Continuity and alignment in the early years: The role of middle leaders

Year: 2019

Author: Boyle, Tess, Grieshaber, Sue, Jones, Lesley, Petriwskyj, Anne, Webb, Grant

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Different practice traditions within the early years (birth to eight years), often identified as discontinuities, are most visible when children transition across and within early years’ settings. However, recent research evidences a shift away from school readiness of children towards provision for continuity of learning, regardless of children's abilities or background. In 2018, the Queensland Department of Education’s commitment to continuity and alignment of learning and development in the early years was evidenced through the appointment of over 50 Early Years’ Coaches. The primary task of these coaches is to work with teachers and executive staff to implement site-specific programs to support continuity and alignment. As such, the coaches function as ‘middle leaders’ meaning they work between the leadership of the executive staff and the early years’ teachers.

This paper presents findings of a multi-site case study investigating the role Early Years’ Coaches (middle leaders) play in extending understandings and strengthening practices that enhance continuity and alignment.Given the dearth of research investigating the direct effects of leading practices in the early years, the study addresses this gap and contributes to emerging discourses of continuity and alignment in the early years.

The sites were chosen because they had implemented significantly different Early Years’ Coach models. The evidence (data) was gathered through semi-structured interviews and site based observations.

The study addresses current Commonwealth and State policy priorities aimed at improving access, engagement and equity in Australian early years education. It achieved this by generating knowledge about how continuity and alignment in the early years is best supported at a system and site level by Early Years’ Coaches (middle leaders) in Queensland.The paper explores the relational role of leadership in effecting change related to transitions from early childhood education and care to school, an area in which there is little documented empirical research (OECD, 2017). It concludes by arguing that middle leaders are uniquely placed to effect change at a site-based and systemic level.


OECD. (2017). Starting Strong V: Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education, OECD Publishing, Paris.