High quality education and care - an overview

ERO has found that in good quality early childhood services, managers and educators hold high expectations for all children and keep their focus on what really matters. In these services, educators are interested in children - who they are and what they bring to their learning. Educators’ interactions with children create opportunities for meaningful conversations that provoke and extend children’s thinking. Assessment practice enables educators to notice, recognise and respond to children’s emerging interests and strengths.

Children who participate in high quality services learn in a safe and inclusive environment where they are respected, supported and challenged in their learning. They are happy, confident learners who are included and listened to. Their progress, achievements and successes are acknowledged and celebrated. Relationships between educators, parents and whānau, based on mutual trust and respect, strengthen partnerships for learning.

ERO has found that it is the interweaving of many aspects of practice that contribute to good learning opportunities for infants, toddlers and young children. In high quality services it is the interrelationship between the following features, rather than any one on its own, that underpins the quality of education and care provided.

  • leadership
  • philosophy
  • vision
  • relationships and interactions
  • teaching and learning
  • assessment and planning
  • professional learning, qualifications and support
  • self review
  • management.

In this report each feature is discussed in terms of how it influences quality. The report includes relevant findings from recent national evaluation reports and examples of practice in high quality services drawn from individual service’s education review reports.

Leadership: who inspires and challenges educators?

High quality services have leaders who are inspirational, enthusiastic and innovative thinkers. These leaders manage change effectively, motivate others to make change and have a good awareness of pacing change that leads to improved quality.

In high quality services, well-qualified and experienced leaders have a key role in setting expectations for staff and children. They are the educational leaders of the service, with a sound, up-to-date knowledge of how children learn and develop. They translate this knowledge into coherent expectations for centre management and practice, effective teaching, and ongoing reflection on practice. Effective leaders trust and empower educators, children and families, promoting a collaborative, inclusive culture of continuous improvement for all.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

The centre manager is a highly experienced early childhood practitioner and visionary leader. She is knowledgeable about early childhood education and works alongside her team, modelling and influencing practice. Effective appraisal by the centre manager includes self reflection, and constructive critique leads to professional development focused on individual goals and centre priorities. Staff and parents value and are confident in the centre manager’s collaborative approach to leadership that results in high quality education and care for infants, toddlers and young children.

An analysis of ERO’s education review reports for individual services showed that where leadership was effective:

  • educators/adults worked as a cohesive, professional team
  • there were high levels of trust and confidence
  • planning and assessment processes were embedded in practice
  • there was a strong culture of self review
  • teaching practices were continually being improved
  • there was clear direction, based on agreed priorities for development
  • parents, families and whānau were actively involved and well informed
  • practices were sustainable.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have highlighted the importance of leadership in self review, assessment practice and in working with Māori children and their whānau. In The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education (November 2007), ERO notes that:

Good leadership and strategic direction in a service helped to develop and promote a shared and appropriate understanding of, and ongoing expectations for, assessment.

Implementing Self Review in Early Childhood Services (January 2009), reported the value of leadership for self review:

Leadership support and direction for self review had a positive influence on understanding and implementation. Many of those services had documented the outcomes of review, particularly those related to children. Self review was embedded in practice and integral to their operation.

In many services where self review was well understood and implemented, leaders made sure self review happened and played a key role in encouraging and supporting staff. They facilitated regular meetings to plan reviews, analyse data and discuss review findings. Staff were expected to work as a team and leaders often took on a mentoring role, particularly with new or less experienced staff. Leaders played an important role in establishing a collegial and reflective culture in the service.

In Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services: Good Practice (May 2010), ERO reported on the importance of leadership in working with Māori children and their whānau:

The manager’s leadership is a key factor in the centre’s responsiveness to whānau and its focus on Māori children developing as competent and confident learners. Through her leadership, bicultural perspectives in the curriculum are honoured and Māori children’s cultural identity is valued and strengthened. Te reo Māori and tikanga are seen as integral to the curriculum. Leadership, team coherence and commitment to Te Tiriti O Waitangi makes a difference to what happens for Māori children and their whānau.

Leadership, in particular what leaders believe and value and how this is enacted in practice, has a strong influence on the quality of education and care provided for children. Well-led early childhood services are places where managers, educators, children and their parents and whānau all have opportunities to contribute and learn. Leadership promotes team work and underpins the development of successful learning communities.

Philosophy: what do services value and believe about children's learning?

Philosophy statements express the values and beliefs held by those involved in a service and reflect what is important. In high quality services, the values and beliefs of everyone involved are taken into account in developing a philosophy. The philosophy is not only documented and displayed in the service, but also evident in day-to-day practice.

Some services base their philosophy on the principles of the early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, and consult extensively with their community to develop their philosophy so it reflects who they are and what they value in children’s education and care. Sometimes educators develop a philosophy specific to their teaching approach.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

A clear and well understood philosophy underpins the centre programme, learning environment and adult interactions with children. In the under-two area the focus is on building trust, ensuring time for uninterrupted play and children having freedom to explore. In the over-two area children’s creative endeavours are valued and the natural environment plays a significant role in fostering children’s exploration and learning.

Philosophy statements also enable services to make explicit the ways research and/or current educational theories influence their thinking and practice. Some themes highlighted in this area include:

  • respectful practice for infants and toddlers
  • the place of the environment in supporting children’s learning
  • the role of the family and/or community in collaborating to support children’s learning.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have recognised the place of philosophy statements in making explicit the values and beliefs that underpin practice. The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education reported that in two-thirds of services, the focus of the philosophy was reflected in assessment practices. ERO found that in many of these services:

“the philosophy made direct reference to the importance of educators noticing, recognising, and responding to children’s learning and development. Services’ philosophies recognised that children were actively involved in their own learning and development. Educators responded to children’s interests, strengths, experiences, and conversations, and sought to increase parent participation in assessment. Where this was a particular strength, parents were involved, alongside educators, in reviews of philosophy and assessment practice.”

In Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services: Good Practice, ERO highlighted two services where philosophy and practice aligned.

Teachers work collaboratively in ways that are true to their philosophy, empowering children and their whānau to share in the responsibility for teaching and learning. They embrace the concepts of tuakana/teina where it is common for siblings to attend this centre. The younger children learn from the older ones and the older children learn perseverance. In the context of this centre, the teachers, whānau and children learn from one another.

A feature of this centre is the strong link between the philosophy and what happens in practice. The philosophy emphasises affordability and whānau involvement and support. The personal teaching philosophies of individual teachers are closely aligned to the overall philosophy of the service. Discussions with teachers highlighted their very personal commitment to the centre’s philosophy and to realising this in practice.

In high quality services, philosophy statements are regularly reviewed to find out how well they relate to practice and to ensure they reflect the values and beliefs of everyone involved. This is an ongoing process through which services’ philosophies evolve over time.

Vision: where are services going and what do they want to achieve?

Having a shared vision clarifies a service’s purpose, and identifies what it is striving for in relation to children’s learning and development.

In high quality services, a vision complements the statement of philosophy and is linked to strategies and goals as expressed in long and short term plans. It often expresses the kind of quality services aspire to achieve and unites everyone in working towards a shared purpose.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

New Zealand’s dual heritage and respect for the Treaty of Waitangi are reflected in the kindergarten’s vision and strategic planning. Teachers have specifically included a bicultural focus in their documentation, teaching practices, and in the environment. Targeted professional development is supporting the kindergarten’s aim of developing sustainable practices that are culturally appropriate.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have highlighted how having a shared vision can help services focus practice on their identified priorities. In Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services: Good Practice, ERO reported on good practice in a service where the vision was driving practice.

For this service, being responsive is about establishing relationships early and getting to know families and children well as part of the placement process. A shared vision that all children deserve the best drives practice. Relationships are at the heart of what happens for children at all levels of the service. The first contact with parents and their children begins on day one. First impressions count and such practices as offering parents a cup of tea or coffee help to create space for informal discussions. The coordinators see themselves as the linchpin between parents, children and the educators. They facilitate relationships but also know when to allow the relationships to develop independently.

In the report, Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services, May 2010, ERO noted the steps some services were taking to include Māori perspectives in their long-term planning:

Some services had begun to explore ways to include Māori concepts, values and perspectives in their long-term or strategic plans. A few were using Ka Hikitia to guide their planning and some found ERO’s report Māori Children in Early Childhood: Pilot Study, July 2008 useful as a discussion starter and in prompting them to seek the views of parents and whānau of Māori children.

High quality services develop a vision for quality that gives them a sound basis for self review and contributes to ongoing improvement.

Relationships and interactions: how do services respond to children and their parents and whānau?

The quality and nature of relationships among adults and with children, and the importance given to these influences what happens for children.

In high quality services, educators have knowledge of individual children and their families and a genuine interest in them. Educators who understand the curriculum and children’s interests and strengths, are able to interact in respectful and meaningful ways. A good balance between the planned and unplanned programme means that educators can respond to children’s ideas, interests and dispositions. Good relationships contribute to a settled, welcoming and inclusive climate.

Relationships acknowledge cultural values and practices. High quality services recognise children’s place as part of a wider family/whānau and iwi. Family/whānau aspirations for their children are valued and are an integral part of assessment that help adults plan programmes and work with children. Parents and whānau are comfortable spending time at the service and are consulted in genuine and meaningful ways.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

The input of children and their families is valued. Teachers get to know about parents’ aspirations for their children on enrolment. Staff continue to keep parents informed about the learning programme, using displays, newsletters and individual discussion. Recent changes in centre operations reflect parent and whānau preferences, and are the result of planned consultation with the community. An active committee supports the kindergarten in resourcing and planning for further developments. Families and staff have a close working relationship that benefits children.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have acknowledged the value of relationships in assessment practice and in managers and educators working with Māori children and their whānau. ERO’s report, The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, identified the importance of relationships as part of assessment processes.

Where ERO found very good practice, educators used assessment information in their promotion of children’s problem solving, negotiation, leadership, cooperation, and sharing of ideas and views. These services also used the assessment process to build and improve on their interactions and relationships with parents and whānau.

Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services: Good Practice, highlights good practice in two services where relationships were central to their work with Māori children and their whānau.

Whanaungatanga is important in this centre. Relationships with each other as a team of teachers, and with children and their whānau, matter. Support is given where needed, and caring for each other in a trusting and respectful environment is valued. The whakapapa of children and their whānau is acknowledged, helping to strengthen connections with everyone involved in the centre and with those who have gone before them.

Relationships are integral to everything that happens in the kindergarten. Developing and maintaining positive, professional relationships between staff is seen as a necessary starting point for developing relationships with children and their whānau. Good staff relationships also influence relationships between children. The kindergarten has an open-door policy, and parents and whānau are welcome at any time. First impressions for parents are crucial to laying foundations on which to build meaningful partnerships. Whānau feel confident when teachers accept them for who they are without imposing expectations or demands on them.

In high quality services, educators respect each family’s culture and actively seek opportunities to develop relationships with parents and learn more about their children. They can make links with different aspects of families’ lives in order to add meaning to children’s learning. Good communication between educators and with parents and whānau is integral to high quality education and care.

Teaching and learning: how do educators engage infants, toddlers and young children in meaningful learning experiences?

Effective teaching

Effective teaching is at the heart of high quality early childhood provision. In high quality services, teaching practices are respectful of what children bring to their learning. Educators view children as competent learners, foster their independence and perseverance, and expect them to make considered choices and decisions. They promote children’s learning by encouraging them to investigate and solve problems. Educators listen to children’s ideas and extend their thinking. They use appropriate strategies to foster interaction through modelling and positive feedback. Young children are engaged in sustained conversations and given time to think and to formulate their responses. They are encouraged to engage in debate and negotiation with educators and peers. Educators are aware of each child, their preferences and dispositions. They know how to engage them in learning that is meaningful to them.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

An inquiry approach uses children’s questions to identify possibilities for extending children’s learning. Educators identify these questions through summaries of observations and meetings with the children. They constantly model the language used in investigation and prompt children to consider their next steps. They also use the meetings with children to support small groups to explore different interests simultaneously.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have highlighted the importance of effective teaching practice. The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, noted good assessment practice in a service where:

Educators were quick to respond to children’s learning by introducing new resources and extending children’s thinking through open ended questions and sustained conversations. Educators often made adjustments to the programme immediately, as well as planning for extension and development of children’s interests over time.

In Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services, ERO reported on effective teaching strategies for Māori children.

Educators valued what children brought to their learning. They acknowledged children’s prior experiences and had high expectations for them as learners. Services embraced the concept of ako in their practice and worked from the premise that ‘we are all learners and teachers here’. Educators recognised opportunities to foster tuakana/teina relationships between older and younger children.

Provision for infants and toddlers  1

In high quality services, where infants and toddlers attend, educators recognise each child’s unique strengths, interests and needs. Educators working with infants and toddlers are attuned to them and guide and work alongside them as they explore and discover things about their environment. Children are encouraged to try new things and are given the space and time to solve problems themselves.

Infants experience nurturing attachment relationships with primary caregivers. One-to-one interactions respond to their cues and communication attempts. Infants are immersed in a language-rich environment and spend time in a variety of positions and places, alone as well as interacting with others around them. Care routines are based on each child’s individual needs and daily rhythms.

In high quality services, educators support toddlers’ ability to choose where to play, and encourage their independence and self management. Toddlers learn about consequences and develop problem-solving skills. They have easy access to a range of resources and play spaces that encourage choice and decision-making. Educators engage in meaningful conversations with toddlers and foster language development, communication skills and social interaction.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

Infants and toddlers benefit from the nurturing and respectful care provided. Teachers are very aware of the particular characteristics and preferences of the young children with whom they work. This care and attention can be seen in the ways in which teachers:

  • use infants’ individual routines to plan their daily programme;
  • are attentive and responsive to the needs of children and to their feelings;
  • maintain well managed and implemented care routines to ensure that children’s needs are met; and
  • encourage children to develop independence in self care.

In some services, mixed-age groupings enable toddlers to follow the lead of older children and become familiar with possibilities and expectations. Tuakana/teina relationships are fostered through mixed-age grouping. Toddlers benefit from the modelling of older peers as they work with resources and equipment.

The Quality of Education and Care in Infant and Toddler Centre (January 2009), identified some of the features of high quality provision for infants and toddlers. Features included: 

  • attentive and responsive teachers who developed warm and trusting relationships with children
  • flexible, well-established routines based on individual children’s emotional and physical needs
  • planning and assessment practice based on children’s emerging interests that made learning visible for teachers and parents
  • teachers working collaboratively and engaging in professional discussions about children’s learning
  • teachers using assessment information to make informed decisions about the programme
  • strong partnerships between teachers and parents and whānau, based on mutual respect and good communication processes.

Bicultural curriculum

In high quality services, educators are committed to implementing a bicultural curriculum that acknowledges the dual cultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand and honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The concepts of whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and aroha are evident in all aspects of service operations. Māori children’s identity is respected and teaching promotes their success.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

Teachers and educators are working to embed Te Ao Māori as an integral part of the programme. The ‘pepeha wall’ is a strong visual feature, which displays the whakapapa of children and staff members alongside a local mythical symbol, the manaia, which has been created by a local artist and the children. Children and their whānau refer to this display and make connections with each other. Older children are encouraged to help younger children, as part of a tuakana-teina relationship. Teachers are studying to increase their understanding of te reo Māori. They use te reo Māori in some routines, and karakia to bless the food at meal times as part of the kawa of the kindergarten. The kindergarten is showing commitment to meeting the cultural aspirations of its community.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have reported on quality in relation to the provision of a bicultural curriculum.

In Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services, ERO reported on findings where services had a strong bicultural focus in their curriculum.

In highly focused services, practices were inclusive and respectful of Māori values and beliefs. Te reo Māori was consistently used in conversations and evident in the environment, in planning documents and in assessment records such as children’s portfolios. Some services had educators who were confident in using te reo Māori and modelled its use for others. Rituals and routines for children incorporated tikanga Māori. Māori children confidently led karakia and waiata in many of these services. Children’s ancestral connections were affirmed and their identity as Māori acknowledged.

Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services: Good Practice, reported good practice in a service with a strong bicultural curriculum.

Māori perspectives are woven through all that happens in the programme. Children and adults use te reo Māori comfortably and confidently as part of daily interaction. Learning stories show how the curriculum offers culturally rich learning experiences that affirm children’s identity as Māori. An integral part of the kindergarten curriculum is a “virtues” programme that is tightly linked to the values and beliefs expressed in the philosophy statement. The virtues are expressed in te reo Māori and in English. Children are gaining understanding of these, especially when used as Māori concepts.

Cultural diversity

In high quality services, educators recognise, acknowledge and respond to cultural diversity. Teaching practice is inclusive and takes account of all children’s strengths and interests. Educators value and celebrate the bilingual abilities of children and families who speak other languages in addition to English.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

Teachers are strong advocates for the right of every child to receive high quality education and care irrespective of their age, ability, gender or ethnicity. The rich cultural diversity of families attending the kindergarten is valued, celebrated and reflected in the programme, environment, routines and teaching practices.

Learning environment

An integral part of teaching and learning in early childhood services is the physical environment and the way it supports children’s learning. In high quality services, the physical learning environment is stimulating and inviting and gives children independent access to a wide range of interesting resources. Educators set up inviting play spaces and offer children choice, support and challenge. The environment is continually reviewed to ensure it is responsive to children’s interests and strengths.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

The centre offers a spacious and uncluttered environment and has a good range of equipment and resources. Children are able to select resources independently and use these to support their play. Well organised play areas also provide children with the space they need for quiet, active, solitary and group play. The large outdoor area is set up in ways that provide physical challenge and encourage children to explore and discover for themselves. Teachers are committed to providing adaptable play equipment that can be used in flexible ways and that motivates children to engage in complex and sustained play.

Assessment and planning: how do educators use what they know to help children to realise their potential?

Assessment practice includes, but is not limited to, the use of learning narratives and accompanying photos to document children’s emerging interests, abilities and dispositions for learning over time. Information documented demonstrates educators’ knowledge of each child and identifies further possibilities for learning.

In high quality services, educators, children, parents and whānau all have opportunities to contribute to plans for learning. Children’s views and perspectives are captured along with their strengths, interests and particular needs. Learning goals are developed in consultation with parents and whānau who value formal and informal opportunities to discuss their child’s learning, progress and development.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

Teachers successfully use a variety of assessment methods to evaluate children’s learning. They observe, discuss and, based on emerging interests, plan for individuals and groups of children. Children have opportunities to plan for their learning through a project approach. They work with teachers to set their goals. Whānau contribute to their child’s learning stories. Teachers support children as they develop their ideas over extended periods of time. Profiles document children’s different interests and skill development. Children and their families value these records of learning and development.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have identified some aspects of effective assessment practice. ERO’s report The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, noted that:

Educators using good quality assessment practice were able to articulate and document significant moments in children’s learning and development. ERO found that this was a result of experience and confidence, a willingness to see and value learning in different ways, and to take risks in their professional discussions with other educators. Educators were able to link their understanding about assessment to practice, and to change their practice if necessary. These educators were part of a learning community, often promoted and developed by their umbrella organisation or management structure.

In Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services, ERO reported on assessment practice in services that focused on supporting Māori children.

Assessment information reflected the rich bicultural learning experiences of those children. In many, the enrolment process involved sharing information between whānau and educators. Discussions focused on whānau aspirations for their children, and on their expectations of the service. The information shared gave educators a starting point to document children’s learning, with many weaving whānau expectations through narrative assessments in profiles and portfolios. Many of the focused and highly focused services included, with parents’ agreement, children’s whakapapa in profiles or portfolios.

Narrative assessments in Māori children’s profiles and portfolios included the use of te reo Māori and showed examples of their involvement in learning experiences that contributed to their identity as learners. These included whānau stories and photographs of children’s involvement in their wider whānau and community and were meaningful records of learning for educators, children and whānau.

In high quality services, the use of assessment information to promote children’s learning and development is a feature of high quality services. In many such services, ongoing professional development and regular self review have contributed to the development and refinement of effective assessment practices.

Professional learning and support: what do educators do to keep up to date with current research and development and how do they improve their practice?

Professional learning and support for managers and educators keeps them abreast of developments in early childhood education. Engagement in ongoing learning is critical to the provision of high quality education and care.

In high quality services, managers and educators are actively involved in professional learning and development programmes. Many services have staff with varying levels of qualifications. ERO has found that services with a mix of qualified and unqualified educators can provide high quality early childhood education, when all have the opportunity to participate in professional learning that develops their knowledge and practice.

In high quality services, support is available from others in the service and is also accessed externally when specific expertise is required. Ongoing professional development is matched to staff needs and interests and to services’ vision and philosophy statements.

Effective appraisal processes include continuous self reflection and constructive critique that focuses development on individual goals and service priorities. Well planned and implemented advice and guidance programmes help newly qualified educators to meet registration requirements.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

The supervisor is focused on improving staff understanding of best teaching and assessment practices and the educational theories that support them. Strategies in place to support teaching and learning include professional development, discussion, modelling and mentoring. The governance committee funds professional development opportunities, including visits to highly regarded centres, to stimulate reflection and improved practices.

Several of ERO’s national evaluation reports have highlighted the value of professional learning and development and having qualified educators. According to ERO’s report The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education:

Regular and ongoing professional development and low staff turnover were key factors in educators’ development and implementation of assessment policies and practices. Where educators had participated in whole-staff professional development about assessment they were more likely to have an understanding of assessment of children’s learning.

The main factors that underpinned effective assessment practices were high quality professional development involving all educators in the service, supported by sufficient time to allow educators to fully understand the purpose of assessment processes and practices, and to use assessment information effectively in planning and evaluation of programmes.

In Implementing Self Review in Early Childhood Services, ERO found that:

Many services were proactive in seeking professional development to improve self-review practice. Staff in these services had a positive attitude and managers supported professional learning and development for all staff. This helped to build educators’ understanding about self review and gave them opportunities to put new learning into practice. ERO’s findings highlighted the value of managers and educators in early childhood services having access to expertise, in-house or external, to support self review.

This report also highlighted the value of professional development in:

Helping managers and educators to improve their capacity and capability in effective self review was evident in this evaluation. However, it was not just engaging in professional development, but more importantly how self review was integrated as part of professional development programmes to build capacity to undertake review and the capability to do it well.

Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services: Good Practice, included an example good practice in a service where:

Recent professional development has been vital in building the commitment of all teachers to bicultural development. At the start of the professional development programme teachers were not competent in te reo Māori and they knew they wanted to build their knowledge. Initially they lacked confidence but their commitment to supporting Māori children at their centre was a strong motivator.

In discussing the common features of the nine services included in this report of good practice ERO noted that:

Managers and educators in these services demonstrated a commitment and passion to make a difference for Māori children. They were motivated to improve their own understandings of Te Ao Māori, including te reo Māori and tikanga. Planning and undertaking relevant professional learning to assist with bicultural development was critical. Such professional development was a collective venture in all of the services. By increasing the level of the expertise and knowledge in the service, managers and educators gained the confidence to work in partnership with parents and whānau of Māori children and recognise and value the experience and knowledge Māori children bring to their learning.

In high quality services, educators seek ongoing involvement in professional learning and research initiatives that lead to innovation and give children relevant educational opportunities in a safe and caring environment. Educators are highly reflective practitioners. They use national and international research to think about their practice and make changes. It is not just involvement in professional learning and development that matters, but the difference it makes in shifting practice and helping educators to increase their understanding of high quality teaching and learning.

Self review: what do services know about the quality of their service?

A crucial part of operating as a high quality service is the use of self review to sustain ongoing improvement.

In high quality services, self review is capably led, not necessarily by the designated leader, but by those who have interest, knowledge or skills in a particular area. Children’s views are sought and parents actively contribute to reviews. Managers and educators use self review successfully to inform change and improvement.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

Teachers have a good understanding of the key purpose of self review. With external support, they have undertaken a comprehensive review of their assessment, planning and evaluation processes. The approach advocated in Ngā Arohaehae Whai Hua: Self-Review Guidelines for Early Childhood Education was followed to establish indicators of quality practice, gather evidence from a range of sources, analyse results, and make informed changes to practice. Regular reflection and evaluation are undertaken to inform decisions about the impact of change and next steps.

ERO’s national evaluation reports have included a focus on self review, particularly in relation to supporting services to undertake self review by including indicators and questions services can use in their self review.

The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, reported on the outcomes of self review:

Robust and rigorous self review of teaching and assessment practice helped educators make outcomes positive for children. It also helped educators to practise consistently across the service. Good quality self review in these services resulted in positive change in programmes, the environment, and in interactions.

Where ERO found very good practice, services had a comprehensive framework to guide self review. The strategic direction and philosophy of these services matched their policies and procedures for planning, assessment, evaluation, and consultation. These frameworks ensured regular self review and the effective implementation of changes to the programme.

In Implementing Self Review in Early Childhood Services, ERO specifically focused on how well self review was understood and implemented in early childhood services. In services where self review was well understood and implemented ERO identified common features of practice:

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 whānau 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.

In high quality services, review is embedded as part of the culture of the service. It is thorough, well documented and change-oriented. All aspects of service operations are considered in self review including policies and procedures as well as management and teaching practice. Effective self review underpins decisions managers and educators make about children’s education and care.

Effective management: what systems are in place to ensure high quality?

Effective management underpins practice in services that provide high quality education and care. These services have developed sound management frameworks that include strategic planning, self review and comprehensive personnel and financial policies and procedures. High quality documentation underpins the service’s operation and guides practice.

An example of high quality from an individual service’s ERO report.

The association provides effective governance for the service. Detailed and up-to-date policies and procedures guide day-to-day operations. The experienced manager of professional practice regularly visits and provides feedback on the quality of education and care provided for children and their families.

ERO’s national evaluation reports emphasise the importance of effective management systems in supporting assessment practice, self review and working with Māori children and their whānau. The Quality of Assessment in Early Childhood Education, reported that:

Good quality management and resourcing of assessment practice, such as ongoing and targeted professional development, and the provision of non‑contact and meeting times, helped educators to participate in professional discussions about assessment. The promotion of, and time for, reflection allowed educators to consider ways in which assessment information could be used to inform learning in the service. The provision of appropriate ICT helped to reduce educators’ workloads, and also allowed them to involve children, parents, and whānau and make learning visible to them.

In Implementing Self Review in Early Childhood Services, ERO found that:

Many services had documented the purpose of self review and had set out the processes to be followed. Some services had developed a framework to guide planned reviews that were aligned to the documented strategic direction in their long and short term plans. Where services operated under an umbrella organisation, the organisation often determined the expectations for self review and developed frameworks and templates or tools to guide self review in individual services. ERO’s findings highlighted the usefulness of services having established procedures to guide self review.

Success for Māori Children in Early Childhood Services: Good Practice, identified and reported on good governance and management practice in an umbrella organisation.

The association’s strategic plan is deliberately based on the principles of the early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. Woven through the plan is a commitment to working with parents, whānau and the wider community. Te Tiriti o Waitangi provides the foundation for association-led bicultural development. Board members and teachers have been involved in Te Tiriti o Waitangi workshops.

Effectively managed services sustain high quality provision and plan for, and manage, ongoing improvement. Rigorous self review underpins decision making and helps to identify priorities for ongoing improvement.

Summing up: what does this mean for children?

In high quality services, managers and educators share a commitment to improving learning outcomes for all children. They know what quality practice looks like and focus on continual improvement to achieve their vision.

The following excerpts from ERO reports show what high quality means for children.

Children have a strong sense of belonging. They are listened to, responded to, and immersed in an environment that respects them as individuals. Long-serving staff develop ongoing relationships with families and warmly welcome children and their whānau to the centre each day. Teachers use effective strategies to settle children quickly and engage them in the programme. They use their knowledge of children’s backgrounds and interests to prompt conversations and to form meaningful links between home and the centre. They make regular use of children’s home languages in natural and fitting ways. As a result, children are nurtured and feel secure.

Children are active and enthusiastic learners. They make decisions and choices about their involvement and participation in activities and play scenarios. A high level of peer support and sustained collaborative play is evident. Children enjoy playing in groups and have well developed negotiation, and problem-solving skills. Teachers acknowledge children as capable learners who can direct their own play. They support and extend children’s learning with sensitive interventions and unobtrusive suggestions. Children have a strong sense of themselves as capable, independent learners.