Overall findings: employment practices for managing and developing staff

Highly effective practices

The services with highly effective practices had updated policies and procedures that were consistently implemented, regularly reviewed, reflected best practice and were aligned with current legislation. Many of these services had robust performance management systems and had access to staff with expertise in human resource management. External advice was sought when needed.

Leaders in these services had a range of skills and knowledge to support them in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities. A team approach to leadership supported growing staff capability. Leaders also had a good understanding of employment practices and were committed to employing staff who fitted well with the philosophy and context of the service. Management provided support for staff through documented guidelines and expectations, coaching, and shared team leadership. Service providers were committed to developing teacher capability.

Staff were encouraged and supported to individually review their teaching practices or critically reflect as a group. Leaders supported and appropriately resourced professional development. New staff were supported through induction and targeted professional development. Leaders provided a supportive, caring, open and respectful environment, and actively advocated for, and supported bicultural development and associated practices.

Some effective practices

Many of the services with some effective practices had up-to-date employment policies and procedures to support the management and development of staff. Comprehensive induction and ongoing professional development was provided for new governance and staff members who had clear roles and responsibilities. Professional development was supported and valued. Bicultural perspectives were discussed and understood.

In some of these services, improvements were needed to address one or more of the following aspects of practice:

  • aligning management expectations, professional development and teaching practice
  • having up-to-date job descriptions
  • regularly reviewing the alignment between policy and practice
  • providing good induction for new staff
  • undertaking formal observations of teaching practice
  • increasing understanding of bicultural development or associated practices
  • evaluating and documenting the impact of appraisal processes on staff performance.

Minimally effective employment practices

In many of the services where practices were not effective ERO found it was because of poor leadership and the lack of up-to-date employment policies and procedures. In these services ERO also found a lack of clarity about the purpose of appraisals, low staff expectations and poor documentation of appraisal processes.

Self review was not developed to the level that enabled leaders to make informed decisions about priorities or service-wide developments. Support for staff was inadequate with very limited access to professional development. Some of these services had new owners/managers who were in the process of developing their policies and procedures.

Findings by service type

Table 1: Employment practices for managing and developing staff



Education and care services

Highly effective practices



Some effective practices



Minimally effective or ineffective practices



These findings reflect the variability within each service type in terms of their effectiveness in managing and developing staff. Variability between the findings for kindergartens and education and care services is influenced by the different employment environments in which they operate.

Recruitment and Appointment of Staff

Managing the process very well

Services that managed recruitment and appointment processes very well had clear policies and procedures that reflected the requirements of current legislation and provided managers with useful guidance. Services that were part of an association or umbrella organisation were able to draw on a high level of internal expertise to develop and implement robust employment policies and procedures. Appointment policies and procedures were regularly reviewed, often as part of a three-year cycle, or annually in a few services.

These services had job descriptions and person specifications that were appropriate to the position advertised, reflected the philosophy and needs of the service and were linked to the RTC. Job descriptions were regularly reviewed to meet the services’ changing needs.

Good practice in these services included advertising positions externally, the provision of application packs for prospective applicants, seeking information about any convictions and/or pending criminal charges, dismissals from previous positions, short‑listing and interviewing. In many of these services, a preferred applicant was invited to spend some time ‘on the floor’ (usually a full day but sometimes a morning) so their suitability could be determined. Other practices included contacting referees, verifying qualifications and undertaking police vetting checks.

Managing the process adequately

Services with adequate processes for recruiting and appointing staff exhibited many of the practices described above. However, the rigour or quality of implementation of these practices varied. While most had appropriate written policies and procedures to guide practice ERO found a few services did not have written policies. Only a fifth of these services regularly reviewed their employment policies and procedures.

Services that did not manage recruitment and appointment of staff well

Where services were not managing the recruitment and appointment of staff well, issues largely related to not verifying qualifications and not conducting referee checks. In many, job descriptions were generic. Review of employment policies and procedures occurred in only two of these services.

Findings by service type

Table 2: Recruitment and Appointment of Staff



Education and care services

Managed the process very well



Adequate processes in place



Did not manage the process well



These findings reflect the variability within each service type in terms of how well they managed the recruitment and appointment of staff. Variability between the findings for kindergartens and education and care services is influenced by the different employment environments in which they operate.

Support for Ongoing Staff Development

Services that supported staff development very well

Services that supported staff very well provided newly appointed staff with an initial orientation, followed by an ongoing support programme. This often included peer mentoring and regular feedback on teaching practice. Some services provided staff with clear guidelines and expectations, and a framework to guide the induction process.

These services had a strong focus on ongoing staff development. Many favoured service-wide professional development as the most effective means of changing practice. Professional development was provided by senior staff, external facilitators, or by sharing internal expertise.

While a range of factors contributed to the level of staff turnover across all services, those services that proactively supported staff with ongoing professional development were more likely to have a low staff turnover. These services also supported Provisionally Registered Teachers (PRTs) to become fully registered and those staff newly appointed to leadership positions. This latter process was usually overseen by management, but in the case of services that were part of an association or umbrella organisation, assistance was also provided by staff with responsibilities for this process. Targeted professional development in some services enabled staff to develop their potential for future leadership roles.

In many of these services, the philosophy, goals and professional development were clearly linked. Professional development was also closely aligned to individual appraisal goals. In some of the kindergartens, teachers’ appraisal goals were collated and, where particular needs were identified, the association designed and provided appropriate professional development.

Professional development was a priority and seen as a worthwhile investment because it enhanced team work, promoted professional discussion, reflection and debate, and contributed to ongoing improvement in the quality of education and care for all children. It was appropriately resourced, with some services generously resourcing this provision. Funding was usually allocated on a whole‑service basis, however, in a few services there was an allocation per staff member.

In most of these services self review informed decisions regarding the focus and timing of professional development. In many, evaluation of the impact of the professional development on practice was a feature of both individual reflection and service-wide review.

Services that adequately supported staff development

The services that adequately supported staff development had many of the practices of services that supported their staff very well. However, ERO found some variability in the implementation of these practices. Although some had sound induction processes this was an area to be strengthened in many of these services.

While professional development was generally adequately resourced, a common characteristic of these services was the lack of a clear link between professional development and appraisal. Professional development was not well planned or documented, or linked to the services’ priorities and goals. These services were less likely to review the impact of professional development as their self review was limited.

Services where staff were not well supported

Most of the services where staff were not well supported were education and care services. In some, poor leadership contributed to staff not being well supported in terms of induction processes and ongoing professional development. Induction processes were generally limited to the provision of a handbook or were non‑existent.

Professional development, if available, was ad hoc and inadequately resourced. Service-wide professional development was non‑existent and this was reflected in the poor quality of the education programme. Professional development was not informed by or linked to the outcomes of staff appraisal.

Findings by service type

Table 3: Support for Staff Development



Education and care services

Supported staff very well



Adequate support for their staff



Did not provide adequate support for staff



These findings reflect the variability within each service type in terms of how well they supported staff development. Variability between the findings for kindergartens and education and care services is influenced by the different employment environments in which they operate.

Improving Staff Performance through Appraisal

Highly effective appraisal practices

Where appraisal practices were highly effective they were not a one-off annual event, but part of a cycle that took place over the course of a year. Appraisal was linked to professional development and included provision for ongoing coaching or mentoring. Processes were aligned to the RTC and expectations were made explicit through performance indicators linked to job descriptions.

In these services, the appraisal process included opportunities for self reflection. Staff, in conjunction with the appraiser, identified specific and measurable goals, and progress towards achieving these was monitored through observations, conversations and ongoing feedback. The feedback was constructive, formative and, where necessary, critical.

These services had well-established practices to support newly qualified teachers. Provisionally registered teachers were usually assigned a buddy or mentor who was a registered teacher. Often this support was included in the appraisal process but with a more intensive focus.

In a few services, the Tātaiako cultural competencies were incorporated into the appraisal goals.

Some effective appraisal practices

ERO found that many of the features of the services with highly effective practices were evident in these services, but with more variability in terms of implementation. This was especially in relation to:

  • including self appraisal as part of the process
  • having specific and measurable goals
  • linking appraisal and processes for attestation
  • formalising observations of teaching practice as part of the process
  • documenting all aspects of the appraisal process
  • the provision of constructive feedback to improve teaching practice.

Minimally effective practices

Some of the services with minimally effective appraisal practices were in the process of reviewing their appraisal processes, sometimes as a result of a change of service ownership. The effectiveness of this process was not yet evident as a full appraisal cycle had not been completed. Improvements were needed in these services to ensure:

  • goals and performance objectives are measurable
  • PRTs are well supported through an induction and mentoring programme
  • the alignment between appraisal and professional development
  • clear links between appraisal goals and the RTC
  • processes include observations of teaching practice
  • staff receive constructive feedback on their teaching practice
  • appraisal is an ongoing process rather than a one-off meeting
  • service managers/leaders are appraised.

In other services, some attempts had been made to appraise staff but the appraisal process was low-level and not linked to the RTC. Observations of teaching practice were not part of the process. Although self reflection was common, the impact of this on teaching practice was unclear. In a few services, no appraisal had taken place in 2012 and PRTs were not supported to gain full registration.

Findings by service type

Table 4: Improving Staff Performance

Key findings for the 235 services



Education and care services

Highly effective appraisal practices



Some effective appraisal practices



Minimally effective practices



These findings reflect the variability within each service type in terms of how effectively they improved staff performance. Variability between the findings for kindergartens and education and care services is influenced by the different employment environments in which they operate.

Other areas of investigation

In addition to the main evaluative questions, ERO also investigated the following areas:

  • the nature and extent of staff turnover in the last two years
  • the management of complaints about staff, including mandatory reporting to the NZTC
  • the police vetting of all staff and volunteers.

Staff Turnover

Almost two-thirds of services had less than 20 percent staff turnover in the preceding two years. Staff turnover was high in 12 percent of services. In these services, there had been more than 50 percent turnover in the preceding two years. 

Low staff turnover cannot be attributed to any one single factor. However, in services that supported staff with ongoing professional development, staff turnover was more likely to be low. These services also supported PRTs to become fully registered. Many of the teachers who were fully qualified and registered had been working at the same service since gaining full registration.

In the services with high staff turnover, the most common reasons were staff moving out of the area or going on parental leave. Other contributing factors included staff being employed by another early childhood service closer to their home, changing career or retiring. Services in some areas reported having difficulty attracting and retaining staff because of their geographical location. In a few services, issues such as dysfunctional staff relationships, restructuring, change in leadership style, or different expectations under new owners were reasons for high staff turnover.

Managing complaints about staff

ERO found that early childhood services were managing a range of complaints about staff from both internal and external sources. Twenty percent of services had managed one or more complaints about staff in the last three years. The nature of the complaints about staff varied considerably, ranging from a parent feeling unwelcome at a service, to more serious incidents where children’s safety and/or wellbeing was placed at risk.

Complaints were a mix of internal and external, with parents being the main source of external complaints, and other staff or managers for the internal complaints.

Although most of these complaints were well-managed, they were often being dealt with through a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy where the same processes were applied for minor issues and serious misconduct. Some services were using the policy for complaints about non-compliance with the regulations or criteria [17] rather than a policy specifically related to making a complaint about staff. ERO also found that a few services had not documented the process followed when dealing with a complaint.

Most of the services were aware of NZTC’s mandatory reporting requirements. [18]Seven services in this evaluation had reported to the NZTC in relation to teacher competence or conduct. However, ERO found instances in a few services where complaints about staff were not reported to the NZTC. As mandatory reporting applies only to registered teachers, services are not currently required to report on issues associated with the competence or conduct of staff who are not registered. This is a gap in the system which needs to be considered by the Ministry of Education

Police Vetting

Ninety percent of services had, and followed, appropriate written procedures for police vetting. As part of the registration process, police vetting was carried out by NZTC for teachers. Services did checks for non-registered and non-qualified teachers and other staff. These included non-qualified educators, contractors, trades-people, and volunteers such as ‘story grans’. These services had systems to ensure that police vets were renewed every three years. Many associations and umbrella organisations kept records of all staff employed in their services with the dates of their initial police vetting, the most recent check, and the date when the next check was due.

In the remaining 10 percent of services police vetting procedures and practices were not robust. In some of these services police vetting was carried out according to requirements, but there were no clear written procedures to guide the process. In other services, a review of the procedures was required to make them more useful. Other issues related to procedures lacking detail to guide the process, service providers’ not being aware of the requirement to vet every three years, or not police vetting personnel as required.