Potential risk and lack of transparency over waivers for simulated outdoor spaces

The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW was able to receive from the NSW Department of Education:

  1. a list of 72 approved service waivers granted in 2017 and 2018 allowing for simulated outdoor spaces; and
  2. the list of public documents that the Department uses to assess requests for waivers for simulated outdoor spaces.

what are the limits to simulated outdoor spaces

Yet the NSW Government does not publish the rationale for each waiver so that all services and parents can understand why some services have less outdoor spaces and other services have none. (NOTE: Regulation 108 requires each child to have at least 7 square metres of unencumbered outdoor space.)

The NSW Department of Education has previously advised that they have not been able to do so because of commercial confidentiality reasons. However, given the assessments are conducted using three public documents, namely:

  • the “Child Care Planning Guideline” by the NSW Department of Planning & Environment;
  • the “Guide to the National Quality Framework” by the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority; and
  • the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW) No 104a,

there should therefore generally be no reasons for the NSW Government to protect commercial confidentiality.

ACA NSW has asked NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning (the Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC) how the Department addresses concerns about the allowance of simulated outdoor spaces as it may increase the risk of young children experiencing a lack of Vitamin D and causing rickets, as well as poor eye development.

Moreover, public transparency and publication of the rationale for each service waiver granted to allow simulated outdoor spaces would be in the best interest of parents and the sector. There may very well be good reasons why certain sites should be allowed a waiver. Similarly, exposure of all decisions made by the Department would also ensure consistency and greater efficiencies for all existing and new service providers.