About John

After a period as Director of Education and Director of Children’s Services, and a national role with the Local Government Association (LGA), I’m currently an independent consultant, commentator and writer on education and children’s services. I remain active within ADCS and am a member of the Policy Committees for Educational Achievement, for Resources and Sustainability, and for Standards, Performance and Inspection. I have been Chair of the ADCS Associates Network since April 2015.

In everything I do, I aim to stimulate a deep understanding of the issues, and to promote genuine learning and new insights. I believe that I’ve wasted my time if people don’t think in new ways or change how they do their job after working with me.

Originally trained as a science teacher, and working as a science adviser, I am a published author in both popular science and science education.

More recently I’ve enjoyed a successful career in local government, including eight years at director level, and a year as Joint President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. In the build-up to the launch of the ADCS, I spent many months supporting the merger of the education and social services directors’ organisations.

From 2008 to 2010 I lead on REACT – the ‘Raising Expectations’ Action Programme, a national two-year programme to prepare for the implementation of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. I worked within the LGA and closely with government officials, and was a member of the Joint DCSF/DIUS Programme Board.

I’ve since worked with the LGA on education issues. Notwithstanding the ‘academy agenda’, I believe that only local government has a legitimate claim to be acting on behalf of all children and young people, and that the leadership role that local government can play is central to ensuring fair access to the best services for all local people.

I’m passionate about education and children’s services and making sure that they meet the needs of all children and young people. But I’m also committed to ensuring that services meet the needs of the most vulnerable, and in particular children in the care system.

Until May 2013 I was Chair of the Corporation of Dudley College, when I retired following a successful Ofsted inspection. From 2012 I was Chair of the Interim Executive Board of the Coseley School in Dudley, after which I became Chair of the Governing Body, a position from which I stood down in September.

Reflecting my interests in the strategic use of education performance data, having been an adviser for the last year, I was appointed as Chair of the National Consortium for Examination Results (NCER) from April 2015. The NCER is a community interest company, co-owned by local authorities, working to provide local authorities, schools and academies with high-quality education performance data. Because the NCER operates at national scale, and works directly with and for local authorities, it is able to offer both good value for money and a flexible and effective response to changing national policies. The NCER is staffed by local authority employees and works as a ‘thin client’ through Angel Solutions as our software provider.

I’m also a founding trustee of Creating Chances, an independent charitable trust aimed at improving educational outcomes for children in local authority care across the Black Country. All the evidence shows that, whatever goes wrong in a young person’s life, if they achieve a decent standard of education, they are much, much more likely to do well as an adult.

Having been the corporate parent for more than 400 children in council care, I feel strongly that these children deserve the same support that my own children received.

And those interests have, together, led me to write my recent paper on improving the educational outcomes for children in care.

I am a Fellow of the RSA, and I was appointed a CBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List, for services to local government, and express my views in a fortnightly opinion column for Children and Young People Now, and in their blog as Freeman’s Thinking. I was one of the key contributors to the RSA report ‘Between the Cracks‘, an important study of the problems of in-year school admissions and transfers.