Early years team work and leadership
Early years team work and leadership

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Early years team work and leadership

2.1 Engaging with colleagues and other professionals

As you considered earlier, how you engage with parents depends, to a large degree, on your underpinning views and beliefs. Similarly, how you engage with colleagues and other professionals is influenced by your underpinning views and beliefs. In this next activity, you will be asked to think about how you develop working relationships with others in your core and extended team.

Activity 5 Thinking about how you engage with colleagues and other professionals

Timing: Allow about 45 minutes

The objective of this activity is for you to reflect on relationships with colleagues and other professionals.

Think about the other adults you interact with in your role as an early years practitioner. Draw a chart or diagrammatic representation showing:

  • the core team – those colleagues you work or communicate with on a daily or regular basis
  • the wider team – those professionals from agencies and services you may come into contact with in a multi-agency context, but not necessarily on a daily basis
  • your position in the team.

Now work through the following tasks, noting your responses:

  • How would you describe your working relationships with the adults you have included in your chart? Note two examples of how you share information and skills with those in your core team.
  • Note two examples of how you share information and skills with other professionals in the wider context.
  • Think about how you initiate and sustain contact with other adults in a manner likely to promote trust and confidence in the relationship and the setting.
  • Think of a situation where there may have been conflict in your core or wider team. What caused the conflict to occur? How was the situation resolved?

Now listen to the opening segment of the following audio sequence ‘Roles and provision’ and listen to Berni, a childminder, talking about her work. Berni is the first practitioner you hear in the sequence; you will not need to listen to the others for the purposes of this activity.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Roles and provision
Skip transcript: Roles and provision

Transcript: Roles and provision

Berni Roberts
My name’s Berni Roberts. I’m a mother of three. I’m also a childminder and I look after a mixture of various age groups, ranging from one up to ten, at different times of the day. I look after five other children at different times.
So I’ve got before and after school, and I’ve got some all day, during the day. And, you know, boys, girls, the whole mix, so it’s really nice. I’ve had another child of my own as well. So she’ll be coming up two in September. So it’s hard work but very rewarding when you see what they can learn. I think from the point of view of the Early Years Foundation Stage, there's certainly an awful lot of information and things that can help bring them on and educate them but there's also an awful lot of paperwork which I think sometimes hinders the process. And I find the pressure is on us to perform and get good reports and to do all the right things, I think the most important thing for the parents is that their child is loved, cared for, happy, you know, and in a secure environment where they can learn to a degree but ultimately that they’re just happy and safe.
I think the tendency is that, you know, once you’re at home, you’re at home, and you might go to a couple of stay and playgroups, that type of thing, but you don’t realise what's actually out there.
So I’m hoping to sort of work more on that side of things and get in touch with colleges and other professionals and see what we can do as a group. There's training, for instance, that nursery staff might be going on, that could benefit childminders as well, and there's a lot of courses that I tend to go on that are very focused on nursery staff, and they sort of just skim over childminders’ needs, and we’re expected as an individual to implement the same thing that a team of staff do at a nursery. It’s very very hard to make sure that you’re doing everything that you’re supposed to be doing. So if we can mix with other professionals, then it might be easier for individuals like myself to achieve that.
Alice Thornton
My name is Alice Thornton and I'm a specialist speech and language therapist who works based in the education team with early years training and support.
I work in the Lark Centre in a variety of ways. One of my roles is to support the Communication Coordinator, Abi, and to support and equip her and the other Communication Coordinator across the City.
I trained as a speech and language therapist twenty years ago, and worked as a clinician in a community clinic. Then I moved into working in community development. So I was supporting young families on an estate, and then also ran a marriage preparation and relationship skill and parenting, and then came into Sure Start work five years ago, and working in a preventative role with universal all children in Sure Start in Plymouth. And out of what I was doing and the training that I was running and the groups that we designed in Sure Start, that then formed a model for the work that we now do across the whole city. So it was very exciting and I'm delighted to be in this role.
Some of the shared messages that we want to get across and to everyone in the City, parents and workers, is that tuning into any baby or child at any age, the way you do that might change as they get older but it's very important to tune in, to support their language and also to be able to have a good relationship with them, which we know links between communication and attachment.
One of the other groups that we have set up here is Great Expectations which is working with antenatal parents and helping them to have understanding about some of the ways that you communicate, even with your bump, and to be prepared to be building up a relationship and, so I would like to develop my understanding further about the issues around that, the impact of infant mental health on communication.
The research in Plymouth shows that there are many children, significant numbers with delayed speech and language skills, and we can make a difference to that. And so the multi-agency work that we’re doing and the fact that I'm working with an education team with the early years advisory teachers, working with the communication coordinators, working with the early years practitioners, working with midwives and health visitors, what an opportunity.
Yvonne Crookshank
My name’s Yvonne Crookshank. I am Deputy Head of Centre, one of the Deputy Heads of Centre at Madras Family Centre, and I’ve worked for East Renfrewshire Council for about eight years now. But I have worked for other authorities before that.
The opportunity came up to act up here and I acted up and now I’ve got the job. It is a new role we’re still learning a lot of things because we have just become a family centre in recent months.
Myself and the other depute are here to support obviously the headteacher, support the staff, and we support families who maybe need a wee bit extra support. We go out on support visits. We do home visits as well.
As staff come to us and they want anything to do with maybe more development, we maybe give them the opportunity to go off the floor when they need that time.
Maybe they want to develop an area like music or a first aid course, we’ll try and find that and we will give them the opportunity to do that.
I suppose our role as well is we work with the children every day we’re a role model for the staff. We’re also at care review meetings and different things. We take a lot of the caring aspects for the children. We’ve got special children that, I don’t mean they’re special children but we’ve got children who we call social inclusion children that they maybe just need that wee bit extra, and it is more of the care side rather than education side and that's where we sort of come in as well.
I think that what I’ve realised in myself is I want to fix everything and now I realised I’m not going to fix everything overnight. But when I’m supporting some of these parents and maybe it’s just for them to tell me the problem that day or something that I feel as if I can’t fix everything but if they need me just to listen to them, or saying to them listen you’re doing really well because I’ve noticed you’re got four children and you’re in here and you must be really well organised and they start thinking well wait a minute I am quite organised, I’m getting in here for nine o’clock.
Hugh Graham
My name is Hugh Graham. I’m the Family Learning Coordinator with Adult and Family Learning Service in East Renfrewshire. That’s part of the Education Department and one of the establishments I work in is Madras Family Centre.
Family learning has been around a long time. It really came out of the integrated community schools movement in Scotland and that was very much looking at a holistic approach to working with the child and working with the whole family and the wider community. It was kind of joining up services and so the Family Learning Coordinator’s role is very much to be part of reaching from the establishment into the home.
I come from a community learning background. So I’m very much interested in the whole community approach and working directly with adults and how we can supports adults to support them with their children and it’s a very interesting role because it’s all about early intervention. We want to work with children and parents as early as we can. Because if we work, the evidence shows that if parents engage with their children at an early age then the benefits come out in the learning in later life.
We’ve drawn on this marvellous approach called Bookstart. A national initiative to get books into the hands of children and the Bookstart have a whole range of programmes for getting books from very early years. Rhymetime is part of their programme to engage with parents and children under three. Now the great thing about Rhymetime is that you can work with parents and you can work with children together and there’s so much learning to be undertaken by singing rhymes together, singing songs together, reading books together, being familiar with all these surroundings. And it’s great to be in the libraries because it is a knock-on effect that children and parents can join the library, borrow books and feel very much part of the wider community.
Some of the programmes that we run, we run things called play along maths which is a very great, an interesting programme, which is demystifying what maths is all about, but that’s a home based programme. Children take these kits home to work at home with them or they might have rhyme bags. We’ve got bilingual rhyme bags in East Renfrewshire, which is dual language books, so it’s encouraging a taste and an interest in another language. We’ve got story sacks, which are a similar kind of arrangement where there’s toys, there’s books, there’s soft puppets and so it’s a kind of adventure for parents and children to explore together.
Bryony Roberts
My name is Bryony Roberts. I'm a nursery nurse at Pathways.
I have key children in the nursery setting which I look after and have the role of taking care of. If there's situations, I assess them regularly to see where we can make them progress in their work, so they are my responsibility to ob… observe throughout each half term, and then at the end we evaluate where the children are, where they need their next step to go, their learning to go.
I was playing on the Play-Doh table, recently, and it was just free play, the children were playing and I was involving myself in each of their conversations and one of the children suddenly started, cut out, we had a shape, and they cut out the shape of a person, and he held it up, and they said it was a gingerbread man! And we started talking about the Gingerbread Man, the story and we started singing the song, run run as fast as you can you can’t catch me I'm the gingerbread man, and one of the children told me how it was eaten by the fox and how it jumped on its back and how it jumped on its head and how it jumped on its nose.
I think Play-Doh is a great time for them to let their imagination go, and again we can be there to extend it or support what they're playing with and what they're doing. That’s what I really like about being a nursery nurse, seeing that something we have done has gone into their learning and they’ve taken it in and they're playing with it with or without me, but we are there to support it.
I just think young children have got so much to offer, it’s their enjoyment of learning, their enjoyment in their eyes, the way they play, the way we can adapt our play, we can play with them.
But we’re supporting them playing and helping them learn and achieve.
My name’s Ed May. I'm Head Teacher of Newburgh Primary School in Warwick.
Newburgh Primary School is on the southwest side of Warwick. It’s a school which has grown significantly in the past four years, from about 132 children, uh, to 186 children currently.
One of the advantages of being a head teacher on, on this site is that we’re fortunate enough to work with three other partners. And so our most recent partner, the children’s centre, and Pathways have been onsite for some time, certainly before I was head teacher. So, we do, we operate lots of partnership work with Pathways. So, for example, apart from the facilities that we like to share, so we do things like they will come and share our computer suites, our hall our outside areas. We also make use of each other’s specialities, and so we may need advice about how to work with the very youngest children or, indeed, how to work with families that they’ve worked with and get to know the families.
One of the problems we face is with working with other agencies. So, for example, Health and Social Services, we use different languages, and we operate different working days, different holidays, and we have different protocols, and that’s going to be a real challenge to ensure that we all work together with children at the heart of what we do.
The biggest benefit we found recently is by looking at the example of our reception group coming in, in September. About, I would say about 25% of the families that are joining us in reception, we, we already know very well. We knew the children as bumps and also lots of the parents by their first name because they’ve been involved in children’s centre activities, Pathways’ activities later on and then the children join us. So the children joining us in reception, many of them are already very very familiar with the school and we don’t have those issues about being worried about what the school will be like, who the people are and so on. So lots of the very young children already know me and the staff very well indeed.
End transcript: Roles and provision
Roles and provision
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
  • What does Berni think are the benefits of working with others?
  • Can you suggest two ways of developing or improving your working relationships with other professionals? This might include colleagues within or beyond your own setting.


While few would contest the value of teamwork, it is important to explore how perceptions of teamwork are reflected in the actual experience of belonging to a team and to be honest; some teams do find it difficult to work together. In this activity you identified the members of your core and wider teams and you thought about your working relationships. The nature of those relationships will largely depend on the extent to which you work cooperatively together.

Cooperation, in turn, will depend on the shared understandings in the team, and it will be influenced by the extent to which colleagues communicate assertively with each other. This is illustrated in the quotation below from Rodd (2006). While some people still enter the field with the assumption that the focus of the job is on autonomous work with children, the reality of these settings is that the increasingly multi-faceted work of the early childhood practitioner requires effective interaction with other adults as members of a multi-disciplinary team. When practitioners talk about the staff at their setting, the word ‘team’ is often used.

‘Sharing distributed leadership throughout the setting and emphasis on teamwork are key leadership attributes ...’ Early years/primary adviser

Most early childhood leaders and staff appreciate that teamwork is important for the working conditions of their settings, and understand that what constitutes a team can vary. [...] Depending on the meaning given to the concept of team, parents may or may not be included in the broader definition. Regardless of its definition, the essence of a team is that all participants work together effectively to achieve a common goal.

(Rodd, 2006, p. 147)

Your practice is dependent on your own views as an individual. It may be that these views change as you become more experienced or as a result of your professional development. A key aspect of teamwork is the extent to which all those involved in the team have shared views, values and beliefs. If you and the other members of your team are able to articulate your views, values and beliefs then you are more likely to develop shared understandings and to be an effective team.


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