Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


C8 Language-rich environment

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Curriculum criterion 8

      The service curriculum provides a language-rich environment that supports children’s learning.

      Documentation required


      This criterion is a means of ensuring that the service curriculum is consistent with the prescribed curriculum framework.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Language is a vital part of communication and cultural transmission. If children are competent communicators, they are well-placed to enjoy their relationships with others and to be successful learners. Language does not consist only of words, sentences, and stories though; it includes the language of images, art, dance, drama, mathematics, technology, movement, rhythm, print, and music.

      The ‘languages’ used in the environment will depend on the make-up of the children and families that attend, and the community that the service serves - for example a language-rich environment in an infant and toddler setting may look, feel, and sound different from a setting for older children.

      In early childhood services in Aotearoa/New Zealand it is important that educators understand the significance of te reo Māori and that it is heard, seen, and used throughout the day and integrated throughout the service curriculum.

      All children will enter an early childhood service with a first language. Sometimes this language is different to the language or languages used in the centre. It is important that educators work in collaboration with the parents/whānau of the child to ensure that the child’s first language is integrated into the service curriculum in real and meaningful ways.

  • Practice
    • Practice

      Examples of what this might look like in practice:

      • The service curriculum is print-focused. Educators encourage print-awareness in children’s activities by having a lot of printed material visible around the centre, at children’s eye-level or just above, and offer children a range of readily accessible books
      • The first language of each child that attends the service is represented in the environment – seen and heard – particularly the key words and phrases that the child relies upon for communication
      • Children and educators use their first languages and extend their vocabularies in both te reo Māori and English
      • Children use a variety of ways to communicate including non-verbal communication through art, movement, and music
      • Educators actively listen to and respond to all forms of communication from children
      • Educators promote stories, songs, dance and music from a variety of cultures.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      Things to consider:

      • What languages are ‘spoken’ here?
      • How do our wider relationships with colleagues, parents and the community influence our provision of a language-rich environment?
      • What tools and strategies do we have to support the provision of a language-rich environment?
      • How do we evaluate how our level of engagement with children and families impacts on learning outcomes for children?
      • What kinds of review practices happen within the language used in engagement with children?
      • How do we reflect on or monitor the language we use with children, families, and each other?
      • How do the language experiences provided for children reflect the families’ wishes, beliefs, and aspirations?
      • How do we access content knowledge and technical language to support and extend children’s thinking?
      • What role does a language-rich environment play in the transmission of culture?
      • What happens at our place that reflects the importance of language/learning?
      • How would we explain to others how children’s learning is supported through a language-rich environment?
      • Do we notice who talks, when they talk, and what they say? Do we notice who does not talk, and why?
      • How are the languages and symbols of children’s own and other cultures promoted and protected?
      • How can our environment support children’s thinking and language?

  • Gallery
    • Gallery

      Language rich environment

      View larger image [JPG, 108 KB]

      Educators encourage print awareness in children's activities. Visual prompts in book areas can assist this.

      Language rich environment

      View larger image [JPG, 165 KB]

      Printed material is available to children and they are offered a range of readily available books.

      Language rich environment

      View larger image [JPG, 132 KB]

      Children use a variety of ways to communicate including non-verbal communication through art. Educators actively listen to and respond to all forms of communication from children.

      Language rich environment

      View larger image [JPG, 131 KB]

      Children and educators extend their vocabularies in te reo Māori. Cues in the environment prompt usage.