Early Childhood Teacher Kaiako Kōhungahunga

Early childhood teachers educate and care for young children in kindergartens, kōhanga reo or childcare centres. Kōhanga reo kaiako also help children learn te reo Māori and tikanga Māori (culture and customs).

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Early childhood teachers need to be registered with the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and have a current practising certificate.

Early childhood teachers may do some or all of the following:

  • educate and care for babies and children
  • help prepare meals, clean and tidy up, give medicines and change nappies
  • 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 benefits children's te reo Māori (language) and tikanga Māori (culture and customs) development.

Special Education Teacher

To become a special education teacher you need two or more years of early childhood teaching experience and full teacher registration. You must also complete a postgraduate qualification in the area of special education you want to teach in.

Physical Requirements

Early childhood teachers need to be reasonably fit and healthy.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for early childhood teachers includes:

  • babysitting or childcare work
  • child counselling
  • work with people with disabilities
  • school holiday programme work
  • working with children through groups such as Brownies and Scouts
  • coaching sports teams.

Personal Qualities

Early childhood teachers need to be:

  • skilled at communicating clearly with children and adults from a range of backgrounds and cultures
  • organised, and good at solving problems quickly
  • enthusiastic, open-minded and able to motivate children
  • creative and adaptable
  • able to work well under pressure
  • firm and fair, with a sense of humour
  • able to work well in a team
  • committed to the kōhanga reo kaupapa (Māori language nest concept), if working in kōhanga reo.


Early childhood teachers need to have knowledge of:

  • different teaching methods and learning styles
  • Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum
  • how to plan lessons and evaluate children's progress
  • behaviour management techniques, such as establishing boundaries and rewarding positive behaviour
  • safety and emergency procedures
  • food preparation and hygiene
  • child learning and development, and early literacy and numeracy.

Kōhanga reo kaiako also need to be competent in te reo Māori (language), and knowledgeable about tikanga Māori (culture and customs).


Early childhood teachers:

  • work 35 to 40 hours a week, depending on whether they work 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.

Early Childhood Teachers can earn around $49K-$75K per year.

Chances of getting a job as a Early Childhood Teacher are good due to a shortage of people interested in this type of work.

Pay for early childhood teachers varies depending on where they work, their qualifications and experience. 

  • Early childhood teachers usually earn $51,000 to $90,000.
  • Assistant head early childhood teachers usually earn $74,000 to $77,000.
  • Head early childhood teachers who are responsible for staff usually earn $77,000 to 94,000.
  • Senior early childhood teachers who run centres or services can earn $77,000 to $101,000. 

New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa, ‘The Early Childhood Education Collective Agreement of Aotearoa New Zealand 2021-2022’ and ‘Kindergarten Teachers, Head Teachers and Senior Teachers' Collective Agreement 2019-2022’, accessed 20 Dec 2022.

Early childhood teachers may progress into management roles such as head teacher or senior teacher/tumuaki.

They may also progress into:

  • policy work
  • teaching trainee teachers in universities or polytechnics
  • youth or community work.

Kōhanga reo kaiako may use their knowledge of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori to move into training and policy roles.

Years Of Training

3-4 years of training required.

Entry requirements for early childhood teachers

To become an early childhood teacher you need to have one of the following:

  • Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education)
  • Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood Education)
  • an equivalent qualification.

Some early childhood centres allow you to start as a trainee teacher so that you earn your Bachelor of Teaching while working.

Entry requirements for kōhanga reo kaiako

To become a kōhanga reo kaiako you need to:

  • be fluent in te reo Māori
  • while working at a kōhanga reo you need to study towards the three-year Whakapakari Tino Rangatiratanga diploma (Level 7)

You also need to be registered with Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust.

Scholarships available

Early childhood teacher scholarships for course fees and allowances are available for specific subjects, regions, and sectors such as kōhanga reo and Pacific language pre-schools.

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. 

Early Childhood Teacher