The Impact of COVID-19 on the Early Childhood Sector – What has the ECC been doing? Perspective from Sector Support Services

Today’s blog is an interview from Mrs. Simone Ellis-Dixon. She is the Acting Director of the Sector Support Services Department at the Early Childhood Commission.

ECC: Thank you for taking part in this interview and sharing your perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on the ECD sector and the support that your department/unit has been providing.

ECC: Could you kindly provide us with an overview of your Department’s work and how it directly impacts the ECD sector?

SED: The department of Sector Support Services gives support to the physical, psychological, cognitive and social development of children during the period 0-5 years old. We monitor curriculum development, manage and support all early childhood institutions (ECIs). We also deliver in-service seminars and facilitate participation in professional development. The Department consists of a Director for Sector Support Services, Senior Secretary, ECD Supervisors (6) and Early Childhood Development Officers (43).

ECC: How has COVID-19 affected your work in the ECD sector?

SED: COVID-19 has impacted the sector, in that, we are unable to visit and support our ECIs as we would have in the past. Eighty percent of our ECIs are closed so we have to do a lot of virtual visits and meetings.

ECC: What has your Department been doing to support the ECD sector during the pandemic?

SED: With our ECIs closed, they are operating at a loss financially, therefore, we are placing as much practitioners as possible on the salary subsidy payroll so they can receive some financial assistance. We also facilitate curriculum sessions, including, training on how to use the laptop, tablet, phones to execute lessons/ activities. We have been writing weekly activity plans for our parents and have printed copies for some who have internet connectivity challenges. In addition, the ECD Supervisors have bought and prepared care packages for some needy parents.

ECC: What are your hopes for the ECD sector in a post-COVID-19 world?

SED: It is hoped that we continue to work with our practitioners, parents and children and to assist with the transition of children and practitioners returning to face-to-face schooling by providing sanitation items from donor support.

Perspectives from the Sector: Impact of COVID-19 Principal’s View

Today’s blog continues the series to feature perspectives from the early childhood sector on the impact of COVID-19.

This blog feature is from Ms. Sonia James. She is the Principal of Faith Mission Early Childhood Development Centre in Sydenham, St. Catherine, a Mixed Pre-School. Pre-Covid-19 the ECI had an enrollment of 45 children.

Ms. Sonia James, Principal

ECC: Thank you Ms. James for taking part in this interview and sharing your views about the impact of COVID-19 on the early childhood development sector.

ECC: In what ways have COVID-19 affected your ECI?

SJ: COVID -19 has affected us in many ways. Financially, where we are unable to pay staff members their full salary. The school’s population has decreased to about 40%. We have had staff members who have resigned to seek employment elsewhere, as sufficient funds to pay salaries were not available due to none collection of fees. We have also experienced some challenges collecting outstanding school fees as some parents were hesitant to go to the financial institutions to conduct business.  Additionally, like many parts of the country, there are technological challenges with some children unable to engage in remote learning due to them not having access to devices at home.

ECC: How have you and your staff been coping with the closure of school due to COVID-19?

SJ: My staff and I are trying our best to cope since we closed schools due to COVID-19. As a team, we have worked closely with the parents and children who have limited resources to continue to provide the support they need. We hold small face-to-face meetings at the institution, according to the COVID-19 protocols, to plan and prepare activities to continue remote learning for the children. We have a vibrant School Board along with the Church that continued to monitor the affairs of the school and staff members and we have received regular counselling from Pastors and Counsellors from our church family.

ECC: How have the children enrolled at your ECI been coping with the closure of school due to COVID-19?

SJ: Following the Prime Minister’s announcement in March 2020 for the closure of schools, we gathered all the children to explain to them what will be happening.  The children have asked about their friends and told us that they were missing each other. Fortunately, most of the children and staff are from the community so we have been able to continue communication and interaction. I am proud to say that the students, teachers, parents and the community have a good relationship.

ECC: What is your hope for the children in a post-COVID-19 world?

SJ: My hope is that all children be privileged to education and none will be left behind despite COVID-19. It is also my hope that strategies be implemented so that children at the early education level may acquire knowledge and skills to foster their holistic growth and development in this global situation. As a nation builder, I would like to see some form of donation be made available in either cash or kind, to ensure that all our children have equal opportunities to embrace the online learning platforms in order to continue their education.  

No one doubts that COVID-19 is one of the direst threats the world has ever faced. And yet, amidst the confusion and anxiety, there are ever stronger signs of hope and solidarity, a sense of, and desire for, togetherness. It is this spirit of global togetherness that gives us hope. In this time of crisis, we are all neighbors in the world, and success will only be achieved when all people, in all countries, communities, homes are protected. There is hope and a future for our children when we put our trust in God.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Early Childhood Sector – What has the ECC been doing?

Today’s blog is an interview from Dr. Tracy-Ann Morgan-Smith as she shares her perspective of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector. She is Director of the Regulation and Monitoring Department at the Early Childhood Commission.

Dr. Tracy-Ann Morgan-Smith, Director for Regulations and Monitoring Department

ECC: Thank you for taking part in this interview and sharing your perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on the ECD sector and the support that your department/unit has been providing.

ECC: Could you kindly provide us with an overview of your Department/Unit’s work and how it directly impacts the ECD sector?

Dr. MS: The Regulation and Monitoring Department carries out the core function of monitoring and regulating Early Childhood Institutions (ECIs) through a system of inspection. ECIs are monitored against the 12 National Standards. The department has two units, the Registration Unit and the Inspectorate. The Registration Unit supports the registration of ECIs through facilitating the registration process, the management and upkeep of institutions’ files and offers customer service. The Inspectorate ensures compliance with the 12 National Standards by conducting inspections of ECIs and making recommendations for meeting the Standards.

ECC: How has COVID-19 affected your work in the ECD sector?

Dr. MS: The Covid-19 Pandemic has resulted in the suspension of face-to-face operations in most early childhood institutions outside of daycares and nurseries. Subsequently, virtual spaces have to be monitored by early childhood inspectors. Due to virtual modality, inspectors are not able to observe children during some specified periods critical to their development. These include playtime with peers, transitioning and personal interactions with teachers, caregivers and peers as well as, mealtime interactions. While teachers are encouraged to interact with their students in virtual spaces, the power of the human touch for young children by their teachers is not there and this can cause young children to feel stressed especially since the physical separation time has been so long.

ECC: What has your Department/Unit been doing to support the ECD sector during the pandemic?

Dr. MS: The department has supported the writing of parent activity plans to assist parents with engaging and interacting with their children at home using developmentally appropriate activities. Support is also given to the Communication Department in preparing activities to be broadcast using multimedia to engage and support children.

Early childhood inspectors carry out visits to daycares and nurseries to ensure health and safety measures are in place and that the protocols of the Ministry of Health and Wellness are being observed.

Inspectors also support the training of early childhood practitioners using virtual spaces and assist them in preparing plans and policies to support protocols for operating in a pandemic. Some of these include Health and Sanitation Plan for institutions, sanitization schedules, and other requisite health and safety measures.

ECC: What are your hopes for the ECD sector in a post-COVID-19 world?

Dr. M.S: The sector will see the need for embracing the Standards and be encouraged to comply as the measures set out in the Standards when observed, are for the best interest of the children even post COVID-19. Additionally, I hope to see some commitment and support from a wide cross-section of institutions in society to assist early childhood institutions in meeting the standards.

Perspectives from the Sector: Impact of COVID-19 ECD Parent’s View

This series of blogs will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the ECD sector.  To provide a balanced view of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, we will be presenting perspectives from the Departments and Units of the Early Child Commission along with perspectives from a parent, teacher and principal.

Today’s blog feature is from Natoya Davidson. She is a parent and has a four-year-old child who attends Faith Mission Early Childhood Development Centre in Sydenham, St. Catherine.

Natoya Davidson, Parent

ECC: Thank you Ms. Davidson for taking part in this interview and sharing your views about the impact of COVID-19 on the early childhood development sector.

ECC: In what ways have COVID-19 affected your child’s ECI?

ND: My child’s school has been closed since the first case was announced. The school has lost revenue which has affected the school and teachers.

ECC: How have you been coping with the closure of school due to COVID-19?

ND: It’s been a challenging time since schools have been closed. I noticed that my child was beginning to forget some of the things that he had learnt during school year. I am an essential services worker so I was not able to stay at home to monitor my child as much as I would have liked. His nanny, who is elderly, cares for him in my absence and is not as technologically savvy as required for virtual learning.

 In the instances where I was able to support my child’s learning at home, I did not feel confident in how I was relaying the information as I am not a trained early childhood teacher. I did not learn the techniques to effectively relay information to a child at this age. The teachers and caregivers at my child’s school are better skilled to support my child’s education and were doing so before school closures.

However, during the lockdown period, I was able to observe some of the online teaching techniques of his teacher, in terms of how to relay information to young children. I feel confident to support my child now that schools are closed again as I am employing the techniques that I observed from his teacher to support his learning. Additionally, my child is still in the groove of learning remotely and I will need to ensure that I maintain his zeal for learning. I have learnt a lot from this experience and I practice refreshing his learning on the weekends with 10-15 minute sessions.

ECC: How has/have your child/children been coping with the closure of school due to COVID-19?

ND: My child was concerned about schools closing, he asked why he was not going to school. He also regularly moped and cried that he missed his ‘Aunties’ and classmates/friends. He was however excited about the fact that he could sleep in late and he enjoyed playing on the computer.

ECC: What is your hope for the children in a post-COVID-19 world?

ND: My hope is that children will appreciate the importance physical interaction with each other and that once the pandemic is over, there will not a be need for them to spend so much time on computers as this is the norm now for sharing information with each other. I also hope that children will continue to learn and comply with hygienic practices and understand their role in protecting themselves from contagious diseases.

Creating Structure to Enhance Your Children’s Remote Learning Experience

As we continue to support our children’s development through remote learning, here are a few tips to enhance your children’s remote learning experience through creating structure.

Creating Structure

Structure is important to children and can create a sense of normalcy, familiarity and routine. Children feel secure and comfortable when they know what is about to happen and can predict their day.[1] Creating routines also help children to develop a sense of independence as knowing what to expect in their day, children can take actions without being told or prompted by their caregivers.[2] Additionally, structure is particularly helpful for some children with developmental disorders, such as Autism, as routines help them to know what they should expect at each point of the day and therefore, creating a safe and secure environment.[3] The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in so many ways, and for children, this means a disruption in their familiar school routine. For some children, a disruption in this routine and create and anxiety which can impact their emotional, physical and academic development.[4] Creating structure for children at home that resembles their school routine before COVID-19 can help children you are having challenges with remote learning. Here are a few tips:

  1. Night/Sleep Routines – although children are at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, nighttime routines that include set time for bed should be continued. Children need adequate sleeping times to learn and grow. Week nights, when school is still in session, should continue to be school nights where children are required to go to bed early to get enough sleep for the next school day.
  2. Morning Routines – this includes waking up and preparation for school times where children complete activities to prepare them for school. Eating breakfast, showering, and brushing teeth are all activities that children would do before heading off to school. Creating structure for your children involve maintaining these same activities as children participate in remote learning.
  3. Break Times – children are known for their short attention span. Taking breaks during remote learning can be helpful to your children. According to some experts, children learn best in 30 minutes increments, while younger children need to shift activities every 15 to 20 minutes.[5] Children’s learning can be better supported if they take the necessary breaks during their remote learning. Additionally, breaks can follow the structure of their normal school day. Besides snack and lunch breaks, breaks could include movements or physical activities where children are encouraged to be active. As children are often seated in front of a computer or television screen during remote learning, movement breaks such as jumping, walking, going up and down stairs, could be a little pause during the day to reset your child’s focus and help with their physical activity.

Do you have any tips for remote learning you would like to share? Send us a comment to let us know how you are enhancing your children’s remote learning experience.


[1] https://www.familiesfirstindiana.org/back-to-school-importance-of-structure-and-routine-for-healthy-child-development?locale=en

[2] https://www.familiesfirstindiana.org/back-to-school-importance-of-structure-and-routine-for-healthy-child-development?locale=en

[3] https://www.totalspectrumcare.com/why-routine-is-important-to-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorder/

[4]https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html#:~:text=Anxiety%20may%20present%20as%20fear,the%20symptoms%20can%20be%20missed.

[5] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/01/5-ways-parents-can-help-kids-thrive-amid-remote-learning.html

Early Childhood COVID-19 Resources

Picture source: tmcc.instructure.com

The Early Childhood Commission continues to support the development and wellbeing of our children during COVID-19. We are aware of the challenges facing parents and children and their need for continued support. With this in mind, today’s blog is focused on sharing information about some of the resources and activities that are available to support early childhood development in Jamaica.

The ECC’s COVID Corner

The COVID Corner is available on the ECC’s website and it provides information to support parents and guardians, including, information on the protocols for reopening ECIs; tips and information on COVID-19; activity plans for the 0 to 5 cohort; reading videos and tips for parenting.

Please click the link to access the COVID Corner https://ecc.gov.jm/covid-19-corner/

Live Broadcasts to Support Remote Learning

The ECC presents daily live broadcasts on Television Jamaica’s 1SpotMedia – School Time and Public Broadcasting Corporation Jamaica (PBCJ) TV. The broadcasts are presented by early childhood practitioners based on activity plans developed by the Commission and categorized by age groups. Schedule for the daily broadcasts is as follows:

DayTimeAge GroupMedia
Monday7:30 – 9:00 amAges are rotatedPBCJ
Monday7:30 – 8:30 am0 -2 years oldTVJ/1SpotMedia
Tuesday7:30 – 8:30 am2 years oldTVJ/1SpotMedia
Wednesday7:30 – 8:30 am3 years oldTVJ/1SpotMedia
Thursday7:30 – 8:30 am4 years oldTVJ/1SpotMedia
Friday7:30 – 8:30 am5 years oldTVJ/1SpotMedia

Live broadcasts are streamed on 1SpotMedia and can be accessed at https://www.1spotmedia.com/#!/live-stream/5f371d1df7dec975a30e4fa7 and by clicking on the School Time link. 1SpotMedia requires registration and sign in to access content.

Social Media

The ECC is also very active on social media and posts weekly information on COVID-19. The current focus on COVID-19 feature posts that share information to support the reopening of early childhood institutions. Please follow us on social media to get up-to-the-minute information. Our social media handles are:

Facebook – The Early Childhood Commission https://www.facebook.com/www.ecc.gov.jm/

Twitter – @ECCJA

Instagram – earlychildhoodcommission

COVID-19 Protocols for Reopening ECIs

Picture Source: ECC Communications Department

Today’s blog is the last in the series of blogs outlining the COVID-19 protocols for reopening ECIs as presented in the Reopening Early Childhood Institutions for Children Ages 0-5 Specific Protocols document on the ECC’s website. We presented this series to provide parents, practitioners, principals, ECI owners/operators and the general public with bite-sized information on the specific protocols to be put in place by ECIs to ensure the health and safety of our children, ECI staff, parents and community members.

The protocols were developed by a team of stakeholders including representatives from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the ECC and other government partners and were guided by considerations for maintaining COVID-19 protections, children’s psychological and development needs, and the economic viability of Early Childhood Institutions.

As we close out the series, here are a few reminders for maintaining health and safety in ECIs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Hands to be washed or sanitized on entry to school and frequently throughout the day; sanitizer must be made with at least 60% ethyl alcohol or 75% isopropyl alcohol or be a recommended product by the MoHW.
  • ECI workers and students must be monitored daily for symptoms of COVID-19 including taking temperature checks upon entry to ECIs and requiring those ill or showing symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, cough) to stay home.
  • There must be an isolation room/corner for children showing symptoms to stay until collected by a parent/guardian, as required by ECC Standards.
  • Teach and engage children in hygiene such as washing hands regularly, covering mouth when coughing and sneezing and not touching face, nose and eyes.
  • Clean and sanitize frequently used surfaces and commonly used areas, including children’s mats, play equipment and toys.
  • Masks are required for entry to school property; masks must cover the nose and mouth fully. Masks are to be worn throughout the day when physical distancing is not possible. Masks can be removed when teachers are physically distanced from children, such as at the front of a classroom or on the playground as facial expression is important for young children’s development.
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children 2 years and under. Children who are 3-5 years of age should also not wear masks as this is not practical.
  • Guideline signs to ensure safety from COVID-19 should be posted and visible for all, including, posters for children.

Please continue to visit the MoHW website https://www.moh.gov.jm/. For additional information on specific COVID-19 protocols for ECIs, please visit the ECC’s website at https://ecc.gov.jm/.

Protocols for Reopening ECIs

This blog follows in the series of Protocols for Reopening ECIs for Children 0 to 5 Yeas Old. The information presented in this blog can be found on the ECC’s website.

Here are some recommended guidelines for the physical layout of ECIs:

  • ECIs should use temporary walls/dividers to divide a room into smaller spaces to serve multiple groups, under limited circumstances and should be approximately 3 4ft high
  • Clearly mark the 6ft spacing between desks, mats, cribs, etc. or as much spacing as is possible
  • When using mats, consider placing children head to toe in order to further reduce the potential for viral spread
  • ECIs should stagger arrival and drop off times and/or plan to limit direct contact with parents as much as possible
  • ECIs should stagger playground and lunch times
  • Parents should be encouraged to provide reusable eating utensils for their children
  • ECIs should have the same types of toys in different colours and allocate a specific colour to a specific group
  • In recognizing that physical distancing is difficult with small children and infants, some suggestions to support physical distancing include, planning activities that do not involve shared objects or toys; and, when possible, moving activities outside to allow for more space.

For updated information on COVID-19, we continue to encourage the public to visit the MoHW website at https://www.moh.gov.jm/. For updates and information on ECD, please visit the ECC website at https://ecc.gov.jm/.


 

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Christmas Wish List

Before the new year approaches, we find ourselves celebrating Christmas Day. My toes curl and my heart in leaping. It is hard to explain, but the song writer was correct: “It is the most wonderful time of the year.” We have been through so much this year but we are still standing strong and we must be thankful. The best way to show how thankful I am, is to add you to my Christmas List.

  • For the children, I wish for you hope and a spirit of resilience and determination to keep pressing on. Always remember a brighter future for this nation begins with you.
  • For the Early Childhood Teachers, Practitioners and Caregivers who defied the odds and embraced the Virtual Learning platform, I wish for you strength, creativity and patience.
  • For our country Jamaica, my wish is the same as yours, I wish for a safe country.
  • For those who lost a love one during the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish for you peace and comfort. 

Try to make the most of what you have this Christmas season. Please return the favour by adding someone else to your wish list. It is by far better to give than to receive.

Guest Blogger: Sophia Stewart, Development Officer

Image: http://www.freepik.com

COVID-19 ECD IMPACT SURVEY

Responses from Principals

The principals of Early Childhood Institutions were asked to complete an online survey that sought to measure the impact of COVID-19 on ECD programmes and assess the training needs of practitioners. A total of 567 principals responded to the Principals’ Survey.

72.5% reported that they are principals of Basic Schools.

7.6 % indicated that they are principals of Infant Departments and 6.7 % indicated that they are principals of Kindergarten and prep schools.

77.1% principals were aware of the distance learning prior to COVID-19 outbreak.

42% indicated that they learnt about distance learning via the internet.

28.2% indicated that they learnt about distance learning from watching television and 13.6% from interactive sessions.

According to the results, majority of principals (95.2%) indicated that their ECIs’ provided remote curriculum instructions for parents and children to follow.

The survey also revealed that 94.5% of principals uses WhatsApp to provide remote curriculum instructions and activities.

Based on the nature of the responses, it was further revealed that principals used more than one medium to provide curriculum instructions and activities. Other popular mediums included emails, Google classroom, Zoom and ECC website.


72.3% of principals indicated that learning instructions is sent to parents daily, 8.1 indicated instructions were sent once per week, 8% twice per week and 5.4% every other day.

64% principals indicated that their staff have the technical skills to integrate digital services in curriculum instructions. However, majority of principals indicated that their staff needed additional training in ICT and Curriculum.

June 2020