Teacher Leadership – An ECE perspective


Teacher Leadership – An ECE

childhood establishments in New Zealand tend to have
different leadership models. Many of these are based around
a hierarchical model, where there is possibly a centre
manager, assistant centre manager, head teachers in each
room, assistant head teachers, and the rest of the teachers
down the line. “The services available are very diverse.
They have a wide range of ownership and governance
structures as well as different philosophies and operating
models” (Ministry of Education, p. 8, 2017).

the years, a model that has been successful for me is an
environment where all teachers work together
collaboratively. Except for one team leader/centre manager,
the rest of the teachers are on the same footing and share
the decision making and responsibility with regard to the
children’s learning and development in their care. I
remain convinced that teachers develop expertise by working
collaboratively. A collaborative leadership approach tends
to motivate each teacher in the team, and teachers have the
freedom to offer a different perspective to children in
their own individual way without thinking of having to ask
for permission from the structure above. This results in an
improvement in teaching quality as the teaching team works
together to deliver a curriculum to the children in their
care. “Leaders in the education sector and across our
communities are increasingly required to work
collaboratively to support learner success and wellbeing”
(Education Council, p. 8, 2017).

In a paper titled
‘Teacher Leadership—Improvement through Empowerment?’
Muijs and Harris suggest that “one of the most congruent
findings from recent studies of effective leadership is that
authority to lead need not be located in the person of the
leader but can be dispersed within the school in between and
among people. Leadership is separated from person, role and
status and is primarily concerned with the relationships and
the connections among individuals within a school.” I am
currently working in an environment that reflects this
democratic leadership model and remain convinced that
curriculum and learning is delivered to children in the
broadest way possible.
Every teacher can demonstrate
leadership in one way or another. “Distributed leadership
theory advocates that schools ‘decentre’ the leader. In
this sense leadership is more appropriately understood as
‘fluid and emergent, rather than a fixed phenomenon’
(Gronn, 2000).” This requires leadership to be collective
and democratic and suggests an interdependency amongst
teachers who work together collaboratively and share the

I base my knowledge and understanding of
Te Tiriti o waitangi around the concept of Tāngata Whenua
and recognition of equal rights for all. Wiri Central School
defines the principle of rangatiratanga from an ako
viewpoint as it states, “By demonstrating rangatiratanga
we will develop into confident individuals able to lead our
own leaning and determine our own destiny”. The Māori
Dictionary offers a number of other words that relate to the
meaning of rangatiratanga, and include self-determination,
self-management, right to exercise authority, ownership, and
leadership of a social group.

Working together in a
teaching team that engages in a joint decision making
process offers all teachers an equal shared sense of purpose
and achievement for the outcomes of learning in the
environment. This joint leadership model has the advantage
of offering whakamanatanga or empowerment to teachers. Of
course, there has to be a give and take approach to joint
decisions if one argument weighs stronger than the other but
at least each teacher has the confidence and ability to
express himself and offer his point of view to the entire
team in order to arrive at a collaborative decision.

& Harris (2003) refer to research findings that state a
higher level of teaching performance and higher motivation
amongst teachers is directly related to empowering teachers
to take on leadership roles. Just as our 2017 curriculum
suggests that children have the agency to act on their own
ideas, it makes sense that kaiako adopt that same principle
and work together in an empowering environment in which they
can do so collaboratively.

In conclusion, “Kaiako in ECE
settings weave together the principles and strands, in
collaboration with children, parents, whānau and
community” (Ministry of Education, p. 10, 2017). Kaiako
can deliver these expectations when they have the autonomy
and freedom to do so spontaneously as they have developed
the confidence within themselves to be individual leaders in
their own right and can justify their actions as a team
approach to delivering the curriculum. “The absence of a
cohesive leadership development strategy may have weakened
the perceived value of leadership across the teaching
profession. In addition, a comprehensive understanding of
what leadership is and its status as a shared responsibility
may have also diminished” (Education Council, p. 9,

“Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi
engari he toa takitini. I come not with my own
strengths but bring with me the gifts, talents
strengths of my family, tribe and ancestors” (Ministry of
Education, p. 12, 2017).

Education Council (2017).
Leadership Strategy. The leadership strategy for the
teaching profession of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Gronn, P.
(2000). Distributed Properties: A New Architecture for
Leadership. Educational
Management & Administration
28(3): 317–8l.
Māori Dictionary – http://www.maoridictionary.co.nz.
of Education. (2017). Te whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga
mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early childhood curriculum.
Wellington, New Zealand.
Muijs, D. & Harris, A. (2003).
Teacher Leadership—Improvement through Empowerment? SAGE
Wiri Central School –

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