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The Early Years Ministry (EYM)

This project is currently in the Discussion phase. Read more about the process. Please have a look at the project — we would love to have your thoughts and comments.

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What's the project?

A Ministry with a focus on quality of life and care, as well as quality early childhood education.


In 1986 childcare was brought under the Ministry of Education, and at the time this move made very good sense. All children could now receive early childhood education if they were enrolled in a licensed service. We’ve had three and a half decades to see the effect of this system. It began well, seeing the adoption of Te Whāriki, and trained teachers in all centre-based services, but there was a downside. Care was largely forgotten. We have had a gulf between the Ministries of Education and Health, each seeing child wellbeing in ECE and care as the responsibility of the other. This siloed approach needs to end. With no focus on quality of life, we have denied children's basic human rights, allowing high density, poor quality childcare to replace genuine ECE.


We are proposing a new time-of-life-based Ministry under a new Act, The Early Years Quality of Life, Care and Education Act.   The Early Years Ministry would be cross-government, would elevate the position of teachers as its core professional workforce, and would take a holistic approach to children's care and education.
For early care and education, it would replace the functions of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and the Education Review Office. 

Quick summary

More than 'early learners'  – a refocus on quality of life in the early years
The first years of life are foundational to human development, and for some time we have recognised the importance of the ‘first 1,000 days’. We know that what happens in our early years has a huge effect on later quality of life, but our early years are important in their own right, not only for the future. Because of the way that children experience time, we could say the time-experience of the first five to seven years may be equivalent to a decade or two of midlife. Children's days are very long days. Children deserve quality of life now, in the moment. As a society, we have a collective responsibility to ensure quality of life for babies, for toddlers, for all children, during these years.

We are proposing a new approach to the care of children in their early years. It has a focus first on children's quality of life as the most important thing of all for children, both during those years, and for the effect of initial good quality of early life on future life. It places care at the centre of the way we treat children, and it values early childhood education. This approach is time-of-life-based and holistic, rather than dividing life into health or education or parenting.

A new Ministry responsible for early care and education – pedagogy and pediatrics for ECE and care

The EYM could not take on all functions of Government that impact on young children, but would be directly responsible for some functions, and act as a coordinating and quality assurance body for other matters. It would be directly responsible non-parental care and early childhood education. It would replace the Ministry of Education for this function. 

Coordinating government policy and action for children under 8 years old
The EYM would be tasked with coordination between other government departments such as Education, Health, Oranga Tamariki, WINZ and MBIE. It would also engage with local government to ensure for example, that implementation of the Resource Management Act serves, and does not disadvantage, children. It would engage with other agencies in community-based action for children, for example, in child-friendly social housing developments, or in situations where poverty or detrimental activities such as drug use, are impacting adversely on children.

This proposal is integral to, and should be read together with, the first discussion paper from ECE Reform, Discussion paper 1: Quality-based Contracting (QBC) for ECE and care.

Read the full proposal here...

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4



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Ministerial response

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