The Education and Training Bill: Early Learning me ngā Kōhanga Reo

The Education and Training Bill aims to give all learners a more high-quality, culturally responsive, seamless and inclusive education, from early learning, through schooling, and into tertiary education, vocational training and employment. The Bill is not yet law.


The Bill is the biggest rewrite of education legislation in decades. Much of its content gives effect to the Government’s plans to transform the education system, following the Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation and the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce report.

The Bill incorporates and replaces the Education Acts of 1964 and 1989, and also incorporates the Education (Pastoral Care) Amendment Act and the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill which is currently before Parliament.

The Bill has been referred to the Education and Workforce Committee for public submissions. These close on 14 February 2020.

Education and Workforce Committee – New Zealand Parliament (external link)

Proposed changes

The Bill proposes changes to strengthen the quality, viability and supply of early learning services. 

Currently early childhood education and care centres must be licensed before they can operate. The licensing and management of services are set by regulations. If the applicant meets the licensing criteria, they must be granted a licence, irrespective of whether the new service is necessary or desirable to the network of service providers.  

The Government and some parts of the ECE sector are concerned that the ease of entry into the market has resulted in too many ECE providers in some areas, while in other areas there may be an undersupply of ECE services, impacting children and their whānau.

Additional licensing requirements

To provide a more active network management approach for the licensing framework, Part 2 of the Education and Training Bill introduces an additional application stage to the licensing process.

The first stage of this process is an application to the Minister for preliminary approval to establish an ECE service. The Minister will assess the application against the following criteria:

  • the capacity of the network in the surrounding community to meet demographic and community needs, including the provision of different service types, such as Māori medium
  • the suitability of the applicant. Each person involved in the governance of the service provider will need to meet a fit and proper person test, and to satisfy any other relevant background checks, such as Police vetting
  • the financial position of the organisation to ensure it is financially sound, and
  • the licensing history of any existing services owned, operated or connected to the applicant. 

The Minister can decline licence applications if an applicant does not meet the licensing criteria.

In the second stage of the licensing process, applications will go through the current licensing process as set out in the existing regulations.

Introducing additional licensing requirements for early childhood education services including Kōhanga reo (external link)

Change to the penalty for unlicensed ECE centres

The offence for ECE centres operating without a licence is currently set at $200 per day of operation. The Bill proposes changing the structure of the penalty and increasing the level to a maximum $50,000.

Changing the structure of the penalty for ECE services operating without a licence (external link)

Changes to police vetting for home-based services

The Bill makes it explicit that all adults who live in or are present in a home where home-based ECE is provided must undergo police vetting.

Police vetting is required for all adults who live in a home where home-based early childhood education and care is being provided (external link)

Monitoring and evaluation of providers

Increased powers for the Education Review Office (ERO) to obtain information from early learning service providers’ parent entities, and to enter homes where early learning is taking place to review and evaluate curriculum delivery and health and safety performance.

Enabling the Education Review Office (ERO) to obtain information from early learning service parent entities (external link)

Enabling the Education Review Office (ERO) to enter a home where home-based early learning is being provided (external link)

Supporting early learning me ngā kōhanga reo

The Government has agreed to establish a new Education Service Agency (ESA) as a part of a redesigned Ministry of Education. The primary purpose of the ESA will be to deliver more responsive, accessible and integrated local support to meet the educational needs of learners/ākonga, parents, families and whānau, as well as educators and school leaders.  It will have a strong focus on working with, and supporting, education providers (early learning services, kura, schools, wharekura, including transitions between these and tertiary), with an emphasis on teaching and learning.

The ESA is part of the Government’s response to feedback, from participants in the Korero Mātauranga | Education Conversation, and the report of the Tomorrow’s Schools taskforce, on what needs to change in education. 

More information on this response can be found on the Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation website.

Tomorrow's Schools Review – Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation (external link)


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