In 2011, the ECE (early childhood education) Taskforce report, An Agenda for Amazing Children[1] recommended an evaluation of the implementation of the early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki.[2] In response, ERO conducted a national evaluation that investigated:

How effectively are early childhood services across New Zealand determining, enacting and reviewing their curriculum priorities to support education success for every learner?

Findings from this national evaluation are published in two reports. This report, Priorities for Children's Learning in Early Childhood Services presents ERO’s findings in relation to how well early childhood services determine, enact and review their stated priorities for children’s learning through their curriculum. It complements a companion report, Working with Te Whāriki, May 2013.

Te Whāriki states that each service will develop its own emphases and priorities for children’s learning. These priorities will vary in each service, with programmes being developed in response to the children enrolled in the service, the aspirations of their parents and whānau, and the service’s particular setting.[3] Parents often choose a service for their child because of its identified curriculum priorities. Each service’s curriculum priorities and emphases – the learning valued in their service – should guide curriculum planning and implementation, inform assessment practices and be visible in assessment documentation, and should provide a focus for self review.

This report presents ERO’s findings about the extent to which services reviewed in Terms 1, 2 and 3, 2012 implemented a curriculum that was highly reflective of their identified priorities for children’s learning. The findings are presented in relation to:

  • how services were determining their priorities for children’s learning
  • how services were assessing children’s learning in relation to their identified learning priorities and emphases
  • how information about children’s progress and learning was shared with children and their parents and whānau, and used during transitions
  • how information about children’s learning was used to inform curriculum decisions and in self review
  • the extent to which each service’s curriculum was responsive to Māori and Pacific children.

Overall, ERO found that 17 percent of the 387 services reviewed in Terms 1 and 2, 2012, implemented a curriculum that was highly reflective of their identified priorities for children’s learning. In these services, curriculum decisions, assessment practices and self-review processes were aligned to, and reflected, the priorities identified as important for children’s learning. Priorities took into consideration the aspirations of parents and whānau, children’s strengths and interests, and the philosophy and vision of the service. These services were more likely to be responsive to Māori and Pacific children’s identity, language and culture.

In a further 54 percent of services the curriculum was mostly reflective of their identified priorities. Although these services had many of the characteristics of the ‘highly reflective’ services, they needed to improve alignment between their identified priorities and their assessment and/or self-review practices.

The curriculum was minimally reflective of identified priorities in 24 percent of services. In these services, the alignment between their curriculum decisions, assessment practices and self-review processes was more tenuous or did not exist. The purpose of assessment and self review was not well understood and the curriculum focused more on activities than identified priorities for children’s learning.

In five percent of services, the curriculum did not reflect priorities, largely because these had not been identified. In these services assessment practices were of poor quality and self review was either not evident or at a very early stage of development.

ERO found a lack of responsiveness to Māori and Pacific children in many services. Only two-fifths of services had thought about a curriculum that might support Māori children to achieve success as Māori, and about one-fifth of services had considered this for Pacific children.

Improvements were needed in many of the services to ensure that:

  • assessment information made the learning valued by the service visible to children and their parents and whānau
  • their curriculum was responsive to identified priorities for Māori and Pacific children
  • self review focused on how well identified priorities for children’s learning were being realised through the curriculum.

ERO found that services with certain characteristics were more likely to implement a curriculum that was reflective of their identified priorities for children’s learning. Kindergartens were more likely than other service types to do this, as were services with higher percentages of qualified and registered teachers.