Issue 6 - Unpacking educational leadership in your service
One of the main responsibilities approved providers have in operating an education and care service is ensuring that an educational program is delivered to all children being educated and cared for by the service (s168).
An educational program is a program that:
- is based on an approved learning framework
- is delivered in a manner that adheres to the approved learning framework
- is based on the developmental needs, interests and experiences of each child
- designed to take into account the individual differences of each child (s168(2)).
Through the National Quality Framework (NQF), it is recognised that a quality educational program which builds on children’s individual knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and interests is likely to have long term benefits for children and for society. In all settings, the approved provider, nominated supervisor and educational leader are responsible for ensuring programs for all children are based on an approved learning framework and delivered in accordance with that framework. The framework includes principles, practices and learning outcomes that provide direction in planning, delivering and evaluating an educational program.
A learning outcome is a skill, knowledge or disposition that educators can actively promote in collaboration with children and families.
The approved learning frameworks in NSW are:
- Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia
- My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia
The Role of the Educational Leader
The educational leader holds an influential leadership position.
Educational leaders are integral to Quality Area 1 of the National Quality Standard (NQS), providing mentoring, guidance and support to educators in the delivery of a quality educational program. To do this effectively, educational leaders are expected to work collaboratively with educators, children and families to design programs relevant to children in their local context.
An educational leader demonstrates best practice by:
- ensuring children’s learning and development are guided by the approved learning frameworks
- supporting and mentoring educators in implementing the cycle of planning
- incorporating children’s diverse experiences, perspectives, expectations, knowledge and skills in the program
- empowering children to take a leading role in planning and delivering the program.
In addition to the standards and elements in Quality Area 1, the following are particularly relevant when thinking about the role of the educational leader:
- Element 4.2.1: Management, educators and staff work with mutual respect and collaboratively, and challenge and learn from each other, recognising each other’s strengths and skills.
- Element 4.2.2: Professional standards guide practice, interactions and relationships.
- Element 7.2.3: Educators, co-ordinators and staff members’ performance is regularly evaluated and individual plans are in place to support learning and development.
Selecting an Educational Leader
Approved providers are required to nominate a suitably qualified and experienced educator, co-ordinator or other individual as educational leader at the service to lead the development and implementation of educational programs in the service (Regulation 118).
In accordance with R118, approved providers are required to update the staff record to name the designated educational leader (R148).
You are encouraged to choose a person suited to the position, showing capability in the development of the educational program and able to establish clear goals and expectations for teaching and learning at the service.
Qualities of a suitably qualified educational leader might include:
- strong communication and interpersonal skills, and the ability to influence others
- an interest in early childhood theory and knowledge of the approved learning frameworks
- a commitment to ongoing learning through critical reflection and reflective practice
- a willingness to mentor and support educators from diverse backgrounds and varying levels of knowledge and experience
Supporting the Educational Leader
The importance of educational leadership is emphasised in Quality Area 7 of the NQS. Element 7.2.2 requires the educational leader be supported as they lead the implementation of the educational program.
Support could be provided to the educational leader in the form of:
- a clearly defined role description, including expectations, responsibilities and outcomes
- professional learning and development opportunities
- networking opportunities
- adequate resourcing, for example time off the floor
The Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework and the Educators’ Guide to the Framework for School Age Care are both excellent resources supporting educational leaders and educators in their delivery of educational programs.
Assessment and Rating
The role of educational leader is integral to Quality Area 1 and Quality Area 7 of the NQS.
As part of an assessment and rating visit, Authorised Officers (AO) may discuss how the educational leader supports the planning cycle within each age group, supports educators in positively guiding children’s behaviour, or encourages pedagogical practice within the service.
They might also sight documentation relevant to how the educational leader carries out the responsibilities of their role, for example documentation of the educational leader providing feedback and guidance to educators about the assessment and planning cycle. The AO may also observe how educators implement the educational program based on program planning documentation
The Guide to the National Quality Framework provides comprehensive examples of what the AO may observe, discuss and sight in collecting evidence at an assessment and rating visit.
The Educational Leader Resource
The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) recently developed The Educational Leader Resource. This resource aims to provide practical advice, research and reflections to guide and support new, experienced or future educational leaders, as well as approved providers.