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What the New Zealand Ministry of Education says about the architecture of early childhood education


The Ministry of Education is the Government's lead advisor for the New Zealand's education system. It is where you can find out about budget initiatives, consultation, education initiatives, policies and strategies and where you can browse or download strategic publications, annual reports etc.

The Early Childhood Education section is divided into two sections: ECE Lead, which provides information about leading, managing and administering early childhood education services; and ECE Educate, which provides information on how to ensure quality teaching and learning.

The section Premises and Facilities (ECE Lead - Centre-based Services - Premises and Facilities) is the closest to dealing with the architetcural qulaity of ECE centres.

It quotes: 'to use premises and facilities that...provide sufficient and suitable space for a range of activities, facilities for food preparation, eating, sleeping, storage, toileting, and washing, and sufficient and suitable heating, lighting, noise control, ventilation, and equipment to support ...appropriate curriculum implementation by the service provider; and safe and healthy practices by the service provider; and to comply with the requirements of Schedule 4 (which relates to activity spaces).'

Each licensed service provider to whom this regulation applies must comply with the premises and facilities standard: general." ('General' criteria can be found here.)

Other links on this page include: new services, general, food preparation and eating spaces, toilet and handwashing facilities, other sanitary facilities, and sleep.

Under 'General' can be found the following criteria and guidelines:

New Services - Design and Layout of Premises:

As quoted from MinEdu:


The design and layout of the premises should:

'support the provision of different types of indoor and outdoor experiences; and include quiet spaces, areas for physically active play, and space for a range of individual and group learning experiences appropriate to the number, ages, and abilities of children attending.'

'Existing services are exempt from complying with this criterion until 30 November 2020 or any earlier date prescribed by the Minister.'

The rationale describes the criteria as aiming 'to uphold a minimum level of quality education by ensuring that children have access to an environment that is 'fit for purpose' - that is, can support a range of activities.'


New centres need to be designed and laid out so that the physical environment does not hinder the way the curriculum can be provided. Activity spaces need to be configured to allow for a range of learning experiences, as well as meeting the minimum space per child requirement…

Does not hinder? Should the physical environment not be designed to fully support the curriclum's philosophy?


Aerial view of early childhood centre layout.

Different spaces within the early childhood centre.

Layout showing inside/outside space.

This section (New Services - Design and Layout of Premises) is certainly very basic and does not go into great detail or depth of how important the environment is for children's learning experiences and well-being.

The above example images show a typical New Zealand ECE centre, which encompasses all of the 'requirements' - activity spaces etc….

It does not however touch on the architetcural qualities of the centre…(such as light, thermal quality, ventilation, materiality)

Another section under ECE Lead is Establishing a centre-based service - Designing and building your service.

This gives advice on 'choosing your site' , resource consent and 'design steps' which encourages developing a design in collaboration with an architect, teachers, community and local Ministry of Education office.

The Design Steps include:

1. The following resources -

The Design and Build Scheme with Signature Homes, with examples shown above from the Signature Homes website, which offers early childhood providors a packaged design from a catalogue, which can be modified to their particular needs. The Centre Design Guide, which offers advice on creating various "activity areas" such as bathrooms, storage, sandpits etc. Renovating an existing building or building a new service, which offers a checklist of things to consider such as shaded areas, road access etc.

2. Contact regional Health Protection Officer (HPO) and discuss building plans.

3. Ensure plans comply with the Building Regulations 2004, as well as the Early Childhood Services Regulations 2008. The Ministry of Education's licensing assessment tool for centre-based ECE Services is also available for use.

4. Contact local Ministry of Education office for feedback.

They also include articles, books and dvd's such as Mark Dudek's 'Kindergarten Architecture'. For full list see here.

Overall, the Ministry of Education website focuses on facilities that support activities and the curriculum, as well as health and safety. It does not inspire architetcurally designed creative and inspiring, well-designed and thought out architetcural spaces that support the child's entire well-being or hauora (social, physical, mental and spiritual).

The site is also fairly confusing, as I had difficulty locating where I might find mention of architecture. On a positive note the links to resources that might guide the design process (including the book: 'Kindergarten Architecture') is very useful.

Perhaps guidance can be improved with providing case studies that showcase the design process of centres that have been successfully designed by an architect in collaboration with the community guiding future centres to be the best they can be.


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