GIVING youngsters across Sheffield a ‘great start in life’ is chief priority for the city’s newest children’s director.
Jayne Ludlam, who comes from a social work background, is two days in to the role of interim executive director for children, young people and families at Sheffield Council.
She told The Star that focusing on improving the earliest years of children’s lives, especially in some areas where health inequalities can mean lives are shorter, could stay with them forever.
Ms Ludlam said: “It is 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.
“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.”
Schools are led and managed by their headteachers and governors, said Ms Ludlam, and her new job had changed from that of ‘education chief’.
The council was now more of a ‘strategic enabler’, pulling together partners to meet needs. But challenging, supporting - such as helping governors to hold schools accountable – and intervening when necessary were still important.
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.”
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 and took over from Dr Sonia Sharp on August 1.