Young children in New Zealand are not required to attend any type of formal early childhood service; however, the majority of children will have attended some form of early education service by the time they start school at age five or six.
There are many types of early childhood services available in New Zealand and these can be split into two categories – parent-led and teacher-led.
Playcentres – Most playcentres will be led by parents and caregivers. Most of these centres are licensed and offer education through play for children from birth until they go to school. Each playcentre will have its own rules as to how many sessions your child can attend.
Playgroups – Playgroups are community-based groups. Parents and caregivers meet together and provide play programmes for their children. At least half the children attending must have a parent staying with them, and each session can last for a maximum of three hours each day.
The Correspondence School – The Correspondence School offers learning programmes for children aged three- to five-years who live too far away from Early Childhood Education (ECE) services. Correspondence school is also an option for children who can’t attend other services because they’re ill or have a physical disability.
Maori language and culture programmes – There are centres that offer young children and their parents the chance to build their understanding and knowledge of Maori language and culture. Te Köhanga Reo and Ngä Puna Köhungahunga are two examples of groups that offer this type of education and care.
Many of these services have waiting lists and it would be advisable, on arrival in New Zealand, to visit a variety of different ECE services and register for your first choice. The majority of services will be more than happy to arrange a time for you to visit and will answer any questions or concerns that you may have.
Education and care centres – Kindergartens are run by the Kindergarten Association. At kindergartens all teachers must be registered and hold a diploma in teaching or similar qualification. ABC Learning Centre is the largest organisation of this kind, with many centres nationwide.
Home-based care groups – These groups consist of young children being educated though a home-based care network, which provides full or part time care and education led by a teacher. The volunteering parent/caregiver will usually have the support from the home-based care network.
The Ministry of Education provides publications and resources to parents seeking more information on ECE in New Zealand.