It Is Now Officially Safe To Go Back In The Water…….

………OfSTED have gone!! The Unannounced Inspection isn’t actually finished, as we will have exchanges with them as the report is worded up and finalised through their moderation process, but the on-site part of it is over.

I want to say thanks to everybody – whether for your direct engagement with the inspectors or for your indirect support to me with answers to queries, providing data, or providing documents and or for just asking me how the inspection was going even when it didn’t affect your area of work. I was struck by that in the last fortnight – everybody I met or spoke to, in schools, among governors, in corporate teams and in CYPLD teams outside of Early Intervention and Social Care, had asked me how it was going. It really did create that sense that everybody here realises that keeping Sutton’s children and young people protected from the risk of harm is everybody’s business.

Henry's complaints about the OfSTED Team judgements were met with their complaints about being given the narrowest feedback table in the world!!
Henry’s complaints about the OfSTED Team judgements were met with their complaints about being given the narrowest feedback table in the world!!

Tolis, Ann, Palvinder and I attended the OfSTED judgement meet last Wednesday. It’s a new-ish addition to the methodology and allowed us to observe their meeting which is them reviewing their evidence base, formulating their judgements and then testing one another out on those judgements. We were only allowed to observe and could say nothing (you even have to sit to one side so you don’t influence them with eye contact or body language!!!). It was almost impossible for me (as I like to talk as you all know!!!). It was however both informative and interesting. The best way to describe it is that it reminded me of watching the old Henry Fonda film ‘Twelve Angry Men’ – but without the anger!!!!

We then went from that meeting straight to the feedback meeting where they presented their provisional findings to the Council (CMT, key elected members, DMT). At this stage the judgements are confidential and have still to go through OfSTED moderation, and I’ve been through enough inspections to know that the moderation process frequently changes wording and sometimes even judgements!! So my apologies, but I’m not able to share the judgements at the moment. However, I will say the feedback matches our own view of progress so far and our own assessment of what we still need to do. In addition there were a lot of very positive comments in the feedback about the parts of our services that were focused on – Sutton Family Centre, Joint Adolescent Service, Early Intervention Prevention Service, our Children’s Centres, and support for Home Education and Children Missing Education. Overall, regardless of what might change through moderation, I’m certain that what won’t change is that they agree we are in a much better place than we were 12 months ago. The report is due to be published on June 24th. Once the report is finalised I will share the detail of those positive comments that came about our services during the inspection.

The Water Is Definitely Safe – I Know – I Checked It – Literally!
As you know, on hearing that OfSTED had arrived for an Unannounced Inspection last Monday, on the back of the DfE Review only just having finished, I admitted that my first thought was the Jaws film strap line ‘Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water!!’ I should have known better than to be even slightly irreverent about OfSTED! I tried to get in to work earlier in the day and as you know I live out in the Essex countryside, so during OfSTED I walked the dog just after dawn! And on one morning the dog shot off down the bank in pursuit of a rabbit and ended up in the river! Alas the bank was too steep for him to get out of the river so I had to go down the bank and get him – and of course if it was too steep for the dog………..! In I went for an early morning paddle!!!! Serves me right for tempting fate with comments about OfSTED and water!!!

Today we’re looking in more detail at the Unannounced Inspection feedback, to consider what changes or additions we might need to make to the Improvement Plan in light of their findings. We will also be considering two reports from our division with proposals for exploring future delivery structures for both our Schools Management Information Service and our Music Service, as part of the wider Children’s Services re-design.

Both our schools in OfSTED categories are now out to consultation on sponsored academy proposals. Carew’s consultation is now moving to the TUPE consultation for the staff. Meantime the Harris Federation are starting their consultation as DfE’s preferred sponsor for Camden Juniors. However Greenshaw High are now approved sponsors, and the preferred alternative sponsor of both the LA and the school Governing Body. The Camden consultation is therefore likely to be more contentious and if you live locally you may have seen local media stories about the consultation. The LA view here isn’t that Harris would be a ‘bad’ sponsor but simply that a local sponsor, through Greenshaw, is a much better solution for all the pupils at Camden than Harris will be.

The dog's Harry Potter audition didn't go well - but he accepted the consolation prize of being Dumbledore in our family home movie version of HP and the Deathly Hallows!
When it came to casting Dumbledore for a home movie version of Harry Potter, we were desperate!

The World of Harry Potter

I took my family to Harry Potter world in Hertfordshire last week. If you’ve not been I can thoroughly recommend it. I’ve seen only the one of the films but read all the books – so I loved it. The kids did too. However even if you’re not a fan of the films or books, it’s well worth a visit as it is quite brilliantly done!

Youth Service Intranet

The Youth Service have developed a great new resource area on the Intranet for forum discussions, sharing of information, storage of key documents for staff and for providing a central point for sharing resources. It’s got great potential, not only for the Youth Service, but for across our division. I’m currently looking at how I might use it and so any thoughts or suggestions let me know through leaving a comment. In the meantime, if you want to have a look you can find it here at

Strange Objects On The Underground

Continuing my series of the weird and wonderful that I see on my way to and from work, which I know you all must have loved last time I wrote about it, if the feedback at home to the same news is anything to by (i.e. Partner “If seeing a bloke with a sword is the highlight of your day, you need to get out more”and Daughter “You are a very dull man!”). So in anticipation of brightening your day further and on the back of that ringing endorsement from my family, this weeks ‘Odd On The Underground’ were a bloke at Oxford Circus pushing an upright vacuum cleaner down the platform and a man at Victoria holding a massive arrangement of peacock feathers! More fascinating insights into life underground next time – maybe!


Please take the opportunity to sign up to the blog by clicking the ‘follow’ link on your right. It means you’ll get sent the updates automatically and so won’t be reliant on a link being sent out through the heads of service.

On another point, part of the advantage of a blog is the opportunity for sharing your thoughts, opinions, questions, and suggestions with me and your colleagues. But to date most of you seem wary of leaving comments! So, when I was drafting this last night and I was wondering how to encourage you, I happened to overhear the viewers competition on Britain’s Got Talent, which my family were watching!!!! The prize was £50000 cash, holidays in Las Vegas, New York and London, with tickets to shows. It was a “eureka moment!” Well, if a massive prize works for Old Cowell and his v-neck jumpers I thought, it’ll work for me!!!!!

As staff incentives go - it was a biggie - this wasn't a challenge for any old mug! (......then again!)
As staff incentives go – it was a biggie – this wasn’t a challenge for any old mug!

So having tried to coax you all to comment with questions, pleas and requests, I thought I’d try bribing you all with a prize you can’t resist instead. So, for the chance to win the fabulous prize on offer the question is even simpler than those on TV. Here it is!!!!!! Just by leaving a comment that says “Choose Me! Choose Me! Choose me! you could win – a beautful “Contact Point” mug (eBay re-sale value estimated, by me, at £50K plus!!!!!), photos of Glasgow AND Greenock and MP3 samples of me singing songs from Sound of Music and Les Mis!!!!!!! Now if that doesn’t make all of you use the comments for the first time, then I give up!!!!

Up Coming……….

……….As part of the proposals to improve communications, the Chief Exec is hosting a series of 13 Roadshow events for staff between 24th June and the 25th July at various locations across Sutton. I’d like to encourage everyone to try and attend one of the sessions, which will also be attended by members of CMT and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council

Sooner than that, this Thursday, Tolis is hosting the next “Staff Sounding Board” session, on Thursday 30 May from 12.15-1.45pm in Meeting room 4 at the Civic Offices, so book now to avoid disappointment. Contact to reserve a space.

And Finally………

…………..Some of you have been kinder than kind in commenting favourably on the heinous act committed on my head last week in the name of hairdressing in Essex!!!! I remain unconvinced and in a state of shock! Consequently I am still sheltering beneath the Senior Management balaclava.

Charlie Brown - a philosopher to turn to in a crisis
Charlie Brown – a philosopher to turn to in a crisis

However my experience reminded me of a Charlie Brown cartoon where Charlie goes off to camp, and to avoid being teased about a rash on his head, he wears a paper bag! Bizarrely this truns him into a hero and he even gets elected camp president, known to all the kids as “Mr Sack!” Eventually Charlie Brown is persuaded by the other kids to remove the sack as they are desperate to know who the great guy under the paper bag is – with predictable and hilarious (though very sad) results. So learning from Charlie Brown’s experienece, the Senior Management balaclava is staying put till it grows back a bit more!


Yet Another ‘Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water’ Update!!!!!

Today sees the second week of the OfSTED inspection. I was talking to a member of staff last week and they commented that someone had somehow read between the lines of a previous blog post about OfSTED and worked out that it wasn’t actually a proper OfSTED Inspection at all! I don’t know what I said that might have given that impression but whatever I said, it isn’t true! It really is an OfSTED Inspection, and it’s as rigorous and thorough as any of the other twenty million or so OfSTED inspections I’ve been through!  

Is it a woman with a mullet? Is it horses kissing? Either way it doesn't hide the fact that it's a "REAL" OfSTED!!
Is it a woman with a mullet? Is it horses kissing? Either way it doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a “REAL” OfSTED!!

Last week they spent a large part of the week looking a cases and visits teams. Within our division they have now been to both JAS and to Sutton Family Centre. They used their time there to talk to managers and staff, and to look at cases. I’ve not yet had any specific feedback on these but broadly they were clear that they’d been made welcome, that they were impressed by the willingness of staff to discuss their work and to go through specific cases and that they felt that the response and the morale in both teams was very positive.

Later in the week they went to see two of our Children’s Centres, at Amy Johnson and Green. They seem to have come away from those with positive feedback from some of the service users they met and with a clear picture of how our Children’s Centres fit into our overall early intervention and safeguarding service provisions. They also met with both Jackie and Claudette, with me on a few occasions and they interviewed Shirleen as manager of our Early Intervention and Prevention Services. I’m due to see them tomorrow and I hope from that to get a bit more feedback – as well as obviously answering a lot of questions!!!!!

The bulk of the review of case files and practice is now complete. They have been through most of the post-Inspection evidence bank and this week they are looking at some aspects of strategic management such as interviewing the Chief Executive and elected members, and some further aspects of operational issues like the link between schools and safeguarding as they will be interviewing two primary school and two secondary school colleagues who are designated safeguarding leads in their schools. The Keep In Touch meeting tomorrow should give us some early feedback and Tolis, Ann, Palvinder and I will be at their Judgement Meeting on Wednesday. We are now allowed to sit in to observe these meetings as the Inspection team debate and reach conclusions – but we are not supposed to say anything. That won’t be easy for any of us – me most of all probably!!!

The draft report will be with us at the beginning of June and it will go through the normal OfSTED QA process and from there it’s scheduled to be published later in June.

And if anyone is STILL in any doubt, it really is an OfSTED – no bits missing! (that’ll teach me to give things irreverent titles I guess!!!)

In Other News!……..

…… It’s worth noting that just as there was a life before OfSTED and just as there will be a life after OfSTED ( even if a lot of that life will be responding to their findings) so there is a life DURING OfSTED. Jackie is now on annual leave for a couple of weeks so as ever any key issues which arise for team managers in ISYC let me know.

Nigel, Chris Jacobs and I are currently working with Amy Johnson Primary supporting their school improvement work and we are meeting them later today. 

We are still progressing both of the proposed academy conversions with sponsors. The TUPE consultation for the staff affected at Carew Manor will begin shortly. The Governing Body at Camden Juniors have agreed to put forward their preferred alternative sponsor during the consultation by the Harris Federation ( who are as I’ve previously explained the preferred sponsor of DfE). It means that the school community will be consulted on it becoming an academy with Harris as sponsor but that during the consultation parents, staff, pupils and other stakeholders will also hear what the proposed alternative sponsor, which will be Greenshaw High, will offer. This will allow everyone consulted to feedback their views of whether or not they’d like it to become an academy and to express who their preferred sponsor will be. This story is likely to be in the local media over the weeks ahead. As a Local Authority we share the Governing Body view that Greenshaw is a better sponsor option for Camden Juniors than the Harris Federation.  

And Finally……..

Is my haircut this bad? Who knows what lurks under the Senior Management Balaclava!?!
Is my haircut this bad? Who knows what lurks under the Senior Management Balaclava!?!

……..The last time I had a haircut, back in October I think, it was cut much shorter than I’d wanted. At the time I told many of you I’d gone to the most enthusiastic hairdresser in Essex whose idea of a “little shorter” was radically different to mine!!!! The trauma went on for weeks till  it grew back. Therefore when I got a haircut this weekend I took no chances – different town, different hairdressing chains and much more forceful instructions about “shorter, but still left longish!”. To my horror the outcome was EXACTLY the same – the most enthusiastic hairdresser in Essex obviously had a twin sister working in a salon on the other side of the county!!!! I tell you this only so you don’t have to ask “Why is he wearing a balaclava?” when you see me at meetings etc in the next few weeks!

A “Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water” Update!!!!!

 ………..We are now going into the fourth day of the OfSTED Inspection of our Child Protection and Early Help arrangements. I thought I’d give you all a brief update and let you know what they’ve looked at so far. Most of you will not have had direct contact with OfSTED – and even those who have won’t necessarily know about the other areas they’ve explored so I thought it might help to keep everyone up to speed.

They have visited MASH looking at how that works. They are aware it’s a relatively recent development in Sutton but they spent time talking to managers and staff there, looking at processes and how they’re working so far, and looking through some cases. They have also been to some front line social care teams, again tracking cases and talking to those in the teams. As you’d expect they’ve made a number of queries about cases, processes, documentation and systems every day and we’ve responded to these as and when they’ve arisen.

Yesterday I had some time with them looking at our Early Help offer, what it consists of, the processes we use for referrals and assessments to those interventions, how the Children and Young People’s Resource Panel works and the progress in embedding the effective use of CAF’s in Sutton. They were interested to look in particular at the detail of how the panel operates, how we manage risk, and all aspects of using CAF’s. I don’t have feedback as such but I thought it covered all the areas we’d expected and that we have a good idea of our strengths and our areas for development.

In Sutton Family Centre they looked at cases and supervision arrangements and discussed these with both managers and some of the staff. They also met with a number of service managers across CYPLD yesterday, including Jackie and Claudette and that seems to have been a positive and focused dialogue.

Among a number of things, they’ll be going on to look at how the LSCB is improving, how effective our performance management arrangements are, how we deal with Children Missing Education, our Elective Home Education monitoring for safeguarding purposes, talking to a group of designated teachers for Safeguarding from a sample of schools and they’ll be visiting at least two of our Children’s Centres to talk to staff and to families using services.

I’ll try and do a further update tomorrow before the end of the day so you know what stage we’ve reached at the end of the first week and what they’ll be looking at from Monday.

And Finally………..

………………By nature I’m fairly relaxed so I tend not to get stressed by things like OfSTED – I wouldn’t say I love it (!!), but whether in schools or LA Inspections, I’ve always found it makes me reflect and it’s always challenging. But I like that challenge and responding to it. Nevertheless it’s always there in the back of my mind while the inspection is going on and I guess that’s true of most of us. So I noticed the change in my mood as I arrived at the Grove this morning. It might not be the most practical place I’ve ever worked but it’s definitely the most beautiful! Early morning sunshine, the remains of the early morning mist on the ponds, sunlight filtering through the tress and dappling on the water in the streams and the squirrels greeting me as usual (they eat about 50% of my morning croissant every day!). It made me feel quite chilled and relaxed – then I got to my desk, opened up Outlook to a plethora of e-mails and task reminders, and then finished that off by recalling that my family have got me on a diet and it’s more berries and grass for lunch – can’t wait! I’m now not quite so chilled and I think I’ll go back out and see if I can get my illicit croissant bits back from those squirrels!

And Finally And Finally…..

………My thanks to those of you who have already been involved providing information to me and to OfSTED, talking to Inspectors and discussing cases with them. I appreciate the support and willingness to contribute that you’ve all shown.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water!!!!!!

Jaws………I don’t know about your family, but in my family we have these, sort of, “catchphrases”, that come mainly from movies that we’ve enjoyed! For example you’ll frequently hear either my daughter, my partner or I announcing “Parfait must be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!” any time we find something we like! The headline for my blog this week is another of our well-worn family phrases – usually when something difficult happens that makes you think “Oh NO!” – one use in our house is it prefaces bedtime for my daughter! It was, as you can see, the strap line for the movie JAWS 2. In this blog post though it refers to the fact,  that we have been informed that OfSTED are in to do their inspection of Child Protection and Early Help arrangements, having arrived yesterday. Now I’m certainly not comparing OfSTED to either a big fish with sharp teeth or to a terrible 1970’s film (and it really was a terrible movie!!!) I simply meant that when I got the news yesterday morning that was what went through my head – we’ve just finished the DfE Review of the implementation of the Improvement Plan a couple of weeks ago and we’re in the middle of preparing for the Peer Review of Safeuarding, due to take place in June. I’d not expected another inspection/review to come in between. However it’s good that it’s here for it is an opportunity for us to show what we’ve implemeneted from the Improvement Plan to date, demonstrate the real differences we’ve made and also to learn from OfSTED’s feedback about ways in which we might adapt or reinforce that improvement in the future. At this stage we’ve had the set up meet yesterday and it starts in practice today and will go through to next Wednesday. I’ll send a further update later this week on their areas of focus and on some of the practical details of the inspection. I’ve briefed Jackie, Claudette and Nigel and they’ll make sure those teams who might be directly involved will be up to speed as soon as possible.

Governor Meetings……

I’ve been able to have a couple of meetings with groups of governors representing a number of schools in the last couple of weeks. Most of our engagement with governors usually comes with a particular Governing Body and so it’s usually about a specific school. It was good to have the chance to raise wider issues.  I had the chance to update a number of Chairs of Governors at their termly briefing (every time I type that my auto-spell changes it to ‘trembly’!!!! My iPad must have had a bad experience with a Governing Body in a past life!) The CoG meeting gave me the opportunity to update them on developments with converting Carew Manor and Camden Junior schools to academies and update them on the Inclusion Review proposals that we recently wrote to all schools about. Just after the Bank Holiday I then got the chance to do an input to the Association of Sutton Governors on ‘Effectively Challenging Schools’. I linked my presentation to ‘Being Julie Andrews’ – and that makes me remember I started my blog posts with Sound of Music – am beginning to think I might have a bit of an emerging obsession with her!!!!! 

Sponsored Academies……

We are progressing the conversions to sponsored academies of both the schools I mentioned above. The proposal to have Carew sponsored by Orchard Hill College is well advanced and formal consultation has begun. The proposals for Camden Juniors are a little less clear cut. DfE’s preferred sponsor remains ‘Harris’. The Governing Body and Local Authority preference is for a local school as sponsor. We are finalising the detail for that proposed alternative and hopefully we’ll be putting that alternative sponsor option to parents, staff and the community when Harris begin their consultation on their sponsorship proposal in the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep you updated on how that progresses.

School and Children’s Centre Visits……

 I’ve had three recent visits – to All Saints Carshalton Primary, accompanied by the Chief Executive, to Shanklin Children’s Centre and to Victor Seymour Children’s Centre. School and CC visits are usually one of the best bits of the job and these were no exception. Some of the children we spoke to at All Saints were great characters – in one lesson I saw, where the children were writing riddles, a child read out her “clues” to me! First clue – “It’s got great eyesight and it can see a cow in a field from miles away!” – I said “Eagle” – wrong. Second clue “This is easy. It lives in a cave!” – I was stumped. Third clue ” This will be so so so easy! – It drinks blood!!!!” – Again I’d no idea. “I give up” I confessed! “It’s a Vampire Bat!” she announced, as if this was the most logical thing in the world. It was a good start to my day – even if it did leave me wondering if Vampire Bats feed on cows!

During my visit to Shanklin, I was fortunate to be able to talk to some of the parents who use the Centre and it was obvious how much they value and benefit from the support. It’s a common message I pick up in Children’s Centres. Victor Seymour Children’s Centre was an example of just how clever and resourceful people can be working within the limitations of the facilities they have. It also allowed me to visit The Grange CC, in Beddington Park, which is run through Victor Seymour – what a great resource that is.

Going Underground…….

My commute in and out on the Tube exposes me to some truly unusual sights! I’ve seen a bloke carrying his shirt on a hanger to stop it from getting creased on a train so crowded your shirt gets creased even when you’ve got the thing on!! I’ve seen a kid with an ironing board under his arm!! I’ve seen two blokes with a large head bust of Lenin and then yesterday a bloke carrying an epee sword with a fencing mask under his arm! It’s great entertainment if nothing else! Anybody seen anything as unusual as a bloke in fencing regalia on the way to work?!?!

Children’s Centre OfSTED Framework Changes……

We met with a number of the Heads of Centre last Thursday to review some of the emerging areas for improvement from the various inspections of Children’s Centres in Sutton to date. On Friday we had an internal meeting to review the new OfSTED framework for inspections of Children’s Centres. This will make a number of changes and will in a sense change the descriptors of what “outstanding” and “good” will look like going forward. We’ll take the emerging issues from both these sources and weave them into a draft Children’s Centre strategy that we’ll then go out to consultion on in the near future.

 And Finally………….

…………As a diehard Man Utd fan (which is exactly the same as Nigel being a diehard QPR fan – but with winning most football matches rather than losing most of them!) I can’t let this update go without mentioning the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson! Those of you who were at the Children’s Centre meeting last Thursday morning know that at that point I was a man in mourning after he announced his retirement!! By today however a modicum of sweetness and light has returned, because he’s been replaced by yet another great Glaswegian – is there any other kind of Glaswegian I hear you ask?! You did ask that didn’t you? And of course I’m too modest to give you an answer!

And Finally, And Finally……..

On the subject of family catchphrases – here are some others that we use – can you spot which film/TV programmes/books they come from – let me know through the blog comments section!! 1. “Parfait must be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!” 2. “Wake up and work out that flab that’s hanging over the bed!” (One of the less pleasant ‘time to wake up’ greetings in our house!) 3. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” 4. “I love you to the moon – and back again!” (This is my line – one member of the household is delighted when I use it, one member of our household makes ‘I’m going to be sick’ gestures and one ignores it and looks for a place to bury a bone! You work out which is which!!) 5. “We will have one more schnapps together and then I will escort you to your quarters!” and finally (from the same movie as number 5) is number 6. “Broadsword calling Danny Boy”. I hope you’ll have a go and respond – if only to give me a little light relief in the midst of the inspection.