ERO Findings

ERO’s overarching evaluative questions provide the focus for these findings. The answers are evidenced and reported through the strands of Te Whāriki, highlighting the exemplary learner outcomes, and the positive influences of whānau.

‘How well are children nurtured to have a strong sense of belonging, be happy and respectful, confident and communicative and curious learners?’

Mana Atua

ERO found that: Children develop as confident learners who know and understand Māori beliefs and values.

ERO’s findings showed that Māori traditions, beliefs, values and practices influenced and supported the learning, development and wellbeing of children. Kaumātua shared their knowledge about ngā atua Māori with the kōhanga reo whānau. Whānau and kaiako talked about how they used their collective knowledge of ngā atua Māori to inform their planning, learning programme and practice. They said this influenced the teaching content delivered at different times, and contributed to what they value as mātauranga Māori. ERO observed a number of examples of this, including karakia to prepare and settle children for the start of their learning, before they eat, before they rest and before they leave kōhanga reo at the end of the day or to go on an excursion. Whānau also talked about the importance of caring interactions and loving relationships. These influence the range of learner outcomes identified as a part of Mana Atua.

A child leans against a wooden carving with paua inlays

Learning about whakapapa and the natural physical and spiritual elements helped kōhanga reo children to understand their connections and develop personal pride, self-esteem and self-worth. Kōhanga reo whānau stated that they believed their children learned to be resilient and confident as a result of this way of learning. ERO evaluations showed that there are a number of factors that contributed to this success. When whānau provided information about their hapū and iwi, their tipuna, the local area, and key landmarks, this was integrated and developed into a carefully designed programme of learning. Kaiako and kaiāwhina were then well equipped to create authentic learning experiences that linked to ngā atua Māori. Kaiako introduced specific vocabulary and language patterns so that children became familiar with new words, understood how they were used and what they meant. They supported children to share what they learned and how they felt.

Kaumātua were observed sharing stories about whakapapa and the local area. They talked to ERO about the importance of being around their children and mokopuna, as they helped them to understand their identity and connections to the past and present. As a part of learning about cultural and spiritual connections, children also discovered how to care for and respect other people and things. Kaiāwhina supported children as they learned about ngā atua Māori and how this influenced them with the things they chose to do. Older children talked confidently about themselves, their family and their identity. They were also observed caring for each other. Children show that they value who they are and understand how they connect.

A deliberate focus on Māori beliefs and values underpins the provision of a warm and nurturing environment. The kōhanga reo philosophy encourages whānau to live healthy lives based on Māori values and practices. Whānau, kaiako, and kaiāwhina clearly defined the importance of their holistic view, recognising that spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual wellbeing are essential to guide the learning and development of their children. This emphasis gave focus to kaiako and kaiāwhina as they planned their learning programmes guided by ngā ahuatanga, Māori beliefs and values. Kaiako were observed providing different learning experiences so children could express themselves. They praised children and encouraged them to participate and enjoy learning with their peers and in groups. Whānau described children as taonga. They said that they learned alongside the children and showed them love and affection at the same time. This highlighted the deliberate connections whānau had with children and their learning. Children show that they are calm, happy and positive towards others.

There are high expectations, for the provision of supportive and loving learning spaces. Whānau know the significance of providing an environment that is inviting to all children. Kaiako talked about the importance of creating opportunities for children to practise traditions and tikanga as they learned about themselves and others. These learning experiences included inside and outside play, so children learned how to interact with each other and the environment. Kaiako talked about how te reo Māori, te ao Māori, tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori are embedded in all they do, with and for children. Kaiako planned kaupapa and themes that influenced the learning programme, such as learning about the seasons and what that means. Their plans were focused on supporting the different learning needs of children. They provided specific activities and one-on-one support as required. All areas of the kōhanga reo were attractive, comfortable, clean and tidy. Whānau showed pride in their kōhanga reo, the physical environment and what they provided to and for their children and others. Children talk about how they feel safe, comfortable and happy.

Mana Whenua

ERO found that: Children have a strong sense of belonging, and environmental awareness and care.

ERO’s findings showed that where children learned about traditions, protocols, their marae and connections to the land, they developed a strong sense of belonging. Kōhanga reo whānau actively contributed their knowledge to the learning programme so children learned about, and confidently expressed, who they are. ERO observed programmes that reflected Mana Whenua, and provided varied and interesting cultural learning experiences for children. As a consequence, ERO found that children are supported to learn about Mana Whenua and their roles.

A child with a red hood leans over sprouting radishes in a garden

The local environment, the land, whānau, hapū and iwi define and influence the variety and depth of children’s learning experiences. In the sample study group, ERO found that kaumātua and whānau shared their knowledge about mana whenua and worked with kaiako and kaiāwhina to show children its importance and value. Kaumātua described the area around the kōhanga reo and told stories about the whenua. This information was used to help create a range of relevant learning experiences. Whānau talked about their desire to build te reo Māori for and with their children to one day become productive members of the marae. Kaiako know the children, their whānau, background, local hapū and iwi. The learning programme plans showed that for each kaupapa, te reo and tikanga Māori were used to increase understanding about ancestral places and stories. Kaiako and kaiāwhina taught tikanga, karakia and mōteatea and supported children to learn these and grow their understanding about their use and meaning. The older children were observed playing key roles during pōwhiri and knew when to harirū, hongi and use mōteatea. Children talk confidently about the land, rivers, mountains, hapū and iwi.

Familiarity with the environment, through learning and play, creates links and stimulates enthusiasm for children to learn. The natural and physical environments provided positive learning spaces. Kaumātua talked about the role of kaitiaki and how tikanga and kawa influenced how to look after the environment. Children were encouraged to practise the tikanga and kawa they learned as they moved through the kōhanga reo. Whānau and kaiako established and followed routines and practices to support safe learning and play for children. Kaiako took every opportunity to use the kōhanga reo environment so children were familiar and comfortable as they made confident decisions about their learning and play. Children talked about all the different learning areas and could show they understood their space and how to care for it. Kaiāwhina included babies and carefully supported them to develop a love of exploration safely. Whānau said they appreciated that their children learned about the importance and value placed on the environment. Children were observed caring for others and showing respect for their natural and physical environments. ERO also observed the older children looking after their kōhanga reo surroundings. Children confidently interact with the environment as they learn and play.

Positive relationships are encouraged as children learn about other environments, with other people in other communities. Whānau and kaiako provided learning and play experiences that included connecting with people in different environments. Kaumātua modelled leadership, particularly when they supported the kōhanga reo in their visits to local marae. They told stories about other people and places, and explained to children about whanaungatanga. Kaiako talked about the importance of creating opportunities for children to learn about differences and similarities. They planned marae experiences so children participated in pōwhiri and learned about their connections to the area. Other trips around the community supported children to see beyond the kōhanga reo. Kaiāwhina encouraged babies and children to interact with others during these visits. Kaiako supported all children to be leaders, and allowed them to take responsibility at different times using specific protocols, routines and activities. Children talk about when they meet other people and how they interact.

Mana Tangata

ERO found that: Children value and respect themselves, their whānau, hapū, iwi and others.

ERO’s findings showed that where children learned about who they are and their relationships with others, they are more likely to value and respect themselves and display a sense of belonging and purpose. These findings also showed that programmes of learning about Mana Tangata provided varied and interesting learning experiences for children. Additionally these findings recognised that the knowledge of the whānau is the knowledge of the kōhanga reo.

Two teachers and a group of 10 children do exercises outdoors on the grass

Experiences and opportunities that value and respond to the identity, strengths and needs of individual children support a love of learning and play. Kaiako talked about the need to recognise, acknowledge and ensure each child knows who they are, to whom they belong to and from where they come. They provided an environment where children were encouraged to be themselves. ERO observed kaiako supporting older children as they shared their whakapapa with others, while younger children were supported to share stories about what they do with their whānau. Kaiāwhina and kaiako held and cared for babies during this time so they were a part of this learning. These planned opportunities showed the importance and value of each child, their participation and contribution. Whānau shared with kaiako the likes and dislikes of their children. This information was used to create learning choices that reflected each child’s needs and strengths. Children were observed moving between different activities. Some children were supported by kaiāwhina to complete tasks. Children with additional learning needs were provided with opportunities to be successful. Various whānau talked about how kaiako and kaiāwhina are patient with children with special needs. All adults were observed actively ensuring all children were included. Children show that they know who they are and enjoy learning and play.

A warm and nurturing learning environment underpinned by whanaungatanga creates a sense of belonging and purpose for children. Kaumātua and whānau talked about the importance of their contributions and involvement in kōhanga reo. They knew their presence during different times of the day provided opportunities for children to bond and learn with them. Whānau talked about how they happily contributed to the kōhanga reo in different ways, including supporting kaiako with the learning programme. Kaiako were observed encouraging children to interact with each other and adults in positive ways. Adults were seen modelling the values of aroha, awhi and tautoko by being kind, supportive and loving. In turn, ERO noticed children showing similar displays of affection and kindness through their interactions and play with others. The children were praised and affirmed for their positive interactions. Kaiako and kaiāwhina were observed supporting children to be thoughtful and curious as they learned to make friends and establish relationships.

The older children were seen showing care towards the babies as they readily included them in their play. These opportunities promoted meaningful connections and developed tuakana teina interconnectedness. Children are responsible and respectful as a part of the kōhanga reo whānau.

A teacher helps two students wearing aprons to take fruits from bowls on a table

A wide range of learning and play opportunities support the diverse physical, emotional and intellectual wellbeing of all children. The kōhanga reo caters for children of all ages, abilities, needs and interests. Whānau talked about their commitment to supporting their children to be healthy and happy. They said their children ‘have a yearning for learning’. Kaiako developed learning programmes that included children eating healthy food, exercising daily, loving learning and being safe and happy. Kaiako and children were heard talking about healthy food while planting in the maara kai. This included older and younger children who showed their eagerness to play in the dirt, plant seeds and talk about what they were doing. Older children talked about how they eat some of the things they plant and how they sometimes helped harvest the kai. Some were seen preparing food, talking about and tasting fruit. ERO noticed that children were encouraged to play, run, walk, crawl and enjoy physical activity and outside games. Kaiako shared the importance of supporting children of all ages to develop their fine and gross motor skills. Older children were supported to be independent and encouraged to take responsibility for what they do. Kaiako talked about promoting purposeful learning and play. As children learned about who they are, they developed a greater appreciation of their place as tangata whenua. Children are growing confidence and responsibility for learning.

Strong relationships, and enduring commitment to immersion education influence decisions whānau make about their child’s education pathway. ERO found that kōhanga reo whānau, kaumātua and kaiako were clear about what immersion in te reo Māori meant to them, their hapū, and iwi. They were clear their aspirations to replicate a te reo Māori, te ao Māori, tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori learning environment would support children to be successful beyond kōhanga reo. Some whānau talked about their older children who moved from kōhanga reo to the local kura and how easy it was because there was a sameness – one like the other. Many whānau said that the transition from kōhanga reo is an important milestone for their children and families. Whānau and kaiako talked about the things that make the transition from kōhanga reo to kura successful. They said where there are established, enduring and positive relationships between the kōhanga reo and the kura, amongst the kōhanga reo whānau, kaiako and the kura kaiako, then the transition is seamless. A valued sense of belonging, wellbeing, engagement in learning and learner identity, as a part of the learning culture, also contributed to the successful transition from kōhanga reo to other immersion education options. ERO noted that the majority of kōhanga reo in this sample study group were amongst the first kōhanga reo to be established. They were set up by whānau who have retained their involvement since this time. The whānau talked about how they identified the need to establish a kura option for their children which they have done. Whānau also shared that many of them had been to kōhanga reo as children and that the relationships they formed continued to the end of kura, and have become lifelong connections. Children grow with positive and supportive learning relationships.

Mana Reo

ERO found that: Children explore te reo Māori with increased confidence and accuracy.

ERO’s findings showed that children who use te reo Māori at home and at kōhanga reo are confident to communicate. Discussions with kaumātua, whānau, kaiako and kaiāwhina highlighted how important it is to be totally committed to te reo Māori. They were adamant that kōhanga reo should foster high quality te reo Māori teaching and learning. They also said that as they consistently speak and promote the use of quality, iwi specific reo, they are one step closer to achieving their aspirations. ERO found evidence of successful strategies used to promote language and learning.

Four children stand singing on a small stage while another child sits behind with a small stringed instrument

Effective language acquisition strategies enhance language development. Whānau proudly shared with ERO that, ‘we are investing in our children’s educational journey and use te reo Māori at all times.’ They talked about how they developed skills for communicating. They focused on providing strong language models, encouraging children to speak with clarity, explore language as they learn and discover its meaning. They prompted children to talk about what they were doing and why they were doing it. Kaiako had a range of strategies to promote expression, such as providing regular opportunities for children to perform waiata and kapa haka or dance on stage, play instruments and re-tell stories. Kaiako were observed giving instructions in different ways, asking open-ended questions to promote language use, and sharing information to motivate children. They continually introduced new learning and revisited earlier lessons. Kaiako planned daily routines and activities for children to listen, develop and use a range of non-verbal and verbal communication skills. Children were observed paying attention and responding in a variety of ways. Kaiako used language progressions to show the individual language levels of the children and used these to monitor children’s progress. Children understand and are able to communicate with others.

The spontaneous and purposeful use of te reo Māori builds language capability. Whānau were clear that a positive learning environment promotes language learning and success. They talked about the value of risk taking in language learning. They actively supported each other as they learned new language in a safe language learning zone. Kaiako planned for a range of learning activities, experiences and resources that encouraged children to express themselves and learn with others. Waiata, pūrākau and kori tinana reinforced children’s learning of language about te ao Māori, te ao tūturu and te ao whānui.

Kaiako were observed reading as a part of the programme at kōhanga reo, creating a love of books for children. Children shared what they knew as they drew narrative pictures to tell stories, used symbols to write messages and read. Some older children used known language to compose and sing simple waiata. Most children extended their vocabulary and built their understanding of language as they sang waiata and hīmene, recited karakia and mihi. Younger children and babies mimicked, babbled and used gestures in their interactions with kaiako to show they understood and were learning as a part of their natural language development. The older children were observed using language in role play situations where they showed their enjoyment to instruct and organise each other, their whānau and kaiako. Kaiako used a range of different strategies to encourage children to explore language, self-correct and be expressive. They also encouraged children to ask questions using simple language structures. Children were observed talking with increased confidence and accuracy. Children show that they are comfortable and confident as they expand their use of te reo Māori.

Two adults sit on the floor of a classroom with five kids of various ages sitting in close proximity

Unwavering whānau commitment to te reo Māori in homes, at kōhanga reo, kura and in communities supports the intergenerational communication of te reo Māori. Our evaluations provided opportunity for kaumātua to tell us about growing the language of their hapū and iwi. These were their aspirations and expectations for te reo Māori and reflected in their shared vision, strategic planning, policies and processes. Whānau and kaiako took time to support language development within the local community. This encouraged families to learn alongside their children. Young mothers and fathers returned to kōhanga reo and were actively involved to help their children learn the language. Some of these parents have become kaiako while other whānau members are grandparents still supporting the kōhanga reo kaupapa. Iwi, hapū and whānau including kaumātua and kaiako are committed and share a deep passion for kōhanga reo and te reo Māori. Whānau are highly committed to the survival and revitalisation of the Māori culture and language. Children are confident to speak te reo Māori, to take risks and share their thoughts.

Focused, seamless transition from kōhanga reo into immersion education strengthens the te reo Māori learning pathway. Kaumātua, whānau and kaiako talked openly about how much they depend on and value education provided in te reo Māori. They discussed the ideal shared learning journey for children in kōhanga reo and spoke about the importance of preparing for continued immersion education. Using the direction from kaumātua and whānau, kaiako developed a specific programme so all children would have high levels of te reo Māori. This is intended to support the smooth transition into other Māori immersion settings. Children graduate from kōhanga reo with confidence and joy.

Mana Aotūroa

ERO found that: Children are developing awareness of their natural and physical environment.

ERO’s findings showed that children enjoyed success as they played and learned in the natural and physical environments. ERO also found that learning opportunities outside of kōhanga reo extended children’s knowledge of te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori. Children are encouraged to explore and learn in different settings.

A classroom wall showing children's books and writing under a bulletin board with a paper volcano

High quality learning experiences promote exploration of te ao Māori and the wider world. Kaumātua, whānau and kaiako planned excursions to expand children’s experiences and enhance their view of the world. Learning at kōhanga reo is linked to children’s interests at home. Children are encouraged to be confident users of digital cameras, computers and iPads, particularly where these devices support their learning. Kaiako and whānau provided high quality resources and interesting learning experiences. Activities were organised to stimulate, challenge and extend children. New vocabulary and sentence structures were introduced as children learned more about other places. Children are confident to explore the environment independently.

A stimulating learning programme provides motivation and challenge. Whānau and kaiako encouraged risk taking and provided opportunities for exploration. There was a range of experiences that included either adult-led activities or independent choice for children to experiment with different things. Routines and transitions flowed smoothly and were well understood by children. Kaiako skilfully supported children so they learned at their own pace and played uninterrupted for long periods of time. They were encouraged to follow their interests and learn alongside their peers. They showed that they enjoyed playing, experimenting and challenging themselves. Children are developing as curious learners.

Two children look closely at a fern frond outdoors

A well designed, attractive, spacious, and wellresourced environment supports learning. Kaiako provided outside play opportunities that supported children to combine imaginary play with physical challenges. Kaiāwhina supported children to play in these areas when they wanted to revisit the experiences they had enjoyed. Kaiako and kaiāwhina created resources that catered for various ages and abilities of children. They provided opportunities for older children to create, use their physical skills, try different technologies and develop their numeracy and literacy skills. Whānau supported their children to go on outings into the wider community where they learned about te ao Māori. Children are eager learners, who enjoy making new discoveries and experimenting.

'How well do whānau positively influence kōhanga reo operations?’

ERO found that: Whānau positively influenced kōhanga reo operations through their commitment, time and willingness to be active members of their children’s learning.

ERO’s findings showed that whānau commitment is a key contributor to successful outcomes. Whānau defined their commitment as learning the language, building their knowledge of the kōhanga reo philosophy, defining what mātauranga Māori looks like in their kōhanga reo, and choosing to follow Māori medium education. They understood that providing support to the kōhanga reo requires giving of their time. Previously time translated into whānau presence, active participation and full whānau involvement. ERO found there are different ways that whānau provide their time, including attending whānau hui, supporting kaiako and kaiāwhina to develop resources, and participating in kōhanga reo trips. Whānau talked about their willingness to be active in their child’s learning. They were very clear about the needs and interests of their children, and how they support kaiako and kaiāwhina to provide a responsive learning programme. They said that talking to the kaiako about their children and assisting with the development of the learning programme helped them to value their involvement. Kaumātua, whānau, kaiako and kaiāwhina openly discussed their expectations and commitment to participate and support their children at kōhanga reo.

Planning and Evaluation

ERO found that strategic planning was comprehensive and used by kōhanga reo whānau to reflect their purposeful direction. This planning showed the vision and aspirations for their kōhanga reo and alignment to Te Korowai, Te Whāriki and Te Ara Tūāpae. This enabled whānau to develop a number of key goals and included themes like te reo Māori, succession planning, long-term sustainability and high-quality learning and wellbeing for children. The strategic plans were supported by implementation plans. Within the implementation plans, each strategic theme had defined goals and objectives. Whānau, kaumātua, kaiako and kaiāwhina all played a significant role in documenting their plans to achieve the kōhanga reo goals and aspirations. These plans demonstrated their unrelenting commitment to ‘te kaupapa o te kōhanga reo’ through Te Korowai and respective Tūtōhinga (charter).

A woman reads a planning book

ERO found that where strategic planning was underpinned by strong internal evaluation, it effectively influenced decisions whānau made about ongoing improvement. As a result, kōhanga reo whānau had a sound understanding of their achievements and progress and were clear about their next steps.

The kōhanga reo whānau stated that their internal evaluation processes fostered collective responsibility. Whānau shared these processes with ERO, which included development of specific and agreed evaluation questions, focused investigations, evidence gathering, deliberate discussions, sense-making and defining next steps. Whānau explained that once the questions are agreed, they carefully gather the right information from a wide range of sources to build a sound evidential base. While building this base, analysis of their findings is undertaken with decisions then made about what to look at next. This leads to the sharing and testing of observations, ideas and sense-making. Each part of the process challenges whānau to consider how well they are doing and what is needed to do better. Their internal evaluation and sense-making processes assisted whānau to make good decisions that lead to positive outcomes for their children. Kōhanga reo whānau said “it is a privilege to support kōhanga reo, to be accountable and maintain high standards. Being involved has its benefits and we are all beneficiaries of the success of kōhanga reo.” ERO noted that these processes also applied to the provision of regular reports to whānau on kōhanga reo operations.

Learning programmes were effective, well organised and responsive. Kaiako understood the importance of gathering relevant assessment information, providing detailed programme planning and comprehensive programme evaluation to support improved practice. They were alert to children’s learning and development, so gathered a range of information to identify what children knew, what they could do and what they were interested in. This included regular observations of children taken at different times and in different settings, anecdotal notes about what learning progress and or preferences children displayed, annotated work samples with development comments, whānau sharing about what their children knew, and records of te reo Māori development alongside photos. This information was shared with parents and used to inform responsive programme planning. Programme planning included a wide range of activities that focused on and in te ao Māori. It also included whānau ideas, children’s prior knowledge and their interests.

A close-up of a te reo Māori book with photos of people outdoors

ERO observed that programme evaluation helped kaiako to focus on improvement and draw on multiple sources of evidence. Kaiako regularly reflected on what they had done, modified and re-evaluated the learning programme activities and experiences. ERO found that the kōhanga reo kaiako and kaiāwhina met regularly to talk about the programme of learning, specifically what they did, how the children reacted, what activities were well received and those that were not successful. The kaiako and kaimahi said that the time spent together to discuss what was happening for the children at kōhanga provided them with deliberate focus on how they were supporting their cultural learning, play and development. They also acknowledged that they felt comfortable to openly share the things that worked and those that needed improvement. They talked about how reflecting on what they did at kōhanga reo helped them to make connections to the developments children were making. Once these reflections were considered to support programme improvement, the kaiako and kaimahi would set their individual improvement goals. They were highly committed and worked collaboratively to maintain high standards. Whānau said there was good communication amongst kaiako and kaiāwhina and that they are able to input into the learning programme.

Kaiako made improvements so they could provide a responsive programme of learning. Children’s progress and learning was supported as kaiako reflected on what they do and the effectiveness of the daily programme.

ERO observed high levels of professionalism by the kaiako and kaiāwhina. They also made significant contributions to the professional development programmes of other kōhanga reo where they shared their good practice about the learning programme, their planning, evaluation and assessment. The professional knowledge of kaiako, and supportive leadership, contributes to the overall success of te kōhanga reo. Kaiako were also regularly able to access Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust training programmes and regularly attend purapura hui and wānanga.

Whānau commitment

ERO acknowledges that whānau, kaiako and kaiāwhina modelled an unwavering commitment to their kōhanga reo. They participated in various committees taking responsibility for monitoring and reporting back to the whānau on all aspects of kōhanga reo operations. Whānau shared their views and contributed to the development of the kōhanga reo. Kaiako depend on whānau for extra support during the course of a day and during their outings. Whānau recognised the positive demeanour of kaiako and understood that they play a vital role in the education and care of their children each day. Whānau are included in the kōhanga reo and this successful partnership leads to relaxed, content children. They say, “it is a privilege to support our kōhanga reo to be accountable and to maintain high standards. We are involved in our children’s education and we can have a say”.

From their commitment to te reo Māori and the Māori medium education pathway, kōhanga reo whānau talked about how they have supported the establishment of local kura. In the sample of kōhanga reo in this evaluation, whānau have committed to their children’s enrolment in a learning journey from kōhanga reo to kura and onto wharekura.