About early childhood education

Early childhood education (ECE) provides education and care for children before they are old enough to go to primary school. This section looks at:

Why enrol my child in ECE?

You can build on the learning your child is gaining at home by enrolling them in ECE.

Parents value ECE because it:

  • builds on your child's interests and abilities
  • provides a chance for children to learn and experience new things
  • provides an opportunity for children and parents to meet new people, make friends, get along with others and be involved in the community
  • helps children be ready for school and do better when they get there
  • provides care for your child while you are at work, studying, or at home with younger children.

Does my child have to go?

ECE is not compulsory in New Zealand, but it's encouraged as it's great for your child's future. Over the last 10 years more and more children have been taking part. Children aged between 3 and 5 usually attend ECE for around 20 to 22 hours per week.

Can my child go to ECE if they were born overseas?

Yes, children born in places other than in New Zealand can go to an ECE service or kōhanga reo.

What are my choices?

There are a range of options available in New Zealand offering different services, facilities, hours, and prices. Each has its own way of working with children and their parents. Some offer all day education and care, some only part day. Some are led by certificated teachers, and some are led by parents, whānau or caregivers.

ECE services available in New Zealand include:

  • kōhanga reo
  • kindergartens
  • education and care centres
  • in-home care
  • Montessori
  • Rudolph Steiner
  • Playcentres
  • playgroups
  • ngā puna kōhungahunga (Māori-focused playgroups)
  • Pacific Island-focused playgroups
  • special needs services
  • correspondence school.

Do I have to pay?

The costs vary depending on the ECE service or kōhanga reo your child goes to.  How much you pay will depend on things like:

  • the number of adults employed to care for and educate the children, and their qualifications
  • the amount of time your child will be there – part days or full days
  • the facilities and services offered, for example, if the service provides meals, nappies, and other supplies, or if you have to provide them
  • the government subsidies you might be able to get, such as 20 Hours ECE.

Even if you qualify for subsidies like the 20 Hours ECE, you might still have to pay fees at some ECE services or kōhanga reo. Check with the service to find out what you’ll need to pay.

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