Leaders and leadership as a global policy flow in early childhood education

Year: 2018

Author: Nuttall, Joce, Wood, Elizabeth, Henderson, Linda, Martin, Jenny, Louise, Kay

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we draw together the sources and claims of the two preceding papers in this symposium to consider (1) the relationship between English and Australian policy on educational leadership in early childhood, (2) the wider global context for leadership policy in early childhood education, (3) the possibilities and limitations of a rhetorical analysis of policy texts, and (4) the risks and opportunities suggested by these texts for the early childhood profession. Although the creation of EYTS in England preceded the mandating of the role of Educational Leader in Australia, there is clear evidence of the link between these policies in the work of the Productivity Commission, particularly its 2011 report on the early childhood workforce. These national policies reflect, in turn, global policy positions advanced by the OECD through its series of Starting Strong reports, which have consistently sought to persuade governments to invest in early childhood education by employing the logos of economic risk and investment articulated within human capital theory. We argue that a rhetorical analysis of relevant policy and implementation texts has allowed us to look beyond discourses of economic rationalism to identify the systematic formation, through policy, of early childhood leaders as autonomous moral agents, with a critical role in raising quality in response to a pathos of social and educational challenges affecting many young children. We argue that this positioning holds opportunities for the early childhood profession such as increased recognition of the demands and complexity of leadership work in the sector. However, there are also significant risks, such as the difficulty of innovating outside the circular logic of tightly constrained standards, and the capture of the moral commitments of early childhood professionals in the cause of global economic competitiveness.