Planning an end of year celebration like no other
Planning an end of year celebration like no other
Following a turbulent 2020, the usual end-of-year social events for educators and families have been thrown into turmoil. With the pandemic lingering there are many uncertainties. Decisions on any event with families attending needs to carefully consider risks, mitigation strategies and the current COVID-19 situation in your local area.
Whether you’re deliberating over a Christmas concert, a morning tea event or graduation ceremony, we’ve put together some COVID-19 and catering risk assessment considerations plus ideas for an alternative event.
Keep in mind that managing social distancing with children during an event is almost impossible, so focus on protection measures for staff and visiting parents or carers.
If your centre decides to hold an event be mindful that safety requirements regarding coronavirus risk can change rapidly, stay informed by checking online for current rules and guidelines in your state or territory.
Ensuring your early education centre is COVIDSafe requires following public health rules that should be adhered to at all times, these include:
- Physical distancing of 1.5 metres and four square metres per person when indoors, two square metres per person when outdoors (depending on state rules)
- Avoiding physical greetings such as handshaking, hugs and kisses
- Good hand hygiene
- Good respiratory hygiene – cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue
- Frequent environmental cleaning and disinfection
- Stay home if feeling unwell or have any symptoms – communicate this to all attendees prior to the event
Assess COVID risks and mitigation potential
It’s important to recognise the threat COVID-19 poses and determine the level of risk of transmission at your event as well as managing the usual risks of serving food and beverages.
To plan, follow your usual risk assessment process to consider the risk factors and safety measures that should be taken with the added emphasis on the virus risk.
Control measure should then be developed to reduce the likelihood of risks occurring. As transmission is a risk factor you could reduce the threat by keeping attendance low, communicating and practicing safety guidelines and holding your events outdoors if possible. Other considerations include:
- Temperature checking on arrival
- Providing hygiene supplies to help prevent the spread of germs, such as masks
- Modifying the event space to enforce physical distancing rules, including placing tape on floors
- Creating a one-way entrance and exit to manage the movement of families
- Limiting the duration of the event and number of attendees
- Posting signage to reinforce health and safety practices
- The provision of pre-packaged, single-serve meal choices and disposable food service items including utensils and dishes
- Using a contactless method for exchanging items such as Christmas presents or graduation photos
- Planning a deep clean of the event area before and after the event
Other considerations when serving food and beverages
Many early education services offer parents and carers a tea or coffee and sometimes a baked treat at drop off. Whether you’re serving up something like this or planning to provide refreshments at an event, you need to consider the risks – especially as serving hot drinks around babies and young children can be risky.
Data from the Burns Registry of Australia and New Zealand (BRANZ) show that during 2016/17, nearly 1,000 Australian and New Zealand children were admitted to a burns unit. Scalds were the most common cause of burns in children at 57 per cent, followed by contact at 23 per cent and flame caused 10 per cent of burns.
For safety reasons hot drinks need to be away from table or bench edges and the recommendation is to never hold a child with a hot drink in hand.
Allergies are also a consideration when providing food. The most common triggers are egg, cow's milk, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat. Studies have shown that food allergy affects 10 per cent of children up to one year of age, 8 per cent of children up to five years of age, and approximately 2 per cent of adults.
Hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions/anaphylaxis have doubled over the last decade in Australia, the USA and UK. In Australia, admissions for anaphylaxis due to food allergy in children aged zero to four years are even higher, having increased five-fold over the same period.
Before offering families hot beverages and food, assess the risk, consider precautions you need to take to mitigate these risks and the procedures you will need to follow to ensure children are kept safe, healthy and well.
Under section 167 of the National Law approved providers must demonstrate they are taking every reasonable precaution to protect children from harm and any hazard likely to cause injury.
Consider this list of questions to assist you in your risk assessment. Once you have developed your plan, continue to monitor, assess and manage risks throughout the planning of the event, and during the event itself.
Have a contingency plan prepared in case you have to modify or cancel the event covering alternatives such as reducing the number of attendees, changing location from outside to inside or shifting to a Zoom event.
Get creative with alternative celebratory ideas
Celebrating children’s journey through early education at the end of 2020 is more important than ever. Despite the challenges, with a little creativity, there are a lot of fun ways you can make the best of this situation and still give these important moments the recognition they deserve.
Live stream: We’ve all become well acquainted with live streaming technology. Plan a concert or graduation that allows parents and carers to watch in real time. Video conferencing, like Skype or Zoom, uses live streaming technology that can involve two-way communication. To ensure privacy, your session should be password protected. Free Zoom offers video conferencing for up to 100 participants, provided the ‘meeting’ runs for no longer than 40 minutes. Ensure families can access copy of the event to watch together later.
Pre-record: Make a video using performances, snapshots and interviews to celebrate the year. Edit using a simple program such as iMovie and provide it to each child or upload to a secure shared platform so the family can watch it together.
Music: Make the children a celebratory playlist of favourite songs from the year.
Connect: Mail handwritten letters or postcards to each child and their family, highlighting their accomplishments and wishing them well.
Popcorn Teleparty: Formerly Netflix party, this is a new way to watch TV or a movie with your children and their families online. You send out a link, and everyone can watch the same movie at the same time as part of an end-of-year event.
References and further reading:
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand: Information and resource links for childcare centres
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA): Keeping children’s food safe
Safe Work Australia: COVID-19 information for workplaces - Early childhood and care
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2021
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