Establishing a home-based service

Licensed home-based education and care services

This information is a guide for service providers interested in establishing a licensed home-based education and care service. 

The 1989 Education Act definition of a home-based education and care service

Home- based education and care services are defined in the 1989 Education Act as those that provide “education and care, for gain or reward, to fewer than 5 children under the age of 6 (in addition to any child enrolled at school who is the child of the person who provides education and care) in:

  • their own home; or
  • the home of the person providing the education and care; or
  • any other home nominated by the parents of the children.

‘Gain or reward’ means that educators must be paid or receive some quantifiable benefit for the service they provide.

The use of volunteer or unpaid educators excludes the service provider from holding a licence as the service provider does not meet the definition of a Home-based ECE Service under the Education Act 1989.

How can providers meet the gain or reward requirement?

For a home-based service to receive Ministry funding there must be an auditable trail of reciprocity. That is, the Ministry must be able to see that the educator providing ECE has been paid for providing this to the children in their care.

The business arrangement between the service provider and the educator needs to have evidence of a contractual agreement and other related business documentation, for example a record of salary payments and other methods of payment.

Providing a quantifiable benefit to educators, that is some form of payment that directly benefits the educator and that relates to the amount of work they do, is required to meet the provision for gain or reward.

It is the responsibility of home-based service providers to ensure that all educators within their service/s receive payment for their work. Payment can either come from the service provider, or from the family the educator is working with.

While the Ministry cannot specify what this means in terms of the amount or type of payment, there needs to be a clear link between the payment received and the work completed. Services will be responsible for complying with the requirements of employment related legislation such as the Commerce Act, 1986 and the Income Tax Act, 2007.

Home-based education and care differs from other Early Childhood Education (ECE) options because children remain in a home environment. A home-based educator provides full or part day education and care for fewer than five children under the age of six, in private homes. Educators are supervised by coordinators who are qualified and registered early childhood education teachers.

Early Childhood Education and Care regulations

Licensed home-based education and care services are required to comply with the regulatory standards and criteria set out in the: 

A licensed home-based service is eligible to receive government funding, and must comply with the Ministry of Education funding rules in order to do so.

The quality of the education and care provided by the service is also reviewed regularly by the Education Review Office.

Service providers can use the Ministry of Education's licensing assessment tool for home-based ECE services or talk to their local Ministry of Education office to find out more about early childhood regulations and criteria.

Roles and responsibilities in a home-based education and care service

The Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 define three distinct positions of responsibility in a home-based education and a care service: service provider, coordinator and educator.

Service Provider is a body, agency, or person who or that arranges, or offers to arrange education and care for children.  The service provider:

  • is the holder of the licence
  • is a fit and proper person to be involved in the management of the service as described in the regulations
  • ensures that the requirements of the regulations are being complied with in respect of each home used in connection with the service.

Coordinator means the person who has primary responsibility for overseeing the education and care, comfort, and health and safety of the children, and providing professional leadership and support to educators within the service. A coordinator:

  • is the person recognised as the ‘person responsible’ in a licensed home-based service
  • holds an early childhood teaching qualification recognised by the New Zealand Teachers Council for registration purposes
  • must contact each educator at least once a fortnight, visit each educator at least  once a month and take all reasonable steps each month to observe each child while that child is receiving education and care.

Educator means the person who provides education, care and comfort directly to children in his or her care, and attends to the health and safety of those children.  An educator:

  • must hold a First Aid qualification

It is vital that care is taken during the selection process to assess the suitability of each potential educator.  Working as a home-based educator will not suit everybody.  A high level of individual responsibility and trust is required of an educator and as the provision of the service often occurs in the home of the educator there must be a willingness on the educator’s part to open their home to others.   It is important that other family members are also comfortable with this happening.

The service provider and co-ordinator are responsible for matching educators and families and for ensuring that educators’ practices promote the education, health and safety of children enrolled in the service.   Service providers must ensure that educators are provided with adequate equipment and resources, support, advice and training in early childhood education.

Home-based service providers are required to ensure that all persons providing education and care are aged 17 years and over and hold a current first aid qualification (or equivalent alternative). 

Currently all licensed home-based education and care service providers must ensure that any person who has physically ill-treated or abused or committed a crime against children is excluded from coming into contact with children in the care of an educator.  Although there is no requirement to do so most home-based service providers ensure this by police vetting educators and any other persons regularly present in the home.  An amendment to the Education Act 1989 is in progress that will require a police vet for all usually resident members 17 years of age or older in the home where the home-based service is being provided.  This will apply where the children attending the service are being cared for in a home other than their own.  This amendment is likely to be approved before the end of 2009.

Home based service operating models

There are predominantly two different models of home-based education and care services operating in New Zealand:

  • A service provider enters into a contract with an educator
  • A family and educator find each other first. In this situation the educator is often employed or contracted by the family directly.

The Home-based Education and Care home environment

'Fit for purpose'

Children need access to an environment that is 'fit for purpose' – that is, it can support children “to grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society” (Ministry of Education, 1996, p9). Consideration must be given to how the home-based environment would reflect the curriculum framework and support the level of quality education and care required in the regulations.

It is the responsibility of the licensed home-based service provider to ensure that the premises and facilities used are ‘fit for purpose’:  

  • Can the premises support the provision of different types of indoor and outdoor play?
  • Are there spaces for quiet activities and areas for physically active play?
  • How would the environment cater for individual and group learning experiences appropriate to the experience-base, cultural contexts, ages, abilities and interests of children attending?
  • Can children be effectively supervised when accessing the indoor and outdoor areas?

One benefit of home-based education and care is that the equipment, experiences, opportunities, materials and provisions that are part of  everyday home and community life (e.g. pots, pans, couches, local parks, libraries,) are readily available for children and educators to use. 

It is useful for educators to think about the implications of providing home-based education and care in their own homes.  Welcoming children and their families, as well as service co-ordinators, into their home is an integral part of an educator’s role and it is important that educators and other family members are comfortable with this happening.  Educators should consider how their home will be used.  For instance will all rooms be available for children to use or will some rooms (e.g. a teenager’s room) be inaccessible?  Can these rooms be locked? 

Compliance with Building Act

To ensure the safety and well-being of children each home in the home-based service must conform to any relevant local authority by-laws, and any recent work done to a home must comply with the requirements of the Building Act 2004.  Home-based service providers are required to ensure that any compliance documentation (for instance a Code of Compliance Certificate issued under Section 95 of the Building Act 2004 for any building work undertaken) is available.  (Refer Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, reg. 45, PF3.)


The following resources may help you:

The Lead website also provides guidance for each criteria of the regulations.

Other resources you may find useful:

  • A Strategic Plan for Home-based Early Childhood Education Services. This plan was developed by a working group from a cross-section of people involved with home-based education and care and completed in April 2009. The strategic goals of this plan are linked to the goals of Nga Huarahi Arataki/Pathways to the Future (Ministry of Education, 2002). Ten strategies for home-based ECE have been proposed in this plan.
  • Everiss, E. (1999). Occasional Paper No.5.1999, Bringing it back to mind: Two decades of Family Day Care Development in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Institute for Early Childhood Studies.
  • Education Review Office. (2001). What Counts as Quality in Home-based Care?
  • Ministry of Education. (1999). The Quality Journey/He haerenga whai hua: home based edition. Wellington: Learning Media.
  • Mooney, A., & Statham, J. (2003). Family Day Care: International Perspectives on Policy, Practice and Quality. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • White, E.J. (2003). In search of quality: A journey for family day care. Unpublished M.Ed thesis, Victoria University: Wellington.
  • White, J. (2005). Thin blue lines and red crosses: signposts to quality in family day care? International journal of early childhood, 37(2): 94-100.
  • White, J. (2005). Public spaces in private places: quality review in the context of family day care. Occasional paper No.16. Victoria University of Wellington.
  • Wright, L. (2003). Living the Early Childhood Curriculum: Five days in family day care settings. MEd Thesis Victoria University of Wellington.
  • Wright, L. (2004). Spotlight on family day care: A window into home-based pedagogy. Early Childhood Folio 8. New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

DVDs and Videos

In this section

Last updated: 21 May 2015