20 Hours ECE - Information and guidance


General information

What is 20 Hours ECE?

20 Hours ECE is where the Government will fully fund the cost of early childhood education (ECE) for up to 6 hours per day, and up to 20 hours per week. ECE services cannot charge any fees for hours claimed as 20 Hours ECE.

When did 20 Hours ECE start?

20 Hours ECE was launched on 2 July 2007 as Free ECE. All three and four year olds (and five year olds with a transition-to-school plan) were eligible to receive it, and it could be offered by all teacher-led ECE services and some kōhanga reo.

What changes have occurred?

  • On 31 January 2009 The Minister of Education renamed the Free ECE 20 hours early childhood education programme as 20 Hours ECE
  • from 1 March 2009 the requirement for a separate attestation form for 20 Hours ECE was removed. Parents can now make this declaration within their child's Enrolment Agreement Form.  ECE services can choose to use the sample Enrolment Agreement Form contained in the new ECE Funding Handbook or use their own form, as long it covers all the requirements
  • in May 2009 - Changes to 20 Hours ECE were announced in Budget 2009: “From 1 July 2010 five year olds and those attending Playcentres and kōhanga reo will be eligible for 20 hours of ECE without being required to pay fees”
  • from February 2011 - teacher-led early childhood services can also ask parents for 'Optional Charges' within their 20 Hours ECE entitlement for the service having more than 80% registered teachers.

Why provide 20 Hours ECE?

The Government is funding 20 Hours ECE because it believes that giving young children the best possible start in life is vitally important, and that quality ECE builds the lifelong foundations of successful learning.

By reducing the cost to families, 20 Hours ECE encourages parents to enrol their children in ECE or to increase the time their children spend in ECE. 20 Hours ECE helps parents to have more choice about how their children can regularly participate in ECE while balancing their role as a parent with other needs (such as work and study).

Why is 20 Hours ECE up to 20 hours a week?

20 hours a week encourages increased participation in high quality ECE. Research shows that children are likely to benefit more from high quality ECE if their participation is regular and frequent.

Why is it up to six hours a day?

20 Hours ECE is available for up to six hours a day so that it matches how the Government already funds ECE services, which is also for up to six hours per day.

Who is eligible to get 20 Hours ECE?

All three, four and five year olds enrolled at an ECE service that offers 20 Hours ECE can get up to six hours per day, up to 20 hours per week of early childhood education where no fee can be charged for those hours. 20 Hours ECE starts when a child turns three and finishes when they are enrolled in, and attending, school.

When does eligibility to 20 Hours ECE end?

Children are legally required to be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday. The last day that can be claimed as 20 Hours ECE is, therefore, the day before a child’s sixth birthday.

Do five year old children still need a transition-to-school plan?

A transition-to-school plan is no longer required in order for five year old children with special education needs to access 20 Hours ECE; however the transition-to-school plan is good practice to support children to successfully transition to school with their peers. For more information about the transition-to-school plan contact Ministry of Education Special Education.

Can children who are not New Zealand residents be enrolled in 20 Hours ECE?

Yes. Any three, four or five year old child in New Zealand can be enrolled in ECE and receive 20 Hours ECE even if they are not a New Zealand resident or citizen.

Is 20 Hours ECE income tested?

No. 20 Hours ECE is available to any three, four or five year old who is enrolled in a teacher-led ECE service, kōhanga reo or Playcentre that offers 20 Hours ECE. This is regardless of income, ethnicity, work status, immigration status, family situation or any other factor.

Who can offer 20 Hours ECE?

From 1 July 2010 all licensed teacher-led ECE services, kōhanga reo and Playcentres can offer 20 Hours ECE.

What’s the difference between teacher-led and parent-led ECE services?

Teacher-led ECE services:

A teacher-led ECE service is one where one or more ECE qualified and registered teachers are responsible for the overall programme in the ECE service. A qualified teacher would have a Diploma of Teaching in ECE or an equivalent qualification.  A wide range of ECE services are led by teachers, ranging from kindergarten to private ECE services and home-based ECE services.

Parent-led ECE services:

In parent-led ECE services, the parents/whānau of the children are primarily responsible for implementing the curriculum and working with the children. The parents/whānau may manage the ECE service. Parent-led ECE services do not usually employ teachers and do not have to meet the teacher registration requirements. Examples of parent-led ECE services include Playcentre, most kōhanga reo and playgroups.

Do ECE services have to offer 20 Hours ECE?

No, it is up to individual eligible ECE services to decide whether they offer 20 Hours ECE.

Why are private ECE services able to offer 20 Hours ECE?

Privately owned ECE services must meet the same licensing requirements and funding rules as community based ECE services in order to be funded by the Ministry of Education. By ensuring that private and community based ECE services are eligible to offer 20 Hours ECE the Government is giving parents a greater choice of ECE services to enrol their children in.

Last updated: 19 January 2011