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Introduction

Within every early childhood education and care setting, there are various roles in relation

to management and leadership that need to be fulfilled. These roles are put in place to

ensure quality outcomes for both children and families. One significant leadership role is that

of the educational leader. Attached to this role are essential obligations that must be met in

order to achieve best practice, which can be accomplished through a particular leadership

style.

You are the pedagogical/educational leader in charge of the educational programs at a

large centre catering for children 6 weeks 5 years. (What does this mean? Give a

definition of the role of the educational leader.)

The role of the educational leader is recognised by The Australian Childrens Education and

Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) in two of its seven Quality Areas. As part of Quality Area

Four, Staffing arrangements (Australian Childrens Education & Care Quality Authority

[ACECQA], 2017, p. 9), section 118 of the Education and Care Services National Regulations

states that an educational leader must be designated by the approved provider of all

education and care services to lead the development and implementation of educational

programs in the service (Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development

and Youth Affairs [MCEECDYA], 2011, p. 133). Quality Area Seven, Leadership and service

management (ACECQA, 2017, p. 9), requires that provision is made to ensure a suitably

qualified and experienced educator or co-ordinator leads the development of the curriculum

and ensures the establishment of clear goals and expectations for teaching and learning

(ACECQA, n.d., p. 1). ACECQA acknowledges that this role requires the appointed person to

guide other educators in their planning and reflection, and mentor colleagues in their

implementation practices (ACECQA, 2011, p. 85).


The educational leader is ultimately responsible for developing quality educational programs

underpinned by a sound pedagogy. Pedagogy is described in the Early Years Learning

Framework (EYLF) as early childhood educators professional practice (Department of

Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR], 2009, p. 46). Pedagogy refers to

the art and science of teaching (Waniganayake, Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley & Shepherd,

2012); it is how educators teach and put their philosophy into practice. The concept of

pedagogy is crucial to understanding the role of the educational leader, as effective

leadership depends on clear pedagogical and curriculum visions (Siraj-Blatchford & Manni,

2007). Educational leadership is founded upon a willingness to develop a sound, evidence-

based curriculum (Fleet, Soper, Semann, & Madden, 2015), and ensure that all educators

have comprehensive knowledge of what that curriculum entails. Leadership in early

childhood stems from a responsibility to establish a shared philosophy, values and beliefs

that guide everyday practice and decision-making, and depends strongly on tactical planning

and evaluation (Solly as cited in Rodd, 2006). Once educational leaders have established a

shared vision, they must motivate all members to work towards achieving it (Cheeseman,

2012).

The role of the educational leader can be characterised by a sense of inspiration, motivation,

affirmation and challenge of the practices and pedagogies of educators (ACECQA, n.d.). The

role is one of modelling, mentoring, guiding and coaching: educational leaders are models,

in that they must role model best practice to ensure the team can provide the best quality

care and education for all children and their families, and they need to model ethical practice

(Waniganayake, Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley & Shepherd, 2012) to ensure all are treated

with respect and equity; educational leaders are mentors, meaning they must engage in a

process of supported learning (Waniganayake, Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley & Shepherd,

2012); educational leaders are guides, in that they direct educators in processes of reflection,
evaluation, planning and interpretation of curriculum documents (Waniganayake,

Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley & Shepherd, 2012) and approaches; finally, educational leaders

are coaches, which means they must provide educators with explicit instructions to facilitate

their professional learning (Waniganayake, Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley & Shepherd, 2012).

Successful early years education and care is highly influenced by the quality of leadership

that is provided (Rood, 2006). At the heart of the role of the educational leader is the children

and families involved at the setting. Heikka and Waniganayake (2011) recognise this in

stating that the role entails ensuring that the practices educators implement are suitable for

children. The importance of leaders guaranteeing that the needs and interests of all children

are met is also acknowledged by Sergiovanni (1998).

Underpinning the role of educational leader are certain qualities which should be taken into

consideration when appointing someone to this position. Cheeseman (2012) suggests that

educational leaders must be knowledgeable about: current theories and research; the

strengths and weaknesses of a range of curriculum approaches; how individual children learn

and develop; how the curriculum can be differentiated to accommodate diverse learning

styles and backgrounds; and how to reflect.

In your role as the pedagogical/educational leader, outline the essential obligations that

must be met in terms of achieving best practice for children and families in the early

childhood setting. (What do you have to do and why?)

Achieving best practice for children and families in early childhood settings is the main goal

of the educational leader. Best practice is based on a commitment to continuous

improvement (Hydon, 2013). It involves everything the educational leader does, to the

highest standards possible, to ultimately ensure that optimal learning opportunities are
provided for every child. In order to achieve best practice, educational leaders must meet

their core obligations of guiding and mentoring educators.

The EYLF refers to eight practices, which can provide a guide for educational leaders as to

what best practice looks like in action (DEEWR, 2009). These practices reveal that

educational leaders are obligated to ensure all educators do the following: adopt holistic

approaches to teaching and learning, so as to accommodate all developmental domains; are

responsive to childrens individual strengths, abilities and needs; plan for play-based

experiences that foster learning; teach with intention and purpose; create safe, welcoming,

flexible learning environments that reflect the identities of all children and families; value

cultural and social diversity among all children and families; provide continuity of learning

experiences to assist children in transitions; and assess and monitor for childrens learning,

using a range of strategies and as an ongoing process (DEEWR, 2009).

The Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics (2016) sets out specific obligations for

behaviour in relation to colleagues, which can be translated to what is expected of the

educational leader. Using the Code, it can be suggested that in order to achieve best practice

for children and families, educational leaders should work towards building collaborative

relationships among staff; valuing each members individual strengths, interests and

experiences; managing differences in values and beliefs; encouraging members to share and

build on each others knowledge; and continually reflecting on and reviewing the settings

philosophy and practices (Early Childhood Australia, 2016).

Educational leadership is built on a commitment to a team approach; thus, educational

leaders are obliged to promote a sense of collegiality among all members of the settings

team. Kearns (2017) describes collegiality as a workplace culture, which encompasses how
team members work together to achieve shared goals, and the sense of mutual trust and

respect that exists among colleagues. To establish a culture of collegiality, Barth (2006) states

that educational leaders are required to make their expectations explicit; reward members

who work well with their colleagues; protect members who engage in collegial actions; and

finally, model the level of collegiality expected of all team members.

Explain and justify the steps and processes you would take to ensure that you are providing

quality care and education at the centre and that you are meeting the obligations

described above. (What would you do and why? Which leadership and management

strategies would you use and why?)

The role of the educational leader requires certain steps and processes to be undertaken in

order to ensure quality education and care is provided and that the obligations essential for

achieving best practice for children and families are met. Educational leadership in practice

can be defined by three main processes: observing, discussing and sighting documentation

(ACECQA, 2017). These processes, as well as additional strategies such as reflection,

networking and providing support, can all be underpinned by a particular leadership style

that is founded on equality and collaboration.

Discussion assists educational leaders to meet their obligation of guidance. Educational

leaders may find it effective to conduct whole-school and individual meetings with educators

to discuss and review curriculum. These meetings should take place in a collegial manner,

with all educators being given equal opportunities to have their say. Regular staff meetings

encourage all team members to come together to share ideas, discuss routines (ACECQA,

n.d.) and converse about any concerns they may have for how the service is being delivered.


In order to ensure that the obligation of mentoring educators is met, a process that could be

implemented is observation. Educational leaders should make a conscious effort to observe

the actions of their team members in order to gain a deeper insight into their individual

strengths, weaknesses, interests and techniques. As part of observing, educational leaders

need to question the practices of their team members. Based on their observations, they

should then provide explicit and constructive feedback to each member to help them work

towards the constant improvement which Hydon (2013) believes constitutes best practice.

Sighting documentation forms evidence of the curriculum being implemented correctly.

Educational leaders should obtain evidence that each member of the team is reflecting the

curriculum and the organisations shared goals in their everyday practices and philosophies.

Similarly to observations, educational leaders can use this evidence to construct feedback

for their team members to help them develop as professionals.

Other strategies that would assist educational leaders to achieve their obligations include

providing support, promoting reflective practice and networking. Offering support can be

achieved by highlighting the strengths of each team member doing so helps to ensure all

members of the team feel valued and confident that they can work collaboratively to achieve

the goals of the organisation. Reflection is also crucial (ACECQA, n.d.; Waniganayake,

Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley & Shepherd, 2012), and must be based on what each team

member is doing well and what they can do to improve in the future. Additionally,

educational leaders can work with other early childhood professionals (ACECQA, n.d.).

Networking can allow leaders to share ideas, and it encourages change and innovation

(Waniganayake, Cheeseman, Fenech, Hadley & Shepherd, 2012), which in turn can lead to

improved services provided to children and families.


When educational leaders undertake these processes and strategies, they do so using a

particular approach to their leadership. Martoz and Lawson (2007) refer to different

leadership styles, one of which is the participative style. The participative style of leadership

aligns well with the role of the educational leader, as it emphasises a teamwork approach

(Martoz & Lawson, 2007), and a commitment to teamwork is what underpins educational

leadership. This democratic style of leadership provides all team members with a sense of

agency, encouraging them to get involved in decision-making and problem-solving processes

that affect them (Martoz & Lawson, 2007). Educational leaders can benefit from adopting

this style as it builds team members self-confidence and self-esteem, and assists them to

grow professionally (Martoz & Lawson, 2007).

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