Natural Steps Early Childhood Centre (Albany) - 26/02/2018

1 Evaluation of Natural Steps Early Childhood Centre (Albany)

How well placed is Natural Steps Early Childhood Centre (Albany) 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.


Natural Steps Early Childhood Centre (Albany) is a privately owned, purpose-built centre located in Albany on the North Shore of Auckland. It opened in 2013 and is one of two Natural Steps centres.

The centre is licensed for up to 80 children, including a maximum of 28 under two years of age. The centre has four rooms, Pipi, Kina, Paua, and Wahanui, for different age groups. All children share an outside play area to support mixed age play and transition within the centre.

Chinese children make up 23 percent of the roll. There are smaller numbers of Māori and Indian children and a few families with other ethnic backgrounds. The owners have appointed a teacher to support children with English as an additional language.

The owners are both qualified early childhood teachers who are active in the centre. The large stable staff team includes nine registered teachers.

The centre’s philosophy is aligned with Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, and is influenced by the Pikler and Reggio Emilia philosophical approaches. It prioritises respectful relationships with children and whānau, and a nurturing environment.

The Review Findings

Children are confident and articulate. They develop positive relationships with each other and their teachers. Tuakana/teina roles are promoted within the rooms and in the outside area, and help to foster children's growing social and communication skills. Children are encouraged to explore the extensive range of resources and items of interest in playrooms. They are able to make choices about how and where to play.

Teachers thoughtfully promote parent participation and involvement, and bring families together for social and cultural events at the centre.

Teachers transition children into and through the centre well. They are positive and affirming, and work alongside children, talking about their interests. Teachers respect and value children as individuals. There is some use of open-ended questions to prompt and extend children’s thinking.

The centre's cultural celebrations are well supported by families. Teachers are continuing to explore ways to integrate bicultural practices into the centre programme. Considering the competencies in the Ministry of Education resource, Tātaiako, would support this development.

Children's learning experiences are interesting and varied. Science, literacy and maths are part of children's play. Local walks and excursions are an integral part of the curriculum. Daily planning diaries record the programme. Teachers continue to refine their programme planning practices.  Leaders have identified that a next step is to strengthen teachers' knowledge and understanding of the natural world and its integration into children's learning.

Portfolios provide parents/whānau with a valued record of their children’s learning over time. Individual journals for the younger children support reciprocal relationships between families and teachers. The use of an online communication tool is increasing contact with whānau.

Leaders provide internal and external professional development, and coaching and mentoring for staff. They have implemented useful appraisal processes.

Collaborative and effective management systems and procedures support centre operations. The centre's vision and values are enacted throughout the service. The owners are increasing the alignment between strategic and annual plans that guide centre direction and developments.

Key Next Steps

Next steps for centre development are to:

  • continue to integrate, extend and embed bicultural practices
  • build on teaching practices that foster children's thinking and learning
  • continue to strengthen internal evaluation by more clearly focusing on the effectiveness of teaching practices and outcomes for children.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Natural Steps Early Childhood Centre (Albany) 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 Natural Steps Early Childhood Centre (Albany) will be in three years.

Julie Foley
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

Te Tai Raki - Northern Region

26 February 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 


Albany, Auckland

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

80 children, including up to 28 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys      48
Girls       41

Ethnic composition



Percentage of qualified teachers


Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2


Better than minimum requirements

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

September 2017

Date of this report

26 February 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

No previous ERO reports


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.