Ashburton Playcentre - 27/09/2016

1 Evaluation of Ashburton Playcentre

How well placed is Ashburton Playcentre to promote positive learning outcomes for children?

Not well placed

Requires further development

Well placed

Very well placed

ERO's findings that support this overall judgement are summarised below.


Ashburton Playcentre is located in central Ashburton next door to a local school. It operates five morning sessions a week for up to 30 children from birth-to-school age. One of these sessions is an 'explorer session'. This involves children and their families spending the morning investigating the nearby beaches, bush and local amenities. The playcentre also provides two afternoon SPACE sessions (Supporting Parents Alongside Children's Education). These sessions are especially planned to support first-time parents and their babies. The centre roll has fluctuated as families have moved on, however numbers are beginning to rise again after dropping in 2015.

Each session is led by a paid supervisor and playcentre members. They are gaining playcentre qualifications through an adult-education training programme provided by the Mid Canterbury Playcentre Association.

Ashburton Playcentre is one of seven playcentres in the Mid Canterbury Playcentre Association. The association is made up of a group of dedicated paid and elected members. The association provides a framework for centre management and operations, as well as parent-education programmes and personnel to support centre members in their work with children.

The Mid Canterbury Playcentre Association is experiencing a time of change as all playcentre associations throughout New Zealand merge with the New Zealand Playcentre Federation to reduce duplication and make cost savings. This restructure will mean significant changes at the local association level.

ERO's 2012 report noted a number of areas for review and development. These included strategic and annual planning, self review, assessment and the bicultural programme. ERO found good progress has been made in most of these areas.

This review was part of a cluster of seven playcentre reviews in the Mid Canterbury Playcentre Association.

The Review Findings

Children play and learn in calm and inviting indoor and outdoor learning environments. There is a wide range of resources and activities for them to choose from. A separate area provided for infants and toddlers has recently been improved and now offers a comfortable, safe place that is suitably resourced for that age group.

Children of mixed ages play well with and alongside each other. They know each other well and develop friendships with one another. Children have trusting relationships with all the adults at the centre and know their ideas will be listened to. They are purposeful and focused in their play, and are given the freedom to explore and decide what they want to do.

The skilled supervisors are positive role models for parents undergoing playcentre training. On the day of the review, the supervisor had genuine extended conversations with children and encouraged creativity and problem solving. The supervisor and adults work well together during the sessions. They:

  • join their own and other children in play

  • follow the children's interests, provide resources and extend their thinking

  • are responsive to the non-verbal cues of infants and toddlers and support emerging language development.

The supervision team and parents are building their capability in helping children to develop knowledge and an understanding of the cultural heritages of both parties to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This includes celebrating significant events such as Mātariki, using simple te reo Māori with the children and including Māori perspectives meaningfully in play activities. They should continue to build their confidence in this area.

Other positive aspects of the programme that support children's learning include the ways the adults:

  • provide a wide range of learning experiences, including planning for science, early literacy and mathematics

  • make connections to children's home lives and experiences outside of the playcentre

  • provide many opportunities for exploration, risk taking and challenge

  • integrate the learning from the explorer sessions through a focus on sustainability, nature and fostering children's curiosity.

The supervisors have a purposeful discussion before each session begins to set the direction for the day. After the sessions they discuss what the children were interested in and what activities should be continued in the next session. These discussions and the written notes need to have a greater focus on what learning adults are supporting.

The supervisors and parents have a useful system for planning as a result of the association's improvements in this area. They have recently established a planning wall for individual children which is a visual display of stories, children's interests, dispositions and learning. Parents have termly gatherings to work on children's profiles together, support each other and help new parents learn how to plan for their children. They are still developing their skills in this area.

Ashburton Playcentre has a philosophy that reflects the shared values and beliefs of the parents. Centre documentation and the conversations ERO had with parents showed that they have clear ideas about what the desired learning outcomes are for their children. When the philosophy is next reviewed, these desired learning outcomes should be included, and linked to aspects of planning and self review.

The process of self review is used well to make improvements to aspects of the playcentre programme and practices. Self review has been a collaborative exercise involving many of the parents. The process would be further improved by developing and using indicators (criteria showing what good practice looks like) at all stages of the review. The supervision team and parents need to develop a schedule to ensure they review key aspects of the playcentre's programmes and practices over time.

The playcentre has a strategic plan that clearly shows the key priorities guiding the playcentre's direction. The next step is to develop annual planning relating to the strategic plan. It should then be implemented and regularly monitored.

The parents meet regularly to oversee the smooth running of the playcentre. All parents are encouraged to complete adult-education programmes so there are enough qualified adults to run the sessions. This is an ongoing priority for the playcentre.

The Mid Canterbury Playcentre Association responded well to the issues and trends emerging from the 2012 ERO reports for each playcentre. The board is very supportive of the playcentres and provides additional support for playcentres in response to their needs. It should ensure it receives evaluative reporting on key aspects relating to the centre support and supervisor support roles.

The board has a strategic plan with purposeful actions to help guide its work. This should be more formally monitored. Board members meet regularly to discuss key aspects of the smooth running of the association. They are working proactively to assist the smooth transition through the New Zealand Playcentre Federation changes. The board has an expectation that each playcentre will have its own annual plan, however these are not yet in place. The association's appraisal system for the supervisors has been reinstated and needs to continue to be embedded.

Key next steps for the association are to:

  • monitor the board's annual plan and support all playcentres to prepare annual plans

  • ensure it receives evaluative reporting on key aspects of playcentre operations.

Key Next Steps

The Ashburton Playcentre supervisors and parents, with the support of the Mid Canterbury Playcentre Association, need to:

  • review the playcentre philosophy to include their desired outcomes for children

  • refine aspects of self review

  • continue to refine assessment, planning and evaluation practices

  • develop and implement an annual plan that aligns with the strategic plan

  • continue to build the bicultural programme.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Ashburton Playcentre completed an ERO Centre Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklist. In these documents they attested that they have taken all reasonable steps to meet their legal obligations related to:

  • curriculum
  • premises and facilities
  • health and safety practices
  • governance, management and administration.

During the review, ERO looked at the service’s systems for managing the following areas that have a potentially high impact on children's wellbeing:

  • emotional safety (including positive guidance and child protection)

  • physical safety (including supervision; sleep procedures; accidents; medication; hygiene; excursion policies and procedures)

  • suitable staffing (including qualification levels; police vetting; teacher registration; ratios)

  • evacuation procedures and practices for fire and earthquake.

All early childhood services are required to promote children's health and safety and to regularly review their compliance with legal requirements.

Next ERO Review

When is ERO likely to review the service again?

The next ERO review of Ashburton Playcentre will be in three years.

Lesley Patterson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Southern

27 September 2016

The Purpose of ERO Reports

The Education Review Office (ERO) is the government department that, as part of its work, reviews early childhood services throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. ERO’s reports provide information for parents and communities about each service’s strengths and next steps for development. ERO’s bicultural evaluation framework Ngā Pou Here is described in SECTION 3 of this report. Early childhood services are partners in the review process and are expected to make use of the review findings to enhance children's wellbeing and learning.

2 Information about the Early Childhood Service



Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type


Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

30 children, including up to 10 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys: 18

Girls: 13

Ethnic composition





South American






Percentage of qualified teachers

Parent Led

Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2


Better than minimum requirements

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

July 2016

Date of this report

27 September 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

June 2012

Education Review

March 2009

Education Review

August 2005

3 General Information about Early Childhood Reviews

ERO’s Evaluation Framework

ERO’s overarching question for an early childhood education review is ‘How well placed is this service to promote positive learning outcomes for children?’ ERO focuses on the following factors as described in the bicultural framework Ngā Pou Here:

Pou Whakahaere – how the service determines its vision, philosophy and direction to ensure positive outcomes for children

Pou Ārahi – how leadership is enacted to enhance positive outcomes for children

Mātauranga – whose knowledge is valued and how the curriculum is designed to achieve positive outcomes for children

Tikanga whakaako – how approaches to teaching and learning respond to diversity and support positive outcomes for children.

Within these areas ERO considers the effectiveness of arotake – self review and of whanaungatanga – partnerships with parents and whānau.

ERO evaluates how well placed a service is to sustain good practice and make ongoing improvements for the benefit of all children at the service.

A focus for the government is that all children, especially priority learners, have an opportunity to benefit from quality early childhood education. ERO will report on how well each service promotes positive outcomes for all children, with a focus on children who are Māori, Pacific, have diverse needs, and are up to the age of two.

For more information about the framework and Ngā Pou Here refer to ERO’s Approach to Review in Early Childhood Services.

ERO’s Overall Judgement and Next Review

The overall judgement that ERO makes and the timing of the next review will depend on how well placed a service is to promote positive learning outcomes for children. The categories are:

  • Very well placed – The next ERO review in four years
  • Well placed – The next ERO review in three years
  • Requires further development – The next ERO review within two years
  • Not well placed - The next ERO review in consultation with the Ministry of Education

ERO has developed criteria for each category. These are available on ERO’s website.

Review Coverage

ERO reviews are tailored to each service’s context and performance, within the overarching review framework. The aim is to provide information on aspects that are central to positive outcomes for children and useful to the service.