Advice for families

Updated 18 January 2021

We're working closely with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), NSW Health and other agencies to ensure our schools continue to operate in the safest ways possible in the COVID-19 environment.

Schools are operating full time while actively following health advice.

Schools continue to be safe, and operations are in line with Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and NSW Health advice. All students should be learning on campus unless they are unwell or have a medical certificate to support their absence.

Activities permitted at school will be conducted in a way that is safe and appropriate in the current environment. Activities that remain on hold will be reviewed at regular intervals and will recommence when appropriate based on health and other relevant advice.

Latest COVID-19 case locations in NSW

Students are reminded to remain vigilant and practise physical distancing and hygiene measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff are maintained.

Check the latest COVID-19 case locations in NSW and follow the recommended actions if you have been in a location where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19. We encourage members of the community to monitor this site. Please follow the relevant health advice if you have been at any of the locations at the specified dates and times.

The locations along with the times and dates of when identified cases were identified can be found on the NSW COVID-19 website.

School attendance

Students should be at school unless:

  • they have a medical certificate which states that they are unable to return to school due to an ongoing medical condition and the expected timeframe
  • they are currently unwell.

In accordance with advice from NSW Health, parents and carers are reminded NOT to send children to school if they are unwell, even if they have the mildest flu-like symptoms.

NSW Health has requested that schools encourage anyone who is unwell or has even mild flu-like symptoms, to arrange to be tested through their local medical practitioner or one of the COVID-19 clinics.

Students and staff with flu-like symptoms will need to be tested and provide a copy of a negative COVID-19 test result and be symptom-free before being permitted to return to school.

Students who do not undertake a COVID-19 test will not be permitted to return to school for a 10-day period. Additionally, they must be symptom-free for at least 3 days prior to returning to school.

Students who have seasonal allergic rhinitis or another condition that presents similarly to flu-like symptoms are still required to get tested for COVID-19 and return a negative test result. Where their symptoms continue beyond 10 days, students should provide documentation from their GP confirming their symptoms are typical for their condition. If the student develops new or changed symptoms, they should get tested for COVID-19. Find more information about COVID-19 symptoms.

COVID-19 testing for students with complex health or disability may be challenging. In these situations, schools will ask the parent or carer to have their child assessed by their medical practitioner. Where a medical practitioner determines that a COVID-19 test is not required, documentation must be provided to the school to confirm that the student does not have symptoms that warrant a COVID-19 test. The certificate must also indicate that the student is able to return to school.

All schools will be vigilant when implementing infection control, physical distancing and personal hygiene protocols to protect the health and safety of students and staff. Schools will promote the need to follow good hygiene practices such as:

  • regularly washing hands.
  • avoiding sharing drinks or food.
  • coughing or sneezing into your elbow, or a tissue which should be discarded immediately.

Students will be supported to learn from home in the following circumstances:

  • If they are required to self-isolate due to being a close contact of a positive or suspected COVID-19 case.
  • Where the school is directed under public health advice to only remain operational for children of essential workers if an outbreak of COVID-19 was to arise in the local area.

Wearing face masks and temperature screening

Staff and students are not required to wear a face mask while at school. Anyone who wishes to wear their own masks in schools will not be prevented from doing so.

Students over the age of 12 and staff must comply with the Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order 2021 when travelling to and from school and during school excursions by public transport, or by chartered/private transport services. This applies to staff and students who reside or travel to and from Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains), Central Coast and Wollongong.

Wearing a face mask is not mandatory for parents and carers visiting schools, provided they are visiting only for the explicit reasons within this advice and maintain physical distancing and hygiene practices while at school.

Widespread temperature screening is not required or recommended in schools.

School activities and school site usage

What’s changed

The following activities have been updated:

  • Schools can now turn on water fountains and bubblers for students to use.
  • Schools in the border regions can recommence swimming and other activities using venues in other states or territories if border requirements permit.
  • P&C meetings can continue.
  • Field trips, excursions and camps to VIC, QLD and ACT can continue where interstate border requirements permit.
  • Orientation programs for department Preschools, Kindergarten and Year 7 can continue.

Continue reading for further information.

The following activities can continue

  • NSW Health advised that communal water fountains and/or bubblers in NSW schools can now be turned on. These facilities can remain operational, closing only if there is transmission of COVID-19 in the community. Students are still encouraged to bring water bottles from home that they can refill when needed.
  • Field trips, excursions and camps to Victoria, Queensland and ACT can continue where interstate border requirements permit.
  • Department Preschool, Kindergarten and Year 7 orientations can continue.
  • Parents and carers for Preschool, Kindergarten and Years 1, 2 and 7 students will be allowed on the school site on orientation days to drop off their children at their classes provided they follow physical distancing and hygiene measures implemented by the school and the department.
  • Schools in the border regions can recommence swimming and other activities using venues in other states or territories if border requirements permit. Schools will need to:
    • Have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place in addition to a risk management plan.
    • Keep records of students and staff attending the activities.
  • Practicums for both teaching and non-teaching students including university supervisors.
  • Undergraduate education researchers with a COVID-19 Safety Plan from the university representative.
  • P&C meetings and other school based outdoor activities that involve parents and members of the community, such as working bees may occur on the school sites with executives and invited guests. These meetings must occur outside of school hours and are limited to 30 people outdoors for schools within Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong are subject to the 4 square metre rule. Other locations can have a maximum of 100 people outdoors subject to the 2 square metre rule. Physical distancing and hygiene measures must be adhered to at all times. All attendees must sign the visitor acknowledgement form upon arrival.
  • Singing events can continue. Up to 5 performers can sing indoors and there is no limit on the number of performers singing outdoors.
    • If the event is held indoors, audience members must not participate in singing or chanting.
    • If the event is held outdoors, the audience may participate in singing with those over the age of 12 required to wear a mask. Schools must comply with these restrictions in addition to the department’s school and community activity guidelines. All singing, chanting, rapping and group activities must take place in large, well-ventilated settings. Outdoor settings are preferred.
    • During solo and group singing, chanting and rapping events, singers must maintain a distance of 5 metres between themselves and any person they are facing, including staff, students and audience members.
    • All singers are to be positioned 1.5 metres apart from one another. This includes choirs.
    • Instructors, teachers and adult support persons must maintain a distance of 1.5 metres on the side of the performers and not within 5 metres in front of them during the rehearsals and performance.

o In a primary school and preschool setting, in-class educational activities such as group repetition, chanting, recitation, or singing activities are permitted provided these activities take place outdoors or in large, well-ventilated settings.

School activities and school site usage without change

Schools will apply the following guidelines to adhere to NSW Health advice:

  • Where possible, students will stay within their relevant cohort group (i.e. class, year group, or stage) for all learning activities within their school in order to limit close contacts to the relevant student cohort.
  • Interschool activities can continue to take place.
  • External providers delivering educational services can proceed with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.
  • Activities involving musical instruments can proceed. Students playing non-reeded woodwind instruments such as flutes and recorders should be positioned so that they can maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from all persons (including other members of the musical group). They must also maintain a minimum 3 metres space between the direction of airflow from their instruments and other performers.
  • Singing and band rehearsals and performances should take place outside or in well ventilated indoor spaces.

Visiting NSW Schools

Parents and carers are not allowed on school sites or at off-site school events held during school hours except for the following purposes only:

  • Essential parent and carer meetings with teachers and/or school executives with a scheduled appointment.
  • Parents and carers who attend a school administration building or another defined location for the purpose of picking up their child if they are unwell or where they have been asked to arrange for a COVID-19 test after their child has displayed flu-like symptoms while at school.
  • Parents and carers who need to be on-site for canteen and uniform shop duties or to collect or purchase uniforms.
  • Parent or carer volunteers required as educational support roles for activities essential to the delivery of the curriculum such as reading groups, music, dance and kitchen garden areas. Schools are required to have scheduled programs in place and remind parents and carers that they must not attend school unless it has been previously arranged.
  • Parents and carers can attend parent orientation meetings and ‘meet the teacher’ meetings with school staff for all year/stage groups. Meetings should be limited to 1 hour where possible. A COVID-19 Safety Plan must be in place.
  • Parents or carers of boarding school students who would like to collect students for local activities.

Activities on hold

The following events will continue to be reconsidered. For now, these events must remain on hold.

  • International excursions (cancelled until further notice).
  • Certain large arts and sports events are cancelled or delayed because they require feeder activities and have long lead time organisational arrangements. Please speak to your schools if you would like to know more.

School performances, productions, plays and concerts

School performances, productions, plays and concerts can continue. These events must comply with the department’s guidelines and NSW Health requirements for COVID safe events.

Schools must have in place and comply with the COVID-19 Safety Plan for school graduation ceremonies when planning and conducting these events. The following considerations for schools apply:

  • Ensure that all attendees, including students, staff and visitors, parents and carers, are well and free of any flu-like symptoms.
  • Events held on school sites within Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong are limited to 30 people indoors and 30 people outdoors subject to the 4 square metre rule. Other schools can have a maximum of 30 people indoors and 100 people outdoors subject to the 2 square metre rule. Schools will need to invite guests based on the total number of people (this includes staff, students, parents & carers or visitors) who are able to be accommodated.
  • For seating arrangements ensure there is enough space for distancing of 1.5 metres between non-household members.
  • Ensure people remain seated as much as possible to minimise mingling outside of household or close friend groups.
  • Catering arrangements will comply with the COVID-19 Safety Plan requirements where appropriate.
  • Special guests such as the Local Member of Parliament, one videographer or photographer may attend events. Special guests must be kept to a minimum and be included in the maximum number of participants.
  • Singing and musical activities at the event must adhere to the department’s guidelines for singing, musical activities and creative arts consistent with NSW Health advice for group singing and musical ensemble.
  • Ensure all visitors sign the external visitors form.
  • Maintain a record of names and contact details for all attendees including school staff and visitors for at least 28 days after the event. This record must only be used for the purposes of contact tracing for COVID-19 infections and be stored confidentially and securely. If possible, create and maintain a record of the seating plan to support contact tracing.
  • External visitors should not be allowed access to areas outside of the designated event venue and should leave promptly at the conclusion of the event.
  • When holding events at external venues, all external venues and providers must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan to ensure health and safety measures are in place.

Virtual celebrations toolkit

Schools will also have the option to continue to have online gatherings through the Virtual Celebrations Toolkit. This toolkit has been developed to support schools in planning events and celebrations that do not require all participants, including parents and carers to be on the school site.

Schools also have the option, and are encouraged to live-stream these events held within the school to selected families and friends as a way of sharing major milestones.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing of students in schools is not required under the AHPPC guidelines.

All teachers, support staff and parents must maintain physical distance from each other (1.5m).

Parents should ensure school pick up and drop off arrangements enable them to physically distance from one another and from staff.

Border restrictions

All students and staff are able to cross borders to attend school and work. There may be a need to complete a declaration form in some locations to meet border requirements. Be sure to check the relevant border authority to ensure you meet the necessary requirements.

Schools will be advised when there are changes to any border requirements impacting schools.

School cleaning and hygiene supplies

Your school will continue to receive additional cleaning in line with the AHPPC guidelines and advice from NSW Health. Target areas include high-touch areas and other hard surfaces, door handles, lockers, light switches and handrails in stairways and movement areas. There will also be additional cleaning of toilets and bubblers and topping up of supplies like soap.

Essential hygiene supplies

To support NSW schools during COVID-19 and help keep them safe, we've secured and dispatched a range of products including soap, hand sanitiser, toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and personal protective equipment.

Standard packs of hygiene products continue to be dispatched to schools. The packs include liquid soap, hand sanitiser, paper towels, surface spray, disinfectant wipes. Quantities are calculated on the number of habitable spaces at each school. Schools can continue to request supplies through the School Supplies email address.

Responding to COVID-19 cases

There is a clear plan in place for schools to respond to any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our schools. We are working closely with NSW Health and will communicate with parents if a situation arises. Read more about our Response protocols for COVID-19 cases.

Boarding schools

An update has been made requesting schools confirm that students, staff and other persons entering the residential areas of the school have not attended any of the locations listed on the NSW Government website as a location of concern.

Other recent changes published during Term 4, 2020 which remain in effect include the following:

  • Boarding students may attend local gyms, boxing, water polo and other events in the community after school hours.
  • Parents or carers may take students off school grounds for activities to spend time with them.
  • Orientation for boarders may proceed, including an opportunity for them to stay in the boarding house.
  • Weekly boarders may be introduced back into schools.
  • Information on responding to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • Boarding school staff should review the updated guidelines and amend their risk management practices as appropriate.

Transport

Bus services to and from schools are scheduled to run as normal. For travel advice to and from school, refer to Transport for NSW. Encourage your children to follow the latest public health advice when using or waiting for public transport. Refer to the NSW Government website for more information.


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