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Issues in Educational Research, 2022, Vol 32(4), 1321-1341.
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Leading for quality in Western Australian early childhood services: An emerging framework

Emma Cross, Madeleine Dobson, Rebecca Walker and Geoff Lowe
Curtin University, Australia

All Australian children and their families have an equal right to access quality early years education. To achieve this, rationalisation of the Australian early childhood (EC) sector in 2007 saw the introduction of mandated governing frameworks, including the National Quality Framework (NQF), designed to regulate and assure quality practices across the sector. Understanding what quality is and how it is demonstrated in EC services is critical to young children's learning and development. However, issues engrained within the sector exacerbate challenges in leading, achieving, and planning for quality improvements. This research analysed Western Australia's NQF service ratings across geographic locations and governance of organisational structures for the most recent publicly available figures. It became clear that Quality Areas One (educational program and practice) and Seven (governance and leadership) held the greatest number of Working Towards ratings, with particular attention drawn to regional EC services. Given the link between programs and leadership, this research makes recommendations for improving EC service leadership and quality through enhanced professional learning and clarification of the early childhood educational leader (ECEL) role. This article proposes an emerging framework of leadership that emphasises the impact of leadership on quality ratings.
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Authors: Emma F. Cross is a researcher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child. Her research interests include leadership structures and how these lead to the empowerment of early childhood educators, resulting in quality outcomes. Emma also actively researches the digitisation of childhood and how this influences young children's creativity.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0974-3287
Email: emma.cross1@curtin.edu.au

Madeleine R. Dobson is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Care in the Curtin School of Education, Western Australia. Her research focuses on children's rights, social justice, and caring and trauma-informed pedagogies in early childhood and other educational contexts.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7615-6974
Email: madeleine.dobson@curtin.edu.au

Rebecca M. Walker is Associate Professor in the Curtin School of Education, Western Australia. She has extensive teaching experience in metropolitan and rural areas and overseas. Her research interests include online initial teacher education, work integrated learning, assessment, and social justice in education, with involvement in initial teacher education accreditation and activities, and promoting needs-based approaches to education.
Email: rebecca.m.walker@curtin.edu.au

Geoffrey M. Lowe is a Research Fellow in the Curtin Education node of the Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child. Prior to this, he was Senior Lecturer in Education at Edith Cowan University coordinating the music education program. His research interests include motivation theories, arts pedagogy, social connection, reflective practice, and teacher wellbeing.
Email: geoff.lowe@curtin.edu.au

Please cite as: Cross, E., Dobson, M., Walker, R. & Lowe, G. (2022). Leading for quality in Western Australian early childhood services: An emerging framework. Issues in Educational Research, 32(4), 1321-1341. http://www.iier.org.au/iier32/cross.pdf

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Created 11 December 2022. Last correction: 11 December 2022. Website: Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]