A plea to Guy Garvey’s brother’s best mate, lurking somewhere out there in our division………

……..When I write these blog updates I have a few basic intentions – to give you info, to get the odd comment back so I know what you think (though if I’m honest you’re generally pretty reticent on this bit!), to amuse myself (yes I’m easily amused I know) and to share my love of music and books and football with you for the very simple reason that my family are utterly bored with me rambling on at home so they won’t listen. You are all on the other hand the perfect solution for a “Johnny-No-Mates” with much to say and nobody to say it too – for you are of course a captive audience!

Olly Knights, lead singer with Turin Brakes - but also known as husband-of-friend-of-Nadia-who-works-for-Col!
Olly Knights, lead singer with Turin Brakes – but also known as husband-of-friend-of-Nadia-who-works-for-Col!

When I write whatever nonsense I do, I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve got no idea what might come from the simplest thing I refer to. So when I wrote in the last blog of my love for the band Turin Brakes I wasn’t prepared for the comment I got back. It turned out that Nadia, who works for the STARS Tuition Service is good friends with the wife of Olly Knights – who is the lead singer with Turin Brakes!!!!! Now to most of you that may not mean that much, but to me, a proper, serious, mad Turin Brakes fan…..I am simply starstruck! It was wonderful to know and I am so glad Nadia told me. I even shared the news at home, and for a moment, fleeting as it was, there was still a moment, when my family were actually INTERESTED in something I had to say. So my thanks to Nadia for making my day, my week, my month and for giving me a few seconds of being semi-cool at home!

But now I’m thinking it’s not just the friend-of-the-wife-of-Olly-Knights who is part of our division – there are probably lots of you connected to bands/footballers/authors I like. And above all, I have a sneaky feel that the best mate of Guy Garvey of Elbow’s brother, Marcus, is out there, in our division – I just know he is! (Yes I know it’s a bit scary that I know the name of Guy Garvey’s brother……but what would you expect from the man who is the oldest member of the official Elbow fan club!). So if you know Guy Garvey’s brother, or even Guy Garvey, please make my day and let me know!

Anyway, now to the serious and useful bits…..(well some useful bits!)

Strategy and Resources Committee

We contributed to a paper to this members committee focused on the one year pilot project we’ve just done with the ChelseaFC Foundation. They ran a series of activities through our schools, Sutton Life Centre and our Youth Offending Team. A large part of the project focused on “reach” and building relationships. However in a couple of our primary schools, it included some work targeting children with poor attendance rates. In both schools the results after 10/12 weeks were very encouraging with the two schools seeing average improvements of 8% in school and 14% in the other. By anybody’s standards these are impressive changes in a short time. In addition, in one of the two schools, where we also targeted latecomers, we saw a 72% improvement in timeliness for school over the term. Elected members agreed to exend the work with the Chelsea FC Foundation for a further 3 months, while we jointly commission a longer term project between CYPLD and Public Health

A Better Class Of Singer On The Glasgow Underground

Up until Monday night, I always thought that there was only one real advantage in the Glasgow Underground compared to London’s. The key advantage was that, no matter how tired you get, even perhaps if you are ‘as tired as a newt!’ as we say in Scotland, you can’t miss your stop – for Glasgow Underground is just a circle that goes round and round and round. Missed your stop in Glasgow? No worries!!! Just lie back, close your eyes and maybe you’ll wake up at the right stop next time round!! However on Monday on my way home from Strategy and Resources, after a long, long, day, we had a singer on the Central Line – or rather a moaning mumbler with a sort of tune in the background.  I think he was singing but it was hard to tell if it was that or a musical  rumbling tummy he had! Now in Glasgow, there is no reticence in our singers on the Underground – they belt it out and aren’t averse to encouraging their fellow passengers to sing along! It’s nothing if not entertaining! So the moral is if you want to get anywhere then use the Tube in London. But……………..IF you want to go round in circles, to the strains of “Rhinestone Cowboy”, with inebriated 3 part harmonies, then Saturday nights in Glasgow are definitely for you!

Here’s a small “soupcon” of Glaswegian Underground Entertainment!

Post14 Employability Board.

 We had the inaugural meeting of this new group which has been created from the old 14-19 Strategy Board. It includes employers, college and training providers and a number of Council officers including Chris Jones and Alan Dean from Advisory and Inspection and Sara Foulsham from Integrated Services For Young People. Among the key actions will be the development of a new Apprenticeship Strategy, a focus on matching employer led demands with young peoples skills acquisition and promoting better engagement between our schools, colleges and training providers, and local employers.

Literacy Volunteering Project

I am now fully signed up to this having mentioned it in my last blog update. Our Family Info Service tell me that some of you have followed suit – but we need more support. Please sign up if you can and give 6 hours of your time to support a Family Literacy. And as for all the jokes about Scottish people and literacy teaching, save them as I’ve probably heard them all before! When I was a teacher in a British School in Spain many years ago I was greeted at the end of my first term with a parent telling me that she was withdrawing her children from the school as she didn’t want them taught English by someone with a ‘common regional accent!’. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that if she thought what I did to the teaching of English was bad, she didn’t want to see what my accent did to the teaching of Spanish!!! So, if you can spare a few hours between January and March next year please contact Jenny Kelly on jenny.kelly@sutton.gov.uk or Caroline Watson on caroline.watson@sutton.gov.uk

It’s Not Easy Being A Man – Part 1

This morning I cut myself while shaving. Nothing unusual in that you may think. But the cut was on the end of my nose. A lot of claret – yes! An explanation – no! I’ve no idea what I was doing but if it was meant to be shaving my top lip I missed by quite a long way!

Support Functions

The second stage of the consultation is underway and I met some staff from CYPLD and also Environment and Neighbourhoods when I was involved in one of the sessions last Friday. I’d encourage managers and staff involved to continue to contribute your views on the proposals, whether you are commenting on one of the draft job descriptions, or on whether a role should or shouldn’t be in scope or on proposals about location for the support staff once the project reaches that phase.

Children’s Services Improvement Board

This board met yesterday and among the papers was confirmation of the very positive findings from the latest DfE review. I know that Tolis has written separately to all staff but again, to everyone, and especially to those more directly involved in areas across ISYC and ISYP, (particularly areas like JAS, EIPs, Sutton Family Centre and YOT) my thanks for all the work and commitment you’ve put in which has contributed to yet another very positive and very encouraging assessment of our improvement.


I will try and get these out regularly – or at least semi-regularly. I also try and tweet a little most days. However I have a few requests to help – firstly if you are minded in the least, please get yourself a Twitter account and sign up to follow up. Secondly please sign up to “follow” the blog by clicking on the button on this page – I’m keen to reduce our relaince on e-mail cascade. And thirdly, if you want to leave a comment or a query, or if you want to simply let me know that YOU are Guy Garvey’s brothers best friend, please get back to me using the comments box at the bottom of the page – I will respond (eventually!)

And Finally………

…………………………………………….It’s Not Easy Being A Man Part 2

Depending on your vote, this copuld be the new me!
Depending on your vote, this could be the new me!

I had a haircut a few weeks ago. The hairdresser commented on the fact that I had a centre parting in my hair. She suggested I move to a side parting as centre parting’s were in her words ‘a bit 1970’s!’. It’s taken me decades to get my hair to do this – now I have to contemplate a change. I’d ask my family but doubt they’d care! So to give you the chance, I’ve set up this poll below which gives you the chance to vote. The response statements weren’t written by me but were drafted by an independent panel of hair industry experts – honest! Please vote and tell me what you think (and honestly I’m also using this as a “test” to see if the polling software works!)


It’s Easy To Express But Hard To Tell!…..

…………That line comes from Joni Mitchell and it’s about ‘Sorrow’ which she says is “easy to express but hard to tell!” Which shows two things – one the fact that I’m quoting it must mean I am sorry about something – and I am – and secondly that if I know quotes from Joni Mitchell I must be an old hippy – and again – I am!!!

Bart SorryMy sorry is about the fact that it’s been several weeks since the last update. Since I came back from leave it’s been hectic but nevertheless I’m sorry that I didn’t make the time to keep you all informed. I’m definitely starting the new term with a “Must Do Better on Communications” target for sure.

The Quad

The new Quad facility up in Green Wrythe is now finished and the ISYP staff have moved in. I’ve been up a couple of times and it’s a great space – and seems to me a real improvement on how things were before with different teams in different buildings. In case you don’t know about it, the Quad is a refurbished Youth facility that now houses all of the staff teams in Claudette’s service in the same building. As well as the work space, common areas, meeting rooms and reception areas, the facility boasts a terrific new teaching kitchen. I particularly like the option it gives us for flexible staffing arrangements with staff from all teams in ISYP mixed in together. I think it would be a good model of organisation for our Locality Teams as well.

 Locality Teams

And on the subject of Locality Teams, the first pilot team is now up and running based at the Tweeddale Children’s Centre. Suzanne Cripps from EIPS has become the new Team Manager for the pilot team. Suzanne and her staff will not only be leading the delivery of Early Intervention in that area, but will also be at the forefront of our finalising the design, processes and systems for our full borough-wide roll out of Locality Teams from September 2014. As you would with any pilot, we are using this as an opportunity to learn more about what works well and what doesn’t. And while we are very confident about the pilot set up, we also know that we will have challenges and glitches to overcome – but I guess that’s why we are piloting it in the first place!

Music Tips Part One (cos I know you wait patiently on these!)

I’ve no idea whether or not more than one or two of you ever follow up on my music suggestions and advice. But as I am into it, I’ll keep doing it anyway! This first tip isn’t actually mine – this is currently Tolis’ favourite band (or at least the one that he’s been mentioning to me most!). They are called London Grammar and were being considered as a possible for the Mercury Music Prize – alas they didn’t make the shortlist! But that doesn’t mean they are not good – they are! A bit floaty, dreamy pop in places but see if you like it – the boss does!

Education Performance and Changes

Generally the overall pattern for school attainment in Sutton continued to be really good. I will publish a specific briefing note on key headlines for everybody to the intranet pages and will let you know through the blog when it is available. It’s very likely that the performance will continue to see Sutton ranked as one of the highest performing LA’s for both primary and secondary education.

You will know by now that we were unsuccessful in our preference for a local school to sponsor Camden Juniors. It converted to an academy on 1st September with Harris as the sponsor and is now known as the Harris Junior Academy Carshalton. However we have a positive working relationship with Harris and I am sure that they will build on the excellent work done by the school, with the support of our school improvement staff last year, which saw Camden transformed from a school in an OfSTED category to one of the ten most improved schools in Sutton in only 12 months. So thanks and well done to everyone in our division who contributed to this excellent turn around.

On the same day that Camden became an academy, Carew Manor moved to become Carew Academy and Orchard Hill College are the sponsors for that school. As with the other academies in Sutton, we already have a good working relationship with the new school and the sponsors.

DMT Meetings

We have had several DMT meetings since I last sent a blog update. On 9th Septmber we reviewed our latest Performance dashboard, the Annual Report of the Corporate Parenting Forum and agreed a draft of a CYPLD QA Framework. On September 24th we looked at our budget position across CYPLD at Month 5. The savings for CYPLD have been confirmed between our division and Sharman Lawson’s division. There remain challenges in managing the social care budgets especially the constant need to scrutinise our placements budget and our staffing costs because of differentials between permanent and agency staff. The other key item on that agenda was to agree making DMT nominations for the Council’s “Rising Stars” development and training programme. We submitted 6 nomineess from CYPLD, 4 of whom are based in our division. I have written to those nominated from our division to let them know. The fact that 4 of the 6 nominees came from our division is a further indication that there are a lot of good things happening across our services and that we have many very talented officers in our various teams. There is another DMT meeting todaywhere we will consider the draft CYPLD Health and Safety report, a summary report on our statutory responsibilities forMissing Children and a disussion on the new OfSTED Inpection Framework for “children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers.”

Primary Partnership / Middle Tier

As you know, we are looking at a new model of delivery for some of our school improvement services, including one possibility of proposing to work in partnership with our primary schools. Over the summer the Heads and Governors have worked up an emerging business case and we have had a number of discussions with them on different aspects. The outline proposals were put to a meeting of all school governors representatives a couple of weeks ago. From there the Heads and Governors will refine their proposals and then publish a draft to every primary school for them to consider in principle at their Autumn Term Governing Body meetings. On the Council side of things we are currently preparing to discuss the proposal with CMT, and then, if it progresses as a possibility, with elected members and staff in due course.

Divisional Budget Advice Sessions

We held the first of our budget support sessions for budget managers at the Quad on October 4th. The materials and the programme were put together by Sarah Alderman, Jackie Bulbrook and Nia Lewis and the focus is on providing practical advice and guidance on budget monitoring. The feedback from those who came to the first sessions was good and I think they found it helpful – and that’s the point of it. There are further sessions already scheduled for 1st November and 6th December. We are aware that the first of those clashes with the school half term holiday so we are looking at adding an additional session and we will advise you on that in due course

Youth MP Elections

Ingrid Bard, who is currently leading on Youth Engagement work in the short term has started the process of advertising the forthcoming elections for the new Sutton Youth MP and Deputy Youth MP. Nominations are currently open and will close on October 25th. Voting will be from 11th to the 22nd of November. If there are young people with whom you work, who you think would be interested and effective in these key roles representing the views and perspectives of Sutton’s young people, please encourage them to put themselves forward

Early Years Literacy Family Engagement Programme

We are rolling out this important initiative through our Children’s Centres, working in  partnership with the National Literacy Trust.   The aim is to work with partner agencies in identifying families who would benefit from, but are currently not engaging with, our children’s centres.  ( We are expected to identify 10 families per Children’s Centre). Once identified and referred in, the families will receive peer support in the children’s centre engaging in literacy based activities. 

And this is where you come in! We need volunteers to support this programme – and we need the not insubstantial number of 100!!!!! At the last count we were up to 35 and the Children’s Centres are continuing to work on it. But we need your help – so please consider volunteering yourself and in addiiton if you know of a colleague or friend who lives in Sutton please encourage them to join in too. It will mean about a day for training, probably split over a couple of sessions in December followed by giving 6 hours of your time between January and March next year to provide face to face support for an hour a week to one family. You’ll be asked to support and encourage the family working through some materials from the National Literacy Trust designed to encourage families with the acquisition of early literacy skills.

And just to show that occassionally I do put my own time where my mouth is(!!), I have volunteered myself. So think of it this way – if I can do it anybody can do it! 

If you are interested in being a volunteer – and I really do hope that lots of you will be – please contact Jenny Kelly at the Family Information and Development Service on 020 8409 7454 or by email on jennykelly@sutton.gov.uk

Music Tips Part Two (in case you were waiting patiently on another one of these)

My current favourites aren’t quite as floaty and gentle in sound as London Grammar. Turin Brakes are one of my favourite bands who’ve been around for a while. They are two guys who met at school in South London singing in the school choir! This is from their new album that I am playing almost constantly at home at the moment – if you like this, you’d like the rest of the album – it’s a bit special – honest!

And Finally………..

………………..Some of you know this story but for those who don’t………………!

In early Sept I got on the train to start my journey to work. At one point a bloke got on with a bag that was clearly very heavy. He put it on the floor. I assumed it must be tools. Suddenly and of its own volition, the bag whipped round! Everybody including me just stared first at the bag, then up at him. And then tempting fate someone asked what was in the bag. “My pet snake!” he replied nonchalantly! Around 90 seconds later the train pulled into Stratford – and I led the virtual stampede off that train (there was no chivalry in this – it was raw terror!). As it pulled out I had to pretend that getting off at Stratford to then get on the next train was the most natural thing in the world – but I need not have been embarassed for there were at least another ten or more doing exactly the same as me!!

Enjoy your day and your week!