Early Learning Participation
This index page provides statistics on children's participation in early learning including tables on prior participation rates of children starting school, enrolments and average hours spent in early learning.
Overview of Early Learning Participation
The amount of time children participate in early childhood education (ECE) has decreased since 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic being an important cause. Children’s participation in early learning before starting school has steadily increased in the last ten years.
For more information see the indicator report: Participation in Early Learning.
Participation Intensity Measure
Using administrative data drawn from the Early Learning Information (ELI) system and population projections from StatsNZ, we are able to calculate the percentage of children attending early childhood education for 10 or more hours a week on average at age 3 and at age 4.
Results for 2017 to 2020 are presented here.
- Participation Intensity Measure: June 2021 Results[PDF 381.0kB]
- Participation Intensity Measure: 2017-2021[MS Excel 56.7kB]
Prior Participation in Early Learning
Data on prior-participation show how many children have regularly attended early learning in the six months prior to starting school. This is collected through the Ministry of Education's ENROL system. For further information on this see the indicator Participation in early learning.
This spreadsheet provides numbers and rates of prior participation across time.
- Prior Participation in ECE (Year End June 2022)[MS Excel 4mB]
Enrolments in Early Learning
The Early Childhood Education (ECE) census is administered every year and provides a snapshot of high level statistics for early learning in New Zealand. Data captured is for a one week period, typically the last week in June and includes information about the services, enrolment/attendance numbers, teaching staff, and the use of languages.
From 2000 to 2013, all ECE Census data was collected from paper-based RS61 returns. On these forms, enrolment data described regular enrolments in ECE licensed services regardless if children was absent during the return week. In 2014, the method for data collection changed and around 40% of services completed the Annual Census using the Ministry's new electronic collection tool for ECE: ELI. In 2019, the proportion of licensed services using ELI rose to 90%. For these services, the data collected relates to attendances in ECE licensed services, not enrolments. Only Te Kōhanga Reo, casual and hospital-based services filed paper-based RS61 returns. This is a change to the definition of the data and means that the data should not be compared to previous years.
The following document gives an overview of key findings from the latest ECE census.
- A3: Participation in Early Learning 2021[PDF 171.4kB]
This spreadsheet allows you to create your tables by any combination of variables. It includes the option of displaying number of enrolments in early learning by service type and regional type variables.
Please note: use of this spreadsheet requires MS Excel version 2007 or later.
- Pivot Table: Enrolments in ECE (2000-2021)[MS Excel 6.1mB]
Time Series Data: Enrolments
This spreadsheet provides numbers of enrolments in early learning across time in a simple, easy to use format.
- Time Series Data: Enrolments in ECE (2000-2020)[MS Excel 50.4kB]
Time Series Data: Hours of Participation
This spreadsheet provides information on average weekly attendance hours in early learning across time in a simple, easy to use format.
- Time Series Data: Hours of Participation in ECE (2002-2021)[MS Excel 53.5kB]
Early Learning Participation Technical Notes
Early Childhood Education (ECE) participation is associated with positive outcomes in the short and long term (Mitchell et al. 2008), especially for vulnerable children. Also, several studies have identified links between participation in ECE and better social and economic outcomes for children when they reach older ages (Mitchell et al. 2011); such as higher earning, reduced reliance in the welfare programme and reduction in crimes.
Children from vulnerable communities and low socio-economic backgrounds are especially benefited by early education, showing better social interactions and emotional maturity (Bakken et al. 2017) and greater learning ability. Studies show that engagement in ECE results in educational and vocational gain (Campbell et al. 2008) and reduces social inequalities in academic performance up to adulthood (Laurin et al. 2015).
In New Zealand, children who participate in ECE generally show well developed social and emotional skills before starting school (Thomas et al. 2019) and perform better in maths, reading, communication and logical problem solving during their primary school years (Wylie & Thompson, 2003) and adolescence (OECD 2016).
Indicator Definition: Prior participation
The number of children who had regularly participated in early learning in the sixth months prior to starting school.
(Data Source: Ministry of Education: ENROL Database)
The number of children who had participated in early learning + the number who had not participated in early learning.
The number of students with unknown prior early learning attendance has been excluded (from both the numerator and denominator) when calculating participation rates.
This measure is based on the number of children who started school between July 1 and June 30 each year. For example, ‘June 2019’ refers to those children who started school between July 1 2018 and June 30 2019.
(Data Sources: Ministry of Education: ENROL Database)
Indicator Definition: Participation Intensity
Numerator: Number of children who participated in ECE for 10 or more hours a week on average at age 3 and at age 4.
(Data Source: Ministry of Education: Early Learning Information System)
The total number of children at age 3 and at age 4.
This measure is based on the number of children who attended ECE services between July 1 and June 30 each year. For example, ‘June 2019’ refers to those children who attended ECE between July 1 2018 and June 30 2019.
These measures are calculated from the day each individual child turns 3 for the age 3 measure, and from the day the child turns 4 for the age 4 measure. Attendance when a child is aged less than 3 and 5 or older are not included.
(Data Sources: Stats NZ, National ethnic population projections)
Participation intensity is calculated using data from Early Learning Information System (ELI), which does not include participation from services that do not report their data via ELI such as ngā kōhanga reo. Thus participation of Māori children and other groups might be underrepresented.
For participation intensity, the population of 4 and 5 years old on June of each year is taken from Stats NZ, National ethnic population projections, by age and sex, 2013 (based)-2038 update, 50th percentile (median) scenario.
Stats NZ does not provide a breakdown of the socioeconomic areas (SES) children live. To approximate the number of children from high, medium and low SES areas we have used the following percentages: 30% of the population of children live in high SES areas, 37% in medium SES areas, and the remaining
33% in low SES areas; based on demographic data from the Early Learning Information system (ELI).
As the numerator (ELI - attendance data) and the denominator (Stats NZ projections) are from two different sources, the sum of the proportions for each year do not add to 100%.
Total Response Ethnicity
Students who identify with more than ethnic group have been counted in each group they identify with. The figure in the “Total” column will therefore generally be less than the sum of the students.