Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore sense-making of early childhood (EC) leaders in EC services rated as exceeding/excellent in Australian accreditation. Design/methodology/approach: An interpretivist ontology and social constructivist epistemology informs the study. The conceptual framework uses the concept of sense-making to explore how leaders make sense of the policy frameworks and use these to shape practice. Findings: Previous research identified that many leaders focussed on ensuring staff complied with new policy requirements. In contrast, this study found that these leaders paid more attention to relationships with staff and less to directing compliance. Practical implications: The paper posits high quality service delivery is possible when leaders (in the words of a participant) look after their staff. Originality/value: In Australia, neoliberal discourses have profoundly impacted on recent reforms in the EC sector. Previous research identified the ambiguities inherent in the Australian EC leadership role as leaders and staff grappled with new understandings and practices, and the uncertainties around lines of authority and influence. This paper is the first to explore the understandings of those leaders whose services are assessed to be operating at the highest level of quality.
- early childhood