What makes a great early years manager?

What makes a great early years manager?
Editor Rachel Lawler speaks with Tracey Davis, manager at Shoebury Nursery about her experience.
Like many early years practitioners, Tracey Davis started her early years career as a volunteer. She joined Shoebury Nursery 12 years ago and has since worked her way up through from an assistant role, to a deputy manager and has now been manager at the setting for the past five years.
Practical experience in the early years is essential for setting managers, but does the job require additional skills?
“Yes, absolutely,” Tracey says. “You need to be patient, approachable and persistent but you’ll also need to be good at multi-tasking and learn to always have a back-up plan!” Lots of these skills will be best learned on the job as new managers build confidence in their leadership.
But while managers will need to make decisions and lead their team, they also need to be ready when staff need support.
“It’s not a desk job,” Tracey says. “You’ve always got to be prepared to be hands-on and work with your team. A good manager leads from the ground up.”

Challenging times

During a difficult time for the sector, being a manager can bring real challenges. “Working with other professionals can be hard,” Tracey explains.
“Those outside of the sector often don’t understand what we do in settings as they have very little day-to-day experience of our work.” This can make dealing with local authorities and other contacts testing.
But by far the biggest challenge facing most settings today is the issue of budgeting. Budget restraints often leave settings struggling to recruit good staff and worrying about their sustainability.
To keep hold of good team members managers need to make sure they are feeling fulfilled and challenged in their role. “You need to encourage staff to keep working on their CPD and make sure you are being constructive with any comments or criticisms you have,” Tracey suggests.

Finding time

Recruitment and budget concerns can also make it difficult to find time to work on your professional development.
“There is never enough time in the day as we don’t have enough budget to have a spare person and are working close to our ratios,” Tracey says.
Online training can offer staff a chance to work on their knowledge and skills without having to take time out of their busy days.
“Lots of my team choose to work through their EduCare courses at home. Of course for some courses you need that face-to-face training but when you are short on time, online training is great,” Tracey says.
Despite the challenges, managing a setting can also be hugely rewarding.
Tracey says that seeing the impact of your work on the children is the best part of the job. “Watching children develop and grow into confident little explorers is so rewarding,” she says.
It’s essential to learn to balance these rewards with the stresses of the job. “It’s important to know when to switch off, too,” Tracey adds. “You’ve got to be able to leave it all behind when you go home for your own wellbeing.”
Our new EduCare training bundle makes it easier for you to take your managerial expertise and skills to the next level while boosting your continuing professional development.
Be the Best: Manager includes nine Cache-endorsed, CPD-approved online training courses especially recommended for early years leaders and managers. Once you have completed all the courses, you will be able to apply for your free Certificate of Training.
Alliance members can enjoy all these training courses for free as part of their membership. Non-members can purchase the Be the Best: Manager bundle for the special offer price of £95 or opt for full Alliance membership – which starts from £112 a year and includes all of the bundle courses as well as our comprehensive range of benefits and offers.

This promotion originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Under 5 magazine.