In this section you will find resources to support ECE leaders’ professional learning and development.
Professional leadership contributes significantly to children’s learning by enabling effective pedagogy that supports all children.
Use our spotlight to explore leadership for learning and what it means for you. Find short videos, resources, and opportunities for personal reflection. You can work through it on your own or with your colleagues.
This resource focused on five key areas for effective ECE leadership. It showcases five ECE services, ECE service and school leaders, kaiako and parents explaining how '5 out of 5' children become confident and competent in their ECE context.
Amanda Dobson: Okay, pēhea? Pēhea? He iti anō ki tēnei taha, Jaxton.
Tracey Manihera: Being Māori, being tangata whenua, we believe that we are kaitiaki and we have this holistic, this interdependent relationship with our land and that is reflected within my son.
Tracey Manihera: I think the priorities are land, language, culture, and relationships. Building this relationship between the land and our children as a ground, as a floor for their learning. And I’m a huge believer in Kīngi Tāwhiao, the second Māori King’s proverb; Māku anō e hanga i tōku nei whare. Ko ngā poupou he māhoe, he patatē. Ko te tāhuhu he hīnau. And that whakataukī simply talks about how we build our whare and the pillars that we use, the resources that we use in order to uphold that whare. And I think the language is one of those pillars, nature, the land, the environment is one of those pillars, relationships with other children, other people, is another pillar and I believe at this time within one year at Puna Reo, we are getting that.
Amanda Dobson: Te kaupapa o te Puna Reo nei, our kaupapa right from inception, has been very much based around the concept of ngā hononga, yeah, relationships. So very much we focus around developing relationships that recognise our whakapapa to the atua, and to our place in the big picture, the universe, so to speak. Developing, nurturing, cultivating the relationships of our whānau and our tamariki with the atua is central to what we do every day and therefore we mihi in a variety of ways that acknowledges them, whether that be Tama-nui-te-rā, shining today or not, and to the atua of the māra out in the garden and making every link possible to those connections and those relationships.
Tracey Manihera: While they’re doing things with nature, while they’re up at the glade for example, they’re using words like Tāne-mahuta which is the god of the forest and so they’re working together with the culture and the language which I really admire and he says words like manu and he will mihi to Papatūānuku or Ranginui and those for me are huge milestones in his progress.
Amanda Dobson: Out of that drops the programme and the whāriki ako, the curriculum, the kaingākaunui o ngā tamariki, responding to the opportunities for the children within those contexts. So whether that’s around kai, and it might be kai from our māra, or the kaitiakitanga, the taking responsibility for our environment. So very much it’s critical in an everyday context and that is a fundamental of what we’re trying to achieve.
Tracey Manihera: They’re teaching my son how to garden. They’re teaching my son about reducing, reusing, recycling. They’re teaching my son about worm farms. I don’t have the knowledge about worm farms, and compost, and how to do that and I’m glad that he goes to a place, he comes to a place every day where he can learn these things.
Amanda Dobson: Ka heru ki te pūrua ki roto Rangipunehu – that’s it. Whakakīa ano ki runga i a ia. Nekeneke ia. Pāmu noke. Ehara i te reka ma mātou – not for us – engari mō te kamokamo te reka rawa. Ki ōna pūtake – round his roots.
Erin Robertson: For some people that seems like a very modern thing, to get into gardening and to get into environmental issues, about looking after our environment, but it’s very tūturu Māori, it’s very traditional for all cultures actually that we looked after our land a lot better than we do. The thing that Amanda’s been very skilled in sharing with many of us which is another part of the quiet leadership role that she takes is making the links between whatever we do and atua.
Amanda Dobson: We’re very lucky to have such a solid relationship with Te Kura o Otahi which is the main kura that we feed our paetahi, our graduates into and there is such a strong sense of whakawhanaungatanga. Otari’s location is actually also a beautiful location with the ngahere and I’ve always thought it was a really strong energy up there. It ties so nicely with our kaupapa as well so when we go, we do try to seize any opportunity to take our tamariki up there and not only connect with the kura but the ngahere while we’re there. So there’s things like there’s a kahikatea that we sing our song e tu kahikatea to when we pass it between the kura and the car park so that our children have real experience of a mature kahikatea so when they sing that song, they actually really know what that song’s about. It’s more than just going to the kura, it’s more than that, it’s got these richer dimensions. And I mean there’s the awa there as well so I mean for me, on the place-based education, we’re just building a really great sense of our wider community for our tamariki in terms of these relationship building and these regular relationships that are built up over time. So waimarie mātou, we’re very lucky, in this space and place.
Amanda Dobson: Titiro! Whakarongo! Ka hanga a Tāne.
Student: Look, Whaea!
Amanda Dobson: Āe titiro! Kei ā mātou tēnei momo rangatira rākau!
Tracey Manihera: I hope that he leaves Puna Reo the way he is now, that is, competent in songs and waiata Māori, loving haka, loving nature, loving relationships, having positive relationships with his peers, respecting his kaiako, that’s the way he is now and I hope he’s still that way by the time he leaves. One thing I do hope is that his reo is stronger and he’s competent and loves who he is and where he’s from and the peers and relationships he’s made, yeah.
Caryll Resink: Fanau Pasifika is a newly developed kindergarten and the vision for that was born really for a community need for having a place that Pasifika people could come, bring their children in our community and be engaged with their children’s education. When you’re working with different cultures, there’s not one-size-fits-all. So as a leader, it’s been my job to ensure that the cultural understanding has been widened and one of the very useful things for our team has been developing our philosophy so that there is that shared understanding of the values and the aspirations that the Pasifika families have for their children.
Rasela Fuauli: We ask the parents to take the ata puna puna home, have a look, they can come back, the feedback from the parents of what they think of the ata puna puna and that learning story that’s happening. Some parents can write it in their own language. Makaleta here can translate into Tongan for the team. It will stay in the portfolio in Samoan or in Tongan but we explain it to the team what it is about.
Sau Atina: I know Elijah understands a few words in Samoan but he can’t speak it, so they did it in both languages so we can have a better understanding of what he has done at school and what he has learnt. They put in effort for the parents to understand more because I know some of us Samoan parents don’t really understand English so therefore they write it in both languages – English and Samoan.
Rasela Fuauli: I believe myself, if they are grounded, their foundation will be strong in their own language. I believe English as a second language will be very easy for the children to pick it up as long as they are grounded with that foundation. Here there are children who are immigrants from the islands and they come with a very strong Samoan and Tongan language. So my goal is for them not to lose that language. Yeah, they have to go with that language to school whatever other language that they learn, I believe myself, once that foundation is strong, they will fly.
Rachel King: We value as the first language what the child brings to school. So if they are Samoan, or Tongan, or they’re Māori, then their first language is celebrated both in the kindergarten and into school. So children learn from their first language, we’re not reversing the wheel and trying to make these children all speak English.
Caryll Resink: One of the personal experiences I’ve had in working with the team to share a vision and philosophy has been about getting parents to come into the centre and be engaged in their children’s education. And for that to happen, it takes a very special way of working. You are encouraging people to come into your space, you’re working with their children in front of them, so it’s not like a drop your child off at school and pick them up at 3 o’clock. You have people that are watching your teaching practice and role modelling really, looking at you as role models as they work with their children, and that takes a little while for teachers to get used to but once people are on board with that, it’s an extremely powerful way for us to become a community of learners.
Rachel King: What they do fantastic is meeting their parents, finding out what the child likes, knowing the culture. So actually, I know that Caryll and the teachers take the time to actually understand the culture so we are learners, we are naturally learning, and we learn from others by listening to them. So Fanau Pasifika is about engaging, really as a huge spectrum, not just about a child, but as a community.
Bev Ngaporo: The holistic approach to the children that these women have is just amazing. You know I sit here in awe of them sometimes, listening to what they do, or how they plan things, or an activity outside, the thoughts behind that activity what it’s trying to encourage and it just blows me away because they’re ever learning, ever evolving. For a very small centre they look outside for ways that they can better themselves.
Lisa Thompson: We have such small numbers that we are able to be fully aware of where our children are progressing and how they’re progressing and that’s not only reflected in our portfolios and displays on the walls, but also within our conversations with each other and our families.
Deeana Niha: Sure, I think those relationships that we have with our families when we speak with them and converse and talk about those achievements, and that’s how we know as leaders that they’re succeeding. It becomes evident through what their whānau say about them, what their whānau bring to the centre, and what we share with whānau. And as Lisa said, you know, it’s also reflected right throughout the planning processes and the models, and the portfolios, and the stories, and the conversations, and all of those things. I think as leaders, that’s something that really tells us that they’ve been successful.
Lisa Thompson: We invite our parents to write their aspiration down on a wee koru-shaped piece of card that’s transferred into their portfolios for us as teachers to refer back to, and ensure that we are incorporating into their stories and looking for those things as well. And then those shapes, those koru shapes with the aspirations, are sewn into our korowai which is used for our children that are graduating off to school, so they get to wear that cloak.
Bev Ngaporo: With our dreams and our hopes for our children that we write, and it’s put on, it encourages us to make sure that those things happen as well, and the staff here are aware that that’s what we want for our children, the best of the best. The children use it as, in my opinion, they use it as something physical they can see and touch that they aspire to and it’s an acknowledgement of how they’ve grown and developed and are ready to make that transition.
Deeana Niha: It’s such an empowering experience for whānau, teachers, tamariki, everybody involved in our learning community when we actually have that adorning ceremony where our children get to wear that korowai.
Lisa Thompson: We do up a particular portfolio for our children that are transferring to school, that is a collection of stories about who that child is and that it would go with them when they have their very first school visit, that it stays there at the school, that the teacher uses it. There’s an invitation at the beginning of that inviting the teacher to come and visit them here and that this is, you know, is a snapshot of who this person is. My experience with my own son was one where those things I think just became so much more important. Max has cerebral palsy and he cannot walk and he doesn’t have any verbal language at all. He started here when he was two so that was one of those journeys that all of the teachers went on, including myself, on how do we work to adapt a curriculum for somebody that doesn’t have independent mobility and can’t communicate verbally? And I think from that, certainly we learnt a lot of sign language, we learnt to read body language fantastically, and to anticipate things, and we also learnt that really, it’s not all that hard. We had built up lots of knowledge about how to record Max’s stories, how to measure his achievements and the ways in which we showed that, and there was a whole variety of ways. Photographs were really important for him but also being able to show his signing, that that was his voice. Inclusion should be easily accessible for any child, whether it be in early childhood or primary school, if we’re working on the basis that we’re looking at children’s individual needs, and strengths, and adapting our curriculum that way, which is what we do.
Loreena Dawson: We’ve had a really strong relationship with the school, Titahi Bay School, for a long time because we’re situated on their grounds. When we do go over to the school, it’s generally just to use, maybe the library, or to roam around the playground, there’s great artwork on the playground at Titahi Bay School. There’s a lot of numbers, octopus numbers, there’s letters. We’ve done letter scavenger hunts, roaming around the school while the kids are in classes. We’re going to go round the school into the back, and we’re going to look for letters.
Student 1: We could be ninjas!
Loreena Dawson: We could be letter ninjas.
Student: Or we could be sneaking ninjas.
Loreena Dawson: Sneaking letter ninjas. So let’s go. Hold on to your names on your triangles and we’ll see if we can find some letters. Can you see it? You’ve got it, okay stick it on. It’s an M, you can stick one on. So there’s the little one, where is it, there. And here’s your capital at the beginning of your name. Quick, come on.
Student: I’ve got an L in my name.
Loreena Dawson: The children know the school, they know it geographically, they know what the people look like, they’ve seen a lot of the big kids. A lot of the big kids have been through Playcentre so it’s not too scary a place for them.
Mike Laing: We’ve built an area called Te Manawa which means the heart of the school. It’s basically a covered, but outdoor, Playcentre. They’ve really valued that learning through play, learning through doing, learning through developmental, and we valued that as a school and we’d had that communication but we didn’t feel we were doing it really well within our class contexts so we went to them for advice on how we can do that better. They came up with this plan, we fundraised and went through that and we think that’s had a significant impact on bringing children to the school. We’ve adapted some of the early childhood curriculum within our new entrants programme so there’s not this sudden change of learning style.
The school have had open nights where we’ve gone along and they’ve said this is where a new entrant five-year-old should be at. If they’ve got these skills, we’re going to be really happy. Based on what the school have said to us in those evenings and the feedback that’s come through, and then our four-year-old officer, who’s also got a background in education, she’s thought out a plan. So we’ve got a basic plan for our four-year-olds that carries on over the week.
Barry Prescott: With the four-year-old sessions, we are aware that the children are going to school within the next year and so there’s a lot of focus on alphabet, on alphabet sounds as well as letter recognition and shape. T, A, perfect. So the next letter of your name is M, Tama, so can anybody find the M?
Student: Is this an M?
Barry Prescott: And there’s a lot of numeracy work as well so that kids are aware of their numbers up to ten, and associate the number with the written word of the number, with the physical number of objects.
Loreena Dawson: We do pick up quite a bit of information during those sessions that we then share in our evaluation meeting at the end of session.
Barry Prescott: So we were talking about the sound of that letter, and so he’s definitely interested in letters. It’s just encouraging him along those steps.
ECE teacher: And giving him lots of opportunities to just build on his knowledge.
Loreena Dawson: Yeah, we can use that and we build on that, we talk about it at our evaluation meetings to just make sure that they really are going to be ready for school, they have the skills, they have the techniques, everything they need, so when they do move to school it’s not going to be a scary place, they’re not going to feel awkward and uncomfortable, they’re going to feel really confident and they know that they’re going to do well there.
Veronica Kidd: Jan and I work very closely together, you know, we trained together 20 odd years ago and we’re very closely aligned in our philosophy, and so there are leaders, growing leaders, growing leaders. And that’s a really strong model in home-based. We’ve got our visiting teachers who are growing leaders within our educators and then our educators are working with our children to grow leaders as well. Our role in hapori is to be those role models. So we’re there as the teachers, the trained teachers working with the children and modelling how you can extend a child’s conversation without putting your own viewpoint on it.
ECE teacher: And so when he’s doing his counting is he counting objects?
ECE teacher: Yeah when I made some sandcastles before, he was able to count them all up.
ECE teacher: Oh that’s great, well done, because one of those really important skills for him to learn is actually to, while he’s counting, have an understanding that the numbers are corresponding to an object. So, rather than just saying it, that there’s an understanding that it actually means something. And naturally, as he’s playing, is how he’s going to learn that. So that’s great. Buried your toes, where have they gone?
Veronica Kidd: We can have these discussions with the educators recorded and we encourage them to reflect and think about what’s been happening with them and the children. So if they’ve had something awesome happen, an experience that’s happened for a child or a group of children, then thinking about what went well, thinking about what they could have improved on or why it didn’t go well and all of that sort of thing. Most of them come in with no training. We have a few that have diplomas of teaching or have done some level of early childhood training and so we’re working with people at different levels all the time.
What we want them to do is be really clear in our philosophy and what it is that we believe. We believe children learn through inquiry and through play. We want our children to have that sense of wonder and to capture that wonder. I think what we really want our educators to do and what we really want our educators to be is intentional in their teaching. And so when we’re looking at meaningful and purposeful experiences, meaningful is that it’s child-led. Our children are leaders in their learning journey, we want them to be fully engaged in what’s happening for them and so we want our educators to understand what that is.
ECE teacher: He has that sort of mind though, he likes to know how things work.
ECE teacher: He does.
ECE teacher: He likes to explore things to be able to work it out. Which is a really good avenue to follow for his learning to, to actually give him those opportunities.
ECE teacher: That would be ideal because just watching him then, with that going round and round and turning things around to ask him what he thinks is happening. And then recording, getting his voice down, yeah.
ECE teacher: Yeah, writing it down or just recording it.
ECE teacher: Really nice to record that over time too, to see what he says now, and then in a few months time what his hypothesis might be later on.
ECE teacher: Possibly different.
ECE teacher: Yeah, as his learning develops there.
Veronica Kidd: Each child has their own learning journey and we use learning stories to record that journey. We’ve just moved to an online programme and so that we can see when an educator puts up a learning story and we can have an online discussion. Some of them we can pull it out for them and then talk about it and so it’s there and then they can revisit it and we can just see a real change in their understanding is developing really quickly through this as well. So we can keep our eye on every child basically and know, and we can also give them feedback and say, actually I’ve just noticed that such and such, this has come out of that story, could you focus on this for the next wee while. And it’s about educators being aware of the needs of that child. Looking at their strengths, but also what needs strengthening. We can really look at questioning them, and challenging them, and provoking them, and extending them in their thinking and their understanding.
We can upload readings about best practice that’s relevant to what’s happening for a child or children in their care. I’ve seen so much growth in the educators just in that short space of time. I think once we really get to grips with it, and I mean we’re still learning how to use it, none of us are real techno people, we’re a little bit technophobic, but they love it and they just find it so simple and so easy. So I think for us it’s made a massive difference.
Erin Robertson: It’s definitely a role for a leader to be often training people into the process of writing paki ako or learning stories, but I find that we can sometimes become almost quite introverted in the way that we do that because people will work on their non-contact on their own and found that we had a bit of a gap, at one point in our team. The sort of discussion that needed to happen to really get into the depth of learning was just, that part was being missed. People were thinking about it on their own but we found that it was only really through group discussion and sharing of ideas that people left the surface level learning and could get really deep into that and what they were needing where the gap was, was having a facilitator for that sort of professional discussion. What we see from that, often when we’ve had those discussions is the evolution of ourselves and our kaiako in our own understandings of learning.
We’re creating working theories around our tamariki’s working theories, and from that I guess we are all experiencing ako in the way of that being reciprocal learning. My learning, while watching kaiako having learning, about the tamariki learning, definitely gets people to a much deeper level and I think probably they will enter into working with their tamariki in a different way, from having the discussions and are more likely then to be having discussions with each other as learning is occurring. But again, there is a requirement for a professional leader on the floor. I think to be generating, or questioning, and wondering, and enquiring into the learning that’s going on, to model that for kaiako. The facilitation of that discussion is the thing that makes the fruit come from that beautiful discussion as well. So, I think facilitation and modelling of that wondering is probably the keys for a leader.
This brochure is for ECE leaders to use with their teams. It includes a range of questions to provoke conversation, reflection, and action. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the video in a facilitated workshop situation.
These five posters include the questions from the brochure, in A3 format, for group use.
The wildcards are for facilitators to use during workshops to direct discussion or stimulate additional reflection and conversation. They are designed to be used alongside the questions in the brochure and on the posters.
A selection of additional templates are available for facilitators to use with workshop participants.
Centres of innovation
The Centre of Innovation (COI) Programme promoted a deeper exploration of innovative teaching and learning processes in early childhood services. A limited number of ECE services were selected and contracted by the Ministry to research and further develop their existing innovative practice; and disseminate information about their innovation and the outcomes of their research.
Two of the selected centres had a focus on innovative leadership practices. Their research reports are:
This report explores ECE leadership and leadership development in New Zealand and the issues and dilemmas facing the sector, including the identification of possible future directions.
While this report is primarily concerned with the compulsory schooling sector, many of the findings are transferable into ECE settings. This BES is of relevance to all who have an educational leadership and those who have a role in supporting their work through research and teaching in the tertiary sector.
What image springs to mind when you think of leadership in early childhood contexts?
Is it of a person who holds a formal position and gets paid accordingly because of their particular skills, experience, or charisma? Or is it of a team of teachers, who are well-known and respected for their innovative practice or curriculum speciality? It is likely that the former view will dominate your thinking as most of us come from a long tradition of associating leadership with a position and a title.
The world we work in has become much more complex, diverse, and ever-changing. This is no more so than in early childhood education and has prompted calls for the reconceptualisation of leadership as a shared endeavour – the responsibility of all not just one.
While formal leadership is still important – let’s call this positional leadership – the ability to be responsive, innovative, and stay at the cutting edge of teaching and learning practice is also a significant part of maintaining a quality service these days. It takes the talent, perspectives, courage, and energy of a whole team to realise positive outcomes for all children and their families.
This notion of leadership is often referred to as “pedagogical leadership”, “educational leadership” or “leadership in learning and teaching”.
Here is how Linda Lambert defines leadership:
"Leadership is about learning together and constructing meaning and knowledge collectively and collaboratively. It involves opportunities to surface and mediate perceptions, values, beliefs, information and assumptions through continuing conversations; to inquire about and generate ideas together; to seek to reflect upon and make sense of work in the light of shared beliefs and new information; and to create actions that grow out of these new understandings. Such is the core of leadership."
(Lambert, L. (1998). Building leadership capacity in schools. (p.5). Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.)
This ERO report highlights the crucial role of leaders in Pacific early childhood services to manage changes that improve learning outcomes for Pacific children. Other leaders may find this report useful when considering improvement-focused changes in their centres.
This site is designed for you as you work with our tamariki. We will be adding more support resources and information. We would appreciate your feedback with any suggestions or ideas for further content.
Please email us at Early.Learning@education.govt.nz