HM Inspectors of Schools have responsibilities which include raising and improving standards and quality of the service offered by settings through self-evaluation, and they do this by inspection of premises and the service these premises provide. They work within the National Care Standards, Scottish Executive (2006) which is underpinned by The Child at the Centre, HMIE (2007) and the performance indicators within. Part of their inspection includes looking at the overall leadership in the nursery setting and using government advice to rate the standards of leadership within the setting.
In the named Integrated Inspection Report, the opening statement comments: "The headteacher provided excellent leadership." HMIE, (2008) and this shows how this early years establishment has followed government expectations to build on good practice and deliver a professional, caring, quality service of education to children and parents who use this setting. HMIE's comments towards the headteacher's leadership reflect the performance indicators laid down in The Child at the Centre HMIE (2007) and these indicators expect settings to have standards of:
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9.1 Vision, values and aims
9.2 Leadership and Direction
9.3 Developing people and partnerships
9.4 Leadership and improvement and change
These performance indicators help settings to aim for excellent practice through leadership and self-evaluation and encourage professional reflection using the same themes as "How Good is our School" and" The Journey to Excellence" and are used to build plans and guide any actions for improvement there be. HMIE (2007)
Hay (1997) believes the successful running of a nursery setting relies on someone who portrays a combination of both management and leadership skills. Leadership qualities include being able to influence others to meet goals, not because the leader has asked them to do so but because they want to do it whereas management qualities would include the necessity to get things done constantly and routinely. Hodgkinson (1991) cited by Hay (1997)
I agree with Hay (1997) that a combination of skills are required for the efficient running of a nursery and in order for settings to reach the government expectations whilst carrying on with the daily routines, they would need to secure the help and shared focus from colleagues and this can be accomplished by effective leadership and teamwork. Effective teamwork can have a positive impact on the routines of daily life in the setting and if everyone in the team have the same shared focus and they are all engaging in professional reflection and self-evaluation of the quality of service they are providing, the quality of service will not be compromised.
Rodd (2006) believes good teamwork is important for meeting the requirements of early education settings and cites Ebbeck and Waniganayake (2003) comments of "building effective teams is fundamental to early childhood practice".
The headteacher in the report has shown how effective her leadership is by receiving positive comments of her leadership skills. I believe she has been able to achieve effective leadership through building and nurturing a high standard of teamwork within the practice. This was done by using her interpersonal skills of communication, motivation and inspiration, Rodd (2006) and by empowering her team to work with her with the same high standards and aim for the same objective she has succeeded in achieving "high-quality teamwork". HMIE (2008)
Rodd (2006) believes that this "human resource management" is typical of an early childhood leader and she cites Taylor's (2005) argument that a leader's own behaviour, their actions, beliefs and values, will determine how they are seen by their colleagues and how this behaviour will be rewarded. Leaders can determine whether or not their team will work with them or work against them and being a positive role model can help bring your team together and reach the objective.
It is clear in this report that this leader's direction allows her team to work alongside her as they all have the same commitment to the continuous improvement of their setting. This includes their own personal professional development and also relates to the performance indicator "9.3 Developing people and partnerships" HMIE (2007)
The report comments on how the staff in this setting have the opportunities to continue in their own development through training courses, leadership support and self-evaluation. Another key element of effective leadership is having the ability to allow the personal development of others and use this ability to improve the quality of the team and the service they provide. Rodd (2006)
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Performance Indicator 9.3, HMIE (2007) states how an important feature of effective leadership is to develop positive working relationships with others and to have the ability to delegate roles and responsibilities within the setting. This can be done through continuous development of staff and relates to the National Care Standards, Standard 12, Confidence in Staff, Scottish Executive (2006) where it states a setting "has an effective system for identifying and monitoring staff development needs".
Hay lists another of Hodgkinson's views of differences between manager and leader as managers being more "concerned with material resources" rather than human resources. The leader in this setting is highly involved with her team showing excellent human resource management by allowing each member of the team to develop through on-going training and personal development without impacting on daily routines and allowing team members to use their own individual abilities and talents to benefit the group. Through effective teamwork, leaders can share with her team knowledge and skills, provide support and helpful feedback and in return gain the trust and support of the group and continue to produce a high standard of service. Dawson (2000)
HMIE (2008) report that the staff in this setting "were fully involved in systematically reviewing, evaluating and improving the nursery." This positive involvement helps to produce the high quality service that this setting provides and also relates to Standard 14 of the National Care Standards, "Well managed Service". Scottish Executive (2006)
Effective leaders will work with the team, examine their setting and holistically reflect with a view to change or improvement. This reflection will include analysing individual actions, actions of the group or individuals, routines or policies and most importantly analysing if the children's learning experiences are adequate and can help an early years setting to move forward in terms of the quality of service provided. This setting does this through staff, children and parent involvement and they have received positive comments from HMIE.
Reflective practice also relates to The Child at the Centre, "9.4 Leadership and improvement and change" and the Codes of Practice for Social Service Workers and Employers. Staff in this setting are all registered with Scottish Social Services Council and work within the Codes of Practice, a list of statements describing professional conduct and practice expected within any setting.
I agree with Rodd and Hay that effective leadership requires individuals to be equipped with both management and leadership skills and qualities. The successful, efficient running of an early years setting requires leaders to be able to balance factors of work, legislation and quality in the setting with the commitment to look after the people they need and work with.