Early Years Learning Policy

Done well, early childhood education can shape social, emotional and academic outcomes. It can improve equity, and build strong communities and healthy families. Ultimately, healthy child development provides the foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society. 


The TOP Early Years Learning Policy will return NZ to being world leaders in early education. TOP respects our children are naturally curious learners with a right to nurturing relationships that support their development.

We believe that every young child has a right to quality care and learning that supports their natural individual curiosity, development, and wellbeing.

We believe the best people to deliver this care and learning are empowered communities, whānau and teachers with access to quality resources, fair pay and self-governance.

The Problem:

  • New Zealand’s early childhood education (ECE) sector is in a state of crisis. For years, policy, funding and regulation decisions have been based on financial rather than educational perspectives.
  • NZ was once a world leader in early education, but changes to education policies over the last decades have eroded our Early Childhood Education (ECE) into a factory farming model.
  • The emphasis has shifted to prioritising profits by squeezing as many children into the smallest spaces allowable, rather than prioritising quality learning and relationship building.

TOP will

  • Implement a ‘quality-based contracting model’ which reflects quality holistic real-world learning rather than the current licensing model under which providers can get away with providing substandard care.
  • Ensure fair pay for ECE teachers and improve working conditions.
  • Review the $/hr/child rates to ensure communities are supported to provide quality ECE services. 
  • Return power to educators for making qualified informed decisions about education, enrichment and community involvement.
  • Improve the transition systems between pre-school and school by encouraging schools to hire early childhood teachers for years 1 & 2 at least.
  • Raise the quality of early childhood education in disadvantaged communities by creating culturally sensitive, community-based connections between centres and families.
  • Require government agencies to talk to each other when assessing early childhood issues, education and care.
  • Provide a Universal Basic Income of $13,000 for adults and $2080 for children to every NZ permanent resident.
  • Bring back free play time, outdoor play and risky and loose parts play to support development. We want to bring back the grass, the vines, rolling down hills, climbing trees and muddy puddles for their enjoyment and physical development.
  • Implement a model of partnership between early childhood services and families by allowing teachers, parents/whānau and student teachers to be equally involved in the development of children.
  • Delay formal structured learning until age seven; instead focussing on letting children embrace curious learning for strong social and emotional development which sets them up for success in the later school years. This approach is considered best practice with more than 31 countries around the world delaying structured learning until 6/7 years.

We believe educators aren’t just physical caretakers but have a right to embrace a diversity of teaching styles that lead to real-world learning, foster well-being, and give children a secure sense of self. TOP respects that qualified educators (not business owners) are best placed for managing risk, centre conditions and capacity. Our policy changes will allow centres to explore outdoor natural areas and be culturally responsive by developing a strong sense of community.

Education Policy Statement

Policy chat on Facebook

Page last updated on 4-Jul 2020