Tag Archives: Children Missing Education

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


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

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


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


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

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

It Is Now Officially Safe To Go Back In The Water…….

………OfSTED have gone!! The Unannounced Inspection isn’t actually finished, as we will have exchanges with them as the report is worded up and finalised through their moderation process, but the on-site part of it is over.

I want to say thanks to everybody – whether for your direct engagement with the inspectors or for your indirect support to me with answers to queries, providing data, or providing documents and or for just asking me how the inspection was going even when it didn’t affect your area of work. I was struck by that in the last fortnight – everybody I met or spoke to, in schools, among governors, in corporate teams and in CYPLD teams outside of Early Intervention and Social Care, had asked me how it was going. It really did create that sense that everybody here realises that keeping Sutton’s children and young people protected from the risk of harm is everybody’s business.

Henry's complaints about the OfSTED Team judgements were met with their complaints about being given the narrowest feedback table in the world!!
Henry’s complaints about the OfSTED Team judgements were met with their complaints about being given the narrowest feedback table in the world!!

Tolis, Ann, Palvinder and I attended the OfSTED judgement meet last Wednesday. It’s a new-ish addition to the methodology and allowed us to observe their meeting which is them reviewing their evidence base, formulating their judgements and then testing one another out on those judgements. We were only allowed to observe and could say nothing (you even have to sit to one side so you don’t influence them with eye contact or body language!!!). It was almost impossible for me (as I like to talk as you all know!!!). It was however both informative and interesting. The best way to describe it is that it reminded me of watching the old Henry Fonda film ‘Twelve Angry Men’ – but without the anger!!!!

We then went from that meeting straight to the feedback meeting where they presented their provisional findings to the Council (CMT, key elected members, DMT). At this stage the judgements are confidential and have still to go through OfSTED moderation, and I’ve been through enough inspections to know that the moderation process frequently changes wording and sometimes even judgements!! So my apologies, but I’m not able to share the judgements at the moment. However, I will say the feedback matches our own view of progress so far and our own assessment of what we still need to do. In addition there were a lot of very positive comments in the feedback about the parts of our services that were focused on – Sutton Family Centre, Joint Adolescent Service, Early Intervention Prevention Service, our Children’s Centres, and support for Home Education and Children Missing Education. Overall, regardless of what might change through moderation, I’m certain that what won’t change is that they agree we are in a much better place than we were 12 months ago. The report is due to be published on June 24th. Once the report is finalised I will share the detail of those positive comments that came about our services during the inspection.

The Water Is Definitely Safe – I Know – I Checked It – Literally!
As you know, on hearing that OfSTED had arrived for an Unannounced Inspection last Monday, on the back of the DfE Review only just having finished, I admitted that my first thought was the Jaws film strap line ‘Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water!!’ I should have known better than to be even slightly irreverent about OfSTED! I tried to get in to work earlier in the day and as you know I live out in the Essex countryside, so during OfSTED I walked the dog just after dawn! And on one morning the dog shot off down the bank in pursuit of a rabbit and ended up in the river! Alas the bank was too steep for him to get out of the river so I had to go down the bank and get him – and of course if it was too steep for the dog………..! In I went for an early morning paddle!!!! Serves me right for tempting fate with comments about OfSTED and water!!!

Today we’re looking in more detail at the Unannounced Inspection feedback, to consider what changes or additions we might need to make to the Improvement Plan in light of their findings. We will also be considering two reports from our division with proposals for exploring future delivery structures for both our Schools Management Information Service and our Music Service, as part of the wider Children’s Services re-design.

Both our schools in OfSTED categories are now out to consultation on sponsored academy proposals. Carew’s consultation is now moving to the TUPE consultation for the staff. Meantime the Harris Federation are starting their consultation as DfE’s preferred sponsor for Camden Juniors. However Greenshaw High are now approved sponsors, and the preferred alternative sponsor of both the LA and the school Governing Body. The Camden consultation is therefore likely to be more contentious and if you live locally you may have seen local media stories about the consultation. The LA view here isn’t that Harris would be a ‘bad’ sponsor but simply that a local sponsor, through Greenshaw, is a much better solution for all the pupils at Camden than Harris will be.

The dog's Harry Potter audition didn't go well - but he accepted the consolation prize of being Dumbledore in our family home movie version of HP and the Deathly Hallows!
When it came to casting Dumbledore for a home movie version of Harry Potter, we were desperate!

The World of Harry Potter

I took my family to Harry Potter world in Hertfordshire last week. If you’ve not been I can thoroughly recommend it. I’ve seen only the one of the films but read all the books – so I loved it. The kids did too. However even if you’re not a fan of the films or books, it’s well worth a visit as it is quite brilliantly done!

Youth Service Intranet

The Youth Service have developed a great new resource area on the Intranet for forum discussions, sharing of information, storage of key documents for staff and for providing a central point for sharing resources. It’s got great potential, not only for the Youth Service, but for across our division. I’m currently looking at how I might use it and so any thoughts or suggestions let me know through leaving a comment. In the meantime, if you want to have a look you can find it here at http://www.suttonyouth.org/staff

Strange Objects On The Underground

Continuing my series of the weird and wonderful that I see on my way to and from work, which I know you all must have loved last time I wrote about it, if the feedback at home to the same news is anything to by (i.e. Partner “If seeing a bloke with a sword is the highlight of your day, you need to get out more”and Daughter “You are a very dull man!”). So in anticipation of brightening your day further and on the back of that ringing endorsement from my family, this weeks ‘Odd On The Underground’ were a bloke at Oxford Circus pushing an upright vacuum cleaner down the platform and a man at Victoria holding a massive arrangement of peacock feathers! More fascinating insights into life underground next time – maybe!


Please take the opportunity to sign up to the blog by clicking the ‘follow’ link on your right. It means you’ll get sent the updates automatically and so won’t be reliant on a link being sent out through the heads of service.

On another point, part of the advantage of a blog is the opportunity for sharing your thoughts, opinions, questions, and suggestions with me and your colleagues. But to date most of you seem wary of leaving comments! So, when I was drafting this last night and I was wondering how to encourage you, I happened to overhear the viewers competition on Britain’s Got Talent, which my family were watching!!!! The prize was £50000 cash, holidays in Las Vegas, New York and London, with tickets to shows. It was a “eureka moment!” Well, if a massive prize works for Old Cowell and his v-neck jumpers I thought, it’ll work for me!!!!!

As staff incentives go - it was a biggie - this wasn't a challenge for any old mug! (......then again!)
As staff incentives go – it was a biggie – this wasn’t a challenge for any old mug!

So having tried to coax you all to comment with questions, pleas and requests, I thought I’d try bribing you all with a prize you can’t resist instead. So, for the chance to win the fabulous prize on offer the question is even simpler than those on TV. Here it is!!!!!! Just by leaving a comment that says “Choose Me! Choose Me! Choose me! you could win – a beautful “Contact Point” mug (eBay re-sale value estimated, by me, at £50K plus!!!!!), photos of Glasgow AND Greenock and MP3 samples of me singing songs from Sound of Music and Les Mis!!!!!!! Now if that doesn’t make all of you use the comments for the first time, then I give up!!!!

Up Coming……….

……….As part of the proposals to improve communications, the Chief Exec is hosting a series of 13 Roadshow events for staff between 24th June and the 25th July at various locations across Sutton. I’d like to encourage everyone to try and attend one of the sessions, which will also be attended by members of CMT and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council

Sooner than that, this Thursday, Tolis is hosting the next “Staff Sounding Board” session, on Thursday 30 May from 12.15-1.45pm in Meeting room 4 at the Civic Offices, so book now to avoid disappointment. Contact insight@sutton.gov.uk to reserve a space.

And Finally………

…………..Some of you have been kinder than kind in commenting favourably on the heinous act committed on my head last week in the name of hairdressing in Essex!!!! I remain unconvinced and in a state of shock! Consequently I am still sheltering beneath the Senior Management balaclava.

Charlie Brown - a philosopher to turn to in a crisis
Charlie Brown – a philosopher to turn to in a crisis

However my experience reminded me of a Charlie Brown cartoon where Charlie goes off to camp, and to avoid being teased about a rash on his head, he wears a paper bag! Bizarrely this truns him into a hero and he even gets elected camp president, known to all the kids as “Mr Sack!” Eventually Charlie Brown is persuaded by the other kids to remove the sack as they are desperate to know who the great guy under the paper bag is – with predictable and hilarious (though very sad) results. So learning from Charlie Brown’s experienece, the Senior Management balaclava is staying put till it grows back a bit more!