Conclusion

Through our national evaluation reports, ERO has built up a body of knowledge about what the implementation of Te Whāriki currently looks like in New Zealand early learning settings. This retrospective study provides a synthesis of the findings of these reports, highlighting what is important and what is working well, and giving examples of effective practice in each area.

The depth and richness of Te Whāriki is internationally recognised, however, the holistic and interpretive nature of this curriculum document is both its strength and a challenge. ERO's evaluations signal the need for increased support for the early childhood sector to work with the full intent of Te Whāriki as part of their curriculum design and implementation.

Our findings highlight the critical role of pedagogical leadership in effective curriculum implementation that promotes positive outcomes for children. Pedagogical leadership plays a significant role in promoting and enhancing the quality of curriculum implementation, teaching practice, assessment and internal evaluation in early learning services. This particular aspect of leadership is essential to implement the service's priorities and guide teachers to implement a curriculum that is responsive to children and their language, culture and identity.

Leaders' and teachers' depth of subject-content knowledge is another crucial factor. Teachers need to be well equipped to make effective curriculum decisions based on sound assessment of children's learning, including a focus on dispositions and working theories.

Subject-content knowledge is required to create seamless pathways for children's learning. Cross-sector professional learning and development has been proposed as useful to support children's transitions to school71 and would provide an opportunity for all leaders and teachers to further their knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy across sectors.

Developing educationally powerful partnerships with parents and whānau is another key dimension for quality in early learning. Such partnerships go far beyond the daily communication of children's immediate care needs and interests. They are structured to ensure that the rich learning children are engaged in at home and at the service is built upon and extended in either setting. For this to happen, leaders and teachers need to be responsive to children's language, culture and identity. 

Leaders and teachers need to increasingly engage in ongoing professional learning, and develop a reflective culture that refers to current research in questioning and evaluating their practice. Ongoing professional learning is a vital tool for teachers to strengthen their own pedagogy and capability. Teachers who are more knowledgeable and confident are also better able to share their knowledge of children's learning with colleagues, parents, and schools. 

Strong pedagogical leadership, curriculum knowledge and collaborative learning partnerships play a critical role in how well early learning services promote positive outcomes for all children.

If everyone in the education system works together, we can improve outcomes for our children and set them on pathways as confident and successful lifelong learners.



[71] Education Review Office. (2015). Continuity of learning: Transitions from Early learning services to Schools. Retrieved from: http://www.ero.govt.nz/publications/continuity-of-learning-transitions-from-early-childhood-services-to-schools/ and Peters, S. (2010). Literature Review: Transition from early childhood education to school. Retrieved from: https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/ECE/98894/Executive_Summary