Back Page: My Week - Flying the flag in the face of failed boilers

By John Coughlan

| 15 January 2008

MONDAY: It's dreaded January and my beloved Birmingham City are out of the FA Cup before the decorations have even come down.

This is the first full week back and my diary is as ridiculous as ever,but at least it is based more in Hampshire than London. And this Januaryheralds the last lap of my 18-month "year" as joint president of theAssociation of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS). It's been afascinating privilege to help start the new association. But it's been along slog.

TUESDAY: There is so much variety in this job. The day ranges from anemployment tribunal to the Safeguarding Board, a session with auditorsand - because it's January - a failed boiler has shut down a school.Hampshire has 540 self-governing schools and there are excellentrelationships between them and the department. But there is nothing likea failed boiler to test relationships.

WEDNESDAY: A corporate day. Such is the size of this enterprise that ourchildren's senior management forum is about 90-strong. Each membercarries a huge individual responsibility and there's a marvellous rangeof skill, experience and intelligence. We've made real progress inimplementing Every Child Matters alongside the commitment to schoolstandards. But we all know there is much to be done to achieve genuineintegration.

I spend the afternoon with the corporate management team. We have a newchief executive who has put children and young people at the top of hisagenda. He is also an ex-professional footballer who played with 70sBirmingham legend Kenny Burns. I wonder if he gives autographs.

THURSDAY AND FRIDAY: The boiler's fixed! Radio 4 wants an interview onchild protection. We say yes - such interviews carry risks but we're ona mission to explain. Then to London for a 24-hour session with theDepartment for Children, Schools and Families and partners about theChildren's Plan. Ed Balls introduces. The event is excellent with agreat sense of opportunity and shared commitment. My co-president JohnFreeman and directors Maggie Atkinson and Graham Badman fly the ADCSflag. It's inspiring stuff and I want to be president forever. Probablynot such a good idea.

And then home. A typical week in its variety but a poor one insofar asthere has been no direct contact with children or young people. Butthere are two at home to remind me what it's all about.

- John Coughlan is joint president of the Association of Directors ofChildren's Services and director of children's services at HampshireCounty Council.

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