Becoming Lancashire's children's services director felt very different from my old job of chief education officer. I quickly had to come to grips with some serious case reviews relating to child protection issues. The activities of children's social care services had to be digested alongside education, early years and youth and community work. In my new world there is a lot more work which depends for its success on the actions and performance of other agencies and partners. How a judge deals with a young person; how the police prioritise their initiatives; how primary care trusts respond to their community's needs and how schools embrace the children agenda all have an effect. So do a huge number of other community, voluntary and faith organisations.
The strategic role is different too. The director has to forge partnerships, establish children's trusts and change the culture to one centred on the needs of young people and children rather than on organisational boundaries. All this means a lot of dialogue, nurturing, planning and bringing people together.
This puts the relationship between the director and schools on a new footing. The latest white paper's proposals for making schools more independent will further shift the relationship to one of commissioner and provider, with the local authority championing the interests of children and their parents. For me, the focus is now on improving the life chances of every child and young person in Lancashire and keeping them safe through effective education and partnerships with children's trusts. Academic standards alone are no longer enough.
Sue Mulvany is executive director of children's services in Lancashire