Recommendations for ECE services

Find out more about best practice recommendations to help keep our ECE community safe.

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 stay home until they are well and get tested.

NSW Health has provided advice on what to do with your positive COVID-19 test.

  • Encourage staff not to attend if they feel unwell.

  • If staff attend and appear unwell, send them home.

  • Encourage them to get tested and stay home until they are well.

  • 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.

It is no longer mandatory to self-isolate if you test positive to COVID-19, but it is strongly recommended you stay home and take steps to protect others.

NSW Health has developed guidance if you have tested positive to COVID-19 or been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Voluntary registration of your positive RAT with Service NSW can help you access health support and antiviral medicines if you are eligible.

Services are reminded of the ongoing risk of COVID-19 transmission within early childhood education and care settings. Services should refer to NSW Health advice when updating their policies and procedures for managing COVID-19.

Any person with symptoms of COVID-19 should seek out a COVID test and only return to the service when 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 ECEC.

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

Services should continue to 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

The Regulatory Authority will only grant waivers in exceptional circumstances or unexpected events for the purpose of helping providers maintain their level of service to families while addressing those circumstances.

Temporary waivers will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may be granted for:

  • some elements of physical environment
  • some staffing arrangements
  • other prescribed elements under Regulation 44.

To apply for a waiver:

  • submit an application in NQA ITS
  • pay the $116 fee.

Further advice on lodging and the assessment of a waiver application, waiver requirements and the fees involved can be found on our waiver (PDF 222.62 KB) and fee (PDF 245.26 KB) policies, or you can 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 consider having a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.

Workplace tools and resources

The Fair Work Ombudsman has tools, resources and contact information to help you understand your rights and responsibilities at work during the pandemic.


  • Early childhood education

Business Unit:

  • Early Childhood Outcomes
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