Diocesan School for Girls Foundation Class - 17/06/2016

1 Evaluation of Diocesan School for Girls Foundation Class

How well placed is Diocesan School for Girls Foundation Class 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.


The Foundation Class at Diocesan School for Girls is a licensed early childhood service that caters for up to 40 children from three years to school age. About a third of children currently enrolled are new to the school this year and some are also very new to New Zealand.

Since its inception in 2011, the class has become a well established part of the Diocesan Junior School. The lead teacher is a school dean and works closely with the school's deputy principal. The teaching team includes qualified early childhood teachers.

The principles of Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, underpin the Foundation Class programmes and are implicit in teachers' practice. The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education also clearly influences learning environments and programmes. In addition, the school's International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) guides planning processes.

ERO's 2012 review of this service identified many high quality practices. It suggested that teachers could strengthen their use of te reo Māori and culturally responsive practices, and more clearly monitor progress against annual and strategic goals. Good progress has been made in these areas. Since 2012, the service has increased its roll numbers, extended classroom space, and this year, employed an additional teacher.

The Review Findings

The Foundation Class children and teachers demonstrate a shared understanding of and commitment to the school's vision and values. The teachers' statement of philosophy for the service also emphasises the importance of nurturing relationships and articulates teachers' beliefs about how children learn and their valued learning outcomes. Foundation Class teachers express high levels of commitment to bicultural practices that build children's familiarity with the dual cultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The school-wide focus on establishing relationships with whānau and children results in a strong sense of inclusion. Tuakana/teina relationships are fostered as older children in the Foundation Class and in the wider school support and encourage younger children. Children are confident and capable. They respond well to school values and behaviour expectations. Their sense of belonging to the Diocesan School family supports smooth transitions when they move on to a Year 0 or Year 1 class.

Families value teachers' support and encouragement to contribute to the programme. Specific additional support is provided for children and families who speak languages other than English at home. A positive feature of interactions amongst some children is their use of home languages. This enables them to explore ideas together at a deeper level than is possible in a new language.

The early childhood classroom is very well resourced and there is a calm and settled atmosphere. Play spaces are attractively presented and invite investigation. Teachers provide a wide variety of learning experiences, using high quality materials. During timetabled periods of self-directed learning, children choose where they work and make flexible use of resources. They often engage in complex conversations, express their creative ideas clearly and play cooperatively. Some demonstrate a particular capacity for leadership.

A feature of the teaching approach is a commitment to structured, collaborative inquiry that aims to actively engage children in their own learning. Specific numeracy and literacy teaching and assessment are features of the programme.

Children have good access to an outdoor area behind the classroom. They attend whole-school assemblies, chapel and other events, and use school library, playground, gymnasium and aquatic centre facilities. School specialist teachers provide music and French lessons. Regular excursions foster community links and support teachers' bicultural programme and natural environment focus.

Teachers listen carefully to children's ideas, which often trigger deeper thinking and extended conversations, particularly about the current inquiry topic. Teachers have high expectations and use their knowledge of children, as well as input from parents, to plan programmes and identify individual goals for children. They develop specific strategies to support children to develop skills and knowledge and to guide their progress with art. Wall displays provide opportunities for children and parents to revisit and discuss learning experiences. Teachers have a variety of processes for assessing children's learning, and for recording and evaluating programmes. They have specific knowledge about children's abilities and needs in numeracy, reading and writing. Some assessment provides good information about children's developing dispositions and individual characteristics.

The lead teacher has established a culture of reflective practice and has used external reviews to complement the team's internal review. The teaching team regularly engages in professional discussion and considers ways to enrich provision for children. Through its 2014 evaluations of programmes and teaching practices, the team has identified several appropriate areas of focus for their 2016 review and development.

The school's policy base informs more specific Foundation Class procedures, and school strategic and annual plans guide Foundation Class planning. Termly evaluation reports inform the school's senior leaders about learning programmes and progress towards annual goals. School-wide goals include strengthening leadership and developing teachers' inquiry into the effectiveness of their practice.

Key Next Steps

To extend their inquiry into practice as early childhood educators, teachers could consider enhancing their internal evaluation processes and extending their planned reflection in relation to planning and assessment. Evaluative analysis could be better documented and should consider the effectiveness and quality of programmes and assessment records in relation to Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, and to theory and indicators of best practice in early childhood education.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Diocesan School for Girls Foundation Class 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.

To improve current practice, managers and teachers should more clearly align centre policies and procedures with the requirements of the Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Centres 2008 and other relevant legislation.

Next ERO Review

When is ERO likely to review the service again?

The next ERO review of Diocesan School for Girls Foundation Class will be in three years.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

17 June 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


Epsom, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

40 children, including up to 0 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Girls 35

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

March 2016

Date of this report

17 June 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

February 2013

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.