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, 1.7 MB] and printed.
The licensing criteria were last updated in March 2023.
GMA7A Safety Checking
A detailed record of each component of the safety check must be kept, and the date on which each step was taken must be recorded, including the date of the risk assessment required to be completed after all relevant information is obtained.
These records must be kept by, or available to, the service provider as long as the person is employed or engaged.
Every children’s worker must be safety checked every three years. Safety checks may be carried out by the employer or another person or organisation acting on their behalf.
- A written procedure for safety checking all children’s workers before employment or engagement of the worker commences that meets the safety checking requirements of the Children's Act 2014.
- A record of all safety checks and the results.
Consistent robust safety checking helps assess whether people might pose a risk to children.
Every licensed service provider is required to take all reasonable steps to promote the good health and safety of children enrolled in the service. This includes child protection and safety checking that meets the requirements of the Children’s Act 2014. Safety checking should be part of your organisation’s recruitment process for all roles that involve contact with children.
The following links take you to more detailed guidance for safety checking and two tools that can assist you in completing this process – a list of actions to support you through the steps and a spreadsheet for collating your documentation of the checks.
Safety Checking General Guidance
Who needs to be safety checked?
The Children's Act 2014 specifies who needs to be safety checked. You can read this in section 23 of the Children's Act 2014(external link).
The Ministry has prepared flow charts which explain the checks that must be completed on adults in specific roles.
- New and existing employees [PDF, 550 KB]
- Students on practicum [PDF, 547 KB]
- Relievers [PDF, 47 KB]
- Adults visiting an early service to work [PDF, 53 KB]
Core children’s worker
All staff who have access to children would be considered a 'core children’s worker', as there will be times during the day when their duties require them to have 'primary responsibility for, or authority over' children and/or be the ‘only children’s worker present’.
Non-core children’s worker
A 'non-core children’s worker' would include staff whose main duties do not require them to have 'primary responsibility for, or authority over', children and/or be the ‘only children’s worker present’, but whose work may include having access to children.
Components of the safety check
Full requirements for safety checking are set out in the Children's (Requirements for Safety Checks of Children’s Workers) Regulations 2015(external link).
Safety checking includes the collection and consideration of a range of information about the person.
A safety check is made up of 7 components:
- verification of identity (including previous identities)
- an interview
- information about work history
- referee information
- information from any relevant professional organisation or registration body
- a New Zealand police vet
- a risk assessment.
The risk assessment involves an evaluation of all information collected to assess if there is any risk to the children’s safety. For example, is a driving offence relevant to the requirements of the role or going to pose a risk to children? Would this information mean you should or shouldn’t employ or engage the person? You must take into account the guidance we have provided in your risk assessment.
The publication Safer recruitment, safer children [PDF; 3.13MB] provides best practice guidance and Children’s worker safety checking under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 [PDF, 1.2 MB] provides advice for organisations interpreting and applying the safety checking regulations.
A safety check of a new children’s worker requires all 7 components to be completed.
A safety check of an existing children’s worker requires the following 4 of the 7 components to be completed:
1. verification of identity (including previous identities),
5. information from any relevant professional organisation or registration body,
6. a New Zealand police vet, and
7. a risk assessment.
An existing children’s worker is someone you have continuously employed since before 1 July 2015.
Periodic rechecking of all children’s workers requires the following 4 of the 7 components to be completed:
1. that the person hasn’t changed their name and if so reconfirmation of their identity,
5 information from any relevant professional organisation or registration body,
6. a New Zealand police vet, and
7. a risk assessment.
Persons responsible and teaching staff who hold a current practising certificate will be police vetted by the Teaching Council as part of issuing and renewing the person’s practising certificate.
If the Teaching Council has issued or renewed a practising certificate, they will have considered them to have a satisfactory vet. Centres/services can choose to rely on this or carry out their own police vet.
More information is available on the Police Vetting page.
The service provider or centre will need to carry out all of the other components of the safety checking process for certificated teachers.
It must also:
- meet the teacher in person
- check a primary identification document
- check a specified form of photographic identification
- check that the name on the practising certificate matches the name on the person’s identity documentation
- check the Teaching Council’s online register (https://teachingcouncil.nz/search-the-register(external link)) for the latest updates to the teacher’s registration and practising certificate status
- undertake a risk assessment.
When do people need to be safety checked?
You cannot employ or engage a person as a new children’s worker until the safety check has been completed.
Centres/services cannot rely on a safety check done by a different employer (either current or previous) as the check was not done on their behalf. They must carry out all of the components themselves.
After 1 July 2018 you cannot continue to employ an existing core children’s worker until the safety check has been completed.
After 1 July 2019 you cannot continue to employ an existing non-core children’s worker until the safety check has been completed.
Periodic rechecking must be done every 3 years.
Umbrella organisations carrying out safety checks
If an umbrella organisation carrying out the safety checks is the employer for staff at multiple centres, then member centres (Playcentres/Kindergartens) can use the children’s workers who have been safety checked by that employer.
Relying on safety checking completed by another organisation on your behalf
Where some or all components of the safety check have been completed by another organisation on a centre’s/service’s behalf, the centre/service is responsible for confirming that these components have been completed, and that a full safety check has been done.
If the centre/service chooses to rely on a safety check completed on their behalf, we recommend that they:
- Seek permission from the person who is being safety checked for the information to be shared. Permission could be sought by the person or organisation completing the safety check before it is undertaken, or by the centre/service prior to requesting the information.
- Prior to the safety check, obtain confirmation from the person or organisation that they are undertaking the safety check on your behalf.
- Obtain in writing from the person or organisation completing the safety check that they have done this to the standard set out in the Children's Act 2014.
- Complete the identity check and risk assessment for all children’s workers, even if these have already been completed by another person or organisation.
- Keep records about the safety checking of children’s workers they engage or employ.
Responsibility for safety checking always rests with the employing or contracting organisation. This means centres/services should exercise due diligence when relying on checks undertaken by others. Things to consider include:
- How long ago the safety check was done
- The purpose of the safety check that was done (for example what role).
Have you purchased an existing service?
If you are purchasing an existing early learning service, and retaining existing staff from that service, you may not need to complete all seven components of the safety check for all those staff.
But you will need to:
- get familiar with the safety check requirements and our guidance
- ensure you have a written procedure in place that reflects your new service's governance and management
- check that all safety checking has been appropriately completed for all existing staff
- consider undertaking your own risk assessment for each staff member
- check that records are in place, collated and stored securely on file, and made available to us on request.
If you find that safety checks have not been done, or you have any concerns about how it was done, you will need to do it yourself. If any information is incomplete or missing for any staff, you will need to do those components yourself.
You will also need to safety check anyone new you recruit.
Safety checking relief teachers
Sometimes centres/services use relief teachers to cover short-term staff absences. These people must be safety checked.
Where some components of the safety check have been completed by another organisation on their behalf, the centre/ service is responsible for confirming that these components have been completed, and that a full safety check has been done.
We recommend that the centre/service itself always completes the identity check and risk assessment for all children’s workers, even if these have already been completed by another organisation.
Agency relief teachers
Agencies providing relief teachers are likely to be completing some components of the safety check. Centres/services can agree with the agency that it will complete those components on their behalf.
Independent relief teachers
Centres/services that engage a relief teacher independently (ie, not through an agency) will need to complete the safety check. Once this has been done, the completed check can be relied on for up to 3 years by the centre/service.
Safety checking of trainees / students on practicum
Under the Children's Act 2014, the requirements apply to unpaid work that is undertaken as part of an educational or vocational training course (e.g. a student teacher undertaking and practicum placement).
Providers of educational or vocational training courses may have completed some of the components of the safety check as part of their enrolment process. For example an interview, reference check and police vet.
Centres/services need to agree in advance with the training provider what components of the safety check it will complete on their behalf. The centre/service must then get a letter from the training provider stating the student’s name, what components of the safety check have been completed, and that they have been done to the standard set out in the Children's Act 2014.
The centre/ service should still complete the identity check and risk assessment for all children’s workers, even if these have already been completed by another organisation.
In addition to safety checking children’s workers under the Children's Act 2014, centres/services still need to meet their police vetting obligations under Schedule 4 (clauses 1-8) of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link).
Further information is available on the Police vetting page of the Education website.
Workforce restriction and core worker exemption
The Children's Act 2014 introduces a new children’s workforce restriction, which prohibits centres/services from employing or engaging people with a specified offence as core workers, unless they hold a Core Worker Exemption.
A specified offence means an offence identified in Schedule 2 of the Children's Act 2014(external link).
Individuals prohibited from being employed or engaged in a core worker role under the workforce restriction can apply for a Core Worker Exemption(external link).
Employers will be able to confirm whether a person holds a Core Worker Exemption.
Centres/services may employ a children’s worker they have previously police vetted and whose vet is current, without completing the remaining components of the safety check, to manage short-term emergencies.
If a centre/service considers that an emergency or unexpected situation has arisen that increases risks to children, they may engage or employ a children’s worker to reduce those risks without completing all components of the safety check, for up to 5 consecutive working days, as long as the employee has a current police vet.
However, in the interests of children’s safety, we recommend that centre/service begin the full safety checking process as soon as possible in an emergency or unexpected situation.
Screening service for early learning service owner operators who are children’s workers
A screening service is available to undertake safety checks for specified groups of children’s workers.
This service has been established to provide third party safety checks for children’s workers in the health, education and social development sectors who are self-employed or sole-practitioners.
In the education sector, this screening service has been approved for early learning service owner-operators.
- Anyone who works with children must be safety checked.
- You may choose to use this approved screening service, but you are not obliged to do so. You can conduct your checks through another service.
There is a cost to applicants for this service. To find out more, go to CV Check(external link).
Under Section 39(3) of the Children's Act 2014(external link), service providers are required to be able to provide details on any safety check done on a person and their work history including:
- how their identity was confirmed, and
- all information provided during the safety check, and
- the risk assessment, and
- the date or dates on which the person was engaged or employed by the organisation, and
- the nature of the work the person is/was engaged in.
Evidence of all children’s worker safety checks must be kept for at least as long as the children’s worker is employed or engaged, then securely destroyed. All information must be provided to the Ministry of Education, or any other relevant agency, on request.
The result of the safety check is confidential and the service provider and only those staff delegated with responsibilities that would require them to access the information should be able to do so.
Information needs to be stored appropriately. Typically, screening information will be kept on a person’s personnel file. Files should be stored in a secure location with access only available for appropriate staff.
Once information is no longer required to be retained, it must be securely destroyed.