What is Mentoring & how does it support quality early childhood practice?

Mentoring has been described as a relationship that involves supporting, motivating, shaping, guiding and encouraging, with the purpose of helping a mentee to reach their potential (Varney, 2012).

mentoring childcare donegal


Mentoring relationships lead to positive outcomes for those who take part, which in turn lead to wide ranging benefits for early childhood services. This approach to professional learning and development, based on inclusion and partnership, also leads to positive outcomes for children and families.
Benefits to mentees include:

• increased capability
• access to mentors’ knowledge and experience
• strengthened skills of reflective practice and self-directed learning skills development
• increased professional and personal confidence and well-being
• greater collaboration between the learner/mentee and the workplace
• increased commitment through feeling valued and supported
• increased capacity to deliver positive outcomes for children and families.

Benefits to organisations include:

• resilient individuals and organisations in times of rapid change
• increased capacity for leadership
• more effective resource management
• better collaborative performance
• sharing of good practice and knowledge transfer within and across organisations
• better staff retention
• good preparation for succession planning and long term talent management
• increased capacity as a learning community
• integration of other key processes, for example self-evaluation, reflective practice, feedback and listening skills
• enhanced levels of quality delivery and an improved service for parents.

Ultimately the benefits for individuals and organisations through mentoring will lead to better outcomes for children and families through improved services that are led by a workforce with:

• higher levels of professional skills
• improved qualifications
• knowledge transfer
• improved leadership of those delivering and leading services
• raised aspirations of the childhood practice workforce (for themselves and others)
• greater resilience to manage change and lead the quality improvement agenda


Research shows that the most effective programmes are supported by a coherent organisational structure, which provides focus and direction to the mentoring model, whilst remaining person-centred and unencumbered by bureaucracy.

Mentoring is about adding value. This happens more readily when it is formally integrated with other learning and development and embedded in the organisation’s wider human resource and career development operations. Having a formal framework also shows a commitment to mentoring as a key aspect of organisational learning.


A successful mentoring framework needs careful planning and design. Taking time to plan offers individuals and early childhood services the chance to interpret and tailor a mentoring
programme to their needs. The framework should allow for the development and further expansion of a consistent mentoring model in other areas of practice.

When developing an early childhood practice mentoring framework early childhood services may choose to build on existing policies and procedures, addressing any gaps and reinforcing procedures to staff. Others may need specific support tools or policies tailored to their own requirements.

The requirement for registration and inspection of a service and current relevant legislation should also underpin the design of the mentoring model. Because there are so many different types and sizes of early childhood settings, a variety of models are needed. However, some key ingredients are necessary in a mentoring framework to ensure consistency, promote success and provide a benchmark to measure continuous improvement. They are:

• a clear vision and purpose that is shared with, and understood by, all staff and management
• ongoing support from employers and senior managers who understand the basic concepts of mentoring, and who are clear about the purpose and intended outcomes of the programme
• a tailored mentoring framework and model that links with the strategic aims, operations and existing learning and support activities and which is flexible enough to meet the needs of the organisation and individual learners
• channels for communicating information to all staff in an organisation, whether they are taking part or not, about who is running the programme, and the processes involved
• a monitoring and evaluation strategy is in place.

© The Coalition of Childhood Umbrella Organisations 2010
Designed and published by: Communications, Care Commission

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