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 is a multifaceted one which encompasses, developing the educational program, supporting educators, communicating with parents and driving continuous improvement throughout the organisation.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
To perform the educational leader role, it is imperative that the leader have sufficient knowledge in these key areas.
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).
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:
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.