Guest blog: The power of why and less
No one plans to fail; they just fail to plan - Benjamin Franklin
In our nurseries, the way we plan and operate can have a huge impact on our little learners and also on our team. As a leader in early childhood education, I have seen firsthand how embracing new ideas and practices is not just about adding to what we do; it is about transforming our approach to make a real difference.
Take a moment to think about your nursery. Are your team members motivated, happy and engaged? Do they have the time to truly be present with the children, or do they often find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of tasks? This is where the power of effective planning and innovation comes in.
For instance, integrating play-based learning can ignite children's curiosity and dramatically improve engagement and learning outcomes (Whitebread, 2012). However, this can feel chaotic and out of control without the underpinning of child development knowledge.
It isn't just about the children. It is also about the team. What are we doing as leaders to ensure they have the tools and skills needed to excel in their roles?
The most powerful question we have as educators is: 'Why?' Empowering our team to regularly question 'why' we do things a certain way will lead to better outcomes for all.
Consider: Are we doing things like this because these methods yield the desired results, or simply because it is what we have always done? This questioning can reveal opportunities for positive change. For example, replacing non-urgent phone calls with an answering machine allows staff to concentrate on immediate tasks, enhancing productivity and the quality of child care (Moss, 2016).
These examples highlight the importance of being open to new ideas and practices in our nurseries. It is about creating a culture where innovation is welcomed and tested, not for the sake of change but to genuinely improve our nurseries for children, staff and parents alike. By continually seeking ways to optimise our operations, we can ensure our nurseries are effective and efficient.
Less is more
With the upcoming changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in January 2024, nursery leaders are again at the crossroads of adaptation and evolution. Such moments of change present an ideal opportunity to revisit our 'whys' – to question and reassess the rationale behind our practices and approaches. This reflective process is not just about adding new responsibilities or tasks. Sometimes, it's about doing less to achieve more.
Asking 'why' helps us to identify what truly matters in our settings. It encourages us to strip back to the essentials, removing practices that no longer serve our goals or align with the updated EYFS framework. This approach can be surprisingly liberating. By eliminating unnecessary tasks or outdated methods, we can create more space and time – for our staff to engage with children, for deeper professional development, and for more thoughtful planning and execution of our curriculum.
The key here is to focus on quality over quantity. With the EYFS changes, it is an opportune time to examine our current practices critically. Do they enhance children's learning and development per the new standards, or are they just legacy activities carried over year after year? Removing what’s redundant or less effective can streamline operations, making our nurseries more efficient and responsive.
This philosophy of ‘less is more’ can be incredibly effective. By focusing on what truly adds value to our children’s early years experience and our team's professional fulfilment, we create nurseries that are compliant with the latest standards as well as thriving environments where children and educators can flourish.
As the changes to the EYFS in January, the extension of the funding entitlement in April and the increase to minimum wage take effect, it is clear that our journey is one of continuous adaptation and reflection. The essence of effective nursery management lies not in the accumulation of tasks and practices but in the thoughtful consideration of what truly benefits our children and teams. It is about embracing change, not as a burden but as an opportunity to refine, innovate and simplify our approaches.
The concept of doing less to achieve more, guided by the critical questioning of 'why', empowers us to focus on quality over quantity. It allows us to create nurturing spaces where educators can meaningfully engage with children and where every activity is purposeful and aligned with the latest standards and educational needs.
In the bustling world of early childhood education, having a well-structured plan is akin to clearing a path through a dense forest. It provides clarity and direction amidst potential chaos. This clarity is not just about knowing what comes next on our to-do list; it is about freeing our minds from the clutter of uncertainty and indecision. When educators and leaders have a clear plan, they have valuable thinking space – a mental space where creativity and presence can flourish.
For educators, this means being fully present with the children, engaging with them deeply without the nagging worry of unattended tasks. Their interactions become more intentional and impactful, fostering a rich learning environment. Similarly, for leaders, a clear plan provides the foundation upon which innovative ideas can take root. It allows them to step back from the day-to-day urgencies and focus on broader, more transformative visions for their settings.
This mental space is where true innovation is born – where leaders can dream, strategise and pave the way for educational advancements. Ultimately, a well-conceived plan is not just a roadmap for tasks; it's a tool for mental clarity that empowers educators and leaders to be fully present in their roles, nurturing the young minds they serve and spearheading the innovations that will shape the future of early childhood education.
The new chapter
I invite you, fellow nursery leaders and educators, to join me in this reflective journey. Let us examine our practices with a critical eye and a willingness to embrace change. As we adapt to the new EYFS guidelines, let's take this chance to streamline our operations, focusing on what truly adds value to our children’s learning and development.
Start by asking 'why' in your setting. Why do we follow certain practices? Are they necessary, effective, or in need of change? Then, courageously, let go of what no longer serves us. By doing so, we can comply with the latest standards and create enriching environments where our children can thrive, and our teams can find more profound professional satisfaction.
Together, let's step into this new chapter with optimism and a commitment to excellence in early childhood education.