Get to know your AO Susan Clark

Based on Awabakal country, Susan Clark, a Senior Field Officer in the Northern Metro team, shares her insights on Quality Area 7 with over 20 years experience supporting early childhood education and care in NSW.

With experience both working and then later supporting the early childhood education and care sector as an Authorised Officer, Sue shared her insights on Quality Area 7 and how effective governance and leadership through continuous improvement and innovation can create quality environments for children’s learning and development.

“Leadership is crucial in producing better outcomes for children, and leaders should promote continual learning and improvement among their team. It involves a commitment to understanding the principles of frameworks, ongoing reflection of practice and forward planning,” Sue said.

Over the past few years, Sue has observed a growing trend of early childhood practitioners demonstrating pedagogical leadership, including services working in partnership with universities and undertaking action research to develop curriculum and practice.

“What these services are doing is looking at what they do and then evaluating, reflecting, and collaborating to generate strategies to improve their practices. Some of their research is being published,” Sue said.

Sue considers a strong commitment to continuous improvement, self-reflection, being respectful, being good problem solvers and being honest as some of the fundamental elements of leadership.

“Good leadership acknowledges everyone: families, co-workers, community members. It's about taking a collaborative approach,” she said.

“Leaders should be good communicators, lead by example, be flexible and have an extensive knowledge of child development and pedagogy,” she said.

“One leadership quality that has become very relevant recently is innovation, thinking outside the box.”

Sue shared that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has observed changes to what effective leadership means, as services have been required to adapt to new needs and pressures to support the children, families and staff.

“Recently due to the pandemic, service leaders had to be innovative in their leadership and management,” Sue said.

“Leadership has come to encompass supporting the health and wellbeing of not only the children and their families, but your work colleagues as well.

“Educators, leaders and providers have shown during this demanding period their resilience and adaption to support their communities.”

One piece of advice Sue has for effective leadership and management during difficult periods is to keep coming back to the service’s philosophy.

“The statement of philosophy sets the foundation for a service’s decisions, practices, and policies,” Sue said.

"I would also encourage both service leaders and educators to also have a personal philosophy, tied back to the fact that first and foremost, we are here for the safety, education and development of these children.”

Image: Susan Clark
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