Background
Stepping Stones Daycare Ltd provides a service for up to 35 children in an adapted villa in a residential area of Mt Eden. There are several play rooms and a separate room for children up to the age of two, who share the large, attractive outdoor area with older children.

The owners are very involved in the service. They are committed to supporting families, nurturing staff and providing high quality care and education for children in this community. They foster a sense of ‘home away from home’ based on aroha, manaaki and caring relationships. One of the owners, who is a registered teacher, works with the head teacher to manage day-to-day operations and lead the team of six registered teachers.

Since ERO’s 2012 review, the owners have upgraded indoor areas and improved flow to the outdoors. A major landscaping and design project has enhanced the outdoor learning environment for children. Further improvements are planned.

ERO’s 2012 report noted an emphasis on relationships and belonging, good levels of parent involvement, a focus on ongoing improvement and a supportive and collaborative teaching team. ERO reported that the centre was well led and managed and that self review guided improvement. These key features have been sustained. Since 2012 owners and teachers have responded well to ERO’s suggestions for improvement in self review, staff performance appraisal, assessment and programme planning. Ongoing external support and professional learning have been appreciated by staff.

The Review Findings
Children are settled and comfortable in the centre’s calm and inclusive atmosphere. They play together in small groups and enjoy conversations with their teachers. Teachers know the children and their families well. The owners lead a commitment to high levels of care and responsiveness. Children’s sense of belonging and their wellbeing are supported by warm and respectful relationships, familiar rituals and predictable daily rhythms.

The programme is largely led by children’s choices and by what teachers describe as children’s ‘urges’ to work with resources in a particular way. Teachers provide a variety of resources that can be used flexibly as part of children’s play. They aim to be unobtrusive observers and supporters of children’s learning. The owners’ and head teacher’s strong commitment to bicultural practice is reflected well in programmes and interactions. Basic te reo Māori is a familiar part of interactions with children and during kai time rituals.

Younger children up to the age of two have two dedicated teachers who provide warm, nurturing care. They support toddlers to join older children in the outdoors and occasionally in the main playrooms. The owner and teachers have worked hard to establish relationships with nearby schools. Teachers provide a high quality assessment report for children when they leave for school. They make clear links between Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, and the key competencies of the New Zealand school curriculum.

A daily ‘Moa time’ provides a separate, more structured programme for older children. There are good examples where Moa time builds on children's particular interests and is linked with planning for the main programme. Teachers have begun to plan more specifically to integrate literacy, mathematics and science throughout the main programme.

Teachers work well together. Their assessment of children’s learning is well recorded, shared and used to reflect on and plan programmes. Parents/whānau have good opportunities to share their aspirations for their children. They receive very good information about the programme and about their children’s learning. Learning stories show teachers’ very good knowledge of each child. Teachers focus on children’s ‘urges’ and developing dispositions for learning. They could now also highlight literacy and mathematics, and learning in other curriculum areas in the context of children’s play.

The owners are committed to providing a flexible, responsive and supportive work environment for staff. Their strategic direction is clear and they consult with staff about centre development. A sound foundation of policies and procedures guides centre operations. Self review is well established, informed by research and supported by professional development. There is a commitment to ongoing professional learning and good support for the head teacher in her leadership role.

  • the introduction of regular, formal teacher reflections on the quality of their practice
  • clearer links between the owners’ strategic goals and an annual action plan
  • professional development that helps to build leadership capacity across the teaching team
  • work unpacking the centre’s philosophy statement to more clearly identify what teachers’ and managers’ roles are, and the desired outcomes for children.
  • more explicitly involving children and whānau in assessment and programme planning
  • recognising and celebrating individual children’s cultural heritage in their portfolios and as part of their curriculum planning and development.

A key step for strengthening self review and teachers’ reflections is to develop more evaluative thinking. This will help staff to identify goals for enhancing provision for children and to identify appropriate professional development. Developing and documenting indicators of highly effective practice, alongside the centre’s philosophy would also help to strengthen self review. These moves would support the owners’ longstanding focus on continual improvement.

  • curriculum
  • premises and facilities
  • health and safety practices
  • governance, management and administration.
  • 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 Stepping Stones Daycare Ltd will be in three years.

Graham Randell

Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern

12 February 2016

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.