Network management for licensed early childhood services

Read this information if you are thinking about starting a new licensed early childhood service.

Level of compliance Main audience Other

Required

  • Anyone intending to operate a new licensed early childhood service
  •  Service owners and managers

About network management

From 1 February 2023, anyone (unless excluded) intending to establish a new licensed early childhood service will first need to apply for and be granted network approval by the Minister of Education.

Even those who already operate a licensed early childhood service will need to apply for network approval if there is a situation that would require a probationary licence application. This could include, for example, permanent relocation, a complete rebuild of a current service or opening an additional service.

In 'He taonga te tamaiti: Every child a taonga – The Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029', the Government set an objective for early learning services to be part of a planned, diverse and coherent education ecosystem that is sustainable and meets the needs of communities across New Zealand.

The Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029 – Education Conversation(external link)

Network management is one action to support this objective. It establishes a process to manage the supply of new licensed early childhood services.

Network management information sheet

Below is an information sheet about network management. It will give you a brief overview of what network management is, what the criteria are and the process for applying for approval.

You can download it in English, te reo Māori and a range of Pacific languages.

Some services are excluded from network management

Growing the supply of early childhood services provided in te reo Māori is a priority for the Government and a responsibility under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, in relation to partnership and active protection. Accordingly, services that can demonstrate a commitment to using, revitalising and protecting te reo Māori are excluded from the requirement to seek network management approval.

The following Māori immersion services are eligible to be excluded from the requirement to seek network approval:

  • kōhanga reo chartered to Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board
  • standalone early childhood services that propose to teach in te reo Māori at or close to full immersion
  • early childhood services that propose to teach in te reo Māori for the majority of the time and are affiliated to a peak body that has been recognised by the Minister of Education as meeting the criteria set by the Minister
  • early childhood services that propose to teach in te reo Māori for the majority of the time and will be provided by or associated with an iwi or Māori organisation that has been recognised by the Minister of Education as meeting the criteria set by the Minister.

Providers of these services do not need to apply for an exclusion from network management. However, they will need to demonstrate their eligibility to be excluded when they apply for a licence.

To be a recognised peak body or Māori or iwi organisation requires meeting the criteria set by Ministers. Once Ministers agree that applicants have met the criteria, they will be recognised through the Minister giving notice in the New Zealand Gazette. The criteria is set out in the gazette notice and in the document below.

Please feel free to contact the Ministry to discuss the process or if you have any questions. 

Local Ministry offices

Before you apply

Individuals or organisations considering setting up a new licensed early childhood service will need to do considerable research and preparation before submitting their network approval application.

Before you apply, please:

  • read this webpage in full
  • read the associated information under 'early learning' on this website
  • ensure you have all the required documentation and information
  • email ece.networkmanagement@education.govt.nz if you have any questions or contact your local Ministry office.

Early learning

Local Ministry offices

To be granted network approval you must intend to operate the licensed early childhood service. Network approval cannot be transferred, so it must be the same individual or entity who subsequently applies to be granted a probationary licence.

Network management application process

Process overview

This short video explains the network approval application and assessment process at a high level. More detail is available below.


Transcript: Network management [English]

The network management system is designed to ensure licensed early childhood services in Aotearoa New Zealand are part of a planned and diverse network, that is sustainable and meets the needs of communities.

From 1 February 2023, if you want to establish a licensed early childhood service you will first need to apply for and be granted “network approval”.

To receive network approval you’ll need to show that there is a need for a new service, of the type and in the location proposed, and that you are suitable to provide that service.

Some Māori immersion services are excluded from this requirement, for example kōhanga reo chartered to the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board.

Applications for network approval are assessed against seven criteria.

Applications for network approval are first submitted to the Ministry of Education, who assess some aspects before the full application is passed to the Minister of Education for a decision.

If your network approval is granted, you will have a period of time, which can be up to three years, to apply for a licence for your early childhood service. Gaining network approval does not guarantee a licence will be granted.

When granting network approval, the Minister may impose conditions that you will need to meet for the approval to remain valid.

Information to support applicants is on our website. For example, you can see what types of services are strategic priorities for network approval and the information the Minister considers when deciding applications.

It’s a good idea to read all of this information before starting your application. We can help with any questions you might have.


Transcript: Network management [Te reo Māori]

He mea waihanga te pūnaha whakahaerenga kōtuinga hei whakarite kei roto ngā ratonga kura kōhungahunga whai raihana i Aotearoa i tētahi kōtuinga whakamahere, kanorau hoki, e toitū ana, e ū ana ki ngā hiahia o ngā hapori.Atu i te 1 o Pēpuere 2023, mēnā e hiahia ana koe ki te whakatū i tētahi ratonga kura kōhungahunga whai raihana me tono koe, ā, me whiwhi i tētahi "whakaaetanga kōtuinga". Kia whakaaetia te whakaaetanga kōtuinga me whakaatu e koe kei te hiahiatia he ratonga hou, te momo ratonga me te wāhi e marohitia ai, ā, e tika ana koe ki te whakarato i taua ratonga.Kāore ētahi ratonga rumaki reo Māori e whai wāhi kitēnei whakaritenga, hei tauira, ngā kōhanga reo kei raro i Te Poari o Te Kōhanga Reo.Ka tātarihia ngā tono whakaaetanga kōtuinga ki ngāpaearu e whitu.Ka tukuna ngā tono mō te whakaaetanga kōtuinga ki Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātaurangai te tuatahi, ā, mā rātoue aromatawaiētahi āhuatanga i mua i te tukutanga o te tono whānui ki Te Minita o Te Mātauranga kia whakaaetia.Mēnā ka tukuna tō whakaaetanga kōtuinga, ka whai wā koe, atu ki te toru tau, ki te tono mō tētahi raihana mō tō ratonga kura kōhungahunga. Ehara i te mea ka whakaaetia he raihana i te whiwhi whakaaetanga kōtuinga.Ina tuku ana i te whakaaetanga kōtuinga, ka whakatau pea te Minita i ngā here me ū koe kia noho mana ai tō whakaaetanga. Kei roto i tā mātau paetukutuku ngā mōhiohio hei tautoko i ngā kaitono.Hei tauira,ka kite koe he aha ngā momo ratonga he kaupapa matua rautaki mō te whakaaetanga kōtuingame ngā mōhiohio ka whiriwhirihia e te Minita ina whakatau ana i ngā tono.He pai tonu kia pānuitia e koe ēnei mōhiohio katoa i mua i tō tīmata i tō tono. Ka taea e mātau te āwhina me ō pātai.

There are a number of criteria an applicant¹ must satisfy when applying for network approval (see Network approval assessment criteria below).

Applicants will submit their application to the Ministry of Education. The Secretary for Education will assess whether the applicant and people involved in the governance of the proposed service are ‘fit and proper’ and whether the proposed service is financially viable. These assessments will be provided to the Minister of Education.

The Minister of Education will consider the Secretary’s assessments and also consider matters such as alignment with the National Statement, community need and existing service availability, and licensing history. The Minister will then decide whether to approve the application. If approved, the holder² must apply for a licence before starting to operate (see Licensing section below). Being granted network approval does not guarantee a licence will subsequently be granted.

  • Applicant means the individual, group of people or entity that intends to operate a licensed early childhood service.
  • Holder means an individual or entity granted a network approval that has not expired or been revoked. 

Connection to the licensing phase

Following network approval, when the service is ready to start operating, the holder must apply to the Secretary for Education for a probationary licence.

Only network approval holders or providers of excluded services can apply for a licence. Holders of network approval can be granted up to three years from time of approval to apply for a licence.

A network approval decision and a subsequent decision about whether to grant a licence are independent of each other. Network approval does not guarantee the holder will subsequently be granted a licence to operate. After receiving network approval, the holder still needs to meet all the requirements set out in the licensing regulations and meet any network approval conditions that were applied.

The process to apply for a licence varies slightly depending on the type of service being established. Follow these links to find the relevant information:

Starting a centre-based service

Starting a home-based service

Hospital-based services

Network approval assessment criteria

Applications for network approval are assessed against 7 criteria:

1. Financial position of the applicant

1. Financial position of the applicant

Applicants must describe their financial position including information about the financial viability of the proposed service.

The Minister will consider the applicant’s overall financial position. This includes the assessment the Secretary has made of the proposed service’s financial viability. This is to allow an assessment of the likelihood that the applicant will be able to establish the proposed service within the timeframe they have described and go on to provide that service.

What applicants will need to provide

Applicants must provide the information required to allow the Secretary to assess the financial viability of the proposed service. (See Financial viability section below)

Applicants may wish to provide additional information about their overall financial position. This could include, where relevant, audited accounts, bank statements, and other financial information.

Financial viability

The Secretary will assess the financial viability of the proposed service. This will support the Minister to decide whether or not the applicant is in a financial position to establish and provide the proposed service.

What applicants will need to provide

Applicants will need to provide estimated costs of establishing the proposed service (including applying for a licence), evidence that they have sufficient resources, or a credible plan to access sufficient resources, to establish and operate their proposed service.

The applicant will need to provide information and evidence on the estimated costs to establish the service. These costs could include:

  • The cost of goods and labour to build or refurbish a building.
  • Any relevant fees including planning permission, resource consent.
  • Any other set-up costs such as overheads, initial recruitment and staff training costs, costs to appropriately fit-out the premise (indoors and outside), and any contingencies built in.

An applicant will need to consider the evidence they can provide to support these estimates. This could include quotes for work, price lists, information on the cost of overheads for the project.

The applicant will also need to provide information on and evidence of access to sufficient funds to establish and operate the proposed service or a plan to obtain access to sufficient resources. This could include:

  • bank statements
  • audited financial statements that relate to the applicant’s operation of the proposed service
  • a formal business plan outlining how the applicant will access funds
  • plans for fundraising
  • plans to apply for loans
  • applications for grants or other funding.

2. Suitability of the applicant

2. Suitability of the applicant

What applicants will need to provide

For each individual involved in the governance of the proposed service, applicants will need to provide:

  • A Police vetting report

A Police vetting report can be requested from an agency that has been approved by NZ Police vetting services. Some applicants may already be approved vetting agencies and able to vet individuals for the purposes of network approval.

There are also independent vetting agencies who can carry out Police vetting. To ensure the correct type of Police vet is carried out the applicant will need to let the approved agency know that the vet is required for ‘ECE – governance’ and the agency will need to indicate this is the request for a police vet. If the approved agency has not requested this type of vet before they will need to contact the Police at queryme@police.govt.nz to get this role set up in their system.

The approved agency will need to share the full Police vet with you. The approved agency is not expected to complete any form of assessment of the vetting results.

  • What do I need to do with the Police vet?

You must attach or upload an unaltered copy of the Police vet that has been received from the authorised agency. The individual who has been vetted must give you permission to do this.

If an individual’s Police vet returns convictions or other information, the individual should be given the opportunity to provide additional information in response to the vet. This could include information about the circumstances of the event, what has happened since any conviction, any mitigating information, how their role within the applicant relates or does not relate to the offence or any information they think is relevant.

  • A statutory declaration

The Statutory Declaration template can be downloaded from here and it includes the exact form of wording required under the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957.

Once each individual has completed it, they will need to get it witnessed. For information on this see Making a statutory declaration | New Zealand Government.(external link)

We will also consider cancelled, suspended or refused licences for the services any individual has been involved in or associated with that the individual returns as part of their licensing history assessment.

How we will consider this information

The Secretary will use the information the applicant provides and may also use any other reliable and relevant information held by the Ministry or which is publicly available, such as public registers or judgements, to make an assessment about whether the applicant is fit and proper. This assessment will be provided to the Minister.

3. Capability

3. Capability

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have the capability to effectively establish and provide the proposed early childhood service. This criterion will help to ensure the network is made up of experienced, competent service providers.

What applicants will need to provide

Applicants will need to provide details and evidence of their and (where relevant) their governance members’ relevant skills, qualifications and experience. Details and evidence provided should reflect all aspects of establishing, governing and providing a high-quality early childhood service. This is likely to include a narrative about how you will provide the service as well as any relevant evidence.

Applicants need to provide credible and reliable information, including in relation to current governance skills rather than only point to future plans to acquire necessary skills.

For example, applicants must provide details and evidence of governance members’:

  • experience in managing the proposed development including, where relevant, building or renovating premises
  • experience governing or providing early childhood services or other relevant organisations
  • experience delivering education and care that incorporates any special characteristics, philosophy or service provision the applicant has identified.

Applicants may also choose to provide details of:

  • connections and engagement with the local community
  • commitment to te Tiriti o Waitangi, knowledge of te reo Māori and understanding of te ao Māori
  • other capability to provide the proposed service.

How we will consider this information

We will use the information provided to create advice for the Minister of Education, who will consider the advice as part of his decision on whether to grant network approval.

4. Previous licensing history

4. Previous licensing history

If an applicant has previously or currently run a service, how did that go?

Applicants and individuals involved in the governance of this application will need to provide information about all current and previous connections with licensed early childhood services. This includes roles where an individual has been involved in the day-to-day management or operation of a service, for example some head teacher or centre manager positions, and roles involved in the operation or management of whānau-led Te Kōhanga Reo and Playcentre.

The licensing history of applicants will be used as an indication of future governance capability.

What applicants will need to provide

For each service that the applicant or individual governance members have owned, operated, managed or been otherwise connected with, applicants must provide:

  • details of the service – service provider name (if known), service name and address
  • the nature of the association with the service i.e. whether owned, operated, or managed by, or otherwise connected with at a similar operational level, and
  • the period of time during which the individual was involved in or associated with the service (start and end month and year).

Applicants who are entities must also provide the same information on any other licensed early childhood service previously or currently owned, operated, or managed by, or otherwise connected with, the applicant.

How we will consider this information

We will use the information provided to create advice for the Minister of Education, who will consider the advice as part of the decision on whether to grant network approval.

5. Attributes of the area

5. Attributes of the area

Does the proposed service match the needs of the proposed location?

The National Statement (below) outlines what applicants will need to provide about attributes of the area. This will include information on;

  • the demography of the area,
  • the needs of the communities in the area,
  • the needs of the children in the area, and
  • the availability of licensed early childhood services in the area with different offerings (for example, the provision of te reo Māori).

Applicants may also include relevant information relating to supply, forecast growth, demand, and need for licensed early childhood services in the area to be served. This is further described in the National Statement(external link)

The starting point to enable demographic and other statistical information to be considered about the area, is the Statistical Area Unit 2 (SA2) in which the proposed service would be located and the adjoining SA2s. A helpful link to the Early Learning Network Dashboard(external link)

How will we consider this information

We will use the information provided and additional information on the attributes of the area (as described in the National Statement) to create advice for the Minister, who will consider it as part of the decision on whether to grant network approval. The National Statement describes how the Minister will consider the information provided.

6. Contents of the National Statement

6. Contents of the National Statement

Does the proposed service align with the National Statement?

Applicants are expected to identify the need the proposed service will meet and how the proposed service will meet that need, as well as assess the relevant available information about supply and demand in relation to the area to be served. This includes identifying if the proposed service meets a priority (as described in the National Statement) and if it does to what extent. For further information see the National Statement.

How we will consider this information

We will use the information provided to create advice for the Minister, who will consider the advice as part of the decision on whether to grant network approval.

7. Any other matter

7. Any other matter

Applicants will be able to provide any other information that they think is relevant to their application that is not covered in the other considerations. This will be specific to the applicant and the proposed service.

How we will consider this information

We will consider this information, and any other additional, application specific information obtained as part of the assessment process, in our advice to the Minister.

What an approval notification will include

If you are granted network approval, your approval notification will include:

  • the holder’s name and contact information
  • a list of the individuals who have been assessed as fit and proper
  • a detailed description of the proposed service including type and any special characteristics
  • location
  • number of children
  • the date of approval
  • the date approval expires
  • any conditions that have been applied, and
  • any other relevant matter.

For a full list of what the approval will include see the Education (Early Childhood Services Network Approval) Regulations 2022(external link).

Conditions may be applied to an approval

When granting network approval, the Minister may impose conditions on the approval, including conditions:

  • relating to the nature, capacity, or location of the proposed service; and
  • that require the applicant to meet milestones set by the Minister and/or provide regular progress reports to the Ministry.

The Minister may, at any time, impose new conditions on the approval, or amend or revoke any existing conditions. Before imposing, amending, or revoking a new condition the Minister must:

  • take reasonable steps to notify the applicant of the Minister’s intention to make that decision; and
  • if the applicant provides a response to the notification within a reasonable time, take that response into account.

When a condition is imposed, the Minister may specify a date by which the applicant must satisfy the condition. Any conditions imposed will be monitored by the Ministry.

Applicants may, at a later date, apply to amend or remove a condition

Challenging a network approval decision

If the Secretary for Education intends to provide the Minister with an adverse assessment of an applicant’s 'fit and proper' status or 'financial viability', the applicant will be notified and given the opportunity to respond with any relevant additional information.

Any new information will be considered, and the applicant will be notified of the final assessment to go to the Minister. If an adverse assessment is issued, the applicant can appeal through the District Court within 14 working days.

If the Minister declines an application for network approval, that decision can be challenged by judicial review proceedings.

Information to help your application

National statement on the network of licensed early childhood services

The national statement provides information to potential applicants for network approval, including:

  • the Government’s strategic priorities for the establishment of licensed early childhood services
  • information about the supply, forecast growth, demand and need for licensed early childhood services
  • other information relevant to applications for approval, including the approach the Minister intends to take to assessing information in line with the statutory criteria.

National statement on the network of licensed early childhood services [PDF, 126 KB]

The statement also provides information on how the various assessment criteria will be considered.

The statement is intended to help inform the thinking of potential applicants and set out the Minister’s general approach to assessing applications. However, it does not require the Minister to make any particular decision on any specific application.

The Minister may update the national statement from time to time by publishing a replacement in the Gazette.

Government priorities for network approval

The following types of services have been agreed as priorities for network approval. They are service offerings the Government considers to be a priority for ensuring availability within the network of licensed early childhood services. These are formally set out in the National Statement.

Priority Definition

Māori bilingual and immersion services (that are not excluded from the network management requirements)

Services where te reo Māori is used at least 51% of the time as a medium of instruction.

Hapū/iwi-owned service 

Services that are majority owned by hapū or iwi.

Services with a distinct Māori identity and culture 

Services that have a distinct Māori identity and use Māori cultural practices and values that inform the service provision.

Pacific bilingual and immersion services 

Services where a Pacific language is used at least 51% of the time as a medium of instruction.

Pacific language and/or cultural services 

Services that have distinct Pacific identities, cultural practices, languages, and values that inform the service provision.

Language immersion services (non-English/Māori/Pacific) 

Services where a language other than English, Māori or a Pacific language is used at least 51% of the time as a medium of instruction.

Services well-equipped for learning support needs 

Services with a particular focus on providing services and support to children with a range of learning support needs.

Services well-equipped for migrants and former refugee

Services that are well-equipped for supporting children and communities with migrant and/or refugee backgrounds.

Services planned to operate on a new school site

Services that are planned to operate on a newly-built school site in growth areas or adjacent to growth areas.

Organisations funded by Targeted Assistance for Participation (TAP) 

This is a transitional priority to cover organisations that already have TAP funding approved prior to network management commencing on 1 February 2023 as set out in the Bill.

Wrap-around services 

Early childhood services which are set up to facilitate access to other social services, including health and family support alongside early childhood education. 

Meeting a priority is not a prerequisite for receiving network approval.

However, the extent to which a proposed service meets a priority is part of the Minister’s consideration of applications. Proposed services that meet a priority will be considered more favourably.

For example, if two similar services apply for network approval in the same area, the one that meets the priorities most is more likely to be approved.

Meeting one or more priorities does not guarantee approval. The Minister will also consider whether the proposed service satisfies the other assessment criteria.

Other data sources

Network management data sources 

Apply here

Privacy

You should read the privacy statement before applying. 

Privacy statement for network approval applications

Fee

Please note, there is a $575 (GST inclusive) non-refundable fee to apply for network management approval.

To pay the application fee, please use the details below and provide the required information (particulars and reference), so that we can link your payment to your application:

  • Bank account: 03-0049-0004125-00
  • Particulars: Network approval
  • Reference: Applicant name

Application form

Log in

If you have an Education Sector Login (ESL), log in to your account to apply for network approval from your individual portal.

Note: After entering your username and password, if your existing login relates to one or more organisations, you will need to select an organisation before being transferred to your individual portal to make your network approval application. If you have several organisations it doesn't matter which you select. Your application will not be associated with any existing organisations at this stage, as you will be making an application for a proposed new service.

ESL login page(external link)

Create a new account

If you do not have an Education Sector Login (ESL), create a new account to log in and begin your network approval application.

Create a new ESL account(external link)

Additional forms and guidance

Please find below the following forms and guidance that you will need when completing your application: 

The example copy provided here is intended to be used as a reference only. To apply for network approval, please complete the online application form.

If you are unable to complete an online form, a paper version can be obtained by emailing ece.networkmanagement@education.govt.nz.

Register of network approvals and revocations

The Ministry maintains a public register of all network approvals granted and any approvals that are revoked.

Register of network approvals and revocations

Amend network approval

Application for amendment

You can apply to amend:

  • the expiry date of the network approval
  • any condition of the network approval
  • the date by which any condition of the network approval must be met or when it expires, as relevant.

To apply, download and complete the following:

Application to amend network approval [PDF, 59 KB]

Statutory declaration: Network approval amendment application [PDF, 27 KB]

Timeframes

Network approval expiry date

The completed forms must be received at least 40 working days prior to the expiry date of the network approval.

Condition or the date on which a condition must be met or expires

The complete application must be received at least 40 working days before the date on which that condition must be met or expires. 

Legislation and more information

Legislation

Regulations are developed based on the Act.

Network approval has a specific set of regulations:

Laws governing early learning

Regulation amendments to support the implementation of network approval

Early Learning Regulatory Review

Regulatory Impact Statements

Limitations of approvals

A network approval decision is irrelevant to a decision about whether to grant a licence.  If network approval is granted, the fact that a matter was considered as part of that decision should not be taken as an indication about how that matter will be addressed at the licensing stage. 

When applying for a licence, applicants must demonstrate that all requirements set by the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 and relevant licensing criteria are met or complied with, including premises and facilities and health and safety standards, and overall suitability for use as an education and care centre (if applicable).

Consultation

In November 2018, He taonga te tamaiti – Every child a taonga: Draft strategic plan for early learning 2019-29 was launched for public consultation. It included the concept of network management. Substantial feedback was received and there was a high level of agreement with the recommendations, which informed the final Early Learning Action Plan. 

Changes to the Education and Training Act were then consulted on and passed in July 2020. 

The Ministry of Education consulted again in 2021 on proposed changes to Sections 17 and 18 of the Act to finalise the details of network management. There was general support for the proposals. The consultation feedback is published here: Network management consultation report [PDF, 428 KB].

Further public consultation on the Government’s priorities for network management and policies for new regulations occurred in mid-2022. A summary of the consultation feedback can be found below.

Consultation feedback report [PDF, 528 KB] 

Glossary of terms

More information and contact us

If you have questions about network management that are not answered on this website or want more information, please email ece.networkmanagement@education.govt.nz or contact your local Ministry office

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