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. 



For the purposes of these criteria:

‘Adults providing education and care’ means kaiako, teachers, supervisors, parent helpers, kaiawhina, fa’iaoga, or other adults who have a designated role of providing education and care to children at a service and are included in required adult:child ratios.

‘Assessment’ means the process of noticing children’s learning, recognising its significance, and responding in ways that foster further learning. It includes documenting some, but not all, of what and how children are learning in order to inform teaching, and make learning visible.

‘Culture’ means the understandings, patterns of behaviour, practices, and values shared by a group of people.

‘Excursion' means:

  • being outside the licensed premises whilst receiving education and care from the service; but
  • does not include an outing for the purposes of emergency evacuations, drills or the receipt of urgent medical attention;
  • regular excursion means – excursions that parents have agreed to at the time of their child’s enrolment, that are part of an ongoing planned and consistent routine of education and care; and
  • special excursion means – excursions that parents have agreed to prior to the excursion taking place, that are not a regular excursion;

‘Medicine’ means any substance used for a therapeutic purpose and includes prescription and non prescription preparations having the meaning assigned to these under Appendix 3.

‘Non-porous material’ means a material which does not allow water to pass through it.

‘Parent’ means:

  • the person (or people) responsible for having the role of providing day to day care for the child; and
  • may include a biological or adoptive parent, step-parent, partner of a parent of a child, legal guardian or member of the child's family, whānau or other culturally recognised family group;

‘Philosophy’ means a statement that:

  • outlines the fundamental beliefs, values, and ideals that are important to the people involved in the service - management, adults providing education and care, parents, families/whānau and perhaps the wider community;
  • identifies what is special about the service; and
  • is intended to be the basis for decisions about the way the service is managed and about its direction in the future.

‘Policy’ means a statement intended to influence and determine decisions, actions, and other matters.

‘Premises’ means the land and buildings (or parts of buildings) intended for the exclusive use as a licensed early childhood education and care centre during hours of operation.

‘Procedure’ means a particular and established way of doing something.

‘Process’ means a goal-directed, interrelated series of actions, events, procedures, or steps.

'Records’ means information or data on a particular subject collected and preserved.

'Regulation' means a regulation under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008.

'Required adult:child ratio' means the adult:child ratio with which the service provider is required to comply under regulation 44(1)(b) or any direction by the Secretary under regulation 54(2).

'Service' means an early childhood education and care centre.

'Service curriculum’ means all of the experiences, interactions, activities and events – both direct and indirect, planned and spontaneous - that happen at the service. Teaching practices including planning, assessment, and evaluation form part of the service curriculum.

'Service provider' means the body, agency, or person who or that operates the early childhood education and care centre.

‘Specified agency’ means any government agency or statutory body that an early childhood education and care service is required to notify if there is a serious (or as defined) injury, illness, incident or allegation. This may include but is not limited to: the New Zealand Police; the Ministry of Health; Oranga Tamariki; WorkSafe New Zealand; and the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.

'Tempering Valve' A tempering valve is a safety device fitted by a plumber designed to provide water to taps at a consistently controlled temperature. It works by mixing hot and cold water between the hot water source and the outlet.