Educational leadership in early childhood education and care settings

Year: 2012

Author: Thomas, Louise, Nuttall, Joce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed



In this paper we report from an ongoing project investigating the implications of the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and School Aged Care [NQF] (Council of Australian Governments, 2009) for Directors and experienced educators in early childhood centres. The project is specifically interrogating responses to two strategies within the NQF: the requirement for all early childhood services to employ an 'early childhood teacher'; and the requirement that an 'educational leader' is identified within each centre.


The project took the form of a qualitative case study of perspectives on practice, with a total of fourteen centre Directors from Queensland and Victoria and three experienced practitioners in Queensland generating the data during semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The interview questions were designed to elicit understandings of the NQF reform process, and perspectives on issues including the role of recent graduates and the work of the 'educational leader'. The resulting transcripts also included extensive spontaneous discussion of issues such as centre leadership and teamwork. Discourse analysis (Foucault, 1991) was used to identify and map shifts in the persistent discourses evident in the transcripts, including 'qualifications', 'leadership', 'management' and 'professionalism' in the prior to school sector. 


Initial findings point to a relatively secure base on the part of centre staff in the areas of centre management and administration, but a much less confident understanding of leadership for the enhancement of teaching and learning. Participants were unclear about the role of the 'educational leader' and how this might be conceptualised and enacted. In order to consider the implications of these findings for initial and continuing teacher education, we report on the discourses we identify as being mobilised by each of the participating groups as they work to construct and engage with their professional identities as educators, leaders and/or team members.


We conclude by proposing implications of this analysis for the development of effective mentoring and collaborative practices to enhance capacities for team work and leadership.

Council of Australian Governments. (2009). National quality framework for early childhood education and school aged care. Canberra, ACT: Author.

Foucault, M. (1991). What is enlightenment? In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault reader: An introduction to Foucault's thoughts. (pp. 32-50). London: Penguin