Common advice to parents is to check the latest Education Review Office (ERO) report on an early childhood service before deciding to use it. But this advice is wrong.
What you are not told about the Education Review Office and ERO reports
ERO is not a licensing or regulatory body. It may happen to see that a service is not meeting a legal requirement, but it is powerless to do anything about it. The Ministry of Education is responsible for ensuring that all ECE services meet their legal obligations all of the time. The Ministry of Education, and not ERO, is responsible for investigating complaints and monitoring service compliance with regulations and licensing criteria.
Scheduled visits can be as far apart as 4 years for early childhood services perceived by evaluators to be doing very well. This is a problem because service practices and performance usually do not remain static over-time, for example there may be changes in staff, management, the financial position of the service, and family demographics. An ERO report on an ECE service can become seriously dated before the next review is done.
Three to four years between visits by reviewers is a long time and children can be attending during a period of time in which their service is never actually checked on by ERO. Before 2014 the maximum period of time between reviews was 3 years but due to resource issues (staffing and budget) at the ERO office this was changed to 4 years.
How meticulous a service has been with paperwork and put staff resources into preparing the kind of documented evidence that ERO reviewers have on their checklist determines whether it gets a positive report from ERO or not. This leaves open the possibility of a service that is very good in practice for children on a day-to-day basis receiving a less favourable report than one that ‘presents’ well to the reviewers in being able to provide the paperwork and talk the talk.
Evaluators do not need to hold an ECE recognised qualification or have previous experience in the ECE field. The expertise that evaluators are required to have is expertise in evaluation only. They work across ECE, primary and secondary school sectors.
The Education Review Office gives an ECE service 4 to 8 weeks’ notice before a visit so that the service can get ready for the review – e.g., make sure it has sufficient qualified teachers on the day and complete any paperwork that it knows ERO wants it to provide. ERO uses a high trust model, and the views of owners and operators/managers are taken and used by ERO to form part of the overall judgements ERO makes about the service.
ERO is more interested in what the service says about how well it is working with parents than in talking with or incorporating parents and children’s views and experiences into the evaluation
Home-based ECE agencies are reviewed by ERO often without reviewers visiting the actual homes where children are being cared for and educated.
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