Different kinds of early learning services

There are all sorts of early learning services and kōhanga reo available in New Zealand.

They can be ‘teacher-led’, 'whānau-led' or ‘parent-led’.

‘Teacher-led’ means 50% of the adults who educate and care for children must be qualified and certificated as early learning services teachers. A teacher-led early learning service is licensed. This means they must meet standards set by the Government for the property, health and safety, staff, education and care programmes, and management of the service.

‘Whānau-led' or 'parent-led’ means parents, whānau or caregivers are involved in educating and caring for the children. These services recognise the importance of parent and whānau training and involvement. Families and whānau have the opportunity to learn more about parenting, develop social and community networks and build greater confidence, as well as lead the education and care of their children.

All early learning services and kōhanga reo are licensed or certificated by the Ministry of Education. This means that they must meet minimum standards of education and care to operate.

Teacher-led early learning services


Most kindergartens accept children between 2 and 5 years and can have set morning and afternoon sessions for different age groups. Some also offer all-day education and care or part-day sessions.

Kindergartens are managed by a Kindergarten Association and have 100% qualified and certificated ECE teachers. They work closely with children's families and whānau.

Education and care services

Education and care services run all-day sessions, or flexible-hour programmes for children from birth to primary school age.

Education and care services can be privately owned, owned and operated by a community group, or operated in an organisation for employees with young children. Some have a particular language and cultural focus, others have a specific set of beliefs about teaching and learning, for example, Rudolph Steiner and Montessori.

Home-based education and care

Home-based education and care is provided for groups of up to 4 children aged birth to 5 years in either the educator’s home or the child's home. Each educator must belong to a home-based service, which provides support through a coordinator who is a qualified and certificated ECE teacher.

Te Kura (the Correspondence School)

Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu - The Correspondence School (Te Kura) - offers learning programmes for children aged between 3 and 5 years who can't attend an early learning service or kōhanga reo. Te Kura's early learning educators work with parents, whānau and caregivers to meet a child's early learning needs. They also have a range of books, puzzles, games and art materials you can borrow.

Whānau-led services

Te Kōhanga Reo

Te Kōhanga Reo offers a Māori immersion environment for tamariki and their whānau, and caters to tamariki from birth to school age.

The following key goals are the foundation of te kōhanga reo kaupapa established in 1982:

  • total immersion in te reo Māori me ōna tikanga in daily operations
  • whānau decision-making, management and responsibility
  • accountability
  • health and wellbeing of mokopuna and whānau.

The key goals of te kōhanga reo assure that there will be:

  • security in te reo Māori
  • a supportive, caring environment for mokopuna
  • whānau (collective) sharing of responsibilities, knowledge and expertise
  • greater respect and appreciation of each other.

Parent-led services


Playcentres cater for children from birth to school age, and are run cooperatively by parents and member families.

Playcentres are part of a regional association for management and programme support. Regional associations are managed by the New Zealand Playcentre Federation.


Playgroups are community-based groups run by parent and whānau volunteers. Sessions are held regularly for no more than 4 hours per day and are often set up in community halls. To be a playgroup, more than half the children attending must have a parent there with them. Playgroups are not licensed, although they may be certificated in order to receive government funding. Parents and whānau who run the sessions receive information, support and training from the Ministry of Education.

Ngā Puna Kōhungahunga

These are playgroups that encourage learning in and through te reo Māori and tikanga.

Pacific Island Playgroups

These are playgroups in Pasifika languages and cultures including Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island, Niuean, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan and Fijian.

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