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. 


HS4 Fire evacuation scheme

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 4

      The premises are located in a building that has a current Fire Evacuation Scheme approved by Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

      Documentation required:

      A current Fire Evacuation Scheme approved by Fire and Emergency New Zealand.


      The criterion aims to uphold the safety of children by ensuring that the premises have an adequate plan for evacuating children in the event of a fire.

      Amended May 2015

  • 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.

      ECE centres need to have an approved Fire Evacuation Scheme for the premises in which they operate. Fire and Emergency New Zealand provide information about the process of applying for an approved scheme and maintaining the scheme once it is in place. The application can be done online.

      Fire and Emergency New Zealand(external link)

      If centres are unsure about the suitability of a building with other tenants for an ECE service, they should contact the local fire service office as they will provide individualised advice on the suitability of any premises and the development of an evacuation scheme.

      ECE centres must have an approved evacuation scheme before the Ministry of Education can grant a Probationary licence. Up to 30 working days should be allowed for a scheme to be approved as the Fire Service has 20 working days to make a decision on an application, unless they determine that more information is needed, or that they need to observe a trial evacuation. In each of those cases the Fire Service has an additional 10 working days to make a decision.

      If the ECE centre is in a building with other tenants centres need to be aware that the fire evacuation scheme approved by Fire and Emergency New Zealand applies to the whole building and all tenants, and is the responsibility of the building owner. It does not just apply to the ECE centre.

      It is important to note that the approved fire evacuation scheme only covers fire emergencies.

      The fire evacuation scheme needs to include regular trial evacuations for fire emergencies.  Fire Regulations require this to be done at least every six months, and that it is reported to Fire and Emergency New Zealand within 10 days of taking place. There is information about maintaining an approved evacuation scheme on the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website(external link).

      Please note however, that under HS8 (Emergency drills), the Ministry requires services to carry out trial evacuations (covering a variety of emergency situations), on an at least three monthly basis. See the guidance for HS8 (Emergency drills) for more details.

      It may be more difficult to evacuate children from centres that are not at ground level in the event of a fire. Fire evacuation schemes need to identify ways to mitigate this. We recommend reading the Guidance for ECE Services - Evacuation from High Rise Buildings [PDF, 394 KB] [PDF; 260kb]


      Fire Safety and Evacuation of Buildings Regulations 2006(external link)