Deciding what matters here

Ko Te Whāriki te mokopuna. Ko te mokopuna Te Whāriki.

Te Whāriki is the child. The child is Te Whāriki.

Key ideas

Te Whāriki sets out the principles, strands, goals, and learning outcomes for young children’s learning. The learning outcomes are broad statements of valued learning, which encompass knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions that grow and strengthen over time. This broad framework enables early childhood services to weave their own distinctive, culturally responsive, and contextually relevant curriculum, based on what they believe is important for the children in their setting.

Each service defines a vision for their learners; a vision that is defined by the knowledge, beliefs, aspirations, and values of kaiako, parents, whānau, and community. Thoughtful and evidence-informed planning, evaluation, and assessment help kaiako plan for and respond to learning.

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Stories of practice

Teacher and child

Integrating infants, toddlers, and young children into a mixed-age environment: Prioritising sharing, caring, and social obligation

A puna kōhungahunga in Auckland made a decision to review their arrangement of separating infants from older children for much of the day. Their motivation to do so came from reflecting on a reading about better strengthening educational outcomes for Māori children and sharing their understandings of Māori views on quality teaching and learning.

Recognising that children interact daily in collective groups such as whānau, iwi, and hapū made it easy to decide to provide a group learning environment at the puna. This change has helped tuakana-teina relationships to flourish and has fostered a range of social competencies, such as manaaki and caring for others.


Fremaux, M., & Liley, K. (2014). Mā te tuakana te teina e tōtika ai, mā te teina anō te tuakana e tōtika ai: Tuakana and teina learn from one another. The First Years: Ngā Tau Tuatahi. New Zealand Journal of Infant and Toddler Education, 16(1), 14–17.

Teacher and two children

Valuing Samoan language, culture, identity, and faith

Fetu Taʻiala Ā‘oga ‘Āmata is located in Mangere, Auckland and is a full immersion Samoan language setting that caters for 36 children aged from under two years to school age.

Their key priorities for children’s learning are to maintain the Samoan language, culture, and values (fa’a Samoa). These priorities were developed through discussions with parents and aiga who share their goals, aspirations, and expectations with teachers.

Teaching practice supports children to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes linked to the setting’s priorities. Conversations are rich in Samoan language, helping children to become confident and capable in the language. Children are active and confident participants in activities that foster Samoan language, culture, and values.

Teachers work together to ensure clear links are made between planning, assessment, and evaluation processes for individuals and groups of children. Assessment portfolios are a record of children’s learning and development and have a strong focus on next steps to improve outcomes for children.

The curriculum is designed to promote a feeling of partnership and provide an environment that fosters the holistic development of all children. An emergent curriculum integrates children’s interests and play with the centre’s identified priorities for the children’s learning.

Teachers plan weekly to extend children’s learning and follow a self-review process that includes planning the focus, gathering and documenting evidence, reflecting and evaluating, and revisiting to acknowledge improvements.

Adapted from:

Education Review Office. (2013). Priorities for children's learning in early childhood services: Good practice. Wellington, New Zealand.

Adult and child reading

Weaving Te Whāriki with Playcentre philosophy

Kaniere Playcentre is located on the outskirts of Hokitika and caters for children aged from under two years to school age. The Playcentre philosophy, strongly influences their curriculum. alongside the strands of Te Whāriki and the children’s development of dispositions.

Parents worked together to identify the following priorities for children’s learning:

  • to grow and develop positive and useful skills, knowledge, and attitudes
  • to be affirmed as individuals
  • to develop generosity of spirit, respect, endeavour, aroha, and integrity.

Teaching practices at the Playcentre reflect these priorities.

Assessment of children’s learning shows children’s involvement in the curriculum and highlights next steps. Links to the principles and strands of Te Whāriki and dispositions are included, along with notes about how these are being supported.

All parents contribute to profiles and openly discuss children’s learning with other parents. Programmes for individual children focus on a relevant strand and goal from Te Whāriki and dispositions to be developed. They also make specific suggestions about how to support each child’s further learning.

Curriculum planning sheets bring together individual programmes and information from parents. Parents reflect on each session and discuss assessment information to inform future sessions. Planning meetings each term focus on children’s needs and interests and decisions about resourcing the curriculum.

Adapted from:

Education Review Office. (2013). Priorities for children's learning in early childhood services: Good practice. Wellington, New Zealand.

Two children playing

Prioritising inclusion, with a focus on education for all

Building all children’s mana is a key focus in Te Whāriki. Botany Downs Kindergarten has prioritised inclusion of all children, including those requiring additional support for learning.

There are many examples in the report (see the link below) that illustrate this priority, including:

  • the preparation of the environment and specific visual communication tools to ensure a child and their family felt welcomed from their very first day

  • the teachers’ recognition of the value of these visual communication tools, originally designed to help children on the autistic spectrum, for all children in the kindergarten

  • the installation of a sound augmentation system to ensure that a teacher can speak in a quiet voice yet be heard by all children.

Many people assumed that the kindergarten would provide specific help, equipment, and materials only for children with difficulties or impairments. Instead, they focused on the whole environment and aspects of teaching that enhanced the participation and learning for all children. They made changes that were likely to be beneficial for all, while reducing barriers for children with additional needs.


Glass, B., Baker. K., Ellis, R., Bernstone, H., & Hagan, B. (2010). COI Botany Downs Kindergarten: Inclusion at Botany Downs Kindergarten Centre of Innovation 2006–2008.

Two children painting

Prioritising and supporting children’s friendship skills development

At Myers Park KiNZ in Auckland, the transient nature of families in the central city meant that the centre had a high turnover of children attending. This transience sometimes impacted on children’s ability to make friends, therefore "friendship-making" became a learning priority for the kindergarten.

Video footage showed a group of boys making aeroplanes with Lego and helped the teachers to realise that one 4-year-old boy, Caleb, was attempting to use a number of strategies, unsuccessfully, to try to make friends. From analysis of this video, Caleb’s working theories about friendships appeared to include that you need to have something in common to be a friend, take an interest in what peers like to do, play in the same kinds of ways as peers, and talk with peers to become accepted as part of the group. He had an expectation that if he followed the “rules” of friendship activities he could become friends with this group of boys. But it wasn’t that simple. The responses of teachers were critical to his learning about being friends. Further observations and discussion with his parents helped teachers to develop a plan to support him. Strategies were developed to support him to develop independence and make friends. Positive changes were observed as Caleb began to develop confidence that also supported his smoother transition to school later on.


Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2016). Collaborative meaning making using video footage: Teachers and researchers analyse children’s working theories about friendship. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal.

Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2014). Inquiring minds, meaningful responses: Children’s interests, inquiries and working theories. Final report to Teaching and Learning Research Initiative. Wellington: NZCER.

Child doing a puzzle

Prioritising becoming ecologically sustainable in early childhood education

Connections with the local community and attending to matters of wider, global concern were emphases in Collectively Kids’ philosophy. They therefore prioritised sustainability in their curriculum and wider centre practices. Teachers identified ways children came to understand about taking responsibility for the centre (“who is going to tidy this mess?”) and the wider community (donating money to support building schools in the Solomon Islands and making election posters that incorporated children’s ideas about what is important to them).

The article below notes that “rather than feel disempowered by the complexity and urgency of addressing climate change, teachers, children, families, and community are engaged in an ongoing process of change, which arises out of a commitment to local and global transformation” (p. 6).


Duhn, I. with Bachmann, M., & Harris, K. (2010). Becoming ecologically sustainable in early childhood education. Early Childhood Folio, 14(1), 2–6.

Reflective questions

Use these questions in team discussions to guide you through the process of establishing and reviewing your setting’s curriculum and learning priorities.

  • What is the collective vision for children in this setting? Who do we want our children to be and become? What worlds do our children live in and will live in? What is important for children to know and do?
  • How are the key ideas of Te Whāriki reflected in this setting’s curriculum?
  • How does this setting ensure the voices of governance, management, kaiako, whānau, parents, children and communities inform the vision, philosophy, and learning priorities?
  • What are the goals and aspirations parents and whānau have for their children? How do we know what these are?
  • What are the goals and aspirations children have for themselves? How do we find out what these are?
  • How well are children learning and progressing across the whole curriculum? How do we know?
  • What is the learning that is valued in this setting? How are we ensuring that all children have fair and equitable opportunities to achieve this?
  • How well does this setting reflect the community in which it stands?
  • What kind of learning environment do we need to create that will respond to our collective vision? What is working well? What needs to change?
  • How is this setting’s internal evaluation (self-review) informing and responding to collective priorities?
  • How are the collective priorities evident in planning and implementation?
  • How do we make children’s learning in relation to collective priorities visible to parents, whānau, and children?

Implications for leadership

Leaders in early childhood settings take responsibility for pedagogical leadership, that is, leading and evaluating teaching and learning. For leaders, identifying priorities for weaving a whāriki could involve:

  • Leading the process to develop a vision for learning and curriculum and learning priorities, that is deciding “what matters here”.
  • Ensuring there are systems and processes for:
    • developing and reviewing the setting’s philosophy of teaching and learning
    • assessing children's progress and learning in relation to the strands, goals, and learning outcomes of Te Whāriki and the learning that is valued in the setting
    • conducting internal evaluation of what is currently happening and how well it is working
    • considering kaiako interests, beliefs, skills, and knowledge in the provision of curriculum
    • collecting and considering parent and whānau aspirations and wider community goals and concerns – including those of local iwi and/or hapū
    • supporting continuity of early learning as children transition to school.
  • Prioritising time in team meetings to talk about assessments of children’s progress, development and learning.
  • Being willing to confront longstanding “ways we’ve always done this”, provoking reflection and inviting different views.
  • Accessing and circulating relevant readings and resources and leading discussion of topics related to evolving priorities.
  • Accessing appropriate professional learning support – for example, a “critical friend”, who may bring a fresh perspective to everyday happenings kaiako may take for granted.

Connections to the principles

Empowerment – Whakamana

Children have voice in the process of deciding “what matters here” in deciding their own priorities for learning. Assessment documentation provides information about each individual child and groups of children, in relation to their strengths, learning, interests, and development. Children and their parents and whānau are empowered to engage in this process. Together with information gathered through internal review and consultation with parents, whānau, and communities, this information is used to set curriculum and learning priorities that empower children to learn and grow in an environment that recognises them as capable and competent learners. It is important to include children in this process through self-assessment, decision making, and identifying what their learning priorities are.

Family and Community – Whānau Tangata

Parents, whānau, and kaiako share responsibility for the setting’s curriculum and learning priorities. Parents and whānau have a wealth of valuable information and understanding regarding their children that can inform these priorities. Children bring the funds of knowledge they gain from their families into their ECE context. In addition, parents, whānau, and communities have aspirations, expectations, and goals for their children that may be woven into a setting’s curriculum planning, implementation, and environment.

Holistic Development – Kotahitanga

Curriculum and learning priorities should encompass all dimensions of children’s learning and development and should see both the child and the curriculum as a whole. The way curriculum priorities are identified and enacted in each early childhood setting should ensure that children have the best possible environment to grow, flourish, and progress in relation to all components of Te Whāriki.

Relationships – Ngā Hononga

Each setting’s curriculum will be influenced by the relationships between adults (for example, parents, families, whānau, kaiako and other adults who have roles in the setting) and children, adults and adults, and children and children. Strong, reciprocal relationships ensure that information and knowledge shared adds colour and texture to the setting’s whāriki. In addition, the people in the setting have relationships with places and things in the setting and the community that will support implementation of the curriculum. Curriculum and learning priorities should take into consideration ways to strengthen and enhance these relationships.