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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

Holidays, hope, and happiness

I am just back from a short camping trip in neighbouring Dorset, not quite the same as a holiday abroad this year but we had a close encounter with a Common Buzzard to remember. I have another break to look forward to where I am making my way from Somerset to Liverpool and so will wave as I pass through your counties.

I am sure some of you will have made a trip, or have one planned, to the South-West this year. We have some wonderful beaches and places of interest to visit (I am not on commission.) Collectively, we are a diverse set of councils up and down the country, all with different structures and demands, but one thing is clear: we each have something unique to offer and celebrate. We readily share good practice and provide support to each other; we are not defined by our boundaries in children’s services. The Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliances are an excellent example of collaboration on behalf of children. I recently coordinated the DfE Recovery Fund bid for the South-West. It was a little fraught and stressful at times given the tight timescales and restrictions of the bid, but I was determined that we would maximise the opportunities this could give us in the region. My thanks go out to colleagues who stepped forward, coordinated regional calls, liaised with the DfE policy team, and authored specific elements of the bid. We submitted a comprehensive regional bid a day early (as I had a camping trip to get to), with many good ideas. I wish you all every success with your regional bids as I know that recovery is at the forefront of our minds as we prepare for the return to schools in September.

In my previous blog back in 2020, I reflected about hope in the context of recovery. This year, I have loved watching the summer Olympics and I am enjoying the start of the Premier League - for the athletes it requires a lot of hard work, skill, determination, resilience and hope – like us really! Despite adverse childhood experiences, many top athletes have achieved great success. Novak Djokavic was born in Serbia and grew up through two wars, living amidst fear and violence, with his family struggling to access basic food. Marcus Rashford has openly discussed his childhood experiences of living in poverty and how he was able to use his football skills to change his family’s financial situation and later launch his on-going campaign to end food poverty. In children’s services, we continue to pull together and support each other to create opportunities in difficult circumstances for happy childhoods, unlocking talent – and even growing future Olympians!

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