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

  • NSW Health has advised that parents and carers across NSW are strongly encouraged to keep their children at home in areas where stay-at-home orders are in place, unless they need to be at a service.
  • Stay-at-home orders in parts of regional NSW will be eased as planned from 12:01 am on Saturday 11 September. 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.

  • Vaccination is now required for all early childhood education and care educators and staff by 8 November under the current Public Health Order. Two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination will be required by this date.
  • Staff working in out of school hours care and other settings on school sites are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated by 25 October.
  • ECEC staff who live in the 12 LGAs of concern and work outside of their LGA will be required to carry a permit from Service NSW declaring they are an authorised worker.
  • ECEC staff who enter into one of the 12 LGAs of concern to work must also carry a permit issued by Service NSW.
  • Workers who travel outside their local area for work and live in the local government areas of Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains and Wollongong) must follow the rules for COVID-19 tests
  • 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-19 vaccinations

  • Vaccination is required for all early childhood education and care educators and staff by 8 November under the current Public Health Order. Two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination will be required by this date. This includes 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 by the above date and are unable to obtain a medical contraindication certificate from their doctor will 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 not open unless adult residents are vaccinated. The relevant approved provider must ensure the residence is not open on or after 8 November 2021 to provide education or care to any child unless each adult resident has:
  • 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.

LGAs of concern

  • ECEC staff who live or work in the LGAs of concern must have their first vaccination dose by 19 September 2021 and their second dose by 8 November 2021.

  • ECEC staff who live in the 12 LGAs of concern and work outside of the LGA will also be required to have their first vaccination by 19 September 2021 and their second dose by 8 November 2021.

  • Staff who live and/or work in LGAs of concern who are not yet vaccinated will have until the end of Wednesday 8 September to book their vaccination.
  • Any staff members who have not received mandated COVID-19 vaccinations by the above dates and are unable to obtain a medical contraindication certificate from their doctor will not be able to attend early childhood educational settings.
  • From 9 September authorised workers who live and/or work in LGAs of concern will be required to carry evidence of their booking. Without this evidence, they will not be able to attend their place of work.
  • If an authorised worker who lives and/or works in an LGA of concern is not vaccinated or does not have a medical contraindication form, they will not be able to attend work after 19 September 2021.

You can book a vaccination using the NSW Health Vaccination Portal

Access to vaccinations

ECEC workers outside of the LGAs of concern are encouraged to use the vaccine eligibility checker to find appointments, talk to their GP or check:

Medical exemptions to the vaccine (including if you have previously had COVID-19)

Early childhood educators in the LGAs of concern must not enter or remain in the worker’s place of work from 19 September 2021 unless the worker:

(a) has had at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or
(b) has been issued with a medical contraindication certificate. 

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.

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.

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 are able to request evidence of compliance with the PHO when the worker enters their place of work.

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:

The Fair Work Ombudsman has prepared information with regards to vaccinations and the workplace. This includes information on requiring employees to be vaccinated, refusing directions to be vaccinated and providing evidence of vaccination.

Priority vaccination supporting documentation

If you have booked a priority vaccination for the LGAs of concern, you must bring proof of your home address to your appointment. This could be a driver’s license, utility bill, bank statement, tax assessment notice etc.

You may also be asked to bring proof of your employment. We have provided a template below for employers to complete for their employees:

Date

Service Name

Service Address

To whom this may concern,

Confirmation of employment as an Authorised Worker

This letter is to confirm that, [Name of Staff Member], is an employee of [Service Name].

[Service Name] is an [early childhood education OR outside school hours care] service and falls within the education sector, which has been deemed an essential service by the NSW Government.

I confirm that [Name of Staff Member], in their role as [Role of Staff Member], performs duties that are essential to the operation of [Service Name] and are not possible to be undertaken at home.

Should you require any further information or clarification, please contact [Position and Name] on [Contact Number and email address].

Yours sincerely,

Manager/Director Name

Job Title

Contact Number

Email address

Vaccination frequently asked questions

Who does the mandatory vaccine apply to?

Vaccination is now required for all early childhood education and care educators and staff by 8 November under the current Public Health Order. Two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination will be required by this date.

From 19 September all early childhood educators who live or work in the 12 LGAs of concern will be required to have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccination.

What do the public health orders say about mandatory vaccines for staff in areas of concern?

The NSW Government has advised that all early childhood education and care staff are required to have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccination by 8 November 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 on or after 8 November 2021 unless the worker:

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

The education and care worker must provide the worker’s vaccination evidence if requested by:

  1. a responsible person, or
  2. a person authorised by a responsible person.

Each responsible person for an education and care worker must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the education and care worker complies with the directions in the PHO.

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 on or after 8 November 2021 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 will be a condition of employment to seek out a COVID-19 vaccination by the deadlines provided above 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.

In order to keep children and workers safe, and as per NSW Health directions, ECEC workers who have not received their COVID-19 vaccination by the required date and are who unable to obtain a medical contraindication certificate from their doctor will not be able to attend early childhood educational settings.

Which ECE settings do vaccination mandates apply to?

The new Public Health Order covers all service types:

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

How do the new PHO changes impact me as employer of an early childhood and care service?

The rules in the new PHO place obligations on workers, not employers. However, as an employer of a relevant worker, you are able to request evidence of compliance with the PHO when the worker enters their place of work.

You should also consider your obligations under work health and safety legislation. Further information is available through Safe Work Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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.

What happens if I cannot access a vaccination?

If you have not received the required vaccinations by the dates listed above, you will not be able to attend your workplace.

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. 

You can also contact the COVID-19 Vaccination Program hotline on 1800 571 155 between 8am – 9.30pm, 7 days a week for assistance.

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.

What type of evidence is required to demonstrate compliance with vaccination requirements?

Where requested a worker must show:

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).

Do I have to collect my employees’ vaccination status if they live in an LGA of concern?

There is currently no requirement for an employer to collect details of an employee’s vaccination status from 19 September if they live in an LGA of concern.

Employers should consider their obligations to employees under Australian law. Further information is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Are there penalties on employers for not checking employee vaccination status?

There are currently no penalties set out in the PHO for an employer failing to check the vaccination status of an employee.

For Family Day Care Educators, who will check proof of vaccination?

Vaccination is an important part of keeping our community safe, and Family Day Educators are required to seek out priority vaccination in the LGAs of concern.

The Public Health Order places the obligation on educators/workers to ensure that they get vaccinated. Neither employers nor service providers are required to ask for evidence of vaccination. Rather they should remind educators about their obligations. Your Approved Provider may suggest this to you.

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

Early childhood educators must not enter or remain in the worker’s place of work from 6 September unless the worker:

(a) has had at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or

(b) has been issued with a medical contraindication certificate. 

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?

From 8 November all workers who attend a NSW public school, preschool or early childhood education providers for their work will be required to 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.

Who is defined as an ‘education and care worker’?

For the purposes of this order, this includes any work undertaken by any workers, whether they are educators/teachers, support staff, corporate staff, contractors, volunteers, or students on student placement who work at an early education and care service location.

Who is a ‘responsible person’ in relation to checking vaccination status?

This can include:

  • An employer or a person who engages the worker to do work;
  • A person who exercises employer functions;
  • A supervisor of a student on student placement;
  • The occupier of the premises where the work is carried out;
  • An approved provider.

The PHO will not apply to workers that need to visit early childhood sites to deal with an emergency.

Business continuity payments, waiving the gap fee, allowable absences

  • Child care services in Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 Hotspots can get business continuity payments if:
    • the Commonwealth hotspot runs for more than 7 days and the state or territory government has limited who can access child care, or
    • the Commonwealth hotspot extends beyond 28 days.
  • Childcare services can choose to waive CCS gap-fees to parents who are keeping their children at home due to current COVID-19 restrictions.
    • Services can waive gap fees from the first day of any hotspot declaration exceeding a week.
    • 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.
  • Childcare services in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot can now access additional allowable absences if the declaration extends for more than seven days.
    • Families will not have to use their 42 allowable absences during the lockdown.
    • Additional allowable absences will be available until the end of the declaration.
  • The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity helps services stay open when something unexpected happens, such as a local emergency.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Face masks

Adults

Masks are required in indoor and outdoor 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

Masks are now strongly recommended for primary school aged children. This recommendation should also apply in Out of School Hours Care services, including before and after school care services and vacation care.

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.

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.

Managing a confirmed case of COVID-19

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 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

Download the step-by-step guide (PDF, 64KB) for managing a confirmed COVID-19 case in a service.

If you have a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in your service (a child or an educator), you will be supported by the NSW Department of Education and NSW Health. Please contact the department’s Information and Enquiries line on 1800 619 113 and the department can issue a letter to support a closure if you are waiting for Health direction.

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.

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:

Reopening your service

When considering reopening of your service after a temporary closure due to a positive case of COVID-19 you must ensure you can comply 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 an additional information to your original notification of closure or

We'll then update your service record accordingly.

The 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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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

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. 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 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.

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 OSHC services staff. Principals have the flexibility to allow parents and carers to enter the site for drop-off and pick-up purposes for OSHC services to ensure the safety of students. This is particularly important when the entry/exit of the OSHC 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.

Hosting events

Services should not be hosting events at this time.

Policies and procedures

  • Review your service’s policies and procedures for dealing with infectious diseases and illness (regulations 85, 88 and 168).
  • Provide educators and staff 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.

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.

Ventilation in centres

Why ventilation is important

The virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread from person to person through contact with droplets, which are produced when a person sneezes or coughs, or through other small respiratory particles that are produced when adults or children talk, sing or shout.

These small particles can remain in the air for some time. Aerosolised particles may build up if there is not enough ventilation, for example, if an activity requires children to sing or speak loudly in an indoor space without the windows or doors open.

Open or well-ventilated spaces reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 because infectious particles are more quickly diffused in the open air than in spaces with less ventilation.

To help reduce the risk, it is important to take steps to improve ventilation in your centre so that any infectious particles that may be present in the air are more quickly removed.

What you can do:

  • Use outdoor settings wherever possible. In most cases, outdoor settings have better natural airflow than indoor areas.
  • Use large, well-ventilated indoor spaces. If you must use an indoor space, avoid crowded or noisy indoor spaces as:
    • a crowd generates more droplets and aerosolised particles and
    • noisy spaces encourage people to shout or talk loudly, increasing the generation of aerosolised particles, and therefore the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Take steps to improve ventilation in indoor settings

Indoor ventilation can be most easily improved by opening doors and windows. Other ways to safely improve ventilation include to:

  • avoid directing fans towards children’s faces, aim them continuously towards the ceiling or floor. Limit oscillation and turbulence of fans

  • regularly inspect, maintain and clean heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

  • avoid using only recirculated air in HVAC systems, and increase the outside air intake

  • consider disabling ventilation controls with automated settings that reduce air supply based on temperature or occupancy

  • ensure exhaust fans are operational if in place. 

If you can’t modify the ventilation or choose an outdoor location

You could consider:

  • reducing the number of people in an indoor space at any one time by splitting children into groups and encouraging them to use different areas around the centre

  • reducing the length of time that children spend indoors all together 

Further information on the importance of ventilation is available on the NSW government’s COVID-19 website.

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 need for non-essential activities that involve close personal contact – for example excursions and in house events.
  • 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.

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.

In house events and visitors

Non-essential visitors should not attend services – this means that in house events or incursions should not proceed at this time where they include a visitor who is not a regular staff member of the service.

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. Per the health advice, non-essential visits may not proceed in some areas. Services will be notified as required. 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.
  • 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

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.

Orientation programs

Orientation programs should not go ahead at this time.

Excursions

Excursions should not go ahead at this time.

Transition to school programs/school orientation

Please refer to the guidelines for 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:
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