Inspiring Leaders Programme

Meet Jo Davidson, Programme Director for Upon and Principal of the Staff College 

Hello and welcome to the upon programme, our new development programme for Aspiring and New Directors of Children’s Services (DCS). I was a DCS for 15 years and I’m very privileged to be the Programme Director for upon and Principal of the Staff College.

Directors of Children’s Services have been around since 2005, working with their political counterparts, the Lead Members for Children and other corporate and political colleagues. Some of those original DCSs are still serving. Whilst there have been changes over time, the role is unique in local government as the champion for all children and young people in the local place.

DCSs have a huge responsibility in relation to education provision and outcomes and safeguarding. They also influence health, economy and the overall wellbeing of our youngest citizens within the resources that are available. As a corporate leader they contribute to the professional leadership of council activities and behaviours relating to the whole community, advising politicians and others. The role is fascinating, complex and incredibly rewarding. Over 150 DCSs in the country lead and influence their teams, partners and communities creating an environment where children, young people and families can thrive. DCSs are incredibly skilled – they are inspiring leaders, highly competent managers, promise keepers and innovators. They need to be team players, talent builders, technically competent, and have political nous. It’s a role that combines both the art of the possible, and the science of what works. It requires courage, determination and empathy, orchestrating and supporting many thousands of people. DCSs have to stand back and think long term strategy and resourcing and be able to focus on a situation involving an individual child, in an instant.

The upon programme is funded by the Department for Education and delivered by a consortium led by the Staff College, blending the combined skills and resources of GatenbySanderson, Skills for Care and the Institute for Public Care. It centers on the expertise and wisdom of sector leaders themselves – Directors, Chief Executives and other partners.

Our ambition for the programme is to attract a diverse range of future leaders. We will focus upon leadership skills, behaviours and management approaches which help aspiring Directors understand whether this is the role for them and provide a good grounding to help new Directors hit the ground running. This will be through a combination of exploring leading leadership thinking from a range of disciplines and cultures; practical activities to translate theory into practice and develop skills; support and guidance from programme facilitators and from the sector itself.

Once people become new Directors, we will support them and their employers during their first couple of years as they hone their Director skills through further learning, trying things out and coaching.

Peer support within Children’s Services is well established. We will build upon this, helping participants create lifelong connections within and beyond children’s services. There will be resources which can be depended upon as a source of practical advice and information.

Being a DCS can be exhilarating and at times lonely.  Our offer will be both stretching and nurturing, helping our senior leaders in Children’s Services thrive upon their challenges.

Our ambition is to stoke fire in the bellies of future DCSs by creating a highly respected, well networked community of ambitious and courageous new leaders. We are so looking forward to learning together.