Opinion

Why early childhood educators should lead this country

The ongoing leadership shenanigans in Canberra make for riveting water cooler talk but the stakes are too high for us to take them lightly. This is an ideological battleground and from what we can see, the Liberal Party has no shared values, no sound philosophy and no way to align on important matters that have a far reaching impact on our country. Their leadership is just not effective and the early childhood sector wouldn’t get away with this rubbish.

In my early morning dream state I see the regulatory authority taking the red pen out to assess the government’s performance in Quality Area 7 (Leadership and Management). They receive ‘Significant Improvement Required’. There could be no appeal on this rating for leadership that so ignominiously dismisses the people they serve.

A quick scoping of what constitutes effective leadership in high quality ECE settings could be instructive for the Libs—particularly around the issues of values, vision and collaborating to deliver outcomes for the citizens they serve.

There are common threads in this research . The Effective Leadership in Early Years (ELEYS) studied leadership in ‘effective’ ECE settings. ELEYS researchers, Siraj Blatchford and Manni explored leadership from the “bottom up” focusing on concrete leadership behaviours rather than on the beliefs of leaders.  They found that effective leaders identified and articulated a collective vision; ensured shared understandings, meanings and goals, communicated well, and encouraged critical reflection.

In another study of twenty five Sure Start centres in the UK, Coleman, Sharp and Hanscomb found leaders focused upon the importance of outcomes for families and children—even whilst taking care of economic drivers. Their leadership was also guided by values and collaboration to achieve a common vision. These and other studies consistently identified leadership in both formal and informal roles that is positioned to uphold the rights of children. This important work is done in an environment characterised by frequent lack of respect and support from government.

We should be proud of the unswerving and dedicated work we do in early childhood education. We should be proud of our leadership that upholds human rights and serves children, families and the community. Sure, we still need to work on our leading and leadership and we must persist to ensure our professional identity is exemplified within that leadership so that children remain at the centre of our work. This is what children deserve.

As we wait for the next leadership challenge in the political arena the community despairs at the ethical and human rights issues that have been sucked into the government’s moral vacuum.

If “leading is a socially just practice occurring as a relational activity within a collective”* and is practiced to create a world worth living in, then this government is a definitive failure.

Thank goodness the early childhood sector isn’t.

*Wilkinson, J., & Kemmis, S. (2014). Practice theory: Viewing leadership as leading. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 1-17. doi:10.1080/00131857.2014.976928

2 comments

  1. Well said Leanne, one day a government will come that has EC at the heart of all of their policies! Perhaps this is the time that may unite the EC sector to call for a responsible government in regards to young children.

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