Leadership At All Levels
Highly effective leadership is essential to ensure high quality practice which meets the needs of our children and young people. ELC professionals at every level, and in all forms of ELC provision including childminders, have a role to play in this.
Whether you are responsible for heading up a setting, managing a team, or supporting the development of the children in your setting, it is important that you have a clear recognition of what is meant by ‘highly effective leadership’, what this looks like in practice for you and your setting, and how it can be continuously improved.
We know that when an organisation supports a culture for the development of leadership at all levels - often referred to as distributed leadership - outcomes for people who use services are improved. By enhancing your leadership knowledge and skills, you can empower your colleagues and work more effectively to support positive life outcomes for children and their families. Strong leaders are able to build and sustain relationships, encourage and motivate staff, improve understanding and skills sets, confidently manage change, and much more.
This section of the resource has been developed specifically to aid those staff at the early stages of the leadership journey; to guide you in recognising leadership qualities in the workplace and to support best practice day to day. Separate guidance is also currently being developed for those ELC professionals looking to progress or refresh their skills and knowledge.
Whilst managerial responsibilities relate to the operational implementation and maintenance of practices and systems, leadership is enabling yourself – and supporting others - to enhance abilities to achieve goals. In ELC, this means creating and being part of a culture where professionals deliver improved outcomes for children and their families.
Scotland’s national registration body for the social services workforce, the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), notes that social services including ELC need effective leadership at all levels. Individuals must commit to continuously develop their own leadership skills and capability, while employers must ensure their organisations develop a supportive organisational culture where individuals can use and enhance their leadership skills. This includes empowering people working in and using social services, and encouraging professional autonomy, creativity, measured risk-taking and initiative. To support the sector in meeting this need, the SSSC has identified 6 key leadership capabilities.
In addition, the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) Professional Standards define leadership as the ability to:
- develop a vision for change which leads to improvements in outcomes for learners, and is based on shared values and robust evaluation of evidence of current practice and outcomes; and
- mobilise, enable and support others to develop and follow through on strategies for achieving that change.
There are many different approaches, tools and resources to support leadership development in both the ELC and teaching sectors- and indeed across numerous professional sectors. Much of this is applicable to multiple professions and can be transferred and applied to a range of roles. It is open to you to choose whichever pathway, tools and resources you find most helpful for you on your leadership journey.
Equally there are many different types and styles of leadership, and you will recognise which elements of your knowledge and practice to develop to best meet the needs of the children within your setting.
Key Capabilities and Attributes
To help professionals recognise the key elements considered as central to strong leadership the SSSC has defined the following 6 key leadership capabilities:
vision, creativity & innovation, self-leadership,
collaboration & influencing, motivation & inspiring, empowering
There are a range of behaviours and actions which can demonstrate these capabilities. Familiarising yourself with them will help you to recognise the key elements of a strong leader, and assist you in reflecting on your existing skills and knowledge. Demonstrating highly effective leadership might not relate to a grand project, but may instead be part of your day to day practice. Here are some examples:
- Using your initiative to support individuals and families to achieve their goals
- Inspiring colleagues to think differently
- Supporting others to learn and develop.
Leadership skills are necessary at all levels of practice, and should be developed continuously. Here is a real-life case study showing how one ELC professional utilises her leadership capabilities to improve practice and achieve positive outcomes:
Gemma Paterson – Equity and Excellence Lead in Grangemouth
“I’ve been in the role of Equity and Excellence Lead in Falkirk (called Early Years Pedagogue locally) since August 2018. My role is focused on supporting the least advantaged children. The Equity and Excellence Lead post enables me to take this to another level by using research and improvement science to capture and develop areas of high-quality practice. It’s these initiatives and policies that can really impact our wee people, ensuring they have the best start in life.
As part of the role, I’ve undertaken the Scottish Coaching Leadership and Improvement Programme (SCLIP). The course provided insight on improvement science, specifically how this could be applied to research within my setting and covers a range of topics such as data analysis, coaching teams and developing leadership methodology, all of which I use every day. As we implement improvement science, it’s important we are creative with our approaches and remember each child has different needs.
I am extremely lucky to work with an amazing team of enthusiastic and committed practitioners and we work collaboratively to ensure our wee people’s early experiences are of the highest quality. Each day is different; some are spent working with practitioners on projects such as ‘Marvellous Mealtimes’ – developing personal interests and introducing health and wellbeing approaches, all of which allow me to experience my favourite part of the role; seeing each child’s creativity shine in their own unique way. I enjoy working with children and their families to develop trusting and respectful relationships to create a platform to help address the attainment gap.
The role allows me to be innovative, take chances and empower my colleagues; all factors that will help close the attainment gap.”
A further illustration of the types of attributes and other factors that might be found in a strong leader in ELC, can be found in the (SSSC) Leadership Logic Model, detailed on page 21.
Evaluating and Improving Leadership
Self-evaluation for self-improvement underpins the Scottish approach to quality assurance of all aspects of provision in Scottish education. There are a range of tools and resources to help you develop as a critically reflective practice practitioner and leader.
Realising the Ambition: Being Me is the national practice guidance document for early years provision in Scotland. It draws together key messages about children’s learning and development, aspects of important research and good practice all in one accessible document. Section 5 includes information on pedagogical leadership and Section 7 has a particular focus on ensuring high quality services for children. However all sections will be useful to you in your work within ELC.
How Good is Our Early Learning and Childcare? (HGIOELC?) is a key tool to support you, and your team, to reflect on and continuously improve your work. The framework includes a range of quality indicators that are designed to support you to look closely at different aspects of your practice, including leadership and management. By taking time to reflect on and plan for improvements you will be able to understand and celebrate what you do well, and what you could do to improve your practice.
Education Scotland is the Scottish Government executive agency that supports quality and improvement across all areas of Scottish education. It provides advice and guidance to support improvement through partnership working, professional learning and access to resources on their website. In settings that provide funded ELC Education Scotland inspects the quality of provision for children. Education Scotland uses HGIOELC? to assess and report on the quality of funded ELC settings.
The Care Inspectorate is the official body responsible for inspecting standards and supporting improvement of care in Scotland. Under the Public Service Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 the Care Inspectorate has responsibility to regulate and inspect care services including all daycare of children’s services to ensure the provision of high quality experiences that supports positive outcomes for children and families.
The Care Inspectorate’s draft quality framework for daycare of children, childminding and school aged childcare includes - Key question 3: ‘How good is our leadership?’ (page 43) - outlines the key indicators of leadership which will help you to recognise and measure effectiveness, and in turn, support you to evaluate your own performance. Until the new framework is finalised, the Care Inspectorate will continue to measure effective leadership through the Quality of Management and Leadership.
The Quality Framework is designed to support care services in self-evaluation and will be used by the Care Inspectorate during inspection. The Care Inspectorate will work with ELC services and sector-wide bodies to build the capacity for self-evaluation, based on the framework. Self-evaluation is a core part of assuring quality and supporting improvement. Understanding how well your service is performing should help you see what is working well and what needs to be improved. From that, you should be able to develop plans for improvement based on effective practice, guidance, research, testing and available improvement support.
Care Inspectorate inspectors will use the framework to evaluate the service performance, using the quality illustrations to identify any areas for improvement needed in the experiences and outcomes for children. A guide to the frequently asked questions about the Quality Framework will be available on the Care Inspectorate website. This should help you see how the Quality Framework will work in practice and how it aligns with other resources.
A ‘scrutiny & improvement toolbox’ is also provided to help identify key improvement resources in evaluating current leadership capacity, and how best to further develop leadership skills and knowledge. This includes resources such as Self-evaluation for improvement - your guide. In addition, bitesized learning sessions are provided to support you in respect of self-evaluation: https://hub.careinspectorate.com/how-we-support-improvement/care-inspectorate-programmes-and-publications/early-learning-and-childcare-improvement-programme/
The SSSC provides a free, interactive resource - ‘Step Into Leadership’ – as a package of leadership focused learning resources and tools. These are aligned to each of the 6 capabilities, and in addition provides a ‘Pathway Planner’. This includes a 360* self-evaluation to support you in assessing your leadership capability strengths, and identifying your priorities and areas for development. There are links to information on different theories and styles, as well as a wide range of examples of effective practice.
The SSSC also provides a ‘23 Things Leadership’ resource, which includes bite-size pieces of learning and allows you to customise your learning experience according to your needs and interests. Open badges are awarded for each of these optional learning components - and you can access as few or as many as you like, whenever it suits you.
In addition to the resources referenced in the framework, there are a range of further resources available to support you into - and through – your leadership journey. Videos and case studies, guidance and continued professional learning opportunities are all available, and further information can be found in the ELC Leadership Resources reference tool: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/learning-resources/leadership-and-management-development-toolkit-for-elc-staff
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