Directors – Children's Workforce Guide to Qualifications and Training

Charlotte Goddard
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A consortium of children’s social care and professional development organisations has been awarded a three-year £3m Department for Education grant to support talented leaders to become directors of children’s services (DCSs), and help DCSs who are new to the role or want support as they move roles. The Children’s Services Leadership Consortium comprises The Staff College, the Institute for Public Care, recruitment firm Gatenby Sanderson, Skills for Care and other organisations.

“This will include supporting a talent pool and increasing the diversity of senior leaders,” says Jo Davidson, principal at The Staff College. The programme will start in November 2020 for aspiring directors, with support already in place for new directors. There will be an open access repository of materials accessible to leaders at all levels.

Dealing with Covid-19 has been a huge leadership challenge, says Davidson.

“It’s been a living testament to the skills leaders need – humility, adaptability, innovation, working across systems, influencing others and championing the resources and ingenuity of communities.”

DCS turnover was higher in 2019/2020 than in the previous year, with 24 new permanent appointments, according to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS). Nineteen were promoted from assistant director level and in three cases, an existing director of adult services took on children’s services as an additional role. There are currently 31 such “twin hatters” – nine fewer than last year. Sixty per cent of DCSs are female and 84 per cent of the 94 DCSs who responded to an ADCS survey are white British. Leadership roles in children’s services are becoming more wide-ranging, with those in senior positions increasingly finding themselves responsible for services outside their historical area of expertise.

At the beginning of 2020, The Staff College started the third cohort of its Aspirant Director of Children’s Services Programme which has been converted to virtual delivery. It is also expanding efforts to boost diversity and inclusivity in leadership roles with a programme targeting black and minority ethnic leaders, and national and bespoke programmes to help all leaders develop their inclusive leadership skills and behaviours. It also runs a Women in Leadership programme. All cohorts will be delivered virtually with some face-to-face events planned for next year.

The Local Government Association runs the Leadership Essentials Children’s Services programme, a residential course providing an intensive introduction to the role of lead member for children’s services. It offers mentoring and coaching, and has provided bespoke learning and development support for individual councils and councillors.

The Institute for Public Care (IPC) delivers leadership and management training specific to children’s services. The institute, in partnership with the Staff College, is currently delivering a bespoke programme for heads of service in the South West, based on its Postgraduate Certificate in Strategic and Operational Leadership in Social Care for Wales. “We have adapted our delivery to accommodate social distancing and can deliver our courses either wholly online or with a blended approach,” says Fiona Richardson, assistant director at the IPC.

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