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A message from Christine McInnes:

14 October 2021 weekly update

14 October 2021

This week, Christine shares an important announcement on FSM allocation during October half term.

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to inform you that similarly to previous school holidays, food vouchers will be provided for Kent families whose children are entitled to benefits-related Free School Meals this October half-term. KCC will fund the vouchers using part of its allocation from the Government’s Household Support Fund, which was launched in September to help local authorities support some of their most vulnerable households during the winter. A letter has been sent to every Kent school and requires urgent action to ensure the vouchers can be allocated prior to the beginning of the holidays. If you have any queries regarding FSM allocation over the half term, please contact

Recently the Children, Young People and Education leadership team managed to get together for the first time in a very long time and I finally had the opportunity to meet all of my leadership team. I was really pleased to finally see Terry Burgess of Community Learning and Skills and Craig Chapman of Fair Access in person.

It was a really productive session with a sense of excitement about making new connections, or re-establishing existing connections, bringing together the extensive expertise and experience across the Directorate to tackle the challenging agendas we face.

A big thank you to the external speaker, Lee Kane, headteacher of Astor Secondary School in Dover who described the work of the school through the pandemic and the role of the leadership team. It was a timely reminder of the stresses that school staff have been under over the last year and a half, times when schools were often seen by parents as one of the few sources of authentic and reliable information, a phenomenon that we were also aware of when I was working in Tower Hamlets. School staff not only managed blended education and the provision of emotional support across the school community, but also respond in very practical ways through for example setting up food banks. Lee’s presentation was matter of fact and brisk, but the content was moving. Personally, I felt a sense of gratitude and pride for the leadership shown by schools and other providers delivering front line services outside the council through the pandemic.

I was really pleased to visit two schools since the last bulletin, Broomhill Bank Secondary Specialist school (Tonbridge Wells site) and Parkwood Hall Secondary Specialist school in Swanley. A big thank you to Steve Ackerley and Anna Mansaray for their time and hospitality.

Finally, alongside many of you I am making some plans for half term when I’m really pleased to be having a few days away with my grandson and nephew. I have booked us onto a tree climbing activity - how exciting is that? Hopefully the hard hat and harness will reduce the risk of any permanent injury!

Headteacher Briefings

I am delighted to inform you that we will be holding our first set of post-lockdown, in person, real-life, face-to-face, Headteacher Briefings in November 2021 (it really is a joy to be able to say that). We hope to include an update from Ofsted at each one, with a focus on inspections in Kent in term 1 and any learning points from them, but are still awaiting confirmation of their attendance at all four briefings; we will definitely have a presentation from Christine McInnes on SEND inclusion and support for schools; and a discussion around the proposed post-16 reforms, which secondary headteachers in particular should find both helpful and informative.

As this week’s briefing for new headteachers showed, being together in person results in a really productive session, bringing a sense of excitement about making new connections, or re-establishing existing connections that might not have been as strong during the height (or lows) of the pandemic, bringing together the extensive expertise and experience across Kent to tackle the challenges we face, and celebrating the successes achieved during what has been a very unusual 19 months.

The dates, times and locations for the briefings are as follows:

  • Monday 1 November - 1pm for 1:30pm start to 4pm - Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel, Ashford Road, Maidstone, Kent ME17 1RE
  • Wednesday 3 November - 1pm for 1:30pm start to 4pm - Ashford International Hotel, Simone Weil Avenue, Ashford, Kent TN24 8UX
  • Monday 8 November - 1pm for a 1:30pm start to 4pm - The Spitfire Ground (Canterbury Cricket Ground, Old Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent CT1 3NZ
  • Tuesday 9 November - 1pm for 1:30pm start to 4pm - Mercure Dartford Brands Hatch, Dartford, DA3 8PE

To book a place, please email confirming your name, school and the session you are able to join. An agenda will be available on the day.

I hope to see as many of you there as possible.

With all best wishes

Christine McInnes
Director of Education