Parents place an enormous amount of trust in educators when they leave children in their care. They walk away confident that their little ones will be kept safe, happy and stimulated until they arrive at the end of the day to collect them.
So when reports come out about children being force-fed, denied liquids and verbally abused at the Hutt Hospital Childcare Centre followed by news that two toddlers escaped unnoticed from an Australian childcare centre only to be found near a busy street by passers-by, the questions are inevitably raised; How do providers keep the children in their care safe from harm? And what are the rules and regulations they must follow?
The Ministry of Education oversees and supports early childhood education in New Zealand. All ECE centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008.
These set out minimum standards that every licensed service must meet. These include:
Health and safety
Every licensed provider is required to:
a. Take all reasonable steps to promote the good health and safety of children enrolled in the service; and
b. Take all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents and the spread of infection among children enrolled in the service; and
c. Take all reasonable steps to ensure that the premises, facilities, and other equipment on those premises are—
i. kept in good repair; and
ii. maintained regularly; and
iii. used safely and kept free from hazards; and
d. Take all reasonable steps to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to deal with fires, earthquakes, and other emergencies.
Governance, management and administration
GMA11 An attendance record is maintained that shows the times and dates of every child’s attendance at the service. Records are kept for at least 7 years.
GMA7A All children’s workers who have access to children are safety checked in accordance with the Vulnerable Children Act 2014. Safety checks must be undertaken and the results obtained before the worker has access to children. Every children’s worker must be safety checked every three years.
Food preparation and eating spaces
PF15 There is a safe and hygienic place for children attending to sit when eating.
PF16 There are facilities for the hygienic preparation, storage and/or serving of food and drink
PF17 Kitchen and cooking facilities or appliances are designed, located, or fitted with safety devices to ensure that children cannot access them without adult assistance or supervision.
HS1 Premises, furniture, furnishings, fittings, equipment, and materials are kept safe, hygienic and maintained in good condition.
HS2 Linen used by children or adults is hygienically laundered.
HS4 The premises are located in a building that has a current Fire Evacuation Scheme approved by the New Zealand Fire Service.
A current Fire Evacuation Scheme approved by the New Zealand Fire Service.
HS5 Designated assembly areas for evacuation purposes outside the building keep children safe from further risk.
HS6 Heavy furniture, fixtures, and equipment that could fall or topple and cause serious injury or damage are secured.
HS7 There are a written emergency plan and supplies to ensure the care and safety of children and adults at the service. The plan must include evacuation procedures for the service’s premises, which apply in a variety of emergency situations and which are consistent with the Fire Evacuation Scheme for the building.
HS9 A procedure for monitoring children’s sleep is displayed and implemented and a record of children’s sleep times is kept.
- A procedure for monitoring children’s sleep. The procedure ensures that children:
- do not have access to food or liquids while in bed; and
- are checked for warmth, breathing, and general well-being at least every 5-10 minutes, or more frequently according to individual needs.
- A record of the time each child attending the service sleeps, and checks made by adults during that time.
HS10 Furniture or items intended for children to sleep on (such as cots, beds, stretchers, or mattresses) are arranged and spaced when in use so that:
- adults have clear access to at least one side (meaning the length, not the width);
- the area surrounding each child allows sufficient air movement to minimise the risk of spreading illness; and
- children able to sit or stand can do so safely as they wake.
HS11 If not permanently set up, furniture or items intended for children to sleep on (such as cots, beds, stretchers, or mattresses) and bedding is hygienically stored when not in use.
Hazards and excursions
HS12 Equipment, premises and facilities are checked on every day of operation for hazards to children. Accident/incident records are analysed to identify hazards and appropriate action is taken. Hazards to the safety of children are eliminated, isolated or minimised.
Consideration of hazards must include but is not limited to:
- cleaning agents, medicines, poisons, and other hazardous materials;
- electrical sockets and appliances (particularly heaters);
- hazards present in kitchen or laundry facilities;
- vandalism, dangerous objects, and foreign materials (e.g. broken glass, animal droppings);
- the condition and placement of learning, play and other equipment;
- windows and other areas of glass;
- poisonous plants; and
- bodies of water.
- HS13 The temperature of warm water delivered from taps that are accessible to children is no higher than 40°C, and comfortable for children at the centre to use.
- HS17 When children leave the premises on an excursion:
- assessment and management of risk is undertaken, and adult:child ratios are determined accordingly. Ratios are not less than the required adult:child ratio;
- the first aid requirements in criterion HS25 are met in relation to those children and any children remaining at the premises;
- parents/caregivers have given prior written approval to their child’s participation and of the proposed ratio for: i. regular excursions at the time of enrolment; and ii. special excursions prior to the excursion taking place; and
- there are communication systems in place so that people know where the children are, and adults can communicate with others as necessary. When children leave the premises on a regular or special excursion, the excursion must be approved by the Person Responsible.
Child health and wellbeing
HS24 Rooms used by children are kept at a comfortable temperature no lower than 16°C (at 500mm above the floor) while children are attending.
HS25 There is an adult present at all times for every 50 children attending (or part thereof) who:
- holds a current first aid qualification gained from a New Zealand Qualification Authority accredited first aid training provider; or
- is a registered medical practitioner or nurse with a current practising certificate; or
- is a qualified ambulance officer or paramedic. If a child is injured, any required first aid is administered or supervised by an adult meeting these requirements.
Early childhood educators are dedicated to providing a fun, enriching and – above all – safe learning environment for children. By demonstrating to parents that your centre not only adheres to the national health and safety regulations and guidelines, but goes the extra step to keep children safe, parents will feel confident about leaving their young ones in your care.