COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Get up-to-date information about the Early Childhood Education Directorate's (ECED) response to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). Text 'subscribe' to 0429 918 924 to receive critical updates for services and providers via SMS.

Last updated: 5:35pm on 25 March 2020.

NSW Health has updated its advice in relation to COVID-19.

Effective 16 March anyone who arrives in Australia from anywhere overseas is required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. This does not affect previous advice regarding travellers from China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Advice for services, parents and carers

Current advice:

  • All travellers to Australia will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Any confirmed case of COVID-19 will be excluded until they are medically cleared to return.
  • Close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be excluded for 14 days since last contact with the confirmed case.
  • Children and staff who have returned to Australia and have shown no symptoms during the 14-day home-isolation period are able to return to services or work
  • Children and staff who departed from or transited through China within the last 14 days, Iran within the last 14 days, Republic of Korea (South Korea) commencing 5 March 2020 and Italy commencing 11 March 2020, must self-isolate and be excluded from education and care service for 14 days.

The NSW Health has processes to identify any close contacts of cases confirmed in Australia. Advice about not attending early childhood and child care services would be provided to these close contacts by NSW Health.

In accordance with normal protocols staff and children who are unwell with respiratory illness should remain at home until symptoms resolve.

As per the National Law and Regulations governing all early childhood education and care services, you must report outbreaks of infectious disease to:

  • your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055
  • the NSW Regulatory Authority - for reporting requirements visit our Notifications and Reporting page or call 1800 619 113 (toll free).

FAQs for services and providers

This is a rapidly evolving situation, if our advice changes we will notify you immediately.

Are early childhood education centre (ECEC) providers open?

Early childhood education and care services including out of school hours care are encouraged to remain open for children that do not have appropriate supervision at home. This could be because the child's parent or carer is delivering essential services to the community but will not be limited to this. We urge services to accept all children who present to them needing care who are healthy and well. It is therefore important supervision of these children is prioritised and provided by early childhood education services to ensure these workers can continue to carry out their role in supporting the continued function of society. The Department is working with the sector to ensure the ongoing viability of these services.

Some services may be required to close to all children temporarily at the direction of NSW Health. In those instances, you can find alternative care using www.childcarefinder.gov.au.

I am an early childhood education centre teacher. If my centre has very few children attending, am I still needed at work? Will I continue to get paid?

Please speak to your Director or Centre Manager about individual centre circumstances.

For those that may be impacted financially, the Australian Government is introducing financial support as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Does the department's advice apply to long day care, pre-school, outside school hours care and family day care?

Unless the Department specifies a service type, our guidance applies to all services. Each part of the sector will have unique challenges and support needs through the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to seek feedback from all of you and your representative peak bodies about how we can target our response to meet your diverse needs.

Who has the right to shut the service down and for how long?

NSW Health is the lead agency responding to COVID-19. Advice to shut down services will ordinarily come from Health. Health will also advise when a service is able to reopen.

You are required to notify the regulatory authority of any changes to your operating hours (including the closure of your service). Please also advise us when you have re-opened. If you are considering closing due to low enrolments or lack of supplies, please contact us prior to making a decision. Contact details for the regulatory authority are 1800 619 113 or ececd@det.nsw.edu.au.

While it is unlikely that the NSW Department of Education will direct the closure of a service during the COVID-19 situation, we may suspend a service approval if we reasonably believe that it would not be in the best interests of children for the service to remain open.

The Department may also provide more general direction to services if there is any requirement to shut down or change operations in any geographic area, or make any other form of change to operations.

Supplies are becoming an issue with supermarkets restricting volumes of supplies, how can ECEC services access essential supplies?

Major supermarkets are currently placing limits on the purchase of certain products as a means of maintaining supply. We recognise this and the general stress on suppliers is creating challenges for early childhood education and care services in accessing supplies. We are working with suppliers to ensure that ECE services are recognised as a priority group. If you have no access to essential supplies please contact the regulatory authority on 1800 619 113 or ececd@det.nsw.edu.au.

The ECEC sector is important in supporting essential service workers to remain at work. How is this being considered by governments?

All services are encouraged to stay open for any family whose child is well and is in need of care. Staff at early childhood education and care services are considered essential workers. Additionally, it is recognised that early childhood education and care services are an essential service that can remain open during this time.

If a child becomes sick on site, what do services do?

You should follow your policies and procedures on illness and infectious disease. If a child presents with symptoms contact the child's family to collect them as soon as possible. Services should keep up to date with the latest information and facts regarding COVID-19 on the NSW Health website.

How can social distancing be implemented with different age groups?

Social distancing presents challenges in many ECEC settings. You should use your judgement about how best to manage social distancing and supervision at the same time depending on your circumstances. Resources are being developed to provide some more specific guidance around social distancing and for use as educational materials for children.

Is there a dedicated NSW portal for all COVID-19 related government and health information?

Information regarding the NSW Government's response to COVID-19 is available on a number of government websites. All information relating to disease transmission and symptoms is available on the NSW Health website, including specific advice for early childhood services. This website includes information that can be provided to parents and is frequently updated.

What if educators are sick and the service can't meet the staff/child ratios? Are there going to be waivers in place?

Waivers may be granted for qualifications or in some cases ratios. Please contact the information and enquiries team for assistance with lodging an application. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will be expedited to maintain continuity of care. Services should note that adequate supervision requirements will always apply. Our priority remains the health, safety and wellbeing of children in care. Fees for waivers in relation to COVID-19 will be waived or refunded.

Will Early Childhood Education Directorate (ECED) maintain spot visits and A&R visits during this time? How can we be certain an AO is not a risk with the opportunity to cross infect across multiple services?

Essential regulatory activity will continue. Officers have been briefed on best practice hygiene and will follow recommendations around social distancing. Any officers who are unwell or have potentially been exposed to the virus will not be conducting field visits.

The Department is reviewing its operations frequently and you will be advised of any changes to our operations.

We have a COVID-19 declaration for all visitors to our services to read and sign. Will you support the AO signing this to protect our children and staff?

Yes. We are happy to work with services and support your efforts to minimise the risk of exposure.

There are supply chain issues with food. This may mean that menu requirements cannot be met. How will the Department respond?

We will be taking a common sense approach to compliance, noting that there are supply chain issues for the sector. Our priority remains the health, safety and wellbeing of children in care. For example at times, services may need to provide sandwiches rather than hot meals.

Should staff training become out of date, will approved providers be breached if training qualifications have expired?

We understand that maintaining current training will be a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will consider this in all our regulatory and compliance activities, while prioritising the health, safety and wellbeing of children in care. We encourage you to explore other methods of delivery, such as online training, and whether this fits your circumstances.

Can we use technology or other means to conduct coordinator visits to family day care educators?

FDC coordinators can continue to monitor and support educators. This may include using technology or other means. You should continue to record details of the monitoring and support provided to educators, for example, dates and times of phone calls.

Remain up to date with the latest Health advice on the NSW Health website and contact your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for further questions or advice. NSW Health have advised that, if a FDC educator has a family member who is self-isolating in their residence, care should not be provided from that residence during that period.

Who will cover the costs of shutting services or restricting enrolment?

The Department will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 30 December 2020 based on information provided in the August 2019 Annual Preschool Census. . This will support funding continuity and viability for services impacted by COVID -19 such as through reduced enrolments.

For mobile preschools on contracts, funding arrangements remain in place as outlined in your funding agreement through to 30 June 2020. Mobile preschool contracts will then be extended to 31 December 2020 to support funding continuity and viability.

Community preschools and mobile preschools experiencing severe financial hardship can contact the Department on 1800 619 113 or ecec.funding@det.nsw.edu.au

Scheduled April 2020 quarterly payments for Early Childhood Education funded programs will be progressed. This includes Start Strong for community preschools, mobile preschools on contract, Start Strong Pathways, Occasional Care Grants Program, Vacation Care Grants Program, Early Childhood Projects Grants Program and Long Day Care Grants Program (for services that have not transitioned in 2019/20) and High Learning Support Needs (HLSN) funding and Minor Capital Works funding available through the Disability and Inclusion Program.

Commonwealth funded services, including those who receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) should contact the Australian Government for further advice and information. The Australian Government have provided advice about additional measures to support services and are best placed to provide information on this.

Further assistance is also available to support business continuity for small to medium businesses as part of the stimulus packages announced by the Australian Government.

We will have reduced enrolments by the August 2020 preschool census, will this reduce our funding?

The Department will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 30 December 2020 based on information provided in the August 2019 Annual Preschool Census, including where there is a decline in enrolments during this period.

The July 2020 (Quarter 1) and October 2020 (Quarter 2) payments will be made irrespective of potential service impacts due to COVID-19. The July and October 2020 payments will be calculated based on the 2019 census enrolment data and paid at 2020 funding rates (including payment of 3 year old non-equity funding).

No negative adjustment will be applied to Start Strong funding for community preschools for the period July to December 2020 (July and October quarterly payments) as part of the annual payment calculations for the 20/21 financial year.

Further consideration will be undertaken later in 2020 regarding the January to June 2021 funding period.

What impact will COVID-19 have on ECE services' abilities to comply with contractual acquittals and holding AGMs to sign off on audit reports etc.?

We understand your operations will be impacted by COVID-19. The Department is currently considering the process and timeline for financial and performance accountabilities for NSW Government funding and will provide further advice on this as soon as possible.

How does COVID-19 impact leave entitlements?

Information regarding the impact of Coronavirus on leave entitlements is available here.

If you have questions relating to staffing issues you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for further information.

Does any business insurance cover COVID-19-related temporary closures?

We are not able to provide advice on business insurance. You should contact your insurer or the Insurance Council of Australia for further information.

Are you intending to do a webinar or provide further information?

The first livestreamed information update and Q&A session was held on 18 March. Live sessions will be held weekly until the Easter break. Information about sessions will be sent to all services shortly. You can also watch recordings of these sessions.

What resources are available to support parents and carers if their children are at home?

The Department's Learning from home hub has links to educational resources that will support students learning from home and at school for all stages of learning.

Early childhood education experts have developed resources for educators to share with parents and carers to help them engage in learning experiences with their children.

How should I talk to children at my service about COVID-19?

You can help children at your service by remaining calm and reassuring them. Listen to them and answer their questions as honestly as possible and correct any misunderstandings. This will help them feel informed and understand what is happening.

Stay up to date with the facts from reliable sources so you can keep conversations calm, considered, and constructive. Provide information in words that are appropriate to the age of the child.

Children can be distressed by hearing repeated stories so monitor how much they are being exposed to television and social media and encourage them to talk to you about what they are seeing and hearing.

Livestream sessions for services

We're holding online information sessions to give services the most current advice on COVID-19.

Details of our next livestream will appear here soon.

In the meantime, you can watch recordings of previous livestreams.

COVID-19 and excursions

Based on advice from NSW Health we advise from 5 March 2020, early childhood education and care services should not visit aged care facilities until further notice to minimise the spread of respiratory infections, such as influenza and other respiratory viruses.

Further information on COVID-19 is also available from NSW Health.

We appreciate the complexity that changes in advice can have in the management of your early childhood education and care services and thank you for your leadership at this difficult time.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep you up to date on this matter.

Practising good hygiene

Maintaining good hygiene standards is an important way to reduce the risk of acquiring and spreading respiratory infections.

Early childhood education and care services are reminded to provide appropriate handwashing soap as hand washing is the single most effective way to reduce the spread of germs that cause respiratory disease.

Health and hygiene support information including fact sheets and posters are available to help promote personal hygiene practices within our early childhood education and care services from NSW Health.

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