A new set of training courses for directors of children’s services will bring “consistency” to the sector and ensure a steady stream of future directors, according to the woman who will oversee them.
Catherine Fitt, currently director of children’s services (DCS) at Newcastle City Council, will next month become strategic director responsible for the £3.9m children’s services programmes at the National College of School Leadership (NCSL).
She said four years on from the creation of the DCS role in the wake of the Victoria Climbié tragedy, it was the right time to reflect on how people currently managed the job, and to offer training to those who wanted to become DCSs.
“We are all bound by the same statutory guidance, so in a sense we have a better brief than any other chief officer, but the bigger debate is about how those responsibilities are discharged,” she said.
“There has to be consistency, but there won’t necessarily be one right way of doing everything – and at the moment we don’t really know how much consistency there is to the way people do the job.”
I don’t think the shortage of people qualified to be a DCS is a huge problem at the moment
She added that a course for people who wanted to become DCSs would help bridge a burgeoning skills gap and could lead to an influx of people coming to the role from the health, private or third sectors.
“I don’t think the shortage of people qualified to be a DCS is a huge problem at the moment, but there hasn’t been an embarrassment of riches, and a lot of directors in post would have been people who were directors of education or social care when the post of DCS was created,” she said.
”There won’t be people like that in the system in the future, but there will need to be about 30 new DCSs recruited every year, so a big question is making sure that we’ve got enough people coming through.”
According to a recent NCSL survey, concerns over accountability and exposure to risk, coupled with a lack of training, are the two biggest factors stopping senior children’s services officers wanting to progress on to the DCS role.