COVID-19 guidelines for ECEC services

Read our latest communication on the current public health orders.

These guidelines are to help early childhood education and care (ECEC) services prepare for, prevent and manage an outbreak of COVID-19.

For information on funding and support available for ECEC services during COVID-19 visit our funding page.

Overview

Unlike with colds and flu, small children don't seem to be as severely affected by COVID-19. They also don't appear to contribute significantly to disease spread. Transmission of COVID-19 has mainly been from adult to adult.

ECEC services should feel confident that increasing hygiene practices and social distancing at their service will help prevent the spread.

The information and actions below help ECEC services prepare for, prevent and manage a potential outbreak of COVID-19. They apply to all service types unless otherwise specified.

Current COVID-19 advice

  • From Monday 12 July 2021 the Service NSW QR code will be mandatory for all early childhood education and care services.
  • Educators are encouraged to review the NSW Government COVID-19 news and updates for venues and locations of concern and adhere to the advice provided.
  • Stay-at-home orders have been extended until midnight on Friday 30 July 2021 for the Greater Sydney region. This region includes Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour local government areas.
  • Education and care services are considered an essential service and may remain open, unless directed by NSW Health.
  • In the following local government areas parents are strongly encouraged to keep their children at home if they are able to do so, in order to limit movement in the community:
    • Fairfield
    • Canterbury/Bankstown
    • Liverpool
    • Cumberland
    • Blacktown
  • Masks are required in Early Childhood Education and Care settings in the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs (including indoor and outdoor environments) per the latest public health order. Exemptions for wearing masks in ECE apply:
    • outside of the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs;
    • where a child is deaf or hard of hearing; or
    • the clear enunciation or visibility of the educator’s mouth is essential.
  • People who have been in the Greater Sydney region (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) on or after 21 June 2021 should follow the stay-at-home orders for a period of 14 days after they left Greater Sydney.
  • Masks are mandatory on public transport for all people in NSW - this should be adhered to when staff are travelling to and from services.

Information for outside school hours care (OSHC) services in the Greater Sydney region

  • The extension of the Public Health Order means children attending school in the Greater Sydney region will be learning from home for the start of term three.
  • Where parents are unable to provide education and care at home, children will be able to attend school.
  • OSHC services both on and off school sites can continue to operate for before and after school care for any children that require it.
  • OSHC services on school sites should liaise with the school principal to agree on appropriate drop-off and pick-up procedures. This is likely to include drop-off and pick-up at the school gate, where safe and appropriate to do so, or from the service entrance/exit if necessary.

Staff travelling between Greater Sydney and regional NSW

If you live in or are staying in Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, you must have a COVID-19 test in the 7 days before working if your workplace is 50km or more outside Greater Sydney.

If you live in or are staying in the Fairfield local government area but you work outside this area, you must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an authorised worker.

You can go to a COVID-19 testing clinic near your home or work.

You must have proof of your COVID-19 test such as an SMS text message on your phone or an email addressed to you.

You must show the proof of your test when asked:

  • at your workplace by your manager (occupier); or

  • to a police officer

You do not need to get the results of your COVID-19 test before going to or staying at work.

All workers and essential visitors entering your service must adhere to the above testing requirements or should not be allowed to enter if they cannot provide the above evidence. Each service should keep a record of testing of staff to demonstrate compliance with the Public Health Order.

Border arrangements

Children and staff in border communities can continue to attend NSW services but must remain at home if they are unwell and must get tested if they have the mildest of symptoms. If they are unwell, they should receive a negative COVID-19 test and be symptom-free before returning to the service.

Staff must continue to monitor relevant venues of concern and must comply with the self-isolation and testing requirements as directed by the relevant Health Department.

Visit the travel to and from NSW page for detailed advice on border restrictions and check with Service NSW if you require a border permit.

FAQs about QR codes

Can education and care services located in lockdown areas remain open, including vacation care services and family day care residences/venues?

Yes - education and care is considered an essential service and can continue to operate throughout NSW, unless otherwise directed by NSW Health.

Can ECE staff living in the five LGAs (Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland, Blacktown) leave their home to go to work in another LGA?

Yes, staff living or staying in these areas can leave their homes to go to work in another LGA. ECE staff are on the list of workers authorised to leave their LGA for the purposes of work, however this should be minimised wherever possible.

Important things to remember:

  • Carry a letter from your employer to show if required.

  • Staff living in Fairfield LGA are subject to testing requirements at this time and need to seek out a COVID-19 test every three days. They should seek out a test by Wednesday 21 July.

What are the increased testing requirements for services in the five LGAs?

If you live in or are staying in the Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland or Blacktown local government areas but you work outside this area, you must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an authorised worker.

You can go to a COVID-19 testing clinic near your home or work.

You must have proof of your COVID-19 test such as an SMS text message on your phone or an email addressed to you.

You must show the proof of your test when asked:

  • at your workplace by your manager (occupier); or
  • to a police officer

You do not need to get the results of your COVID-19 test before going to or staying at work.

All workers and essential visitors entering your service must adhere to the above testing requirements or should not be allowed to enter if they cannot provide the above evidence. Each service should keep a record of testing of staff to demonstrate compliance with the Public Health Order.

What happens if a deemed close contact attended or works in my service?

  • Primary close contacts will all need to get tested and self-isolate for the full 14 days as per the current health advice.

  • NSW Health has assessed the situation regarding secondary close contacts. Where a person has been identified as a close contact, then only people who have been in their households and their very close friends need to isolate until they received a negative test, not other people at the Early Childhood Service unless they have symptoms.

  • Any staff, children or parents who have been to a location with a confirmed COVID-19 case will need to follow the NSW Health advice. People who have been to an identified venue of concern who have been identified as a close contact, will need to follow the advice from NSW Health and get tested and self-isolate for 14 days. This information will have been communicated directly to those who are close contacts.

  • If you have been to one of the venues on the NSW Government website and have not yet been contacted by NSW Health, please call 1800 943 553.

  • Anyone who is a close contact must isolate for the full 14 days as directed by NSW Health and not return to any Early Childhood Service during this time.

  • Anyone who has even the mildest of symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of smell/taste, muscle/joint pains, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting or extreme tiredness should immediately be tested and isolate until they get a negative test result and then when they are free of symptoms can return to your service.

Why do early childhood education and care services need to remain open if schools have been directed to start Term 3 online?

Both early childhood education and schools are considered essential services and are able to remain open during this period. However, the capacity to implement learning from home for schools will help to limit mobility in the community for a short period of time while NSW manages the current outbreak. Reducing mobility in the community was emphasised as a priority to reducing the spread.

Can cleaners still work in ECE services?
Cleaning ECE services to enable them to remain open is considered essential work and is able to continue.

Can ECE services still provide transport to children?
Education and care services that provide regular transport to children as part of day-to-day service operations may continue to do under the current Public Health Orders. This includes transporting children to and from home and school.

Services should review their risk assessments and update their transport policy and procedures when necessary to ensure safe hygiene practices are maintained while transport is being provided. This can include consideration of the mode of travel (bus, car or minivan), the number of educators present during the transportation and the ages or special vulnerabilities of the children.

Can educators and staff send their own children to school if they need to?

Schools are still open, and while students are strongly encouraged to learn from home, schools will not turn away any student from attending the school site in person where this is required, including for children of Early Childhood Education and Care educators. Student must not attend school if unwell, even with the mildest symptoms of COVID-19.

Can early childhood education and care services accept school age children during school hours when Term 3 commences?

No, schools remain open for children unable to undertake their learning from home.

Is education and care restricted to children of ‘essential workers’ during this period?

The Public Health order does not define ‘essential workers’. Education and care services are able to remain open to offer care to people whose children require it. Services may, at their discretion, make business decisions that limit the number of children accepted into care.

Can children attend services if they live in the Greater Sydney region, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour?

Yes. Under the stay at home rules, accessing childcare is considered a reasonable excuse to leave your home. This includes those families living in the 3 restricted LGAs. Families may travel to other areas to access ECE services if necessary.

However, all families in the Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown and Liverpool LGAs should be encouraged to keep their children home if possible in order to limit movement in these areas.

Children are able to attend early childhood education and care when they cannot be cared for from home. We encourage services to:

  • Reach out to families to determine their needs in order to plan staffing.

  • Discuss individual requirements with families.

Can children from the Greater Sydney region attend services outside the Greater Sydney region?

Yes - education and care is considered an essential service. Families can travel to and from their education and care service if required. This means parents can pick up and drop off their children, even if they live outside the Greater Sydney region.

What are the symptoms to look out for in children that would require the child to be tested, and/or excluded from care?

Children with any signs of unwellness should stay home.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 such as a fever or respiratory symptoms should have a COVID-19 test and self-isolate until a negative result is received and symptoms have cleared.

Not all clinics will test children under five. Where should we send them?

NSW Health has launched a page to help you find your nearest COVID-19 testing clinic. Once you have entered your location, you can see available clinics and it will list whether there are any restrictions on testing children prior to attending.

When can a child return to care following a period of illness?

A negative COVID-19 test is reassuring, however, a child should not return to care if they remain symptomatic and unwell.

Can staff members still work in services that are outside the Greater Sydney region if they have been in the Greater Sydney region in the last 14 days or reside in lockdown areas?

If a staff member lives in Greater Sydney and works outside Greater Sydney, they can attend their normal workplace while following the requirements of the Public Health Order. If a staff member has been identified as a close contact, they should follow the advice of NSW Health.

If a staff member is coming into Greater Sydney for work, when they return to their place of residence, they will need to follow the Public Health Order, including the stay-at-home restrictions. This includes not leaving home except for the 4 reasonable excuses that are in the Public Health Order.

If a staff member lives in or is staying in Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, they must have a COVID-19 test in the 7 days before working if the workplace is 50km or more outside Greater Sydney.

If a staff member lives in or is staying in the Fairfield local government area but works outside this area, they must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an authorised worker.

Can educators travel to an education and care service to work if they live in the Greater Sydney region?

Yes - education and care is considered essential work. Services should use their discretion where staff may be able to undertake other duties or where lower levels of staffing are appropriate for anticipated child attendance levels.

Can families come onto education and care sites if a service is located in the Greater Sydney region?

Families can attend services for the purposes of pick up and drop off in Greater Sydney, but should wear masks and follow the Public Health Order.

Can parents/carers enter school grounds to drop off/pick up children from services on school sites?

If it is not possible for services to organise drop off/pick ups at the school gate (due to staffing and other practical or safety issues), then parents may enter school grounds and drop off/pick up at the service entrance. Health and safety precautions should be taken including physical distancing and wearing masks.

What do best practice drop-off and pick-up procedures look like?

The drop off and pick up of children should be managed as follows:

  • where possible, parents/carers should drop off and pick up at the service entrance/exit and not enter the premises

  • physical distancing should be maintained by parents/carers and staff

  • parents/carers should wear a mask

  • staff should wear a mask when interacting with parents/carers.

Temperature checks for arriving children are not required.

What are the requirements for families wearing face masks during drop-off and pick-up?

It is strongly encouraged that any family member or adult accessing a service wear a face mask at all times including where practical during drop-off and pick-up and while at the premises of the service. This includes at family day care residences/venues.

Do staff have to wear masks?

Masks are required in Early Childhood Education and Care settings in the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs (including indoor and outdoor environments) per the latest public health order.

Exemptions for wearing masks in ECE apply:

  • outside of the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs;

  • where a child is deaf or hard of hearing; or

  • the clear enunciation or visibility of the educator’s mouth is essential.

Early childhood education educators do not have to wear masks when providing education and care to children in areas outside of the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs. Educators may choose to wear masks, and masks are recommended when engaging with other adults, such as during pick-up and drop-off, and in administrative areas of the service.

It is recommended that visitors to services wear a face mask where practical.

Can services still go on excursions?

Services in the Greater Sydney region should not participate in excursions. Services located outside of the Greater Sydney region should not participate in excursions within the locked down regions. Services outside of the Greater Sydney region and intending to participate in excursions outside of the Greater Sydney region can proceed with appropriate caution, following their COVID-19 safety plans.

Can incursions continue in services at the current time, including for Vacation Care services?

Non-essential visitors should not attend services – this means that incursions should not proceed at this time.

Does the one person per four square metre rule apply in education and care settings?

The one person per four square metre rule has been re-introduced for all indoor and outdoor settings. It is recommended that this be applied where possible between adults in education and care settings.

A density limit of one person per four square metres must be applied to any spaces that are accessible to the public (i.e. reception area) or shared workspaces (i.e. staffrooms, admin areas).

The density limit between adults should be maintained during pick-up and drop-off, and may mean staggering times when children arrive at and depart from services.

Visitors and adults should keep at least 1.5 metres apart.

Non-essential meetings and professional development should be postponed or held remotely (unless essential face-to-face training for first aid, anaphylaxis etc. is required).

Can we hold an after hours staff meeting in our service?

Services should refer to their COVID safe plans to determine the best way to manage staff meetings at this time. Staff should wear masks if they are engaging with other adults and not caring for children, for instance, in the office or staff room. They should also observe the limit of one person per four square metres in shared workspaces (including staff rooms and administration areas).

Can educators work between different rooms, or at different service locations?

Where possible and practical, movements between rooms and between services should be minimised. Risks associated with movement of staff should be considered as part of the services’ COVID-safe plans.

Should allied health services continue visiting education and care services during this period (speech therapists, occupational therapists etc.)?

Services should limit non-essential visitors. However, visits by health and wellbeing professionals to support children can occur if necessary for the immediate health and wellbeing needs of children. Individual services should use their discretion in making this determination.

Can siblings of individuals identified as close contacts continue to attend education and care services?

It is likely that siblings of close contacts will need to isolate and should not attend care however this depends on the circumstances.

Please contact NSW Health for further advice in relation to specific circumstances.

Is singing and chanting allowed in education and care services?

In an early childhood education and care service, group singing or chanting is allowed.

Will the gap fee for the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) be waived?

Childcare services can choose to waive CCS gap-fees to parents who are keeping their children at home due to current COVID-19 restrictions.

The Gap Fee Waiver will start from Monday 19 July 2021. Please note that the waiver will be in place while the stay-at-home orders are in place but is not retrospective.

Services will be required to opt-in and can waive gap fees for families whose children maintain their enrolment but are absent from the service. Fees won’t be required to be waived for children who still attend.

Families experiencing a loss of income, such as casual workers or those in self-isolation, may also be eligible for support through the Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship).

Is any other assistance available for services and providers?

There are a range of supports available to individuals and businesses who are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. Visit Service NSW for financial support, grants and payments.

Can student placements proceed (for example with TAFE or University students)?

There are currently no restrictions on student placements in NSW ECE services. However, services may want to consider placements in line with:

  • Restrictions of movement or operations under current health orders.

  • The level of community transmission of COVID-19 in the local area.

  • The student's ability to comply with your COVID-safe policies and procedures.

  • The ability to complete the placement and ensure a continuity of learning for both the student and children.

Students are encouraged to seek guidance from their education provider and the individual service provider in the first instance, based on their COVID safe plan.

Is the regulatory authority limiting its visits to services during this period?

The regulatory authority will limit non-essential visits to services within the Greater Sydney region, based on the importance of the visit in minimising risk to children. Any visits that are undertaken will follow COVID-safe practices.

Why do Early Childhood Education and Care educators not have priority for the vaccine?

The department and the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning continue to advocate for educators to be a priority for vaccination.

Many educators and staff working in early childhood education and care services may be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine under existing criteria:

1. All adults aged 40 and over are eligible (with those over 60 getting AstraZeneca and those under 60 getting Pfizer as preferred though they can choose to get AstraZeneca after a discussion with their GP)

2. If aged 16 to 40, you are eligible if:

  • You are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

  • You regularly provide paid or unpaid support for people with a disability; including to children in an educational setting.

  • You provide care or support to someone in your household with an underlying medical condition.

  • You have an underlying medical condition.

  • You are an NDIS participant or care for an NDIS participant.

You will need to provide evidence of your eligibility when you attend for a vaccination. This can include an ID card, letter from your employer/service, evidence of a medical condition or you can complete an Eligibility Declaration form.

To find out if you’re eligible and to book an appointment complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker.

How can I support families and children during this period?

Emerging Minds have developed a range of resources, including videos, fact sheets, podcasts and guides, that you might find useful. A summary of the resources can be accessed here.

Where can I get further information relating to mental health and wellbeing?

There are resources and support available, you can visit websites such as Beyond Blue, Headspace and Black Dog Institute for support resources and information.

Information from the Australian Government

  • Childcare services can choose to waive CCS gap-fees to parents who are keeping their children at home due to current COVID-19 restrictions.
    • The Gap Fee Waiver will start from Monday 19 July 2021. Please note that the waiver will be in place while the stay-at-home orders are in place but is not retrospective.
    • Services will be required to opt-in and can waive gap fees for families whose children maintain their enrolment but are absent from the service. Fees won’t be required to be waived for children who still attend.
  • Update your vacancy details in the Child Care Finder. Do this via the  Provider Entry Point  or through your third-party software.
  • Update your contact details, particularly email addresses, in the Child Care Subsidy System so you don’t miss important information. Do this via the Provider Entry Point or through your third-party software.
  • Ask your families to maintain their enrolments. This will ensure their children receive continuity of care and early learning.
  • The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity helps services stay open when something unexpected happens, such as a local emergency. More information about CCCF Special Circumstances is available on our website. 
  • Services can waive gap fees where a health agency has advised or required the service to close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Families can get CCS when their child is absent from a session of care they would normally attend for up to 42 days per financial year. These absences can be used for any reason.
  • Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship) is available to support families experiencing significant financial stress.

You can subscribe to receive further information from the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

  • The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is for people living in New South Wales who can't earn an income because they must self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone who has COVID-19.
  • The COVID-19 Disaster Payment will be available on 1 July 2021 for eligible people in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot.

You can find more information on available support payments from Services Australia.

QR codes

From Monday 12 July 2021 the Service NSW QR code will be mandatory at all workplaces and retail businesses.

This requirement includes all early education and care facilities. If a family, staff member or visitor has interacted with your service, no matter how minor the interaction may be, they should check-in using the Service NSW QR code.

Refer to schedule 3, part 1, clause 6A in the Public Health (COVID-19 Gathering Restrictions) Order (No 2) Amendment Order (No 2) 2021 for clarification.

Services will be required to display the Service NSW QR code and take reasonable steps to ensure adults entering the service premises check in using the Service NSW QR codes. This means staff, families and visitors to services, including long day care, outside school hours care, family day care, preschool, mobile and out of scope services, will need to check in using the QR code. Children are excluded from this requirement.

Family day care services will need to meet the requirement at each residence/venue at all times when educating and caring for children.

Outside school hours care services should have their own QR code, separate to schools, as this makes it easier for NSW Health to complete contact tracing based on the specific operating hours and interactions of the business, should they be required to do so.

The NSW Government website has information on how to set up your business for a QR code if you have not done so already. The Service NSW COVID-Safe check-in is easy to use from within the Service NSW app.

Are QR codes mandatory in services?

From Monday 12 July 2021 the Service NSW QR code will be mandatory for all early childhood education and care services. This is because the use of the Service NSW QR code has been found to be the most effective system in assisting NSW Health to protect the community.

Why do services need to display the Service NSW QR code when attendance and visitor data is already captured?

The use of the Service NSW QR code has been found to be the most effective system in assisting NSW Health to protect the community, particularly given the evolving COVID-19 situation. The use of the Service NSW QR code allows authorities to respond quickly and efficiently to confirmed or suspected cases relating to COVID-19 within our community. It also ensures that services are notified as quickly and efficiently as possible if a member of your community affected by the virus has interacted with your service.

Who needs to check-in using the Service NSW QR code at a centre or other service type?

Staff, families and visitors to services, including long day care, outside school hours care, family day care, preschool, mobile and out of scope services will need to check in using the Service NSW QR code. Children are excluded from this requirement. The department encourages wide and extensive use of the Service NSW QR code in line with NSW Health advice. If a family, staff member or visitor has interacted with your service, no matter how minor the interaction may be, they should check-in using the Service NSW QR code.

Are education and care services required to check that visitors are using QR check in?

Services will be required to display the Service NSW QR code and take reasonable steps to ensure adults entering the service premises check in using the Service NSW QR codes. There is no requirement that services sight a check-in, though visitors should be reminded to do so in line with the requirement.

Where should I display the Service NSW QR code?

Multiple QR code locations should be identified and used to ensure families, visitors and staff members are able to check-in safely. Locations should include the entrance/exit to the service premises, building or foyer entrances or in other higher traffic areas, particularly where families may be interacting with staff members.

When are families and visitors required to use the Service NSW QR Code?

Families and visitors are required to check-in using the Service NSW QR code upon entering the service premises. Families and visitors picking up their child(ren) from outside the service premise are not required to check-in using the QR code but may choose to do so.

How is a ‘premise’ defined? Do parents need to check in via the QR codes if they are in the playground or in the car park?

Families, visitors and staff members are required to check-in using the Service NSW QR code upon entering the service premises. Service premises in this regard encompasses the areas over which the service has use and may include carparks and other parts of the service located outdoors.

If a family, staff member or visitor has interacted with your service, no matter how minor the interaction may be, they should check-in using the Service NSW QR code as this is the best way to keep our community safe should there be exposure to COVID-19 in your service.

I am a family day care educator; do I need to have a QR code when my premise is my place of residence?

The Service NSW QR code will need to be displayed during all operational hours in businesses, including in a Family Day Care service. This means that all visitors to your residence should be encouraged to check-in using the QR code on entry to ensure that contact tracing is possible should a risk arise in your service. Outside of the operating hours of your Family Day Care service, you are not required to display the QR code.

Who needs to check-in using the Service NSW QR code at a Family Day Care (FDC) residence?

Family day care residences are required to display the Service NSW QR code for the duration of the time they are operating as an education and care service. Families and visitors to the residence operating as a Family Day Care service are required to check-in using the Service NSW QR code. Household members and educators who always live at the residence do not need to check-in.

Does an OSHC service on a school site need its own QR code, or can families just use the school QR code?

OSHC services, including those on school sites, should have their own separate QR code as this makes it easier for NSW Health to do contact tracing based on the specific operating hours of the business.

Given that OSHCs on school sites will have their own QR code, do families need to check in to both the school QR code and the OSCH QR code?

If families are attending school during school hours, they should use the school QR code. If families are attending OSHC during OSHC business hours, they should use the OSHC QR code. Of course, if families are unsure and wish to use both they may do so. This is to ensure effective contact tracing, should a risk arise.

Policies and procedures

Risk management planning

  • Services and providers should ensure they have up-to-date emergency contact details in the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS). These details will be used should NSW Health need to contact your service after hours.
  • Identify children with compromised immunity or complex health care needs. Work with families to update any medical management, risk-minimisation and communications plans as required (regulations 90 and 168).
  • Consider having regular time for handwashing for all children and staff within your learning programs and activities.
  • Identify a suitable area, additional and separate to the regular sick bay, for children who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19 to await pick up by their parent/carer.
  • Consider canvassing casual educators and staff for availability in the event of critical educator and staff absences.
  • Visit SafeWork NSW for information on managing the risk of COVID-19 to those at your service.
  • Consider developing a COVID-19 Safety Plan.

More information:

Communicating with families

Hygiene measures

  • Clean your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue - consider placing tissues in every room at your service for staff and children to use.
  • Place used tissues straight into a bin.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Don’t share food or drink.
  • The use of mobile phones by staff should be discouraged unless necessary, and staff should be encouraged to clean their phones regularly.
  • Display health and hygiene promotional materials from the NSW Government including translated resources in prominent places at your service including the kitchen, learning spaces, hand wash and toilet areas.
  • Use these resources from The Wiggles to teach children about cough etiquette and handwashing.

Social distancing

  • Encourage staff to keep their distance from others if possible.
  • Exclude staff, children and visitors with symptoms of COVID-19 from your service – read more on managing a sick staff member or child.
  • Consider the use of face masks for staff and educators. For more information see face masks.
  • Consider the need for non-essential activities that involve close personal contact – for example excursions and incursions.
  • Implement controls to reduce direct contact with others, such as:
    • barriers to create space at sign-in areas, seated areas etc.
    • modify shifts and rosters, or pick-up and drop-off times to reduce peak periods.
    • have staff collect children from outside the service.
    • support remote learning for families keeping their children at home for long periods.
    • ask visitors to services to wear a face mask where practical.

Evaluate what is most appropriate for your service and unique circumstances.

While it’s not always possible in an ECEC setting to maintain physical distancing, some things that you can do to minimise close contact are:

Learning and office spaces

  • Consider the setup of the room and the placement of the activities and limit the number of whole group activities. Children should be spaced out as much as possible. For table activities, set up activities only at each end of the table.
  • Mixing of staff and children between rooms should be avoided where possible. It is acknowledged that staff may need to move between rooms to support breaks and, in these situations, staff should be reminded of the importance of hand hygiene.
  • Set up more individual activities throughout the room. Rather than having all of your books and blocks on one shelf, set them up in separate areas throughout the room if possible.
  • Rather than having group times where everyone is sitting on the mat, consider using informal opportunities to engage with the children/read books/do storytelling with one or two children at a time throughout the day.
  • For younger children, particularly consider the rotation of toys more often and increase the frequency of cleaning toys. Sharing of toys that have been placed in mouths should be monitored and avoided.
  • Look at the spacing of cots and highchairs, keeping them well apart.
  • Mixing of staff and children between rooms should be avoided where possible. It is acknowledged that staff may need to move between rooms to support breaks and, in these situations, staff should be reminded of the importance of hand hygiene.
  • Where possible, staff should use separate offices, and separate themselves within existing office space as much as possible.

Mealtimes

  • Sharing of food should be actively monitored and discouraged.
  • Staff should serve children and avoid allowing children to self-serve from a shared plate.
  • Look at your setup when children are eating. Consider having less children at each table and use more tables to allow more space between children.
  • If you have limited tables and normally have all children eating at the same time, consider staggered timings of snacks and lunch over a longer period of time.

Outdoor play

  • Wherever possible (e.g. weather dependent) and where you have enough staffing for adequate supervision, consider operating an indoor/outdoor program for the full day/session. This naturally provides for more space for the children and the setup of more activities for children to engage in.
  • If you are not able to run an indoor/outdoor program, consider spending more time outdoors, consider the placement of activities and the amount of activities in the outdoor space. A greater range of activities will encourage children to spread out more broadly.

Routine care

  • Standard precautions are advised when coming into contact with someone for the purpose of providing routine care and/or assistance (for example, the use of gloves for nappy changing, toileting, feeding). Also see National Health and Medical Research Council guidance Staying healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.
  • Staff must always wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser before and after performing routine care.

First aid

  • Standard precautions should be adopted when providing first aid, e.g. gloves and apron to use when dealing with blood or body fluids/substances.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser before and after providing first aid.
  • Additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (for example, face masks) is not required to provide standard first aid on children or staff who appear to be well. Hand hygiene, good respiratory etiquette (coughing into your elbow or into a tissue and immediately disposing of the tissue) and environmental cleaning are more important for reducing risk.

Incursions

Non-essential visitors should not attend services – this means that incursions should not proceed at this time.

Authorised officers visiting services

We need to continue service visits to check regulatory compliance and protect children's safety and wellbeing. All authorised officers follow best practice hygiene and current health advice. Read more in our guidelines below.

The following guidelines list some of the extra precautions that the department’s authorised officers are taking when planning a visit to your service:

  • Officers are required to monitor the latest health advice and changes to restrictions as they emerge, and in consultation with their manager ensure that their work plans continue to reflect the current situation.
  • Officers who have attended identified hotspots, are required to self-isolate for 14 days and not conduct service visits.
  • Officers are provided with PPE such as hand sanitiser to use before, during and after service visits. Officers have also been provided with face masks if your service requires them to use one.
  • The Officer will follow any additional precautions that your service has in place (for example, hand washing, temperature checks, or travel declarations).
  • If you have a COVID-19 declaration which all visitors to your service must read and sign, the Officer will sign this. Our Officers need to comply with any requirements services have established to minimise risk.
  • Where possible, officers are required to spread out the frequency of visits to minimise risk of transmission between services.
  • Where possible, visits will be arranged for the least busy times for your service and avoid drop-off and pick-up times. For example, scheduling visits when children will be outside, such as between 10-11am or 2-4pm. Most OSHC visits can be scheduled outside operational times.
  • If an officer feels unwell for any reason they will not be conducting visits and your service will be called and advised.
  • Where possible, the officer will only speak to one person, maintaining social distance, and keeping at least 1.5m from others. If possible, discussions should be undertaken in the outdoor area or another well-ventilated space (avoiding small office spaces).

In addition to the above guidelines, for assessment and rating visits:

  • Officers may request temporary access to any online platforms that your service uses for communicating with parents, so this can be assessed prior to the visit.
  • Officers may make an appointment with the Educational Leader 2-3 days prior to the visit to discuss the program via phone or video call.
  • The focus of the visit will be to observe practice and routines, and where possible will avoid heavy traffic times such as drop-off and pick-up times.
  • Shorter visits over 2 days are preferred (this will also depend on service size).
  • During the visit, time will be divided between observations and discussions.
  • Closing discussions will be kept short, with a follow up video meeting or phone conference if convenient.

If you have any further questions, please contact the department’s Information and Enquiries team on 1800 619 113 or at ececd@det.nsw.edu.au.

Coordinator visits to family day care educators

Family day care 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.

Practical students and pre-service teacher placements

There are currently no restrictions on student placements in NSW early childhood education and care services. However, services may want to consider placements in line with:

  • restrictions of movement or operations under current health orders
  • the level of community transmission of COVID-19 in the local area
  • the student's ability to comply with your COVID-safe policies and procedures
  • the ability to complete the placement and ensure a continuity of learning for both the student and children.

Singing and chanting in services

In an early childhood education and care service, group singing or chanting may take place outdoors or in large, well-ventilated areas.

Parents attending services

Drop-offs and pick-ups

Social distancing between adults at your service should be maintained wherever possible. Drop-offs and pick-ups should be arranged in such a way as to minimise the need for contact between adults. This may be managed in many ways, for example through staggered drop-off or pick-up times, or some services may prefer to have their staff collect children from outside the service.

Individual services should evaluate what is most appropriate for their service and their unique circumstances.

Principals should discuss drop-off and pick-up procedures with OSCH services staff. Principals have the flexibility to allow parents and carers to enter the site for drop-off and pick-up purposes for OSCH services to ensure the safety of students. This is particularly important when the entry/exit of the OSCH service is located at a distance from the school gate.

Parents and carers entering the school site must:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Sign in and out using the Service NSW QR code.

It is important to note that there is no requirement for families not to enter services.

Hosting events

If services choose to host an event within the service, they must complete a thorough risk assessment first with consideration given to:

  • restrictions on gatherings and movements under current health orders
  • the level of community transmission of COVID-19 in the local area
  • wellbeing of staff and children
  • physical distancing - please note for events held at early childhood education and care service premises, where members of the community are in attendance (e.g. parents), restrictions on gatherings and use of premises under current health orders apply.
  • record keeping – from Monday 12 July 2021 the Service NSW QR code will be mandatory for all early childhood education and care services.
  • cleaning and hygiene.

Services are encouraged to complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan as part of their risk assessment. Please note this does not have to be submitted by early childhood education and care services.

Orientation programs

Orientation programs may be run following a thorough risk assessment with consideration given to:

  • restrictions on gatherings and movements under current health orders
  • wellbeing of staff and children
  • physical distancing
  • record keeping - from Monday 12 July 2021 the Service NSW QR code will be mandatory for all early childhood education and care services.
  • cleaning and hygiene.

Services are encouraged to complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan as part of their risk assessment. Please note this does not have to be submitted by early childhood education and care services.

Alternative ways of conducting orientations, for example via Zoom meetings, should be considered where the risks of in-person orientations outweigh the benefits.

Excursions

Excursions may go ahead provided they are permitted by current health orders and risk management processes are in place.

If you aren’t in an area with lots of cases, and you want to visit your local area you could consider that low risk provided you have parental consent and standard risk management.

However if it’s a bigger excursion involving public transport with lots of people everywhere the benefits of going on the excursion should be carefully weighed against the risks.

Visits to aged care are not advised.

Transition to school programs/school orientation

Please refer to the guidelines for schools.

Environmental cleaning

Use environmental cleaning to minimise the number of germs that survive on surfaces at your service.

Some germs can survive in the environment, usually on surfaces such as bench tops, door handles and toys. The length of time a germ can survive on a surface depends on the germ itself, the type of surface it has contaminated, and how often the surface is cleaned. Reducing the number of germs in the environment can break the chain of infection.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

More information

Face masks

Masks are required in Early Childhood Education and Care settings in the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs (including indoor and outdoor environments) per the latest public health order.

Exemptions for wearing masks in ECE apply:

  • outside of the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs;

  • where a child is deaf or hard of hearing; or

  • the clear enunciation or visibility of the educator’s mouth is essential.

Early childhood education educators do not have to wear masks when providing education and care to children in areas outside of the Greater Sydney region and the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne LGAs. Educators may choose to wear masks, and masks are recommended when engaging with other adults, such as during pick-up and drop-off, and in administrative areas of the service.

It is recommended that visitors to services wear a face mask where practical. Read the NSW Government's guidelines on wearing masks.

You should also follow normal disease prevention measures including hand sanitising, appropriate social distancing between adults and excluding anyone with symptoms or who has been in contact with a confirmed case.

Visitors to family day care services

Any restrictions on the total number of visitors to residences do not apply to family day care residences whilst education and care is being provided.

Temperature checks

There is no requirement to check temperatures of children or staff. You can check temperatures if you wish but note they aren’t always effective at picking up people with COVID-19. This is because a significant proportion of people with COVID-19 don’t have a fever. Temperature checks can also cause queues which prevent people from maintaining physical distancing.

You can usually use your own judgement to assess the health of a child – you typically know the children at your service well enough to recognise when they aren’t feeling well.

For more information on using thermometers view our interview with Dr Jan Fizzell (from 11m 06s).

COVID-19 vaccinations

The Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout is currently progressing through its identified phases. Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination is listed on the Australian Government website.

Many educators and staff working in early childhood education and care services may be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine under existing criteria:

1. All adults aged 40 and over are eligible (with those over 60 getting AstraZeneca and those under 60 getting Pfizer as preferred though they can choose to get AstraZeneca after a discussion with their GP)

2. If aged 16 to 40, you are eligible if:

  • You are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

  • You regularly provide paid or unpaid support for people with a disability; including to children in an educational setting.

  • You provide care or support to someone in your household with an underlying medical condition.

  • You have an underlying medical condition.

  • You are an NDIS participant or care for an NDIS participant

You will need to provide evidence of your eligibility when you attend for a vaccination. This can include an ID card, letter from your employer/service, evidence of a medical condition or you can complete an Eligibility Declaration form.

To find out if you’re eligible and to book an appointment complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker.

Can approved providers and/or services require staff to have the COVID-19 vaccine as mandatory?

  • There are currently no laws or public health orders in NSW that specifically enable employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Importantly, vaccination is only one part of keeping the Australian community safe and healthy. To minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at your service, you must continue to apply all reasonably practicable COVID-19 control measures including:
    • physical distancing
    • good hygiene and regular cleaning and maintenance
    • ensuring staff and children do not attend if they are unwell
  • You must also comply with any public health orders made by NSW government that apply to your service.
  • If an approved provider/service is considering requiring staff to have the COVID-19 vaccine as mandatory, this will be an operational decision, and a comprehensive program and policy should be prepared and relevant advice sought.

More information

Can approved providers and/or services require parents and/or children to have the COVID-19 vaccine as mandatory?

  • Currently, children under 16 years of age cannot have Comirnaty, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Children and adolescents under 18 years of age cannot have the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
  • This is because clinical trial results are yet to confirm that the vaccines are effective and safe in these age groups. Clinical trials in children are planned or underway, and in the future children may be able to receive both of these vaccines.
  • If people choose not to have a COVID-19 vaccine, this will not currently affect their family's eligibility for Family Tax Benefit Part A or childcare fee assistance, which only includes National Immunisation Program vaccines for those aged less than 20 years.

More information

We'll update this page with the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout so please consult regularly.

Flu vaccinations

  • In order to reduce the impact on the public health system, 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 information about the influenza vaccination, including people who are eligible to receive the vaccination for free visit the NSW Health website.

Services in declared COVID-19 hotspots

Services are considered essential services. As such, all services in areas declared COVID-19 hotspots may continue to provide education and care.

In the Local Government Areas of Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool, Blacktown and Cumberland parents are strongly encouraged to keep their children at home if they are able to do so, in order to limit movement in the community.

Managing a sick staff member or child

If a staff member or child is unwell, follow your normal policies and procedures for managing infectious diseases.

Sick staff

Sick children

  • Contact the child's family to collect them as soon as possible.
  • If possible, and your supervision and ratio requirements allow, keep the child in isolation until they are collected.
  • If the child displays symptoms of COVID-19 encourage families to get their child tested.

Increased testing requirements for services and educators in Fairfield LGA

If you live in or are staying in the Fairfield local government area but you work outside this area, you must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an authorised worker.

You can go to a COVID-19 testing clinic near your home or work. You must have proof of your COVID-19 test such as an SMS text message on your phone or an email addressed to you.

You must show the proof of your test when asked:
  • at your workplace by your manager (occupier); or
  • to a police officer
You do not need to get the results of your COVID-19 test before going to or staying at work.

All workers and essential visitors entering your service must adhere to the above testing requirements or should not be allowed to enter if they cannot provide the above evidence. Each service should keep a record of testing of staff to demonstrate compliance with the Public Health Order.

Keeping families informed

Due to the high volume of testing it's impractical to inform families every time a staff member of child at your service gets tested. Therefore, during COVID-19 communicate with families that:

  • children and staff at your service should get tested if they show symptoms
  • you’ll inform families if there is a result of concern.

Returning to your service

Before they can return to a service, staff and children at department preschools must provide evidence of a negative COVID test if they have been absent or excluded due to showing symptoms of COVID-19.

This is not mandatory for ECEC services run by other organisations.

NSW Health recommends services:

  • request evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before staff and children can return
  • adopt this in the content of their infectious disease policies.

However this an operational decision for individual services and is not mandatory practice.

Close contacts

  • Primary close contacts will all need to get tested and self-isolate for the full 14 days as per the current health advice.

  • NSW Health has assessed the situation regarding secondary close contacts. Where a person has been identified as a close contact, then only people who have been in their households and their very close friends need to isolate until they received a negative test, not other people at the Early Childhood Service unless they have symptoms.

  • Any staff, children or parents who have been to a location with a confirmed COVID-19 case will need to follow the NSW Health advice. People who have been to an identified venue of concern who have been identified as a close contact, will need to follow the advice from NSW Health and get tested and self-isolate for 14 days. This information will have been communicated directly to those who are close contacts.

  • If you have been to one of the venues on the NSW Government website and have not yet been contacted by NSW Health, please call 1800 943 553.

  • Anyone who is a close contact must isolate for the full 14 days as directed by NSW Health and not return to any Early Childhood Service during this time.

  • Anyone who has even the mildest of symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of smell/taste, muscle/joint pains, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting or extreme tiredness should immediately be tested and isolate until they get a negative test result and then when they are free of symptoms can return to your service.

Exposure to a confirmed case

Read the latest COVID-19 case locations in NSW.

If a child or staff member has been at an identified location at the identified time they need to either:

  • self-isolate and get tested immediately or

  • monitor for symptoms.

If you're unsure, call NSW Health on 1800 943 553 and ask them for advice.

Self-isolation

For more information on self-isolation:

Self-isolation and family day care

NSW Health advises if a family day care educator has a family member who is self-isolating in their residence, care should not be provided from that residence during that period.

Managing a confirmed case of COVID-19

If you are notified of a confirmed case in your service within normal business hours, please contact the department’s Information and Enquiries line on 1800 619 113.

If you are notified of a confirmed case in your service outside of business hours, please contact the department’s Emergency COVID number on 0477 388 715.

The department will contact a dedicated team at the Ministry of Health and work through the required processes with your service.

While close contacts may receive a text message in relation to secondary close contacts applying to work colleagues, Health have determined that this only applies in very specific circumstances and does not apply in an ECE work setting. The only exception to this would be where educators or children reside together, carpool together, or spent significant time together outside of the work context.

Draft template for a confirmed case in your service

(Centre Name) has been advised of a possible case of COVID-19, linked to the service.

(Centre Name) will be non-operational for on-site attendance tomorrow/today, (Day, Date, Month, Year).

We ask that everyone who attends our centre, including our parents/carers self-isolate until we receive confirmation from NSW Health on the impact on our service. While we cannot confirm at this stage that every child and or educator at our service has been impacted, we are taking every safety precaution while NSW Health undertakes contact tracing.

Further information will be provided to all families as soon as we receive advice on this matter from NSW Health.

The centre will continue to work with NSW Health to complete contact tracing. If your family are personally impacted, you may hear from NSW Health.

The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and children is of paramount importance to us. We will continue to work closely with NSW Health and NSW Department of Education to ensure that all necessary health advice is adhered to.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

More information

Closing your service

NSW Health is the agency responsible for giving directions in relation to closures. If they direct you to close your service you should:

You must notify us within 24 hours of closure however, we ask that you notify us as soon as possible.

If you already submitted a notification of a serious incident at your service, then received further information relating to the incident which impacts your service's ability to operate, please edit the I01 notification and include additional information.

Community and Mobile preschools that receive Start Strong funding and are closed for a period of time, should also notify the NSW Department of Education’s funding team.

Accessing NQA ITS

If you're unable to access NQA ITS to submit the notification, contact us by:

This is sufficient notification until you can lodge the form through NQA ITS.

Alternative childcare

Parents and carers can visit StartingBlocks.gov.au for information about services’ vacancies and hours of operation.

If you're considering closing due to low enrolments or lack of supplies, please contact us prior to making a decision by:

Suspension

Services aren't required to apply for a voluntary suspension during COVID-19.

Cleaning after a confirmed case of COVID-19

If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 at your service you need to clean thoroughly and disinfect all areas which may have been contaminated. NSW Health will advise you on how to do this, as well as any other steps you need to take.

Please note:

  • Your usual cleaning staff can do the cleaning.
  • NSW Health doesn’t require you to use specialised cleaning companies – but you can if you want to.
  • NSW Health doesn’t endorse or recommend any particular cleaning companies.
  • There is no certification process endorsed by the NSW Government for cleaning companies undertaking cleaning and disinfection services after a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • You aren’t required to provide a certificate of cleaning completion.

The following resources are available for ECE services to follow:

Reopening your service

NSW Health will advise you when your service is able to reopen.

Please advise us when you reopen your service by:

  • logging into NQA ITS and add an additional information to your original notification of closure or
  • emailing ececd@det.nsw.edu.au to say your service has reopened and when.

We'll then update your service record accordingly.

Educator-to-child ratios

During COVID-19 it's hard for services to know each day:

  • how many children will be attending
  • which staff members will be present.

But the health, safety and wellbeing of children in education and care remains the priority so:

  • adequate supervision requirements including ratios continue to apply
  • services should make every attempt to meet ratio requirements each day.

Qualification requirements

The National Quality Framework includes requirements for educators to:

  • hold a current approved first aid qualification
  • have undertaken current anaphylaxis management and emergency asthma management training.

This is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of children attending education and care services.

Centre-based services must ensure 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 educator assistant must hold these qualifications.

New first aid qualification

Educators who need a new first aid qualification should:

  • discuss the options with training providers
  • complete the theoretical aspects and receive confirmation of progress from the training provider if the practical parts of a course can't be completed at this time
  • complete practical parts of a course as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.
Refresher training

Educators who hold a first aid qualification but require a refresher should explore available options to complete this training. We realise it may only be possible to complete the theoretical parts of a course at this time.

Pandemic Leave

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is for people living in New South Wales who can't earn an income because they must self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone who has COVID-19.

Check the eligibility requirements at Services Australia.

Waivers - staff shortages

We can grant waivers for:

  • staff qualifications – if services and educators have explored options available to complete the training
  • ratios – in exceptional circumstances.

Waivers related to COVID-19 are:

  • considered on a case-by-case basis
  • only open to services in clear need – i.e. they do not have the staff capacity to meet ratios
  • fast-tracked – as long as there's no increased risk to staff or children's safety.

We'll consider the period of time a waiver is granted so services don't have to reapply each day they don't meet the requirements.

If the service's circumstances remain the same after the waiver expires, we may extend the waiver period on review.

Apply for a waiver

To apply for a waiver:

  • submit an application in NQA ITS
  • pay the $111 fee – we'll refund this fee as long as your application is related to COVID-19.

For advice on lodging a waiver application and meeting requirements due to COVID-19 contact us by:

Related information

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