Early Learning Regulatory Review

Learn about the Ministry of Education’s comprehensive review of the early learning regulatory system (the Review).

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • All Early Learning Services
  • Service Managers
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako

The Early Learning Regulatory Review may result in changes being made to how the early learning sector operates.

About the review

The Ministry of Education is currently reviewing the early learning regulatory system (the Review).

The Review is being undertaken in three tranches. The final regulations for tranche one were announced on 14 July 2021. The main aim of tranche one was to address some of the immediate gaps in our current system including those that pose a risk to children’s health, safety, and wellbeing. The changes in this tranche mostly impact new early learning services, service providers that have a change in circumstance, and services that have compliance issues.

Tranche two and three of the Review will cover the areas that are more complex and require more policy work. This will include addressing several commitments in the Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029 and Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education. Tranche three includes a complete rewrite of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 (the Regulations).

Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029(external link)(external link)

Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education(external link)(external link)

Why we are doing the review

The purpose of the Review is to ensure the regulatory system is clear and fit for purpose to support high quality educational outcomes for our youngest tamariki. It is also designed to enhance the Ministry’s role as regulator and steward of the system. It is timely to review the Regulations for early learning, as the early learning sector has changed significantly since the Regulations came into force in 2008. The number of children participating in early learning has increased, and children are participating at younger ages and for longer hours. This has led to a rapid expansion of early learning services, with different levels of growth between service types.

For more information about the Review, please see these proactively released documents.

Information releases – Early Learning Regulatory Review

Early Learning Regulatory Review Advisory Group

The Ministry has established an Early Learning Regulatory Review Advisory Group to contribute their perspectives and advice throughout the Review.

The Group includes representatives from early childhood education (ECE) services and peak sector bodies.

Consultation on tranche one

The Ministry held public consultation between November 2020 and February 2021 and received 258 survey responses and 21 written submissions, mostly from early learning services. The proposals were largely well supported.

Read more about the tranche one proposals that were consulted on in the Consultation Document below.

Consultation document – tranche one(external link)

Read the final consultation report below.

Consultation report – tranche one [PDF, 511 KB] 

Tranche one licensing criteria amendments

From 31 August 2021, the minimum room temperature required in early learning services increases from 16 degrees to 18 degrees Celsius in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

This change will take effect from 31 August to give services six weeks to ensure they can meet the new temperature requirement.

Licensing Criteria Amendments and Guidance [PDF, 90 KB]

From 1 January 2022, services will also be required to have regard for the National Education and Learning Priorities (the NELP) in both their annual plan and recorded outcomes from self-review and internal evaluations.

NELP Licensing Criteria Amendments(external link)(external link)

Tranche one Regulation amendments: 30 July 2021

The following amendments will come into effect on 30 July 2021 and provide the Ministry with additional tools to manage non-compliance and clarify existing requirements, to ensure children’s health, safety and wellbeing.  

  • Enabling the Secretary to reclassify a service’s licence as provisional following an incident involving a child that the Secretary considers warrants investigation.
  • Creating the ability to issue a written direction requiring a service to remedy an immediate health and safety risk.
  • Allowing the Ministry to immediately suspend a service’s licence if the licensed early childhood service is no longer under the control of its licensed service provider.
  • Clarifying that the fee for a new licence is payable upon application and is non-refundable.
  • Consolidating existing person responsible requirements.
  • Removing the requirement for a service provider to return their current licence if reclassified as provisional and the corresponding ability to suspend a licence if the licence is not returned.

The changes are expected to mostly impact new early learning services, service providers that have a change in circumstance, and services that have compliance issues. 

Tranche one Regulation amendments: 1 February 2022

The following will require operational change and over the next six months we will work with the sector to develop clear and transparent processes for implementation.

These changes will come into effect from 1 February 2022:

  • creating a cancellation pathway based on a service’s provisional licence history
  • clarifying the provisions for licence amendments when the service provider changes
  • clarifying the information used to assess an application for a probationary licence.

Education (Early Childhood Services) Amendment Regulations 2021(external link)(external link)

Tranche two overview

We have started developing tranche two proposals on:

  • Regulating for 80% qualified teachers for teacher-led centres and hospital-based services.
  • Strengthening the person responsible requirement for teacher-led centres and hospital-based services.
  • Implementing the new network planning function under the Education and Training Act 2020: Changes relating to early childhood education (ECE) me ngā Kōhanga reo.
  • Changes to home-based ECE from the Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education, including potential changes to the requirements and role of co-ordinators and the maximum licence size. 

Education and Training Act 2020: Changes relating to early childhood education (ECE) me ngā Kōhanga reo(external link)(external link)

Review of Home-based Early Childhood Education(external link)(external link)

Public consultation on tranche two proposals will take place between September and November 2021, with consultation on draft Regulations in early 2022. The Ministry intends for tranche two implementation to take place in mid-2022. 

Tranche three overview

Tranche three are the remaining matters that require significant further work to develop such as:

  • ensuring that children are at the centre of our system
  • improving adult-to-child ratios
  • reviewing remaining aspects of the licensing system
  • evaluating the role of the Ministry of Education and other actors in the system to ensure high quality provision of education and care
  • exploring how the regulatory system can support the Crown’s responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Tranche three will likely involve a complete rewrite of the Regulations to ensure that they are accessible and fit for purpose. There will be two rounds of public consultation.


If you have any questions or suggestions about the Review you are welcome to email Earlylearning.Regulatoryreview@education.govt.nz.

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