KU has long been a recognised leader in early childhood education. By creating and formalising a bespoke model for leadership, we can continue to thrive now and well into the future.

Effective leadership is a top priority for KU. As such it is embedded in our organisation. This focus has enabled KU to retain its high-quality programs; attract and retain high-performing teachers and educators; raise the status and standing of early childhood education among the wider sector; and remain a trusted advisor to governments.

In recent years, KU invested in a major research study, Leadership and Innovation in the 21st Century: Future-proofing early childhood organisations to shape the development of a unique leadership program that would support effective talent management and succession planning at KU.

The research had two principal aims. Firstly, to provide an evidence base to determine the architecture required to support highly effective leadership; and secondly, to provide a platform to enhance growth and expansion initiatives through access to a highly skilled workforce.

In all, 28 recommendations were presented with many quickly translated into myriad business-as-usual best practices during 2021. Just a few of the diverse outcomes executed include the implementation of an Employee Value Proposition, formalised annual career planning discussions and the creation of a Teacher Accreditation Framework.

While it’s great to chalk up quick wins, KU recognises there is a great deal more work to be done for leadership to be integrated and supported throughout the organisation. So, in parallel a leadership model has been articulated alongside a strategic leadership plan that will be implemented over three years from 2022 to 2024.

Strategic leadership plan

In consultation with the Board, KU’s Executive Team set out to create a roadmap of our overall approach to leadership that has a distinct KU flavour.

The team reviewed each of the research recommendations and categorised them into four groups; Our People, Organisational Leadership, Governance and Systems, and Sector Leadership.

To briefly explain each category; Our People includes everything from recruitment to recognition programs. Organisational Leadership encompasses external leadership courses and secondment opportunities. Governance and Systems will inform streamlining decision making and sharing knowledge. And finally, Sector Leadership is about furthering KU’s quality agenda.

The research identified a gap in KU’s historical support and development of emerging leaders, whereby leadership endeavours had traditionally focussed on early childhood education career pathways. KU’s new distinctive approach recognises that to truly future-proof the sustainability of the organisation, the leadership plan must be inclusive of all staff.

KU’s strategic leadership plan will therefore include targeted leadership and management programs more broadly across the organisation as a whole.

Culture of learning

KU is committed to developing leaders by incorporating professional learning into annual individual performance development plans.

In the early childhood education arena, Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has developed an unparalleled Leadership Program. Their training framework, founded on solid expert research and five years of sector consultation, was specifically created as a strengths-based, self-directed, short-term program for aspiring early childhood leaders in diverse settings.

In 2021, 83 of KU’s emerging education leaders, from Early Childhood Teachers through to those at Director level, had completed the ECA Leadership Program.

Portrait of a KU leader

There are three fundamental personal qualities in a KU leader; Learning agility, Resilience, and Emotional intelligence. These are underpinned by values of compassion, humility, integrity and social impact.

Amanda Ford, Director of KU ANSTO in NSW understands the importance of embodying these characteristics as a leader. She successfully completed the ECA Leadership course at the end of 2020 and went on to win a NEiTA Leadership Award.

“This moral compass underpins my work,” she says. “The impact of my work travels beyond the immediate centre, into family and community life where the vision for sustainability, inclusion, reconciliation and wellbeing continues.”