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Schools and childcare

Information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) for parents and students. 

Information for parents and guardians

School attendance

Students should attend 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.

Advice from NSW Health is that parents and carers are should not send children to school if they are unwell, even if they have the mildest flu-like symptoms. Schools will make arrangements for students who are unwell or have flu-like symptoms to be sent home.

Anyone who is unwell or has even mild flu-like symptoms should have a COVID test through their local medical practitioner or one of the COVID-19 clinics.

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

Students who live with a family member in one of the categories identified as being at increased risk, should attend school unless a medical practitioner advises otherwise. The parent or carer should provide written confirmation from the treating health professional that the student is unable to attend school.

How physical distancing is being managed at school

  • Physical distancing of students in schools is not required under the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidelines.
  • All teachers, support staff and parents must maintain 1.5 metres physical distance from each other.
  • Parents should ensure school pick up and drop off arrangements enable them to physically distance from one another and from staff.
  • COVID Safe Check-in is required for families at all NSW public schools  from Term 1 2021. 
  • Gatherings of parents and/or community members for school events (such as working bees or P&C meetings) must comply with the gathering limits prescribed by the public health orders.

Notification of confirmed cases at your child's school

If your child or any other household member receives a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, please advise the school.

Protocols are in place where NSW Health immediately notify a school when there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school-age student or a member of staff.

All confirmed cases are immediately assessed by the department and NSW Health to determine whether the student, staff or school community member has been infectious while at school, and to determine the appropriate course of action required to minimise the risk to the wider community.

Key actions include:

  • contact tracing to identify all close contacts to a confirmed case. In some instances, this may require closing the school while the contact tracing process is completed
  • communication with parents advising them whether their child has been in close contact with a confirmed case
  • thorough cleaning of the school site to ensure the environment is clean and safe prior to the school resuming onsite learning.

Stay informed

More information on COVID-19 arrangements for schools is available from:

Information for schools

NSW Health requires schools to:

  • exclude students and staff with even mild symptoms of COVID-19
  • encourage immediate testing for any symptomatic child(ren) or staff
  • prohibit return to school for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 until a negative COVID test result has been provided. In circumstances where children have other medical reasons for recurrent symptoms a letter from the GP is sufficient to negate the requirement for a negative test
  • ensure visitors, staff, parents and students regularly review the latest COVID-19 locations in NSW (and interstate). Remind attendees to check the locations list as a routine part of interschool sporting activities, excursions, overnight camps and entry to boarding facilities
  • have COVID-19 Safety Plans and record keeping procedures in place for school events  
  • promote physical distancing for staff and adults within the school, at school events and at drop off / pick up  
  • minimise mixing of student groups (class, year group, or stage) to limit close contacts where practicable  
  • support school-based access for NSW Health services including immunisation and dental programs.

Singing guidance for primary and secondary

Singing groups have no upper capacity limit. This includes for singing activities, group repetition, chanting and recitation. Five metres of distance is recommended between performers and the audience.

Swimming carnivals

  • School swimming carnivals are permitted.
  • Students should stay within their class, year group, or stage during the carnival to limit close contacts.
  • All teachers, support staff and other adults must maintain 1.5 metres physical distance from each other where possible.
  • If high school students are expected to sing, chant or cheer as part of the event, then all spectators should wear masks while in the grandstand or other seating areas.
  • Pool operators should close the pool and spectator area to the general public while a school carnival is taking place unless there is clear delineation across separate areas of the facility.
  • The number of parents attending should be determined by considering the capacity of the venue. As a general rule, venues should aim for 25% of indoor seated capacity or 50% of outdoor seated capacity in spectator areas.
  • Except for physical distancing for students and record keeping, pool operators should comply with the COVID-19 Safety Plan for gyms and indoor recreation.

Preschool and childcare

Find an early childhood education and care service during the COVID-19 pandemic by calling 1800 291 041 from 9am to 5pm (AEST), Monday-Friday (excluding public holidays).

Helpline operators will provide advice for families about early childhood education and care services available in their area during the pandemic.

Families, including essential workers and those with vulnerable children, can also search for early childhood education and child care services online using Starting Blocks or Child Care Finder.

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is delivering the helpline on behalf of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

For information on funding and support available for early childhood education and care services during COVID-19, plus information on business arrangements visit the NSW Department of Education website.

Read answers to common questions about Early Childhood Education and Care COVID-19.

Hand sanitiser safety and children

Alcohol-based hand sanitiser is dangerous if ingested, particularly for children.

Safety tips

  • store hand sanitiser products safely and out of reach of children
  • any use by young children should be under the supervision of an adult
  • be aware of imported products which may not be clearly labelled and may contain more toxic alcohols such as methanol that make the product more dangerous
  • washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is a safe and effective option
  • if you suspect a child has ingested hand sanitiser, regardless of the quantity, call the 24 hour Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for first aid and monitoring advice. Have the container of the ingested product with you.

Download the Schools Update app

NSW Government logo

Schools Update

The Schools Update app will notify you if your child’s public school is to be closed the following day due to COVID-19 outbreaks, adverse weather, bushfire, emergencies or other incidents.

You can register multiple schools on the app.


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