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.
Premises and facilities criterion 6
§ Floor surfaces are durable, safe, and suitable for the range of activities to be carried out at the service (including wet and messy play), and can easily be kept clean.
To ensure safe, hygienic and appropriate flooring.
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.
Floor surfaces should be easy to clean and suitable for the activities being undertaken. Well maintained wooden, particle, cork, polished concrete, tiles or vinyl floors are most suitable in an area used for messy play, while carpet is better in a book or block area. Consider how much time children spend on the floor when choosing a floor type.
Vinyl that is coved and extends a little way up the wall is easier to clean and is more hygienic over long periods of time because it eliminates joins at the edge of the floor. Different territorial authorities may have requirements to have vinyl in the toilet and kitchen areas (wet areas) extending 75mm up the wall. Check the requirements of your local authority.
It is a good rule of thumb to have about 2-thirds hard surface (or similar) and one-third carpet in the children’s indoor play area. This is because a lot of messy play materials – such as paint, clay and water – are transported to other areas.
It is good for infants to have the opportunity to experience a range of textures. A range of mixed flooring types may be one way to provide this.
- Things to consider
Things to consider
Mats are useful because they can be removed for cleaning and can be moved within the centre to reorganise the learning environment from time to time. There are some very effective semi-permanent tapes that attach a mat to the floor. This helps to ensure mats do not become a hazard.
You may want to consider under floor heating, particularly in centres catering for infants and toddlers.
ECE centres should consider having a long-term maintenance plan that includes a budget for replacement of worn out flooring and/or surface protection.
Some examples of different types and use of flooring:
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Two children and teacher playing on carpeted floor.
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Children playing at table with teacher with floor play area in background.