Totara Grove Playcentre - 12/05/2017

1 Evaluation of Totara Grove Playcentre

How well placed is Totara Grove 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.


Totara Grove Playcentre operates as a parent cooperative on the grounds of Totara Grove School in Tikipunga, Whangarei. Centre members are predominantly Pākehā families with a small number from other cultures. They base their practices on Playcentre philosophy of families learning and growing together.

The centre is open for three sessions a week and caters for up to 30 children, including up to 15 under two years. Children learn and play together as a mixed-age group. At present the centre has 10 children on the roll. Many families send their older children to the local kindergarten or childcare centre before they go to school. All members are engaged in Playcentre courses.

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 national restructure of Playcentre Aotearoa 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

There are trusting relationships between children and adults in the centre. Children happily play alongside and with each other in groups, and friendships are becoming evident. They share games successfully, and are settled and confident about making choices in their play. Adults carefully consider play spaces and resources to match children's play needs, including those of infants and toddlers.

Parents stay at the centre with children and encourage their play. It would be useful for parents to place a stronger focus on following children's lead in their play. Engaging children in open-ended conversations about what they are doing would help to identify their interests and support their oral literacy and competence as communicators.

Members are committed to learning and practising te reo and tikanga Māori. They include waiata and karakia at each session. The print-rich environment supports learning and displays reflect family cultures. Centre members receive good support from Association personnel.

The culture in the centre is welcoming and friendly, and transitions into the centre are well managed. Parents spoken to during the review have a sense of belonging and contribution that ensures the building of their professional knowledge and learning together.

Parents work well together and support each other to provide activities that children might enjoy. Centre members know the Playcentre vision and philosophy well and base their work together on these documents. They have developed well linked annual and strategic planning to guide their work.

Parents share information about their children to ensure that members know about each child's strengths and needs. The resulting Day Book, wall displays and portfolios for individual children demonstrate members' good intentions to understand all the children in the centre. As members proceed through adult education programmes, they could include children's dispositions and interests more clearly in written records.

Since the 2013 ERO review, centre members who held key roles have left and the majority of members are new to Playcentre. The group of new members has formed strong collegial relationships. Members currently have the required Playcentre qualifications to claim funding for one session each week. A more experienced member has been allocated a leadership role to fill this gap.

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

Key Next Steps

Centre members agree that key next steps are to continue:

  • building bicultural practices
  • developing internal evaluation
  • revising annual and strategic plans.

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 Totara Grove 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 Totara Grove Playcentre will be in three years. 

Steffan Brough
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern (Acting)

12 May 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 


Tikipunga, Whangarei

Ministry of Education profile number


Licence type


Licensed under

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

Number licensed for

30 children, including up to 18 aged under 2

Service roll


Gender composition

Boys      7
Girls       3

Ethnic composition



Reported ratios of staff to children

Under 2


Better than minimum requirements

Over 2


Better than minimum requirements

Review team on site

March 2017

Date of this report

12 May 2017

Most recent ERO report(s)


Education Review

September 2013

Education Review

April 2010

Education Review

June 2004

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.