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, 2.1 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in January 2022. 


PF12 Heating, lighting, noise, and ventilation

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Premises and facilities criterion 12

      § Parts of the building or buildings used by children have:

      • lighting (natural or artificial) that is appropriate to the activities offered or purpose of each room;
      • ventilation (natural or mechanical) that allows fresh air to circulate (particularly in sanitary and sleep areas);
      • a safe and effective means of maintaining a room temperature of no lower than 18°C; and
      • acoustic absorption materials if necessary to reduce noise levels that may negatively affect children's learning or wellbeing.

      To ensure the safety and wellbeing 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.


      Efficient heating that suits your service’s layout and design will ensure rooms can be kept at a comfortable temperature while children are attending (see HS24 – Room Temperature). There is a range of options but safety of children is paramount (see HS12 – Hazard Management).


      The materials and decoration used in your centre will help to reduce noise levels for everyone’s benefit.

      As a general rule, two things help to reduce noise.

      1. Soft furnishings. The more soft furnishings you have, the more sound is absorbed. Some practical options are:

      • curtains
      • rugs and carpet
      • big cushions
      • couches/lounge chairs.

      2. Complex shapes. Complex shapes break up and scatter sound waves, reducing noise reverberation in the room.

      Practical examples are:

      • acoustic ceiling tiles
      • fabric draped from the ceiling
      • decorations on walls, especially thick wall hangings and 3-dimensional decorations rather than flat pictures
      • carpet attached to the underside of tables.

      Double glazing can be very effective in reducing outside noise, if this is a significant problem. However, it can be expensive to retrofit into existing windows, and alternative ventilation may be needed in place of opening windows.


      There must be adequate ventilation in every room in the centre that is used by children. Good ventilation is particularly important for sleep rooms, nappy change areas, bathrooms and rooms where unwell children are isolated and looked after temporarily.

      Good ventilation will:

      • supply fresh air for breathing
      • clear away pollutants and odours to improve air quality
      • help remove excessive moisture in the air
      • improve thermal comfort in warm weather by increasing air movement and removing heat.

  • Things to consider
    • Things to consider

      If using ceiling mounted infrared panels, it is important to ensure the room temperature is sufficient at floor level or child height. 

      In cooler months and locations, it is important the heating can be turned on prior to opening (via a timer or by an adult) so the centre is at a comfortable temperature during licensed hours. 


      The World Health Organization (1999) has recommended maximum noise exposures in early childhood education environments: 


      Health effect

      Leq (dBA)

      Lmax (dBA)

      Sleep rooms

      Sleep disturbance




      Speech interference




      Annoyance (from external source)



  • Gallery
    • Gallery

      • Examples of rooms using and positioning of infra-red heaters, heat pumps
      • Use of complex shapes breaking up noise - examples include:
      • Mobiles; acoustic ceiling tiles; fabric draped from ceiling

      Acoustic panels to absorb noise.

      View larger image [JPG, 70 KB]

      Acoustic panels to absorb noise.

      Ceiling heat panel in play area.

      View larger image [JPG, 62 KB]

      Ceiling heat panel in play area.