The far-reaching benefits of kindergarten

Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2020
Last updated on Monday, 16 November 2020

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Kindergarten is a fantastic early childhood education option. With flexible sessions for ages two to five, a strong focus on quality education, and 20 hours free care for ages three and up, this type of teacher-led service is the perfect fit for many whānau.  

Depending on the kindergarten, children can be enrolled in morning, afternoon or six-hour sessions, up to five days a week during school term. Some kindergartens offer holiday programmes too, and there are bilingual kindergartens, home-based services, long day programmes, some services for under twos and even a hospital-based kindy in Nelson. 

Quality experiences and enriching opportunities are at the heart of the kindergarten approach, and to learn more about kindergarten, we checked in with the Chief Executive of New Zealand Kindergartens, Jill Bond. 

Kindergarten teachers support children’s learning at a time when their brains are developing at a rate of knots. What qualifications do your educators possess to help children learn and thrive?

Kindergarten delivers high quality education by employing 100 per cent qualified teachers, who enable the beginning of life-long learning and invest in the future of our children.

All of our teachers are registered and are covered by the same legislation as teachers in schools. They must meet the same Teacher Council qualification and practising certificate standards and requirements as qualified school teachers. 

Teachers are also supported by in-house leadership teams of ‘expert teachers’ who have a deep knowledge of the curriculum, assessment and learning outcomes. 

These educational leaders: 

  • Provide professional development, supporting individual teachers and teaching teams in their practice
  • Work as a team, combining their knowledge, strengths, expertise and skills across the curriculum
  • Work collaboratively, sharing the learning spaces indoors and outside, and facilitating, contributing to and coordinating children’s learning experiences

What does the kindergarten curriculum mean for children’s learning?

All children participate in kindergarten as partners. We weave diverse experiences, knowledge, strengths and interests into learning outcomes for everyone. 

The early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki underpins all that we do. As we implement this curriculum, we’re inclusive of all children and acknowledge each child’s identity, language and culture.

Inquiry learning also shapes each kindergarten’s curriculum and this means that children get to choose the place, the pace and the focus of their learning. 

Our environments encourage children to be active 21st century learners, using a range of learning spaces, technologies and learning styles to engage in the curriculum. Experiences focus on all essential areas of the curriculum, including mathematics, science, literacy and the arts.

Our teachers regularly review their teaching practices and make changes to enhance the curriculum and children’s learning. Teaching practice is based on evidence of what works best locally and around the world.

What sort of facilities does kindergarten offer?

Kindergarten is a leader in developing flexible indoor and outdoor spaces that provide diverse learning contexts for children. Our fit-for-purpose learning environments support children’s learning individually, with friends and as a group. 

We support children to broaden and deepen their learning by providing wide-ranging experiences within and beyond the kindergarten (e.g. via the Nature Discovery Programme in Southland). Our environments reflect the natural world, using natural materials to enhance children’s learning. We also use technology wisely to enhance learning and support teaching practice.

Kindergartens are community-based services that are managed by local Kindergarten Associations. Could you please explain how this works in practice?

Kindergarten Associations are not-for-profit, incorporated societies and registered charities. Currently, there are 29 local Kindergarten Associations throughout New Zealand, managing about 670 kindergartens.

These Associations receive and manage all government funding, and make sure that this funding and any parent fees and donations go into providing quality early childhood education.

Each Association has a governance board who: 

  • Employ a management and leadership team and all teaching and support staff
  • Manage all of the properties owned or leased by the Association
  • Have a strategic vision and work with communities to weave their aspirations for their children into the Association’s strategic direction
  • Invest in governance training, professional learning and expertise sharing
  • Understand how to plan for, resource and support large numbers of teaching teams
  • Collaborate with other ECE services in their communities to enable continuous improvement in teaching practice, e.g. some of our leading teachers provide professional development to other ECE services

What is the role of New Zealand Kindergartens?

We’re the national umbrella organisation that provides advocacy, advice, guidance and training for local Kindergarten Associations. 

Currently, 23 of the country’s 29 local Kindergarten Associations are members of New Zealand Kindergartens. This covers about 549 kindergartens, and you can find your local Kindergarten Association at our website

We also publish helpful online information for parents. 

How much does kindergarten cost?

This will depend on the kindergarten you choose, but for children aged three, four and five, the government funds 20 hours of free kindergarten per week, up to six hours per day, care of its 20 Hours ECE subsidy

Many Kindergarten Associations extend the ’20 hours free’ to 25 or 30 hours a week, and some even provide free hours to children before they turn three. 

When it comes to voluntary contributions, Associations and kindergartens will probably ask for a donation or whānau contribution, and there is usually at least one fund-raising event each year. 

How does kindergarten help children transition from early childhood education to school?

We support children’s transitions from Te Whāriki to the New Zealand Curriculum, and from the kindergarten to the primary school environment by helping children develop the skills and knowledge they need to thrive as learners. 

We understand children’s learning progression and learning strengths, and how these are best shared with parents, whānau and schools. 

Location-wise, kindergartens are in many communities and most are situated next to, or within walking distance of, a school, so there’s little disruption to morning and afternoon routines.

Parents can rest assured that we have decades of experience developing modern, innovative learning environments to help children thrive at kindergarten and make a smooth transition to school.

What do parents need to do to enrol their child in a kindergarten?

We encourage parents to contact their local Kindergarten Association directly to discuss their needs and aspirations for their child’s early childhood education.

To enrol a child in a kindergarten, parents need to contact the early childhood education service directly, or their local Kindergarten Association, and follow their enrolment process.

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