HSC advice

The return of students in Year 12 and those sitting the HSC exams to on-site activities will continue to be based on the latest NSW Health advice. Whenever on-site, staff, students and visitors must adhere to the strictest of COVID-safe practices. Differentiated advice may also be provided for schools in some areas of the state. The Department of Education will continue to work with NSW Health on these guidelines, which have been approved by NSW Health.

Updated 2 pm 10 September 2021

NSW Health logo
Image: These guidelines have been approved by NSW Health.

This advice applies to Year 12 students and those sitting HSC exams in 2021, who attend schools currently following the guidelines for Greater Sydney, including regional LGAs with a stay-at-home rule. This will not apply to students in the identified LGAs (Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta as well as select suburbs within the Penrith LGA) who must continue learning from home until advised otherwise. NSW Health may additionally advise of further restrictions in additional or adjoining LGAs. This includes Bayside, Burwood and Strathfield LGAs of 5pm 12 August.

Select suburbs within the Penrith LGA are:

  • Caddens
  • Claremont Meadows
  • Colyton
  • Erskine Park
  • Kemps Creek
  • Kingswood
  • Mt Vernon
  • North St Marys
  • Orchard Hills
  • Oxley Park
  • St Clair
  • St Marys.

The wellbeing and safety of students and staff are our top priority.

Year 12 students and those sitting HSC exams will not be able to return to full time learning on school site. Students will be limited in their access to schools for essential curriculum and wellbeing activity, where it is essential for the student to engage with the teaching or wellbeing staff or school facilities, and only individually or in small groups. Students will not be permitted to attend school for more than one session (2 hours) per day, and not 5 days a week.

HSC exams will proceed from 9 November 2021 in a COVID-safe way, in line with NSW Health advice.

NESA is responsible for the safe conduct of the HSC examination process. Refer to NESA’s latest COVID-19 advice.

If you have any questions please call the NSW Health hotline on 1800 922 886.

NESA announcements

Updated 10 September 2021

NESA announced a number of changes to the 2021 HSC timetables including written exams to start on 9 November. There will be 110 exams taking place over 19 days, ending on 3 December. The personalised student timetables will be available in Students Online on Monday 13 September.

NESA is responsible for the safe conduct of the HSC examination process. Refer to NESA’s latest COVID-19 advice for more information.

The COVID-19 Special Consideration Program has been extended to all HSC performance and language oral exams across the state. Teachers will provide marks for their 2021 HSC students’ performance and language oral exam components. Teacher-provided marks are due to NESA by 22 October.

For more information, refer to the following:

Teachers, students, and parents and carers can also contact the NESA COVID-19 support team on 1300 138 323 or covid19support@nesa.nsw.edu.au.

HSC minimum standard

Updated 11 am 7 September 2021

NESA has made changes to the requirement for the HSC Minimum Standard. Year 12 students will not sit HSC Minimum Standard online tests for the rest of 2021. Instead, teachers will determine whether a student has met literacy and numeracy requirements by assessing their ability in each domain. Schools will notify NESA that a student has met the HSC Minimum Standard.

Submission of HSC major works and projects

Updated 5:30 pm 19 August 2021

In line with advice from NESA, students are required to submit major works and projects by the due date. Schools will provide instructions on how they will receive these submissions while ensuring COVID-safe practices continue. Contactless delivery is preferred.

Reminder for students:

  • Do not attend school sites if you are unwell or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. You should get tested, self-isolate until you receive a negative result and arrange for an alternative way to drop off or submit their major work or project.
  • Maintain hand hygiene practices.
  • Surfaces should be wiped down between students dropping off their major work or project.
  • Maintain 1.5 metre distance between students and staff.
  • Wear a mask or face shield while on school grounds including while indoors and outdoors.

HSC preparation

Students and staff are not required to be on-site full-time. Schools in areas with a stay-at-home rules will provide a timetable to ensure Year 12 and HSC students are not all on the school site at the same time.

Timetables will be designed to limit the mingling of students and staff at all times as well as support reduced attendance. Students will be appropriately spaced across classrooms or buildings.

School assessments and completion of HSC exam preparation or trial exams are to be completed at home for all schools operating under stay-at-home rules.

Students and staff must adhere to strict COVID-safe practices. This includes physical distancing and wearing a mask or face covering as required within these guidelines.

Schools for specific purposes

Year 12 students in schools for specific purposes (SSPs) who are graduating in 2021 can be supported to attend school under similar conditions to those in mainstream schools – for essential curriculum or wellbeing activities.

All students in identified LGAs must continue learning from home until advised otherwise.

School-based apprenticeships and traineeships (SBATs)

Students undertaking a vocational education and training course as part of their school-based apprenticeship or traineeship remain eligible for Preliminary or HSC credit units if unable to complete their minimum on-the-job training days in 2021. As such, it is important for HSC students to continue training in order to complete their qualification by the end of October 2021.

If the registered training organisation (RTO) cannot provide flexible training options, students must notify their school as soon as possible. There may be circumstances in which an RTO cannot continue operating or delivering the program. If this occurs, the school will be supported to find another RTO that can continue delivery. Note, extended breaks in training for SBAT students may impact achievement of the HSC.

Flexible timetables for school operation

Schools in Greater Sydney (including any regional areas under stay-at-home rules) will introduce a minimal timetable of relevant on-site activities to meet the essential needs of their students. This may include or more, but is not limited to:

  • flexible timetables with attendance patterns that may include one scheduled session per week for some subject areas
  • maximum time on site – limiting students to access on site for no more than 2 hours a day and less than 5 days per week
  • staggering of start, finish and break times so students are travelling out of peak travel times and to minimise mingling of student groups outside of school grounds
  • scheduled timeslots for students to complete major works or practise for practical course components, where possible working independently
  • essential individual or small group feedback sessions or masterclasses for students available in person that cannot be conducted online
  • scheduling specific subject tutorials on-site one day a fortnight, where essential for the curriculum, and recorded for students to access outside of scheduled times
  • small group face-to-face lessons or teacher-led wellbeing activities using limited scheduled timeslots and set student groupings
  • blended learning using a combination of face-to-face and online teaching
  • individual check-ins with specialised staff such as career advisers or Head Teacher, via a booking system to discuss one-off issues or to seek support
  • access to continued online learning and pre-recorded exam preparation tutorials for students unable to return to on-site learning.

Flexible timetabling should support students to maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres from other people when moving around classrooms or buildings.

All students are reminded not to attend school and to get a COVID-19 test if they have symptoms or have been instructed to do so by NSW Health. They should contact the school to organise alternative arrangements while they wait for their test result.

Students should not attend school if they have a person who is unwell from their household. They can return to school once the household member has been tested and returned a negative result or unless otherwise directed by NSW Health.

Students should not attend school if they or someone in their household has been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case. They must notify the school and follow the directions from NSW Health, which may include:

  • getting a COVID-19 test
  • isolating from the close contact
  • self-isolating for 14 days.

Additional testing requirements for students or staff will be reviewed dependent on the situation at the time and may change over the course of the HSC preparation and exam period. 

The safety and wellbeing of students remains the department’s and NESA’s priority. For resources, tips and study advice for students, parents and carers, access Stay Healthy HSC.

HSC exam guidelines

School assessments and completion of HSC exam preparation or trial exams are to be completed at home for all schools operating under stay-at-home rules.

Planning continues for HSC exams to proceed from 19 October in a COVID-safe way.

COVID-safe exam procedures

These guidelines apply to all school settings and all HSC-related contexts including rehearsals, exams and assessments.

School assessments and completion of HSC exam preparation or trial exams are to be completed at home for all schools operating under stay- at- home orders.

These guidelines are in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission between HSC students, staff and examiners by:

  • minimising contact between individuals and exam cohorts
  • following strict personal and environmental hygiene and infection control procedures
  • ensuring accurate record-keeping of attendees to support contact tracing.

COVID-19 safe expectations of students 

  • Students attending school for their scheduled trial HSC exam should arrive in the timeframe directed by their school prior to the exam and report directly to the designated exam room for screening and sign-in.
  • Students should not interact in groups prior to or after an exam.
  • Exam group sizes should be as small as possible. As a minimum, schools should ensure that the 1.5 metre rule can be applied between each person.
  • Each small group should avoid contact with other exam groups.

Masks and face coverings

HSC students must follow the current health advice on mask-wearing.

Students and staff attending schools must wear a mask or face covering during all activities on the school site (when indoors and outdoors).

A student may temporarily remove their mask or face covering during a final assessment where they are marked on facial expressions or vocals, or when they are playing a wind instrument.

Some students may already be exempt from mask wearing.

Screening

  • Students will be screened before the exam by being asked if they or someone in their household has any flu-like symptoms or if they have visited a venue of concern, or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate. Wide-scale temperature checking will not be used to screen students. 
  • Students will sign an attendance sheet confirming attendance at the exam, providing contact details and certifying that they do not have flu-like symptoms, have not visited a venue of concern, have not been in contact with someone with COVID-19, and are not required to self-isolate. 
  • Students displaying any symptom will be asked to leave the examination centre immediately. They will also be asked to arrange for a COVID-19 test.
  • Students with a clinical history or known illness that may appear like COVID-19 symptoms should provide written assurance from their doctor or GP that the symptoms they are displaying are of a known medical condition and are normal for the student. As a precaution, a negative COVID-19 test is recommended with the written assurance. Any change in symptoms may warrant repeat COVID-19 testing, especially if new COVID-19 like symptoms develop.
  • Students who present with negative COVID-19 test results may participate in the exam unless they have been asked by NSW Health to self-isolate. 

Hygiene requirements

  • Students may be asked to wipe down high-touch areas in shared spaces before and after any exams or assessments.
  • Hygiene supplies will be available at all exam venues including, sanitiser, wipes and masks.

COVID vaccinations and testing

Schools are reminded to follow the current Public Health Order(s) in operation in relation to the requirements of testing for staff, including markers and, where applicable, students.

Staff from Greater Sydney travelling 50kms or more to school will need to have a COVID-19 test every 7 days. Staff can continue to attend school while they wait for their test result. Find out more about the testing requirements on the NSW Government website.

All students and staff are reminded not to attend school or work and to get a COVID-19 test if they have symptoms or have been instructed to do so by public health. They should contact the school to organise alternative arrangements while they await a test result.

Additional COVID-19 testing requirements for students or staff will be reviewed dependent on the situation at the time and may change over the course of the HSC preparation and exam period.

All staff including exam supervisors and presiding officers attending school sites will be required to have their full dose of COVID-19 vaccinations.

HSC students are strongly encouraged to be fully vaccinated in time for their exams. Students who are 16 years and over and who live in local government areas of concern in Sydney can access a priority Pfizer vaccination appointment. In line with the broader increased access to Pfizer vaccines for those over 16, most HSC students across NSW can access priority appointments.

Students and staff should be strongly encouraged to access COVID-19 vaccination if they are eligible. This is especially so if they are identified as a priority group by the NSW or Australian Government due to underlying medical conditions or other risk factors such as residing in an LGA of concern.

Travel and moving between schools

Students visiting other schools should be minimised wherever possible for those in regional NSW and without stay-at-home rules.

Students in Greater Sydney (including any regional areas under stay-at-home rules) are not permitted to visit other schools during HSC preparation.

If a student outside of Greater Sydney is required to attend a school other than their usual school, a plan must be in place to limit the mingling of student cohorts while moving around the school.  

Travel movements that would normally occur as a result of examination scheduling must be modified according to the NSW Health advice, particularly in line with any requirements under the current Public Health Order.

Students who need to use public transport should follow NSW Health advice and be aware of reduced frequency of services in planning their trip.

For students who travel long distances to and from schools in Greater Sydney or any regional areas under stay-at-home rules, where possible students should travel via car or other private transport. Where schools have a high number of students travelling to school from across a variety of LGAs, schools should take all reasonable measures to minimise the travel required by students. This could include limiting the number of days on-site or continuing learning from home for those students.  Schools should seek to minimise mixing of students travelling from different LGAs.

As per current advice, carpooling with people outside of your household is not permitted for anyone residing in Greater Sydney (including any regional areas under stay-at-home rules).

Mingling of students and staff

All reasonable steps should be taken to prevent the mingling of student cohorts and staff from different schools. Students in Greater Sydney and regional areas under stay-at-home rules are not permitted to visit other schools during HSC preparation.

Students should only attend school for the time required to attend classes or work on their project or performance. This should be equivalent to the time they would typically spend in a school week.

Physical distancing

Schools will restrict activities to individual or groups of students in relevant HSC cohorts. Physical distancing and limiting interactions between groups at entry and exit points, transitioning between spaces within the school to reduce contact between student cohorts will need to be followed. As a minimum, students will be required to follow the 1.5 metre rule between people whenever gathered indoors (such as for a class or an assessment) including students and teachers.

Written exams

  • Exam group sizes must be as small as practicable.
  • As a minimum, schools must ensure that the 1.5 metre rule can be applied.
  • Classes or groups for exam purposes that would not normally be together for curricular activities should not be combined.

Student numbers will be limited per room to ensure that in the event of a confirmed case, there are fewer students identified as close contacts – making contact tracing easier.

Major works

Schools will determine consistent, responsive, COVID-safe procedures to minimise contact between students and teachers while major projects are being completed.

There will be strict rules around movement, space, masks and cleanliness must be maintained. To manage this, your school might use an appointment or roster system.

For more information about extended submission dates, refer to the NESA website.

Performance guidelines

  • For schools operating under stay-at-home rules, student performers must wear masks during rehearsal unless speaking, and all other people in front of the performer (including staff and students) must wear masks.
  • For schools in regional NSW not under stay-at-home rules, it is strongly recommended that student performers wear masks during rehearsals unless playing a wind instrument, and all other people in front of the performer (including staff and students) wear masks.
  • Where possible, performances should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably an outdoor setting.
  • A student may remove their mask or face covering during a final assessment where they are marked on facial expressions or vocals, or when they are playing a wind instrument.
  • Students are to perform at the same level as the HSC marker. Stages or elevated platforms are not be used.

Music solo

  • A solo singer (staff or student) is permitted to sing where a distance of 5 metres is maintained from other performers or people in front of the solo singer (including staff and students).
  • Solo singing/instrumentalist should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably an outdoor setting.
  • Shared equipment must be sanitised between each use.

Music ensemble

  • A small ensemble, not exceeding 5 people may perform together if all performers face forwards and not towards each other, are situated 1.5 metres apart, and are 5 metres from all other people in front of them (such as the conductor).
  • Small group singing should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably an outdoor setting.
  • Student performers and accompanists (not including singers or woodwind/brass instruments) must wear a mask or face covering, and all other people in front of the performer (including staff, students) must wear masks.

Accompanists

  • The use of accompanists should be limited and the use of a backing track is preferred.
  • Where required a distance of 5 metres between accompanist and performer must be maintained.
  • External accompanists are permitted.
  • External accompanists must limit attendance across multiple sites and must follow any health advice relating to additional testing requirements in the area where they live or work.

Dance and drama

  • A solo performer (student) is permitted to perform where a distance of 1.5 metres is maintained from other performers and 5 metres from people in front of the performer (including staff, students).
  • Group performers (students) are permitted to perform where a distance of 1.5 metres is maintained from other performers and 5 metres from people in front of the performer (including staff, students). If students are unable to modify their performance to accommodate that rule, they will be eligible to apply for the NESA COVID-19 Special Consideration Program
  • Where possible, performances should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably outdoors.

Dance in regional NSW

Updated 12 August 2021

HSC dance performance exams in regional NSW areas not under stay-at-home rules will not proceed as scheduled from 9 to 13 August. Refer to the NESA website for more information.

Illness and misadventure

Students who do not attend an exam due to having symptoms, or who are turned away as a result of screening, will be eligible to apply for NESA HSC illness and misadventure. Your school will assist you through this process where required.

Alternative venue planning

Schools will make plans for an alternative venue to be used in the case where they are not able to follow the information set in these guidelines. The school will provide a list of alternative venues once these are confirmed.

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