A Dijkstra’s Algorithm Moment……….!

……..Albert Einstein once said “Information is not knowledge” and so on that basis I’ll work on the premise that my blog should do more than inform……..hence Dijkstra’s Algorithm.

Because just as my last blog broke the record for the longest between blog posts – this week I’m setting a new record for the shortest! Now I could have introduced that with info about one of the shortest records ever made ( the classic “Spider Pig!” from the Simpsons movie at only 62 seconds long), or given you info on the shortest time between a movie and its sequel ( because The Matrix was then “Reloaded” only 174 days later as the sequel) or I could even have stated the truly obvious by reminding you that in 1830, Louis-Antoine became the King of France for……well……..20 minutes before he abdicated – making him the shortest reigning monarch ever! But you knew all those already I guess!

So instead I thought I’d enlighten you with information about Dijkstra’s Algorithm – which is the algebraic formula for calculating the shortest route between any vertex and any other vertex!!! Now you might not think this is useful – but think again! Imagine tonight you decide to go on a detour home – via Glasgow and via York AND via Bristol say? Well you can use Djikstra’s algorithm to work out the shortest route of doing that! Great eh?……Of course you could always go straight home but where’s the fun in that!?! And, to continue that learning theme, please study carefully this video outlining the philosophy of the Spider Pig!


Following on from the OfSTED and DfE visits during the last year and OfSTED’s Thematic Inspection of Leadership and Management, we are using their findings and the current safeguarding inspection framework to plan the next phase of the Improvement Plan. The focus now is on areas for change which will secure provision as good. As part of the work, Richard Nash is leading a review of aspects of practice across a number of our front-line teams. It will include our work at the Joint Adolescent Service and at Sutton Family Centre.


The new integrated locality focused early help service is now in place. It’s based at Tweeddale and combines what was previously MALT, the Early Intervention and Prevention Service and Families Matter. We’ve retained the Families Matter name for the new service. It’s been a complex and difficult change for the staff in all three teams but already the initial signs of the approach are good. We’ve got a new outcome-focused performance system in place and it’s shown that in just three months the work of our early help service at Tweeddale has had a positive impact on families, especially in improving the effectiveness of parenting.  It also tells that in most cases, our support has the positive effect we are looking for fairly swiftly because of the 125 cases closed to date, the average time the case had been open was only 1.6 months.


Quite often I take the bus from the Essex village where I live into Epping to get the Tube. It’s your archetypal route through a succession of villages stopping what feels like every twenty yards! But here’s the thing – no matter how busy it gets nobody ever sits next to me!! In fact some mornings people STAND rather than sit next to me!!!! Should I be worried about this?????!!!!!!!


As I mentioned above my journey to and from work is a pretty long commute – but being shunned by Essex bus passengers aside, it can be entertaining at times. Earlier this week I caught a Northern line train to Morden but which was them halted early at Kennington. So they got the passengers off the train onto the platform and two Underground staff made their way down the platform looking at each carriage to ensure it was empty. Just as they reached me, near the front of the train, one of the staff signalled to the driver it was good to go – just at the moment when her colleague decided for some reason to get onto the train! The doors shut and off the train went with this poor guy helplessly stuck in the carriage! Now while she was a bit distressed and worried my fellow commuters did what I did, we giggled. But the giggling for me turned to hysteria when she spoke into her radio and said “Hello control? Er….there’s been a little…… problem with the train on platform 2……………ask Charlie?…………….well that’s the little problem actually!”

I was still giggling when I got to Morden! And I never did find out what happened to Charlie!!!

It’s really never been easy to avoid accidents if you’re called Charlie!


My thanks to those of you who came to the staff briefings over the last two weeks. I hope the info was of some use and it gave you a little more detail on the priorities and the issues we will have to tackle in the months ahead. I will get the dates for the next round of briefings arranged through Business Support and get these out to you as soon as they are finalised. I’m grateful for the helpful feedback and advice I got from some of you about the challenge of hearing the info, and perhaps seeing it too, when we ran the final session in the Sports Hall. So we won’t do it that way in future.

Once the final briefing is done next week I will get Claire to type up my notes and we will make a copy of the presentation slides available for anyone who didn’t get the chance to attend.


As you know we are currently preparing proposals for the future use of Children’s Centres and members will consider those proposals and decide which they intend to consult on when the Children Family and Education Committee meets on December 18th. As part of the preparation for considering those options a small group of members have been asked to conduct a short but in-depth look at what our Children’s Centres deliver and how families access and use this support. As part of the work we expect members will include: visits to a sample of centres, discussions with service users and discussions with staff in centres. The Task and Finish Group report will then be considered by the full Children Family and Education Committee in December.


When Sutton was inspected last year the Keep in Touch meetings with inspectors every morning meant I needed to leave home a bit earlier. Now I always walk the dog before I start so if you’re mad enough, you can meet us most mornings about 5:00 am in the fields around Ongar! But during the inspection I decided to take him earlier and to a different place closer to home to save time! Our dog is a Golden Retriever and he LOVES water. I’d not expected it to be an issue in this shorter walk as the riverbank is too steep – or so I thought! Anyway just after 5,  and down the bank he goes and into the river – except he can’t get out again. So I go down the steep bank to pull him out – but with the gradient, and the mud, and the weight of the dog,……..well you can guess the rest! In I went and had to wade downstream to where the bank wasn’t as steep – not pleasant at anytime but in the middle of the night – madness!

OfSTED's new Inspector recruitment programme had attracted a more diverse set of candidates than ever before!
OfSTED’s new Inspector recruitment programme had attracted a more diverse set of candidates than ever before!

And he’s not done it since – till last week! My partner is the Director of Adult and Children’s Services in another London Borough – last week they had OfSTED arrive Tuesday morning! We discussed the first day had gone on the Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning I took the dog for his usual walk at 5:00am – in he goes……and gets stuck! I have to wade in again and get him out – second ! Now at first I thought nothing of it – but as I tramped soaked and shivering through the early morning streets I realised that OfSTED connection, two early morning ‘swims’ and two OfSTED Inspections – I was going to complain that they are frightening the dog but then decided to keep it quiet just in case  OfSTED decide to introduce a special mid-inspection judgement about how effectively Children’s Services leaders manage the risk of going river-wading with a Golden Retriever in the hours before dawn!!


I had the opportunity to meet again with Sutton’s Primary Heads this week to share a little bit more information with them about what the Council will be doing in the next few weeks on a feasibility study for possibly spinning out some more Council services to schools. Jackie and I have also begun a series of visits to schools which manage Children’s Centres on our behalf to discuss how they will manage the Council’s recent decision to reduce funding to centres for 15-16 and the jalso to give them more detail on the timetable for the report which we will finalise at the beginning of December on the future use of Children’s Centres.


Claire and Clemmi have a new admin support officer to support my fellow Exec Heads and I in CYPLD. Rachael Qureshi is now working for us, based at the Grove and as Rachael will focus more on managing my diary, tasks and documentation I thought it would be good to share her contact details with all of you. So you can get Rachael directly on eemail at rachael.qureshi@sutton.gov.uk and by phone at 020 8770 5827


We’ve just appointed a new Programme Manager for this, following interviews last week. Alexandra Cossley is joining us from Brent Council in early January and she will lead the project management of the next phase of the Children’s Redesign. I will also distribute a Children’s Redesign Newsletter tomorrow to the rest of CYPLD as a “Word” document, but for ease of access for staff in my division, I will also “publish it’ on the blog tomorrow


…………………………………. time is precious – as last week’s tick follows tock follows tick follows tock film highlighted. So I’m always trying to save time and multi-task – even though I know all the gender stereotypes about how we males find that a little……challenging! Well this week it proved not only challenging but dangerous! I came back to Grove from a meeting and walked through the park while writing and reading e-mails – and just outside the nursery I walked straight into the open gate! I nearly knocked what little brain I have left clean out of my head…but worse all the mums waiting to collect their kids from pre-school came to my aid, asking if I was OK!! Acutely, excruciatingly embarrassing……..although it was nice to get the attention I suppose…..but I don’t plan to repeat the trick anytime soon as I doubt I have much grey matter left!


……………As I have mentioned before the quickest way to get these to you is if you subscribe to the blog – if you click the link and leave your email it will be sent to you directly. And if you want to leave a comment, please, please do it…….there’s a little link at the top of each post – and if you leave a comment I will get back to you.


I think you all forgot to ask me the detail of the book I recommended at the briefings…cos I know you’ll all buy it, read it, and help me prove the Booker Prize Committee wrong for 2014 – so you can find out more about Joseph Boyden’s utterly wonderous ‘The Orenda’  here at my book blog ‘The Only Way Is Reading’ – but above all – try it….please try it! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




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