Effective and Caring Leadership in the Early Years


Iram Siraj-Blatchford & Elaine Hallet

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    About the Authors

    Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford is an international expert in Early Childhood Education; she has worked with the National College for School Leadership on the National Standards for Leadership in the Early Years and authored an authoritative think-piece on systems leadership. She was the first researcher to write about leadership in centres with proven effective outcomes, from the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education project data. Iram is a leading researcher on pedagogy, curriculum and leadership in the early years. She is committed to research which provides young children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds, with a fairer start in life. She works as Professor of Early Childhood at the Institute of Education, University of London.

    Dr Elaine Hallet is Lecturer in Early Childhood Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. She has a wide experience of working with practitioners, children and families as a teacher, advisory teacher and deputy head teacher and, in further and higher education, as a lecturer, departmental leader and researcher. Elaine has led nationally recognized leadership programmes for graduate Early Years Leaders (EYPs) and children centre leaders (NPQICL) and she leads and teaches a master's level course about leading policy and practice in early childhood services. Elaine has researched foundation degree graduates' Continuous Professional Development through work-based reflective learning and the role of graduate Early Years Leaders in the leadership of learning.


    This book contains the voices of women early years leaders who were generous enough to allow us to share their effective and caring leadership practices. Among these women leaders are Alison Bishop, Emma Bowery, Alison Evans, Florence E. Fletcher, Amanda Horniman, Anita McKelvey, Maria Meredith, Michelle Palser, Marianna Rapsomanikis and Mags Ratford. Also, thanks to the Early Years Professionals in the LLEaP Project who contributed to our understanding about leadership in settings within the Private, Voluntary and Independent sector and in children's centres, funded by Gloucestershire County Council. We are particularly grateful to practitioners, teachers and leaders in the REPEY and ELEYS Projects who contributed to understandings about leadership in pre-schools and schools, and to the researchers on the EPPE Project, especially Kathy Sylva, Ted Melhuish, Pam Sammons, Brenda Taggart and Laura Manni who contributed to the data collection and analysis of the centres we chose and refer to from the ELEYS Study. Elaine particularly thanks her family for their support during the writing of the book and Iram for initiating the writing project.


    There has always been a ‘right time’ for books about leadership. This is absolutely the time for a book that adds to our understanding of what constitutes outstanding early years leadership, recognizing that the conduct and behaviour of leaders and their ability to evaluate and develop their skills is instrumental in shifting good settings to become great settings. Here, we have a clearly articulated and carefully researched argument to convince us that ‘caring leadership’ can create the respectful, affirming yet challenging environment critical to secure consistently high achievement and sustained improvement in pedagogy and outcomes.

    The book is fundamentally about building the emotional health of settings in order to establish a culture of caring for and developing people, making the case that these are the settings that will succeed against those that do not know how to care. The content will provoke debate, influence thinking, initiate reflection on practice and, by so doing, will set the direction for further research, whether the reader is an aspirant or practising leader, an academic or simply a ‘curious and intrigued individual’. It has both legitimacy and integrity – wherever the readers find themselves on their leadership journey.

    As professional leaders, we focus relentlessly on the key components that create ‘quality learning and teaching opportunities’ for our youngest children and consider how improvements can be made. We recognize our responsibility to define and articulate a narrative around quality. The book strongly suggests that this should include the exploration of effective and caring leadership and the potential of such an approach to leadership to impact on the holistic development of children. In the early years, we sometimes walk a fine line between maintaining the caring aspects of leadership (which means avoiding draining people of energy, not curbing their enthusiasm) and addressing improvement imperatives, such as tackling underperformance. We are driven also by the need to secure accountability (which when badly managed can appear threatening and aggressive, and leave people at best disheartened and at worst quietly defeated).

    The unique quality of this book is that it invites leaders to reflect on their own behaviours and constructs around leadership while urging consideration of the dispositions and attitudes of highly effective leaders and how these may inspire and influence personal and professional development. It encourages thinking outside the traditional boundaries, beyond the confines of self and setting and into the ‘big picture’ space of the most effective types of leadership. The international dimension within the book encourages an even broader view of developments across the world lens, widening the horizons of leadership both literally and figuratively. This adds an exciting dimension as we face greater autonomy to make our own decisions in an operating environment that is increasingly relinquishing control from the centre and encouraging responsible local leadership and self-determination.

    Case studies representing the authentic voice of practice detail the impact of professional heritage and personal journeys on ‘caring leadership’ development, enabling those new to the early years sector to gain immediate insight into the multifaceted, complex and integrated nature of early years leadership. For those already engaged in leading within the early years sector, there are familiar echoes of leadership practice, yet with mind-stretching insights to consider and provocative questions to ask and reflect upon.

    There is clear ambition from the authors to support the growth of settings that can demonstrate effective and caring leadership illustrated by a passionate commitment to people, wisdom, resourcefulness and a willingness to see reality from a range of perspectives. Ultimately, such leaders recognize that to provide children with the best opportunities to develop, learn and grow, their settings have to be remarkable, joyous places. What is exciting about this book is that it showcases some exceptionally high-performing settings whose outstanding and sustained success has grown out of their commitment to caring leadership at every level of the organization. They are already a quantum leap ahead and are tapping into something that makes them increasingly effective. They are able to work in a climate of overwhelming change by creating an environment in which some of the best leadership behaviours, such as courage, trust and authenticity, can flourish while less helpful attributes may be identified, confronted and vanquished. Such leadership will reflect in happy, creative, compassionate children, ready to make the most of every opportunity and demand still more from their childhood experiences – surely the ultimate measure of learning and care!

    Sue Egersdorff, Director for Early Years, National College for Teaching and Leadership
    Pam Mundy, Director for Quality Assurance and Professional Development, World Class Learning Group


    CCSKCommon Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children's Workforce
    CGFSCurriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage CPD Continuing Professional Development
    DCSFDepartment for Children Schools and Families
    DFEDepartment for Education
    DfEEDepartment for Education and Employment
    DfESDepartment for Education and Skills
    ECEEarly Childhood Education
    ECMEvery Child Matters
    ELEYSEffective Leadership in the Early Years Sector (the ELEYS study, Siraj-Blatchford and Manni, 2007)
    ELMS-EYEffective Leadership and Management Scheme for the Early Years
    EPPEEffective Provision of Pre-school Education (the EPPE project)
    EPPSEEffective Pre-school and Primary Education (3–11) (the EPPSE 3–11 project)
    EYFSEarly Years Foundation Stage
    EYPEarly Years Professional
    EYPSEarly Years Professional Status
    EYTEarly Years Teacher
    EYTCEarly Years Teaching Centres
    GPGeneral Practitioner
    ILPInternational Leadership Project
    ISSPPInternational Successful School Principalship Project
    LLEaPLeadership of Learning in Early Years and Practice (the LLEaP project)
    NPQHNational Professional Qualification for Head Teachers
    NPQICLNational Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership
    NVQNational Vocational Qualification
    OfstedOffice for Standards in Education
    PEPhysical Education
    PTAParent–Teacher Association
    PVIPrivate, Voluntary and Independent sector
    QTSQualified Teacher Status
    REPEYResearching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years (the REPEY study, Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002)
    SIPSchool Improvement Plan
    SSTSustained Shared Thinking
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