Overview of ERO’s findings: effective practice and challenges in early learning services and schools

This evaluation investigated how effectively young children’s oral language learning and development were supported in their early years of education. ERO asked the question: What is the early learning service or school doing in response to children’s oral language learning and development, including concerns about and needs of particular children?1

ERO undertook this evaluation in early learning services and schools (with a focus on students in Years 1 to 3), having an education review between July and October 2015. ERO’s findings are based on the analysis of data gathered from 167 early learning services and 104 schools.2

The findings highlight the importance of supporting oral language learning and development from a very early age. Research evidence shows the early years are a critical time in terms of the rapid language development that takes place, particularly the first 2-3 years.

Language is a vital part of communication. In early childhood, one of the major cultural tasks for children is to develop competence in, and understanding of, language. Language does not consist only of words, sentences, and stories:

it includes the language of images, art, dance, drama, mathematics, movement, rhythm, and music. During these early years, children are learning to communicate their experience in many ways, and they are also learning to interpret the ways in which others communicate and represent experience. They are developing increasing competence in symbolic, abstract, imaginative, and creative thinking. Language grows and develops in meaningful contexts when children have a need to know and a reason to communicate. Adults should understand and encourage both verbal and non-verbal communication styles.3



1        See Appendix 1 for the methodology used in this evaluation.

2        See Appendix 2 for information about the sample of services and schools.

3        Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whāriki, He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa. Wellington: The Ministry: p. 72.