Category Archives: View From The Grove – News Update

Many Hands Make Light Work……….Apparently!

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

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

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

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

Sign Up To Our Education and Early Intervention Google Community

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

A Good Blog Should…….

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

Dilbert Performance Appraisal


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

AND FINALLY……………………….

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

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

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





Most of us will be moving across in the next few weeks to the modern desktop arrangement as part of the next stage in the delivery of the Council’s IT Strategy. Some parts of the Council have gone ‘live’ on the new system recently and now the preparations are underway for the transfer of all of the People Directorate. We will be moving to Modern Desktop in phases and we will be going ‘live’ across June and July.

The modern desktop is a key part of the infrastructure we need to have in place for the flexible working programme, which will essentially see us able to log onto ‘our’ screen from any workstation in the Council. FlintstonesAlthough the flexible working arrangement will focus largely on the staff who are either in the Civic Offices, or scheduled to relocate to the Civic Offices, it’s still important that all of you do what you need to so that you are prepared for the transition to modern desktop, whether you are based at Tweeddale, the Grove, the Quad, Bandon Hill, Chaucer, Sutton West or one of our Children’s Centres (or anywhere else for that matter – the range of places we are all located always means there’s a risk I miss one or two when am listing them!)

You will need to do the work to clean up your folders and files in readiness for the change. The instructions on what you need to do are listed in Insights which have come out but if you have any concerns or queries, feel free to email me – I won’t have a clue what the answer will be but I will be able to pass you on to someone who can answer your questions!


Some of the SEN staff in the office behind the one I live in at the Grove (when I’m not on a bus or a Tube!) have this great whiteboard where they post a quote of the week – it’s a really good idea and I’m now in the habit of looking out for it! I thought I’d share their most recent offering even though there’s part of me realising that this is only partly funny for me as there is also a part of me that actually BELIEVES this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



I’ve been looking for a way to have both a more frequent way of updating you all and a more interactive platform – so that it isn’t just mean blathering on and you struggling to get to the end of these blogs! We decided to look at what others are doing so Alex Cossey and I spent some time with Marcus Rees-Harris in Housing. We got Marcus to talk us through the way his service was using Google Communities and it was one of those light bulb moments (at my age I don’t get them very often!) – the more Marcus showed us the more I felt this was a pretty good solution to the challenge of communicating with all of you little and often and in a way that allows it to be interactive.


I’ve set up our EdnEarl community (and you can find it by following that green link!). All you need to do is ask to join – I will say yes and then you will get updates regularly. But it’s for more than just getting info – the community will allow you to post info yourself, ask questions, make comments and generally be as engaged as you want to be. I want all of you to sign up so that we are no longer reliant on e-mail distribution to get info to you.

And in addition to our own EdnEarl Community, I also recommend the ICT Community Exchange (ICE), which is run by the shared ICT Service. I find it a source of information, tips and problem solving without the need to go through the IT Helpdesk!


Having given all of you great tips on books to read (yes I’m still banging on about The Orenda) and great music guaranteed to make any of you trendy no matter how old you are (yes I’m still banging on about Local Natives), a brief check at the sales for the aforementioned book and songs suggest that you pretty much ignore my exhortations! Which is your choice/loss (depending on whether you see that from your perspective or mine!) – but I am not giving up!

This week I want to promote both a book AND a film! I went to the cinema to see Child 44, starring Tom Hardy (who reminds me of…………………well…………… really!) and is based on the Child 44book by Tom Rob Smith. The film is great – it’s such an engaging story and the setting (Moscow at the height of the Stalin purges) is simply wonderfully portrayed. But one of my stock in trade phrases at home is ‘the book is always better’ – and this is no exception! So by all means go see the film but if you like a thriller and crime novel rolled into one – try Child 44 – brilliant! And to whet your appetite (and to show you just how much I DO REMIND YOU of Tom Hardy even though you perhaps didn’t think I did remind you of him at first!!!) here’s the trailer!


We have had two meetings of the Directorate Management Team since we merged with Adult Services to form the People Directorate. On 20th April much of the meeting focused on the end of year financial position and the managers across the service have been finishing their reports on any budget variations and where relevant submitting bids for carry forwards. The key decision made on 20th was agreeing a Staff Engagement Plan that Alex Cossey had drafted. We will be sharing the details of that and then implementing it imminently. At the second DMT meeting this week we had an update from Annette Madden on the development of the next stage of the Business Support Service, this time focused on safeguarding and SEN in the main. We also had two reports in, both on projects connected to the Redesign of Children’s Key Services (ROCKS – I’m a sucker for an acronym!) – the first was on the Education Service Spin Out and the independent Feasibility Study we had done and the second was the report from the extensive Children’s Centre Consultation, led by Jackie McCarthy and Sarah Duggan. Both reports progressed to CMT in the middle of this week and once I’ve made some adjustments, we will share the details and the key points from both reports.


Ah the sights (and this week the sounds) of London Underground have come up trumps again! On my travels this week I saw a guy carrying not one double bass but two! He had one on his back and one in his hand! It just left me thinking he’d heard of a one man-band but hadn’t quite grasped the idea of it!

The next step up in the 'Two Double Base' Challenge seems to be how to carry them when they aren't in cases!
The next step up in the ‘Two Double Base’ Challenge seems to be how to carry them when they aren’t in cases!

Second up was a bloke on the Circle Line. If you know it you’ll know they have the new style carriages – and that they are a bit of a sound chamber. The train pulls into Aldgate on the way round to Liverpool Street when he announces, louder than I think he intended – “Did you know that Aldgate Tube Station is built on top of a pile of corpses who were buried in a pit after they died during the Bubonic Plague!” – Cue was of those awkward eerie silences. But I swear there was a guy who was just about to get off the train at Aldgate who changed his mind just in case! (and I checked it after – it’s true! Very boring it has to be said, but true) But as this blog seeks to educate as well as inform and entertain ( I always think it’s good to state that it entertains just in case you’d missed that!) I have researched the Plague Pits of London and can tell you that around 1665 a great plague pit was dug on StBotolph’s Church in Aldgate!

Under this street in Aldgate is the Tube and Aldgate Station! And underneath that...............I'd rather not think about it!
Under this street in Aldgate is the Tube and Aldgate Station! And underneath that……………I’d rather not think about it!

Likely LadsLast up I was rushing down into the Tube at Victoria late one night when I met a guy at the top of the stairs looking around, clearly lost and searching for something. I then realised it was James Bolam the actor! And immediately my brain had a ridiculous thought and I had to consciously stop myself going up to him, as he looked all confused and perplexed,and ask “Are you wondering what happened to the Likely Lads by any chance!?!”The thought of it left me giggling all the way to Oxford Circus – I’m very good at amusing myself! (Most of you will be too young to know what I’m talking about – next time you see Nigel ask him for it’s probably only he and I who are old enough to remember it!)


Nigel and I attended a recent meeting of the Inclusion Review Steering Group to plan how out we might take forward the proposed review of options for the future delivery of Alternative Provision in the borough for young people who cannot access mainstream education because of exclusion or because of medical needs. Over the coming weeks we will be meeting regularly with the three Heads on the steering group as well as with representatives from the alternative education provisions at Limes and STARS. We are also completing the analysis of the consultation with schools about the future provision of support for Inclusion. The findings will be collated into a narrative which we will share with all relevant staff as well as with all schools. Lastly, Colin Pates and Ceris Edwards are finalising a check on a number of procedural reviews around the provision of support for pupils with SEN. These will be collated into a draft Handbook which will then again be shared with all schools, as well as with services and parents where relevant.


On Wednesday morning I will be visiting Sutton’s Ways to Work Programme with Charlotte Owens in our Education Business Partnership. The programme is part of a range of initiatives led by the EBP, focused on ensuring our young people have all the skills and understanding they need to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them when they leave school. So I’m looking forward to the visit to Carshalton College and will try and share the visit through Twitter whenever I can.


One of the reasons for setting up that Google Community I mentioned earlier is that I think we need ways of communicating which are more than just me sending out information. I’m acutely aware how busy you all are and I don’t want to add unnecessarily to anyone’s workload, but equally I want to give you the opportunity to communicate back to me and also communicate to your colleagues. These things are of course optional, but for those of you who want to ‘join in’ I plan to set up a couple of new things for the blog pages.

Firstly, as we are becoming a bigger and more varied division, with SEN and Admissions joining recently and the revised Commissioning service joining imminently, I think it’s important that I give the opportunity to some of you to let your colleagues know what you do. So we’ll be setting up a blog called “So What Is It You Do Around Here Anyway?” – it will be a chance for you to talk about what your main activities are, who you work with, what you are trying to impact on, the successes and the challenges. It will be set up as a QandA – I’ll provide the Q – all you have to do is provide the A! This is as with all these things entirely voluntary but I know how good our services are, so I hope lots of you will want to showcase your bit of it to the rest of the division. If you want to take part, just send me an email and let me know you’re interested.

Secondly, as well as getting to know what you do in work, I’m also keen to find a way to share things about you as a person and what makes you tick. I promise this won’t be intrusive or embarrassing, and again it’ll be entirely voluntary anyway. I will simply send you a list of 10 random questions and all you have to do is provide your answers that we will then publish through the blog! So again if you are interested in doing it send me an e-mail and let me know!

Lastly there are other ways you can stay informed and involved. The quickest way to get the blog updates is to sign up – it’s easy and all you have to do is follow the link on your left (at least it should be on your left!) – There are already over 200 of you following the blog this way which is great – but the aim is to get all of you signed up. Other than the blog, I’d encourage you to sign up for our new Google Community that I mentioned earlier and lastly, you can join Twitter (it’s not as bad as you may have heard and it’s a very quick way of communicating short pieces of info). It’s free and once you set up an account (all free) you can find me @EdnEarl and ‘follow’ me. You can get Twitter apps for your phones and iPads. I believe there is also a way to follow my Twitter feed WITHOUT having a Twitter account of your own – you get the Tweets as text messages! However unless you have unlimited texts as part of your phone package, that might cost you money – and while I want you to have me words of wisdom, EVEN I KNOW THEY’RE NOT WORTH PAYING FOR!

And finally……………………………………….

………………………………………………………………My families efforts to make me healthier, smarter, trendier, slimmer etc are by now familiar to you – as are their repeated failures! This time my partner has decided what I need is to open my horizons to new experiences for my inner well being! So a couple of weeks ago she announced she had a surprise for me – we were going to the opera later that day to see Madame Butterfly! I was aghast – I am as you know a trendy old bloke Madame B 1following indie rock bands – so I immediately frowned, moaned, claimed I was ill etc etc! But I was forced into it. So I went to the Royal Opera House for my first taste of the dreaded opera. It started and all my fears………………….DIDNT come true. From the first note I was utterly mesmerised. By the interval I was a wreck – my eyes were swollen from crying and Madame Butterfly was still at least 90 minutes from the ending at this point!!!!!

Madame-Butterfly 2

I literally cried and held my breath all the way through the Second Act. I have never seen anything even remotely like it in my life – it was simply fantastic! So if you have never tried the opera I urge you to go and try it! And if you are already an opera fan, I can’t believe you’ve let me go all these years and not told me what I was missing!

…………………………..Have a good week!


And The Winner Is……………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change – The Law Of Life!

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

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

Staff Briefing and Staff Drop In Dates

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

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

Drop In at The Grove – 12th May

Drop in at Bandon Hill – 18th May

Drop In at The Quad – 19th May

Drop In at Chaucer – 20th May

Drop In at Sutton West – 22nd May

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

Lights Under Bushels……….Part One!

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

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

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

Lights Under Bushels………Part Two!

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

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

Revised Early Help Strategy

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

Children’s Centres Consultations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children’s Services Internet!

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

…………………..and the intranet……… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Finally………………..

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

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

And Finally, And Finally!……………..

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


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

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




The new People Directorate at LBS

First of all, welcome back after the Christmas and New Year break! I hope you all had a good one, with friends and family. I will write more about mine (fevered excitement that will generate!) later this week

But for now, I wanted to let you all know that following a staff consultation, members agreed before Christmas to progress a proposal which will see CYPLD and ASSHH merged into one directorate, which will be known as the People Directorate.

The new Directorate will come into force on April 1st of this year. In advance of that a series of briefings have been arranged for all of you to join colleagues in the rest of CYPLD as well as from ASSHH, so that you can get a clear perspective on the arrangements for the new directorate, and of course how it will operate going forward. I’d expect that most of you will want to attend one of these briefings if you can and I would encourage you all to do so. I’ve noticed that the numbers signed up to date seem low and I think this may be to do with lack of awareness and how the briefings have been advertised – so I thought I’d tell you myself!

There are four sessions for you to choose from:

13 January, 2 – 3 pm in MR1

14 January, 2 – 3 pm in Strawberry Lodge

20 January, 10 – 11am in Salvation Army

27 January, 10 – 11am in Salvation Army

So I hope you will sign up for them as soon as you can – you can sign up through iTrent.

If only they'd booked to attend through iTrent!!!!!!
If only they’d booked to attend through iTrent!!!!!!

More than ever, at times of such considerable change, I think it’s important to try and keep you all informed and up to date. The briefings are of course a key part of that so I hope you will be able to come along to one of them and  I look forward to seeing you there.

Find Your Voice……..


Our Youth Engagement work is continually being developed and as part of it we took part in National Takeover Day this year. This programme, run through the Office for the Children’s Commissioner, allows  young people the chance to work with adults for the day and be involved in decision-making. We had six young people join us this year, all candidates for the forthcoming Youth MP elections for 2015. The students were Oliwia Geisler and Rose Baker from Greenshaw, Granthick Barua from Wallington Boys, Erin Horsley  from Wallington Girls, Ethan Smith from Stanley Park and Farida Augustine from Sutton High. As part of the day they got the opportunity to shadow managers in our division working with Claudette, Sharon and Paul at the Quad, as well as managers in other parts of the Council, working with Andreas who heads up corporate communications and Victoria who is the Head of the Chief Executive office. They also got to meet a group of elected members chaired by the Leader, Cllr Dombey and what was undoubtedly the highlight of the day for them – 4 of them had a short meeting with me! Mind you as much of my meeting focused on the travails of being a touch OCD, attention seeking and how it never leaves you, and a discussion on the merits of Batman, I have to admit that meeting with me might not have been at the forefront of their minds as a……………learning experience?!

Is it a trick of the light or are all the young people taller than me?!


I was delighted that we had so many young people wanting to take part and I’m grateful to those  staff who gave their time to support the event. Above all, my thanks to Lee for the work he put in to setting this up, and to everyone who helped him with the organisation of the day. The young people made this video to set out their ambitions and commitments for the forthcoming Youth MP elections  (no reference to being inspired by meeting with me surprisingly!)


We have a lot of attention focused on the role of our Children’s Centres at the moment and if anything, this is likely to increase quite a bit further in the next few months. Jackie and I have visited a number of the Centres to discuss how the providers will mitigate the impact of the recent Council decision to revise their funding by 14% in 2015-2016. In almost every case so far the Centres have found ways to avoid any direct impact on families in the short term by either making adjustments to their costs or by using their projected balances for the end of this year. The report to members on Children’s Centres Options for the future, making proposals about the role of our centres from 2016 onwards is in the final stage of drafting and will be considered byk members at the Children Family and Education Committee meeting on December 18th as planned. We’ve used the meetings with Centre providers to keep them informed of about the development of that Options Report, and it’s likely focus, as we have drafted it. A small group of elected members are now also involved in a series of visits and meetings about Children’s Centres for a Task and Finish Group review and they will use that experience and the perspective they have gained when members subsequently consider the Options Report.


Well I’ve not heard of any sudden upsurge in sales of The Orenda, the novel about the Iroquois which I recommended to you all in recent briefings! So I am clear that in my campaign to prove the Booker Prize committee wrong I will get precious little in the way of back up from all of you!

So be it!

I’m not disheartened because I’m used to my recommendations being ignored – I’ve certainly had a lot of practice being ignored at home!!

As ‘The Orenda’ isn’t your cup of tea (though it really, really, really, really, really, SHOULD BE!!!!!),  I have decided to recommend a film instead! I urge you to go see ‘The Imitation Game’, about the World War Two Enigma Code breaker Alan Turing. It’s a really great film and a terrific, though ultimately tragic story – and Benedict Cumberbatch really is as good as everyone says he is – don’t get me wrong I know he’s not the Adonis my family seem to think he is leading to mass sighing and ridiculous suggestions at home that he’s somehow better looking than me ( I’m not seeing it myself…..) but even I can admit……he can act!


I’ve started a further round of joining in with Team Meetings. Last week I was fascinated to sit in on the Virtual Schools Team Meeting. I couldn’t help but be struck by how much the approach has been refined and targeted and I can see that we are now much better placed to track and influence LAC pupil attainment and progress. Later this week I’m looking forward to meeting the Family Information and Development Service, the Speech and Language Service and I’ve also got visits coming up to the provisions at Sutton Out Of School and the play service based at Lindbergh Play Centre.


My travels are a perennial source of ennui and chaos usually – but occasionally they have a lighter side. This week I saw a bloke walking across a crowded Victoria-rush-hour concourse carrying………….a floor lamp! God knows where he was going or why!

Taking the instruction to "Let There Be Light" one level beyond the walking floor lamp!
Taking the instruction to “Let There Be Light” one level beyond the walking floor lamp!

I also saw a couple of famous (ish) footballers on the Tube! In the middle of last week I got on the Victoria Line and there was Steve Sidwell who currently plays for Fulham! The following day I was on the Central Lime and who got on but Graeme Souness!………Well it might have been Graeme Souness …………………….though he was in painting overalls and carrying an extendible paint roller over one shoulder…….but I’m CONVINCED it was him! And I’m even more convinced it was definitely THE Steve Sidwell! (Or as my daughter called him when I told her ‘Who’s Steve Sidwell?!’!!!!!!)

At DMT last Monday we focused largely on reviewing the most recent improvement work against the documentation list and against the revised criteria in the updated OfSTED Safeguarding Inspection Framework. We’ve been working on a range of plans, policies and other documents that are needed as part of Annexe A (eg Early Help Strategy, LSCB Business’s Plan, Annual Report on LAC Attainment and Progress). Broadly everything we need is in place so we are now focusing on more detailed aspects within some of the Annexe A documents we will need to have available. Following on from this Richard gave us an overview from the recent series of case file audits. As anticipated they suggest practice and recording continues to improve overall but it’s not yet consistently as good as we want it to be. So we are focusing on what needs to be done to secure practice that is consistently good in all areas. The other main area of discussion at DMT was on budget. We reviewed Month 6 and for our division we are on track to deliver all of the required savings and an additional small underspend by the end of this financial year. We also reviewed the options for future budget savings. Members have asked for reports on Children’s Centres and Spinning Out Services to Schools for their December meeting and have decided that other potential saving options will be put forward to the March 2015 CFE Meeting.

On Thursday last week the Chief Executive and myself were both meeting with school governors and Headteachers. Niall was discussing and responding to questions about the Council restructure proposals for children’s and adult services, and I was updating governors about the Services for Schools Spin Out Feasibility Study we’ve just gone out to tender on. Governors and Heads had a lot of questions as you’d expect on both items. At this stage I expect the initial high-level feasibility report back about the beginning of February next year. I’ve committed to sharing the initial report with schools and I will also share it with the relevant staff in CYPLD too. I anticipate reporting any recommendations for the next stage of consideration to members in March 2015.


These are currently being recommissioned. At this stage the specifications are complete and have gone out to the market. Currently we are awaiting tender submissions and from there, staff from CYPLD will be working with partners from the Clinical Commissioning Group to complete the process . Once the decisions are taken and the contract is awarded I will let you know the outcome .


To maintain the early help focus on the right priorities, we have had the Families Matter locality area needs analysis updated and we will be reviewing this imminently. We don’t anticipate any major changes in the needs profile for any of the areas, nor do we anticipate any shift in the balance of needs between the locality areas, but we will check these and will continue to do this on a regular basis. We will also be using this revised data to redraft the Council’s Early Help / Early Intervention Strategy. Once we have finalised the redraft I will make it available to you but will also provide a summary of the key points .


This has been redrafted by staff in the Safer Sutton Partnership. Jenny Rowley, Jackie and I are part of the Steering Group on DV  and we are currently working through the draft before we feed our comments back to the wider Strategy Steering Group members. This is a crucial document for us given both the prevalence and impact of DV in the lives of a number of the children and families we are supporting. Again once the strategy is finalised and agreed I will update you and let you know the key points.


…………………………………….I’m currently finishing the draft of this blog post on the early morning training out from Victoria. I have to share  with you that the guy in front of me fell asleep about 2 nano-seconds after he got on at Clapham Junction (a talent reserved exclusively for men of a certain vintage according to my family!!!!!!!) Since then he’s been snoring all the way but better than that is he is…………………….well………………………………………….let’s just say he’s rather noisily expelling wind……………………………………….and with an astonishing frequency!!!!!

I’m typing with a pencil between my teeth to stop me giggling out loud!!!!!!!! ( NOTE TO SELF – Should spend less time giggling and typing and more time looking at surroundings – just looked up to see train pull out of Carshalton Station and have missed my stop – AGAIN!! Aaaaaaaagh!)



( This space was initially left blank to allow me to add a comment on last weeks Scotland v England football – but for some reason I find I’ve sort of……………………………………………….nothing to say!!!!!!! – For once don’t feel you need to leave any comment whatsoever! It’s bad enough at home!)



A Dijkstra’s Algorithm Moment……….!

……..Albert Einstein once said “Information is not knowledge” and so on that basis I’ll work on the premise that my blog should do more than inform……..hence Dijkstra’s Algorithm.

Because just as my last blog broke the record for the longest between blog posts – this week I’m setting a new record for the shortest! Now I could have introduced that with info about one of the shortest records ever made ( the classic “Spider Pig!” from the Simpsons movie at only 62 seconds long), or given you info on the shortest time between a movie and its sequel ( because The Matrix was then “Reloaded” only 174 days later as the sequel) or I could even have stated the truly obvious by reminding you that in 1830, Louis-Antoine became the King of France for……well……..20 minutes before he abdicated – making him the shortest reigning monarch ever! But you knew all those already I guess!

So instead I thought I’d enlighten you with information about Dijkstra’s Algorithm – which is the algebraic formula for calculating the shortest route between any vertex and any other vertex!!! Now you might not think this is useful – but think again! Imagine tonight you decide to go on a detour home – via Glasgow and via York AND via Bristol say? Well you can use Djikstra’s algorithm to work out the shortest route of doing that! Great eh?……Of course you could always go straight home but where’s the fun in that!?! And, to continue that learning theme, please study carefully this video outlining the philosophy of the Spider Pig!


Following on from the OfSTED and DfE visits during the last year and OfSTED’s Thematic Inspection of Leadership and Management, we are using their findings and the current safeguarding inspection framework to plan the next phase of the Improvement Plan. The focus now is on areas for change which will secure provision as good. As part of the work, Richard Nash is leading a review of aspects of practice across a number of our front-line teams. It will include our work at the Joint Adolescent Service and at Sutton Family Centre.


The new integrated locality focused early help service is now in place. It’s based at Tweeddale and combines what was previously MALT, the Early Intervention and Prevention Service and Families Matter. We’ve retained the Families Matter name for the new service. It’s been a complex and difficult change for the staff in all three teams but already the initial signs of the approach are good. We’ve got a new outcome-focused performance system in place and it’s shown that in just three months the work of our early help service at Tweeddale has had a positive impact on families, especially in improving the effectiveness of parenting.  It also tells that in most cases, our support has the positive effect we are looking for fairly swiftly because of the 125 cases closed to date, the average time the case had been open was only 1.6 months.


Quite often I take the bus from the Essex village where I live into Epping to get the Tube. It’s your archetypal route through a succession of villages stopping what feels like every twenty yards! But here’s the thing – no matter how busy it gets nobody ever sits next to me!! In fact some mornings people STAND rather than sit next to me!!!! Should I be worried about this?????!!!!!!!


As I mentioned above my journey to and from work is a pretty long commute – but being shunned by Essex bus passengers aside, it can be entertaining at times. Earlier this week I caught a Northern line train to Morden but which was them halted early at Kennington. So they got the passengers off the train onto the platform and two Underground staff made their way down the platform looking at each carriage to ensure it was empty. Just as they reached me, near the front of the train, one of the staff signalled to the driver it was good to go – just at the moment when her colleague decided for some reason to get onto the train! The doors shut and off the train went with this poor guy helplessly stuck in the carriage! Now while she was a bit distressed and worried my fellow commuters did what I did, we giggled. But the giggling for me turned to hysteria when she spoke into her radio and said “Hello control? Er….there’s been a little…… problem with the train on platform 2……………ask Charlie?…………….well that’s the little problem actually!”

I was still giggling when I got to Morden! And I never did find out what happened to Charlie!!!

It’s really never been easy to avoid accidents if you’re called Charlie!


My thanks to those of you who came to the staff briefings over the last two weeks. I hope the info was of some use and it gave you a little more detail on the priorities and the issues we will have to tackle in the months ahead. I will get the dates for the next round of briefings arranged through Business Support and get these out to you as soon as they are finalised. I’m grateful for the helpful feedback and advice I got from some of you about the challenge of hearing the info, and perhaps seeing it too, when we ran the final session in the Sports Hall. So we won’t do it that way in future.

Once the final briefing is done next week I will get Claire to type up my notes and we will make a copy of the presentation slides available for anyone who didn’t get the chance to attend.


As you know we are currently preparing proposals for the future use of Children’s Centres and members will consider those proposals and decide which they intend to consult on when the Children Family and Education Committee meets on December 18th. As part of the preparation for considering those options a small group of members have been asked to conduct a short but in-depth look at what our Children’s Centres deliver and how families access and use this support. As part of the work we expect members will include: visits to a sample of centres, discussions with service users and discussions with staff in centres. The Task and Finish Group report will then be considered by the full Children Family and Education Committee in December.


When Sutton was inspected last year the Keep in Touch meetings with inspectors every morning meant I needed to leave home a bit earlier. Now I always walk the dog before I start so if you’re mad enough, you can meet us most mornings about 5:00 am in the fields around Ongar! But during the inspection I decided to take him earlier and to a different place closer to home to save time! Our dog is a Golden Retriever and he LOVES water. I’d not expected it to be an issue in this shorter walk as the riverbank is too steep – or so I thought! Anyway just after 5,  and down the bank he goes and into the river – except he can’t get out again. So I go down the steep bank to pull him out – but with the gradient, and the mud, and the weight of the dog,……..well you can guess the rest! In I went and had to wade downstream to where the bank wasn’t as steep – not pleasant at anytime but in the middle of the night – madness!

OfSTED's new Inspector recruitment programme had attracted a more diverse set of candidates than ever before!
OfSTED’s new Inspector recruitment programme had attracted a more diverse set of candidates than ever before!

And he’s not done it since – till last week! My partner is the Director of Adult and Children’s Services in another London Borough – last week they had OfSTED arrive Tuesday morning! We discussed the first day had gone on the Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning I took the dog for his usual walk at 5:00am – in he goes……and gets stuck! I have to wade in again and get him out – second ! Now at first I thought nothing of it – but as I tramped soaked and shivering through the early morning streets I realised that OfSTED connection, two early morning ‘swims’ and two OfSTED Inspections – I was going to complain that they are frightening the dog but then decided to keep it quiet just in case  OfSTED decide to introduce a special mid-inspection judgement about how effectively Children’s Services leaders manage the risk of going river-wading with a Golden Retriever in the hours before dawn!!


I had the opportunity to meet again with Sutton’s Primary Heads this week to share a little bit more information with them about what the Council will be doing in the next few weeks on a feasibility study for possibly spinning out some more Council services to schools. Jackie and I have also begun a series of visits to schools which manage Children’s Centres on our behalf to discuss how they will manage the Council’s recent decision to reduce funding to centres for 15-16 and the jalso to give them more detail on the timetable for the report which we will finalise at the beginning of December on the future use of Children’s Centres.


Claire and Clemmi have a new admin support officer to support my fellow Exec Heads and I in CYPLD. Rachael Qureshi is now working for us, based at the Grove and as Rachael will focus more on managing my diary, tasks and documentation I thought it would be good to share her contact details with all of you. So you can get Rachael directly on eemail at and by phone at 020 8770 5827


We’ve just appointed a new Programme Manager for this, following interviews last week. Alexandra Cossley is joining us from Brent Council in early January and she will lead the project management of the next phase of the Children’s Redesign. I will also distribute a Children’s Redesign Newsletter tomorrow to the rest of CYPLD as a “Word” document, but for ease of access for staff in my division, I will also “publish it’ on the blog tomorrow


…………………………………. time is precious – as last week’s tick follows tock follows tick follows tock film highlighted. So I’m always trying to save time and multi-task – even though I know all the gender stereotypes about how we males find that a little……challenging! Well this week it proved not only challenging but dangerous! I came back to Grove from a meeting and walked through the park while writing and reading e-mails – and just outside the nursery I walked straight into the open gate! I nearly knocked what little brain I have left clean out of my head…but worse all the mums waiting to collect their kids from pre-school came to my aid, asking if I was OK!! Acutely, excruciatingly embarrassing……..although it was nice to get the attention I suppose…..but I don’t plan to repeat the trick anytime soon as I doubt I have much grey matter left!


……………As I have mentioned before the quickest way to get these to you is if you subscribe to the blog – if you click the link and leave your email it will be sent to you directly. And if you want to leave a comment, please, please do it…….there’s a little link at the top of each post – and if you leave a comment I will get back to you.


I think you all forgot to ask me the detail of the book I recommended at the briefings…cos I know you’ll all buy it, read it, and help me prove the Booker Prize Committee wrong for 2014 – so you can find out more about Joseph Boyden’s utterly wonderous ‘The Orenda’  here at my book blog ‘The Only Way Is Reading’ – but above all – try it….please try it! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Tick Follows Tock Follows Tick Follows Tock…….


…….What do Toy Story 3, Pink Floyd’s album The Division Bell and an Irish two-year child called Katie Elliot all have in common?……………..No idea…………………………………..Well hopefully the Guinness Ad ‘The Surfer’ (surely the best ad of all time!!!!?!) will give you a massive clue!!

For Toy Story 3, Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell and Katie Elliot were all delayed by as much, and sometimes by even more time, than this blog post has been delayed!!!!!!!!!!! Its been a really really really long time between blogs – Jackie, Claudette and others have given me hints and nudges with varying degrees of subtlety but it made no difference. And then Claudette gave me another nudge recently. So I decided to get on with it.

If you are wondering about those delays……well Toy Story 3 was an incredible 11 YEARS after Toy Story 2, Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell was released 7 years after A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, the album which had preceded it, and perhaps most amazing of all Katie Elliot holds the world record at the moment for the longest gap between her birth and that of her twin – for her sister Amy had been born a barely believable 87 days earlier!

For all the hype at the time apparently less anticipated than one of my blog posts!
For all the hype at the time apparently Toy Story 3 was a lot less anticipated than one of my blog posts!

I am really sorry to have been so awful at communicating and I will try and make sure you don’t wait anywhere near as long in future – and I will try not to follow Pink Floyd’s example in particular – for having delayed the release of Division Bell by 7 years, it’s now been TWENTY YEARS since it…..and nothing! So my aim is to try and get another blog out to you before the end of November – otherwise I’ll see you in 2034!


You may well have seen that the Chief Executive has published proposals to members for a restructure of Council Directorates. For CYPLD specifically, the key proposal the paper sets out is the merger of Children’s and Adults Services into one Directorate. It’s an approach which has been followed in some other Councils.  I’ve got some personal experience of it as my partner is the joint Director of Children’s and Adults in another London Borough and some professional experience of it as I worked under this arrangement in a previous role. At this stage Sutton are consulting on it and that consultation is in the first instance with all those directly affected – in other words the Directors and Executive Heads in the Council. From that there will obviously be a report back to members and of course all staff will have access to that. In addition, as with any consultation within the Council there will be an opportunity to express a view. I’ll give you further information on it, and discuss the implications of it during our divisional briefings which are coming up in early November


The invites for those divisional briefings have been drafted and there will be 4 sessions for you to choose from this autumn. I’ll do each of the briefings at the Quad and I hope you will make it to at least one of those sessions. If you don’t receive the invite through Claire Cremins in Business Support, drop Claire an e-mail and she will pass on the relevant info about the dates and times of each session. By having four sessions I want to give you as much chance as possible of being able to attend. The downside though is that this is too many to ask the Heads of Service to attend for each session so I’ve simply asked Jackie, Nigel and Claudette to attend one of the four sessions. My apologies if that means you don’t get an answer to a question you raise at a session – however I will take a note of any questions i can’t answer and the relevant HoS will get back to you in due course


Members made a recent decision at the Children Family and Education Committee to implement a further raft of saving proposals. Among these was a proposal to reduce the funding to Children’s Centres for April 2015. Jackie and I are currently visiting all the Children’s Centres to meet with the leadership teams to discuss the implications and how we might mitigate any impact on service users and for staff.

We’ve also discussed some further options with both members and the Corporate Management Team in recent weeks and we are finalising a further set of proposals for the next CFE committee in December. I will also include an outline of the savings target and options we are looking at as part of the staff briefings over the next few weeks.


I’ve begun a series of visits to your team meetings and I know that several are already in my diary – and in fact I’ve already been at team meetings with both the Families Matter service and with Sutton Family Centre. If you’d like me to come along to one of your team meetings let me know through Claire Cremins in Business Support


There have been several changes across our division. I will try and update on some of the key ones and my apologies for any which I miss. In Advisory and Inspection, our previous Primary Lead Chris Jacobs has moved on. Chris played a key role along with his colleagues in the primary team, the primary inspectors and the schools themselves in raising standards in Sutton to where they are now with Sutton’s Primary Schools the highest performing in the country this year. Chris is replaced by Kate Evans as the new primary lead and we have adjusted a number of roles and responsibilities within the advisory service as a result.

We are now recruiting to the management roles within the restructured Families Matter Service and recently Celia Allotey has started as a new assistant team manager overseeing the work of the Blue Locality within the service. Over the coming weeks we will be recruiting to other posts within the service.

Our Business Support in CYPLD has changed quite a bit in recent months, especially as Vanessa moved on from her previous post as my PA and of course Janice Hamilton and Joan Martin both retired from roles as PA’s in CYPLD. In the main my Business Support is currently provided by Claire Cremins, who was previously a PA for Richard. Claire is currently supporting the three Exec Heads along with Clemmi Bartholomew who is Tolis’ new PA. We are waiting on another member of staff to join Business Support at The Grove and I will let you now when that is finalised. In the interim though, if you need to contact me for anything then Claire is the best route to get to me. Lastly Debbie Whitton has moved on from her role as the project manager for our Children’s Service Redesign and we are interviewing for a replacement later this week.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES (Hairdressers!)

Several months back I had a haircut at the little hairdressers in the Essex village where I live. Alas even though I asked for it to be ‘just tidied up a bit’ I came across the most enthusiastic hairdresser in the UK.  Hours later I was virtually shaven-headed – now I know some of you will be thinking why didn’t I say something sooner but we men don’t do that – we just sit passively. At the end when she showed me and asked if it was okay all I could utter was a sound like “hmmwa” – somewhere between a whimper and a slow moan! Then a few weeks ago, now that it’s grown back I tried again this time in Carshalton. I asked for a tidy up and came across the most reluctant hairdresser in the UK – I think she cut about four hairs individually – even I couldn’t tell the difference! And to make it worse, while my daughter was at home watching Anchorman she commented “That guy has the same hairstyle as you Col!” As you can see this is neither fair nor accurate – is it?! (Mind you I’m not participating in Movember this year just in case!)

I don't see any similarity between my mullet and any of these guys really.......
I don’t see any similarity between my mullet and any of these guys really…….


As part of the digital changes the Council is implementing I’ve recently made the transition from Outlook to Google for diary, tasks, email etc. I like it and am finding it good to work with although I know that others have found it more problematic. I think much of what we are experiencing at present are minor issues and once everyone has transferred things will get easier. In the short term though I know it causes some minor problems if you are trying to arrange for me to attend meetings etc. However pretty much everyone will be transferring to Google in the near future if you have not done so already

A further part of the IT programme is upgrades to both the CYPLD intranet and internet. There are a number of managers across our division currently updating the context for their ‘part’ of the new site and when these are ready, IT will begin the process of converting these and uploading them to the new site which will have a changed look and feel. Once it’s complete I will send you the relevant link to check it for yourself.


My family’s concerns about my weight haven’t gone away so I’m on yet another diet – I’ve lost track of what it’s called – all I know is I’m hungry (and I don’t seem to be any less overweight either!!) And to make matters worse I seem to be surrounded by references to food –  yesterday I was just emerging from a morning doze on the Central Line and got on the train at Victoria – the guy opposite sat down with a breakfast from Burger King and then two seconds later a woman with a tray of fantastically decorated cupcakes sat next to me. I don’t now what the world endurance record is for salivating but I kept it up all the way from Victoria to Sutton yesterday!

These are the burgers I see when Im hungry!
These are the burgers I see when Im hungry!


And finally………..

……………A couple of weeks back I had the rarest of experiences – a Friday night at home with the house all to myself. My daughter was on a sleepover and my partner was at a staff night out. So I could watch what I wanted. I settled down to of course sport, and spent the first few hours watching cricket from Pakistan. Then I discovered a series of music documentaries on BBC 3 all about a guilty pleasure of mine – ABBA! I was engrossed in it, and I admit signing along when I heard sniggering behind me – it was later than I thought and my secret Abba adoration is now out! I’ve been mercilessly ribbed ever since! Who would have thought that loving the tune of Mamma Mia could be the cause of so much pain?! But as my love of Abba is now an open secret, here is a wee taste of one of my favourite Abba covers. This is James Walsh of Starsailor covering Dancing Queen – and I am in the audience – and yes I certainly am singing along!

Only 7 Sleeps To Go………..!

I know just how he feels!
I know just how he feels!

………..Christmas fever has well and truly arrived chez moi! The first sign that it’s really here is my daughter’s Christmas list  – however as that starts to be compiled around the end of October (!!), the second sign is the key one in our house – and that is of course getting the decorations out of the garage!

This is a lovely family tradition is a ritual humiliation of…..

……………my lack of DIY skills (sawing off bottom of Christmas trees – takes me about 4 hours to do with a blunt, undersized and rusty hacksaw!)

…………….my complete inability to do anything which requires ‘an eye’ for a straight line (roof lights sort of follow the line of the house but they deviate off-centre at the parts where all five foot six of me, precariously stood atop the tallest ladder I’ve got, can’t quite reach the apex of the pointed roof on our house front… I just chuck it over the apex and hope for the best!!)

………… lack of taste and understanding of colour schemes (I was the man who had a Tartan Christmas tree when I was a bachelor!)

……………and my complete inability to get organised and plan ahead for anything (hence frequent trips back and forward to Homebase/BandQ/Garden Centre for replacement lights, then bulbs, then four-way sockets, and then batteries!)

At This Point On Christmas Day, My Mother Would Say - "You'll Have Grown Into That By The Summer!"
When I Was A Kid, At This Point On Christmas Day, My Mother Would Say – “You’ll Have Grown Into That By The Summer!”

It is the definite marker of the festive season starting in earnest in our house. I’m at least through that weekend ……..scarred, bloodied, bent and beaten yes……….but I’m alive!!!

Now I’m looking forward to standing panic-stricken in Lakeside Shopping Centre on Christmas Eve thinking “what size is she again?”, followed by all my gifts being opened on Christmas Day to the accompaniment of “that’s nice…..did you keep the receipt?”.

And yet despite all the above trials and tribulations (feel sorry for me yet?!), I love Christmas. My daughter still gets the magic of it – though she’s only just hanging in there, so I plan to make the most of it! So 12 sleeps to go and counting… Christmas decor ordeal over it’s all downhill from here – can’t wait!

Duke of Edinburgh Scheme

A couple of weeks ago, Claudette and Sarah Alderman were invited to St James Palace as part of the Duke of Edinburgh awards. They were there to watch 5 of our Sutton young people receive their Gold Award – a phenomenal achievement! The DoE programme is a real success story in Sutton – from low beginnings Sarah has worked with others to now get it to a place where it is one of the best schemes in London. And on the back of that success we are hopeful of another invite to the Palace in the Spring as we have more Gold Awards on the way! And you never know, I might get an invite myself next time! (I was about to add “stranger things have happened” to that last sentence – then I realised I actually couldn’t think of any!)

Official Opening Of The Quad

At the end of November, Sutton’s Mayor, Councillor Sean Brennan, carried out the official opening of the Quad! Even though all the teams in Claudette’s service have been in the building since Septemer, it was still good to see it officially declared open. It was a great way to showcase the facility but even more importnatly it was a great showcase for the work done by all the teams in Claudette’s service – it’s when I went from room to room, talking to people, that I fully appreciated just how much you all do and just how well you all do it! And at the Quad I had this lovely experience with the added bonus of the wafting aroma of food from the kitchen. Best of all though was to talk to some of those who we support – I got to speak to one parent who said I sounded just like her Dad (we Glaswegians stick together) and a couple of parents who’d started getting support from us and had gone on to support others. It reminded me – for all the data and stats we might produce, nothing can ever say more about the difference we can make for people than people themselves!

Strange Things On The Underground Part 35 and 2/3!

……A couple of weeks back I got on the Victoria Line at Oxford Circus in the middle of the rush hour. The train didn’t look that busy but it seemed to take an inordinately long time to get on – but it was only when I got inside that I understood why! For there was a bloke, casually reading Metro, middle of the carriage, accompanied by……a chest of drawers!!!! Talk about travelling light! I had this idea that he was off on holiday, couldn’t be bothered to take stuff out of the drawers at home to pack in a bag and then unpack to different set of drawers in his hotel so he just thought ‘What The Hell, It’ll Be Easier to Take The Drawers Too!”. For safety’s sake I haven’t reported this at home – I had visions of me at Gatwick with a wardrobe on my back come the summer!

Exec Heads Are So Overworked They Sometimes Cant Get Everything In Their Briefcase!
Exec Heads Are So Overworked They Sometimes Cant Get Everything In Their Briefcase!

Back To The Floor

Week before last I spent a day with June Webb in the Youth Offending Team, getting an insight into the work of the YOT and how they support oyung people. It was a fascinating insight for me into both the work and the systems that surround it. For different reasons I’ve had to reschedule planned visits to spend time in JAS and in one of our Children’s Centre’s. But am looking forward to both in 2014, as well as previously planned visits to Positive Activities for Young Poeple and the Youth Service.

My thanks to June for patiently talking me through every aspect of her day and for answering all of my inane questions!

Families Matter

The Families Matter team have now transferred across and have become part of our division. There have been good links between the team and other parts of our services since its inception. More recently Mario, one of the ATM’s in Families Matter has been working in our new Multi-Agency Locality Team pilot and now the team have formally shifted across from the Chief Executives Directorate. Denise is the Families Matter Team Manager and she’ll be reporting in to Jackie.

Nostalgia and Arthritis

I’ve had a few nostalgia sessions in recent weeks. I went to watch first Hue and Cry and then last week to see Deacon Blue. Now at this point only those of us of a certain age will have any idea what I’m talking about! Anyway I went to see Deacon Blue and they were great – but the audience was a revelation! I’m usually the oldest person at most gigs I go to – at this one I was one of the younger ones! But best of all were the conversations in the bar beforehand – I heard of at least two knee ops and two hip replacements! Inside I sniggered – but paid for it as by the end of two hours of jumping up and down my arthritic old knees were in agony! And as you read this, if there are smug, younger staff around you, don’t worry – it’ll happen to them too one day!

Col Denied That His Love Of The Stones Stemmed From Them Being The Olny Band Alive Older Than He Was!
Col Denied That His Love Of The Stones Stemmed From Them Being The Only Band Alive Older Than He Was!

Youth MP and Deputy Youth MP

The elections for these were help last month and the results confirmed a couple of weeks ago that the new Youth MP will be Cameron Clark, currently a pupil at Cheam High, and the Deputy Youth MP will be Vishwa Periasamymanjula, currently a pupil at Sutton Grammar. Last week, I met both of them with Ingrid Bard, who has been doing much of the Youth Engagement work while we’ve been recruiting staff for these roles. We plan to get them much more involved in the work of CYPLD from now on and we will also be looking at how we support them with their personal and national YMP priorities.

Christmas Giving In ISYP

The staff in ISYP decided that rather than send each other Christmas cards this year, they would bring in non perishable items of food instead. The service already refers a lot of families to the Food Bank Service and at this time of year, some families within Sutton can struggle even more than they might otherwise due to the Christmas period and the financial burden this can put on families. The staff there thought it would be good if they could give something back to the service as well as helping vulnerable families within our local area. They collected a large amount of goods which they delivered to the Salvation Army for the Sutton Foodbank. It was gratefully received by staff and we know that it will go to the families that need it the most. The Parenting Plus Service were also able to obtain some lovely Christmas gifts for some of the children we work with and they got that great feeling from being  one of Santa’s little helpers making the delivery to families. It was a great idea and a very generous act – thanks to all staff that contributed. It’s already made me think that if the ISYP do it again next year, I’ll happily join in and I know all of you would too!

Twitter Question Time

I was one of four panelists last Wednesday evening for Sutton’s first ever Question Time through Twitter! I was joined by Chris Parker from the voluntary sector, Simon Parker from Local Govt Network and Cllr Dombey who is Leader of the Council. It was a great experience and apart from the odd technical glitch here and there it was really enjoyable. I think we will have learned a lot from doing it and hopefully we will do it, or something similar, again in the future! I’m struck by how few of you seem to be on Twitter – either that or you just avoid me like the social media plague! But if you are not on it, I really do recommend it. It’s quick, easy free and you don’t have to tweet at all – regardless of whether or not you want to say something. So I’d strongly encourage you to sign up for a Twitter account – it’s easy, free, you can get it on your Smartphones and iPads and you never know, you could be one of my fifty followers or one of the fifty million followers of Harry Styles of One Direction!

And Finally……..

……………………I’m a book lover as some of you know. My other blog is all about books (mainly) – if you are also a book lover you can find it and my reviews at if you’d like to write a review of a recent book you have read and enjoyed – or read and detested – send it to me and I’ll publish it on my blog as a “guest review”!)

One of the things I enjoyed in my last job was that there was a Children’s Services Book Club. We met monthly over lunch/coffee to talk about an agreed book we’d all read and to decide the next one. I miss that book club – so as there isn’t one here, I thought I might start one. If you are interested let me know through the comments box and I will set it up in the New Year. If you have never been in a book club before but like books take the plunge – it’s a good way of finding things to read you might not otherwise have tried! It doesn’t take masses of time (about an hour once a month and it’s always good to spend time talking to fellow book lovers!

And Finally, And Finally………

……………………..It’s of course full on Christmas shopping in our house. My daughter has suddenly gone from little girl to a practicing to be a teenager overnight! Couple of weekends back her and her mum decided to go shopping – I got ready to accompany them. When they saw me dressed, ready to go my daughter begged me NOT to go! “Oh that’s sweet!” I thought. “They are obviously planning to shop for gifts for me”. Just as I sat down having agreed with a knowing smile that I wouldn’t join them after all my daughter seemed to read my mind (which is scary in itself as I thought I only had her mother to contend with on that score!). She fixed me with that stare that the women in my house specialise in and said “And just in case you think we are going shopping for gifts for you – we’re not! It’s just that you always look miserable standing outside shops and you spoil it for us – it’s just more fun without you!” I was about to answer back when I caught my partners eye and her own knowing smirk – and when it’s 2 v 1 in our house I know when I’m beat! I said nothing (well not until  heard the car drive away!)

And The Absolutely Final, And Finally

…….This will be the last blog update before Christmas. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for the work and commitment you’ve put in this year. We have done a lot of good things and that is down to you, your professionalism and your willingness to make a difference. Whatever time off you get with your families over the next couple of weeks I hope you get time to relax and enjoy it.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and Prosperous New Year. To celebrate the festive season, I put together this little film of Christmas wishes from Claudette, Nigel, Jackie and I. I hope you enjoy it!

A plea to Guy Garvey’s brother’s best mate, lurking somewhere out there in our division………

……..When I write these blog updates I have a few basic intentions – to give you info, to get the odd comment back so I know what you think (though if I’m honest you’re generally pretty reticent on this bit!), to amuse myself (yes I’m easily amused I know) and to share my love of music and books and football with you for the very simple reason that my family are utterly bored with me rambling on at home so they won’t listen. You are all on the other hand the perfect solution for a “Johnny-No-Mates” with much to say and nobody to say it too – for you are of course a captive audience!

Olly Knights, lead singer with Turin Brakes - but also known as husband-of-friend-of-Nadia-who-works-for-Col!
Olly Knights, lead singer with Turin Brakes – but also known as husband-of-friend-of-Nadia-who-works-for-Col!

When I write whatever nonsense I do, I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve got no idea what might come from the simplest thing I refer to. So when I wrote in the last blog of my love for the band Turin Brakes I wasn’t prepared for the comment I got back. It turned out that Nadia, who works for the STARS Tuition Service is good friends with the wife of Olly Knights – who is the lead singer with Turin Brakes!!!!! Now to most of you that may not mean that much, but to me, a proper, serious, mad Turin Brakes fan…..I am simply starstruck! It was wonderful to know and I am so glad Nadia told me. I even shared the news at home, and for a moment, fleeting as it was, there was still a moment, when my family were actually INTERESTED in something I had to say. So my thanks to Nadia for making my day, my week, my month and for giving me a few seconds of being semi-cool at home!

But now I’m thinking it’s not just the friend-of-the-wife-of-Olly-Knights who is part of our division – there are probably lots of you connected to bands/footballers/authors I like. And above all, I have a sneaky feel that the best mate of Guy Garvey of Elbow’s brother, Marcus, is out there, in our division – I just know he is! (Yes I know it’s a bit scary that I know the name of Guy Garvey’s brother……but what would you expect from the man who is the oldest member of the official Elbow fan club!). So if you know Guy Garvey’s brother, or even Guy Garvey, please make my day and let me know!

Anyway, now to the serious and useful bits…..(well some useful bits!)

Strategy and Resources Committee

We contributed to a paper to this members committee focused on the one year pilot project we’ve just done with the ChelseaFC Foundation. They ran a series of activities through our schools, Sutton Life Centre and our Youth Offending Team. A large part of the project focused on “reach” and building relationships. However in a couple of our primary schools, it included some work targeting children with poor attendance rates. In both schools the results after 10/12 weeks were very encouraging with the two schools seeing average improvements of 8% in school and 14% in the other. By anybody’s standards these are impressive changes in a short time. In addition, in one of the two schools, where we also targeted latecomers, we saw a 72% improvement in timeliness for school over the term. Elected members agreed to exend the work with the Chelsea FC Foundation for a further 3 months, while we jointly commission a longer term project between CYPLD and Public Health

A Better Class Of Singer On The Glasgow Underground

Up until Monday night, I always thought that there was only one real advantage in the Glasgow Underground compared to London’s. The key advantage was that, no matter how tired you get, even perhaps if you are ‘as tired as a newt!’ as we say in Scotland, you can’t miss your stop – for Glasgow Underground is just a circle that goes round and round and round. Missed your stop in Glasgow? No worries!!! Just lie back, close your eyes and maybe you’ll wake up at the right stop next time round!! However on Monday on my way home from Strategy and Resources, after a long, long, day, we had a singer on the Central Line – or rather a moaning mumbler with a sort of tune in the background.  I think he was singing but it was hard to tell if it was that or a musical  rumbling tummy he had! Now in Glasgow, there is no reticence in our singers on the Underground – they belt it out and aren’t averse to encouraging their fellow passengers to sing along! It’s nothing if not entertaining! So the moral is if you want to get anywhere then use the Tube in London. But……………..IF you want to go round in circles, to the strains of “Rhinestone Cowboy”, with inebriated 3 part harmonies, then Saturday nights in Glasgow are definitely for you!

Here’s a small “soupcon” of Glaswegian Underground Entertainment!

Post14 Employability Board.

 We had the inaugural meeting of this new group which has been created from the old 14-19 Strategy Board. It includes employers, college and training providers and a number of Council officers including Chris Jones and Alan Dean from Advisory and Inspection and Sara Foulsham from Integrated Services For Young People. Among the key actions will be the development of a new Apprenticeship Strategy, a focus on matching employer led demands with young peoples skills acquisition and promoting better engagement between our schools, colleges and training providers, and local employers.

Literacy Volunteering Project

I am now fully signed up to this having mentioned it in my last blog update. Our Family Info Service tell me that some of you have followed suit – but we need more support. Please sign up if you can and give 6 hours of your time to support a Family Literacy. And as for all the jokes about Scottish people and literacy teaching, save them as I’ve probably heard them all before! When I was a teacher in a British School in Spain many years ago I was greeted at the end of my first term with a parent telling me that she was withdrawing her children from the school as she didn’t want them taught English by someone with a ‘common regional accent!’. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that if she thought what I did to the teaching of English was bad, she didn’t want to see what my accent did to the teaching of Spanish!!! So, if you can spare a few hours between January and March next year please contact Jenny Kelly on or Caroline Watson on

It’s Not Easy Being A Man – Part 1

This morning I cut myself while shaving. Nothing unusual in that you may think. But the cut was on the end of my nose. A lot of claret – yes! An explanation – no! I’ve no idea what I was doing but if it was meant to be shaving my top lip I missed by quite a long way!

Support Functions

The second stage of the consultation is underway and I met some staff from CYPLD and also Environment and Neighbourhoods when I was involved in one of the sessions last Friday. I’d encourage managers and staff involved to continue to contribute your views on the proposals, whether you are commenting on one of the draft job descriptions, or on whether a role should or shouldn’t be in scope or on proposals about location for the support staff once the project reaches that phase.

Children’s Services Improvement Board

This board met yesterday and among the papers was confirmation of the very positive findings from the latest DfE review. I know that Tolis has written separately to all staff but again, to everyone, and especially to those more directly involved in areas across ISYC and ISYP, (particularly areas like JAS, EIPs, Sutton Family Centre and YOT) my thanks for all the work and commitment you’ve put in which has contributed to yet another very positive and very encouraging assessment of our improvement.


I will try and get these out regularly – or at least semi-regularly. I also try and tweet a little most days. However I have a few requests to help – firstly if you are minded in the least, please get yourself a Twitter account and sign up to follow up. Secondly please sign up to “follow” the blog by clicking on the button on this page – I’m keen to reduce our relaince on e-mail cascade. And thirdly, if you want to leave a comment or a query, or if you want to simply let me know that YOU are Guy Garvey’s brothers best friend, please get back to me using the comments box at the bottom of the page – I will respond (eventually!)

And Finally………

…………………………………………….It’s Not Easy Being A Man Part 2

Depending on your vote, this copuld be the new me!
Depending on your vote, this could be the new me!

I had a haircut a few weeks ago. The hairdresser commented on the fact that I had a centre parting in my hair. She suggested I move to a side parting as centre parting’s were in her words ‘a bit 1970’s!’. It’s taken me decades to get my hair to do this – now I have to contemplate a change. I’d ask my family but doubt they’d care! So to give you the chance, I’ve set up this poll below which gives you the chance to vote. The response statements weren’t written by me but were drafted by an independent panel of hair industry experts – honest! Please vote and tell me what you think (and honestly I’m also using this as a “test” to see if the polling software works!)

It’s Easy To Express But Hard To Tell!…..

…………That line comes from Joni Mitchell and it’s about ‘Sorrow’ which she says is “easy to express but hard to tell!” Which shows two things – one the fact that I’m quoting it must mean I am sorry about something – and I am – and secondly that if I know quotes from Joni Mitchell I must be an old hippy – and again – I am!!!

Bart SorryMy sorry is about the fact that it’s been several weeks since the last update. Since I came back from leave it’s been hectic but nevertheless I’m sorry that I didn’t make the time to keep you all informed. I’m definitely starting the new term with a “Must Do Better on Communications” target for sure.

The Quad

The new Quad facility up in Green Wrythe is now finished and the ISYP staff have moved in. I’ve been up a couple of times and it’s a great space – and seems to me a real improvement on how things were before with different teams in different buildings. In case you don’t know about it, the Quad is a refurbished Youth facility that now houses all of the staff teams in Claudette’s service in the same building. As well as the work space, common areas, meeting rooms and reception areas, the facility boasts a terrific new teaching kitchen. I particularly like the option it gives us for flexible staffing arrangements with staff from all teams in ISYP mixed in together. I think it would be a good model of organisation for our Locality Teams as well.

 Locality Teams

And on the subject of Locality Teams, the first pilot team is now up and running based at the Tweeddale Children’s Centre. Suzanne Cripps from EIPS has become the new Team Manager for the pilot team. Suzanne and her staff will not only be leading the delivery of Early Intervention in that area, but will also be at the forefront of our finalising the design, processes and systems for our full borough-wide roll out of Locality Teams from September 2014. As you would with any pilot, we are using this as an opportunity to learn more about what works well and what doesn’t. And while we are very confident about the pilot set up, we also know that we will have challenges and glitches to overcome – but I guess that’s why we are piloting it in the first place!

Music Tips Part One (cos I know you wait patiently on these!)

I’ve no idea whether or not more than one or two of you ever follow up on my music suggestions and advice. But as I am into it, I’ll keep doing it anyway! This first tip isn’t actually mine – this is currently Tolis’ favourite band (or at least the one that he’s been mentioning to me most!). They are called London Grammar and were being considered as a possible for the Mercury Music Prize – alas they didn’t make the shortlist! But that doesn’t mean they are not good – they are! A bit floaty, dreamy pop in places but see if you like it – the boss does!

Education Performance and Changes

Generally the overall pattern for school attainment in Sutton continued to be really good. I will publish a specific briefing note on key headlines for everybody to the intranet pages and will let you know through the blog when it is available. It’s very likely that the performance will continue to see Sutton ranked as one of the highest performing LA’s for both primary and secondary education.

You will know by now that we were unsuccessful in our preference for a local school to sponsor Camden Juniors. It converted to an academy on 1st September with Harris as the sponsor and is now known as the Harris Junior Academy Carshalton. However we have a positive working relationship with Harris and I am sure that they will build on the excellent work done by the school, with the support of our school improvement staff last year, which saw Camden transformed from a school in an OfSTED category to one of the ten most improved schools in Sutton in only 12 months. So thanks and well done to everyone in our division who contributed to this excellent turn around.

On the same day that Camden became an academy, Carew Manor moved to become Carew Academy and Orchard Hill College are the sponsors for that school. As with the other academies in Sutton, we already have a good working relationship with the new school and the sponsors.

DMT Meetings

We have had several DMT meetings since I last sent a blog update. On 9th Septmber we reviewed our latest Performance dashboard, the Annual Report of the Corporate Parenting Forum and agreed a draft of a CYPLD QA Framework. On September 24th we looked at our budget position across CYPLD at Month 5. The savings for CYPLD have been confirmed between our division and Sharman Lawson’s division. There remain challenges in managing the social care budgets especially the constant need to scrutinise our placements budget and our staffing costs because of differentials between permanent and agency staff. The other key item on that agenda was to agree making DMT nominations for the Council’s “Rising Stars” development and training programme. We submitted 6 nomineess from CYPLD, 4 of whom are based in our division. I have written to those nominated from our division to let them know. The fact that 4 of the 6 nominees came from our division is a further indication that there are a lot of good things happening across our services and that we have many very talented officers in our various teams. There is another DMT meeting todaywhere we will consider the draft CYPLD Health and Safety report, a summary report on our statutory responsibilities forMissing Children and a disussion on the new OfSTED Inpection Framework for “children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers.”

Primary Partnership / Middle Tier

As you know, we are looking at a new model of delivery for some of our school improvement services, including one possibility of proposing to work in partnership with our primary schools. Over the summer the Heads and Governors have worked up an emerging business case and we have had a number of discussions with them on different aspects. The outline proposals were put to a meeting of all school governors representatives a couple of weeks ago. From there the Heads and Governors will refine their proposals and then publish a draft to every primary school for them to consider in principle at their Autumn Term Governing Body meetings. On the Council side of things we are currently preparing to discuss the proposal with CMT, and then, if it progresses as a possibility, with elected members and staff in due course.

Divisional Budget Advice Sessions

We held the first of our budget support sessions for budget managers at the Quad on October 4th. The materials and the programme were put together by Sarah Alderman, Jackie Bulbrook and Nia Lewis and the focus is on providing practical advice and guidance on budget monitoring. The feedback from those who came to the first sessions was good and I think they found it helpful – and that’s the point of it. There are further sessions already scheduled for 1st November and 6th December. We are aware that the first of those clashes with the school half term holiday so we are looking at adding an additional session and we will advise you on that in due course

Youth MP Elections

Ingrid Bard, who is currently leading on Youth Engagement work in the short term has started the process of advertising the forthcoming elections for the new Sutton Youth MP and Deputy Youth MP. Nominations are currently open and will close on October 25th. Voting will be from 11th to the 22nd of November. If there are young people with whom you work, who you think would be interested and effective in these key roles representing the views and perspectives of Sutton’s young people, please encourage them to put themselves forward

Early Years Literacy Family Engagement Programme

We are rolling out this important initiative through our Children’s Centres, working in  partnership with the National Literacy Trust.   The aim is to work with partner agencies in identifying families who would benefit from, but are currently not engaging with, our children’s centres.  ( We are expected to identify 10 families per Children’s Centre). Once identified and referred in, the families will receive peer support in the children’s centre engaging in literacy based activities. 

And this is where you come in! We need volunteers to support this programme – and we need the not insubstantial number of 100!!!!! At the last count we were up to 35 and the Children’s Centres are continuing to work on it. But we need your help – so please consider volunteering yourself and in addiiton if you know of a colleague or friend who lives in Sutton please encourage them to join in too. It will mean about a day for training, probably split over a couple of sessions in December followed by giving 6 hours of your time between January and March next year to provide face to face support for an hour a week to one family. You’ll be asked to support and encourage the family working through some materials from the National Literacy Trust designed to encourage families with the acquisition of early literacy skills.

And just to show that occassionally I do put my own time where my mouth is(!!), I have volunteered myself. So think of it this way – if I can do it anybody can do it! 

If you are interested in being a volunteer – and I really do hope that lots of you will be – please contact Jenny Kelly at the Family Information and Development Service on 020 8409 7454 or by email on

Music Tips Part Two (in case you were waiting patiently on another one of these)

My current favourites aren’t quite as floaty and gentle in sound as London Grammar. Turin Brakes are one of my favourite bands who’ve been around for a while. They are two guys who met at school in South London singing in the school choir! This is from their new album that I am playing almost constantly at home at the moment – if you like this, you’d like the rest of the album – it’s a bit special – honest!

And Finally………..

………………..Some of you know this story but for those who don’t………………!

In early Sept I got on the train to start my journey to work. At one point a bloke got on with a bag that was clearly very heavy. He put it on the floor. I assumed it must be tools. Suddenly and of its own volition, the bag whipped round! Everybody including me just stared first at the bag, then up at him. And then tempting fate someone asked what was in the bag. “My pet snake!” he replied nonchalantly! Around 90 seconds later the train pulled into Stratford – and I led the virtual stampede off that train (there was no chivalry in this – it was raw terror!). As it pulled out I had to pretend that getting off at Stratford to then get on the next train was the most natural thing in the world – but I need not have been embarassed for there were at least another ten or more doing exactly the same as me!!

Enjoy your day and your week!