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!


11 thoughts on “It Is Now Officially Safe To Go Back In The Water…….”

  1. Hi Col (and blog watchers!),

    Just a quick point about the ISYP intranet – you’ll need a username and password to be able access it. So far I have set up accounts for (almost) all of the Youth Service, some of YOT, and I’m about to get started on JAS in the next couple of days. If you haven’t had a lovely little email from me with your username and password in it (and you don’t want to wait for one!) – just drop me a line and I’ll get you set up as soon as possible. Although, it definitely won’t be tomorrow as Wednesdays are my days for being a student. This means that I sit at home all day, surrounded by text books and live on a diet consisting solely of Asda’s value-range noodles.

    We’re currently using the ISYP intranet to share documents; especially with those based ‘out in the field’, but it can also be used to plan activities, share opinions, etc, etc. Basically, the possibilities are endless 🙂


    PS; I don’t want the mug 🙂

    1. Thanks for clarifying on the Intranet stuff Louise. Am delighted to hear the student diet is no more enlightened now than it was in my day when I really did become an advocate of “100 things you can make with lentils” and where a luxury meal was a packet of Co-op frozen beef burgers! Now I must halt my reminiscing on my hippy days and console the poor ‘Contact Point’ mug whose feelings you’ve hurt. It’s not easy to take rejection by anyone but rejection from someone living on Asda noodles is the cruellest of blows!!!!

      Sent from my iPhone

      1. If it makes the mug feel any better, I’m only rejecting it because I already have a lovely mug with photos of my cat on it (well, one of my cats… I have 7!). 🙂

  2. Hi Colin,
    Having Ofsted quiz me when I’d only done two days in my interim post was drawing the short straw – but as a fellow exiled Scot and a Man U supporter (in my youth- only went to matches to drool over Georgie Best) – I of course took it all in my stride!
    PS Can I have Lou’s chance of the prize as well as my own? Dorothy

    1. There is of course a plus side to a quiz by OfSTED after 2 days – you can use the “I don’t know” line of response without them thinking you are useless! Some of us had to fall back on our “pretend to know” skills! Your enthusiasm for the ‘Contact Point’ mug is testimony to your good taste, though if I’m honest I was thinking of awarding the mug to a QPR fan as its likely to be the only cup they’ll be winning any time soon!!!!

  3. Hi Colin,
    I attended a ‘focus group’ yesterday to discuss issues we may have and (interesting as it was) I was startled awake by a colleague suggesting that senior management in the Civic should follow the Blog idea of CYPLD to get the communication out to staff easier!! guess what – they were talking about you! Now I know that I am not supposed to relay the discussions from the group but I thought it would be good for you to hear that you are OUT THERE!
    So please keep up the words of wisdom and great humour to keep us going!

    1. Thanks for the feedback Tracy. It’s good to hear others see potential in using a blog. And to be “out there”?!!!!! Well that’s a first for me! I’ve always wanted to be ‘out there’ – when I was a kid and a punk I wanted to be an ‘out there punk’ but my fear of pain meant I had to wear clip-on earrings and somehow it didn’t have quite the same effect! When I decided to become a latter-day hippy in my 20’s I was never quite out there either – I couldn’t quite bring myself to do the “hippy teacher” thing and wear a jacket with leather patches on the elbows!
      Mind you although it’s nice to get the feedback that other parts of the Council see scope in this, I know we’re only just getting it started. I think there are still some of our staff who don’t get to see this and/or others for whom it doesn’t quite work. So I’m also thinking how we improve our communications with our staff. But hey, there’s a quote from Buddha that I’m fond of (which is another way of saying my family are sick of hearing me say it!) – “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.” At least we’ve made a start!

      1. I have always wanted to be out there too! Wanted to be a punk but didnt quite get the wild hair like my sisters did! Then I went to Art College and didnt even manage the hippy arty look either. But hey, still searching for what I want to do once I am grown up…
        Yes its a positive start.

      2. Well if you did the pierced stuff, I did wild hair so it looks like we might have managed a proper punk between us!

        Sent from my iPhone

  4. Well not expecting to get a £5,000 prize money…yet! But it is the second time I have posted something to the ‘blog’. My Team Manager got called up at the 12th hour to meet with ‘The Inspector’ and I believe it went well but it is a relief that for the moment OFSTED have vacated Sutton as it seems to have got everyone on ‘tender hooks’. As for people not responding to the blog, could it be that most staff are currently locums? Who knows? I have no comment to make about ones hair as not seen it yet but if you must wear a balaclava so be it…although you may get arrested! Is this the new dress code?

    1. Amanda. Definitely not a balaclava dress code. Suffered the ignominy of that as a child – nobody looks good in a balaclava and wellies – even on wet Mondays in Glasgow!!! Two comments left so far must mean you are “Very Keen!!” to own a Contact Point Mug I think!!!!!!!!!

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