Tag Archives: Early Years

All Hail Macbeth…….and Taggart and Rebus!

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

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


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



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


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

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


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

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



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


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


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


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


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

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


Plus Ca Change…….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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