Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services
Section 15 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as premises 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 being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6—
- by the 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 April 2021.
PF4 Variety of equipment
Premises and facilities criterion 4
A sufficient quantity and variety of (indoor and outdoor) furniture, equipment, and materials is provided that is appropriate for the learning and abilities of the children attending.
To ensure that children’s learning is supported by a range of suitable and safe furniture, equipment and materials.
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.
Children learn by interacting with people and with their environment. The furniture, equipment, and resources provided for children will have an impact upon their learning, and how they view themselves and others.
Equipment at the centre will need to engage and challenge children, and be flexible enough for children to construct their own learning. Flexible, moveable equipment allows children choice and control over how their learning environment is set up. Moveable equipment also encourages cooperation between children, and provides opportunities for problem solving.
Exactly what type and quantity of furniture, equipment, and materials provided will differ from centre to centre. Regardless of the type of equipment and materials provided, it is important there are sufficient quantities so children do not have to wait long periods. This does not mean there has to be one of everything for each child at the centre, but children should be able to access equipment and materials that support their interests, skills and abilities.
Further information on the playground safety standard and there is a handbook for ECE services to download(external link).
Further information on equipment in ECE centres.
Further information is available in the guidance for HS6 – Securing Furniture.
- Things to consider
Things to consider
Consider how the furniture, equipment, and resources you provide in the centre will:
- reflect the cultural differences in the centre
- promote and protect written and spoken language
- be non-sexist and inclusive
- support parents' aspirations for their children’s learning
- reflect different attitudes and feelings
- provide for group and individual play
- provide for children’s current and emerging interests
- provide opportunities for choice, planning, and problem solving
- reflect the special nature or philosophy of the centre
- be relevant and challenging for the range of ages and abilities of children attending.
Consider a balance between natural products and man-made equipment and materials. Plastic products are usually cheaper and easy to clean, but they do not usually last as long or have the same aesthetic appeal as products made from natural materials.