Secret Garden ELC Limited - 21/09/2016

1 Evaluation of Secret Garden ELC Limited

How well placed is Secret Garden ELC Limited 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.


Secret Garden ELC is licensed to provide full day education and care for 50 children including up to ten children under two years of age. The last ERO report in 2012 reviewed the centre under one of its former names, Junior Junction (The Secret Garden). The service name was then changed to Secret Garden for Kids.

The centre has been recently purchased by a new owner who is very committed to providing the community with quality care and education for children. This is one of five privately owned early childhood centres operated by the same owners and management

The centre's full time teachers are all fully qualified teachers. The centre supervisor, appointed in 2014, has responsibility for the leadership of staff, the over-two area and curriculum programmes for all children. She has successfully led a period of change to improve the centre's systems and operations.

A second head teacher manages a separate area for the infants and toddlers. This is a defined space where the youngest children are cared for and nurtured. The area for the over-two's is spacious and well resourced, expanding into an extensive outdoor environment. This attractive natural setting gives rise to the name Secret Garden.

The centre's first ERO report in 2012 made several recommendations to improve the centre, and the new owner, management and staff have moved rapidly to address these. Programmes now clearly align with a new centre philosophy. Self-review processes are improving outcomes for children, such as new design ideas for the outdoor environment. Centre leaders are building the professional capability of teaching staff and an updated appraisal system is in place that is working towards meeting the requirements of the Education Council.

The Review Findings

Children are very secure and settled in their play. They have a strong sense of belonging to the centre as whanaungatanga. This has been carefully developed by the current staff and previous owners. There is a feeling of the wider community's presence in the learning programmes as children and teachers regularly explore places in their neighbourhood.

Children are learning through high levels of engagement with each other. They play collaboratively for prolonged periods of time and often revisit creative constructions and play scenarios. The programme is predominantly child-led. Children frequently initiate ideas themselves that are valued and prompted by staff. Imaginative and dramatic play is in evidence, both in practice and documented in portfolios and in displays. Teachers facilitate play to encourage children to take the lead, to think, reason, take risks and solve problems. They support both independent and group learning.

Teachers prepare the environment to optimise learning. The learning areas are well resourced with equipment and materials accessible to children throughout the day. There is real physical challenge and stimulation in the outdoor environment which has many natural features such as well-established trees and gardens and mud holes, in addition to swings and climbing frames.

Children are socially confident, interacting well with each other and with adults. Teachers are very aware of supporting children's and family wellbeing. Children's cultural identities are acknowledged through celebrations and events. Māori children are well supported within the centre's programmes and have opportunities to learn pepeha, waiata, and karakia.

Experienced staff build sensitive relationships with the parents of the youngest children. Teachers carefully match centre routines to home routines. There is a focus on sensory learning in the infants' environment that leads to exploration and curiosity. Teachers' interactions frequently focus on children's language development.

Families and whānau feel welcomed and valued by centre staff and many travel some distance so their children can attend. Families are diverse, from many cultural backgrounds, and enjoy the networking and socialising that the centre provides. Parents receive frequent opportunities to contribute towards their children's learning including through on-line access. They report very high levels of satisfaction with the care and quality of inclusive education provided for their children

In order to plan well, teachers' observations and discussions identify children's interests and needs, either individually or in groups. Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, guides staff planning and all strands are evident in assessment documentation. Both hard copy and electronic files are used to capture children's learning stories in portfolios. Teachers deliberately enrich individual children's learning experiences and consequently their learning progress. Summaries of children's learning progress are discussed with parents at intervals during the year.

Transition programmes ensure that children settle well into the centre, and through the different areas in the centre and then on to school. Four-year old children have a programme that extends their skills to be ready for school. This is integrated into the daily programme.

There is high quality leadership in the centre. Appraisal processes are being used increasingly well for teachers to reflect on and improve their professional practice. Teachers take opportunities for external professional development when available.

Strategic and annual planning is effectively guiding ongoing centre improvement. ERO and centre leaders agree that the high quality of practice in the centre should now be consolidated and sustained long term.

Key Next Steps

Centre leaders and ERO agree that the following recommendations will further improve the centre's practice:

  • continuing the centre's bicultural journey by deepening learning of te reo Māori, te ao Māori and tikanga-a-iwi.
  • documenting educational outcomes for children at the end of the evaluation and self-review process
  • developing an attestation processes to affirm the renewal and issue of Practising Teachers' Certificates that is clearly aligned to Education Council requirements.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Secret Garden ELC Limited 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 Secret Garden ELC Limited will be in three years.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

21 September 2016

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

50 children, including up to 10 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Girls 23 Boys 22

Ethnic composition






Middle Eastern

other Asian

other European









Percentage of qualified teachers

0-49% 50-79% 80%

Based on funding rates


Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2


Meets minimum requirements

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

July 2016

Date of this report

21 September 2016

Most recent ERO report(s)

Previously reviewed as:

Junior Junction (The Secret Garden)

Education Review

December 2012

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.