Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

The Education Act 1989 S310 defines an early childhood education and care centre as premises used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care, or children enrolled at a school being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6—

  1. by the day or part of a day; but
  2. not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education Act 1989 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 719 KB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in May 2016.


Licensing Criteria Cover

PF29 Design of sleep provisions

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Premises and facilities criterion 29

      § Furniture and items intended for children to sleep on (such as cots, beds, stretchers, or mattresses) are of a size that allows children using them to lie flat, and are of a design to ensure their safety.


      To ensure that sleeping provisions are safe and appropriate for children using them.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Children sometimes need to sleep at the centre. Furniture and items intended for children to sleep on (such as cots, beds, stretchers, or mattresses) must be large enough to allow all children, especially infants under one, to lie flat on their backs.

      Although children often do sleep ‘in transit’ in a pram or buggy, this is not the primary purpose of the equipment. A pram is therefore not a suitable place for a child to sleep at the centre if there is no need to transport them anywhere.

      Where cots are used, mattresses need to fit firmly inside the cot to avoid gaps that a young infant could get wedged in.

      The Ministry of Health states that multi-level cots are only acceptable if the following can be assured:

      • The area situated around each cot is well ventilated to allow sufficient fresh air, no build-up of carbon dioxide, moisture and heat.
      • Cots are built to Australian/New Zealand Standards [AS/NZS 2130: 1998 Cots for Day Nursery, Hospital and Institutional Use – Safety Requirements].
      • The cots must be secured to the wall so that the cots cannot fall in any event.
      • There is a specific evacuation plan for the sleep room where such cots exist.
      • New Zealand Fire Service has no concerns about the safety of the sleeping arrangements.
      • Cots are easily accessible by staff and a sufficient distance apart to avoid cross infection.
      • Children are able to sit up in the cots. Children who are able to stand up are not to be placed in upper cots.

      The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment both state that bunk beds are not suitable for children under 9 years of age.

      The Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4220:2010 (Bunk Beds and Other Elevated Beds) states that bunk beds and elevated beds (any bed where the upper surface of the mattress is 700mm above floor height) are dangerous and are not recommended for children under the age of 9, and that falls from elevated beds can be fatal.

      Therefore bunk beds and elevated beds cannot be used in early learning services in New Zealand.