Big Steps Valley - 17/08/2016

1 Evaluation of Big Steps Valley

How well placed is Big Steps Valley 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.


Big Steps Early Learning Centre in Tikipunga is licensed to provide all day education and care for up to 20 children aged over two years. It operates from a modified house with an extensive outdoor area, which is undergoing some redevelopment. Children from mainly Pākehā and Māori cultural backgrounds attend. Some children travel quite long distances to attend this centre.

The centre is managed by the owners who are both qualified teachers. They own one other centre located in Whangarei. Three of the staff employed in this centre are qualified early childhood teachers and two are in training.

The centre philosophy guides teachers to provide an inclusive environment that is safe and nurturing to children and families. The play-based curriculum aims to provide children with support to explore, experiment, solve problems, take risks and have fun. The promotion of respectful, reciprocal relationships is important to the team.

The 2013 ERO report acknowledged that the centre was well managed and commended high quality teaching. Inclusive practices offered all children opportunities to be creative, take risks and develop skills and knowledge in literacy, mathematics, science and technology. Teachers established partnerships with whānau and supported children to explore te ao Māori perspectives. These positive aspects continue to be evident.

The 2013 report recommended the continued development of processes for planning, assessment and evaluation, performance management and self review. The team has worked well to improve these areas of practice.

The Review Findings

The philosophy statement is evident in practice. Children are empowered by the programme provided to be independent, have control of their own learning and solve problems at their own pace. They are creative, conversational and work well together to build friendships.

Teachers have positive, sensitive and responsive relationships with children. They take time to listen and explore the deeper meanings of children's expressions, or explanations of their learning. Teachers become partners in child-initiated activities and know children well as learners.  

The programme provides opportunities for children to explore and engage in play of their own choosing. Teachers skilfully work alongside the children providing good models of language, actively promoting peer interactions, experimentation and problem solving. Meaningful and interesting experiences enhance children's literacy and knowledge of mathematics and science.

The environment is very thoughtfully set out. Great use is made of natural resources and recycled materials are used in innovative ways. Teachers provide opportunities for children to learn about their wider community through inviting visitors into the centre, and organising excursions to places of interest. They are encouraged to access the outdoors, appropriately dressed, in all weather conditions.

The teaching philosophy shows a commitment to supporting children's developing knowledge of the bicultural heritage of Aotearoa. Teachers and children use te reo Māori well in their conversations. Teachers are considering how te ao Maori perspectives could be more widely included in the programme.

Parents who spoke with ERO expressed appreciation for the warm welcome into the centre. They felt they were well informed about the programme and their children's learning. Teachers' relationships with children were identified as a strength of this team. Clear and detailed explanations of how children learn are included in their portfolios.

Teachers' assessment of children's learning:

  • builds their identity as a successful learner
  • shows deepening and increasing complexity over time
  • is available to children so they can revisit their learning and share it with others
  • includes ongoing observation of children and responds to their strengths, interests and dispositions.

The centre is well managed. An up-to-date policy framework guides centre practices and is continually reviewed to maintain alignment with new and current legislation. An effective and cyclic process has been established for self review.

Centre leaders base relationships on respect, trust and reciprocity. Their focus is on building capacity to enable the service to sustain quality and improve outcomes for all children.

Key Next Steps

Centre leaders agree that to enhance their current good quality practice they should continue to strengthen:

  • assessment practices, to provide parents and whānau with effective ways of contributing to their children's learning
  • staff appraisal processes, by aligning appraisal goals to strategic and annual plans and centre self review.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Big Steps Valley 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 Big Steps Valley will be in three years. 

Graham Randell
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

17 August 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 


Tikipunga, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

20 children, including up to 0 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys      17
Girls       13

Ethnic composition



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

June 2016

Date of this report

17 August 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

June 2015

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.