Information for families: COVID-19 and early childhood education

Attendance at early childhood services through COVID-19 outbreaks

COVID-19 is a serious disease that spreads quickly through households, workplaces and services. There are many cases of transmission in early childhood education and care in NSW.

The best health advice suggests that the key to safe attendance is the vaccination of staff and eligible household members and other carers of enrolled children.

Families should work with staff at their child’s service to discuss the health and safety precautions in place as well as their families individual needs.

Please continue to monitor the NSW Government website for the latest advice regarding COVID-19.

Help keep our ECE community safe

Services are doing their very best to ensure they can stay operational and COVID-safe. There are things that you can do to to help reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19.

  • Keep children at home if they are sick and get tested immediately when they have even the mildest of COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Get vaccinated as soon as you can.

  • For primary school children in OSHC services, support them to wear a mask indoors and wear your mask in the community when physical distancing is not possible.

  • Avoid gatherings such as birthday parties and sleepovers. If possible, delay birthday parties for a few weeks.

  • Wear a mask when you drop off and pick up your children and sign in using the Service NSW QR code.

Transmission rates

Your service should have a COVID-safe plans and will be taking precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on-site. This includes enhanced cleaning, wearing masks indoors and maintaining physical distance in line with the latest advice from NSW Health and SafeWork Australia.

The latest report from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) shows the high transmissibility of the COVID-19 Delta variant between 16 June and 31 July 2021. The report found that in this time:

  • Staff and children who caught COVID-19 in an educational setting often passed it on to their household members. 70.7% of household contacts were subsequently infected with COVID-19.
  • There was a 5.2 times higher transmission rate in educational settings compared to previous strains of the virus.
  • The highest transmission rates occurred between staff members in ECEC services (16.9%) and from a staff member to children (8.1%).
  • Most children diagnosed with COVID-19 during the current outbreak, including those who caught the infection in educational settings, experienced mild or no symptoms, with only 2% requiring hospitalisation.

The report also recommends COVID-19 vaccination among adults as being critical in reducing the risk of transmission in the community and in educational settings.


Vaccination is the best way to keep people safe.

It is a requirement that all early childhood education and care (ECE) staff get vaccinated. This is currently being implemented by all services.

The NSW Government encourages all adults in the community to get vaccinated. This is especially important for parents and carers taking children to ECE in order to protect children and others at the service.

Please get vaccinated and keep yourself and everyone safe.

Testing of children and staff

Testing rates for COVID-19 across NSW are currently very high.

Your child’s centre won’t be able to tell you every time a child or staff member gets a COVID test, but you will be notified if there is a result that could be of concern to you and your family.

NSW Health recommends that all children and staff get a COVID-19 test if they have even mild symptoms and should only return to centres once a negative test is returned and when they have completely recovered. Your centre will be able to provide more information on their specific policies and procedures around testing requirements and managing illness.

Sick children or household members

Please do not send your child to early childhood education and care services if they or someone in their household is unwell.

At the current time, NSW Health and NSW Department of Education has recommended that services be particularly vigilant about the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of smell/taste
  • Muscle/joint pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Unexplained chest pain and conjunctivitis (eye infection) have also been reported as symptoms of COVID-19.

Children who have even the mildest of symptoms should immediately be tested and isolate until they get a negative test result.

If your child attends an early childhood education or care service and they are or become unwell, educators are required to contact you as soon as possible to arrange a pickup. Your child may be supervised separately until you are able to pick them up in order to protect other children and staff.

If your child displays symptoms of COVID-19 you should get your child tested as soon as possible. Your child should receive a negative COVID-19 test and be symptom-free before returning to care.

Parents and carers should also stay home when unwell

One of the key sources of transmission in ECE services is from parents or carers dropping off their children to a service when unwell.

If you are unwell, or if any adults in your household are unwell, please do not take your children to an ECE service as you may be spreading COVID to the service staff and to other children.

Close contacts

NSW Health will notify the service if there is a positive COVID-19 case who has been infectious while attending your ECEC service and they will in turn notify parents and carers.

Contact tracing will be undertaken as it is in all other venues. The action taken in relation to the operation of the service will depend on how many people the person has been in contact with. In some cases, this may mean that the service may need to be made temporarily non-operational.

Some staff and children may be asked to self-isolate as a precaution while contact tracing is completed. In the following situations you will need to follow the guidance from NSW Health:

  • You have been told you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19.
  • You have been told you are a casual contact of someone with COVID-19.

COVID-safe practice

Drop-off and pick-up

You should observe social distancing requirements when dropping off and picking up your child. Drop-offs and pick-ups are being arranged to minimise contact between adults. You may be asked to be part of staggered drop-off or pick-up times, or staff members may collect your child from outside the service.


Masks are required indoors at early childhood education and care settings across NSW for all adults. Masks are strongly recommended indoors for primary students- this includes in their attendance at an Out of School Hours Care service.

All parents dropping off or picking up children should wear masks.

For more information please visit the COVID-19 guidelines.

QR codes

Service NSW QR codes are mandatory for all early childhood education and care services.

You should check in every time you are at your child’s service, even if you remain outside or are only there for a few minutes.

Guided learning packages for children

Early childhood guided learning packages have been developed for teachers and educators to support families to provide a guided learning from home experience for preschool children aged 3-5 years. They have been created by early childhood professionals and learning designers from the Department of Education.

The packages include a range of guided learning activities such as shared reading, singing, physical movement, creative arts and other engaging challenges specifically designed for this age group that all link to The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.

They are a great resource for families to support continued learning from home and a new package will be launched each Tuesday.

Factsheet for families

Download the COVID-19 information for families factsheet (PDF 141KB).

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