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Enabling improvement: Research into the role and models of external improvement support for local children’s services

Research into the role and models of improvement support is timely for two reasons. First, there is a significant and ongoing improvement challenge for the children’s
services sector. Just over seven in 10 local councils inspected under the current single inspection framework (SIF) are judged ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, with other local areas requiring support to sustain their improvement journeys. Second, particularly in local areas facing systemic difficulties, the DfE and individual local areas are increasingly considering alternative models of delivering children’s services as one of a range of options for putting in place the conditions for sustained improvement in local children’s services.

This research, which builds on our previous action research into the enablers of improvement in local children’s services carried out on behalf of the LGA, focused on two central questions.

a. What is the role of improvement support and how can it be effective in supporting the improvement journey of a local area’s children’s services?
b. What are the relative strengths and key ingredients of different models of improvement, and what are the circumstances in which each model is most likely to be effective?

The work was carried out between September 2016 and January 2017. During this time, councillors, senior leaders, staff and partners from 51 local areas contributed to the research, either through in-depth visits or one-to-one interviews, or through a series of regional seminars we facilitated during October and November 2016. In addition to this, we have also gathered views from a range of colleagues involved in providing improvement support, such as independent chairpersons of improvement boards or children’s services commissioners.