After an unpredictable and stressful year, we all deserve a party. Unfortunately, planning festive celebrations and graduations this year may come with a few added complications due to the ever-shifting sands of COVID-related social restrictions.
Celebrations will be more important than ever this year — for children and educators. We share some ideas to kick off your celebrations in a COVID-safe way, plus suggestions around how to thank and recognise educators for the amazing job they have done this year.
Why children need to celebrate
Celebrations are more than fun events — they teach children to recognise efforts, bond with friends, and dream about the future.
Celebrations are connected to the EYLF in the following ways:
- When children congratulate each other and exchange gifts, they learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect.
- Parties help children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities.
- Enjoyable events help children become strong in their social and emotional wellbeing.
Tips and ideas for a COVID-safe celebration for children
The NSW Department of Education has released guidelines for graduation celebrations, which can be held onsite, at another venue or online. All services must complete a risk assessment with consideration for the wellbeing of staff and children, physical distancing, record keeping, cleaning and hygiene.
Ways to celebrate safely could include:
- Record children’s performances and ceremonies. Stream the video online in real-time and give families a copy on a USB to keep as a present.
- Limit the number of family members who can attend to reduce the overall group size.
- Gather in an outdoor area that is large enough for social distancing. Limit access to indoor areas. Consider how attendees can sit or stand at a safe distance.
- Hold different parties for each age group.
- Hold your celebration at another venue.
- Provide food as individual serves rather than shared plates.
Bay View Early Learning Centre in Queensland is holding a graduation ceremony at a local sporting club that has a COVID-safe plan. As 100 people are able to attend, children and families can still have their celebration.
Amy Prasad, an educator in South Australia, says, “this year we are going to film the ceremony and performance and make a video for the parents, we are also filming each child talking about what they want to be when they grow up and adding that to the video as a keepsake.
An NSW educator says, “the graduating children will get a little moment to walk and get their certificate in front of their peers. Then we will transition into lunch. They will then have a dedicated page on our online platform with photos over the years, a photo of them in their gown and a photo of what they want to be when they are older. We are hosting a Christmas party across 2 days so it will be more relaxed. We will have finger food and games and lots of fun but no parents are allowed because of COVID.
Remember to recognise the efforts of educators
During the stress of organising a party for children and families, don’t forget about yourself and your colleagues. Early childhood education and care relies on your expertise, dedication and resilience, and during 2020 this has never been clearer.
Acknowledgement from a team leader, manager or director is much valued and can be done in a variety of ways:
- Say thank you in person, preferably in front of other staff.
- Write a handwritten note or card, include specific acknowledgement of what each staff member has achieved or does well. Include mention of personal milestones like family events, running a marathon, their volunteer work will help show you care about them.
- Create a public thank you board or wall – invite everyone to post their ‘thank you’ to other staff members.
- Download shapes from Educators Day Resources, or make your own – provide coloured copies for parents and staff to write thank you notes on
- Create a ‘love’ jar or ‘positivity’ box and invite all staff to write positive and uplifting messages to each other.
More formal ideas could include:
- Hold a COVID-safe, budget-friendly gathering just for staff – enjoy the warmer weather with a picnic, even if you don’t share food.
- Give each employee a small thank you gift – These can be inexpensive but meaningful. Handwritten, personalised letters always have more impact than movie vouchers and boxes of chocolates.
- Commemorate the year with a positive group project – Create a reflection board for 2020 and add your greatest achievements, or a vision board for 2021 and add your hopes and wishes.
- Organise a fun, light-hearted professional development day – Learn pottery, abstract painting or songwriting together. End the year by laughing and relaxing as a team.
Critical reflections on Christmas celebrations
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every December will bring at least one Australian newspaper headline claiming an early learning service has ‘banned’ Santa Claus or ‘cancelled’ Christmas.
Behind these stories is often a strong inclusion philosophy (perhaps misunderstood) that aims to create end-of-year celebrations that embrace all families. How can you make that happen without ending up as tabloid fodder this year? How do you create a peaceful and joyous atmosphere at the year’s end when everyone is feeling fractious?
Reflection questions are any questions that help you form a better understanding of your approach and its alignment to the National Quality Standard and the curriculum frameworks for early childhood or school-aged care.
We’ve adapted some of the overarching critical reflection questions from the Early Years Learning Framework (pages 14-15) to help you and your colleagues explore your approach to Christmas celebrations.
Further advice on celebrations from states and territories (correct as at 30 November 2020)
School arrangements for term 4, including end of year events, can be found at https://www.education.act.gov.au/public-school-life/covid-school-arrangements
Information can be found via https://education.nsw.gov.au/early-childhood-education/coronavirus/advice-for-services-and-providers
Operating guidelines for early childhood education and care services via https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/operating-guidelines-for-early-childhood-education
Information for parents and carers about term 4 can be found at https://education.nt.gov.au/publications/information-for-term-4-2020
General information about being COVID safe in ECEC can be found at https://educationandcare.tas.gov.au/novel-coronavirus/covid-safe/
General information regarding school events and activities can be found at https://www.education.wa.edu.au/current-schooling-arrangements
(info taken from https://earlychildhood.qld.gov.au/news/covid-19-information/service-information)
Approved Providers of early childhood education and care services are responsible for deciding when to commence taking children on excursions and hosting visitors at their service. When undertaking these activities it is important that Approved Providers ensure that services adhere to the relevant Public Health Directions issued by the Queensland Chief Health Officer, and take into account the guidance outlined in relevant AHPPC statements and Safe Work Australia. This includes maintaining social distancing between adults and appropriate hygiene practices.
SA – advice changing rapidly
(info taken from https://esb.sa.gov.au/coronavirus%20information)
All schools, preschools and children’s centres must ensure all visitors sign in at the front office/reception and provide the date and time of their visit and a mobile number and email address. This will enable communication in the event of a site closure and assist SA Health with contact tracing.
The Premier has announced the easing of some restrictions from 1 December. This includes: increasing the caps on functions in licensed venues, which may positively impact school formals, end of year ceremonies and graduations if they are being in held in venues offsite. Please check with your venue to see if requirements will change.
Physical distancing and density requirements
The current room density requirements of 1 person per 4sqm does not apply for education sites and services. However, all adults must comply, wherever possible, with the 1.5m physical distancing.
Where school events or activities are held offsite (such as licensed venues), all adults must comply with the full SA Directions as per the venue’s COVID-Safe Plan or Management Plan.
Access to school and preschool grounds
Leaders should minimise parents, volunteers, and non-urgent service providers entering the site where possible. We encourage site leader discretion.
The following are considered essential and can continue to enter the grounds providing all details are recorded for contact tracing purposes:
- facilities management and building contractors
- pre-service teachers and TAFE students
- student support services (wellbeing and allied health professions)
- transition visits
Further information from the Department for Education, SA (from Mon 23 Nov via https://esb.sa.gov.au/news/covid-19-update-department-education-2):
Assemblies, ceremonies and end of year events:
Events on school or preschool sites can continue, however attendance outside the staff and student body should be minimised.
Events held at public venues must comply with current COVID restrictions (an approved COVID-Safe plan or COVID Management Plan and capped attendance).