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 April 2021.


C4 Adults' knowledge

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Curriculum criterion 4

      The practices of adults providing education and care demonstrate an understanding of children’s learning and development, and knowledge of relevant theories and practice in early childhood education.

      Documentation required


      The criterion is based on the assumption that quality education is more likely to be assured when teachers working at the service have appropriate knowledge and understanding.

  • 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.

      Our understanding of children’s learning and development underpins what we do, and why we do it. A range of theories in learning and development support and influence early childhood education. It is important that we understand what influences our teaching practice and can articulate and put into action the knowledge that we have.

      The early childhood education knowledge-base is constantly being revised and developed. Professional learning helps us to keep up-to-date with these changes. Participating in professional development opportunities (formal and informal) and professional reading helps us to continuously build on our understanding. Educators should take opportunities to discuss and debate ideas and theories, and identify meaningful ways to put their new knowledge into practice.

      Self-review practices also play an integral role in assisting us to explore our understanding of children’s learning and development, and identify what we do not know and what we need to learn more about.

  • Practice
    • Practice

      Examples of what this might look like in practice:

      • Educators can clearly articulate how their practices impact on children’s learning
      • Educators critically reflect on practice in the light of new information they have learnt
      • Educators share their understandings at staff meetings
      • Practices reflect the service’s philosophy in relation to aspirations for the child
      • Planning, evaluation, and assessment documentation clearly identify the learning that has occurred for the child.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      Things to consider:

      • How do we make decisions about our focus for professional development?
      • How do our relationships and interactions reflect relevant theories and good practice in early childhood education?
      • What do we say by our actions? What goes unnoticed, or unsaid? Do our actions match our words?
      • How does the language we use demonstrate our understanding of relevant theories and good practice?
      • How do different theories that guide our practice connect with each other? How are they different?
      • How do we articulate to others why we do things, and what we are doing?
      • How do our understandings of Te Whāriki inform our approach to new knowledge?
      • How does our professional learning change our perspectives of Te Whāriki?