My Froebelian Leadership Story

Project author:

Project summary:

Action research and reflection on leadership from a Froebelian perspective in an early earning and childcare community


The following reflective report will look at my leadership role and my development journey through
out this project. It evaluates how I use Froebel’s influence to support my staff in developing areas in
the setting and enable them to look at the children as leaders of their own learning.
My leadership journey so far I have been in some sort of Early years leadership
role for the past twenty years. Fifteen of those years were in a small private setting, with a team of
two. The setting had a strong Froebelian approach, some staff were Froebelian trained and others had a
solid understanding of Froebel and his principles. I then moved to a large council run nursery which was
attached to a school and had a team of twelve. Staff had heard of Froebel and his work but were neither
trained or had a good understanding of his work or how to apply his theories in their everyday practice.
I had lost a lot of confidence in my leadership ability when changing jobs but I have worked hard to build
relationships with colleagues, children and families. This course is also part of that confidence journey
for me.

Leadership to me means someone to guide and support you, someone who has a clear vision but is not
afraid to make changes when needed. I am aware of my strengths as a leader and also the areas I need to
work on. To determine my leadership style I did some research by looking at the SSSC website and reading
chapters of ‘Leadership Matters’ by Andy Buck. It suggested that I lean towards a democratic or
participative style of leadership. I then took the online Mindset quiz, this also confirmed the same
leadership style.
I would agree with these results primarily, I believe it is important to involve staff in decision making and
allow them to raise their points of view. This builds pride and ownership of their setting and their work.
It allows staff to learn and evaluate practice when things don’t work or go to plan. It encourages
professional dialogue too. It may be necessary for me to dip in and out of other
leadership styles depending on staff and circumstances.
Buck suggests that “Leaders at all levels need to be able to use a range of styles to suit their context and
any particular situation” Buck. A (2017:176).
I went on to ask my team what they thought some of my leadership qualities were. The feed back was
overwhelmingly positive with statements such as understanding, approachable, allows freedom to
implement ideas and visions, trusts staff, a listener and organised. This feedback was certainly a
confidence booster but I am always learning and evaluating my practice.

The project
We are a large team at Priorsford ELC and previously I have given all staff areas to be responsible for,
they were “Champions” of that area. We are a new build and we are lucky enough to have a large outdoor
area. This area has grass, tarmac, storage sheds, bushes, trees, varying gradients and a low fence. We
have limited loose parts available.

We were observing that children were not choosing to play outside and if they did they were not engaged
for long. (Before pictures of the garden show low fence and limited resources).

I started by approaching the member of staff who was the “champion” of the outside area. I explained
that I would like to develop the outdoors area using a Froebelian approach. We agreed it was too large a
task for one or two people. At the next staff meeting I shared my vision with all of the team and I
asked for more people to join the team, I gained two more volunteers.
I asked the team what changes they would like to see in the garden. I gathered this information in a floor
The main changes were as follows:

  • Safety- we currently have a low fence. I had
    raised this as a concern. Staff also felt it was a
    major concern as they were spending most of
    their time patrolling the garden, keeping children
    safe. This meant less time for quality
    engagements and observations. Locks on both
    sides of the gates were suggested too.
  • More loose parts and things that could be stored
    outside- less time setting up and putting things
  • Colour added, environmental print.
  • Music area
  • A growing area
  • Re-vamp the mud kitchen
  • Storage of items- not all in one place and areas
  • Art supplies stored outside in shed to save time
    going in and out to gather resources
  • Books for outside
  • An outside tap for the water area and easier
    cleaning or resources.

I then asked staff what they knew about Froebel and his principles, particularly on outdoors. Staff had
heard of Froebel but were not familiar with his ideology. I directed them to some professional

  •  ‘Bringing the Froebel approach to your early years practice’, pages 11-12, 64,65 and 71-73.
  •  ‘Friedrich Froebel’, pages 37, 41-43.
  • The child who has cared for another living thing is more easily led to care for his own life. The care of
    plants will also satisfy his desire to watch living creatures, for he will see birds and butterflies and
    beetles coming nearby” ( Froebel in Lilly 1967:128)
  • Tovey,H (2017:65).

This would give them an understanding of why we are doing this and what we are aiming to achieve.
I kept the reading light so as not to overwhelm staff. In the future we will look deeper into Froebel and
what that means for our setting but for now I just focussed on the outdoors. I also suggested they look
online for garden inspiration. Once I had established what the staff were hoping to achieve the next step
was to ask the children. I let the team decide how they were going to do this, they decided to use the
floor book to record children’s ideas, that way all the information was collated in one place.

The team documented the tasks in the floor book too.

Now that we had gathered everyone’s views and ideas it was time to get to work making it happen. Firstly
the council replaced the fence with a taller one and put double locks on the gates.
I contacted local contractors to see if they could donate items for our loose parts collection

The other members of the team concentrated on the growing area has they had both the knowledge and an
interest in this. I observed them involving the children in this.

We sorted the storage out so that the shed doors could just be opened and resources brought out
rather than taking them backwards and forwards to the main shed. We did this for our construction area
and our bikes. This makes it quicker and easier for staff and children to set up and tidy up, allowing
staff more time to set up provocations around intentional and responsive planning.
We added environmental print, recipe cards and natural resources to the mud kitchen.

Art and creative supplies were stored outside in the main shed so that staff could set up easily

We also added a music board, a bug area, water and sand areas. We added colour, environmental print
and areas for children to climb, jump and slide and take part in risky play.

When evaluating this project with staff they have observed that children are choosing to play outside
more and are engaged for longer. Staff are motivated to spend time outdoors now, they feel
pride in their work and they have an understand of the learning that can be achieved outside. As their
leader I have observed staff engaging with children more, provocations are being offered and this in turn
is evidenced in the children’s learning diaries.

This project has been very successful. Big changes have been made and staff have increased their
knowledge and understanding. They have been able to execute their visions and ideas knowing I was
there to offer help, support and guidance. Children are spending more time outdoors and are more
Running along side this, as a whole nursery we have been looking at risky play and the conversations staff
have with children and the language and questioning they use. This has allowed staff to look at this
project in a holistic manner. I believe I lead this project with success but I am
aware that that was partly due to the staff in the small team being interested, motivated and eager to
direct their own leading and learning. In future when I repeat this type of project for other areas in the
setting and with different team members my current leadership style may not be appropriate and I would
need to change the way I lead in order to gain the most potential from my team and the children

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

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