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Goal 1: Quality is raised for children by improving regulated standards

1.1 Regulate new adult:child ratios for infants and toddlers

High adult:child ratios enable adults to interact responsively with infants and toddlers. New Zealand’s minimum adult:child ratios for children under 3 years old compare unfavourably with evidence-based recommendations and with ratios in similar OECD countries.

It is proposed to increase the ratios of teachers to children under the age of 3 years in two bands: to 1:4 for under 2 year olds, and 1:5 for 2 year olds.

Age (year)

Under 2


3 and over

Current ratios



Proposed ratios




Note: Adult:child ratios are calculated across a licensed centre and do not require that children are grouped by age.

This change would be implemented in stages, beginning with higher funding rates to encourage the new ratio for under 2 year olds, followed by regulation. Next, the 2 year old ratio would have funding incentives, then regulation. 

1.2 Require early learning services to support secure and consistent relationships for children

Research tells us that children need secure, consistent and responsive relationships with adults.

It is proposed to require early learning services to demonstrate how their organisation of teaching staff supports infants and toddlers to experience secure and consistent care. They would also need to show how they support positive transitions for children and their whānau. The Ministry of Education would work with the early learning sector to share good examples of effective practice. 

1.3 Incentivise for 100% and regulate for 80% qualified teachers in teacher-led centres, leading to regulation for100%

Teacher qualifications make an important contribution to quality practices, eg, by enabling higher quality interactions with children.

It is proposed to increase the percentage of required staff who are qualified in teacher-led, centre-based services from 50% to 80% by 2022 and then to 100%. Where children are in separate spaces, at least one qualified teacher would need to be with each group.

This change would be implemented in stages, starting with funding incentives for 100% qualified.

1.4 Develop advice on group size, the design of physical environments and environmental factors

Small group sizes are linked to better quality, particularly for younger children and those living in high risk situations. Also, environments that are warm, spacious and allow children to experience nature are important for children’s wellbeing and learning. Research tells us that group size and the size and design of built environments are interrelated.

It is proposed to develop comprehensive and integrated advice about the relationships between group size and wider environmental issues, and how to improve quality standards in these areas. If this advice leads to proposals for regulatory changes, financial implications would need further consideration.

1.5 Gazette Te Whāriki to support shared expectations

It is proposed to gazette the principles, strands, goals and outcomes that are included in the early learning curriculum, Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa. Gazetting will strengthen the legal status of Te Whāriki and create clear expectations that every child experiences a rich and empowering curriculum. 

1.6 Prevent low quality service providers from opening additional services

Currently service providers with a poor history of provision can establish new services, as long as they meet licensing standards at the time of opening.

It is proposed to require existing service providers to apply for an ‘authorisation to expand’. They would need to demonstrate that they have the capability, governance and management expertise needed. This would mean that service providers with a poor history of provision could not expand without authorisation.

1.7 Increase monitoring of services

It is proposed to introduce a consistent and rigorous programme of monitoring, including unannounced visits by the Ministry of Education or the Education Review Office (ERO). Services would also need to tell parents or whānau if the service is put on a provisional licence, and to explain the reasons why and how these are being addressed. Where a service is repeatedly on provisional licence, the regulations could be amended to allow the service’s licence to be cancelled. Serious concerns around one service could trigger an automatic review of all of a service provider’s other licences.


Goal 2: Every child is empowered through timely access to the resources they need to thrive

2.1 Ensure equity funding supports children who need it

The Government currently provides equity funding and targeted funding for disadvantage to support children to attend high quality services and to gain learning support when needed. It is proposed to review this funding to ensure that it best supports children to benefit from participation. The review would include the amount of funding and the way it is allocated. 

2.2 Co-construct progress tools to support children’s learning and wellbeing

We currently have limited tools for understanding children’s progress across the range of capabilities described in Te Whāriki. It is likely that some children might need further support in areas such as health, wellbeing or language.

It is proposed that the Ministry of Education work with the early learning sector to co-construct valid, reliable and culturally appropriate progress tools for formative assessment of children’s learning and development within the framework of Te Whāriki. These tools would provide appropriate guidance to support children’s learning and wellbeing and would also identify when specialist support or other interventions are needed.

2.3 Expand the number of early learning services that facilitate wrap-around social services to support children and their whānau

The Ministry would work with the early learning sector and other agencies to identify effective examples where early learning services facilitate access to social and health services. These services could include visits from public health nurses, iwi and Māori engagement for whānau, budgeting programmes and mental health programmes. The Ministry will share information about how successful integrated approaches operate in diverse communities. 

Goal 3: Investment in our workforce supports excellence in teaching and learning

3.1 Improve the consistency and levels of teacher salaries and conditions across the early learning sector

Inconsistent salaries and conditions in the early learning sector can cause high staff turnover and constrain the opportunities teachers have to plan for children’s learning. These outcomes do not benefit children.

It is proposed to develop a mechanism for the Government to support more consistent and improved teacher salaries and conditions in the early learning sector. This would also help services with a high number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds to attract capable and experienced teachers.

3.2 Strengthen Initial Teacher Education

There is already work underway to improve the initial education of teachers.

It is proposed to make sure initial teacher education (ITE) enables newly graduated teachers to fully implement Te Whāriki. Issues of equity of access, variable quality of available qualifications, multiple pathways to teaching, and teacher diversity would be addressed. It is also recommended that professional learning and development (PLD) be offered to help services support student teachers. 

3.3 Improve professional learning and development

It is proposed to develop a sustained and planned approach to PLD, to strengthen the capability and effectiveness of teachers, kaiako, educators and leaders. PLD would include opportunities for collaborative learning and support curriculum implementation, understanding of te ao Māori and proficiency in te reo Māori, cultural competency, digital literacy and effective leadership.

3.4 Develop a workforce supply strategy

It is proposed to develop a workforce supply strategy that includes a range of pathways to achieve early learning qualifications.

This includes expanding the current scholarship programme that provides fees and allowances for early learning students in undergraduate and graduate ITE programmes and attracts Māori and Pacific students.

The Ministry of Education would also work with the sector to improve data on the early learning workforce. 

Goal 4: Planning ensures that provision is valued, sufficient and diverse

4.1 Develop and introduce a process to determine whether a new early learning service is needed

Currently new early learning services can be set up as long as they meet the licensing criteria. In some areas there may be more or less capacity than needed, or the provision may not be the best fit for parents and whānau.

It is proposed that new applications for a licence would only be accepted in areas where a new service is needed.

4.2 Provide governance and management support for community-owned services

Additional advice and support would be provided to community-owned services to help build effective governance and management. This would include more resources and training, as well as face-to-face support for in-depth help.

4.3 Support the establishment and maintenance of early learning services on Crown land administered by the Ministry of Education

The Ministry would commit space where possible for early learning services alongside new primary school sites. This would help new services to develop close connections to schools and kura.

The Ministry would also clarify expectations about current leases, including responsibility for building maintenance.

4.4 Co-design an appropriate funding model with Te Kōhanga National Trust

Te Kōhanga Reo is a Māori development initiative aimed at maintaining and strengthening Māori language and philosophies within a cultural framework inspired by Māori elders in 1982. To continue to support this valued provision, the Ministry of Education will co-design an appropriate funding model with the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust that is consistent with the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal with respect to their claim.

4.5 Co-design an appropriate funding model with the Playcentre Federation

Playcentre is a uniquely New Zealand model of early learning service that views parents as the first and best educators of their children. Playcentres tend to have lower staffing costs than teacher-led services because parents or whānau are the educators. The administration costs may not be adequately reflected in the current funding model. To continue to support playcentres as a valued form of provision, the Ministry of Education would co-design an appropriate funding model.

4.6 Consider setting up state-owned early learning services with an associated research programme

In some communities, affordable, high quality and culturally responsive early learning services may not be available.

It is proposed to consider establishing three fully funded, state-owned and operated early learning services.

These services would facilitate access to health and social services to support parents and whānau and children’s wellbeing. They could also have a research programme, to improve our knowledge and understanding about supporting wellbeing, and transitions into schooling.

Goal 5: The early learning system continues to innovate, learn and improve

5.1 Establish innovation hubs for early learning services

It is proposed that the Ministry contract the development of innovation hubs. These are visualised as places where services could access innovation expertise and research partners to enable practitioner-led innovation and research.

5.2 Support early learning services to collaborate with other education services

Collaboration is important in sharing good practice and supporting the transition to school.

It is proposed to provide more support for early learning services to participate with schools and kura in Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako, and for them to participate in collaborations across the sector and between sectors. 

5.3 Support robust internal evaluation to ensure ongoing improvement

It is proposed that the Ministry of Education and the ERO work together to support services to evaluate their own performance. This would strengthen the use of Te Whāriki and ensure ongoing improvement.