Starting a centre-based ECE service
Click on the links below for information on starting a centre-based licensed early learning service.
Applying for a licence
Probationary licence + application form
You need a licence to run a centre-based early learning service. Read about the application process below.
Before you start, do some research. Look through our information to find out everything from what our requirements are to how you can design and build your service. Doing some research will help you make a plan and decide how to carry it out.
In particular, please note that From 1 February 2023, unless excluded, anyone 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. You can find more information on Network management for licensed early childhood services.
Information for starting a centre-based ECE service(external link)
You should also look at the Education Counts website to get an idea of how many and what types of early learning service are already in your area, to assess demand.
Education Counts information about early learning services (external link)
Talk to us
Once you have done your research, contact your local Ministry office to talk to us. We will also explain more details about the application process and answer any questions you may have.
Talking to us gives your application the best chance of being successful.
Find your local Ministry office(external link)
Application form and fee
Complete the application form EC1 - start a centre-based service [PDF, 353 KB]
There is a non-refundable application fee of $2,817.50 (including GST).
The form asks you to provide additional documents related to your service management, staffing, building, and curriculum.
For some of these documents, you will need to contact other organisations. For example, contact your local Council for documents relating to the Resource Management Act 1991 and Building Act 2004 (there is more information on the form). You can access a copy of the early childhood facilities — Playground Equipment and Surfacing Handbook from Standards NZ at https://www.standards.govt.nz/(external link)
You will need to declare that the information you have provided is true, and sign it in front of an authorised witness.
More information about statutory declarations and authorised witnesses(external link)
How to send us your form
You'll need to print the form. Scan and email or post your completed form (along with other required documents) to your local Ministry office(external link). You may like to keep a copy for your personal records.
If we need more information
If we need more information from you, we will contact you and ask you to provide it to us within 10 working days.
We will start assessing your application once we have received all the required information and payment of the application fee.
Visit to your proposed centre
If you meet the requirements on the application form, we will contact you to make a time to visit your proposed centre.
Before we arrive, set up the centre as if it's ready for children to attend. For example, the building works should be completed, the education programme ready, furniture and equipment installed, and administrative systems in place. Make sure the service provider contact person, and any other staff you want to be there, can be there when we visit.
We will look at all aspects of your centre, including:
- the building
- the children's resources
- teaching qualifications and ratio requirements
- health and safety considerations
- governance and management considerations.
We may take notes, photos, or other evidence to support our assessment.
For a full list of the areas we will check, and other documents you will need to provide, see the centre-based EC3 assessment tool. If you don't have this, ask your local Ministry office(external link) for a copy.
How long does it take?
We will do our best to make a decision about whether your application is successful within 30 working days of receiving it.
We need all information before we can start assessing your application.
If your application is successful
If your application is successful, we’ll email or post you a licence. The licence shows details about your service, such as the hours children may attend and the number of children you are allowed to have.
You must display your licence at your service for parents and visitors to see.
A full licence assessment must be carried out by the Ministry within 12 months of gaining a probationary licence. During the full licence check, the Ministry of Education will assess policies, practices and curriculum implementation in action.