The following information has been compiled to help you in managing your service's operations.
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The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee does not recommend pre-emptive closures 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 statement of 6 April 2020.
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 COVID-19 case 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
If a state school closes because of a confirmed COVID-19 case on the premises, or as a precaution, the outside school hours care (OSHC) service will continue to operate 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.
Over time, this may mean some changes in the way activities are offered, for example managing risks by reducing the size of groups, maintaining contact with families by phone and use of technology.
Operating hours regulatory requirements
Outside school hours care services (OSHC) and school operating times
Under the National Quality Framework a service approval states the conditions under which the service must operate. For an 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 3pm.
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.
Wellbeing and supporting children
Health and safety are always priorities but educators and staff should also take into account children’s social and emotional wellbeing.
The following tips from a
Telethon Kids Institute article are aimed at parents and carers but are useful for educators and staff of early childhood services.
Six tips for discussing COVID-19 with children
- Be honest but age-appropriate. Don’t pretend it's not happening. Keep information simple for young children and more detailed for older children.
- Keep children calm. Find out what they know and correct any misinformation they may have heard. Remind them that while they might catch the virus, it is unlikely to make them very sick, and most people will recover fully.
- Remain calm. Get your information from trusted sources and treat information from social media with caution. Seek advice and do not involve children in problems they cannot solve.
- Encourage positive action. Empower children to help stop the spread by teaching them handwashing skills and cough/sneeze etiquette, and reminding them to eat healthily, exercise daily and sleep well. Teach older children media literacy so they can find reputable sources of information.
- Scaffold their disappointment. Talk honestly about events they were looking forward to. Look at it as an opportunity to build resilience and teach children that life can be disappointing sometimes but we can help each other through it. Explain that good times will come again.
- Be on alert for highly anxious or unusual behaviour. Children may display this by, for example, having trouble sleeping, losing their appetite or over-eating, clingy behaviour, sore tummy or other physical symptoms, difficulty concentrating, irritability, or social withdrawal. If you have any concerns about changes in a child’s behaviour, set up a time to speak with their parents or family.
The following tips from an article for parents and carers on
The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne website are also relevant for educators and staff.
What to do to when supporting children
- Talk about coronavirus.
- Be honest, but age-appropriate
- Stay positive and hopeful.
- Limit information children get through the media.
- Focus on things children can control.
- Stick to routines where possible.
- Show children you are calm.
- Look out for signs of anxiety or stress in children.
- Look after yourself too.
Points to remember
- Children look to adults as a guide on how to react in stressful situations.
- Stay calm, positive and hopeful when talking with children about coronavirus.
- Keep information clear, honest and age-appropriate.
- Limit media exposure about coronavirus.
- Give children practical things to do such as keeping good hand hygiene to help them feel in control.
- Make sure children stay physically active.
- If a child is feeling overwhelmed or stressed speak to their parents or family and suggest they make a time to see their GP.
- Try to make time to answer children’s questions and keep communication channels open.
How to talk to children who are worried or disappointed
It is normal for children to worry about themselves or their families and friends, and to be disappointed they can’t carry on with regular activities or participate in events they were looking forward to.
Raising Children Network has suggestions on what caregivers can say to children to share their feelings and how they are coping including:
It can be scary not knowing what is going to happen with the virus. Scientists all over the world are working hard to find a vaccine and treatment. In Australia, we have good hospitals, doctors and nurses who can look after us.
It is OK to be worried about catching coronavirus. I sometimes worry too. Some people are only getting minor symptoms like what you get when you have a cold. If I need some good information, I look at the health department website.
Queensland Kindergarten Funding Scheme and early childhood teachers
Kindergarten program providers
If a service has received advice from Queensland Health to close due to coronavirus, the service must provide this advice in writing to the department.
Once this advice is accepted the service will continue to receive QKFS payments.
Qualification requirements and ratios during staff absences
If services cannot comply with legislative requirements for staff qualifications or staff ratios because of the impact of the COVID-19 virus on their workforce, they should seek a temporary waiver.
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 these cases approved providers will need to provide documented evidence of how they intend to manage risk if a waiver is granted.
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.
If the spread of COVID-19 escalates, the department will provide updated advice about seeking waivers.
Assessment and rating process
Regulatory service visits have recommenced
Visits may cease during the duration of any lockdown zones and areas affected by 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 department (as the Queensland Early Childhood Regulatory Authority) has recommenced in-person monitoring, assessment and rating visits to education and care (ECEC) services from Monday 22 June 2020. In case of changing circumstances with the coronavirus and public health directions, this may change.
Queensland Health advice indicates such visits can occur unless the service has reported a specific COVID-19 risk.
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 social 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.
Health and wellbeing training (including COVID-19)
Health, hygiene and wellbeing
online course on the Early Years Health and Development portal will help build your knowledge and understanding of a range of topics including infection control, hygiene practices and social and emotional wellbeing.
COVID-19 infection control training
The Australian Government Department of Health has developed an
online infection control training module that covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19.
The non-compulsory module contains information including:
- COVID-19—what is it?
- signs and symptoms
- keeping safe—protecting yourself and others
- myth busting.
Online professional training
Translated COVID-19 resources
COVID-19 information and resources for culturally and linguistically diverse families and communities:
Social media resources for services
It’s important to give accurate and timely information as we work together in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early Childhood Social Buzz is the department’s new early childhood newsletter containing social media posts you may wish to post via your own social media channels.
Some previous editions contain posts with helpful information to share with staff and families relating to COVID-19.
These sites and resources are progressively updated and it is important to remain up to date with the latest information: