Leadership: a catalyst for change

Leadership teams play a central role in coordinating, guiding and supporting the ECEC setting teams throughout all phases of the PW–PBS implementation

Key Points: The implementation of Programme–Wide Positive Behaviour Support (PW–PBS) is led by a leadership team, comprising various professionals, in each ECEC centre. This team organises, integrates, and coordinates the implementation of effective strategies and practices. Well-prepared, highly engaged, and supportive leadership promotes common ground at the level of vision (beliefs and values), theoretical underpinnings, and pedagogical practices. Leadership teams are also responsible for facilitating communication and providing ongoing professional development and resources to professionals, guaranteeing spaces for reflecting and debating the progress and challenges encountered. Ultimately, knowledgeable and committed leadership promotes professionals’ autonomy and participation, which accounts for the sustainability of outputs for both professionals and children (please see our PBSECEC Key Resources section). The preparation and support for leadership in ECEC settings are central to providing the conditions for the successful implementation of PW–PBS. The preparation of leaders is intended to help sustain a highly informed and intentional exercise of pedagogical leadership focused on promoting the learning and well-being of children and professionals.

Voices of professionals and educational stakeholders from PBS–ECEC

“It is essential to teach and train in the area of leadership and provide incentives” (C., Portugal).   

“Everyone on the leadership team has to believe that it will work. They must provide the impetus for continuity” (M., Portugal).   

What can be done to make a difference?

Strategy: Create a leadership team to guide the successful implementation and sustainability of PW–PBS


  • Ensure that the leadership team is empowered to guide and support professionals and collaboratively develop policies, strategies, and procedures that facilitate the integration of PW– PBS into daily practice. Invest in specialised high-quality training in leadership skills (e.g., through professional associations or training centres located in school systems).
  • Ensure that leaders have the resources needed to facilitate communication among team members, guaranteeing spaces for debating the progress, challenges, and tensions encountered by professionals; the promotion of processes of critical reflection focused on vision, theory, and practices is essential for successful PW-PBS implementation.
  • Build a shared commitment among stakeholders, including administrators, professionals, and families, to provide support to emerging leaders and allocate dedicated time for leadership activities. This means acknowledging leadership as a driving force of change and transformation and creating working conditions for leaders to fully develop their pedagogical role and functions
  • Create adequate conditions and incentives for a motivated and highly engaged leadership team. Their role involves guaranteeing the training of all professionals, setting goals, managing resources, overcoming barriers, conducting intersectoral work, and making PW–PBS implementation sustainable. Additionally, involve younger professionals in leadership roles to help build crucial skills early in their careers.
  • Ensure the availability of quality assessment tools aligned with the PW–PBS framework to sustain data-driven decisions by leadership. (Visit PBSECEC eLearning course (Module 5) to learn more)
  • Decrease the burden of the bureaucratic role and invest in the pedagogical role; leaders should be mobilisers of change and creators of new solutions to the challenges faced by ECEC teams.
  • The leadership team effectively guides professionals and stakeholders throughout PW–PBS implementation and assessment
  • Support trusting, non-judgmental, and collaborative ethos among all professionals.
  • Guarantee the participation of all team members, irrespective of their roles.
  • Provide ongoing professional development, training, and resources to professionals, fostering a shared understanding of PW–PBS principles, strategies, and practices.
  • Allow flexibility in determining the composition of leadership teams (particularly in small-scale ECEC centres) and be open to alternative, smaller leadership structures.
  • Develop strategies such as mentorship programmes, targeted professional development opportunities, and collaborative decision-making processes that can further promote the cultivation of leadership skills within ECEC settings.

What are the expected benefits and impact?

  1. Leadership teams serve as an important bridge between stakeholders, ensuring that everyone involved in the ECEC community is aligned in nurturing socioemotional growth and fostering a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment. Leaders influence pedagogical practices and focus on children’s positive outcomes concerning socioemotional learning and the prevention of challenging behaviours.
  2. Effective leadership helps create an environment where every child has the opportunity to thrive emotionally, socially, and academically, implying the purposive development of a shared vision among key stakeholders in the implementation of PW–PBS.
  3. Leaders create a positive organisational climate, support and motivate all professionals, and cocreate collaborative mechanisms to involve families and the community.
  4. Leaders provide context-specific guidance and continuous evaluation of PW–PBS implementation. This promotes realistic and feasible implementation, leading to increased programme effectiveness and positive behavioural outcomes for children.
  5. Effective leaders allow the sharing of resources, best practices, and support, ultimately leading to a more sustainable implementation of PW–PBS programmes.

What practices show the way forward?

Data-based leadership (Visit Impact Assessment Study and Practice Recommendations Report to learn more)

As a result of PBS–ECEC training and the implementation of the PW–PBS component related to datadriven decision-making, the leadership team in a participating ECEC setting in Portugal developed a shared tool for the staff to report incidents. This tool was deemed necessary because professionals usually commented on the incidents but rarely recorded them. This instrument comprises elements such as date/hour, description of incident, location, involved parties, professional responsible for handling the situation, and other observations. All professionals could use this tool to report everyday events that were problematic, challenging, or somewhat disruptive to their normal routine. Looking at the data provided by this new tool, the leadership discussed with the professionals the patterns that emerged and became clear: most of the difficulties experienced and the problems reported were in the transition periods. The clarity provided by the data informed the team´s decisions regarding several intervention strategies, which were guided by the leadership team. Later, the leadership team assessed the effectiveness of the strategies and made the necessary adjustments in collaboration with the whole team to achieve the goals and reduce the incidence of challenging behaviours occurring during the transition periods.

Mitigating barriers

In Ireland, during PBS–ECEC implementation, leadership teams were made up of a small number of staff members. In some instances, only one staff member (usually the ECEC setting owner or manager), became the “leadership team” on behalf of the ECEC setting. While staff shortages in ECEC in Ireland are an issue, some ECEC setting settings operate on a very small scale, so, to adapt accordingly, some ECEC settings chose smaller leadership teams.

Supporting evidence and resources

Key Resources

Needs assessment in four countries 

Krousorati, K., Grammatikopoulos, V., Agathokleous, A., Michaelidou, V., Szproch, A., O’Brien, M., Barros, S., Araújo, S., Santos, M., & Sousa, M. (2023). PBS–ECEC transnational consolidated report: Research findings for developing the guide on Positive Behaviour Support in early childhood education and care.  https://PBSECEC.eu/wpcontent/uploads/documents/PBSECEC_NeedsAssessment_Consolidated_report_EN.pdf 

A Guide for using PW-PBS in ECEC

Krousorati, K., Grammatikopoulos, V., Agathokleous, A., Michaelidou, V., Szproch, A., O’Brien, M., Araújo, S., Santos, M., Sousa, M., & Barros, S. (2023). PBS–ECEC guide on Positive Behaviour Support in early childhood and care in European countries. https://PBSECEC.eu/wpcontent/uploads/outputs/PBSECEC_Guide_EN.pdf  

PBS-ECEC online modules

PBS–ECEC Consortium (n.d.). Implementing Positive Behaviour Support in early childhood education and care [MOOC]. https://PBSECEC.ese.ipp.pt/login/index.php

Impact assessment study & recommendations

Szproch, A., O’Brien, M., Araújo, A., Santos, M., Oliveira, V., Barros, S., Otero-Mayer, A., Michaelidou,

V., Agathokleous, A., Krousorati, K., & Grammatikopoulos, V. (2023). Report of the PBS–ECEC impact assessment study and practice recommendations. Result 3: Transnational Report.  https://PBSECEC.eu/wpcontent/uploads/2023/10/PBSECEC_R3_ConsolidatedReportFinal.pdf

Additional Resources

Charalambous, V., Stalikas, A., & Vrasidas, C. (2021, July 13 – 16). The design and implementation of a program to enhance teachers’ wellbeing [Paper presentation]. 42nd Annual Conference of the International School Psychology Association, ISPA 2021, Nicosia, Cyprus.  

Douglas, A. L. (2019). Leadership for Quality Early Childhood Education and Care. OECD Education

Working Paper, n. º 211. OECD iLibrary. https://doi.org/10.1787/6e563baeen    

European Commission (2014). Proposal for key principles of a quality framework for early childhood education and care. Report of the working group on early childhood education and care under the auspices of the European Commission. European Commission. https://www.valueecec.eu/wpcontent/uploads/2019/11/ececqualityframework_en.pdf   

OECD (2019). Providing quality early childhood education and care: Results from the Starting Strong

Survey 2018. OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/301005d1en    

OECD (2020). Building a high-quality early childhood education and care workforce: Further results from the Starting Strong Survey 2018. OECD Publishing.