Appointment of the Children's Commissioner for England - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Appendix 2

Curriculum Vitae: Dr Margaret Elizabeth (Maggie) Atkinson

Personal Summary

I am a highly qualified professional, deeply committed to and inspired by my work over a 30-year career. I have a 20 year history of leadership, including at Chief Officer level in Local Authority and partnership settings. I have been involved in work in national settings at increasingly senior levels for over twenty years. The common features of my career have been my leadership and management of creative, dynamic and sustainable change; my ability to bring others, including the reluctant and the sceptical, on board to share and deliver on the promises we make; and the open public scrutiny of both my own work, and the work of those I lead and manage.

I have an infectious passion for high quality public services for children, young people and their families; in every setting and for all communities, and for their leadership by services, whether local or national, whose ambition and excellence can be proven by both internal performance management, and external inspection and regulation. I am valued for my ability to bring people from a wide range of backgrounds and interest groups into a shared vision, persuading them to own and deliver it both in their practice, and in lasting partnerships.

Principal Strengths

  • Speed of thought and three dimensional consideration of all factors in a situation;
  • Ability to think on my feet: in depth, in breadth and in full colour;
  • Ability to persuade, understand, lead and inspire others;
  • A gift for hard, productive work and a strong personal work ethic, coupled with a strong sense of justice and fair play
  • Generosity of spirit, a gift for humour, and a tendency to see the glass, including that of other people's worth, as at least half full

Key Skills

  • A keen and able user of three-dimensional thinking and problem-solving skills
  • An able and fluent communicator, in speech and writing
  • Long track record and lifelong commitment to personal and academic development, and the maintenance and development of my professional skills
  • Well-developed ICT skills
  • Numeracy skills, especially around the issues connected to budgets in local government
  • Literacy, especially that linked to the nature and flow of information, statistics, trends and analysis

Current Employment

Job title: Group Director Learning and Children, and statutory Director of Children's Services (DCS)

Employer: Gateshead Council, Civic Centre, Regent St, Gateshead, NE8 1HH  

Leading the following for Gateshead:

  • Staff in direct employment across many professions and disciplines. Additionally, staff in 88 partner schools. School governors, management committees for Children's Centres and community settings.
  • Partnership leadership across all statutory partners in our Children's Trust arrangements (a themed strand in our Local Strategic Partnership.)
  • Volunteers, including all those involved in providing and leading services and leisure time activities for children and young people.
  • Capital budget including PFI, BSF, MyPlace, Youth Capital and Youth Opportunities Funds, Children's Centres and Primary Capital Programmes, DCSF co-location funding.
  • Revenue budgets for all Council services for children and young people, and aligned spending with partners of their equivalent funds.
  • Council's children and young people commissioning function for services contracted to deliver for the LA. Joint commissioning across Council and PCT for a range of targeted and specialist services.


  • Chief Officer, Area Management, West Gateshead, covering 6 of the 22 Wards in the borough. Support to the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities (West) and the inter-agency West Area Forum. The latter mirrors the LSP and covers regeneration, economy, children young people and family issues, adult social, community and cultural services, housing, transport, citizen engagement, and communities' safety, wellbeing, health, empowerment and cohesion.
  • Member of the Children's Services Board of the North East Regional Improvement and Efficiencies Partnership (RIEP.) DCS sponsor, first round of regional projects seeking efficiencies in children's services commissioning, especially social care and health.
  • Chair of the inter-agency group (Council, HEFCE, schools, businesses, regional universities) to establish a university college in Gateshead as part of our sustainable community strategy, "Vision 2030."
  • Statutory responsibility to assure inter-agency governance and partnership through creating a Children and Young People's Trust with police, justice, Health, Learning and Skills Council, FE College, community organisations, schools, parents and carers.
  • Relationships with 88 schools, early years provision across several hundred providers, adult and community learning (commissioning, delivery, quality assurance,) relationships with work-based learning providers, the LEP for our BSF and other capital programmes, Further and Higher Education providers, the LSC, RDA, Government Office, and other North East Local Authorities, in preparation for the transfer of some LSC functions in 2010.
  • Beacon school improvement service, statutory challenge and support to schools and other providers, plus a trading function earning its way in a competitive open market. Includes commissioning and QA of adult and community learning, and a successful Education Business Links Service.
  • Services for Additional and Special Educational Needs (AEN and SEN) and for children from minority ethnic, bi-and-multi-lingual and Traveller backgrounds.
  • Integrated Youth Offer: Youth and Community Learning service, Connexions, teams tackling Health Inequalities, Teenage Pregnancy, alternative education, locality teams around vulnerable families, young people's outreach and positive engagement. Directly employed and sessional staff combined.
  • Children and families' social care and Youth Offending Teams (preventative and statutory arms.) Children and Families' Social Services cover statutory functions, supporting the Local Safeguarding Children board (LSCB) and our modernising Children With Disabilities service. The YOT is area based for preventative and centralised for statutory functions, and is highly regarded. Relationships extend across a large number of external providers, with the LA as strategic commissioner.
  • Direct relationships with, and ensuring the locality heeds the wishes of, children, young people and families as part of its duties concerning community cohesion.

I was appointed initially, from 1 September 2003, as Group Director Learning and Culture (education, arts, libraries, leisure, catering, events, conferences, heritage and tourism) and Director of Education. Gateshead's response to the Children Act 2004 created my current post. I was appointed to it from 1 April 2005. Change has therefore been a constant feature of my career.

Professional Associations

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacture (FRSA) since election in July 2008
  • Fellow of the Institute of Administrative Management (FInstAM) since election in 2006
  • Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FILM) since election in 2006
  • Member of the Society Of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE)
  • Member, International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (MIFPA) since 1997

Activities beyond Gateshead, National Stage: 2007-10:

  • First Vice President, Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008.
  • First sole post holder, ADCS Presidency, 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009.
  • ADCS Immediate Past President, 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010.
  • 2008: Secretary of State-appointed External Chair of the National Expert Group on the Children's Workforce, with two Ministers of State and representatives from all sectors, due to report November 2008.
  • 2008: Appointed national chair of the multi-agency steering and reference board for the new Centre for Excellence in Outcomes (C4EO)
  • 2009: Appointed by the Secretary of State to chair the new national Children and Young People's Workforce National Partnership: sector skills councils, unions, regulatory and Non-Departmental Public Bodies, Third sector stakeholders, government officials.

Previous employment, most recent first:

16 August 1999 to 31 August 2003: Cheshire County Council

1. County Manager (Education Standards, chiefly Inspection and Advisory services.)

2. Acting County Manager (Access and Inclusion) 1 March 2002, substantive 1 August 2002, alongside (1) above, becoming responsible for Additional and Special Educational Needs (AEN and SEN) and county-wide inclusion strategy.

  • Managed Cheshire's Ofsted inspection in Summer, and follow-up from Autumn, 2001.
  • Led two Best Value Reviews: school improvement Spring 2000 to mid-2001, SEN 2002-03.
  • 5 Continuing Professional Development Centres, an education and culture art gallery, and the county's statutory and discretionary teams for school and other learning sector improvements, relating to over 300 schools, five FE colleges, and learning in community settings.
  • 6 Outdoor Education Centres
  • Nationally acclaimed arts education service
  • Processes for schools both causing concern, and with good practice to disseminate.
  • Liaison with the EAZ (Ellesmere Port & Neston) and the Excellence Cluster (Crewe.)
  • Managed EDP alongside developing the Local Public Service Agreement.

1 July to 8 October 1999, bridging end of employment in Warrington/start in Cheshire:

Requested by DfEE to work with Liverpool City Council after its critical Ofsted Inspection. Liverpool's Acting Deputy Director (Special Projects.) I committed not to apply for a substantive senior post as the city's services recovered, because to have done so would have fettered our intervention. My duties were:

  • To bring leadership and coherence to educational transformation programmes in communities across the city, through ensuring positive change.
  • To work with the Acting Director and the city's one remaining senior education manager to support and challenge Elected Members, a departing and then a new Chief Executive
  • Worked with KPMG and DfEE, to:

(a) Undertake wholesale restructure, reducing the establishment, working with remaining staff recovering from critical inspection and KPMG review.

(b) Move over four hundred staff from unfit, to new fit-for-purposes premises, in four weeks from the intervention team's first viewing of the new space.

(c) Broker new relationships with all stakeholders from a starting point of mutual suspicion, a history of Council under-funding, and combative relationships.

(d) Steer through the launch of Excellence in Cities (EiC), which won more money than expected and met every deadline, in the face of explicit low governmental expectations.

(e) Chair partnerships city-wide to ensure initiatives worked together.

(f) Make robust contributions to the Liverpool LEA Project Steering Group with DfEE and KPMG, meeting fortnightly to check progress and plan next steps.

(g) Write the principles, position and modelling papers on which KPMG based its outsourcing specification for LEA services.

  • The result was that rather than being outsourced, the city's services gained time to improve. Re-inspections (2000, 2004) indicated this was fruitful.

23rd February 1998 to 16th August 1999: Assistant Director (Quality Assurance) Warrington Council (new Unitary from 01.04.98)

Principal responsibilities:

  • Member of leadership and management team establishing the Department in the new Unitary Authority
  • Policy formation and timely and consistent advice to Elected Members.
  • Liaison with local, regional and national bodies.
  • Development work on new Best Value regimes.
  • Forged new relationships with stakeholders, introducing client-facing responsive services.
  • Compiler, principal author, co-ordinator and leader, EDP version 1 (1998).

1st September 1992 to 22nd February 1998: Kirklees MBC, West Yorkshire

1. General Inspector (English) including full engagement as a qualified Ofsted Inspector across all phases of compulsory education.

  • Advice to Elected Members on policy development and implementation.
  • General whole-school responsibility for 17 schools in rural part of the borough.
  • Work in inspection, and in training and facilitation, contributing to service income.
  • Liaison with arts bodies and providers and the regional Arts Council.
  • Consultant to YTV in a national Schools TV and a regional current affairs series.
  • Development of schools' self-evaluation frameworks.

2. Included a two-term internal secondment (0.8 FTE) to complete the following:

  • Chair of the working party and author of Kirklees language development guidelines in a context where in some localities English was the sole language, whereas in others ten or more languages were in common use.
  • Framed language and linguistic heritage projects for Single Regeneration Bids;
  • Managed teams ensuring access to learning for pupils and families with English as an additional language;
  • Contributed to national debates and developments in my specialist area.

3. In addition, from October 1995, Curriculum Advice Manager. 0.5 FTE management of curriculum development and those delivering it, including income generation. Balance of 0.5 FTE: Inspector for English.

1st June 1991 to 31st August 1992: Birmingham City Council

Adviser, Schools Management Support, plus English subject role.

  • Advised Elected Members on policy for families, children and young people, in and beyond specialist role.
  • General responsibility for 12 inner city schools in all phases, plus two hospital schools, in the city's two poorest, most densely populated inner city Wards.
  • Worked in earning/trading training and development in competitive markets
  • Adviser for English and linguistic education and training for Central Birmingham
  • Consultant to Birmingham Readers' and Writers' Festival 1992.

1 June 1989 to 31 May 1991:

Regional Co-ordinator, Language in the National Curriculum (LINC) project, North & West Yorkshire LEAs (Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale, North Yorkshire.)

  • One of a team writing national training materials.
  • Set up professional networks across all six LEAs, ensuring common training.
  • Managed advisory teachers in six LEAs and ensured they worked as a professional support and development network.
  • Trained services providing support to the language and other needs of diverse communities' children and their schools.
  • Set up a resource base and publishing unit serving all six Local Authorities.
  • Ran regional and contributed to national events, disseminating and further developing the programme in the process.
  • Managed and accounted for a budget audited by Leeds LEA on the region's behalf.

Easter 1987 to May 31 1989:   Kirklees LEA: Birkdale High School, Dewsbury,            Head of English

Sept 1979 to Easter 1987:   Doncaster LEA: Hungerhill School Edenthorpe,

(3 posts, same school):

1. Sept 1979 to July 1981:   Teacher of English

2. Sept 1981 to Easter 1984:   Teacher of English plus i/c Drama

3. Easter 1984 to Easter 1987:  2-i/c English plus i/c Drama

Education and Qualifications, latest first

Feb 2008:  Graduated Doctor in Education (EdD)

2001-2007:  University of Keele, faculty of Social Sciences and Education, EdD programme.

Nov 1997:   Diploma in Holistic Aromatherapy from the Northern College of Aromatherapy. Member of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (MIFPA.) Qualified to work in palliative and medical care settings, and in private practice

1979:     PGCE (U. Sheff) Secondary Education: History, and English with drama

1978-1979:   University of Sheffield Education Department

1978:     BA Hons (Cantab) in History: Class II Div 1

1975-1978:  Newnham College, Cambridge

1975:    Four GCE "A" levels: English, History, Geography, General Studies

1974:    Universities Test in Use of English; "O" level General Paper;

Cambridge University Entrance Examination (History)

1973-1975:  Mexborough VI Form College, Mexborough, South Yorkshire:

1972-1973:  10 GCE "O" levels (two 1972, eight 1973)

1968-1973:  Pope Pius X RC High School, Wath-on-Dearne, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Course and Professional Development

1. As an Adviser/Inspector, Chief Adviser, Assistant Director and Director:

Professional Development on legislation, professional concerns and statutory duties. Ongoing through ConfEd, VSC, ADECS, ADSS, ADCS, LGA, IDeA, DfES/DCSF, Ofsted, private providers.

  • Trained in performance management.
  • Cheshire Management Development Programme Autumn 2000 to Summer 2001.
  • EdD in Evidence Based Policy Change and Development in Education at the University of Keele. Began November 2001, awarded 2007, graduation February 2008.
  • Trained in the work of Returning Officers and election teams (2008, 2009.)

2. As a teacher:

Drama, ICT, Writers' Workshops, Anti-racism, Oracy, Effective Use of Reading. HODs in Secondary schools (Y&H cross-regional course) 1988

3. NATE and NAAE:

Annual courses/conferences 1988 to 1998;

Branch and regional meetings and seminars of the two organisations, same dates.

4. LINC:

National seminars on Linguistics and Language (1989 to 1991.)

5. Personal development:

  • Trained as a general and a grief counsellor.
  • Trained facilitator for The Pacific Institute (TPI) Investment in Excellence (IIE) programme.
  • Professional aromatherapist qualified in 1997.

Interests and Pastimes

Northumbrian Smallpipes; piano; hammered dulcimer; choral and solo singing; holiday home on the North Northumberland coast; Church affairs; theatre, concert and cinema going; reading; creative writing; travel; gardening; DIY; aromatherapy and complementary therapies; paper, fabric, wool and other crafts; novice level calligraphy, astronomy, and bird watching.

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