I did a ‘Back To The Floor’ session last week shadowing Charlotte in the Education Business Partnership (EBP) – it was one of those sessions where I realise that for lots of our services what I see in effect is a smooth gliding swan – what I rarely get to see close up is how much effort, energy and commitment is going into that gliding service!

RonsealThe EBP team are a wonderful example of the Ronseal effect…..

they do what it says on the tin!! They try to foster and develop a partnership between local business and education and they are mightily successful at it – so much so that the EBP is now commissioned by several schools in other boroughs – in fact the major limitation is the practical one of the time it needs when schools are increasingly further away from Sutton.

Charlotte works on programmes which I’m pretty familiar with – ways to work training for target students, work experience placements and careers events. But my back to the floor morning made me realise that what I’m familiar with is the end product rather than the processes, thinking and creativity that goes in to those end products. It was a fascinating morning – and while it happened to coincide with a Modern Desktop crash I think bizarrely that gave me even more of an insight into the work rather than less. I took many things from my visit including how much of a mentoring role the staff play in directly supporting young people and the difference that makes, the complexity involved in something like work experience when it sounds so simple on the surface and the fact that the apprenticeship programme through which Charlotte first joined us really is a rich source of talent and ability! My thanks to Charlotte and her colleagues for hosting me.

My next back to the floor takes me to the team next door to the EBP but to a rather different role as am spending a morning towards end of Feb with Sophie in the Virtual School for our Looked After Children.
If you’re interested in back to the floor yourself, please let me know as I’d love to spend some time shadowing you in your job learning what you do and how it all works. Drop me an email and I will arrange to spend a morning or an afternoon with you.
William and I met with almost all the primary heads in small groups last week to talk through the spin out proposals and the opportunities and implications for schools. The meetings were a useful starting point to both inform and engage schools in the plans. As is always the case with these things the sessions varied both in tone and content. Some of the heads got it straight away and their approach was very much about how they might contribute and benefit. It’s fair to say others were unsure and some were pretty sceptical – but given the scale and nature of the change I thought the range of responses and reactions was pretty much what you’d expect. We will be trying to both summarise those sessions generally and address some of the myths and misconceptions in particular when we meet Primary Heads again collectively on Friday.
There will be a peer review of a range of aspects of the Councils work through the Local Govt Association. As part of the review there will be a series of workshop/focus groups and the intention is to gather perspectives from all parts of the organisation. So with that in mind I’ve been asked to make nominations and suggestions on people from our division who might contribute to one of these themed focus groups ranging from front-line practitioners to Heads of Service. So if you are contacted by the LGA peer review team or by the corporate team managing the review then you will know that’s come through me suggesting it and I hope you’ll be able to join in if you can. And in joining in I hope you will give an honest and balanced view on the relevant aspects – cos that’s why I’ve suggested you!
Last weekend my Essex- educated daughter asked ” When are you going to Strudel-Hofen?”……………………………..
After several seconds of bemused head-scratching I cottoned on – “Do you mean Copenhagen?!!!!”.
In disgust at such worthless pedantry she gave me a withering look and said “Strudel-Hofen or Boogen-Boogen or wherever…when is it?!!!”
Later that day I told my partner about it and we laughed (while noting my kid’s geography knowledge is a tad short of ‘mastery’!!!!)
She ended the conversation by telling me about more new clothes she’d bought for our trip (quelle surprise!!) – all about colour co-ordinated hats and jackets and stuff I didn’t understand. And then the Wirral-educated love of my life said “I’ve been checking the weather up there and I want to be ready for it – it’s absolutely freezing in Iceland……..”  I just nodded and decided not to blame the quality of geography teaching in Essex after all!
The funding challenges we see in Local Government are arguably just as challenging for the adult education and further education sector. They’ve seen considerable reductions in funding support over recent years and it shows no sign of changing. With that in mind there are Area Based Reviews happening cross border to look at the scope for greater integration and alignment. There will be a pan-London review and we’ve just signed up to that where our representation will come through the Adult College.
We’ve had a few sessions with staff discussing what the scope might be to adapt the way our adolescent services work. We’re looking in particular about what a service that targets young people ‘at risk’ actually looks like and who we might include into that definition of ‘at risk’ or even ‘vulnerable’. Having worked up the bones of a service specification the managers of the respective teams are now talking to staff further about adding some flesh to those bones so to speak. We will then present a proposal to members initially at Strategy Team on 5th Feb for a political steer and from there it will be considered by the Children’s Committee on Feb 25th.
Ever keen to educate/indoctrinate it was Burns Night on Monday. One of his best is a song called ‘Willie Stewart’. It’s a sort of love song to a male friend of Burns – I love the lyrics and it’s got a sort of sentimental value for me too as Willie Stewart is my Dads name. Anyway, fiddles and all this is the wonderful Eddie Readers version
In our work with children, young people and families most of us come into that from some sort of role-specific training and background – for me it’s teacher- training, for others it might be training for social work, youth work, SEN, early years, counselling etc.
Over recent months I’ve been looking at the scope to add to our collective skill sets through techniques which are potentially applicable in lots of areas rather than being role-specific. I’ve now asked Paul in Public Health to discuss further the potential to at least pilot some training on coaching in conjunction with sports coaches and using similar techniques. We’re looking at it with the sports coaching charity 21st Century Legacy – up till now they’ve done business and schools and we’re exploring scope to adapt to our work. We’ll get back to you further once we’ve shaped it up a bit more.
Good Bad and UglyI think most of us have now moved across to Modern Desktop and in general the feedback I pick up from you along with my own experience of it is mixed – ie ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ ( not only a great Eastwood film but the most used film title in my family for charades so my daughter and I can insult one another on ‘ugly’!!!)
On the good side – when it works it’s pretty good I think and I get sense most of you think so too! When it’s bad though – like the problems most of us had last Wednesday it’s certainly frustrating but it’s usually short lived and those crashes are getting less and less frequent. Alas when it’s ugly it can be much more problematic and can hinder service delivery. If that happens and you’re not getting the response you need as quickly as you need it, let me know.
…………………………………My daughter wasn’t well last Thursday so I had to leave one of the sessions with the adolescent service staff. On the way out I got advice from the staff about what to do – hot water bottle, hot chocolate, affection and sweets was the advice. I took it. And it was magical – suddenly my previous role as ‘loveable but utterly clueless and useless’ Dad was transformed into ‘thoughtful, inspired, fantastic Dad!!!’

Shallow individual that I am I basked in the glory of getting something all through Thursday night, in spite of the fact that she really wasn’t well! On Friday I had to take her to the GP, explain the symptoms and how ill she was. Then the GP asked “What have you’ve done so far to try and help?” and before my sad old brain had the chance to even process the question and see the risk………………. my daughter was straight in there with “He got me a hot water bottle and fed me hot chocolate and sweets”

It was instantly like those moments in old Westerns where tumble-weed blows through a one-horse deserted town – I kept quiet and went back to just being useless!
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Yes but…what are the others here for?

In case you are wondering who the wizened bloke is above and why he’s at the top of this post – it’s actually WH Auden and he’s there because of his rather irreverent comment that “We are all here to help others………………. What on earth the others are here for I don’t know!” Yet tongue in cheek or not, that premise of looking to help others sits at the heart of our work and is pretty much the core purpose of most things we do. To support that we’ve been working for some time on a revised and updated Early Help Strategy and it was agreed by the Children’s Trust Board last week. The new strategy has a revised definition of early help and an updated set of priorities. The Trust Board also agreed a new Early Help Board which will be responsible for the governance and accountability – they’ve asked schools to chair that board to reflect role of other agencies in chairing key delivery boards ( the Clincal Commissioning Group chair the CAMHS Board and we chair the CSE group in conjunction with the Met)

Alongside the new governance arrangements the Trust Board also agreed to a proposal to recruit a specific Early Help Co-ordinator, which will be a new joint-funded post between the Council and the CCG.  Jonathan will lead on the recruitment to the post which will start as soon as possible and once the post is filled it will be part of Jackie’s service for the purposes of line management and day to day operational oversight although of course ultimately it will report back to both the Trust Board and the LSCB. We will post more details on the specific functions of the role and on the recruitment as it progresses.


Both management teams reviewed the feedback on the recent Children’s Centre and Youth Services consultations. Coming from those meetings we’ve been tasked with drafting up the final reports to members on both issues and within those reports we’ve been specifically asked to address in one case some localised feedback about one particular Children’s Centre and in the other to look at how we might prioritise and aggregate the very wide range of suggestions in the feedback about what the future provision of youth and adolescent services might look like.

In addition, we have decided to have a couple of options worked up for how we best manage the transition from children’s to adult services for children with disabilities and we decided to make a formal proposal to Schools Forum for a central DSG funded service to support schools in managing and risk assessing outdoor activities and school visits. This will be on the agenda for the Forum meeting in early February.


Mixed in with the info from last week that might be of relevance and interest I’ve decided to include some random facts for you to know…. And learn!

Firstly – did you know that your fingernails start grow faster in cold weather?





We did an overview presentation to school governors at the Termly Chairs Briefing taking them through work to date and the reason for the emerging preference to set up some form of Joint Venture company between the Council and schools. Given that this is still subject to member consideration, we did not provide detail at this stage but focused on how we envisaged the new delivery model could work for and with schools.

We also did a further update to managers in the Advisory and Inspection Service. The whole issue of change on this scale and to this extent is of course difficult for all of us to come to terms with but we found that the general response from governors was a willingness to consider the possibles and to do so with a relatively open mind. For staff that’s probably even more difficult but the feedback to me from the most recent update session is that a number of staff are now considering the scope for provision through a spin out with a more positive and open-ended approach and to that end we are now putting together some training for managers across services that might be part of the spin out so that people have more of the sorts of advice and tools that they might need to manage their services to be not only effective (as we do currently) but also financially sustainable into the future.

Linked in part to the spin out, and perhaps more specifically to the implications for schools, I met with the Director of Southwark Diocese last week and we had a helpful discussion about academy conversions, trusts and the provision of School Improvement support and challenge.


The Council has introduced a new electronic system for monitoring and evaluating performance – it’s called ‘Covalent’ (though that matters to you only because I’m likely to refer to it by name in the future!) We reviewed the current set up for key indicators across our services and while the system is very effective and has huge potential we don’t have the set up right yet for us – in effect some of the proposed indicators are eit her not enough of a priority or they don’t quite measure what the system thanks they are measuring! We will make the adaptations to the PI’s in the system and then update you on actual performance as and when relevant


When Jimmy Carter was the American President, he once left the launch codes for their nuclear arsenal in the pocket of a suit he sent to the dry cleaners!!!!




You will know that following the Council decision on land offers to any free school development, the Greenshaw Learning Trust declined the option to develop the free school for which they have agreement from the Education Funding Agency on the site made available at Sutton Hospital. As a result the CFE Committee have agreed that we would begin the detailed work on school vision and potential design for a secondary provision on that site, on the assumption that the Council might progress a new school development up to planning stage and potentially beyond that depending on decisions elsewhere. While there are likely to be further free school applications, and these may well end up being delivered on the hospital site if there is an approved application, we still need to progress it at pace in advance of any decision that the EFA might make. As a result Kieran was working with an education consultant to work up the design brief for a possible new school last week and in due course we will see that formalised and progressed to possible designs. I’ve been through the initial scoping work for the vision statement and design brief and think it already captures the key issues and components we’d want to see delivered in any new school.


Of all the people in the world who live to be over one hundred years of age, four in every five of them are women!!! There’s a moral in there somewhere but I’m not keen to go looking for it!



We had a scoping session for staff from Children’s Centres and from Youth and Adolescent Services last week, with an external facilitator from an organisation called Bryanston Square. The feedback from the session that I’ve had was that it was engaging and thought-provoking for most staff who attended. We recognise that while the session might have done much to engage and promote reflection, it did not give the opportunity to move on to developing possible concrete proposals for any redevelopment. We are meeting further with Youth and Adolescent Service staff this week to see if we can move that aspect of our provision on to a more detailed service redesign brief.


I’m to end with poetry too – this time TS Eliot. The winner of the TS Eliot Poetry Prize was announced last week and a debut collection called ‘Loop of Jade’ by Sarah Howe was the winner. I know poetry isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea but this is really good – I’d thoroughly recommend it. If you want to try before you might buy there’s a sample below


…………………………………… I’m usually slightly sneering at the interest that my family seem to take in the minutiae of others lives in the TV programmes they watch – Real Housewives from just about everywhere, Big Brother, programmes about people choosing wedding dresses etc etc etc! I take this very high brow and intellectually superior stance that it holds no interest for me – and then a recent Tube journey taught me how wrong I was.

A woman and what turned out to be her adult daughter sat opposite me at Epping. As we travelled into London they moved from standard chatter about how to make a curry paste and the new neighbours to suddenly discuss the woman’s ex-husbands – and I do mean plural! It was loud, matter of fact but utterly mid-boggling to me – I had my book open in front of me but read virtually nothing – instead I was captivated. At the point when I’m pretty sure they were discussing husband number 5 (!!!) I realised that I was at Tottenham Court Road – ordinarily that’s not a problem as it is the station before Oxford Circus where I usually get off – but on this morning I’d meant to get off at Bank!!! – but I’d been so engrossed in her marriages and divorces that I’d missed it and a few more stops thereafter!!!!

I got off at Oxford Circus pretending that it was what I’d meant to do all along and having learned two things – I shouldn’t be so quick to judge my family and their fascinations with the lives of others and secondly…. What a dull life I must lead!