Extended allowable absences, mask rules, excursions – advice for Vic ECEC services
A number of announcements have been made by the Victorian Department of Education and the Federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) in the wake of the recent extension of lockdown laws as Victoria again battles a COVID outbreak.
Chief amongst the announcements was a confirmation made by Dr Ros Baxter, Deputy Secretary of the Early Childhood and Child Care Group at DESE, in a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday.
Dr Baxter clarified that, as a function of the local area emergency being declared in Victoria, any families who have used up their allowable absence days are able to claim extra days as a result of the declaration.
As in previous lockdowns, gap fees for services will be waived in the event that a service is forced to close for a deep clean on the advice of public health officials.
Dr Baxter also clarified that the usual federal subsidy (Child Care Subsidy) will continue to be paid to childcare providers, and that the measures will be backdated to the beginning of the current lockdown.
At this stage, services in metropolitan Melbourne are permitted to remain open, with appropriate risk mitigation measures in place (unless instructed by the Victorian Department of Health to close). This includes kindergarten, long daycare, and family daycare. All services must have a COVIDSafe Plan in place.
Services should limit visitors to those essential for operations. Visitors must comply with face mask requirements, try to keep at least 1.5m from others whenever possible and ensure good hand hygiene.
A density limit of one person per four square metres must be applied to any spaces that are accessible to the public (i.e. reception area) and shared workspaces (i.e. staff lunchrooms).
To support contact tracing, ECEC services must keep a record of the full name, phone number, date and time of visitors who attend their service. Electronic record keeping is strongly encouraged. The Victorian Government has developed a QR Code Service, which is free to use and can assist with requirements to keep records.
A detailed circular outlining the various scenarios and implications for early childhood education and care (ECEC) services has been circulated by the Victorian Department of Education. To subscribe to updates from the Department, please see here.
The Department’s COVID-19 helpline is available weekdays from 8.30am to 5pm on 1800 338 663 for further advice and support.