Early childhood education and service operations

Roadmap to reopening early childhood education and care services

Victoria’s reopening roadmap outlines the key dates and steps in relation ECEC services. This includes long day care, family day care and integrated and sessional kindergarten programs.

For information, visit our Roadmap to reopening early childhood education and care services web page.

For more information about the roadmap steps, visit:

On-site learning

The continued advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer and the Victorian Government is that ECEC services remain safe for staff and children.

While there are significant changes to the operation of ECEC services in metropolitan Melbourne, it's not because ECEC services are unsafe places for children or staff. The changes are to significantly reduce the movement of children and their families across metropolitan Melbourne to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Under the First Step of the roadmap, until Sunday 27 September ECEC services in metropolitan Melbourne should only remain open to provide education and care for those children whose parents or carers are permitted workers and for vulnerable children.

Under the Third Step of the roadmap, sessional kindergarten, long day care and family day care can continue to operate in rural and regional Victoria, with appropriate risk-mitigation measures in place – unless instructed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to close.

ECEC services are low-risk environments. It's important that children are able to attend their early learning program on-site, in line with the roadmap, if possible.

For children who are not attending services on-site, providers should make reasonable efforts to engage with families and support learning from home, in line with the families’ individual circumstances and resources.

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

Outside school hours care and vacation care

From Wednesday 5 August, outside school hours care (OSHC) can operate on school sites in metropolitan Melbourne for children whose parents work in one of the defined essential continuing industries and vulnerable children only, including a child with a disability. 

OSHC programs in rural and regional Victoria can continue to operate for children whose parents cannot work from home, vulnerable children and any child with a disability, with relevant risk mitigation measures in place.

School councils and OSHC providers are encouraged to continue working together to provide care for their communities during this time.

OSHC providers must operate 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 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.

For all other queries, schools are advised to contact our dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) phone advice line during business hours on 1800 338 663.

Vacation care during Term 3 school holidays

Children will be able to attend vacation care during the Term 3 school holidays (Monday 21 September to Friday 2 October), only if they are eligible to attend on-site supervision at school during Term 3.

School councils and OSHC providers are encouraged to continue working together to provide care for children eligible to attend vacation care.

Outside school hours care during Term 4

Children will be able to continue to attend OSHC only if they are eligible to attend school.

As children return to on-site schooling during Term 4, they will also be eligible to attend before and after school care.

School councils and OSHC providers are encouraged to continue working together to provide care for children eligible to attend OSHC.

For funding queries, school councils that are OSHC providers are advised to contact the Commonwealth Government by email on ccshelpdesk@dese.gov.au or call 1300 667 276.

For all other queries, schools are advised to contact the our dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) phone advice line during business hours on 1800 338 663.

Providing education and care to school-aged children

We understand 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 ensure 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 ensure appropriate supervision, protection from harm and hazards, and provide educational programs tailored to meet the needs of school-aged children.

For further information, contact Quality Assessment and Regulation Division (QARD) on 1300 307 415.

Child-free days

It is up to each provider to make decisions about having a child-free day or days, talking to and working with staff and their community.

Taking a small number of child-free days is entirely consistent with the conditions attached to both normal and additional sessional kindergarten funding provided by the Victorian Government, which requires services to be open for families who wish to attend.

The Department has relaxed the requirement to deliver 600 hours across the year, so this is not an obstacle to a small number of additional child-free days for improving delivery and support.

Visitors to services

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

  • those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (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 who are feeling unwell, including having a fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (for example, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath).

Services should inform their staff, children and families of this advice through their service's communication channels with parents.

Visitors to services providing support

In accordance with DHHS advice, visitors to early childhood services in metropolitan Melbourne should be limited to those supporting essential service operations.

Essential visitors may include allied health staff, including those providing programs through School Readiness Funding (SRF), specialist or service management staff, authorised officers that are undertaking regulatory matters and maintenance workers.

Health professionals undertaking assessments for the Program for Students with Disabilities may also visit services to assess children and meet with staff.

During this time, services should continue to access the range of support provided by the Department, such as those provided through SRF and the Kindergarten Quality Improvement Program. We have worked with many providers to develop remote delivery options to ensure your staff and children can continue to be supported where an on-site visit is not possible.

Any visitors who attend services should ensure appropriate hand hygiene and other risk-mitigation measures are followed.

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 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.

Notifications for National Quality Framework services should be made through the National Quality Agenda IT System

Notifications for children's services should be made by email: licensed.childrens.services@edumail.vic.gov.au

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 for:

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.

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 Department's advice line on 1800 338 663.