Advice for families

Term 3 settings for 2022 have been developed and updated in close consultation with NSW Health.

For early childhood education and care information, please refer to the Guidelines for ECEC services.

Last updated 11:10 am 20 September 2022

In Term 3 2022, your child’s school will operate with a number of COVID-smart measures that have been developed with NSW Health to minimise transmission and keep schools open.

These key measures include:

  • strongly encouraging mask-wearing indoors for all students and staff

  • rapid antigen testing (RAT) of students and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or are identified as household/close contacts

  • strongly recommending staff and students keep up-to-date with their vaccinations

  • maximising natural ventilation

  • requiring mask wearing for staff working with students who are at greater risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19 in schools for specific purpose (SSPs), support units and some mainstream classrooms.

  • encouraging regular hand washing

  • boosting enhanced day cleaning of schools

  • assessing risk and applying appropriate safeguards across activities and events

  • learning remotely where face-to-face learning is not possible.

In certain circumstances, NSW Health and the Department of Education may advise that additional COVID-smart measures be temporarily reintroduced at your school. Your principal will work with the Health, Safety and Staff Wellbeing Case Management team and provide further details of any changes to COVID-smart measures at your school, when required. These temporary measures may include:

  • ceasing large indoor gatherings

  • ceasing off-site and inter-school activities

  • cancelling or postponing overnight activities and excursions, including school camps

  • mandating mask wearing for adults and high school students

  • limiting visitors to schools

  • separating cohorts of students

  • learning from home or remotely.

Household/close contacts attending school

Being together in a classroom is the most effective way for students to learn and grow. Since COVID-19 remains a relatively mild illness for most children, the NSW Government is committed to school safety in 2022.

Students and staff who are identified as household/close contacts and have no symptoms can attend school (excluding schools for specific purposes (SSPs) and support units) if they follow certain guidelines agreed with NSW Health in addition to the NSW Health guidelines:

  • They must notify the school and/or early childhood education (ECE) service provider (including their outside of school hours care provider) if they are intending to return under this provision.

  • They should conduct a daily RAT and return a negative result each morning before attending school for 5 school days.

  • They (if in a secondary school setting) must wear a mask indoors except when eating or exercising. Primary school students are recommended to wear a mask indoors (except when eating or exercising).

  • No student or staff member identified as a household/close contact will be permitted to participate in overnight excursions, including school camps.

  • No apprentices, trainees or students on placement or staff member identified as a household/close contact will be permitted to attend settings identified as high risk by NSW Health (healthcare, aged care, disability care or correctional facilities), which in the department context includes schools for specific purposes (SSPs) and support units.

Any visitor to a school site who is a household/close contact is required to advise the school that they are a household/close contact before they come on site. These visitors should conduct a daily RAT and return a negative result before attending. They must also wear a mask indoors at all times. Schools should consider if the visit can be conducted virtually.

The department has determined that household and close contacts will not be permitted to return to a school for specific purposes (SSPs) or to a support unit (including Assisted School Travel Program) and will be supported to continue learning or working from home where possible.

Students and staff at greater risk of serious illness, if they were to contract COVID-19, should speak with their treating medical practitioner or specialist, to review their health support plan or COVID-19 action plan and speak with the school about any local considerations.

Note that staff and students who have had confirmed COVID-19 in the last 4 weeks do not have to comply with the following guidelines if they become a household or close contact and are not required to self-isolate or test unless they develop new COVID-19 symptoms.

The department’s Health, Safety and Staff Wellbeing Case Management team will continue to work with schools around temporary use of additional COVID-smart measures for short periods of time based on localised risk assessments.

Testing

Remember: Staff and students cannot attend school if they are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, If symptoms occur at any time, your child should not attend school and should undertake a rapid antigen test (RAT).

All students and staff in schools and ECE services were provided with 1 multipack containing 5 RAT kits in early Term 3. These RAT kits can be used for symptomatic testing or for daily testing as part of the household/close contact requirements.

In addition to this delivery, the department has advised schools to maintain appropriate levels of RAT supplies to support symptomatic testing in the event of an outbreak.

  • If a student is unwell and has any COVID-19 symptoms, even the mildest of symptoms, they should always test for COVID-19.

  • If the test comes back negative for COVID-19, the student should still not return to school until either:

  • The student no longer has any symptoms, or

  • A medical certificate is provided to the school confirming that symptoms are explained by another diagnosis (such as hay fever)

  • It is important that students do not attend school if they are unwell, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19. Rapid antigen tests can produce false negative results and symptoms of other illnesses can also be similar to COVID-19, including flu, the common cold and stomach bugs. Health advice is that students who are sick should always stay home to rest and recover and avoid putting other students and staff at risk of getting sick.

It is recommended that students and staff that return to school after recovering from COVID-19 do not participate in rapid antigen testing for 4 weeks following release from self-isolation unless they develop new COVID-19 symptoms. This is due to NSW Health advice that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have a low risk of contracting it again in the following 4 weeks.

For positive COVID-19 cases

If there is a positive case in your child’s class, year or other grouping, your child can continue to attend school in line with NSW Health advice.

If a student or staff member receives a positive RAT or PCR test, they need to:

  • record the positive result, if a RAT was taken, through the Service NSW website or Service NSW app – please add details of your child's school or early childhood education centre when prompted.

  • notify the school of the positive RAT or PCR test result as soon as possible.

  • Registering your child’s positive RAT with Service NSW is a requirement of the Public Health Order and helps NSW Health track COVID-19 in schools and address any public health issues early on if required.

Negative results do not need to be reported to Service NSW or to the school.

On 31 August 2022 National Cabinet announced that the isolation period for positive COVID-19 cases would be reduced from 7 days to 5 days from Friday 9 September with the following conditions: 

  • This would apply to people with no symptoms at 5 days. 

  • 7 days isolation would remain for workers in high-risk settings including aged care, disability care and those providing care in the home. 

In line with the National Cabinet announcement, the following requirements apply at NSW schools. 

In mainstream school settings, including boarding schools, all staff, students and visitors who have tested positive to COVID-19 must:  

  • complete 5 days of isolation from the date they tested positive

  • be symptom-free before returning to school, if symptoms remain after Day 5 they must continue following NSW Health guidelines to self-isolate and undertake a rapid antigen test

  • complete a rapid antigen test (RAT) and return a negative result before attending school on Days 6 and 7 after testing positive to COVID-19, and

  • wear a mask on Days 6 and 7 when attending school (for all staff and those students 12 years and older).

Staff and students may use the RAT kits supplied to them by their school at the beginning of Term 3 for the purpose of testing before attending school on Days 6 and 7 when released from isolation and symptom-free. If you require additional RAT kits for this purpose please get in touch with your school’s front office who can provide or organise additional kits. 

Due to the higher risk associated with some school settings and activities, the 7-day isolation period will remain for staff, students and visitors who have tested positive to COVID-19 in: 

  • schools for specific purposes (SSPs) 

  • support units 

  • assisted transport 

  • overnight excursions. 

Staff, students and visitors may return to these higher risk settings after isolating for 7 days from the date they tested positive if they are symptom-free on their seventh day of isolation.

Schools will inform their community when there is a positive case in the school and guide families on NSW Health advice, including monitoring for symptoms.

For more information, including COVID-19 guidelines and fact sheets, refer to People who tested positive or were exposed to COVID-19.

Visitors on school grounds

Schools and early childhood education services can invite visitors – including parents, carers and families – to their sites regardless of their vaccination status, in line with settings in the broader community.

  • All visitors are strongly encouraged to wear a mask, particularly in indoor settings or when distancing is not possible, and when interacting directly with students.

  • Visitors to schools for specific purposes (SSPs) and support units, including workers and volunteers, must wear a mask if they are interacting directly with students.

Visitors must also comply with the household and close contacts in school procedures outlined above.

Events

Updated 3:10 pm 12 August 2022

Events can proceed within the following guidelines:

  • Holding the event/gathering outdoors
  • If holding an event indoors:
    • masks are strongly encouraged for students, staff and visitors
    • consider separating your students into cohorts and encourage physical distancing where practicable
    • consider seating plans or separated areas to minimise mingling
    • limit the number of guests attending where possible
    • provide hygiene supplies (such as sanitiser) and encourage their use.

Schools, including external event organisers should continue to apply layered COVID-smart measures as per the guidelines on this page when planning activities such as end-of-year celebrations like formals and graduations. It is also recommended to consider contingency plans in case COVID-smart measures change before the event/gathering.

Students who are identified as household or close contacts are required to follow the advice from NSW Health and avoid large or crowded indoor gatherings.

Vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccination is the best protection against severe illness and reduces the risk of spreading it to others.

We strongly recommend all eligible students (and their families) who are 5 years and older get vaccinated against COVID-19, including booster vaccinations as they become available to different groups.

For more information on booster vaccinations, including eligibility and timing, please refer to NSW Health Booster vaccination. To book an appointment near you, visit the Find a vaccine clinic website.

On 18 July 2022, the Secretary announced the NSW Department of Education’s updated policy regarding COVID-19 vaccination for its staff, which was implemented and phased in at our schools from the beginning of Term 3.

In line with this policy, department employees are no longer required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. Unvaccinated staff were able to return to the workplace from Monday 1 August 2022. The exception to this is for department staff working at or visiting schools for specific purposes (SSPs), who must be double vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, or hold a valid medical contraindication – this includes corporate and department staff.

Requirements for ATSOs and ASTP drivers

Last updated 2:30 pm 5 September 2022

A new Public Health Order for Care Workers came into effect on Monday 5 September 2022 which no longer requires Assisted Travel Support Officers (ATSOs) and Assisted School Travel Program (ASTP) drivers to have 3 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. ATSOs and ASTP drivers are required to have a minimum of 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine under the department's policy.

NSW Health also recommend getting vaccinated against flu. Flu has different effects than COVID-19 and often affects children more severely than COVID-19. Flu vaccines are free for all children aged 6 months to 5 years, and for a small charge for those aged 5 years and older.

For more information refer to Vaccination requirements for school sites.

Cohorting

Schools are not required to keep students in their class or year group cohorts. This means schools do not need to stagger start and finish times and can conduct cross-year group activities and events such as assemblies.

Masks

Last updated 11:10 am 20 September 2022

Masks are an effective way of minimising the transmission of respiratory diseases.

In response to NSW Health advice and the current COVID-19 situation in the state, the Minister for Education and Early Learning has strongly encouraged mask-wearing indoors for all school-based staff and for all students.

Masks continue to be required for workers who support our students who are at greater risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19, whether they be in schools for specific purpose (SSPs), support units or mainstream classrooms. This may include:

  • NDIS services

  • ATSP services – drivers and Assisted Travel Support Officers

  • education and/or support of a student in an SSP, support unit or mainstream setting where the student is dependent on the worker for mobility, health care, personal care, or constant supervision to minimise harm – including:
    • school learning support officers (SLSOs)
    • school counselling staff
    • learning and support teachers
    • early intervention staff
    • itinerant support teachers
    • assistant principals (hearing or vision)
    • assistant principals learning and support
    • support teachers transition
    • classroom teachers
    • allied health professionals engaged through the allied health pre-qualification scheme
    • attendant carers engaged through third-party providers.

From Wednesday 21 September 2022 masks are no longer mandatory on public transport in NSW. The requirement for people to wear masks on public transport has been removed, including taxis and rideshare services, in transport waiting areas and the indoor areas of cruise terminals.

Masks remain strongly encouraged for all students, staff and visitors on school sites, particularly on buses and transport to and from camps and excursions.

In line with the latest advice from NSW Health, masks are recommended for students and staff who have recovered from COVID-19, completed their 5-day isolation period in mainstream schools settings, including boarding schools, or 7-day isolation period for SSPs, support units, assisted travel and overnight excursions and are no longer showing symptoms for an additional 2 days.

Additionally, mask wearing when indoors is mandatory for staff and high school students returning to school as household/close contacts for 5 school days and recommended for primary school students returning to school as household/close contacts for 5 school days. Where students or staff are unable to wear a mask, they will be supported to learn or work remotely.

In certain circumstances NSW Health and the Department of Education may advise that certain COVID-smart measures be temporarily reintroduced at your school. Your principal will work with Health and the department and provide further details of any changes to COVID-smart measures at your school when required.

For more information, refer to Guidance on wearing face masks.

Ventilation

Fresh air is the most effective form of ventilation to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Where there is no natural ventilation, schools will use mechanical ventilation to maximise fresh airflow in learning spaces. Using outdoor spaces will continue to be encouraged.

During the colder months, heating is being used in conjunction with windows and doors remaining slightly open to continue to allow natural ventilation.

For more information, refer to Ventilation.

Additional information for Assisted Travel School Officers

Drivers and Assisted Travel School Officers will be ensuring adequate ventilation is provided in vehicles through a combination of window and air-conditioning use.

Hygiene and cleaning 

Students and staff are encouraged to wash their hands regularly with soap and water.

Schools will use boosted day cleaning processes throughout Term 3. Target areas include high-touch areas, hard surfaces, door handles, lockers, light switches and handrails in stairways and areas where students and staff move through regularly.

Community use of school sites

Updated 2:30 pm 30 August 2022

Community use of school sites under community use agreements are permitted. This includes:

  • community sports
  • playgroups
  • schools as community centres
  • dance or drama groups
  • Parent and Citizens Association activities.

The school should have plans in place to avoid interaction between the community users and school students and staff.

  • Community users do not need to be vaccinated, unless required by their organisation. Parents, carers and other visitors participating do not need to be vaccinated.

  • Community users during school hours must also sign in as visitors as per the school’s usual sign in procedures.

Parents and Citizens (P&C) Associations

P&C Association meetings, operations and activities are permitted on school sites with approval from the principal. P&C Association employees, volunteers and attendees do not need to be vaccinated, per current advice from NSW Health.

P&C Association meetings and operations such as canteens, uniforms shops and OSHC held on school sites will need to ensure that they follow current COVID-19 safety requirements, as specified by the NSW Department of Education and NSW Government. The P&C Association is not required to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan for meetings and should follow the requirements of the school. Alternative arrangements can be made by the P&C organiser if they are unable to meet on the school site.

P&C Association activities requiring a Community Use Agreement are subject to requirements outlined in the Community use of school sites section above. P&C organisers and attendees must:

  • Wear a mask if interacting directly with students at greater risk of severe illness if they were to contract COVID-19
  • Household or close contact requirements will apply.
    • Notify the school if they are a household or close contact in mainstream schools.
    • Not allowed on SSP or support units if they are a household or close contact.
  • Conduct a rapid antigen test and record a negative result before attending schools as a household or close contact (mainstream schools only).

Language schools that operate on school sites

Community languages schools are allowed to operate on school sites, with a Community Use Acknowledgement (PDF 190 KB) .

For additional support, check COVID-19 Business rules in NSW for hospitality or complete an optional Hospitality COVID-19 Safety Plan.

Reducing the risk of illness this winter

All students, staff and their families should follow NSW Health’s advice to reduce the risk of not only COVID-19, but also other illnesses that may affect our schools this winter such as the flu. We can all protect our loved ones and our community by:

  • staying home if unwell or if displaying any COVID-19 symptoms

  • keeping up to date with our vaccinations – including the flu vaccine, which is available from your local GP, pharmacy or Aboriginal Medical Service now

  • flu vaccines are free for all children aged 6 months to under 5 years, or for a small charge for those aged 5 years and older

  • getting tested immediately for COVID-19 if you become symptomatic and isolating until you receive a negative result

  • practicing good hand hygiene by washing regularly with soap and water.

  • taking a RAT before visiting vulnerable loved ones or going to large gatherings and events.

Specific activities

Guidelines have been provided to schools on how to assess activities with a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 and apply appropriate safeguards.

Parents and carers will be made aware of those risks and will need to give their permission for participation in extra-curricular, out-of-school hours or off-site activities.

Learning from home

Where face-to-face learning is not possible, learning from home options will be supported for short periods.

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