Information for families: COVID-19 and early childhood education

Positive cases in ECE

Read the early childhood education and care COVID-19 guidance for families factsheet from NSW Heath for the latest advice.

Your child’s centre won’t be able to tell you every time a child or staff member gets a COVID test however, you will be notified if there is a result that could be of concern to you and your family.

If there is a positive case in your child's service, any person who attended the service during the infectious period will be notified.

NSW Health recommends that all children and staff get a COVID-19 test if they have even mild symptoms and should only return to centres 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.

Your centre will be able to provide more information on their specific policies and procedures around testing and managing illness.

Children who test positive 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.

Your service will be notified if there was a positive COVID-19 case that attended the service while infectious. The service will then notify parents and carers if their child was exposed to the positive and provide information on the testing and isolation recommendations.

Attendance at early childhood services through COVID-19 outbreaks

COVID-19 is a serious disease that spreads quickly through households, workplaces and services. There are many cases of transmission in early childhood education and care in NSW.

The best health advice suggests that the key to safe attendance is the vaccination of staff, eligible household members and other carers of enrolled children.

Families should work with staff at their child’s service to discuss the health and safety precautions in place as well as their family's individual needs.

Please continue to monitor the NSW Government website for the latest advice regarding COVID-19.

Help keep our ECE community safe

Services are doing their very best to ensure they can stay operational and COVID-safe. There are things that you can do to help reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19.

  • Keep children at home if they are sick and get tested immediately when they have even the mildest of COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Get vaccinated as soon as you can.
  • A booster vaccination can be given 3 or more months after your first 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are available for children aged 5-11.
  • Masks are no longer mandatory in ECE services.
  • NSW Health continues to recommend the wearing of masks indoors when you cannot socially distance. 
  • Children in Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) and Vacation Care Services should follow the same rules for mask wearing for primary school students in accordance with current department advice.

Your service should have a COVID-safe plans and will be taking precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on-site. This includes enhanced cleaning, wearing masks indoors and maintaining physical distance in line with the latest advice from NSW Health and SafeWork Australia.

Vaccinations

As the regulator of Education and Care Services in NSW, the Department’s first priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of children and educators.

The Public Health Order relating to vaccination of education and care workers will not be extended beyond 13 May 2022.

In line with broader community settings, ECE services will now move to a risk-based assessment approach for their workforce, meaning that services may choose to implement their own policies around staff vaccination.

NSW Health continues to recommend two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination and a booster shot to reduce the risk of transmission within the community.

The NSW Government encourages all adults in the community to get vaccinated. This is especially important for parents and carers taking children to ECE in order to protect children and others at the service.

Booster vaccinations can now be given 3 or more months after your first 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 booster vaccines are highly recommended to protect you, your loved ones and your community against COVID-19.

Please get vaccinated and keep yourself and everyone safe.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is now available for children aged 5 – 11 years.

Evidence shows vaccination offers excellent protection against COVID-19 in children. Even though COVID-19 in children is often milder than in adults, there’s strong evidence to support vaccinating children.

Vaccines give the immune system a helping hand to protect against serious illness and possible long-term effects from COVID-19. Vaccination also helps to protect friends, family and the community by reducing spread of the virus.

The Pfizer (Comirnaty) children’s vaccine is the approved COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 – 11 years in Australia. The dose is around 1/3 of the dose for people aged 12 years and older.

Children will receive two doses of the vaccine, given 8 weeks apart. In certain circumstances, the second dose can be brought forward to 3 weeks after the first dose, including:

  • in an outbreak response
  • prior to the initiation of significant immunosuppression
  • before international travel.

Parents are encouraged to book a vaccination appointment for their child as soon as possible. Talk to your GP if you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccination for your child.

COVID safe practice in ECE services

You should observe social distancing requirements when dropping off and picking up your child. Drop-offs and pick-ups are being arranged to minimise contact between adults. You may be asked to be part of staggered drop-off or pick-up times, or staff members may collect your child from outside the service.

Adults

NSW Health continues to recommend the wearing of masks indoors when you cannot socially distance.

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 however, they are encouraged to wear masks indoors when they cannot socially distance and where practicable.

Children in Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) and Vacation Care Services will follow the same rules for mask wearing as primary school students, in accordance with current department advice.

Managing illness

Please do not send your child to early childhood education and care services if they or someone in their household is unwell.

At the current time, NSW Health and NSW Department of Education has recommended that services be particularly vigilant about the following symptoms:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • loss of smell/taste
  • muscle/joint pains
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea/vomiting
  • extreme tiredness
  • unexplained chest pain and conjunctivitis (eye infection) have also been reported as symptoms of COVID-19.

Children who have even the mildest of COVID-19 symptoms should immediately 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.

If your child attends an early childhood education or care service and they are or become unwell, educators are required to contact you as soon as possible to arrange a pickup. Your child may be supervised separately until you are able to pick them up in order to protect other children and staff.

Parents and carers should also stay home when unwell.

If you are unwell, or if any adults in your household are unwell, please do not take your children to an ECE service as you may be spreading COVID to the service staff and to other children.

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

For children with seasonal allergic rhinitis or other conditions that have similar symptoms to COVID-19, but where symptoms are ongoing due to diagnosed allergies, an initial negative COVID-19 test is required 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.

Guided learning packages for children

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 of Education.

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.

They are a great resource for families to support continued learning from home.

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