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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

A time for serenity

A couple of weeks ago I welcomed LGA colleagues to support our development work in the form of a Corporate Parenting Peer Diagnostic. As they arrived on site I was just walking into our welcome meeting when the phone rings; it’s the call from Ofsted announcing a focussed visit on children in care!

We therefore unleashed the plans in place, did all the things we do, progressed with the Diagnostic whilst submitting the Annex A for Ofsted, organised the set-up meeting, and planned the inspection diary. We quickly recognised we had a number of our highly skilled business support colleagues missing, but all would be well as our Safeguarding Improvement Officer was taking the reins. This reassuring thought lasted ten minutes before I was informed he needed to go home due to illness. As always, however, colleagues stepped up, went above and beyond, and overstretched their reach.

During such inspections and reviews it becomes increasingly clear, as a Director of Children’s Services, how limited in the moment one can be to really make a difference to the interviews, or the outcome, when in the midst of the process itself. As our social workers and inspectors were in rooms together to ‘deep dive’ files, or to ensure the uploading of audits, it can be easy to become overly exercised in ‘what should be done’. Instead, often all we can do is to create the conditions for our colleagues to shine, and when there are moments of difficulty, as inevitably there will be, take the opportunity to reassure and remind ourselves as to what can be done and what may be out of our control.

Looking back over this year and how we, across our regions, have needed to respond to matters out of our control whilst continuing to maintain the right conditions for others to shine should bring a feeling of pride across our sector. The ability to retain a sense of optimism, influence and assurance evidently continues to show real resilience. Whether it’s the circumstances surrounding the asylum/Ukraine/Afghan challenges, workforce demands, the placements market, or the day-to-day competing demands that arrive in our inbox, we need to continue to judge where we can make a difference and what is out of our control, but wherever the issues fall, continue show discernment and bring assurance.

As I reflect on last week’s news that the Schools Bill “will not progress in its current form”, which was the focus of my presentation at our last headteachers conference, it made me question again: am I spending my time investing in the right things where I can make the most difference? Therefore, my thought this week is to remember the benefit of serenity, often seen as the focal point at AA meetings to help anchor its members. It seems to have as much relevance for us in our roles than ever: to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and wisdom to know the difference.

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