From the Ground Up: Growing leadership skills in early childhood educators

From the Ground Up is an innovative six-month leadership program for early childhood educators in ELACCA member organisations, developed by academics at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), led by Associate Professor Megan Gibson. The program is designed to build applied leadership skills among early childhood educators and to strengthen and extend the leadership skills of emerging and experienced leaders. 

The program has seen over 200 educators graduate, with participants drawn from across all States and Territories of Australia, with strong representation from regional and remote areas.  First offered in 2021, the From the Ground Up program skilfully combines leadership theories, approaches, and principles to educators’ work through action research, leading to improved professional growth for educators and their teams, which ultimately enhances the quality outcomes for children and families. 
ELACCA was established in 2014 and works to promote the value of quality early learning and care for young children and their families. ELACCA comprises 18 members, both not-for-profit and for-profit service providers, who seek to achieve greater quality and equity in early learning in Australia. We do this through analysis, advocacy and innovation, including by co-designing professional learning programs for early childhood educators and teachers. ELACCA also runs public campaigns to build the education workforce. We draw on the expertise, knowledge, and practical experience of our members, to represent their views to decision-makers in government, media and the public. 
From the Ground Up participants work in pairs to build their skills and knowledge, coming together each week online in whole-of-group seminars or smaller mentoring and coaching sessions. Through expert instruction from QUT academics and ELACCA facilitators, participants build skills that they can put into practice straight away. The key outcomes of the program have been the development of knowledge, leadership skills, confidence, and in particular a deep connection between program participants to support each other. Unanimous responses from program participants suggest the program has provided opportunities to grow leadership capabilities and capacities for individuals, teams of early childhood educators, centres, and organisations. 
Significantly, given the critical early childhood workforce shortage, ongoing analysis in the evaluation of From the Ground Up is demonstrating that the program is making a difference in educator retention and engagement in the early childhood profession: 
“For two years we have just been surviving, and this [From the Ground Up] provided us with the opportunity to really thrive.’ (Experienced Leader) 
“I have looked forward to this every week, every fortnight. The networking is so powerful. It is great to hear new terminology. I have gained a lot from the course so far and I have seen Deidre blossom as an assistant manager, which has been just absolutely beautiful, a fabulous testimony to how well the course is run.’ (Experienced Leader) 
“I’ve never heard of anything like this before, so being exposed to this has been really exciting for me. This has been enlightening because being able to dive into something, it just enhances your practices moving forward, because then you look into everything on a much deeper level.” (Emerging Leader) 

From the Ground Up aligns with the  National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy  goal to support the supply, attraction and retention of a high-quality ECEC workforce, and was the recipient of the 2023 Award for Excellence and Impact in Education from the Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE), for ‘exceptional service to the education sector’.