1. Evaluation of First Class Education & Care (Bethlehem)
How well placed is First Class Education & Care (Bethlehem) to promote positive learning outcomes for children?
ERO’s findings that support this overall judgement are summarised below.
First Class Education & Care (Bethlehem) is located in the Tauranga suburb of Bethlehem near the edge of the Bethlehem College Campus. It is licensed to cater for a maximum of 50 children, including 15 up to the age of two years. The service aims to provide an environment where children are ‘happy, nurtured and enjoy genuine relationships with caring teachers who facilitate creative play and quality learning experiences’. The centre is one of five learning centres operated by Bethlehem Early Learning Centres, which is a company operating under the Christian Education Trust. The centre operates from 7.30 to 5.30 Monday to Friday.
The centre is made up of two main areas for children. One caters for children from eight months to two and a half years, while a second area is for children up to school age. Both areas include separate and extensive indoor and outdoor play spaces.
The head teacher is knowledgeable, experienced and committed to providing a quality education and care service. She, along with support from the Bethlehem Early Learning Centres’ manager, continues to provide stable and knowledgeable leadership for the team of teachers. The centre enjoys a low turnover of staff and this contributes to strong relationships evident in the centre between children and teachers.
Facilities to support staff are also extensive and enable teachers to undertake administration tasks, store resources, and maintain children’s assessment information in a spacious, modern and well- equipped setting.
Since the last ERO review in 2012 changes to the centre have included the review and development of:
- age-group areas, resulting in changing from three areas to two
- teacher mentoring processes
- teacher performance management systems
- a stronger relationship with local primary schools
- programme planning and assessment processes.
The Review Findings
The programme of education and care is made up of an effective blend of child-initiated and teacher-led exploration and learning. The planning of learning areas and displays of learning around the centre show that children are exposed to a rich and diverse curriculum, including a strong focus on literacy and mathematics learning. The organisation of the curriculum provides children with extensive choice, and access to a wide range of high-quality equipment throughout the day. There are many opportunities for children to be creative, which are supported by teachers and used in a highly effective way to promote children’s success and development.
Learning environments both inside and outdoors are very well resourced, attractive, clean and very well maintained. Teachers plan learning areas carefully to provide innovative and inviting places for children to explore and investigate. There are opportunities for parents to make a contribution to the programme and programme displays throughout the centre. A strong focus on promoting children’s social competencies is evident in the programme, teacher planning and interactions with children. Children play a valuable part in setting up the environment so that activities are more closely based on children’s ideas and preferences.
Since the last ERO review teachers and leaders have strengthened the way aspects of te reo and tikanga Māori are promoted throughout the centre. In addition, teachers are also developing the way they respond to families from an increasing range of cultures, especially in the area for younger children.
Programme planning is visible in the centre and strongly based on children’s interests and preferences. Important learning is documented in attractive assessment portfolios, which include a range of narratives and photographs that document children’s learning and development. During the day teachers skilfully notice children’s learning and sensitively intervene to support children’s developing theories and knowledge. ERO observed teachers engaging with children to support, challenge and extend their knowledge, language and ideas. Teachers frequently read to children, modelling appropriate language structures and encouraging them to talk about their learning. The programme for babies and toddlers is based on nurturing and responsive interactions, sensitively managed care routines, and ongoing communication with these young children.
Relationships between teachers and children are respectful and responsive to children’s need for education and care. Teachers have well-developed strategies to ensure daily care routines are used to promote meaningful learning. Strategies to manage children’s behaviour are also characterised by positive, timely interventions that support their development, rights and dignity.
Effective leadership and governance is being provided by the centre head teacher and Bethlehem Early Learning Centres’ manager. This is contributing to a shared sense of direction within the service, collaboration, and strong relational trust across the First Class team. Structures and processes for governance, management and administration are well developed and focused on continual improvement. There is good evidence that ongoing self review is leading to improved outcomes for children. Teachers and leaders have focused on moving from spontaneous review to planned and strategic review of major aspects of centre organisation and teacher practice, and this is contributing to continual improvement of the service. Thorough systems are in place to monitor children’s health and safety and promote children’s wellbeing.
Key Next Steps
Leaders and teachers acknowledge the benefits of continuing a focus on self review and ongoing development of assessment practices, which are likely to further promote high quality learning outcomes for children.
Management Assurance on Legal Requirements
Before the review, the staff and management of First Class Education & Care (Bethlehem) 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:
- 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; ratio
- 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 First Class Education & Care (Bethlehem) will be in four years.
Deputy Chief Review Officer Northern
18 May 2015