Preparing for the 2020 ECE Census

The Early Childhood Education (ECE) Return week this year is from 22 June to 29 June 2020. All early learning services need to submit their fully completed and accurate ECE Return to the Ministry by 15 July 2020, through their Student Management System (SMS) or ELI Web.

The information submitted in the ECE Return is crucial for early learning service monitoring and policy development in New Zealand. You can find the published results of the 2019 ECE Census on Education Counts.

Annual ECE Census 2019: Fact Sheets - Education Counts

Before submitting your ECE Return:

  • Early learning services submitting an ECE Return via their SMS must ensure the latest version of software is being used – new functionality released for the 2020 ECE Return won’t be visible in previous versions. Please contact your SMS provider if you are unsure about which version you are using.
  • Ensure you have completed your ECE Return correctly. All children must be allocated a National Student Number (NSN) and all enrolment, attendance and staff details must be up to date. In particular, services need to ensure their staff qualification and certification information is up to date for each staff member.

There have been three new changes which have been added to the 2020 ECE Return. These are outlined below:

  1. Staff age band - Collecting data on the approximate age of staff members will help us understand the age structure of the early learning workforce. This change applies to ECE teachers, homebased coordinators, homebased educators and specialist staff. Staff age will be as at Monday of ECE Return week.
  2. Total hours worked - Capturing the total hours worked by staff members during the ECE Return week, will help us understand the early learning workforce at a more granular level, than full-time vs part-time.
  3. Three new Playcentre qualification codes - The Playcentre Federation have created additional qualifications for Playcentre educators which are now selectable for the ECE Return.

Services not connected to ELI

Casual and hospital-based services and playgroups need to complete and submit their ECE Returns digitally. A copy of the digital 2020 ECE Return excel form will be available for download from the Education Counts website. A link will also be emailed to the email address that we have on file at the Ministry by 12 June.

Education Counts website

For common questions and answers about the ECE Return, including the new updates, please see the ECE Return section of the Questions and Answers page on the ELI homepage.

Questions and Answers page

For any questions about this information please contact the Ministry at or phone 04 439 5390.