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Making a Complaint

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Should any early childhood service not be meeting miniumum standards for children’s care and education, including staffing, management, health and safety (see the rules and regulations) then please speak up and report this – go to the online Complaint form.

This page on making a complaint tells you:

  1. how to make an internal complaint and complaint forms;
  2. how to make a complaint to the Ministry of Education and options;
  3. protections available;
  4. relevant agencies; and
  5. other information
    • names of ECE services that have had their licence downgraded
    • case studies and articles on issues.

Making an informal complaint to your service

Every licensed service must display a complaints policy or procedure for parents and visitors to check and read. If you have not seen this, ask to see a copy. Make your complaint in writing to the service manager and/or owner and keep a copy of it. This is your evidence that you have made a complaint, should there be no improvement and you need to take the complaint further. You are welcome to print and use the My ECE parent complaint form and/or the child complaint form (or your service should hopefully provide the forms)

You may find it helpful to informally chat with other parents (or staff) to see if others share the same concerns or have noticed anything else.

How to make a formal complaint


  1. Complete an online complaint form and have My ECE pass your complaint to the Ministry of Education on your behalf. You can request to have your name and identity kept confidential from the Ministry should you wish.
  2. Or make your complaint directly to the Ministry of Education (it is best not to phone. Instead send a letter or an email to the Ministry so it must respond and cannot later say it has no record of receiving a complaint). Make sure you include with your complaint the full name of the service and its physical address. Should you not receive an acknowledgement within 5 working days that your complaint has been received, then follow this up and request acknowledgement. Email your complaint to: [email protected] Or post or drop it into to the nearest regional Ministry of Education office:
    • Whangarei office: PO Box 911, Whangarei 0140. Northland. 
    • Auckland office: Private Bag 92644, Symonds Street, Auckland. 
    • Hamilton office: Private Bag 3011, Hamilton.
    • Rotorua office: PO Box 1749, Rotorua.
    • Napier office: PO Box 147, Napier.  
    • Lower Hutt office: PO Box 30177, Lower Hutt.
    • Wanganui office: Private Bag 3012, Whanganui. 
    • Nelson office: 19 Haven Road, Nelson 7010.
    • Christchurch office: PO Box 2522, Christchurch 8140.
    • Dunedin office: Private Bag 1971, Dunedin 9054.
    • Invercargill office: Private Bag 90-122, Invercargill.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for licensing early childhood education services and ensuring services are meeting regulated standards at all times – this includes all early childhood centres and home-based services.

The Ministry does not monitor ECE service compliance so it will not know unless you tell it if there are safety risks, children’s health is not promoted, children are not being well cared for, the physical environment such as toys and equipment is not adequate or suitable for learning, or the service is poorly managed.

The Ministry is likely to ask if you have followed the service’s own complaint policy and refuse to investigate the service until you have. At the Office of ECE we know that there are many reasons why parents, staff, students on teaching practice, and the public may not want to personally make a complaint to the service or its manager or owner, such as:

  • being fearful (e.g. of consequences for their child; of losing their job; not passing their course);
  • not having time or energy to deal with anything that might come their way because they have spoken up; and / or
  • the manager, owner or their mates being the person/s whom the complaint concerns.

Do not let the Ministry brush you off because you haven’t gone through the service’s own complaint procedure. Insist that the Ministry accepts your complaint and investigates.

Protection for Teachers, Educators and Staff

Most employers and service owners want to be kept informed by their staff of any problems that may lead to or create a licence breach so that the problems can be remedied immediately. However, should your employer be one that allows a licence breaches or breaches to occur then inform the Ministry of Education. Should you not report and something happens such as a child is seriously injured, then it could be your neck on line. Some examples of licence breaches include: insufficient adults for the number and ages of children, not allowing parents in the service with their child, not enabling children to access outdoor play, unsafe food, abusing and rough-handling children, recording absent children as present to claim funding for them, etc. See the above options available for making a complaint.

Are you worried about losing your job or being sued by your employer if you report your service? Check if your employment contract states that you will keep information about the service confidential or extend the Employer’s business interests and reputation and not do anything to its detriment.

Anyone who does not feel safe to bring matters up with their employer or to make a report to the Ministry of Education can call the Ombudsman for confidential professional advice on making a protected disclosure. Call 0800 802 602.

Other agencies Your Complaint Might Concern

NZ Police

The Police are happy to provide advice if you are not certain about whether you should or should not report a matter to it.

Contact the Police if you notice a child being abused, neglected, or put at risk in other ways such as a staff member or home educator taking rude or sexual images of children, or drinking alcohol or being drunk in the presence of children. If the service is not properly restraining children in vehicles with appropriate car seat restraints or is putting children in physical danger contact the Police.  

If you believe a parent or caregiver is putting their child at risk or a child is being abused, then tell the person in charge at your early childhood service. It is better for the person in charge at your centre to take the lead on this in the first instance.  However, should the child continue to be at risk – immediately contact the Police or Oranga Tamariki and ask for advice and report. We must all share responsibility for child safety.

Human Rights Commission

Human Rights Commission, PO Box 12411, Thorndon, Wellington 6144. Ph 0800 496 877

Inform the Human Rights Commission if you or your child is discriminated against, or you are told your child can no longer attend the service for a reason that is unacceptable. For example, the early childhood service may not allow your child who has disabilities to attend, or it might tell you off for breastfeeding on the premises.  

Office of the Privacy Commissioner

Privacy Commissioner, PO Box 466, Shortland Street, Auckland 1140.  In Auckland Ph 302 8655. Outside of Auckland Ph 0800 803 909.

Further Information that May Interest You

The names of ECE services that have had their licence downgraded or closed due to non-compliance with standards

Case studies and articles on issues

Has this been useful?  Give us your feedback.

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Information provided is of a general nature. It is provided ‘as is’, and we accept no liability for its accuracy or completeness. See our Terms and Conditions.

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