My ‘Marie Celeste Workload’ Theory – And Why It Doesn’t Work!……….

Now I See Where My Own Use Of To Do Post Its Has Being Wrong!
Now I See Where My Own Use Of To Do Post Its Has Been Going Wrong!

……….You’ll probably know that it is the schools half-term holiday this week. Because of the need to be around in ‘term time’ it is therefore a week when not only the schools are away, but also a week when a considerable proportion of the School Improvement / Advisory and Inspection staff take leave. And that’s where the ‘Marie Celeste’ theory comes in. With essentially a third of my ‘responsibilities’ away at the same time, that side of my work should be minimal and a bit deserted. That therefore should reduce my workload by about a third. The theory is simple, logical and perfectly rational – but it never works! This week my diary is as crammed as ever, my to do list is as long as ever and the proportion of my ‘tasks for today’ which are ACTUALLY finished at the end of said day is the same as ever! I don’t know about all of you but I think for me the crux of the problem is I ALWAYS overestimate how quickly I can catch up! My brain works something like this……”Letter to so and so – 20 mins tops” ( it then takes an hour)……..” Briefing note to draft for Tolis on Y – 30 mins tops” ( it then takes an hour)…….. ” Review OfSTED consultation on Z – be realistic that needs 45 mins..maybe even an hour tops” ( and does it take an hour? Try two!).

So I’ve got a few days of catching up this week. On Monday I started with 32 things on my catch up list – this is Wednesday and I go on leave tomorrow so this is my last day. I’ve done 8 things on my list so I have 24 to do in one day! Even I don’t overestimate to that extent – even if one third of my responsibilities are on holiday!


DMT meeting on Monday included feedback on corporate review of support functions. A number of you may well have contributed to this as staff with “support ” type functions in your jobs or as managers. At this stage at DMT we were simply reviewing overall feedback from meetings with support staff and managers. The key issue for CYPLD will be aligning the timing of any change with the broader redesign programme. I will update you when I know more details and especially when the clarity around what might change, how, and by when, starts to emerge.

From our division we had a couple of reports on the agenda. The two Early Intervention services had done a combined risk assessment on a number of our early intervention provisions. As a result, I will now meet with Sharman Lawson to address some of the specific points in that report. In addition we had a paper proposing that we ask schools to work with us on reviewing a number of aspects of educational provision, that could be best described as being focused on how we can most effectively support and include the most vulnerable and at risk pupils in Sutton.  The proposal was welcomed and I will now be approaching the schools representatives to consider next steps.

Lastly we reviewed and agreed a draft multi-agency Looked After Children Strategy. Once finalised and adopted by the Council I will share key points from the strategy, and what I think the implications of it are for different services within our division, in either a briefing meeting or in a blog update.


The Leaving Care service held their annual event to celebrate the successes of our young people in care on Monday. I wasn’t able to attend myself, but Tolis reported back to DMT that the event went well and was a great opportunity to showcase and mark some of the fantastic achievements of our young peoplein care


Sutton’s population is continuing to grow – and within that growth there is a significant increase in the number of children in Sutton. The knock on effect of this is that we have needed to make additional places available in our schools to ensure we have enough educational provision to meet demand. And of course, as is always with the case of these shifts in pupil numbers, they affect some parts of the borough more than others. We are already extending the number of places on a number of sites – this meeting of Primary and Secondary HT’s along with relevant Council officers, was focused on the projections for the future and the implications for meeting this rising demand. The three key messages at this stage are that the recent additions and the already agreed extensions at primary should address most of the pupil place demands in that phase for a few years. At secondary, the schools themselves were clear that their preferred option would be to add to existing schools before considering an additional secondary and we agreed that we need to manage the addition of numbs in such a way that it does not have any knock on effect on other schools in the vicinity. It was a really effective session and sets us up well for the more detailed discussions to come.


I’m off on leave at the end of today as I said earlier. I’m off from tomorrow until next Wednesday. In the interim if there are any issues, the Heads of Service will refer to Palvinder Kudhail if necessary although I’ll still be checking e-mails and my work phone periodically – although I have to do it secretly as I’m supposed to be on a family holiday in Stratford-upon-Avon!!!!


As well as the formal, I did say I might use these updates for the non-official and the not so formal. So I want to share with you my ‘band of the moment’ – as I mentioned before I am into ‘indie’, music but within that I think I’ve got pretty varied tastes. Anyway, my favourite new album of the moment is by a band called ‘Night Beds’. Now before you laugh I’ll admit it’s a dreadful name for a band – and as a man who bought albums by Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, by Get Cape Wear Cape Fly,  and by Toad And The Wet Sprocket ( I jest not – these aren’t made up – well they are of course made up – just not made up by me!) I know a naff band name when I see one! However I’d urge you to get past the name and give them a try ( when I say them I guess in mean him – Night Bees is essentially Winston Yellens,  a singer-songwriter from Nashville I think). I think the music is beautiful and gorgeous and I’m going to see them/him at the Borderline later this month – if you like the music come along!!!!!! And if you try the music leave a comment and let me know what you think of it! (for Louise in Youth Service my apologies in advance – not likely to hear this at “Bloodstock Festival” I guess!!!!!)

And Finally…….

Please leave a comment on any of the above ( not just Night Beds). It’s easy. There is no need to be on Word Press or Twitter or anything – you can do it by just leaving your name and email – I will respond (eventually!). In addition if you are on Twitter a perennial reminder that I am on @EdnEarl and lastly if you haven’t signed up for the blog posts yet please follow the link on the right – again its easy and means you can be sure you’ll get the info direct in future ( and with that statement I’m glossing over the possibility that you might not WANT to get this stuff!!!)

And Finally, And Finally……..

Recently I was in the car with my ten year old daughter. An item came on the news about the Booker Prize so she asked me about it. I rambled on and on about everything I knew about Booker, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Hilary Mantel, etc etc etc. she just sat there. When I finished she turned to me, took a breath and then said ” Col. When you worked in schools, we’re you a really boring teacher?”!!!!!!!!!!

Firmly put in my place I said nothing and drove on – but inside I was weeping! So, for the comments, ever had any feedback from your kids that put you in your place?!!!!!!………

Have a good week and good weekend when Friday comes.


“Wisdom Is The Reward You Get For A Lifetime Of Listening When You’d Have Preferred To Talk!” – Staff Briefings Update!

……….As I’d mentioned in the update sent out yesterday, I’m going to run regular briefing sessions for staff. It will give me a chance to update you on key messages, to share my thoughts on the strategic issues and the direction of our improvement work, and to generally be able to hear your views and feedback on both the day to day and the longer term issues we are all engaged with.

Sutton Life Centre
Sutton Life Centre

The first three sessions will be at Sutton Life Centre on Monday March 11th, Friday March 15th, and Tuesday March 26th. Each of the three briefing sessions start at 3:15 and will run till 4:30. On each occasion, if any of you attending the briefing are interested in taking a tour of the Life Centre facilities, this will be available at the end of the session (I’ve been myself and think it’s a resource of great potential – well worth a look).

I want to stress that I only expect you to attend ONE of the three sessions! Vain and egotistical I might be, but even I wouldn’t inflict listening to me more than once, in a short space of time, on anybody! There are three sessions simply to give you some flexibility on attending and to try and accommodate numbers of staff in our division.

Numbers for the sessions are of course limited by the venue itself, so I’d be grateful if you could let Hilary know by e-mail ( , which session you plan to attend – that way we can manage the numbers across the three sessions.

Cafe area at Life Centre - if lots are early and I have to fulfill my pledge on coffee purchasing, you may see a grown Scotsman cry!
Cafe area at Life Centre – if lots are early and I have to fulfill my pledge on coffee purchasing, you may see a grown Scotsman cry!

In the current financial climate, I don’t have the budget to fund refreshments – however there’s a really good cafe within the Life Centre itself where you can get coffee or tea before we start. If you are a little early and in the queue at the same time as me though, I will buy you a coffee! (how’s that for an incentive to be a little early!)

Artists Impression Of Public Clamour For A Place At One Of Col's Briefings!
Artists Impression Of Public Clamour For A Place At One Of Col’s Briefings!

For these first sessions at least one of the Heads of Service will be at each briefing. In future all the Heads of Service will be at every briefing (when I said I wouldn’t inflict listening to me more than once in a short time frame on anybody, I obviously didn’t mean those who HAVE to listen to me! – Lucky Claudette, Jackie and Nigel I hear you say!?!)

So, I look forward to seeing you at one of the briefings during March, if I don’t get the opportunity to see you before. If you are one of the staff going off on leave today, coinciding with all or part of the school holidays, I wish you an enjoyable and relaxing break.

Lastly, don’t forget to sign up to follow on Twitter @EdnEarl if you want to pick up the more frequent updates I’ve started. Please leave a comment if you are inclined – I will respond – and if you haven’t yet done so, please click the “follow” button on the side bar so that you get sent these updates automatically.

Have a good weekend


Members, Metal and Morale!………


Intriguing title eh? What does it mean I hear you ponder? Well – nothing really! I couldn’t think of a more relevant title so instead I just plucked three things I referred to that all begin with the same letter – I wonder if John Steinbeck did the same when he wrote “Of Mice and Men”…..? Anyway, updates

Member Visits

The lead members, Councillor Callaghan and Councillor Mathys are visiting a number of front line teams over the next few weeks. They paid a visit to the school improvement staff based at Chaucer a couple of weeks ago after a Primary Headteachers briefing that was held there and they are due to visit the Joint Adolescent Service imminently. They have also been to a number of the front line Child Protection and Looked After Children teams in recent weeks. It’s a good opportunity for them to get to know a little bit more about what happen in front line services and also gives members of staff a chance to get to know them a little and to share their thoughts and perceptions with them. If there are any issues that arise that need to be actioned for us from these visits I’ll let the relevant Heads of Service know.

The Head Of Service meetings weren't always comfortable meetings - but if a job's worth doing........!
The Head Of Service meetings weren’t always comfortable meetings – but if a job’s worth doing……..!

Heads Of Service Meeting

We get together fairly frequently. It gives me a chance to update Claudette, Nigel and Jackie as well as giving us a chance to work collectively on things which affect all of us to some extent or other. When we met last Friday, we looked at budgets, redesign, and communicating and engaging with staff.

The budgets for next year have now been drafted by the budget holders. I’ve been through all of them and they are good to go and be approved. The advantage this gives us is that budget holders are now able to decide for themselves where the funds they have available need to go – so this should make budgets much easier to manage and monitor next year. Of course, having set up the budgets themselves, managers will need to make sure their budgets remain on track throughout next year – there may of course be unforeseen pressures, but these should be few and far between, and where they do seem to appear we’ll be able to scrutinise the problem in detail so that we can respond accordingly.

We went back through the emerging project plan for the CYPLD re-design. We’ve just taken a paper to DMT about the way in which the changes within education nationally will impact on redesign and we considered that further. The locality based model will be at the heart of redesign. We had some high-level discussions, clarifying that as the next couple of months progress, we will need to begin to consider collectively, and with you, which of our service provisions might be suited to delivery within a locality framework and which might be better delivered through a central model or indeed a different mechanism. We also discussed the issue of the number of localities – for example there are six area committees within the political structure, five clusters for Children’s Centre’s and five clusters for the Primary Schools. Our emerging view at HoS meetings is that too many “localities” runs the risk of diluting resources too much – ultimately though it will need to be determined by a thorough and detailed assessment of locality characteristics and needs.

Engaging with staff at any time is important – but as we are on the cusp of major change with redesign and in the context of the recent Safeguarding OfSTED, it’s perhaps more important now than ever. Consequently we agreed that I’ll try and blog and tweet as often as possible to keep up that flow – equally we’ll look at how we use communications to get a two-way dialogue. We see a benefit in the ability to comment on the blog – if you do leave a comment I will respond. But we agreed that face to face is vital. Consequently I’ll arrange a series of staff briefings for you to attend and I’ll do these every term. I plan to hold them at the Life Centre in Sutton initially. I’ll offer a choice of dates as I know you are busy and your diaries will be pretty manic. Equally though id like you to attend for one of the briefings if you possibly can. I hope to get the dates out in the next few days

Sometimes It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know!

Although I have an interest in blogging (as I’ve been doing my own personal blog for about a year), I’m still at a very basic level of skill! (To say the least!).

 I got some help and advice this week from Louise Yardley, who is one of our youth service staff. Louise runs the youth service blog and associated social networks -like their Twitter feed and Facebook page. Louise taught me more in an hour than I’ve taught myself in a year! You don’t realise how basic you are and how little you know till you get help from people like Louise!!! I must have said “I wish I’d known how to do that when i started” a hundred times at least!

Thanks to Louise I will make a number of changes to both my work blog (and my personal blog). If you’re not already familiar with the ISYP blog, you can find it at They are also on Twitter @SuttonYouth (mind you they have four hundred followers – I have, ahem, well……….four!) As well as working on blogs we also discussed music – Louise is a fan of ‘metal’. Not my thing – I’m more ‘indie rock’. The nearest I’ve ever got to metal was watching Motörhead at a festival years ago – my hair was long enough then to fit in. Now I know I’m too staid, too old, and too grey! However, to encourage you to interact, please let me know, through the comments, the “closest” you’ve ever come to listening to “metal” – and if you say “Andy Stewart” then I’ll know you are really my Dad posing on this blog as a member of staff!

Directorate Management Team

We spent the largest part of the last DMT, on 4th Feb, finalising the detail on the project plans for the redesign. We also however agreed some high level principles for developing an approach to working with primary schools, in what’s known as the “middle tier”. This essentially develops a different way of collaborating with schools on school improvement activities, recognising the increasing autonomy of the schools, the increasing requirements from government to shift funding from centrally managed to school managed and the key role for the LA in supporting collaborative working arrangements between schools.

We’ll now work further with the schools and within our own school improvement service to put the detail into this work in the months ahead.

Management Words Speak Louder Than Actions

I share this, for no other reason than I think it is funny! If you’ve never seen Dilbert cartoons, they are hilarious – well I think they’re hilarious. I see myself in them frequently – it makes me cringe but also makes me laugh at the same time!


It Speaks For Itself - Not Me - But Itself!
It Speaks For Itself – Not Me – But Itself!

And Finally………….

……………When I left for work Monday it was snowing. I took a coat from the wardrobe, grabbed a scarf and gloves, hefted my bag on my shoulder and got in my car to drive to the Tube Station. It was only then did I realise that I’d come out with the coat hanger in my hand – my coat had been thrown onto the bed!

Consider this, carefully and sympathetically, and then if you don’t mind, take 5 seconds to respond to the poll !

Have a good day!

Don’t Forget – feel free to leave comments on any of these issues and leave a comment on the closest you’ve ever come to listening to ‘metal’. In addition, to reduce the dependence on managers sending round the link to the blog, clck the follow button to the side – that way you’ll get an automatic e-mail every time a new post is published. And if you want to follow my work Twitter I’m @EdnEarl.