On Friday night I went to the refectory at Bedes School, one of the independent schools in East Sussex, and had my tea with the Head and over 60 children and young people. This was followed by a performance of 15 young people who had spent two weekends working with folk from the Glyndebourne Opera company and East Sussex Music Service developing a piece of music from scratch, which was truly remarkable. The conclusion of the evening was an inspirational speech from someone who had just submitted their MA thesis and was waiting for the result. Put all of those ingredients together and you have the East Sussex Children in Care Achievement Awards Ceremony. It is always an inspirational evening that brings home the real meaning of being a corporate parent. We are blessed by a partnership with Bedes School who sponsor and host the event and were working with us to provide school places before the government's Boarding School Partnership programme started. The setting has a real impact on our young people with the inevitable Hogwarts comparisons being made. Similarly the partnership with Glyndebourne is fabulous. As one young person from the Virtual School choir put it, ‘I didn't know what the opera singer was singing about but it was clearly all about emotions, which became the basis of the piece they produced'.
So why am I blogging about this when these events happen in every local authority in the land? Well it's because it's a timely reminder (having returned from the National Children and Adult Services Conference where the talk both inside and outside the conference hall was one of cuts to services and a very real sense we were standing on a cliff edge) of what brought us into the job. As our inspirational acting Virtual Head said to one of our young people who had nailed his GCSEs, ‘it sounds cliché but seeing you on that stage is what we do this for'. It's true. Everyone who took to the stage had a beaming smile being cheered to the rafters surrounded by staff and carers who had supported and encouraged them. There is no doubt in my mind that the environment has never been tougher, we have gone beyond working harder or smarter but there is hope in forming effective partnerships sometimes in the most unlikely places and by being inspired by the stories of our young people, who lead the way in overcoming adversity and being resilient. All our partners said they take more out than they put in working with our Virtual School, it's a bit like my attendance at these events I give my time and come out reinvigorated and inspired. Is it any wonder that the final words from my Lead Member as we left were, ‘just make sure that when we are scraping the bottom of the financial barrel we still have money for this'.
Stuart Gallimore, ADCS vice-president and DCS East Sussex. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website