Opinion: To the Point - Responsible leaders

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The debate concerning the degree of legislation required for nursery settings seems to intensify as we approach elections.

If we follow a no-risk, rigid strategy for a children's curriculum in the early years we could create a sterile, boring environment aimed at average ability children, giving staff little room for creativity and expression.

It may be easier to administer, but it would surely not be in the interests of the individual child. Children are all different and though they require consistent management, their likes, dislikes, needs and concerns are all varied.

There are lots of issues in early years settings that require close adherence to legislation - health and safety requirements and employment legislation being good examples - but there is also real scope for encouraging staff to be responsive to using different skills and tailoring settings to local needs.

To achieve great outcomes for children it is important to be courageous in your ambitions and give staff freedom to express themselves and aim high. There is always the danger of being criticised for aiming to be the best, as it's not very British, but the beneficiaries will be the children, so it has to be worth it.

I believe that a highly regulated sector is a good thing. We have successfully implemented the EYFS in our nurseries and strongly support its principles. We want settings to be safe and secure places for children, but we also must encourage diversity of practice and approach.

Over the years Busy Bees has been developing the concept of self-governing nurseries, where senior staff have been given the responsibility for each nursery at a local level. It takes good training and the support of colleagues to be effective, but it has real benefits for children and staff. Responsible leadership requires experience and determination with, a large element of trust.

Delegated responsibility is an important aspect of management if individuals are to realise their potential. But if we encourage individualism and teamwork equally, we may develop a more supportive society where individuals will also have space to excel.

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