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Early Childhood Centres

Early Childhood Centres (ECC) includes kindergartens, playcentres, kohanga reo, and pre-schools. 

Early Childhood Education services (ECEs) are found in a variety of settings, each with structural and organisational differences, and varying philosophies and learning environments.  This includes centre-based ECE services, hospital-based ECE services, kindergartens, playcentres, playgroups, and home-based ECE services.

Health Protection Officers assess and inspect ECCs to ensure staff and children are provided with a healthy environment.

The main health issues that Health Protection Officers look at are immunisation registers, food hygiene, safety and suitability of play equipment, general cleanliness and upkeep of the ECC, and methods of controlling the spread of disease in the ECC.

An ECEC health report is required before the Ministry of Education will issue a license to operate.  Health Protection Officers carry out this service for Toi Te Ora Public Health (Toi Te Ora) and can provide information to owners and managers of ECCs.

The Ministry of Health has produced Nga Kupu Oranga: a health and safety resource for early childhood services.  This document gives guidance on how to keep children safe and healthy while attending their ECC.  The resource also provides key elements of procedures and policy.  Toi Te Ora recommends that all ECCs have a copy of this resource.

Licensing, health reports, and setting up a new ECC

A health report is required before the Ministry of Education will issue an ECC with a license to operate.  It is advisable when establising a new ECC that you inform the Health Protection Officer in your area so that public health advice can be included early on in the planning phase.

A health inspection for a license does incur a cost, although pre-inspection visits and follow up inspections are free of charge.

Contact a Health Protection Officer on 0800 221 555 for more advice and information on health inspections of ECCs.  Read Pre-licencing information on Health and Safety in Early Childhood Centres for more information.

The Ministry of Education provides information on establishing an ECEC on its website.

Infection control

Infectious diseases such as Giardia and Norovirus can spread through ECECs quite rapidly. This is because of the close contact between people and the under-developed hygiene habits of children.

There are several steps that can be taken to help prevent the spread of infections.

  1. Encourage children to wash their hands after using the toilet, after blowing their nose, after playing with animals, and before they eat. Hand-washing is the best way of preventing the spread of many diseases.

  2. Keep children away from the ECC while they are sick. No-one suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting should attend an ECC.

  3. Thorough cleaning needs to be carried out on a regular basis with an effective cleaner and a sanitiser.

To protect other children who attend childcare centres, children and staff suffering from vomiting and/or diarrhoea should not attend their ECC until they have been free from symptoms for 48 hours, unless the vomiting is known to be caused by a non-infectious condition such as car sickness. Health Protection Officers can provide expert advice on how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases - call 0800 221 555.


The Ministry of Health recommends that children are immunised against:

While parents may choose not to have their children immunised against any or all of these illnesses, ECCs are required by law to hold a register which clearly identifies the immunisation status of all the children. This is to help protect children in the event of a disease outbreak in the ECC.  Health Protection Officers and the Medical Officer of Health must be able to access the immunisation register at any time. 

Links to registers:



To order free health resources for your ECC visit the HealthEd website or call Toi Te Ora on 0800 221 555. There are a number of different health topics including communicable disease, immunisation and children’s health which may be useful.

Building Blocks for Under 5s

Toi Te Ora Public Health's Building Blocks for Under 5s is a comprehensive tool developed to support early childhood education (ECE) services to improve and sustain health and wellbeing.  It is designed to complement existing structures and resources within ECE services, including weaving the principles and strands of Te Whāriki and the four cornerstones of Te Whare Tapa Wha.  Find more information about Building Blocks for Under 5s here.

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