Educational Leaders in the Childcare Setting

The benefit of an educational leader in a childcare setting

The role of educational leader childcare was first mandated by the Australian government in 2012, perhaps in recognition of the unique skill set required to perform educational leadership in early childhood settings.

Leadership skills in childcare potentially bring great benefits to the childcare setting. An educational leader can focus upon driving continuous improvement across all facets of the childcare environment. This should lead to better outcomes for staff, children and parents alike.

 The role of an educational leader

The role of an educational leader is a multifaceted one which encompasses, developing the educational program, supporting educators, communicating with parents and driving continuous improvement throughout the organisation.

Developing the educational program

This will involve structuring a curriculum that is in keeping with the approved learning framework. The educational leader needs to keep abreast of changes with the early learning framework as well as be aware of developments in the area. The leader should be involved in the implementation of the program whilst always putting the needs of the children first and foremost.

Supporting educators

Support covers a variety of functions that include mentoring, motivating and guiding where appropriate. Support for educators is closely linked to driving continuous improvement. The educational leader will at times take on a coach like role, acknowledging what achievements have already been made while identifying the areas that need improvement.

Communicating with Parents

Establishing a good bond with parents is key to developing a positive partnership with them. Communication is vital in developing a sense of trust that then enables openness and positivity.

Communication is another multifaceted task that involves several key skills. These are:

  • Listening attentively to get a better picture of the child and their family. Listening also allows you to tap into detailed information about the child as well as signaling to the parents that you are engaged and committed to delivering good outcomes for them.
  • Speaking with parents in clear concise but respectful language. This involves looking for positives to share, as well as thinking carefully before speaking. Appreciate parents’ input and don’t be rushed into a hasty response. There’s nothing wrong with asking for time to consider something before giving your opinion.
  • Being able to raise concerns with parents. This is a much easier process, if you’ve already taken the time to build a rapport. When raising concerns, it’s best to approach the situation with a problem-solving mindset. Furthermore, a preparedness to raise concerns as they arise will help to build partnerships and ultimately, better outcomes.
  • Welcoming concerns raised by parents. This can at times be difficult, but the basics of good communication are more important than ever. Listen carefully and remain outcome focused. Adopting a defensive mindset is not helpful.
  • No two families are the same and flexibility in communication practices may be required to deliver optimum outcomes. The education leader needs to have sufficient awareness and social skills to adapt their communication appropriately to the family’s situation.

Supporting and promoting continuous improvement of the service

This requires an ability to work in collaboration with the childcare team to identify what is being done well, and what areas can be improved on. Identified areas for improvement need to be addressed and plans formulated to address and mitigate these concerns.

The duties of an education leader

While educational leader responsibilities overall can be expected to be the same, the duties of the education leader can vary from centre to centre depending on the centre’s overall size and possibly demographics. Often in smaller centres the education leader may have a dual role.

Duties revolve around collaboration with educators to gain an understanding of what is happening with the children being taught/cared for and how the program is progressing. This collaboration dovetails neatly into a mentoring role. Education leaders spend significant amounts of time mentoring other educators and helping them to gain more skills and a better understanding of their role.

Support of other team members is vital. An education leader will spend a lot of time observing practices and offering guidance and support.

Other duties may include:

  • Establishing and maintaining systems that ensure continuity of learning
  • An ability to reflect upon and lead discussion on teaching practice and programs
  • Collaboration with other early childhood professionals to assist with future program development.
  • Collaboration with parents when and as appropriate.

Attributes required for an educational leader.

With all those educational leader responsibilities and duties, it is imperative that someone who has a range of leadership attributes and qualities be assigned to the role.

These attributes should encompass a broad range of knowledge and soft skills.

Knowledge

To perform the educational leader role, it is imperative that the leader have sufficient knowledge in these key areas.

  • Information
  • Evidence
  • Understanding

These broad concepts need to be adequately applied across three disciplines, pedagogy (teaching), contextual and theoretical.

It is critical that the person filling the role of an educational leader has the necessary knowledge to know how to do research when required and which theorists can help staff improve their own knowledge and skills.

Perhaps the key area of knowledge is to be fully conversant with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).

Soft Skills

To be effective any leader must be able to use a range of soft people skills in order to get people to work with them. Such soft skills include:

  • An ability to treat others with respect. This involves such skills as empathy and mindfulness as well as being aware of the rights of others.
  • A commitment to honesty and integrity, meaning that consistent truthfulness is displayed as well as a drive to follow things through to completion.
  • A confidence in one’s own ability and a preparedness to advocate for the best outcome and best practice.
  • Courage to tackle difficult situations and issues.
  • An enthusiasm for the role and a willingness to adopt new ideas.
  • Commitment
  • An ability to make decisive decisions when required.
  • A willingness to empower others through cooperation, collaboration and delegation as appropriate.
  • Creativity – being able to solve problems with new innovative ideas
  • Fostering an approachable persona, making it easy for others to share ideas and concerns.

Educational leadership in early childhood settings requires a mixture of soft skills with a range of knowledge that can be applied to the childcare setting.  It is a challenging and rewarding role that offers a great deal of variety.