COVID-19 further information

Last updated: 4:20pm 26 March 2020.

School operations

Are schools open?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

All NSW public schools are open. Parents and carers are encouraged to keep their children home if possible.

Early childhood centres and BASC services are being encouraged to stay open. The department has set up educational provisions to help students learn at home. All students, whether they are on or off campus, will continue to learn and will be provided with the same tasks to complete.

We are asking Catholic and independent schools to support the community in the same way and to continue to provide supervision of learning for the children of people who don't have alternative options and young people with additional vulnerabilities.

This decision has been made as part of the Government's ongoing approach to social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Has the health advice changed?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

No. Health advice remains the same, this is about taking extra precautions and supporting parents take practical measures and self-distancing continues.

Why is there still an option to send students to school?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

The NSW Government is taking additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through the community. To do this, parents and carers are strongly encouraged to keep their children home if possible.

Some people may not be in a position to provide supervision to their children at home. This could be because they are delivering frontline services to the community. It is therefore important supervision of their children is prioritised and provided by their school to ensure they can continue to carry out their work and support the continued function of society.

When will schools resume normal operations?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Online learning will continue until the end of Term 1. A decision about whether schools will return to normal operations after the holidays will be taken in line with the latest advice from Government and we will keep the community informed.

School attendance

Which students should still be attending their school?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Parents and carers are strongly encouraged to keep their children home if possible. Any student whose parents or carers are not able to appropriately supervise their children at home should continue to attend school.

It may also be appropriate that children and young people with additional vulnerabilities continue to attend school.

What age group does this cover?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

The current changes apply to all students in NSW from Kindergarten to Year 12.

What hours are schools remaining operational for those that require it?

Advice first published at 6:00pm on 23 March 2020

Schools will continue to operate their regular hours. Existing out of school hours care services should continue to be available for children that do not have appropriate supervision at home and vulnerable children who need access to extended hours of care. You can find relevant outside school hours care services at childcarefinder.gov.au.

Will my school allow me to enter the school grounds to collect my child?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

As part of their social distancing strategies schools may request that parents do not enter the school grounds at drop off and pick up times. Schools have developed procedures for dropping off and collecting students at the start and end of the school day. Parents are asked to consider appropriate social distancing during these times and to follow the advice provided by their school.

Does this apply to early childhood education providers?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Early childhood education centres and care providers, as with schools, are encouraged to remain open. Some services may be required to close to all children temporarily at the direction of NSW Health. In those instances, the service may provide you with advice on alternative care options or you can find alternative care using childcarefinder.gov.au.

Does this apply to boarding schools?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Yes. Parents with children who are boarders are being contacted and arrangements will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Will this apply to Catholic and independent schools?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

We are asking Catholic and independent schools to support the community in the same way and to continue to provide supervision of learning for the children of people who don't have alternative options and young people with additional vulnerabilities.

Additional support for students including those in SSP or with additional learning and support needs

How will my child's educational needs be supported?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

We will move to a single method of teaching and learning for the rest of this term - whether in the classroom or at home.

Resource materials will be made available through schools. This will be a combination of online learning and written material that can be distributed to students.

Schools are working to provide devices and technical equipment to students if required.

Schools may need to rearrange class timetables as a result of the current changes and your child may not be with their usual class teacher(s). Schools will make arrangements to ensure all students either attending school or remaining at home have access to relevant learning opportunities.

This is a significant change and may take a few days to embed fully.

My child attends a specialised setting (support class or SSP) or has additional learning and support needs. What does this mean for me?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Students with a disability can continue to attend school if required and will receive the care and support they need.

If your child is in an at-risk group for COVID-19 then they should not attend school. NSW Health advice, based on what we know so far about COVID-19 and what we know about other coronaviruses, is that those at greatest risk of serious infection are:

  • Aboriginal people (as they have higher rates of chronic illness)
  • people with chronic medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease, neurological conditions and diabetes
  • people with impaired immune systems (such as people who have cancer or HIV, or who take high dose corticosteroids).

Is my child classed as vulnerable?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Children and young people who may have additional vulnerabilities include children and young people who have disability and high support needs, those with substantial medical or health care needs and require additional supports, those living in Out of Home Care (including residential care), young carers, children and young people at risk of significant harm or homelessness, those whose families are supported by social and family support programs, including where they are at risk of family and domestic violence and young people in Youth Justice care.

Not all students who have a disability or learning support needs are considered as vulnerable. The decision on whether students with additional support needs can attend school should be determined in consultation with the principal and the parent/carer.

Other school facilities

Will the canteen be open at my child's school?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

No. School canteens will be closed during this time and volunteers will not able to be on the school site. Students will need to be provided with a packed lunch from home.

My child's school has a breakfast/lunch program for students? Will this still operate?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

No, canteens will not be open at schools. Students will need to be prepared with a packed lunch.

If you are unable to prepare a packed lunch for your child, please speak with the principal at your school so that alternative arrangements can be made.

What happens if the HSC gets interrupted?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Further advice will be provided on the impacts for the HSC.

What about NAPLAN?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

All NAPLAN testing has been cancelled for 2020.

Online learning and learning from home

How is the department preparing for online learning?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

The department has set up an online hub learning from home where students, teachers and parents can access learning materials. Schools have been preparing packages of work for several days to ensure access to online learning, through a range of technology platforms.

What is online learning?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Online learning refers to the ways learning is delivered to students who are learning remotely. This means at home or in an alternate location.

Will my child fall behind if I keep them at home?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

We are moving to a single unit of work for students. This means that whether you are at school or at home you will be doing the same work as your peers.

What does a single unit of work mean?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020The NSW Government announced that there would be one single unit of work available for students to ensure consistency in curriculum delivery.

This means all students, both at school and at home, will be covering the same learning activities.

Students will be expected to complete a single unit of work each day. This will be specific to their level of learning.

What support is available to me to support my child's online learning?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Schools have a learning from home hub that will assist parents when students are learning at home.

The department has also provided advice to parents and carers to assist with children learning from home. This guidance will help parents understand their responsibilities as well as their child's, provide support for establishing routines, explain how to set up learning environments and support their child's wellbeing

What is the learning from home hub?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

The department's learning from home hub has links to educational resources that will support students learning from home and at school for all stages of learning.

Early childhood education experts have developed resources for educators to share with parents and carers to help them engage in learning experiences with their children.

Experienced primary teachers have developed sample schedules of learning activities, units of work for specific learning areas and curated lists of links to external educational resources.

Secondary curriculum experts have developed curriculum resources for each KLA along with learning activities appropriate for learning from home and at school. Teachers can incorporate these resources into their existing teaching and learning plans. This includes resources and advice specific for teachers teaching HSC courses.

Digital teaching and remote learning experts have compiled advice for parents and carers who are supporting their children learning from home. This includes advice about planning the learning day and setting up a learning environment.

All department-created resources are publicly available and accessible through the learning from home hub.

My child doesn't have access to a computer. How can I ensure their educational needs will be met?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Schools are best placed to support students with their individual learning needs when working from home. Parents should contact their principal who will assist them in arranging access to learning during this time. All students will be given access to learning either online or with materials provided to them by the school.

My child doesn't have access to the internet at home. How can I ensure their educational needs will be met?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Where students have difficulty accessing the internet, USB drives containing resources will be sent to students via the mail/courier. Print resources including worksheets and textbooks may also be posted to families via the mail or courier if required.

Hygiene practices

What health and hygiene practices are schools implementing?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Schools have been sent resources to assist teachers to talk about COVID-19 and explain good hygiene practices. This includes reminding students to:

  • wash their hands frequently with soap and water before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze
  • avoid touching their faces
  • limit physical contact when greeting people
  • limit physical contact in the playground.

All schools are being sent additional provisions of soap and hygiene supplies, such as hand sanitiser.

Events like assemblies, excursions, school camps and inter-school sports and arts events have been cancelled.

Will school cleaning processes be more thorough?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020NSW public schools are regularly and professionally cleaned. Enhanced cleaning is being implemented across all NSW public schools.

How does social distancing work in schools?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Schools have already implemented a number of social distancing measures including staggered break times so there is space in playgrounds and all assemblies, major arts, sports and other activities have been postponed.

The four square metre rule, that states there must be four square metres of space for each person on the premises, doesn't apply to schools as they are an essential gathering.

With fewer students at school, there will be greater capacity to increase social distancing measures and allows students more space.

What will happen if there is a suspected case in a school?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

The school will immediately contact the department's Incident Report & Support Line and relevant protocols, as advised by the Ministry of Health, will be followed. The department has an established process to support contact tracing by NSW Health and will advise the school community where there is an impact on a school.

What will happen if there is a confirmed case in a school?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

NSW Health will trace any close contacts of the infected person. This may require closing the school while the contact tracing process is done. NSW Health will advise students and staff when they can return to school or if they are required to self-isolate for 14 days. The school will keep you informed during this time.

The school may need to close for a short period of time while it is appropriately cleaned.

What is being done to increase the available supplies of hygiene and janitorial products, such as soap and toilet paper, for schools?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Currently there is a high demand for a range of hygiene and janitorial projects across Australia. Despite this demand, supply chains in Australia are strong and we are working closely with suppliers to ensure these essential products are made available in suitable quantities.

The department is bringing in additional product lines to meet the increased demand for some products e.g. soap, toilet paper etc.

General information for parents

How should I talk to my child about COVID-19?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

You can help your child by remaining calm and reassuring them. Listen to your child and answer their questions as honestly as possible and correct any misunderstandings. This will help them feel informed and understand what is happening.

Stay up to date with the facts from reliable sources so you can keep conversations calm, considered, and constructive. Provide information in words that are appropriate to the age of your child.

Children can be distressed by hearing repeated stories so monitor how much your child is being exposed to television and social media and encourage them to talk to you about what they are seeing and hearing.

Some practical advice

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Some practical advice for your child includes reminding them to cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze (coughing into their elbow is a useful strategy), keep their hands clean by washing them regularly with soap and water, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth before washing their hands. These are easy habits for children to adopt, and should help them feel as though they're able to exert some control over their circumstances.

If your child must stay at home, it is important for your child to maintain a healthy lifestyle including proper diet, sleep, and social contact at home and by email and phone with family and friends.

Where can I get help?

Advice first published at 6:35pm on 23 March 2020

Contact the school if you are concerned about your child's wellbeing to discuss the most appropriate support.

You can also:

  • call the National Coronavirus Health Information line (1800 020 080)
  • go to the NSW Health COVID-19 website for the latest information and advice
  • talk to your local GP or Community Health Centre.

Additional support services include:

  • the school counselling service
  • Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800 - kidshelpline.com.au
  • Headspace - 1800 650 890 - headspace.org.au
  • Parent Helpline - 1300 1300 52
  • Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
  • Lifeline - 13 11 14.
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