Development of regulatory framework for ECE services
This section provides information on the review of the 1998 regulations and the development of the new regulatory framework for early childhood education (ECE) services that came into force on 1 December 2008.
The basis for regulating early childhood education is found in Part 26 of the Education Act 1989. An electronic version of this statute can be found on the Public Access to Legislation Project (PAL) website.
For services licensed prior to 1 December 2008, the education-related legislation for licensed and/or chartered early childhood services in New Zealand are:
- The Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations 1998,
- The Education (Home-Based Care) Order 1992, and
- The Revised Statement of Desirable Objectives and Practices (DOPs) for Chartered Early Childhood Services in New Zealand 1996.
Together, these regulations are referred to as the 1998 regulatory framework.
The Ministry of Education began a review of the early childhood education (ECE) regulations in 2003 as signalled in Pathways to the Future: Nga Huarahi Arataki, the Strategic Plan for ECE. This acknowledged that a review of the regulations was necessary to support the achievement of the strategic plan’s three core goals of increased participation; improved quality; and promoting collaborative relationships. The review aimed to create an integrated regulatory framework for all early childhood education services.
In 2004 the New Zealand Government agreed on a three-tiered regulatory framework (known as the 2008 regulatory framework):
- first tier: The Education Act (1989)
- second tier: Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 and Education (Playgroups) Regulations 2008
- third tier: Criteria to assess compliance with standards for centre, home-based, hospital based services and Kōhango Reo and playgroups.
The third tier criteria are deemed regulations prescribed by the Minister of Education. These state the day-to-day requirements that different ECE services types must meet in order to meet the regulated standards of education and care that are outlined in regulation. The criteria clarify current requirements and make them more transparent and accessible. They are intended to make it easier for new ECE services to know what is required of them. They also contribute to a more integrated system of legislation that supports flexibility and diversity through different sets of criteria for different service types.
The Secretary of Education uses the criteria to assess compliance with the standards that are set out in the regulations (second tier). Compliance is required in order to gain and maintain a licence to operate an ECE service (or be certificated, in the case of playgroups).
Ministry of Education officials, Public Health representatives (who play an advisory role in the licensing process), and ECE sector-nominated representatives were involved in the development of the criteria, to ensure they reflect current interpretations of the requirements.
The regulatory review has been a developmental process that has seen three consultation phases since 2004. The first phase of public consultation occurred in mid-2006 when the draft criteria were released to the wider ECE sector. Feedback received during this process was used to refine and revise the criteria.
The second phase of public consultation on the proposed criteria was conducted during October-November 2007 to meet the requirements of the Education Amendment Act 2006. The purpose of the consultation process was to gain feedback about how achievable ECE services considered the proposed criteria were; to gain information from the sector about any impact the proposed criteria would have on existing services; and to identify any alternative options.
In November 2008 the Minister of Education announced a review of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, which came into effect on 1 December 2008. The purpose of this review was to ensure that the 2008 regulations and criteria did not place unnecessary compliance burdens on early childhood services or compromise the health and safety of young children and the quality of early childhood education services. A Working Group [Word; 23kb] was established to consider the consultation feedback gathered over February-March 2009, and make recommendations to the Minister of Education for her consideration. The Summary report on consultation for sector working group (March 2009) [PDF v1.5; 287kb] and the Report of the sector working group (April 2009) [PDF v1.5; 200kb] can be downloaded here. On 1 July 2009 the Minister announced the Government decisions on changes to the regulations and licensing criteria.