The Education Review Office has published two new reports this week discussing the future of the early childhood curriculum and the way early childhood education services decide on priorities for learning.
In Working with Te Whāriki ERO has looked at the way early childhood services deal with the curriculum and whether it has become too familiar within the early childhood setting.
The report suggests that the way early childhood services implement Te Whāriki may mean it is less effective than it could be and that many services did not go beyond the framework of principles and strands laid out in the curriculum document.
It also suggests that the flexible nature of Te Whāriki and the fact that it is non-prescriptive can mean it relies too heavily on the knowledge of staff to implement it properly. A review of services found there was “considerable variation in the understanding of Te Whāriki and teacher practices”.
The report recommends that the Ministry of Education consider a formal review of Te Whāriki and identify where additional support is needed to help “early childhood services to design and implement a curriculum that is consistent with Te Whāriki and responsive to all children at their service”.
It also recommended that early childhood services took the opportunity to review the way they worked with Te Whāriki.
The second report entitled Priorities for Children’s Learning in Early Childhood Services also highlights areas where improvements could be made. This report looked at how services set priorities for learning and how they were reflected in the curriculum, in the assessment of children’s learning and in the self-review undertaken by the service.
Again, the report stated that there was considerable variation between services in how well they coped.
The report said services needed to take into account the thoughts of parents and the strengths and interests of the enrolled children in order to build a responsive curriculum and should also make sure their assessments include children’s learning (rather than simply recording what they do) and show a continuity of learning.
The report also highlighted the importance of responding to Maori and Pacific Island children, saying many services did not think about how they might help Maori children to achieve as Maori and Pacific Island children to achieve as Pacific Islanders. The report highlighted a tension between early childhood educators belief that all children should be treated the same and the need to work within Maori and Pacific Island cultures in order to help children from these backgrounds succeed.
In this report, ERO recommended that services should consider their assessment practices and self-review and that the Education Ministry focus on improving self-review in all services and making sure that Maori and Pacific Island children are given help to succeed.
The summary document released by ERO this week contains a number of questions it considers helpful for services to assess how well they are doing in setting priorities, implementing Te Whāriki, and assessment for learning and self-review.