Introduction

The quality of education and care in early childhood services has been a focus of the Education Review Office (ERO) reviews since 1990. Over time ERO’s emphasis has shifted from concerns about services’ compliance with regulations, to focus increasingly on aspects that affect the quality of performance. The emphasis is on assisting services to improve.

Change and development in the sector in recent years has led to:

  • improvements in how educators assess children’s learning and development
  • increased understanding of the value and process of self review
  • an increase in the number of qualified and registered teachers (educators) working in services.

Involvement in action research and participation in professional learning and development has enabled some services to push the boundaries of quality and to develop new ways of viewing children as learners.

ERO’s Chain of Quality 1 shows how positive outcomes for children are linked to the management of the service, professional leadership, responsive educators, high quality relationships and programmes. Underpinning all the links in the chain are contextual factors including the philosophy of the service, and the involvement of families and communities. ERO reviews all individual early childhood services regularly, using the Chain of Quality as a basis for these reviews.

As well as individual reviews, ERO produces national evaluation reports. These gather nation-wide information on topics of interest in the early childhood sector. ERO’s national evaluation reports 2 on early childhood education span a range of topics and highlight a variety of aspects over time and in different contexts. Reports have also been written about the quality of education and care in services with common philosophies, and to provide information for parents choosing a service for their child.

ERO’s most recent national evaluation reports on early childhood education have been about the quality of assessment practice; the implementation of self review; and success for Māori children.

Quality in Early Childhood Services

As a result of its long-standing and extensive programme of evaluation in the sector, ERO is well positioned to comment on what contributes to quality in early childhood services. For this report ERO drew on findings from recent national evaluation reports and considered the factors described in individual services’ education reviews that contributed to high quality and poor quality. In particular, ERO considered the following questions:

In services considered to be of high quality, what were the characteristics? What were the factors that contributed to this quality?

In services considered to be of poor quality, what were the characteristics? What were the factors that contributed to this?

This report highlights key factors common to early childhood services 3 that provide high quality education and care for infants, toddlers and young children. It also discusses issues that contribute to poor quality in services, particularly those related to children’s learning, wellbeing and safety. The report should be useful for people involved in the early childhood sector including: policy makers; professional development providers; initial teacher education providers; managers and educators in early childhood services; and students in initial teacher education programmes.