It was World Book Day last Thursday. A number of schools will have been taking part. It’s a great way to promote books and reading with children – though if some are like my daughter they are more interested in the dressing up as a character than in reading about them! My girl went to school as Fiona, the ogre’s wife in Shrek! When she told us that this was what she wanted to dress up as, I started to say out loud that she’d got the idea from her mother but as I got to about half way through the sentence, I got a look that made me decide to finish the sentence at “Did you get that idea from your……………………………..ahem”!!!!
We are big fans of Shrek in our house – musical and films! My daughter loves the characters, my partner thinks its funny and I’m impressed that Shrek talks in a Glasgow accent and they use music from The Proclaimers in the film!!!! (Parochial never sleeps for me!)
One of the best bits of my job is the chance to get into schools. At the moment I’m in Camden Juniors and Carew Manor much more than in other schools as these are both currently in OfSTED categories so they are our priorities. However in the last couple of weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to get the chance to visit 3 more. At Amy Johnson I got to see round the school, the Children’s Centre ( which had a really busy, vibrant feel), meet a number of kids in classes ( including a couple of Reception pupils who had that great combination of innocence and absolute self-belief!) and talk about the school’s progress and plans for the future with their wonderfully passionate Headteacher. I also went to both Cheam Park Farm Juniors and to High View Primary accompanied by Councillor Mathys as part of our engagement between members and schools. Both schools were great – Cheam Park Farm has a wonderful atmosphere throughout and I can pay it no higher compliment than to say I saw lots of things there that, if I was still a Headteacher, I’d shamelessly copy and pass off as my own ideas! High View was equally impressive, again with a terrific ethos and I liked their varied use of ICT in classrooms and around their schools. In the next few months I’ve more visits to schools, sometimes accompanied by elected members and sometimes by the Chief Executive. What helps enormously on these visits are the really accurate and sharp briefing notes I get about the schools from the Advisory and Inspection staff beforehand – it ensures I have all the key information about context, standards and progress. The down side of course is that they are so comprehensive, if I end up asking a Headteacher a stupid question I’ve nobody to blame but myself!
The first two of my briefings with staff have now taken place – if between now and the third session, you hear that it was wonderful – every word is true! If however, you hear that you have to do things or that it was awful – don’t believe a word!!! The first two sessions were good for me and no doubt I will learn about what works (and what doesn’t!) in the months ahead but I’m grateful to those who came along to the session last week and the week before, and to those who’ve found the time to commit to attend the third and final session for this term on Tuesday.
There have been a couple of new appointments in our service. Sharon Douglas has now become YOT Manager, filling the vacancy created by Claudette’s appointment as Head of Service and Jenny Wood has started as the Education Officer in the MASH unit ( and I still find that every time I write or say ‘MASH’ I get an image of ‘Hot Lips Hoolihan’ and ‘Radar’ in my head!!!!)
I was on the Corporate Induction Day a couple of weeks ago. It was informative and I enjoyed the ‘tour of Sutton’ -even if I probably remembered the wrong facts ( I came away recalling that Harry Secombe and Cliff Richard lived here and that Ann Boleyn’s horse did something or other in Carshalton!!!!!). Best bit was seeing so many apprentices on the Induction, working in all parts of the Council, even though it made me feel a bit old!!!! I was in the same group as Georgia, our apprentice at Sutton Family Centre – I tried not to be an embarrassment to her – not sure if I managed it though!!!
Portfolio Holder Meetings
The Director, other exec Heads and I meet regularly with the Lead Members for Children’s Services, Councillor Callaghan and Councillor Mathys. When we met last week I was able to update them with the progress in developing a “middle tier” arrangement with our Primary Schools, the progress in those schools where we have prioritised our support, and update them on OfSTED’s proposals for a new Inspection Framework which will look at the quality of Local Authority School Improvement provision.
Children Families and Education Committee
The committee met last week. We had a paper in summarising school performance in Sutton. Members recognised the success of Sutton schools overall but equally they supported our priority focus on continuing to accelerate the progress and attainment of pupils who are more vulnerable within our community. As a result of questions we’ve been asked to provide a detailed briefing on the middle tier development. There was also an update on the Post-OfSTED Improvement Plan. Much of the questioning focused on two aspects, early intervention capacity and the Virtual School. Members and questions probed at how the changing population number and profile in Sutton might imact on capacity for early intervention and on how the Virtual School for Looked After Children will work in future. We’ll be providing a detailed briefing to members on the Virtual School.
Budget for 12-13
The Heads of Service and I met with Finance yesterday to look at projected budget outturn position for the end of the current financial year. In view of the challenges of savings, especially those neeeded in-year, our budget position is sound as we approach the end of the year. We have identifed further ways to both standarise the approach to budget managing and monitoring across our division and to make budget management even more effective. We’ll share the changes we will make to this with the budget managers first, and then with everybody in the division, in the next few weeks.
Jackie, Anita, Nia and I met with Children’s Centres Managers on Monday . We congratulated them on recent results in OFSTED inspections which have been very positive. We still have an issue with getting some data from our partners in Health and we summarised what we are doing to improve this. There were discussions around the Children’s Services re-design where the successes of our locality Children’s Centres will be built on, with a view to creating a central hub of services based within our communities that will support our vulnerable families. The pilot for this innovative initiative will begin in September 2013 and is very likely to be based at the Tweeddale site for a variety of practical and logistical reasons, to be rolled out the following September.
One wonderful, though irrelevant bit of feedback was that Emma, the Children’s Centre Manager at Tweeddale had tried ny music tip “Night Beds” – and liked it! So that increases their fan base to…. at least two!
Children’s Services Redesign
Discussions continue around the services best suited to this locality based service delivery model. As well as providing more refined support for our vulnerable families the other main driver behind these changes is the knowledge that we as a council face further reductions in government grants and need to be best placed to react to this. The three Heads of Service in our division are meeting with all of the other HoS next week to begin to work up more detail about the services which we think might be provided in the future through locality working. At the same time we will also start to identify those parts of our services that may well be better provided by being retained as a centrally organised service.
Sutton On The BBC
In case you missed it, there was a focus on the work of Carshalton Boys School as part of the recent “Countryfile” programme which was co-hosted by Price Charles. If you’d like to watch it, it’s below. (It starts at around 25:10)
Please continue to sign up to the blog to get it e-mailed to you directly, if you want to follow on Twitter I’m on @EdnEarl and please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. You can leave comments about anything – but if you have the time I’d be particularly interested in your feedback about the briefings (what worked, what didn’t, what might improve it) and feedback on further ideas we might consider in addressing the issues raised by the recent Staff Survey
Here is another Dilbert strip….purely for your amusement (well at least I hope it’ll be for your amusement)
And Finally, And Finally……………
On Monday morning I was due to meet Jackie McCarthy at 8:30 in Wallington. As you know I come from miles away – darkest Essex. So I was in a hurry. I got dressed quick and in semi-darkness. As soon as I left home and all the way in my right foot felt funny. First chance I got after our meeting I checked – to discover that while I had a sock on my left foot, on my right I’d somehow contrived to arrive wearing a little woollen glove puppet belonging to the dog (which he chews!!!!!) Next stop was MandS!