This week, the AEU wrote to Education Minister James Merlino calling for additional pupil-free days for the early childhood sector - the same as in schools. 

We welcome the move by the Department of Education and Training (DET) to provide advice outlining how early childhood services can go about implementing extra planning days. 
DET has issued the following advice:
  • Taking a small number of child-free days is entirely consistent with the conditions attached to both normal and additional sessional kindergarten funding provided by the Victorian Government, which requires services to be open for families who wish to attend. 
  • As the Department is not the owner or employer of early childhood services, it is up to each provider to make decisions about selected child-free days, talking to and working with staff and their community.
How will this work in early childhood settings?
Service providers and staff should discuss the best way to schedule child-free time for your local context and:
  • assess what reasonable amount of time is required to plan for a possible return to dual delivery (that is, delivering programs both on-site and online)
  • assess how much time is required to ensure all Covid-safe measures are in place
  • ensure that children and families sufficiently re-engage with the service
  • ensure that children have some access to a kindergarten program on site in their first week. 
Service providers should discuss options with staff, determine the timetabling for next week, and inform families.

Why can’t DET just tell us what to do?
DET is not the employer for early childhood staff. Matters of timetabling and rostering are for individual service providers.  

With that said, service providers should follow DET for guidance, so this advice is a powerful tool to use when seeking child-free days. 

What about the 600 hours of delivery required within our funding agreement?
Due to the pandemic, DET has allowed flexibility in delivering the 600 hours. Services that do not deliver the full 600 hours this year will not jeopardise their kindergarten funding.

What should staff do?
Bring this information immediately to the attention of your service provider. They have also received a direct email from DET.  

There should be a discussion about the best options for staff and families, and how the child-free time that would support you in your work. You should also be prepared to speak to the ways that you will continue to engage families and support children.

💡 If your service provider is insisting on a ”business as usual approach” without access to child-free time, please contact the AEU for advice on 03 9417 2822 or

What if I teach in long daycare?
The DET advice does not explicitly mention long daycare, but you can certainly have a conversation with your employer about child-free days. 

If you believe that you and your colleagues would benefit from child-free time next week, we encourage you to follow the steps above. 

What if I teach in a kindergarten located in a specialist school? 
In settings where DET is the approved provider, all staff are required on site delivering educational programs to students next week.  

In settings run by a different employer, the access to child-free days it is a matter for the employer to determine.  

I encourage you to sign up to direct emails from DET about the coronavirus crisis. You can do so at this link.

We have only been able to secure this statement thanks our strong and committed members in the early childhood sector. If you have colleagues who are yet to join the AEU, now is the time to ask them to join us at

In solidarity,

Cara Nightingale
Vice President Early Childhood
Copyright © 2020 AEU Victoria, All rights reserved.

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