The views and opinions expressed in this article and video are those of the authors. Please use the World Health Organisation or Department of Health to stay up to date on the COVID-19 pandemic. Please also note that with the changing nature of this situation, some of what was communicated may only be relevant during the time it was stated.

 

 

Richard:

Welcome everybody, we’re just waiting for the last few people to arrive, and then we’ll get started. There’s still quite a lot of people coming through, so welcome to everybody. We’ve got about 70 people, but that’s going up every second, more people are coming online, so just bear with us another minute or two and then we’ll get started.

Richard:

Actually, while we’re waiting, if we can just get familiar with the GoToWebinar panel there. If you could just confirm in the little question bar, if you could just put in there that you can hear me and that you can see the green screen that I’m sharing, it says COVID-19 Q&A 6.

Richard:

Thanks, guys. Now the other thing about our … what we’re going to do this week, we tried this last week, you’ve got the option there, there’s a little hand symbol that you can press, now if you press that … when that’s pressed it means your hand is up, so we’re going to try and take questions to live. Now just to be aware, if you put your hand up for a question, if your microphone is muted I can unmute you on my end, but you may also need to unmute yourself on your end.

Richard:

So if you can just make sure that you’re not muted on your end when you’re asking a question, last week we had to come back to quite a few people as they worked out how to unmute themselves. More and more people coming through, welcome. Welcome. Okay well, it’s 1:01 so we’ll get going. So the first thing I wanted to do is I wanted to introduce our panellists for today.

Richard:

So I’ll start with the ANZUK panellists, we’ve got Craig Griffiths representing New South Wales. Craig looks after our office in New South Wales. How are you, Craig?

Craig:

Hi everyone, hope you’re well.

Richard:

And we’ve got Chloe from Queensland. Chloe’s a consultant that works with our temp team in Queensland. Welcome, Chloe.

Chloe:

Hi everyone.

Richard:

And we’ve got Michele. Michele Carnegie from CELA. So Michele’s the CEO at CELA and she’s a special guest with us today. I know that several people have joined us today really to hear what you say, Michele, not what we say. They’re not interested in what we say, they’re interested in what you’re saying. So thank you very much for joining us.

Richard:

Look, some people though, particularly our educators … or particularly our Victorian educators probably, they may not know who you are, do you mind giving us a bit of a rundown on your role, your experience in the early childhood space, and also the role that CELA plays?

Michele:

Happy to Richard and thank you for the invitation, and hello everybody. So Community Early Learning Australia is a member-based [inaudible 00:03:31] body and we represent nearly 2000 members and over 20,000 educators across Australia, and every day our focus is on advocacy, learning and development, and essential resources for early education and care services.

Michele:

And I think it’s important to note that our 1800 number means that members can call us at any time and speak to one of our specialists, and the results of these conversations often shape our approach to living advocacy across government as we share direct examples and circumstances of impact, and this has been a particularly important aspect of what we have done daily during COVID.

Michele:

And in terms of my experience in the early education sector, I’ve been in early education for 10 years, and my work originally was with Contact Inc and I led a program that took the national quality framework into far West and New South Wales, and then for the past two years I’ve been the fortunate CEO of Community Early Learning Australia, otherwise known as CELA, and then for many years before that, I was in financial consulting.

Richard:

Great, thanks, Michele. Well, we’re very lucky to have you today, so thanks for joining us. So we’ll get into the first question, and the first one is for you today Michele. Oh there we go, I was probably supposed to be on that previous screen before. What is the biggest challenge facing your members at the moment Michele?

Michele:

It is a bit difficult to choose what the biggest challenge is, but I certainly feel that it’s unprecedented change and uncertainty. I mean we started the year with devastating fires across a lot of Australia, and in particular Victoria and New South Wales, and we thought that was really tough, and then we went straight into COVID, so it’s been a very, very difficult year for everybody and in particular early education.

Michele:

There’ve been enormous demands placed on management and educators in this ever-changing environment. Keeping children and staff safe through physical distancing, managing parental expectations, changing policies and practices, managing to fund while managing equality education program, and I don’t think any of us have seen complexities like this, and I think our educators in our sector should be congratulated for managing these complexities and staying open, and having extraordinarily low incidences of COVID. Eight services in New South Wales, it’s absolutely extraordinary.

Michele:

So change and uncertainty, and change across pretty much everything that we do. Everything has changed.

Richard:

It’s a very interesting landscape at the moment. I know that you know, the change for us is a challenge as well. The change for many people at the moment, and I guess that’s a large part of why we’re running these Q&A sessions is to try and get the facts out there, because with so much change, there’s so much misinformation as well, because things are moving so quickly it’s very hard to keep up.

Richard:

You’ve pretty much got to be reading the news and reading everything that the Department of Health and the government and the Department of Education are coming out with daily to try and keep up with things. It’s just a crazy situation.

Michele:

Yeah.

Richard:

So we’ve got several questions here from our attendees, and if you posted a question online when you registered for this webinar, we’ve tried to capture that and we’re going to address those questions first, and then what we’re going to do is we’re going to go to live questions, that’s where you can put your hand up and we’ll take live questions.

Richard:

If you don’t have a microphone and you’re unable to do that, you can post a question in the little question box and if we’ve got time we’ll also come to those questions at the end as well. So we’ll see how we go. So first one, can you advise on job-keep eligibility for community preschools registered with ACNC, 30% or 15%? This one’s for you, Michele.

Michele:

Okay, this one’s really interesting. So we had a determination from the tax office I think it was Monday. I think, like everyone else, we almost don’t know what day it is, but it’s very recent. The tricky part here is it’s, I believe, an unintended consequence for preschools on behalf of the government, and I would also reiterate Richard what you just said about the ever-changing environment and the determination that we got is quite likely to have changed already.

Michele:

So preschools are considered as schools when you register for GST. They’re considered as a school because they’re a state-regulated body. So, therefore, it appears that even though a preschool may be registered under ACNC that they may need to reach 30% or more to be eligible for JobKeeper.

Michele:

So other ATO rulings have come out in recent hours that may impact that, so our advice is that you put your application in no matter what, and you reach the highest level that your business has the legal ability to reach, and the ATO will make that determination and decision for you, and we also suggest that you get professional advice to support this process. This is a space that is changing.

Richard:

Yeah, thanks for that Michele, we’re going to give an update on where we’re at with our JobKeeper policy later on, and it’s a similar story, we’re in constant contact with the ATO and it’s changing all the time, so … well, I’ll be able to give you more information than I was last week, that’s for certain, but it is an ever-evolving process.

Richard:

The next question, when do you think work will resume as usual? I think Chloe you’re going to answer this one.

Chloe:

Yes, so since the landscape is changing weekly, and even daily, unfortunately, we won’t be able to set a timeframe on this. However, we are anticipating a strong demand in a few months once COVID-19 settles down, and this is why we are actively recruiting for educators who are looking for permanent and casual positions.

Richard:

Yeah, and we’ve had this question every week, and it’s a bit of a crystal ball question. There are some positive signs, we’re looking … we’re hoping that with the schools planned to go back in certain states, that will encourage higher occupancy levels within preschools and long-daycare centres. So for our educators, we’re hoping that there’ll be a bit of an uptick in work in the coming weeks, but likely that it will be … won’t be looking anything like normal until probably June, July. So we’ll see how that unfolds.

Richard:

Let’s have a look at the next question. Can you provide the most recent advice from the Health and Education Department? Craig?

Craig:

Yeah okay, hi. I suppose unfortunately we can’t really give a short answer to this. There’s an extraordinary amount of information going out. Well, I think even Scott Morrison did an announcement recently, so that’s probably changed in the last two hours, which I haven’t been privy to that information yet.

Craig:

And it’s also different state to state as well, so I suppose the main piece of information I can really give you is to obviously continue with your social distancing, so always do that to support your loved ones, your family, your friends, the community, so that’s obviously a constant right now.

Craig:

In regards to, I suppose, the education, we highly recommend I suppose you just look at the Health Department, the website and the government website, federal particularly as well just to make sure you’re up to date with what’s going on, and I’d recommend doing that daily just as Michele and Richard both just said there, they know things are changing hourly, daily, weekly. So yeah, that’s the best way to stay informed is just to keep on that. You can set it up so those notifications get sent to yourself as well.

Richard:

And I know that we’ve heard Scott Morrison say, with referencing educators and schools, the risks are higher in the staff room than the classroom. I know there was a report came out in New South Wales over the weekend which I guess substantiated that a little bit. Do you have anything else to add Michele with regards to how centres and educators can minimise their risks within services?

Michele:

Yeah, so the physical distancing is of paramount importance and we’re fortunate enough to have the early childhood report that was done at the same time passed to us on Monday, and it is really, really clear that the transmission between child to child, child to adult is very low, it’s adult to adult, and so in terms of managing that, managing parental expectations of coming into the service is absolutely integral, and managing workspaces where your educators are doing their documentation, so as they have preferably their own workspace and also the staff room, so one in, one out.

Michele:

Yeah so keeping … and also if somebody gets sick if a staff member starts to show any signs, having very clear guidelines around where they go to in the service, where they can self isolate in the service until somebody can come and pick them up or they can go home, and absolutely positively any signs of COVID which might be as simple as a hay fever symptom, absolutely get tested before you come back to the service.

Michele:

It’s up to the service to say whether or not that’s essential, but our recommendation is that you go and get tested, you wait what can be just 24 hours now, to get the result before you come back in to be absolutely certain that what you have isn’t COVID.

Richard:

Yeah, and the availability of tests are much more prevalent now compared to you know, only a few weeks ago, and I think that’s right across all states. So that’s a real positive. Thanks for that.

Richard:

The next question’s for you to Michele. Do you have any ideas for how we manage our viability when JobKeeper is not available to service as they are part of a non-government school?

Michele:

Yeah, so there’s been an enormous amount of advocacy across this area, and this is a space that is also moving really quickly, and can I say to you for those of us who have our head inside the tent, the state and commonwealth governments are truly trying to work on solutions here. Now I’m not sure what service type this question is from, so in terms of … if it is a long-daycare there’s been a recent announcement from the ATO that they’re issuing a new ruling which determines the ECEC relief package payments, or the exceptional circumstances supplementary payments, so the ECE relief package payments replace the CCS.

Michele:

So these are the two temporary payments. So if … but they will not be classified as consideration for the provision of taxable supply, which means that the payment themselves are formally exempt from GST. So, as a result, they’re going to fall outside of the JobKeeper definition for GST turnover.

Michele:

So that means that to decline revenue test, these particular services will most likely come close to a zero revenue, so the consequence of that means that they will now be eligible for the JobKeeper package for any services that have participated in the ECE relief package program.

Michele:

Again, can I really stress that you must look to your own individual circumstances here, so to not broadly sweep this general advice across to apply to all circumstances? You really must look at your own specific circumstances and work your own eligibility out.

Michele:

If this question is coming from a preschool in New South Wales then they’ll receive Start Strong based on the 2019 census and can apply now for the fee-free preschool funding program which will supplement their fee … the fee component based on the 2019 census. For some services there is a gap there, and where there is a gap, and where there are any anomalies that are remaining outside of the safety nets because these … the exceptional circumstances supplementary payment and the fee-free preschool funding program is … they don’t like to call them safety nets, but essentially they are.

Michele:

But if a service falls outside of that, then I would urge them to speak to their peak body and to request that their peak body advocates on their behalf directly, because it’s not the intention of government for these services to close down. So we certainly have worked on solutions for individual services and I’m sure other peak bodies would do the same.

Richard:

Great thanks for that Michele, quite a comprehensive answer there. I have to admit I wasn’t understanding all of it, but I think some of that’s specific to New South Wales. I know that the kinder funding in Victoria has some similarities as well, I don’t know the details of that, but I imagine your advice there is probably somewhat relevant to them as well.

Richard:

Let’s have a look at the next question. What are the current job … sorry, what are the current job opportunities and hiring in the sector at present? Craig, I think you were going to answer this one.

Craig:

So unfortunately as you can imagine COVID’s had an enormous effect on the industry, I know us as a business we’ve reported on this maybe … I think it was last week that our business was reported on 1% before the year before, and the last two weeks is at 2%, so I mean even we’re moving in the right direction, which is a great thing, but from what we … information we’ve gathered from other agencies as well and centres across the board is casual employment has had a massive knock, so at the moment there’s not a lot in terms of casual employment, and we are seeing a very steady increase, and we speak to hundreds of centres nationally every week and it’s pretty much the same for most centres.

Craig:

That would be the same for permanent recruitment as well, so if there is anyone out there looking for permanent recruitment or needing help … sorry, people looking for permanent recruitment, most centres have put a freeze on that as well at the moment, just because it’s very uncertain about where … well what the timelines are really on the COVID at the moment, so it’s quite a tricky situation for any centre to really putting … well [inaudible 00:21:32] looking for people to hire at this moment when they’re not really sure how enrolments are going to go, and funding et cetera.

Craig:

I mean we do anticipate this to change over the next couple of months, hopefully, touch wood, and you know, when we come out the other side of this we’ll hopefully be in a great position and situation that we can actually support our centres and educators as well.

Richard:

Great, thanks, Craig. Yeah, uncertain times, but look, I mean it is looking somewhat more positive, in fact, every week it seems to look more positive, so I do need to stress that we’re flattening the curve and you know, that’s a positive thing. That means we’ll get to some level of normality sooner rather than later, and the latest reports are very much pointing to there being low risk for children to children transmissions and children to adult transmissions as Michele was saying, so yeah, I’m hopeful that … I think there’s a lot of hope there anyway, that we should get back to some level of normality sooner rather than later with a bit of luck.

Richard:

So we’ve had a question that covered quite a several areas. Protection for teachers, specifics on JobKeeper, financial aspects, and educational program during COVID-19. So I think we’re going to cover most of these with other questions, but I wanted to take the opportunity to give an update on JobKeeper and where ANZUK is standing with JobKeeper right now.

Richard:

It’s been very challenging for us and other on-hire businesses to try and navigate the JobKeeper legislation. It hasn’t really been written for agency specifically, so you know, we’ve sought the advice of many people, some of the largest accounting firms in Australia, and we’ve sought legal advice, we’ve sought advice from the RCSA. We’ve now got a direct line into the ATO to ask questions et cetera.

Richard:

So we’ve bought out communication on Friday and Monday, to notify the educators that work with us who is eligible and who is not, so you should have received an email with regards to that. Now, I’m going to add a little bit of a disclaimer because this information is still changing fairly regularly, and we’ve implemented a process, the advice we received was that you know, particularly around this regular and systematic for 12 months is quite an ambiguous requirement. What does that actually mean?

Richard:

Who knows what that actually means, it’s anyone’s guess what that means. That’s what I can gather from all the advice that we’ve had. So we put a definition around that that met our circumstances, or that was specific to our organisation and that definition was based on the advice that we have received, and the advice from the government was that we had to put our own definition around that, no one was going to provide that for us.

Richard:

Now that definition is essentially 40 shifts. So if you’ve worked 40 shifts or more across three out of five quarters, and you’ve worked for us for at least 12 months, then you essentially qualify, or you’re eligible for JobKeeper. Now, that’s the definition that we’ve used based on the advice we’ve received. Now in recent days basically we’ve asked people that wish to dispute that to contact the ATO and submit basically a complaint through the ATO, and now that the ATO is going to come back with us with a bit more information. So that’s my advice is to keep doing that.

Richard:

We do have an extension in terms of … so we were originally going to have to submit … well, we are submitting everyone eligible to the ATO this week, however, we do have a slight extension on that, we’ve got basically until next week now to add any others that we feel come into a new definition of regular and systematic. So we’re working through that with the Australian tax office and if any more information comes to light we’ll be looking to act on that ASAP. So we will … if we think that you’re somebody who then becomes eligible under a new definition, we will get in contact with you as soon as possible to talk to you about that eligibility.

Richard:

Yeah, there’s a couple of other details, we’ve actually got 12 questions sitting with the ATO at the moment waiting to hear back from them on those. So there are a few other unique situations as well, it’s … you know, for example, it’s very clear on the ATO website and on the fact sheet that if you have a permanent part-time position you can’t nominate ANZUK as your primary employer, that’s what it says, so it says if you’re a casual worker and you’ve also got a permanent part-time position, you can’t actually claim JobKeeper via the casual employer, however, we’re getting some different information from the ATO and we’re trying to clarify that specific point.

Richard:

So that may lead to a few extra people being included, maybe, maybe not, we don’t know. So that’s just an example of one of the questions that we have with the ATO at the moment and we’re trying to get some more clarity around that.

Richard:

So moving on from that one, what systems relating to COVID-19 should we have in place during this time? And I think Michele you were going to answer this one.

Michele:

So it’s such a great question, and it’s a really, really big question. So the answer is enormous, but in the interest of time, I guess the number one thing is containing infections, so how are you going to manage physical distancing between groups of children? In particular families and educators as we spoke about a little earlier.

Michele:

And as we’ve also said previously, that we know that in Australia that the rate of transfer from child to adult is low, however, adult to adult is high so really managing that drop-off pick-up, staff rooms and work areas are absolutely essential. Look at alternative methods of communication with parents that replaces the morning and afternoon chat, so maybe a phone call or FaceTime during the day rather than families coming into the service.

Michele:

Ensuring that staff who are at risk work from home and that they apply their skills to outreach programs. Also, you know, make sure that everyone is clear about the stringent cleaning practices. Ensure that you continue to deliver a quality early education program to children in the service and outreach where possible for children who aren’t coming because you are going to go through assessment and rating and nobody wants this period to limit the assessment and rating outcome for you.

Michele:

And I’d also suggest that most importantly, really focus on your service. So seek professional advice from your peak body to guide you through funding and operational changes, rather than relying on social media, and a lot of our time as a peak body through our 1800 number is debunking myths that circulate on social media, and quite often something will occur to someone and they’ll share that across social media, and then it makes everybody really worried.

Michele:

So try to focus on your service, come back to your professional advice in terms of the systems that you need to put in place, so as you are really finding solutions that are specific to the needs of your service, your children, and your families.

Craig:

I think we could probably all pay a little less attention to social media these days and the things that are going around.

Michele:

Yeah.

Richard:

Okay, so we’ve got another question here which is an OSHC specific, and I contacted our OSHC team … so we’ve got three people that work in that team, we’ve got Kirby and Matthew and Victoria, and we’ve also got Courtney in New South Wales who focuses specifically on the OSHC sector. So I’ve sought their advice for this one. Can you give us an update on what’s happening with OSHC services?

Richard:

And that is … they’ve been able to provide me that, pretty much live as we’re speaking. I think anybody who was on the webinar early, I didn’t realize, but I was sharing my screen and you probably could have seen me getting the answer to this question. So Matthew’s kindly provided me with an update of where things are at.

Richard:

So the forced closure of schools and remote learning has had a pretty large impact on the OSHC sector. So some OSHC services have been forced to cease operations for the term, whereas services that are run out of schools are only open for children who cannot learn from home. So essential service families. So in our experience, these OSHC programs are running with a maximum of three or four students, and there’s been no need, essentially, to use agency staff because the child numbers are so low.

Richard:

It’s a similar story across long-daycare as well I’ve got to say, and pretty much across the kindergarten and preschool market as well, and even across the school market. Look, despite this, our OSHC team have been in regular contact with the services and the schools to check-in to see how they are going at all times, and we are beginning to see a small rise in numbers within some services in schools, and we’ll continue to be in regular contact with them to ensure when they need it our casual staff are there to help.

Richard:

And look it is quite a similar situation right across the whole OSHC and early childhood space, even the school sector. You know, the funding is … depending on the service that you’re working within, or the school you’re working in is slightly different. We’ve seen a slight increase in the need for agency casuals in the kindergarten and preschool space, as opposed to long-daycare, and when schools open back up you know, we expect that the OSHC services will see a pretty immediate benefit to that.

Richard:

So you know, in short, all the markets are in a similar position at the minute with some small differences really. So we’ll have a look at the next question. Is ANZUK using this time to try and recruit more centres to be on board for casual staff? Craig, you’re going to answer this one.

Craig:

Yeah. I suppose the short answer is, you know, yes we are still actively recruiting for educators, and we are obviously actively seeking centres to partner with us moving forward as well. You know, there’s going to be a period where there’s a bit of a lag after COVID kind of, hopefully, leaves us, and it’s going to take a while for the sector to recover essentially.

Craig:

So we need to be proactive with the educators, making sure we’re getting them on board now so that we can actually assist them with work once COVID tends to … is, as I said, vanish, hopefully. You know, we’re going to find ourselves in a state where … hopefully term three, quarter three where winter period is in its full flow, we know everyone gets sick in winter, if we go back to a state of normality, then there’s going to be a period where everyone’s going to get sick and there’s going to be that need from centres for those educators.

Craig:

On the flip side of that, we as an agency have actually maintained 100% of our consultants all working, otherwise, we’ve been in contact of … and we know other potential agencies that you know, aren’t running the same for whatever reason, so again even there, there’s probably going to be a slight gap in the market where there’s going to be centres that would ordinarily reach out to a certain agency, where it’s then not going to have this three months of onboarding educators behind them, so they’re probably going to find it a little bit tougher to facilitate the needs of those centres.

Craig:

So we’re trying to really reach out at the moment and putting a really big focus on building relationships for these new centres and pre-existing centres, you know, making sure we can support them, reaching out with … and there are many means with doing that as well, so whether it’s providing them resources, which I know … which a lot of you have received from us, we’re also developing … sorry, we have developed a learning management system that we’re … in phase one, you know, our partner centres we’re going to obviously help to have them on board, so their full-time educators can actually have access to more professional development, and down the line over the next few months et cetera we’re going to start phasing that in to potentially the wider community hopefully.

Craig:

So I mean, I suppose the short answer is yes we are, but it’s … you know, as I said, there’s going to be a time where your centres are going to need that help and assistance from agencies, and you know, we’re hoping that it’s not going to be a scramble, I suppose, at the end of this, and we’re going to be able to assist and have the resources and the educators available to actually assist those centres in that peak time.

Richard:

Yeah great, thanks, Craig. That is … yeah, we know from previous experiences when we go through … and I’ve said this in the last few weeks, we go through periods of … we’ve never been through this situation before, but we have been through many times where you know, the market has swung in roundabouts, it’s been quiet and then all of a sudden it’s been busy, and the thing about this is we think that we’re going to see a bit more normality right in the middle of winter, right?

Richard:

When normally there’s peak demand for our service, and at the same time we’re losing educators because people are going overseas … they’ve gone overseas because they’re not on … they don’t have permanent residence here or citizenship, we’ve lost a lot of our educators for those sorts of reasons. So it’s important … and also, you know, it’s the hardest thing to manage in the business that we operate in, it’s the increase in booking volumes or demand for our service, it’s not the actual demand, once you reach a certain level of demand you can maintain that relatively easily, it’s the increase in demand.

Richard:

And so my advice to educators around this is to stay in contact with us and keep your phone on, keep your availability up-to-date and ready to work, because when it rains it pours in this business that we’re involved in.

Richard:

Let’s have a look at the next question. What is ANZUK doing to ensure the safety of their teachers and educators? I think Chloe you were going to answer this one?

Chloe:

Yes. Yes well, the best advice that we are following is from the Department of Health. They’ve put out very clear guidelines on how to minimise risk including sneezing into your elbow, sanitizing your hands, and keeping social distance where possible. I do know that this is definitely tricky working in early childhood, and the government has also recommended that everyone gets the flu vaccination.

Chloe:

We are strongly encouraging all educators to complete the COVID-19 training we did send out. This has been developed by the Department of Health and will give you more information about being safe in the workplace. In regards to masks, the Department of Education has not advised that educators should be wearing masks.

Chloe:

A quote from them is maybe people … sorry, “Most people would not benefit from wearing a surgical mask. Masks are a benefit to people who are sick so they don’t cough on others, and healthcare workers who have frequent and close contact with sick people.” You can find more information about this on health gov website if needed.

Chloe:

But if you do feel though as you do need to wear a mask, please contact your consultant and they can speak to the centre on your behalf. We are continuously working closely with our centres to make sure all ANZUK educators do feel safe and supported whilst going to work during this time.

Richard:

Yeah, and there’s been a fair bit of communication with the services that we work with around our OHNS requirements and look, each centre is taking this very seriously, and people are putting in the requested measures as Michele was talking about earlier, the sorts of social distancing precautions that can be taken in the staff room and so forth.

Richard:

But just to remind everybody, it’s that, you know, there is a much bigger risk in the staff room than the classroom, and that also applies to early childhood services. So certainly more risk in the office and so forth rather than in the rooms with the children.

Richard:

So we’re going to go to our last question, and this one is for you Michele, and then we’re going to take live questions. So if you’ve got any other questions please put your hand up and we’ll come across to you. Put your hand up and turn your microphone off as well, and then we’ll come to you, and then once we’re through those, we’ll go to the questions that people have typed if we have time for them.

Richard:

So someone is after some advice Michele with regards to engagement and support for educators and children in self-isolation.

Michele:

Yeah, that’s a really good question. So we’ll start with educators, I would say that the educators that are working in self-isolation, ensure that they’ve got the technology and the platforms that they need to engage with each other in the team at their service, and I’d like to share with you what we’re doing at CELA because it’s working exceptionally well.

Michele:

So in terms of having access to files, we have everything on SharePoint now, and we will operate off OneDrive so everything is now in the cloud with really high levels of security, and we’re using Microsoft Teams and I believe it’s still available, it certainly was four weeks ago, Microsoft was offering Microsoft 365 program the not-for-profit services, so that’s simple to apply to your service, and it means for us that we can very easily video chat, so we’ve extended our day by an hour, and then we have a meeting in the morning where everybody is briefed on the things that have happened over night because things really are moving that quickly, and how all of our support staff are going and specialists are going to be supporting membership calls during the day.

Michele:

Throughout the day everything that happens we record on Teams and it’s super quick and easy and it just means that everyone stays connected, and at the end of the day we come together again and we talk about pretty much every single call that comes through, and anything that requires action in terms of advocacy, goes through to the department that night, or to the minister depending on where the best space is for that particular concern.

Michele:

So in terms of an early childhood service to be able to video conference the on-site team with the off-site team in the morning would start the day with a sense of connection, and to be able to communicate various different activities through the day would be of use as well, but I’m super … I understand how incredibly busy everyone’s day is, but it does become part of your routine, and it is a means by which you can stay connected because it can be pretty tough for teams who are very used to being together and bouncing things off each other to suddenly be working remotely, it’s a really tough situation to be in.

Michele:

In terms of children, I’d like to mention that we have requested in New South Wales, a task force to address what’s actually happening to vulnerable children across New South Wales. It concerns me enormously the lack of visibility across way too many children. It really concerns me that the reports concerning child protection have reduced, that’s not because incidents have reduced, it’s because there’s no visibility.

Michele:

So there’s quite a wide range of request that I’ve put forward there to the minister. In the meantime, in terms of all of your children, I would suggest that you connect with families who’ve not been attending and work together on reengaging the children with the service and explaining that early education is now free for some time and you can work with those families remotely, and if they don’t feel comfortable or if they have a reason to not come back to the service, it’s really important to in a way that works best for families, not everybody has an iPad and not everybody has connectivity, so where families are not engaging, stay connected via the phone, write them a letter maybe, or do a home drop for resources packs if it’s safe to do so at the home.

Michele:

And that’s more achievable in smaller communities than it is in urban areas. Where technology is available, share regular, virtual remote learning engagements via online platforms and providing the educational, practical, and emotional support for at-risk families in isolation is particularly integral at this time.

Michele:

Where technology or access to learning platforms is not possible, phone or FaceTime might be an option. Maintain support networks, so stay in contact and work with other support services that families may have been engaging with before COVID, just to maintain the coordinated support for families that may be particularly vulnerable.

Michele:

Work on making the invisible, visible. So some families may be very difficult to reach and making regular attempts to reach out to families shows that you care and it’s likely to result in an opportunity to reconnect and reengage children in your service. So you were a community before, and that community is never more important than it is right now. So really identify on a child-by-child basis the most effective way to connect with them.

Craig:

Yeah, something that we’re also … off the back of what you said there Michele, is that we as a company used Microsoft Teams and we’ve got over 100 staff members in different areas of the business, and it’s been vital for us and it’s been such a good way to stay … and easy way as well, as you said, to stay connected with each other.

Craig:

We’ve been able to implement daily huddles where we check in with each other, it’s more mindfulness, and it’s been massively beneficial and amazingly, we’re saying it’s actually made us feel more connected to each other even though we’re not physically with each other. So yeah, it’s been a massive change in mindset as well, so yeah.

Richard:

Okay so we’re running out of time, we’ve only got about 11 minutes left. I might go over a little bit if all our panellists can do that, but we’ve got a few questions, so we’ll start with Jolie. Jolie’s had her hand raised for about 45 minutes. Jolie, did you have a question for us?

Jolie:

Yes, can you hear me?

Richard:

Yes, we can hear you.

Jolie:

Oh, that’s good. Okay. First, you answer most of my questions already, but I have one as well. To keep us active and our motive still burning, so can we make small videos for reading stories for children and making craft and this stuff so we can share it with the centres we work for as a volunteer or as a work? That’s my question.

Craig:

Okay. Are you asking, Jolie, about can we help provide you with resources?

Jolie:

No, I’m asking can we do some videos or some activities to share it with the centres? Yeah, to make the children … I mean yeah, it looks like activity time.

Craig:

Yeah absolutely. Yeah, so I’m sure Michele would say yes as well but-

Jolie:

[crosstalk 00:51:29] Michele, yeah.

Craig:

Go for it, Michele.

Michele:

Jolie, so something very close to my heart is starting communities of practice, so as we can share the really great things that are happening in services, and through Amplify we did a story a couple of weeks ago and we were just so excited, it was just at a really dark time when there was just so much uncertainty and we did this story in Amplify about how the services were doing these amazing things the connect with their families and with their children.

Michele:

So I think that’s a great idea Jolie, and wouldn’t it be great, maybe ANZUK can set up the platform, we’re certainly happy to do so, to start communities of practice whereby people can share what they’re doing and really build this remote learning, or the face-to-face learning for the children who are attending as well, and share your amazing idea and I think there’ll be a contagion.

Michele:

Can I just say though, why this is really important Jolie, is because we’re in this now, but until we’ve got a vaccine we’re not going to be out of this? So it’s not unlikely for Australia to be in an out of how we’re operating at the moment for 12 to 18 months. So remote learning may not be exclusive to this period. It may be how we’re operating for a long period, so that’s why I think what you’re suggesting is great.

Jolie:

Okay so is there’s any [crosstalk 00:53:05] sorry, is there’s any email or website we can get inside to share or send to you our small videos?

Chloe:

I was just going to say, so in Queensland, we have actually just created a Facebook group for all of ANZUK educators and their friends, so anybody in the community, to post what they’re doing at home with their children, or just experiences that they like to do with the children either on rainy days, sunny days, whatnot, and share that with the community, just so we’re constantly creating better experiences, and more experiences for children and learning in that way as well.

Chloe:

So it might not just be like online webinars, but you’re actually doing hands-on experiences and learning from the community as well. So that’s where we have just started creating videos ourselves, I used to be an educator as well, but then we’re also trying to get educators like yourself and from the community to post on there as well. So we can have a chat as well to Craig and you know, in Melbourne team as well, depending on where you are located, and see if we can start creating resources, and you create your own videos as well, whether that be by yourself or with children, and we can start sharing that with the community too.

Jolie:

Thank you.

Richard:

Where are you based, Jolie?

Jolie:

I’m Melbourne, Notting Hill.

Richard:

Yeah, who’s your consultant Jolie?

Jolie:

It’s Ciara.

Richard:

Oh, it’s Ciara. Ciara, we always hear about Ciara.

Jolie:

I miss her.

Richard:

Yeah. Look it’s a great idea. If you get in contact with Ciara, and if you’ve … any resources that you’ve got, I mean we’ve been sharing resources throughout our communities that people have provided, so anything that you can provide we’ll definitely look to share, whether that’s through one of our social media groups or through our blog or how we do that.

Richard:

But get in contact with Ciara and put your heads together and it’d be great to have a look at what you can provide there.

Jolie:

Thank you.

Craig:

And I just want to add to that as well Jolie, so we … I mentioned earlier on we’re doing our LMS, which is our learning management system, so that’ll be pushed out to all the active educators as the first stage, so on your … I’m not sure how it’s going to look on Ready2Work, but I’m guessing it might be on the professional development section or somewhere on your Ready2Work, where you’ll have access to all the resources that are on there.

Craig:

So all the staff across ANZUK are coming up with resources, a lot of us are ex-educators, we also have extended that out to you know, some of the centres that we work with, some of the organizations we work with, for instance you know, FROEBEL’s Little Scientists, and also if any educators want to share any of their resources, you know, we welcome you to do that as well, like you know, there’s a wealth of knowledge out there between the thousands of educators that we know and work with.

Craig:

So the more you can share that, the better. So yeah, that’ll … you’ll have full access to that at some point in the next few weeks as well.

Richard:

Right thanks, Jolie.

Jolie:

You made my day, thank you.

Richard:

Thanks, Jolie. We’ll go to our next question now. I saw somebody who had their hand up for about 20 minutes, hopefully, your arm’s not getting sore there Brendan. Brendan. How are you, Brendan?

Brendan:

Good thanks, yourself?

Richard:

Yeah very well, you’ve got a question for us?

Brendan:

Yes. I do yes. Thank you all for being here today to answer our questions. My question is more about the debate about the safety of coming back to school and reopening schools, and I read an article on the Brisbane Times this morning, and it quotes the chief medical officer for England, and he says there’s quite a lot of debate at the moment about the contribution of children of spreading the virus.

Brendan:

And he’s saying it’s unclear … I’m just wondering where you’re getting your information that it’s … that the children are not spreading the virus as much as adults.

Richard:

Yeah. So there’s been a report recently that came out, I think it was the Department of Education in New South Wales, so that’s where, I guess, the basis of that information’s coming from, and also the federal government of Australia has been saying, and I’m literally quoting them, that the risks are higher in the staff room than the classroom. So I guess that’s where we’re getting our information from, obviously, I’m not an expert on … you know, I’m not a doctor.

Richard:

I’m not an expert on infectious disease, but that’s certainly the government’s message … our federal government’s message and the message from the recent report … or study in New South Wales, and I think you’re more familiar with that too Michele.

Michele:

Our quote is exactly from the same place, so New South Wales Education Commissioned Health to do the report, and that’s where we’re getting that information from as well, but I am finding it really interesting the difference in Australia compared to other countries, and I have my theories on that, but I shouldn’t be sharing them in this platform.

Michele:

But it seems that we are doing particularly well in terms of how we’re managing our transmission in these spaces and it’s been tested for this period of six weeks, we’re going into this now, so it’s a small period compared to the UK and we have much lower numbers associated with COVID than the UK and the US, and I’m wondering if there is a relationship between that, but that’s my theory. [crosstalk 00:59:50] Commissioned by Health.

Brendan:

My take on what you’re saying, and it’s just when I read articles and reports about this, there’s no detail, so it’s just the government says this, the government says that but is there anywhere I can access any of this detail of what this report is?

Michele:

From the Department of Education website. So I would direct you there so as you can read the full report. (CLICK HERE FOR REPORT)

Brendan:

Yeah, Department of Education New South Wales.

Michele:

New South Wales, yeah.

Brendan:

Great, thank you very much. Thank you. Bye.

Richard:

And the other thing I will add to that, thanks Brendan, is we’ve got … at ANZUK, I’m not sure if you’re an educator with ANZUK, a casual educator or whether you’re someone that we supply or where you’re calling from, but for our educators, we do have policies around going into the workplace at this time, and certain people are at a higher risk, and we want to be very clear that with those people, you know, for example, if you’re over 70 years old, or you’re over 60 and you’ve got a health condition, those people are at a higher risk, and we are not recommending that those people are going into services because you are at a higher risk.

Richard:

Ultimately the government has never said that’s a child can’t pass this disease onto adults, and there are examples of where that has occurred, there are also examples of where children have been very sick and even died, but I guess they’re weighing up the risks against other things essentially, and there are risks to people also staying home and there does become a point where, you know, those risks actually outweigh the health risks of people going to school and childcare and kindergarten and going to work.

Richard:

So I think that’s the standpoint that they’re coming from. We’ll go to the next question. So we’ve got Anthea. Anthea, can you hear me? You’re self-muted Anthea. You just take your microphone off mute. No. Okay, we might come back to you Anthea. Let’s see if we’ve got any other people with their hands up. We’ve got Xena.

Richard:

Hi Xena.

Xena:

Hi, can you hear me?

Richard:

I can, how are you today?

Xena:

I’m good thank you, and yourself?

Richard:

Yeah very well. Very well.

Xena:

That’s great. I just wanted to ask, if you got nominated by ANZUK education for JobKeeper payment, should in the meantime also apply for the JobSeeker through Centrelink until we know for sure we are going to get Jobkeeper through ANZUK education, especially if we are short on cash?

Richard:

Yeah. I would suggest yes … the answer to be yes because you can’t have either one … because you can’t have both at the same time, so all you would have to do in that sense is if you are eligible for Jobkeeper we move forward with that option, then you just have to notify Centrelink that you are on Jobkeeper and that will automatically take over the JobSeeker. But yeah, definitely recommend that in the meantime.

Xena:

Okay. Yeah. Great, thank you for that.

Richard:

You’re welcome, and if you are somebody who has been notified that they are eligible Xena, then I believe that payment is being processed this week, so I think you would receive that Friday, don’t quote me on that, Friday or the following Friday. But I can clarify that … or your consultant will be able to clarify that for you.

Xena:

Okay, that’d be great. Thank you so much.

Richard:

Great, thanks, Xena.

Craig:

Great. Thank you.

Richard:

Let’s see if we’ve got anybody else with their hand up. We’ll come back to Anthea. Anthea if you’ve got your microphone? No, still self-muted. I think that is all the people with their hands up at the moment. We’ll take any other last-minute questions if we’ve got people with their hand up, otherwise, I’m going to go to … we’re just five minutes over at the minute, we’ll see. We might take one or two written questions if people have put those through.

Craig:

Yeah, that might be a suggestion for yourself Anthea, if you can’t get your microphone to work then pop your question in the text box.

Richard:

Okay so here’s one. Hi, I’ve applied for JobSeeker payment, I’ve been told that I’m eligible for Jobkeeper payment by my consultant, I was wondering when I should tell Centrelink about the Jobkeeper payment, should I tell them now or when I start getting the payments?

Richard:

I will answer that one then. I think Centrelink will advise you on that, so you can tell them now that you’ve been eligible, and then they’ll probably ask you to report when you actually receive the payments. So basically JobSeeker, it’s very similar as if you start receiving wages, because that’s effectively what it is. So Jobkeeper is a wage subsidy that we then pass on as your employer, so it’s just like if you were on Centrelink payments and then you started receiving income.

Richard:

Once you start receiving that income, notify them, and basically, it’s worked out based on the … your Centrelink payments are means-tested, so it’s based on how much you earn, it determines whether you’re eligible or not. Lots of thank yous coming through. Is wearing masks acceptable if I go to work in a childcare centre as a casual? Thanks. Somebody want to answer that one?

Chloe:

Yes, well like I did say earlier as well if you feel the need that you want to wear the mask regardless of what the information is about the mask, please do speak to your consultant and we will speak to the centre for you. I have already spoken to centres about this with educators who did ask to wear a mask, and those centres were completely fine with it, but it does come back again to whether the centre is okay with it or not, but I guess the Department of Education has not advised that educators should be wearing masks, and the most people that do benefit from wearing a mask are health workers, so people that are around sick people constantly.

Richard:

Right, thanks for that Chloe. I’m going to take one last question because we are over time and I’m just wary of that. So we’ve got one here from Lynette. What are the occupancy numbers in the centres and in kindergartens at the moment? Does anybody want to have a go at answering that one?

Craig:

I’m sure you’ve spoken to a lot of centres recently Michele.

Michele:

Yeah. The range is zero, so 100% outreach, through to really close to high occupancy. So it’s an enormous range, and I think likely to change as schools return as well for families who don’t have any alternate care arrangements. So I would say that the range is … it’s enormous.

Richard:

Sorry? I didn’t catch that.

Michele:

Was that what you’re experiencing at ANZUK as well with your services?

Richard:

Yeah, look we’ve … I mean our experience is occupancy is more at the lower end with a few exceptions. You know, there’s some services which are running out of hospital sites and things like that which have much higher occupancy, but the vast majority are quite low at the moment, and it’s interesting, two weeks ago we had another guest, a guest speaker, Jason from the sector who talked a lot about managing the expectations from parents on that with regards to the free childcare as it’s being promoted, and how centres are going to manage the increase in occupancy as more parents want their children to return.

Richard:

I mean I can only speak for the experiences that I’ve had with our own staff who have their children in childcare and there is a reluctance, it seems, or they’re certainly discouraging … a lot of centres, I’m not speaking for all, but I’m speaking for some centres, are pretty much-discouraging parents from putting their children into the centres because of the extra costs that that incurs for them. Have you had that experience too Michele?

Michele:

Look I think what we have … what we’ve recommended … so we’ve got some financial tools and also through our broadside, we recommend that you identify what social distancing practices you need to take to operate safely, and that’s quite likely to mean … depends on where you are as well, there are a lot of regional services where there are towns where nothing has changed, so if we’re looking more broadly what that’s going to mean is that you may have a different ratio of child to educator, you might … instead of one-to-ten you might be across the board one-to-five, so you’re going to need all of your staff, and you’re going to need smaller groups, and you’re going to need to manage those groups’ indoor and outdoor activities and probably try to not cross over.

Michele:

So that change in a ratio that only you can decide, it’s a management decision across the services, will then reduce, temporarily, the number of children that you will be able to have attended on a day-by-day basis. So we’re certainly seeing services implementing that, and feeling that that is working well in terms of parents feeling comfortable and our families feel comfortable, and educators feeling more comfortable with those arrangements.

Richard:

Yeah great. All right, so we’ll leave it there, but thanks everybody for joining us today and thanks very much to our panellists, especially you Michele, and for anybody who is looking for more advice … if you’re running a service or you work for a service and you need advice, that’s what the CELA is there for, the Community Early Learning Australia.

Richard:

It’s www.cela.org.au so if you need advice, I mean you can see that Michele is a wealth of knowledge and I know you’ve got specialists throughout your organization that specialize in different areas, so it’s a great source of advice, so if you’re not already a member of CELA or a similar organization I’d recommend that you sign up.

Richard:

But what I will say is if you’re in Melbourne, enjoy the rain, it is well and truly raining now, and this might be one of those occasions where New South Wales and Queensland have got the better of the weather, would you say that Craig?

Craig:

Just one of those occasions.

Richard:

It’s pretty rare. Anyway, enjoy your day everybody and keep safe, and we’ll be in touch, and we’ll be running another Q&A session at a … probably one o’clock or two o’clock next week, we’ll announce that in the coming days. Have a good day.

Craig:

Thank you, everyone.

Michele:

Thanks, everyone stays safe.

Chloe:

Thank you. Bye.