Kowhai Childcare - 10/08/2017

1 Evaluation of Kōwhai Childcare

How well placed is Kōwhai Childcare 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.


Kōwhai Childcare is a full day care and education service licensed for 60 children, including 27 up to the age of two. Currently there are 50 children on the roll, five of whom identify as Māori. The centre operates across two houses, Tūī and Kōwhai. There are age-based rooms within each house but children also have opportunities to play alongside one another in the spacious outdoor gardens. The centre is open from 7.30am to 5.30pm each weekday.

The centre is governed by a charitable trust called the Rudolph Steiner Early Childhood Trust, (RSECT). It is managed by a principal who also manages other RSECT early childhood services operating on the same site. A team leader is responsible for day-to-day management in each of the houses. At the time of this review trust members and management personnel had only recently been appointed. Eighty percent of teachers are qualified.

The centre philosophy is based on the writings of the German philosopher Rudolph Steiner, also called the Waldorf philosophy. Teachers aim to provide a play-based programme that nurtures the social, physical, intellectual and spiritual development of each child. This is achieved through a cycle of learning rhythms that are designed to create a secure and familiar learning environment.

The centre has a positive reporting history with ERO.

The Review Findings

Children play and learn in a well-structured, organised environment that promotes a strong sense of security and belonging. There are many opportunities for children to develop social, self-management, and oral language skills. Dispositions particular to the Waldorf philosophy such as awe, wonder, and creativity are also evident. Children benefit from participating in purposeful activities such as cooking, cleaning and gardening, modelled by their teachers. These activities promote foundational skills, attitudes and positive work habits. An emphasis on organic food and sustainable gardening develops healthy concepts about food and respect for the environment.

The indoor and outdoor environments are carefully prepared, aesthetically pleasing and quiet. Natural resources and play equipment are carefully selected and open-ended so as to encourage children's imagination and creativity through dramatic play.

Children under the age of two benefit from small group sizes and a high ratio of adults to children who learn and play in a calm, stress-free environment where their individual care needs are well met. The familiarity of the home-like environment supports children's sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Teachers are at the beginning stages of developing a bicultural curriculum that supports all children to become equal partners under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Teachers use some te reo Māori, waiata and karakia as part of the daily programme. Well-planned, annual Matariki celebrations sit alongside other seasonal festivals celebrated throughout the year.

The Waldorf pedagogy and philosophy is highly visible in the way teachers organise the day and interact with children. Teachers are welcoming and develop warm, respectful relationships with children and whānau. Interactions with children are minimised in order to give time and space for them to develop their imaginative play and develop social competence. Importance is placed on participating in the rhythms of the day together as a group. This promotes children's sense of themselves as part of a community. Circle time and storytelling promote oral language development.

Planning is based around the Waldorf curriculum and is strongly focused on group learning experiences connected to daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly rhythms. Teachers have recently begun to take a more individual approach to planning by developing goals for priority learners. Portfolios provide parents with a record of centre activities that their children have been involved in. They do not yet provide evidence of how teachers have responded to children's learning or how they have progressed and developed as a result.

A new principal is providing effective mentoring and support to develop the capability of teachers, particularly in the Waldorf philosophy. Centre management has been re-organised. Team leaders now spend a larger proportion of their time with children and teaching teams. This enables them to better respond to children's daily needs and issues that arise. The new leadership team is developing a supportive and collaborative culture with a focus on improvement.

Leaders have a good understanding of strategic self review and have a plan in place for future reviews. ERO supports the need for an upcoming review of centre equipment and activities to ensure there are sufficient resources available to challenge and extend older children. A recently introduced, whole team approach to 'teaching as inquiry' is focusing on deepening teacher understanding of the Waldorf pedagogy and promoting a more supportive team culture.

Governance and management systems have been strengthened with a clear focus on ongoing sustainability. A comprehensive and robust set of policies guides centre practice. There are strong systems in place to protect the health and safety of children. The trust has a strategic commitment to train and retain quality teachers who are knowledgeable in the Waldorf philosophy.

Key Next Steps

ERO and centre management agree there is now a need for further development in the following areas:


  • Focus on children's individual interests, dispositions and strengths and use this knowledge to plan learning experiences to support these children's progress and development.

  • Continue to develop teacher knowledge and understanding of both Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, and the Waldorf curriculum so that they can better identify appropriate learning outcomes for children.

  • More effectively include child and parent voice in assessment processes and ensure they are easily accessible.

  • Celebrate each child's language, culture and identity in children's portfolios.

Bicultural Practice

  • Strengthen bicultural practice by developing age-appropriate teaching and learning resources on Waikato and Kīngitanga history, and areas of local significance, that also align with the Waldorf philosophy.

Governance and Management

  • Strengthen strategic partnerships with Tainui.

  • Strengthen strategic planning with a particular focus on curriculum development.

  • Develop a robust appraisal process for the principal.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Kōwhai Childcare 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 Kōwhai Childcare will be in three years.

Lynda Pura-Watson
Deputy Chief Review Officer

10 August 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



Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

60 children, including up to 27 aged under 2

Service roll



Girls 33 Boys 17

Ethnic composition



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

June 2017

Date of this report

10 August 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)


Education Review

June 2014

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.