Birmingham’s children’s services boss to retire

Tony Howell, Birmingham’s Strategic Director for Children, Young People and Families, has announced that he will retire in the New Year.

Mr Howell will stay in post while the authority seeks to recruit a high calibre replacement to drive forward improvements to children’s services.

Mr Howell intends to retire in January 2011 when he will be aged 60. He said: “I feel incredibly privileged to have served the children and young people of Birmingham.

“As the largest urban authority in Europe, Birmingham presents some huge challenges to public services but also some fantastic opportunities to make a difference.

“I have really enjoyed working with the young people of this city and appreciate the hard work and support of the whole of the children’s workforce during the last eight-and-a-half-years.

“It has been wonderful to celebrate the many successes and achievements of our young people and I am sure the city will go from strength to strength.”

Mr Howell joined Birmingham City Council in January 2002. During his time in Birmingham the proportion of pupils gaining five or more GCSEs graded A* to C has gone up from 45.3 per cent to 72.7 per cent, surpassing the national average for the second year running.

The proportion of sixth-formers gaining one or more A/B grades at A-level went up from 41.7 per cent in 2002 to 65.2 per cent last year.

The number of schools rated “outstanding” by Ofsted has increased from 12 per cent in 2005/06 to 22 per cent in 2008/09.

The proportion of schools below the Government floor target of at least 30 per cent of pupils gaining five or more GCSEs graded A* to C including English and maths has gone down from 40 in 2003 to nine last year.

Stephen Hughes, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, said: “Tony has been an asset to this city and has played a vital role in driving up educational standards.

“Birmingham is now the best performing large urban authority in England and that is in no small part thanks to Tony.

“He has also shown a real vision in how children’s services need to be provided in the future with a greater focus on early intervention and preventative work.

“The bringing together of education and children’s social care has presented huge challenges to all local authorities and particularly an authority of this size. We have recognised the aspects of children’s social care needing attention and are totally committed to improving them.

“The search now begins to find someone to continue our improvement drive across the whole of children’s services.”

Cllr Les Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “Tony has been a major driving force and has brought about a transformation in our service, especially within education and children in care.

“His time in the city, including working with Professor Tim Brighouse, saw the money spent on education in this city rise considerably which has been an underpinning part of our success.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Tony, firstly as the Conservative spokesman on education, then as chair of Education Scrutiny and latterly over the last six years as Cabinet Member.

“Heading up the biggest children’s service in Europe is a massive task and Tony now deserves time to relax. I wish him the very best for the future.”