Mike Bowden

Hi, my name is Mike Bowden and I have been working as an associate with The Staff College since August 2020. I spent many years working in the NHS in strategic commissioning roles, moving progressively into more joint posts with the Council before eventually ‘tipping over’ into local authority roles, ending up as Director of Children’s Services and Director of Adult Social Services in Bath & North East Somerset. The drivers for me are about improving outcomes for children and vulnerable adults, leadership and organisational development and equalities.

My main work with The Staff College is to lead the design and delivery of the Department for Education-funded upon Aspirant DCS programme. We lead a consortium involving the Institute of Public Care and SkillsforCare, plus Gatenby Sanderson. We are currently more than half way through year 3, running 2 cohorts side-by-side, so by March, 89 participants will have completed the programme with 7 of those already having moved into DCS roles.

The programme is delivered through a blend of residential and virtual modules, with 8 ‘taught’ days over 6 months and provides a rich mix of academic inputs (including several sessions led by Associates), a number of serving DCSs and other senior leaders sharing their experiences, as well as Action Learning Sets and group discussions. We wrap around that a package of support including 121 ‘check up’ calls, a link with a local DCS who acts as a learning mentor, as well as a post-programme offer of accreditation (through IPC who are part of Oxford Brookes University) and coaching (which some of you will also have been delivering).

I always say that we cannot provide a complete guide to the 200 plus statutory responsibilities that a DCS will be accountable for, but we try to equip people for the step change that the role involves – moving beyond any professional ‘comfort zone’ to become responsible for a very broad portfolio of social care, education and other services, as well as getting far more engaged in the corporate and political world of the Council and developing a systems leadership mindset. The independent evaluation undertaken by SkillsforCare and on-the-day feedback from participants has been very positive and we are busy preparing for year 4 – applications are now open until 27th February.

I love to see our participants growing through the programme, with many increasingly feeling ready to apply for DCS jobs, whilst for others the programme may help them to conclude that is not going to be the right pathway for them.

Alongside the Aspirant programme, I have also been leading the development of the Repository which is an open-access resource, and involved in commissioning the research report on DCS turnover, which we aim to publish in February.

I always welcome new suggestions for the programme or the repository!

I have also been involved in a few other Staff College projects, including working with Meera Spillett to facilitate the London ‘Leadership in Colour’ programme and supporting Kate McKenna in establishing the coaching community.