Last updated: 27 July, 2021 


Dear Members, 

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to our members and the wider sector for everything they are doing to support families and communities during this challenging time across Australia. You play a vital role as essential services and we want you to know that we recognise how challenging it is to operate in the current environment, and how much you are truly appreciated. 

Please don’t hesitate to call us to talk through any questions or concerns you may have. We are here to support you with advice, practical resources and a friendly ear to lighten the load. We are meeting regularly with government to advocate for you and share your challenges. 

Should you have any particular matters that you would like to discuss in relation to your service’s specific circumstances or information relating to COVID-19, please contact us on 1800 157 818 or We are committed to working with you during these challenging times. 

 Michele Carnegie 
Chief Executive Officer 

Operational status (27 July 2021):

Attendance at Early Childhood Education Services 

Early childhood education and care services – including family day care residences and venues – in Greater Sydney including the LGAs of Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland and Blacktown, may continue to operate

In the 5 local government areas, Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool Cumberland and Blacktown, parents are strongly encouraged to keep their children at home if they are able to do so, in order to limit movement in the community. 

Attendance at Out of School Hours Care services 

Out of School Hours Care services may continue to operate. In line with advice provided to schools, in the Greater Sydney region children attending school will be learning from home for the start of term three. Where parents are unable to provide education and care at home, children will be able to attend school and Out of School Hours Care. 

Below we provide operational and financial advice for Service owners and Directors, and advice for education and care staff. 

Advice for owners, directors & staff

Operational advice for owners and Directors of Services


If you haven’t already, find out from families which children will be attending this week and next and then plan how many staff you will need to have on-site. 

If you have staff who live or are staying in Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown or Liverpool LGA’s, ensure they have a letter of employment from you so that they have evidence that they can leave home and continue to come to work.  

If you have a staff member who resides or is staying in Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool, Blacktown or Cumberland LGA’s and you operate outside of these areas, make sure they get a COVID-19 test every 72 hours and that you keep a record of their negative results and keep them handy in case it’s needed. 

If you are in regional NSW and have staff coming from Greater Sydney to work, these staff must get tested for COVID-19 every seven days, regardless of whether they have symptoms.  


Masks are required in Early Childhood Education and Care settings in the Greater Sydney region (including indoor and outdoor environments) per the latest public health order. Exemptions for wearing masks in ECE apply:  

  • outside of the Greater Sydney region; 
  • where a child is deaf or hard of hearing; or 
  • where the clear enunciation or visibility of the educator’s mouth is essential. 

Cleaning in Early Childhood Education 

Cleaning ECE services to enable them to remain open is considered essential work and is able to continue. 

Communicating with families 

In the 5 local government areas, Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland or Blacktown, parents are strongly encouraged to keep their children at home if they are able to do so, in order to limit movement in the community. 

Children are able to attend early childhood education and care when they cannot be cared for from home. We encourage services to:  

  • Reach out to families to determine their needs in order to plan staffing 
  • Discuss individual requirements with families. 

QR codes 

QR codes are now mandatory. If you haven’t already set up your QR code for your service, please visit Service NSW here to do so. You must also provide the option for individuals to sign in on paper if they don’t have phones available. This will need to be available if required by the Chief Health Officer for four weeks after the collection period.

Funding Advice for owners and Directors of Services

If you are the owner or Director of a CSS funded service (LDC, FDC, Occasional Care, OOSH) 

The federal government has agreed to allow CCS funded services to waive gap fees from Monday 19th July when children are absent from childcare. 

The changes apply to services in the lockdown areas of Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour (Bayside, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Burwood, Camden, Campbelltown, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Central Coast, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Liverpool, Mosman, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Parramatta, Penrith, Randwick, Ryde, Shellharbour, Strathfield, Sutherland Shire, Sydney, The Hills Shire, Waverley, Willoughby, Wollondilly, Wollongong and Woollahra). 

This enables families to remain attached to their childcare service and for services to continue to receive the CCS. However, this creates significant operational challenges. 

What you need to consider if waiving the gap fee: 

  1. Services may decide to reduce staff hours. Staff can then apply for COVID-19 Disaster Payments through Service NSW
  2. Services experiencing a 30 per cent downturn compared to a comparable fortnight in June/July 2019 can apply for COVID-19 Business Support
  3. For some services, accessing pools of funding may not cover wages and other operational costs that would otherwise be funded through fee income.  Please contact CELA to discuss your particular circumstances so as we can advocate specifically about your needs by emailing the CELA CEO Michele Carnegie.

Given the current workforce crisis in early education, it is vital that services retain staff, so that teams are able to deliver quality education after the lockdown. 

 We recognise that services are already under immense pressure operating an essential service which enables families to work and the added pressure of navigating business funding is an unacceptable additional pressure. CELA continues to advocate for further support for CCS funded services who are significantly impacted by the lockdown. 

Preschool Fees 

Some preschool members are worried about charging families for a child’s third day of preschool if they are unable to attend. Please call CELA to discuss your specific circumstances – our Early Education Specialists are ready to support you in working through a solution that considers the viability needs of your services and your community. 

Financial supports for all education and care service experiencing a 30 per cent decline in turnover 

If your service is experiencing a 30 per cent or greater decline in turnover from the same period in 2019, you may be eligible for Commonwealth and NSW funded government assistance. Find out about the supports available at Service NSW.

Practical advice if you work in early education and care


If your employer decides to cut back your hours, you may be eligible to receive a COVID-19 Disaster Payment.

To be eligible, you would need to have lost a minimum of 8 hours a week. People who lose between 8 and 20 hours per week of work will receive $375 per week and people who lose more than 20 hours per week will receive $600 per week for the duration of the lockdown.

The payment applies until the area is no longer designated by the Commonwealth as a hotspot.

The payment will be available to affected individuals in Sydney from 1 July and Greater Sydney from 4 July. The COVID-19 Disaster Payment is administered by Services Australia, and you can find out more at Services Australia.

Early Educators living or staying in Fairfield, Canterbury/Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland or Blacktown LGA’s who need to travel outside these LGA’s for work 

  • Carry a letter from your employer that states where you work to show if required 
  • You need to have a COVID-19 test every three days, commencing Wednesday 21 July and be able to show proof if asked 


Travel outside of a person’s LGA is allowed for the purposes of vaccination. 
Many educators and staff working in early childhood education and care services may be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine under existing criteria:   

1. All adults aged 40 and over are eligible (with those over 60 getting AstraZeneca and those under 60 getting Pfizer as preferred though they can choose to get AstraZeneca after a discussion with their GP)  

2. If aged 16 to 40, you are eligible if:  

  • You are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander  
  • You regularly provide paid or unpaid support for people with a disability, including to children in an educational setting.  
  • You provide care or support to someone in your household with an underlying medical condition.  
  • You have an underlying medical condition.  
  • You are an NDIS participant or care for an NDIS participant. 

3. Due to CELA’s advocacy efforts, together with other Peaks and with the support of Minister MItchell, services have been advised that Pfizer vaccination is now available for all early childhood education (ECE) staff in the Fairfield and Liverpool Local Government Areas.  

We see this as a positive action in recognising the critical importance of early education and care sector and will continue to advocate for all early childhood educators and staff to be prioritised in the vaccination roll-out. 

You will need to provide evidence of your eligibility when you attend for a vaccination. This can include an ID card, letter from your employer/service, evidence of a medical condition or you can complete an Eligibility Declaration form.

To find out if you’re eligible and to book an appointment complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker.

CELA is committed to supporting its members – we continue to actively advocate for early childhood educators to be prioritised for vaccination alongside school teachers, aged care workers and healthcare workers. 


Updates to Member Resources

We regularly update our member resources to ensure that they are current and accurate. The following resources have been updated this week and are ready for you to download in the member resource library: 


Workforce Survey

Community Early Learning Australia (CELA), Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) and Community Child Care (CCC) are working together to inform the National Workforce Strategy so that it addresses the immediate and longer-term workforce needs of the sector. 

Your anonymous responses to our brief survey will help to inform our advocacy for a high quality and accessible early childhood workforce. 

 Please complete our survey by 30 July 2021. It will take 5-10 minutes – we need to hear your voice! 


Wearing masks

You can find detailed information on Face Mask rules from the NSW Government here:

We have put together the main points to assist you if you are in the local government areas of Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour.

I work in a service in the Greater Sydney Region, do I need to wear a mask?

  • Masks are required in Early Childhood Education and Care settings in the Greater Sydney region (including indoor and outdoor environments) per the latest public health order.
  • Exemptions for wearing masks in ECE apply:
  • outside of the Greater Sydney region;
  • where a child is deaf or hard of hearing; or
  • the clear enunciation or visibility of the educator’s mouth is essential.
  • It is recommended that visitors to services wear a face mask where practical.
  • Staff can remove their face mask to eat or drink, or if working alone in an office, until another person enters.

Find out more here and here for exemptions

Do parents and carers need to wear a mask when dropping off and picking up?

A face mask needs to be worn:

  • near other people that you do not live with, including your family, friends, neighbours or people you work with
  • walking in a busy street
  • near other people in a park or a crowded place.

Find out more here and here for exemptions.

Is a face mask required if wearing a traditional or religious garment?

  • Even if you wear traditional or religious garments, you still need to wear a fitted face mask in the designated settings. 

  • There are face masks available that can be worn with traditional and religious garments. If you are wearing a face covering, like a veil or scarf, it is recommended that you wear your face mask underneath. 
  • The face mask needs to fit securely around your face and be designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection. 

Find out more here.

Can a service refuse entry to someone if refusing to wear a mask?

  • If a person refuses to wear a face mask at a premise, the occupier of the premises may refuse entry to that person. It is a matter for the occupier of each premises to exercise judgement on what is appropriate for their premises and for the well-being of their staff and customers.

  • If an occupier intends to refuse entry, they should be familiar with the exceptions and speak to the person to understand their circumstances.

You can report any person failing to follow these rules to Crime Stoppers.

You can find out more here.

Do children need to wear a mask?

  • Masks should not be worn by toddlers under 2 years of age and babies, as they are a choking and suffocation risk.

  • Children 12 years and under should not wear a mask, as they do not need to wear a mask and may not be able to handle it safely.

Find out more here.

Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?

  • Face shields are not a substitute for face masks however people who are unable to wear a mask may find it easier to wear a face shield. 

Find out more here.

What type of mask should I wear?

  • A face mask should fit securely around the face and be designed or make to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection.

  • This may be a single use or reusable cloth mask.
  • NB: A scarf or bandana is not recommended as they do not offer the same amount of protection as a well-fitted mask. Using a scarf is also an infection risk because people keep wearing the scarf. 

Find out more here.

How should we support our staff to fit, use and dispose of masks appropriately?

The Victorian Government have released a resource for you to use to support your staff to wear a face mask and care for it. You can download this here:

The NSW Government have also released this video you may choose to share with your staff and families.

CELA is here to support you

We would love to hear your thoughts about the recent announcements here and any other way the pandemic is affecting you, your service, your team and your families. Please email to share your thoughts or call 1800 157 818 to speak to one of our team members.

Frequently asked questions

COVID-safe practices

  • Services and providers should ensure they have up-to-date emergency contact details in the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS). These details will be used if NSW Health need to contact your service after hours.
  • Services are encouraged to complete and implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan as part of their risk assessment. Please note this does not have to be submitted.

Hygiene and health

  • Services should continue to consider a variety of risk-mitigation strategies, such as physical distancing, cleaning, hand hygiene and outdoor air ventilation, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in early childhood settings.
  • To help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community, staff and children should stay at home if experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or if unwell, no matter how mild, and get tested immediately.

Can ECE staff living in the five LGAs (Fairfield, Canterbury/ Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland and Blacktown) leave their home to go to work in another LGA?

Yes, staff living or staying in these areas can leave their homes to go to work in another LGA. ECE staff are on the list of workers authorised to leave their LGA for the purposes of work, however this should be minimised wherever possible-

Important things to remember:

  • Carry a letter from your employer to show if required
  • Staff living in Fairfield LGA are subject to testing requirements at this time and need to seek out a COVID-19 test every three days. They should seek out a test by Wednesday 21 July.

What are the increased testing requirements for services in Fairfield LGA?

If you live in or are staying in the Fairfield local government area but you work outside this area, you must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an authorised worker.

You can go to a COVID-19 testing clinic near your home or work.

You must have proof of your COVID-19 test such as an SMS text message on your phone or an email addressed to you.

You must show the proof of your test when asked:

  • at your workplace by your manager (occupier); or
  • to a police officer

You do not need to get the results of your COVID-19 test before going to or staying at work.

Close contacts 

The department has received a number of enquiries with regards to ‘what happens if a deemed close contact attended or works in my service’. Here is advice on what to do if a close contact attended or works in your service.  

  • Primary close contacts will all need to get tested and self-isolate for the full 14 days as per the current health advice.   

  • NSW Health has assessed the situation regarding secondary close contacts. Where a person has been identified as a close contact, then only people who have been in their households and their very close friends need to isolate until they received a negative test, not other people at the Early Childhood Service unless they have symptoms.  

  • Any staff, children or parents who have been to a location with a confirmed COVID-19 case will need to follow the NSW Health advice. People who have been to an identified venue of concern who have been identified as a close contact, will need to follow the advice from NSW Health and get tested and self-isolate for 14 days. This information will have been communicated directly to those who are close contacts.   

  • If you have been to one of the venues on the NSW Government website and have not yet been contacted by NSW Health, please call 1800 943 553.  

  • Anyone who is a close contact must isolate for the full 14 days as directed by NSW Health and not return to any Early Childhood Service during this time.   

  • Anyone who has even the mildest of symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of smell/taste, muscle/joint pains, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting or extreme tiredness should immediately be tested and isolate until they get a negative test result and then when they are free of symptoms can return to your service. 

What to do if we have a confirmed case connected to the service?

If you are notified of a confirmed case in your service within normal business hours, please contact the department’s Information and Enquiries line on 1800 619 113.   
If you are notified of a confirmed case in your service outside of business hours, please contact the department’s Emergency COVID number on 0477 388 715. 
The department will contact a dedicated team at the Ministry of Health and work through the required processes with your service. 


The process involves: 

Notifying DoE 

  1. Your service will need to contact families and staff connected to the service for a temporary closure while NSW Health conducts contact tracing. 

  1. Your service will be contacted by NSW Health to support contact tracing. 

  1. NSW Health will identify key dates of infection and work with you to communicate to families. 

  1. Your service will need a deep clean. 

  1. NSW Department of Education and NSW Health will remain in contact about next steps. 

While close contacts may receive a text message in relation to secondary close contacts applying to work colleagues, Health have determined that this only applies in very specific circumstances and does not apply in an ECE work setting. The only exception to this would be where educators or children reside together, carpool together, or spent significant time together outside of the work context. 

Our numbers of attendances have dropped due to COVID-19 lockdowns, meaning we need to reduce staff hours – where do we find information about how to do the right thing for our staff while managing costs?

Fair Work Australia provides advice on employer and employee rights with regard to cutting staff hours and what to do if a staff member has to self-isolate. Discuss with your team their preferences in terms of working from home, their own care responsibilities and health issues to find the best way to manage staff costs and individual circumstances. If you are a member of a union, we suggest you contact them for further information. 

If you do need to cut casual staff hours, refer staff to the COVID-19 Disaster Payment. 

Testing for people leaving Greater Sydney region to go to work

If you live in or are staying in Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, you must have a COVID-19 test in the 7 days before working if your workplace is 50km or more outside Greater Sydney.

Is education and care restricted to children of ‘authorised workers’ during this period?

The Public Health order now defines ‘authorised workers’. Education and care services are able to remain open to offer care to families, including both authorised workers and other families who require it. Services may, at their discretion, make business decisions that limit the number of children accepted into care.

What are the requirements for families wearing face masks during drop-off and pick-up?

It is strongly encouraged that any family member or adult accessing a service wear a face mask at all times including where practical during drop-off and pick-up, and while at the premises of the service. This includes at family day care residences/venues.

What do best practice drop-off and pick-up procedures look like?

The drop off and pick up of children should be managed as follows:

  • where possible, parents/carers should drop off and pick up at the service entrance/exit and not enter the premises
  • physical distancing should be maintained by parents/carers and staff
  • parents/carers should wear a mask
  • staff should wear a mask when interacting with parents/carers

Temperature checks for arriving children are not required.

We have created a Covid-19 Safe drop off checklist – an infographic tool that shows parents what they need to follow, and which can be used in conjunction with your QR code, sign-in instructions and instructions on how you manage pick up and drop off.

This tool is deliberately generic and we hope you find this useful. You can find it here!

Can parents/carers enter school grounds to drop off/pick up children from services on school sites?

If it is not possible for services to organise drop off/pick ups at the school gate (due to staffing and other practical or safety issues), then parents may enter school grounds and drop off/pick up at the service entrance. Health and safety precautions should be taken including physical distancing and wearing masks.

Can incursions continue in services at the current time, including for Vacation Care services?

Incursions should not be held in the Greater Sydney region while the Public Health Order is in place in order to limit the number of people on site in a service. The department suggests exploring ways to hold virtual incursions as an alternative at this time.

Providing transport to children

Education and care services that provide regular transport to children as part of day-to-day service operations may continue to do under the current Public Health Orders. This includes transporting children to and from home and school.

Services should review their risk assessments and update their transport policy and procedures when necessary to ensure safe hygiene practices are maintained while transport is being provided. This can include consideration of the mode of travel (bus, care or minivan), the number of educators present during the transportation and the ages or special vulnerabilities of the children.

Can we hold an after hours staff meeting in our service?

Services should refer to their COVID safe plans to determine the best way to manage staff meetings at this time. Staff should wear masks if they are engaging with other adults and not caring for children, for instance, in the office or staff room. They should also observe the limit of one person per four square metres in shared workspaces (including staff rooms and administration areas).

Can student placements proceed (for example with TAFE or University students)?
There are currently no restrictions on student placements in NSW ECE services. However, services may want to consider placements in line with:

  • Restrictions of movement or operations under current health orders
  • The level of community transmission of COVID-19 in the local area
  • The student’s ability to comply with your COVID-safe policies and procedures
  • The ability to complete the placement and ensure a continuity of learning for both the student and children.

Students are encouraged to seek guidance from their education provider and the individual service provider in the first instance, based on their COVID safe plan.

Should allied health services continue visiting education and care services during this period (speech therapists, occupational therapists etc.)?

Services should limit non-essential visitors. However, visits by health and wellbeing professionals to support children can occur if necessary for the immediate health and wellbeing needs of children. Individual services should use their discretion in making this determination.

We are directing families to have children tested who are presenting with symptoms, however, not all clinics will test children under five. Where should we send them?

NSW Health has launched a page to help you find your nearest COVID-19 testing clinic. Once you have entered your location, you can see available clinics and it will list whether there are any restrictions on testing children prior to attending.

If a child has been tested for COVID-19 but is yet to receive their results, can they attend the service?

No, once swabbed, you must self-isolate until a negative result is returned per the NSW Health self-isolation guidelines.

What are the symptoms to look out for in children that would require the child to be tested, and/or excluded from care?

Children with any signs of unwellness should stay home.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 such as a fever or respiratory symptoms should have a COVID-19 test and self-isolate until a negative result is received and symptoms have cleared.

When can a child return to care following a period of illness?

A negative COVID-19 test is reassuring, however, a child should not return to care if they remain symptomatic and unwell.

Can siblings of individuals identified as close contacts continue to attend education and care services?

It is likely that siblings of close contacts will need to isolate and should not attend care however this depends on the circumstances.

Please contact NSW Health for further advice in relation to specific circumstances.

How is the Department supporting services in the event of staff shortages?

Services and providers may apply for temporary waivers to address staff shortages. Waivers can be granted for qualifications and, in exceptional circumstances, ratios.
Waivers related to COVID-19 are:

  • assessed on a case-by-case basis to ensure children are not placed at additional risk
  • only open to services that can demonstrate need
  • fast-tracked – as long as there’s no increased risk to staff or children’s safety.

The department’s COVID guidelines for ECEC services webpage has more information about applying for a waiver.

Are masks required to be worn in education and care services?

  • Staff outside Greater Sydney are not required to wear masks while educating and/or caring for children, but may choose to do so.
  • Staff at early childhood services or OSHC services on school sites in the Greater Sydney region are now required to wear masks while in indoor and outdoor areas.
  • Staff across NSW should wear masks if they are engaging with other adults and are not caring for children, for instance, in the office or staff room.
  • Staff should wear masks with dealing with adults during drop off or pick up.
  • Visitors, including families, are encouraged to wear a face mask at all times while at the service where practical.

How far apart do adults need to be in education and care services?

  • 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) or shared workspaces (i.e. staffrooms, admin areas).
  • The density limit between adults should be maintained during pick-up and drop-off, and may mean staggering times when children arrive at and depart from services.
  • Visitors and adults should keep at least 1.5 metres apart.
  • Non-essential meetings and professional development should be postponed or held remotely (unless essential face-to-face training for first aid, anaphylaxis etc. is required).

Can educators work between different rooms, or at different service locations?

Where possible and practical, movements between rooms and between services should be minimised. Risks associated with movement of staff should be considered as part of the services’ COVID-safe plans.

If a staff member lives in Greater Sydney and works outside Greater Sydney, should they be attending work during this period?

  • If a staff member lives in Greater Sydney and works outside Greater Sydney, they can attend their normal workplace while following the requirements of the Public Health Order, but they are requested to get a COVID-19 test every seven days. They can still work while waiting for a result if they are symptom free. If a staff member has been identified as a close contact, they should follow the advice of NSW Health.
  • If a staff member is coming into Greater Sydney for work, while within the Greater Sydney region and when they return to their place of residence, they will need to follow the Public Health Order, including the stay-at-home restrictions. This includes not leaving home except for the 4 reasonable excuses that are in the Public Health Order.

Is the regulatory authority limiting its visits to services during this period?

The regulatory authority will limit non-essential visits to services within the Greater Sydney region, based on the importance of the visit in minimising risk to children. Any visits that are undertaken will follow COVID-safe practices.

Where can I get further information relating to mental health and wellbeing?

There are resources and support available, you can visit websites such as Beyond Blue, Headspace & Black Dog Institute for support resources and information.

Where can I access current updates about COVID-19?

The Department regularly updates the COVID-19 Guidelines for ECEC services based on advice from NSW Health. You are encouraged to regularly check the NSW Health website regarding restrictions in NSW and that of other state departments if you have recently travelled.

Educators are encouraged to review the NSW Government COVID-19 news and updates for venues and locations of concern and adhere to the advice provided.

COVID-19 Member Resources

We have a range of COVID-19 resources to help support our members, including: Safe Drop off checklist, COVID-19 Action Plan, COVID-19 Sample Policy and more. 


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