Little boy with Coronavirus sign

7 Tips for Keeping Your Childcare Centre Safe from COVID-19

Little boy with Coronavirus sign

Ensuring that your business stays safe from Covid-19 is hard enough in the current climate, but it becomes ten times trickier when you add large groups of children into the equation.

However, if you take sensible precautions and put safety and cleanliness at the heart of everything you and your team do, there’s no reason you can’t continue to ensure that your childcare centre stays a happy, Covid-free haven for little ones during these uncertain times. 

Here’s how to keep your childcare centre safe from Covid-19. 

1. Require Sick Staff and Children to Stay Home
Ensuring that staff and children who are obviously unwell don’t attend your childcare centre sounds like it should be easy, but that’s unfortunately not the case. Staff presenteeism and parents who need to offload their children so they can get to work may mean that concerning symptoms are overlooked. 

Set out your Covid-19 sickness policy in two clear, easily accessible documents — one for staff and one for parents — and make it clear that you will not permit anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms to enter the building.

2. Ensure That Staff Are Following Guidance
As the pandemic rumbles on, it’s easy for people to get complacent when it comes to things like hand washing and mask wearing. Yet to protect your childcare centre from Covid-19, it is essential that staff stick to the rules.

Help them out by providing PPE such as masks, creating hand sanitising stations, and hanging up posters reminding them of social distancing and hand washing guidelines. 

3. Separate Children and Staff Into Bubbles
If your childcare centre is relatively large, it’s worth separating children and staff into separate bubbles. Assign children to childcare providers who will take care of them each day, and ensure that the separate bubbles stay in different rooms throughout their time at the centre. Stagger their time outdoors and in the lunchroom to prevent crossover. 

4. Stagger Arrival and Pick-Up Times
Prevent large groups of parents and children mingling at the centre by staggering drop-off and pick-up times. Where possible, set up a safe arrival and pick-up zone outside the centre that is manned by your staff so parents don’t need to enter the building at all. 

5. Screen Children Upon Arrival
Covid-19 does not always manifest in obvious symptoms — particularly among little ones. Where possible, screen children’s temperature upon arrival. Ensure that the screening area is clear of other staff and children, and make sure the staff member carrying out the screening is properly protected by PPE. 

6. Regularly Clean and Disinfect
While it’s always vital to keep your childcare centre clean, cleanliness in 2020 needs to hit a whole new level. Develop a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting that ensures that frequently touched surfaces and objects — including toys and games — are routinely cleaned, sanitised, and disinfected. It’s also important to ban the use of toys that cannot be cleaned and sanitised. 

7. Cancel and Postpone Planned Events
The fluctuation of national and local lockdowns means that it’s very difficult to predict whether any planned events will actually be permitted to take place. However, in order to keep your childcare centre safe from Covid-19, it’s sensible to cancel and postpone these events anyway. 

While it’s unfortunate to deprive your community of children and parents of the usual yearly events, they’ll enjoy them a lot more once the pandemic is over — and you won’t have to worry that a coronavirus outbreak is in the cards. 

To find out more about how software like Kidsoft can help you manage your business operations now more than ever, contact us to book a demo.

Mum on laptop, boy on ipad

5 Tips for Parents Working From Home With Kids

Mum on laptop, child on tablet

It’s safe to say that successfully working from home with the kids has been one of the major challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was never going to be an easy task, but parents around the world are slowly getting used to juggling hands-on childcare with packed inboxes and Zoom calls. 

What’s more, there are quite a few tactics you can employ to make it easier, and ensure that when you have an important meeting, it won’t be constantly interrupted by plaintive calls for “Mummm” or “Daaaad” in the background. 

Here are five of our top tips:

Make a Schedule
As with many aspects of parenting, creating a day-to-day schedule is key to surviving working from home with kids. This doesn’t mean putting together a rigid hour-by-hour itinerary, however — every parent knows that even the best laid plans will often be disrupted by the little ones.

But routine is super important to children during their formative years, so a schedule should stop them becoming restless, assist their development and make sure they feel secure during uncertain times. Ahead of time, plan out a strong balance of activities and meals that align with your work schedule, and ensure you have all the supplies required. 

Rope in Friends and Family
It takes a village, right? And while we might not always be able to see our “village” in the midst of the pandemic, this shouldn’t change your loved ones’ relationship with your little ones. Rope in granny or grandad, or even a good friend, to conduct reading sessions or other virtual activities with the kids over Skype or FaceTime while you’re working. 

This way, they’ll be supervised, spending quality time with a loved one, and — fingers crossed — remain quiet and busy for an hour or two. What’s more, the adults involved will most likely love the change in their routine too. 

Save the Kids’ Favourite Activities for Your Meetings
In an ideal world, children would be quiet and peaceful for as long as you need them to be. But in the real world this can take a little bribery. Whether their favourite autonomous activity is a beloved toy, a special book, a video game, or access to a favourite YouTube channel, save it for when you really, seriously need an hour or two of peace and quiet. This could be an important meeting with your boss, or simply a task that demands your full concentration. 

Gamify Your Work Time for the Kids
When children are asked not to disturb mum or dad due to work hours, this can sometimes act a bit like a red rag to a bull. Funnily enough, the hours they know you need them to stay away are often the exact hours they suddenly become super clingy — right?

One way to handle this situation is by gamifying your work hours for your children. Simply put, make it fun and involve them. Why not ask your kids to write out and decorate your working hours – and do not disturb times – to stick to your office door? Another option is a star chart where the children get a treat for every week they haven’t disturbed you during office hours.

Create an Arts and Crafts Space
When it comes to keeping the little ones occupied, arts and crafts is the gift that keeps on giving. Give them time, and they’ll inevitably get bored of specific toys or games, but with art there’s a whole world of imagination to explore. 

Create a dedicated arts and crafts space, complete with plastic sheeting, to ensure safety during arts and crafts sessions and that you won’t return to paint splatters all over the walls and carpet. Set the space up with the supplies you’re comfortable with them having, and when you need to disappear into your work for an hour, give them a project to work on.

Working from home can be challenging during the best of times, and adding kids and a pandemic into the mix can make it incredibly overwhelming. Follow these 5 tips to ensure you keep your little ones occupied and also have dedicated time to be productive.

The Return to CCS Package Kidsoft

The Return to CCS Package

Kidsoft hosts online event to support ECEC sector as return to CCS package plays out

Cloud based CCMS provider, Kidsoft, brought the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector together yesterday evening in an online event designed to explore the challenges and changes 2020 has seen to date, with a focus on the recent return to CCS funding. 

Moderated by The Sector founder, Jason Roberts, a panel comprised of HR professionals, chartered accountants and customer service experts explored a range of topics including the impact of the return to Stage Three lockdowns in Victoria, the challenges in supporting families during this difficult period, and practical suggestions for service owners and managers to survive the transition back to CCS.

Over 400 registrations were received for the popular event, the first in a series of collaborative efforts by Kidsoft to enhance and add value to the ECEC space. 

Managing Victorian restrictions and the cessation of JobKeeper 

The first speaker, David Morphett from DJMIR Advisory Services spoke about the intensive impact of the return to lockdown conditions in Victoria, which have hit services just as they were eyeing a return to normal, in terms of occupancy and operation.

While the State is “yet to find the bottom” of the crisis, he added, there are a number of parents who are experiencing frustration with the continual change of restrictions, choosing to withdraw their children from care altogether, rather than to trust the allowable absence levels, or to navigate fluctuating levels of CCS payment and risk incurring fees. 

Parents are choosing instead to keep children at home until the path forward, both in terms of restrictions and their employment, becomes clearer, and this is impacting heavily on the operation of ECEC services. 

Just as the return of restrictions in Victoria is impacting parents and families, Mr Morphett said, from a national perspective, the cessation of JobKeeper for the ECEC sector, and the transitional support measures put in its place as CCS returns, is also impacting on the experience of leaders in the sector. 

Once JobKeeper ends, Mr Morphett explained, so too do the stand down measures which came with it. For services who are battling lower occupancy, who have had to move staff from one room to another, who have lost staff due to visa conditions, or who have moved staff from full time employment to part time employment, this could be problematic. 

The coming months will be a time during which services are constrained by conditions relating to the transitional support measures, and engaging in consultation with their teams about the best path forward to ensure ongoing viability, he added. 

Supporting families, maintaining relationships

Second speaker, Tom Scantlebury from Sky Blue Customer Experience Services, spoke on a topic familiar to all those working in the ECEC sector – the value of relationship based practice. 

“The most important thing to do during this period is to grow an extra ear” Mr Scantlebury said, explaining the importance of balancing compliance with empathy, and of seeking to walk in the shoes of children and families who are dealing with unprecedented levels of stress. 

While owners and operators are under enormous pressure themselves, in terms of managing the expectations of their teams and the demands placed on them by the shifting sands of policy and funding, families are looking to trusted voices for reassurance and stability. 

People, Mr Scantlebury said, will leave services because of their circumstances, such as losing their job, but the way in which follow ups from these departures are handled will determine whether or not they return once circumstances change. 

Using the example of a service following up with a family who has left in relation to unpaid fees, Mr Scantlebury preached caution. 

“When it comes to families, and our relationships with them, it’s a matter of listening, empathising, and staying as close as possible.” 

Communication, particularly in relation to any changes, is paramount in maintaining that close relationship, he continued, explaining that the return to restrictions in Victoria is likely to impact around Australia, with parents having questions about pick up and drop off, and how their child will be cared for and protected.

Leadership

Relationships don’t begin and end with families, with both Mr Morphett and Mr Scantlebury outlining the importance of maintaining clear relationships and “lines of sight” with the educators and leaders within services also. 

Mr Morphett spoke on the need for services to spend the next 12 weeks, whilst transition support measures are in play, actively consulting with their teams about the employment landscape post September, and to use this time to build a solid plan. 

Mr Scantlebury touched on the need for leaders to be sensitive to the uncertainties faced by their employees, who may be operating from a baseline of anxiety, arising from circumstances in their home lives, such as a partners job loss, or the need to care for and educate their own children at home. 

The educators affected by stand downs or reductions in hours, he added, are the “front line” in maintaining relationships and empathising with families, and if they feel “hard done by” or disengaged, the impact to the business could be ongoing. 

“This is the toughest time to be a leader” Mr Scantlebury said. “You’ve got to manage the business, but also the people and the relationships.”

Practicalities around CCS return 

While the return to lockdown restrictions in Victoria has had a social and emotional impact on those residing there, the timing of the lockdown, falling during the transition back to CCS, has proved problematic for some Victorian providers. 

The final speaker of the evening, Kidsoft CFO Di Girvin, shared her advice for Victorian services, and for other services who may be struggling to navigate the change. 

“Everyone had been ramping up to return to normal on Monday” she said. “There’s lots of questions from Victorian services about the capacity of CCMS software to waive the gap fee for those absences, and about the administrative burden of applying discounts day by day or week by week to those absences which relate directly to COVID.”

While Kidsoft is agile and has been able to rapidly respond to these challenges, not all providers have had the same experience. 

Owners and managers, Ms Girvin continued, are also dealing with families who are concerned about allowable absences, as Mr Morphett outlined earlier. Occupancy levels are “plunging” as families choose the easier option of cancelling their enrolment, rather than navigating the allowable absences path. 

For those outside Victoria, Ms Girvin said, it was important to remain aware of the practicalities of moving not only from a “free childcare” model back to CCS, but also of straddling a new financial year. 

“It feels like we’ve been on this holiday since 6 April, in terms of functions we haven’t had to worry about or complete (to be compliant) but come Monday, we really need to look at those things which might impact our FY2020 results”. 

Dealing with overdue attendances, and submitting variations in attendances up until 6 April are just two of the areas where Ms Girvin said people may have been “caught short” when free childcare was announced. 

“We recommend overdue attendances are dealt with early in the piece, particularly before reports are submitted to accountants” she continued.

Concluding remarks 

To round off the discussion, Mr Roberts posed some questions to the panel, put forward by peer vote from those attending the session. 

One important question related to Family Day Care (FDC), with an audience member asking “Do you see FDC becoming the forefront of ECEC because of their smaller ratios and more flexible time scales, for families?” 

“I think FDC is so important, particularly in regional areas” Mr Morphett explained, outlining that many rural and regional communities lack the consistent numbers to sustain a long day care model. 

“A lot of parents feel more comfortable placing children in FDC when they are younger. It doesn’t receive as much support as it deserves, particularly in those regional areas. I’m hopeful to see that expand in the future” he said.  

Mr Roberts thanked the panel and audience for their participation. To view the remarks made by all three speakers, please see here. Answers to questions which were not able to be answered during the session can be found below. Please note there are a few that will be added in the coming days, so please check back if your questions hasn’t been listed.

For those who were unable to attend, but who are interested in learning more from Kidsoft or any of the other panellists please click here.

Attendee Questions

CCS Estimations are already in Kidsoft and are displaying for bookings from  Monday 13th July 2020. If you run a customer account statement from the 13th July you will see these. As long as the Guardians have an active payment schedule, the schedules will run as per your normal payment cycle.

Victorian services can put standard service and child level discounts back in. For services in the affected areas of Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire if a child is absent for COVID-related reasons they can then waive the gap fee using the % of gap fee Discount. Additionally, for any service that is forced to close on public health advice, as a result of COVID-19, they can also waive families’ out of pocket fees using the % of gap fee Discount as the Ministers Rule has been extended from 30 June 2020 until 31 December 2020.

Yes, that is correct. The Minister’s Rule that permits services to waive families’ out of pocket fees in the event their service is forced to close on public health advice, as a result of COVID-19, will be extended from 30 June 2020 until 31 December 2020. Services using Kidsoft would use the % Gap Fee Discount to carry out this function.

The 62 initial allowable absence days per child ceased on 30 June 2020. There will be 42 initial allowable absence days in the 2020/21 financial year. Additional absence days can be claimed for COVID-19 related reasons without the need for medical evidence and are not counted towards their 42 initial days up until 31 December 2020.

We have never experienced such a time where so many of our communities have been impacted by something so serious. If you think back to the recent bushfires, I would imagine that if certain families lost their homes then there would have been tremendous levels of support and empathy extended to them. I feel we need to operate with that same mindset, to be open hearted and ensure that our families (and our staff) feel supported. How do we do that? Communicate, listen, focus on the parent’s experiences outside of the service. People can tell when you care about them so just by ensuring that this is front of mind on a daily basis will help to maintain/build engagement.

*Sky Blue CXS will soon be providing a free webinar to provide an introduction to some best practices in creating better centre experiences so feel free to connect with HERE to be included in the first round of the education series. 

Written by Freya Lucas, The Sector for Kidsoft
Freya is the Editor at The Sector. She has over 20 years experience in education and care services, with her previous roles as an early childhood teacher, primary teacher, and ECEC operations manager giving her a unique insight into the ECEC sector at all levels. Freya’s career has seen her work in private in-home care, primary schools, long day care, outside school hours care, in addition to tuition and library information and management settings. Freya’s key role at The Sector is to cover the latest ECEC news and provide insight and analysis into sector issues and developments. Freya is engaged with two sons aged 10 and 15. Freya has fond memories of the time her boys’ spent in the early education space.

Kidsoft Blog Toddle Little Monsters eBook

Free eBook – The Boogers Are Coming!

Our clever friends at Toddle have created a great, free resource to help explain the COVID-19 pandemic to young children. Introducing the Toddle Little Monsters story: The Boogers are Coming.

Confusion is a feeling shared by most during this pandemic and whilst the world adjusts to a new normal, children can be left wondering what on earth is going on?

Toddle’s Little Monster characters are based on the six children’s personality archetypes and, amongst other things, aim to educate children about germs, how they spread and how they can stay healthy so that they feel empowered. From Jampa, who is caring and friendly, to Morph who is wild and tenacious, each little monster aims to connect with your child and be a relatable voice to explain the COVID-19 world.

You can download and share ‘The Boogers Are Coming’ with your family and friends via the below link.

Toddle have also created a colouring in version of the book so your little ones can bring it to life with their own flair.

“Our aim with the e-book and animation is to alleviate any worries about COVID-19 in a fun and positive way and help parents communicate with their children in a language they understand.” said Arthur, Toddle CEO.

Find out more about each of the Little Monsters and download more colouring in sheets here.

Free for parents to use, Toddle has every child care centre in Australia on the platform and promises to revolutionise the way parents search, interact with and ultimately choose a child care centre.