…………….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.
No words needed.
………..I know that many of you will be finishing today for the Christmas holiday, and for those of you who aren’t, you’ll only have a few days to do next week before you also get some leave.
I wanted to thank everyone for the all the time, commitment and dedication that you’ve put into your services day in and day out throughout 2014. It’s not been the easiest of years and with more change ahead I know it’s difficult to maintain a positive focus and attitude. It’s very much to your credit that I think you’ve all done that and I’ve no doubt you’ll continue to do it into 2015.
On behalf of Jackie, Claudette, Nigel and myself, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a great New Year. I hope you enjoy the much deserved time to switch off, relax and enjoy being with your family and friends over the Christmas break.
……….That’s not so much an attempt to start an Elton John karaoke but more a recognition that I’ve not been providing any updates in the last few weeks. I could tell you I’m snowed under – but that’s no excuse as you are all busy too! So my apologies – I’ll try and get better. Keep the faith with my communuication so that I don’t end up reverting to “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me!” – and that’s enough Elton for one day!
Divisional Staff Briefings
My thanks to those of you who came along. I’m grateful for participation and feedback. It was good for me to get the chance to talk with so many of you. If you were at the briefings, I’d welcome any feedback from you or any suggestions for future briefings through the comments ( or of course you can always email me directly) The briefings were a useful way for me to share the feedback on our division from the staff survey. I will include your suggestions in the plan we’re developing as a response to the results of that survey. I will finalise it with Nigel, Jackie and Claudette in the next few weeks and then send it out to you through the blog. For those of you who couldn’t make one of the sessions, the presentation slides are below in case you want to look over them. We will finalise dates for the next set of divisional briefings, which will take place before summer, and get those out to you ASAP.
The Holiday That Was – But Nearly Wasn’t!
Those of you who were at the last staff briefing on the Tuesday before Easter already know a bit of my holiday saga as I found out that day that I’d spelt my partners name wrongly when booking so the ticket name and passport didn’t match! I did eventually get to Malaysia and Thailand but not when I’d hoped nor in the way I’d hoped! However I did get there –
albeit with a couple of “via here and there” and 2 days late! Luckily it was great – made up for the stress and nightmare I created for my poor family before I left! Whatever you did over Easter I hope you got chance to relax and enjoy some time off – even those of you who are QPR fans!
In line with the old buses cliche, you wait for a briefing and then several come at once! The week before last saw the next set of Directors Briefings to staff. I saw many of you over the course of the two sessions and I’ve gathered in feedback from a range of different people. There are some further aspects that I’ll update you on in due course – I’ll also follow up on several things when I meet together with you next. It will certainly form a part of the next Divisional Staff Briefings that I referred to earlier and that I’m currently arranging. I am aware that for some of you the sessions didn’t necessarily give you the answers or clarity that you sought and that in some cases you reported back the need to look at some aspects in more depth and detail. I’ll make sure I build all of that into our next sessions together
We had DMT meet last week. We reviewed the emerging budget position for CYPLD for the last financial year and this looks relatively positive. Overall there is likely to be a small underspend for the Directorate, with small overspends in Children’s Social Care balanced out by small underspends in our division and in Planning and Commissioning. We had two papers in. A new policy for Family Group Conferencing had been drafted with Jackie’s service and this was agreed subject to a couple of very minor changes. Claudette and the YOY management had prepared an assessment of how our YOT is placed for new changes to the Inspection Frameworks within the Youth Justice System. The report is encouraging about our readiness and was very positively received by DMT. The other key topic at the meeting was a draft evaluation report of position in Sutton with ‘runaways’ and we agreed feedback to report author. Will let you know key messages from evaluation in due course once final version is ready. We also had an update on the Peer Review of Safeguarding and LAC arrangements which is required at this stage of our response to the Improvement Notice. It will be led by the DCS and some of senior staff at Wandsworth. Again I’ll update you on details when they are finalised.
Did you know that a 50 year old man can be at the very cutting edge of everything that’s cool and trendy? You didn’t????! …..
Then you need to come and live in my world (admittedly it’s the only place where this rare situation of the cool and trendy man of fifty occurs!!!!!). At the weekend I went to see Two Door Cinema Club at Alexandra Palace. Apart from being the oldest person at the gig by say…..20 years……I loved it. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. And just in case you are thinking “I could never be as cutting edge as he is”, for those of you who think you’ve never heard Two Door Cinema Club and have never been tempted to sing along with them, try watching this advert that I think most of you will recognise – and then discover you’re all Two Door Cinema Club fans too!
And Finally Finally…….
Having survived the fiasco of our most recent family holiday and having had to come back after only 2 days of our last family holiday in Egypt leaving my partner and daughter on their own for the duration, I wondered if anybody is interested in organising my families hoildays from now – my partner and my daughter are praying someone will come forward, take pity on them and volunteer – they’ve already made it clear that if I’m organising our next family holiday they won’t go! Applicants please let me know through the comments………………………!
It was World Book Day last Thursday. A number of schools will have been taking part. It’s a great way to promote books and reading with children – though if some are like my daughter they are more interested in the dressing up as a character than in reading about them! My girl went to school as Fiona, the ogre’s wife in Shrek! When she told us that this was what she wanted to dress up as, I started to say out loud that she’d got the idea from her mother but as I got to about half way through the sentence, I got a look that made me decide to finish the sentence at “Did you get that idea from your……………………………..ahem”!!!!
We are big fans of Shrek in our house – musical and films! My daughter loves the characters, my partner thinks its funny and I’m impressed that Shrek talks in a Glasgow accent and they use music from The Proclaimers in the film!!!! (Parochial never sleeps for me!)
One of the best bits of my job is the chance to get into schools. At the moment I’m in Camden Juniors and Carew Manor much more than in other schools as these are both currently in OfSTED categories so they are our priorities. However in the last couple of weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to get the chance to visit 3 more. At Amy Johnson I got to see round the school, the Children’s Centre ( which had a really busy, vibrant feel), meet a number of kids in classes ( including a couple of Reception pupils who had that great combination of innocence and absolute self-belief!) and talk about the school’s progress and plans for the future with their wonderfully passionate Headteacher. I also went to both Cheam Park Farm Juniors and to High View Primary accompanied by Councillor Mathys as part of our engagement between members and schools. Both schools were great – Cheam Park Farm has a wonderful atmosphere throughout and I can pay it no higher compliment than to say I saw lots of things there that, if I was still a Headteacher, I’d shamelessly copy and pass off as my own ideas! High View was equally impressive, again with a terrific ethos and I liked their varied use of ICT in classrooms and around their schools. In the next few months I’ve more visits to schools, sometimes accompanied by elected members and sometimes by the Chief Executive. What helps enormously on these visits are the really accurate and sharp briefing notes I get about the schools from the Advisory and Inspection staff beforehand – it ensures I have all the key information about context, standards and progress. The down side of course is that they are so comprehensive, if I end up asking a Headteacher a stupid question I’ve nobody to blame but myself!
The first two of my briefings with staff have now taken place – if between now and the third session, you hear that it was wonderful – every word is true! If however, you hear that you have to do things or that it was awful – don’t believe a word!!! The first two sessions were good for me and no doubt I will learn about what works (and what doesn’t!) in the months ahead but I’m grateful to those who came along to the session last week and the week before, and to those who’ve found the time to commit to attend the third and final session for this term on Tuesday.
There have been a couple of new appointments in our service. Sharon Douglas has now become YOT Manager, filling the vacancy created by Claudette’s appointment as Head of Service and Jenny Wood has started as the Education Officer in the MASH unit ( and I still find that every time I write or say ‘MASH’ I get an image of ‘Hot Lips Hoolihan’ and ‘Radar’ in my head!!!!)
I was on the Corporate Induction Day a couple of weeks ago. It was informative and I enjoyed the ‘tour of Sutton’ -even if I probably remembered the wrong facts ( I came away recalling that Harry Secombe and Cliff Richard lived here and that Ann Boleyn’s horse did something or other in Carshalton!!!!!). Best bit was seeing so many apprentices on the Induction, working in all parts of the Council, even though it made me feel a bit old!!!! I was in the same group as Georgia, our apprentice at Sutton Family Centre – I tried not to be an embarrassment to her – not sure if I managed it though!!!
Portfolio Holder Meetings
The Director, other exec Heads and I meet regularly with the Lead Members for Children’s Services, Councillor Callaghan and Councillor Mathys. When we met last week I was able to update them with the progress in developing a “middle tier” arrangement with our Primary Schools, the progress in those schools where we have prioritised our support, and update them on OfSTED’s proposals for a new Inspection Framework which will look at the quality of Local Authority School Improvement provision.
Children Families and Education Committee
The committee met last week. We had a paper in summarising school performance in Sutton. Members recognised the success of Sutton schools overall but equally they supported our priority focus on continuing to accelerate the progress and attainment of pupils who are more vulnerable within our community. As a result of questions we’ve been asked to provide a detailed briefing on the middle tier development. There was also an update on the Post-OfSTED Improvement Plan. Much of the questioning focused on two aspects, early intervention capacity and the Virtual School. Members and questions probed at how the changing population number and profile in Sutton might imact on capacity for early intervention and on how the Virtual School for Looked After Children will work in future. We’ll be providing a detailed briefing to members on the Virtual School.
Budget for 12-13
The Heads of Service and I met with Finance yesterday to look at projected budget outturn position for the end of the current financial year. In view of the challenges of savings, especially those neeeded in-year, our budget position is sound as we approach the end of the year. We have identifed further ways to both standarise the approach to budget managing and monitoring across our division and to make budget management even more effective. We’ll share the changes we will make to this with the budget managers first, and then with everybody in the division, in the next few weeks.
Jackie, Anita, Nia and I met with Children’s Centres Managers on Monday . We congratulated them on recent results in OFSTED inspections which have been very positive. We still have an issue with getting some data from our partners in Health and we summarised what we are doing to improve this. There were discussions around the Children’s Services re-design where the successes of our locality Children’s Centres will be built on, with a view to creating a central hub of services based within our communities that will support our vulnerable families. The pilot for this innovative initiative will begin in September 2013 and is very likely to be based at the Tweeddale site for a variety of practical and logistical reasons, to be rolled out the following September.
One wonderful, though irrelevant bit of feedback was that Emma, the Children’s Centre Manager at Tweeddale had tried ny music tip “Night Beds” – and liked it! So that increases their fan base to…. at least two!
Children’s Services Redesign
Discussions continue around the services best suited to this locality based service delivery model. As well as providing more refined support for our vulnerable families the other main driver behind these changes is the knowledge that we as a council face further reductions in government grants and need to be best placed to react to this. The three Heads of Service in our division are meeting with all of the other HoS next week to begin to work up more detail about the services which we think might be provided in the future through locality working. At the same time we will also start to identify those parts of our services that may well be better provided by being retained as a centrally organised service.
Sutton On The BBC
In case you missed it, there was a focus on the work of Carshalton Boys School as part of the recent “Countryfile” programme which was co-hosted by Price Charles. If you’d like to watch it, it’s below. (It starts at around 25:10)
Please continue to sign up to the blog to get it e-mailed to you directly, if you want to follow on Twitter I’m on @EdnEarl and please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. You can leave comments about anything – but if you have the time I’d be particularly interested in your feedback about the briefings (what worked, what didn’t, what might improve it) and feedback on further ideas we might consider in addressing the issues raised by the recent Staff Survey
Here is another Dilbert strip….purely for your amusement (well at least I hope it’ll be for your amusement)
And Finally, And Finally……………
On Monday morning I was due to meet Jackie McCarthy at 8:30 in Wallington. As you know I come from miles away – darkest Essex. So I was in a hurry. I got dressed quick and in semi-darkness. As soon as I left home and all the way in my right foot felt funny. First chance I got after our meeting I checked – to discover that while I had a sock on my left foot, on my right I’d somehow contrived to arrive wearing a little woollen glove puppet belonging to the dog (which he chews!!!!!) Next stop was MandS!
……….You’ll probably know that it is the schools half-term holiday this week. Because of the need to be around in ‘term time’ it is therefore a week when not only the schools are away, but also a week when a considerable proportion of the School Improvement / Advisory and Inspection staff take leave. And that’s where the ‘Marie Celeste’ theory comes in. With essentially a third of my ‘responsibilities’ away at the same time, that side of my work should be minimal and a bit deserted. That therefore should reduce my workload by about a third. The theory is simple, logical and perfectly rational – but it never works! This week my diary is as crammed as ever, my to do list is as long as ever and the proportion of my ‘tasks for today’ which are ACTUALLY finished at the end of said day is the same as ever! I don’t know about all of you but I think for me the crux of the problem is I ALWAYS overestimate how quickly I can catch up! My brain works something like this……”Letter to so and so – 20 mins tops” ( it then takes an hour)……..” Briefing note to draft for Tolis on Y – 30 mins tops” ( it then takes an hour)…….. ” Review OfSTED consultation on Z – be realistic that needs 45 mins..maybe even an hour tops” ( and does it take an hour? Try two!).
So I’ve got a few days of catching up this week. On Monday I started with 32 things on my catch up list – this is Wednesday and I go on leave tomorrow so this is my last day. I’ve done 8 things on my list so I have 24 to do in one day! Even I don’t overestimate to that extent – even if one third of my responsibilities are on holiday!
DMT MEETING KEY POINTS
DMT meeting on Monday included feedback on corporate review of support functions. A number of you may well have contributed to this as staff with “support ” type functions in your jobs or as managers. At this stage at DMT we were simply reviewing overall feedback from meetings with support staff and managers. The key issue for CYPLD will be aligning the timing of any change with the broader redesign programme. I will update you when I know more details and especially when the clarity around what might change, how, and by when, starts to emerge.
From our division we had a couple of reports on the agenda. The two Early Intervention services had done a combined risk assessment on a number of our early intervention provisions. As a result, I will now meet with Sharman Lawson to address some of the specific points in that report. In addition we had a paper proposing that we ask schools to work with us on reviewing a number of aspects of educational provision, that could be best described as being focused on how we can most effectively support and include the most vulnerable and at risk pupils in Sutton. The proposal was welcomed and I will now be approaching the schools representatives to consider next steps.
Lastly we reviewed and agreed a draft multi-agency Looked After Children Strategy. Once finalised and adopted by the Council I will share key points from the strategy, and what I think the implications of it are for different services within our division, in either a briefing meeting or in a blog update.
CELEBRATING SUCCESS EVENT
The Leaving Care service held their annual event to celebrate the successes of our young people in care on Monday. I wasn’t able to attend myself, but Tolis reported back to DMT that the event went well and was a great opportunity to showcase and mark some of the fantastic achievements of our young peoplein care
PUPIL PLACE PLANNING
Sutton’s population is continuing to grow – and within that growth there is a significant increase in the number of children in Sutton. The knock on effect of this is that we have needed to make additional places available in our schools to ensure we have enough educational provision to meet demand. And of course, as is always with the case of these shifts in pupil numbers, they affect some parts of the borough more than others. We are already extending the number of places on a number of sites – this meeting of Primary and Secondary HT’s along with relevant Council officers, was focused on the projections for the future and the implications for meeting this rising demand. The three key messages at this stage are that the recent additions and the already agreed extensions at primary should address most of the pupil place demands in that phase for a few years. At secondary, the schools themselves were clear that their preferred option would be to add to existing schools before considering an additional secondary and we agreed that we need to manage the addition of numbs in such a way that it does not have any knock on effect on other schools in the vicinity. It was a really effective session and sets us up well for the more detailed discussions to come.
GOING ON LEAVE
I’m off on leave at the end of today as I said earlier. I’m off from tomorrow until next Wednesday. In the interim if there are any issues, the Heads of Service will refer to Palvinder Kudhail if necessary although I’ll still be checking e-mails and my work phone periodically – although I have to do it secretly as I’m supposed to be on a family holiday in Stratford-upon-Avon!!!!
As well as the formal, I did say I might use these updates for the non-official and the not so formal. So I want to share with you my ‘band of the moment’ – as I mentioned before I am into ‘indie’, music but within that I think I’ve got pretty varied tastes. Anyway, my favourite new album of the moment is by a band called ‘Night Beds’. Now before you laugh I’ll admit it’s a dreadful name for a band – and as a man who bought albums by Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, by Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, and by Toad And The Wet Sprocket ( I jest not – these aren’t made up – well they are of course made up – just not made up by me!) I know a naff band name when I see one! However I’d urge you to get past the name and give them a try ( when I say them I guess in mean him – Night Bees is essentially Winston Yellens, a singer-songwriter from Nashville I think). I think the music is beautiful and gorgeous and I’m going to see them/him at the Borderline later this month – if you like the music come along!!!!!! And if you try the music leave a comment and let me know what you think of it! (for Louise in Youth Service my apologies in advance – not likely to hear this at “Bloodstock Festival” I guess!!!!!)
Please leave a comment on any of the above ( not just Night Beds). It’s easy. There is no need to be on Word Press or Twitter or anything – you can do it by just leaving your name and email – I will respond (eventually!). In addition if you are on Twitter a perennial reminder that I am on @EdnEarl and lastly if you haven’t signed up for the blog posts yet please follow the link on the right – again its easy and means you can be sure you’ll get the info direct in future ( and with that statement I’m glossing over the possibility that you might not WANT to get this stuff!!!)
And Finally, And Finally……..
Recently I was in the car with my ten year old daughter. An item came on the news about the Booker Prize so she asked me about it. I rambled on and on about everything I knew about Booker, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Hilary Mantel, etc etc etc. she just sat there. When I finished she turned to me, took a breath and then said ” Col. When you worked in schools, we’re you a really boring teacher?”!!!!!!!!!!
Firmly put in my place I said nothing and drove on – but inside I was weeping! So, for the comments, ever had any feedback from your kids that put you in your place?!!!!!!………
Have a good week and good weekend when Friday comes.
…When I first came to Sutton I wrote to all of you and promised to try and find ways to update you – I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get started. This is the first of what I intend to be a regular update to you – in them I’ll try and bring you up to speed on things happening across CYPLD, or indeed the Council, that I think are either important for you or that might be of interest. I’d originally tried to do it by drafting newsletters in Word templates – however the Council software is a bit behind the stuff that I’ve got at home – so I had constant niggles trying to go between one and the other.
Instead I’ve decided to blog and try to communicate with you all through that route – you’ll be able to “sign up” to the blogs, so that you’ll then get an e-mail every time I post info to here. There’s a link on the toolbar on your right that you can click and then follow it to sign up to future posts! (Though even if you don’t want to sign up, I’ll let you know when new info is posted to the blog site through e-mails sent out through the Heads of Service).
In addition I’ve set up a connected Twitter account and I’ll post tweets on that which will appear here for those of you who don’t use Twitter – for those of you who do I’ll “publish” these updates to Twitter so it will also let you know whenever I post any new info on here. This isn’t necessarily the ideal solution but it’s the best I can come up with as the likelihood will be I’ll drafting most of my comms with you at home (or on the journey in and out of Sutton) – and as I have the apps I need to use this blogging tool, it will actually make it easier for me to communicate regularly – that’s the theory anyway! (I’ve already got a personal blog that I update fairly often – mainly about books and music – so I’m used to using the software – at least, yet again, that’s the theory!!!!)
There are three things I want to be up front and caution you about from the start. Firstly that word “regular” that I just used – I guess I’m being a little vague on frequency – just don’t want to promise something I can’t deliver – so in this case ‘regular’ just means as often as I can! Secondly sometimes I’ll get it wrong and will include things you are either not interested in or that aren’t relevant to you – my apologies in advance for that. Finally, where relevant and within limitations, I’ll include my view or perception on something – therefore if I give a judgement be prepared for the fact that something might not pan out as I think it will!! I just think if I don’t put something of myself into the updates I write they become impersonal and could have been written by anybody with access to my diary! And that leads me to the last point – I’ll tend to personalise updates a little – it’s not because I am under any illusions about my life being hugely entertaining – it’s just the way I tend to write! So apologies in advance if some it is a little dull and apologies in advance if some of it is EXCEPTIONALLY dull !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!