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. 


HS5 Assembly areas safe

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 5

      Designated assembly areas for evacuation purposes outside the building keep children safe from further risk.


      The criterion aims to uphold the safety of children by ensuring that assembly areas do not place children in further danger - on a main highway for example. The criterion is also based on the assumption that a safe assembly area is more likely to result in regular drills being carried out.

      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.

      Although it is important there is a place for people at the centre to go to when a fire breaks out or in another emergency such as an earthquake, it is just as important to ensure that this place does not put children or adults in further danger from other hazards. This can be a challenge for some centres because of the layout of their premises and proximity to main roads, car parks, waterways etc. Young children often behave erratically when scared or distressed, and adults need to reduce stress (for themselves, as well as for the children) in these situations as much as possible.

      Centres should talk with local Ministry of Education ECE licensing staff and Fire and Emergency New Zealand(external link) personnel about the best options for their particular situation.

      Additional guidance is available specifically for centres above ground level, we recommend reading the Guidance for ECE Services - Evacuation from High Rise Buildings [PDF, 394 KB].

      The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and the Ministry of Education have produced an Emergency Management Plan template [DOC, 706 KB] that can be used for planning for a variety of emergencies.

      Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management(external link)

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      • Selecting an appropriate assembly area should also take into account where Fire and Emergency New Zealand(external link) vehicles and personnel might be when they are responding to a fire.
      • The place chosen should be checked to ensure children or adults will not be trapped in an area from which they can’t escape if the fire should spread. For instance, in an area surrounded by high walls or fences with no exit other than through the fire area.
      • The use of portable orange netting, cones and walking ropes can be useful for keeping children together while moving and once they have reached the final place of safety.
      • Ideally any equipment needed should be stored near the exits from the building to avoid the need to retrieve it from more distant storage areas when evacuating the building in an emergency.
      • Consideration should be given as to how will children will be kept warm and dry if evacuation takes place during wet or windy weather. Centres may be able to make some arrangement with a nearby business or other organisation to assist with this.
      • A "grab bag" ready near the building exit to take when centres evacuate to an assembly area should be provided. In addition to emergency supplies and medication, this could include books or other items that can be used to engage children’s attention while at the assembly point.
      • If staff suspect that during the process of exiting or re-entry to a building to secure items poses further risk to their own lives or the lives of others then they should not do so.