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A piece of cake

Ofsted has just launched its Big Listen as it seeks views from the sector, parents, carers and children and young people. It is positive to see new HMCI Sir Martyn Oliver’s approach and I have first-hand experience of hearing about his intentions from meeting him alongside other directors of children’s services in the South West region and specifically regarding Wiltshire’s recent ILACS inspection experience.

Working with children is a vocation, a tough one at that, one that doesn’t always get the recognition as other parts of the public sector. However, we continue diligently and with passion because that is what we do, but I also agree with Ofsted that “there is more to do to relieve the pressures felt by the professionals we inspect.” Over the last five months in Wiltshire, we have had an ILACS inspection, regulatory inspection of a children’s home and our youth justice inspection; we will not be alone in this. Alongside the day-to-day work, it takes its toll on our teams. We know we don’t always get things right and certainly don’t always know the answers, but one thing is for sure, we want to get things right and deliver the best outcomes for children and young people as do our teams.

When things aren’t quite going to plan or we are stuck, we can take comfort in knowing there is someone out there who does know, or who has tried and succeeded, or even tried and failed. This is why sharing evidenced-based practice, learning from each other and collaborating is so important. We have the Department for Education funded Sector Led Improvement Programme (SLIP) providing an opportunity for local authorities across the country to work together. I am pleased that we have gone from two to three SLIPs in the South West and also have an active regional support offer available. Importantly, this means that all local authorities can share their expertise, regardless of their overall Ofsted rating. This is important as we all have something to learn and also something to give to the sector.

For those of us who enjoy a bit of baking, Mary Berry sums it up a treat, and she certainly knows about these: “Life is all about sharing. If we are good at something, pass it on.” So, if anyone has a good recipe for a Rocky Road, please share it. The analogy isn’t a bad one as we all encounter a rocky road along the way. When we do, it is important to stop, take stock, decide whether to go for it or turn around and change route. Remember, others have been down that road so share a piece of cake with them, re-fuel, get support (a problem aired and all that) and get yourself to the next stop on your journey to doing what is right. Let’s face it, cake makes everything better.

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