Review findings over the last few years have identified a growing concern about the rate of non-compliance with regulatory standards and associated licensing criteria in early childhood services.
Over the last three years, ERO found only a slight improvement in the percentage of services meeting regulatory standards from 74-76% in 2020 to 80% in 2022. Services with non-compliance that pose an unacceptable risk to children rose by 4%, from 8% in 2020 to 12% in 2022.
ERO analysed 165 confirmed Akanuku I Assurance Review Reports undertaken in the last 12 months. It showed that 20% were not complying with one or more of the regulatory standards at the time ERO published its reports:
- In 12% of the services analysed, non-compliance posed unacceptable risk to children, and
- In 8% of the services analysed, non-compliance was not a risk to children but still needed to be addressed.
In addition, analysis of 233 Akarangi | Quality Evaluation reports undertaken in the last 12 months found that 6% did not comply with regulatory standards and associated licensing criteria. The main areas of non-compliance reflected those in the previously mentioned Akanuku | Assurance Reviews.
ERO conducts an Akanuku | Assurance Review to confirm whether an early childhood service is meeting and maintaining licensing criteria. These reviews identify any compliance matters that need to be addressed before the service is ready for an Akarangi | Quality Evaluation that focuses on improvement.
In an Akanuku | Assurance Review, where non-compliance is identified that poses an unacceptable risk to children, ERO recommends the Ministry of Education reassess the service’s license. Where non-compliance poses a risk to children, ERO recommends that the Ministry follow up with the service to ensure they have addressed non-compliances and that they are continuing to meet their obligations to operate as a licensed ECE Service.
How to remedy the most common areas of concern
The most common areas of concern in non-compliance are related to the Health and Safety standard, particularly those criteria that pose a significant risk to children’s safety and wellbeing. Other standards where non-compliance was identified included curriculum, premises and facilities, and governance, management and administration.
The most frequently identified non-compliance issues related to:
- securing heavy furniture, fixtures and equipment
- having a written emergency plan, supplies and evacuation procedures
- carrying out relevant emergency drills at least every three months
- monitoring and recording children’s sleep, including checks
- daily hazard checks and analysing accident/incident records to identify hazards and to eliminate, isolate and minimize hazards
- excursion management
- administration of medicine
- safety checking of staff.
Other frequent areas of non-compliance include responding to:
- children's cultures
- first aid kits
- mattress coverings
- safety and hygiene
- nappy changing
- travel in a motor vehicle
- room temperature
- child protection
- providing relevant information to parents
- staff management.
To give confidence to staff and parents that the service is a great place for children to learn, self-review checks should be done on a regular basis. ERO’s Assurance Statement is a useful document in this regard. It can be used on a regular basis to review ongoing compliance with regulatory requirements, and not merely completed as part of an ERO visit.
How to prepare for a visit from ERO
Further information is available on our website about what ERO focuses on in an Akanuku | Assurance Review, including the four regulatory standards and licensing criteria, and how to prepare for a visit from ERO.
- How we do Akanuku | Assurance Reviews | Education Review Office (ero.govt.nz)
- How ERO reviews early childhood services | Education Review Office.
The four regulatory standards are:
- Premises and facilities
- Health and safety
- Governance, management and administration
The Ministry issues guidance on each of the criterion to help services meet the required standards.
- Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services – Education in New Zealand
- Licensing criteria for home-based ECE services – Education in New Zealand
- Licensing criteria for hospital-based ECE services – Education in New Zealand
What areas pose a risk to children’s safety and wellbeing?
Broad areas that have a potentially high impact on children’s wellbeing:
- Emotional safety (including child protection under regulations 56 and 57 of the Early Childhood Regulations)
- Physical safety (including supervision, sleep procedures, accidents, medication, hygiene, excursion policies and procedures)
- Suitable staffing (including qualification levels, police vetting, safety checking, teacher certification, ratios)
- Evacuation procedures and practices for fire and earthquake.