Songbird Early Childhood Centre - 05/12/2014

1 Evaluation of First Steps Aongatete

How well placed is First Steps Aongatete 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.


First Steps Aongatete is located in the rural Bay of Plenty district of Aongatete near Katikati. It provides the options of all day and sessional education and care. The centre is licensed for 25 children over the age of two years in a mixed-age setting. At the time of this ERO review there were 28 children on the roll, including 5 who identify as Māori.

The centre operates under the governance umbrella of Kidicorp Ltd. The Hamilton regional office of Kidicorp Ltd was established in 2012 and provides strong and effective governance, leadership and management support underpinned by Kidicorp’s clear vision and values. There are well-developed and rigorous self-review and quality assurance processes as well as professional, administrative and business support by well qualified and experienced personnel.

The centre is staffed by three registered teachers and one student teacher in her third year of training. A new centre manager took up her position in July 2014.

The ERO report of August 2011 identified areas for development about strengthening literacy practices and including aspects of planning in children’s learning portfolios. The centre has made good progress with these areas. Upgrades to the environment have enhanced children’s learning and increased opportunities for them to experience physical challenge in the outdoor environment.

The centre philosophy documents the aim is to provide an environment where:

  • children can develop belonging, well being and a lifelong love of learning
  • partnerships with families and whānau achieve positive outcomes for children
  • children know they are valued and accepted
  • the teaching team shares leadership responsibilities and is committed and motivated.

The Review Findings

The recently appointed centre manager is providing effective leadership for centre operations and development. Particular strengths of her leadership are:

  • skills in managing change positively
  • building a teaching team with a shared vision and philosophy
  • fostering emergent leadership amongst children and teachers
  • a good understanding of the purpose of self review
  • strengthening partnerships with parents, whānau and the local community.

This leadership has contributed to the strong and positive culture of the centre which is benefitting children, teachers, families and whānau. The centre manager and teachers are well supported through the ongoing mentoring and guidance of the dedicated Kidicorp professional service manager and business manager. This professional partnership is likely to ensure the ongoing development of a collegial team, realisation of the centre’s philosophy, and a sustainable good quality service to the community.

Teachers are benefitting from the knowledge of a kuia from Te Rereatukahia Marae. She is guiding a teacher and together they share their knowledge of the Māori world and bicultural practices. They are building the increased understanding of the teaching team. The value placed on Māori culture is evident in the environment, centre displays and equipment.

Children learn and play in an attractive, rural, home-like setting that enables them to participate in real life experiences such as baking, gardening, caring for pets and learning about the natural world. They are surrounded by farmland and orchards, and enjoy views of the mountains and the lake which are included in the curriculum through stories of local significance to Māori. Older children are building their social skills, enjoy sharing their knowledge with others, and support and include younger children in their learning and play. They demonstrate a strong sense of belonging, well being and capability as they direct their own learning. They enjoy arranging their environment to reflect their ideas and enhance their play.

Mathematics and literacy experiences are evident in the daily programme, during mat times and in the environment. Children have access to a good variety of materials and equipment to explore which promotes the development of their early concepts in these important areas. Routines are flexible and respond to the care needs of children who are at different levels of independence. These routines promote children’s ability to make choices, follow their interests and sustain their play.

The ‘Be School Ready’ approach sets clear expectations for parent and community partnerships, teaching practices, and promoting literacy and numeracy learning in readiness for school. This approach is in the early stages of being documented and has yet to be reviewed to establish its effectiveness.

The learning and development of children is documented and attractively displayed. ERO observed children interacting with these displays and sharing and revisiting learning experiences with their friends and other adults. Individual portfolios are well-presented, highly valued and often used by children. Children’s learning is regularly shared with families through e-portfolios and informal conversations. Next steps for learning are identified for individual children in partnership with families. Parents spoken to during the review shared their appreciation for the ways they could be included in the life of the centre. Their diverse cultures were evident in centre displays, equipment and the programme.

Teachers demonstrate genuine attitudes of acceptance, respect and willingness to listen to each other, children and their families. They are inclusive and work in effective partnership with specialist agencies to promote positive outcomes for children and families.

ERO observed the following sound teaching practices:

  • positive, sensitive and responsive relationships
  • good use of questioning and learning conversations that build children’s knowledge and thinking skills
  • teachers leading learning and knowing when to allow children to be independent
  • children and teachers sharing their humour and demonstrating their enjoyment of learning together
  • recognising and promoting children’s leadership and strengths.

Key Next Steps

ERO and centre leaders agree that there is a need for teachers to continue with ongoing professional development to build their knowledge of:

  • literacy and mathematics
  • bicultural practices
  • self-review processes that lead to continuous development and improvement of centre operations.

In addition, it is important to more clearly acknowledge the culture and identity of each child in individual portfolios.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of First Steps Aongatete 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 First Steps Aongatete will be in three years.

Dale Bailey

National Manager Review Services

Northern Region

5 December 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


Aongatete, Bay of Plenty

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

25 children, including up to 0 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys 16

Girls 12

Ethnic composition


NZ European/Pākehā



Percentage of qualified teachers

0-49% 50-79% 80%

Based on funding rates


Reported ratios of staff to children

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

October 2014

Date of this report

5 December 2014

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

August 2011


Education Review

May 2008

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.