Case studies

strategic planning

Strategic review of children’s services improvement in Swindon

Overall the staff, senior leadership team and I feel working with Isos has been a real success. It has helped us be more resilient and prepared for the next stage in the journey, and to be clear about what those next steps are.
Karen Reeve, Director of Children’s Services

The brief

Since their last children’s services inspection in 2014, Swindon Borough Council has undertaken significant work to put in place the foundations of, to embed and to sustain an effective and consistently high-quality set of children’s services. In December 2016, Isos Partnership were commissioned to carry out a strategic review of Swindon’s children’s services improvement and demand pressures to inform their ongoing improvement journey and future strategy. The review focused on two questions, namely, 'Where is Swindon currently on its children's services improvement journey?' and 'What should be the priorities for the next stage of that improvement journey?'.

What did we do?

We formed a small team with expertise in supporting improvement in local children's services, carrying out fast-paced priority reviews and developing robust and effective improvement strategies. Our team included two former Directors of Children’s Services with a track-record of leading and supporting children’s services improvement.

We then engaged a wide range of council and children's services leaders, partners, staff and young people, and worked with them to gather evidence and facilitate collective self-evaluation about where Swindon was on its improvement journey – what was working well, what was showing early signs of promise, and what should be the priorities for the next stage of the journey. Through formative discussions, we worked iteratively with council and children’s services leaders and partners to shape the strategic priorities for sustaining Swindon's children’s services improvement journey and the short- and medium-term actions for putting these into practice.

What difference did we make?

We facilitated a process through which leaders, staff, partners and young people themselves were able to share their perspectives and shape the future strategic priorities for children’s services in Swindon. This has enabled leaders, staff and partners in Swindon to shape a shared vision, a clear direction of travel, and a set of actions that will guide Swindon through the next phase of their children’s services improvement journey, as well as through an important leadership transition within the service. A key reflection has been on the importance of linking the vision and strategy for children’s services to the overall council vision, and ensuring that political and corporate leaders continue to be bought into the vision and improvement journey for children’s services.

What did the client say about the work?

'My colleagues in children’s services – leaders, partners and staff – and I felt this review was an affirming process. We felt that the Isos team worked with us as genuinely critical friends, and brought an appropriate level of challenge to the process. Leaders and staff within children's services particularly valued having the time to work together and reflect on progress to date, on current priorities and on shaping our future strategy. Across the board, staff felt engaged and valued through the process. Overall the staff, senior leadership team and I feel working with Isos has been a real success. It has helped us be more resilient and prepared for the next stage in the journey, and to be clear about what those next steps are.' (Karen Reeve, Director of Children's Services)