Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for early childhood services

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) continues to advise that early childhood education and care services may operate to serve children and their families, with appropriate risk mitigation measures in place.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice as of 6 April 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.

Seek advice from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on 1300 651 160 if you believe a child or staff member at your service:

  • has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • is in close contact with a confirmed case.

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 about 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


A majority of early childhood education and care services have operated throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Last week marked Victoria’s staged return to on-site schooling, with remaining school students to return on 9 June 2020. All children who have not been engaged in on-site learning (except those with health concerns) should now be able to attend kindergarten programs at both sessional and long day care services. Service providers should be actively encouraging families to return.

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

Reporting closure

If your service 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):


While most Victorian government primary and secondary school students have been learning from home in Term 2, Victorian schools will transition back to on-site learning from Tuesday 26 May 2020.

Services may find that families who have chosen to be at home will now return to your service over the coming weeks.

As the additional Victorian Government funding for sessional kindergarten requires that services be open for all enrolled families who wish to attend, services should continue to accommodate families who return, while applying appropriate risk mitigation strategies.

If you're a kindergarten provider and increased attendance means you're having staffing difficulties for unavoidable reasons (such as staff on medical absence), you should call the Department’s dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) phone advice line on 1800 338 663 to discuss your situation.

Learning from home

Having early childhood services available for families to attend is important.

As announced by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments, funding is available for childcare and funded kindergarten services to be offered at no cost to Victorian families.

All families should now be encouraged to return to on-site learning and children should be welcomed back to kindergarten programs and accommodated, noting that further consideration must be given to children most at risk of severe illness or unwell. It is recommended that early childhood services work with families to forward plan for the expected increase in attendance.

In the coming weeks the Department will be providing early childhood centres with a short survey on attendance and learning from home, to gain a shared understanding of the challenges and successes for early childhood education and care during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and to ensure that services and the Department can learn from the experience.

As attendance has increased in recent weeks, services may have encountered families who feel anxious about bringing their children back to kinder. As detailed in the health and safety advice, "the available evidence within Australia and globally largely indicates that transmission between children in the early childhood environment is low. This growing evidence, coupled with the low levels of community transmission in Victoria, means that the risk posed to staff and children attending early childhood services at this current time is very low".

Additionally, the advice from the AHPPC has been updated and there is no longer a recommendation of four-square metres per person, so this should not be a barrier to children attending.

If a staff member has any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, they should seek advice and get tested. Please encourage them to visit the DHHS website for more information.

Re-establishing on-site attendance for children (personal health circumstances permitting) as soon as possible will support their wellbeing, learning and development, and reduce the risk of disengagement from kindergarten. Services are asked to be particularly mindful of the needs of vulnerable children and families, including families from CALD and refugee backgrounds. We encourage you to continue to connect with families at home, to understand their plans, encourage them to return to on-site learning, and give parents notice about planned changes to the learning from home program.

Learning from home webinars

A series of free professional learning webinars were designed to show best practice methods for supporting children participating in learning from home, as well as build practitioners’ confidence.

You can watch the completed webinars on the learning from home webpage.

Temporary learning from home item through Schools Readiness Funding

In addition to the resources and professional development already being provided, we are now giving kindergarten providers even more supports by creating a new temporary Learning from Home menu item on the School Readiness Funding (SRF) menu. The Learning from Home menu item provides kindergarten services funding to help pay for targeted learning from home resources, professional development and additional staffing.

Contact your Early Childhood Improvement Branch if you are receiving SRF and require further information. For enquiries about the grant, please email:

Providing education and care to school-aged children

Some long day care services are offering education and care to school-aged children. This is permitted under the NQF.

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 also required to provide:

  • appropriate supervision
  • protection from harm and hazards
  • educational programs tailored to meet the needs of school-aged children.

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:

Triple P – Positive Parenting Program

The Triple P online program is a free, publicly available, evidence-based parenting resource to assist Victorian families to learn new ways to respond positively to parenting challenges and support their children during and after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Outside school hours care (OSHC) and vacation care

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) will continue to be available during remote and flexible learning but with risk-mitigation measures in place. This is on the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

Schools are required to staff and provide supervision to enrolled students who are attending on site during school operating hours. OSHC service staff will not be supervising students during school operating hours.

However, student attendance at OSHC is not subject to the same restrictions on attendance at schools. This means students learning from home can also attend OSHC programs.

School councils and OSHC providers are encouraged to continue working together to provide care for their communities during this time, including during school holidays, wherever possible.

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 required, contact the Regulatory Authority’s advice line on 1300 307 415.

OSHC and Vacation Care programs will not be able to operate from schools that have been directed by the Department of Health and Human Services to close due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Programs cannot operate from these schools until advised otherwise.

A fact sheet with advice for schools on Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) (docx - 71.26kb) during remote and flexible learning includes responses to questions about OSHC being raised by schools during remote and flexible learning.

Re-opening in response to Commonwealth package

On 2 April 2020, the Commonwealth Government announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package.

From Monday 6 April 2020, services operating under the new arrangements will need to waive fees for families. The new system will be reviewed after one month, with an extension considered.

More information about the Relief Package can be found at:

The Relief Package may be used in conjunction with the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, for eligible providers. 

In response to the Relief Package and Government advice, some OSHC Providers are re-opening services. These providers are reminded to lodge a SA12 Notification of Change of Information About an Approved Service on the National Quality Agenda IT Service portal or contact

Supporting vulnerable families

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, children, families and carers who were already experiencing vulnerability may be under increased pressure.

For some families experiencing vulnerability, having their children continue to attend early childhood services will be the best way to support their continued learning and development.

Services are encouraged to contact families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and refugee backgrounds, along with any families who are not currently attending your service. Families from refugee backgrounds may require extra support to re-engage with ECEC, including using an interpreting service.

Funded services can access telephone interpreters through the Victorian Interpreting and Translating Services (VITS) Language Loop. More information about interpreters can be found on the Department’s website. In addition, Foundation House has developed the following tip sheets:

If there are health reasons that prevent or limit children’s attendance at your service, reasonable efforts should be made to support learning from home arrangements.

For vulnerable families specifically, it will be important to consider using a combination of online and printed activities and resources, and providing hard-copy materials to families that may have limited or minimal access to the internet.


Following updated advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer and Department of Health and Human Services, any kindergarten and early years classes which are conducted indoors or outdoors as part of an agreed program of early years education can continue to occur. There is no gathering limit to the number of children. 

This means that bush kinder can resume. Any excursions outside of this normal program are currently not recommended, other than to local parks.

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

The educator to child ratios under the National Quality Framework have not changed, although flexibility is being provided on qualification levels.

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. 

In the current circumstances, services should take all reasonable steps to meet the ratios and qualification requirements.

Services must ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of all children being educated and cared for by the service.

This includes:

  • 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, ratio requirements are determined by the age and number of children the service is educating and caring for at any one time.

Staffing and educator to child ratio information is available here:

You can also read more about early childhood teachers in centre-based services

The educator to child ratio  calculator can help you calculate mixed age ratios.


The following visitors and staff (including visiting workers) should not be permitted to enter early childhood services:

  • Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days.
  • Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days. (A contact is defined as anyone who has been in contact with a known case, including the 24 hours before the case became symptomatic.)
  • Those with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath).

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.

Visitors to services

As more children are returning to services, it is timely to consider their needs for additional support.

In accordance with DHHS advice, visitors to early childhood services should be limited to those who are essential to the delivery or operation of programs. Non-essential visits, including parent volunteers, should be discouraged from attending the service at this time.

We encourage services to work in partnership with organisations that support the delivery of your programs to agree if and when on-site visits will occur. Visitors may include allied health staff (including those providing programs through School Readiness Funding), specialist or service management staff, and maintenance workers.

With the gradual easing of restrictions across the state from 1 June 2020, Victorians who can or have been working from home must work from home. Please note, this does not change the advice or apply to people delivering ECEC services to children and families. It also does not change previous advice for other professionals and Department staff whose duties include essential visits to early childhood services – for example, for regulatory matters or where an on-site visit is needed to achieve the intended learning and development outcomes for children.

For other types of visits from Departmental staff, we will consider whether the visit is essential, including taking into account your needs and preferences. Any site visits will be agreed with you.

Any staff that attend services will ensure appropriate hand hygiene and other risk-mitigation measures are in place. If you have any questions, please contact your local regional office.

Health and hygiene

Advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)

The latest advice from the AHPPC is that pre-emptive closures of early childhood services, including family day care and vacation care programs, are not required 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.

The AHPPC has advised that early childhood services should implement a number of risk mitigation measures. These include:

  • exclusion of unwell staff, children and visitors
  • reduce mixing of children by separating cohorts – including the staggering of meal and play times
  • enhanced personal hygiene for children, staff and parents – make sure liquid soap and running water, or alcohol-based hand sanitiser is available at the entrance of the facility and throughout.
  • excursions other than to local parks should be discouraged, public playground equipment should not be used
  • influenza vaccination for children, staff and parents.  DHHS has advised that the influenza vaccinations should be undertaken wherever possible.

In addition, there should be full adherence to the NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines, including:

  • clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least daily (e.g. play gyms, tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
  • wash and launder play items and toys including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely
  • excursions other than to local parks should be discouraged, public playground equipment should not be used

Alternative care arrangements should be considered for children who are in the high-risk category for coronavirus (COVID-19). AHPPC recommends parents seek medical advice for these children.

The AHPPC has also advised that the following visitors and staff should not be permitted entry into an early childhood service:

  • those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the last 14 days
  • those with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection – for example, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.

The Department will keep you informed as to how best implement these guidelines.

Physical distancing and transmission reduction

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has updated its risk mitigation guidance.

The Department has worked with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to update the:

Key information includes:

  • All staff and children who are unwell must remain at home.
  • Hand hygiene, cough etiquette and environmental cleaning and disinfection are the most effective way to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Parents/carers of children with complex medical needs should seek medical advice from the child’s medical practitioner to support risk assessment and informed decision making regarding the suitability of continuing education and care at this time.
  • Staff, children and parents/carers should have the influenza vaccination, wherever possible.
  • The greatest risk of transmission in the early childhood environment is between adults.

Additional support for cleaning

The Victorian Government has announced that $2.6 million in grants will be available for all funded kindergarten services to contribute towards the cost of additional cleaning and hygiene in Term 2.

A one-off payment will be made as follows:

  • $900 for services with fewer than 50 funded enrolments
  • $1500 for services with 50 or more funded enrolments.

The primary purpose of the grants is to help pay for additional hours of cleaning for kindergarten rooms during Term 2 to support services in meeting the AHPPC guidelines. It can also be used for additional hygiene products such as hand sanitiser and soap, for use in Term 2. It cannot be used to pay for normal staffing or cleaning costs, or for buying normal levels of hygiene supplies.

Services won’t need to apply – payments will be processed automatically through the Kindergarten Information Management system.

If a child, student or staff member is or has had contact with a confirmed case

Contact DHHS on 1300 651 160 to discuss what to do next if you think a child, student or staff member:

  • has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • is in close contact with someone with a confirmed case.

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

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:

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 often, 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.

Expanded testing criteria for coronavirus (COVID-19)

Victoria's testing criteria has expanded to include testing for a range of workers in public facing roles. 

This will now include any early childhood education and care staff with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) who have worked with children in the past 14 days.

Unwell children and staff

Send unwell children or staff home in accordance with Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.

Unwell children and staff should stay at home until their symptoms resolve and seek medical assistance as required.

Food and supplies of high demand items

The Victorian Government is working closely with retailers to help provide essential supplies such as food, nappies and sanitiser to early learning services.

We're aware that there is high demand for hygiene supplies. Suppliers have been asked to prioritise early childhood services, noting health services and residential care facilities are the top priorities.

Both Woolworths and Coles have confirmed that education providers will be considered a priority and eligible to register for their respective online ordering service. Availability and lead time on arrival of supplies will vary. Similar services are likely to be available from other retail stores.

We know that some larger ECEC providers have also successfully sourced supplies from wholesale providers who ordinarily service the hospitality industry. This information is being shared with peak bodies.

If a lack of essential supplies is threatening the continued operation of your service in accordance with health guidance, contact the DET 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 in the first instance consider adjusting the staff roster to make sure one rostered staff member is suitably first aid qualified.

Services and educators are encouraged to pursue available online options to complete first aid refresher training.

  • The Commonwealth Government’s My Skills website lists a range of first aid refresher training providers who are offering online options.
  • The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) also provides further information about first aid training on their website.

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 give advice on looking after your mental health at this time:

Administration and funding

Kindergarten funding

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 all of their regular kindergarten funding based on their confirmed enrolments for 2020. This includes Early Start Kindergarten enrolments.

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).

Funding for programs that support kindergarten participation, including Access to Early Learning and Best Start, will also continue in full for all sites. The Department recognises that some program activities will need to be paused or adapted given current circumstances.

Victorian sessional kindergarten funding – for funded and unfunded programs

The Victorian Government has announced it will provide up to $45 million in extra funding to support eligible sessional kindergarten providers, which have seen numbers decline significantly due to coronavirus (COVID-19). All eligible providers are encouraged to access any funding available to them.

The funding will provide close to $500 per child in a funded kindergarten program for Term 2 (excluding those that already attract a Kindergarten Fee Subsidy or Early Start Kindergarten), based on the annual number of children enrolled through the Kindergarten Information Management (KIM) system. The service will need to remain open (unless directed by DHHS or agreed with DET), however this will apply to enrolled children whether they are attending the service or not.

The funding will be available for community-based, local government and school providers that are offering government-funded sessional programs. The funding will be provided for government-funded kindergarten programs: Four-Year-Old Kindergarten, and funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten, where this has been introduced in regional Victoria.

Funding offers for Term 2 four-year-old programs have now gone out to service providers, providers will need to respond to this offer to confirm their acceptance and receive this funding.

Support is available for unfunded three-year-old sessional kindergarten programs for Term 2.

Service providers wishing to request this support should contact the Department at

Eligibility for funding

To be eligible for the additional funding, conditions include that providers must:

  • provide access to up to 15 hours a week of kindergarten for free
  • remain open (subject to health advice) for families who wish to attend on-site
  • continue to maintain normal employment arrangements for their staff.

Eligibility is not based on the number of children who attend.

Children’s enrolments in funded kindergarten programs will remain valid throughout this period. This includes children whose families might choose to have them recommence attendance later in the term.

Funding fact sheet

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.

Eligibility is not based on the number of children who attend.

More information about the childcare package can be found on the Commonwealth's Department of Education, Skills and Employment website, including FAQs.

Commonwealth update

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:

JobKeeper package

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.

Visit the Commonwealth’s JobKeeper webpage for more information.

Kindergarten Inclusion Support and Preschool Field Officers

There is no impact on funding for either Kindergarten Inclusion Support (KIS) or Preschool Field Officer (PSFO) program and both remain available to support eligible children. Assessments of new applications for the KIS program are also progressing.

Funding for KIS additional assistants is continuing, even where a child with additional needs is not currently attending a service. In these circumstances, the kindergarten service, KIS providers and KIS additional assistants should work closely to agree how the additional assistants can be engaged to support learning from home programs.

Preschool Field Officers (PSFOs) may still visit a service using appropriate risk mitigation strategies. PSFOs can also use video conferencing if remote delivery is agreed.

With many children not attending their kindergarten program, PSFOs may also be called on to assist teachers to support learning in the home, for those children not attending the service.

Early childhood Initial Teacher Education (ITE) support

For some students and services, the ability to undertake placements is impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19). This has an impact on individual students and the supply of new graduates into the profession to work in services in the future.

Student placements should continue where this is safe and possible, in line with placement protocols, mentor teachers’ directions and the advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has modified the supervised professional experience requirements for final year early childhood students in 2020. Visit the ACECQA website for more information. 

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. As per normal practice, new Early Start Kindergarten enrolments can be added any time. 

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.