The Practice Leader Development Programme

Guided by the Knowledge and Skills Statement for practice leaders, the Practice Leader Development Programme will be practice based, uniquely designed to facilitate leadership within social work, with an emphasis on learning from doing, preparing participants for a role as a practice leader within children’s social care. This will be supplemented by relevant theory input.

The programme is facilitated by the practice leaders in Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster in collaboration with Department for Education and will include practice leaders from Partners in Practice and other local authorities. The programme will fit within the wider assessment and accreditation agenda.

The programme will be delivered at the NCVO offices at 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL - a convenient walk from Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston stations.

Who is the programme for?

The programme is unique as it will focus on preparing participants for a practice leader role within children’s social care, focussing on the challenging and unique nature of this role and offering support and assistance through a network of development coaches and colleagues within children’s social care. 

The programme is suitable for those who: 

  • Are a head of service (or equivalent) who is looking for opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge in preparation for a practice leader role (assistant director or equivalent)
  • Would welcome coaching input from leaders across the sector
  • Are interested in a systemic approach to leadership

How is the programme structured?

The programme has two phases. The preparatory phase will last approximately 12 months, during which time aspiring practice leaders will prepare for future leadership opportunities. The second part of the programme will take place once participants are in a practice leader role.

Over the course of both phases, the participants on the programme will be matched with a development coach, who is an established practice leader. The development coach/aspiring leader relationship is at the centre of the programme and key to the learning experience of participants. The development coaches will be expected to provide constructive and facilitative feedback throughout the programme. Participants will spend up to five days over the course of the year in the authority of their development coach, and will be joined by their development coach in their own authority for up to two days.

The preparatory phase

The programme will begin with a 2-day residential programme offering the first chance to meet together, along with development coaches.

After the first residential, the aspiring practice leaders will come together approximately monthly for seminars. These will include theory and practice input from a specially selected speaker, and a facilitated activity in the afternoon which will seek to use the content from the morning to apply to real dilemmas, presented by the aspiring practice leaders and/or suggested by the development coaches.

Participants will be expected to work on an area of service development within their own authority over the course of the programme. This might be something that they are already working on, or something that has been identified as a need within their authority. This presents an opportunity for the aspiring practice leader to use the knowledge and input from their development coach, others on the programme, and outside consultants to shape a piece of work within their own authority, which will be of use not just for their learning but of benefit to their authority as well. Should the aspiring practice leader be interested in getting additional input/consultation on this from someone with expertise in the field, this will be arranged and a suitable expert consultant will be identified. Participants will have the opportunity to have 2 sessions with this consultant in their own authority. The consultants will be selected based on their areas of expertise as relevant to the aspiring leader’s needs and particular areas of interest.

Finally, there will be an opportunity for the aspiring practice leader to observe elements of an Ofsted inspection. There may be similar opportunities with other agencies explored over the course of the programme.

The in-role phase

Once the aspiring practice leader has started in a practice leader role, they will continue to have regular input from their development coach in the first year in the role. We will assist in understanding the culture and systems in the new authority to enable the practice leader to be most effective in the new post.

Preparatory Phase: Programme Outline

First residential (2 days)

Lead and govern excellent practice

  • Defining good practice leadership in children’s social care
  • Using 360 feedback and Knowledge & Skills Statement to inform current level of practice and areas for development over course of the programme 
  • Prioritising practice 
  • Understanding self and position on families and state intervention
  • Knowing the business – understanding granular detail of a service and areas for priority
  • Afternoon:  introduction to development coaches

Seminar 1

Creating a context for excellent practice 

  • Engaging staff in shared direction/vision
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Improvement journeys
  • Afternoon session: staffing case study

Seminar 2

Design a system to support effective practice

  • Introduction to systemic leadership
  • Managing multi-agency relationships 
  • Introduction to systemic concepts for considering complexity, including Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM)
  • Afternoon session: managing demand and crisis

Seminar 3

Developing excellent practitioners

  • Using research in practice
  • Developing a clear practice framework
  • Effectiveness of interventions – the balance between evidence and theory
  • Self-reflexivity 
  • Afternoon session:  areas for improved practice effectiveness 

Seminar 4

Supporting effective decision making

  • Managing risk – concepts of safe uncertainty
  • Systems in place for decision making 
  • Using research from Behavioural Insights Team and others to inform decision making systems
  • Lessons from SCRs 

Seminar 5

Quality assurance and improvement

  • Creative approaches to quality assurance
  • Managing the politics, corporate centre
  • Tension between professional social work and local government
  • Resources and budget management

Final Residential (2 days)

Introduction to the in-role phase

  • Endings
  • Showcase, critique and reflect on service developments
  • Next steps: preparing for interviews, first few weeks in a new job
  • Introduction to in-role phase of programme

If you are interested in the programme please contact or to discuss the programme in more detail.

Alternatively, you can find out more information in The Practice Leader Development Programme selection process.

Programme Delivery Team

The programme will be facilitated by the Executive Director of Children’s Services in the Triborough, Clare Chamberlain, and the Clinical Director, Nick Pendry. Directors of Children’s Services, Assistant Directors and Cabinet Members from Partners In Practice authorities and other will be part of the delivery of the programme. In addition, a number of experts have agreed to contribute to the programme in a variety of ways. These include: 

  • Sir David Norgrove, Former Chair, Family Justice Board
  • Professor Eileen Munro CBE, London School of Economics
  • Tim Leunig, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Education
  • David Halpern, Chief Executive, Behavioural Insights Team
  • Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for children and families
  • Sir Derek Myers, Lead Commissioner, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Barbara McKay, Director, Institute of Family Therapy
  • Professor Donald Forrester, Director of Children's Social Care Research and development Centre, Cardiff University