Teachers in early childhood education
What We Have Found
The proportion of early childhood education teachers who are qualified and registered has been rising over time.
There is approximately 1 teacher for every 6 children aged two and over in ECE.
Annual ECE teacher turnover is 20%, similar to the wider education and training sector, and higher than the national workforce turnover rate. ECE teacher turnover has been declining in recent years. Around 8% of ECE teachers leave the sector each year.
Date Updated: September 2013
The following indicators are included in this report:
- Registered teachers – The proportion of early childhood education teachers who are registered with the New Zealand Teachers’ Council (NZTC).
- Qualified teachers – The proportion of teachers holding a qualification approved by the NZTC.
- Teacher-to-child ratio – refers to the number of teachers in relation to the number of children attending education and care services and kindergartens.
- Teacher turnover – two indicators are shown:
- the annual average turnover rate of permanently-appointed, paid teaching staff in teacher-led centre-based early childhood education services.
- percentage of permanently-appointed, paid teaching staff lost to the early childhood education sector each year.
Why This Is Important
Children benefit from participation in quality early childhood education. Quality is supported through the interaction of a number of factors such as the ratio of trained adults to children, the number of children (or group size) and the qualification level of teachers.
One of the ways to improve the quality of early childhood education is to increase the number of qualified and registered early childhood education teachers. Teacher registration ensures the quality of teachers because it shows that newly graduated teachers have completed suitable teacher education programmes and are supervised and supported through an advice and guidance programme. Gaining full registration and maintaining practice certificates assures currency of professional knowledge and practice.
For ECE to provide the most benefits, it must be of high quality. “High quality ECE means quality interactions and trust between caregivers and for children in teacher-led settings, and this requires investment in teacher qualifications and favourable teacher-child ratios”. These enable teachers to respond effectively to children's individual needs and interests (NZ Childcare Association, 2009). Maintaining appropriate teacher-to-child ratios helps provide high quality education and care, personal and dedicated attention for all children and favourable child development outcomes.
Currently there are regulations set around teacher-to-child ratios: In services catering to children under two years old, the regulated minimum ratio is 1:5, while for services catering to children two years old and over, the ratio is 1:10. In a recent survey by the Early Childhood Network, ChildForum: 85% of respondents rated reducing the ratio of children aged under 2-years to adults as ‘extremely important; or ‘important’. “Respondents’ comments showed concern for the well-being of infants and toddlers in ECE services.”
Sustainability of ECE services is also important if children are to gain the benefits resulting from participation in ECE and to continue to do so into the future. One indicator of a service’s sustainability is it's rate of teacher turnover.
Services with high teacher turnover have a greater risk of closing than those with low teacher turnover. One reason for this is that high turnover services are more at risk of having fewer than the required number of registered teachers and of therefore jeopardising their licence. Higher turnover may also reflect fundamental problems in the service that result in teachers leaving or make the service less attractive to parents, resulting in a decrease in roll size and reduced sustainability.
Teacher turnover has been identified as a major factor undermining the quality of ECE programs. High turnover undermines quality in a variety of ways, including disruptions in teacher-child relationships and in the roles and relationships of teachers who remain at the centre. In these ways, program quality is negatively affected by turnover (Journal of Research in Childhood Education, July 2010).
In addition to teacher turnover within services, the number and proportion of staff resigning and not moving to another ECE service also indicates how sustainability within the sector is changing. A rise in the loss of teachers from the sector may affect system-wide sustainability, especially if there is no balancing gain or if those leaving tend to be considerably more experienced than those joining.
How We Are Going
Registered and qualified early childhood education teachers1
Before teachers can become registered with the New Zealand Teachers’ Council (NZTC), they must hold a qualification approved by the Council. Once qualified, teachers can then apply for provisional registration with the NZTC as long as they are of good character and are fit to be teachers.
In 2012, 71% of teachers were qualified and 73% were registered.
The proportion of teachers who are registered with the NZTC has increased from 35% in 2003 to 73% in 2012.
Since 2006, the proportion of teachers that are registered has been very close to the proportion that are qualified. This rise in registered ECE teachers could be due to the combined impact of:
- the new requirement that all 'Persons Responsible' in ECE be registered
- additional funding incentives given to centres with more registered teachers
- teacher registration targets implemented in 2007
Previous to then, many qualified ECE teachers had not taken the additional step of becoming registered.
In order to be qualified, a teacher must hold a recognised ECE teaching qualification that leads to registration with the NZ Teachers Council. It is important to note that from November 2010, New Zealand qualified and registered primary teachers in ECE services could be counted for funding purposes. Hence from 2011, all statistics on qualified teachers in ECE also include those working in ECE with primary teaching qualifications.
This could explain the 2010 data where the number of registered teaching staff rose slightly above the number qualified. These may have been primary teachers that were not yet counted as being ECE qualified.
Figure 1: Percentage of qualified teachers and percentage of registered teachers (2002-2012)
Figure 2 shows that Pasifika teachers have had the greatest percentage increase in registration levels, up from 18 percent registered in 2002 to 67 percent registered in 2012.
By 2012, 75% of European/ Pākehā teachers were registered, 67% of Pasifika teachers, 75% of Asian teachers, and 62% of Māori teachers.
Figure 2: Percentage of registered teachers by ethnic group (2002 to 2012)
The trend of registered teachers is largely shaped by the trend for education and care services. These services employ 84% of early childhood education teachers.
All home-based service network coordinators and almost all kindergarten teachers are qualified. By 2012, 69% of education and care service teachers were registered, while 95% of kindergarten teachers and 100% of home-based service network coordinators were registered.
While all home-based service coordinators are required to be qualified and registered, home-based educators are not. In 2012, approximately 3% of home-based educators were qualified (held a recognised ECE teaching qualification that allows registration with the NZ Teachers Council).
Figure 3: Percentage of registered teachers by service type (2002 to 2012)
The minimum number of teachers required at a service is defined by Schedule 2 (Adult-to-child ratios) of the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008. The number of children per teacher in education and care services that cater for under two year-olds only and operating all-day should be five (5) at the maximum. For education and care services and kindergartens catering for children two years old and over only or catering for both age groups and operating all-day, the maximum number of children per teacher should be ten (10). For sessional kindergartens, the ratio can be as high as 1:15.
Data on teacher-to-child ratios is collected using the ‘busiest time’ question on the Annual Census of ECE Services and asks for the number of children and teachers at the busiest time during the survey week. As such, the number of teachers includes day-to-day relievers as well as the usual teaching staff present at that time, and the number of children includes casual attendees as well as children on the regular roll.
Figure 4 and table 1 below show the teacher-to-child ratios for centre-based teacher-led ECE services2. Across all centre-based teacher-led services, there was an average of 1 teacher for every 6 children. This ranged from an average of 1:3 for education and care services catering to under twos only to 1:12 for sessionally-run kindergartens.
Teacher-to-child ratios have largely remained constant between 2010 and 2012.
Another important detail to note is that the regulated maximum number of licensed places allowed per service changed from 1 July 2011, increasing from 50 to 150 places. This change resulted in many services merging and the number of children in services catering for all ages increasing in 2012 and those attending smaller split services decreasing.
Figure 4: Distribution of teacher-to-child ratios by service type and category, 2012
Figure 4 shows the large range of ratios operating across the different types of services. All-day education and care services catering for under two year olds only are least dispersed, with 89% operating with 1 teacher to between 2 and 4 children. This is not surprising as the lower the ratio, the smaller the distribution possible.
The teacher-to-child ratios in the sessional kindergarten services are most dispersed. These range from 1 teacher to 5 children at a minimum to 1 teacher to 15 children at the top of the range.
Education and care services and kindergartens catering for children two years old and over only and operating all-day have to comply with the same regulations for minimum teacher-to-child ratios. Figure 4 shows the difference in the ratios for these two types of service: The ratios for all-day kindergartens are more dispersed than all-day education and care services catering for this age group, with 97% operating with 1 teacher to between 5 and 9 children for kindergartens and 97% of education and care services operating with 1 teacher to between 3 and 9 children. This difference is also shown in Table1.
Table 1 below, gives the estimated teacher-to-child ratios by roll size for all-day education and care services and all-day kindergartens catering for children two years old and over only.
The estimated teacher-to-child ratio for all-day kindergartens catering for two-year-olds and over only, is higher than the ratio for the same age group in all-day education and care services; 1 teacher to every 8 children for all-day kindergartens, compared with 1:5 for all-day education and care services. This could be explained by the stability of the rolls in the two types of services: Kindergartens are fuller and their rolls are usually more stable.
Table 1 shows that for both education and care services and kindergartens, the larger the roll size, the more children to each teacher on average. For all-day education and care services, the table shows an incremental increase in the teacher-to-child ratio which follows the incremental increase in roll size.
There has been no change in the teacher-to-child ratios by roll size between 2010 and 2012.
The table does not include all roll sizes, only those where there were greater than 10 services representing that roll size. This ensures a more reliable estimate of the teacher-to-child ratio.
Number of children
Number of teaching staff
Estimated teacher-to-child ratio
All-day education and care services catering for 2 year olds and over only
All-day kindergartens catering for 2 year olds and over only
In 2012, the rate of annual teacher turnover for centre-based teacher-led service types (education & care, and kindergarten) was 19.6%. Turnover rates have ranged between this 19.6% and 25.6% since 2005, with the highest rate occurring in 2008.
Between 2007and 2008, teaching staff turnover increased noticeably, by 9% (2.1 percentage points), this could be the result of a few factors:
- The introduction of 20 Hours ECE which provided fully funded early childhood education for up to 6 hours per day, and up to 20 hours per week for all three and four year olds. This change, supported by already strong underlying population growth at these ages, led to a 10% growth in licensed services between 2007 and 2009.
- Kindergartens started moving to an all-day model and therefore required more teaching staff. As these teachers may have transferred from education and care services, this would explain the higher turnover for both types of service.
- The Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008 which stated that 50% of required staff in teacher-led licensed services must hold a recognised qualification.
It is important to note that turnover rate is affected by both loss to the sector and the appointment of new staff. High or increasing turnover, as occurred in 2008, can be a positive indicator where it represents an expanding workforce. Alternatively it can reflect increasing losses as occurred with unqualified staff in 2012.
Figure 5: Average annual rate of teacher turnover for teacher-led centre-based ECE services (2005-2012)
Sources: ECE turnover (Ministry of Education); Education & Training and national rates (Statistics New Zealand).
Note: The national education and training turnover rate for 2010 from SNZ was unexplainably high so has not been included here.
Teaching staff turnover across all centre-based teacher-led ECE services is similar to turnover rates for the wider education and training sector, and higher than the national workforce turnover rate. The national annual average turnover rate as at March 2012 was 16.3% and the annual average turnover rate for the education and training industry as a whole was 22.1% (Statistics New Zealand, 2013).
Kindergarten turnover has been consistently lower than education and care services (14% compared with 21% in 2012). Apart from the increase in turnover in 2008, total turnover for kindergartens and education and care services has closely followed the rate for the education and training industry as a whole.
Since reaching a peak in 2008, turnover rates have since fallen to below 2005 levels and are currently still declining. This decline, in part may be influenced by the effects of the global recession, combined with a slowing in growth of the underlying population since 2011. Another influence could have been the change in 2011 to the subsidy funding rates for ECE services. The rates for services with 80-99% and 100% qualified teachers were removed and replaced with a single rate. This may have given qualified teaching staff less opportunities within the sector.
Turnover is influenced by whether teaching staff are qualified or not. Figure 6 shows that the turnover rates for education and care and kindergartens varies for qualified and non qualified teachers. Qualified teachers are those that have an early childhood education teaching qualification approved by the New Zealand Teaching Council. This includes teaching staff with primary level teaching qualifications for 2011 and 2012 as since November 2010 these teachers are included for funding purposes.
Figure 6: Average annual rate of teacher turnover for teacher-led services by whether or not teachers were qualified (2005-2012)
The average turnover rate for qualified teachers 2005-2010 was consistently higher than for non qualified teachers. It reached a maximum rate of 27% in 2008 when all turnover rates peaked irrespective of qualification status.
Since 2010 however, the turnover rate for non qualified teachers has risen, while the rate for qualified teachers has continued to decline. In 2012, the turnover rate for non qualified teachers exceeded that of qualified teachers for the first time. On 1 February 2011 the subsidy funding rates for ECE services were changed and this may have provided some services with less incentive to hire qualified staff once reaching the 80% threshold, providing a limiting effect on the turnover of qualified staff.
As mentioned earlier, turnover rates are affected by both expansion and loss. The teacher turnover rate at a service is linked to the sustainability of the service and includes teachers who move to another ECE service (movements) and teachers who leave the sector completely (losses).
Figure 7 shows that the proportion of teachers lost from the sector has fallen from 9.4 percent in 2005 to 7.9 percent in 2012.
Turnover was highest in 2008 for both qualified and non qualified teaching staff, however the percentage of teaching staff lost to the sector dropped significantly for non qualified teachers and had only a slight affect on qualified teachers. This followed the introduction of 20 Hours ECE, which as stated earlier, supported by population growth, led to a 10% growth in licensed services between 2007 and 2009. Therefore although turnover was high in 2008 it was mostly due to staffing gains and not teachers leaving positions, or the sector in general.
The proportion of qualified staff lost to the sector went up 2 percentage points in 2011 and this is likely due to the change in funding bands for qualified staff. Qualified teachers leaving services may have not had the choice of ECE services that they had previously.
Figure 7: Proportion of teachers lost to the ECE sector by whether or not they were qualified (2005-2012)
Figure 8 shows the proportion of services according to their rate of teacher turnover. Graphs are shown for all services and for small, medium-sized and large services, based on the number of teachers working.
The breakdown between the “no turnover” and “1–33 percent turnover” categories differs considerably by service size. A far higher proportion of small services have no teacher turnover compared with large services. This is hardly surprising and reflects the fact that the chance of a small service losing one teacher (a third of the teachers in the case of a three teacher centre) is less than the chance of a large service losing one teacher (a tenth of the teachers in the case of a ten teacher centre). Conversely, the impact of that loss will be considerably greater for a small service compared with a large service
The graphs in figure 8 are consistent with the teacher turnover rates shown in figure 6 and show that turnover rates peaked in 2008, especially in the case of small and medium- sized services. Smaller services’ rates rose again in 2010 after a drop in turnover for all services in 2009. All then continued to fall between 2010 and 2012. This shows that service size broadly made little difference to the trends in teacher turnover.
Figure 8: Percentage of teacher-led services by teacher turnover bands and service size (2005-2012)
Where to Find Out More
Analysis in this indicator report has begun to explore changes in levels of qualified and registered teachers in ECE, teacher-to-child ratios and teacher turnover rates. More information about staffing in ECE can be found on the Staffing Statistics page.
A large range of other ECE statistics are available here on Education Counts.
More can be found on other ECE indicators.
The Education Counts website also provides a range of ECE related publications.
For a large range of other information on ECE in New Zealand visit the ECE Lead website.
ReferencesCritical Importance of Early Childhood Education. Press Release: NZ Childcare Association (2009)
Farquhar, SE & Hann, A (2013). The State of the Early Childcare and Education Sector in 2012 and Outlook for 2013: ChildForum Early Childhood Network
- The section on registered and qualified early childhood education teachers contains data on teacher-led early childhood services. This includes teaching staff in education and care services, casual education and care, kindergartens, hospital based services, the correspondence school and home-based service coordinators.
- By definition ‘Centre-based teacher-led services’ includes education and care services, casual education and care, hospital-based services and kindergartens, however, for the purposes of this report, only education and care services and kindergartens are included.
- Statistics New Zealand worker turnover rate, and the rate used in this report, is the ratio of the average of the total new staff and staff who have left in the reference year to the average of the total staff in the reference year (t) and the previous year (t-1), as represented in the formula:
(Accessions + Separations)/2
(Staff (t) + Staff (t+1))/2
Downloads / Links
Where to Find Out MoreECE Staffing Statistics
For related staistics on staff in ECE please visit::
Other ECE Indicators
For other indicators on ECE please visit
For a large range of ECE staistics and related publications please visit: ECE Statistics ECE Publications ECE Services directory Websites of Interest
For a large range of other information on ECE in New Zealand please visit: ECE Lead website