Leadership and management in early childhood centres : a qualitative case study : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The provision of education and care for young children in Aotearoa/New Zealand has evolved in a haphazard manner for more than a century, with a marked increase in the number of childcare centres in the last decade. The present study was designed to use the concept of organisational culture to examine leadership and management practices from the perceptions of those involved in childcare centres, to compare these practices with the international literature on leadership and management, and to develop a theoretical model which could inform concepts of quality management in centres of the future. The underlying assumptions, beliefs and values of the organisational culture shared by those within each centre were mostly based on those originally articulated by the founder, and were taught in subtle ways to new staff and parents. An analysis of those assumptions revealed traces of many different historical, political, educational and theoretical influences that formed the image of the child and of childhood held by the adults in each centre. It was argued that the organisational culture and organisational structure of a centre, based on an unconsciously held image of the child and childhood, and influenced by external societal forces and beliefs, shaped the environment in which each child's learning took place. Perceptions of good leadership and management practice were contextually based. The study argues that a model for developing or reviewing practice in centre leadership and management should begin with a conscious consideration of the image of the child and childhood held within the centre. It is claimed that the influence of this image on the ways in which children learn and are taught should be central to leadership and management functions that govern and shape centre structures and activities. At the macro-level, however, our society also must address the hegemonic practices that underpin its treatment of young children so that children are seen as unique, with interests and rights rather than needs, and as competent, rich, strong and powerful.