Sir Alan Wood announced as Centre’s Founding Chair

05 July 2018

Sir Alan Wood, former President of the Association of Directors of Children’ Services, has been appointed as the Founding Chair of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care.

Sir Alan Wood, former President of the Association of Directors of Children’ Services, has been appointed as the Founding Chair of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care.

As the Founding Chair, Alan will oversee the development of the Centre through to its full independence by 2020. Alan, who has over 40 years’ experience in children’s social care in local and national roles, was appointed following a competitive process, including being interviewed by a panel of children and young people. He responded to his appointment saying:

“I am delighted to be joining an initiative which takes such a refreshing approach to partnership working. The new What Works Centre will play a crucial role in supporting the leaders of children’s services to create the conditions for more evidence-informed practice. It must address the many gaps in the evidence base that we know to exist, improve the accessibility and relevance of evidence, and support practitioners to deliver effective arrangements based on what works and what does not in a variety of circumstances, with a variety of young people and families.”

The initial members of the Founding Board are:
• Kersten England, Chief Executive, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council and Nesta Trustee
• Sally Hodges, Director of Children’s Services and Skills, Solihull Metropolitan District Council
• Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for England (Children & Families), Department for Education
Stakeholders’ views.

The Centre has also published a summary of key messages from its stakeholder engagement work to date. Over 300 people have been involved to date – including children, young people, families, frontline practitioners, leaders and researchers.

Key themes that have emerged so far include: the importance of working with the sector, rather than doing to or for the sector; keeping children at the heart of what the Centre will do; and having a strong, realistic focus on implementation and improving practice, allowing for local context and nuance.

Quotes from key stakeholders include:

‘Always ask – would this be good for my own child?’ Young person on the Centre’s children and young people’s panel

‘We need to not treat social work as a separate bubble but be mindful of the wider context: we are seeing people we didn’t see five years ago.’ Stuart Gallimore, Director of Children’s Services, East Sussex County Council and President, ADCS

‘This approach – working with those at the frontline rather than doing to or for – will ensure that the Centre is relevant and that it supports the development of the high quality practice that children, young people and their families need and deserve.’ Steve Walker, Director of Children’s Services, Leeds City Council

Local authority partners to be announced

The Centre development team will shortly announce the first wave of local authority partners with whom we will work to develop the Centre. The local authority partners will be selected following a recent expression of interest. They will work with the Centre to develop and test approaches to generating, sharing and using evidence more effectively.

Further information is available on the Centre’s new website at which also went live today. This is a beta version of the site, which will develop throughout the year reflecting further engagement with the sector.

The Centre also has a new Twitter account at @WhatWorksCSC

Read Sir Alan Wood’s blog
View Sir Alan Wood’s vlog
Read a blog by a young person involved in the selection of the Founding Chair

Read report: Stakeholder engagement during ‘gestation phase’ December 2017 – May 2018


Iris Steen, Communications Lead – Development Team, What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care
Tel 020 7766 7375
Mobile 07792 636761

About the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care

The What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care is a new initiative that aims to improve outcomes for children, young people and families by improving the basis on which decisions are made in children’s social care. The Centre’s mission is to foster a culture of evidence informed practice. The Centre will generate evidence where it is found to be lacking, improve its accessibility and relevance to the practice community, and support practice leaders to build a culture of evidence use in their organisations.

The Department for Education is funding the Centre’s development.

The Centre is currently being set up under two separate but jointly managed contracts, by a development team – a consortium led by Nesta and its Alliance for Useful Evidence, in partnership with the Social Care Institute for Excellence, FutureGov and Traversum – and its research partner led by CASCADE at Cardiff University.

About Sir Alan Wood

Sir Alan has over 40 years’ experience at both local and national level within the children’s sector.

Between 2006-16, Alan was the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services in Hackney ensuring the implementing of the nationally acclaimed model of Reclaiming Social Work. He was Chief Executive of The Learning Trust, which delivered all of the statutory education services provided by Hackney Council. In that period (2002-12) education in Hackney transformed from the worst in the England to one of the highest performing.

Alan was national President of the Association of Directors of Children Services
(ADCS) in 2014-15.

Alan was asked by the Secretary of State for Education to review the arrangements for Children Social Care in Doncaster (2013) and Birmingham (2014) and has co-authored reports proposing a new model of building capacity in the children social care sector by combining the work of the statutory, commercial and voluntary sectors. As Commissioner for Children Social Care in Doncaster, he set up The Doncaster Children Services Trust.

Alan was appointed as a Commissioner in the Tower Hamlets to take responsibility for corporate governance of the council. He is the Independent Chair of the Children’s Improvement Board for Tower Hamlets.

In 2016 Alan was appointed to undertake a fundamental review of Local Children Safeguarding Boards including Serious Case Reviews and Child Death Overview Panels. Subsequently the legal framework covering these areas has been amended by an Act of Parliament to implement his recommendations.

His national appointments have included: Chair of the Youth Custody Improvement Board; Chair of an Advisory Board to the Department for Education on the role of local authorities in providing services to children; a member of the Youth Justice Board; member of the Training and Development Agency for Teachers; a member of the Advisory Group for the Education Funding Agency; a member of the Department for Education’s Expert Investment Board; and Chair of the national Residential Care Leadership Board.

Alan is a Master’s level Executive Coach and coaches and mentored successful senior executives in the public, voluntary and commercial sectors.

In 2011 Alan was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to education and local government. In the New Years Honours List 2018, Alan received a knighthood for services to education and children social care.