Froebelian Leadership – Arlene Joyce

Project author:

Project summary:

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


Value of CPD/CLPL  


Falkirk Council created an opportunity for an establishment to become a Froebelian Nursery. This first time opportunity arose at the same time we were preparing for moving to a new building. I discussed this with the team and the response from the team was ‘an overwhelming yes’.  The team realised that this was not achievable unless every member of the team was prepared to commit to further their Froebelian knowledge, skills and practice. I will share my journey on how I enabled staff’s continuous professional development to shape our Frobelian journey in preparation for becoming Falkirk’s Flagship Froebelian Nursery.  


On success of our application to become the Froebel flagship nursery, I reflected on our current knowledge and practice within the nursery. What was the impact of our practitioners currently holding the Froebel in Childhood Practice? The impact our participation in the ‘Slow Pedagogy’ Project had had on current practice?  What next? 

Reflection on my own knowledge and leadership style was required. Staff’s enthusiasm for furthering their knowledge led to sixteen staff undertaking the Froebel in Childhood Practice, four more including myself participating in Froebelian Futures Practitioner Inquiry, then the opportunity to undertake the Froebelian Leadership course. I had to plan and coordinate with the team how we facilitated the individual projects and research whilst providing equity to all.  

My focus for the team was based around giving staff autonomy in developing their identified projects and research whilst increasing staff’s knowledge in relation to Froebel Principles and how we embed them in our day to day practice. Children and families need to be included and supported to understand the change in our ethos and practice.  

Participating in the Froebel related courses, related webinars and pedagogue sessions gave all of us the focus to support our professional learning journey.  


I organised an in-Service Training Day where we had 100% attendance and participation from the team. We met away from the nursey, our day was planned to provide a balance of listening, participation and team building. Our Froebel Pedagogue Donna presented and facilitated the day allowing everyone to fully participate. Staff left that day full of enthusiasm and vigour to start our journey. We all recognised the journey ahead of us and the commitment required from all of us to look at our individual leadership styles. To support this journey everyone recognised, including myself that reflection of our journey so far and individual CPD was imperative to our success. 

Collating of information started in August 2022 with gathering staff’s current level of knowledge through research questions. Findings of the questions then informed our ‘Froebelian Ethos and approaches’.  Analysis of staff’s training/strengths was undertaken. All of this information gathering supported our CPD/CLPL calendar for 2022/23.  

Staff who had previously completed Froebel in Childhood Practice became advisors in specific areas e.g. block play, sewing, woodwork & mother songs. Staff were identified to become advisory consultants within the authority and our centre. 

A robust programme of pedagogue sessions was put in place ensuring all staff were able to attend and participate. This programme was delivered by our Froebel Pedagogue and included Froebelian Principles, observations and slow pedagogy.  

Individual consultations were held in regards to projects. These professional dialogues have continued regularly to support staff and identify any areas of support, development, training or resources. A Professional Learning Library was created to support professional reading. Information on training opportunities and webinars were posted on our ‘Teams’ page.  

Consultations and learning sessions were delivered in a variety of ways to support staff’s different learning styles. It was important to include all staff, including those who were not undertaking certificated learning. Staff who were are unable to undertake the Froebel in Childhood Practice were all consulted as to how they could participate and they individually identified an area of interest which they could develop as their leadership task. 

Each term we have reflected on the impact our CPD programme has had. Staff’s confidence has grown. During staff one to one meetings with myself the professional dialogue now includes the Froebelian principles and language. They are excited and confident to share their leadership successes. This is becoming evident in our environments, experiences and interactions. 

It is important to take our families on our journey and we were very fortunate that we had the opportunity for four of our parents to attend a woodwork session with Pete Moorhouse. Parents have been participating in Stay ‘n’ Play, Connecting with Nature, PEEP, Book Bug and Baby Massage. Our on-going CPD programme has allowed staff to access training in which they can then deliver or share their new found knowledge with families.  

In our profession we all recognise the value of professional learning but this journey has highlighted that if you have connectedness and autonomy throughout the team we can achieve great things.  

Project Outcomes (non-leadership) 

This journey has taken us and continues to take us in different directions. Individual interpretations of our progress, improvements and success are all viewed through different lens. It has been my job as Head of Centre to unite them, support the diversity of views and opinions. Remind everyone we as adults need to show respect, empathy and compassion towards each other in order for our children to learn these skills. If we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t this will transfer into children’s learning. 

Bruce (2021) explains, “What children can do (rather than what they cannot do) is the starting point in a child’s education” (Bruce 2021:142). 

This project has highlighted the importance and value of ensuring that all stakeholders are involved in every aspect of our service. I have mainly focused on staff CPD it has become apparent how the knowledge and skills staff have learned has been transferred to families and children. Their new found knowledge has improved our learning environment both indoors and out. Staff have learned new skills they didn’t know they had or have gained new interests. Previously during the Slow Pedagogy Project, we had our eyes open to new possibilities and we have continued to build on this. 

We have increased the amount of opportunities staff have for professional dialogue. We have reached out to colleagues in other settings to share good practice and vice versa. Staff are recognising the value in professional learning and identifying how this is impacting on their practice. There has been a new found pride in how staff record learning for both children and themselves. 

Froebel in Childhood Practice projects are in full flow at present, it is warming to hear staff’s enthusiasm of where they plan to progress their area of interest. Everyone is thinking about environment, experiences, interactions, families and community in their future plans. 

I will continue to analyse the impact CPD/CLPL has on our Froebel journey.  


Final Reflections 

This project and the Froeblian Futures, Practitioner Inquiry has allowed me time to reflect on my journey over the past nine months. We have taken a leap of faith to change our ethos, values and beliefs wholeheartedly through a Froebelian lens. As much as this is something I believe in, change is always unsettling.  I have had to be adaptable and relent some control which at times has been challenging for me. We are currently working on a split site as we await building work to be completed. Falkirk’s Froebel Pedagogue Donna, has joined my senior management team 3 days per week. I have been working with an external consultant in relation to leadership and this has supported my Froebel journey. 

Changes are always challenging and as we know nothing stands still in early years. I am usually the person supporting everyone in the team to adapt to change.  Interestingly this time I have looked to Donna for support and guidance. I have given over responsibility for areas of development to other members of my team and Donna which has built confidence throughout. My own CLPL this past year has highlighted my leadership style ‘participatory’ was not as defined as I thought it was. I have found new systems and strategies that support consultation with team members which provides evidence that they have been listened to. We have published children’s, staff’s and parent’s views showing transparency in what we are doing. 

On reflection I can recognise that my leadership style at times changes. Going forward I will continue to give more responsibility and autonomy to my staff team. I am quite an inverted personality and often find it difficult to celebrate success or receive praise this has to change for my team to gain the recognition for all their hard work.



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