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.



      Public Health recommends that only disinfectants/sanitisers containing the chemical “hypochlorite” are used in childcare settings (i.e. bleach solutions). Hypochlorite has long been recognised as having outstanding disinfection properties, being effective against most common disease-causing organisms.

      When choosing a disinfectant/sanitiser, it is important to be aware that not all disinfectants are effective against the broad spectrum of germs which can cause illness.

      The micro-organisms least likely to be killed by bleach or any other disinfectant are giardia and cryptosporidium. These organisms produce microscopic cysts that can stick onto surfaces. The best way to deal with these organisms is to use a good detergent. This means that frequent cleaning with detergent is best for toys, tables, and other non-toilet surfaces rather than bleach.

      Some service operators find bleach unpleasant to work with and seek out alternative products. If you or your cleaning provider wish to use an alternative disinfectant, you must have scientific evidence (from the manufacturer) that it is effective for its intended purpose.

      Before purchasing, request evidence from the manufacturer/supplier that the product is effective against:

      • protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium
      • bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter
      • viruses, such as rotavirus, norovirus / Norwalk-like viruses

      Alternative disinfectants/products are to be used strictly in accordance with the manufacturer instructions.

      Please make sure all staff understand the importance of cleaning before disinfecting, as dirt decreases the effectiveness of disinfectants. They must leave the disinfectant/sanitiser in contact with the surface for the manufacturer’s recommended contact time before rinsing or wiping dry.

      This guidance was developed in consultation with Te Whatu Ora, National Public Health Service, Greater Wellington Region.