Advice for early learning services

Information for early learning services about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).

COVID-19 current alert level(external link)

On this page:

Health and Safety guidance documents

Early Learning Bulletin

For the latest COVID-19 updates, sign up to our Early Learning Bulletin.

We are sending out COVID-19 updates every week.

You can also view the Early Learning Bulletins here: He Pānui Kōhungahunga: The Early Learning Bulletin.

Regional teams

Our regional teams continue to be available to support you if you have any questions or concerns.

Contact our regional teams

Planning for a pandemic event

Every early learning service should have a pandemic plan in place to support the health and safety of children, students and staff. Pandemic plans should be consistent with public health planning requirements.

Planning for a pandemic event (quick guide)

Tracking, cases, and travel restrictions

Does my service need a QR code poster?

Yes. All early learning services are now required to display QR Code posters for the NZ COVID Tracer App in a prominent place at or near the entrances.

You can generate your poster online at QR form COVID-19(external link) (click ‘create your poster now’).

For questions or if you need several posters, email

For more information see the Ministry of Health website(external link)

Do I still need a sign-in register?

Yes. Continue to use your sign-in register so you know who is on site. People who cannot use the QR poster (they may not be able to have the App on their phone) can use the sign-in register.

Your contact tracing system should include QR code posters at your entrances, staff rosters, attendance register and visitor register.

Can visitors and external providers come onsite at Alert Level 2?

Yes, visitors and external providers will be able to go onsite.

Everyone will need to ensure they are recorded as being onsite for a period of time (through the staff rosters and visitor register) and following appropriate hygiene and other health and safety measures required, including that shared equipment will also need to be regularly cleaned.

Can parents and caregivers come onsite at Alert Level 2?

Yes. However, physical distancing of two metres is recommended for parents and caregivers from people they don’t know (to align with general public health measures).

Parents and caregivers who come onsite need to be noted in the visitor register (or if only doing drop-offs or pick-ups, can use check-in using the NZ COVID Tracer App via your QR Code poster).

A reminder that you will already have contact information for parents and caregivers, so don’t need to collect those particular details each time they come onsite for a period of time.

What happens if there is a confirmed or probable case linked to my service?

If there is a confirmed or probable case linked with your early learning service, you will be advised of that by the Medical Officer of Health or your local public health authority.

If you become aware of a case associated with your early learning service and haven’t received notification from health authorities or the Ministry of Education, contact your local public health unit or your local Ministry of Education contact for information and support:

If the person or persons who are a confirmed or probable case have worked in or attended your service when they could have been infectious (which could start up to two days prior to having symptoms), your service will be closed for at least 72 hours.

This is to allow time for contact tracing and a clean of the service to align with Ministry of Health guidelines.

See our health and safety guidance for more information about cases connected to your early learning service.

What’s the difference between a confirmed and probable case?

See the Ministry of Health document Case definition of COVID-19 infection(external link)

What’s the difference between a close, household, and casual contact?

See the Ministry of Health webpage: Contact tracing for COVID-19 (external link) Ministry of Health website(external link)

Where can I keep up to date with the latest confirmed cases?

The Ministry of Health updates its website with current cases as soon as new information becomes available.

COVID-19 current cases – Ministry of Health website(external link)

Can staff work across different sites and for different employers at Alert Level 2?

Staff can work in different locations on the same day, week etc. and for other employers.

Everyone will need to ensure they are recorded as being onsite (through the staff rosters and/or visitor register) and following appropriate hygiene and other health and safety measures required by that service.

Can I travel between regions?

Inter-regional travel is possible at Alert Level 2 and there are no restrictions on getting to work and early learning.

For those in Auckland: as there are still cases in the community, we would advise against non-essential travel.

You can travel to another region if you are confident the appropriate requirements will be followed, including those for gatherings if travelling for an event.

Funding arrangements

Will funding continue for absent children?

Funding will continue for permanently enrolled children who do not attend between 12 August and 30 September 2020 through an EC12 Exemption to the Absence Rules (both Continuous Absence and Frequent Absence). You do not need to complete an EC12 form for children permanently enrolled at your service. From 1 October, the Frequent Absence Rule will be reset, with October becoming 'month 1' for the purposes of assessing a pattern of frequent absence. Previous patterns can be disregarded.

This is the same process as was applied during the previous funding period. We recommend you follow the instructions of your SMS provider to ensure the exemption is applied appropriately to eligible children.

How many discretionary hours are available?

Until 30 September 2020, eligible services can continue to access up to 60 discretionary hours to maintain their certificated teacher hours in situations where staff are unwell and qualified relievers are not available. From 1 October, this will revert back to 40 hours. See section 3-B-2 of the Funding Handbook.

How many discretionary situations are available?

Playcentres and kōhanga reo may access 10 discretionary situations between June and September 2020. From 1 October, this will revert back to 5 discretionary situations.

You will still need to contact your local Ministry office for approval to operate as a discretionary situation.

Do we get funded if we are closed?

Early learning services, kōhanga reo, playcentres and playgroups should be open at Alert Level 2. If you have concerns about your ability to remain open please contact us on so we can support you through this.

Financial assistance

Can my service access the Urgent Response Fund?

Both centre-based and home-based early learning services across the country can now apply for assistance from the Urgent Response Fund.

The fund is for addressing attendance, wellbeing, and engagement in learning for early learning services and schools following the COVID-19 lockdown.

For more information and how to apply, see Urgent Response Fund.

Can I still charge parent fees?

During these uncertain times, we ask that you continue to review your parent fee policies for children who are enrolled but are not able to attend your service in person.

As the situation evolves, we will continue to update you on any further advice.

Is the MSD childcare payment still available?

MSD can continue to pay the MSD childcare subsidy(external link) and OSCAR subsidy where centres are closed or children are absent due to the COVID-19 alert system.

People getting a subsidy must remain eligible for MSD childcare assistance in order for these payments to continue.

Is food/welfare support available?

If you are aware there are people in your community who cannot get access to essential goods such as food, they can contact the local Emergency Coordination Centres (ECC), part of Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups.

These groups coordinate the regional multi-agency response and provide a range of support activities. This is intended for people who don’t have any other options available to them and operates seven days a week from 7 am to 7 pm.

CDEM Group 0800 numbers for essential supplies (external link) National Emergency Management Agency website(external link)

Other welfare supports

The All of Government Welfare Number (0800 779 997) is available seven days a week, providing welfare information and support for individuals in isolation.

The Government has made additional funding available to support the wellbeing of disabled people who usually access MSD funded Community Participation and Very High Needs services. Refer Disability Directorate update for 30 March 2020.

Further information on MSD supports: Supporting providers through COVID-19 (external link) MSD website(external link)

Careers NZ and IHC have launched WeCare.Kiwi(external link) to make it easy to care for and about each other. If you’re on your own during the lockdown or caring for a vulnerable person, you may need some support.

Family/whānau and teacher learning resources

Is distance learning available?

Learning will be onsite with distance learning offered in limited circumstances.

Distance learning should be provided for those required to self-isolate, those individuals who health authorities have asked to stay away while waiting for a test result, or those choosing to remain at home because they are vulnerable to illness.

Are learning support staff available?

At Alert Level 2 learning support staff and independent early intervention providers are able to provide direct support to children and families/whānau across multiple sites and for those learning from home. Centre-based early intervention services will be open at Alert Level 2, while also providing remote support.

Education Support Workers (ESWs) are able to support children attending a service during this time. They can work across multiple early learning services during Alert Level 2.

Early learning services and kōhanga reo will need to work through the allocation of these resources across their sites in order to provide the required support to all the children with learning needs they have attending.

Online learning from home resources

If tamariki need to learn from home (or wherever they’ve based), we have a range of resources and guidance available on our Learning from Home website to support this.


Learning From Home(external link)

Online learning from home resources for Pacific families

The Talanoa Ako pacific parent programme is still available on radio and Digital App.

Talanoa Ako for Pacific Communities(external link)

Resources for families/whānau wanting to talk to their children about COVID-19

Guidance helping children and young people while they are learning at home

Nanogirl video on YouTube(external link) which is suitable for children

Resources to help children understand face coverings/PPE

Hospital Play Specialists Association website(external link): Resources for COVID-19 Support.

Resources for adult and child wellbeing

COVID-19 and wellbeing: information applicable to both schools and early learning.

Health and safety

See our health and safety guidance documents below for information on:

  • Cleaning and hygiene
  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • Indoor temperatures & physical spacing
  • Food hygiene & meal breaks
  • Relievers & visiting teachers
  • Sleep furniture, toys & equipment
  • Van transport & excursions

What are the rules for gatherings?

Under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Order, at Alert Level 2, early learning services, kōhanga reo and playgroups are exempted from physical distancing requirements when people are there to receive, provide, or support education services.

Other health measures must be in place, including appropriate physical distancing for adults (one metre from other adults when practicable), hand washing, staying away if sick, contact tracing systems and regularly cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces.

If you are hosting an event or activity that brings people onsite who are not there for education purposes, including older children, parents and caregivers, then the following rules for gatherings apply to everyone in attendance:

  • Gatherings must have no more than 100 people in each defined space.
  • Keep high hygiene standards.
  • Keeping a physical distance from people you don’t know remains important. If you can't maintain physical distance from people you don't know (recommended one metre where practical), participants could consider wearing a face covering.
  • Contact tracing must be in place (display QR code posters).



If tamariki need to learn from home (or wherever they’ve based), we have a range of resources and guidance available on our ‘Learning from Home’ website to support this.

Learning from home(external link)


Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback