Who is leading the early years? An investigation of early childhood pedagogical leadership in school settings

Author Identifier

Amie Fabry


Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)


School of Education

First Supervisor

Lennie Barblett

Second Supervisor

Marianne Knaus


The early years of primary school in Western Australian is a complex space fraught with confusion and challenge as teachers experience competing demands on their pedagogical practice. In the early years, Kindergarten (starting at 3 1/2 years) through to Year 2 are mandated to use the Principles and Practices of the Early Years Learning Framework and are school audited on a modified form of the National Quality Standard. However, Kindergarten and Pre-primary teachers report concerns about the pushed down curriculum and the impact that pressure for academic achievement and formal learning is having on their pedagogy. Early childhood pedagogical leadership has the capacity to assist teachers to improve pedagogical practices, however there is little evidence of how early childhood pedagogical leadership is enacted in school contexts.

Framed within a social constructivist epistemology, this study utilised mixed methods to investigate the factors that assist and inhibit teachers’ implementation of the pedagogical Principles and Practices of the EYLF in the Kindergarten and Pre-primary year, as well as the enactment of early childhood pedagogical leadership in Western Australian school settings. The perspectives of Kindergarten and Pre-primary teachers, primary school Principals and early childhood pedagogical leaders were garnered through three phases of data collection. During the first phase, responses were collected through an online survey. In the second phase of the study, semi-structured interviews were used to confirm survey findings and elicit further detail about effective early childhood pedagogical leadership. These findings were used to identify three school settings in which the enactment of effective early childhood pedagogical leadership could be observed and investigated as case studies.

Collectively, the findings from the three phases of data revealed that teachers’ implementation of EYLF pedagogy is significantly influenced by the school Principal, the teachers’ knowledge and experience of early childhood policy, research and pedagogy, and the presence or absence of early childhood pedagogical leadership in the school. While ambiguity surrounded the role of early childhood pedagogical leadership, it was also found that EYLF could be implemented through the lens of continuous improvement when a relational culture of connection with and between teachers was cultivated. Furthermore, it was concluded that early childhood pedagogical leadership could be effectively enacted when those tasked with this responsibility held current early childhood knowledge, were allocated time to undertake their role and were supported by the school Principal. These findings elucidate the implementation of evidence-based early childhood pedagogy in school settings rests of the presence of effective early childhood pedagogical leadership, yet teachers and school leaders lack an understanding of how the role should be enacted. The pragmatics of enactment uncovered in this study offer new findings of early childhood pedagogical leadership as praxis which enable teachers and Principals to better understand the role, and which bear implications for policy development to ensure that continuous improvement is embedded and sustained in school contexts.



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