Robert South’s update from the strategic leadership team

28 Nov 2023

Hello everyone,

I’d like to introduce myself; I was appointed strategic director of the children’s directorate in April this year. I’ve had a wonderful first five months meeting residents, children and young people, community leaders and local politicians, business owners, school leaders and great colleagues across Ealing’s seven towns.

Ealing is an incredible borough with inspirational people from a wide range of diverse communities which enrich life, work and play for us all. I’ve witnessed this enrichment strengthening our communities and making invaluable contributions to the lived experience of our residents day in day out. Two recent experiences exemplify such extraordinary community enrichment and engagement.

Last month I visited St Ann's School in Hanwell. St Ann's is a special school for children between the age of 11-18 with severe, multiple, and profound learning difficulties. During my morning with Timmy Holdsworth, headteacher, Arthur Batalona, chair of governors and the school's marvellous staff and children, I witnessed a school community where everyone was pulling in the same direction to create and deliver purposeful learning opportunities for children which support positive community life experiences.

Under Timmy's leadership the school community has gone from strength to strength. It's hard work keeping up with Timmy and colleagues as despite their recent “outstanding” Ofsted outcome they are driving numerous invaluable initiatives which are continuously improving the day-to-day experiences and achievements of children and families across Ealing.

I was then privileged to attend the premiere of Acton based, Bollo Brook Youth Centre’s ‘Tea’ film, which explores the cultural significance of tea drinking for a group of Ealing young people and the candid chats they have together over tea at the Horniman Museum last night. It's incredibly high quality and insightful work.

The exhibition has been developed in partnership with a host of artists, academics, and organisations from across the capital. Please check it out (if you can make it across the river to South London!) as it's part of a wonderful exhibition which continues until June 2024.

Black History Month

The author, Peter Fryer was a young journalist in the summer of 1948 when he was sent to Tilbury Docks to witness the arrival of 492 people from the Caribbean. These pioneers had travelled for thirty days from Jamaica aboard the SS Empire Windrush to begin a new life in the United Kingdom.

In his book ‘Staying Power’, Fryer reflects on the great hope and enthusiasm which he encountered in those disembarking the vessel. According to Fryer, British officialdom characterised these new arrivals as “willing hands” to aid the economy’s post-War labour shortage and they were engaged to go into a wide range of key industries, including transport and the newly created National Health Service. A contemporaneous headline in the London Evening Standard highlighted that many of those passengers were ex-service personnel returning to England and stated, “WELCOME HOME.’’

The “pull” of need and opportunity in Britain was responded to for many years to follow by those from the Caribbean and other British colonies. This Windrush generation and their descendants have contributed positively and with great generosity of spirit to every single facet of British life - yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Together with many residents, workers, students, volunteers, and colleagues across Ealing, I am incredibly proud to form part of this Windrush legacy and the boundless contribution it has made and continues to make to the fabric of our community and nation.

Orrick South, my father, also came to the UK in the late 1950s replacing the quaint, cool parish of Manchester in Jamaica for the bustling inner city of Manchester in the North-West of England, where he had been recruited into an engineering position. He grew to love his adopted Manchester as much as the one of his birth and made his own fabulous contribution, which also included instilling the importance of education and public service in his children. His experience was not uncommon but was instead replicated across our country and has generated a tremendous inheritance for us all, whatever our origin.

Today, I see and celebrate the invaluable role, influence and impact of the Windrush generation and their legacy all around us as managers, traders, teachers, doctors and nurses, social workers, politicians, bus drivers, students, musicians, community stalwarts, volunteers and the list goes on.

Let’s celebrate the Windrush legacy together as we continue to benefit from its enduring and far-reaching contribution to each and every aspect of British life.

And there’s lots going on across the council to celebrate, which is great to see!

Kind regards

Robert South

Strategic director of children's services

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Last updated: 28 Nov 2023

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