National quality standard in schools: Leadership enabling power and agency

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood


Early Childhood Australia Inc.

Place of Publication



School of Education




Barblett, L., & Kirk, G. (2018). National quality standard in schools: Leadership enabling power and agency. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 43(3), 43-51. Available here.


THE POLITICAL IMPERATIVE that underscores the quest for continuous improvement and quality provision of early childhood education and care in Australia has seen the unparalleled development of a federal policy framework for children’s services. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a National Quality Framework (NQF) and, as part of this, the National Quality Standard (NQS) was developed to drive continuous improvement and set a national benchmark for the provision of children’s services outside the schooling sector. The Western Australian Minister for Education required not only prior-to-school children’s services to meet the NQS, but also the early years of school that cater for children aged four years to eight years (Kindergarten to Year 2). This research project followed the journey of four schools that implemented the NQS in 2016, in the first year of mandatory use. A case study approach using qualitative methods of individual and focus group interviews of principals, teachers, teaching assistants and Department of Education consultants was undertaken. The data was analysed by the coding of common themes and by completing a cross-case synthesis. Leadership was the most common theme for successful implementation of the NQS. This paper reports on the aspects of leadership across multiple layers that represented the involvement of Department of Education consultants, principals and staff at four public schools. Essentially, the NQS increased staff power and agency, and united their vision for continuous quality improvement that contributes to the national quality agenda for children.



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