Approved providers of centre-based and family day care services are responsible for the safety, health and wellbeing of children while they are outdoors at the service.
Access to the outdoors is an important part of children's physical, mental and social development and contributes to a high quality educational experience.
Any outdoor space used by children must be enclosed by a fence or barrier of such height and design that children, preschool-aged or younger, cannot go through, over or under it.
- centre-based services and family day care residences and venues providing education and care to children preschool-aged and younger.
But it does not include:
- a family day care residence or venue if
all the children being educated and cared for are school-aged
- a centre-based service that
primarily educates and cares for school-aged children
- a centre-based service that delivers a preschool (kindergarten) program in a school class, where a full-time education program is also being delivered to school children (composite class).
In relation to fencing requirements,
'primarily' means there are more school-aged children than under school-aged children attending the service.
Considering fencing options
When planning, designing and constructing fencing, approved providers should seek expert advice to ensure applicable legislation, regulations, building codes and standards are met.
This may mean consulting architects, developers, planners and building practitioners.
When deciding between fencing options, approved providers should consider the following:
- Children must not be able to climb the fence using footholds in situations where, for example
- the design of the fence allows it to be used as a ladder
- objects, such as play equipment, have been placed against the fence or attached to it
- a tree stump or branch is located in such a way that it could be used to climb the fence.
- Ongoing safety checks of fences and barriers should form part of the risk assessment developed by the approved providers and used by the educators.
- Approved providers are encouraged to
regularly review the design and maintenance of all boundary fencing.
- If an educator fails to adequately supervise the children, those preschool-aged and younger should not be able to leave the premises unaccompanied or undetected.
- The excursions and regular outings provisions are
not to be used as substitutes for accessing an outdoor space at premises where the fence does not comply with regulatory requirements.
- Although safety is paramount, fencing should also allow children to view the outside world, where possible, to connect them with the activities of their surrounds.
Fencing in family day care
Approved providers are responsible for assessing each proposed family day care residence and family day care venue (if approved by the Regulatory Authority due to exceptional circumstances)
before education and care is provided and at least annually thereafter. These assessments are to ensure children remain safe and protected.
In assessing the adequacy and ongoing maintenance of the fence, approved providers should consider:
- some fencing material may present a specific climbing risk unless physical adjustments are made to it or access is denied to it. Examples of such material are flexible chain wire, rigid wire mesh or horizontal slats
- in some cases, a fence made from chain wire or rigid wire mesh may not pose a risk because children are unable to access it. This may be because
- dense vegetation is planted so closely to the fence and is of such a height that children cannot access the fence or use the vegetation as a platform to climb
- the chain wire may be covered with tightly fitted material in such a way that a child could not use the gaps in the wire to gain a foothold. In this case, the condition of the material would need to be checked regularly to ensure it is kept taut and in good repair so that it continues to prevent children from climbing the fence.
Download the factsheet
fencing requirements at a family day care residence.
Related legislation and building codes
In addition to the National Regulations, approved providers of centre-based services should consider other applicable legislation, building codes and standards.
For example, the Building Code of Australia specifies fencing requirements that must be provided around an outdoor play space in an early childhood centre. The Code's definition of an early childhood centre excludes education and care primarily provided to school-aged children in outside school hours settings.
Even where fencing meets the Code, the Regulatory Authority may impose additional requirements. This would be the case if the physical features of a proposed outdoor play space presented a risk to children's safety, health and wellbeing.
For example, the Regulatory Authority imposes additional requirements on approved providers operating services in multi-storey buildings. In those instances, where outdoor play spaces adjoin a balcony, deck or verandah (with a significant fall in height on the other side), approved providers are required to install a non-climbable zone and a fence of at least 1.8 metres.
Download the factsheet NQF design considerations for centre-based early childhood education and care services in multi-storey buildings (PDF, 1.6MB)
Learn more about an approved provider's responsibilities for protecting children from harm or injury while playing outside. Read the relevant legislation, codes and standards on fencing:
- Education and Care Services National Regulations
- National Quality Standards
- Guide to the National Quality Framework
- Building Code of Australia
Help and support
For questions about meeting requirements, please
contact your regional office.