This report highlights some features of high quality and poor quality services. These are not definitive or by any means complete. They are, however, useful as a starting point for further discussion and debate about quality both in early childhood services and in the wider early childhood sector.
Effective leadership is vital in high quality early childhood education. The role of well-qualified and experienced leaders in leading learning rather than just focusing on managing the day-to-day operation of the service is crucial to improving quality. Recommendations in ERO’s recent national evaluation reports highlight the need for effective, professional leadership to improve assessment practice, self review and the responsiveness of services to Māori children and their whānau. This requires ongoing support for leaders at all levels of the sector to build leadership capacity and capability.
Regular, planned and targeted professional development is shown to have a positive influence on managers’ and educators’ practice. Services need to be pro-active in identifying priorities for development and seek relevant support either from within their service or from an external provider.
An ongoing issue in early childhood education has been the difficulty some services have faced in meeting qualification requirements. ERO has found that having all educators qualified does not on its own ensure high quality education for children, where other aspects are absent. Although qualifications are important, it is the combination of the factors discussed in this report that contributes to the overall quality of provision for children.
Where services are experiencing difficulty or need additional help, in areas identified by ERO and/or by the service, support needs to be timely and focused on building capability and capacity. A stronger accountability and compliance focus may be necessary for some services along with a wider range of interventions. Opportunities for high quality services to work collaboratively with other services in clusters or in regions may be useful.
Underpinning high quality provision is the capacity of services to review their own performance and improve practice. Through ongoing, robust self review services can find out what is working well and demonstrate what this means for all children at their service. They can also identify what they need to work on to improve quality.
ERO’s external evaluation in individual services is an opportunity for them to discuss what they know about quality in their service.
ERO’s Framework and Resources for Early Childhood Education Reviews 1states:
In ERO’s experience, the quality of self review in the early childhood sector is variable. Where services are carrying out high quality self review, the results of self review will be used to inform ERO evaluations. In many services, however, self review is not highly developed. In such cases ERO reviews will aim, through the external evaluation process, to support the development of self review within the early childhood sector.
Self review can help services consider what high quality looks like and engage managers and educators in discussions with ERO about improvement and quality. External review and self review can be used together to bring about ongoing improvement.
Appendix 1 includes ERO’s Chain of Quality and lists questions services can use to review aspects of quality. These are based on the evaluative questions in ERO’s Framework and Resources for Early Childhood Education Reviews2 and on The Chain of Quality.
Appendix 2 is a list of ERO’s national evaluation reports about early childhood education published between 1994 and 2010. Some of these reports include indicators of good practice that services could use in their self review. Reports are available on ERO’s website www.ero.govt.nz, or on request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.