And The Winner Is……………

…………It was the Council Staff Awards yesterday and from our service there were a number of staff invited to attend because they had either been nominated individually or as part of a team. It was good to see our division so well represented and I think that we probably had more nominees than most, if not any other parts of the Council. It was recognition not only of how well you all do your jobs but also a testimony to what a diverse and varied division we are. So among those nominated from our division were SEN staff, Inclusion Support Services, Early Years SEN, the Youth Service, Family Information Service and Childcare. But special mention goes to Bridget Foster from the Looked After Children’s Team who was runner up in the Social Care category and to Nadine Wyatt whose work with Families Matter saw her awarded as the runner up in the Innovation Category.

But extra special mention goes to our Integrated Services for Young People who were the deserved winners in the Outstanding Partnership Working category. It was great to see Claudette and several of the ISYP staff there to receive the reward.

Some of the staff from ISYP who were winners of the Council Outstanding Partnership Award for 2015
Some of the staff from ISYP who were winners of the Council Outstanding Partnership Award for 2015

All in all, the event seemed to go really well and I think all there would have enjoyed it……..and it was rather well rounded off for Children’s Services when the successes of Bridget, Nadine and everybody in ISYP was followed up by one of the Council’s apprentices in ASSH being chosen as the Council Employee of the Year. As Claudette said perfectly in her acceptance speech – it all goes to show that “children and young people matter!”.

My thanks and my congratulations to all those from our division who were nominated for an award.

high-res-sequence-animated-3d-counter-facebook-station-trains-countdownThe Final Countdown!…………

……….to The People Directorate, which begins officially tomorrow. At DMT level, we’ve already had some meetings with our colleagues in Adult Services. Alex Cossey who is our new Project Manager for the Children’s Services Redesign, has also put together a Staff Engagement and Transition Plan that I will be reviewing with Tolis and my fellow Exec Heads in the next few days and from there I will update you further.

But in the interim, I’d be grateful if you could look at things like your letter headings and email signatures from tomorrow and make sure you have changed the reference to People Directorate where necessary.

Change – The Law Of Life!

…………………. It was John F Kennedy who described change in those terms, going on to say, “…..and those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future!” I mention it because there’s a lot of change going on at the moment, some of which you will know, some of which you won’t, and like any change it will bring with it challenges and opportunities. Through the next few weeks I will try and bring you up to date on those key changes. To ensure I get to talk to, and discuss, the changes with as many of you as possible, Louise my PA has been arranging staff briefings and drop ins. The difference between the two is that at the Staff Briefings, which are open to everyone in our division, I will try and give you information but it will inevitably be a bit what we old teachers call “chalk and talk”!

However the drop-ins are more for discussion – I plan to split the time in two. The first part will be for you to ‘drop in’ to discuss as a group a particular topic or topics pertinent to your work. The second part will simply be for anybody who wants to talk to me one to one about something pertinent to you – and it can be anything really. There’s no obligation of course to come to either part of the drop in but the opportunity will be there if you want to take it.(Louise will be sending out separate invites with times and details for each of the different sessions in due course)

Staff Briefing and Staff Drop In Dates

Staff Briefing at The Quad – April 16th, April 20th, and April 24th

Drop In at Tweeddale Children’s Centre – 7th May

Drop In at The Grove – 12th May

Drop in at Bandon Hill – 18th May

Drop In at The Quad – 19th May

Drop In at Chaucer – 20th May

Drop In at Sutton West – 22nd May

I hope you’ll all come to the briefings if you can and as for the drop-ins – I hope some of you will take advantage of them but if not I will happily talk to myself – I get plenty of practice of that at home!!!!!!!

Lights Under Bushels……….Part One!

Since the staff from Sharman Lawson’s division moved across to Education and Early Intervention in January I’ve met once to one with most of the staff from SEN and from Admissions – it’s been a chance for me to get to know them and it’s been really enjoyable. It’s been a real lesson for me about getting to know a little bit about the person behind the employee – I’ve no idea what it’s been like as an experience for the staff, but for me it’s been fascinating to find out more about our staff – and what an interesting bunch they are! In their ranks are people who are potential entrants to the Great British Bake Off, vintage clothes makers, film actresses, a Teddy Sheringham super-fan and someone who is such a dog lover they volunteer their services on!!!! (no I didn’t believe it either at first but it really does exist and if you are a dog lover like me – have a look by clicking on the picture of my dog Beau below – it’s just brilliant!)

As for the rest of my meetings – I’m really looking forward to them and it’s been such a good experience for me I plan to extend it to every part of our division in time – so watch out!

This is not contemplation of meaning of life but working out if he can reach the birds he chases EVERY day before they fly off!
This is not contemplation of meaning of life but working out if he can reach the birds he chases EVERY day before they fly off!

Lights Under Bushels………Part Two!

Through the one to ones, one thing I did get to find out more about was the singing and music career and ambitions of Oscar Terry who works in the SEN Transport Team. Oscar was recently a participant in The Voice UK and reached the final auditions.

More than that though, he’s been successful enough to get Tolis to download and listen to his music in his office! So, as a bit of a budding troubadour myself (it’s amazing what you can do with only three chords!…………….) I was fascinated to find out more about Oscar and his music. I’ve since listened to his stuff on You Tube and it’s great – I’m thinking of offering him the chance of a lifetime and suggesting we get together and duet!!!! But in advance of that (as I’m looking to keep my options open just in case old Cowell asks me to replace Zayn Malik in One Direction!) you might want to have a listen to Oscar’s music for yourself here! – and in advance of going to his YouTube site, here’s a little sample of just how good he is!!!!!!!!

Revised Early Help Strategy

We have drafted up a revised version of the Early Help strategy for the Council. We shared it with the LSCB and from there have begun to work with partners in health and education in particular on extending it to cover all agencies and all levels of intervention from the universal to the targeted early help work we do within Families Matter. Jackie and Sharon Godwin are leading the work for us through a task and finish group with members from Children’s Services and all our partner agencies

Children’s Centres Consultations

The consultation with Children’s Centre users finished last week. During it Sarah Duggan and Jackie led face to face meetings with parents in all of our fourteen Centres and they were supported by Cllr Mathys who as lead member found the time to make it to 9 of the 14 events!

I went to the session at Amy Johnson Children’s Centre to hear parents views for myself and I was impressed by the passion that all showed for the services the Centres provide but I was also struck by their openness and honesty in describing what the work of the staff in the Centres had done for them and their families. It was powerful and humbling at the same time. And I know from Jackie and Sarah that what I heard at Amy J was replicated across all the Centres where we discussed the future with parents.

Now we are collating all the feedback from the face to face sessions along with the responses to the online consultation at Sutton’s Future. We’ll turn this into a further report to elected members and the Children Family and Education Committee in September where we will make further recommendations for members to take final decisions. Between now and then, Jackie and Sarah will of course be liaising with Centre staff, schools, other partners and other services across the Council as we look at ways of retaining as much as we can of the great work our Children’s Centres deliver.

Strange Things On The Underground – Part 14 and Two Fifths!……

As you know one of the unbridled joys of my long commutes to and from Sutton has been the weird and wonderful things I see on the way. A couple of months back I was at Sutton station waiting on the train to Victoria – on the opposite platform was a guy carrying an armchair! Best of all was he put it down to wait for the train and it collapsed forward to the left – because it only had three legs! He saw me looking and uttered the immortal lines ” I know what you’re thinking mate but trust me………it was a bargain!” Who knew there was such demand for three-legged armchairs!

Mind you not all of the things I see are strange – some are cute! Below is a passenger who I shared the Central Line with a couple of weeks ago!

What are the chances to the two cutest things on the Underground meeting in the same carriage (and for those who are slow on the uptake, I'm the other cute thing!!!!)
What are the chances of the two cutest things on the Underground meeting in the same carriage at the same time?………………………………… (and for those who are slow on the uptake, I’m the other cute thing!!!!)

Children’s Services Internet!

The pages for what was the CYPLD part of the Internet have all been updated by Corporate IT. The look/feel is better and we are continuing to work on making the site easier for parents, young people and families to navigate and easier for us to manage. To help with that Kelly Beeney from Family Information Service is going to co-ordinate the development and updating of the site for our division. With Kelly now trained in using the website software and with full access to upload and change pages, we can work on what we need to without needing to wait for IT.

…………………..and the intranet……… 

The redesigned intranet is being developed by Tom McDaniel and Kelly is liaising with him on this on our behalf. However, having reviewed the revised approach, while it’s much, much better than what we had before, it won’t quite fit the purpose that Kelly and I have planned for an interactive space accessible across our division. So we are currently exploring the possibility of setting up a private ‘Google Community’ for everyone in Education and Early Intervention and we’ll get back to you on the details with that in due course.

…………………………………………and Social Media……………….

I don’t know how many of you are on Twitter but if you are, you can follow me @EdnEarl – and if you’re not on Twitter I’d encourage you to give it a go – I like it! I plan to use it occasionally to tweet from events as they unfold – I’ll publish the details nearer the time

Similarly you can sign up to follow this blog by email using the link on the menu bar on your left. There are already about 120 of you signed up to the blog so thank you for doing that! For those that haven’t yet I’d encourage you to do it – it means the notification on any blog updates get sent to you automatically and you don’t need to depend on it being sent out by Louise and the other PA’s

And in addition to signing up to the blog please do feel free to leave a comment. Under the title of the blog you’ll see a little quote box with the word ‘comment’ – if you click it you can type in your comment or query and I will get back to you – and of course you can also read everybody else’s comments!

Lastly, I also use Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn – so again if you find me on those and want to connect up then do so in the normal way for each platform and I will get back to you! (and if you are interested in fiction and literature, you can find my personal blog and associated ramblings here at The Only Way Is Reading !!!!)

My Music Taste Will Grow On You……………………Like Fungus!

My attempts to educate/persuade/brainwash you all into trying and liking the music I am droning on about to my long-suffering family  are not yet over! On the times I get to work at my desk, I do so accompanied by either playlists I’ve made up or Internet Radio. One of the things I use a lot is Shazam – if you’ve not used it, try it!

I’m constantly sampling and compiling lists of tracks I hear and like through Sahzam – and then at the end of the month I compile a playlist. So to seep into your brain further, here are my top three from my February List – use the comments to let me know what you think of them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3. Aquilo – You There – this is haunting and beautiful – not normally my thing but I love this!

2. Richard Swift – Lady Luck – this is a song from a film called Drinking Buddies (and yes I have checked and my mates and I aren’t in it!)

1. Ceilings – Local Natives – This isn’t just the best track of last month but the best I’ve heard in eons! It is currently my favourite song to belt out in the shower!!!! (Apologies if that last comment puts you off your lunch!)

And Finally………………..

……………………………………………. I’d hoped to finish here by quoting my family’s feedback on my shower-singing – alas it is unrepeatable! It’s a good job I have an ego the size of a house!

Still and all – I think those duet plans for Oscar and I might need to go on hold till I refine my vocal chords a tad!!!!!!!!!!!

And Finally, And Finally!……………..

………………………….. In the last few days, lots of you have asked me how I am after my car crash last week – so I wanted to reiterate I’m fine and say thanks for the fact that you’ve all taken the time to ask. On the metal and plastic front things aren’t looking so great…as you can guess from what was left of the other car it was slightly more than a bump…………………….


…………………………………….. but all in all, nobody was hurt and I’ve come out of it unscathed! It has simply left me with a stiff shoulder and a numbness in my right arm – and as my family commented “Plastic and metal can be replaced…………………………………………..and now we get the bonus of a break from the guitar too!!”

They’re so good at looking on the bright side of life in my house!!!!!!!!!!!!