SHEFFIELD Council’s newest children’s director has taken office – and she’s set herself the mission of giving the city’s youngsters a ‘great start in life’.
Jayne Ludlam is just over a week in to the role of interim executive director for children, young people and families at Sheffield Council.
And she said she’s determined to continue the good progress made over the last four years, particularly in areas such as childcare, social services and family support.
“It’s about maintaining the progress we’ve made, especially in the foundation, Key Stage 1 and 2 stages, but also about the changing demographics across the city. We have to work together to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable families,” Ms Ludlam said.
“They are the things we are going to focus on more – I want to focus on a great start in life.
“We know, there is research and evidence, that shows us that if you give children that it stands them in good stead.”
An early years review carried out by the council last year could be built on, she added.
“It is about the quality of early years services and making sure parents want to use them, that they are accessible, in terms of social care that they meet the standard people expect, and that they are flexible.”
Ms Ludlam will be interim executive director for one year, as her predecessor Dr Sonia Sharp is taking up a senior Government role in Australia after four years in Sheffield.
Dr Sharp has chosen to take a year’s career break from Sheffield while she settles into her new post.
Schools are led and managed by their headteachers and governors, said Ms Ludlam, adding her new job had changed from that of education chief.
The council was now more of a ‘strategic enabler’, pulling together different partners to meet needs.
Its 10 special schools are also classed as ‘outstanding’ and it has won praise from Ofsted inspectors for the last two years.
Ms Ludlam said she wanted to ‘champion’ the city’s children and improve outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged children.
She added: “What I will do is champion the best quality services possible. That’s about ensuring schools, early years or colleges are as good as they possibly can be.
“What I want to do is champion children and that is the shift in the role. The role of the council is very much about working with children, young people and families.
“What we have to do is secure the best possible services for them.”
She said that challenging, supporting and intervening in the running of schools when necessary was still important.
Ms Ludlam has the job of making progress in Sheffield against the background of the Government’s academies and free schools programme, which has taken direct control away from the local authority.
Notre Dame and All Saints were the most recent secondaries to take academy status, joining Tapton, King Ecgbert, Meadowhead, Fir Vale and Bradfield.
Chaucer will switch in September and Silverdale is consulting over the issue.
Some schools were keen to take early steps down the academy route to gain funding which they were losing from other sour-ces.
But, as more secondaries become academies, the financial advantages are becoming smaller.
Headteachers at Sheffield’s schools have made it clear they do not want secondaries to become completely independent entities, in competition for pupils and funding.
With the help of the authority they have formed a City Wide Learning Body, in which heads will co-operate on key issues.
Former accountant Ms Ludlam, aged 48, became a social worker after being inspired by evening youth work.
She has been working for the council for seven years.