The Education Review Office is changing its approach to the way it conducts reviews of early childhood services. It is now seeking to streamline reviews of individual services which are under the same management or ownership group and placing more of the onus of review on to the ECE service management.
Aspects of the methodology of the new approach to evaluation are being trialled by ERO in about 35 stand-alone early childhood services, and a cluster review approach to enable ERO staff to use their time differently in centres that are part of an umbrella organisation or management group is to be trialled too before ERO plans to implement this new approach later in the year.
Currently the standard of facilities, child education and care, and operation of every early childhood education service licensed with the Ministry of Education is checked on a once three-yearly or more cycle by the Education Review Office. Reviews are intended to focus on outcomes for children and build on each early childhood service’s self-review.
In future the role of the Education Review Office is to change to being somewhat of a ‘meta evaluator’, assessing the goodness of, and relying on and using the self-review information provided by services in its evaluation of their quality. This represents a change in evaluation approach from essentially doing reviews on licensed early childhood centres and home-based ECE agencies to supporting and checking how well services are reviewing themselves. Initially this could mean a lot more hours for ERO staff but as early childhood services are able to show through their self-review documentation that they have an acceptable quality management system in place that is likely to mean high quality provision for children, then ERO’s role in reviewing and setting out expectations for improvement will become less.
Requiring more of early childhood services for self-review and reporting has the potential to work as an effective strategy for encouraging a greater emphasis on self-improvement and ownership of quality by ECE services. However, much would seem to depend on the level of knowledge held by managers and leaders within services in respect of pedagogy, change management and being able to meet ERO’s expectations and requirements for engaging in a self-review process and satisfactorily documenting this. To engage in self-review well, services will face complex questions around how to gather, analyse, and report data about what they do, how well they do it, and how to verify for example that parent opinion is being given due weight or that what children have learnt has been a direct result of teaching
When the name of an early childhood service, or group of services belonging to an ECE management group or owner, comes up for review ERO is planning to give it a self-report document to complete. ERO says its document will ask for a description of how the self-review undertaken within the service has led to improvements in governance and management, leadership, curriculum, and teaching and learning.
Early childhood services may be asked for proof that improvements have been made as a result of engaging in self-review. Documentation of ‘before’ and ‘after’ evidence (e.g. observations, parent feedback, staff verifications) may be necessary to show that an improvement has been made, and that this in some way is related to positive outcomes for all children attending the service.