Magic Sparks Cuba

Education institution number:
Service type:
Education and Care Service
Not Applicable
Total roll:

198 Cuba Street, Palmerston North

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1 Evaluation of Magic Sparks Cuba

How well placed is Magic Sparks Cuba 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.


Magic Sparks Cuba is located in central Palmerston North. It is licensed for 50 children, including 25 aged up to two years. One-third of the roll are Māori. Care and education is provided in separate learning spaces, for children aged over three years and under three years. The two age groups regularly spend time together.

The Magic Sparks philosophy emphasises emotional intelligence, empowerment, discovery and bicultural perspectives.

The managing director and general manager oversee business operations and professional development across four Magic Sparks services. An operation support person and area manager support centre leaders with day-to-day operation. A cook is employed to provide meals for the children.

At the time of this review, the area manager was overseeing the centre while the service was seeking a permanent centre manager. In 2018, some teaching staff have been working between Magic Sparks' two Palmerston North services, to retain consistency for children while several teachers are on extended leave. Most teachers are qualified.

This is the first ERO review for Magic Sparks Cuba.

The Review Findings

Children’s wellbeing, belonging and transitions through the centre are well supported. Routines are familiar and children confidently participate in group times, joining in favourite games and action songs. They have many opportunities for active physical play. Teachers speak to children with warmth and respect. They note their individual and group interests, providing resources in response. Teachers are being supported by the acting centre manager to consider how to add challenge and complexity to children's play and learning.

Teachers are aware of their obligations to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and integrate te reo Māori into their conversations in ways that support children's learning. Waiata, karakia and visual displays enhance the bicultural curriculum. ERO's evaluation affirms teachers' identification that their next step is to build their knowledge of bicultural practices, in consultation with whānau and iwi, that are specific and meaningful to their learning community.

A strong policy and procedure framework is in place to guide teacher practice. Managers provide useful guidance on practices intended to encourage children's leadership, build social competence, and to identify and respond to children's diverse needs. Teachers are growing their capacity to enact these in practice.

Infants and toddlers benefit from unhurried, nurturing interactions. Sensory exploration and physical challenge are well promoted. Teachers should more consistently maximise care moments as opportunities for very young learners to make choices and lead their learning.

Managers agree that formally establishing the service’s priority learning outcomes for children, in consultation with whānau, is a next step. These priorities should then be unpacked into agreed teaching practices and used to guide decision-making and curriculum planning.

Teachers use a wide range of useful strategies to communicate with families. Information about children's diverse cultures, languages and identities is gathered. Teachers are beginning to refer to these in documentation, as well as explore practices that are specific to Māori and Pacific children. They should continue to grow their knowledge and practice in this area, in partnership with families.

Improving assessment, planning and evaluation is a priority next step. Managers should work with teachers to develop a cycle of documentation to purposefully promote new learning. Children's portfolios should consistently show how teachers:

  • regularly liaise with whānau to collaboratively assess and plan for their child’s learning

  • use information about children's home and cultural contexts to enrich teaching strategies

  • plan, enact and evaluate next steps that challenge children.

Useful internal evaluation processes are becoming established. There is a strong focus on exploring research and best practice. The use of measurable, outcome-focused indicators of success should support a more evaluative process.

Magic Sparks management is responsive and focused on continuous improvement. Senior leaders attend to teachers' wellbeing, team dynamics and professional growth. Teacher appraisal processes encourage regular reflection and critique. Goals align with strategic planning, including a number of well-considered areas for development. ERO's evaluation affirms management's current focus on increasing the consistency of effective teaching practices.

Key Next Steps

Priority next steps are:

  • establishing children's learning priorities

  • ensuring these priorities, as well as agreed teaching expectations, are consistently evident in practice

  • further improving assessment, planning and evaluation processes

  • building reciprocal, culturally responsive parent partnership practices.

Management Assurance on Legal Requirements

Before the review, the staff and management of Magic Sparks Cuba 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 Magic Sparks Cuba will be in three years.

Phil Cowie

Director Review and Improvement Services

Central Region

18 December 2018

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


Palmerston North

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 25 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys 22, Girls 18

Ethnic composition

Other ethnic groups


Percentage of qualified teachers

0-49% 50-79% 80%+

Based on funding rates

80% +

Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2


Meets minimum requirements

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

October 2018

Date of this report

18 December 2018

Most recent ERO report(s)

No previous ERO reports

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.