The well-being, health and safety of children, their families and those working in the sector is a priority. This web-page provides guidance for parents and service providers on the reopening, operating and use of early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) services.
Guidance is based on the latest public health advice available from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in the HSE, which has been approved by the Expert Advisory Group of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). The public health advice is subject to ongoing review / updating by the HPSC. If the public health advice changes, the guidance documents on this web-page may change accordingly. Every ELC and SAC setting is different and service providers will need to use their professional judgement in determining how best to comply with the public health advice while ensuring high quality practice to support children’s well-being, learning and development.
More resources and practice examples will be added to this web-page over the coming weeks. You are therefore advised to check for updates.
Temporary arrangements are in place for ELC and SAC services under the current Level 5 measures. Documents below provide information on the measures that are currently in place until March 5th. This section will be updated on a regular basis with new information as it becomes available.
This section provides some quick reference material on a variety of thematic areas please click on the relevant Tip Sheet and Posters below to download for more information.
This section provides helpful information and guidance on children in settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children have rarely been the person who brought COVID-19 into a household when household spread has happened. Children seem more likely than adults to have no symptoms or to have mild disease. Symptoms in children include cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhoea and vomiting. It is important for parents and for those who deliver early learning and care and school-age childcare to accept that no interpersonal activity is without risk of transmission of the virus. However public health advice is that reopening is appropriate.
If your child has symptoms of viral respiratory disease, even if they are mild, they must not attend a childcare setting. Likewise parents who have respiratory symptoms must not take their child to a setting or pick them up. Parents must not take their child to a childcare setting if a parent or anyone else in your home is suspected of having or known to have Covid-19. If your child becomes ill while attending a childcare setting, you must collect them as quickly as possible, contact your GP straight away and follow HSE advice
Parents may be asked to make a verbal or written declaration on returning their child to a setting after an absence to confirm that they have no reason to believe the child has infectious disease and have followed all medical and public health advice they have received with respect to exclusion of the child from childcare services.Requiring assurances/certification from medical practitioners prior to attendance at childcare or prior to return to childcare after an absence is not appropriate as it places an unnecessary demand on the healthcare system and there is no reason to expect it to increase the safety of childcare services.
Settings have implemented a number of measures to limit the risk of infection including measures to prevent the virus being brought into the setting and to reduce the chance of spread of the virus in case it is inadvertently brought into the setting. They will focus on ensuring appropriate infection prevention and control. In this regard, it is important that settings and parents follow advice of the Health Prevention Surveillance Centre (HPSC). Settings will focus on the following in particular:
Settings will continue to safeguard children’s needs for physical care and ensure that they all feel safe, that they belong and enjoy their experience. Social distancing between staff and children is not required within ‘play-pods’ and staff will continue to comfort and cuddle children as normal.
Childcare settings will use a child friendly designated drop off and collection area. During this period, it is important that parents and guardians are physically distance from each other and from staff when dropping off and collecting their children. Your setting manager and staff, will talk to you about the procedures they have in place to get your child/children safely into and, away from the setting during drop-off and pick-up
It is important that you talk to your child to support them to prepare for the transition from home. It is also important to talk to your service provider and discuss what changes they are making to the environment and, their practice in response to public health guidance. Chat to your child about what might be different about the setting, such as drop off or collection, lots of handwashing, the idea of play pods, or that staff might have changed. Also, explain to them what will be the same such as playing indoors and outdoors, reading stories, doing art projects, dressing up, music and exploring nature. More information on supporting your child’s transition is available on our Gov.ie website [Lets Get Ready]
The “play pod” model is a safe and playful approach to restricting interactions between closed groups of children and adults as an alternative to social distancing, which is not possible with young children. The purpose of ‘play-pods’ is to limit the number of people a child has contact with, to facilitate contact tracing, and to support close, positive interactions between children and their adult caregivers, like in a key-worker system, which is characteristic of many childcare settings. This system will also reduce the amount of contact adults have with each other. There will generally be one or two adults in a play-pod, sometimes three. Floating/relief staff that move from pod to pod will be necessary in some cases, but this will be kept to a minimum.
Children must not bring their own toys from home. You can bring a comfort toy that helps your child to fall asleep. However, it is more important than ever that this toy is not shared with other children. It may be useful to provide a duplicate comfort toy to the setting where possible.
Young children will not be expected to remain socially distanced from each other or the adults caring for them. Neither will they be expected to wear masks or be cared for by adults wearing masks. In some instances adults may wear masks or face coverings, including visors but this will generally be when they are not caring for children i.e. interacting with parents, during breaks. Infection risk should be minimised through children remaining within a small group (‘play-pod’) through the day.
Emotional Well-being, (Barnardos) [Download here]
Help for Parents as your child returns to Childcare, (Barnardos), [Download here].
FAQ’s will continue to be update at appropriate intervals
This section contains a number of resources that have been developed to guide and assist providers and practitioners for the reopening and operation of their service(s) during COVID-19.
If you need support over a weekend due to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in your service, please contact a weekend specific COVID support helpline, being hosted by the City/County Childcare Committees, on 1800 940341 between the hours of 10am-1.00pm and 1.30pm-4.00pm on Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays.
This section provides guidance and information on regulations for early learning and care and school-aged childcare settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate has developed guidance for registered providers of early years services to support and facilitate the safe reopening and operation during the COVID-19 period.
These documents have been prepared in line with public health guidance and regulatory requirements. The guidance document provides detailed information on the steps you need to take before and after you reopen.The self-assessment checklist should be completed in parallel with the guidance document as an aide to help services work through the requirements. As you are aware Covid -19 is included in the list of infectious diseases, in the event of a case in an early years’ service it must be notified to Tusla. A revised notification form for Covid-19 has been developed. Should additional advice be received from HPSC before Phase 3 or thereafter, Tusla will amend the documents accordingly.
The suite of documents includes
The Department of Education and Skills, Early Years Education Inspectorate has developed guidance for registered providers of early learning and care settings regarding the arrangements for inspection during the 2020/21 academic year.
The priority for Early learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC) settings in Ireland when reopening will be to ensure the health and safety of children, families and staff, while continuing to ensure quality practice to support children’s well-being, learning and development.This section provides some helpful documents on health and safety.
This section provides tailored information for childminders.
This section provides tailored information for Practice Supports.
The Department has established a Preschool at Home Hub (hyperlinked) to support parents and practitioners during current restrictions. The Preschool at Home Hub has lots of new and existing resources in one convenient place. Early Learning and Care settings have been asked to connect with families to support the children in their setting during current restrictions. Some guidance to support you in relation to connecting with parents is provided below.
To visit the Pre-school at Home hub click on the link here: Pre-School at Home Hub
Connecting with Parents guidance document can be [Downloaded here]
In 2020, Gerardine Fahy made the brave decision to change her practice, after 14 years operating an indoor service Gerardine decided to move her entire service outdoors. The recently renamed New Adventures Outdoor Preschool is a sessional service that caters for a maximum of 11 preschool children and includes an outdoor toilet and hand washing facilities.The newly constructed cabin is a cosy area with storage for children’s belongings, wet gear and a sit down area for lunch/snack time.At a time where our environments are more restricted, Gerardine wanted to create a safe place where children are free to explore, discover and make sense of the world around them.
Click on Vimeo Link to view: https://first5.gov.ie/parents/...
Cheeky Cherubs, Ballincollig, has been providing an outdoor preschool for 11 children for several years. It is a space shared with full day care children, within an urban setting. So, design and layout are of the utmost importance. Each group (pod) have opportunities throughout the day to explore, work and play, around the vegetable garden, the art area, the bikes or in the geodome, fire hut and newly built treehouse. In Cheeky Cherubs, Bishopstown, we completed an outdoor classroom, which was designed with the children at the heart of everything. In each setting the children have direct outdoor access to toilets and handwashing facilities. We have enclosed our covered areas creating warm dry spaces as well as installing bright and soft artificial grass. Ironically, it has been the pandemic and lockdown which provided us with the opportunity to invest in the outdoors, enabling us to enhance the spaces as well as the safety of our children and their educators.
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The Key Person Approach: Supporting Relationships in the Early Years Setting During Covid-19 is a recording of a free webinar looking at the key person approach – what it is, why it is important and how it works in practice in early learning and care. [Register here].
FAQ’s will continue to be update at appropriate intervals