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Quality-based contracting (QBC)

This project is currently in the Submission phase. The proposal was included in the November 2023 ECE Reform Briefing to the Incoming Minister, and in communication with the Ministry of Regulation. Comments are always welcome though... email, or click Join the discussion.

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What's the proposal?

Why fund poor quality ECE and care? Quality-based contracting (QBC) is all about quality for children (and teachers). It replaces the current licensing system, and would be a big, positive change for NZ ECE and care. The essential difference in the new system is the requirement for the government to choose better quality providers, and requirement to not contract centres likely to be harmful to children or teachers. Legal isn't necessarily good. This is a quality-driven system, favouring better quality providers, regardless of the ownership model. It would require at the very least, a new arm of the Ministry of Education specifically for ECE and care, but ECE Reform is proposing a completely new Ministry (see our proposal for The Early Years Ministry).

Quick summary

Ensuring quality in a mixed community-based and commercialised provider environment


The QBC model is designed for an environment of ECE and care provision that is already operating substantially as a regulated business market. This is the situation in many countries, including New Zealand, Australia, the US, Canada , the UK, and a number of European countries. The model does not promote ‘marketisation’, or suggest that a market model is either a preferred or even good mechanism for ECE and care. It simply recognises it as a reality.

Government as the fully responsible provider, contracting services


In this model, the government is the provider but not the owner. It contracts services from private and community organisations. The government has a mandate and obligation to assess quality, and to choose better quality services where choice exists. It is obligated to minimise risk, for example by avoiding locations adverse to child health.

Government choice - the essential difference between licence and contract

Government choice is the essential difference between licensing and contract. It is fixed price for volume, so no negotiation occurs that erodes quality by way of cheaper deals. Almost all contracting is standard form, with similar transaction costs to licensing, for both government and contractors.

The model contains a structure that would form a major part of the proposed Early Years Ministry, and which has functions that would address children's wellbeing as well as their education. The new Ministry structure is designed to support the model with appropriate roles and expertise.

A new quality assessment system - quality of care, quality of environment, added value for learning and development

In QBC all competition is quality-based, as assessed through a well-designed quality assessment system, (quite different to current ERO assessments) rather than relying only on parent perceptions. 'Quality' is not pedagogically prescriptive, but is based on quality of care and environment, followed by added value for learning and development.

Read the full proposal and supporting documents here

Quality-based contracting (QBC) for early care and education - brief overview v3.1 070221

This document provides a quick look, but for the rationale, Ministry structure and Q+A, you need to look at the full discussion document (see below).

Quality-based contracting for early care and education discussion document v3.3 220422

This is the full version of the proposal. Comments are closed now, but if you support the proposal please go to Register Your Support. 

A Wellbeing-themed submission for the New Zealand Strategic Plan for Early Learning 2019-29.pdf

This six-author, ten-topic submission to the Ministry of Education provides a background to the adverse conditions affecting child and teacher health in New Zealand ECE and care. It contain 63 recommendations for action.   


Note: the initial sound quality in this video isn't very good, but it gets better.

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3



Submission sent

Ministerial response

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