The Victorian Government has announced Stage 3 restrictions to help reduce people's chances of infection and slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community. This includes the shutdown of many non-essential services across Victoria which, at present, does not include the closures of early childhood education and care services.
The restrictions also mean that gatherings are now limited to no more than two people at one time. This excludes people in workplaces and education facilities.
Early childhood education and care services in Victoria may continue to operate at this time. Any decision to close early childhood and care services as a preventative measure will be made on the recommendation of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
The latest advice is that pre-emptive closures of early childhood services, including family day care and vacation care programs, are not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission at this time. While Victorians are urged to stay at home as much as possible, families can leave their homes to take their children to and from an early childhood service. This advice will continue to be reviewed daily.
If you believe a child or staff member at your service has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) or is in close contact with a confirmed case, you should seek advice from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on 1300 651 160.
You will also need to lodge a notification with our Quality Assessment and Regulation Division (QARD) if:
- any child or staff member is confirmed as having coronavirus (COVID-19)
- you decide to close your service.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice line
The Department has established a dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) advice line for early childhood staff. This advice line is available during business hours.
You can call the advice line on 1800 338 663 with any questions or feedback related to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on services.
The Department sends regular updates to providers and services. You can
subscribe to these updates.
Early childhood education and service operations
Early childhood education and care services are currently open. Decisions on early childhood service closures will be made on the recommendation of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
If your service is directed to close as a preventative measure, you'll be advised directly and given detailed advice and communication resources to support you through this process.
If individual services are closed they'll be listed at: Emergency closures/remote learning and relocations.
A small number of services are closed on advice from DHHS.
If your services closes, you're required to report closure to the Regulatory Authority.
Services under the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (National Law):
- All services, including family day care, are required to ‘notify the Regulatory Authority within 24 hours of any incident that requires the approved provider to close or reduce the number of children attending the service for a period’.
- You need to lodge a notification through the
National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) within 24 hours of closure.
Services operating under the Children’s Services Act 1996 (Children’s Services Act):
Learning from home
We have provided information about resources for home learning for children aged three to five on our Learning from Home webpage.
We encourage you to connect with families at home and support them to use these resources, wherever possible.
Some services have also developed their own arrangements for keeping in touch with children and families who need to be at home.
Supporting parents and children
Services may want to direct parents to information about talking to their children about coronavirus (COVID-19). For example, from the Royal Children's Hospital:
Outside school hours care (OSHC) and vacation care
Outside school hours care (OSHC) programs are still able to operate and are encouraged to continue to liaise with schools to provide care for their school communities during school holidays, wherever possible.
OSHC and Vacation Care programs will not be able to operate from schools that have been directed by DHHS to close due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Programs cannot operate from these schools until advised otherwise.
If OSHC and Vacation Care service providers are advised they cannot operate from a school and would like to operate from another location, they'll need to:
- lodge an application for service approval through the National Quality Agenda IT Service portal
- contact the QARD advice line on 1300 307 415.
These applications will be considered as a priority.
OSHC providers can provide education and care on official pupil free days, where this is consistent with their service approval. If a variation to a service approval is needed, contact QARD, as above. As is appropriate, these arrangements are subject to change, in line with the advice of the Victorian Chief Health Officer.
Providing education and care to school-aged children
Some long day care services are offering education and care to school-aged children. While this is permitted under the National Quality Framework, services need to make sure the premises is adequate and suitable for school-aged children. This includes having access to adequate toilet facilities and age-appropriate equipment and resources.
Services are required to:
- ensure appropriate supervision and protection from harm and hazards
- provide educational programs tailored to meet the needs of school-aged children.
For further information, contact QARD on 1300 307 415.
All excursions should be postponed or cancelled. This applies to excursions to public venues outside the centre excluding bush kindergarten.
Early childhood centres and services should not visit residential aged care facilities until further notice. This will help minimise the spread of infection to vulnerable Australians.
Meeting educator to child ratios and qualification requirements
In the current circumstances, services should take all reasonable steps to meet the ratios and training and qualification requirements.
Services must ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of all children being educated and cared for by the service.
- providing adequate supervision
- taking adequate precautions to protect all children from harm or hazards likely to cause injury
- conducting a risk assessment to inform decision making
- designing and delivering an educational program that meets the needs of each child and addresses current circumstances.
The role of an early childhood teacher may be filled by an educator actively working towards or holding a diploma level qualification, in extenuating circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Where services are unable to meet the requirements of the educator to child ratios (not the qualification requirements) they must notify the regulatory authority.
Mixed age educator to child ratios
In calculating educator to child ratios, services are reminded ratio requirements are determined by the age and number of children being educated and cared for by the service at any one time.
The educator to child ratio calculator can help you calculate mixed age ratios.
Only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members are now able to travel to Australia. All travellers to Australia are required to self-isolate for 14 days in a hotel.
This includes children and staff who may be returning from overseas excursions or other travel. Any person who is self-isolating must not visit an early childhood service to pick up children or for any other reason.
Services should inform their staff, children and families of this advice through your service's communication channels with parents.
The Commonwealth Government has announced that gatherings of more than two people are no longer permitted.
This does not apply to early childhood education and care services, which are considered essential services.
Australians are urged to stay at home as much as possible, however families can leave their homes to take their children to and from an early childhood service.
Health and hygiene
If a child, student or staff member is or has had contact with a confirmed case
If you think a child, student or staff member has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) or is in close contact with someone with a confirmed case, contact DHHS on 1300 651 160 to discuss what to do next.
DHHS defines ‘close contact’ as someone who has either:
- had at least 15 minutes of face-to-face contact with someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- shared a closed space for more than two hours with someone with a confirmed case.
Unless you have a child, student or staff member in one of the two above categories, you do not need to take further action.
You should continue to encourage good hygiene practices as this is the most effective way of minimising the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Reporting a confirmed case
If you believe a child or staff member at your service has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) or is in close contact with someone with confirmed case, seek advice from the DHHS on 1300 651 160.
You must report a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) involving a child attending your service to the Victorian Regulatory Authority. This is required by the National Law and Regulations governing all early childhood education and care services.
For reporting requirements:
Physical distancing in early childhood services
In early childhood education and care services, regulatory space requirements have not changed.
The National Cabinet has announced new physical distancing (also known as social distancing) measures. On the recommendation of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, the National Cabinet determined that early childhood settings remain exempt from these requirements.
Consider additional measures at your service to avoid large gatherings, minimise close contact with others and promote the practice of good hygiene. These might include:
- staggering morning tea and lunch breaks where possible
- postponing or cancelling gatherings or events
- encourage good hygiene practices among children and staff, including washing hands
- ensure good health and hygiene measures are employed across your centre or service, including ensuring soap is available
- displaying the Reduce your risk posters around your service.
DHHS has prepared advice on physical distancing for early childhood settings. Some of the advice is reflective of many good practices you're already undertaking.
- Implement the practice of all staff, children, parents and carers washing their hands upon arrival at your service and actively talk about why everyone needs to wash their hands and the importance of everyone doing this.
- Consider the setup of your room and the placement of the activities. For table activities, set up activity only at each end of the table. Apply this consideration to eating areas, and where cots and high chairs are. If space is limited, consider staggering eating and sleeping times at intervals.
- Wherever possible (weather dependent) and you have enough staffing for adequate supervision, consider operating an indoor/outdoor program for the full day/session, or spend more time outdoors.
- Rather than having group times where everyone is sitting on the mat, consider using informal opportunities to engage with the children/read books/story telling with one or two children at a time throughout the day.
- Cancel any excursions/incursions and reduce visitors to the absolute minimum.
Maintaining good health hygiene at early childhood education services
Remind your staff, families and children that everyone can protect against infections by practising good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. Here are some tips that everyone at your service can follow:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, or cough into your elbow.
- Dispose of the tissue in a bin and then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Wash your hands regularly, after using the toilet, and before eating.
Health promotion materials are available to distribute and promote to your staff, children and families, see:
You can also access the
NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines.
Unwell children and staff
Food and supplies
The Victorian Government is working closely with retailers to help provide essential supplies such as food, nappies and sanitiser to early learning services.
If a lack of supplies is seriously impacting your service, please contact the new advice line on 1800 338 663.
First aid requirements
Services are reminded that the first aid requirement can be met by one staff member who holds a current approved first aid qualification, anaphylaxis management training and emergency asthma management training. The staff member must be in attendance and immediately available in an emergency.
Services should consider adjusting the staff roster to ensure one rostered staff member is suitably first aid qualified.
If first aid qualification requirements cannot be met, you may apply for a temporary waiver if staff have been unable to complete first aid refresher training due to coronavirus (COVID-19) as outlined above.
Contact the Quality Assessment and Regulation Division (QARD) advice line on 1300 307 415 for more about applying for waivers or first aid requirements.
Supporting each other
While continuing to educate and care for children, and being a source of support for their families, it is important to look out for one another and stay connected.
The following organisations have web pages with advice on looking after your mental health at this time:
Administration and funding
Commonwealth Early Childhood Education and Care Package
The Commonwealth Government has
announced a funding package for the early childhood education and care sector.
From Monday 6 April 2020, automatic weekly payments will be made directly to early childhood education and care services in lieu of the Child Care subsidy and the Additional Child Care subsidy. The new system will be reviewed after one month with an extension considered.
To be eligible for this funding, services will need to also waive fees for families due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). This can be backdated to Monday 23 March 2020.
More information about the childcare package can be found on the
Commonwealth's Department of Education, Skills and Employment website, including
You may apply for a service waiver (for ongoing issues) or temporary waiver (for issues that can be addressed within 12 months) due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Waivers are important for supporting education and care services to maintain their level of service to families during unforeseen circumstances while protecting the safety, health and wellbeing of children.
Waivers can be sought for staffing qualifications. A detailed list of requirements which may be waived can be found in the
Guide to National Quality Framework - Waivers.
To apply for a waiver, log onto the
National Quality Agenda (NQA) IT Service portal. The Department will not charge an application fee for waivers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment has provided updated advice regarding periods of local emergency and absences for childcare providers and services.
Information is available on the:
On Monday 30 March 2020, the Commonwealth Government announced a $139 billion JobKeeper package to support businesses and help keep workers in jobs.
The wage subsidy is available to eligible businesses with a payment of $1500 per fortnight for each employee for up to six months.
Commonwealth’s JobKeeper webpage for more information.
The Department will continue to provide all existing streams of kindergarten funding, including:
- Early Years Management
- School Readiness Funding
- Kindergarten Inclusion Support
- Preschool Field Officer funding.
If services have to close due to coronavirus (COVID-19), service providers will still receive their regular kindergarten funding.
Under the agreement between the Department and kindergarten services, funding can only be used for the purposes for which the funding is given (for example, kindergarten program costs such as staffing).
Reminder to complete annual confirmation
Service providers are asked to complete their Annual Confirmation and submit Early Start Kindergarten enrolments through the Kindergarten Information Management (KIM) system as soon as possible, ahead of any potentional impact from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as working remotely at times.
If a child is enrolled in the kindergarten program but not attending because of parent concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19), they should still be included in the annual confirmation.
Assessment and rating review processes and reports
The process for sending out reports to services and for services to lodge reviews will continue where possible.
No service will be disadvantaged in accessing their normal review processes.
Where possible, we'll continue to progress the completion of assessment and rating reports currently in progress.
If this is not possible, we'll extend all process timelines accordingly.
Assessment and rating visits
To make sure resources are best focussed on responding to and managing coronavirus (COVID-19), we're postponing all assessment and rating visits until further notice.