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FishHead Magazine shoot: 1809 FishHead ECE article. Aro Valley Pre-School 18 September 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.comIn every ECE centre it’s the same, says Aro Val­ley Pre-School man­ager Bev Mead: “There’s a blocks corner, there’s a dress-up corner, there’s a paint corner, there’s a Play-Doh corner, there’s out­side play… the chil­dren choose what they play with, and the job for the teach­er is to see where they’re up to and devel­op­ment­ally what they can do. It’s our job to take them that little bit fur­ther… extend them from where they are. That’s what the teach­ers’ job is.”

All centres that receive gov­ern­ment fund­ing are sub­ject to the same licens­ing cri­ter­ia, and to Te Whāriki. This Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion ECE cur­riculum aspires to see all chil­dren devel­op to become “com­pet­ent learners and com­mu­nic­at­ors, healthy in mind, body and spir­it, secure in their sense of belong­ing and in the know­ledge that they make a val­ued con­tri­bu­tion to soci­ety”. The Edu­ca­tion Review Office (ERO) vis­its centres to ensure records are kept about chil­dren to this end. Many centres choose to keep these as port­fo­lio or pro­file books par­ents can take home and read. All centres also meet oth­er cri­ter­ia, such as provid­ing facil­it­ies for children’s undis­turbed sleep if they have a full-day rather than ses­sion­al licence.

Yet, “ECE ser­vices have a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent oper­at­ing struc­tures, philo­sophies and affil­i­ations,” says Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion media adviser Ruth Laugesen. “There are full-day, part-day and cas­u­al options. Registered teach­ers lead some ECE centres, while in oth­ers par­ents, whānau or care­givers provide the edu­ca­tion. There are also ser­vices where a home-based edu­cat­or provides edu­ca­tion and care in private homes, with sup­port from registered teach­ers who vis­it and give advice.”

The first years of a child’s life are crit­ic­al for brain devel­op­ment, which is proven to boost achieve­ment through­out a child’s school­ing. Yet there is such a vari­ety of pro­viders that many par­ents require help to select which ECE pro­vider they should send their chil­dren to. The guide that fol­lows is not exhaust­ive, but seeks to famil­i­ar­ise par­ents for whom ECE is new ter­rit­ory in mak­ing this cru­cial decision.


The Wel­ling­ton Kinder­garten Asso­ci­ation, says seni­or teach­ers team lead­er Jenny Var­ney, is made up of 63 not-for-profit kinder­gartens through­out the region. These are covered under the State Ser­vices Act and employ only qual­i­fied, registered teach­ers – although the term ‘kinder­garten’ may be used by private pro­viders that are not part of the 63 in the asso­ci­ation (and there­fore per­haps not form­ally recog­nised kinder­gartens). Open­ing hours and age ranges catered for dif­fers between kindergartens.

(C)Mark Tantrum, All rights reservedThere are also pro­viders such as Stein­er kinder­gartens, which require extra qual­i­fic­a­tions of their staff. Te Rawhiti Kinder­garten coordin­at­or Sue Hurst says Stein­er kinder­gartens sport an emphas­is on oral­ity, storytelling and move­ment; toys and fur­niture are typ­ic­ally fash­ioned of nat­ur­al mater­i­als, often by staff and par­ents. Five- and six-year-old chil­dren “carry the flag” and become “very much the organ­isers,” she says. Days and ses­sions at Stein­er kinder­gartens are under­pinned by rhythms that give chil­dren a sense of con­fid­ence and famili­ar­ity with what is com­ing next and what is expected.


In Sum­mary

  • Kinder­gartens employ only registered teach­ers to care for children.
  • There are 63 kinder­gartens in the Wel­ling­ton Kinder­garten Association.
  • Of the 21,847 chil­dren the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion recog­nises as enrolled with Wel­ling­ton ECE pro­viders, 6,192 are enrolled in kindergartens.
  • Kinder­gartens charge on aver­age $3 per hour, though this can range from $1.50 to $5 per hour.[/info]

Not-for-profit Childcare and Education Centres

Lower Hutt City Child­care and Edu­ca­tion Centre is a non-profit, char­it­able trust run by a board of trust­ees and man­ager Bron­wyn Hoar. The centre chooses to hire teach­ers who are all registered or in train­ing, and they employ a cook who makes morn­ing tea, lunch and after­noon tea.

The centre opens 7.30am–5.30pm daily, with chil­dren enrolled for fixed days. Unqual­i­fied sup­port teach­ers do help, but do not con­trib­ute to the teach­er-to-child ratio of 1:3 for under-twos and 1:5 for those older.

The group fre­quently enjoys field trips and after-hours activ­it­ies like sleep-overs, fish and chip nights, dis­cos and movies. Because chil­dren learn and devel­op motor skills from play, the centre has recently inves­ted over $30,000 in upgrad­ing play equip­ment, adding mon­key bars, climb­ing boxes, a dra­mat­ic play area and a new children’s kitchen.

The centre focuses on “teach­ers provid­ing qual­ity edu­ca­tion for the chil­dren,” says Hoar. “We’re quite staunch on mak­ing our trans­ition from early child­hood to school as smooth as pos­sible,” she adds. There is a daily 1pm exten­sion time for four-year-olds trans­ition­ing to school, and the centre works closely with loc­al schools: “Before our chil­dren go to school, we vis­it the school to find out what the classroom of the new entrant teach­er requires of us.” Par­ents and child come along on the vis­it, with the new entrant teach­er shown the child’s pro­file book and invited to the ECE centre. “Eight weeks after the child has entered the school,” says Hoar, “we then revis­it the school to see if we’ve done our job properly.”


In Sum­mary

  • There are 249 edu­ca­tion and child­care centres (includ­ing pre-schools and crèches) in the Wel­ling­ton region, with 10,896 chil­dren enrolled.
  • Edu­ca­tion and child­care ser­vices charge on aver­age $6 an hour, though this can range from $4 to over $8 an hour.[/info]

Private Childcare and Education Centres

FishHead Magazine shoot: 1809 FishHead ECE article. Aro Valley Pre-School 18 September 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.comTuatara Kids is run in a con­ver­ted Miramar house by a private own­er, with a baby centre, Teina, cater­ing to under-threes (and in turn split between babies and tod­dlers), and Tuakana, for chil­dren aged three and over. There are always registered teach­ers on the floor, and a range of teach­ers who are qual­i­fied and in train­ing, though “some­times we do get teach­ers through the door who are just phe­nom­en­al,” says Teina centre man­ager Leanna Miratana, “who aren’t in train­ing, who aren’t qual­i­fied, but they’re just amazing!”

There’s one adult to every three babies, six tod­dlers or sev­en chil­dren over the age of three. Chil­dren are gen­er­ally at the centre two days a week, for a min­im­um of six hours between 7.45am and 5.45pm. The out­side area is used fre­quently, and the centre has many toys made of nat­ur­al mater­i­als and wood: “there’s a wil­low tun­nel and a bam­boo house, where they can go under the bam­boo and it’s almost like a cave”.

Our plan­ning is based on indi­vidu­al chil­dren, and from that we cre­ate group exper­i­ences,” says Miratana. The centre’s philo­sophy is based on part­ner­ship and con­nec­tions between par­ents, child and school. “We’ve got a primary-care teach­ing sys­tem, which basic­ally adopts their routine from home, here… that primary-care teach­er is respons­ible for talk­ing with par­ents on a daily basis in regards to what their child has been up to… The home-away-from-home exper­i­ence, that’s really import­ant to us.”

Child­space Early Child­hood Insti­tute is a loc­ally-based organ­isa­tion that is mak­ing huge waves inter­na­tion­ally. Founders Toni and Robin Christie, who star­ted with a child-care centre in their own home almost 20 years ago, are now inter­na­tion­ally known for their innov­at­ive prac­tices, designs, research and devel­op­ment at their centres. These four centres have been cre­ated in mod­i­fied homes in Karori, Wilton, North­land and Ngaio, and fea­ture qual­i­fied teach­ers, small group sizes, aes­thet­ic envir­on­ments and an innov­at­ive curriculum.

The Child­space insti­tute, situ­ated in John­son­ville, now has a ded­ic­ated team deliv­er­ing pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment and pub­lish­ing a wide range of books, resources and a quarterly magazine, The Space, for teach­ers and par­ents of young children.

The Child­space work­shop, also in John­son­ville, spe­cial­ises in design­ing and build­ing play­grounds, equip­ment and fur­nish­ings spe­cif­ic to early child­hood. The work­shop team use nat­ur­al, renew­able and upcycled mater­i­als wherever pos­sible, and pride them­selves on think­ing out­side the box both func­tion­ally and aesthetically.


Aro Val­ley Pre-School is open 8.30am–2.30pm daily, and provides for chil­dren aged two to six years in a mixed group. “The older ones look after and role-mod­el the young­er ones, and the young­er ones look up to the older ones,” says man­ager Bev Mead. Three fully registered teach­ers are employed to main­tain the required 1:10 ratio of adults to children.

The whole time from two [years], you’re pre­par­ing them for life. So you’re not just zoom­ing in at four and get­ting them ready for school. From the time they’re born, life’s get­ting them ready for school.” That said, a pre-school is tra­di­tion­ally attached to a school, so Aro Val­ley Pre-School chil­dren are famil­i­ar with Te Aro schools.

Our pre-school star­ted because there was no kinder­garten in Aro Val­ley,” says man­ager Bev Mead. “The par­ents star­ted it up them­selves so the chil­dren could have some pre-school. So the par­ents just hire the teach­ers and are the man­age­ment com­mit­tee. The coun­cil sup­plies the building.

Being a par­ent co-op means that all of the money goes back into the centre, and the par­ents help to con­trib­ute by doing par­ent help and clean­ing. Because we’re not com­mer­cial, we can be flex­ible. We try and do things to suit our families.”

Resources can be used at any age, the chil­dren “just use [them] dif­fer­ently as they get older, and we extend them more as their cap­ab­il­ity increases. So the teach­ers are there to help chil­dren do what they’re inter­ested in, and we just extend their ideas and con­cepts of the play from what they know.” The group goes on reg­u­lar field trips when chil­dren have spe­cial interests, like to the lib­rary or Te Papa. “In sum­mer we went to the Botan­ic­al Gar­dens because we had tad­poles to release.”

At the moment, we’ve got one child who’s very inter­ested in birds. So we went to the lib­rary the oth­er week on the bus to get some spe­cial bird books for him and we made a bird-feed­ing tray. If chil­dren show a spe­cial interest in some­thing, then we bring in more activ­it­ies that extend the con­cepts the child’s got on that interest.”


RMH 2Most chil­dren in crèche move on to kinder­garten at four years old, but some par­ents place chil­dren in both kinder­garten and crèche. Miramar Com­munity Crèche is run by a par­ent com­mit­tee. Although it is attached to the com­munity centre, it was pur­pose-built to meet the needs of par­ents. Its hours, 8.45am–1.30pm daily, were determ­ined through par­ent con­sulta­tion, says seni­or teach­er Lynda Hop­kin. Chil­dren attend a min­im­um of two days.

We foster our chil­dren [one to five years] work­ing togeth­er side by side. We don’t sep­ar­ate the chil­dren,” says Hop­kins. Four registered teach­ers look after a pro­vi­sion­al cap of 22 chil­dren, who “drive the programme”.

Our group pro­gramme plan­ning is based on the children’s interests. We’ve just done plan­ning on trans­port and trans­port­ing, because a lot of our chil­dren like car­ry­ing things from one place to anoth­er, and trans­port emer­gen­cies. With the earth­quakes and fire drills that we’ve had, we vis­ited the fire sta­tion… that’s fostered the children’s interest. We’ve got books and resources, we’ve got par­ents who are fire­fight­ers to come in and have talks.”

The crèche also has learn­ing groups (Pipi for under-threes at 11am, and Mako for over-threes at 12.45pm), so chil­dren par­ti­cip­ate in guided activ­it­ies at their level. “It could be 10–15 minutes or longer, depend­ing on how they feel. On a nice day, they don’t want to come into a room when they could be out­side play­ing!” says Hop­kin. “We encour­age the chil­dren to get out­side. It encour­ages them to build up their muscles for later on, for when they start writ­ing.” 


The reas­on I chose a play­centre is because it’s a par­ent co-oper­at­ive and I wanted to be involved in my children’s edu­ca­tion,” says Island Bay Play­centre co-pres­id­ent Sarah Bick­nell. The play­centre is typ­ic­ally atten­ded by six or sev­en adults, at least one of whom is required to have com­pleted three out of six courses in the NZQA Play­centre Dip­loma in Early Child­hood and Adult Edu­ca­tion. “I’ve got Course 3, which is where most people get up to,” says Bick­nell, who has been com­ing to the play­centre for three years.

FishHead Magazine shoot: 1809 FishHead ECE article. Aro Valley Pre-School 18 September 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.comWhen par­ents first bring their chil­dren to a play­centre they com­plete Course 1, which teaches skills like child obser­va­tion, plan­ning for child-led play, mak­ing Play-Doh and fin­ger­paint, and admin­is­tra­tion. Course 2 cov­ers child devel­op­ment and beha­vi­our­al guid­ance; the oth­er four courses extend par­ents from there.

With play­centres, the great thing about it is the teach­ers, i.e. the par­ents, come from a huge vari­ety of walks of life… We’ve got people from an array of pro­fes­sions that bring dif­fer­ent things to the centre,” says Bicknell.

Island Bay Play­centre is in a con­ver­ted house, with fam­ily and out­side play areas, and a lib­rary. It emphas­ises learn­ing through play dur­ing their daily morn­ing ses­sions, and the 1:3 ratio of adults to chil­dren enables many excur­sions and one-on-one projects.

Dur­ing each ses­sion “par­ents set up two to three activ­it­ies that we think they might be inter­ested in, based on what we know about our kids,” says Bick­nell. Dif­fer­ent-aged chil­dren mix, with par­ents remain­ing to look after those under two-and-a-half years.

Bick­nell loves the play­centre for fos­ter­ing a cul­ture of shared child­care. Par­ents don’t hes­it­ate to super­vise oth­ers’ chil­dren in the play­ground – if someone from the centre has a baby, they will receive sup­port. “I know my friends’ chil­dren well enough to know what their interests are and what they like, and how to make them feel bet­ter if they’re sad,” she says, adding, “I feel like I’m a lot more qual­i­fied in look­ing after my kids at home!”


In Sum­mary

  • Play­centre par­ents are highly involved with their children’s ECE. Upon enrolling their chil­dren, they them­selves com­mence the NZQA Play­centre Dip­loma in Early Child­hood and Adult Education.
  • There are 43 play­centres in the Wel­ling­ton region, with a total enrol­ment of 1,823 children.
  • Play­centres charge on aver­age $0.50 an hour, though this can range from no charge to $1 an hour.[/info]

Kōhanga Reo and Language Nests

FishHead Magazine shoot: 1809 FishHead ECE article. Aro Valley Pre-School 18 September 2013. Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.comKōhanga reo are set up like a typ­ic­al ECE centres, with puzzles, blocks, paint and Play-Doh, but under­pin­ning ses­sions is whakaaro (world-view) Māori. For instance, chil­dren learn about Māori atua (gods), and express grat­it­ude before meals. At Ngaio Kōhanga Reo, chil­dren from six months to five years enrol full-time 8am–5pm daily.

The four teach­ing staff, all flu­ent Māori speak­ers, do not speak Eng­lish in front of the chil­dren. Ngaio and Thorndon kōhanga reo feed into Otari School/Te Kura o Otari, a full-immer­sion primary school, and kōhanga reo chil­dren all vis­it the school for pōwhiri when one of them makes the trans­ition to primary.

Par­ent Jam­ie Wini­ata says the centre is led primar­ily by whānau (fam­ily). The whaea (aunty) and man­ager is a fully registered teach­er, and her 2IC has a Whakapakariki Kōhanga Reo qual­i­fic­a­tion. “When chil­dren have come over from anoth­er place and talk Eng­lish,” says Wini­ata, “it’s really sup­por­ted to get that child speak­ing Māori, in a lov­ing way encour­aging them to use the new words.”


In Sum­mary

  • At kōhanga reo, chil­dren are immersed in Māori lan­guage 100 per­cent of the time.
  • There are 36 kōhanga reo in the Wel­ling­ton region, with a com­bined total of 821 enrolments.[/info]


Brook­lyn Play­group is run by a com­mit­tee of volun­teers, includ­ing co-ordin­at­or Lisa van Hulst, and holds reg­u­lar morn­ing ses­sions dur­ing the school term. Par­ents bring chil­dren on a cas­u­al basis and remain with them. They do form­ally enrol their chil­dren though, to secure gov­ern­ment fund­ing, which cov­ers rent and some toys, and pay a gold coin per ses­sion for all-import­ant tea and biscuits.

They are based in a church hall, with a play room with ride-ons, a play­house, a baby area, a quiet room with morn­ing tea table and out­side play area with slide, Wendy house and sand­pit. “Some­times we have music ses­sions,” says van Hulst. “There’s a piano there and one of the com­mit­tee mem­bers is a music teach­er, so she’ll hap­pily play the piano and we’ll have a sing-along.”

(C)Mark Tantrum, All rights reservedChil­dren will even­tu­ally trans­ition to an ECE centre, but “it’s a space for your kids to have a play and learn some social skills, import­antly, and the par­ents to catch up and have a cup of tea and meet oth­er par­ents,” says van Hulst.

I didn’t start com­ing until my daugh­ter was about 14 months, but I really could have come earli­er, because even little babies enjoy watch­ing oth­er chil­dren play. And as a stay-home mum, I’ve made some fant­ast­ic friends.”

Home-based Childcare

Home-based is a fab­ulous option for early child­hood, espe­cially for those from birth to three years old,” says Jill Power, busi­ness man­ager at Barn­ar­dos Home-based Child­care. Bar­na­dos policies ensure edu­cat­ors’ homes are safe and suit­able. Edu­cat­ors attend pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment work­shops after receiv­ing their NZQA qual­i­fic­a­tion; they fol­low Te Whāriki and are man­aged by a qual­i­fied teach­er, so that “the chil­dren have an early child­hood edu­ca­tion­al exper­i­ence in a small-group set­ting in the home”.

With a max­im­um of four chil­dren per ses­sion, the edu­cat­or fits to the babies’ and par­ents’ routines, also provid­ing books, puzzles, Play-Doh, out­door play and oth­er typ­ic­al ECE exper­i­ences, like outings.

Edu­cat­ors are avail­able from 7.30am to 6pm. Par­ents ring Bar­na­dos and speak to the vis­it­ing teach­er in their area, who takes notes on their require­ments and selects an edu­cat­or, with whom par­ents then devel­op a rela­tion­ship and make arrange­ments. “It’s the nur­tur­ing that is provided by the edu­cat­or,” that is the dif­fer­ence, says Power. And, “we believe that there’s less risk of catch­ing all those bugs!”


In Sum­mary

  • With home-based care, par­ents nego­ti­ate times to deliv­er their chil­dren to the home of an edu­cat­or in charge of a very small group.
  • Home-based ser­vices charge on aver­age $6.50 an hour, though this can range from $5.50 to $7 an hour. Fees for nan­nies can be sig­ni­fic­antly higher.[/info]

Other programmes

cute picI called Bev McK­en­zie after becom­ing intrigued by a sign she had placed in Beach Babylon café advert­ising her Read­i­ness for School pro­gramme. McK­en­zie runs this from her Karori home for a max­im­um of six four-year-olds each after­noon before 2.45pm.

Twelve years ago, a friend of McKenzie’s who ran a kinder­garten asked her for help after an acci­dent. “I ended up stay­ing there longer than I anti­cip­ated,” recalls McK­en­zie, “and I pre­ferred to do the after­noon read­i­ness-for-school ses­sions. When it closed down, a few of the par­ents came to me and said, ‘Bev, would you mind car­ry­ing this on at home?’” She was reluct­ant due to her lack of qual­i­fic­a­tions, but par­ents persisted.

McK­en­zie says, “some people have got the wrong idea [of what I do]: they call it ‘hot-house teach­ing’”. It’s about get­ting chil­dren accus­tomed to school routines: “Com­ing in, hanging their bags and coats up, sit­ting down on the mat, quietly.

Then I read three or four stor­ies to them, and they will choose the books that they want. I have their names set out at a little table, and chairs, and they will go to their name. If they don’t know how to write their name, I will help them.” Chil­dren then draw a pic­ture from their favour­ite of the stor­ies read pre­vi­ously, and they may prac­tise count­ing from 1 to 20 back­wards and for­wards, identi­fy num­bers and shapes by name, or per­haps enjoy some baking.

Know your pri­or­it­ies when select­ing an ECE pro­vider! For more inform­a­tion, see and the Edu­ca­tion Review Office web­site


ECE: Costs

The fees lis­ted in this art­icle have been estim­ated using the 2011 Sur­vey of Income, Expendit­ure and Fees, with Stat­ist­ics New Zea­l­and data used to estim­ate fee increases. While estim­ate fees have been provided on an hourly basis, many ser­vices do not charge by the hour, but by ses­sion, week or some oth­er measure.

Early child­hood ser­vices are fun­ded on the num­ber of hours atten­ded by chil­dren, the num­ber of qual­i­fied staff work­ing with them, and the ser­vice type. On aver­age, each child receives around $9,600 in fund­ing per year. The fund­ing rates for each ser­vice type can be found at www

The 20 Hours ECE pro­gramme involves the gov­ern­ment fully fund­ing the cost of early child­hood edu­ca­tion (ECE) for three- to five-year-olds, up to six hours per day, and up to 20 hours per week. Pro­viders receive a high­er rate of bulk fund­ing for three- to five-year-olds to cov­er the full aver­age cost of provid­ing ECE.

Pro­viders can­not charge fees to par­ents for hours their child receives as part of the 20 Hours ECE pro­gramme, but they can charge fees for the hours chil­dren are enrolled over and above the scheme. Pro­viders may also ask par­ents for option­al costs for fea­tures offered over and above what is required by reg­u­la­tion. The ECE ser­vice can­not refuse your child access to the 20 Hours ECE scheme if you don’t agree to pay an option­al charge.

For more inform­a­tion on 20 Hours ECE, see

All ECE ser­vices must meet the ECE reg­u­la­tions and licens­ing cri­ter­ia for their ser­vice type to gain and main­tain a licence to oper­ate their ser­vice. For more inform­a­tion about the licens­ing require­ments and reg­u­la­tions, see and






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