6th May 2024 Early Years Foundation Stage All Posts

Unlocking Your Setting’s Potential: Leadership & Management in the EYFS

Guest blog: Jamie Victoria, The Childcare Guru

What do leaders and managers need to know about the EYFS?

Effective leadership and management are essential to unlocking the full potential our early years settings have to offer. The success and growth of any organisation depend on how it is led and managed, no matter the industry! In this blog article, I will go over the key ingredients needed to flourish, bring out the best in your team & drive the overall success of your early years setting. We will also cover what Ofsted want to see, as leadership and management are graded as part of the inspection process. 

An effective leader is a present one. You can be present and involved while giving your team responsibility and ownership of their roles. Present leaders can role model, inspire, listen, understand and support more effectively. If you can see first-hand what is happening, listen to staff and children and be involved and present then you can build more trust and confidence with your team. Leaders who only show up to make changes or when something is not ‘going right’ cause friction and distrust amongst team members. There is a fine balance but getting this right is crucial in how your team views you, how you build trust and the success of your setting. 

So, what are those ‘key’ ingredients for success and effective leadership and management?

I believe that those who are effective leaders hold most, if not all of these qualities…

  1. Ambitious & have a clear vision
  2. Inspiring 
  3. Supportive
  4. Effective communicators 
  5. Positive role models
  6. Knowledgeable 
  7. Able to delegate
  8. Present & involved
  9. Resilient
  10. Confident 
  11. Creative
  12. Empathetic  
  13. Passionate 

Now I’m not saying you have to have all of these qualities or be able to deliver these all of the time! That would not be realistic or possible… We are only human and we make mistakes and have good days and bad days. But showing up, trying our best and being courageous enough to fail and learn is incredibly important. 

In early years, we nurture the children, teach them, guide them, provide them with opportunities and experiences, and encourage their independence, we know that if they don’t understand something we change our style of teaching… Well, we need to apply these thought processes to our staff team too! Our children can learn effectively when they feel safe, and secure and have built up trust… Well, the same goes for our staff too! 

In early years settings like nurseries, leadership takes various forms, from room supervisors to nursery managers. Strong leadership ensures that everyone, from apprentices to seasoned nursery nurses, receives the guidance and support they need to thrive.

What do leaders and managers need to know about the EYFS?

The EYFS is your go-to! If you have not already seen my blog breaking down the EYFS, you can find it here. It is SO important that you know and understand the EYFS, as you must be following it by law. You need to make sure you understand your legal obligations as a leader… for example, did you know you must report significant events to Ofsted within 14 days of them happening? And failure to do so commits an offence and Ofsted could take enforcement action depending on the impact. Significant events include injuries, accidents, incidents, changes to managers or directors, changes to health, safeguarding and more… a full breakdown can be found in the EYFS and via this guidance. There is so much in the EYFS and it links to lots more guidance in the text and footnotes, so don’t skip past them! 

Ofsted must ensure that providers are meeting the requirements of the EYFS, so make sure you are and if you’re not sure, seek help from your local authority or an early years specialist who can advise you. You don’t want to be let down by a requirement in the EYFS not being met properly because you didn’t realise or understand, don’t be afraid to ask for support! 

Leadership and management judgement on Ofsted inspections

During inspections, Ofsted will be exploring leadership and management and will make a judgement on this area as part of the inspection process. If you have not already, I urge you to read the Early Years Inspection Handbook and look at the criteria under each judgement area to see what is required to be judged ‘good’.  Remember that in order to be outstanding a setting must meet all the good criteria and all of the outstanding criteria in every area. The handbook is a brilliant resource to allow you to see where you might be currently sitting if you were to be inspected and give you an idea of what areas you might need to work on – a very helpful reflective tool!

Here’s an example of one of the points under the ‘good’ criteria for leadership & management: 

Leaders engage with their staff and are aware of the main pressures on them. They are realistic and constructive in the way they manage staff. including their workload, to avoid any unnecessary burdens.” – Paragraph 205, Early Years Inspection Handbook 2024.

Have you got examples of how you can demonstrate that you do this? And will your staff agree that you do too? An inspector could ask them and you and will want to see consistency in the answers given. 

During the inspection process, there are activities that leaders and managers will take part in, for instance, a joint observation. The purpose of this is to not only monitor some of the quality of teaching but also for the inspector to understand how leaders and managers evaluate their setting and can review and support staff teaching. Do you have current processes for evaluating and supporting staff teaching? Observations? This joint observation activity is a good example for you to showcase to the inspector how you evaluate staff teaching through your typical processes and demonstrate your effective leadership. 

Other inspection activities include a leadership and management meeting to go over more leadership-focused topics, review some paperwork, check necessary documentation and explore any particular areas that have come up on inspection. What an inspector reviews and discusses will vary from inspection to inspection, but you can expect them to ask if you have had any complaints and to review these, discuss supervision sessions with you, understand how you evaluate your whole setting and support staff wellbeing and workload as a few common examples. For more information refer to the inspection handbook or check out my ‘what to expect’ inspection support training session. 

My biggest piece of advice is to reflect, review, be ambitious and ensure you are meeting all the requirements of the EYFS. And on your inspection day, use it as an opportunity to shine and showcase all the amazing things you do! You get one opportunity, so go for it! 

Bring out the best in your team

Navigating the strengths of each of your team members and supporting them will bring out the best in each person. By hearing their views, giving them confidence and being able to support, nurture and guide them is key for you as a leader. Ensure you find quality time to be present in some of the day-to-day and streamline your office tasks so you are not overburdened with endless paperwork, it’s easy to fall into that trap but with clear organisation, prioritising and delegating it can be possible! 

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John Maxwell

Top tips

1 – If you are struggling, get support! It’s not a weakness but a strength, we all get lost from time-to-time and need guidance ourselves, we are all always learning! Remember every incredible athlete has a coach and that principle applies to all careers!

2 – Check the Early Years Inspection Handbook and review the judgement criteria so you can understand where you sit. 

3 – Use your evaluation tools during the joint observation activity on an inspection, to showcase your effective leadership and evaluation skills. 

4 – Download my free ‘what is teaching’ resource to help you evaluate and support your staff to fully understand what goes into teaching!

5 – Make notes on everything you want an inspector to know about at your setting, a short page of notes to remind you and help you to show off! Having this can ease the pressure of remembering everything you want to tell them. 

6 – Be present, listen to your staff, involve them and build their confidence! 

If you need more support, please feel free to reach out by email info@thechildcareguru.co.uk or join my monthly membership programme for leaders and managers here to receive expert support and advice in a welcoming community!

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About the Author

Jamie, aka The Childcare Guru, brings 15 years of Early Years expertise, including roles as Nursery Manager, Forest School Manager, Deputy Head, and Ofsted Inspector. With a passion for supporting the early years community, Jamie is now a consultant, author, and trainer, dedicated to creating exceptional experiences for young children since 2018.