Big Steps Early Learning Centre - 13/04/2015

1. Evaluation of Big Steps Early Learning Centre

How well placed is Big Steps Early Learning Centre to promote positive learning outcomes for children?

Not well placed

Requires further development

Well placed

Very well placed

Big Steps Early Learning Centre requires external support to develop effective strategic planning and personnel management practices. Teachers require additional support to develop responsive planning, assessment and evaluation systems to promote positive outcomes for children.

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


Big Steps Early Learning Centre is a small privately owned service which caters for 24 children from two years to school age. The service operates from 8.30am to 4.30pm, with the majority of children attending between 9am and 3pm for 20 hours a week.

The centre owners have managed a number of key challenges over the past three years. In September 2012, the service had to find new premises. By April 2013, the owners had purchased and renovated a house adjacent to Whangarei Primary school. The outdoor environment continues to develop, with an outdoor deck and climbing structure the most recent additions.

New teachers have joined the teaching team. Two teachers have early childhood training and one is primary school trained. The centre’s 2012 ERO report recommended improvements to programme planning, assessment and evaluation, the strengthening of centre self-review practices and staff management practices. These areas continue to develop.

The Review Findings

Families are welcome in the centre and the centre owner models open and respectful communication approaches. A sense of whanaungatanga is evident and some families choose to stay and play alongside their children. Adults and children mix well, creating a sense of belonging enjoyment for all.

Children experience good quality care and benefit from a home-like environment. They settle well and show interest in the teacher-led activities that form parts of the programme.

The centre is well resourced. Changes in the design of the learning environment are providing children with increasingly natural and interesting spaces to explore. Children have good relationships with each other and make friends. They benefit most from questions and learning experiences that encourage their exploration and sustained play.

Teachers listen to children and know them well. They show enthusiasm and enjoyment as they support children’s interests. Using a wider range of teaching strategies to enhance children’s thinking and to extend learning would further support children’s development.

Māori children’s culture and heritage is valued and supported. The participation of one teacher in relevant professional development is seen as a pathway for strengthening the wider cultural responsiveness of the centre. A next useful step would be to develop plans focusing on ways to develop all teachers’ capacity to use te reo Māori. This, together with further consultation with whānau and local iwi, would benefit Māori children.

Curriculum planning is currently developing to reflect a change in the programme from a teacher-led to a more child-led approach. This approach better aligns with current research and best practice in early childhood education. Increasing connections between the daily programme, individual children’s interests and assessment practices are now required.

The centre has successfully managed the move to a new site. Management practices are supported by useful policies which guide operations. The annual plan provides a good framework to guide key events. Job descriptions have been updated for the new teaching team, providing clearer expectations for teachers. The centre manager values the individual teaching talents of the team. Self-review processes are developing and should be developed further to help ensure continual improvement.

Key Next Steps

ERO and the centre owner agree that to improve positive outcomes for children, external support would be helpful to:

  • ensure personnel management practices support ongoing teacher and centre development
  • implement robust performance management processes using indicators of quality teaching practice to guide teacher reflection.
  • ERO and the centre owner also agree that to improve positive outcomes for children, teachers could continue to develop:
  • a more child-led programme and evaluate their role in promoting this approach
  • a shared understanding of effective teaching practices
  • curriculum planning to cater for individual children's next learning steps
  • strategies for further analysing children’s learning and for documenting their progress over time.


ERO recommends that the service seek external support to further develop strategic planning and self review processes. Work in these areas should include an increased emphasis on documenting and evaluating progress against desired learning outcomes for children.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Big Steps Early Learning Centre 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.

Actions for compliance

ERO identified areas of non-compliance relating to personnel management and health and safety. To meet requirements the service needs to improve its performance in the following areas:

  • human resource management practices to provide an effective system of regular appraisal

  • police vetting for non-registered staff

  • hazard management in the outdoor environment and ensuring kitchen facilities are appropriate and secure.

Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Centres 2008, GMA7, Education Act, 1989, HS12, PF16, PF17.

Next ERO Review

When is ERO likely to review the service again?

The next ERO review of Big Steps Early Learning Centre will be in three years.

Dale Bailey Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

13 April 2015

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


Regent, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

26 children over 2 years of age

Service roll


Gender composition

Girls 16 Boys 14

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā



Percentage of qualified teachers

0-49% 50-79% 80% Based on funding rates


Reported ratios of staff to children

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

January 2015

Date of this report

13 April 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)

These are available at

Education Review

April 2012


Education Review

February 2009

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.