Starting a centre-based ECE service

Click on the links below for information on starting a centre-based licensed early learning service.

Preparing policies, procedures and processes

We suggest you do the following:

  1. Read the licensing criteria booklet that applies to your service type to identify which policies are required.
  2. Write drafts of documentation required for licensing and other policies, procedures and processes you think would be useful. If your service is part of an umbrella organisation it may require additional documentation or have examples you can adapt.
  3. Consider how you will ensure that your service operates in accordance with the regulations and licensing criteria, and have documentation to reflect this.
  4. Download probationary licence application (EC/1C) form from our website. It is helpful to have the form at this stage as some of your documentation of policies, procedures and processes need to be submitted as part of the application. The other policies, procedures and processes will be looked at later, on site, when your service is visited by the Ministry of Education as part of the licensing process.

Review of third-party material: 

The Ministry does not, as a matter of policy, review material produced by organisations (i.e. third party) for use by early learning providers. It is the responsibility of the organisation producing the material for use in the early learning sector to ensure that it reflects the required practice standards. The Ministry will from time to time review this material in the course of its regulatory functions, e.g. licensing and reviews of early learning providers. If, as a result of reviewing material, we become aware of an inconsistency between the third-party material and expected practice, we will advise the provider and organisation producing the material of the inconsistency. It is the responsibility of the organisation producing the material to ensure it is updated to reflect the required practice standard.


  • Why have policies?
    • Policies identify agreed processes and procedures that ensure:

      • key legislative requirements are met;
      • those involved in the service have a shared understanding of agreed processes and procedures so that these are consistent, safe and appropriate; and
      • those involved in the service have the opportunity to discuss policy and suggest change through regular review processes.

      (See regulation 47(external link), criterion GMA4).

  • What is required?
    • The Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link) apply to all licensed services. The regulations require services to formulate certain policies, processes and procedures.

      Read the regulations to clarify what is actually required and from there determine what policies you will need. An ECE service’s policies will reflect its individual philosophy, values and style of operation. ECE services also need to develop their own policies and procedures to meet other legislative requirements.

  • Are policies legally binding?
    • Policies are not legally binding. They reflect an individual ECE service’s agreed practice, and can be reviewed and changed by the service. Staff, parents and others in the service may agree to follow the service’s policy (and any future changes to policy) when they are employed or when their child is enrolled.

      In this way they become binding to those staff and parents, and the service could dismiss an employee or cancel an enrolment if a policy is not followed. A court of law could not do the same because it only deals with breaches of regulations or law.

  • Can we copy from other services?
    • Policies from other ECE services can give you good ideas to think about as you write your own. However, do remember that all services and communities have different structures, beliefs, values and expectations. It is important that your policies are relevant to your service. If you don’t like a policy you already have, discuss it and change it.

      Your policies should work for you!

  • Writing policies
    • Wherever possible, develop policies before you need them and be prepared to introduce new policies and procedures when the need for this arises. Consultation with staff and parents will help to ensure your policies and procedures are robust and realistic for implementation on a daily basis.

      Most policies include:

      • a rationale (a reason for having the policy)
      • objectives (what you hope to achieve through the policy)
      • procedures that clearly describe the actual practices that will occur
      • how the policy will be implemented
      • when the policy should be implemented
      • who is responsible for its implementation
      • when the policy is planned to be reviewed.

      If your policy is not working well, consult with staff, contractors and families and change it! The content of your policies belongs to your service.

      A regular review process (see regulation 47(external link), criterion GMA4) where those involved in the service have the opportunity to discuss policy and suggest changes will ensure your policies and procedures are always relevant to your service.