First Steps Railway Rd - 21/03/2018

1 Evaluation of First Steps Railway Rd

How well placed is First Steps Railway Rd 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.


First Steps Railway Rd is licensed to provide education and care for 70 children from three months to five years of age, including 20 aged up to two years. Separate learning areas cater for the needs of infants, toddlers and young children, five days a week. Of the 85 children enrolled, 19 identify as Māori.

The centre maintains gold award status as part of the Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) Healthy Heart and Active Movement initiative. The team provides guidance for the regional BestStart hub to implement this programme.

A business manager and professional services manager oversee the service. The staff team is led by an experienced centre manager. She is aided in her role by two head teachers. Most teachers are qualified, and staffing has remained stable since the service opened in 2010.

First Steps Railway Rd is owned and operated by BestStart Educare Ltd. BestStart (previously known as Kidicorp Ltd) is a large national organisation that owns early childhood services across New Zealand.

Areas for development identified in the October 2014 ERO report included: assessment, improving teachers practice, success for Māori, appraisal, review and evaluation. These have been progressed.

This review was one of three in BestStart Educare Ltd.

The Review Findings

A calm, welcoming atmosphere supports the development of strong relationships with children and whānau. Children benefit from a curriculum that consistently reflects the service's philosophy. Educators actively promote a sense of belonging within the centre. Flexible, well-considered processes promote children’s wellbeing when transitioning into the centre and between age groups.

A well-resourced environment supports child-led exploration. Literacy, numeracy and science concepts are integrated throughout the programme. A range of artwork is thoughtfully displayed throughout the centre and shared with the local community. Many children demonstrate pride in their work. 

Effective teaching strategies support the development of competent and confident learners. Educators work alongside children as partners in their learning. Current interests are noted and appropriate experiences provided. Children are engaged in their play.

The provision for children up to two years of age caters well to their individual strengths and care needs. Infants and toddlers are supported to participate in the programme at their own pace. Interactions are respectful.

Teachers are improving the bicultural curriculum. Local iwi areas of significance and stories are prominent in the environment. Daily waiata, karakia and some te reo Māori is used. Strengthening the use of te reo Māori in conversation and in the documentation remains a focus.

Effective strategies that promote a sense of identity for Māori children and their whānau is evident. Attractively displayed pepeha of children, whānau and teachers is a useful tool to build authentic connections. Building on these foundations to strengthen culturally responsive learning partnerships is a key next step.

Leaders identify that building their capability to respond to Pacific learners continues to need strengthening. ERO's external evaluation affirms this.

Children with additional learning needs are effectively supported. Teachers and external agencies work collaboratively to provide inclusive learning opportunities.

The interests of children are consistently responded to and inform group planning. Teachers are beginning to evaluate how their strategies influence learning outcomes. Establishing a system of intentional assessment, planning and evaluation for individual children is a key next step. Children's learning stories should clearly show how:

  • teachers respond meaningfully to children's  cultures, languages and identities and their parents aspirations
  • this information is used to plan for progress of children's learning overtime.

A focus on improving the transition to school process has been highly effective. Frequent visits to local schools effectively fosters children's familiarisation with the school environment. Professional relationships with local schools have become established. Children benefit from reciprocal visits and teachers share useful information about their learning.

Teachers collaboratively engage in regular self-review that results in positive change. BestStart has identified further support is required to improve leaders' and teachers' understanding and implementation of internal evaluation. Future evaluations should focus on monitoring and evaluating the impact of practices on outcomes for children.

A new framework guides the BestStart appraisal process. Teachers have opportunities to participate in professional development and learning. They engage in robust discussions, focused on improving outcomes for children. Further work is required by management to support the services understanding of effective teaching as an inquiry. Growing centre managers capabilities to embed this new system is a priority.  

BestStart policies, guiding documents and monitoring systems promote consistent practices. Governance is committed to growing leaders within the organisation. To improve practice, management should consider more targeted support to empower individual centres to further improve learning outcomes for children.

Key Next Steps

Leaders, teachers and ERO agree the following key next steps are to continue to strengthen:

  • assessment and planning practices, with a focus on individual planning
  • practices that promote educational success for Māori and Pacific children
  • teachers' understanding of effective internal evaluation and inquiry
  • implementation of the appraisal process.

BestStart Educare should support staff to give priority to these key next steps and to embed new learning.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of First Steps Railway Rd 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 First Steps Railway Rd will be in three years.

Alan Wynyard
Deputy Chief Review Officer Central (Acting)

Te Tai Pokapū - Central Region

21 March 2018

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 


Palmerston North

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 20 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

44 boys, 41 girls

Ethnic composition

Other ethnic groups


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

January 2018

Date of this report

21 March 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

October 2014

Education Review

December 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.