Stepping Stones Childcare Centre - 27/02/2019

1 Evaluation of Stepping Stones Childcare Centre

How well placed is Stepping Stones Childcare Centre to promote positive learning outcomes for children?

Not well placed

Requires further development

Well placed

Very well placed

Stepping Stones Childcare Centre is well placed to promote positive outcomes for children.

ERO's findings that support this overall judgement are summarised below.


Stepping Stones Childcare Centre is a community based, not-for-profit early learning service located in Upper Hutt. It is licensed for 43 children, including 14 up to two years of age. The centre has two separate buildings and outdoor spaces, with a nursery for infants and toddlers and a preschool for older children. Of the total roll of 50, 11 children identify as Māori.

The philosophy focuses on links with the community, te reo Māori, and environmentally sustainable practices.

The centre is governed by a parent board of trustees. They contribute a range of skills, and are primarily focused on supporting the service with fundraising and events. Since ERO's February 2016 report, there has been some turnover of committee members.

Day-to-day management is delegated to a centre manager, with support from a nursery supervisor. Most teachers are fully registered. There has been low staff turnover, with many staff long serving. Regular relieving teachers are also employed to support continuity and consistency of provision for children.

ERO's previous report identified internal evaluation as an area requiring further development. Progress is evident. Since that time, the service has completed some refurbishment of indoor spaces and refreshed resources throughout the centre.

The Review Findings

Children are empowered to lead their own learning, make good decisions and follow their passions. The programme offers time and space for active movement and imaginative play. Care for the environment is a clear programme focus. Careful thought and research has gone into creating inviting learning spaces using open-ended and natural materials.

Teachers maintain good levels of engagement with children. They use a consistent, peaceful approach to actively build their social and emotional competence. Children play confidently as good friends.

Routines times are flexible and engaging, often spontaneous group times occur. Regular community excursions, family events and cultural celebrations enrich the curriculum and support the centre’s strong sense of whānau and manaakitanga.

Provision for infants and toddlers is well developed. The programme includes many opportunities for music, movement and sensory play. Care routines are child-led. Key teachers build close attachments to support individuals' preferences. Teachers are attuned to children’s unique interests and communication styles. Toddlers are well supported to be adventurous and caring. Tuakana teina relationships between older and younger peers are encouraged.

Children with diverse learning needs are very well supported. Teachers liaise well with parents and external agencies to enact individual plans and monitor progress.

Learning portfolios record aspects of children’s participation in the programme and possible learning pathways. They demonstrate that teachers know children and their families well. ERO and leadership agree that it is timely to strengthen assessment, planning and evaluation processes. A revised approach should include stronger emphasis on:

  • children’s cultures, languages and identities

  • responding to parents' aspirations for their children's learning

  • showing how teachers are implementing planned strategies to progress children’s learning.

Teachers are working as a team to support their understanding and implementation of the recently revised early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. Good consultation is underway to identify the learning that is valued by the community, which should support the team to add further depth to individual and group planning.

The bicultural curriculum is a strength of the centre. Leaders and teachers take personal responsibility for learning and implementing te reo Māori meaningfully into the programme. Positive outcomes are clearly evident in older children’s confidence in responding to, and using te reo, their mihimihi, waiata and karakia. A good relationship with the local marae offers children opportunities to engage with te ao Māori in meaningful, localised contexts. Leaders and teachers agree that they are now well placed to work alongside whānau to develop a range of specific practices to promote the success of Māori learners.

Responding to children's diverse cultures, languages and identities is a strategic priority for the service. Teachers are undertaking professional development to build practice in this area. ERO affirms this as a next step.

Children's transitions into, through and out of the centre are well supported. Purposeful relationship-building supports families' sense of belonging at these times. Planned opportunities for older children to work together and take responsibility for particular roles promote independence and readiness for primary school. Teachers liaise with schools through a local cluster group. They agree that the centre should strengthen its links with new entrant teachers to support further sharing of information.

Teachers are highly reflective, and committed to ongoing improvement. The well-considered appraisal process supports them to grow and share aspects of practice, aligned to strategic priorities. To maximise the impact on children’s outcomes, teacher inquiry should be further strengthened through:

  • increasing their focus on target children or groups

  • using measureable success indicators to show the impact of improved practices

  • linking formal teacher observations to targets and indicators

  • ensuring observations occur twice yearly and are discussed, with a focus on critique.

Teachers are actively building a shared understanding of internal evaluation. To further support decisions about change and improvement, evaluations should be more sharply focused on indicators of success to ensure a clear, manageable process.

Leadership uses very well-considered strategies to build a team culture of professional engagement and high expectations. A distributed approach to leadership is developing, where teachers can learn new skills and take on increased responsibility.

The trustee board is supportive of leaders and teachers. A range of teacher professional development is funded to benefit children. Parents and whānau are closely involved with the service. As a next step, ERO and trustees agree that it is timely to better define governance and management roles. A work plan should be also developed to support responsive action and reporting, in relation to strategic priorities.

Key Next Steps

To enhance practice, leaders, teachers and trustees should:

  • strengthen assessment, planning and evaluation processes

  • continue building culturally responsive practices

  • focus on evaluating the impact of teacher practice on children's outcomes

  • further clarify governance and management responsibilities.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Stepping Stones Childcare Centre 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 Stepping Stones Childcare Centre will be in three years.

Alan Wynyard

Director Review and Improvement Services Southern

Southern Region

27 February 2019

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


Upper Hutt

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

43 children, including up to 14 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys 27, Girls 23

Ethnic composition

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

December 2018

Date of this report

27 February 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

February 2016

Education Review

May 2013

Education Review

April 2010

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.