Making sense of leadership in early childhood education: Tensions and complexities between concepts and practices


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Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice

New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society

Subject: Education


ISSN: 1178-8690





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VOLUME 33 , ISSUE 1 (June 2018) > List of articles

Making sense of leadership in early childhood education: Tensions and complexities between concepts and practices

Nicki Klevering / Rachel McNae

Keywords : Leadership; management; early childhood; learning; theory

Citation Information : Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice. Volume 33, Issue 1, Pages 5-17, DOI:

License : (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Published Online: 02-April-2019



Effective leadership within early childhood settings is aligned with the perceived successful implementation of high quality care and education programmes (Thornton, Tamati, Clarkin-Philips, Aitken & Wansbrough, 2009). With growing attention on the role early childhood education (ECE) plays in preparing children to be successful in their lives, it is not surprising that there is increased focus on the work and impact of educational leaders in this endeavour. An expanding body of research specifically exploring leadership within ECE settings illustrates how much of the educational leadership theory corpus lacks contextual relevance and fails to recognise the complexities and realities of leading in early years contexts (Rodd, 2013). The qualitative research reported on in this article examines the leadership understandings and perceptions of five qualified, registered early childhood leaders. The findings illustrated that whilst participants were cognisant of the role effective leadership plays in providing quality care and education, there was much confusion about what leadership entailed and how leadership differentiated from management in this context. The contextual complexities of the ECE sector were a significant influence on each participant’s opportunity to learn about, and practise leadership. Findings also revealed a need for contextually relevant and progressive approaches to leadership learning to support early childhood leaders and teachers in their leadership work.

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