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


Upon assuming the role of Acting Head of Nursery at Cranstonhill in January 2023, I was confronted with a challenging situation marked by previous critical incidents and subpar ratings from the Care Inspectorate, notably citing concerns regarding the pace and balance of activities, as well as disruptions to children’s play experiences. Quality Indicator 1.3 Play and Learning “We observed the pace and balance of the day to be fast and task focused leading to hurried and stressful experiences for children” Care Inspectorate Report (2023).  

The nursery’s operational deficiencies and demoralised educators necessitated urgent reform to align with contemporary practices in alignment with deep held values, knowledge, and ethical convictions. Additionally, these foundational principles and drawing upon my affinity for Froebelian philosophy, I recognised an opportunity to imbue the service with Froebelian Values and principles as a guiding framework for transformative change. Despite the immediate need for remedial action upon my appointment, the adoption of Froebelian principles emerged as the most viable approach to effect meaningful and sustainable improvements. Though constrained by time pressures, the prioritisation of this philosophical orientation was deemed indispensable for the holistic advancement of the nursery’s practices and environment (See Appendix 1). 

When I first introduced Froebel within our establishment, I encountered numerous hurdles that tested my resolve and adaptability. The prevailing limitations in educators’ practices and perspectives necessitated a swift and decisive approach. Implementing environmental audits and introducing unfamiliar practices such as freedom with guidance and block play became imperative steps towards fostering a Froebelian-inspired learning environment.  

According to Peter Senge (2021) A truly effective leader is one who provides unwavering support and guidance, allowing those they lead to discover their own paths and solutions. In embracing a non-directive approach, they empower others to unleash their full potential and contribute authentically to the shared vision.” 

Central to my leadership philosophy is the belief in educators’ autonomy and growth. I firmly believe in empowering educators to shape their own leadership journey and capitalise on their strengths. In this journey, I assumed the role of a coach and a facilitator, guiding educators through the process of self-education and embracing change with supporting discussions and materials such as ‘Realising the Ambition’ (2020) and ‘Planning in the Moment with young children’ Anna Ephgrave (2018) I encouraged educators to confront their fears and uncertainties, recognising that growth often lies beyond one’s comfort zone. Whether it was navigating challenges in outdoor environments or delving into unfamiliar territories, I stood beside educators, offering unwavering support and encouragement. 

The fostering of relationships resonates profoundly within educational contexts, central to this assertion is the acknowledgment that when relationships are enhanced, overall outcomes improve. As a leader, I recognise the paramount importance of communication as a cornerstone of fostering these relationships, extending beyond merely educators’ interactions to encompass meaningful connections with children, families, and broader learning community peers. This perspective is congruent with Froebelian principles, which emphasize the significance of nurturing holistic relationships within educational environments. While the endeavour of cultivating robust relationships may present challenges, its alignment with Froebelian ideals underscores its foundational role in promoting harmony and engagement. Through intentional cultivation of relationships grounded in Froebelian philosophy, educators can foster an environment conducive to holistic growth and sustainable change, thereby exemplifying the interconnectedness between relational dynamics and transformative educational practices. “The true aim of education is to unfold the innate powers of the child.” (Friedrich Froebel, William Nicolas, 2015, p .235) Froebel believed that holistic development of the child, which includes nurturing relationships as integral to unlocking their full potential. It resonates with the idea that building meaningful connections with students, families, and peers fosters an environment conducive to holistic growth and transformative education.  

A critical juncture in our organisational trajectory occurred with the establishment of champion roles, such as ‘Block Play’ and ‘Family Support,’ crafted by our committed educators. The introduction of the family support role, in particular, proved transformative for our service, benefiting children, educators, and parents alike. One educator, deeply imbued with Froebelian training and literature, spearheaded this initiative, drawing parallels between Froebel’s philosophical tenets and the imperative of nurturing familial relationships and connections, this was vital in her development so she could understand the role of Family support. Acknowledging the profound import of comprehending our families’ diverse backgrounds and experiences, we instituted home visits as a conduit to forge essential bonds from the onset of their nursery journey. My role primarily entailed delineating a vision and empowering educators to chart their course. Remarkably, within a brief timeframe, substantive links were forged with the local community, notably with charitable organizations hosting well-utilized hubs. Our partnership facilitated the provision of vital resources, including fare share programs offering free food, financial support, employment assistance, and ESOL classes for parental English language acquisition. Testimonials from the educator driving these initiatives underscore the instrumental role of my leadership style in affording her autonomy to navigate the trajectory of her role. The Educator stated “I feel valued and listened too, I have the freedom to choose and implement initiatives, you enabled me to have a voice and gave me the freedom to truly help families and build relationships” By affording her the temporal and spatial latitude to execute her duties and cultivate significant relationships, we established a pivotal foundation for this vital role. She articulates a palpable sense of validation and empowerment, expressing fulfilment and a newfound locus of agency in her professional domain. Of paramount significance to her was the affirmation of her worth, fostering a milieu wherein her newfound relationships and connections catalyse invaluable support for our children and families. This paradigm shift has unequivocally positioned Cranstonhill as a beacon of support, rendering our services sought-after, as the educator, feeling adept and supported in her role, continues to forge crucial connections essential for our collective welfare (See Appendix 2).  

The feedback from parents and families regarding the Family Support role has been overwhelmingly positive, underscoring the resonance of Froebelian principles in fostering meaningful connections within the educational ecosystem.  Bronfenbrenner considered relationships ‘to be the main mode through which children develop’ (Hayes et, al, 2017, p. 31). As educators it is also crucial that we promote an environment that is inclusive and provides equity for all children. Links to the local community involving children and their families should be promoted and different cultures should be celebrated and shared- creating a sense of community and belonging for everyone. This sentiment is reinforced by parents expressed appreciation for their heightened involvement in nursery life, buoyed by the tangible benefits of the new initiatives, such as access to free food and training opportunities. Moreover, there is discernible improvement in children’s outcomes, as echoed in their feedback expressing satisfaction with newfound autonomy in play choices and dining arrangements, which not only bolsters their sense of agency but also facilitates prolonged outdoor engagement. The endorsement from our new community partners further underscores the transformative impact of these initiatives, as articulated in their observations regarding the cohesive force engendered by the burgeoning relationships. This communal synergy plays a pivotal role in addressing multifaceted challenges such as poverty and loneliness, particularly among our EAL families who may contend with feelings of isolation. By elucidating their rights and facilitating access to supportive resources, these initiatives not only ameliorate immediate challenges but also engender a sense of empowerment and belonging within the broader community fabric. Thus, the symbiotic interplay between Froebelian-inspired relational pedagogy and proactive community engagement underscores a paradigm shift towards holistic and inclusive educational practices that transcend traditional boundaries, thereby fostering a more equitable and enriching educational environment for all stakeholders involved.Top of Form 

Rooted in my innate passion and unwavering dedication, this journey has not only reshaped my leadership style but has also instilled in me a profound belief in the power of autonomy, growth, and embracing change. As a leader, my role was not to dictate but to support and empower educators to make decisions, learn from mistakes, and persevere in their pursuit of excellence. The journey of embracing Froebelian principles has been marked by personal growth, reflection, and resilience. Through navigating challenges and uncertainties, I have honed my leadership skills, embracing change as an opportunity for growth and innovation. The feedback received from colleagues, children, and families serves as a testament to the positive impact of our collective efforts in fostering a culture of agency and ownership. As we continue to evolve and refine our practices, I remain steadfast in my commitment to nurturing a learning community where autonomy, growth, and collaboration thrive. 

In conclusion, my Froebelian journey has been a profound testament to the transformation power of embracing change and fostering a culture of agency and ownership. Through unwavering dedication and a steadfast belief in educators’ potential, we have created a learning environment where innovation flourishes, and children thrive. As we embark on the next phase of our journey, I am filled with optimism and excitement, knowing that together, we will continue to inspire and empower generations to come. 

Throughout the course of this journey, it is pertinent to underscore that while the core tenets of my leadership remained intact, they underwent adaptive refinement to address exigent challenges and propel progression. Initially, a notable emphasis was placed on reactive problem-solving, characterised by a prevalence of ad hoc strategies rather than systematic planning. However, there exists a prospect of transition as the operational landscape stabilises, facilitating the establishment of structured frameworks and the implementation of ongoing evaluative measures. This anticipated evolution holds promise for cultivating a milieu conducive to strategic foresight and proactive engagement, thereby augmenting the efficacy and enduring viability of our educational initiatives.



Realising the Ambition on line (online 2020) @ chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/ last accessed 08.03.2024. 

Senge, P.(online) Everything that we do is about shifting the capability for collective action @ (last accessed 07.02.24) 

The Education of man 1887 (online)@ Last accessed 01.02.2024. 



Comments from other network members

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

Add a comment