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A Guide For Educational Leaders In Early Childhood Settings

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As per National Regulations, an Educational Leader is a suitably qualified and experienced educator, to lead the development and implementation of educational programs in the service.

Role Of An Educational Leader

Identifying as an educational leader requires a fine-tuning of professional responsibilities and an understanding of leadership that enables you to transform and motivate team members. You role as an educational leader includes:

  • supporting quality improvement
  • strengthening educators’ knowledge and practice
  • assisting others in their curriculum decision-making to develop, implement and assess effective programs for amplifying children’s learning, development and wellbeing.
  • effectively leading the development and implementation of the educational program, and assessment and planning process
  • working with educators to document the learning, development and wellbeing program and ensure that families understand it
  • addressing complaints that relate to the program
  • talking with families about the quality of the educational program and the process implemented to drive continuous improvement—these conversations can take place when families enquire about the service, during the enrolment process, at planned information nights or other service events

As an educational leader, you should display professionalism in all aspects of your work and assist others to do the same.  Examples of demonstrating professionalism include:

  • having specialised knowledge about childhood, and all aspects of quality education and care programs for children
  • having good communication skills and articulating your philosophy and theoretical perspectives of how children grow and learn effectively
  • forming effective relationships with children, families, colleagues and community members
  • increasing your knowledge through ongoing professional learning and reflecting on practice with others
  • acting as a change agent to advocate for socially just legislation and policies that affect children, families and the profession, and for high-quality children’s education and care for all
  • working to ensure high standards of practice, as your actions reflect on the whole profession
  • committing to work within an ethical and moral framework usually set out in a professional code of ethics, and acting with honesty and integrity
  • displaying a positive attitude and work ethic, and conducting yourself in a professional manner—they are polite, attentive, dress appropriately and conduct themselves as a good representative of the profession (adapted from Barblett, Hydon & Kennedy, 2017; Feeney, 2012).

Attributes/Characteristics Of An Educational Leader

Attributes or characteristics you're expected to portray include:

respectfulness—acting with empathy; mindful of the needs and right of others

honesty and integrity—always being truthful and following through on agreed actions

confidence—demonstrating a willingness to speak up and advocate for best practice

courage—being prepared to address difficult issues

enthusiasm—being positive, open-minded and willing to try new approaches

commitment—showing a level of responsibility to the role and those in the team

decisiveness—making clear and transparent decisions

empowerment—sharing the power and decision-making with others

generosity—being courteous with colleagues and families in the service

cooperation—showing a commitment to collaboration with all members of the team, especially those who find it difficult to participate

Record Systems

As the educational leader, you need to know how the education program is being delivered and what strategies are being used to support improvements. It is useful to have records of discussions and decisions that can be referred to during the assessment and rating process, or when asked to reflect on previous work or account for particular strategies.

Suggestions for effective record-keeping systems include:

  • establishing an electronic file for each team within the service where notes of meetings and any other important resources about the program can be kept
  • establishing a shared electronic folder where colleagues can access information and resources collected by you, such as journal articles or newsletters
  • creating a specific educational leader email address and encouraging educators to email concerns, questions or achievement to you —this establishes a record of communication between educators and you
  • keeping a journal/notebook to record observations or discussions
  • making a meeting template for you can keep track of designated and set action items

Supporting Educators

As an Educational Leader, it enables you to mentor educators and provide curriculum direction and to ensure the children achieve the outcomes of the approved learning framework. To do this, it’s best to start your role by having a discussion with the room leaders and educators in each room and become familiar with their planning and documenting. This will give you an understanding of how the room leaders document children’s learning and their understanding of implementing the curriculum. Going through the room leader’s documentation (programming, daily diary, observations, portfolios) will enable you to focus on areas that may need to be improved on or what needs to be changed or added to support the room leader in their planning and documenting. It’s important that you work with each educator on the team to achieve the best learning outcomes for children and to effectively work on current strengths and address weaknesses and concerns relating to the curriculum.

When supporting educators it's important to:

  • Motivate educators to achieve the best learning outcomes for children.
  • Affirm what educators are already doing.
  • Motivate educators to take on new challenges.
  • Support educators in their practice.
  • Encouraging educators to reflect on their practice.
  • Support educators understanding of how the Principles, Practices and Outcomes contribute to high-quality learning experiences.
  • Support educators in their goals.
  • Guide and support the team in implementing the framework.
  • Assist educators to work towards shared goals for children and their learning.
  • Assist educators in providing the best educational outcomes for children.
  • Use the following to assist educators to meet planning requirements - Educational Leader Checklist

Building Respectful and Trusting Relationships With Educators 

As an educational leader you can implement the following strategies to build respectful and trusting relationships, which have a clear purpose and direction:

  • When first starting in the role, organise a meeting and take some time to clarify the role. Invite the team/s to indicate what support they would like from you, clarify what is within the job description, and your aspirations for the role.
  • Clearly articulate the matters that could be difficult to deliver or those that fall outside the expectations of the role.
  • Make time to meet with every team member individually (educators and other staff such as cooks and administrators) to discuss the vision for supporting children’s learning and wellbeing in the service and how they can be supported in being a part of that work.
  • Schedule regular catch-up meetings with individuals and teams to talk through the everyday practice that supports teaching, learning, wellbeing and, in particular, the expectations of the planning process outlined in Quality Area 1.
  • Communicate your availability for unscheduled meetings or for offering support in the program to address specific challenges or difficulties (this may have implications for staffing and will need to be clarified with the approved provider).
  • Adopt a listening stance. Listen more than telling or reminding. Avoid becoming the ‘pedagogical police’. Educators need support, suggestions and a listening ear rather than a monitoring eye.
  • Ask for feedback from the team about the support being offered. This might be informal, through catch-ups with teams and individuals, or more formally in a survey or review process.
  • If issues arise in relation to educators’ wellbeing, and these are impacting the educational program, encourage them to talk to the approved provider (or a representative) to seek further assistance. 

Communicating With Educators 

Communicating effective and compelling ways is an essential skill It is crucial to ensure that all educators and staff members understand expectations and are informed about any changes in direction, as this helps build a shared understanding of educational program and practice.

Strategies for better communication include:

• using a variety of tools to suit the context and the strengths and needs of educators—there is no one-size-fits-all approach
• ensuring there are regular opportunities for the flow of information between educators and the educational leader
• considering the importance of non-verbal communication
• sending regular updates to staff, especially in larger teams or in teams where educators are separately located, such as in family daycare settings
• using social media or app-based products to provide regular and timely updates and ideas to staff, and to generate conversations and feedback
• allocating a standing agenda item to the educational leader update in staff meetings
• using informal communications, such as an incidental conversation with educators or families, to reinforce key messages.

Dealing With Challenges With Educators

Dealing with challenging people as an educational leader, you are encouraged to adopt a listening
approach rather than a defensive approach. It is not about winning or getting the upper hand. Showing a willingness to listen to the situation and create an environment where resolutions and solutions can be found.

Strategies include:

  • maintaining a respectful approach; treating behaviour that is difficult or rude with respect and courteousness
  • separating the person from the problems or issue—in many cases, the issues may be valid and need addressing
  • listening before defending a particular way of doing things; trying to see things from a different perspective
  • setting out the facts; jointly looking at observable evidence that might impact decisions
  • exploring possibilities together and being open to the idea or a way of doing things differently

Lead and Develop the Educational Program

One of your main purposes of being an Educational Leader is to provide curriculum direction and to ensure children achieve outcomes of the approved learning framework. This means that you need to have a thorough understanding of the framework and to be able to guide your team in their planning and reflection and mentor educators in implementing best practices.

When leading and developing the educational program it’s important to:

  • Keep up to date with current research/resources and sharing them with the team.
  • Promote understanding of the approved learning framework.
  • Embed the EYLF, MTOP into all aspects of the centres planning and documentation.
  • Support educators to make the connection between the EYLF and evidence of children’s learning through their documentation.
  • Work with educators to observe, support and extend on children’s learning.
  • Document goals for teaching and learning.
  • Provide strategies and processes to lead the development of the curriculum.
  • Make decisions that support quality outcomes for children and families.
  • Assist with documenting children’s learning and how these assessments can inform curriculum decision.
  • Talk to parents about the educational program.
  • Ensure the continuity of learning when children change room, attend others services, during transition to school.
  • Mentor educators by leading quality practice.
  • Consider how program can be linked to the community by working with community services.

Fostering Reflection

As an educational leader, you can offer tangible and practical support to assist the team in developing the habit of critical reflection, and impart the skills to make the process meaningful.

Strategies include:

  • embedding critical reflection as ‘usual practice’ by providing regular opportunities and an open, collegial professional environment in which educators can raise questions about the practice
  • setting up a regular time to hold reflective practice meetings or discussions—these should be separate from staff meetings, where operational matters are discussed, and the emphasis should be on the regularity of the opportunity to be reflective
  • sourcing matters for reflective discussion from observations, family feedback, informal or formal catch-up meetings with team members, and children’ interactions with educators
  • ensuring that meetings extend to the agreed time and conclude with a plan of action, with staff members being assigned tasks requiring follow-ups by specific due dates
  • using a range of tools (see the resource box on p. 39) to assist in the thinking and reflecting process. 

Supporting Continuous Improvement of the Service

As the Educational Leader, you need to work collaboratively with your team to provide high-quality care and a vision for children’s learning development. Look at what your service is doing well and identify the areas that require attention to promote continuous improvement in the quality of education and care services.

When supporting continuous improvement of the service, it’s important to:

  • Record goals of teaching and learning that educators are focusing on.
  • Explore opportunities for professional development.
  • Keep track of conversations and decision (journal/ diary of spontaneous conversations or formal meeting decisions.
  • Discussing ways to demonstrate the service is meeting the standards.
  • Set goals for teaching and learning with educators.
  • Discuss routines and how to make them more effective learning experiences
  • Observe children and educator interaction and make suggestions on how to improve interactions and intentional teaching
  • Ensure the establishment of clear goals and expectations for teaching and learning.
  • Ensure the continuity of learning when children change room, attend other services, during the transition to school.
  • Work with other early childhood specialists such as maternal, child health nurses and early childhood intervention specialists.
  • Keep educators/families informed on how the service is progressing towards identified goals.
  • Use team meetings to reflect on current practices.

Educational Leaders Role During The Assessment and Rating Process

The Guide to the National Quality Framework (ACECQA, 2018, p. 306) provides examples of what assessors may observe, discuss or sight in the assessment and rating process in regard to the educational leader role. For example, they may observe the educational leader working with educators to build capacity and understanding about pedagogy and practice, including ways in which educators assess, reflect on and plan for children’s learning.

In addition, the assessor may discuss, for example:

  • how the service supports the educational leader to have opportunities for discussions with educators, provide mentoring, lead reflective practice, and realise the intent of their role
  • how the educational leader assists educators in promoting children’s learning and development and, when necessary, facilitating discussions with families
  • what strategies and processes the educational leader use to lead the development of effective programs within the service, and to ensure the planning cycle is implemented effectively.

To support the information collected, the assessor may also sight evidence of:

  • designation of the educational leader in the staff record
  • documentation of the educational leader providing feedback and guidance to educators about the assessment and planning cycle
  • reflective practice discussions that critically examine current practice and that lead to quality improvement

You have been chosen as the Educational Leader because you can coach, mentor and support your team on working together to achieve the best outcomes for children. This guide will hopefully inspire you in your role and provide you with strategies on how you can have a significant impact as the educational leader at your service.

References:
The Role of the Educational Leader, ACECQA
The Educational Leader, Early Childhood Australia
Guide To The NQS, ACECQA
The Educational Leader Resource.ACECQA

Last modified on Sunday, September 6, 2020
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