Early childhood establishments in New Zealand tend to have different leadership models. Many of these are based around a hierarchical model, where there is possibly a centre manager, assistant centre manager, head teachers in each room, assistant head teachers, and the rest of the teachers down the line. “The services available are very diverse. They have a wide range of ownership and governance structures as well as different philosophies and operating models” (Ministry of Education, p. 8, 2017).


Over the years, a model that has been successful for me is an environment where all teachers work together collaboratively. Except for one team leader/centre manager, the rest of the teachers are on the same footing and share the decision making and responsibility with regard to the children’s learning and development in their care. I remain convinced that teachers develop expertise by working collaboratively. A collaborative leadership approach tends to motivate each teacher in the team, and teachers have the freedom to offer a different perspective to children in their own individual way without thinking of having to ask for permission from the structure above. This results in an improvement in teaching quality as the teaching team works together to deliver a curriculum to the children in their care. “Leaders in the education sector and across our communities are increasingly required to work collaboratively to support learner success and wellbeing” (Education Council, p. 8, 2017).

In a paper titled ‘Teacher Leadership—Improvement through Empowerment?’ Muijs and Harris suggest that “one of the most congruent findings from recent studies of effective leadership is that authority to lead need not be located in the person of the leader but can be dispersed within the school in between and among people. Leadership is separated from person, role and status and is primarily concerned with the relationships and the connections among individuals within a school.” I am currently working in an environment that reflects this democratic leadership model and remain convinced that curriculum and learning is delivered to children in the broadest way possible.
Every teacher can demonstrate leadership in one way or another. “Distributed leadership theory advocates that schools ‘decentre’ the leader. In this sense leadership is more appropriately understood as ‘fluid and emergent, rather than a fixed phenomenon’ (Gronn, 2000).” This requires leadership to be collective and democratic and suggests an interdependency amongst teachers who work together collaboratively and share the responsibility.

I base my knowledge and understanding of Te Tiriti o waitangi around the concept of Tāngata Whenua and recognition of equal rights for all. Wiri Central School defines the principle of rangatiratanga from an ako viewpoint as it states, “By demonstrating rangatiratanga we will develop into confident individuals able to lead our own leaning and determine our own destiny”. The Māori Dictionary offers a number of other words that relate to the meaning of rangatiratanga, and include self-determination, self-management, right to exercise authority, ownership, and leadership of a social group.

Working together in a teaching team that engages in a joint decision making process offers all teachers an equal shared sense of purpose and achievement for the outcomes of learning in the environment. This joint leadership model has the advantage of offering whakamanatanga or empowerment to teachers. Of course, there has to be a give and take approach to joint decisions if one argument weighs stronger than the other but at least each teacher has the confidence and ability to express himself and offer his point of view to the entire team in order to arrive at a collaborative decision.

Muijs & Harris (2003) refer to research findings that state a higher level of teaching performance and higher motivation amongst teachers is directly related to empowering teachers to take on leadership roles. Just as our 2017 curriculum suggests that children have the agency to act on their own ideas, it makes sense that kaiako adopt that same principle and work together in an empowering environment in which they can do so collaboratively.

In conclusion, “Kaiako in ECE settings weave together the principles and strands, in collaboration with children, parents, whānau and community” (Ministry of Education, p. 10, 2017). Kaiako can deliver these expectations when they have the autonomy and freedom to do so spontaneously as they have developed the confidence within themselves to be individual leaders in their own right and can justify their actions as a team approach to delivering the curriculum. "The absence of a cohesive leadership development strategy may have weakened the perceived value of leadership across the teaching profession. In addition, a comprehensive understanding of what leadership is and its status as a shared responsibility may have also diminished" (Education Council, p. 9, 2017).

“Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini. I come not with my own strengths but bring with me the gifts, talents and strengths of my family, tribe and ancestors” (Ministry of Education, p. 12, 2017).


Education Council (2017). Leadership Strategy. The leadership strategy for the teaching profession of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Gronn, P. (2000). Distributed Properties: A New Architecture for Leadership. Educational
Management & Administration 28(3): 317–8l.
Māori Dictionary – http://www.maoridictionary.co.nz.
Ministry of Education. (2017). Te whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early childhood curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand.
Muijs, D. & Harris, A. (2003). Teacher Leadership—Improvement through Empowerment? SAGE Publications.
Wiri Central School – Rangatiratanga.