Top tips for ensuring best performance management in Early Years

5 February, 2013

Best Performance Management in Early Years

Best Performance Management in Early Years 

With recent changes to the Foundation Stage Curriculum and new Ofsted guidelines, Early Years managers are facing an even more challenging task in finding ways to most effectively manage and motivate their staff.

While the quality of care and dedication required by all Early Years practitioners remains the same, the expectations as to how to create an outstanding setting have remained consistently high but not always consistently judged. The criterion often varies from Inspection team to Inspection team despite a specific judging framework. So how can Early Years managers embed and communicate their methods of performance management in order to genuinely bring out the best in their staff and also have them reflect the standards and vision Ofsted want to see?

In the sea of so much change and varying opinion it is vital that managers are first very clear as to what they consider excellent practice and to examine their performance management systems in that light. For any setting to run smoothly and to be able to adapt to necessary changes and challenges, there must be a bed rock of open communication, clearly set out expectations and mutual trust between staff and managers.

Much in the same way settings strive to create an environment for children that is consistent, fair and nurturing; the same approach needs to be applied to create a similar environment for staff. Without mutual trust and the security of knowing that managers are being consistently open and fair, it will be difficult for staff to demonstrate the best care and provision for the children.

There are a number of ways to ensure you are creating the best possible environment to foster trust and goodwill in your staff, even in the face of continuous change and inspections:


  1. Be as clear as possible in your vision and how you communicate your values to all involved.
  2. Have open and consistent policies and procedures. This may sound obvious but unless you are continually striving to do exactly what you claim to do you are opening yourself up to potential conflict and to probing questions from external inspectors and advisors that may not then reflect you or your setting in the best possible light. The Self Evaluation Form and Setting Development Plan are both good tools for helping with this.
  3. Be clear as to the mix of experience and skills you need in your staff to ensure your setting is continually reflecting best practice.
  4. Examine your delegation skills. Good managers develop their staff by delegating key tasks that not only enhance their individual professional development but also create positive impact on the setting.
  5. Review your appraisal and performance review procedures. Taking the time to really develop your staff is vital to ensuring consistently good practice and also developing the good will necessary for a successful setting. Make sure the questions you use include asking for their views and opinions on how the setting is being run, their individual skills and interests, the training and delegation you can offer and how their contributions will be recognised and valued.
  6. Avoid personal conflict by using the BOCA Feedback system to deal with any areas of concern or poor performance among staff. The BOCA Model focuses on the behaviour and not the person and provides an excellent framework to support your existing policies and procedures. In a nutshell, BOCA follows the following format:


    • B – Identify the behaviour that is causing the concern. What exactly is the behaviour and what is its impact?
    • O – Outcomes. As a result of this behaviour, what outcomes are taking place in terms of affecting other staff, children or any other aspect of the setting.
    • C – Consequences. If the behaviour was allowed to continue, what might be the consequences to the staff member, other staff or the setting as a whole. This is where you can highlight your existing systems and policies that can address the issue and ensure consistency and fairness.
    • A – Action. What will happen next? This is an opportunity for the specific staff member to offer their thoughts and ideas as to how to address the issue which creates a more mutually beneficial solution and is not so damaging to the professional relationship.

Finally, keep open to others’ views and opinions. Collaboration in working towards a common goal will help further develop mutual trust and co-operation.


About the Author:

Rebecca Miller is a knowledgeable and inspiring education consultant and trainer and also author of ‘Clearly Outstanding’, a practical guide for owners and managers in the Early Years sector to create and sustain an outstanding setting. She works closely with schools and nurseries to provide support in the creation and sustaining of outstanding practice.

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