20 Hours ECE

Find out about 20 Hours ECE – it can help you with the cost of early childhood education.

How 20 Hours ECE works

The government subsidises all children who attend ECE.

20 Hours ECE is a higher funding subsidy.

It means that if your child is 3, 4 or 5 and goes to an ECE service or kōhanga reo that offers 20 Hours ECE, the cost can be fully subsidised for up to 6 hours a day and up to 20 hours a week.

You can find more information on funding rates in the Ministry's funding handbook.

You can choose to use as many or as few hours of 20 Hours ECE as you want, up to 6 hours a day and 20 hours a week.

Your child’s ECE service or kōhanga reo may, however, have a minimum number of hours or days of enrolment as part of their policy.

How to apply

Check whether your child’s ECE service or kōhanga reo offers 20 Hours ECE.

If your child is 3, 4 or 5, you can apply for 20 Hours ECE when you enrol your child at the ECE service or kōhanga reo – or you can do it just before your child turns 3 if they are already enrolled.

Fill in the enrolment agreement at the ECE service or kōhanga reo. The agreement must include an ‘attestation’, where you write and sign for the days and hours you are claiming as 20 Hours ECE. 20 Hours ECE cannot be claimed until you have completed the attestation.

You can choose which hours you want to claim for 20 Hours ECE – it can be for any hours that your child is enrolled.

As children must attend school from the age of 6, the last day that 20 Hours ECE can be claimed is the day before your child’s sixth birthday.

The subsidy is paid directly to the ECE service or kōhanga reo. You don’t have to apply separately to the Ministry of Education.

If your child goes to more than one ECE service or kōhanga reo

If your child goes to more than one ECE service or kōhanga reo, you can split the hours between them so long as it’s not more than 6 hours a day and 20 hours a week in total.

Anyone can apply

If you have a 3 or 4 year old, or a 5 year old child who is not enrolled at primary school, you can apply for 20 Hours ECE. This is regardless of your income, whether you or your child is a New Zealand resident or citizen, or any other reason.

Finding an ECE service or kōhanga reo

Go to our find an ECE service or school page to find out what is available in your area.

Early childhood education at home

If you have an educator looking after your child at home (theirs or yours), you can still apply for 20 Hours ECE. To do this, the educator must be part of a licensed home-based ECE service. The Ministry of Education pays the ECE service, not the individual educator.

Changing your child’s hours

If you change the number of hours your child is at their ECE service or kōhanga reo, you must update your enrolment agreement and attestation.

You should also do this if your child is going to be away for a time.

Changing your child’s ECE service or kōhanga reo during the school holidays

If your child’s ECE service or kōhanga reo closes for the school holidays, you can use the 20 Hours ECE at another ECE service or kōhanga reo.

You’ll need to record on the new enrolment form how many hours and days your child will be at the ECE service or kōhanga reo, and which hours will be covered by 20 Hours ECE.

Extra fees

Your child’s ECE service or kōhanga reo can charge their normal enrolment fees, if they have any. They cannot charge extra fees for setting up 20 Hours ECE.

The ECE service or kōhanga reo can charge fees for hours that are not covered by 20 Hours ECE. For example, if your child is at the ECE service or kōhanga reo for 7 hours in a day, and 6 of them are 20 Hours ECE, they can charge for one extra hour.

Optional charges

An ECE service or kōhanga reo can ask you to pay optional charges, and they can ask for a donation. It’s up to you whether you pay these. Optional charges must be for the actual costs of providing extra items or services. 

The Childcare Subsidy and 20 Hours ECE

The Childcare Subsidy is for parents whose income is below a certain level. It helps to pay for childcare costs.

Sometimes, you can receive a mix of both the Childcare Subsidy and 20 Hours ECE. This can happen if your Childcare Subsidy is for more than 20 hours a week. For example, if you are entitled to 30 hours Childcare Subsidy and you choose to claim 20 Hours ECE, then you could receive the Childcare Subsidy for the remaining 10 hours. The Childcare Subsidy cannot be used for the same hours as 20 Hours ECE.

The Childcare Subsidy is looked after by Work and Income. To find out more about the Childcare Subsidy, go to the Working for Families website or call 0800 559 009.

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