Part one: What are my choices?
New Zealand has many types of early childhood services to choose from. Each type has its own way of working with children and their parents.
Some offer all day education and care, some only part day. Some are led by registered teachers; in others, parents, whānau or caregivers provide the education. There are also services in which other people provide education and care for your child in their home. In choosing a service you need to think about what is important to you and what will be best for you and your child.
Your first decision will be about what type of early childhood service suits you best. There are two kinds to choose from:
- teacher-led – where teachers provide the education and care
- parent-led – where parents, whānau or caregivers provide the education and care for their children.
Correspondence and special education services are also available to children who need them.
All ECE services, including certificated playgroups, are regulated by the Ministry of Education. This means that services must meet minimum standards of education and care in order to operate.
ECE services regulated by the Ministry of Education
If you plan to leave your child in the care of an ECE service, for example, because you want to enter the paid work force or enrol in a programme of study, you need to look for a service regulated by the Ministry of Education that suits you and your child.
ECE services regulated by the Ministry of Education meet standards set by Government for their property, health and safety, staff, education and care programmes and management. They receive funding from the Government to help meet their running costs.
Regulated services can include teacher led services such as childcare centres, kindergartens, Pasifika early childhood services, Montessori, Rudolf Steiner schools, home-based early childhood education; or parent and whānau led services such as Playcentres and Kōhanga Reo.
Other services, such as some playgroups, Pacific Islands Early Childhood groups and Ngā Puna Kōhungahunga are run by parents, whānau and caregivers and meet different Ministry of Education requirements in order to receive funding from the Ministry.
Education and care centres
Education and care centres are licensed by the Ministry of Education to offer either all day or part day services. Education and care centres may include church based, workplace and childcare centres which focus on a particular language and culture, which may be run by either community or private owners.
Some services may be based around certain beliefs about, or methods of, education, such as Montessori or Rudolph Steiner centres.
Depending on the centre, they may accept children from birth to school age, or children of specific ages.
At least half of the teachers in charge of the centre must be registered teachers who hold a Diploma in Teaching (ECE) or similar qualification. Other staff in the centre may have different qualifications or experience.
Casual centres, such as those in shopping malls and gyms, where your child stays only for the short time you are at the venue, are included in this service type. In most education and care services you need to enrol your child for a set period of time. Casual centres may take children when you arrive on the day.
Education and care centres usually charge fees. As parents, whānau or caregivers, you may have an opportunity to be involved with management committees, or as voluntary helpers or fundraisers.
Kindergartens are a type of education and care centre run by a kindergarten association, and licensed by the Ministry of Education. Most kindergartens offer services to children aged between two and five years. Kindergartens may organise their services so that:
- older children attend morning sessions five-days-a-week; and
- younger children attend afternoon sessions three-days-a-week.
However, some kindergartens arrange their sessions differently, to allow siblings to attend together. Some kindergartens offer sessions from 9 am to 3 pm or all day sessions and may take children under two years.
Early childhood teachers working in kindergartens which offer morning and afternoon sessions must all be registered teachers who hold at least a Diploma in Teaching (ECE) or similar qualification.
Each kindergarten is run by a committee made up of parents and people from the community. This committee reports to a local kindergarten association. As a parent, whānau or caregiver, you may have the opportunity to be involved with the committee or association, or as a voluntary helper or fundraiser.
Kindergartens usually ask for a parent donation or fee.
Home-based education and care services
These services involve an educator providing education and care for small groups of up to four young children in a home setting (theirs or the child’s) as part of a Ministry of Education funded and regulated home-based care service.
Educators in home-based services provide all day or part day education and care. They may also provide emergency care. The work of the educator is supported by a coordinator who is a registered teacher. Some co-ordinators may help parents choose the right educator for their child and this person will support the child’s learning programme. The co-ordinator visits the homebased caregiver/educator regularly to check on the child’s safety and wellbeing and their learning progress.
Home-based care services usually charge fees.
In Playcentres, parents, whānau and caregivers meet together to support their children’s early learning. Playcentres offer learning through play for children from birth to school age. Most Playcentres are licensed by the Ministry of Education.
Each Playcentre sets the times for its own sessions and children can attend up to five sessions a week.
People become members of a Playcentre when they enrol their child. They are then involved in running the centre and taking part in the daily programme. Each centre is linked to a regional association, which belongs to the national New Zealand Playcentre Federation. The associations provide parent education programmes. Parents, whānau and caregivers are encouraged to take part in Playcentre courses to help them enhance their child’s learning.
Playcentres usually charge fees or request donations. Because parents, whānau and caregivers are so involved in this service, these fees or donations are generally lower than in teacher-led services.
Te Kōhanga Reo
Ngā Kōhanga Reo are services licensed by the Ministry of Education that build young children’s and parents’ knowledge of te reo Māori (language) and tikanga (culture). Parents and whānau are closely involved in the child’s learning and development. Children can attend from birth in the Kōhanga Reo total immersion te reo Māori environment (meaning te reo Māori is the only language used). Parents and whānau are responsible for the management and operation of their Kōhanga Reo and are encouraged to take part in the daily programme.
Kōhanga Reo have a whānau contribution system which may vary according to the needs of the whānau. This contribution can be koha, donations for food and/or paying fees.
Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust is the umbrella organisation for all Kōhanga Reo. The Trust’s role as the kaitiaki (guardian) of the Kōhanga Reo kaupapa is to ensure the quality and revitalisation of the Māori language. It does this by providing support and advice to Kōhanga Reo and advocating on their behalf. The Trust provides whanau based learning to Kōhanga Reo whānau including Whakapakari Tino Rangatiratanga, a three-year training course for kaiako (teachers). It also provides training courses for whānau in te reo Māori, computer training, Te Whāriki and business administration.
Playgroups are community-based groups that give parents, whānau and caregivers the opportunity to meet together and provide play programmes for their children. To be a playgroup, more than half the children attending must have a parent staying with them, and no child can attend for more than 4 hours per day. The playgroup sessions are often set up in community halls where equipment is put out before each session and cleared away afterwards.
Certificated playgroups that meet certain requirements can receive a small amount of Government funding to help pay for equipment and hall hire. Parents, whanau and caregivers involved in running the sessions receive information, support and training from the Ministry of Education to help them do so. With the Ministry’s help, some of these groups grow into a service licensed by the Ministry of Education.
Ngā Puna Kōhungahunga
Ngā Puna Kōhungahunga are a type of playgroup that builds learning in te reo Māori and tikanga. These groups help parents and whānau to shape learning programmes to meet their children’s needs. Learning may be in both English and te reo or in te reo only.
Parents and whānau are involved in running the sessions and receive information, support and training from the Ministry of Education to help them do so.
Pacific Islands Early Childhood groups
These are a type of playgroup that builds young children’s knowledge of their own Pasifika language and culture. These groups include many Pasifika cultures from countries such as Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Fiji. Learning may be in both English and a Pasifika language or in the Pasifika language only. These groups are often church or community based and parents help run the sessions.
The Correspondence School
The Correspondence School offers learning programmes for children aged three to five years who live too far away from early childhood education services. Correspondence is also an option for children who can’t attend other services because they are ill or have a disability, or they shift homes at least once a term.
Children who receive the early childhood education correspondence service can also attend a regular service for up to two sessions per week.
The Correspondence School’s early childhood education teachers work with parents, whānau or caregivers to develop a programme to meet the needs of their child.
Parents, whānau or caregivers receive information and programmes to help them plan play activities and learning experiences to support their child’s learning.
The Correspondence School also has a range of books, puzzles, educational games, audiotapes, posters and art materials that can be borrowed.
Education and care for children who have special education needs is provided in many types of early childhood services. These children have the same right to attend early childhood services as other children.
To support their development and learning, the Ministry of Education provides additional services for these children as early as possible and until they are settled into school. These additional services are known as ‘early intervention’.
Early intervention services are available throughout the country. They are provided by early intervention teachers, speech-language therapists, psychologists, advisors on deaf children and education support workers. Depending on the child’s needs, a group of these specialists and support staff may form a team and work closely with other health professionals. The Ministry of Education also funds a range of other early intervention providers that provide services in some parts of the country. Your local Ministry of Education office can provide more information about other services in your area.
The early intervention team provides help to your child and your family, and to early childhood teachers and staff at the early childhood education service. The goal is to work together to provide the best learning support for your child at home and in the service. Early intervention teams also help with your child’s transition to school.
To find out more about these services, please call your local Ministry of Education, Special Education office on 0800 622 222.
Government funding for ECE
Many services receive government funding. You can ask the service if it receives Government funding and how this affects any fees or donations they charge.