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Wages, Training & Grants

Pay scales, wages and salaries for teachers in early childhood education

Dr Sarah Alexander
© ChildForum

Last updated 1 April 2020. Please let us know if you have further information or updates not shown here. 


  1. Minimum Pay Rates
  2. Pay Parity Rates - what is a teacher worth?
  3. Working in Home-based
  4. Job Perks
  5. What are Not Perks of the Job
  6. Work Conditions
  7. The Significance of a Happy Supportive Professional Working Atmosphere 
  8. The Issue of Status
  9. The Issue of Gender


The youngest children in NZ are given less value by the Government than older children, adults and the elderly. Pay levels reflect the belief that early childhood education is little more than babysitting and the kindness that teachers have is taken for granted in paying them less than primary school peers. This is explained in more detail in the article titled: "Pay rates and the easy peasy lemon squeezy solution to end discrimination against ECE teachers".


1. Minimum pay rates   

Under NZ employment law the minimum adult hourly wage rate is $18.90 per hour. No adult worker in ECE should be paid less than this.  The minimum age for persons working with children in ECE services is 17 years (under the Education ECE Regulations).  The Government intends to increase the adult minimum hourly wage to $20 in April 2021.

Below is a table showing the minimum pay rates for qualified and certificated teachers set by the Ministry of Education that teacher-led early childhood centres must pay their teachers if they are claiming funding for employing qualified and certificated teachers. The Ministry states that "this is to ensure that certificated teachers are recognised and rewarded for their contribution to quality ECE through higher salaries."  (Note that in attesting to pay at or above the minimum level, the Ministry of Education makes it clear that this is an agreement between the service and the it, and attestation is not linked in any way to NZEI's early childhood collective agreement of Aotearoa.)  

Pay rates set by the Ministry of Education that teacher-led centres
must attest to paying all their primary and early childhood qualified & certificated teachers at least at

From 1/07/2017

 From 1/09/2019

The teacher holds a current practising certificate 
and a Diploma of Teaching (Level 7) or equivalent
or a recognised 3yr teaching degree, an advanced diploma
or has upgraded their teaching diploma to a degree

 $45,041 or
 $21.65 hour

 $45,491 or
 $21.87 hour

The teacher holds a current practising certificate
and a 4 yr B.Tchg degree,
or a Bachelors degree together with a recognised ECE qualification

 $46,368 or 
 $22.29 hour

 $46,832 or
 $22.51 hour

 To calculate an hourly rate, the Ministry of Education explains that you should divide the annual salary amount by 2080 (52 weeks x 40 hours)

Certificated teachers are defined by the Ministry of Education as those who hold a current practising certificate (as issued by the Teaching Council) that is categorised as one of the following:

  • full certification
  • provisional certification, or
  • certificated subject to confirmation

... and holds an ECE or primary teaching qualification that is recognised by the Teaching Council. 

There is no rule against employers paying only at the amounts specified for the purpose of attestation to get their funding, regardless of an individual teacher's level of experience and position/ responsibilities held. 


2. Pay Parity Rates - Providing teachers with the recognition they deserve through a professional wage/ salary

Notwithstanding the lack of difference between a kindergarten owned by a Free Kindergarten Association and a kindergarten that is owned by a community group and has charitable status, the government currently only supports teachers in ‘free’ kindergartens to have pay parity with primary teachers.  

Only teachers employed by Free Kindergarten Associations are assured of pay parity. The Ministry of Education achieves pay parity for teachers in this small part of the ECE sector through negotiating a collective agreement on behalf of Free Kindergarten Associations.  

In all other services it is entirely up to the employer whether teacher pay is on par with colleagues who teach in schools.  But teachers who are paid less by their employer are not being paid what they are worth because what a teacher is worth who works in ECE is equivalent to what a teacher who works in primary is worth - according to the Government who supports pay parity for teachers employed in free kindergartens which are licensed ECE services under the same regulations as all other ECE services and whose teachers must met the same level of training and professional standards as required by the Teaching Council. 

How the Pay Scales Work

Positions within a kindergarten are:

  1. The head teacher of a kindergarten is responsible for children and teachers and therefore is the centre manager or director.
  2. All other certificated and qualified teachers in the kindergarten/centre are paid on the Base-Scale.

Note that Senior Teachers are professional leaders who support teachers in more than one kindergarten. Their main role is to provide support and guidance for the ongoing professional learning of head teachers and teachers. They may also perform other tasks such as undertake performance reviews of kindergarten head teachers. The salary levels for Senior Teachers are shown in this document for your interest. 

What the different qualification groups on the Pay Scales mean e.g. P1E,

E means Entry or starting level.

M means Qualification Maxima.  The maximum step on the salary scale that a teacher with that qualification level can reach.

P1, P2 and P3 for teachers who hold a current practising certificate issued by the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand but no subject or specialist qualification at level 7 or above on the NZQF, or equivalent overseas teaching qualifications recognised by the NZQA.

Note: An employee shall be classified as P3 on the relevant scale if, in addition to having the qualifications recognised for a teacher, that employee is awarded He Tohu Māori.

P3+ for teachers who hold a current practising certificate issued by the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and:

  • a subject or specialist level 7 qualification on the NZQF (i.e. not an initial teacher education qualification) which can be a Diploma (excluding a National Diploma), Graduate Diploma or Degree; or
  • an honours degree of teaching; or
  • equivalent overseas qualifications recognised by the NZQA or an overseas qualification where NZQA has determined that the qualification has level 7 (graduate) study in a subject or specialist area(s) i.e. any area of study that is not initial teacher education.

P4 for teachers who hold a current practising certificate issued by the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and:

  • a subject or specialist level 8 qualification on the NZQF which can be an honours degree or a Post Graduate Diploma; or
  • two subject or specialist level 7 qualifications on the NZQF (as listed above); or
  • a masters degree of teaching; or
  • equivalent overseas qualifications recognised by the NZQA.

P5 for teachers who hold a current practising certificate issued by the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and:

  • a subject or specialist level 9 qualification on the NZQF - masters or doctorate; or
  • equivalent overseas qualifications recognised by the NZQA.

Step progression

For a teacher to progress annually to the next salary step they need to demonstrate that they meet the appropriate professional standards.  A teacher who does not, stays at their current pay level and does not progress to the next step. 


The Unified Base Salary Scale for Trained Teachers

Teachers are assessed on the highest qualification held (see above for what the different qualification group annotations mean). 

See also the note above about annual step progression.









P1E, P2E, P3E



P1E, P2E, P3E




























































P3+M, P4M, P5M



P1M, P2M, P3M






P3+M, P4M, P5M




Head Teachers / Centre Managers
Relieving Head Teachers who are employed for a period of less than 10 weeks, including teachers in acting positions, will be entitled to the K2R rate (pro-rated for part-time Head Teachers).


From 12 July 2019

From 12 July 2020

From 12 July 2021





A permanent or relieving (employed for a continuous period of at least ten weeks when a kindergarten is open for instruction) Head Teacher shall be entitled to the K2 salary rate as below (pro-rated for part-time Head Teachers).


From 12 July 2019

From 12 July 2020

From 12 July 2021





If a relieving Head Teacher who has been paid on the K2R rate has their employment extended such that they work in that role for a continuous period of more than 9 weeks when a Kindergarten is open for instruction, they will be entitled to move to the K2 rate for the tenth and subsequent weeks of the appointment.


Senior Teachers (Professional development leaders)


From 2 May 2017

From 12 July 2019

From 12 July 2020

From 12 July 2021











An employee shall be paid a salary on the K3 salary scale, unless the employee is appointed to a position where that employee is responsible for the management of other employees in the senior teacher team in which case that employee shall be paid the K4 salary rate. 


a.childforumbox43. Home-based

Visiting teachers are employees and must be qualified and certified ECE teachers. They can expect to get at least the same pay as a teacher in an ECE centre.

Nannies are often employed directly by families, while agencies provide support and supervision with the funding provided by the Ministry of Education.  Nannies may or may not hold a recognised ECE qualification for the purpose of teacher certification.

Home-based educators on the other hand, are usually asked to work as independent contractors and therefore don't have employment protections, provision for sick leave, holiday pay, etc.

A person who signs up with a home-based agency to care for children in his/her own home usually receives only what parents pay them directly (or via the agency), while the agency is paid government funding for the children they are caring for. A home-based educator may find that the money is good (especially if he/she is unqualified and would be paid as an unqualified staff member if employed by a centre), but out of the income received there are significant costs if the care is taking place within the educator's own home (some of these costs are tax deductible).  

A home-based educator caring for children in his/her own home can have up to a maximum of 4 children. Educator charges vary widely between $6. - $11 per hour, depending on what the educator wants to charge or what the home-based agency provider says should be the charge, the educator's qualification level, and if caring for fewer than 4 children. Agencies have been known to ask educators to sign contracts specifying rates as low as $4 an hour per child; fortunately this is not the norm.   


4. Job Perks 

  • Free tea/coffee and/or lunch
  • Paid staff social outings. This is a perk if it is optional for you to participate and not expected by your employer
  • Car park. This is a perk if the employer covers the cost of renting or leasing the park. If it is on land owned by the service or available to staff or users of the service then it’s not technically a benefit that forms part of the pay package.
  • Gym membership or subsidised membership at a local gym
  • Flexibility in work hours. This is a big benefit for many working in early childhood education, who may have young children or school aged children or elderly parents and other family responsibilities.
  • Free or subsidised childcare. It is common for discount of around 50% to be given to staff by employers. Few services offer entirely free childcare except in hard-to-staff areas and not all will allow staff to enrol their child at their service.
  • Free doctor visits
  • Health insurance cover
  • Income protection insurance cover


5. What are not perks of the job since these should be provided by employers in order for teachers to do their job well

  • Non-contact time 
  • Professional development leave and course fees paid where directly related to the work of the teacher
  • Payment of cost of renewing teaching practising certificate, first aid refresher courses, etc.
  • Uniform or items of clothing with the service logo - unless wearing the uniform is optional this is not a perk of the job but a requirement of employment.


6. Conditions of Work

Check out if your ECE employer offers more than the minimum legally required conditions under employment law for:

  • Kiwisaver and superannuation (Kindergarten staff have access to the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme -  3% of gross salary is matched by government contribution)
  • Annual leave
  • Sick leave 


7. The Significance of a Happy Supportive Professional Working Atmosphere  

Nothing beats a good working atmosphere!

People who are attracted to working in early childhood education and care usually decide on this occupation for social reasons; they like people and they like children.

Social support, friendship and having colleagues you can rely on really do matter!

Working with children as part of a team is a reason why many people go for early childhood teaching over primary teaching. In primary teaching you can be in a classroom with a group of children alone whereas in early childhood you are part of a team.

The quality of team leadership provided in an early childhood service and the atmosphere of warmth and collaboration and mutual respect present can be a much more powerful influence on a person’s decision as to whether to accept a job offer than the wage or salary package.

For supervisor/head teacher/management positions clear lines between governance and management are essential as is respect of the supervisors/head teachers/managers expertise.

How well the board functions, or to what extent the manager feels trusted by the owner, and allows the manager to get on with his/her job will make a difference as to whether a manager chooses to stay or move to a more personally fulfilling position.

In summary, our advice from ChildForum is to look both at the pay rate and the hard to quantify things such as flexible working hours and a positive supportive working atmosphere.

Teachers and student teachers are recommended to check out further guidance by clicking here.

Employers are recommended to make use of the advice, information, and resources in the ECE Service Member area of the ChildForum website. 


8. The Issue of Status 

kindergarten teachers association conference Minister Merv Wellington35 years ago the Kindergarten Teachers’ Association (industrial union) drew comparisons between pay rates with nursing and other occupations such as the police. One argument was that cleaners got paid more than kindergarten teachers!  Then the kindergarten sector was recognised as being of the state education system. 

Kindergarten teachers got more than what nursery school or crèche workers got in those days, but did not have parity with primary school teachers. Both Kindergarten and crèche workers got more than those who were parents working in Playcentre. Pay parity for teachers in kindergarten with colleagues in primary came into effect in 2002.  Pay parity has yet to be provided to teachers working in other ECE services, even though the training requirements and standards for certification are the same as for kindergarten and primary.


9. The Issue of Gender

Early childhood education is a female dominated industry. This is not the reason why people in the early childhood sector are poorly paid in comparison to other education sectors, since the Ministry of Education has a significance influence on pay rates. 

Successive governments and the Ministry of Education have supported the gender-bias in our ECE sector to remain. And it has been 20 years since Dr Sarah Alexander's ground-breaking research on male teacher experiences in childcare and kindergarten services that pointed to the decline in male participation.  A more recent national survey of the ECE sector showed majority support for including more men in teaching. (read more


Comments previously added

A perk that we have found that staff value is increased sick leave above statutory minimum. Most of our staff have children and they sometimes need to be off to look after them when they are sick. Not to mention all the usual bugs that staff are exposed to in the course of their work! We currently offer 8 days sick leave and we are working towards 10 days per annum next year. We have had no case of any teacher mis-using this benefit. Another 'perk', if you can call it that (since it benefits both employer and employee), is for the centre to cover costs of teacher registration. In our centre, if a teacher leaves within the year of renewing registration, they pay back 50%. Salary is a tricky issue to balance between quality and business viability. We pay newly qualified teachers $45k+, registered teachers $50k+, and experienced registered teachers $55k+. Where we employ third-year BEd ECE students they are on an FTE of $37k per annum. (The Ole Schoolhouse 2013-11-21)

We have no teacher career structure in our company and this week we got our wage reviews. I got a 2.2 increase they call it performance pay but it really equals a cost of living adjustment. But what really upsets me is the cook and office lady got nothing again. How long can employers keep screwing the livelihood from staff I don't know? (Hugo van Stratum 2014-04-04)

Hi Hugo, the problem is that if it's anything like my business everyday costs are increasing but the funding coming in is paying for less and less. (Smart Start Preschool 2014-07-24)

Not sure where the figures for home-based care pay rates came from (I'm guessing Auckland or Wellington?) but Hamilton isn't that high. (Kimbeley 2014-06-30)

Can anyone tell me how to calculate non-contact time for staff? (Sara 2014-07-02)

The collective agreement has a ratio, but it effectively comes out as 4 hours for a full-time teacher (38-40 hrs/ wk). The last two private centres I have been at have not been consenting parties, they gave us 2 hours a week off the floor and 4 study days a year. (Tony 2014-07-11)

There's an interesting discussion by teachers and managers on our ChildForum Facebook page about calculating non-contact time also raised matters of whether staff are expected to do portfolios (which should not be done whilst hands-on caring for and teaching children) and whether duties like cooking or cleaning are counted as "non-contact". (ChildForum admin 2014-07-14)

Does anyone know about relieving teacher pay rates? I have bachelor’s degree ece, full registration first aid, & 9 years’ experience. I have been working in a centre for about 6 months I usually get 3 or 4 days a week & I am treated as a staff member but have a causal contract. I had to take the work I had no choice & no negotiations what is an acceptable pay rate? I am appalled at what I get paid as the work is so regular. (Liz 2014-07-11)

That sounds awful but unfortunately some centres get away with all sorts of injustices. Look up employment laws reg contracts in the Department of Labour website or call someone at the department- they are usually very helpful. Do this at the very least to educate yourself about your rights and possibly have a professional conversation with your employer (but that is again a choice you need to make according to your situation) Good Luck! (Annie 2014-07-11)

In response to the last question, below is the description of how relievers are paid in kindergartens who are party to the Kindergarten Collective Contract
“Long-term relieving teachers shall be paid according to the applicable salary scale and qualification group.”
“Short-term relieving base scale teachers shall be paid a daily rate of 1/210th (inclusive of 12% holiday pay) of the appropriate annual salary, or an hourly rate of 1/8th of the daily rate (inclusive of 12% holiday pay). The rate payable shall take into account relevant qualifications and any previously recognised service, provided that the maximum daily rate does not exceed 1/210th of step 8 of the teachers’ base scale salary (the top step of the P1 scale).”
“Where a reliever is employed in a particular position as a short-term reliever but the employment lasts longer than six weeks, then the reliever shall, from the point at which employment exceeds this threshold, become a long-term reliever and shall receive the terms and conditions applicable to long-term relievers. No recalculation or recovery of entitlements (including pay) shall occur because of such a change in status.” (Camillia 2014-07-12)

The General characteristics of Casual employment: * Is characterised by irregularity of engagements and the shortness of their durations (i.e potentially as short as one shift); * Means that there is no expectation of work for either party beyond each engagement. (ChildForum admin)

Hi Liz - if you are getting that many days then you should be placed on a permanent contract I would have thought - especially if you are not just covering sick or annual leave. In regards to pay I pay any casual qualified relievers exactly the same as the permanent staff and of course you get 8% annual leave in your weekly pay as well - I hope that helps. (Three Little Birds Centre 2015-05-01)

Hi Liz. if you have regular days you are relieving for there is a clause somewhere that after you have worked the same day for a particular time period your contract changes from casual to permanent. (Debbie1 2015-05-08)

How would I go about re-negotiating my pay without losing work? I only work when directed but on average 3 days a week with the odd week of no work & some full time weeks. I am casual but was wondering if there are any kind of guidelines around pay rates for relievers? I am not working at a Kindy or a centre covered by the consenting parties award. (liz 2014-07-14)

Be interested in hearing what a Centre Manager would be paid in a large private centre? where their role includes Head Teacher. (Amanda 2015-02-13)

I am the owner of a medium sized private centre and I pay my Centre Manager $38.00 per hour plus petrol allowance. All staff get supplied full uniforms, paid staff meetings with meal supplied. We go out once a term on a staff outing which I pay for. I have had the same staff for seven years. (Louise 2015-04-30 14:12)

Good on you Louise. We are the same. We own a medium sized private centre and a large home based network. We pay our staff (all staff) well, have high staff ratios, treat them out regularly, provide for lunches, provide for lots of PD and our staff are happy and most importantly - our children are happy. (Shane 2015-04-30)

Hi, I am a secondary trained teacher with provisional registration. I have spent a year as a special needs teacher in a governmental special school. I am seriously considering home based ECE as a career and would like to know if I would be regarded as qualified if I don't have specifically ECE training. I am currently paid at the grade 5 scale (secondary) and am not too eager to drop drastically in salary. (Bobby 2015-11-01)

HI Bobby, I am a childcare consultant for Barnardos Kidstart childcare. As a home based educator you don't need to have qualifications to become one, however with your experience and wealth of knowledge you would be considered an experienced educator. In some cases it is a great way to give it a go see if it is for you and then get some qualifications later if you wish. The rates of pay vary to what you want to charge per child as well as how many children you have in your care. (Nicole 2015-11-02)

I work as a trained (grad dip teach ece) homebased educator. I get the higher rate offered by my company (which is higher than most in Dunedin and they pay more than the parent pays) and I am on $6.50 which is ok if you are full ratio. The idea of $11 /child is a bit of a pipe dream I'm afraid. The advantages are you set your own programme in your own space often with your own child, the disadvantages are you are the cleaner, and everything else, no tea or lunch breaks often long hours (I work 45 hours), your resources come out of your own pocket. Like every job there are advantages and disadvantages. (Leeanne 2015-11-02)

Hi there Leeanne, I am a visiting teacher for Porse and many of my educators are getting between $7.50 - $10 per hour per child. Obviously it is dependent on the area you live but even our home educators in low income areas are receiving min $7.per child so it is possible

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