IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Leadership and Early Years Education: International Professional Programmes

A suite of programmes to improve schools by developing strong, resilient and innovative leaders in kindergartens.

The programmes are designed to support leaders and senior teachers in developing effective skills and tools suited to the post-pandemic context, which can be practically implemented in kindergartens. These will ensure direct impact upon learning and provision.

Option 1: Bespoke short course of workshops and webinars

Duration: according to training needs/flexible start date.


The rationale for this bespoke programme would be to provide education for leaders and experienced teachers in the theory and practice underpinning curriculum planning, pedagogy and leadership in early years settings. This programme would be appropriate for early years head teachers, year and subject leaders and senior teachers in kindergartens and schools.

As well as addressing the general principles of leadership and management, including the development of pedagogic leadership, this short course would support participants in considering issues specifically related to leadership in early years contexts. Participants would also be supported in the preparation of an Action Plan to support leadership and development within their own settings. 

Programme structure

This would be bespoke to the hosts organizational needs and would be delivered online through pre-recorded lectures and webinars. The course could be delivered over a series of sessions after school at a fixed time slot or days, or a combination of both. 

Example programme topics

  • Conceptualising Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Pedagogy and Leadership: Principles and Practice
  • Leading practice in early years settings
  • Democratic leadership and Pedagogical leadership/collaborative practice 
  • International leadership perspectives
  • Professional development and leadership
  • Working with parents and families/working with others.

Option 2: Early Years Education (EYE) Leadership Programme

Duration: 9 - 12 months.

3 modules


The rationale for this leadership programme would be to provide education year and subject leaders and senior leaders in early years settings. A Professional Certificate of Completion would be awarded to participants who successfully completed the programme.

The programme would be designed to give organisations and school networks a flexible approach to developing continuous professional development for early years senior teachers and leaders. This programme requires a host organisation who would work with IOE to customise the programme to ensure that it is relevant to national education policy and contributes to the strategic priorities of the host organization. Course content would be underpinned by the principles of evidence informed practice, where participants would critically engage with research, knowledge and data in order to critically reflect upon what is considered to be effective leadership practices in early childhood education. 

Programme structure

The programme would be different in each place of delivery as it would be customised to meet different contexts. However, there is a core structure and the core programme requires:

  • Completion of three modules
  • An in-school, research-based project
  • Attendance at online sessions.


Delivery would include three intensive workshops of three days duration separated by around four months. Each day would include 6 hours of online module delivery using a variety of approaches including lectures and activities and activity based adult learning. This could be tailored into shorter sessions. The programme also would require attendance at online activities including monthly web based seminars.


The Early Years leadership programme would have a modular structure. Each module core would be based on best practice in the light of educational theory and international research but tailored to meet local needs and linked to existing school teaching standards or frameworks where they are available. All participants would be required to study the same three modules:

  • Leadership and management: general principles and practice
  • Effective leadership in early years settings
  • Global issues in early years leadership.

Each module access of up to 50 hours of blended learning:

  • Essential reading
  • Analysis of pedagogy, theory and objectives providing the foundations for targeted teacher development in individual schools
  • Facilitated online learning involving pre-recorded lectures, collaborative forums and live tutorials
  • Access to online networks, research publications, practical resources and activities
  • Workplace learning including projects and action research.

Example structure (12 months)

  • Pre-course development with the host organisation (Month 1)
  • Pre-course reading and preparatory activities for participants (Month 3)
  • Online delivery of compulsory modules (Month 4).
  • School-based research project / Ongoing support from IOE tutors / Online seminars (Month 5 -11)
  • Online delivery of elective modules / Assessment of individual participants / Presentation of awards (Month 12).

Option 3: Facilitated Action Research (FAR) with an EYE leadership focus

Duration: 9 months (October-July).


This rationale for this course would be to scaffold early years leaders and  senior practitioners in engaging with educational research for themselves and adopting an investigative attitude that will help improve and evaluate practice. The sessions would take participants through the entire action research cycle in

  • identifying a problem to investigate
  • collating information
  • implementing change
  • evaluating impact.


The course would be delivered online through a series of twilight workshops, with blended learning also facilitated through readings, tasks and collaborative forums. 

Programme structure

  • Session 1: Identifying a focus for Action Research in your setting and your research question 
  • Session 2: A recap of what action research is & collating information about your issue 
  • Session 3: Finalise research questions and plan next steps 
  • Session 4: Project outlines
  • Session 5: Exploring the literature, being evidence informed 
  • Session 6: Research skills/literature search 
  • Session 7: Planning and implementing a change 
  • Session 8: Your project so far… 
  • Session 9:  Planning for impact and drawing conclusions 
  • Session 10: e-sharing- product, process, outcome 
  • Session 11: Final exhibition and celebration 
  • Session 12: Post final reflections.

Global reach: examples of international early years leadership work

China: Pedagogy and leadership, TopSchools organisation

Delivered a leadership programme (2019) to 30 participants from a range of kindergarten settings across China. As a bespoke programme it provided education early years leaders and experienced teachers in the theory and practice underpinning curriculum planning, pedagogy and leadership. The participants demonstrated high levels of participation and evaluations were positive. Participants valued input related to practical observation and assessment tools. 

United Kingdom: Facilitated Action Research, Islington Children’s Services

Supported Facilitated Action Research (2019-20) for 15 participants employed in early years settings in the Islington local authority area of London. Practitioners independently questioned and explored an issue or concern in their practice using a modified action research cycle. Organised as a blended learning programme and adapted to online delivery during the Covid-19 pandemic using UCLExtend as a platform.

China: World Class International School, Shenzhen

Bespoke courses (2016, 2017), designed in consultation between UCL, IOE and school leaders, to give participants a firm foundation upon which they could further their critical thinking, which would extend the impact beyond the limitations of the 3 day course. Participants noted that the course had clear impact on their leadership and practice. Evaluations noted that combining an early year’s curriculum with elements of school values and Chinese culture was particularly helpful. 

Pakistan: Leading Educational Organization, Lahore

Workshops enhancing leadership strategies for head teachers and senior leaders in kindergartens and primary schools (2014, 2015, 2017). Emphasis was placed upon embedding a shared vision of curriculum and practice in schools. Participants developed an action research project which was completed on return to settings.