Curriculum - Te Whariki

BEL Te wharaki

NZ Early Childhood Curriculum

Embracing the wonder of every child – inspiring all to flourish

We're guided by Te Whāriki – New Zealand's National Curriculum for Early Childhood (ages 0-6). It forms the basis of how we plan for your child's learning experiences.

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Why do we have an Early Childhood Curriculum?

We learn more in our first few years than we do in the rest of our lives. Advances in brain research and development show that learning begins even before children are born and accelerates rapidly in the early years. New pathways in their brains are created based on every moment, experience and learning.

Attending to each child’s basic needs – love, food, shelter – is fundamental; but educating our children is just as important. It’s what lays the strong foundation for success later in life. Infants, toddlers and young children each have different needs and stages of development. It’s important Barnardos offers specialised knowledge and practice for each unique child at each age and stage of their early learning journey. 

NZ’s Early Childhood Curriculum – Te Whāriki – gives us the framework to provide the best early childhood education for our tamariki. 

More about Te Whāriki

What is Te Whāriki?

Te Whāriki is the Ministry of Educations National Curriculum for Early Childhood in Aotearoa, New Zealand (ages 0-6). It outlines four principles, across five strands, which are woven together to design learning goals and outcomes.

Te Whāriki has links to the NZ Curriculum for primary schools. Learning outcomes achieved under Te Whāriki have a direct link to the curriculum children follow throughout their schooling. Every Barnardos Early Learning Centre and Home Based Educator is guided by Te Whāriki as the framework for their early childhood education programs. This means all children in our care receive the high-quality learning experiences they need at the beginning of their learning journey.

The vision of Te Whāriki has the flexibility to be implemented in different ways. Our teachers and educators work with their communities to design personalised programs for each child’s learning pathway.


Principles l Kaupapa Whakahaere

  • Empowerment (Whakamana): The curriculum empowers the child to learn and grow
  • Holistic Development (Kotahitanga): The curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow
  • Family and Community (Whanau Tangata): The wider world of family and community is an integral part of the early childhood curriculum
  • Relationships (Nga hononga): Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places and things


Strand, Goals and Learning Outcomes l Taumata Whakahirahira

  • Well-being (Mana atua): Nurture and protect the health and well-being of the child
  • Belonging (Mana whenua): Children and their families feel a sense of belonging
  • Contribution (Mana tangata): Opportunities for learning are equitable and each child’s contribution is valued
  • Communication (Mana reo): The languages and symbols of their own and other cultures are promoted and protected
  • Exploration (Mana aotūroa): Children learn through active exploration of the environment

 Find out more about Te Whāriki here


Learning through play

Children learn as they play. Through play, children develop in all ways including physical, emotional, spiritual and social abilities.

Through play, we help your child make sense of the world around them in the way they best understand. As an example, if your child is immersed in individual play in the sand pit with buckets and shovels, their teacher or educator may introduce the concepts of empty, full and half-full; numbers and colours; the skills of filling and working with others to take turns.

When children engage in the learning experience, teachers facilitate them to work together in their play.

Assessment for learning

Connecting with whānau – we're stronger together

Assessment makes children’s learning visible. Our teachers and educators are lucky enough to share the excitement of children learning every day. Through listening, observing and participating, our teachers and educators notice, recognise and respond to your child’s early learning.

Collecting, recording and sharing assessment takes place when teachers and educators take photographs, audio and video recordings and collect examples of children’s work. By analysing the information gathered over time, they can track changes in children’s development and consider possible next steps.

Portfolios are created via the online platform – Storypark – to share children’s progress and interests. Older children have opportunities to collect their own evidence and be involved in writing their own stories. Portfolios provide opportunities for parents and whānau to engage with their child’s learning journey and contribute their own observations.

We work with your child to achieve their goals and provide you a story of your child’s learning.

Pathways to school and kura

While a lot of young children look forward to going to school and they expect it to be different, they don’t always anticipate how different the structures and routines may be. Teachers, educators together with their whanau, support children as they make the transition. For some children, this is around their fifth birthday, for some they are closer to six years old.

Pathways to school vary from child to child, and each learning environment and school context is different. To support the transition, your child’s teachers or educator plan by focusing on the emotional, social, cultural and educational needs of your child and whānau as they move across to school.   

Key competencies that are focussed on when supporting your child’s transition to school, include:

  • Managing Self: students have a can do attitude and see themselves as a capable learners
  • Participating and contributing: students are actively involved in communities, including those based on a common interest or culture for purposes such as learning, work celebration or recreation
  • Relating to others: students interact effectively with a diverse range of people in a variety of contexts. They learn to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate and share ideas
  • Using language, symbols and texts: students work with and make meaning of codes in which knowledge is expressed. They learn that languages and symbols are systems for representing and communicating information, experiences and ideas
  • Thinking: Students use creative, critical and meta cognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences and ideas. Intellectual curiosity us at the heart of this.