Regulations 2008 coverThis Guide has been prepared by My ECE and it brings together and summarises the main legal requirements for early childhood education (ECE) centres.

Centres are defined as services that operate from specified premises and are licensed in accordance with the Education Act 1989 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008. Centres have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names including:

  • Playcentre
  • Childcare
  • Daycare
  • Early Learning Centre
  • Crèche
  • Preschool 
  • Montessori
  • Kindergarten
  • Te Kōhanga Reo
  • A’oga Amata
  • Rudolf Steiner

The minimum legal requirements detailed here are sourced from the requirements of most relevance to parents from the:

Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations (2008).
Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Centres 
Licensing Criteria for Kōhanga Reo affiliated with Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust 

All centres must meet these minimum standards (regulations and criteria) to operate. A centre exceeding these standards indicates it is better placed to meet the needs of children and produce good outcomes (and this is something isn't it that we hope every centre will do for the benefit of children?).

Note that the Ministry of Education’s Secretary has some discretion to tighten, relax, or waive certain requirements in some cases and for individual services - so check with your individual service first before making a complaint.


Seek Help If You Are Unsure About a Centre's Compliance

You can contact the Ministry of Education office in your region for information and assistance:

  • If you are concerned children’s needs are not being met.
  • If you are concerned a centre is not meeting a minimum legal requirement.
  • To request that a centre obtain a health report if concerned about hygiene.

If you believe a service is breaching a legal requirement, the Ministry of Education needs to know.  It is unlikely to know and may not know for many years or if at all,  unless you tell it.  Find out more about making a formal complaint here and your options.


Making a complaint to your service

A centre may be fully in compliance with the standards yet it may be acting in ways that you consider unethical. This is something you should discuss with the centre management and other parents.  Two key reference documents you may find helpful to read and refer your centre to are the Code of Ethical Conduct for Early Childhood Services and the Code of Rights for Children.

For a complaint form (click here).

If the problem concerns something directly affecting your child, then you may want to use the Child Feedback Form also (click here). 


This guide does not purport to be a full and accurate interpretation of all statutory provisions relating to early childhood centres. While best efforts have been used in preparing this guide, no representations or warranties of any kind are made and My ECE assumes no liabilities of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the content. My ECE shall not be held liable or responsible to any person or entity with respect to any loss or incidental or consequential damages caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the information contained herein. Please note that the Government and Ministry of Education may change, update, or alter any of the requirements at any time.