Aspiring Leaders Programme

In November 2014 Alice Lewes was commissioned to develop and deliver the London Early Years Foundation’s (LEYF)“Aspiring Leaders Programme”. Following a period of rapid growth, LEYF asked some very important questions of themselves:

What REALLY makes an impact of the quality care and education of the children in our early years setting?

According to Sir Michael Wilshire (Chief Inspector for Ofsted) the effective leadership and management of any early years setting has a dramatic impact on their results.

“Over recent years, we have seen major improvements in our education system. There are more children in good or outstanding provision now than ever before and standards are rising. We have a generation of inspiring leaders and it is their leadership and the hard work of staff that have brought about this change. Make no mistake, however: there is still a long way to go.”

Who wouldn’t want to be part of a winning leadership team?

That’s a very obvious question, with a very obvious answer – but how do we achieve this?

Working in early years is a uniquely challenging and demanding job. There is no down time; you are constantly working with others, be they children, carers, your team, outside agencies etc. Many of us progress into a management position because we are excellent child care workers, or we have been in our position for a number of years, so by default have ‘earned’ our promotion.

This can create a problem. The skills needed to lead and manage others are different. To be effective in our leadership and management role we need an extra set of skills – effective communication, a high level of emotional intelligence, empathy, patience, and much much more!

How has growth affected our leadership effectiveness?

LEYF’s growth over the last three years (now 38 settings), has been challenging and exciting, but potentially could have caused some issues. Where were our new leaders going to come from to lead these new settings? How would we ensure that our staff would maintain the quality that we were renowned for? How could we ensure that there was consistency in our leadership and management teams throughout the organisation?

The answer came after much consultation with our settings etc – we needed to develop our own leadership and management programme.

The course

Two cohorts completed the training in 2014, two more in 2015 and another group completed their training at the end of March 2016.

It would be an understatement to say that the programme has been a runaway success. All participants have achieved their ILM level 3 Award in Leadership and Management, but equally importantly, they have gone on to develop and thrive in their settings.

Participants have been very vocal regarding the impact that this programme has had on their practice. They have increased their confidence, are much more self reflective and report that they have developed an ability to empathize with others, which has enabled them to develop themselves and their team members. All report changes in behavior, more effective communication skills, increased levels of empathy etc.

The evidence is not only anecdotal. All of the participants have advanced in their positions. Three are now managers (having started with us at LEYF as apprentices), and two have recently been awarded an ‘Outstanding” Ofsted grading. Ofsted have recognized their leadership and management skills and this contributed to their ‘outstanding’ grade. Consequently, the children and families have benefited too.

In fact, LEYF won the Nursery Management Today Training and Development Award, in part due to the success and impact of the ‘Aspiring Leaders Programme’.

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