Creative Corner Early Learning Centre - 22/06/2010

1. The Education Review Office (ERO) Evaluation

Creative Corner Early Learning Centre is a community-based preschool located in Timaru. The centre provides education and care to children from birth to five years in two separate areas. Most teachers have worked at the centre for many years. A board of trustees (BoT) works on a voluntary basis. The board is made up of parents of children who attend the centre.

An on-site manager who is also the licensee manages the day-to-day responsibilities for the centre. She also provides in-house professional development for staff and works alongside teachers to support them in their teaching roles. She promotes a shared leadership model to empower all teachers and make good use of teachers’ strengths.

The 2007 ERO review identified that improvement was needed in self review, strategic planning, assessment and the outdoor area for children under two years. The centre staff have worked with professional development advisors to improve self review and strategic planning. As a result, an effective process of self review exists. Robust strategic planning guides the board, manager and teachers to focus on ongoing improvement. The centre has been working towards completing the update of the under two outdoor area in July 2010. Teachers have recently implemented a new way of recording children’s learning with photos. The manager and teachers have identified, and ERO agrees, that this programme makes children’s ongoing learning progress difficult to see.

Children benefit from:

  • cooperative relationships among peers that promote children’s sense of wellbeing;
  • warm relationships with teachers who support children’s independence; and
  • opportunities to learn and play in small groups.

The managers and ERO agree that the centre’s next steps for improving outcomes for children are to further develop:

  • assessment and planning to more clearly identify children’s learning and ways for teachers to build on children’s interests and strengths;
  • teachers’ use of te reo Māori and understanding of bicultural practice;
  • the quality and consistency of teacher-child interactions across all teachers; and
  • the indoor environment to make resources more independently accessible to infants, toddlers and young children.

Some practices in health and safety could be further strengthened by updating documentation, for example, the child protection policy, police vetting of all on-registered staff, monitoring sleeping children, and minimising earthquake risks.

Since the on-site stage of the review, ERO has received an action plan showing how the areas for development have been addressed.

Future Action

ERO is confident that the service is being managed in the interest of the children. Therefore ERO is likely to review the service again within three years.

2. Review Priorities

The Focus of the Review

Before the review, the management of Creative Corner Early Learning Centre was invited to consider its priorities for review using guidelines and resources provided by ERO. ERO also used documentation provided by the centre to contribute to the scope of the review.

The detailed priorities for review were then determined following a discussion between the ERO review team and the management and staff. This discussion focused on existing information held by the centre (including self-review information) and the extent to which potential issues for review contributed to positive outcomes for children at Creative Corner Early Learning Centre.

All ERO education reviews in early childhood focus on the quality of education. For ERO this includes the quality of:

  • the programme provided for children;
  • the learning environment; and
  • the interactions between children and adults.

ERO’s findings in these areas are set out below.

The Quality of Education

Background

Creative Corner Early Learning Centre’s philosophy statement includes the principles of Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum. Teachers try to reflect New Zealand’s bicultural heritage at every level of their work. Teachers value parents’ knowledge and understanding of their children and promote partnerships with parents at the centre. The BoT and manager work together to govern and manage the centre effectively.

Areas of strength

Programme

Centre routines promote children’s independence. During the on-site stage of the review, ERO observed children happy to participate in routines such as sleep time and kai.

Small-group play offers children opportunities to explore the outdoor environment, cooperate with one another and extend on their interests. The four-year-old group time support children to learn about literacy and numeracy concepts. ERO observed some children counting and subtracting numbers.

Learning environment

Children over two years use the spacious outdoor environment to explore and develop their physical skills. They make choices about playing in active or quiet places. Natural plantings and the range of textures and surfaces provide children with interesting play spaces.

Interactions

ERO observed positive relationships between teachers and children. Children appeared relaxed and happy in their environment. They sought out adults and invited them to be part of their play.

ERO observed parents in the programme, chatting with staff, feeding their own children and visiting their children during the session.

The teachers use humour and their knowledge of children’s families to promote discussions with children. Expectations such as hand washing before eating and choosing healthy food options are routines understood by the children. Infants and toddlers displayed a strong sense of wellbeing and belonging in their environment.

Older children generally played cooperatively with one another and supported younger children. ERO observed older children monitoring other children’s behaviour. They addressed conflict situations with confidence.

Teachers said that teamwork was a strong feature of the centre. Teachers talked to one another about children’s preferences or to offer their support.

Management

The manager is promoting a reflective teaching culture. Teachers are encouraged to read relevant early childhood research to promote up-to-date teaching practices. The teaching team has an effective process of self review. The manager and parent committee have developed a robust strategic plan to guide the centre to bring about ongoing improvement.

Areas for development and review

Improving interactions

Some teachers need to focus more on children’s learning and needs rather than the routines of the day. At times, teachers were concentrating on cleaning rather than interacting with children. ERO observed interactions in the under two area from 9.00 am until 2.00 pm. During this time, some teachers were not recognising children’s preferences, such as wanting to go outdoors to play, or placing bibs over children’s heads without warning. Teachers in the over-two area could extend their interactions with older children to promote children’s thinking and reasoning skills. [Recommendation 5.1]

Access to resources

The display, allocation and provision of resources need improvement. The layout of the building makes displaying resources difficult. During the review, resources were limited in the under two area. Teachers told ERO that they place photographs on walls to remind infants and toddlers about the resources stored in cupboards. Teachers’ discussions and ideas about integrating literacy into the programme are not always visible in the environment. The BoT and manager are currently redeveloping the outdoor environment to improve the opportunities infants and toddlers have for physical play. [Recommendation 5.2]

Planning and assessment

Documentation needs to identify children’s learning more clearly and consistently. A new photo focused computer programme used by teachers to record children’s learning is more focused on placing photographs into the document rather than on identifying children’s learning. Indicators for success, developed in 2008 and 2009, are not guiding teachers in clearly documenting children’s learning. A better system is needed for monitoring the quality and consistency of assessment records. [Recommendation 5.3]

Bicultural practice

The centre manager and teachers have identified the need to develop a better understanding of bicultural practices. Few teachers use te reo Māori in the programme. Teachers have not sustained the 2007 focus on the development of biculturalism. A current review of bicultural practice should help teachers’ understanding. [Recommendation 5.4]

3. National Evaluation Topics

Overview

ERO provides information about the education system as a whole through its national reports. This information will be used as the basis for long-term and systemic educational improvement.

Literacy Teaching and Learning

When children understand, enjoy, engage with, and use language and symbols they are better able to express their individual identity and become active participants in a literate society. As part of this review, ERO looked at literacy practices, particularly the opportunities provided for children to develop strong literacy learning foundations.

In this service children’s literacy learning opportunities included:

the opportunities for older children to learn more about words and their meaning in four-year-old small group times;

  • letter wall charts;
  • a literacy area;
  • rhymes and repetition in song and stories;
  • computer literacy programmes; and
  • the range of accessible books that children were encouraged to explore.

4. Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff of Creative Corner Early Learning Centre completed an ERO Centre Assurance Statement and Self-Audit Checklist. In these documents they have attested that they have taken all reasonable steps to meet their legislative obligations related to:

  • administration;
  • health, safety and welfare;
  • personnel management; and
  • financial and property management.

During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on outcomes for children:

  • emotional safety (including behaviour management, prevention of bullying and abuse);
  • physical safety (including behaviour management; sleeping and supervision practices; accidents and medication; hygiene and routines; travel and excursion policies and procedures);
  • staff qualifications and organisation; and
  • evacuation procedures and practices for fire and earthquake.

ERO’s investigations did not identify any areas of non-compliance.

However, ERO identified some areas where the centre could improve on current practice. The child protection policy does not support the right of any adult to report directly to the appropriate agency if they think a child is at risk. The centre has generally good safeguards against earthquakes. However, one large piece of equipment had been recently moved and was not yet secured against earthquake damage. Earthquake drills are not recorded. A staff member remains in the room while children are sleeping, but often completes other tasks while in this room. The sleep policy could include timeframes for staff to check each sleeping child. While the centre conducts police checks on all non-teaching staff, they need to establish a system to recheck these staff on a three-yearly basis.

In order to improve current practice, ERO recommends that the centre management reviews policies and practices in:

  • child protection;
  • minimising earthquake risks;
  • sleeping routines; and
  • police vetting of non-teaching staff.

5. Recommendations

ERO and the centre management agreed that to improve outcomes for children teachers and the manager would:

  1. improve the quality and consistency of interactions that engage children in learning across the team;
  2. implement plans to improve the environment and review the provision and accessibility of centre-wide resources;
  3. continue to develop and build processes and practices that recognise and respond to children’s interests and extend children’s learning; and
  4. extend and develop teachers’ knowledge and understanding of bicultural practices through self review.

Since the on-site stage of the review, ERO has received an action plan showing how the areas for development have been addressed.

6. Future Action

ERO is confident that the service is being managed in the interest of the children. Therefore ERO is likely to review the service again within three years. 

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services

Southern Region

About the Centre

Type

Education and Care Service

Number licensed for

46 children, including up to 13 children aged under two

Roll number

81

Gender composition

Boys 42;

Girls 36

Ethnic composition

New Zealand European/Pākehā 64;

Māori 9;

Other ethnicities 5

Review team on site

May 2010

Date of this report

22 June 2010

Previous three ERO reports

Education Review April 2007

Education Review August 2004

Accountability Review September 1999

To the Parents and Community of Creative Corner Early Learning Centre

These are the findings of the Education Review Office’s latest report on Creative Corner Early Learning Centre.

Creative Corner Early Learning Centre is a community-based preschool located in Timaru. The centre provides education and care to children from birth to five years in two separate areas. Most teachers have worked at the centre for many years. A board of trustees (BoT) works on a voluntary basis. The board is made up of parents of children who attend the centre.

An on-site manager who is also the licensee manages the day-to-day responsibilities for the centre. She also provides in-house professional development for staff and works alongside teachers to support them in their teaching roles. She promotes a shared leadership model to empower all teachers and make good use of teachers’ strengths.

The 2007 ERO review identified that improvement was needed in self review, strategic planning, assessment and the outdoor area for children under two years. The centre staff have worked with professional development advisors to improve self review and strategic planning. As a result, an effective process of self review exists. Robust strategic planning guides the board, manager and teachers to focus on ongoing improvement. The centre has been working towards completing the update of the under two outdoor area in July 2010. Teachers have recently implemented a new way of recording children’s learning with photos. The manager and teachers have identified, and ERO agrees, that this programme makes children’s ongoing learning progress difficult to see.

Children benefit from:

  • cooperative relationships among peers that promote children’s sense of wellbeing;
  • warm relationships with teachers who support children’s independence; and
  • opportunities to learn and play in small groups.

The managers and ERO agree that the centre’s next steps for improving outcomes for children are to further develop:

  • assessment and planning to more clearly identify children’s learning and ways for teachers to build on children’s interests and strengths;
  • teachers’ use of te reo Māori and understanding of bicultural practice;
  • the quality and consistency of teacher-child interactions across all teachers; and
  • the indoor environment to make resources more independently accessible to infants, toddlers and young children.

Some practices in health and safety could be further strengthened by updating documentation, for example, the child protection policy, police vetting of all on-registered staff, monitoring sleeping children, and minimising earthquake risks.

Since the on-site stage of the review, ERO has received an action plan showing how the areas for development have been addressed.

Future Action

ERO is confident that the service is being managed in the interest of the children. Therefore ERO is likely to review the service again within three years.

When ERO has reviewed an early childhood centre we encourage management to inform their community of any follow up action they plan to take. You should talk to the management or contact person if you have any questions about this evaluation, the full ERO report or their future intentions.

If you would like a copy of the full report, please contact the centre or see the ERO website, http://www.ero.govt.nz. 

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services