An enhanced focus on quality and improvement in Early Learning Services

Published: 18 May 2021
Early learning

Early learning services: The new evaluation framework

The early years are critical to ensuring that children thrive throughout their lives. High quality early education contributes to the foundations of a child’s development, ensuring that they are strong in their culture and identity, and are resilient, confident and active learners.

We are presently revising our approach to external evaluation in early childhood services to reflect current research and evaluation evidence about what matters most in the provision of high-quality early childhood education. 

Changing societal contexts, including shifting patterns of parental employment, and increasingly diverse cultural and educational aspirations have led to changes in the early childhood education (ECE) sector. We are updating our approach to review and evaluation, initially in centre-based early childhood services. 

While our new methodology and framework shapes ERO’s evaluation of service quality, it is also intended to better support services in their own evaluation for improvement. The indicators also provide parents and whānau with a clearer understanding of what matters most for their child and their learning.  

Focus on quality and improvement

Ngā Ara Whai Hua - the new evaluation for improvement framework aims to raise quality and support services in their continuous improvement journey. We are implementing this in a phased way through Akanuku / Assurance Reviews and Akarangi / Quality Evaluations.

Our new approach will involve ERO having stronger oversight of the role of governing organisations in meeting their quality assurance and improvement accountabilities. 

The indicators of quality (Te Ara Poutama) are designed to focus early childhood services and ERO evaluators on the things that support quality learning experiences for all children and their families within a service. The indicators help to identify a services strengths and those areas that may require additional attention.

This includes supporting children’s developing knowledge, skills, attitudes, dispositions and working theories that support lifelong learning. They form the foundation used to evaluate quality across the system and are designed to provide guidance for evaluation across the sector, covering both the external evaluation done by ERO and the internal evaluation and self-review that services undertake themselves. 

ERO expects early childhood services to embed the indicators into their own ongoing evaluation and planning activity. Services should take time to understand the indicators and use them to evaluate themselves. This includes documenting and reflecting in the Annual Plan (see GMA8) the next steps your service will take, based on either your own evaluation in relation to the indicators or as a result of ERO’s external evaluation.  

The approaches 

Ngā Ara Whai Hua sets out the approaches to reviewing and evaluating quality in early childhood services.  

  • Akanuku | Assurance Reviews assess whether services are meeting regulatory standards and has been implemented progressively since July 2019 
  • Akarangi | Quality Evaluations evaluate the extent to which services have the learning and organisational conditions to support children’s learning.
  • All services are expected to reflect within their Annual Plans, key actions that they will take to further improve as a consequence of the ERO evaluation.

Feedback from services

Feedback from services: 

“Thank you for the verbal feedback you gave us during and at the end of the Akarangi | Quality Evaluation. It has been a very empowering and positive experience and we have subsequently been busy strengthening areas identified and resourcing these appropriately. Our teaching team is energised about this and enjoying the process along with our whānau. Thank you so much for the heads up about the Ngāti Kahungunu Mātauranga Refresh Strategy detailing their educational aspirations which I have downloaded and shared as an ongoing vital touchstone for us.” - Maraekakaho Early Learning Centre, Hawke’s Bay 

“We are happy with the results and are looking forward to improve. We were really impressed with the ERO team. Oh my word they looked at everything. They have set us up for an amazing journey ahead. They were very professional and so helpful.  I am happy for your guys to come anytime; I felt like ERO was working alongside us.” - Inspired Kids Early Learning Centre, Rotorua 

We appreciate that the methodology is new not only for those in the sector but for us as well. We encourage services to speak with your coordinator in the first instance or contact ERO managers with any concerns about the process. We appreciate knowing what has gone well with the process, along with specific details of any challenges.  

More information is available on our website: How ERO reviews early childhood services | Education Review OfficeWe publish regular newsletters for Early Childhood Education Services that are currently being introduced to the new evaluation for improvement framework, Ngā Ara Whai Hua.