Authorised Officer shares COVID insights

Angela Marton shares her experience navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as an Authorised Officer based in Parramatta, within the Western Metro team.

Image: Authorised Officer Angela Marton.

I am a Senior Field Officer based in the Western metro team, where I live and work on the lands of the Gundungurra and Dharug people. My professional background is early childhood education and care, I hold a degree in early childhood teaching, and hold qualifications in training and assessment and in playground inspection.

How services have responded to COVID-19

Seeing children be supported in quality education and care services to thrive as individuals in a variety of settings is what motivates me professionally on a daily basis.

I have seen services be very adaptive in the manner in which program delivery has occurred. Zoom sessions, educators creating video content for both children and families, take home learning and resource packs and online group times are some of the interesting techniques used to deliver programs.

Many services were already utilising electronic tools for programming purposes and to document individual learning, so this practice was adapted with families recording and sharing children’s learning online in the same manner educators usually would.

Support for each child occurred by educators scheduling meetings with individual families and children, by sharing photos of events in the child’s life and by educators maintaining an open and collaborative approach to communication.

Services have needed to often rely upon and utilise suppliers, delivery services and purchase products from within their local community when movement of entire local government areas were restricted. This has led to the need to develop community links that may not have been evident previously. The positive benefits of this means community partners can continue to be part of service’s commitment to educate children about what is available locally.

Services also participated in community events such as find a painted rock, find a painted wooden spoon and teddy bears in windows for children and families to find as they walked or cycled in their local neighbourhood.

Services have supported families in the transition to school process by engaging in orientations online, completing the digital transition to school statement and communicating with teachers and principals using technology.

The relationships services have with aged care facilities were maintained during this period as children’s drawings and letters were sent to the residents to keep everyone safe whilst providing the continued link between the younger and older generations.

How the role of an AO has changed

Over the past two years, I have adapted in my role by utilising technology in a productive and respectful manner. At one point during extended lockdowns, monitoring and compliance visits were conducted virtually and then followed up with face-to-face visits after COVID restrictions were lifted.

Technology has enabled services to demonstrate compliance by sending through information, photos and on some occasions taking Authorised Officers on a ‘virtual’ tour of their premises. Reassurance and support were provided to services via phone calls, video calls, email communication and by sharing online resources, tools and training that was readily available and accessible. Part of the role as an Authorised Officer is responding to change and being adaptable so these past two years have certainly ensured we have honed these skills!

Like many people in the community, I was hopeful that 2022 would provide a clean slate in relation to the pandemic but alas, it was not to be. During Omicron, I have continued to focus on ensuring that services are complying with the National Law and Regulations.

As Authorised Officers, we are predominately back to business as usual in relation to conducting monitoring and compliance visits. We take added precautions by wearing masks at services, conducting lengthy discussions outdoors or in open spaces and practicing good hygiene at all times. And of course we are all fully vaccinated.

It is important that services continue to understand and comply with the National Law and Regulations at all times they are providing education and care so the practice of regularly checking this is invaluable. Families and the community expect that services are compliant as they educate and care for one of the most vulnerable groups in society, our children.

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