Executive summary

Self review enables early childhood services to evaluate what they do to improve the quality of education provided for children. All licensed and chartered early childhood services are currently required to review their policies, programmes and practices. These requirements are set out in the Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations (1998) and in charter agreements based on the Revised Statement of Desirable Objectives and Practices (1996).

The Education Review Office (ERO) undertook a national evaluation of the implementation of self review in 397 services in Terms 1, 2 and 3, 2008. The evaluation focused on how well self review was understood, supported and implemented in each service and the extent to which it led to improved management and educator practice. [1]

Although the level of understanding about self review and the quality of its implementation varied across and within different service types, ERO found no significant difference between types of services. The wide variation indicates there is still much work to be done to build capacity in effective self review in all early childhood services.

In 14 percent of services self review was well understood and implemented. In these services ERO identified common features of practice that set these services apart from others. Self review was seen as important and integral to the operation of the service. It was guided by established and well-understood procedures that involved purposeful gathering, analysis and use of information. The perspectives of managers, educators, children, parents and whanau were included in review and the findings informed decisions about changes to practice and service priorities. The services with well-developed self review also provided good learning programmes for children through sound assessment and planning practice. These services were also committed to ongoing improvement.

ERO identified factors common to early childhood services where self review was well understood and implemented. These included: strong leadership to promote self review; relevant professional development; stable staffing and collaborative team work; sound systems for review; and the use of relevant resources.

In 42 percent of the services, managers and educators had some understanding of self review and were implementing it with varying degrees of success. Although managers and/or educators in some of these services considered they had well or highly-developed self review, ERO identified areas that could be improved. Early childhood services may need to seek further help in evaluating the quality and effectiveness of their own self review.

Of concern to ERO were the services where self review was in the early stages of development or non-existent. In just over a third of services, ERO found that managers and educators had limited understanding of self review, and this affected how well it was implemented. In a further eight percent of services, self review was neither understood nor implemented, nor seen as important. Managers and educators often lacked a commitment to ongoing improvement, and self review was one among several areas for concern in many of these services.

Many services neither understood the purpose of self review nor knew how to go about it. Review was not well led and issues such as staff changes or turnover were not well managed to minimise their impact on self-review practices. Some services had not yet developed useful and manageable systems for review that linked to processes for strategic planning. Some also needed to find ways to make links between self review and children’s learning and to use self review to critique as well as to affirm practice.

Although some services included a wide range of perspectives in their reviews, others found it difficult to include the views and ideas of parents/whanau and children. Many services were also finding it difficult to document the process and outcomes of self review in manageable ways.

A comparison of the ERO reports of 107 services that were reviewed in both 2005 and 2008 showed that just over half of these services had made progress in some aspects of their self review. Services had progressed most in understanding the purpose of self review; reviewing charters and philosophy statements; aligning planning and self review; and developing a framework or cycle for self review.

ERO’s recommendations in services’ individual reports included the need to build on or extend existing practice; seek external advice and support to develop understanding and practice in self review; align self review with strategic planning; allocate time for review; and use existing publications to support and guide self review.

This report acknowledges the progress being made in some services to implement self review that is integral to their day-to-day operation and that contributes to ongoing improvement. Such self review provides real benefits for infants, toddlers and young children. The report also highlights the need for further assistance for services that have some understanding of what self review is about, but face challenges in developing and sustaining systems and processes to guide their review. The services where self review is not well understood or implemented need help to gain an understanding of the importance of self review and to find manageable ways to make a start.