff who are either in the Civic Offices, or scheduled to relocate to the Civic Offices, it’s still important that all of you do what you need to so that you are prepared for the transition to modern desktop, whether you are based at Tweeddale, the Grove, the Quad, Bandon Hill, Chaucer, Sutton West or one of our Children’s Centres (or anywhere else for that matter – the range of places we are all located always means there’s a risk I miss one or two when am listing them!)

You will need to do the work to clean up your folders and files in readiness for the change. The instructions on what you need to do are listed in Insights which have come out but if you have any concerns or queries, feel free to email me – I won’t have a clue what the answer will be but I will be able to pass you on to someone who can answer your questions!


Some of the SEN staff in the office behind the one I live in at the Grove (when I’m not on a bus or a Tube!) have this great whiteboard where they post a quote of the week – it’s a really good idea and I’m now in the habit of looking out for it! I thought I’d share their most recent offering even though there’s part of me realising that this is only partly funny for me as there is also a part of me that actually BELIEVES this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



I’ve been looking for a way to have both a more frequent way of updating you all and a more interactive platform – so that it isn’t just mean blathering on and you struggling to get to the end of these blogs! We decided to look at what others are doing so Alex Cossey and I spent some time with Marcus Rees-Harris in Housing. We got Marcus to talk us through the way his service was using Google Communities and it was one of those light bulb moments (at my age I don’t get them very often!) – the more Marcus showed us the more I felt this was a pretty good solution to the challenge of communicating with all of you little and often and in a way that allows it to be interactive.


I’ve set up our EdnEarl community (and you can find it by following that green link!). All you need to do is ask to join – I will say yes and then you will get updates regularly. But it’s for more than just getting info – the community will allow you to post info yourself, ask questions, make comments and generally be as engaged as you want to be. I want all of you to sign up so that we are no longer reliant on e-mail distribution to get info to you.

And in addition to our own EdnEarl Community, I also recommend the ICT Community Exchange (ICE), which is run by the shared ICT Service. I find it a source of information, tips and problem solving without the need to go through the IT Helpdesk!


Having given all of you great tips on books to read (yes I’m still banging on about The Orenda) and great music guaranteed to make any of you trendy no matter how old you are (yes I’m still banging on about Local Natives), a brief check at the sales for the aforementioned book and songs suggest that you pretty much ignore my exhortations! Which is your choice/loss (depending on whether you see that from your perspective or mine!) – but I am not giving up!

This week I want to promote both a book AND a film! I went to the cinema to see Child 44, starring Tom Hardy (who reminds me of…………………well…………… really!) and is based on the Child 44book by Tom Rob Smith. The film is great – it’s such an engaging story and the setting (Moscow at the height of the Stalin purges) is simply wonderfully portrayed. But one of my stock in trade phrases at home is ‘the book is always better’ – and this is no exception! So by all means go see the film but if you like a thriller and crime novel rolled into one – try Child 44 – brilliant! And to whet your appetite (and to show you just how much I DO REMIND YOU of Tom Hardy even though you perhaps didn’t think I did remind you of him at first!!!) here’s the trailer!


We have had two meetings of the Directorate Management Team since we merged with Adult Services to form the People Directorate. On 20th April much of the meeting focused on the end of year financial position and the managers across the service have been finishing their reports on any budget variations and where relevant submitting bids for carry forwards. The key decision made on 20th was agreeing a Staff Engagement Plan that Alex Cossey had drafted. We will be sharing the details of that and then implementing it imminently. At the second DMT meeting this week we had an update from Annette Madden on the development of the next stage of the Business Support Service, this time focused on safeguarding and SEN in the main. We also had two reports in, both on projects connected to the Redesign of Children’s Key Services (ROCKS – I’m a sucker for an acronym!) – the first was on the Education Service Spin Out and the independent Feasibility Study we had done and the second was the report from the extensive Children’s Centre Consultation, led by Jackie McCarthy and Sarah Duggan. Both reports progressed to CMT in the middle of this week and once I’ve made some adjustments, we will share the details and the key points from both reports.


Ah the sights (and this week the sounds) of London Underground have come up trumps again! On my travels this week I saw a guy carrying not one double bass but two! He had one on his back and one in his hand! It just left me thinking he’d heard of a one man-band but hadn’t quite grasped the idea of it!

The next step up in the 'Two Double Base' Challenge seems to be how to carry them when they aren't in cases!
The next step up in the ‘Two Double Base’ Challenge seems to be how to carry them when they aren’t in cases!

Second up was a bloke on the Circle Line. If you know it you’ll know they have the new style carriages – and that they are a bit of a sound chamber. The train pulls into Aldgate on the way round to Liverpool Street when he announces, louder than I think he intended – “Did you know that Aldgate Tube Station is built on top of a pile of corpses who were buried in a pit after they died during the Bubonic Plague!” – Cue was of those awkward eerie silences. But I swear there was a guy who was just about to get off the train at Aldgate who changed his mind just in case! (and I checked it after – it’s true! Very boring it has to be said, but true) But as this blog seeks to educate as well as inform and entertain ( I always think it’s good to state that it entertains just in case you’d missed that!) I have researched the Plague Pits of London and can tell you that around 1665 a great plague pit was dug on StBotolph’s Church in Aldgate!

Under this street in Aldgate is the Tube and Aldgate Station! And underneath that...............I'd rather not think about it!
Under this street in Aldgate is the Tube and Aldgate Station! And underneath that……………I’d rather not think about it!

Likely LadsLast up I was rushing down into the Tube at Victoria late one night when I met a guy at the top of the stairs looking around, clearly lost and searching for something. I then realised it was James Bolam the actor! And immediately my brain had a ridiculous thought and I had to consciously stop myself going up to him, as he looked all confused and perplexed,and ask “Are you wondering what happened to the Likely Lads by any chance!?!”The thought of it left me giggling all the way to Oxford Circus – I’m very good at amusing myself! (Most of you will be too young to know what I’m talking about – next time you see Nigel ask him for it’s probably only he and I who are old enough to remember it!)


Nigel and I attended a recent meeting of the Inclusion Review Steering Group to plan how out we might take forward the proposed review of options for the future delivery of Alternative Provision in the borough for young people who cannot access mainstream education because of exclusion or because of medical needs. Over the coming weeks we will be meeting regularly with the three Heads on the steering group as well as with representatives from the alternative education provisions at Limes and STARS. We are also completing the analysis of the consultation with schools about the future provision of support for Inclusion. The findings will be collated into a narrative which we will share with all relevant staff as well as with all schools. Lastly, Colin Pates and Ceris Edwards are finalising a check on a number of procedural reviews around the provision of support for pupils with SEN. These will be collated into a draft Handbook which will then again be shared with all schools, as well as with services and parents where relevant.


On Wednesday morning I will be visiting Sutton’s Ways to Work Programme with Charlotte Owens in our Education Business Partnership. The programme is part of a range of initiatives led by the EBP, focused on ensuring our young people have all the skills and understanding they need to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them when they leave school. So I’m looking forward to the visit to Carshalton College and will try and share the visit through Twitter whenever I can.


One of the reasons for setting up that Google Community I mentioned earlier is that I think we need ways of communicating which are more than just me sending out information. I’m acutely aware how busy you all are and I don’t want to add unnecessarily to anyone’s workload, but equally I want to give you the opportunity to communicate back to me and also communicate to your colleagues. These things are of course optional, but for those of you who want to ‘join in’ I plan to set up a couple of new things for the blog pages.

Firstly, as we are becoming a bigger and more varied division, with SEN and Admissions joining recently and the revised Commissioning service joining imminently, I think it’s important that I give the opportunity to some of you to let your colleagues know what you do. So we’ll be setting up a blog called “So What Is It You Do Around Here Anyway?” – it will be a chance for you to talk about what your main activities are, who you work with, what you are trying to impact on, the successes and the challenges. It will be set up as a QandA – I’ll provide the Q – all you have to do is provide the A! This is as with all these things entirely voluntary but I know how good our services are, so I hope lots of you will want to showcase your bit of it to the rest of the division. If you want to take part, just send me an email and let me know you’re interested.

Secondly, as well as getting to know what you do in work, I’m also keen to find a way to share things about you as a person and what makes you tick. I promise this won’t be intrusive or embarrassing, and again it’ll be entirely voluntary anyway. I will simply send you a list of 10 random questions and all you have to do is provide your answers that we will then publish through the blog! So again if you are interested in doing it send me an e-mail and let me know!

Lastly there are other ways you can stay informed and involved. The quickest way to get the blog updates is to sign up – it’s easy and all you have to do is follow the link on your left (at least it should be on your left!) – There are already over 200 of you following the blog this way which is great – but the aim is to get all of you signed up. Other than the blog, I’d encourage you to sign up for our new Google Community that I mentioned earlier and lastly, you can join Twitter (it’s not as bad as you may have heard and it’s a very quick way of communicating short pieces of info). It’s free and once you set up an account (all free) you can find me @EdnEarl and ‘follow’ me. You can get Twitter apps for your phones and iPads. I believe there is also a way to follow my Twitter feed WITHOUT having a Twitter account of your own – you get the Tweets as text messages! However unless you have unlimited texts as part of your phone package, that might cost you money – and while I want you to have me words of wisdom, EVEN I KNOW THEY’RE NOT WORTH PAYING FOR!

And finally……………………………………….

………………………………………………………………My families efforts to make me healthier, smarter, trendier, slimmer etc are by now familiar to you – as are their repeated failures! This time my partner has decided what I need is to open my horizons to new experiences for my inner well being! So a couple of weeks ago she announced she had a surprise for me – we were going to the opera later that day to see Madame Butterfly! I was aghast – I am as you know a trendy old bloke Madame B 1following indie rock bands – so I immediately frowned, moaned, claimed I was ill etc etc! But I was forced into it. So I went to the Royal Opera House for my first taste of the dreaded opera. It started and all my fears………………….DIDNT come true. From the first note I was utterly mesmerised. By the interval I was a wreck – my eyes were swollen from crying and Madame Butterfly was still at least 90 minutes from the ending at this point!!!!!

Madame-Butterfly 2

I literally cried and held my breath all the way through the Second Act. I have never seen anything even remotely like it in my life – it was simply fantastic! So if you have never tried the opera I urge you to go and try it! And if you are already an opera fan, I can’t believe you’ve let me go all these years and not told me what I was missing!

…………………………..Have a good week!


Staff Celebration Nominees

…………………..We’ve got the third Education and Early Intervention Staff Celebration Event coming up on the 20th May  – and the staff who have been nominated are listed below.

So firstly my thanks and well done’s to all those nominated on this occasion and secondly I thought that if one of your colleagues is on the list they’d probably be too reserved to tell you – so I thought I should!

For this third event, the nominations include a couple of staff nominated last time but who were unable to attend. So, this time around, the staff nominated were

Julia Cohen in School Attendance

Tracy Bell in Sutton’s Education Business Partnership

bravo and wow

Brian Duffus in Youth Offending Team

Lisa Luff in Families Matter

Lesley Smith in School Exclusions


Catherine Atkinson in SEN

Sharon Godwin in Integrated Services Young Children

Jasmine Swallow in Joint Adolescent Service


Cathy Hoyle in Sutton Family Centre

Tracey McKibbin in Sutton Youth Service

Judith Almeida in School Admissions Service

applause 1

Sleeping In Toasters….an Early Morning Breakfast Update!

Rather than wait till the next full blog update ( for that could be anytime between the next 24 hours or 24 months!!!) I thought I’d share the key points from a few important meetings of the last few days ( that makes it sound like only a FEW of the meetings are important and the rest are just……well………………….. the rest…….and that’s not the case, but hopefully you know what I mean!).

And to add to the info you might be interested in reading, below is interspersed with some quotes about morning – which of course is started with that wonderfully philosophy from Garfield that if we were meant to pop out of bed in the mornings we’d all sleep in toasters!!

“WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!……………Already?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” – My daughter on every school morning!

Safer Sutton Young People Group

This showed performance in YOT continues to be strong. The follow up to our YJB National Standards audit was really positive and the issues we had to pick up on had been addressed in full. Going forward we see a need for ensuring we’ve good info sharing between YOT and local GP’s so we will look into this with health colleagues, and we will also look at how we use the considerable data the YOT gathers to best effect.

“The average, healthy, well-adjusted adult gets up on average at 7:30 in the morning………………………………….. ……………….feeling just plain terrible!” – Jean Kerr

On Families Matter, the Group welcomed the news that Sutton had successfully met the Phase One targets from government and that the provision would be extended into Phase Two. We discussed how to ensure that colleagues in health were fully up to speed on the Families Matter Service and on how to access it for families and we will look at this further in the weeks ahead.

Finally the Group got an update from Ian Kershaw on the Safer Sutton Team’s ASB Youth Outreach project which will look at providing diversionary activity in certain parts of the borough.

“There is no snooze button on a dog who wants breakfast!” – Author unknown…… though I can empathise big time!  

People Directorate DMT

We had the first meeting of the new DMT since the People Directorate came into existence at the beginning of this month. We reviewed some standard issues that would previously have been done separately in the Directorates such as Finance and HR reports. ( For our division we will again have a net underspend for the year 14-15 which will help offset cost pressures elsewhere). We updated the Forward Plans for committees and for us it means we have reports going in over the coming months on the Children’s Centres Consultation, the Education Services Feasibility Study and some policy updates in areas such as SEN. We will also be working on proposals for the further redesign of aspects of our Early Help provision for children and young people, and we are currently working on an update to our Early Help Strategy to link in with that. The key decision was the DMT agreed a new Staff Engagement Plan to support the transition from separate Directorates into the combined People Directorate. We will publish that plan to all of you imminently and begin the implementation straight away.

“I have a carpe diem mug – though if I’m honest when the alarm goes off at six it doesn’t make me want to ‘seize the day’ – it just makes me want to slap a long dead poet!” Joanne Sherman

And to help you, as this blog sees itself as a public service (!!), I will end on a more lyrical and less cynical note, the words of William Blake! So, go seize the day and enjoy it!

“Let light

Rise from the chambers of the East. And bring

 The honey’d dew that cometh on waking day  

Oh radiant morning”

Sunrise over Glasgow!
Sunrise over Glasgow!


Let’s Hear It For………………….!

…………………. A couple of weeks back we had the second of our own divisional staff celebration events up at Whitehall House in Cheam. It’s an opportunity for us to take some time out as senior managers and celebrate the great work being down by some of you in the different parts of our division.

So along with the nominees, Jackie, Colin, Nigel, Peter, Claudette and I met for afternoon tea – although I have to admit that the timing around lunch time lent itself more to sandwiches than the scones and cake I’d ordered! Still, even when there are scones for lunch, we still engaged in the old debate about cream, jam and which goes on first!


The nominations that we make for our divisional staff celebration are separate from, and in addition to, the nominations we made for the recent Council Staff Awards, which I mentioned in the last blog update. But I wanted to list everybody who was chosen in a separate post because I think it’s important we give the staff we chose for the celebration tea the recognition that their work deserves. So…….the nominations this time round were:

Nicola Deer – SEN Team – chosen for the immediate impact made since Nicola joined SEN last November. Her work and her attention to detail meant that she passed her probationary period with flying colours

Ann Potter – School Admissions – nominated in part for consistently excellent approach to work and specifically for her work on IT aspects of the service provision, especially the CYPLD website info for admissions


Sheila Cruchley – Inclusion Support Service – chosen by Nigel in recognition of Sheila’s leadership of the Learning Support Service

Louise Roberts – Virtual School – for her long-standing commitment to Looked After Children and their educational outcomes in her role in the Virtual School team


Sarah Duggan – Children’s Centres Manager – for the work Sarah’s done on the Children’s Centre Options and the consultation with parents she has led – and on top of that she’s taken over and improved the performance of one of our centres!

Mandy Dennelly – Families Matter – Part of the success of our Families Matter service has been gathering the information we need to prove we’ve made a difference – Mandy has taken a flexible and determined approach to this and it’s been an integral part of Sutton meeting government targets in full and on schedule this year


Lisa Luff – ISYP – who was nominated for some specific work she’d done in conjunction with the Salvation Army and local businesses in providing vulnerable families with food and gifts at Christmas this year

Julie Montebello – ISYP – who was chosen for the Parenting Plus work she’d done, supporting some of our most vulnerable families at some of the most stressful times in their lives – it was a recognition of Julie’s calmness but also her willingness to go the extra mile.


Brian Duffus – YOT – specifically for his oversight on our very successful YOT Triage and the trips he’s organised as part of our Keep It Out Prevention Programme

Liza Martinez – ISYP/Youth Service – because one of the hardest things to do is balance change with still delivering the best service and Liza has done this effectively to shift the focus at Sutton Youth Centre to be increasingly on outcomes

As ever, I’d like to say thank you and well done to everyone who was nominated. On the day of the celebration tea itself, both Lisa L and Brian were on leave so we’ll make sure we invite them along to the next event! We’ve only done these staff celebration teas twice now but it’s quickly become one of my favourite ways to spend time at work – and that’s nothing to do with the scones or the cake!

Please feel free to leave a comment on the celebration awards this time round – even if it’s only to pass on your congratulations to your colleagues – I know they’d appreciate it(click the little speech bubble image at the topof this post!). Then again if you want to comment and join in on the scone/cream/jam debate that’s fine too!

The next staff celebration will be on May 6th and I will look forward to celebrating more of the great work which you all do for the children and families in the borough. And if you feel a little sorry for me in all this – as I can’t ever be nominated for my own awards, well don’t – as I found a way to get my own slice of reflected glory in celebrating your successes. I use this quote from Arthur Conan Doyle’s book, ‘The Valley Of Fear’ …………….


………..Talent it is then!!!!!!!!!!!!!