What we heard
We heard that both new and experienced early childhood professionals need to be able to trust the capability of the leadership of their service in facilitating their work in educating young children and building relationships with families.
They highlighted the importance of their employers valuing their teaching expertise, allowing them autonomy to make decisions and drawing on their experience as services continue to innovate and adapt.
We heard teachers and educators value a leader who can effectively support staff to deliver a high-quality early learning program. Workforce wellbeing and service culture is affected when workloads are too high and when staff don’t feel that their experiences and insights are recognised. Effective governance and well-managed services were highlighted as important factors for staff retention.
Staff in leadership roles identified a desire for support to implement the reforms in their services, and opportunities to connect and share with others. Even those with years of experience recognise that they will encounter challenges during this period of transformation.
What we are doing
Effective leaders are central to building quality kindergarten programs, supporting teachers and educators, and improving services.
This is why we need to continue to work in partnership with the sector to lift leadership capabilities, facilitate the sharing of knowledge and best practice, and plan ahead.
This includes providing avenues for early childhood education leaders to share best practice and to build a collective understanding of early childhood reforms. For example, our 17 area-based Early Learning Leadership Forums are supporting leaders to connect and collaborate, and to share their insights.
Since the release of the 2021 strategy, we have held the inaugural Best Start, Best Life Educational Leaders Conference, which brought together pedagogical leaders and practitioners from across the state to learn from each other and other experts in the field. We have also made available new grants to support the sector in their strategic workforce planning and to identify practical strategies to address local workforce needs.
Given the diversity of early childhood services and the scale of the Best Start, Best Life reforms, we know there is more to do to support effective leadership practices across the sector.
Building on our existing efforts, we will:
- Support experienced professionals in educational leadership positions to develop and deepen their pedagogical and practice knowledge and capabilities to best meet the learning needs of staff and children, through the development of a new educational leaders’ professional development program.
- Build and strengthen the knowledge and capabilities of professionals in service leadership positions to meet operational needs, to improve culture and support staff health and wellbeing, through the introduction of professional development for operational leaders.
- Provide leaders with an ongoing opportunity to gain valuable professional development and to share best practice and emerging evidence by continuing to hold the successful Best Start, Best Life Educational Leaders Conference at key points in the reform journey.
- Support services to manage change by providing practical tools and resources that are developed in partnership with the sector. These tools will promote the importance of service leaders consulting with their staff as they operationalise service changes. Resources will include a change management toolkit, Twilight Forums focused on change management topics, sharing case studies and identifying ‘local change champions’.
Grants support local solutions to workforce planning
Early Years Managers (EYMs) and many local governments know from experience that high-quality early learning depends on robust strategic planning. Many of these employers have already been using their expertise and partnerships to build the workforce they need.
To further this, the Victorian Government has provided interested EYMs and local governments with grants of up to $200,000 to develop tailored five-year workforce plans.
The five-year plans will analyse current and anticipated staffing gaps and then set out solutions. These will respond closely to the particular needs and circumstances of employers, as well as those of their communities, helping local people find work close to home.
The Workforce Planning Grants, while not obligatory, are allowing local governments and EYMs to enhance their ongoing capacity to plan for the workforce needed to deliver their strategic goals. This is both a requirement of EYM Funding and a component of the EYM Improvement Framework.
In developing their five-year plans, EYMs and local governments are not only extending their own expertise but can use their influence as partners and leaders to inspire and inform best practice for workforce planning across the sector.
As part of this initiative, the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association (VAEAI) is also being funded to deliver supports specifically focused on boosting the number of Aboriginal teachers and educators delivering kindergarten programs.