Just Home: Leading in Colour

We are proud to announce the release of our latest publication, “Just Home”. This briefing is powerfully centred around global majority children in care, their lives, their traumas, their needs, and their life-chances. The stark realities are alarming: black children are over-represented in the care system, wait longer for adoption than white children, and are least likely to achieve the lifetime stability and permanency of a loving family through adoption. “Just Home” serves to challenge these bleak statistics and seeks to inspire enduring policy and practice changes for children. Through our partnership with Adoption East Midlands and its partner local authorities, we have been able to challenge these sobering facts and seek solutions. “Just Home” is our shared story –…

Leading for Longer: New report issues call to action on high turnover of leadership roles in children’s services

A call for action has been issued by The Staff College after a number of concerns have been raised about the high turnover of leadership roles within children’s services.  With tenures of DCSs averaging around three years, it is feared this is having a direct impact on the ability to improve children’s services. At present, the DCS role remains one of the hardest chief officer roles to fill and retain, yet is a critical leadership role responsible for supporting and protecting vulnerable children across the United Kingdom.  Some of the key reasons cited for the high level of position churn include increased workloads, along with a lack of a coherent policy focus on children. In addition, an ‘overload’ of external…

For long-term improvements, schools need to slow down

Pressure on schools to make rapid improvements discourages deeper thinking about long-term solutions. An article by: Jess Harris, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Newcastle Mel Ainscow, Emeritus Professor of Education , University of Manchester Nerida Spina, Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology Suzanne Carrington, Professor in Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology Published by The Conversation.

UNESCO: A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in schools

Including all learners and ensuring that each individual has an equal and personalised opportunity for educational progress is still a challenge in almost every country. Despite commendable progress made over the past two decades to expand access to basic education, further efforts are needed to minimise barriers to learning and to ensure that all learners in schools and other learning settings experience a genuine inclusive environment. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its focus on leaving no one behind, provides a unique opportunity to build more inclusive and equitable societies. This should start with inclusive education systems.

Bits and Pieces No:5

The fifth in a suite of occasional reports. The views expressed in this publication, although personal, have been informed by the sessional discussions and thinking generated amongst the participants who attended the Staff College Summer Think Tank ‘Towards excellence and equity for all: educational innovation in changing times’ on 23rd – 24th August 2016. The Think Tank was attended by 23 senior leaders in children’s services, from local authorities across England.


A place for learning, the third paper in the RSA’s Power to Create series is not framed in the conventional manner of a report on a key issue, in this case lifelong learning. Instead, Tony Breslin’s text is built around a memorandum from an outgoing and highly regarded director of education to a newly elected city mayor outlining a set of policy proposals. 

Viewpoint: Piecing together the education system

Unwittingly, argues Sarah Phillips, we are drifting away from an effective national education system to fragmented centralism. 2016 could be the year when we take a good hard look at all the pieces and seize the opportunity to shape a better system.

Real Singaporean Lessons: Why do Singaporean Students perform so well in PISA?

In this latest post in the Leading Futures Series, edited by Alma Harris and Michelle Jones, Zongyi Deng and S. Gopinathan shine a spotlight on the success of Singapore’s school system and argue that the country’s success comes from educational policies and practices that have helped to develop social cohesion, economic development, and nation building. As Deng and Gopinathan suggest, reforms that aim to borrow “best practices” must consider the social, cultural and institutional contexts of which they are a part.

Re-Creating Schools as Places of Belonging: The Art of Possibilities

[blockquote text=”We live in a world of rage and ‘untruth’ – a world on the move. Half the world’s refugees are children (UNHCR, 2015). Social divisions are widening (Putnam, 2015). Yet it’s an exciting world – of boundless opportunities and possibilities. And it’s also a world in which we all want to feel that we belong. ‘Belonging’ is that sense of being somewhere where you can be confident that you will fit in and safe in your identity. Schools are one of the few shared social institutions which can create that sense of belonging or exclusion.” show_quote_icon=”yes”] Professor Kathryn Riley (2017)

Seven complex lessons in education for the future

Edgar Morin rethinks fundamental problems overlooked or neglected in education, and presents them as “seven complex lessons” that should be covered in an education of the future in all societies in every culture, according to means and rules appropriate to each. With the publication of this provocative essay, UNESCO hopes to stimulate discussion on how education can and should act as a force for the future and promote a transdisciplinary perspective to meet the great challenge of durable development.

The middle tier in education – a policy position from Prospect

This national and international research paper looks at how successful educational settings, from early years to further education, benefit from a strong middle tier which works in close partnership with both national government and individual schools. Its main focus is on the English educational system, but the general principles would apply across the whole of the UK. The middle tier in education

What the best education systems are doing right

Fifty years ago, both South Korea and Finland had terrible education systems. Finland was at risk of becoming the economic stepchild of Europe. South Korea was ravaged by civil war. Yet over the past half century, both South Korea and Finland have turned their schools around — and now both countries are hailed internationally for their extremely high educational outcomes. What can other countries learn from these two successful, but diametrically opposed, educational models? What the best education systems are doing right

Bits and Pieces No:4

The fourth in a suite of occasional reports written by VSC Associate Patrick Scott. The views expressed in this publication, although personal, have been informed by the sessional discussions and thinking generated amongst the participants who attended the VSC Summer Think Tank  ‘New models; new frontiers’ on 17th & 18th August 2015. The event was attended by 20 senior leaders in children’s services and public health, across England.  

Changing the narrative: a new conversation between the citizen and the state.

The relationship between state and citizen is changing more rapidly now than for a generation. Expectations and obligations long familiar to the UK’s citizens, policy makers and service providers are being reassessed; and the UK is far from being alone. The pressures that are redefining the relationship – fiscal, technological, demographic, cultural and ideological – are being felt in other advanced economies, whether they have traditionally followed social democratic, Christian democratic or liberal welfare models. These pressures have re-ignited long-standing debates about the size of the state. On the right, the charge is that the modern state has succumbed to ‘elephantiasis’ and needs to become smaller to be affordable; while on the left the accusation has been that economic crisis is…

Bits and Pieces No:3

The third in a suite of occasional reports written by former DCS and Advisor to the Virtual Staff College Patrick Scott. The views expressed in this note are based on discussions at the VSC Summer Think Tank ‘New challenges: Changing times’ on 22nd and 23rd July 2013. The event was attended by 17 senior leaders in children’s services, from local authorities across England. Download the report below: bits_and_pieces 3_FINAL

‘Developing leaders’: Succession planning for children’s services

The work on succession planning was commissioned shortly after the DCS leadership programme was announced in December 2008 because of fears that the turnover of senior leaders in children’s services was becoming a cause for concern. Action was needed not just to address the immediate challenge of finding replacements for about 40 DCSs every year, but to develop the next generation of senior leaders, those who might be stepping up to the role in 5 or 10 years’ time. This report looks the context in which the work was undertaken, what actually happened, the impact of the work, what specifically made a positive difference and finally what should happen next. To read the full report please click on the link…

Bits & Pieces

The first in a series of reports, co-written by a current and a former DCS, looking at significant issues facing DCSs. bits_and_pieces

Bits & Pieces: No.2

The second in a series of short briefing papers looking at the significant issues that are facing DCS’s To download a copy please click on the link below: bits_and_pieces_2.2

Are we in danger of shedding the middle tier?

This think piece provides a brief overview of the current debate around the ‘middle tier’ – the ‘mediating layer’ between central government and schools – and the role of local authorities in the fast changing education landscape it suggests that the Secretary of State will be reaching a decision on this issue before much longer, and argues that it is imperative that local government collectively becomes more actively engaged in the discussion of it’s own future. Are we in danger of shedding the middle tier?

A system in transition: Implications for the children’s workforce of changes in local government

This report summarises the findings from 9 regional workforce surveys, covering the whole of the UK, which were conducted in December 2011 by the regional leads for succession planning for children’s services. It does not do justice to the quality and depth of the individual regional surveys, but it does highlight a number of significant challenges which need to be acknowledged by central and local government, and addressed in the DCS leadership provision made by the VSC.