Whangarei Heads Playcentre - 26/06/2017

1 Evaluation of Whangarei Heads Playcentre

How well placed is Whangarei Heads Playcentre 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.


Whangarei Heads Playcentre is a well-established centre. It operates as a parent cooperative and centre practices are based on the Playcentre philosophy of families learning and growing together. Children learn and play in a mixed age group. Parents work together to plan and provide programmes for their children, and to manage the day-to-day operation of the centre.

The centre is open for one session each week and caters for children from birth to school age. Centre members are predominantly Pākehā families with a small number of whānau Māori. A recent increase in the roll has prompted members to consider opening for another day during the week. Some families use Parua Bay Playcentre to provide extra sessions for their children.

Since the 2013 ERO report centre members have made significant changes to the centre environment. A recent full renovation of the indoor area has improved weather-proofing and the amount of light indoors.

The centre is part of the Northland Playcentre Association. The Association is the umbrella organisation for 22 centres in Northland, many of which are semi-rural. The Association provides systems to help members manage their centres and support their children's learning. It also provides adult education programmes for Playcentre qualifications. As part of a current Playcentre Aotearoa national restructure there will be a new regional manager and new centre support roles.

This review was part of a cluster of six reviews in the Northland Playcentre Association.

The Review Findings

Children and families at Whangarei Heads enjoy the natural environment the site provides. Members have made good use of the space available to create interesting ways for children to explore and engage in a wide variety of play experiences. Adults work in strongly collaborative ways to provide well for their children. Their enthusiasm and purpose has a noticeably positive effect on children's learning, wellbeing and sense of belonging. Children are trusting and talkative with adults and play cooperatively with friends.

Adults work closely with children, talking to them about their play and providing good prompts for children to share their own knowledge and ideas. Adults' strengths are well used to add depth to programmes. Members are undertaking the adult training provided by the Association, and levels of Course achievement are high. This is helping to sustain the quality of programmes.

Centre members are currently engaged in an extended internal evaluation of the quality of provision for children up to two years of age. A growing understanding of these children's play needs and changes in the centre layout and the available resources, are making a positive difference.

The centre's 2016 plans included the need to upgrade the interior of the old building that houses the centre. This upgrade is making a difference for centre members. New wall boards in a number of places, have made it possible for members to improve displays of important information, including documentation about their children's interests. This information is guiding planning and programmes to support children's learning.

Children's portfolios include learning stories and artwork that track children's participation in the programme and the development of their friendships with other children. Many children leave the centre when they are able to attend the local kindergarten. This means that the majority of children are young. Members work effectively to ensure that the programme meets their emotional and physical needs.

Centre members are eager to increase their recognition of the importance of te reo and tikanga Māori in their programmes. Waiata and karakia are used more regularly and some members use te reo Māori intentionally in their interactions with children. Support from Association personnel should help members to build their confidence and consistency in using and learning more about bicultural practices.

The Association management team takes responsibility for specific tasks relating to the efficient operation of Playcentres. They actively foster emergent leadership to sustain the Association and centre viability. The Association provides good support to help Playcentres remain well placed to provide positive learning outcomes for children.

Key Next Steps

Centre members agree that the key next steps are to continue to:

  • develop assessment, planning and evaluation processes to more clearly reflect children's learning

  • strengthen bicultural understanding and the integration of te reo and tikanga Māori in the centre

  • implement planned building upgrades and maintenance.

To help strengthen operations in all Northland centres, new regional support personnel should consider ways to:

  • determine the best strategies to encourage centre members to take greater responsibility for all aspects of centre operations, including assessment, programme planning and evaluation

  • continue to increase emphasis on and financial support for the Kaiāwhina role in supporting centre members' bicultural understanding and proficiency

  • strengthen members' understanding of the need for succession planning and close alignment between strategic and annual plans for ongoing improvement, as well as operational plans for day-to-day management and maintenance

  • support centre members to recognise their role as facilitators of children's learning, social competence and independence.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Whangarei Heads Playcentre 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 Whangarei Heads Playcentre will be in three years.

Violet Tu'uga Stevenson

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

26 June 2017 

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 


Whangarei Heads

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type


Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

23 children, including up to 12 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys 10 Girls 8

Ethnic composition



Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2


Meets minimum requirements

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

March 2017

Date of this report

26 June 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)


Education Review

September 2013

Education Review

July 2010

Education Review

May 2007

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.