To minimise the risk of children choking while eating, licensing criteria for early learning services are being amended. These changes coincide with the start of a wider review of the regulations for the early learning sector.
Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary of Sector Enablement and Support, Katrina Casey, says the amendments, for centre-based services, kōhanga reo and home-based services, are designed to keep our young children safe – by minimising the risk of choking.
“We know early learning services take the health and safety of the children in their care very seriously, and we thank the sector for its participation and support during this review of requirements around the planning and preparation of food, and supervision of learners while eating.
“Prior to this change, early learning services were encouraged to follow the Ministry of Health guidance on provision of food. Now it will be compulsory.”
This means that from January 25 next year children will be required to be seated and supervised while eating, and early learning services that provide food must ensure it is prepared in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidance.
Services that do not provide food are required to promote the MoH guidance to all parents.
“Food choices must also meet the nutritional and developmental needs of each child.”
For up to every 25 children who are attending, an adult with a current first aid qualification must be present at all times from April 8 next year. This is a reduction on the current limit of up to 50 children.
“We will also be providing guidance and support to early learning services in the new year on their practices and policies around food preparation.”
Ms Casey says these changes follow an in-depth process of consultation.
They are being followed up by a wider review of the regulatory system for early learning, with the first tranche of proposals to tighten and clarify parts of the regulations now available for feedback.
“We’re taking a broad look at the regulations and licensing standards for this diverse sector, to make sure they are clear and fit-for-purpose. The proposals we are starting consultation on today target parts of the regulatory system that cover risk to children’s health, safety and wellbeing, and where further clarification is needed.
“This Review is aimed at ensuring our youngest learners get the best possible start to their education. It’s the first of three tranches planned over the next three years.”
Ms Casey says the sector has changed significantly since the current regulations took effect in 2008.
“There are many more licensed services, with a lot more of our tamariki participating in early learning, and at a younger age and for longer hours.”
The regulatory review includes actions in the Early Learning Action Plan 2019-2029. The first tranche includes proposals relating to the licensing of services, such as what happens if there are repeated breaches of minimum standards.