Froebelian Leadership – Lorna Bradley

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Project summary:

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



This report will inform the reader of how the nursery manager facilitated discussions and created opportunities for key personnel to be involved in self- evaluation processes. Senior management team intended to ascertain the settings current position of Froebelian principles as a result of cumulative staff changes in recent months.  It was the intention that this project would provide staff with increased confidence, cultivate the work force and provide opportunities for distributed leaderships skills.  

Senior management team sought the views of key personnel who dictated the direction of the project which encouraged autonomy, drive and commitment. As a result of respectful and very well established relationships between the manager, depute and senior staff the self-evaluation processes were accurate and reflective of the current leadership and provision. This enhanced the outcome of the project as discussions were open, honest and all personnel were motivated and confident to vocalise their views to inform in the project. The manager recognised that democracy and this style of leadership is innate and encourages staff development and positive outcomes for children, yet had a realisation during the project that it could be suggested that the leadership of some staff at times did not align with Froebelian principles. Having achieved certification of Froebel in childhood practice previously this philosophy was inspirational and aligned with the managers values for children, but during this project it was becoming apparent that the leadership could be questioned and if it did indeed truly reflect Froebelian principles.  

Adult to children relationships are warm, caring and replicate that of a loving family. The ethos of the setting advocates this and as such children are observed to be very happy and relaxed with an eagerness to learn. It was some adult-adult relationships that required to be addressed as the manager had identified at times a lack of empathy and understanding of individuals personal circumstances, supports that maybe required and was at times too quick to judge and assume. The manager recognised the negative impact of this leadership, not looking beyond the act and allowed the management of tasks and day to day running of the setting to be at the forefront of decisions rather than the leadership and mentoring of staff. The manager decided that through this project more focus would be placed on individuals skills, recognition of key strengths, following a more Froebelian leadership style. 

The setting has been established for 20 years with an owner/manager who feels extremely fortunate to have the ability to lead and drive the staff team. As an established manager with thirty years’ experience who has a deep level of understanding of the importance of collaboration, respect and truly valuing individual staff and their key skills it was a negative emotion to acknowledge that this was not current practice with some new staff. The manager acknowledged that the expectations of new staff was too high. Staff were not being supported on our Froebelian journey and this was a reflection of the senior management team. The manager felt responsible for creating a culture within the senior management team where new staff were not given the appropriate conditions to grow and develop, allowing discussions that identified weaknesses of staff rather than a sense of recognition of previous learning with an established base line for future development. This ideology resonates with Froebel’s thinking and the value of education, guidance and direction. It is imperative that staff have a strong sense of leadership to fulfil their potential as discussed by Nutbrown, Clough and Selbie (2008). 

As a collaborative and utilising a recently published document from Froebelian Futures, A self -evaluation tool for practitioners and managers it was agreed that as a result of staff changes and an evolving staff team it was necessary to educate and support new staff of our values and further enhance their understanding of Froebelian principles. As a small intimate setting the impact of losing three established staff members in quick succession was significant. It was therefore critical to address the findings from the audit if the setting wished to continue to advocate a Froebelian philosophy to the degree of previous years.  

This proactive approach replicates Froebel’s philosophy as the senior management team agreed a more nurturing and supportive mentoring programme should be implemented. This project provided opportunities for self-reflection as the senior management considered their leadership of new staff and reactions to differing views and opinions. Senior staff recognised that significant cultural changes were required, relationships needed to be stronger where all staff felt loved, valued and effectively supported, illuminating Froebel’s theory of an individual being a part of a whole, a sense of community, Lilley (2010). Senior staff within each playroom were tasked with mentoring new staff, creating a culture where new staff felt involved and informed with the intention that staff would feel educated, knowledgeable and ability to think freely and ultimately making improvements by themselves. Senior staff agreed it was their responsibility to empower and influence new staff. This transformational leadership approach identified the endless opportunities that could be created if the uniqueness of individuals was recognised and opportunities to celebrate achievements, cultivating a sense of success and proficiency.  

Reflecting on the project it has been enlightening for all senior staff to have had the opportunity to not only self-evaluate the setting but to consider individuals leadership styles and ascertain new norms more reflective of Froebel. This process created honest discussions which is positively impacting on the culture within the setting. The manager feels as the facilitator senior staff have had increased accountability and awareness of following a Froebelian philosophy through our leadership, recognising the importance of building these relationships with new staff. Precious time has been created to allow staff to honestly reflect and consider their own strengths and areas of improvement.  

The manager feels a true sense of connectiveness with all staff, the opportunity to recognise personal growth and confidence to accept responsibility and ownership of the findings from the project. It has been noted that in previous years personal denial and defensiveness would have hindered the outcomes of this project. It is a result of increased self-awareness, confidence, experience and maturity that this project has been as successful. Opportunities have been created to acknowledge how personal values and morals have a direct implication on the leadership and culture of the setting. This project has broadened the views of the leadership of the setting, revaluating the settings ethics and principles which will have a positive impact on all staff, children and families. It can be noted that this is more reflective of Froebel’s ideology of true partnerships and sense of community within the setting.  The manager feels an increased level of motivation with a commitment to continually educating all staff and ensuring these adult-adult relationships are supportive, equitable and respectful aligning with Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence, cited in (Daly, Byers and Taylor 2009). 

The manager is aware that for continuous growth of staff all practice and communication that does not reflect Froebelian principles must be addressed. It is critical that any negative observations must be addressed immediately to ensure that current cultures are embedded.  

It has been enlightening and humbling for the manager to have had this opportunity for self-reflection and to take positive actions to eradicate some negative traits. Continuing to advocate a culture where all staff feel valued will be imperative if the setting wishes to commit to suggesting it is a Froebelian setting. Through this project the manager has lead and facilitated discussions, questioning and probing staff to express their thoughts and visions and as team agreeing upon improvements. 

Looking to the future the management team has a commitment to continuing to advocate Froebelian principles. New staff have been signposted to Froebel in childhood practice aiming to have all staff Froebelian trained. The depute manager is being encouraged to commit to achieving Froebelian futures leadership certificate. The manager will continue to encourage autonomy, continuous growth and personal development of all staff with an increased awareness of the adult-adult relationships. Senior management team recognise the correlation of knowledgeable, skilled and motivated staff and the impact on quality provision for children’s and their families 

To conclude this project has been very informative and Froebel’s philosophy will now be more influential in the leadership and illuminated in adult -adult relationships, staff will be supported through a new lens. As Froebel stated  ‘each child should be respected for who he is, what he has and what he will become’ (Tovey 2017: p125), this is a synopsis of the direction and future leadership style that will be adopted within the setting. 


Daly, M. and Byers, E. and Taylor, W. (2009), Early Years Management in practice, 2nd   ed. Essex: Heinemann 

Lilley, I. (2010), Freidrich Froebel A selection from his writings,2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 

Nutbrown, C and Clough, P and Selbie, P. (2008) Early childhood education: History, philosophy and experience, London:Sage Publications Ltd.  

Tovey, H. (2017) Bring the Froebel Approach to Your Early Years Practice, 2nd ed. Oxon: Routledge Publishers 


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