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Information for early childhood service providers

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COVID-19 impact on service operations

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, services may learn of staff, children and/or family members testing positive to the virus, and may need to change how they operate.

It is important that services continue to refer to current Queensland Health guidance and check regularly for updates.

​​Early Childhood Education and Care COVID-safe measures

We are committed to supporting the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector in their ongoing efforts to respond to COVID-19. The health and safety of children and ECEC staff remains a priority.

The department has developed an ECEC COVID-safe measure plan that includes:

  • priority RATs for ECEC staff and children who present as symptomatic at fever clinics​
  • short-term measures to reduce regulatory burden while protecting children’s health and safety and wellbeing
  • clear information for isolation requirements.

Read more about ECEC COVID-safe measures​.

Download and display the​ COVID-19 and flu staying safe while learning fact sheet in your service to assist in communicating with families.

Priority rapid antigen testing for ECEC staff and children

If ECEC staff or children are sick/symptomatic

To keep our early childhood education communities COVID-19 safe, staff and children must not attend ECEC services if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms.

  • ECEC staff and children should attend their local Queensland Health testing clinic​ where they will be prioritised to receive a rapid antigen test (RAT).
  • If the test result is negative and the ECEC staff member or child is well, they can return to ECEC services. If the test is positive, the ECEC staff member or child will need to follow Queensland Health isolation requirements.​

Please note not all types of RATs are suitable for young children or babies. Please seek health advice before conducting a test.

If ECEC staff or children become symptomatic while attending ECEC service

  • Children will be immediately isolated in a safe place, and their parents or carers will be contacted to collect their child.
  • When the child is collected, the parent or carer will need to arrange COVID testing.
  • Staff members will immediately leave the service and arrange COVID testing.
  • If the test result is negative and the child or staff member is well, they can return to the service. If the test is positive, they will need to follow Queensland Health isolation requirements.​

Staff and children have priority access to RATs at Queensland Health testing clinics. Services can also download a factsheet on illness during COVID-19​​ to assist families.

Regulatory requirements​

As COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease, providers are reminded that the requirements concerning infectious diseases under the National Quality Framework are applicable.

National Regulation 77 requires the approved provider to implement safe health and hygiene practices at all times.

In the event a child enrolled at the service, or staff member tests positive to COVID-19, particular attention should be given to National Regulation 88, which requires the approved provider to take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of an infectious disease and to notify parents and guardians of an occurrence within the centre. Further, National Regulation 173(2)(g) requires the visible display at the service of a notice of an occurrence of an infectious disease.

There are similar requirements for Queensland Education and Care services under the ECS Regulation, namely, Regulations 14, 24 and 68.

Our COVID-19 safe measures are consistent with the National Framework for Managing COVID-19 in Schools and Early Childhood Education and Care and aim to balance every child's learning entitlement with safety concerns.

Read more about creating a COVID-safe environment.

As always, children’s health, safety and wellbeing remain the highest priority and the regulatory authority will continue to monitor for compliance with all aspects of the National Law during this period.

Temporary changes to some regulatory requirements

To reduce the regulatory burden on services, a number of notification and application requirements have been temporarily suspended in Queensland.

Given continued high case numbers in Queensland, the pause to these regulatory requirements has been extended until 30 October 2022. This will be the final extension and, over the coming month, the Regulatory Authority will be preparing guidance to support the sector to return to 'business as usual' in relation to regulatory notifications and waivers from 31 October.

Learn more about the temporary changes in these COVID-19 special broadcasts: COVID-19 update: latest information and COVID-19 update: latest information (OSHC).​

Closures

All services

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 essent​ial 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 COVID-19, they must notify the department of an emergency closure​. The service must provide information directly to parents and carers about the duration of the closure and arrangements to ensure children continue learning.

In the event of a service closure, children and families can access teaching and learning materials for birth to kindergarten children at earlylearning@home.

Temporary closures and reduced numbers of child​ren

Approved providers must also notify the department if a service is affected by COVID-19 and is required to temporarily close or reduce the number of children attending (regulation 175(2)(b).

Services regulated under the National Law should submit a notification of incident via the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS). Please choose the 'Health emergency' and 'COVID-19' options from the drop-down lists so the closure is reported as COVID-related.

It is important to inform the Regulatory Authority via the NQA ITS when the service re-opens or the reduction in capacity no longer applies.

For step-by-step guidance on how to lodge a notification about a closure due to COVID-19 via the NQA ITS, read the NQA ITS Quick Reference Guide.

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 Queensland Health, 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.

Mask requirements

Face masks are not mandatory in ECECs. However, close contacts over the age of 12 years must wear a face mask for 7 days, including outdoors if they cannot physically distance. Queensland Health recommends that children under the age of 12 also wear a face mask when it is safe to do so.

Anyone who chooses to wear a mask in a workplace should be supported to do so.​

Isolation and close contacts

If a staff member or child tests positive for COVID-19​, they are required to isolate at home and cannot attend a service while isolating. Should a member of a child's or staff's household test positive for COVID-19, the child or staff member must follow Queensland Health guidelines for close contacts​.

Read more about first steps as close contact on the Queensland Health website.

Please also see Isolation for Diagnosed Cases of COVID-19 and Management of Close Contacts Direction (No. 7).​

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.​

Queensland Kindergarten Funding Sc​​heme 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 rati​os during staff absences

Re​​​gulated services​

The Regulatory Authority has implemented a range of short-term measures to reduce regulatory burden while protecting children's health, safety and well-being. A number of notification and application requirements have been paused in order to support service operations.

Given continued high case numbers in Queensland, the pause to these regulatory requirements has been extended until 30 October 2022. This will be the final extension and, over the coming month, the Regulatory Authority will be preparing guidance to support the sector to return to 'business as usual' in relation to regulatory notifications and waivers from 31 October.

Learn more about the temporary changes in these COVID-19 special broadcasts: COVID-19 update: latest information and COVID-19 update: latest information (OSHC).

​​Regulatory service visits

Monitoring and other service visits provide support to services and help to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of children.

Authorised officers will conduct visits according to Queensland Health protocols, and follow Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and Safe Work Australia guidance on h​ygiene 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. If you have any concerns about a regulatory visit, please contact your local regional office.

​Contacts and h​elpf​ul links​

The 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.

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Last updated 30 September 2022