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Educating children in their early years.


Teachers, whānau, neighbourhoods

- children at the heart of amazing learning.


Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi Engari, he toa takitini.

Success is not the work of one, but the work of many.


Building on our rich and diverse history to ensure that high quality teaching and learning is delivered through sound management of all resources, ongoing learning, continuous improvement, innovative practice and a commitment to excellence.


The contributions, skills and experiences of all our people are recognised and acknowledged in an environment where individual difference and diversity is respected.


Positive, respectful relationships at all levels in our organisation contribute to a healthy, safe environment. A partnership with parents is promoted and the relationship that occurs between teachers, children and their families/whānau is recognised as unique.

There's nothing like kindy

When you're young, the world is full of surprises, amazement and opportunities to explore and understand your world a little better, to develop and grow, and, just as importantly, to make new friends, play and have fun.

For generations, this has been the role that kindergarten has played in the community and Kidfirst Kindergartens have a proud heritage going back well over 100 years in the neighbourhoods that they serve.

Hundreds of trained, registered kaiako (teachers) make up the experienced, passionate teaching teams who help to foster the development of our youngest learners. From social competency to motor skills, from communication to creativity - there's always so much to learn, see and do at kindy.

Again, in 2020, our kindergartens played this role - but with added challenges brought on by a worldwide pandemic and lockdowns. Yet once again, our teachers adapted to the new situation and made the most of things to give their tamariki a fantastic boost to their learning journey. In every kindergarten you could hear laughter, excitement and feel a genuine sense of aroha.

Keeping a network of around seventy kindergartens working together, in line with the values and goals of the Association, is a task in itself - that would not be possible the support of a dedicated and hardworking team at Head Office.

And, of course, without the support of whānau, parents, friends of the kindergartens and local communities, none of it would be possible. However, we do not only survive, but thrive.

Kindergarten has never been more relevant or important than it is today. As the world gets busier and more complicated, as demands pile up on everyone to be better and do more, early childhood has a vital role to play. We can help, not only tamariki but the wider kindergarten families in making the most of these early years and building the social and educational foundations that can last a lifetime.

That is something, that as a not-for-profit kindergarten Association, as a collective of trained professionals and on a personal level, about which we are passionate. It has been another year in which we have shown that ongoing commitment and we can, look back on it with pride.

For generations, people have brought their tamariki to the local kindergarten which is right at the heart of their community. It's an established part of the neighbourhood.

And that's still the case today. More and more, the intrinsic values of kindy are making a real difference and offering genuine benefits to our whānau.

Because, as our name says, we put children first - that guides everything we do. From the long term strategic planning at the highest level, right down to the everyday detail at our kindergartens.

Over the years, many things have changed, but the fundamentals have remained the same. Those are the things we hold onto and cherish.

Above all, the interests of the children.

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Kidsfirst Phillipstown is a prime example of a kindergarten that celebrates its big backyard with a raft of activities and environmental initiatives.

Community events like this Christmas Market at Kidsfirst Rutland Street have long been a staple of kindergarten's connection to their local neighborhoods.

Kidsfirst Niu enjoyed a fabulous Christmas celebration to mark another year of fun, adventure, and learning.



Chair's Report

E ngā reo, e ngā mana, tēnā koutou katoa.

He mihi maioha tēnei ki a koutou

Ko Viv Ruth tōku ingoa

Nō Ōtautahi ahau

Nō reira, e rau Rangatira mā tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou,

tēnā koutou katoa.

In 2020 we didn’t even manage to hold our AGM at the right time due to the global pandemic, and the entire world experienced a crisis that we could never have imagined would occur. We are extremely fortunate in this country to have managed through what seems to be the worst of it with far less negative impact than in other parts of the globe.

We closed our kindergartens for 8 weeks, but we were certainly kept busy creating new ways to engage with and reassure our families, and maintain the kindergarten connection that was so critical in bringing some normality to the lives of our tamariki during lockdown.

I want to make special mention to Kidsfirst Rutland street, Sumner, Queenspark, Hoon Hay, Phillipstown, Beckenham and Broomfield and staff from contributing kindergartens, all of which opened during level 3 alert, catering for children of essential workers from right across our network. And of course our amazing Head Office team who worked so hard to keep things connected and the wheels turning in the background.

And yet regardless of, and possibly because of, the need to be extremely flexible and able to respond quickly as situations happen and contexts change, we are still able to report on many wonderful things that occurred.

I’d like to acknowledge not only the fabulous teaching teams and their work in our families, whānau and communities, but also the many organisations and companies that work with us and support us to be the very best we can be.

Each year I have the privilege to talk about the achievements, and the highlights, as well as the challenges for Kidsfirst over the past year, and each year I am amazed at how varied and different these can be. No two years are ever the same and yet every year our team rises to the challenges - some planned and some that appear completely out of the blue like the odd earthquake or a random pandemic, or the stresses of managing a very tight financial budget. I have been part of the Kidsfirst Board for the past six years.

After leaving my role as the South Island Manager for Early Childhood Education at the Ministry of Education and moving to work in the Ministry of Health I was delighted to be able to get involved with the Kidsfirst Board, in order to stay closely connected to the world of early childhood education, that I have such a passion for.

For the past 4 years I have been honoured to serve as the Chair and have been continuously impressed by the commitment of the teachers as well as the Head Office staff in working to be real leaders in the early childhood sector.

At the end of our Chief Executive’s speech at the Teacher Professional Learning hui, she finished with the whakatauki – “Haere taka mua, taka muri; kaua e whai” – meaning – be a leader not a follower. This is truly the foundation of Kidfirst.

Over the past four years we have certainly faced some issues with what became at one stage a fairly dire financial situation requiring some very tough decisions to be made. It is wonderful now to see the changes we made paying off, along with the results of the government’s introduction of funding for 100% qualified teachers. Employing all fully qualified teachers has always been a bedrock commitment of kindergarten and it is good to be funded accordingly.

While we are now in a much more sustainable position, we continue to manage the network of kindergartens carefully to ensure we can offer the best provision for all our families across our regions. We are currently in the process of developing a second new kindergarten in the Rolleston area due to the hugely increasing demand in that region and we were thrilled recently to finally sign the sales and purchase agreement for a piece of land in the prime spot of the new Silverstone subdivision.

As always, Kidsfirst has continued to run as a team, whether it be working face to face with tamariki and their whānau each day or managing Human Resources or marketing, finances or reception, managing pay runs or organising maintenance. However this year it does need noting that the Professional Leaders team really shone as they have operated in their newly established self-managing team.

I have now completed my full allowable time on the Board of 6 years and will be stepping down as Chair. It has been a real pleasure and I have loved working alongside some superb Board members. This year also sees the departure of a number of the current Board so it will be exciting to see some new faces taking up the reigns.

And to the future. As you will be aware Kidsfirst have been working closely with seven other Kindergarten associations across the country to develop a new and exciting entity known as Kindergartens Aotearoa.

Once up and running, Kindergartens Aotearoa will be the largest early childhood provider in the country and we hope will be able to innovate and lead the sector in ways that as a smaller player we are not able to do.

This year we signed an agreement with the seven other Associations; Tauranga, Taranaki, Napier, He Whānau Manaaki in Wellington, Auckland, South Otago and Northern Auckland, to move to the next stage of developing a business case for the merging into the new entity.

Work is well underway and a small team meet with the Ministry of Education every month to keep them appraised of our progress. Once the business case is developed there will be a period of formal consultation with all members and if all goes to plan we are hoping to see the start of operations for Kindergartens Aotearoa in 2022.

All that is left for me to do is to thank everyone for making all this possible and to give a great acknowledgement to our Chief Executive Sherryll Wilson who manages everything in Kidsfirst we do with the utmost care and commitment while also continuing to work tirelessly in the massive financial planning role to prepare for Kindergartens Aotearoa to be stood up as an organisation. Ngā mihi nui Sherryll.

No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā ra tatou katoa

Viv Ruth, Board Chair

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Another great excursion of the tamariki of Kidsfirst Diamond Harbour, as they scrambled up the hill...

Chief Executive Sherryll Wilson was gifted a symbolic cloak by Kidsfirst Kaiako Māori, which she has worn on several official occasions.

The tamariki from Kidsfirst Terrace shared dance, kai, and laughter with a group of senior citizens from Enliven Alexandra.



Chief Executive's Report

Each year I take some time to reflect on the year that has been, how it has been for all of us, and what has changed. This time around, I found myself looking back across the whole of the past decade.

Because the reality is, Covid-19 is just the latest in a string of challenges, difficulties and outright tragedies that our teaching teams and Head Office staff have had to navigate in recent years. And, because of the nature of kindergarten and its place in our communities, our role never stops at the end of the kindergarten day, or at the kindergarten gate.

Our teaching teams, supported by Head Office, are there for tamariki, whānau and communities well beyond the working day, and often, well beyond the traditional roles of kaiako.

Some of the stories I have heard over the past decade, of the little and big things teaching teams have done in response to unthinkable events, have been enough to move me to tears. Partly, because of the deep sadness and loss that has surrounded these events, but partly also, out of pride.

People talk about the kindergarten difference - and there are all sorts of things that set it apart, and ways we do things differently. But there is something else that provides a foundation that is a bedrock to it all: an indomitable kindergarten spirit that comes to the fore when times get tough.

I can talk about what I think it is, and where it comes from, but no words from me are going to do it justice.

Our people lived these events, and walked alongside tamariki and whānau as they grappled with them.

They so often held it together to provide a safe and reliable space where tamariki could just be tamariki, no matter what was going on in the world outside.

And together that epitomised the kindergarten spirit.

I'd like to take this opportunity, as we look back once again, to say 'Thank you - all'. On behalf of our communities, our whānau, our tamariki... and one another.

Because I know our staff have provided each other tremendous comfort and support over extremely difficult times, and I hear so much gratitude about all the ways people have been there for one another.

I remain awed by your pragmatism. Your resilience. Your fierce commitment to the people that matter. Your capacity to find the good amidst some of the hardest times of our professional lives and strength on the other side of them.

As Sir Edmund Hillary said - it’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. And I believe that with every obstacle, every challenge- we become better, stronger, more innovative and more resilient. Better because of it.

Sherryll Wilson, Chief Executive

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The Kidsfirst Board

Once again, the Kidsfirst Kindergartens Board was challenged by a confronting and troublesome year.

Tough decisions needed to be made due to the developing pandemic, fluctuating rolls, property and maintenance demands, and the ever-evolving nature of early childhood education.

There were also changes within the Board itself.

In 2020, new Board members Nikki Parsons and Chelsea Houghton joined Chair Viv Ruth, Deputy Ashleigh Schuyl, Phillip Roth and Luke van den Broek.

Dianne Collier resigned as from July 2020 after serving the Association since being elected in 2017.

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2020 The Year in Review

It's hard to sum up 2020.

For bits of the year it was business as usual. At other times it was quite surreal, with extraordinary circumstances including social distancing and a lockdown.

The year had begun promisingly enough before Covid-19 took hold and everything changed. Suddenly people were working from home, learning to Zoom with each other (and in the case of many of our kaiako, with the tamariki and their whānau), and wondering what the months ahead would bring. Would kindergarten get up and running again?

That it did. And it was stronger and more committed than ever. People missed the excitement, the connection and the value of kindergarten after a period of isolation. Children loved the chance to catch up with their teachers, and friends

So did their parents and whānau.

Before long, we were lucky to be returning to some kind of normal. Kindergartens celebrated their anniversaries, went on fantastic excursions, created wonderful artworks, planted crops in their gardens and carried on as if nothing was different.

However, there was a new gratitude towards the simple things that we so often take for granted. A new bond with each other, having been through such stressful and uncertain times. And kindness and compassion towards others.

Finding the balance between acknowledging the difficulties of the pandemic and not dwelling on the negative was sometimes a challenge, but innovative and inspiring ideas came to the fore such as our Teddy Bears' Picnic or kaiako reading stories over the internet to tamariki.

Our annual hui was cancelled, the AGM had to be postponed because of restrictions on large gatherings, while some kindergartens opened during lockdown to cater for the children of essential workers.

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The concept of Stay & Play was extended across several kindergartens to encourage whānau to get involved and participate in special sessions.

Tamariki are doing great mahi here with their bit for sustainability making food wraps out of beeswax, at Kidsfirst Maniototo.

Jam making was the order of the day as Kidsfirst Vickery Street got ready to set up at the Kaiapoi Strawberry Food Forest.




Suddenly, from March to May 2020, our kindergartens were affected by the nationwide lockdown, with our kaiako, Head Office staff and tamariki mostly isolating at home.

While a handful of kindergartens stayed operational, to help with the community service of looking after the children of essential workers, there was a deafening quiet and lack of activity at the majority of our kindergartens.

Where previously these spaces had been filled with fun and laughter, and often an abundance of noise and activity, in the blink of an eye this was replaced with stillness and silence.

Decisions had to be made about who would stay open, who could and couldn't work, how the Association could navigate the maze of official requirements and how to comply with the policies set out by the different Ministries.

Once again, our values provided a touchstone to the way we handled things.

Putting children first means you have a yardstick by which to measure your response to a situation and cultivate an appropriate path forward.

How do you keep engaged with your tamariki when you're in different places and without your regular routines? We found one of the solutions was the internet.

When we asked teachers around the network to read some of their favourite stories for us over Zoom, they all said yes.

Some had books at home, others printed off the words they found on the web. A few had books couriered to them, or managed to get some from their kindergarten.

They then faced their computers, turned on the camera and started to tell the stories as if they had a mat full of excited tamariki in front of them.

Professional Leader Keryn Barlow says everyone was proud of the many different and innovative ways that kaiako found to stay in touch with the tamariki.

"It was a case of taking it one day at a time," she says, "taking it one step at a time from there."

Teaching teams were agile, flexible and responded when they needed to. They interacted with their kindy communities, they kept contact and were creative in their solutions to navigating a difficult situation.

Chief Executive Sherryll Wilson praised the professionalism of all the people at Kidsfirst Kindergartens during this time.

She said that, because of the nature of kindergarten, and its place in our communities, the role never stops at the end of the kindergarten day or at the kindergarten gate. Our teaching teams, supported by Head Office, are there for tamariki, whānau and communities well beyond the working day, and often, well beyond the traditional roles of kaiako.

While that becomes evident in times like these, it is something that is always there and helps to make kindergarten special.



Back to kindy

Oh, the excitement when the kindys slowly started to reopen and welcome tamariki back through their gates.

Once there, it was back to business with excursions, lots of fun activities, projects to remodel the backyards, cultural festivals to celebrate and so much more.

"We missed you. Let's have fun. Let's play," said the sign on one of our fences. It was a sentiment shared by most - especially the tamariki who were so excited to be back with their friends, back to their routines, and in a place where they could feel safe.

Never have the words Nau mai, haere mai been more meaningful. Welcome back.

Connecting to our heritage and understanding where we fit in our world are important to Kidfirst's underlying principles.

We are an Association with proud roots in Aotearoa, celebrating biculturalism, while welcoming all. For our tamariki, it is vital that they feel like they belong, have a connection to 'their place' and appreciate te ao Māori.

So, integrated into every day is a focus on our unique environment, the richness of our shared cultures and a commitment to te reo Māori and learning about where we came from, where we are now and what the future may bring.

Ka mua, ka muri
Look back in order to move forward

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Every day is wonderfully different and unique

You never know what a day is going to bring. Whether it’s an excursion to look at native trees in a local reserve, or hosting a group of ‘nattering knitters,’ each day offers a new adventure to explore.

Throughout the year, kindergartens were out and about in the community, finding unique ways to engage with whānau and expand the learning of tamariki.

With the help of their kindy whānau, Kidsfirst Templeton travelled to Birdling’s Flat, learning about Māori legends. Kidfirst Karoro explored their local native bush. Kidsfirst Nuffield took a trip to the beach, and so it goes.

However, you don't have to leave the four walls of the kindergarten for the amazing learning that goes on. Sometimes, that happens around visitors such as from Enliven Alexandra who visited Kidsfirst Terrace. The group of senior citizens joined in an afternoon of games, dancing, and art.

Kidsfirst Frankton loved the whānau involvement too this year when a former parent and professional face-painter came to transform the children's faces. They all stood there deciding what to have done and waiting for their turn. “It helps to empower tamariki to make choices, use their imaginations, and nurture their patience,” says teacher Heather Aird-Lewis.

For the kaiako, it's a lot of fun, too. They often say that no two days are ever the same.

Some days everyone will be cooking, or dancing, or creating their own masterpieces to take home. Perhaps there will be gardening, looking for bugs, listening to stories.

It's an incredible opportunity for development - opening the children's eyes to new experiences and expanding their horizons. So what will tomorrow bring?

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Our people at our heart

Whether it's our own extended Kidsfirst family - our kaiako and teaching teams, Professional Leaders, Head Office support staff, the Board - or those we come into contact with on a regular basis, it's all about the people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata! He tāngata! He tāngata!

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!

We have such wonderful teachers who inspire a lifelong love of learning and help to build inquisitive, confident young people. We carefully choose those who can support and encourage them in their mahi. Added to that mix this year was Jasmin Ngawai, Pouhere Ako Māori.

Coming through the kindergarten gates were parents, caregivers, whānau, family and friends who shared their time and knowledge with us. Without all of them, kindy just wouldn't be the same.

From our wider community connections to the families whinin our kindy we said... You're always welcome here.

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On a trip to the beach, these tamariki from Kidsfirst Nuffield couldn't resist putting their heads in the painted photo-cutout-board. Smile!

Henna painting at Kidsfirst Sumner created a lot of excitement amongst tamariki and their whānau.

Some sand, mud and laughter all mixed together at Kidsfirst South Brighton as they did at so many of our kindergartens throughout the year.



Better Because Values Awards

The Better Because Values Awards are one way in which Kidsfirst Kindergartens recognises those kaiako and teaching teams who have gone above and beyond in the efforts over the previous year.

Based around the core values of Passionate, Inspiring, Whānau, Engaged and Proud, there are also a Board Award, and a special celebration of Community Champions (nominated by the kindergartens themselves). Kidsfirst staff Champions who best exemplifies the entire range of values in their day-to-day mahi.

In 2020, award winners included teams that had planted orchards in unused areas of the kindergarten, created resources to help whānau become more engaged with their kindergarten, developing a Stay & Play session for younger children to ease them into kindergarten, and even getting tamariki involved in doing their own research into rubbish and sustainability.

Tim Eden-Calcott, Kylie Arnesen and Kathy Harford were named Kidsfirst Champions for their efforts in bringing our core values to life every day.

We were also thankful for the support given to a two of our kindergartens by our Community

Champions Lorraine Brydon and Don Pidhirny.

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Teddy Bears' Picnic

Tamariki at Kidsfirst Sumner came up with the idea after lockdown ended, suggesting a picnic would be a great way to thank soft toys for their support through those difficult weeks. Before too long, it became a network-wide event.

There were many teddies, but tamariki didn't discriminate against other soft toys, also taking to their easels and craft tables to create their own bears. Some parents and whānau joined in with a selection of delicious cupcakes and muffins on the theme. Ka Pai everyone!



For a copy of our Financial Report please
get in touch with us at betterbecause@kidsfirst.org.nz

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Facts & Figures

Total number of children


Total number of children accessing free ECE Hours


Total number of children on waiting lists


Permanent Teaching Staff


Long-Term Relieving Teaching Staff


Short-Term Relieving Teaching Staff


Administration Staff


Education Service Managers


Management Staff







Canterbury Westland Kindergarten Association Inc. wishes to thank the following for their support in 2020:

All the kindergartens that have assisted by supporting other kindergartens.

All of the volunteers who donate their valuable time to support their local kindergarten.

All of the businesses that donated goods and services to support the fundraising initatives of kindergarten communities.

The Rata Foundation, Central Lakes District Trust, and all other charitable and public trusts for their continuing financial support the fundraising initatives of kindergaren communities.

Our Community

Kidsfirst Kindergartens Alexandra
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Avonhead
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Beckenham
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Belfast
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Bromley
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Broomfield
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Burnham
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Bush Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Cashmere
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Cotswold Avenue
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Cromwell
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Diamond Harbour
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Edmonds Smith Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Frankton
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Greymouth
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Halswell
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Hargest Cresent
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Hawea
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Hawthornden
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Hei Hei
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Hokitika
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Hoon Hay
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Hornby
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Ilam
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Isleworth Road
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Karoro
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Kendal Avenue
Kidsfirst Kindergartens King Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Lady May
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Lincoln
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Linwood
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Lyttelton
Kidsfirst Kindergartens MacFarlane Park
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Maniototo
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Mairehau
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Mathers Road
Kidsfirst Kindergartens McKenzie
Kidsfirst Kindergartens The Bays
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Ngaire Larcombe
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Niu
Kidsfirst Kindergartens North New Brighton
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Northcote
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Nuffield
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Ōpawa St Martins
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Papanui
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Parklands
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Pitcairn Cresent
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Phillipstown
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Portsmouth Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Queenspark
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Redwood
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Riccarton
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Richmond
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Rutland Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Selwyn Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Shirley
Kidsfirst Kindergartens South Brighton
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Sumner
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Sunbeam
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Templeton
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Terrace
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Trengrove
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Vickery Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Wakatipu
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Wales Street
Kidsfirst Kindergartens West Rolleston
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Wigram
Kidsfirst Kindergartens Woolley Street


Board members as at 31 December 2020

Viv Ruth
Board Chair
Ashleigh Schuyl
Deputy Board Chair (elected August 2020)
Phillip Roth
Seconded Board Member (two year term)
Luke van den Broek
Board Member
Nikki Parsons
Board Member from July 2020
Dianne Collier
Resigned as from July 2020
Chelsea Houghton
Seconded Board Member (one year term)

ex officio

Sherryll Wilson
Chief Executive

Life members canterbury/westland

Mrs H Angel
Mrs S Bain
Mrs L Boyd
Mrs M Calder
Mrs M Dawson
Mr JHM Dawson
Mrs C Depree
Mrs S Hunt
Mrs C Jelley
Mrs C Leach
Mrs G Marsden
Mrs A Stevenson
Dr S. Stanley-Bowen
Mrs G Tyler-Merrick
Mrs J Whale

Life members Central Otago

Mrs L Duggan
Mrs S Fulton
Mrs J Hinton
Mrs S Symons
Mrs A Sutton
Mrs H Whiting

Chief Executive

Sherryll Wilson

Accounting Adviser

BDO Christchurch Limited


Andrew Logan, Mortlock McCormack Law

Kindergarten is special

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