Recommendations for ECE services

Find out more about best practice recommendations to help keep our ECE community safe. Read our latest email update here.

If you are managing a confirmed case of COVID-19 please visit our managing COVID cases resource page.

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.

You must report a positive rapid antigen test result to Service NSW:

  • within 24 hours of getting the result
  • every time you get a positive result.

Find more information on testing requirements and reporting.

  • 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 waivers during COVID below under policies and procedures.

  • 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.

If you have or develop symptoms, you must self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19. If your test result is positive, you must follow the testing positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 safely at home advice. If your test result is negative, stay home until you do not have any symptoms.

Testing and isolation are no longer mandatory for those exposed to a positive case in ECEC settings however, testing and isolation recommendations should be considered.

From 6pm 22 April 2022, close contacts (defined as a household contact or an individual deemed by NSW Health to be a close contact) will not have to isolate, as long as they have no symptoms and comply with the following guidelines:

  • Do not visit aged care, hospitals, disability, and correctional facilities unless a special exemption applies;
  • Work or study from home where practicable. You must seek approval from your employer or education facility before returning to work or school/ECEC if you cannot work or study from home. Your employer will undertake a risk assessment before you can return to the workplace or education setting.
  • Wear a face mask in indoor settings outside the home if you are over 12 years of age;
  • Undertake daily RAT tests before coming into close contact with people outside their household, where practicable;
  • Avoid contact with elderly and immunocompromised persons where possible;
  • Notify their employer/educational facility that they are a close contact, and that they are not required to isolate as long as they comply with the above.

Close contacts will need to comply with the above guidelines for 7 days from the time a person in their household tested positive for COVID-19.

This applies to all children, educators, staff and visitors who attend your service. For more information refer to NSW Health close contact guidelines.

Any person with symptoms of COVID-19 should seek out a COVID test and only return to the service when the test is negative and they are symptom free. 

For children or staff with seasonal allergic rhinitis or other conditions that have similar symptoms to COVID-19, an initial negative COVID-19 test is recommended before returning to ECE.  

Following this, only if the person's symptoms change from their usual symptoms, then repeat COVID-19 testing should be performed. 

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.

If a child or staff member has tested positive, they must isolate and should not attend the service for 7 days. They can leave isolation after 7 days only if they are symptom-free, and do not need to test before returning to the service.

Please review the latest isolation requirements from NSW Health.

Find out more about COVID-19 symptoms.

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.

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, undertake investigations and undertake assessment and rating.

All authorised officers follow best practice hygiene and current health advice when attending services.

The following guidelines are followed by the department’s authorised officers 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 and practices continue to reflect the current situation.
  • Officers will support any additional requirements that services have established to minimise risk, for example, wearing a mask.
  • If an officer feels unwell for any reason, they will not be conducting visits and your service will be called and advised.
  • For assessment and rating visits, if possible, officers may reduce time spent in the service by doing the following:
    • 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.

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.

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.

During periods of high community transmission excursions should be put on hold.

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.

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

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 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.

We may grant short term waivers for:

  • staff qualifications

  • ratios – in exceptional circumstances.

Waivers related to COVID-19 are:

  • considered on a case-by-case basis

  • only open to services that have explored all other options available to them and when there is no increased risk to staff or children's safety.

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:

  • 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 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.

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.

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.

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