Early Learning Regulatory Review

Learn about the Ministry of Education’s comprehensive review of the early learning regulatory system (the Review).

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • All Early Learning Services
  • Service Managers
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako

The Early Learning Regulatory Review may result in changes being made to how the early learning sector operates.

About the review

The Ministry of Education is currently reviewing the early learning regulatory system (the Review).

The Review is being undertaken in three tranches. The final regulations for tranche one were announced on 14 July 2021. The main aim of tranche one was to address some of the immediate gaps in our current system including those that pose a risk to children’s health, safety, and wellbeing. The changes in this tranche mostly impact new early learning services, service providers that have a change in circumstance, and services that have compliance issues.

Tranche two and three of the Review cover more complex areas that require more policy work. This includes addressing several commitments in the Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029 and Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education. Tranche three is likely to include a complete rewrite of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 (the Regulations).

Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029(external link)

Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education(external link)

Why we are doing the review

The purpose of the Review is to ensure the regulatory system is clear and fit for purpose to support high quality educational outcomes for our youngest tamariki. It is also designed to enhance the Ministry’s role as regulator and steward of the system. It is timely to review the Regulations for early learning, as the early learning sector has changed significantly since the Regulations came into force in 2008. The number of children participating in early learning has increased, and children are participating at younger ages and for longer hours. This has led to a rapid expansion of early learning services, with different levels of growth between service types.

For more information about the Review, please see these proactively released documents.

Information releases – Early Learning Regulatory Review

Tranche two overview

We have consulted on the following tranche two proposals:

  • Implementing the new network management function under the Education and Training Act 2020: Changes relating to early childhood education (ECE) and ngā Kōhanga reo. For more updated information on this, please read Network Management.
  • Changes to home-based ECE from the Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education, including regulatory changes to educator qualification requirements, and proposals on the role of co-ordinators and the maximum licence size.
  • Regulating for 80% qualified teachers for teacher-led centres and hospital-based services.
  • Strengthening the person responsible requirement for teacher-led centres and hospital-based services.

Education and Training Act 2020: Changes relating to early childhood education (ECE) and ngā Kōhanga reo(external link)

Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education(external link)

Public consultation on tranche two proposals took place between September and October 2021.

Tranche three overview

Tranche three covers remaining matters that require significant further work to develop such as:

  • ensuring that children are at the centre of our system
  • improving adult-to-child ratios
  • reviewing remaining aspects of the licensing system
  • evaluating the role of the Ministry of Education and other actors in the system to ensure high quality provision of education and care
  • exploring how the regulatory system can support the Crown’s responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We will begin work to scope tranche three in 2022.

Tranche three is likely to involve a complete rewrite of the Regulations to ensure that they are accessible and fit for purpose and will involve public consultation.

Centre design, environmental factors and group size

The Ministry is beginning work on ELAP Action 1.3 to develop guidance for early learning services about centre design, environmental factors and group size, and how to improve quality standards in these areas.

We will work with the early learning sector and a range of experts to develop comprehensive, integrated and culturally appropriate guidance for early learning services.

An advisory panel is being established to provide additional technical, cultural, education and academic input to support the development of this guidance.

We are calling for expressions of interest for this Centre design, environmental factors, and group size advisory panel (CEGAP).

You can find the Terms of Reference here: Terms of Reference [PDF, 197 KB]

People with technical, research, education, and cultural knowledge and expertise in one or more aspects of centre design, environmental factors and group size are invited to apply.

This includes people who bring te ao Māori and Pacific perspectives, and significant practical experience in early childhood care and education settings, as well as people from outside the sector with relevant academic and technical expertise. 

To submit an expression of interest, please complete the form and email to: earlylearning.regulatoryreview@education.govt.nz.

Expression of interest [DOCX, 65 KB]

Any queries can also be sent to this email address.

The closing date for expressions of interest is 9:00am Monday 26 June.

Consultation on tranche one

The Ministry held public consultation between November 2020 and February 2021 and received 258 survey responses and 21 written submissions, mostly from early learning services. The proposals were largely well supported.

Read more about the tranche one proposals that were consulted on in the Consultation Document below.

Consultation document – tranche one(external link)

Read the final consultation report below.

Consultation report – tranche one [PDF, 511 KB] 

Tranche one licensing criteria amendments

From 31 August 2021, the minimum room temperature required in early learning services increased from 16 degrees to 18 degrees Celsius in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

This change took effect from 31 August 2021.

Licensing Criteria Amendments and Guidance [PDF, 90 KB]

From 1 June 2022, services will also be required to have regard for the National Education and Learning Priorities (the NELP) in both their annual plan and recorded outcomes from self-review and internal evaluations.

NELP Licensing Criteria Amendments(external link)

Tranche one Regulation amendments: 30 July 2021

The following amendments came into force on 30 July 2021 and provide the Ministry with additional tools to manage non-compliance and clarify existing requirements, to ensure children’s health, safety and wellbeing.

  • Enabling the Secretary to reclassify a service’s licence as provisional following an incident involving a child that the Secretary considers warrants investigation.
  • Creating the ability to issue a written direction requiring a service to remedy an immediate health and safety risk.
  • Allowing the Ministry to immediately suspend a service’s licence if the licensed early childhood service is no longer under the control of its licensed service provider.
  • Clarifying that the fee for a new licence is payable upon application and is non-refundable.
  • Consolidating existing person responsible requirements.
  • Removing the requirement for a service provider to return their current licence if reclassified as provisional and the corresponding ability to suspend a licence if the licence is not returned.

The changes are expected to mostly impact new early learning services, service providers that have a change in circumstance, and services that have compliance issues.

Tranche one Regulation amendments: 1 February 2022

Following public consultation, Cabinet agreed to the following changes: 

  • Clarifying that amendments to change the identity of a licensed service provider must be applied for before any change is made to the service provider operating the early childhood service.
  • Clarify the information that can be used to assess an application for a probationary licence includes both information provided by the applicant as well as any other information considered relevant.
  • Creating a cancellation pathway based on a service’s provisional licence history. 

We will update you of any changes to these processes before they are implemented later this year.

Education (Early Childhood Services) Amendment Regulations 2021(external link)

Consultation on tranche two

We consulted on proposals to amend the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, including:

  • allowing for new conditions to be added to a service’s provisional licence 
  • providing a definition of ‘permanently ceased to operate’ for the purpose of cancelling a service provider’s licence
  • allowing the Secretary to, at their discretion, grant a service provider the ability to temporarily close their service for a period of up to three months on application
  • providing a definition of ‘locally based’ for persons responsible in licensed home-based education and care services. 

More information on these proposals can be found at Additional tranche two proposals and definition of locally-based — conversation.education.govt.nz(external link).

This consultation closed on 17 February 2023

Early Learning Regulatory Review Advisory Group

The Ministry has established an Early Learning Regulatory Review Advisory Group to contribute their perspectives and advice throughout the Review.

The Group includes representatives from early childhood education (ECE) services and peak sector bodies. Please follow this link for the Terms of Reference [PDF, 84 KB].


If you have any questions or suggestions about the Review, you are welcome to email earlylearning.regulatoryreview@education.govt.nz.

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