What is an Educational Leader?
In 2012, the Australian early childhood professional was offered its very first National Quality Framework which set out an overview for working with children in early childhood centres, out-of-school hours care and family daycare. There are learning frameworks for each, and at Mother Duck, we follow the Early Years Learning Framework: Being, Belonging, Becoming.
The introduction of the National Quality Framework also set out a number of new initiatives for roles within education and care settings and one of the important new roles was that of the Educational Leader.
According to the body that oversees the National Quality Framework (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority), the role of the Educational Leader (EL) is to:
- collaborate with educators and provide curriculum direction and guidance
- support educators to effectively implement the cycle of planning to enhance programs and practices
- lead the development and implementation of an effective educational program in the service
- ensure children’s learning and development are guided by the learning outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework and/or the Framework for School Age Care or other approved learning frameworks (ACECQA,2021).
What does Mother Duck do differently?
It is quite common for Educational Leaders in early childhood settings to also be responsible for a group of children, often combining the role of EL with that of being a Kindergarten Teacher or a Lead Educator. It is not uncommon for an EL to have only 2 hours a week to support all of the other educators with curriculum mentoring and support, plus directly work with up to 24 children every day. This makes it very hard to achieve high-quality experiences for children, educators, and families.
In 2015, Mother Duck began to re-evaluate its approach to the role of Educational Leader to ensure that our educators were being offered the highest quality curriculum direction and guidance that we could offer. So, we began to shift the role into that of a full time ‘non-contact’ (meaning not being directly responsible for a group of children) mentor who focuses only on her role of Educational Leader. This year (2021) sees us finally having all 10 Educational Leaders across the Mother Duck community all working solely in their capacity of Educational Leader. We see this investment and commitment to the role of EL as a game-changer for our group but also demonstrates strong leadership for our professional community.
The group of Educational Leaders work closely with our Chief Curriculum Officer, Dr Deborah Harcourt and our CEO, Karen Prestedge. They meet once a month as a team to discuss and debate possible curriculum innovations, new strategies that are working, documentation guidelines and focus on deepening their underdoing of child development and learning. Deborah also works with each centre directly to support the Educational Leader in her role as mentor and help guide each studio with their curriculum work.
So, what changes have we seen?
Many of you will have noticed that we firstly focused on the way in which we welcomed children and their families to our centres. The Educational Leaders were first invited to focus on their ‘front doorstep’, to reflect on how children might feel when they first enter the centre. We wanted to make sure children felt welcomed and had a strong sense that this was a place for them, one that connects them with their learning community, but also the world around them. You will notice things like real furniture, real tea sets, real musical instruments – all helping children make connections to the real world.
It is the Educational Leader’s job to help our Educators understand the WHY behind these types of changes.
In addition, the Educational Leaders are supporting our Educators in each studio to focus on developing a greater understanding of children’s learning and development. We see children as capable and competent learners who have the potential to become experts with many different materials and resources as they progress from our Infant Studios through to our Kindergarten Studios. For example, the ELs have helped all of the studios to implement clay experiences for all children, right from our Infant Studios. They use photographs and observations at their weekly professional conversations with studio teams, such as these:
Educational Leaders are also responsible for guiding and supporting the development of the environment in each of the studios. We often hear that “Environment are the third teacher”, but in order for that to happen, the ELs must assist our teams to think carefully about what is being offered, why it is being offered, and how it is being offered to ensure children are understanding the intention of the resource and the educators understand the expectations of the resource.
So, as you can see the role of Educational Leader is critical for the quality of each of our centres, critical for the early childhood profession to learn more about children, childhood, and professional practice, and critical in sharing teaching and learning with the broader community.
Dr. Deborah Harcourt
Chief Curriculum Officer
Mother Duck Childcare and Preschool