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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

Good things come to an end, so even better things can begin

Completing this blog has been one of my final acts as President before handing over the reins to Rachel Dickinson, Barnsley’s DCS and our President for 2019/20, who I know will be brilliant. I’m not sure how the year has gone by so quickly, must be an age thing, but it has prompted a period of reflection on what we have achieved as an Association. As we know, presidents come and go and get to do the spotlight bit by speaking at the ADCS annual conference or attending meetings with ministers and such like, but the continuity and real work is done by our Council of Reference, regional groups and policy committees, brilliantly supported by our staff team in Manchester, who hold it all together and make the magic happen.

Due to this collective effort we have achieved much to be proud of, we have delivered two policy papers, A vision for an inclusive and high performing education system which we launched at conference last year and our workforce paper published last month, which called on government to focus and, crucially, invest in the wider children’s workforce. Both papers make an important contribution in their respective area and speak with confidence about the art of the possible whilst not shying away from asking the difficult questions as well as providing solutions. We have seen our media profile increase with our latest Safeguarding Pressures report taking centre stage on BBC News at 6 and being strongly covered in the broadsheets.

Speaking about the resources needed to make this ‘a country that works for all children’, has been a theme of my presidential year and at times I have felt like a stuck record. It will be a baton that Rachel will pick up as we look to this year’s Spending Review and even though I have not been as successful as I would have liked, the needs of children, and the funding needed to meet these needs, are being talked about for the first time and have been elevated onto the same list of concerns as adult social care. Whilst the money announced by the Chancellor back in November was nowhere near enough, it was at least a recognition of the difficulties we face and something to build on. We have also completed the pilot year of Regional Improvement Alliances where every region works with partners to own and craft their improvement journey. This has been a remarkable achievement for the sector wrestling back the agenda into the hands of those who have their feet firmly in the arena rather than spectating from the sides (at considerable cost…) Clearly there is still a way to go but on my regional visits I have been struck by how this has energised regions and provided renewed confidence where it was needed.

While those are the headlines, we have been involved in so much more through our engagement with government, Ofsted and the LGA, to name just a few, but where we really come into our own are the hundreds of unseen acts where a DCS picks up the phone, texts or has a beer with a colleague who is struggling to provide much needed support. It can be a lonely job but it’s also the best job in local government and folk only get to enjoy that opportunity when we keep an eye out for each other, give a word of encouragement, a courageous conversation, or a helping hand. Let us never lose that generosity of spirit as an Association, it’s something that we can all play a part in.

Well I think that’s enough from me, being the President has been a real privilege but I can’t finish without thanking my team in East Sussex (who I know are concerned that I will be returning to get under their feet), the ADCS team, you are stars who have consistently made me look better than I am, our former Immediate Past President, Alison Michalska and former Vice President, Rachel Dickinson. Thanks for the wise counsel, friendship and fun, and all ADCS members for their encouragement, support and supreme tolerance over the past year.

I will close with the words of another former President, Theodore Roosevelt, they sit on the side of my fridge and were given to me by a friend when I started as President. Those of you who were at conference will have heard them before so forgive me for repeating them but I think they capture what we do and why we do it brilliantly and I am sure he wouldn’t mind me updating this for a different time…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong one stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends themselves in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fails while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

- Theodore Roosevelt

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