A project approach to supporting leadership of high quality childcare for funded two year old children and their families.

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Early Years

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

This project was part funded through the National Children’s Bureau Sector Specialist Peer Support Programme.

Local authority/local area:

Kirklees Council

The context and rationale:

The project was conceived as a way to support the local authority in the pilot phase of providing targeted Free Early Education and Care to two year old children.  Kirklees has a very large number of eligible two year olds that it needs to place in quality childcare. The idea came from linking this emerging priority with the opportunity to lead a group of graduate leaders in a creative and responsive manner in a way that connected the quality, sufficiency and early intervention agendas. 

The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) had invited bids for sector specialist support in various areas including early years. The Early Years Professional (EYP) network and funding was also under new management.  There was a need both to raise the profile of this leadership group and to know that the authority had examples of good practice regarding two year old provision.   An opportunity was seized to place a bid that would support EYPs as ‘leaders of practice’ with particular emphasis on provision for two year olds, whilst also providing the local authority with a group of skilled and knowledgeable practitioners that would be a potential resource.   

The project ran over one financial year and consisted of ten funded continuous professional development days based on various aspects of leadership and practice.   Half of these were led by the NCB sector specialist and the other half were led directly by the local authority or through commissioned training.  There were twenty participants in the project and approximately two hundred and fifty children and families have benefited from it.

Throughout the year, the group identified aspects of practice that they wanted to improve and produced action plans for their leadership of others and their setting-based changes.  The over-riding hallmark of the project was reflection both on and in practice and this led to many pivotal discussions and changes along the way.  Action plans, records and journals were used to produce case studies which were presented at a symposium conference attended by the Director of Children and Families.  These were also published as a dossier of case studies as a resource for leaders, managers and practitioners.  Many of the case studies had central themes such as communication, parental partnership, and child development running through them.

Knowledge Base

In 2012, the Nutbrown Review was published and also the ‘Longitudinal Survey of Early Years Professional Status’, (2012).  There have been many studies debating early childhood leadership and the role of the EYP such as Osgood (2010) on ‘deconstructing professionalism’, Simpson (2010) on debating the EYP role, and Dali (2008) on a ground-up perspective of professionalism.

There were also a number of past publications emphasising the importance of quality provision, training and workforce development such as the Tickell Review (2010) and EPPE (1997-2003) and the importance of early intervention such as the Frank Field Report (2010).  These studies all set the scene in researching the project and were used to produce an initial questionnaire at the start of the project.  Some of the initial questions were returned to later in the impact section. 

The questionnaire was distributed to four local authorities through a sector specialist.   The findings showed there was less confidence in working with vulnerable families, and an overwhelming perception that parents did not understand the role of the EYP.

In Kirklees, a higher than average percentage of EYPs were managers which made engagement in the project easier in many ways. However, the role of ‘leader of practice’ harder due to time and workload constraints.

It was also known that most EYPs worked in preschool rooms rather than with younger children. This was mirrored in the Longitudinal Survey (2012).   Planning a project that extended the leadership and pedagogical skills of our EYPs to two year olds therefore seemed a logical step to take.

The project rationale

The LA would contribute by:

  • Supporting the development of the childcare workforce;
  • Supporting effective delivery of EYFS;
  • Supporting EYPs to work with vulnerable families;
  • Developing capabilities of EYPs as ‘leaders of practice’ to develop others to work with two year olds and their families.

The EYPs would contribute towards:

  • Reducing inequalities;
  • Raising achievement of vulnerable groups;
  • Maintaining high quality Early Years Education and Care.

Specific aims

To ensure high quality provision for learning, and the development of two year olds. 

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