Tag Archives: Education Service Spin Out

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!!



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


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

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?!!!!