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A job like no other

I will be retiring in the summer (I’ve always tried to follow Steve Crocker’s example!) and will be stepping down as Chair of the Greater London Region next month, so this will be my last ADCS blog. Naturally I’ve been thinking back over a career in children’s services going back over forty years (how did that happen?!) In many ways the needs of children and families have not changed, but the context in which teachers, social workers, and other members of the children’s workforce practice is unrecognisable. There are many factors which we’ll have to find solutions to if we are going to continue to attract, recruit, and (importantly) enthuse a new generation of diverse talent to both frontline roles and leadership positions. These go way beyond the perennial issues of resourcing and workload. I’m not complaining about the level of public accountability through inspection, although recent events should give everyone pause for thought, but for example, issues like the use of social media as a platform for the harassment of people simply doing their job, to which we haven’t yet found an adequate response, need real consideration.

As I think about my ADCS journey I feel that the Association, which I have been a member of since its first day, has gone from strength to strength. Being part of this community, which engages the government of the day and their officials in detailed and thoughtful ways, speaking with quiet authority often behind the scenes, has been amazing. I don’t think it is possible to overestimate the importance of ADCS’s work.

I’m not sure you can be an effective Director of Children’s Services (DCS) without being part of a network of colleagues, at both regional and national level, to test ideas with, seek advice from, and on occasions laugh and cry with (sometimes at the same time!) I certainly couldn’t. I also want to recognise the unique and precious relationship between ADCS and The Staff College which prepares and supports each new generation of DCSs. I know I could not have made the transition from practice leadership to system leadership without the formal and informal support provided through this partnership.

In recent years the development of the Regional Improvement and Innovation Alliances (RIIAs), as powerful expressions of the sector’s determination and capacity to improve and innovate, has been a real game-changer for us. Each reflecting the needs and distinctive culture of its region, while providing a common framework and point of reference for all of us. Again, it was ADCS that developed the idea and secured support from the Department for Education. In London it’s enabled us not just to respond effectively to inspection but to advance our priorities including regional commissioning, adolescent safeguarding, SEND and our workforce. In the case of workforce, our RIIAs has enabled us to address social work agency pressures through the London Pledge and support the development of the next generation of diverse leaders through the Leading in Colour programme.

Overall, it’s been an immense privilege to be a DCS and to work with and learn from so many amazing colleagues, some sadly no longer with us. I also want to give a big shout out to the wonderful ADCS team.

Keep up the great work.

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