Country Bears Early Childhood Centre - 08/09/2017

1 Evaluation of Country Bears Early Childhood Centre

How well placed is Country Bears Early Childhood Centre 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.


Country Bears Early Childhood Centre has provided education and care in a rural setting for children from the Kumeu area, for over 20 years. The family owned and operated centre caters for 70 children, including 36 up to two years of age. The roll includes small numbers of Māori, Pacific and children of other varied cultural backgrounds. Healthy and nutritious meals and snacks are provided for children.

The centre comprises three buildings that cater for different age groups. The Baby Bears' house has separate spaces for younger infants and older toddlers. The main building provides separate indoor and outdoor spaces for children aged around two to three years. Children aged around three to four years have a separate indoor space and share an outdoor environment with the oldest group of children, who are in the Big Bear house.

The owner maintains high staff numbers to support individualised care and attention for children. Since the 2014 ERO review most teaching staff are new to the centre. The centre manager has been in her role since the end of 2015. The owner, who is a fully qualified teacher, continues to provide governance and daily support for the manager, teachers and staff. A new building has recently been completed for staff breaks.

The centre's philosophy, which is currently under review, is influenced by the early learning theories and practices of Magda Gerber. It promotes respectful and empowering teaching practices for children of all ages. Teaching approaches encourage environmental sustainability and support children's play and learning in the natural outdoors.

The 2014 ERO report identified areas of good practice including positive relationships between adults and children, and a calm environment for infants and toddlers. Next steps included creating more responsive, child-centred programmes. This is an area where the centre has made very good progress. 

The Review Findings

Children are respected and valued as individuals and are well known by their teachers. They experience calm and gentle approaches and environments in which to play and learn. In line with the centre's philosophy, older children spend a significant amount of their learning within the natural environment. They enjoy their living world experiences and are supported to respect mana whenua and Papatūānuku. Children are confident, and are friendly and kind to each other.

Babies and toddlers are very settled and content. Teachers are nurturing and affectionate, giving children the time they need to feel ready and confident to explore. Children's cues and rhythms are followed and teachers support them in non-rushed and reassuring ways. Teachers' focus on conversation and singing promotes children's early language development. Good teaching practices, the environment and appropriate resources, support these youngest children to be physically capable and confident. Managers are now planning to enhance the outside spaces for babies and toddlers.

Teachers skilfully plan for children's individual interests, strengths and stages of development. They promote positive and inclusive relationships with children and parents, recognising that this is the basis of effective learning. Parents are engaged in the centre's curriculum design and are involved in their children's learning.

Indoor and outdoor environments are changed regularly and provide well for older children's physical challenge. As part of the centre's philosophy, risk-taking and messy play are promoted. These healthy risks are managed well with high adult ratios and attentive, careful teachers.

Children experience a sense of fun, excitement and wonderment through the programme design. They enjoy frequent and all-weather trips to local farms and the centre's forest area which provide a constant source of interest and enjoyment. This science focus is integrated meaningfully into children's learning of literacy, numeracy, the arts and technology. Effective teaching of te reo Māori and about te ao Māori supports children to learn about and through their bicultural heritage.

Staff experience strong, professional leadership and high levels of relational trust. Their strengths and skills are valued, and they are supported to be leaders and learners. They have generous professional learning opportunities. As a result of open and inclusive leadership approaches, the teaching team is collegial and collaborative, and empowering for adults and children.

Leaders have a very good understanding of internal evaluation as a tool for improvement and accountability. They give the time required for planned evaluations, and include input from staff, parents and members of the wider community. Teachers are supported to set meaningful appraisal goals and to critically reflect on their practice. Leaders have high expectations for themselves and staff to learn, change and improve. The owners resource the centre strategically and generously. They have very good systems in place to ensure that the centre runs efficiently and effectively. 

Key Next Steps

Centre managers have identified appropriate next steps for the future that include:

  • completing the evaluation of the centre's philosophy

  • further improving the outside environments for infants and toddlers

  • continuing to strengthen teachers' knowledge and understanding of the natural world and its integration in learning programmes for children.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Country Bears Early Childhood 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.

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 Country Bears Early Childhood Centre will be in four years.

Violet Tu’uga Stevenson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

8 September 2017

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 


Kumeu, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

70 children, including up to 36 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys 39 Girls 39

Ethnic composition

South East Asian


Percentage of qualified teachers

0-49% 50-79% 80%

Based on funding rates


Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2


Better than minimum requirements

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

July 2017

Date of this report

8 September 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)


Education Review

April 2014

Previously reviewed as:

Country Bears/Baby Bears

Education Review

April 2010

Previously reviewed as:

Country Bears

Education Review

March 2011

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.