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The Vital Role of Supervision and CPD Planning in Early Years 

May 14, 2024
5 minute read

When we think about early years, our mind is almost always drawn to children happily engaging in activities, with skilled practitioners scaffolding their learning as they play. However, when we explore more deeply, we recognise that an early years setting is not only shaped by the interactions between children and practitioners but also by the quality of support and development provided to the practitioners themselves by skilled and experienced managers. At the heart of this lies the pivotal role of supervision and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) planning. For nursery managers and practitioners, recognising the significance of these practices is not just about compliance but about encouraging a culture of growth and excellence that ultimately benefits both staff and the children they care for. 

The landscape of early years education is constantly evolving, driven by research, best practices, and regulatory frameworks. Recent exploratory research, such as the study conducted by the Department for Education, sheds light on the critical link between effective CPD and the quality of provision in early years settings. This research underscores the need for structured, ongoing development opportunities tailored to the unique needs of early years practitioners. 

One of the foundational elements of effective CPD is the practice of supervision. Supervisions provide a dedicated space for dialogue, reflection, and support, enabling practitioners to deepen their understanding of their roles and responsibilities. The research outlined in the 'Opportunities for Development' report emphasises the importance of regular supervisions in early years provision. These sessions offer a platform for practitioners to discuss challenges, share insights, and receive feedback in a supportive environment. 

Central to the success of supervisions is the cultivation of open communication and trust between managers and practitioners. Creating a culture where staff feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns is paramount. Time allocated for these discussions should not be viewed as an administrative burden but as an investment in the professional growth and well-being of the team. 

Moreover, adopting coaching methods within supervisory sessions can further enhance their effectiveness. Instead of merely providing directives, managers can empower practitioners to explore solutions, set goals, and take ownership of their development. This approach fosters a sense of autonomy and accountability, driving intrinsic motivation and continuous improvement. So how can you use coaching strategies in your supervisions?  

  1. Active Listening: Encourage active listening by both the manager and the practitioner. Actively listening means not just hearing the words but understanding the underlying thoughts and emotions. Managers should demonstrate empathy and understanding, creating a safe space for practitioners to express themselves openly. 
  1. Asking Powerful Questions: Instead of providing solutions or advice, coaches ask thought-provoking questions that prompt reflection and self-discovery. These questions should encourage practitioners to explore their challenges, goals, and potential solutions. Examples of powerful questions include: 
  • What do you think are the underlying causes of this challenge? 
  • What are your options for addressing this situation? 
  • How does this challenge align with your long-term goals? 
  1. Goal Setting: Collaboratively set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals during supervisory sessions. Managers can guide practitioners in defining clear and achievable objectives that align with their professional development aspirations. These goals should be meaningful, motivating, and linked to the broader goals of the nursery. 
  1. Feedback and Feedforward: Provide feedback that is constructive, specific, and future-focused. Acknowledge achievements and strengths while also highlighting areas for improvement. Additionally, incorporate feedforward by discussing strategies and actions for future growth and development. Focus on actionable steps that practitioners can take to enhance their skills and performance. 
  1. Strengths-Based Approach: Recognise and leverage the strengths of each practitioner. Highlighting their strengths not only boosts confidence but also encourages a positive mindset towards learning and development. Encourage practitioners to capitalise on their strengths while also addressing areas for improvement. 
  1. Encouraging Self-Reflection: Build a culture of self-reflection by encouraging practitioners to reflect on their experiences, actions, and outcomes. This could involve journaling, self-assessment exercises, or reflective discussions during supervisions. By engaging in self-reflection, practitioners gain insights into their practice, identify areas for growth, and develop a deeper understanding of themselves as professionals. 
  1. Accountability and Follow-Up: Establish accountability by setting clear expectations and deadlines for actions agreed upon during supervisory sessions. Follow up on progress regularly, providing support and guidance as needed. Managers should demonstrate commitment to the practitioner's development by actively tracking progress and celebrating achievements. 

By incorporating these coaching methods into supervisions, managers can empower practitioners to take ownership of their learning and development journey. Coaching encourages a collaborative partnership between managers and practitioners, where both parties contribute to the growth and success of the individual and the nursery as a whole. 

To support the CPD for you and your team, you might find the following product in our shop useful:

Personal Development Plan

Skills Gap Analysis

Or find out more about our coaching services here.

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