Education Review Office

ERO Reports on Early Childhood Services and What You Can Expect

education review office logoThe Education Review Office does not have any power to enforce and police standards in ECE services.  Policing and enforcement is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and not ERO. 

The Education Review Office does not provide advice and support to struggling services or to services that may already have good practices in place but are keen to learn what else they can do to improve and how to do this. 

So what does ERO do then?  

  1. It visits early childhood services and prepares a report using a standardised format on what it sees as going well and not going well using a format that is standardised for all services.
  2. The reports are made publicly available on ERO's website.
  3. The reports help the Government to know if its spending on ECE is being effective. 


The Education Review Office and What You Can Expect

Usually two ERO staff will visit the early childhood service and spend a day and sometimes longer mostly looking at documentation and talking with the service managers/ owners. As little as 30 minutes of this time may be spent by a reviewer(s) in the play area and observing children and teachers. They draft a report which is discussed and negotiated with the service managers and owners.   

Services owners/ mangers are informed by ERO well in advance of the review date so that they can prepare and make sure all the paper-work etc is ready.  Spot checks and unannounced visits are not made.

children looking at their assessment portfolios

While the ERO reports on early childhood services are useful in giving a snap-shot view of the service on the day or two days that ERO reviewers visited, the reports alone cannot provide sufficient information needed for parents to make judgments about the quality of a service for their child.  

Visits can be up to 4 years (sometimes over) apart.  So the latest report published by ERO on a service may not have been carried out under the current staffing at the service or under the current ownership.  The latest report available from ERO may be very positive on a service, even though the service may have since undergone changes that have seen standards decline.  Which is why no parent considering a service for their child, or person considering working at a service, should take the word of the latest ERO report but should instead do their own careful homework on the quality of the service. 


How Much Should We Value ERO Reviews of ECE Services?

An article by Warwick Marshall 

If you have ever bought a car or a house you may have arranged a pre-purchase inspection report so you can be assured it isn’t a lemon or a leaky home. How much would you value a car inspection if done by a train mechanic?

You might feel better if it was done by a truck mechanic because a truck is more similar to a car than a train. Even better perhaps if a panel beater turned up. Though, perhaps you might have assumed the person inspecting the car would actually be experienced and qualified with, well, cars!  A car mechanic perhaps?

How about ERO reviews of ECE services?  How much should we value and trust them? 

Do you feel assured knowing that the reviewer will have some kind of tertiary qualification? Maybe you can rest easy knowing the reviewer will usually have some management experience in an educational setting. Do you feel better knowing the reviewer will have undergone a training process to become an evaluator and will participate in professional development? Though, perhaps you might have assumed the person reviewing an ECE service would actually be experienced and qualified in, well, ECE!  An ECE teacher perhaps?

How many ERO reviewers are ECE, primary or secondary qualified? How many are without teaching qualifications?  What proportion of ECE services are reviewed by an actual ECE qualified reviewer? Compare this with the proportion of primary and secondary schools reviewed by a reviewer with actual relevant qualifications. Unfortunately it seems that this data is currently unavailable.  

For a house pre-purchase inspection would it make sense to have the builder inspect the wiring, the plumber to check the load bearing wall or the electrician to report on the kitchen sink?  Certainly a qualified builder can inspect most things but you’ll find some very big disclaimers on the inspection report and advice to the buyer to consult with the ‘experts’ (electrician, plumber) to be sure of no problems. And, you’d be a mug if you’re a builder doing inspections without indemnity insurance; getting it wrong could cost you hundreds of thousands.

So what is the cost of ERO reviewers getting it wrong?  It likely won’t cost the ERO or the reviewers anything because no-one will know they got it wrong.  But, the cost to the children could be on going misery, developmental problems and insecure futures all of which accumulate to massive costs to society. 

However, maybe we need not fret because ERO assures that the specialist expertise needed is evaluation, not sector expertise. The reviewers follow a manual of standard procedures, use criteria and work in teams to make robust judgements. And, a partnership approach with the ECE service means their perspective contributes to the overall judgments too.  Be reassured that a reviewer qualified in ECE may from time to time actually review an ECE service.

Comments received from members on this article

  • One of the things I have always wondered about is the way centres know well in advance when the review is going to be so it is easy to get things up to date, bring in more equipment or staff for the day so things look better. How would it be using the motoring analogy if instead of roadside checks for warrants and registration you were sent a letter that in three months’ time you were to call in at your local police station on a certain day to show them you had a current warrant and registration and this happened every three years. I bet a lot of people would only get them done every three years and the rest of the time wouldn't bother. This is how I think ERO reviews work. There should be spot checks if they are to find anything out. 
  • I spoke to Iona Holsted who is now the head of the Ministry of Education a few years ago when she headed ERO and I suggested spot checks to her. The response was lukewarm and as I recall was something along the lines of "We have too many centres to see to do spot checks". I remain baffled by this when the ERO's stated intention is "The child, the heart of the matter". It seems to me that a more accurate statement would be "Paperwork, the heart of the matter"! 

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