ERO’s findings in this evaluation resonate with those in many recent national evaluations. In particular, they reflect ERO’s 2016 findings in Early Learning Curriculum which highlighted the importance of pedagogical leadership. Pedagogical leaders need to have the capability to build kaiako knowledge and understanding of Te Whāriki and what it means for their intentional teaching practice. They support kaiako to work collaboratively to design and implement a rich and responsive curriculum for every child.
The findings also highlight the need for ongoing PLD to address variability in kaiako knowledge and understanding of curriculum in general. Leaders in some services have reported that variability in kaiako knowledge of the curriculum and experience are barriers to effective implementation. ERO’s evidence supports this finding and notes this is an area that PLD and initial teacher education will need to address if Te Whāriki is to be fully implemented. Service leaders and kaiako also reported that time to engage in PLD and build understanding and confidence are major barriers in many services.
In its 2013 report, Working with Te Whāriki, ERO asked “does Te Whāriki offer sufficient stretch and challenge?”
A consequence of this comfort with the principles and strands is that there is a sense that
Te Whāriki no longer provides stretch or challenge for many services. It may be that the issue lies with the broad nature of the prescribed framework or it may be that leaders and teachers do not have the theoretical and pedagogical knowledge to effectively implement this framework. ERO cited Smith (2011, p.151) who noted:
Rather than producing recipes for what to do, Te Whāriki makes bigger demands on teachers and challenges them to apply theoretical knowledge to their practice. Effective implementation of Te Whāriki demands interpretation, reflection, dialogue, careful planning, observation and consultation with parents/whānau and children.3
ERO has identified an emerging focus on internal evaluation – an intention to engage with Te Whāriki and use aspects of the document to critique and reflect on practice. Some services were looking at ways they can work with parents and whānau to increase their understanding of the updated curriculum, and some were exploring how they could use Te Whāriki to support transition to school.
As awareness increases and confidence to implement Te Whāriki grows, ERO expects to see increased understanding of the complexity and depth of the curriculum. The Ministry has identified the following areas that need to be strengthened:
Addressing these areas is crucial to realising the vision Te Whāriki has for all learners.
Underpinning Te Whāriki is the vision that children are competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society. p.8.
ERO recommends leaders in early learning services:
“What PLD do we need in our service, for whom, why and by when?”
 Smith, A. B. (2011). Relationships with people, places and things – Te Whāriki. Miller, L. and Pound L. (eds) Theories and Approaches to Learning in the Early Years. pp 149-162. Sage, London.