Welcome to the upon programme

Latest Update | Welcome to the upon programme | Jo Davidson | April 15, 2024

Meet Jane Parfrement, Director of upon and Chief Executive of the Staff College

Hello and welcome to the upon programme, our development programme for Aspiring and New Directors of Children’s Services (DCS). I was a senior officer in Local Government for 14 years, the last 5 of those as DCS in Derbyshire, and have almost 30 years experience in Children’s Services. I am very privileged to be the Director of upon and Chief Executive 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 planning, provision and outcomes, early support, and safeguarding. They also influence the health system, economy and the overall wellbeing of our youngest citizens as system leaders. As corporate leaders they are part of 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 evidence 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 centres 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 an eco-system of support and 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 the most rewarding and inspiring role, though at times lonely.  Our offer will be both stretching and nurturing, helping our senior leaders in Children’s Services thrive upon their challenges. 


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