Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 for early learning services
Visits are expected to be carried out in person.
No. Anyone with COVID must isolate for a seven day period and stay at the place of isolation unless allowed out for a permitted activity. No one else is allowed to enter the place of isolation except for specific permitted reasons. Education and care is not one of those reasons.
With only cases being required to isolate for 7 days, household contacts can continue to work and go to early learning. However, daily RAT testing of household contacts for 5 days is recommended by Ministry of Health. This is something we are being asked to do to keep everyone safe while continuing to reduce restrictions. You should have conversations with your staff about how you are going to manage when staff are household contacts, and you should remind parents about the importance of keeping children home if they are unwell. You already have policies and procedures in place to manage when children are unwell at your service. You should review these to make sure they still fit the current COVID settings, and if necessary obtain legal advice.
A person with COVID is not able to drop their children to a service as this is not permitted travel so is not allowed under the current settings.
Children and staff are not required to wear face masks in early learning services and early learning services are not expected to provide face masks for children or staff. It remains an option for those individuals and a decision for the individuals and parents/caregivers.
No, it is no longer a requirements for adults at playgroup to wear masks.
Services can consider making face masks a requirement if you consider it is an appropriate health and safety measure as part of your risk assessment and management plan, provided that the measure is not discriminatory against particular people or groups.
Some people may have a face mask exemption due to their disability or health condition that makes wearing a face mask unsuitable. You should take this into account if you choose to have a policy around face masks.
You can consider implementing any health and safety measure that you consider is appropriate as part of your risk assessment and management plan, provided that the measure is not discriminatory against particular people or groups.
The Employment NZ website provides useful information for both employers and employees, so this is a good place to start if you are navigating employment matters such as leave and pay. The website also provides information on the best way to prevent and resolve problems.
Employment New Zealand website
Under the normal absence rules funding support for when a child is away includes:
- the three-week rule provides funding for three weeks of continuous absence regardless of reason
- the frequent absence rule allows for three months of irregular attendance before an enrolment agreement needs to be changed.
An absence exemption can be applied in your SMS for children affected by COVID-19 or a winter illness to protect against the three-week and frequent absence rules.
For absences of four weeks or more parents will need to complete a ‘statement of intention to return’ or ‘reconfirmation of enrolment to provide the evidence that a child has not permanently left the service.
Funding for an enrolled child begins on the planned start date of their enrolment agreement.
As per chapter 3-A-2 of the Funding Handbook, when a child does not attend on their planned start date, if there was a signed enrolment agreement in place and the reason for the absence has been documented by a letter from the child’s parent/guardian then you can claim one week of absences.
The Ministry will recover funding claimed for absences where there is no signed enrolment agreement or letter explaining the absence for the child.
Licensed services that have insufficient available staffing because staff have COVID-19 or are unwell due to winter illnesses, may continue to be funded by the Ministry of Education, if they are closed for these reasons.
You will need to apply for an Emergency Closure through your local Ministry office, these will be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
If this is approved, you should apply the Emergency Closure (EC) code in your Student Management System.
If your service chooses to stay closed for any other reason, then you will not be funded and should use the Service Closed (SC) code in your Student Management System.
When applying for an emergency closures due to COVID-19 and/or winter illness we require:
- a written request with confirmation of the number of staff affected (but not their names)
- why you are unable to staff the service (this will vary from service to service), and
- the time frame concerned.
You must keep the Emergency Closure confirmation letter provided by your local Ministry Te Mahau office for recordkeeping purposes.
The Frequent Absence rule period was re-set from 1 June 2022, meaning earlier absence patterns can be disregarded. June will consequently become month one. This applies to all early learning services in all regions.
The ECE Operational Funding subsidy is for each child for up to 6 hours a day. If your service has reduced operational hours, for example from 10 hours to 8 hours each day, this should not affect your ECE subsidy funding that is up to 6 hours a day for each child. However, there are also other funding sources like WINZ subsidies and parent fees.
Family/whānau and teacher learning 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 and Ki te Ao Marama websites to support this.
In addition, on-demand content can be found here:
- Home Learning TV can be accessed On Demand or via the TVNZ App on a device (mobile phone, smart TV, or tablet); and
- Mauri Reo, Mauri Ora can be accessed on demand from Māori TV.
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 is suitable for children.
COVID-19 and wellbeing: information applicable to both schools and early learning
Yes, all teachers and support staff have access to EAP wellbeing support services.
Gold Star is an online wellbeing programme hosted by EAP Services where you can access e-learning modules, self-tests, and webinars. All staff in early learning services (including kōhanga reo, kindergartens, playcentres and home-based services) are eligible to access the Gold Star programme free of charge.