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How To Succeed As An Early Years Manager Or Leader


Early Years Manager

What do you need to succeed in an Early years managerial role? And what sets a leadership role in a nursery apart from similar positions in other sectors?

Here, we delve into the topic.

It’s Up To You

The role of an Early years manager in a nursery is unique because you are responsible for the care, development, and education of young children. 

Unlike other managerial positions, leaders in the Early years sector must create a nurturing and stimulating environment that fosters learning and growth while ensuring the children’s safety and well-being. It’s a huge task.

Not only that, but as a leader, you must also fully understand the legislation and the expectations of Ofsted, the regulatory body that governs education and childcare settings, to be able to meet standard requirements and keep the business ahead and thriving.

It Can’t Be All That Different, Can It?

Becoming a manager or a regional manager may seem like a natural progression for Early years practitioners who have been working in childcare for a long time. And for some people, it is. 

But it’s not a simple transition for everyone. In reality, becoming a manager involves an entirely different skill set from being a practitioner. As a manager or leader, you enter a world of massive responsibility, including business management, managing adults and taking on responsibility for their actions. And this can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared. 

What Key Qualities And Skills Do Early Managers Need To Succeed?

Understanding all of the tools you’ll need to do well as a manager or leader in the Early years is the first step to getting there. 

An Early years nursery manager needs a diverse set of qualities and skills to excel in their role, nurture the children in their care and their staff, and empower themselves. These attributes will enable them to lead their team effectively, create a positive learning environment for children, and navigate the many challenges of managing a nursery. 

Here are some key qualities and skills that are desirable for an early years nursery manager.

Leadership Skills

Nursery managers need to be able to engage, inspire and motivate their staff. 

By creating a trusting culture, offering a listening ear and providing guidance, managers can become effective leaders who bring their teams together under a clear, united vision. 

Communication Skills

Strong interpersonal communication skills are a must for nursery managers. And that’s because they’re intrinsic to interacting with team members, parents and children effectively.

Managers have a lot on their plate and are the go-to for grumbles and active complaints; a manager needs to be able to communicate clearly, listen with empathy and address any concerns that arise safely and appropriately. 

Passion for Working with Children

A manager without a palpable calling for working with children will not be able to fully succeed.

Nursery managers who are invested and committed to the well-being and healthy development of the children in their care will be able to lead their teams to outstanding success. 

Early year Manager

Organisational Abilities

The responsibilities of a nursery manager are vast and varied. You must manage your staff’s schedules, keep track of resources and execute administrative tasks – not to mention maintaining a welcoming, safe and Ofsted-friendly environment that will nurture and support the babies and children who attend. 

Problem-Solving Attitude

From proper scheduling to planning the Christmas nativity, the day-to-day challenges of running an Early years setting need to be managed quickly and effectively. A positive attitude, inherent self-awareness and the ability to make unbiased, smart and rational judgements for the good of the people around you – as well as the business – is key.  

Flexibility and Adaptability

No two days are the same in the nursery environment. It’s fun and exciting! 

This means that employing agility and adaptability in response to frequently changing circumstances is a must; rigidity and black-and-white thinking simply will not enable a nursery manager to thrive.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and managing your own emotions is critical to being able to do the same for others – and that’s a huge part of leading a team and building a trusting, supportive work culture.

Team Building and Motivation

Caring about your team, building a great one full of passionate individuals and inspiring them to be the best they can be is a surefire way to enhance your success. 

A huge part of effective team management hinges on work/life balance, promoting well-being, and actively listening to your employees. 

Knowledge of Regulations and EYFS Framework

It’s your job to stay up-to-date about regulation changes and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. This knowledge is critical. It’s also on you to filter important information down to your staff to ensure the nursery remains compliant and provides high-quality early years education.

Continuous Learning and Professional Development

Learning and growing isn’t just for children. Nursery managers should be committed to upskilling and developing their knowledge in the field through various training courses to ensure they keep up with best practices and new developments. 

Time Management Skills

Last but not least, a nursery manager must employ incredible organisational and time management skills. The role requires a delicate balance of back office duties, team engagement and staff supervision, and all-important interactions with children and parents on the floor. 

Nursery managers who work on improving these desirable qualities and skills empower not only themselves but their team to create an enriching environment for children. 

The Manager’s Role In An Ofsted Inspection

The nursery manager plays an integral role in an Ofsted inspection.

The manager’s job is to ensure the education inspection framework or EIF inspection process runs smoothly from start to finish. Nursery managers need to:

  • Have a fantastic handle on what is required of them, their staff and the setting during the inspection.
  • Ensure their teams’ knowledge and ability to present it is up to scratch.
  • Understand the key Ofsted criteria, including the concepts of British Values, Prevent & Culture Capital.
  • Have an in-depth understanding of the Learning Walk.
  • Be able to identify what evidence Ofsted will require and develop an inspection-ready action plan ahead of time. 

As you can see, the role of an early years manager is a world away from the responsibilities of the nursery practitioner. Managing a nursery requires thoughtful leadership, team coaching and both serious people and organisational skills.

What Does Ofsted Describe As A Good Manager?

So what do they want? What is an Ofsted officer looking for in a nursery manager during an EIF inspection? 

According to Ofsted, a good nursery manager:

  • Demonstrates a clear vision for the nursery’s development and improvement.
  • Creates an inclusive and supportive environment for staff, children, and families.
  • Promotes a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
  • Upholds high standards of safeguarding and child protection.

In the EIF, you’ll find a whole judgement area dedicated to the leadership and management of the setting in question. Digesting these criteria and applying them to the day-to-day of the nursery manager is essential to achieving a positive Ofsted rating.

The Importance Of Coaching And Training

Leadership coaching and training courses provide early years managers with the tools they need to do their job well.

Coaching and training provide early years managers with:

  • New strategies and approaches to enhance their leadership and managerial skills. In turn, this keeps staff engaged, happy and unafraid to speak up. 
  • A platform to share experiences and learn from other professionals in the field. By doing this, nursery managers can learn of good practices being undertaken by other employers and master the tricky skills of giving and receiving honest feedback. 
  • Increased confidence in handling challenges and making decisions that positively impact the nursery and its stakeholders.

Going it alone just does not work. Knowledge is power!

In the nursery manager role, accessing new information and discussing it with others in the know is critical to building confident and ambitious teams who can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. 

Early Years Managers Can Succeed With Flying Colours

And to help, we offer a comprehensive range of training packages that meet your needs.

Whether you’re a manager preparing for an EIF inspection or just want to fully understand what is expected from you under the EYFS and Ofsted Inspection framework, the MBK Group has got you covered. 

To check what we’ve got coming up, click here

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