ERO Insights – Issue 3 2020

Published: 10 Dec 2020
Early learning
Te reo Māori

Insights from Nicholas Pole, Te Tumu Whakarae mō te Arotake Mātauranga | Chief Executive and Chief Review Officer

Our last edition of ERO Insights arrived when schools and early learning services were experiencing Alert Level 3 in Auckland and Alert Level 2 in the rest of the country – a bit of a shock following 100 days without community transmission. New Zealand’s ability to quickly adapt and get the virus under control once again was heartening, but also a reminder of the need to learn from our experiences and be prepared for the future. Many of these findings were shared in our earlier reports on Learning in Lockdown.

Now at the end of a year full of challenges, I think it’s most important to highlight what we got right. A series of reports on Learning in a Covid-19 World will be published in early 2021 – but for now, we want to share with you how schools and early learning services overcame Covid-19 challenges in ways that will positively shape education going forward.

Looking to the 2021 year, we will all need to ensure that we are prepared for what will continue to be uncertainty but equally addressing some of the impact this year has had for many learners going into the new year.

It will be important to ensure that attendance and engagement are key priorities so that all learners are back in learning from the very start of the new term. A focus on learners transitioning to school or between schools will be a particularly vulnerable group. Early in the new year, identifying gaps in learning and having in place active teaching strategies to address these will also need to be considered.

In the spirit of learning and adapting, this issue also updates you on ERO’s new approaches to evaluation. Our new Operating Model for schools, which shifts the focus from event-based external reviews to supporting each school in a process of continuous improvement, is currently in the pilot phase at 75 schools across New Zealand. We’ve received positive feedback, as you can read below. ERO has also started the roll-out of our updated Early Childhood Education methodology. At the heart of this change is a focus on the things that matter most in the development of tamariki.

Finally, ERO found that students and whānau have a strong desire to incorporate more te reo Māori in everyday education. Our report, Nihinihi whenua, shares the voices of our tamariki and their whānau, and highlights the importance of school leaders and teachers valuing and prioritising te reo Māori in their learning environments.

Over the summer holidays, I hope we can take time to appreciate all that we’ve overcome this year. The sector has more than risen to the challenge and has truly showcased a commitment to their learners, their teachers and staff, their families and whanau and their communities.

In this issue:

  • Learning in a Covid-19 World: How early learning centres and schools stepped up to support students, whānau and staff
  • Ensuring ongoing compliance with Licensing Criteria and Regulatory Standards
  • High-quality early childhood education matters
  • ERO's new Operating Model for schools well into pilot phase
  • Students want more te reo Māori language in their schools

Learning in a Covid-19 world: How early learning centres and schools stepped up to support students, whānau and staff

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused significant disruption for the school and early childhood education sectors across New Zealand, due to lockdowns, social distancing and ongoing uncertainty. ERO surveyed 400 early childhood education leaders and 3000 principals and teachers from 750 schools, and interviewed 124 Māori-medium education communities across the country from May to September 2020 to understand how they responded. ERO is very grateful for the time of all those we spoke with while researching for this report.

There have been significant challenges for schools and early childhood education services in the English-medium and Māori-medium education sectors to overcome. It is clear from this research that schools and services have gone above and beyond to meet the needs of students, teachers and kaiako, and whānau.

They have:

  • Innovated, used digital technology and developed new ways of working that will support students going forward
  • Quickly transitioned to supporting student learning and wellbeing from afar, including for younger children
  • Strengthened relationships with whānau and increased their involvement in their children’s learning
  • Played a key role in bringing communities together and supporting them to respond to Covid-19
  • Taken care of teachers and kaiako.

“Our Kaiako were awesome. They supported us in every way” – tamariki

ERO has published today the following short research excerpts to share some of the key findings and examples of good practice about how schools and early learning services in the English-medium and Māori-medium education sectors have responded to Covid-19:

ERO will release the full findings from its Learning in a Covid-19 World research programme early in the new year. This will include the impact of Covid-19 on students, and the practical actions early childhood education services and schools can take in 2021 to support students, whānau, kaiako and teachers with the ongoing challenges of Covid-19.

Ensuring ongoing compliance with Licensing Criteria and Regulatory Standards

Based on what we are observing in the early childhood education sector we ask that you check the following areas as part of your systems for regular monitoring and review. It’s important you are meeting your obligations to provide a healthy and safe environment for children and that you maintain compliance with all Regulatory Standards and Licensing Criteria.

Please check:

  • physical safety including supervision, sleep procedures and monitoring, accident records, medication, hygiene practices, daily hazards checking, excursion policies and procedures, supervision of children’s eating, securing of heavy furniture and fixings
  • emotional safety including positive guidance, and meeting all of the requirements of the Children’s Act 2014
  • evacuation procedures and practices for fire and earthquake including at least 3 monthly drills for each of the potential events that could impact your service
  • suitable staffing including police vetting as part of the Safety Checking requirements.

Licensing Criteria and Regulatory Standards are on the Ministry of Education’s website: Rules for services

Ultimately it is the responsibility of each early learning service to remain vigilant about compliance with your legal obligations.

We suggest that you specifically timetable into your routines a check on each of the requirements of your licence in order to give yourself confidence, your staff confidence and your parents the confidence that your service is indeed a great place for children’s learning.

High-quality early childhood education matters

We know that the early years are a critical time for young children’s learning and development, particularly for the youngest children (birth to three years).

Our revised approach to external evaluation in early childhood services reflects current research and evaluation evidence about what matters most in the provision of high-quality early childhood education. It also takes on board changing societal contexts, including shifting patterns of parental employment and increasingly diverse cultural and educational aspirations.

We are implementing this new approach across the country. Our new approach includes a new framework and indicators, and new assurance review and quality evaluation processes.

New Framework and Indicators

ERO works to ensure that every early learning service is a great place to learn, has excellent teaching and contributes to the success and wellbeing of every learner.

Our new Framework and Indicators are designed to focus early childhood services and ERO evaluators on supporting children to develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, dispositions and working theories that support lifelong learning. They will form the basis of our external evaluations of centre-based early childhood services, and we hope centres will use them when they undertake their own internal evaluation.

Read more about the Ngā Ara Whai Hua: Quality Framework for Evaluation and Improvement in Centre-based Early Childhood Services.

Our new indicators of quality for early childhood services will be used to evaluate quality across the system, covering both the external evaluation done by ERO and the internal evaluation that services undertake themselves. Parents may also find them useful as a guide when choosing a service for their child.

ERO's new Operating Model well into pilot phase

ERO maintains a regular review programme to evaluate and report on the education and care of young people in schools. Under our new Operating Model, ERO will shift from event-based external reviews to supporting each school in a process of continuous improvement.

In Term 4, we started piloting our new model with 75 schools from across New Zealand. We are including schools of varying sizes and types, to achieve a cross-section of the New Zealand school system. This is allowing us to learn as we go and gain real-time feedback from schools and our evaluators.

Our commitment to schools

Our approach is to build trust and confidence in the new Operating Model and in ERO by engaging the sector on how best to make the model work in practice.

We want to ensure the new Operating Model is clearly communicated so each school can understand the new way of working, and what benefits the new model can deliver for them.

The detail will be key, and we will use our collective insights to get this right. We are working with key sector stakeholder groups to get their feedback. Our approach to the development of the model is iterative – if issues arise, adjustments can be made.

What are the main features of the new model?

An ERO Evaluation Partner will be assigned to work with a school’s Board, Principal and Leadership Team. Evaluators will have an ongoing relationship and work with a school over time.

This more differentiated approach will use an evaluation methodology that reflects individual schools’ context, culture and needs. It aims to strengthen the capability of all schools, including schools’ own deployment of internal evaluation and engagement with and accountability to whānau.

Schools and ERO will work together to report and plan key actions and next steps in continuous improvement.

Equity and excellence

ERO aims to establish a partnership role alongside each school, to support every school to be a great school and ensure that every child is a success.

ERO is committed to supporting improved outcomes and achieving equity for all learners, particularly Māori and priority learners. The principles that underpin the new model give priority to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi through a focus on partnerships to achieve desired outcomes.

The model has a focus on understanding the cultural context of each school community in order to best serve its needs.

Feedback so far

Schools have told us that our previous approach hasn’t worked well: we have heard, listened, and have developed the new operating model as a result.

ERO staff continue to work hard around the country to engage with the sector on our new approach, to listen and to act on the feedback received. We’re continuing to develop and evolve our model based on that feedback and this will continue throughout the piloting phase.

Some comments from those we have engaged with include:

  • “A promising start and a good concept. Finally, I will be able to tell my school’s story in full.”
  • “Collaboration, differentiation and linking everything to our strategic goals is pure genius.”
  • “New approach to evaluation and building relationships over time and school-led will prove beneficial in improving outcomes.”
  • “Really like the idea of having a reviewer to work with over time.”
  • “A positive move.”

We know what great schools do – we are committed to supporting each school to be a great school.

For more information:

New Schools Operating Model

New Schools Operating Model: Your-go-to guide [PDF,  269 KB]

Students want more te reo Māori language in their schools

In support of Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori 2020 the Education Review Office has today released the second report in its series on the current provision of te reo Māori language teaching and learning in New Zealand schools.

Nihinihi whenua – Valuing te reo Māori: Student and whānau aspirations provides a snapshot of student and whānau perspectives on the teaching of te reo. It follows the June publication of Te Tāmata Huaroa, which provides a review of the current status of te reo Māori in English medium school settings.

“Students and whānau spoke to us directly and openly about their aspirations for the language,” ERO Chief Executive Nicholas Pole says. “The four interrelated themes that emerged were: a desire to learn te reo Māori, valuing the importance of te reo Māori, prioritising te reo Māori, and strengthening capability in the education system to deliver the teaching of te reo Māori.

“One student told us ‘I want to learn to teach te reo Māori so I can teach the future generations and keep the reo alive’, and another that ‘Our principal tries to speak it a lot. It’s pretty powerful, he’s putting in an effort and that’s pretty cool in my opinion’.

“Whānau spoke of wanting ‘Te reo to be a language of communication, rather than just a ceremony’, and that ‘Schools need to connect with whānau and iwi so they know the right karakia, waiata and legends that belong to mana whenua’.”

Based on the voices shared in this report, we know that students and their whānau have a strong desire to learn te reo Māori as a part of their everyday schooling in English medium school settings, Mr Pole says. This desire is affirmed when they can see clearly that te reo Māori is valued and prioritised by school leaders and teachers in their learning environment.

“Our research found that a focus on capability building and improvement is needed to provide genuine learning opportunities in te reo in our schools.

“We need to focus on growing the capability of leaders and teachers, so that they may better deliver high-quality te reo Māori programmes. For this to be possible, the education system needs to provide high-quality professional development, time and resource to support all leaders and teachers who need this.

“Te reo Māori is a taonga of Aotearoa, guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi, and the schools that we talked with as part of this research want to do more to promote and grow it. This research series and ERO’s work programme that will follow are among the important steps in supporting the transformation required.”

ERO’s series of reports is informed by a representative sample of 102 English medium primary and secondary schools across Aotearoa. Subsequent projects will explore in more detail the extent, effectiveness and quality of te reo Māori teaching and learning in English medium settings.