Leadership and Management in Child Care Services: Contextual Factors and Their Impact on Practice

Nupponen, Hannele (2005) Leadership and Management in Child Care Services: Contextual Factors and Their Impact on Practice. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


There has been minimal Australian research focussed on the management and leadership aspects of directors' work in centre-based child care to date. In Australia, practices in early education have been largely drawn from studies in other cultural contexts, particularly research undertaken in the United States. It is timely that Australian research should inform its social policy about quality child care programs. The focus of this research was on the nature and characteristics of effective management and leadership practices in centre-based child care. Research (Jorde Bloom, 1992b; Morgan, 2000; Poster & Neugebauer, 2000; Rodd, 1994) indicates that quality of child care programs is influenced mostly by the leadership that the centre director can provide to staff within the centre. The conceptual framework adopted in this study views leadership from a Social Systems framework. Central to a Social Systems framework is the notion that organisations do not exist in isolation rather, leadership and management in these settings are embedded in a broader social context. A Social Systems Model has received little attention in contemporary research on child care in Australia, and this study aims to build a framework for future studies in this area. The aim was to investigate leadership and management in child care in social, legislative and economic context. The findings seek to inform researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Eight directors were purposively selected from community-based and privately based centres in urban and rural areas, and from accredited centres in South East Queensland. The selection of varying locations allowed the researcher to gain a broader perspective of the directors' daily lives, as different contextual and environmental conditions were anticipated to influence management and leadership within the child care centres. Within this study, case studies of directors of child care centres were developed through interviews with the directors. The interview methodology focussed on exploratory semi-structured, open-ended questions in relation to management and leadership in centre-based child care. Directors were interviewed on two occasions within a three month period. In the current context of the delivery of child care services in a market driven climate, the language of business and organisational theory has entered the lexicon of the early childhood field (Press, 1999). The findings indicate that the director of a child care centre needs to have training and experience in business management and leadership to enhance their competencies for management of centres in today's competitive environment. Growth in child care franchises is significantly changing and truly developing a "child care industry" (Murdoch, 2004). Also, consideration needs to be given to increasing accountability in child care service delivery, and how to better support directors in their role as advocates in the broader early childhood field. Further, families in specific communities have varying needs and early childhood programs should reflect the needs of the local community. Leadership models within child care centres should encompass the micro and macro influences on the operation of centres. Literature suggests that early childhood centres provide an opportune place to support families in a variety of ways through integrating support services to address the underlying social and policy factors that affect young children and their families (Commonwealth of Australia, 2003; Corter, 2001).

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ID Code: 16094
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Berthelsen, Donna
Keywords: Child care centres, leadership, management, child care centre directors, child care service delivery, Social Systems Model.
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Hannele Nupponen
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:56
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:43

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