FAQs for services and providers

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Last updated: 2:45pm, 15 April 2020

Are early childhood education centre (ECEC) providers open?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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, vacation care and family day care?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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.

What do I need to submit to the Department if my service has to close urgently as a result of COVID?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

In the case of a service closure, the department should be notified via a I01 Notification of incident – Closure or reduction in number of children attending the service. This Notification should be submitted through the ACECQA portal. This notification needs to be made to the Regulatory Authority within 7 days. However, we ask that you notify us as soon as possible.

If for any reason you are unable to access the ACECQA portal to submit the notification, please email ececd@det.nsw.edu.au or phone the Information and Enquiries line on 1800 619 113. This will be considered to be sufficient notification until you can lodge the form through the public portal.

What do I need to do if I have been directed to close by NSW Health?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

If you have been directed to close by NSW Health you must comply with this direction.

You should submit a I01 Notification of incident – Closure or reduction in number of children attending the service through the ACECQA portal.

I submitted a notification of a serious incident at my service and now I am required to close the service. Do I need to submit another notification?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

Serious incidents need to be reported within 24 hours to the Regulatory Authority. You can do this via the ACECQA portal.

If you have received further information relating to the incident which impacts your service’s ability to operate, you can edit the I01 Notification you submitted and include additional documentation relating to the closure. Where possible, please include the period of time your service will be closed for.

What is the process for increasing the hours permissible for operating Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) services?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

Notification requirements for hours of operation have not changed. You are still required to notify the Regulatory Authority within seven days of any changes to your operating hours, via the ACECQA portal. This includes extending the hours of care for OSHC services.

Approved providers wishing to change operating hours or the nature of care they provide should contact the Regulatory Authority on 1800 619 113 or ececd@det.nsw.edu.au before submitting a notification. The Regulatory Authority will help you to work through important considerations, such as changes to resources and programming, ratios and staff qualifications, supervision, premises, and policies and procedures that may be required.

Given the government’s strict limits on gatherings, how can staff members have Working With Children Checks renewed?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

As per changes made by the Office of the Children’s Guardian, all Working With Children Checks that were due to expire from 26 March 2020 to 26 September 2020 have been extended for six months. Renewal applications for clearances that were to expire between these dates are not required. This six-month extension applies from the date of the person’s current expiry date.

People who are granted an extension will be advised by email and the system will be automatically updated. A reminder will be sent to your nominated email address three months before your new expiry date. Employers should update their records to note the employee’s new expiry date. Further extensions may be applied as needed, and any updates to requirements will be posted on the Office of the Children’s Guardian website. For more information, please contact the Working With Children Check team on 02 8219 3777 or visit the Office of the Children’s Guardian website.

Do I still need to apply for a waiver if my service can’t meet educator-to-child ratios on a given day, or would notifying the department be enough?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

The department recognises that in the current environment it may be difficult for services to know how many children will be attending on a given day, and which staff members will be present. However, the priority is always the health, safety and wellbeing of children in education and care. As such, adequate supervision requirements continue to apply and services should make every attempt to meet ratio requirements on any given day.

While the department is taking measures to reduce the administrative burden on services at this time, a notification that your service is in breach of educator-to-child ratios is not sufficient.

The department is granting waivers for staff qualifications, and in exceptional circumstances, ratios. These are considered on a case-by-case basis and will be fast-tracked, subject to there being no increased risk to the safety of children or staff. Fees for waivers relating to COVID-19 will be waived or refunded.

Only services which clearly need a waiver because they do not have the staff capacity to meet ratios should apply for one. The department will consider the period of time a waiver is granted for so that services do not have to reapply each day they do not meet the requirements. If circumstances remain the same for that service after the waiver expires, the department may extend the waiver period on review. Please contact the Information and Enquires team on 1800 619 113 for help with lodging a waiver application.

If our service closes, are we required to apply for a suspension? And if so, what is the lead-time to reopen?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

Services will not be required to apply for a voluntary suspension during the COVID-19 period. However, when a service closes, they should submit a notification through the National Quality Agenda IT System.

When re-opening the service, services should add an additional document to their original notification of closure. This will prompt us to review your original notification and amend the status of the service.

I am an ECE provider operating on a NSW school site. Do I need to pay fees?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

In line with the NSW Government stimulus announcement, all lease and licence fees for community user groups on NSW public school sites are being suspended to support continued viability until the end of Term 2, being Friday 3 July 2020.

Effective immediately, licence fees will not be charged to Early Childhood Education service providers that operate on a NSW school site during this period.

The Department will also ensure services still have access to space on school sites. These measures will be reviewed as the situation evolves and operators will be advised of any proposed adjustment to this position.

Providers that do not operate on a NSW public school site are encourage to refer to advice from the Australian Government for support.

If services have fewer children attending, can they be combined or consolidated with other services or sites?

Advice first published at 2:55pm on 15 April 2020

NSW Health has advised that where possible, early childhood education and care services should refrain from consolidating multiple services into one, to minimise the potential spread of COVID-19 or other viruses.

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

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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.

Can we go on excursions such as visiting aged care facilities?

Advice first published at 9.00am on 6 March 2020

No. NSW Health advises early childhood education and care services should cancel any planned activities outside of the service, such as visits to residential aged care facilities and other large gatherings.

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

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

Information regarding the NSW Government's response to COVID-19 is available on a number of government websites. All information relating to disease transmission, symptoms and maintaining good hygiene standards 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.

I work at an education and care service. Am I required to have a flu vaccination?

Advice first published at 4:35pm on 9 April 2020

The AHPPC has recommended that staff at early childhood education and care services should be vaccinated for influenza, however it is not a requirement under the National Law and Regulations. If this becomes a requirement under a Public Health Order in NSW we will notify you. In the interests of the health and wellbeing of all staff and children at your service we encourage you to get the influenza vaccine if there are no contraindications for you to do so. Children under five years old are entitled to a free influenza vaccine. Some employers also subsidise vaccines for staff. For the most up to date information regarding seasonal influenza vaccine visit: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/Influenza/Pages/default.aspx.

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

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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.

Do services have to pay fees when applying for COVID-19 related waivers?

Advice first published at 2:55pm on 15 April 2020

All fees for regulatory waivers in relation to COVID-19 will be waived.

For services affected by COVID-19 applying for a waiver relating to educator-to-child ratios and staffing qualifications: the ACECQA portal requires the application fee of $111 to be paid before the application can be submitted. Once the application is received by the Department, if it is deemed to be a result of COVID-19 the application fee will be 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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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.

Given the government’s strict limits on gatherings and the fact that many First Aid training providers are not offering face-to-face courses, what is your advice to educators who need to complete First Aid qualifications or refresher training?

Advice first published at 2:55pm on 15 April 2020

The National Quality Framework includes requirements for educators to hold a current approved First Aid qualification and to have undertaken current anaphylaxis management and emergency asthma management training, to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of children attending education and care services.

Centre-based services must ensure that one educator or nominated supervisor who holds these qualifications is available at all times. The same person may hold one or more of these qualifications.

Each Family Day Care educator and Family Day Care educator assistant must hold these qualifications.

Many First Aid courses have increased the online components of their courses. However, the Regulatory Authority recognises it may be difficult for educators to complete practical, face-to-face course components at this time. Where possible, services should consider how they roster staff with current qualifications to ensure coverage across services’ operating hours.

Educators who do not hold a First Aid qualification and require a First Aid qualification should contact training providers to discuss the options available to them. If the practical components of a course cannot be completed at this time, they should complete the theoretical aspects and receive confirmation of progress from the training provider. Practical components should be completed as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.

Educators who already hold a First Aid qualification but require refresher training are encouraged to pursue available options to complete this training. The Department acknowledges that it may only be possible to complete the theoretical components at this time.

After services have exhausted these options, the Regulatory Authority will consider waiver applications, particularly when educators have taken active steps to access and complete available training. Services are encouraged to discuss their situation with the Information and Enquiries team on ecec@det.nsw.edu.au or 1800 619 113.

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

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

The Department will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 31 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.

Start Strong funding should be used to meet standard operating costs, such as staffing, rent/lease or other fixed costs. Where possible, Start Strong funding should continue to be used to reduce costs to families as much as possible.

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 Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package is administered by the Australian Government, you can find out more information about it here: https://www.dese.gov.au/news/coronavirus-covid-19

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.

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

Temporary voluntary closures

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

The current advice is that Early Childhood Education services should continue to operate to support families.

The decision to maintain funding for community preschools under Start Strong and mobile preschools on contracts to the end of the year is designed to support services to continue to operate during adverse circumstances, wherever that is appropriate and possible, and where continued operation is consistent with advice from Government.

Start Strong funding should be used to meet standard operating costs, such as staffing, rent/lease or other fixed costs. Where possible, Start Strong funding should continue to be used to reduce costs to families as much as possible.

To receive funding during any period of temporary closure, there is an expectation that services will continue to provide education support to children and families. This support may be determined by the circumstances of the service and the needs of families and the community. Start Strong funding should continue to be directed to standard operating costs during any period of temporary closure.

In situations of temporary voluntary closure the Department may seek information from funded services to confirm ongoing availability of funding.

Financial accountabilities will remain in place for Start Strong funding. Services will be required to demonstrate how funding has been utilised, including for any period of temporary closure.

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

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

The Department will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 31 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.?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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.

Will there be an extension for Community Grants, Quality Learning Environments and Drought Support Payments?

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

Funds provided under Community Grants, Quality Learning Environments and Drought Support Payments (paid from October to December 2019) were originally required to be spent by 30 June 2020. This date has been extended to 31 December 2020.

Preschool fees

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

National Regulation 168(2)(n) requires services to have policies and procedures on payment of fees and provision of a statement of fees charged by the education and care service.

These arrangements are in place between individual services and families.

For additional assistance, please contact Fair Trading NSW or by phone on 13 32 20 (8.30am to 5pm, Mon - Fri).

Disability and Inclusion program - High Learning Support Needs funding

Advice first published at 10.20am on 6 April 2020

Scheduled April 2020 quarterly payments for Early Childhood Education funded programs will be progressed. This includes High Learning Support Needs (HLSN) funding and Minor Capital Works funding available through the Disability and Inclusion program.

HLSN funding will be maintained through to 30 June 2020. No negative adjustment will be applied to HLSN funding for this period (Quarter 2).

Further consideration will be undertaken regarding HLSN funding from July 2020 onwards.

Whilst adjustments will not be made for the period from April through to 30 June, services should continue to advise the Department of changes in the circumstances of children receiving funding through HLSN as outlined in the Program Guidelines.

What additional funding is available for NSW community and mobile preschools to provide financial support for lost fee income due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Advice first published at 4:35pm on 9 April 2020

The NSW Government have announced a $51 million initiative to provide additional temporary funding support for State funded community and mobile preschools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Start Strong funded community preschools and mobile preschools on contract with the Department of Education will have the opportunity to opt in to the initiative.

Funding will be provided as a top up payment to replace a proportion of fee income that is being lost as a result of decreasing enrolments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department will work with the community and mobile preschool sector to finalise implementation arrangements that will allow this initiative to be implemented with the least burden for services while achieving the policy objective. This will be done as a matter of priority to provide further detail to the sector to support operations in Term 2.

More information: 

What additional funding is available for NSW Local Government early childhood education services?

Advice first published at 4:35pm on 9 April 2020

This initiative also provides up to $82 million in State support for Local Government early childhood services should they not be eligible for the Australian Government’s JobKeeper program or other additional support from the Australian Government above the 50% fee replacement program.

This additional State funding is primarily focused on council operated Long Day Care services, Out of School Hours Care services (including Vacation Care). Local Council Preschools are primarily funded by the NSW Government, and will benefit from funding announced to support these services. Family Day Care educators are able to access assistance through the JobKeeper package as well as the Commonwealth’s Exceptional Circumstances Supplementary Payments.

Councils who opt into this funding will be required to remain open and provide services. The Department will work with the Local Government sector to finalise implementation arrangements.

More information:

How does COVID-19 impact leave entitlements?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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?

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

We’ve been holding regular webinars to give services the most current advice on COVID-19 and will always notify services and providers prior to each webinar. Watch recordings of these sessions.

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

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

Our Learning from home page has links to educational resources which help parents and carers support their child’s learning from home. The resources can be used to:  

We encourage you to share these resources with parents and carers at your service.

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

Advice first published at 5:30pm on 25 March 2020

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.

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