Exclusive: Analysis links director of children's services retention to Ofsted rating

Neil Puffett
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Local authorities that keep hold of their directors of children's services (DCS) perform better in Ofsted inspections than those that change regularly, exclusive analysis by CYP Now has found.

Authorities with an 'outstanding' Ofsted rating had an average of 2.2 directors of children's services since 2008. Picture: Phil Adams
Authorities with an 'outstanding' Ofsted rating had an average of 2.2 directors of children's services since 2008. Picture: Phil Adams

Data provided by all of England's 152 local authorities for the past seven years reveals that a total of 386 DCSs have been in post across the country during the period between July 2008 and July 2014 - an average of 2.5 per authority.

When cross-referenced against Ofsted safeguarding judgments, it emerged that the best performing authorities have had, on average, greater stability in the top position than those deemed to be performing poorly.

The five authorities that were rated "outstanding" as of 31 August 2013 had an average of 2.2 DCS post-holders between 2008 and 2014, while the 61 authorities rated as "good" had an average of 2.3 post-holders.

The 67 authorities rated "adequate" - a grading that was changed to "requires improvement" as of November last year - had an average of 2.6 post-holders in the DCS position.

Authorities judged as "inadequate" had an average of 2.9 post-holders.

Examples of authorities that have had low turnover and strong Ofsted performance include Lewisham, which has had the same DCS since 2008 and is rated as outstanding.

Meanwhile, both Durham and Lincolnshire have had two DCSs since 2008 and are currently rated outstanding.

At the other end of the scale, a total of four authorities rated as inadequate have had four or more DCSs since 2008 - Somerset (five), Isle of Wight (four), Rochdale (four), and Doncaster (four).

Doncaster is currently subject to government intervention, with an independent trust being established to run services.

Birmingham, which has had four DCSs since 2008, was rated as adequate as of 31 August 2013. It has since been rated as inadequate under Ofsted's new children's social care inspection framework and is also now subject to government intervention.

For a full breakdown of CYP Now's analysis findings, click here.

Amanda Kelly, head of children's services at consultancy firm Impower, which is working to improve children's services in both Doncaster and Sandwell, said frequent changes of leadership often go hand in hand with a poor Ofsted rating.

"In many ways this is symptomatic of the 'football manager syndrome' that seems to pervade the political leadership of some authorities, where a poor rating from Ofsted necessitates someone - usually the DCS - either falling or being pushed on their sword," she said.

"In my experience there is still a lack of understanding in some quarters, in particular with local and national politicians, about how long real and sustainable change takes to embed and deliver results."

Alan Wood, president of the Association of Director's of Children's Services (ADCS) said there is some evidence that authorities "panic and keep on changing".

"In some instances authorities have removed leaders only to find it difficult to secure better leadership," he said.

"Messages go around the system very quickly and people won't apply for jobs if they do not feel there is a commitment to leadership.

"A number of authorities in the past, and perhaps some even now, have found it difficult to attract what they would call ‘a good field' and have therefore not appointed. I think they have assumed that means it is something to do with the field and not themselves."

Meanwhile, CYP Now's analysis shows that more than one third (38.8 per cent) of DCSs now have responsibility for directorates or services over and above children's services such as adult services or housing.

There are also currently 13 DCSs who are not in place permanently - either working in an interim or acting capacity.

David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said frequent changes of direction and management objectives do not help organisations to be high performing.

"Accountability should not mean that directors always resign, unless it is a personal failure that has led to the problems," he added.

To read more about the analysis findings, sector reaction to them and DCSs reflecting on the changing nature of the role see the latest issue of CYP Now or click here

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