Advice for early learning services
Information for early learning services about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).
On this page:
- Tracking, cases, and travel restrictions
- Funding arrangements
- Financial assistance
- Whānau/teacher resources
- Health and Safety
Health and Safety guidance documents
- Health and safety guidance for early learning services – Alert Levels 1 - 4 [PDF, 792 KB]
- Health and safety guidance for playgroups – Alert Levels 1 - 4 [PDF, 766 KB]
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.
Our regional teams continue to be available to support you if you have any questions or concerns.
- Does my service need a QR code poster?
- Do I still need a sign-in register?
- Can visitors and external providers come onsite?
- Can parents and caregivers come onsite at Alert Level 2?
- Can staff work across different sites and for different employers at Alert Level 2?
- What happens if there is a confirmed or probable case linked to my service?
- What’s the difference between a confirmed and probable case?
- What’s the difference between a close, household, and casual contact?
- Where can I keep up to date with the latest confirmed cases?
- Can I travel between regions?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information see the Ministry of Health website(external link)
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.
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.
Yes – however physical distancing of 2 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.
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:
- Public health unit contacts (external link)– Ministry of Health website(external link)
- Local Ministry of Education contacts
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.
See the Ministry of Health document Case definition of COVID-19 infection(external link)
The Ministry of Health updates their website with current cases as soon as new information becomes available.
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 on site (through the staff rosters and/or visitor register) and following appropriate hygiene and other health and safety measures required by that service.
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.
- Will funding continue for absent children?
- How many discretionary hours are available?
- How many discretionary situations are available?
- Do we get funded if we are closed?
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com so we can support you through this.
- Can my service access the Urgent Response Fund?
- Can I still charge parent fees?
- Is the MSD childcare payment still available?
- Is food/welfare support available?
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
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.
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.
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 7 days a week from 7am to 7pm.
The All of Government Welfare Number (0800 779 997) is available 7 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 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 – We Care Kiwi website(external link)
- Is distance learning available?
- Are learning support staff available?
- Online learning from home resources
- Online learning from home resources for Pacific families
- Resources for families/whānau wanting to talk to their children about COVID-19
- Resources to help children understand face coverings/PPE
- Resources for adult and child wellbeing
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.
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.
You can watch previous episodes of our home learning TV programmes:
The Talanoa Ako pacific parent programme is still available on radio and Digital App.
Guidance helping children and young people while they are learning at home
Nanogirl video on YouTube(external link) which is suitable for children
See Resources for COVID-19 Support – Hospital Play Specialists Association website(external link)
COVID-19 and wellbeing: information applicable to both schools and early learning.
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
- Health and safety guidance for early learning services – Alert Levels 1 - 4
- Health and safety guidance for playgroups – Alert Levels 1 - 4
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 however be in place including appropriate physical distancing for adults (1 metre from other adults when practicable), hand washing, staying away if sick, contact tracing systems and regularly cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces.
However, 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 1 metre where practical), participants could consider wearing a face covering.
- Contact tracing must be in place (display QR code posters).
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