At the end of this month, I will be moving from my familiar surroundings of the West Midlands to the North West where I am taking on my new role of Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services in Liverpool. Like a child just about to take on the challenges of a new school, I know the future will be exciting, I will learn a lot and I will make new friends, whilst making a pledge to stay in touch with those I left behind! Given the time of year, an apt metaphor maybe? But one that reminded me of Dame Rachel D’Souza’s presentation at the recent ADCS Annual Conference. One statistic from this stood out. Taken from the Children’s Commissioner’s own survey of children’s well-being, school age girls were twice as likely as boys to be unhappy with their mental health. So, I will be the new girl in my new region, and whilst I am sure that I won’t be miserable, it has left me reflecting that as leaders of systems, designing services for children, we need to all step back to our eleven-year-old selves from time to time and make sure we apply the benefit of our learned wisdom to the benefit of future generations.
There is a fair degree of leadership movement in the West Midlands region at the moment. The truth is, much like students, directors of children’s services move on. Like the curriculum, policy changes and like teachers and politicians, we come and go. No organisation, whether a school, a council, or even Whitehall, should be reliant on a single individual. Indeed, the best organisations regard themselves as organic and thrive on change. However, on reflection, I have been pondering a comment made by one of our Department for Education colleagues during the ADCS conference. They were unapologetic for the stance taken by Stable Homes, built on love and the recommendations for multiple path finders to test out the reforms. To an extent, I think we would all agree that to test something before progressing to a costly scale up is appropriate. However, I wonder at the timescales for such testing, and if there may be scope for using some sprint methodology and for having more trust in local leaders in our approach to progressing the long-awaited response to the Care Review for risk of losing a whole generation of children as we await the much-needed reforms.
So, as I leave, may I take this opportunity to say goodbye to my brilliant West Midlands friends and hello to my new friends in the North West region.
Director of Practice
Birmingham Children's Trust
First Published as a contribution to the ADCS blog