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Early childhood service operations

Operators of early childhood services should consider their context and the level of transmission in the South Australian community in implementing aspects of the advice.

South Australian COVID-19 forward plan for education 2021

The Department for Education has developed forward plans for early childhood services applicable from the 23 November 2021.

These plans are to manage the risks associated with the virus entering school, preschool and early childhood services populations.

See the South Australian COVID-19 forward plan for education 2021: early childhood services (PDF 94KB).

Vaccination in education and early childhood settings

The Emergency Management (Education and Early Childhood Settings Vaccination) (COVID-19) Direction 2021  requires that, from 11 December 2021, all persons working in a South Australian Education or Early Childhood setting must:

  • have received at least one dose of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved COVID-19 vaccine; and
  • have received, or have evidence of a booking to receive, a second dose of a TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine within the interval after the first dose recommended by the ATAGI for that COVID-19 vaccine.

For detailed information see the COVID-19 vaccination requirements for education and early childhood settings frequently asked questions.

Attendance during COVID-19

Children should attend an early childhood service as normal unless they:

  • are self-isolating as directed by SA Health
  • are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test
  • are unwell.

For parents who choose to restrict their child’s physical attendance at an early childhood service, communication between the service and family is essential to ensure all children continue to be supported with their learning.

The Department for Education has a number of online resources on the Our Learning SA webpage to support children, families and educators for continued learning.

Face masks

Masks provide a physical barrier between individuals, reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Masks are optional indoors for staff and educators/care providers until SA Health requirement to reinstate in response to transmission risk.

Masks are recommended for all adult visitors to the site.

Information and signage about mask requirements should be placed at site and building entrances and in communal areas such as staff rooms. Visit SA Health’s website for wear a mask resources.

Wearing a mask

Either cloth or surgical masks can be worn by adults and children.

Visit SA Health's website for guidance on how to wear a face mask and disposal of face masks .

Strategies for adults unable to wear a mask

Where staff and educators/care providers and parents/carers are unable to wear face masks other transmission reduction strategies, such as physical distancing, should be enhanced.

Staff members and educators/care providers unable to wear face masks should also avoid providing supervision or care of children with COVID-19 symptoms.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing should be maintained between adults where possible.

Tips to enhance physical distancing:

  • Look at ways to limit parents and caregivers entering the foyer, children’s rooms and play areas during drop off and pick up. Be mindful of the supervision of children and ensuring unaccompanied children do not leave the service.
  • Consider multiple entry and exit points to your service to reduce the number of adults congregating, taking into consideration supervision and safety requirements.
  • Mark the floor to indicate physical distancing spaces in appropriate locations (eg the foyer, staff rooms, external pick up and drop off locations).
  • Limit the number of staff in common areas.
  • Adapt indoor activities for staff including encouraging staff to take breaks outside and holding meetings outdoors or online.
  • Signage to direct one-way flow of adults where practical.
  • Consider staggered start and finish times if your site has set start/finish times.  One example may be to divide the group and allocate times for pick up and drop off. (it is not expected that session times are extended to accommodate additional arrival and departure procedures).
  • Encourage staff, educators/care providers and parents to observe physical distancing requirements and not congregating in areas inside or around the early childhood service.

Physical distancing is not practical when providing direct care to children. In this situation, standard infection control precautions are advised. See NHMRC guidance staying healthy: preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.


A well-ventilated space can lower the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19.

To improve ventilation early childhood services can:

  • Increase fresh air into indoor spaces whenever possible by opening windows and doors, including staff rooms and administration areas.
  • Airing out rooms when not in use.
  • Using ceiling fans where natural ventilation is available to encourage airflow, however avoid using fans in enclosed spaces (where fresh air is not available).
  • Continue to use air conditioners and ceiling fans (where installed) and consider opening windows and doors to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculation.
  • Maximise the use of outdoor learning environments where appropriate.
  • While important, improved ventilation does not replace other infection control mechanisms such as physical distancing, personal hygiene and use of masks.

In cases of poor outdoor air quality (such as smoke, thunderstorm asthma events), windows and doors should be closed and air conditioners set to re-circulate.

Preventing and managing illness

The best way to stop the spread of illness is to practice good hygiene. Everyone is encouraged to:

  • wash their hands regularly, particularly after using the toilet and before eating
  • use alcohol based sanitiser – place it at the gate/service entrance for each parent and child to use on arrival
  • establish hand sanitation stations around the learning space to reduce children accessing the bathroom at the same time
  • wipe down frequently touched surfaces
  • cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue
  • avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth
  • if people are unwell, stay home to stop the spread of infections to others.

The SA Health Stop the Spread webpage has resources to display about preventing illness.

Translated resources from SA Health are available on the multicultural communities COVID-19 advice webpage.

QR Codes

Department for Education preschools and schools are required to use their COVID-SAfe QR code.  Whilst it is not mandatory for other early childhood services, it is strongly recommended that the COVID-SAfe check in system be used to log staff, contractors and visitors entering a service.

A COVID-SAfe QR code can be generated by creating a voluntary COVID-safe plan. This will assist with contact tracing should the need arise.

Parents are not required to check in when children are being picked up or dropped off without entering the premises.

The COVID-SAfe QR code should be clearly displayed at all entrances to buildings and a hard copy sign in sheet should also be readily available.

Where QR codes are not used, services should ensure they have processes in place to record who is on site. This would include:

  • staff/educator sign in registers
  • visitor sign-in registers
  • program sign-in register if offering other programs such as playgroups, parent information and support sessions

Attendance registers should include time of arrival and departure, full name and contact phone number.

Recording child attendance

Child attendance records should be updated regularly throughout the day to accurately record when children arrive late or leave early.


Parents and families attending playgroups at an early childhood service are not required to be vaccinated unless they are working or volunteering at the playgroup. Please continue to ensure COVID safe measures are followed wherever practicable.


Visitors, including parents, are allowed on site and events can proceed as long as COVID safe measures are in place and followed – eg physical distancing, QR check-in or visitor record of attendance, face masks, hand sanitiser/hygiene, stay home if unwell.

The Emergency Management (Education and Early Childhood Settings Vaccination) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 does not apply to parents or families attending events, as long as they are not working or volunteering at the early childhood service or event.

As always have contingency plans in place and be prepared to postpone or cancel if health settings change.

Parent programs or groups

Parents and families attending parenting programs, sessions or events at an early childhood services are not required to be vaccinated unless they are working or volunteering at the program, session, or event.

Student placements

Students undertaking placements in an early childhood service must meet vaccination requirements and follow the COVID safe measures implemented at the site.


COVID-19 (coronavirus) Team

Emaileducation.covidcoordination [at] sa.gov.au