Education in New Zealand

New Zealand offers all sorts of options for preschool education. Each has its own way of working with children and their parents.  There are full-day, part-day and casual options. Some early childhood education centres are led by registered teachers, while in others, parents or caregivers provide the education.

There are also services where people can look after your child at their or your home, and get support from teachers who visit and provide advice and support.

20 hours free

20 Hours ECE is where the Government will fully fund the cost of early childhood education for up to 6 hours per day, and up to 20 hours per week. Eligibilty starts when a child turns three and finishes when they start school. This program is available for all children in New Zealand, regardless of whether they are residents.

Teacher–led centres

In teacher-led centres one or more of the adults providing education and care are registered teachers.

Education and care centres 

These centres can be run by the community or private owners, and provide full or part-time education and care. They usually charge fees. At least one of the teachers must be a registered teacher. Depending on the centre, they may accept children from birth to school age, or they may focus on children of specific ages. Some education and care services also have programmes based on a specific culture, or on different beliefs, such as Montessori or Rudolph Steiner centres.

Kindergartens are similar to education and care centres except that all the teachers must be registered. They usually ask for a donation, depending on the age of the child and hours of attendance. Most kindergartens look after children aged between two and a half and five years old. Usually, older children attend morning sessions five days a week, while younger children attend afternoon sessions three days a week. Some kindergartens are now open all day or have some sessions that are longer than others. 

Playcentres are run as parent co-operatives and cater for children from birth to school age. Children can attend up to five sessions a week. Parents or caregivers of children under 2 ½ years must attend with their children. There is a high adult to child ratio. Playcentres usually charge fees, but these are generally low. The website of New Zealand Playcentre Federation has more information about how playcentres operate.

Playgroups are community-based groups where parents and caregivers meet and provide play, social and learning programmes for children