All posts by Col

I'm an Exiled In Essex Scotsman who loves books, indie music, Manchester United and Eric Cantona - though not necessarily in that order!

My Epilogue, My Swan Song and the Bru de Grace!

For my last ever weekly update I thought I’d mix in the odd bit of information about what’s going on in Sutton with a wee homage to my home city.

As you know I’ve spent the last week and a bit up there after my Dad passed away. People have been incredibly understanding and nice to me since I came back yesterday – but my Dad would want me to cheer up and I  think if there’s one thing Glasgow can do as well as anywhere in the world…it is cheer you up! And it’s also rather timely to finish my last blog post with a homage to my home city – as you all know last weekend a Scotsman became the greatest tennis player in the world (Go on Andy my son!) and this weekend Scotland will of course batter England in the European Football qualifier at Wembley on Friday night! And of course after a week and a half at home……if you thought my accent was strong before you should hear it now!

So, without any further jingoistic ado…….

SUTTON EDUCATION SERVICES

After a huge amount of work by so many people and a massive commitment from staff and schools, the new spin out company Sutton Education Services Ltd has now gone live. We’ve completed the transfer of around 200 staff from the Council to the company for the start of this week and our new life as a trading company starts here. In so many ways I’ll be sorry not to be part of this but I will watch it from across the river with great interest – and with confidence that it will be the success that the schools and the staff who work in it deserve it to be.

While William will of course provide much more detailed feedback to staff in the company I thought I’d updated all of you on where we are. The contract with the Council (all 180 pages of it!) is now completed and signed off. The first interview process for the new company was held last week and successfully made an appointment of an Operations Director. School sign ups for traded services from the company have now passed £200K in value and the school shareholders have begun the process of choosing who will represent them on the Board of Directors. On the Council side of it we are already at work advertising for a Chair for the Board and for other Non-Exec Directors. And crucially the search for the Managing Director is now well under way working through a specialist recruitment agency.

There’s still a long way to go to make sure the company is financially secure and commercially successful but this feels like a bit of a watershed moment. So even though it’s early days, it’s taken some time and a fair bit of graft from a lot of people to get to this point so I think we can at least look back with some pride at what we’ve achieved so far and look forward with some confidence to what we’ll achieve in the future.

ANNUAL LEAVE

Tolis is currently on annual leave having gone home to Greece for a week and he will be back next week. It’s been an unfortunate consequence of me having to Glasgow last week that I won’t get to see him before I go but I will be writing to schools and staff later this week to give more detail about the handover and cover arrangements as we’ve now agreed these.

billyTHE BIG YIN

One of the best compliments I’ve ever had came from Cllr Hookway when he found out I was moving on from Sutton – he kindly said the only way that CFE meetings could be more entertaining was if the Council appointed Billy Connolly!

Much as I loved it I know I’m not in the great man’s league – when I was around 16 and actually talking seriously about wanting to be a stand-up comedian when I left school, my Dad got me a summer holiday job in the shipyards for two reasons – firstly so I could stop scrounging money from him and secondly so I could learn that in Glasgow, EVERYBODY thinks they are Billy Connolly!! Here are my favourite lines from the great man

‘Never trust a man who when left alone with a tea cosy……doesn’t try it on!’

‘Marriage is a wonderful invention – but then so is a bicycle repair kit!’

‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that, who cares, you’re a mile away and you’ve got his shoes!’

‘There are two seasons in Scotland – June and Winter!’

‘Glaswegians are actually pale blue….it takes us at least a week of sunbathing before we start to turn white!!’

‘I’m a huge Hollywood film star you know….. but you have to hurry to the movies cos I usually play the guy who gets killed in the first 15 minutes!’

‘My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking ‘Ah yes…The Lone Ranger!!’

LINE MANAGEMENT CHANGES

Jackie has now moved to her new role as one of Richard’s Heads of Service, having started in that job last week. As we’ve mentioned previously there are a number of follow on changes from that and from my decision to move on. As I guess you would expect this is continuing to evolve. So to update further, Kieran will remain as a Council officer and will effectively be the point of contact for most things linked to education and he will fulfil a number of the duties as the senior education officer in the same way as I do at the moment.

DMT
At the DMT meeting this week we had reports tabled on Commissioning from Voluntary Sector and on Crèche Service Provisions. The meeting was a fairly light agenda apart from these two items.

TALK LIKE A GLASWEGIAN – PART ONE

Officially more difficult for most of you than walking like an Egyptian, the Glasgow dialect isn’t easy to listen to – and as for speaking it –  you have no chance! When I was a teacher I used to get the kids in my classes down here to try saying a Glasgow dialect poem aloud – I pretended I was teaching them something about the rhythm of language but really it was just an excuse for me to giggle and fall about laughing as the kids tried to adapt their Essex and London voices to Glaswegian words. And if you think I’m exaggerating try and read this……………..it’s the Glasgow classic Lament For A Lost Dinner Ticket by Margaret Hamilton……..

lament

SUTTON SHAREHOLDING BOARD
The Council has set this board up as part of the governance structure for spin outs such as Sutton Education Services. In due course we’ll report in to this board for decisions on key issues like the appointment of a Chair of the SES Directors and provide updates on performance. But although the Board meets this week we don’t have any items on this agenda and so the focus is on the Council Housing delivery unit.

NEW FREE SPECIAL SCHOOL
As mentioned before Orchard Hill Academy Trust were successful on a bid to government for a new Free Special School which will effectively replace the current Carew Academy. We are meeting Orchard Hill and their representatives this week to begin considering a preferred site option for the new school to be built upon. It will no doubt be some time yet before a site is confirmed but once it is work can then begin on considering design and planning issues. Notwithstanding any future considerations about a site it’s an exciting development and a chance to drastically improve the learning environment and facilities for Carew students into the future.

TALK LIKE A GLASWEGIAN – PART TWO

The strange twisted words of Glasgow not only allow us to talk to fellow Glaswegians in a code nobody else can understand, it also opens up a whole new world of possibilities for puns and plays on words. Here are a selection of Glaswegian shopkeepers with a sense of ……well the ridiculous really!

weans-world

florist-gump

dug-washsell-fridges

cone

SHERWOOD PARK EXTENSION

On a similar note the extension to Sherwood Park School, Sherwood Hill, is now complete up at the old Stanley Park High site. The school is another example of how we can create radically improved facilities and learning conditions for pupils with additional needs.

CONSULTATION ON PRU MERGER
Following decisions by Schools Forum and the Children Family and Education Committee, we have now commenced a consultation on a proposal to merge Limes College with STARS Medical PRU. The merger proposal would see the settings have integrated leadership, governance and some support services but remain separate Education provisions on separate sites. If you are interested in the consultation I will publish a link to it through the Google Community later this week.

TALK LIKE A GLASWEGIAN – PART THREE

They might hail from Edinburgh – i.e. they are posh – but joining in with this is probably the closest you’ll get to being a Glaswegian…………….

CONSULTATIONS ON DSG SAVINGS AND SEN
As I’ve mentioned previously, the overall funding position for the DSG is challenging and likely to see a deficit in the future unless we implement a programme of activities to reduce costs. With that in mind we are about to consult schools on a range of DSG savings options and also begin to consult schools on revising the funding arrangements for individual pupils with Special Educational Needs. We’ll be publishing both this week and I will make the link to them available for those interested through the Google Community.

EARLY HELP PROVISION
Sarah has recently provided an update to the LSCB on Early Help. Among the details in that report it confirms that work is now underway to analyse the risk factors in a sample of 100 CIN and CP cases so we can use this in the development of an Early Help data set. We know from experience that while there are lots of things we can ‘measure’ about impact and outcomes for children and young people, it’s crucial that we measure the things which make the biggest difference – and the review of cases will help steer that consideration of what does make the biggest difference.
The Early Help Multi-Agency Assessment Tool went live at the beginning of September and so we are visiting teams and schools and other settings to support its use. We’re using those visits to raise awareness of that assessment tool and other thinks like the new Early Help Directory, which is an extension and improvement on the previous Family Services Directory. Sarah has also started to provide regular updates on Early Help through a newsletter and if you’re on Twitter you can follow the work on @EarlyHelpSutton

THE BEST IN GLASWEGIAN JOKES – PART ONE

Jokes are as much a part of Glasgow as how we say ‘Curly Wurly’, the perennial rain and asking for a ‘roll with square sausage’. These are particularly Glaswegian jokes though – so you have to think and say it as a Glaswegian would to get it – good luck – if you’ve any chance of getting these you’ll need it!

A woman goes to the dentist in Glasgow. He’s an Englishman. He invites her to sit in the chair and asks ‘Comfy there?’

‘Naw’ she replies. ‘I’m frae Govan!’

TARGETED YOUTH SERVICE
Following the members decision to set up a different kind of Targeted Youth Service, focused exclusively on children at risk of entering care and in children at risk of school exclusion, we’ve been working to set up a structure and establishment to deliver what’s needed. As part of that we’ve had to restructure our management in this area and so Laura Noulton will now head up this service. The first exclusion risk referrals into it came through at the October Vulnerable Pupil Panel and the service is now ‘live’.

THE BEST IN GLASWEGIAN JOKES – PART TWO

A man goes into the bakers in Glasgow and says to the baker ‘Is that a donut or a meringue?’

‘Naw’ says the baker, ‘you’re right enough. It’s a donut!’

NATIONAL LEADER IN EDUCATION
One of the key reasons for setting up the education spin out was the strength and quality of school leadership in Sutton. We already have a small number of schools who are recognised as teaching schools or as designated leaders in education. I was delighted to hear this week that Sharon Roberts, who heads up our Education Service and is the Headteacher at Stanley Park Infants has been selected as a National Leader in Education. I think those of us who’ve seen Sharon’s work as Head of Service won’t be surprised that she’s been chosen. So my congratulations to Sharon and her school on this richly deserved recognition.

SCHOOL CHANGES
We have had further changes with schools moving away from LA Maintained Status. Brookfield Primary has now become an Academy and is part of the Leo Trust led by Cheam Park Farm School.
In addition, a group of schools at Amy Johnson Primary, Beddington Infants, Culvers House Primary, Dorchester Primary,  Foresters Primary, Muschamp Primary, Nonsuch Primary, and Sherwood Park Special School have decided to set up a Foundation Trust together ased on Co-Op values. The schools are collectively consulting on the proposal between now and the 22ndof November. If it progresses after that consultation there will be a statutory notice period till December 22nd so effectively I’d expect any Trust to commence from January 2017.

THE BEST IN GLASWEGIAN JOKES – PART THREE AND FOUR

Question – There are two cows standing in a field. Which one is on holiday?

Answer – The one with a wee calf!

And to continue the bovine theme to end

Question – There are ten cows in a field in Scotland. Which one is originally from the Middle East?

Answer – Coo Eight!

DfE VISIT TO SEN

Lesley and the SEN service hosted a visit from Charlie Palmer from the DfE who came to review the set up and implementation of the SEND Reforms here. I know from initial feedback that the visit proved useful for us – however I also know that the timetable wasn’t followed as we’d intended so it left a number of people waiting around. So my thanks to Lesley and everyone else who did the preparatory work and hosted the visit from DfE. We don’t know what the feedback will be but when we receive it in due course we expect it to confirm that while we will still have things to change and improve, the pace of development and implementation in Sutton is broadly in line with the pace of change for SEND services everywhere else in the country.

LAST DAY

I will of course have my last day here in Sutton this Friday.  I’ve been sent an invite to a lunch at the Quad on Friday so if you are there I hope to see you and say goodbye. But for those I don’t see I will post a short goodbye blog post on Friday

AND FINALLY……….

……………………………………………………… When I was in Scotland with my family last week, we did a lot of reminiscing as all families do at difficult times. As part of that we were looking through old photographs and my partner and daughter were especially thrilled to come across a photograph of me when I was in Year 7- and what they loved most was that my hairstyle then was exactly the same as it is now – 42 years later!!!!

As you can imagine I got a fair bit of abuse for that but I’m not too bothered…………………………….. I’m telling myself what it really means is that even though I’m in my 50’s,  I have been in style since 1973!!!!

………………………… I just hope that after the football on Friday night I’m not forced to add on ‘And I’ve been waiting for a win at Wembley since 1973 too!!!’

Enjoy the rest of your week

A Man Called Donato……… A Silverback Gorilla………………And The Walthamstow High Street Karaoke!

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM THIS WEEK – AND A FEW YOU DON’T

As I didn’t get a blog post out for the start of last week to look ahead I thought I’d at least update you with a look back at the week just gone as well as a look ahead to the one to come! So if you feel the need to read this all the way to the end of this blog post maybe do it in instalments!

25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIG ISSUE
Most mornings when I come through Victoria I meet Donato who sells The Big Issue from his pitch by WH Smith in the station. He’s now 70 years old, originally from Turin and a friendly, polite, lovely guy. I try and stop for him two or three times a week. This morning he proudly thrust the magazine into my hand because he’s featured in it. And he was doubly proud because it’s the 25th anniversary edition of the magazine. So if you can, both this week and in the weeks to follow, please spare a few quid for Donato and anybody else selling the Big Issue. Because as you can read for yourself if you buy this weeks edition, it really can make a difference to people who just need a bit of help.
donato-1

 

SCHOOLS FORUM
We had a pretty full agenda for Forum last Monday night. With the DSG under considerable financial pressure as funding restrictions increasingly impact on schools and education, several papers related to how we try and address this problem. I won’t cover all the reports here but the key things I think you might need to know or be interested in.The Forum took one last opportunity to review the draft Service Level Agreement for Targeted Youth Service work aimed at preventing school exclusions. There are a few changes to make as a result in: clarifying the need to liaise with schools and Limes College; reporting arrangements for performance and the referral and tracking arrangements through VPP. I don’t see any of the final changes as problematic or lengthy and so I expect the final SLA to go to all schools as scheduled next week.Another key paper was a set of proposals for savings to the DSG. We’d prepared these in conjunction with the Formula Review Group of the Forum and the proposals that are agreed for consultation are options on: changing base budget to all schools; changing funding arrangements for ‘growth’ in pupil number; revising the top up provision into the PRU’s; revising the top up for Special Educational Needs; and changing capacity levels for supporting pupils with ASD, Speech and Language Needs and Education as an Additional Language. We will now draft the different options up into a consultation document that we will send to all schools and staff in due course.Connected to the above, Schools Forum also considered a detailed set of proposals for adjusting the way in which we determine the top up rates for pupils with SEN who are educated in Special Schools or in mainstream schools with Specialist Bases. Again we will be consulting schools and others on these changes.All of the consultation feedback on the things above, as well as further budget reports on the current position within the DSG, will go through Formula Review Group and then back to Schools Forum in December

CH….CH….CH…CH…..CHANGES……

Apart from being the lyric to one of David Bowie’s best tracks IMHO, it’s also rather appropriate as there’s a lot of these around at the moment! So I thought I’d just summarise what’s happening as best I can.
I’ve advised education staff at briefings that I hope to recruit three Headteachers, working together for 2.5 days a week each, to provide line management support between my departure and the new Managing Director joining the spin out company. I expect this MD appointment in January and I hope to confirm on the Headteacher support arrangements later this week.
We have long listed the 10 applicants for the Ops Director role in the spin out down to a shortlist of 5. We will be reviewing those further before interviews in the first week of November. Our plan is that William will continue until he is able to do a handover to the new OD.
Outside of the education services, Jackie will be moving to replace Jean Kelly one of Richards’ Heads of Service. Jackie will then run FSCP and the services Jackie currently leads ( Early Help, Children’s Centres, Families Matter and Family Support) will also move to report in to Richard.
Tolis is currently considering options for the senior education role within the LA and I will let you know what those arrangements are as soon as possible.
The Council has agreed to my request to leave as soon as is practical and so my last day with Sutton will be Friday November 11th – so only a few more of these blogs/War and Peace missives to endure!!!!!
CHILDREN MISSING EDUCATION
The DfE released revised statutory guidance on this over the summer. It lands at a time when we have made changes to the way in which we will manage the support and oversight for Children Missing Education from here on, following staff changes last academic year. The provision to CME will now be managed through our school attendance service and so Gill Harp is working along with Peter Gasparelli from Admissions on revising the guidance for schools, briefing heads and teachers, putting interim data collection arrangements in place and working out the resource needs for meeting the revised LA duty on CME in the future.
LAST WEEK WAS INTERNATIONAL LITERARY CRITICISM WEEK…….. APPARENTLY!
As I mentioned in the last blog I went off to the Cheltenham Literature Festival the weekend before last with my beloved!
And as I also mentioned, my suspicions about the extent to which I was really being ‘accompanied’ to see Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Mary Beard etc were somewhat confirmed when the journey to Cheltenham was peppered with references to ‘having heard what a great city it was’ and ‘what a great shopping area it has’!!!!
However, very unexpectedly I was actually ‘accompanied’ to Mary Beard’s talk about the Ancient Romans in the early part of Saturday evening.  At least I was ‘accompanied’ if you define that as simply the ‘physical presence’! However if you nuance your definition of ‘accompanied’ to ‘physical presence AND awake'(!!!), then I was most definitely unaccompanied!!!!
Although afterwards I was treated to a literary critique of Mary Beard’s talk about her book ‘SPQR’ as you could apparently ‘hear every word in your sleep’!
And as if Sleeping Beauty’s critique of Mary Beard wasn’t enough, I had the unusual, nay unique experience, of being asked what I was reading by the bloke next to me on the Tube as we sat waiting to depart Walthamstow in the middle of the week.
‘It’s the new poetry collection ‘Loop of Jade’ by Sarah Howe!’ I said eagerly, adding in the hope of sparking the conversation that ….’She won the TS Eliot Prize for it this year!’.
‘Oh!’ said my new neighbour, ‘bit dull for me! I like fishing’.
At which he took out a copy of Angling Times or The Only Way is Fishing or something of that ilk. For the rest of the journey to Victoria we didn’t exchange as much as a glance, never mind a word!
But I know that you’re all DESPERATE to read Loop of Jade so here’s a snippet to entice you!!!!!!!
I watched the shadowplay
of trees
against the blinds one October – 
in the way sometimes
you stare
at a pale face across the bed
so long 
you hardly see it – 
And for those of you now thinking….’I think I’d rather read ‘The Only Way is Fishing’……shame on you!!
SECONDARY VULNERABLE PUPIL PANEL
At the Panel meet last week, we reviewed a number of cases for possible admission to Limes and also some possible admissions to STARS. At the moment, there are still spaces in both provisions but this isn’t likely to be the case as the academic year progresses. As part of the attempts to reduce the risks for young people we have the new Targeted Youth Service starting and we used the VPP meet to identify a few young people where we will work in conjunction with Limes to try and prevent the risk of exclusion.
EDUCATION SERVICE SPIN OUT
As well as the progress in recruiting an OD as mentioned above we had a further two staff briefings as part of the TUPE consultation last week. We are following this with a further two briefings this week and a separate meeting with Trade Union colleagues supporting those affected by the changes.
As well as discussing line management arrangements when William and I met with team managers this week, we also discussed the work being done on branding and marketing (where a small group of staff are starting to develop ideas and options, supported by an external provider, that we can share with Directors and School Shareholders in due course) and we gave an update on the draft documentation being developed such as the contract between the Council and the company and the draft shareholder agreements (which were sent to school shareholders last week)
FINANCE AND BUDGET
Last week the Exec Heads from across People’s met with the various Lead Members for Children’s and Adults to talk through the savings programme and the link between the savings and the Council’s outcomes and ambitions as set out in the Council Commissioning Plan.  For our services the focus is of course on the final stages of the changes to education and youth services and the early preparation for making sure early help from both us and our partners is supporting the wider transformation programme for our social care services
This week I will be meeting with Finance to review the division’s budget position as at Month 6 and updating the year end projections. We have been able to make some in-roads into cost pressures in the last couple of months but with continued rising costs for CIN and for SEN within the DSG, I expect those pressures to continue to be challenging in the months ahead
TRAFFIC LIGHT KARAOKE
Most mornings I drive into Walthamstow Underground station and I listen to the news on Radio 4. But on the way home I need the soothe of either XFM Radio or a CD. Last week I left the car park and got to the main lights by Walthamstow High Street. It was a warmish end to the day so I had the window down and was lustily, if tunelessly, singing along to Radiohead. As I sat at the lights track 9, House of Cards came up. I joined in from the off, belting out the first line ‘I don’t want to be your lover………I just want to be your friend’ and then realised the car next to me at the lights also had the window down. There was an older couple and the lady in the passenger seat looked at me, smiled, and said ‘Probably just as well love, as my husband’s here!’  At that they drove off turning right – I went straight on and didn’t sing another word all the way home!
And to set the scene, here’s House of Cards ( and for what it’s worth it is my absolute favourite Radiohead song – try it you might be pleasantly surprised!!)
And anyway the video is seriously clever as it was filmed without the use of cameras!!!!

ACADEMY CONVERSIONS
Kieran and I met with our colleague from DfE, who will be the main link on academy conversions into the future.
We have seen a slow but ongoing transition to academy status in Sutton, so for example recently we saw Tweeddale Primary become part of the Greenshaw Trust and Cheam Fields Primary become part of the Leo Trust. In the months ahead we expect to see Brookfield Primary and Stanley Park High complete the process on converting from LA maintained to Academy status.
FUTURE OF LOCAL OFFER SITE
For those of you involved in school improvement and SEN/Inclusion, you’ll be well aware of Sutton’s Local Offer site which we developed in conjunction with parents and young people.  It’s currently hosted separately from the Council website but the company who host it have intimated that they now need to upgrade it. We are therefore taking the opportunity to review and consider our options for the future provision of the Local Offer site and Rosemary Brennan and I are meeting colleagues from IT this week to look at the scope for change. meantime though if you are interested in taking a look the current Local Offer site you can find it here. 
MASTERING TECHNOLOGY
I went straight to Denmark Road on Friday, where several of education services are now based, as I had a briefing with staff first thing . As I had stuff to catch up on I went in early getting to Denmark Road just after 7:30. Alas the back door of the building was locked and I couldn’t get in. I went to the front and though I could get in to reception area the doors to the offices were locked. I guessed they were on a timer and my pass wouldn’t work till 8. Two minutes later a member of EHR staff came in and went on through as his pass worked. I followed him. My pass didn’t work. I sat back down to wait when another EHR staff member came in and went through. I followed. My pass still wouldn’t work. I began to mutter darkly about IT, EHR bias and the world in general after it happened twice more. But on the fifth go it all worked fine when I suddenly realised I’d spent the last twenty minutes trying to get into the building with my Oyster Card!!!!!
BOARD MEETINGS
This week sees the next meeting of the Early Help Strategy Board, which provides the governance, oversight and co-ordination to the work that we and our partners do on early help. Among the papers are reports on: the Early Help Dashboard (which tracks progress in implementing the new revised Early Help Strategy); an update on the Social Care Transformation Programme and the links with Early Help; an update on Early Help Training Programme; Family Group Conference Arrangement changes; and an update on the recently launched Early Help Assessment Tool
Later this week, Tolis will chair the next meeting of the Children’s Transformation Programme Board and on the same day the Sutton Disability Partnership Board meet, which will include taking some feedback from us on SEN issues and on tracking the sufficiency of childcare for children with disabilities across the borough
WHERE COULD THIS BE?
At the weekend I flew out of London for a city somewhere else – but for reasons that will now become clear I don’t intend to name it to protect its anonymity and because you’ll never be able to guess where it was. So having flown to this not-to-be-named city I checked into the hotel. I got my key and headed off to my room on the second floor when at the foot of the stairs I saw the following notice – parked on a table and written in large red letters.
‘ BY ORDER OF THE HOTEL MANAGEMENT, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN IRN BRU BE TAKEN UP TO THE BEDROOMS FOR THE SIMPLE REASON THAT WHEN PEOPLE ARE DRUNK THEY SPILL IT …… AND IRN BRU STAINS OUR CARPETS!’
It was certainly the most unusual and unique welcome I’ve ever had in a hotel (if not quite the ‘friendliest’ perhaps!!!!!)
Alas you are unlikely to experience this level of hospitality for yourself as of course you have NO IDEA WHERE IT IS AND NO CHANCE OF WORKING IT OUT FOR YOURSELVES!!
irn-bru
THE SUTTON PLAN – EXPLORING THE FUTURE
As you know from Insight, the Council are embarking on the development of a new Sutton Plan which will become the key driver for both the Council and all of its partners. Through Insight I know that you’ll have been sent details of how you might get involved in those conversations.
In addition, on Wednesday of this week members and Council officers are coming together to talk more with representatives of partner agencies. The focus of the session is on exploring the future, working with partners to set out the shared ambitions and aims for the people who will live and work in Sutton now and in the future. While I’m not going to be attending the session itself I will definitely catch up with my colleagues who are going to be there and in due course I will update you where i can on the key messages and thinking from the session on Wednesday.
AND FINALLY………………………….. THERE’S ONLY ONE THING WORSE THAN A WITTY LIVERPUDLIAN……..
…………………………………………………………… And that’s a witty Liverpudlian’s witty daughter!
I’m sure you read of the Silver-back Gorilla at London Zoo last which must have been a pretty scary ordeal for those involved. And while the women in my life did have sympathy for those people it was also too good a chance to miss. They think I’m ever-so-slightly ‘alpha-male’ so just after the news broke my partner texted to say ‘Just heard about silver-back mayhem and what a relief when found out it was London Zoo and not Sutton!’ and this was soon followed by the younger half of my very own version of Morecambe and Wise who sent me the text that said ‘Stop misbehaving and get back in your cage and play nicely’.
And as if ruining the personality part of my self-esteem wasn’t enough – when I got home my entreaties that the personality comparison between me and gorillas was a bit unfair, I then met the riposte that it wasn’t all a personality comparison – the fact that I was so short my knuckles scrape on the ground too was used to add stature injury to personality insult!!

THE KISS…………………………. THAT LOVELY TRICK OF NATURE – OR IS IT?!…………………….

ON THE HORIZON OCT 3RD TO OCT 7TH 2016

THE DANGERS OF FUCHSIA ROUGE!

That blog headline comes from a quote from Ingrid Bergman. She described a kiss like this:

“A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop speech when words become superfluous!”

It’s beautiful and romantic but sometimes kissing can be more dangerous than you might think. Last Friday my partner dropped me off at the Tube station. She gave me a kiss – and why wouldn’t she as I am a handsome man!!!!!!!!! Anyway, I went out to Victoria on the Tube through Oxford Circus. The Tube was rammed. When I got to Victoria I bought a coffee – and the young woman serving me said ‘Interesting choice of lip colour!’……………………………………………….

And you know you get that moment when your mind just…….. you just suddenly know!!! She confirmed that I was rather overtly lipstick smeared!!!!  She gave me tissues and it took me a good 5 mins you wipe off the residue of what I was later told was ‘Fuschia Rose’.  Now Fuschia Rose is lovely and on my partner, who is beautiful, Fuschia Rose is a perfect adornment. On me however Fuschia Rose looked like a bit like Jack Nicholson did when he was playing the Joker in the Batman films.

When you get to my age you don’t have much street cred left  – but you have none whatsover if you try to go through London in the rush hour smeared with Fuschia Rose!

And for all you truly romantic members of staff feel, free to use that Ingrid Bergman line with your partners and pretend you’ve just become a hopeless romantic!!

joker2

STAFF SURVEY
If you haven ‘t yet done it I’d encourage you to do the Council Staff Survey, commissioned from BMG to ensure its fully confidential and independent. It doesn’t take long to do and the questions are all pretty straightforward and clear. There is still time to make your views known. While there’s always a query about what difference one person’s voice can make, I would still encourage you to add your voice to that of others – partly because in order to decide on next steps, it will be better if the views represent as wide a cross section of staff as possible.

SEN COMMISSIONING
When we were working on the SEN place projections for things like Free School bids which included Specialist bases and considering the scope for some place reductions in a couple of schools, Kieran and I discussed the potential for a wider overarching SEN Commissioning Strategy. We think it would be beneficial for both the management of SEN commissioning and a helpful addition to the approach to Pupil Place Planning. As a result Kieran and Colin Pates have been working up an initial draft and I will review that this week. Once we have something closer to a final draft we’ll share with others for comment and feedback

FORMULA REVIEW GROUP MEETING
Sue Holmes from Finance will be joining me in meeting the Heads and Governors on this School Forum task group. The focus of the meeting will be on finalising the options for DSG Savings consultations which will need to be approved at the full Forum next week before being sent to schools and services for comment and response. At this meeting Sue and I will be presenting both the factual info and our own views about the scale of savings needed and securing a balanced range of options to make the necessary cost reductions.

UNION MEETING
We are having slightly more frequent meetings with Trade Union colleagues at the moment simply because we have a lot going on. As well as the formal consultations around Targeted Youth and Education Service Spin Out I met last week with the Teaching Unions and this week am meeting with the representatives of recognised Trade Unions across the Council more generally.

DIGITAL PROGRAMME
Strange as it may seem I actually think I might miss Google and Modern Desktop a bit now that I’ve got used to it. Talking to colleagues I get the sense that while we might not be at the forefront of modern technology, the way we use IT in Sutton is better than it is in several other boroughs! At Digital Programme Board this week we’ll be looking at next steps with the Digital Strategy which is largely centred on future use of Google Apps, developing a My Account provision for residents to manage their business/interaction with the Council and the work of the Digital Ambassadors who are looking at how we transform ways of working for staff and residents through IT.
Then later in the week I will be meeting the Digital Ambassadors from Children’s Services who are currently involved in that above-mentioned project work with colleagues from across the Council. Our ambassadors are Kelly in Integrated Services Young Children, Louise in Integrated Services Young People and Oonagh in QA/Commissioning

READ IT LIKE A BOOK!
I’m going to the Cheltenham Literature Festival next weekend. I’m going to sessions with authors like Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks and Eimear McBride over the two days of the festival. Going to a Literature Festival is not unusual for me. What IS unusual this time is that my partner has decided to come with me!!!! Usually the book stuff is something she tolerates with mild amusement on a good day. Last night she asked me about the details and in particular where we’re staying. I explained I’d rented a house right in the middle of Cheltenham. ‘Is it near enough to the shopping centre to walk there?’ she asked! And the penny dropped – I’m might not be going to Cheltenham on my own but I’m going to the Book Festival unaccompanied!!!

In the brutal war in our house between books and shoes, the shoes win every time!

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PA ARRANGEMENTS
This is Helen’s last week with the Council having been here as PA to different officers for almost 19 years. She’s off to be a PA at Institute for Cancer Research now and I’d like to wish her well on behalf of all of us. We’re a pretty busy part of the Council and our business is both varied and complexed and Helen has done a great job getting her head round the complexities and intricacies of what we do since she moved to work for me from her previous job as PA to the Director of Adults Services.
Helen will be replaced by Kirstie Roartie. As with the current arrangements, Kirstie will work for both Nick the Head of Adults and I.

MANAGING EARLY YEARS ACCESS AND FUNDING
The government are making a number of changes to funding 2, 3 and 4 year old childcare arrangements, including new administration arrangements. Later this week I will be meeting with colleagues in both Early Years and Corporate Performance to consider what needs to be done and by when to ensure we are fully compliant.

ONE TO ONE
Got my next one to one with Tolis this week. We’ll be focusing in the main on the transition arrangements for me moving on and on the detailed handover that will be needed. We are also going to be looking at the appointment of leaders and Directors to the Education spin out and the staffing structure and organisational arrangements for the Targeted Youth service post-consultation with staff.

I’ve also got one to one meets this week with Jackie and William and I’m also meeting up with Sheila about our future Learning Support Service.

APPLICATIONS WANTED ……ONLY WHITE HAIRED AND WHITE BEARDED NEED APPLY!
I’ve been in Scotland quite a bit in the last few weeks visiting my parents. When I was up a few weeks ago there was an ad in the local paper which was titled Job Vacancy. It was a local Garden Centre advertising for a Father Christmas to man their Christmas Grotto! As well as stating that they were looking for somebody who would be available throughout December, the ad also contained the following classic lines:

‘ability to get on with children desirable ( but not essential!!! It’s still a no-nonsense world in Glasgow!!) and that the job had ‘excellent career opportunities’!!!!

So if the successful candidate does well at that Garden Centre, I think you should all get ready to host a Glaswegian on your roof on December 24th!!!!!!!!!

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AND FINALLY…………….

………………………………………………….. As you now know through Tolis and the subsequent note I sent on Friday, I’ve decided to leave my post in Sutton for a new job. I know from feedback that this has created anxiety, uncertainty and concern for some of you as it comes at a time of significant change in several services. As I mentioned above, the transition arrangements are still to be finalised and when they are I will write to all of you more fully. In the meantime I will also being working on handover arrangements with the Heads of Services, as well as with the management team in the Advisory and Inspection Service. However if you have any specific queries relating to you and what it might mean for the services you work in, then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE (LITERALLY)…..THEN I’M YOUR MAN!

ON THE HORIZON SEPT 26TH TO SEPT 30TH

NEW CHILD MISSING EDUCATION GUIDANCE
We had new statutory guidance out from DfE on this over the summer. Peter from Admissions and Gill from Attendance have prepared an initial review, self assessment and briefing notes on the changes. We’ll meet this week to go through those and from there we’ll be deciding what our priorities are in the weeks and months ahead.

IF MUSIC LITERALLY BE THE FOOD OF LOVE….

The women in my life, and even the dog, seem to be consumed already with that irritating nonsense called X Factor. I can never quite tell whether this programme is really about talent spotting, Cowell making money or just finding a way to absolutely irritate the sweet life out of me! I can’t help but chunter and moan and grumble about it every time I pass through the room when they are watching it! But this weekend they got their own back – I was in another room singing and playing my guitar delivering what I thought was a romantic and uplifting version of a Bon Iver song. I was interrupted with a long and abusive critique of my performance which concluded by suggesting that my guitar playing sounded like it was being done by a man wearing oven gloves!!!! There’s a cruelty in our house that makes me realise that if X Factor judging needs really vicious comments and someone to play the role of a ‘nasty’ judge, they should forget Cowell and the others and just hold the auditions in our lounge! Continue reading IF MUSIC BE THE FOOD OF LOVE (LITERALLY)…..THEN I’M YOUR MAN!

All Hail Macbeth…….and Taggart and Rebus!

ON THE HORIZON FOR SEPT 19TH TO SEPT 23RD
Am guessing that you’ll all be very much back into things following the summer breaks – I know I only have to look at my diary to know I am. I’ve flipped over to using WordPress for the update this week – will explain why in subsequent posts. But for now, here’s what’s on my horizon for this week.

EARLY YEARS
I’m met with the Early Years team yesterday about how we might shape early years advice and support along with the early years offer we make to children and families. In addition I will be finalising our LA Response to the Government’s current consultation on Early Years funding tomorrow when I meet with Finance.

WATCHING THE DETECTIVES PART 1

I am off to see Macbeth at The Globe this weekend. Ordinarily that would be simply a straight forward night at the theatre. But Macbeth is a bit different because anytime I watch it I can’t help thinking about the Scottish TV Detective series Taggart – I just get this almost irresistible urge when I watch Macbeth to shout out “There’s been another murder!”. If you know Taggart and its deep rolling ‘r’s’ then hopefully you’ll know what I’m on about – if you don’t know Taggart then apologies as you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about!!

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CHILDREN FAMILIES AND EDUCATION COMMITTEE

The agenda and accompanying papers for the next committee meeting were published yesterday. In recent months the agenda has been pretty full as there were key decisions on things like Children’s Centres, Youth Services and the Education Spin Out. So by comparison the agenda for the next meet isn’t as hectic. The key reports are an update on Pupil Place Planning, which includes an update on the progress with Sutton Free School developments. The EFA and DfE made decisions on those on Friday of last week and will publish a further update on those decisions and what happens next in due course. The other key report is the draft Children’s Performance Report. At this stage Richard and I have made suggestions to members on the key indicators to track at committee and once it’s finalised will let you know what the Performance Indicator set will contain.

BOARD MEETINGS THIS WEEK

There are almost always a few of these in my diary each week and the next few days are no exception. The DV/VAWG Strategy Group meets today and  given the high reported rates and the prevalence of DV issues in cases we manage, this is one of the most important groups.

On Wednesday the Safer Sutton Young People Group meet and the agenda and papers for this have been published. A key focus for the group is the performance on youth crime and this group provides the oversight of the work of our YOT in Sutton.

STAFF SURVEY

You’ll have read through INSIGHT that an independent staff survey has been launched for all staff in the Council. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to feedback your views as it will give us a clearer insight into your experience of working for the Council at the moment and will allow us to compare and contrast your views with those of colleagues in other teams, other services, other buildings and other parts of the Council. Some people have asked me about how to balance any response you make

WATCHING THE DETECTIVES PART TWO
As some of you know I’m a big fan of Scottish author Ian Rankin who writes the DI Rebus detective novels, set in Edinburgh. His new novel comes out at the beginning of November, but if you are quick, Waterstones are currently offering a copy signed by Mr Rankin himself if you pre-order now! Yes I know it’s a bit pathetic….. ok it’s a LOT PATHETIC…. but I don’t care- I couldn’t resist!!!

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CHILDREN’S REDESIGN

This is now moving on from Children’s Centres and Youth Services to look at Social Care Transformation and will now include Early Help because the recent external review by iMPower bases almost 65% of the anticipated savings for Social Care services on a reconfiguration of early help across both what we do within the Council and what our partners do on early help. The Transformation Board, chaired by Tolis, meets today and then on Wednesday the People DMT meet with CMT to look at the transformation work from a savings perspective.

EDUCATION SPIN OUT BRIEFINGS

We are moving into the specifics of the TUPE consultation with staff in the education services and so over the next few weeks there will be a series of briefings with staff.  Invitations to these sessions have already been sent to staff, but just to confirm for this week there will be briefings on Tuesday at 12:30 at Denmark Road, on Wednesday morning at 9:30 at Bandon Hill and on Friday at 2:00 pm at Civic. As well as Council, HR and Education Spin Out representation, colleagues from trade unions have also been sent the dates and times

PRIMARY HEADTEACHERS MEETING

On Thursday morning we will have the first meeting of the new academic year with Primary Heads at Chaucer Centre. Among the items on the agenda are DSG Savings Programme, Primary School Results, Education Spin Out and Primary Pupil Place Planning. As part of other ‘items’ I’ve already been alerted to a few things to mention. If you’ve got something you want me to flag up to Primary Heads let me now by email before we meet on Thursday.

ONE TO ONES

I’ve got my next cycle of one to ones coming up over the next few days with Claudette, Jackie, Lesley, Helen in HR and Jenny Sims, who is the Principal at Sutton College.

VULNERABLE PUPIL PANEL

The Primary Panel met last week and the first meeting of the Secondary Vulnerable Pupil Panel is tomorrow at 10:00 am at Cheam High.

AND FINALLY FOR THE ROMANTICS AMONG YOU………….
……..Those of you who are either hopeless romantics or hopelessly in love will probably know this already, but for the rest of you I thought I’d let you know that next Monday is National Love Note Day when you should be telling the special person in your life how much you love them. It can be a card, a post it on the fridge, a note on the dashboard of their car, a romantic photo sent by iMessage ( these are all things I do regularly for my loved one!). So I hope you’ll all join in. I’ve not finished my note to my beloved but am happy to share with you what I’ve written so far. It begins…
…………………………………………………………..’Dear Eric, No matter who Mourinho buys for Man Utd my heart will always belong to you………..for there is only one Cantona!’

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Plus Ca Change…….

……………. You all know as well as I do that we’ve been discussing, considering and scoping potential changes to our services for many months. It’s a time of inevitable anxiety and uncertainty for so many of you, so while I know we have to prepare thoroughly, consider all possibilities and consult widely, all of that takes time and that time in turn simply exacerbates the anxiety for those of you who are affected.

I admire the way in which so many of you have dealt with this period of uncertainty. The changes ahead may have a personal impact for some of you and so it’s to your credit that so many of you have managed it so professionally. You’ve clearly put those personal concerns to one side, remained focused on the work at hand and the people you work with, and been measured and considered in your questions, comments and responses to the emerging changes.

The most recent CFE and the period between now and the next CFE in June will see the detail of much of that change finally take shape and start to be implemented. I will cover some of the specifics of that elsewhere in this blog post and in subsequent posts, but I wanted to recognise how you’ve dealt with the conflicting personal and professional demands which these changes bring.

Connected in to the difficulties that you all face at the moment and the inevitable anxieties it brings, I know that previously, some of you have fed back about the tone of communications and in particular whether or not is appropriate and fair to include things which might be lighter and perhaps even irreverent. I’m therefore acutely aware that some you have objections to any light-hearted tone to communications because we are in a context where there is uncertainty about the future generally and people’s jobs specifically. I’ve thought about this quite a bit and discussed it with some others but have decided not to change the style of my communications at present. That’s not out of any lack of respect for those views and not from any disregard for how difficult and serious the current context is for so many of you. My judgement is instead based on my belief that mentioning things that don’t directly relate to the serious issues does not detract from those issues, doesn’t minimise how serious they are and reflects the fact that while some of you don’t appreciate a light-hearted tone to communications, others do and have said so. However, in continuing with things as they currently are, the intention isn’t to irritate anyone and therefore, if you are one of those who disapprove of the style in which I communicate then I would apologise in advance. At any rate I hope the lighter hearted bits aren’t overdone and of course allow you to choose to read only those items that are of interest/relevance to you

INTERIM HEAD OF SEN
At the moment we need some short term cover in SEN as Colin Pates is off work. We have recruited Lesley Hobbs to join us and support the service over the next few weeks. Lesley was previously in similar roles in Southampton, Brent and Medway so we are delighted to have secured her services. And we hope that it won’t be too long before we have Colin back.

EDUCATION SPIN OUT
In addition to the report to members last week we’ve also been meeting with potential partners in any joint venture set up which has included individuals, private providers and academy trusts. As we found with schools the responses have been positive and willing to consider it further. We have also been looking in more detail at funding arrangements, and the possible implications of any spin out where we have joint service arrangements in place at present with Merton.

In part to support further detailed planning and in part to ensure we maximise the use of managers time we’ve also made some changes to the management team arrangements in the Improvement and Support Services. Following the committee decisions last week we are now developing a business case that in addition to assessing service level need, demands and capacity, also includes issues such as accommodation, support services, governance arrangements and performance arrangements for any spin out company.

CHILDREN’S CENTRES
Members have made final decisions which will see us continue to make a full range of children’s centre services available in 6 of our 14 centres, with some service provision by us or by health in a further five centres. However we will now be preparing to cease to provide children’s centre services at The Grange, at Highview and at Cheam.
In addition we’ve begun our formal consultation with all the Children’s Centre staff on our proposals for the revised children’s centre offer. The staff in our centres have been living with considerable uncertainty for some time and while the formal consultation is in effect the final part of the change process for them, it’s still a very unsettling and worrying time for all of them.

YOUTH AND ADOLESCENT SERVICES
Member decisions at CFE mean we will now prepare to cease providing universal open access services at Sutton West Youth Centre and at Phoenix Youth Centre, cease to provide youth service input and oversight into the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme and over time cease to provide support for Youth Engagement work such as Youth Parliament and Youth MPs. We are now finalising the implementation plans for these decisions so we are sure we address what it means for the buildings, resources, and most importantly people, whether that’s young people who use the different services or our people who support those services.

STRANGE THINGS ON THE UNDERGROUND PART TWENTY-TWO AND THREE SEVENTHS!
I had a late-ish finish week before last and I had the ‘joy’ of getting the ‘Essex is now very drunk’ train back to Epping. When I reached Epping which is the end of the Central Line there were 4 other blokes in the carriage – all snoring loudly. Three of the four woke up and had missed their stops by a few places – but the fourth bloke had meant to be on the Northern Line! That was a new one on me – I confess I too have found myself ‘very tired’ after a night out but I’ve never been so ‘tired’ I was on the wrong line altogether.

However it’s not just the late train that entertains! I got an early evening train from Oxford Circus last week. A young woman got on, knelt on the floor, took clothes from her capacious handbag and proceeded to get changed for a night out on the train!! She got off 6 stops later at Liverpool Street having transformed a la Superman in a phone box!!!

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CONSULTATIONS INVOLVING SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

Alongside the work to redesign our services, we are also consulting or about to consult on three potential changes in education. Firstly members have agreed to a proposal that we should consult on a possible merger of the alternative provisions at Limes College and STARS. While the merger would NOT mean the provisions being moved to the same site, it would mean merging the leadership, governance and some back office functions in both those settings.

At pupil level we are consulting on proposals to discontinue some SEN Specialist Base places which we do not think will be needed in the future. So we are proposing to cease the Moderate Learning Difficulties places at either Avenue Primary or Amy Johnson Primary and to reduce the number of ASD places at Glenthorne High from 25 to 15.
Last but by no means least we have agreed with Schools Forum to consult on ceasing DSG Central Funding into the Learning Support Service. William is finalising the consultation documentation this week. The proposals would see the ‘top slice’ method of funding this service end in September 2016 and we would then need to look at alternative options to fund the service, most likely through ‘trading’ with schools.

MAN FLU
It’s that time of the year when only my male colleagues can begin to imagine what I’m suffering at the moment!!!! I thank you in advance gentlemen for what I know will be genuine understanding and empathy with the trials and hardship I’m manfully coping with at the moment.

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PERFORMANCE ON ADMISSIONS
We recently completed the first set of ‘offers’ to parents whose children will be transferring to Secondary School in Sept. The number of families who have been offered their first choice school has increased again in Sutton, so much so that our performance is the third best in the capital. My thanks to everybody involved. The only slight niggle is that one of the two boroughs ahead of us is Waltham Forest where my partner is the Deputy Chief Exec so it didn’t quite win me bragging rights at home(!!) but it’s still a great achievement.

PERFORMANCE ON TWO YEAR OLD CHILDCARE IN SUTTON
After a challenging start the work of staff has really led to a significant improvement in the number of families of two year olds taking up their entitlement to free child care in Sutton. The Council recently received a letter from the government minister for Childcare and Early Education, who describes performance in Sutton as having made a ‘huge increase’ and ‘excellent progress’. My thanks to the Early Years team and Laura Byrnes in particular.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DILBERT!

One of latest cartoon strips from Dilbert – made me laugh anyway!

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EARLY YEARS FUNDING
We’ve started work with representatives from both the maintained and PVI Early Years sectors looking at the issues in funding early years especially in the light of government commitments to double the free entitlement for eligible three and four year olds. We used the first meet to explore some of the real difficulties the sector faces and we will follow this up with a half day workshop to explore possible solutions.

LIVE MUSIC GIGS ON 3RD FLOOR AT CIVIC!!!
I’ve bought myself some new hi-spec headphones for working at my desk – and they are brill. Alas the downside is that when I’m lost in what I’m doing I sing along – only the headphones are so good I can’t hear myself! Not a problem for me cos I’m happy but Richard Nash shows a distinct lack of appreciation for my talents!

ALTERNATIVE MODELS OF DELIVERY FOR SAFEGUARDING SERVICES

As I have mentioned before, IMPower are currently doing some work with this to explore the possible options and issues with alternative models of delivery for children’s safeguarding services. The second workshop involving the Heads of Service last week looked at the issue of how best to work on transforming safeguarding, because it’s vital to think through how best to change and improve services before we embark on any work to think about what those changes and improvements might be. As you would expect with something like this we have a variety of views and it was helpful to discuss those as part of considering whether or not there might be scope in using an alternative model of delivery now or in the future. IMPower will compile a final report back to the Council which will be for CMT to consider before deciding how best to progress.

AND FINALLY……
…………………….. A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad on the Tube. The guy was dressed in a pink jacket with a white shirt, deep red tie and red pocket square. I thought it looked great and mentioned it to my partner who is the arbiter of all things fashion chez moi! “Yeah!” she said. “Looks really good”.
That’ll do for me thought I!!!!!!!!

So after some secret Internet shopping, I presented myself for going out for dinner on Saturday night, duly attired in pink, white and red. I was met with astonishment ……………………………………………………………………. ………………………………………………………………………………….then laughter ………………………………………………………………………………………………and then with this……………………………………. “What on earth have you come as? You can’t go out dressed like that! At least, not with me you can’t!!!!”

When I tried to defend myself and rescue my self-esteem by pointing out that I’d seen it on an ad and specifically asked her if it looked good and SHE’D SAID YES,  I was then confronted with the explanation that she was saying that yes it looked good on a fit, smart, handsome young bloke – alas it didn’t work on fat, scruffy, ageing old bloke who was over fifty!!!!!

Knowing it had hurt my feelings (I do a look of ‘crushed’ to what is effectively an Olympic standard!), she relented a bit by telling me that it wasn’t a lost cause…………………………………………………………………………… I could carry it off once I cut my hair, shaved, sorted my eyebrows, got back on my diet and ditched the Guinness, pies, potatoes and bread (I’d like to say it was not necessarily in that order but she was very clear that it had to be in PRECISELY that order!). So now I know that the pink jacket look isn’t entirely beyond me – all I have to do is avoid Guinness!

And having thought about it since, there is only one thing to do………… ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Do any of you know  anybody who might want to buy a second hand pink jacket?!!!!

THE DARTFORD THOUSANDS AND ME!…………………………..

…………….As you know I was away for a short weekend break last weekend and so sent weekly updates for both last week and this week. Once we’d worked out as a family what the name of the city ACTUALLY was and the country it was ACTUALLY in, we got there and really enjoyed it.

On the Monday night flight back though we had a slightly hairy flight back into Gatwick thanks to storm Ingrid. However our huge sighs of relief at getting on terra firma in one piece sounded hollow when we got caught in the traffic chaos caused by the closure of Dartford Bridge. Easyjet managed to get us from Copenhagen to London through the storm in 2 hours. Alas it the Highways Agency then needed 5 and a half hours to get us the 40-odd miles left from Gatwick to Essex!
So my apologies to those of you who had to suffer me even more bleary-eyed than usual on Tuesday morning!!
EDUCATION SPIN OUT BRIEFINGS
William and I have now started the first series of three briefings for staff who are affected by the proposed Education Spin Out. We had one on Tuesday at Grove and another at Chaucer on Thursday and a number of staff have sent me queries as additional follow ups.
It’s been good to get feedback on the early details we’re giving and on the overall feel for individuals. We know that whatever part of the division you work in right now things are difficult and there’s still inevitable uncertainty about the future. We will try to manage that as well as we can and in part William will be providing weekly updates in the Google community for our division so as I said to those at briefings if you’ve not yet signed up I’d encourage you to do so. We have also briefed union representatives this week so that they have the same initial heads up on the proposal should you want to raise any aspects of it with them.
As part of wider briefings on the emerging proposals William also briefed the Forum of Sutton Governors last week.
SCHOOLS FORUM
At the most recent Forum meeting they reviewed the DSG budget position, especially the current over spends on SEN and alternative provision within the High Needs part of the budget where demand and costs have risen. They also agreed to proposed consultations in three areas – we will be consulting on: a proposal to reduce the number of places we commission for pupils with Moderate Learning Difficulties  in Primary School bases; a proposal to reduce the number of places we commission for secondary age pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder at Glenthorne High; and a proposal to discontinue DSG funding to our Learning Support Service within our Inclusion Support Services. The meeting also agreed to continue DSG funding to our other Inclusion Support Services, and to introduce a de-delegated funding arrangement for the work Mick Bradshaw does on educational visit risk oversight.
FATE LENDS A HAND………………
I change trains most morning at Oxford Circus. Couple of weeks back I got off Central Line and started to walk for connecting passageway to the Victoria Line. A young woman crossed in front of me to get on the train I’d just got off. She’d a bag on her back with an umbrella in it. As we crossed the strap of umbrella got caught in the button of my coat which pulled the umbrella off her back! What are the chances?!!!! I quickly unhooked it from my button and got on the train to give it back to her and the doors shut behind me. She was so apologetic that I didn’t mind the slight detour and reassured her that it would take me 5 mins to get off at Pimlico and go back to Oxford Circus.
……………………………………FATE WANTS ITS HAND BACK!
Five minutes later I got off at Pimlico – to hear that in that 5 mins there had been a signal fault at Victoria and there were no trains back!!!!!! I had to go to Stockwell, then to Morden and then get a bus back to Sutton. It took forever! Next time I’ll just keep the umbrella!!!!!
SUTTON CAREERS FAIR
Our Education Business Partnership ran this in conjunction with colleagues and businesses last week. I happened to catch up with the staff involved the following day and it was clear the event had been a real success with positive feedback from those involved. 95% of all the young people attending said that the event had really helped them think about next steps when they leave school and from the employers perspective 98% of them said they would definitely support the event in future years with comments like “a good space to meet local people and businesses” and “good to see big interest in apprenticeships”
REPORTS TO CHILDREN FAMILIES AND EDUCATION COMMITTEE
We have been finalising details on several reports which will be published to elected members next week. We’ve been through them with the Lead Member this week and have redrafted where it was needed. The reports from us will be on Education Spin Out, Youth and Adolescent Services Redesign, Children’s Centres, School Attainment and a Proposal to Merge Alternative Provisions at Limes College and Sutton Tuition and Reintegration Service.
PERFORMANCE REPORT MEASURES
I’ve been working with colleagues in corporate performance service to review and revise our divisions key metrics for performance reporting to CMT and members. I’ve tried to ensure we address priorities, focus where possible on quality and impact rather than volume or demand, and try to get some breadth in to our PIs which covers at least some of the range of services in our division. The final version of the indicators for our division will be sent to you all for info once they are adopted and agreed.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR – PART TWO
Following on from our exchange of love poetry preferences in our Google Community page for EdnEarl, I thought I would try to advise/indoctrinate you further by sharing my favourite indie love song – I do this in part as I want to know what you think and in part because I can’t wait to hear what Louise in the Adolescent Service tells us is the ‘go to’ love song among her fellow followers of what I call ‘goth heavy metal!’ This is Mac DeMarco’s ‘Still Together’
SCHOOL BUSINESS MANAGERS
I was asked to go talk to Sutton’s School Business Managers last week about changes within Council to services and funding arrangements. The pictures on both Council funding and DSG funding are pretty challenging at the moment so by the time I’d concluded they were clearly delighted to see me leave the room and they then welcomed June and her colleagues from Governor Services who followed me with a sense of relief that was so evident it seemed you could reach out and touch it!!!
SAFEGUARDING SERVICES DELIVERY MODELS
We are working with an external public sector specialist group, iMPower, to look at both recruitment and retention and at transformation of safeguarding service provision. They completed much of the initial information gathering through interviews with people like Tolis, Chief Exec, members and so on. We had first workshop involving Exec Heads and Heads of Service in our division and in Safeguarding to look at next steps in a landscape of considering structural options, challenges and objectives. They will now do some further information gathering before a second workshop with us in March.
LSCB
We had the LSCB Board meeting this week. Among the reports was our update on Early Help where we advised the board of steps to fund and recruit a new Early Help co-ordinator, the revisions to assessment documents for Early Help, the development of an Early Help self-assessment and an Outcomes Framework, and the work done in Families Matter to develop a comprehensive database of the Early Help Offer in Sutton. The other key reports to the Board included updates on the work on Child Sexual Exploitation and an input on the emerging approach to the ‘Prevent’ Strategy in Sutton. For those who may not be familiar with ‘Prevent’ or who may be interested in knowing more about it, we will put a short summary note about it on the Google Community.
STRANGE THINGS ON UNDERGROUND PART 11 AND 2/13THS!
I’ve seen two well known leaders on my Tube and train adventures. Week before last am scuttling down into bowels of Victoria when I nod to a bloke I know though he doesn’t nod back and as I think on it after I’ve passed him I realise that I knew him because he’s Jeremy Corbyn and that he didn’t know me because HE’S Jeremy Corbyn!
Last night I was changing trains at Stockwell when I bumped into Genghis Khan!!! I kid you not. There was a bloke on the underground in the full ‘Mongolian horde’ outfit just standing on platform in fur hat, jacket, pantaloons and riding boots!! As I got on the Victoria Line I couldn’t help but think I need to do something with my uber-dull wardrobe!
Genghis_Khan
And Finally………………………….
………………………………………………………. I went to watch my daughter’s football team a couple of weeks ago on a truly miserable, wet Sunday morning. At half time they were 1-0 down. The guy who manages the team got them together to talk tactics……………..alas they were all distracted because…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. the rain was making their hair go frizzy and they’d not used waterproof mascara so it was all running down their faces! They were distraught and incapable of listening to his instructions. – However it worked – they came out second half and eventually won 2-1! And I thought I knew about football…………………………
Have a good weekend

SWANS, GLIDING, AND THE MAGICAL PROPERTIES OF RONSEAL!!!

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.
SPIN OUT MEETINGS WITH HEADTEACHERS
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.
LGA PEER REVIEW
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!
THE DECLINING STANDARDS OF GEOGRAPHY TEACHING IN ESSEX AND THE WIRRAL
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!
AREA BASED REVIEWS OF ADULT EDUCATION  AND FURTHER EDUCATION 
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.
REDESIGNING YOUTH AND ADOLESCENT SERVICE OFFER
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.
MUSICAL INTERLUDE NUMERO UNO!
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
ADDING STRINGS TO BOWS
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.
SUTTON’S INANIMATE OBJECT ANSWER TO CLINT EASTWOOD – MODERN DESKTOP!!!
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.
DILBERT ON…….. CLINT EASTWOOD ( AKA MODERN DESKTOP – SORT OF!)
Comic-Strip-Movies-Dilbert
AND FINALLY………
…………………………………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.

DIRECTORATE MANAGEMENT TEAM / CMT

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.

WHAT YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW!

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?

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EDUCATION SPIN OUT

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.

NEW PERFORMANCE SYSTEM

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

ANOTHER USELESS FACT YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW

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!!!!

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VISION FOR NEW SECONDARY PROVISION

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.

AND ONE LAST USELESS THING YOU DONT NEED TO KNOW

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!

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SCOPING OPTIONS FOR REDESIGN OF SERVICES

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.

HAVING STARTED WITH POETRY AND AUDEN……….

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

AND FINALLY……..

…………………………………… 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!

 

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!

FIVE A DAY FOR JUNE

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!

DMT KEY POINTS

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!

INCLUSION REVIEW

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.

APPRAISALS

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

FIVE A DAY FOR JUNE

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!!!)

SERVICE IMPROVEMENT

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.

STRANGE THINGS ON THE UNDERGROUND – PART 246 AND 2/5

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!

FIVE A DAY FOR JUNE

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!

CHILDREN FAMILY AND EDUCATION COMMITTEE

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.

COMMUNICATING

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!

CVS CHILDREN’S FORUM

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.

FIVE A DAY FOR JUNE

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!)

HEAD OF SERVICE MEETING

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.

FIVE A DAY FOR JUNE

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…..so thanks for persevering……………. and staying awake!