Conclusion

ERO’s evaluation has highlighted the variability across early childhood services in how well they identify and respond to their priorities for children’s learning. While most services have identified their priorities, in many these were not reflected in their curriculum and associated assessment and self-review practices.

ERO is concerned that assessment remains an area for improvement in many services. ERO’s report, The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, November 2007,[29] noted that good assessment practice was underpinned by two factors: teachers’ understanding of Te Whāriki, and the alignment between the focus of their assessment of children’s learning and their service’s philosophy. These two factors guided what they noticed and valued about children’s learning.

An evaluation of the implementation of Kei Tua o te Pae Assessment for Learning in 2008 identified that while making learning visible was a major focus of the Kei Tua o te Pae professional development programmes, this was not reflected in services’ assessment information. The authors of the evaluation argued that by making children’s learning visible, children are better able to identify themselves as capable and competent learners.[30]

...although services had strong practices to make assessment documentation visible, the assessment items did not always make learning [ERO’s emphasis] visible. Participation was described and children were validated as competent and confident, but a number of narratives [76 percent] did not address learning.[31]

The findings of this evaluation highlight the improvements needed in the area of assessment if services are to be more responsive to all children enrolled in their service. Services need to be clear about their priorities for children’s learning and reflect these in the design of their curriculum and associated assessment practices.

Ngā Arohaehae Whai Hua describes self review as an opportunity to evaluate the impact of practice on children’s learning.[32] Self review can help teachers improve their practice by considering how what they do supports children’s learning. Priorities for learning provide an important focus for self review. In this evaluation, some services were using self review to determine how well their practices were responsive to their identified priorities for children’s learning. However, this was an area to be strengthened in many services, particularly in relation to the responsiveness of their curriculum to the aspirations of parents and whānau, and to the service’s priorities and emphases - the learning that is valued in their service.

Also of concern was the lack of responsiveness to Māori and Pacific children in many of the services. Only two‑fifths of services had thought about how their curriculum might support Māori children to achieve success as Māori, and about one‑fifth of services had considered this for Pacific children. Two previous ERO reports have raised concerns in relation to such responsiveness. Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services, May, 2010 noted:

One of the biggest challenges for early childhood managers and educators is to understand, review and develop processes that enable them to listen, respect and respond to what parents and whānau of Māori children expect of the service. To make such a commitment, early childhood services have to find out about parents’ aspirations and expectations, and acknowledge and respond to these in authentic ways.[33]

Partnership with Whānau Māori in Early Childhood Services, February 2012 reported that:

while a significant proportion of early childhood services built positive relationships with whānau (78 percent), only 10 percent had built effective and culturally responsive partnerships. The difference between a good relationship and a culturally responsive partnership is substantial for whānau. Conversely the view held by many educators that ‘all children should be treated the same’ typically fails to acknowledge the culture of Māori children.[34]

Early childhood services need to reflect on the extent to which their curriculum is aligned to achieving the vision and intent of Te Whāriki for all children.