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. 


HS1 Premises and contents are safe and hygienic

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 1

      § Premises, furniture, furnishings, fittings, equipment, and materials are kept safe, hygienic and maintained in good condition.


      The criterion aims to uphold the health and safety of children.

  • 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.

      Equipment should be safe and suitable for its purpose and the age of children using it.

      Any furnishing or fittings not fit for purpose should be removed from play areas until remedial action can be taken. Items can then be repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

      Hard surfaces should be kept clean and equipment or toys should be kept hygienic. Toys and materials that children put in their mouths should be cleaned at the end of each day with hot soapy water or put in the washing machine/dishwasher depending on the toy.

      Nappy changing areas should be cleaned and disinfected after every nappy change.

      More information can be found in the resource Nga Kupu Oranga: A health and safety resource for early childhood services(external link).

      Bleach as a Disinfectant

      The Ministry of Health does not recommend any particular cleaning product, as this depends on the purpose and use. However, hydrogen peroxide and bleach are both effective sanitisers and may be used for some purposes. Some cleaning and sanitising products are more or less effective on some bacteria/viruses/soils etc. The product being used must be effective and used in line with manufacturer guidance. Contact your local office of the public health service for site-specific advice.

      It is recommended that ECE Centres use bleach as a disinfectant when responding to recent outbreaks of diseases caused by micro-organisms (germs) such as giardia, cryptosporidium and salmonella. Many of these germs are resistant to most disinfectants. Bleaches contain sodium hypochlorite, the chemical which kills bacteria and viruses. Bleach used must be at least 2% hypochlorite. Supermarket bleach is labelled between 2-5% sodium hypochlorite. Bleach solutions must be made fresh daily to remain effective.

      A bleach solution may also be the most suitable to disinfect the nappy changing area, toilets and sinks. To work properly the solution needs to:

      • Be used on a surface free of dirt/organic material
      • Be a strong enough concentration i.e. 0.1% (see table below). If there is visible contamination, then use a stronger 1:10 solution.
      • Be sprayed and left on for enough time to kill the bugs before wiping away (ideally 30 minutes contact time)

      The solution should be disposed of at the end of the day. Made up chlorine solutions are often kept in spray bottles – the bottle needs to be cleaned daily as dirty hands touch it.

      How to make up a 0.1% bleach solution.

      Strength on bottle Bleach (ml) Water (ml) Total (ml)
      1% 100 900 1000
      2% 50 950 1000
      3% 33 967 1000
      4% 25 975 1000
      5% 20 980 1000


      ‘Eco’ or ‘natural’ cleaners

      There has been an increased interest in the use of ‘green’, ‘eco’, ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ cleaning products in ECE settings. Be aware that many of these products are suitable only for ‘cleaning’ surfaces by removing dirt, grease and grime, and not for ‘disinfecting’ surfaces to kill disease causing germs.