Wonderschool ops manager speaks out on “COVID-19 normal” and need for more support
Sarah Wilcox, Operations Manager for Wonderschool Early Learning has spoken out about the need for greater support for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector as Australia deals with the latest wave of COVID-19 policy and action.
Moving to a “COVID-19 normal” phases is the next big step for the sector, she said, and this is something which will require more support in order to better protect the nation’s youngest citizens.
“We can’t work from home like schools can because (early learning) is such a critical time in a child’s development so there is real pandemic fatigue happening.”
“A big priority for us is reaching out to our workers and being prepared early. We mandated vaccinations before the ACT Government did, we talked about getting boosters before it was publicly announced and we’ve been sending consistent reminders around wellbeing to our staff,” she added.
Without support for the ECEC workforce to keep them both healthy and engaged, she warned, families and children will suffer. While remaining optimistic about the future, Ms Wilcox said there will be challenges for the sector while COVID-19 continues to spread.
Children under five years of age are unable to be vaccinated at present, and this is likely to pose an issue in terms of keeping the illness out of ECEC environments.
Parents call for greater clarity
Lauren Kearney, a mother of two, relies heavily on her children’s ECEC service, and believes more needs to be done in terms of giving parents direction on managing COVID-19 cases in children.
“We haven’t really had any advice from health departments, my daughter was at an exposure site in her childcare so I had to take her to get a PCR test because it’s so hard to find rapid antigen tests,” Ms Kearney told the paper.
While understanding that the service still has financial obligations to meet, Ms Kearney said parents would struggle if they needed to continue to pay fees whilst isolating.
Consistency is vital, ELACCA says
With ten ACT services closed due to emergencies or localised issues at present, Early Learning and Care Council Australia (ELACCA) CEO Elizabeth Death said these financial pressures are very real for service operators.
“What we need now is consistent strategies across Australia and we need funding from governments to support that every time a child is away for a COVID-related reason, a provider can waive their gap fee,” Ms Death said.
Aside from the pressure on providers, Ms Death expressed her concern that a time is coming when families will withdraw their children, unable to continue to pay for a service they can’t use.
“We want to make sure that children aren’t withdrawn, particularly the children who are experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage because they will have further delays in their growth and development and they’re the ones that need the service more,” she said in closing.
To access the original coverage of this story please see here.
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