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How to review systems easily and gather evidence before moving to bubbles of up to 20

handwashing in early childhood education

Should your ECE service be preparing to open at Alert Level 3 (or Level 2)
Make sure your operating procedures are documented and thorough – click on the following link for a centre's draft operating procedures you are welcome to use as a template.

If your ECE service has been operating for at least five days (after the lockdown)
Use the guidance provided below and the checklist in order to meet the requirement to evaluate systems. 



After your service has been operating for 5 days it is necessary to review and gather your evidence that systems are working before considering an increase in bubble sizes.

Public Health have advised that services allow at least one week before considering an increase to bubble size in order to ensure all public health measures are in place and working as expected. This will include the contact tracing register, hygiene measures, the ability to operate without mixing bubbles, effective procedures to manage any shared spaces or facilities (e.g. toilets) and no children attending with signs of illness.

We recommend you check how your systems are working on about day 3 and make adjustments, review again on day 5, and then engage with parents and whānau to determine additional demand. You may also want to build the bubble size up to 20 gradually. This does not have to be in increments of 10 children. If you are confident all processes are running smoothly, you can decide to increase the bubble size to up to 20 children earlier.

Your decision should be informed by having conversations with staff, parents, caregivers and children to determine how everyone is coping with the new operating environment. You can choose to keep bubbles of 10 children during Alert level 3 if this works best for your service

COVID-19 guidance for ECE at Alert Level 3


The easiest way to evaluate whether your service can safely increase bubbles to up to 20 children is to undertake a basic internal evaluation of the current processes; this will allow you to systemically evaluate your practice to ensure nothing is missed. The Internal Evaluation framework is an effective tool for this.

Note: In these busy and unprecedented times, it is not necessary to delve into a significant and time-consuming internal evaluation however it is necessary to ensure that this is done in a way that covers all areas of public health advice. Structuring your evaluation effectively will help you to do this.

So, follow these guidelines:


As a team, and a wider community whānau, have a look at where you are now. You may wish to outline the timelines and requirements of the government and this is the impetus for reviewing your practice and deciding where to go from here, this might look something like:

We are currently operating at Alert Level 3, with 10 tamariki and three staff attending. We now have 7 more children wanting to attend, 3 of whom need to return to work and 4 who are struggling with behaviour problems and boredom. The government has recommended reviewing the situation after 5 days to establish how well our processes are going, in order to determine if we can extend the numbers in our bubble to 20 children; we are currently evaluating if we are in a position where we are able to extend our bubble to 17 children.


The easiest way to evaluate if you are complying with all public health measures and that systems are running smoothly is to do an analysis of all of the public health measures and where you fit into that bubble.

At the end of this article, there is a sample checklist with measures that the Public Health Service have specified that you must be taking, as well as suggested additional measures. Take your team through this checklist and tick the measures that you are undertaking at present.

Some other things to consider include more qualitative measures such as talking with whānau, tamariki and kaiako to determine their feelings around how well the service is running.


This is the time to analyse your data. When reviewing your checklist, it is ideal to be complying with all measures, whether they are recommended or mandated. Work through the list with your team and identify any areas that have been missed.

Project what will happen if you apply that same data to bubbles of 20. If you are meeting the public health measures, will you still be able to do that with 20 children?

Review the qualitative data obtained from staff, children and whānau with your team. This narrative will give you a general idea and feeling of what is working well, and what is not working well. 


This is the time where you need to determine as a team, if the data is showing that you are operating effectively with bubbles of 10; it should also give you an idea of how easily you are operating at this level.

Generally speaking, if you are struggling to maintain public health measures with bubbles of 10 and are not meeting all of the requirements you have gone through in your checklist, then this is not a time for you to move into bubbles of 20. Perhaps review the reasons for your families wanting to attend the service. If it is because their children are bored, can you provide families with ideas and resources for home play and learning? If their situation is dangerous, you will need to refer them to the appropriate authorities such as Oranga Tamariki or Women’s refuge.

This is also a good time to look at a distance learning programme, if you have staff members at home still who are able and willing to participate. Some services have started doing online mat times for children to connect with others, and the Ministry of Education has sent out distance learning packs for children with resources.

If you have found that you are easily meeting all the recommended guidelines and that you will be able to move to bubbles of up to 20 without compromising these guidelines, this is a time that you could look at extending your bubbles.


If you decide it is possible to move to bubbles of 20, you must monitor and evaluate the impact of this change. 

You may wish to run through the checklist on a regular basis to continue to check and ensure that your service is complying with public health measures.

As early childhood educators, our efforts are extremely important in continuing to keep COVID-19 out of our early childhood services and our communities and constantly evaluating and monitoring our practice is vital to ensure that we are continuing to do so.

For more detailed information about COVID-19 guidance for ECE services, you can access the Ministry of Education’s publication here:

Quantitative checklist of compliance with public health requirements

pdfDownload and print a copy to use

Must haves


 Tick Tick 


Service is meeting first aid qualification requirements


Children from the same household are kept in the same bubble


A minimum indoor temperature of 19 degrees Celsius is being maintained


Successfully kept bubble size number of children to no more than 10


Service is meeting “Person responsible” requirements


Service is meeting ratio requirements


Children who are attending are only attending one service


All children’s relevant records are available


Home-based services - Only 4 children under the age of 6 can attend and, if school aged children are attending, the maximum children does not exceed 6.


School-aged children should not be present (apart from home-based care)


Education support workers who attend the service are only attending your service


The service is reporting daily on physical attendance of children


Service is not operating outside of licensed hours (unless agreed to by Ministry of Education)



Children and staff who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are encouraged to stay home wherever possible


Hand sanitiser is provided wherever soap and water are not readily available


Individual bubbles are remaining separate from other bubbles within the service, and from other individuals in the community


People are being supported to maintain a two metre physical distances at all times when picking up or dropping off children


Staff who become unwell must be isolated and sent home immediately


Adults are using sanitiser before using shared pens


Sick children are being isolated in a designated isolation area which is cleaned regularly and sent home immediately


Transport to and from the service is not provided if it was not already provided before the lockdown.


Sick parents or caregivers are not entering the premises


Everyone is washing their hands on arrival to the service


Everyone is regularly washing and drying their hands


Parents are keeping children home if anyone in the household is sick


Hand sanitizer is not left within reach of children


Excursions are carefully managed and considered, or avoided during Level 3


Staggered entry and exit times are put in place to avoid families arriving and exiting at the same time


Pick-up and drop off register is moved to the entrance of the premises


Transportation vehicles are only transporting children from one bubble and are being cleaned in between each trip


Physical distancing of 2m is maintain with anyone outside of bubbles when outside of the service, e.g. excursions or short walks



There is no sharing of food and drink between children


Multiple meal tables are set up


There is no sharing of drink bottles, baby bottles, crockery and cutlery between children


Physical distancing is encouraged when children eat together at the same table


Food handlers must adhere to MPI good hygiene practices


Staff must not share food, crockery or cutlery while having meal breaks


Tables, chairs and highchairs are cleaned and disinfected between groups of children who are eating


Avoid mixing groups during meal breaks (if you have multiple bubbles)



Resources that are rotated between children in different bubbles/rooms must be cleaned after use by each bubble group


Toys with porous surfaces, or are difficult to clean, are being avoided


Books with plastic or laminated covers are being wiped with disinfectant and left over night before re-use


Books are removed after use by children in one bubble and left overnight as a precaution


Children in different bubbles are not accessing the same resources


Sensory and modelling resources is provided in individual portions and discarded after use


The use of art and craft materials is limited and discarded after each activity



There are appropriate cleaning supplies which are stored safely out of reach of children


A routine is developed for cleaning and disinfecting the service


There is thorough cleaning of all surfaces, including sleep furniture and the end of the day, as a minimum


Staff are supported if they wish to use a face mask



Date, time, name, phone contact details and physical address of any person onsite is being recorded on a contact-tracing register


People who are at higher risk to COVID-19 are actively discouraged to enter the premises


People who have flu-like symptoms are not permitted to enter the premises


Visitors inside the premises are limited where possible



Physical distances of 2m are being observed between adults working in different bubbles within the service


Separation of children within the service is encouraged as much as possible


Minimum licensed indoor space for children is increased to 3 sq. m per child within their bubbles.


Each bubble has its own facilities where possible


Sandpits are not being used


There is two hourly cleaning of high touch areas in bathrooms


*When staff movement between bubbles is unavoidable* Staff movement between bubbles is kept to a minimum and the staff member is maintained a physical distance of 2m at all times


Partitions are at adult head height and do not have gaps where items can be passed through (for open-plan services)


Shared spaces are wiped down with an appropriate cleaner as each bubble exits that area


Number of children attending does not exceed 80% of the maximum number of children displayed on the licence


Different bubbles do not share the same sleep space at the same time


One additional staff member is assigned to each bubble to provide cover for breaks


Hard surfaces are wiped down between each use.


Relievers who come in are only used at your service and only in one bubble


Each child has their own bed linen which is washed daily after use.


Staff breaks are staggered so that physical distancing can be maintained between staff in different bubbles


Separate bubbles are not accessing outdoor spaces at the same time


Staff who pass through spaces where there are children outside of their bubble are maintaining a physical distance of 2 m from people outside of their bubble



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