Many Hands Make Light Work……….Apparently!

………………….. If you are linked in to our Education and Early Intervention Google Community then you will already know that the staff in the Quality Assurance and Category Management Service, where Jonathan Williams is the Head of Service, have now moved across to our division. So first up I’d like to welcome them and reiterate that I’m looking forward to working with them as we move through the year.

I was reading the HR Report for the People Directorate at the start of this week and one of the things I noticed was the actual number of staff in our division. There are quite a lot of you and with the addition of the staff who work with Jonathan it will bring us up to just under 450 people. It  makes us (in terms of numbers of people) the largest part of the Directorate and though I’ve not checked, it probably makes us the largest part of the Council too.

Now that number of staff isn’t that large in some ways as there are lots of organisations much bigger than us but nevertheless in Sutton Council terms, well it’s pretty big! And of course that brings its challenges – not least communicating with all of you. I do try and blog when I can but it’s not always possible to fit it in.  So, in line with an email I sent out recently I wanted to ask you all again if you could use your Google email to sign up to our Google community. It’s private to just those in our division and a much easier method for me to communicate with you because I can do it when I am out and about through my iPhone and iPad. But crucially communication is two-way and it’s not just a flow between me and all of you – it’s also a way for you to communicate with me and with each other.  And you can do that easily within the community. Anything you post, picture, text, link, video etc gets published immediately to everybody in our community can see it and it doesn’t sit waiting on me or someone else approving it.

So when you get the chance follow the link below and ask to join – we’ll confirm that almost immediately and from there its easy to use, to read and you yourself can access it on your own phone, tablet etc (you can get into it through an app or just use the internet).

Sign Up To Our Education and Early Intervention Google Community

Of course there are also benefits in having lots of people in our division. It simply increases the number of incredibly talented, hard working and clever people who work with us and that always make my day and my job much easier and more rewarding. It also means that we can do things that might be more difficult to do if there was only a handful of people – for example it makes it possible for us to run our own staff celebration events every 8 weeks and we can run our own staff briefings when we need them. But last night I was watching Modern Family ( my own family love Modern Family – and if you have seen it then we are a bit of a hybrid – my partner clearly models herself on Gloria – all gestures and fiery temper – and my daughter models herself on Haley with bits of Alex – and me……….well alas I’m essentially my families ‘Phil Dunphy’!!!!!! If you’ve not seen the programme then of course you have no idea what I am talking about – if you have you should by now feel very very very sorry for me!). Anyway, while watching Modern Family it was the episode where Mitchell joins a ‘flash mob’ to impress Cam – hilarious! And it got me thinking………………..could we use all those people in our division to do our own flash mob??????? Let me know what you think…………..and if you don’t know what a flash mob is here’s one of the best, done at Liverpool Street Station!!!!

A Good Blog Should…….

Well I know that of course the point of it is to inform – but as I’ve said before  a good blog should also amuse, entertain and educate (that’s a euphemism for ‘try to get you to like things I like!’) And of course, as you all know it also gives me a chance to pontificate about things I love or want to wax lyrical about……. the sort of stuff where if I do it at home everyone leaves the room?………………… sometimes apparently SO dull that even the dog leaves the room?! So for those of you who might be new to the blogs, some of what will follow might leave you wondering ‘what on earth is he on about?’ – if you do get that feel then just scroll down a bit!

And having said that it should educate/entertain/amuse, one of my loves is music and I frequently use ‘Shazam’ to capture bits of music I like but don’t recognise and then I go buy it and compile a playlist. So from my downloads for June, I’ve added five songs you really want in your life for you to check out! All wondrously fantastic – honest!


NUMBER 1 – This is a song called ‘Elation’ by the Isbells – you may not have heard of them but they are MASSIVE ………………….in Belgium (maybe because they are Belgian!) Anyway the song is uplifting and beautiful and I loved it…. if you like Bon Iver you’ll love it ……………and if you are thinking who on earth is Bon Iver……… well you should try him too!


We had DMT last Monday and the key points from the meeting were that performance in adults remains strong and the indicators are all largely positive. In Children’s the data shows that our numbers of LAC and Child in Need are stable and we’ve sen steady drops in the numbers subject to a plan – the current level is the lowest in over 14 months.

The HR report highlighted that the sickness and absence rate in our division is improving but it’s still on the high side compared to the rest of the Council so at the next Heads of Service meeting we will be looking at how we might improve it further. That report also showed that vacancy rates in Adults are low though they have gone up a bit recently while in Children’s the vacancy rate has gone up a little recently but there are a number of new appointments pending which should see that drop back again!


We have been continuing to review inclusion provision with schools and in recent weeks we have focused on the provision of education for children who can’t access mainstream education because they have either been excluded or because of their health needs. We’ve published a report to all schools with some thoughts and proposals for the future and through the managers I will also distribute that to staff who work in areas like SEN, School Improvement and Inclusion, so you know what the current proposals are. We’ll now take the views of the wider group of schools and from their feedback the Inclusion Review Steering Group will need to consider what the next steps might be.


Thank you to all of you who worked to ensure appraisals were in place when they were needed. About 90% are now complete where staff were due to have an appraisal review and to have new objectives set.  The remainder will be finished in the next few weeks, or in the case of staff in the Advisory and Inspection Service they will be done in September and October (as their appraisal cycle links to the academic year)

And to say thanks for getting things as they should be and for the aggregated performance here is your reward – this is Dilbert on Appraisal and no…………… before you ask……………… I categorically deny any suggestion of a similar plot between me and the Heads of Service!

Dilbert Performance Appraisal


NUMBER 2 – I try really hard to be an Indie Rock aficionado but I’m also a sucker for what is simply a pop song. This is Vance Joy’s ‘Dream Your Life Away’ – he’s an Australian who is currently supporting Taylor Swift on tour! Now this isn’t the kind of thing I’d tell my mates for fear of unbridled ridicule, but I figured you’d overlook the Taylor Swift thing! ( If you listen… be warned – video is really TERRIBLE!!!)


The Heads of Service and Team Managers in JAS, Sutton Family Centre and Families Matter, have been working on ways to improve the provision of services to children, young people and families. We’ve already identified some changes to make to the case closure processes and supervision recording as well as starting to look at how we make our assessments as analytical and focused as we can get them. The underlying principle we’ve taken is to see what we can do to make things quicker, less bureaucratic, iron out any blockages in our systems and processes, and scaffold support to the staff doing this work. The Heads of Service and the Team Managers will share the details with staff as we go along and as we refine things.


If you are new to the blog – quick upshot is that I travel in and out of Sutton from Essex every day – my journey is long, often complicated by Network Rail or London Underground, and frequently fascinating!

This week I did that classic thing of meeting somebody you know, starting to say hello and then realising you don’t know them after all!!!! At Bank Station I arrived and bumped into someone I knew well. I started to say hello and to raise my hand in greeting. Mind announcement and mid-gesture I realised I didn’t know the person at

Glenys - not a friend of mine after all alas!
Glenys – not a friend of mine after all alas!

all but it was Glenys Kinnock, wife of the former Labour Leader Neil Kinnock. So I smoothly turned the ‘hello’ into distorted  yawn and the wave gesture into running my hands exaggeratedly through my hair! My utter embarrassment weighed so heavily on me I virtually limped away down the platform!

But it was topped yesterday as there was a guy opposite me on the Central Line who like others had come prepared for the hot, sticky, humidity of the Tube at the moment. But where others had worn short leaves, brought fans and drunk water, his preparation was…….a bag of frozen peas!!!…………………………………….. which he placed on the back of his neck!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was dying to ask him if he was then going to have peas for lunch as it would have been the best example of thinking ahead ever!! Alas I had to get off at Oxford Circus and left him to the soothing properties of Captain Birds Eye!


NUMBER 3 – Well if you are still with me you are doing well to get this far – you must be new to my blogs – the staff who are used to them would normally have given up by now! But your perseverance is rewarded with a gem – this is James Struthers singing ‘Baby Blues!’ – and here is a little known fact about this song – it is very popular in Essex with people who walk their dog at five in the morning and have been known to sing this to the birds at the top of their voice…………………………….. you should try it sometime!


At the meeting of elected members on the committee in June they agreed a new Framework for SEN Transport. This is used mainly for SEN pupils to transport them to specialist schools and placements, though there’s also some use of it for children who we are safeguarding and for some adults. Members also agreed that we need to review the proposals for the future delivery of services from Children’s Centres again, to take account of the feedback from residents and service users to the first consultation we ran in the spring of this year. And lastly the committee agreed that we should move to develop outline business cases for a possible spin-out of services to schools and education. There are three options and members wanted us to explore all of them in detail and then report back.


Have I mentioned our Google Community before? I have? Well just in case don’t forget to sign up!

In addition the best way to get the blog is to sign up for it too – there’s a link to follow on the left hand side of the screen. And you can also leave comments – in fact PLEASE DO – I will respond – if you want to leave a comment – even if only to tell me my taste in music is rotten, or to get a haircut, or anything! –  then there’s a little speech bubble and a comment label just under the title of this post – try it……………………………….. go on……………………….. ………………………………………………I dare you to!


I met with our voluntary sector colleagues on the Children’s Forum last week. I gave them an update on the Children’s Centre Redesign and they have agreed to develop some proposals for how they might contribute to the wider offer of services for children and families through Children’s Centres in the future.


NUMBER 4 – If you made it this far then you either have the determination  of 7 ordinary humans or you are very bored! Anyway for your efforts here is the indie that I’m supposed to like instead of those guilty pleasure pop songs! So this is the fabulous Kid Wave and their song ‘Honey’ – it’s PERFECT for a mosh pit and a pogo……………………………… now you might think I’m too old for a mosh pit and a pogo………….. you’d be wrong! ( I accept that this is a confession too far and now you really DO feel sorry for me – but you can’t NOT jump up and down to the chorus of this!)


When we met as a group we agreed that we would look further at three specific issues: how to make appraisal more relevant and focused on each individual member of staff; streamlining our systems for completing and responding to complaints, enquiries and Freedom of Info requests; and the need for a new planning framework that will show how each team links to the Council’s priorities and to those of the Children’s Trust and LSCB.


NUMBER 5 – This is “I’ll Keep You Safe” by Sleeping At Last, a song about parenthood (at least that’s what I THINK it’s about) – it’s from a TV ad for a bank I think. I think it’s beautiful and reminds me that even though my daughter is sometimes horrible to me (see below!!!), she’s the best thing on planet earth and I LOVE being her Dad!

AND FINALLY……………………….

……………………………………………………………….When I was drafting this last night my daughter came up and looked over my shoulder. She read out loud the bit from above ‘as I’ve said before  a good blog should also amuse, entertain and educate’………….. she then paused and said “You’ve spelt that wrong”………………………………………………………

I walked into it –  “Spelt what wrong?” I asked.

“Entertain” she said, “for your blog you spell it…….. P – U – T – Y – O – U – T – O – S – L – E – E – P” and then left the room. There are two things that struck me – firstly why do girls turn into carbon copies of their mums???? – and secondly when you get to the end of these blogs I guess I should really thank you for having seen it through to the end… thanks for persevering……………. and staying awake!