Early childhood education is not compulsory in New Zealand, but attending a quality ECE environment can provide your child with the opportunity to play, socialise and learn with other children.
Choosing an Early Childhood Education service
There are lots of different options when it comes to early childhood education: kindergarten, childcare centres, home-based care, kōhanga reo, playcentre and playgroups.
The Ministry of Education has a booklet called Choices to help you compare the different types of ECE services so you can choose the best option for you and your child.
When you know what type of ECE service is best for you, then you can search for local ECE providers on the Education Counts website.
In some areas there may be waiting lists at ECE centres so it’s always a good idea to start planning ahead of time. You’ll want to visit a few ECE providers to make sure they offer the right environment for your child.
Children with disabilities have an equal right to early childhood education, so make sure you ask potential ECE providers about how they will ensure your child is included in daily routines and activities.
Some things to think about are whether the learning spaces, equipment and activities will be stimulating for your child. You’ll want to know how many children attend and whether your child get the one-on-one attention they need or will the environment be too busy and overwhelming. You should have a chat with some of the teachers too – don’t be afraid to ask about their qualifications and experience.
Some other practical things you will need to know about are the hours that the service is open, whether they stay open during school holidays, whether things like nappies or meals are provided and how much the fees will cost.
20 Hours Early Childhood Education
If your child is aged three to five years old, and goes to an ECE service that offers 20 Hours ECE, the cost can be fully subsidised for up to six hours a day to a maximum of 20 hours a week. Learn more about 20 Hours ECE at the Ministry of Education website.
If your child is under three, or spends more than 20 hours in care, you may be eligible for the Childcare Subsidy from Work and Income. Your eligibility and the amount you can receive will depend on how many hours each week you are in work or study, how much you earn and how many children you have.
Visit the Ministry of Education website for more information about early learning, or read The Early Learning Years booklet from the Education Review Office to learn more about choosing a quality ECE service.