In the second half of 2017, we gathered data from 290 early learning services about their awareness of the updated early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki 2017. A questionnaire was completed by service leaders and kaiako, in addition to the data we collected during the scheduled review of these services.
Our initial analysis of the data indicates a high level of awareness of Te Whāriki 2017. Leaders and kaiako like the simplicity, layout and user‑friendly language and told us about their growing confidence in working with it.
Amongst services, there has been a high uptake of professional learning and development (PLD) with both internal and external expertise sought. Some services reported issues in accessing face‑to‑face PLD options, though online learning filled the gap for some.
Our initial findings show that in most services leaders and kaiako are beginning to think about the implications the update will have on their assessment, planning and evaluation practices. Some are looking more closely at their bicultural curriculum, and exploring how they can design a curriculum that is culturally responsive, in line with the expectations stated in Te Whāriki 2017.
Te Whāriki 2017 is helping services to revisit and strengthen assessment, planning and evaluation, and to weave the learning outcomes through their assessment information. It is also informing reviews of philosophies, assessment practices, planning, and curriculum development. Positive views of Te Whāriki 2017 include seeing it as a way of connecting curriculum with what children need rather than imposing a curriculum on children, an outcome that firmly places the child at the heart of the matter.
The findings also affirm the need for, and importance of, ongoing PLD to address disparity in kaiako knowledge and to strengthen understanding of the curriculum. Leaders in some services have reported that variability in kaiako knowledge of the curriculum and experience are barriers to implementation. Our evidence supports this finding and notes this is an area that PLD and initial teacher education will need to address if Te Whāriki 2017 is to be effectively implemented. Many service leaders and kaiako also reported that finding the time to engage in PLD and build understanding and confidence had been major barriers.
We have identified an emerging focus on internal evaluation – an intention to engage with Te Whāriki 2017 and use aspects of the document such as the examples of practice and reflective questions to critique and reflect on practice. Some services are looking at ways they can work with parents and whānau to increase their understanding of the updated curriculum, and some are exploring how they can use Te Whāriki 2017 to support transition to school.