Magic Sparks Care and Learning - 05/08/2014

1 Evaluation of Magic Sparks Care and Learning

How well placed is Magic Sparks Care and Learning 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.


Magic Sparks Care and Learning is one of two private early child services under common ownership. The centre opened in June 2012 and is now licensed for 75 children, including 20 aged up to two years. This is its first ERO review.

Children from birth to primary school age are cared for in four separate classrooms, each catering for a different age band. Area leaders have been appointed to support teachers and lead programme development.

The philosophy emphasises the importance of empowering children to become independent and responsible learners, providing a nurturing environment and planning a programme that reflects the bicultural heritage of New Zealand.

Governance is provided by the owner who has oversight for personnel and financial planning. She works closely with the team leader to manage day-to-day operation and support the teaching team.

The rapid expansion of the business in the past twelve months has meant that a large proportion of families, staff and children are relatively new to the service.

The owner is seeking advice to develop plans to improve the outdoor learning space.

The Review Findings

Careful consideration has been given to the organisation of the physical environment. It is attractively presented and includes a range of materials to support children’s learning and developmental needs. Play areas are clean and tidy. A range of creative and physical play is possible in all seasons in the large, covered outdoor play space. The owner, leaders and teachers agree the organisation and use of the outdoor area needs improvement to maximise children's learning.

Staff work collectively to foster children’s wellbeing. Respectful relationships promote a settled tone. Children with a diverse range of learning needs are welcomed. Teachers recognise the importance of sensitively supporting children’s transition into, through and out of the centre. A current review of transition practice should clarify the process and result in a more consistent approach.

Recent in-depth review focused on respectful practices has resulted in improved child behaviour and teacher teamwork. However, reflection of philosophical values in the programme needs strengthening, particularly in relation to provision for the two to five year olds. Priority should be given to:

  • improving the range and organisation of accessible learning resources to maximise investigative and creative play
  • strengthening the quality of teaching, including a stronger focus on teachers initiating learning conversations to support individual children’s language, ideas, knowledge and sustained interest in play
  • supporting children to make decisions about their learning, ask questions and take risks.

There is good provision for infants and toddlers. Consistent staffing, respectful interactions and a calm tone support children’s settling and wellbeing. A carefully considered and interesting range of resources can be freely accessed by the smallest children. Teachers maintain high levels of engagement with infants and demonstrate genuine understanding of their emotional and developmental needs. Ongoing, effective communication with parents supports teachers’ approach with individuals.

The owner expresses a strong commitment to implementing a programme that includes a Māori perspective and acknowledgement of bicultural values. The range of bicultural resources is developing. Some teachers are skilled in their use of te reo Māori. Recent relevant Ministry of Education publications have been accessed. The owner agrees that sharing these as a team is a next development step.

Teachers continue to develop their approach to planning the programme. They note and share information about children's developing interests and needs, and activities they might introduce to strengthen these. Portfolios record each child’s development and participation in the programme. Plans are in place to support increased parental participation in centre assessment. Teachers should continue to increase their focus on children’s significant learning and use evaluation more effectively to make meaningful decisions.

Appraisal and induction processes support teachers to identify goals for their development and meet professional teaching requirements. Suitable learning opportunities are offered. More regular, constructive feedback directly related to teachers’ needs and centre priorities should promote improvements to the quality of teaching and outcomes for children.

The owner and team leader work collaboratively to enhance the development of the service and meet the needs of families. Leadership roles and responsibilities continue to be developed and supported. Staff collaboratively consider ways to improve practice. Parents’ views are sought and considered.

Self review is valued as an improvement tool. It has been used well by the team to identify and address concerns associated with the rapid growth of the service. Regular audits and practice reports provide assurance that regulatory requirements and the owner's expectations are being met. A more planned approach to self review linked to strategic goals and philosophical values, should enhance decision making about priorities for development.

Key Next Steps

The owner, leaders and teaching team are still developing shared understandings and teamwork. Priorities are to continue to develop:

  • the quality of teaching, the programme and learning environment particularly for children aged over two years
  • curriculum guidelines to support consistent practice
  • processes for assessment and evaluation
  • leaders’ roles and skills
  • team knowledge and understanding of best practice to support review of the philosophy, programmes and operation
  • a strategic approach to identifying centre priorities linked to self review.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Magic Sparks Care and Learning 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 Magic Sparks Care and Learning will be in three years.

Joyce Gebbie

National Manager Review Services

Central Region

5 August 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


Lower Hutt

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education and Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

75 children, including 20 aged up to 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys 49

Girls 33

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā


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

July 2014

Date of this report

5 August 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

First report


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.