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.
PF12 Lighting, ventilation, heating and acoustic materials
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.
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.
Indoor early childhood education and care centre spaces need to be designed for natural light and consider the visual awareness of the outside environment. Lighting (natural or artificial) should be appropriate to the activities offered or purpose of each room.
The location and type of artificial light should be carefully considered in the planning and design of an early childhood education and care centre and should consider the activities and purpose of each room.
If early childhood education and care centres have any concerns about interior lighting levels they are able to contact the local regional Public Health officer for advice.
Ventilation should be carefully considered in the planning and design of an early childhood education and care centre. A space’s ventilation will be influenced by how it was designed, how it is currently being used, and the outdoor conditions. Good ventilation will provide fresh, clean air while maintaining comfortable temperature and humidity levels for the people in the space.
Further detailed information is avaliable here: Ventilation in Early Learning Services.
Efficient heating that suits your early childhood education and care centre’s layout and design will ensure rooms can be kept at a comfortable temperature no lower 18 °C (measured at 500mm above the floor) while children are attending (see HS24 – Room Temperature).
There are a range of options to control room temperature, but safety of children is paramount (see HS12 – Hazard Management).
Acoustic Materials (Noise)
The design and materials used in your centre will help to reduce noise levels for everyone’s benefit.
Double glazing can be very effective in reducing outside noise experienced inside a building but consideration will need to be given as to how noise will be mitigated if the doors and windows are open for access and ventilation.
Within the internal environment the design of spaces along with the materials and furniture 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:
- 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.
Some practical examples are:
- acoustic ceiling tiles
- fabric draped from the ceiling
- wall textiles especially thick wall hangings and 3-dimensional decorations rather than flat pictures
- carpet attached to the underside of tables.
Consideration may be needed to ensure supervision requirements can be met. Further information about noise is available in the licensing criteria guidance for HS15 – Noise levels.
If early childhood education and care centres have any concerns about noise levels inside a centre, they are able to contact the local regional Public Health officer for advice.
The World Health Organization (1999) has recommended maximum noise exposures in early childhood education and care centre environments:
- Things to consider
Things to consider
How will you know you are maintaining the temperature down at the children’s level as required by HS24?
How will you monitor noise in the environment once you are operating to know if you need to initiate further noise effects mitigation?
Some services use a device such as a traffic light that indicates when noise volumes are too high and children can be reminded to lower the noise levels.
Further information about noise is avaliable in the licensing criteria: HS15- Noise levels
- 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.
Ceiling heat panel in play area.