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Schools and childcare

Information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) and schools and childcare in NSW for parents and students. Find out what school activities can operate and how hygiene in classrooms and school grounds will be managed. 

School communities

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. Schools will make arrangements for students who present as unwell or have flu-like symptoms to be sent home.

NSW Health have 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 provide a copy of a negative COVID-19 test result before being permitted to return to school.

Students who are residing 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 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.

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 the Department of Education, Catholic Schools NSW and NSW Health.

The following activities can now proceed for Term 4, based on updated advice for schools from NSW Health. Where possible, students should stay within their relevant cohort group (class, year group, or stage) for all learning activities within their school to limit close contacts to the relevant student cohort.

  • Interschool activities can take place.
  • Only providers that are essential to the delivery of curriculum can continue to provide services and programs until further notice.
  • Parents and carers and other non-essential visitors are not allowed on the school site unless volunteering for educational purposes.
  • Singing and other chanting activities can take place as a solo or in a small group as long as participants are 5 metres away from other people and 1.5 metres away from one another. Groups of up to 5 people can include students from different year groups.
  • Musical instrument activities can proceed if students playing non-reeded woodwind instruments are 3 metres apart and all other performers playing musical instruments are 1.5 metres apart.
  • Singing, band rehearsals and performances should take place outside or in well ventilated indoor spaces.
  • School formals, dances, graduation or other social events are permitted provided they meet strict COVID-19 Safety Plan requirements.
  • The Saturday School of Community Languages will return to face-to face-learning in Term 4.
  • The Community Languages Schools Program will return to face-to-face learning from Term 4. Contact your community languages teacher for more information.

 

Activities and site usage that can take place

  • Students can use the school library.
  • Students can engage in sporting activities.
  • School sporting events and activities held within the school site during school hours must not involve spectators including parents and carers. The only exception is when there is a request from the school to support the delivery of curriculum.
  • Parent volunteers to support educational purposes are welcome for scheduled activities such as reading groups and kitchen garden programs.
  • School sporting events and activities held outside of the school site will need to follow the COVID-19 Safety Plan of the venue or organiser.
  • Canteens and uniform shops can open at the principal’s discretion.
  • All VET work placement, school-based apprenticeships and traineeships, and work experience for students can proceed depending on the availability of placements, appropriate risk assessments and an employer COVID-19 Safety Plan. For any VET work placements that can’t proceed please see the NESA website.
  • School-based apprenticeships and traineeships can recommence once the relevant workplaces are back in operation and a COVID-19 Safety Plan is in place.
  • Trade Training Centres can operate on school sites with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.
  • School assemblies must be limited to 15 minutes with no external visitors.
  • Students may attend other schools for essential curriculum-related reasons or placements (for example auditions or placement tests).
  • Hydrotherapy pools can be used.
  • Incursions or external providers can provide activities that support delivery of curriculum (for example music tutors, sport skills development programs, science demonstrations, drama tutors, Healthy Harold).
  • Essential activities such as NSW Health partnerships including mobile dental vans and vaccinations can proceed.
  • Excursions and day field trips within NSW (for example Department of Education Environmental Education Centres and sport and recreation facilities, trips to the local river to collect water samples) can occur from Term 4.
  • Overnight activities can occur from Term 4 following strict COVID safe requirements.
  • Kindergarten orientation in Term 4.
  • Year 7 transition to high school in Term 4 after 12 November.
  • TAFE students can attend face to face education (refer to NSW TAFE for further information).
  • School photos can continue.
  • Department of Community and Justice services and programs can continue.
  • School or community run playgroups
  • Community use agreements involving adult attendance must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.
  • Special religious education (SRE) and Special education in ethics (SEE) can proceed within restrictions.
  • Work experience for students can occur with a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.
  • P&C meetings and events must be online only.
  • Parent/teacher meetings will be online unless involving serious matters that require face to face discussion.

Effective Wednesday 24 September 2020, the NSW Chief Health Officer advises some measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in school communities have been relaxed. 

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 result has been provided (in the case of seasonal allergic rhinitis or other condition that presents similarly to COVID-19 and in the presence of continuing symptoms, the child will need a negative COVID-19 test result and a letter from their GP confirming that the child should be permitted to return to school. If the child’s symptoms change from their usual symptoms, repeat COVID-19 testing should be performed).
  • ensure that adults maintain physical distancing at all times
  • exclude non-essential adults from school, unless involved directly in delivery of curriculum activities or health services
  • ensure good hand hygiene at all times (such as upon entry to the school, entry to the classroom and upon exit from the classroom) outlined in the COVID safety plan.

Community sports activities

From Saturday 26 September, interregional community sporting competitions may recommence without restricting these activities to regions or zones, where there is a COVID safety plan template for community sports activities in place. More than one parent may now attend community sporting activities if 1.5 metres can be maintained between people not from the same household.

Shared travel arrangements, such as car-pooling, should be avoided, and gatherings before and after sporting events should be minimised.

Musical activities

Some musical activities in schools may be allowed.  Group singing is permitted, but the school must ensure that

  • group singing and chanting is restricted to a group of up to 5 people 
  • singers face forwards and not towards each other
  • 1.5 metres is maintained between performers
  • 5 metres is kept from all other people in front, including the audience and conductor
  • performances and rehearsals should take place in a large, well-ventilated (preferably outdoor) setting.

Playing musical instruments is permitted, but

  • players of non-reeded woodwind instruments (such as flutes and recorders) must maintain a physical distance of 3 metres from others in the direction of air flow from their instruments, and 1.5 metres in all other directions
  • players of all other instruments (including reeded woodwind instruments) should maintain 1.5 metres between each other and the audience and conductor
  • rehearsing and performing takes place outdoors or in a well-ventilated indoor environment.

In primary school and preschool settings, in-class educational activities such as group repetition, chanting, recitation or singing may occur, provided;

  • it takes place outdoors or in a well-ventilated indoor environment
  • teachers must maintain 1.5m physical distancing for these in-class educational activities. 

School related social events

Schools may proceed with some social events. Schools should;

  • plan to have events such as secondary school graduation ceremonies and formals, using the COVID-19 Safety Plan for graduation ceremonies from November 12 onwards to minimise the potential impact on HSC exams 
  • plan events for primary schools at any time in Term 4 
  • not have social events such as dinners, fundraisers, fetes and BBQs that involve parents and other adults.

Overnight activities can take place, but schools, facilities and overnight event organisers should

  • consider the level of community transmission in the local community just before the overnight event is to be held as part of a risk assessment process
  • develop and implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan for caravan parks and camping grounds, and for hotels and accommodation facilities
  • pay particular attention to excluding anyone with symptoms before the event
  • consider arrangements for isolating and testing anyone who develops symptoms during the event.

Over the September – October holidays

Although there is currently no restriction on travel within NSW for people who live in NSW 

  • people who become unwell should cancel or defer their plans to travel until they have obtained a negative COVID-19 test result
  • maintain physical distancing where practical
  • use masks where physical distancing cannot be maintained or in crowded or poorly ventilated settings
  • practice good hand hygiene
  • avoid shared travel arrangements such as car pooling 
  • take extra care around vulnerable people
  • try to arrange for school holiday gatherings to take place outdoors as much as possible; outdoor gatherings are still limited to 20 people (apart from community sport activities with a COVID-19 Safety Plan).

School staff professional development

School staff professional development activities should not be conducted face-to-face unless absolutely necessary, and

  • staff gatherings should be minimised and, where they must occur, limited to the minimum amount of people required to achieve educational outcomes and
  • staff should also maintain physical distancing at all times and, where they must gather, their names should be recorded to assist in identifying who attended the gathering and for how long.

These updated measures will assist in achieving the NSW Government’s aim of eliminating community transmission in NSW and will support schools to continue to deliver onsite learning. 

Further information

Health and hygiene measures are in place to keep you COVID-safe during the HSC exams.

You must

  • confirm that you do not have any flu-like symptoms and are not required by NSW Health to self-isolate
  • regularly wash your hands
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing or use your elbow, not your hands
  • avoid touching your face.

You may also choose to wear a face mask.

Exam rooms will be thoroughly and frequently cleaned. Hygiene supplies will be available and regularly re-stocked.


Do not attend the exam if you have

  • flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore/scratchy throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of taste or sense of smell)
  • been tested for COVID-19 and have not yet received your test result
  • been directed by NSW health to self-isolate
  • you test positive for COVID-19.

You can access the COVID-19 illness or misadventure process. You will need evidence to support your application.


If you have symptoms before an exam

  • do not attend the exam venue
  • contact your school as soon as possible to advise of the issue
  • follow the COVID-19 illness or misadventure process
  • get tested and request fast-tracked results
  • self-isolate while you wait for results
  • if you receive a negative result your local Public Health Unit will contact you or you will receive an SMS
  • if you receive a positive result your doctor or your local Public Health Unit will call you and tell you what you need to do.

 

If you have symptoms during an exam

 

If you are required to self-isolate

Performance exams may be rescheduled. Oral language exams may be rescheduled or held online via video. Written exams will not be held online or rescheduled.


If your school is closed when you have a written exam

  • follow instructions from NSW Health and your school.
  • exams may be moved to a safe alternative venue, or continue at school once it is cleared by NSW Health, for students that do not need to self-isolate
  • if you are unable to sit an exam due to COVID-19, including if you need to self-isolate, the COVID-19 illness or misadventure process will be available
  • written exams will not be held online or rescheduled.

 

If your school is closed when you have an oral or performance exam

  • your school will contact you directly with advice
  • your performance exam may be rescheduled 
  • oral language exams may be rescheduled or held online via video
  • if the exam can't be rescheduled or held online, the COVID-19 illness or misadventure process will be available.


Find more answers to common questions from the NSW Education Standards Authority

 

NSW has temporarily imposed restrictions on the border with Victoria to contain the spread of COVID-19. Victorian students who attend boarding school in NSW may be affected by these border restrictions.

Students who live and attend school in the border region can apply for a border region permit to travel to and from school.

The Minister for Health has granted a general exemption for Year 11 and 12 students that allows them to travel to and from school, accompanied by their parents or guardians subject to conditions. This exemption can be used by Year 11 and 12 boarding school students who need to cross the border during school holidays. This exemption is not available to students who live in a restricted area or a COVID-19 area of concern. The Year 11 and 12 exemption also applies to NSW children and accompanying parents who need to return to Victorian schools (subject to the same conditions).

Boarders who are in years 7 – 10 may be considered for an exemption on a case-by-case basis. Schools have provided relevant information for consideration by NSW Health and many boarders have already been granted an individual exemption. Families should speak to their school if they want to explore this option.

Students who normally live in a restricted area or COVID-19 area of concern in Victoria are strongly encouraged to remain in NSW during the school holidays, or to make other arrangements to spend the holiday with their family away from home. If a student has been to a restricted area or area of concern, they would be required to quarantine for 14 days on their return to NSW.

NSW Health will work with schools towards the end of Term 4 2020 to assess the situation and make the appropriate arrangement to allow students to return home for the Christmas vacation period.

NSW Health is working with Education to provide advice for parents who need to transport NSW students to Victorian boarding schools. This will be available before the start of Term 4.

Schoolies and celebrations

Large schoolies events are usually organised to occur soon after HSC exams finish. This year, large gatherings aren’t allowed because of the risk of spreading COVID-19.  Instead, consider how you can arrange for smaller group get togethers or trips away.

Remember to always follow physical distancing guidelines and use good hand hygiene.

Travel and transport

There are currently no restrictions on people who live in NSW travelling within NSW, however you should check the latest travel and transport advice when making your plans. There may be restrictions on travelling interstate.

Gatherings at holiday homes and holiday rentals

Under the current restrictions up to 20 visitors may visit another house at any one time. If you’re having friends over to your accommodation, and this is permitted under the conditions of your rental, then you have to restrict it to 20 visitors at any one time.

Outdoor public gatherings

No more than 20 people may gather together outside in a public place. This includes at the beach and in parks or bushlands.

Attending hospitality venues

Restaurants, cafes and other hospitality venues are required to develop and implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan, which includes a maximum of 10 people per booking or table. Alcohol can only be consumed by people who are seated (and 18 years or older), and venues are not currently able to operate as nightclubs. Anyone who ignores staff directions to comply with requirements could receive serious penalties and be banned from the venue.

Try and organise outings around one venue – meet there and stay there. This can help limit the number of people at risk of getting COVID-19, should someone in your group be infected.

Always register your contact details at each venue you visit so you can be contacted if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19; this will help to make sure you don’t infect others in your group or bring the virus back home.

 

Find out more about what you can and can't do under the rules

Penalties for breaching Public Health Orders

Breach of orders made under the Public Health Act 2010 is a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties.

In the case of an individual, the maximum penalty is $11,000, or imprisonment for 6 months, or both and a further $5500 penalty may apply for each day the offence continues. The NSW Police may also issue on-the-spot fines of $1000 for an offence.

If you have symptoms, get tested

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, even mild symptoms, should get tested at a COVID-19 testing clinic.

Call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line for information about COVID-19 on 1800 020 080

After your test you must go straight home and self-isolate until you get your test result.

Find out more about symptoms and testing

Year 12 formals

Non-school organised Year 12 formals

Many Year 12 formals are organised by students and/or parents and are hosted outside of the school site. Organisers will need to follow NSW Health and department advice which includes:

  • School staff are not to attend.
  • The organisers will need to comply with the Year 12 formal COVID-19 Safety Plan and comply with the requirements within the plan specified for the event.
  • The organisers must ensure that the venue has a COVID-19 Safety Plan and that they follow their plan which may include limits to the number of attendees and catering requirements.
  • Schools will not promote or sanction social activities organised by others prior to 12 November and where the COVID-19 Safety Plan has not been followed.
School organised Year 12 formals

Year 12 students will need to follow the guidelines for school organised Year 12 formals held within a school venue or on an external site. Schools must:

  • Follow the latest NSW Health advice including any updates to the Year 12 formal COVID-19 Safety Plan and comply with the requirements within the plan specified for the event.
  • Limit attendance to Year 12 students and supervising staff only.
  • If the venue has the capacity, the school can allow the attendance of external visitors such as partners, DJs, and photographers. The school will need to follow the safety guidelines which include
    • signing in with an external visitors form
    • ensuring the venue has the capacity to maintain the 4 square metre rule for each attendee.
  • Ensure there is no self-serve or buffet-style food service. If hospitality staff are serving food or take orders it is recommended that these staff wear a mask.
  • Alcohol is not permitted.
  • A maximum of 10 attendees per table.
  • People should not be allowed to gather in groups including when arriving or leaving the event.
  • Dancefloors are allowed and should be held outside if possible. If a dancefloor is indoors, ensure it is well ventilated. Additional advice includes:
    • Dancing with partners from outside the school community is allowed only if partners are from the same local community and have an established relationship and normally socialises with the student cohort.
    • There is sufficient room for 1.5 metres physical distancing.

Singing and chanting during the event is not allowed. The only COVID-Safe singing permitted is for a solo singer distanced at least 5 meters away from other people and not directly above the audience.

Avoid playing woodwind instruments where possible, particularly in groups and in indoor or confined spaces. Anyone playing woodwind instruments as part of an instrumental group should

  • maintain a physical distance of at least 3 metres from others including conductor, audience or other performers
  • avoid pointing the air flow from their instruments towards others (especially flute and piccolo players). A distance of at least 3 metres from performers should be maintained for anyone near these performers (e.g. conductor, audience, other performers).

Year 12 graduation ceremonies

Schools can host graduations from 12 November within the school, at an external venue or with the combination of online platforms for those who are not physically able to be there. Some conditions will apply.

Graduations within the school
  • COVID-Safe guidelines for graduations need to be followed by all attendees:Attendees should not have any flu-like symptoms.
  • External visitors attending will be limited to 2 members from their immediate family or household and they must sign the external visitors form supplied by the school.
  • Attendance at the ceremony will be subject to the capacity of the school venue to follow the 4 square metre rule for each external visitor. For seating:
    • Ensure there is enough space for distancing of 1.5 metres between non-household members.
    • If seated at tables, ensure there is a maximum of 10 attendees per table.
  • External visitors will need to remain seated as much as possible to minimise mingling outside of non-household groups or close friend groups.
  • Singing and chanting during the event will not be allowed. The only COVID-Safe singing permitted is for a solo singer distanced at least 5 meters away from other people and not directly above the audience.
  • Students will need to bring their own pens if they wish to sign yearbooks.
  • External visitors will not be allowed access to areas outside of the designated event venue and should leave promptly at the conclusion of the event.
  • Schools will be following the Year 12 graduation ceremony COVID Safe plan
Graduations outside of the school site

For graduations held outside of the school site, the organisers will need to ensure they follow the venue’s COVID-19 safety plan along with NSW Health advice of the day.

Year 6 formals and graduations

Primary schools may also consider planning for Year 6 formals or farewells. Further information detailing relevant restrictions will be provided as part of the Term 4 Guidelines for Schools at a later date.

Virtual celebrations toolkit

Schools will also have the option to have online gatherings through the virtual celebrations toolkit. The virtual celebrations 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 can live-stream these events held within the school to selected families and friends as a way of sharing their celebration. Go to the Virtual Celebrations Toolkit to find out more.

 

Preschool

On 19 August 2020 the NSW Government announced an extension of the COVID-19 relief funding for community and mobile preschools to the end of Term 4.

The continued funding recognises the importance of helping families keep children engaged in preschool education.

The support will ease the cost-of-living pressures on families to help keep children in quality education and care.

Childcare

The Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package (Relief Package) ended 12 July 2020.

From 13 July 2020, the Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy restarted, with new support measures including a relaxed activity test for families.

With Child Care Subsidy arrangements restarted from 13 July, families will again need to pay the gap fee (the child care fee after Government subsidies), unless waived by the service, in specific circumstances, for COVID-19 reasons.

Families who were getting the Child Care Subsidy before 6 April 2020, won't need to do anything for their subsidy to start again, as long as they have remained eligible and enrolled. Their Child Care Subsidy started again automatically on 13 July 2020.

If a family’s situation has changed (for example income level or contact information), they should update their details with Centrelink as soon as possible. This can be done through their Centrelink online account, through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.

If a family was not previously accessing child care they should put in a claim for the Child Care Subsidy as soon as possible. If families continue using child care from 13 July 2020 but aren't receiving the Child Care Subsidy, they will need to pay full fees. Claims for the Child Care Subsidy can only be backdated for up to 28 days from the day the claim is lodged.

How much Child Care Subsidy a family can get is based on their individual circumstances. Find out who can get the Child Care Subsidy and how much you can get.

Temporary changes to the Activity Test have been made to help families impacted by COVID-19 to get back into their workforce participation activities, for up to 12 weeks from 13 July 2020 to 4 October 2020.

During this time, families can access up to 100 hours of subsidised child care, per child, per fortnight where they now have a reduced number of hours of work, training, study or other recognised activity, compared to their activity level prior to COVID-19. Payments are available through Centrelink and can be accessed through your Centrelink online account, through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.

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

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.

Health advice

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

Safety tips for parents

  • 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 your 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.

Related 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.

Last updated: 30 September 2020

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