Starting a centre-based ECE service
This is a guide for service providers interested in establishing a licensed early childhood education (ECE) and care centre. Please make sure you read the whole document before taking further steps to establishing your ECE service.
Licensing Criteria Cover
Preparing policies, procedures and processes
We suggest you do the following:
- Read the licensing criteria booklet that applies to your service type to identify which policies are required.
- Write drafts of documentation required for licensing and other policies, procedures and processes you think would be useful. If your service is part of an umbrella organisation it may require additional documentation or have examples you can adapt.
- Consider how you will ensure that your service operates in accordance with the regulations and licensing criteria, and have documentation to reflect this.
- Contact your local Ministry of Education office to have a New Centre Licensing pack, which includes the probationary licence application (EC/1C), sent to you. It is helpful to have the form at this stage as some of your documentation of policies, procedures and processes need to be submitted as part of the application. The other policies, procedures and processes will be looked at later, on site, when your service is visited by the Ministry of Education as part of the licensing process.
Why have policies?
Policies identify agreed processes and procedures that ensure:
- key legislative requirements are met;
- those involved in the service have a shared understanding of agreed processes and procedures so that these are consistent, safe and appropriate; and
- those involved in the service have the opportunity to discuss policy and suggest change through regular review processes.
What is required?
The Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 apply to all licensed services. The regulations require services to formulate certain policies, processes and procedures.
Read the regulations to clarify what is actually required and from there determine what policies you will need. An ECE service’s policies will reflect its individual philosophy, values and style of operation. ECE services also need to develop their own policies and procedures to meet other legislative requirements.
Are policies legally binding?
Policies are not legally binding. They reflect an individual ECE service’s agreed practice, and can be reviewed and changed by the service. Staff, parents and others in the service may agree to follow the service’s policy (and any future changes to policy) when they are employed or when their child is enrolled.
In this way they become binding to those staff and parents, and the service could dismiss an employee or cancel an enrolment if a policy is not followed. A court of law could not do the same because it only deals with breaches of regulations or law.
Can we copy from other services?
Policies from other ECE services can give you good ideas to think about as you write your own. However, do remember that all services and communities have different structures, beliefs, values and expectations. It is important that your policies are relevant to your service. If you don’t like a policy you already have, discuss it and change it.
Your policies should work for you!
Wherever possible, develop policies before you need them and be prepared to introduce new policies and procedures when the need for this arises. Consultation with staff and parents will help to ensure your policies and procedures are robust and realistic for implementation on a daily basis.
Most policies include:
- a rationale (a reason for having the policy)
- objectives (what you hope to achieve through the policy)
- procedures that clearly describe the actual practices that will occur
- how the policy will be implemented
- when the policy should be implemented
- who is responsible for its implementation
- when the policy is planned to be reviewed.
If your policy is not working well, consult with staff, contractors and families and change it! The content of your policies belongs to your service.
A regular review process (see regulation 47, criterion GMA4) where those involved in the service have the opportunity to discuss policy and suggest changes will ensure your policies and procedures are always relevant to your service.
To read upfront:
The Employment Relations Service has information to support human resource management that service providers may find useful. This includes templates for letters to appoint staff, fact sheets, employment agreement guides and help calculating parental leave for your employed staff. There is also an 'ask a question' feature.
The Education Council provides information about the process of teacher registration.
The Human Rights Commission provides information about equal opportunities, including a discrimination and complaints guide.
The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) is a union that negotiates collective employment agreements on behalf of many early childhood teachers. As a condition of receiving government funding, teachers must be paid at a rate that is at least as high as the lowest step on NZEI's ‘consenting parties collective agreement’.
Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand provides members with information and advice on industrial issues, including management handbooks and other resources.
The Early Childhood Council provides members with information and advice on industrial issues, including a range of resources.
Inland Revenue is a good starting point for finding out about obligations and entitlements concerning tax.
Settling and transition policy
Transitions to, within and from a service can be stressful times for children and their families. To make these transitions positive and successful experiences, it is important that a teaching team has developed policy and procedures that are based on knowledge of children, and current educational theory and practice. These resources and further reading may assist with development of the policy and practice.
Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa – early childhood education curriculum (especially strands one and 2).
Kei Tua o te Pae: Assessment for Learning – early childhood exemplars.
Health and safety policy
The Ministry of Health's website has a resource called Ngā Kupu Oranga Healthy Messages. It is a health and safety resource for early childhood services and is available to download.
Your local Health Protection Officer (HPO) will be able to give you useful information that complements Ngā Kupu Oranga.
In general, HPOs make a report to the Ministry of Education advising whether or not they consider an ECE service to be compliant. The Ministry of Education makes the final decision about whether or not to grant a licence.
The Ministry of Health's website also has up-to-date information on immunisation.
The Ministry of Civil Defence website has a resource called Early Childhood Education (ECE) Services Emergency Planning Guidance.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s WorkSafe website has a range of resources to help, including 'tools' such as self-assessment sheets for health and safety matters and forms you can use, through to information about managing hazards for small businesses. Look under 'Tools & resources' then ’Heath and safety templates’.
The New Zealand Fire Service website has a range of information about fire safety and schemes.
Legislation can be accessed on the New Zealand Legislation website.
Curriculum assessment and planning policy
Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa (1996) – early childhood education curriculum.
Kei Tua o te Pae: Assessment for Learning - early childhood exemplars.
Child protection policy
Regulation 46(1)(a) of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 requires that services take all reasonable steps to promote the good health and safety of children enrolled in the service. The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 and the licensing criterion HS31 also require all centre-based services to have a child protection policy.
Read more about these requirements and the Ministry’s accompanying guidance in the centre-based licensing criteria and guidance.
Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, regulation 47, and the Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Services, GMA1 to GMA3, set out the minimum standard of communication that should be communicated to parents and how they can access information about their child.
Positive guidance policy
Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, regulation 43 Criterion C10
The Providing Positive Guidance publication is also useful.
Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, regulation 47, and the Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Services, criterion GMA1, require services to inform parents of the procedure to follow if they wish to complain about non-compliance with the regulations or criteria.
You can find information about the complaints process for parents and whānau on our Parents website.
The Working for Families website has information about assistance families can get with childcare costs. Assistance is provided to families through Work and Income and Inland Revenue.
Inland Revenue is a good starting point for finding out about obligations and entitlements concerning tax. You can also download tax forms that staff will need to complete.
Business.govt.nz provides information about its free national business information and referral service for small and medium businesses.
CommunityNet Aotearoa is is a practical resource to help organisations get started and to develop good practice in the voluntary sector environment.
See Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, regulation 47, Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Services, criterion GMA2, Early Childhood Education Funding Handbook)