Leaders and kaiako in the 167 services reported their high level of awareness and active engagement in a variety of PLD opportunities to support them to unpack and become familiar with the updated curriculum. This is commendable given that services were six to nine months into working with Te Whāriki (2017) when the data for this evaluation report was gathered.
ERO‘s findings give an early indication of some of the challenges for leaders and kaiako in engaging with Te Whāriki. They highlight the need for more in-depth engagement with Te Whāriki to increase understanding of the expectation to ‘weave’ a local curriculum based on ‘what really matters’ in their service for their children. Such engagement includes unpacking and working with the learning outcomes in ways that make visible children’s progress and learning over time.
While there are no recipes or templates for implementation, there are some clear messages in Te Whāriki that convey expectations beyond those required by the prescribed curriculum framework. These expectations are included in this report as a catalyst for leaders and kaiako to dig deeper into Te Whāriki and ask questions about what it means for their children and whānau and for their professional knowledge and pedagogical practice.
A core theme in the findings of this report is the variability of understanding and practice associated with implementing Te Whāriki. ERO’s Early Learning Curriculum evaluation report published in 2016 noted:
Variability in curriculum understanding and practice impacts on the extent to which children are provided with equitable opportunities to learn in meaningful contexts and through rich and challenging experiences.
So how do we close the ‘quality’ gap? What will it take to reduce the variability of understanding and practice, both within early learning services as well as between services? While we know that the uptake of PLD was high, we do not know the impact that PLD is having in terms of addressing this variability. Future evaluations will focus on how PLD is supporting leaders and kaiako to engage more deeply with Te Whāriki and what this engagement means for improved quality and achieving equitable outcomes for children.
We also know from ERO’s previous national evaluation reports that PLD on its own will not bring about improved understanding and practice. Strong pedagogical leadership is a necessary factor in curriculum implementation, as noted in our 2016 report:
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.