The current situation
As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold we are seeing further impacts on the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector. With schools in NSW beginning their staged return to face-face classes we anticipate further challenges for ECEC as attendance rates climb.
We understand services and parents have many questions about the need for, and practical implementation of, social distancing in early childhood education settings. Health advice is clear that ECEC settings are generally safe.
Current research suggests that children are not prolific spreaders of COVID-19. Overall confirmed case numbers in children are low and the available evidence suggests that the risk of transmission of the virus is predominantly adult-adult not child-adult or child-child.
ECEC services are generally safe places for both staff and children provided health advice is followed and some simple measures are taken to minimise close contact between staff and between staff and parents to reduce the chances of adult-adult transmission in an ECEC setting.
Good hygiene is always important. Education and Care services are well versed in the prevention of infectious disease and generally have very high hygiene standards. During periods of increased risk such as the current pandemic additional cleaning of surfaces, thorough and regular handwashing and the use of sanitiser where appropriate will go a long way to reducing the spread of the illness. Staff should be vigilant about their own hygiene as well as the children’s.
While strict social distancing is not required (or practical) among children or between staff and children in an ECEC setting, social distancing measures between adults who attend the service should be implemented and followed. This includes minimising close contact among staff, between staff and parents/carers, and eliminating unnecessary contact that may arise through excursions, interaction between services, and community events.
Simple measures such as spreading staff across a venue, initiating staggered drop-offs and pick-ups, and limiting visitors to services to only those who are essential such as regulatory staff and NDIS providers will reduce the risk of transmission of the virus between adults. Most importantly, any staff member or parent/carer who is even slightly unwell should not attend the service under any circumstances. Testing is now available to anyone in NSW who exhibits symptoms and any adult attending an ECEC service who develops even mild symptoms should be tested and isolate until they have their results.
It is not necessary for services to minimise numbers of children attending on the basis of social distancing.
New Executive Directors
There have been some changes to the structure of the Early Childhood Education Directorate. As of Monday 27 April the Directorate has been separated into two distinct areas with two new Executive Directors.
Kathleen Forrester has joined as the Executive Director Policy and Programs and will lead on NSW’s contribution to national policy reforms and the Start Strong funding program. Kathleen’s team will also continue to provide sector support and professional development opportunities across the sector.
Sharon Gudu has joined as the Executive Director Quality Assurance and Regulatory Services which will oversee statewide operations and drive regulatory policy, strategy and program implementation and shape the future of regulation at the state and national levels.