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A message from Matt Dunkley CBE:

11 May 2021 weekly update

11 May 2021

This week, Matt has invited Christine McInnes, Director of Education, to share her experiences from her first two months in Kent.

Dear Colleagues

Christine McInnes Director of EducationA classic interview question is ‘What do you want to achieve in your first 100 days?’. Eight weeks into post, that’s 40% of the first 100 days, I have not yet completed my induction as there are so many people to get to know, nor have I yet fully mastered my phone. I have only properly met two council staff and not yet been in an office. So not many achievements in those areas then!

What I have achieved though, is a sense of the tremendous shared commitment and dedication to the task of transforming services and to developing a Kent that works for all children.

It’s a huge and ambitious agenda and I have been interested in how the Kent values are reflected through the change process. As a new leader in the organisation one of my personal challenges is how to model bravery, curiosity and compassion in my work and inspire these values in others, whilst limited to virtual contact. How do I establish sufficient trust to enable appropriate risk taking, a space to make mistakes and the opportunity for learning and growth? I’m looking forward to a real meeting with the Education Division leadership team later this term, when we will be exploring some of these questions.

One of the real joys of this job is visiting early years settings, schools and community education centres, it helps to remind me that the purpose of all the strategies, policies, boards and working groups is to improve the experience and outcomes on the ground. So far, I have visited eight schools, met some delightful children and young people and some very committed staff. The professional discussions with school leaders are helping to inform my understanding of the challenges and the opportunities in Kent. Nationally, the debate about academies versus maintained schools has been reignited by Gavin Williamson’s announcement of ‘try before your buy’ academization. The Local Authority has a responsibility for all children and young people and so my focus is not on the debate but on our shared agenda, finding common ground and opportunities for collaborative working on a journey of continuous improvement.

Working for Children’s Services often requires more than a professional commitment and that certainly has been the case during the pandemic, so I hope you are all taking the opportunity to get out there and recharge. For me, it has been lovely to catch up with family and friends in person. I went to see my younger son, McInnes Junior 2, in Nottingham on the Bank Holiday where we had lunch whilst rain poured over the restaurant awning. Fortunately, I had the foresight to take hot water bottles - after the initial mocking laughter, everyone wanted a turn and I was gracious enough to share!

This weekend older son, McInnes Junior 1 and family, moved in with me temporarily. It will be a real treat to see my grandson every day, but I am pondering on how to have a healthy parent/adult-child relationship with McInnes Junior 1 whilst living under the same roof. Hmmm… I’m thinking I may need to become a woman with a shed to escape to.

Last week we saw what the BBC described as a ‘bumper election day’. The results will be followed by the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday 11 May. So, we may soon be working in a context of further changes. One thing is for sure though, the demand for effective public services and good education provision will remain and so we need to keep focused on collectively continuing with our ambitious agenda and living the values.

Best wishes

Christine McInnes
Director of Education