Skills for Care

Upon – new programme launched to support new Directors of Children's Services

14 Sep 2020

2 min read

Today sees the launch of a new programme aimed at increasing the pool of future Directors of Children’s Services (DCS), supported by the Department for Education (DfE).

The programme has been initiated in response to the DfE identifying significant challenges in attracting and retaining talented leaders in DCS roles. For example, in 2018-19 alone, over 25% of local authorities experienced a change in DCS. It was also found that the current average length of tenure as a DCS is 47 months.

The 'upon Leaders Programme', co-created by a consortium awarded with the tender comprising of The Staff College, Institute of Public Care, Skills for Care and GatenbySanderson, aims to increase the pool of talent leaders that flow into DCS roles with up to 20 participants in the first year, providing support that results in DCS’ remaining in the post for a longer period of time.

The programme has been designed with guidance from current DCS’ and is looking to attract a diverse range of applicants from both the public and private sector, to find and develop those with the core behaviours and skills that are needed in a DCS role.

The programme will develop leadership and management skills, including personal leadership qualities and resilience, systems leadership and building alliances and partnerships; working in political and corporate contexts; leading in complexity; engaging communities; delivering results; innovation and change.

The first programme is open to 20 candidates with at least three years effective senior leadership and management experience in local government children’s services or related fields and sectors.

The application process launches today, 14 September, selection will occur in October, ahead of the first programme commencing in November and running until June 2021.

Jo Davidson, Programme Director of upon, commented:

The role of a DCS is wide-ranging, challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. Due to the nature of the role, current DCS’ very rarely get the time to share what’s involved and just how much of an impact they make. Our aim is to demonstrate what life is like as a DCS and prepare our candidates for the journey they’ll take, stoking a fire in the belly of future leaders that truly want to make a positive change to children’s lives.

For more information, or to apply to join the programme, visit:

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