The Farmyard for Early Learners - 04/03/2019

1 Evaluation of The Farmyard for Early Learners

How well placed is The Farmyard for Early Learners to promote positive learning outcomes for children?

Not well placed

Requires further development

Well placed

Very well placed

The Farmyard for Early Learners is very well placed to promote positive learning outcomes for children.

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


The Farmyard for Early Learners (The Farmyard) is a privately-owned early learning service, operating on farm land in rural Gisborne. It offers a nature-based curriculum, Te Whenua Ūkaipō, integrating Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf education, Te Whāriki (the early childhood curriculum) and the New Zealand Curriculum.

The Farmyard is an all-day education and care service catering for children from birth to six years old. It is licensed for 110 children, including 30 aged up to two years. At the time of this ERO evaluation there are 135 children enrolled with 41 identifying as Māori and five of Pacific heritage. Several children from other ethnic groups attend the service.

The educational goals aim to provide a well-balanced programme through hands-on participation, to encourage resilience, guide investigation and motivate a love of life-long learning. The service is committed to supporting Māori values and beliefs through upholding and strengthening partnership within Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

There are 34 teachers and support workers. The service operates at a high ratio of qualified teachers. Several teachers hold, or are in the process of gaining, additional certificates and diplomas in Steiner education. An artistic director is employed to work with all children. All meals are provided by the service with a significant quantity of food grown and harvested at The Farmyard.

The Review Findings

A clear vision sets the direction for the service. The philosophy is highly evident in practice, documentation, assessment and in the curriculum. These are underpinned by the values of Rudolf Steiner and identified areas of priorities for learning to support children to achieve and become independent learners.

Children benefit from an environment that successfully promotes a nature-based curriculum. A focus on sustainability and kaitiakitanga is clearly evident through the relationships with the gardens, animals, land and people. The environment facilitates children's open exploration alongside attentive teachers who support and extend learning. Children are confident to contribute to and lead their own learning. They are inquisitive problem solvers.

A wide range of assessment information provides a clear picture of children's dispositional learning, skills and ways of knowing. Teachers know children well and develop individualised learning plans in partnership with parents. Group planning aligns to the values of the service and is highly responsive to individual children's needs. The inclusive environment successfully supports children with additional learning needs. Regular teacher and parent assessment shows children's progression of key development stages, aligned to the Steiner philosophy and clearly linked to Te Whāriki.

The service is welcoming to all children, their families and whānau. Ongoing consultation with whānau is given priority. The owner recently developed and appointed a parent to a whānau representative position, to complement the Friends and Whānau Committee and to liaise with the owner and staff. A strong sense of partnership is evident. Leaders and teachers respectfully validate te ao Māori and create opportunities for whānau Māori to voice their views.

Positive relationships are evident between children and teachers. Adults take time to genuinely listen to children and explore the deeper meanings of their learning. As a result, the service has developed the Forest School to support older children to engage in a meaningful play-based curriculum. A sound balance of child and teacher-led practices support this process. Children are empowered to explore their own learning pathways.

Younger infants and toddlers have high quality equitable opportunities to explore and access the environment where they are able to take safe risks to allow their learning to unfold at their own pace. They are supported by key teaching teams who deliver a respectful daily rhythm that reflects the need for active exploration and rest. An inclusive environment is evident.

Interactions and early literacy are well promoted through a curriculum that values language and storytelling. Teacher practice includes a strong focus on a sustainable environment. The use of natural resources contributes to the richness of the vibrant learning environment.

Teachers work in partnership with whānau to develop a curriculum that is responsive to the individual needs of children and parent aspirations. A clear focus on strengthening relationships with whānau Māori and Pacific parents is evident. This continues to be an ongoing focus to further support successful learning outcomes for their children.

Systematic self review and evaluation lead to improved outcomes for children and are responsive to identified priorities. A clear focus on achieving the vision, goals and outcomes is consistently evident throughout all aspects of service operation. Staff work collaboratively and use their strengths to take leadership responsibilities. All staff contribute to the process of ongoing, systematic self review and internal evaluation. A professional learning culture that provides children with high quality education and care is evident.

Teachers are reflective and critique their practice and how it aligns to children's development. Appraisal contributes to the service achieving its vision and goals. Continuing to systematically evaluate individual teacher practices and the impact of these on outcomes for children should further support and inform improvement of practice. The owner has identified that this process could be further strengthened and has put strategies in place to support teachers through an online system.

Key Next Steps

ERO is confident that the service has the capacity to further identify and strengthen systems and processes to ensure there are continued high quality positive outcomes for children. Internal evaluation, that is focused and useful, should continue to provide leaders, teachers, parents and whānau with sound information about the effectiveness of actions and what more is needed to sustain high quality practices.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of The Farmyard for Early Learners 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.

Phil Cowie

Director Review and Improvement Services

Central Region

4 March 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



Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type

Education & Care Service

Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

110 children, including up to 30 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys 72, Girls 63

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

January 2019

Date of this report

4 March 2019

Most recent ERO report(s)

Education Review

September 2014

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.

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.