Setting the purpose and values to create a positive culture for Northern Schools Early Years Cluster
Building a cohesive team
The Northern Schools Early Years Cluster was formed by members of the Broadmeadows Primary School’s Principal Network in 2009. The Early Years Management organisation provides management, governance and expertise to eleven kindergartens. Ten of these are co-located on school sites. This relieves the burden of early years management from school councils and parent group committees and creates attractive employment opportunities.
The cluster has experienced significant growth since its establishment, increasing from 5 to 11 services. There have also been a number of Government reforms in the Early Years in recent years, such as the introduction of school readiness funding and the roll out of 3 year old funded kindergarten. In light of these changes, the Northern School Early Years Cluster Board realised they needed to move from a model that was similar to a “small family business” to a new management model. This would sustain a larger growing organisation and manage the increasingly complex reforms.
The board revised its management structure to ensure that the organisation would be sustainable into the future and meet the requirements of the Government early years reforms. They appointed a new Chief Executive, Sigi Hyett, to lead the change. The key areas of the review were as follows:
- Audit of the cluster
- Review the cluster’s purpose with children, families, staff and the board and ascertain a revised common purpose for the organisation
- Identify values and ensure these were agreed and aligned across the organisation which included consultation with all stakeholders: children, families, staff and board
- Set strategic goals to ensure the organisation is working together to achieve the common outcomes for children, families, staff and community.
Ascertaining the common purpose, values and goals was an important step to support the organisation to achieve integrated service delivery. This would allow staff to work together for the common purpose rather than working in individual silos.
Northern Schools Early Year Cluster engaged Governance Intelligence to assist with the review of their strategic plan. This included the review of the purpose and philosophy, values and identifying the broad strategic goals. They engaged in a number of workshops and completed a Culture Pulse Audit. They brainstormed a list of values and worked together with all stakeholders to drill down to four values that could be used in everyday practice.
The NSEYC Inc. identified four core values:
- Trust – Demonstrate honesty, integrity, reliability, social justice in our programs and practice.
- Respect – Acknowledge each person’s intrinsic value, being considerate, authentic and courteous.
- Relationships – Be welcoming, connected and inclusive of our communities.
- Learning – Strengthen the capabilities of each individual in our communities.
They then developed five strategic goals:-
- Growth Strategy – Pursue opportunities or growth to meet our purpose
- Community Strategy – Strengthening communities
- Sustainability Strategy – Operate a financially and environmentally sustainable enterprise
- Workforce Strategy – Strengthen our workforce
- Children’s Strategy – A quality children’s service
They developed a revised purpose “To love a life of learning and living”. Everyone in the organisation was encouraged to take ownership for the purpose and the values and creating a positive culture.
The audits and workshops had a significant impact for the Northern Schools Early Years Cluster.
“The Culture Pulse Audit was curated to meet the organisation’s needs and goals with specific questions and was rolled out quickly throughout the organisation” said Sigi. “The first audit report on culture provided clear insights and issues to be reviewed and was used as a benchmark. It was a tangible ten-page report with many visuals that could be easily read by the busy board and management team”. It highlighted:
- the need to focus on building a cohesive team as new staff had started and some had resigned.
- the rating of culture in the organisation is very positive, with clearly identified areas of improvement for the leadership team to focus on.
- the need to continuously be guided by the purpose, values and goals of the organisation.
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