How early childhood education is regulated

The Education Act 1989 (Section 308) defines early childhood education centres as all places regularly catering for the education or care of three or more children under six who are not children of the caregiver.

All premises meeting this definition must be licensed in order to operate legally, and are required to follow the Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations 1998. These regulations cover things such as:

  • basic curriculum;
  • provision of adequate resources and equipment;
  • records;
  • health and safety, including requirements to have adequate space, fences, kitchen facilities, toilets, sleeping areas, fencing, hygiene and safety checks, and policies on diseases that can be passed between people;
  • first aid facilities and training;
  • child protection;
  • the number of staff needed and qualification levels;
  • maximum numbers of children attending; and
  • the right of parents to come in while their children are there.

Homebased care networks have separate regulations under the Education (Home‑Based Care) Order 1992. These regulations cover most of the same topics, although the specific requirements in the Order are different from those for centres.

There is useful information about regulations on the Ministry of Education’s early childhood education website:

ERO’s role in early childhood education

The Education Review Office (ERO) is the government department that evaluates and reports to the New Zealand public on the education and care of children in early childhood services and schools. On average, ERO reviews individual early childhood services and schools once every three years.

When ERO has particular concerns about a service that has been reviewed it will return for a follow-up or supplementary review. Supplementary reviews look at the specific concerns raised in earlier reviews.

Special reviews are carried out if there is reason to believe that there are serious issues needing immediate investigation.

Parents can use ERO reviews to help them choose a service for their child or to find out about the quality of education provided in that service.