What the Education and Training Act 2020 means for early learning

Published on Wednesday, 02 September 2020
Last updated on Monday, 26 October 2020

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The Education and Training Act 2020 came into effect on 1 August and this piece of legislation is big news for early learning services, kõhanga reo, schools and other education providers.

It’s the biggest re-write of education legislation in decades, and this sparkly new Act aims to give, ‘All learners a high-quality, culturally responsive, seamless and inclusive education.’

The Act incorporates and replaces all major education and training legislation (including the Education Acts 1964 and 1989), and its changes are based on feedback from parents, educators, whãnau and others about what’s needed to make education better for children and young people.

When it comes to early childhood education (ECE), the Act strengthens the quality of early learning being provided and makes these four key changes to help keep standards up, now and in the future:

  1. The Act increases the maximum penalty for unlicensed ECE services

In this country, early learning services must meet licensing standards around curriculum, premises and facilities, health and safety, and governance, management and administration; and there are penalties for services that operate without a licence.

The previous penalty for running an unlicensed service was $200 per day of operation, but the new Act has changed the structure of the penalty and increased it to a maximum of $50,000 to deter services from operating without a licence – and ensure that they’re meeting the licensing standards.

  1. The Act clarifies the existing requirement around police vetting and home-based care

Background checks help to ensure that trustworthy, responsible and safety-conscious people are caring for our children.

The Children’s Act 2014  says that all children’s workers must be police vetted as part of a safety check, and the new Act makes it explicit that all adults who live in, or are present in, a home where home-based ECE is provided must have a police vetting check – even if they’re not likely to be present.

This requirement doesn’t apply, though, where the home-based ECE is provided in the child’s own home and no other kids attend ECE at that address.

  1. The Act provides clearer powers for the Education Review Office (ERO)

The ERO evaluates and reports on early childhood services and schools to see what’s working well and where improvements can be made.

The new Act clarifies the powers of the ERO to enter, inspect and obtain information from the parent entities of early learning service providers. And as part of a wider review of home-based ECE, the Act also allows the ERO to enter homes where early learning is happening to review and evaluate curriculum delivery and health and safety performance.

  1. The Act will require providers to go through a two-stage process before getting an ECE licence

To make sure those wanting to establish a new early learning service or kõhanga reo are going to meet the community’s needs and run a quality service, the Act will introduce a new first stage of the licensing process.

Prospective providers will have to make an application to the Minister for preliminary approval to establish an ECE service, and before giving the go-ahead, the Minister will assess the application against these criteria:

  • The children’s needs
  • The community’s needs
  • The applicant’s character and licensing history and
  • The financial position of the organisation.

Although the three changes described above are in effect now, this fourth change will come into force within the next two years to allow time for the regulations to be developed. In the meantime, applicants who want to set up a new service, can apply for a licence under the existing criteria.

In summary, the new Act reinforces the importance of quality early learning and puts in safeguards to ensure our children – and communities – receive the ECE they need and deserve.

You can read about the Act’s school-related changes here, and we hope this new legislation helps all ages to be happy and successful in their learning.


The Ministry of Education

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