Promising practice details


C4EO theme: Early Years

A project approach to supporting leadership of high quality childcare for funded two year old children and their families, Kirklees.

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Early Years
  • General resources

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

    Basic details

    Organisation submitting example

    Kirklees Council (This project was part funded through the National Children’s Bureau Sector Specialist Peer Support Programme)

    Local authority/local area:

    Kirklees Council


    The context and rationale

    Background details to your example

    A project conceived as a way to support the local authority in the pilot phase of providing targeted Free Early Education and Care to two year old children.

    Description and background for the idea
    Kirklees has a very large number of eligible two year olds that it needs to place in quality childcare. The idea came from linking this emerging priority with the opportunity to lead a group of graduate leaders in a creative and responsive manner in a way that connected the quality, sufficiency and early intervention agendas.

    The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) had invited bids for sector specialist support in various areas including early years. The Early Years Professional (EYP) network and funding was also under new management. There was a need both to raise the profile of this leadership group and to know that the authority had examples of good practice regarding two year old provision. An opportunity was seized to place a bid that would support EYPs as ‘leaders of practice’ with particular emphasis on provision for two year olds, whilst also providing the local authority with a group of skilled and knowledgeable practitioners that would be a potential resource.

    The project ran over one financial year and consisted of ten funded continuous professional development days based on various aspects of leadership and practice. Half of these were led by the NCB sector specialist and the other half were led directly by the local authority or through commissioned training. There were twenty participants in the project and approximately two hundred and fifty children and families have benefited from it.

    Throughout the year, the group identified aspects of practice that they wanted to improve and produced action plans for their leadership of others and their setting-based changes. The over-riding hallmark of the project was reflection both on and in practice and this led to many pivotal discussions and changes along the way. Action plans, records and journals were used to produce case studies which were presented at a symposium conference attended by the Director of Children and Families. These were also published as a dossier of case studies as a resource for leaders, managers and practitioners. Many of the case studies had central themes such as communication, parental partnership, and child development running through them.

    Knowledge base
    In 2012, the Nutbrown Review was published and also the ‘Longitudinal Survey of Early Years Professional Status’, (2012). There have been many studies debating early childhood leadership and the role of the EYP such as Osgood (2010) on ‘deconstructing professionalism’, Simpson (2010) on debating the EYP role, and Dali (2008) on a ground-up perspective of professionalism.

    There were also a number of past publications emphasising the importance of quality provision, training and workforce development such as the Tickell Review (2010) and EPPE (1997-2003) and the importance of early intervention such as the Frank Field Report (2010). These studies all set the scene in researching the project and were used to produce an initial questionnaire at the start of the project. Some of the initial questions were returned to later in the impact section.

    The questionnaire was distributed to four local authorities through a sector specialist. The findings showed there was less confidence in working with vulnerable families, and an overwhelming perception that parents did not understand the role of the EYP.

    In Kirklees, a higher than average percentage of EYPs were managers which made engagement in the project easier in many ways. However, the role of ‘leader of practice’ harder due to time and workload constraints.

    It was also known that most EYPs worked in preschool rooms rather than with younger children. This was mirrored in the Longitudinal Survey (2012). Planning a project that extended the leadership and pedagogical skills of our EYPs to two year olds therefore seemed a logical step to take.

    The Project Rationale
    The LA would contribute by:
    • Supporting the development of the childcare workforce;
    • Supporting effective delivery of EYFS;
    • Supporting EYPs to work with vulnerable families;
    • Developing capabilities of EYPs as ‘leaders of practice’ to develop others to work with two year olds and their families.

    The EYPs would contribute towards:
    • Reducing inequalities;
    • Raising achievement of vulnerable groups;
    • Maintaining high quality Early Years Education and Care.

    Specific Aims
    • To ensure high quality provision for learning, and the development of two year olds.
    • To develop the skills of EYP leadership including mentor/coach, reflective practitioner and change agent.
    • EYPs to demonstrate through a case study presentation how they have raised the quality of their provision for two yr olds through their specialist role.
    • EYPs to present examples of how they have developed as a leader of practice within their setting.

    From the outset, it was known that the impact from the project would be very individual within settings. Therefore, developing a case study approach seemed the most appropriate method. In this way other practitioners could benefit from lessons learned, and ideas for working with adults and children in order to improve their own leadership, practice or to request future support.


    The practice

    Further details about the practice

    Further details about the practice are outlined below.

    1. The project proposal was put to service managers for approval and funding was agreed.
    2. A bid was placed with NCB for the sector support through the Peer to Peer project.
    3. The sector specialist and project facilitator (LA Early Learning Consultant) presented the opportunity at the newly established EYP network.
    4. Interested settings were invited to fill out an agreement for funding and accept the project outline and proposals.
    5. The sector specialist and facilitator planned the continuous professional development days and an outline of content under the two strands of developing leadership and improving provision and practice for disadvantaged two year olds in childcare settings. The bid, included seven days of specialist time to plan CPD, deliver, and prepare for the symposium.
    6. The programme started in June with CPD days running at intervals until the end of 2012. The CPD included:
    - Coaching and Mentoring (NCB)
    - Effective supervision (commissioned)
    - ‘The Reflective Practitioner’ Day 1 and Day 2 (commissioned)
    - ‘Parents in Education and Learning’ training (NCB)
    - Enabling Environments for Two Year Olds (Local Authority)
    - Quality Provision for Two Year Olds (NCB pilot)
    - Attendance at the Symposium and one writing day.
    7. EYPs were required to consider change actions over the summer and to submit an action plan.
    8. In January 2013 EYPs started to write up case studies. These were supported by two Early Learning Consultants.
    9. In March 2013 a symposium celebrated the change projects through presentations and a dossier of case study materials for distribution in the Local Authority. Other EYPs and setting managers offering free two year old funding were invited as well as contacts from other Local Authorities
    10. As the financial year closes, there is now a workforce group of EYPs and a written resource that can potentially support other providers offering two year old funding. Training can now be provided for a) early years’ leadership and b) EYFS provision for two year olds.


    Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

    Evidencing your practice has made a difference to children, young people and families

    The difference it has made

    Fig 1

    The project has had a significant impact both in raising the confidence of the EYPs and staff. This is an overwhelming theme that emerged from the case studies. The CPD offered knowledge and ideas, and challenged thinking and personal assumptions that has changed the perspective of many practitioners.

    Fig 2

    EYPs and staff have worked more closely with parents through one-to-one engagement, consultations and meetings. As a result there is a marked increase in understanding as a result. Not only this, many case studies provide qualitative evidence to show that much deeper relationships have been formed, as well as higher levels of parental engagement.

    Fig 3

    Although EYP confidence rose, the highest score was for raising staff confidence (which is supported below). The EYPs felt they had significantly demonstrated impact in raising children’s wellbeing and achievement, and staff relationships with parents.

    Fig 4

    Themes running through the qualitative data had been identified and this showed that there had been a noticeable shift from leading practice personally, to empowering, training and supporting practitioners within their settings.

    Some of the most significant impact has been at an individual setting level, where reflective practice and leadership has had a great impact on parents and children. The case study dossier demonstrates this qualitative impact and feedback from parents and staff. A very small sample of this qualitative data is set out under Council and Local Authority priorities in Figure 5 below.

    Fig 5

    Language development and home learning
    The setting obtained an average score of 6.2 for the ITERS audit. 50% more parents of two year olds are now reading and singing more with their children due to the take home resources.

    Through informal chat with parents many of them had used the nursery rhyme resources at home with their children, some parents had also learnt the words themselves. Parents left various comments regarding the day’s activities:
    ‘Me and my child enjoyed guessing what was in the boxes’
    ‘My child enjoyed listening to the sound and matching it to the picture’.

    Multi-agency working
    It was useful for me to work with other professionals and learn from their experiences. The Health visitor mentioned in CAF meeting, “I am so pleased that children are with you now. I noticed during home visit, children started to understand English. (Childminder with SEN child)

    Fig 6

    EYFS achievement
    In November staff could accurately place statements from the EYFS with between 32% and 55% accuracy. When repeated in February scores rose to between 50% and 71%.

    In September staff had assessed 15% of the toddler children operating below their actual age band in one particular area. As of December, there were only 5% of children operating below their age band in that area.

    The levels of children’s independence increased, with an increase of over 60% of them engaged in independent child-led activities when observed.

    In November 47% of this team incorrectly placed development matters statements expecting children to be doing and know things earlier than they should. Now in a recent staff meeting this has reduced to 4%.

    As a company we introduced involvement scales in all our observations and also with the introduction of the new EYFS we introduced characteristics of effective learning. There is a marked understanding of not only how each child learns but also about how involved they are with over 90% of children being highly involved.

    Before the project, 2 year old children were “3 year olds in waiting” to some extent; the lasting impact of this project is that the profile of this age group has been raised significantly and that the staff in the group have developed their skills as reflective, responsive practitioners with a deeper base of knowledge to call upon.

    Parental Partnerships
    Practitioners have commented that they feel more confident at challenging parental expectations and this increased dialogue has impacted positively on parental partnerships’
    Mum and staff have developed a better relationship in a more informal environment and as a new parent, mum has gained a greater understanding of the setting. At the end of the first week mum was very pleased with the setting. She said in Punjabi,” Menu yakeen nahi aanda mere bache eene happy ne, bahoot thank you.” (I can’t believe my children are so happy. Thank you so much.) (Childminder)

    All our children’s behaviour has improved, their understanding of feelings and empathising with others has also been extended.

    Physical Development
    The project on a whole has been very positive and improved outcomes for children who have increased opportunities to be active throughout their time at the setting. Weekly planning sheets have included more opportunities for developing a range of gross and fine manipulative skills, demonstrating increased practitioner understanding of this prime area of development.

    Enabling Environments
    A key impact of the project was the change of layout to the room which has significantly improved the learning environment. More defined areas have been created that support both large physical play in the newly created block play area and the quiet area where children can lie down, have tummy time or sit with their friends. The environment fully supports the kinesthetic learning style of two year olds with more active based activities and less large group activities. These have encouraged quality smaller group interactions that have impacted positively on both key person relationships and practitioners understanding of the needs and capabilities of their key group.


    Sustaining and replicating your practice

    Helping others to replicate your practice

    Sustaining the practice
    Although the project has been completed, its legacy will be felt in the following ways:
    • Training developed throughout the project will continue to be offered through traded services.
    • The EYPs are now able to offer expertise to other practitioners offering two year old funding.
    • Several members of the group are continuing to meet together in supportive/mentoring roles since the project has finished. Action Learning sets at the network also facilitates these shared pedagogical understandings.
    • There are now a number of settings demonstrating ‘best practice’ provision for settings offering funding for two year olds.
    • The dossier of case studies will be distributed through training and consultancy to benefit other childcare settings.
    • The project has already been presented to Sheffield Hallam students and the LA has been invited to present the project at future Regional Quality Improvement Network (RQIN) events (tba).
    • Help and advice continues to be shared with regional LAs through the RQIN network.
    • Aspects of leadership arising from the project are being presented as part of a MSc in Educational Leadership and Management.

    Costs and benefits
    Each Early Years Professional was given the following funding:
    Cover for attendance at training/CPD offered through the project £500
    (@ £50 up to 10 days)

    Monies also allocated to
    a. purchase resources for 2 yr old provision in accordance with the £200
    action plan compiled during the project
    b. fund staff attendance at staff meetings in order to disseminate/ £100
    cascade training and progress of the project
    Consultancy fees for training events £2000

    Costs for symposium and dossier of case studies tba

    Learning from the experience
    • EYPs have found the project invaluable, and have stated, overwhelmingly, that both their confidence and that of staff has risen noticeably. This was as a result of both CPD and developing their skills operationally over a sustained period of time.
    • The impact has been surprising and very positive. Often, there have been many other improvements in settings to the ones EYPS set out to change. Allowing flexibility to encompass these developments was essential.
    • Reflection has been a ‘golden thread’ and from the point of facilitating the project, a ‘must do’. More time was needed for EYPs to settle on the change actions. Allowing time for this evolution of thought led to much higher quality changes than would have taken place if plans were insisted upon very early in the process.
    • Facilitation has been a ‘must do’ – monitoring progress, regular communication and information/organisation was central to bringing in the project on time.
    • Group identity has been a ‘golden thread’ – EYPs have grown together as a community of learners and partnerships and collaborative working has developed over time which will last beyond the project.
    • There were certain ‘golden themes’ which emerged throughout the case studies – communication, parental involvement in learning, staff empowerment, accurate assessment and expectations of children at age two, and better quality learning environments.

    • Much more time was needed than anticipated to facilitate the project and compile the case studies. Keeping time available at regular intervals to do this work was essential to its completion and quality of end product. This would need to be considered if commissioning facilitation.

    • This project would be relatively low cost to replicate. The symposium costs could be kept very low and the facilitator who was an LA consultant could be commissioned independently for such a project. Case studies could be produced digitally rather than hard copy. The project was completed within one financial year which would make planning a local authority initiative easy to project.
    • A project facilitator would be necessary (see learning from experiences section) but the group size could be wide-ranging. The project could be replicated with other practitioners such as managers and deputies.
    • Working in this way could be replicated for other research and change actions on a locality, or multi-agency basis. CPD support could be offered in smaller sessions at ‘twilight’ or ‘evening’ sessions, or through existing EYP networks.
    • The local authority is considering future ways of working with EYPs on similar projects using the lessons learned, such as working with extending more able children using the arts as a vehicle for characteristics of effective learning.

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