Early Childhood Teacher
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Early childhood teachers educate and care for young children in early childhood education services such as kindergartens, kōhanga reo or education and care centres. Kōhanga reo kaiako also help children learn te reo Māori and tikanga Māori (culture and customs).
Early childhood teachers usually earn
$34K-$69K per year
Head teachers usually earn
$72K-$78K per year
Source: Ministry of Education and NZEI, 2016.
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Early childhood care and education centres and kindergartens
Pay for early childhood teachers varies depending on where they work, their qualifications and their experience.
- With a Diploma in Early Childhood Teaching, you start on about $34,000 and can reach about $54,000 a year.
- With a three-year Bachelor of Teaching, you start on about $44,000 and can reach a maximum of about $65,000.
- With a four-year degree, you start on about $45,000, and can reach a maximum of about $69,000.
- Head teachers can earn about $78,000 or more.
Kōhanga reo kaiako
The Kōhanga Reo National Trust requests you contact it directly for information about pay for qualified kōhanga reo kaiako.
Sources: Ministry of Education; New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), 'The Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement of Aotearoa New Zealand 2015-2016', February 2016.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust website - contact details
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Early childhood teachers may do some or all of the following:
- educate and care for babies and children, working one to one or in groups
- plan daily programmes, learning experiences and routines for children
- make or adapt learning resources
- implement Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum
- assess and record the learning and development of each child
- discuss children's progress with their parents or caregivers, whānau and other education professionals
- run workshops for parents, caregivers and whānau
- attend social gatherings and hui
- prepare budgets, order supplies, and help manage the centre.
Kōhanga reo kaiako must ensure the education and care they provide to children benefits children's te reo and tikanga Māori (Māori culture and customs) development.
Skills and knowledge
Early childhood teachers need to have knowledge of:
- different teaching strategies and learning styles, and good teaching skills
- Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum
- child learning and development, and early literacy and numeracy.
Kōhanga reo kaiako also need to be competent in te reo Māori, and knowledgeable about tikanga Māori (Māori culture and customs).
Early childhood teachers:
- work 35 to 40 hours a week, depending on whether they are employed in a kindergarten, childcare centre or kōhanga reo
- work indoors and outdoors at early childhood services
- may take children on local trips to places such as marae, museums and playgrounds.
What's the job really like?
Early Childhood Teacher
Carly Perrot was inspired to become an early childhood teacher after seeing the enjoyment her daughter’s teachers were getting out of working with pre-schoolers.
“They’re actually having lots of fun” Carly thought, as she dropped Maddie off in the mornings.
Being a mother has helped
"Being a mother gives you skills and knowledge that you don’t get from training," adds Carly. “It gives you a better insight into how children think.”
Mixed-age setting keeps Carly on her toes
Carly works in a mixed-age kindergarten, where the children range from nine months to five years old.
"I specialise in teaching infants and toddlers, and I plan the learning experiences for this age group. I also manage these children's transitions from home to our centre, or from another centre to ours.
"It can be emotionally and physically tiring some days, because you’re pretty much doing everything for the children that their parents would do – feeding, toileting and so on – but it is so rewarding knowing you are helping them learn skills that they will use for the rest of their lives."
Advice for aspiring early childhood teachers
"If you’re interested in working in early childhood, go and check out some different centres, because each will have its own teaching philosophy and culture and you will hopefully find one that works for you."
- A fun working environment.
- Working as part of a team.
- Physical and mental exhaustion.
- Managing the competing needs of children.
Hannah Vickers finds out what it takes to be an early childhood teacher - 7.28 mins. (Video courtesy of TeachNZ)
Clinton: So at Dunedin’s Grants Braes Kindergarten, Hannah will be teamed up with early childhood teacher Claire Wood to learn what it’s all about.
Hannah: Hi Claire, nice to meet you.
Claire: Hi come on in!
Claire: The thing I love most about the job is really getting into great conversations with the children. The children they give you such a buzz because they’ve got great energy and you just really want to be around them.
Claire: Don’t be afraid, just get in there and ask them questions, see what they’re doing.
Clinton: Early childhood education differs from standard schooling in that the child chooses the activity and the teacher participates, injecting their learning into their play. If children are to grow and prosper they need to become independent, and ensuring that happens is an integral part of the teacher’s role.
Michael: I can’t do it.
Claire: What can’t you do Michael?
Michael: I can’t climb up and then go down.
Claire: I think you can give it a go!
Marcello: I’ll do it!
Claire: You ask Marcello. How did he do it?
Claire: What we really want for our children is we want them to be confident, we want them to believe in themselves as learners, to be aware that they’re really capable of doing things for themselves.
Claire: He used his knee!
Claire: I wonder if you could use your knee?
Claire: So obviously when they first start in an early childhood centre, they may not feel very comfortable so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to give them a sense of belonging and over time one of the most exciting thing is seeing the change in the children to becoming really confident learners.
Claire: You’ve got one knee on, Michael! Look at that! You did it! See you can climb up!
Michael: I’ve got up!
Claire: And you showed him how to do it Marcello! He used his knee!
Claire: So every child is different. They’re learning in different ways, they’ve got different interests and different ways of learning so you might have children that are really creative and spend a lot of time working through different art mediums, and then you get other children that want to be involved outside in big group play and that kind of learning we’re really encouraging because it’s getting them thinking.
Hannah: What do you make in your factory?
Child: Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!
Hannah: Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Do you make it into bars or Easter eggs?
Child: We make it into Easter eggs and send it to the Easter bunny!
Hannah: Do you? And then the Easter bunny sends it back to you!
Clinton: You can train to teach in te reo Māori or Pasifika services as well as English mainstream. Whatever you choose, the ability to adapt your teaching to the changing interests of the children is an essential trait for an early childhood teacher, as is the ability to relate to them on their level.
Child: All the chocolate's coming out!
Hannah: Did it come out?
Hannah: I wonder why it didn’t come out? Do you think it has anything to do with this pipe being a little bit upwards?
Child: It is a little bit upwards!
Hannah: A little bit upwards. What do you think we could do to make it go down a little bit? Oh you’re pushing it down! That’s a good idea!
Clinton: Early childhood teachers may work up from entry-level teaching positions to senior roles, such as head teacher. They may also move to youth and community work or general training, using the organisational and interpersonal skills they have developed as teachers, while some may move into policy work and teacher education.
Claire: As a teacher I think one of the most important things you can be with the children is really positive. You’ve got to be positive, enthusiastic and you’ve got to make things fun because that makes a great learning environment.
Hannah: Wow look! It worked just like we thought!
Hannah: Look you’ve done such a good job! Look!
Clinton: Getting children hooked on learning is what it’s all about. If it’s fun then the child will enjoy it and if they enjoy it they’ll come back for more. Creating that fun learning environment extends all the way though to even the more traditional topics of literacy and maths.
Claire: Literacy can be about so many things – it can be about maths, and it can also be about children that are drawing maps is another kind of literacy. So we just like to make sure that they’re exposed to a huge range of those kind of ideas and experiences.
Hannah: Reading to children.
Claire: In an early childhood environment what we’re really trying to provide is a real rich variety of literacy, so as well as being passionate about reading with children we’re providing literacy in so many other ways – through song and music, through the conversations that we’re having all the time with children.
Hannah: How did you start getting involved in early childhood?
Claire: You have to go to university and do a degree. At the end you have a teaching qualification, the same as a primary or a secondary teacher. It sounds like lots of hard work but it’s actually also a lot of fun. You get sent to different kindergartens and early childhood centres and the other thing that is really rewarding is being involved with the children and their families – getting to know those families – and being part of a great team of people.
Hannah: Hi Kay, how are you today?
Kay: Hello, great!
Hannah: Good! Brodie has been having a good day, he was out playing in the sandpit, got a little bit wet.
Claire: It’s really important to work in partnership with the parents, families and whānau that we have here because if we know the children really well and we’ve got the parents on board, then we can work together. So one of the key roles of an early childhood teacher is to really engage with parents.
Clinton: So with a few fond farewells Hannah’s day has come to an end… But does Claire think it could be the beginning of her career in early childhood teaching?
Claire: Hannah was really fantastic. She had a great day being here because she got down and got involved with the children; she was having really good conversations with them. Yeah she was great, she did really well.
Hannah: It’s definitely something I could see myself doing in the future.
Clinton: To begin your career as a qualified registered early childhood teacher you’ll need to complete either a Bachelor of Teaching, Diploma of Teaching or Graduate Diploma of Teaching in Early Childhood Education.
As a qualified and registered early childhood teacher you’ll be able to work in any of New Zealand’s early childhood care and education centres, working as part of a team with a diverse range of children who provide a unique and exciting experience every day.
Further study in kōhanga reo kaiako will allow you to diversify your employment options further and as early childhood teachers are in demand, your employment prospects are high.
Entry requirements for early childhood teachers
To become a qualified early childhood teacher you need one of the following:
- Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education)
- Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood Education)
- Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood Education).
You also need to be registered with the Education Council and have a current practising certificate, renewable every three years.
Entry requirements for kōhanga reo kaiako
To become a qualified kōhanga reo kaiako, you need a Tino Rangatiratanga Whakapakari Tohu (kōhanga reo teaching qualification).
To get into the Tino Rangatiratanga Whakapakari Tohu course, you must be employed by a kōhanga reo because it is a field-based programme. The kōhanga will then support your application. You will also need the National Diploma in Reo Māori (Level 5), or equivalent.
Scholarships can help you get training for the job
The Ministry of Education offers a number of scholarships for people to train as early childhood teachers.
Vulnerable Children Act
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
- Children’s Action Plan website - overview of restrictions on working with children
- New Zealand Legislation website - information on serious convictions that prevent employment with children
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter university and teacher training. However, some diploma programmes have slightly lower entry requirements.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
To become a special education teacher
Following two years of teaching to gain full teacher registration, and preferably further experience teaching young children, you need to complete a graduate or postgraduate qualification in specialist teaching, specialising in early intervention.
Early childhood teachers need to be:
- good at communicating and relating to children and adults from a range of cultures
- good at planning and organising
- skilled at problem-solving, and able to make quick decisions
- understanding and patient
- firm but fair
- creative, imaginative and resourceful
- committed to the kōhanga reo kaupapa (Māori language nest concept), if working in a kōhanga reo.
Useful experience for early childhood teachers includes:
- babysitting or childcare work
- work as a nanny
- school holiday programme work
- work with children through groups such as Brownies and Scouts
- work with people with disabilities.
Early childhood teachers need to have a good level of fitness and health as they may have to pick up children, and join in physical activities.
First-year early childhood teachers are registered with the Education Council, and issued with a provisional practising certificate.
After two years of satisfactory teaching and an induction and mentoring programme, they may be recommended to the Education Council to hold a full practising certificate.
Find out more about training
- Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand
- 0800 336 612 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.montessori.org.nz
- 0800 165 225 - email@example.com - www.teachnz.govt.nz
- Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
- 04 381 8750 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.kohanga.ac.nz
- Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand
- 0800 244 532 - email@example.com - www.ecnz.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Getting first teaching position can be a challenge for new graduates
It can take time and perseverance to get your first full-time teaching job, as there is strong competition from experienced teachers. The Ministry of Education offers seminars and advice on its TeachNZ website to increase your chances of gaining work.
However, demand for early childhood teachers is steady and predicted to increase slightly because:
- the number of employed mothers of young children has been increasing each year
- the Government's target that 98% of children starting school by 2016 will have participated in early childhood education, has not yet been reached. In June 2015, 96% had been reached.
Strong demand for speakers of Māori or Pasifika languages
Demand for early childhood teachers who speak te reo Māori or Pasifika languages is very strong.
Types of employers varied
Early childhood teachers may work for:
- education and care centres
- teacher-led home-based care agencies
- Kōhanga Reo.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry of Education, 'Participation in Early Childhood Education', accessed February 2016, (www.educationcounts.govt.nz).
- Reynolds, P, chief executive officer, Early Childhood Council, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2015.
- Statistics New Zealand, 'Mothers in the New Zealand Workforce', accessed February 2016, (www.stats.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Early childhood teachers may work up from entry-level teaching positions to senior roles such as head teacher. They may also move into:
- policy work
- teacher education
- youth/community work.
Kōhanga reo kaiako may use their knowledge of te reo and tikanga Māori to move into training and policy roles.
Last updated 8 December 2016