Licensing criteria for kōhanga reo

Kōhanga reo run a total immersion te reo Māori whānau (family) programme for mokopuna (young children) from birth to six years of age to be raised within its whānau Māori, where the language of communication will be Māori.

The operation and decision making of each kōhanga reo are the responsibility of the whole whānau within the guidelines set down by Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board. The trust and the kōhanga reo whānau administer the kaupapa to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the mokopuna and the whānau and to ensure the survival of te reo Māori.

Kōhanga reo are currently chartered to Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust and licensed by the Ministry of Education under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008.

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link)

The Ministry does not provide guidance for the kōhanga reo licensing criteria. Guidance is available upon request directly from Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust.

Contact us – Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust(external link)

A copy of the criteria can be downloaded from the right-hand column.

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022.

Hazards and outings

  • HS12: Hazard management
    • Health and safety practices criterion 12

      Equipment, premises and facilities are checked on every day of operation for hazards to children. Accident/incident records are analysed to identify hazards and appropriate action is taken. Hazards to the safety of children are eliminated, isolated or minimized.

      Consideration of hazards must include but is not limited to:

      • cleaning agents, medicines, poisons, and other hazardous materials;
      • electrical sockets and appliances (particularly heaters);
      • hazards present in kitchen or laundry facilities;
      • vandalism, dangerous objects, and foreign materials (e.g. broken glass, animal droppings);
      • the condition and placement of learning, play and other equipment;
      • windows and other areas of glass;
      • poisonous plants; and
      • bodies of water.

      Documentation required:

      A documented risk management system.


      The criterion aims to uphold the safety of children by ensuring that services have a mechanism to assess and address environmental hazards in an ongoing way.

  • HS13: Hot water taps
    • Health and safety practices criterion 13

      § The temperature of warm water delivered from any taps that children can access independently is no higher than 40°C, and comfortable for children at the centre to use.

  • HS14: Hot water temperature
    • Health and safety practices criterion 14

      § Water stored in any hot water cylinder is kept at a temperature of at least 60°C.

  • HS15: Noise levels
    • Health and safety practices criterion 15

      § All practicable steps are taken to ensure that noise levels do not unduly interfere with normal speech and/or communication, or cause any child attending distress or harm.

  • HS16: Animals
    • Health and safety practices criterion 16

      § Safe and hygienic handling practices are implemented with regard to any animals at the service. All animals are able to be restrained.


      The criterion aims to ensure that animals kept by the service do not pose a health risk to children. Wording of current regulation appears to be focused on maintaining animal health. This issue is; a) not the Ministry of Education's core business; and b) now covered by the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

  • HS17: Excursions
    • Health and safety practices criterion 17

      When children leave the premises on an excursion:

      • assessment and management of risk is undertaken, and adult:child ratios are determined accordingly. Ratios are not less than the required adult:child ratio;
      • the first aid requirements in criterion HS25 are met in relation to those children and any children remaining at the premises;
      • parents/caregivers have given prior written approval to their child's participation and of the proposed ratios; for
        • regular outings or excursions at the time of enrolment, and
        • special outings or excursions prior to the outing or excursion taking place; and
      • there are communication systems in place so that people know where the children are, and adults can communicate with others as necessary. 

      When children leave the premises on a regular or special outing or excursion the outing or excursion must be approved by the Person Responsible.

      Documentation required:

      A record of excursions that includes:

      • the names of adults and children involved;
      • the time and date of the outing;
      • the location and method of travel;
      • assessment and management of risk;
      • adult:child ratios;
      • evidence of parental permission and approval of adult:child ratios for regular excursions;
      • evidence of parental permission and approval of adult:child ratios for special excursions; and
      • the signature of the Person Responsible giving approval for the excursion to take place.

      The criterion is underpinned by the understanding that excursions outside the licensed premises are a valuable aspect of the service’s curriculum. The inherent risks involved in outings and excursions from the licensed premises must be managed to uphold the safety and well-being of children.

  • HS18: Travelling in vehicles
    • Health and safety practices criterion 18

      If children travel in a motor vehicle while in the care of the service:

      • each child is restrained as required by the Land Transport legislation;
      • required adult:child ratios are maintained; and
      • the written permission of a parent of the child is obtained before the travel begins (unless the child is travelling with their parent).

      Documentation required:

      Evidence of parental permission for any travel by motor vehicle. In most cases, this requirement will be met by the excursion records required for criterion HS17. However, services that provide transport for children to and/or from the service must also gain written permission from a parent upon enrolment.


      The criterion aims to uphold the safety of children while travelling in motor vehicles. Linking the restraint of children to licensing requirements allows Ministry of Education to put a regulatory intervention in place for non-compliance, as opposed to fines given by Police.