Last updated: August 19, 2019
Topic: EducationTeaching
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A Fundamental Understanding of Early Childhood Management and Leadership

This essay will be studying standard and current studies of leadership and management in early childhood setting. It will demonstrate an understanding and knowledge of the school’s management and leadership. This will be achieved by considering present situation and practice, relating decisions and references to my experience. It will also give a theoretical perspective, backed up by, for example, Rodd and McGregor, which may have an influence in the school, displaying and analysing this in relation to early childhood. The definition of management and leadership style describes it as a skill or ability, an action or behaviour; responsible management can be described as a process, an experience, an influencing relationship, a position of authority; a trait or characteristic; a style (Koza, 2010 and Daly et al, 2009). Management and leadership both involve deciding what needs to be done, creating networks of people and relationships that can accomplish an agenda and trying to ensure that those people actually get the job done (Daly et al, 2009). However, understanding leadership and management in the early childhood setting is a main objective and fundamental aspect of this essay. For example, developing future practitioner leaders is one of the greatest challenges faced by the nursery profession. Mahoney (2001) cited in Early Childhood Studies (2005) mentions that, powerful leadership skills are needed by all practitioners who also should provide support to those in top management positions. As a male worker in the setting, being involved in an activity or taking care of a child or being responsible for giving assistance to another practitioner, may mean I am considered as being a leader. The school is surrounded by world class learning institutions and opportunities, which act daily as the extended classrooms. The children are aged from 3 to 11 and are drawn from the neighbourhood very close to the school; the school works close partnership with parents and cares and have over 500 children. But the essay is in relationship with early years and in reception they have 40 children who are age between 3-5 years. The management and leadership structure at school that include duties, tasks and roles played by the manager including team building, conducting staff appraisals and supervision.

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This is firstly achieved by the head teacher who has overall responsibility for the school, its staff, its pupils and the education they receive; secondly, the deputy head teacher who plays a major role in managing the school, particularly in the absence of the head teacher; often responsible for a curriculum area and specific areas of school management; then the assistant head teacher who supports the head and deputy head with the management of the school; fourthly, the early year’s coordinator who is responsible for children in the foundation stage, leading the foundation team of teachers, nursery nurses and teaching assistants and then the special educational needs coordinator who has responsible for day-to-day provision for children with special educational needs; and finally the classroom teachers who plan, prepare and deliver lessons to meet the needs of all children, setting and marking work and recording pupil development as necessary. These are achieved by advanced skills teachers and supply teachers they also often work in partnership with teaching assistants. The management may have a formal structure as outlined here but any member of the team may show leadership when it comes to their own area of expertise. Thus, even though I am a student with no place on the management team, I am still encouraged to offer leadership in the organisation of various aspects of the curriculum such as the children’s play. As a practitioner at the school I like to engage in children’s play if I am invited, rather than just watching. This is in line with Cook (2001) cited in Leadership and Management in The Early Years (2008) who mentions that an early childcare leader is one who is involved in directing children’s play and not merely a series of skills or tasks; rather, it is an attitude that informs behaviour. I have realised that as a male worker it can be hard in working in a women dominated job. I do have different opinions in planning activities. For example, in the school I would play messy games like making a ‘mud man’ in which I would like everyone to participate. Rodd (1998) agrees that leadership in early years is strongly conditioned by gender and attitudes to management. She goes on to say that the culture of leadership and management in early years is influenced by the fact that most managers, in this setting, are women and women have a different approach to leadership from men (Nieto 2013, lecture notes/PowerPoint). However, I believe that good leadership requires greater performance with long term benefit to all involved. Jooste, (2004) cited in Early Childhood Studies (2005), agrees with the writer of this essay that, it really does not matter about gender or is not merely a matter of those who control others, but leaders need to be thinkers who help staff to plan, lead, control, and organise their activities in the school. Leadership has been defined in many ways in the literature. However, several features are common to most definitions. For example, through work practice I understand that leadership involves influence, usually occurs in a group setting, involves the attainment of a goal, and exists at all levels. I have recognised several leadership styles in practice. For example, with autocratic leaders end goals are made without permitting others to take part in the decision-making process levels. Adherence leadership occurs with stiff leader rigidly adhering to rules, regulations and policies. Counter to this is the participative leader whom allows staff to participate in decision-making, seeking out actively the participation of those involved.

Faugier and Woolnough, 2002 cited in Management Early Years Setting (2009) that this type of leadership concedes team members to feel a greater sense of commitment to the goals they were involved with formulating. ‘Leaving it alone or let it be’, leadership leaves employees to their own devices in meeting goals, a type of leadership with high risks. A more effective form of leadership may be situational leadership. Faugier and Woolnough, (2002) cited in Management Early Years Setting (2009) mention that this is where the leader would change styles of leadership which is most befitting to the situation at hand and according to the competence of the followers. This is more effective in practice (Faugier and Woolnough, 2002 cited in Management Early Years Setting, 2009). There is a difference between theory and style of leadership. Moiden (2002) cited in Managing in Early Childhood Classroom (2010), states that theory represents reality, whilst one can implement a theory of leadership in which things are said and done in many different styles of leadership. Hence why, organisations should aim for a leadership style that permits high levels of work performance, with low levels of disruption, in ample varied situational circumstances, in the most efficient manner (Moiden, 2002 cited in Managing in Early Childhood Classroom, 2010). Faugier and Woolnough, 2002 cited in Management Early Years Setting (2009) similarly mention that there is a difference between management and leadership. Managers plan, organise and control, while leaders communicate vision, motivate, inspire and empower in order to create organisational change. In further research in understanding of leadership and management, I came across the terms transactional and transformational.

Outhwaite (2003) cited in The Early Years (2008) that the definitions of transactional and transformational leadership as posited by Bass in 1990. Transactional leadership involves the skills required in the effective day to day running of a team. Hyett (2003) cited in Early Years Management in Practice (2009) mentions that transformational leadership focuses on the interpersonal processes between leaders and followers and is encouraged by empowerment. For example, as a leader I empowered a team member by allowing her to lead certain aspects of a child’s development and to plan an activity based on the children’s areas of expertise. According to Hyett (2003) cited in Early Years Management in Practice (2009) that this sort of empowerment will also encourage a working practitioner’s development of individual leadership skills. I have realised that when using a team approach to leadership, it is important to set boundaries, goals, accountability, and support for team members (Hyett, 2003 cited in Early Years Management in Practice, 2009). Personal qualities desirable in an early year’s manager’s leadership include competence, confidence, courage, collaboration, and creativity. A leader should be aware of the changing environment and make changes proactively. Moiden (2003) cited in Early Childhood classroom (2010) that leaders who show concern for the needs and objectives of staff members and are cognisant of the conditions affecting the work environment will encourage productivity. In doing this, it is important that a philosophy of productivity is established. Jooste (2004) cited in Early Childhood Studies (2005), asserts three things that are essential to leadership are power, authority and influence. Effective leaders of today should employ more influential tactics as a means rather than power and authoritative means. It is more important to be able to motivate, persuade, appreciate, and negotiate than to merely wield power. Three categories are cited by the author as being of influential for nursery leaders to use in creating a supportive care environment. These include modelling by example, building caring relationships, and mentoring by instruction (Jooste, 2004 cited in Early Childhood Studies, 2005). In addition, Jooste (2004) cited in Early Childhood Studies (2005), lists five practices fundamental to good leadership including inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, challenging processes, modelling, and encouraging. For example, I believe that I consider myself to be a leader and this may challenge others to act by recognising contributions and by fostering collaboration.

Recognising contributions also serves to encourage employees in their work. I also believe that in a team, it is important to focus away from being a leader and more towards the team as a whole (Jooste, 2004 cited in Early Childhood Studies, 2005). Hyett (2003) cited in Early Years Management in Practice (2009) that management often focuses on the volume of services provided, leading to loss of self-esteem and dependence, causing workers to become disruptive, or to leave the organisation. The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, Managers must ensure that the children in their care benefit from a carefully planned, inclusive environment that reflects national expectations and meets their development needs. For example, at the school staffs understand the development of children which reflects in their practice and leads to having children want to learn. Managers should have knowledge of the works of theorists such as Piaget or Vygotsky in relationship to understanding the ways children learn. For early years managers there are training opportunities in Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships in all areas that support them with certain aspects of work; for example the local further education college or training agencies (Macleod and Kay, 2008). As Rodd (2012) mention, being a manager of an early year’s setting is not an easy task. As a room leader I believe that you must have a cohesive team for it to work (Nieto, 2013 lectures notes/PowerPoint). Rodd and McGregor both agree that, a manager cannot do it alone and they need to ensure that they are working with their team to create the right kind of atmosphere for cohesiveness.

Through experience in leadership I believe managers should have knowledge of early years, their own style and be aware of the importance of creating an image within the school. Having a good team that agrees with this and shares the same attitude will set standards for other schools (Nieto, 2013 lectures notes/PowerPoint). Management, McGregor (1967) claimed, may assume that humans naturally want to grow and achieve, take responsibility, and care about their jobs or, management may assume that most humans are passive, dependent and lazy. Managers believing the first assumption, which McGregor labelled theory Y, will behave differently than those believing the second, theory X. Those accepting theory X will create externally controlled environments, with close supervision. The experience of my school setting, suggests that managers there subscribe to theory Y because practitioners there are encouraged take responsibility and care about their jobs (Nieto, 2013 lectures notes/PowerPoint). Nursery leaders must work within the ever-so constant changes that occur and the new challenges that are produced by the early year childhood environment (Jooste, 2004 cited in Early Childhood Studies, 2005). A defining leader is one is able to produce extraordinary things while being faced with challenges and change (Jooste, 2004 cited in Early Childhood Studies, 2005). In the past management took a direct, hierarchical approach to leadership, however, the time has arisen for a leadership style that is better and includes encouragement, listening and facilitating (Hyett, 2003 cited in Early Years Management in Practice, 2009). Hyett (2003) cited in Early Years Management in Practice, 2009: 231) cites Yoder-Wise (1999) as defining leadership as “the ability to create new systems and methods to accomplish a desired vision”.

Today, my belief is that anyone can be a leader. It is a position which consists of a set of skills and practises which can be learnt. It is imperative that all early year’s managers display leadership skills such as adaptability, self-confidence, and judgement in the provision of childcare (Hyett, 2003 cited in Early Years Management in Practice, 2009). The expectation is that early year’s manager’s lead care, and that they are able to move between leading and following frequently (Hyett, 2003 cited in Early Years Management in Practice, 2009).

In conclusion, the essay has provided the opportunity to consider the role of management and leadership in the early years setting. By successful current theories of management and leadership; such as Outhwaite (2003), Jooste and McGregor (1967) considering how these relate to the practice in my own school a number of parts have become apparent. I have realised that there is a difference between management and leadership. As suggested by Faugier and Woolnough (2002) and that this applies to the relaxed leadership style of my school where managers plan and organise but allow the rest of the team scope to communicate vision and empower others. This empowerment as Hyett (2003)
notes is helpful in team building. Finally, Jooste’s (2004) view that influence is more important than authority and power would appear to be the philosophy of management in my particular setting and I fell that this is probably the most effective approach to management and leadership in the early childhood setting.