Kowhai Free Kindergarten - 01/10/2014

1 Evaluation of Kowhai Free Kindergarten

How well placed is Kowhai Free Kindergarten 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.


Kowhai Free Kindergarten is located on the outskirts of south Timaru. The kindergarten provides education for up to forty children. Twenty of the older children stay for extension sessions in the afternoons.

A team of qualified teachers and a teacher aide provide a purposeful programme for the diverse learners at the kindergarten. Two teachers share the head teacher's position allowing one of them to take on an advisory role for other kindergartens in the association. The teachers are part of a group of kindergartens and schools that work together to support children’s successful transition to school.

Since the June 2011 ERO review, the team has worked well together to embed the systems for planning, assessment and evaluation that were in the early stages of development. The team has sustained the high quality teaching practices noted in the last ERO report.

This review was part of a cluster of 11 kindergarten reviews in the South Canterbury Free Kindergarten Association.

The Review Findings

Children at the kindergarten are empowered to become able learners and decision makers. They show a strong sense of belonging. ERO observed children spending lengthy periods of time at activities and playing well with each other. The indoor and outside areas are thoughtfully arranged to allow children make their own choices and independently reach resources and materials to use in their play.

Teachers know the children and their families very well. They seek through their vision of “Manaakitanga” to establish caring, respectful and sustainable relationships with people, places and things. A strength of this kindergarten is the way teachers sensitively support children who require additional support to be successful learners. They actively foster the wellbeing of the whole family and support parents in their parenting roles.

The kindergarten’s philosophy is strongly visible in action and is regularly reviewed and communicated to families through conversation and wall displays. Teachers use the philosophy to guide their decision making and practices. For example, each teacher is assigned a group of families that they get to know very well so they can better support the children in their learning.

Teachers spend unhurried time with children in small groups or individually, building on their play ideas and extending their thinking. They make the most of opportunities, planned and unplanned, to support children’s learning.

As part of the review, ERO investigated how well the programme supported children to develop early mathematics concepts. ERO found that a wide range of mathematics learning was integrated into children’s activities and play. For example:

  • children and teachers counting during games

  • teachers using mathematics language with children such as ‘in front’, ‘behind’, ‘big’, ‘small’

  • measuring and experimenting with quantities in baking and water play.

Teachers agree that a next step is to show progress in mathematics learning more clearly in the children’s profile books.

Other aspects of the programme that support children’s learning include:

  • clear expectations of behaviour

  • useful resources and quality teaching practices to support early literacy

  • a wide range of materials to promote active exploration, creativity and dramatic play

  • a focus on gardening and caring for the environment.

The teachers continue to refine their systems for individual and group planning. They are currently finding ways to have more meaningful conversations with parents about their wishes for their children’s learning. Every term teachers and parents plan together the next steps for each child’s learning. Stories in the profile books show the progress being made.

Teachers deliberately plan for including te reo and tikanga Māori and building a Māori dimension in the daily life of the kindergarten. They work to create an environment that shows Māori children and their families that their language and culture is valued.

The team continually think and talk about what works well and what they could do better. This results in ongoing improvements to the programme and environment. Since the June 2011 ERO review, the team has continued to improve its understanding and use of self-review.

Teachers and ERO discussed the next steps for Kowhai Kindergarten. Teachers agree they should:

  • strengthen evaluations of planning to show the richness and depth of children’s learning

  • explore ways to more formally receive critical feedback about the effectiveness of their teaching

  • continue to develop and implement their plan for Māori children to be successful as Māori

  • refine aspects of self review.


The SCFKA is governed by a board and managed by a newly appointed general manager. The board:

  • has a strong commitment to teaching and learning

  • seeks parents’ views about important matters in the association

  • has made changes to the roll size and opening hours of the kindergartens to be more responsive to community needs and maintain the financial viability of the association

  • is very responsive to important government initiatives such as ensuring educational success for all children.

Next steps for the board are to:

  • know more about its roles and responsibilities as the governing body

  • develop strategic planning

  • ensure that reports review how well the association’s goals are met, are more evaluative and are better used for future planning

  • refine appraisal systems to ensure that staff and teachers more formally receive critical feedback about their work.

The senior teachers provide useful ongoing professional development and maintain a strong focus on teaching and learning to the kindergartens within the association. They have shared with the teachers at Kowhai Free Kindergarten the expectations they have for teaching and learning and how well they think the team is meeting those expectations.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Kowhai Free Kindergarten 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 Kowhai Free Kindergarten will be in three years.

Graham Randell

National Manager Review Services Southern Region

1 October 2014

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

Free Kindergarten

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

40 children over 2 years of age

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys: 25

Girls: 15

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā







Percentage of qualified teachers 0-49% 50-79% 80% Based on funding rates


Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2

Not applicable


Over 2


Meets minimum requirements

Review team on site

July 2014

Date of this report

1 October 2014

Most recent ERO reports

Education Review

June 2011


Education Review

May 2007


Accountability Review

March 2000

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.