Early childhood teachers engaging with leadership narratives in policy

Coherence, contextualisation, and complexity





early childhood education, leadership, policy engagement, teachers


Educational leadership resists a unifying definition, assumption, or theory. This complexity encourages us to learn about leadership to understand its core components, underlying assumptions, and relevance for context. In Aotearoa New Zealand, policy rhetoric promotes leadership as being enacted by teachers and positional leaders. This consideration for teachers is positive but problematic, as it requires them to consider leadership in ways beyond what they feel equipped or supported to achieve. Augmenting this concern is the limited professional learning support for leadership development, especially in early childhood, and the increasing responsibility for teachers to achieve policy aspirations. To understand the rhetoric used to emphasise this responsibility, we utilise qualitative document analysis to examine the leadership narratives promoted in the Teaching Council’s Leadership Strategy and Capability Framework, from the perspectives of provisionally certificated teachers, teacher leaders, and positional leaders. Our argument suggests the leadership narratives promulgated by these texts are ambitious and raise issues of: coherence, contextualisation, and complexity. We discuss these issues in relation to support for teachers to critically engage with policy texts as important leadership learning.


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Author Biographies

Louise Gorst, University of Auckland

Louise Gorst is a PhD candidate at Waipapa Taumata Rau/the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. Her research encompasses leader identity and teachers’ influence and leadership of curriculum and pedagogy. Louise is a fully certificated and experienced early childhood teacher, leader, and mentor.

Alice Chen Jia, University of Auckland

Alice Chen Jia is a PhD candidate at Waipapa Taumata Rau/the University of Auckland. Both her Master's and doctoral study focus on teachers’ leadership in the context of early childhood education in New Zealand. Alice is a fully registered ECE teacher and educator in NZ and a certified interpreter in China.

Maria Cooper, University of Auckland

Maria Cooper (PhD) is co-Associate Dean Pacific and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, Waipapa Taumata Rau/University of Auckland. Maria researches and teaches on leadership, infant-toddler pedagogies, early years curriculum, and Pacific ECE.


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