The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) does not recommend pre-emptive closure of services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Childcare services are considered essential services and are encouraged to continue to operate wherever possible. Read more in the AHPPC statements of
6 April 2020 and
15 November 2021.
The decision to close early childhood services would be based on advice from Queensland Health, including assessing any risks to the health and welfare of staff, students and children.
If an approved provider closes a regulated service due to a confirmed case of COVID-19 on the premises, or as a precaution, they must
notify the department of an emergency closure and continue to liaise and seek advice from Queensland Health. The service must provide information directly to parents and carers about the duration of the closure and arrangements to ensure children continue learning.
Outside school hours care services
Outside school hours care (OSHC) services based on a state school site will continue to operate when a school is closed, unless directed to close on advice from Queensland Health.
Early Years Services
Any decision to close Early Years Services should be based on advice from the Chief Health Officer, including assessing any risks to the health and welfare of staff, parents and carers, and children.
It is important that Early Years Services consider business continuity planning to ensure that children and their families are able to access services.
Ensuring continuity of service may mean changes in the way activities are offered, for example, managing risks by reducing the size of groups, maintaining contact with families by phone and using technology to communicate with families wherever possible.
When restrictions are in place, masks must be worn indoors everywhere in Queensland, except in your own home or accommodation, and where it is unsafe, such as while doing strenuous exercise.
This includes educators and staff in childcare centres and high school students attending outside school hours care (OSHC) services, who are required to wear masks while standing or moving about indoors, but may remove their mask when seated or if able to maintain a 1.5 metre distance from others while teaching or interacting with students or children. Masks can be removed when outdoors if 1.5 metres distance can be maintained from others.
Children under 12 years and people affected by a medical condition or disability do not lawfully have to wear a face mask. See
exceptions from wearing face masks.
Operating hours and regulatory requirements
Outside school hours care services and school operating times
Under the National Quality Framework, a service approval states the conditions under which the service must operate. For an outside school hours care (OSHC) service, this includes the sessions of care provided to children, e.g. before school, after school and during school holidays. In line with these conditions, the service may cater for children outside the school’s operating time. For example:
- Prep to Year 1 children finish school at 2.30pm and may attend after school care from 2.30pm.
- Years 2 to 4 children finish school at 2.45pm and may attend after school care from 2.45pm.
- Years 5 and 6 children finish school at 3.00pm and may attend after school care from 3.00pm.
The service must continue to meet all regulatory requirements to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of children. This includes qualifications, staff to child ratios and any other conditions imposed on the service approval such as approved places.
Approved providers considering enrolling and accepting additional children must ensure the number of children does not breach the capped numbers on their service approvals. Approved providers must ensure that at all times the required staff-to-child ratios are met.
Changes to operating hours and regulatory requirements
The approved provider must notify the Regulatory Authority (the department) within 7 days of any changes to a service’s hours and days of operation Section 174(2) of the National Law and Regulation 175(2). Approved providers can amend the hours of operation via the National Quality Agenda IT System.
Services must display the hours of operation on the premises (Section 172 of the National Law and Regulation 173). This information must accurately reflect the specified hours of operation at any given time.
Queensland Kindergarten Funding Scheme and early childhood teachers
Kindergarten program providers
If a service has received advice from Queensland Health to close due to COVID-19, the service must provide this advice in writing to the department.
Once this advice is accepted, the service will continue to receive Queensland Kindergarten Funding Scheme (QKFS) payments.
Qualification requirements and ratios during staff absences
If services cannot comply with legislative requirements for staffing because of the impact of COVID-19 on their workforce, they may need to close, reduce their numbers or seek a short-term temporary waiver (for example, in relation to qualification requirements).
Please note: allowable absences of an early childhood teacher because of illness are set out in the National Regulations—this may mean you are able to continue operating without a waiver.
In relation to temporary waivers, approved providers will need to provide documented evidence of how they intend to manage risk if a waiver is granted, noting particularly that ratio requirements are a key minimum safety requirement for ECEC services.
The department, as the Queensland Early Childhood Regulatory Authority, will always consider the health, safety and wellbeing of children as a primary objective when considering any application for a waiver.
Regulatory service visits
The department, as the Queensland Early Childhood Regulatory Authority, conducts in-person monitoring, assessment and rating visits to education and care (ECEC) services.
Proactive monitoring and assessment and rating visits may be temporarily suspended or they may be adjusted to accommodate current COVID-19 restrictions. However, in-person visits will continue where necessary to address risk to children (for example, in the case of an ongoing investigation or in response to a complaint or notification). Telemonitoring will be used where appropriate in place of face-to-face monitoring visits.
The safety, health and wellbeing of children and staff is the Regulatory Authority’s primary concern.
Authorised officers will conduct visits according to Queensland Health protocols, and follow Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and Safe Work Australia guidance on hygiene and physical distancing of adults.
Authorised officers will advise of the steps they will take to meet these protocols and will ask about any specific procedures that apply in the service. In the case of a monitoring visit, this will occur before the visit. When it is necessary for the visit to be unannounced, this will occur with the responsible person at the service.
During the monitoring or assessment and rating process, authorised officers will take into consideration that services may look different after implementing hygiene and physical distancing practices.
The Regulatory Authority will continue to take proportionate compliance action to manage risk to children and address breaches of the National Law and National Regulations.
If you have any concerns about a visit or need to notify the Regulatory Authority of any changes in circumstance that could affect the visit, please contact your authorised officer as soon as possible.
contacts page provides details of a range of organisations that offer help and support for families and children.
Helpful links: please note these sites and resources are progressively updated and it is important to remain up to date with the latest information.