COVID-19 guidelines for ECEC services

Read our latest communication on the current public health orders. The latest Public Health Order can be found here.

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.

Current COVID-19 advice

  • All children will be able to return to early childhood education and care settings from 18 October.
    • Services have remained open throughout the pandemic for children who need to attend, however, on public health advice, families have been strongly encouraged to keep their children at home where they are able to do so. From 18 October 2021, this advice will be lifted.
  • Children in LGAs where restrictions have eased can return to early childhood education and care services with the same rules in place as prior to the stay-at-home orders. Visit the NSW Government website to find out more.

  • All early childhood education and care educators and staff must comply with the current Public Health Order COVID-19 vaccination requirements. To carry out work at an early childhood education and care service all educators and staff must have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Staff working in out of school hours care and other settings on school sites are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated by 25 October.
  • Service NSW QR codes are 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.
  • Education and care services are considered an essential service and may remain open, unless directed by NSW Health.
  • OSHC services both on and off school sites can continue to operate for before and after school care for any children that require it.

Border arrangements

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.

COVID safety

Download the COVID safety in early childhood education and care services: Guidance (PDF, 5.7MB).

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to services on a safe and practical approach to service delivery through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of children, educators and families.

This guidance has been prepared to assist businesses and is not a substitute for legal advice. This document has been developed in line with NSW Health advice, and the NSW Department of Education’s return to school planning.

COVID-19 vaccinations

  • All early childhood education and care educators and staff under the current Public Health Order must have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. This includes:
    • All staff working on site.
    • All volunteers working on site.
    • All contractors, maintenance staff, cleaners and all other workers who are on site.
  • Vaccination is required for all service types:
    • Preschool
    • Long day care
    • Family day care
    • Outside school hours care
    • Vacation care
    • Mobile services
    • Occasional care

  • Any staff members who have not received mandated COVID-19 vaccinations and are unable to obtain a medical contraindication certificate from their doctor are not be able to attend early childhood educational settings.
  • Staff working in out of school hours care and other settings on school sites are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated by 25 October.
  • Family day care residences must ensure the residence is not open to provide education or care to any child unless each person who is at least 18 years of age residing at the residence (an adult resident) has either, had two doses of vaccination, or has been issued with a medical contraindication certificate.
  • Approved providers/employers are required to keep a record of staff (and volunteers, contractors, FDC educators etc) vaccination status. They should sight the status and then keep this on a log.
  • Requirements to be vaccinated do not apply to workers who need to visit early childhood sites during an emergency. An emergency is defined as:
    • A serious, unexpected and dangerous situation.
    • An event posing an immediate and serious risk to the operation of the early childhood premise and to the children and staff in that premise.
  • The COVID-19 Vaccination Program hotline is available on 1800 571 155 between 8am – 9.30pm, 7 days a week to help staff access a vaccination.

Access to vaccinations

ECEC workers are encouraged to use the vaccine clinic finder to find appointments, talk to their GP or check:

Medical contraindication

An exemption is available for staff who are unable to be vaccinated due to a medical contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccine. A medical contraindication prevents people from receiving a vaccine, as it may increase their chances of a serious adverse event. There are very limited reasons as to why a medical contraindication would be applied.

The following professionals can provide medical contraindications:

  • general practitioners (GP) registered as a specialist in General Practice with the Medical Board of Australia
  • vocational registered GPs who have general registration with the Medical Board of Australia
  • general practice registrars on an approved 3GA training placement
  • paediatricians
  • public health physicians
  • infectious diseases physicians
  • clinical immunologists.

NSW Health specify a COVID-19 vaccine medical contraindication form that medical practitioners must use when a staff member has a contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccine. The form defines the specific medical conditions for which an exemption applies. A staff member seeking an exemption on medical grounds is required to provide the COVID-19 vaccine medical contraindication form.

Services should ensure they have a policy in place to address how they respond to staff with medical contraindications – this may include:

  • Review the medical contraindication form to check that the health condition meets the contraindication criteria set out in NSW Health advice and ATAGI criteria.
  • Undertaking a risk assessment to ensure the health and safety of the staff member concerned and others on site.
  • Follow up with the medical practitioner if it appears the medical condition does not meet the contraindication criteria. You should seek consent from the staff member before contacting their medical practitioner.

Managing vaccinations in the workplace

The Public Health Orders (PHO) place obligations on workers in areas where mandatory vaccination is required, not employers. However, as an employer of a relevant worker, you should:

  • Keep accurate and up to date records of COVID-19 vaccination for all staff visiting the premises. This should indicate that a genuine vaccination record or medical contraindication has been sighted.
  • Ensure all staff visiting the premises (including volunteers, all contractors, maintenance staff, cleaners and all other workers who are on site) are fully vaccinated.

The following people may request evidence of vaccination status:

  • the worker’s employer
  • the occupier of the workers place of work
  • a police officer
  • an authorised person (under the Public Health Act 2010).

Where requested, a worker must show:

If staff refuse mandatory vaccination:

Vaccination frequently asked questions

What do the public health orders say about mandatory vaccines for staff?

The NSW Government has advised that all early childhood education and care staff are required to have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccination to ensure the health and safety of our early childhood education and care community. A Public Health Order has been signed to reflect this requirement.

This includes all service types:

  • Preschool
  • Long day care
  • Family day care
  • Outside school hours care
  • Vacation care
  • Mobile services
  • Occasional care

Under the PHO, the Minister for Health directs that an education and care worker must not carry out relevant work unless the worker:

  1. has had 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or
  2. has been issued with a medical contraindication certificate.

Vaccination evidence

Evidence for an education and care worker includes:

Family Day Care residences

Family Day Care residences must not open unless adult residents are vaccinated. The relevant approved provider must ensure the residence is not open to provide education or care to any child unless each adult resident has:

How can ECE staff access vaccines?

To check your eligibility and book an appointment at a location near you, use the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker on the Australian Government website. More information on COVID-19 vaccination, including translated information, is available from NSW Health.

You can also book an appointment through the NSW Health website.

Staff in regional NSW are encouraged to need to regularly check the eligibility checker. New appointments are regularly being added in regional NSW. In addition,  staff can:  

NSW Health vaccination clinics and participating general practices and pharmacies across the state are open for COVID-19 vaccination bookings. NSW Health is also providing  walk-in centres in some locations where no appointments are required. 

What are my rights with regards to mandatory vaccinations?

It is an employee obligation and is a condition of employment to seek out a COVID-19 vaccination unless a medical exemption applies.

A collaborative approach in the workplace that includes discussing, planning and facilitating COVID-19 vaccinations is an important part of Australia’s vaccine rollout, because having a vaccine is one of the best ways to protect ourselves and our community against COVID-19.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has prepared information with regards to vaccinations and the workplace. This includes:

You can read more here.

What if I don’t want to be vaccinated?

COVID-19 is a serious disease with very high transmission rates. Getting vaccinated is the most important way that educators can protect themselves and the children in our services, and their communities from COVID-19. If you are not vaccinated you cannot continue to work in an ECEC setting.

Can a worker be exempt from this requirement?

Workers may be exempt from the vaccination requirement if they have a medical certificate from a medical practitioner in the form approved by the NSW Chief Health Officer that certifies that because of a specified medical contraindication, the person cannot have a COVID-19 vaccine.

What happens if an employee is not vaccinated by the mandated date, or refuses to get vaccinated?

If your employee falls under the requirements of the public health order but has not had required vaccinations, or has not obtained a medical contraindication certificate, they will not be able to attend their workplace.

Further information on COVID-19, health and safety and vaccinations in the workplace is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Can I stand an employee down for not being vaccinated?

Further information on COVID-19, health and safety, vaccinations in the workplace and employer obligations in relation to their employees is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Who may request evidence of a worker’s COVID-19 vaccination status?

Under the current public health order, the following people may request evidence of the vaccination status of an employee who lives or works in an LGA of concern:

  • The worker’s employer,
  • The occupier of the workers place of work,
  • A police officer, or
  • An authorised person (under the Public Health Act 2010).

What if I’m pregnant or have an underlying medical condition?

Under the current public health order, all early childhood education and care educators and staff must be able to provide their employer:

The following groups can provide immunisation medical exemptions:

  • general practitioners (GP) registered as a specialist in General Practice with the Medical Board of Australia
  • vocational registered GPs who have general registration with the Medical Board of Australia
  • general practice registrars on an approved 3GA training placement
  • paediatricians
  • public health physicians
  • infectious diseases physicians
  • clinical immunologists.

You can find out more about immunisation medical exemptions on the Services Australia website.

How does mandatory vaccination apply to me if I have previously had COVID-19?

According to the latest clinical guidance from ATAGI, past infection with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) does not mean you cannot be vaccinated. It is recommended that vaccination be deferred for up to six months after the acute illness in those who have had confirmed COVID-19.

If someone wishes to have vaccination earlier than 6 months, they may have a discussion about the risks and benefits with their healthcare provider. If vaccination is deferred, a medical practitioner is able to authorise a temporary exemption from vaccination by completing a NSW COVID-19 vaccine medical contraindication form. This can be used for services in the LGAs of concern where vaccination will be mandatory from 19 September.

Who is covered by the vaccination requirement? Does it include volunteers?

All workers who attend a NSW public school, preschool or early childhood education providers for their work must be fully vaccinated.

This includes:

  • any staff members who work in an early childhood setting
  • out of school hours care, canteen and uniform shop staff
  • contractors working on a school site in close proximity to students and staff (whether engaged by a school or not)
  • volunteers
  • department staff undertaking regulatory activities in schools, preschools or other early childhood education settings.

What are the vaccination requirements for emergency staff?

Requirements to be vaccinated do not apply to workers who need to visit early childhood sites during an emergency.

An emergency is defined as:

  • A serious, unexpected and dangerous situation.
  • An event posing an immediate and serious risk to the operation of the early childhood premise and to the children and staff in that premise.

An emergency in an early childhood setting might include a medical emergency, a fire, a gas leak, or a fault with the sewerage system for example.

Only vaccinated workers can attend where the situation is not an emergency.

Business continuity payments, waiving the gap fee, allowable absences

Business continuity payments, gap fee waiving, allowable absences and the child care subsidy are managed by the Australian Government.

For more information on these initiatives please contact the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Face masks

Adults

Masks are required in indoor settings in Early Childhood Education and Care settings across NSW.

Exemptions for wearing masks for staff in ECE apply:

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

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

Where an exemption for wearing a mask applies, physical distancing should be practiced where possible as another measure to limit COVID-19 transmission.

Masks should also be worn by staff when engaging with other adults, such as during pick-up and drop-off, and in administrative areas of the service, including staff rooms.

All parents dropping off or picking up children should be asked to wear masks.

Children

In accordance with current NSW Health advice, masks will not be worn by children under 2 years of age and babies. NSW Health advises children 2-12 years are also exempt from the requirement to wear face masks, but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

Children in Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) and Vacation Care Services will follow the same rules for mask wearing for primary school students in accordance with current department advice. Each school is assigned a level that align to Health settings regarding stay at home rules and other restrictions. Please check with your school if you are unsure of their operating level.

QR codes

On the 12 July 2021 the Service NSW QR code was made mandatory at all workplaces and retail businesses, including education and care services.

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. Children are excluded from this requirement and do not need to sign in to your service (though a parent may wish to sign them is as a dependent).

Services should:

  • Register with NSW Government to set up the QR Code.

  • Display the Service NSW QR code visibly at the service premises and take reasonable steps to ensure all essential visitors (including parents/carers) and staff members check-in using the Service NSW QR codes.

  • A visitor will be required to check-in if the person has interacted with the service, no matter how minor the interaction may be.

  • The Service NSW QR code will need to be displayed during all operational hours in businesses, including in a Family Day Care service.

  • 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.

  • 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. Outside of the operating hours of your Family Day Care service, you are not required to display the QR code.

  • 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.

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

  • 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. If families are unsure and wish to use both they may do so. This is to ensure effective contact tracing, should a risk arise.

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.

Managing a confirmed case of COVID-19

Download the management of confirmed cases flowchart (PDF, 76KB).

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

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 have 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 positive case of COVID-19, linked to the service.

(Centre Name) will be non-operational for on-site attendance tomorrow/today, (Day, Date, Month, Year) to allow time for contact tracing and cleaning to be undertaken. We will provide an update as soon as we have clarification on the date of re-opening.

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.

The safety and wellbeing of our staff and children is of paramount importance to us at all times. As such we will continue to work closely with NSW Health to ensure that all necessary health advice is adhered to.

NSW Health has requested anyone who has been unwell or if you develop any symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of smell/taste, muscle/joint pains, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting or extreme tiredness to be tested at one of the COVID-19 testing clinics.

Further information about COVID-19 is available on the NSW Government website.

While we recognise this will be disruptive and inconvenient for families, it is important that we follow NSW Health advice and take all necessary precautions to minimise the risk of further transmission to support our community.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Closing your service

NSW Health or the NSW Regulatory Authority (Department of Education) may provide direction in relation to closures due to a possible or positive case of COVID-19 linked to your service. If directed 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 your service is directed to close or reduce numbers (by NSW Health or NSW Department of Education) you will need to complete the service closure notification in NQA ITS.

When your service re-opens, log back in to NQA ITS and amend this notification to reflect the reopening date.

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.

Reopening your service

When considering to reopen your service after a temporary closure due to a positive case of COVID-19 you must ensure you can ply with the education and care law and regulations, including ratio requirements.

Educators and children who have been deemed CLOSE contacts can not return to the service until they have completed their isolation period.

Please advise us when you reopen your service by:

  • logging into NQA ITS and add 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.

The NSW Department of Education have established a team to support positive COVID cases in Early Childhood, please contact this team on 1800 619 113 if you have any questions or require clarification specific to your service reopening.

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 use the NSW ECE finder to find early childhood education and care providers.

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

  • calling 1800 619 113

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:

Risk management planning (first aid and fire safety)

  • Services and providers should ensure they have up-to-date emergency contact details in 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.

  • You should have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.

First aid 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.

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.

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.

If Regulation 136 is not able to be complied with then a waiver must be applied for. This includes the scenario where an educator has completed the theoretical aspects and is unable to complete the practical parts of a course.

Fire Safety

Every reasonable precaution must be taken to ensure children being educated and cared for by your service are protected from harm and any hazard likely to cause injury.

This includes protecting children from harm or hazards that may be caused by a fire by ensuring fire safety equipment is properly maintained.

Approved providers must ensure that all equipment and furniture used in providing the education and care service is safe, clean and in good repair, including fire safety equipment which should be checked, maintained and evidence kept in line with recognised industry standards.

Approved providers must ensure that staff have ready access to emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets and that provision of training for nominated supervisors, educators, co-ordinators and family day care educator assistants in the use of emergency equipment.

Fire safety equipment checks are not subject to a waiver as the health and safety of children is paramount.

Approved providers must ensure that matters relating to health and safety are set out in their service policies and procedures, and must take reasonable steps to ensure that the nominated supervisor and staff members follow these policies and procedures.

Services should make their best efforts to maintain their COVID-safe practices in line with service policies and procedures where a visitor is essential to the service to conduct these safety checks. It is encouraged that checks are done outside of operation hours to minimise any exposure risk for the service.

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.

Waivers

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.

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:

Close contacts

For information on close contact requirements please refer to NSW Health advice.

NSW Health will notify the service if there is a positive COVID-19 case who has been infectious while in attendance. Contact tracing will be undertaken as it is in all other venues. The action required in relation to the operation of the service depends on how many people the person has been in contact with. In some cases, this may mean that the service may need to be made temporarily non-operational. Some staff and children may be asked to self-isolate as a precaution while contact tracing is completed.

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.

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.

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.

Managing a sick staff member or child

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.

Sick staff

  • Instruct staff not to attend if they feel unwell.
  • If staff attend and appear unwell, send them home.
  • Encourage them to get tested. They should receive a negative COVID-19 test and be symptom-free before returning to the service.
  • Read about meeting educator-to-child ratios and qualification requirements during COVID.
  • Close contacts of positive cases should not attend services unless cleared by NSW Health.

Sick children

  • Communicate with all families asking them to keep unwell children at home.
  • If a child appears unwell on drop off, ask the parent/carer to take them home.
  • If a child appears unwell while in care, 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.
  • Encourage families to get their child tested. They should receive a negative COVID-19 test and be symptom-free before returning to the service.

Keeping families informed

Due to the high volume of testing it's impractical to inform families every time a staff member or a 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 is an operational decision for individual services and is not mandatory practice.

Parents and visitors attending services

Individual services should evaluate what is most appropriate for their service and their unique circumstances when adults are attending their service for drop-off and pick-ups, orientation of new families and other non-essential visitors..

A key consideration should be if the visit is occurring during periods of high transmission rates or when stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Download the COVID safety in early childhood education and care services: Guidance (PDF, 5.7KB) for further advice.

Visits from the Regulatory Authority

The Department of Education needs 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 when attending services. As per the health advice, non-essential visits may not proceed during periods of high community transmission rates or during an outbreak. Services will be notified as required.

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 will be fully vaccinated prior to attending your service. The Department will take responsibility for checking this status before allowing staff to attend visits.
  • 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 are required to follow the guidance of NSW health in relation to isolation (and will not conduct service visits)
  • Officers need to comply with any additional requirements services have established to minimise risk such as temperature checks. If you have a COVID-19 declaration which all visitors to your service must read and sign, the Officer will sign this.
  • 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.
  • 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 physical 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).

Assessment and Rating Visits

  • Officers may request assisted access or evidence from 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 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 sighting, observing and discussing practice.
  • Closing discussions will be kept short, with a follow up phone conference if convenient.

Policies and procedures

  • Review your service’s policies and procedures for dealing with infectious diseases and illness (regulations 85, 88 and 168).
  • Provide educators, staff and families with updates on your service’s policies and procedures, and help them to implement these across the service.
  • Services are encouraged to use their policies and procedures to determine attendance, as well as working with individual families to understand their needs.

Ventilation in centres

Regulation 110 requires indoor spaces to be well ventilated. COVID-19 has raised the need to be even more vigilant about ventilation.

NSW Health advises open or well-ventilated spaces reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission because infectious particles are more quickly diffused in the open air than in spaces with less ventilation. Increasing outdoor air ventilation and using outdoor spaces where possible is an important strategy in reducing the risk of aerosol transmission by increasing circulation of outdoor air. This strategy must be supported by the other COVID safe practices in this document such as vaccination, hygiene and so on.

To mitigate the risk of transmission while indoors services should reduce the number of people in an indoor space at any one time, by separating children and educators into small groups and encouraging them to use different areas of the service; and reduce the amount of time children spend indoor together.

Services can access the most up-to-date advice on ventilation from the NSW Government website and Safe Work Australia.

Physical distancing

The risk of transmission of COVID-19 can be reduced through physical distancing amongst staff members, children and visitors to service premises.

The below measures should be carried out to support physical distancing within services:

  • Ensure physical distancing between adults of 1.5m, wherever possible.

  • For adults or children who have an exemption for wearing a face mask, physical distancing should be practiced wherever possible.

  • Where possible and applicable sleep children at least 1.5 metres apart or head to toe to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

  • Avoid any non-essential activities that involve close personal contact.

  • Encourage appropriate outdoor programs to support distancing while considering sun safe practices.

  • In schools, it has been recommended that they should keep children in age cohorts. However, this may not be practical in OSHC services and this is not a requirement. Services may choose to consider use of different play spaces as part of their COVID safety plan.

Where possible, services should also implement the following controls to reduce direct contact with others:

  • Install barriers to create space at sign-in areas, and seated areas.

  • 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.

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.

Excursions

During periods of high community transmission or where there is an outbreak, excursions should be put on hold. Where stay-at-home orders are lifted, excursions may proceed in accordance with NSW Health advice and conditions in the service's LGA.

Services should consider a risk-based approach and the following measures when planning excursions:

  • Conduct a thorough risk assessment and implement risk minimisation strategies
  • Avoid excursions that require public transport or visiting venues where there are likely to be large numbers of people
  • Choose outdoor excursions where possible
  • Excursions to aged care facilities should not take place prior to a conversation with the facility.

Transition to school programs/school orientation

Kindergarten orientation and transition to school should be flexible and responsive to current local COVID-19 advice. These guidelines complement the positive transition strategies services have in place for children entering Kindergarten in 2022 and will vary across the state in response to local area restrictions and government advice. Services should connect with local schools to understand current department advice around external visitors to school sites when planning their orientation approach.

  • Connect remotely with local schools and ask about their transition to school plans so that you can work together to support children in your service

  • Follow the guidance provided by your local school in response to current Health advice and the Level that the school is operating at.

  • Assess individual family needs and health vulnerabilities when deciding how to engage with local school.

If COVID-19 restrictions prevent an onsite visit at school or to your service:

  • Arrange an online meeting with the principal or Kindergarten teacher of local schools to support a smooth transition for children in your service, including the completion of transition to school statements.

  • Engage children with any digital platform information provided by local schools.

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.

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.

Mental health and wellbeing

Your mental health and wellbeing is important. Support and resources are available to support you:

Early childhood guided learning packages

The early childhood guided learning packages have been developed for teachers and educators to support families to provide a guided learning from home experience for preschool children aged 3-5 years. They have been created by early childhood professionals and learning designers from the department.

The packages include a range of guided learning activities such as shared reading, singing, physical movement, creative arts and other engaging challenges specifically designed for this age group that all link to The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.

A new package will be launched each Tuesday.

Stay up to date

  • We update this page with the latest information so please visit regularly.
  • Visit our sector updates page for copies of emails we've sent to all services and providers.
  • Text ‘subscribe’ to 0429 918 924 to be alerted of important updates via SMS.
  • Ask us a question by:
Return to top of page Back to top