Mercury Bay Preschool Ltd - 23/12/2015

1 Evaluation of Mercury Bay Preschool Ltd

How well placed is Mercury Bay Preschool Ltd 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.


Mercury Bay Preschool Ltd is a privately owned care and education centre located in Whitianga. It is licensed for 39 children including up to eight under the age of two. Children under the age of two are situated in the 'Rainbow Room' while those over two are housed in the 'Creative Room'. There are currently 40 children on the roll, 10 of whom are Māori. The centre operates from 8.00am to 5.15pm five days a week.

The centre, which previously operated as L’il Nippers Daycare and Pre School, has had a change in ownership since the 2012 ERO review. The new owner manages the centre and she has appointed a new head teacher to lead the programme. There has also been a significant change in teaching staff since the previous ERO review. The outdoor area has been significantly redeveloped to maximise the space and provide more areas of play and exploration.

The centre philosophy has been extensively reviewed by the new owner and staff. It emphasises children having the freedom to learn through play at their own pace and by following their own interests. Parents and whānau are encouraged to be a part of the centre.

The Review Findings

Children benefit from warm, respectful relationships with teachers. Staff are responsive to children's needs and know children and their whānau well. Children have many opportunities to learn independence and social skills. They learn to respect themselves, others and the environment. They are empowered to make choices about their learning and play. A sense of belonging and ownership is promoted through opportunities to set up and care for the daily environment, to care for younger children and by instigating and developing new areas of play and new programme activities.

Children are able to follow their own emerging interests as a vehicle for learning. Teachers use these interests to effectively integrate the learning of dispositions such as curiosity and resilience. The exploration of early concepts about the world of nature and science, and beginning skills in literacy and mathematics are also taught and learnt. Teachers are skilled at identifying the 'teachable moment' and know when to give children space to explore and discover on their own. A good range of teacher initiated activities expose children to new learning about things outside their current experience.

A well-resourced learning environment is carefully prepared by teachers to engage children and provoke thinking. An emphasis on open-ended resources that can be used in a variety of different ways encourages creativity and oral language development through imaginative play. Teachers are committed to procuring and developing more and more natural resources and equipment. Routines such as mat-times and meal-times provide a predictable structure but are flexible and unhurried.

Teachers' planning is individualised. Learning stories and assessment portfolios reflect children's interests, progress and learning. Parent aspirations for their children are meaningfully integrated.

Teachers use the Māori language meaningfully in authentic contexts throughout the day. They have connections with local iwi representatives and are committed to using these to learn more about the local area and its history. Passing this knowledge on to children is likely to enhance their identity development.

Babies and toddlers in the under two area benefit from a calm and unhurried atmosphere. Teachers are caring, nurturing and in tune with children's verbal and non-verbal cues. They promote a sense of security and belonging by creating a family-like atmosphere. There are displays of children's familiar objects and family photos. There is frequent, effective communication with parents.

Children benefit from a strong transition to school programme. Teachers have developed effective working relationships with school staff. Regular classroom visits occur and the centre attends activities and events at school throughout the year. Displays and discussions in the centre with five year olds prepares them for what to expect at school. There is effective integration of literacy and numeracy activities throughout the daily programme, as well as those provided in the 'Kea' preschool activities box. These resources assist children to learn and master early literacy and numeracy skills. Meetings between centre and school teachers and leaders have been held with the intention of developing greater alignment between the early childhood and beginning school curricula in future years.

The new owner has a clearly articulated vision, which is well understood by teachers. The new centre philosophy was collaboratively written with teachers and is continually reviewed to ensure it is a living document. There is a strong focus on centre improvement at all levels. The centre owner and the head teacher have an in-depth understanding of self-review in the early childhood sector and have used this as a basis for ongoing review and development of programmes and practices.  

Centre leaders encourage a distributed form of leadership. Teachers feel empowered to make decisions about programmes and activities and centre operations.

Key Next Steps

In order to continue to strengthen practice ERO and centre leaders agree it would now be beneficial to:

  • continue to improve the quality of the resources in the under twos learning environment
  • further integrate Māori concepts and practices into teaching and assessment using Ministry of Education resources such as 'Ka Hikitia,' 'Tātaiako' and 'Te Whatu Pōkeka
  • strengthen strategic and annual planning
  • strengthen teacher performance appraisal policies and systems and clarify expectations for non-qualified staff.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Mercury Bay Preschool Ltd 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 Mercury Bay Preschool Ltd will be in three years. 

Graham Randell
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

23 December 2015 

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 


Whitianga, Waikato

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

39 children, including up to 8 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Girls       36
Boys      23

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

November 2015

Date of this report

23 December 2015

Most recent ERO report(s)


Education Review (as Lil Nippers Daycare and Pre School)

November 2012

Education Review (as Lil Nippers Daycare and Pre School

April 2009

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.