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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. 

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Hand sanitiser safety and children

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.

Public schools

The HSC written exams will start later than originally planned to provide more support for our students in the lead up to the exams.

The NSW Department of Education expects that the additional week provided prior to the written exams is used by schools as teaching and learning time to support students in their preparation for the HSC. It is expected that Year 12 students will continue to attend lessons on site up to 19 October 2020.

From Monday 25 May all schools are returning to full on-campus learning. All school activities and operations will be in line with Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and NSW Health guidelines as applicable.

School students do not need to follow strict adult physical distancing guidelines but should follow good hygiene practices. Your school will receive additional cleaning in line with the AHPPC guidelines and advice from NSW Health.

All 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
  • they are currently unwell.

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.

Teachers will continue to follow the same school curriculum with the exception of some activities (such as school excursions) that can’t go ahead for now.

There should be no visitors to school sites unless they are essential. Wherever possible, P&C and parent/carer/teacher meetings should be conducted online or over the phone.

Read the full guide to NSW school students returning to face-to-face learning.

  • Anyone who is sick with flu-like symptoms, even with mild symptoms, or has been overseas in the past 14 days, should not attend school, universities or childcare.
  • Follow your school’s advice regarding changes to drop off and pick up arrangements.
  • Encourage good hygiene including handwashing with soap and water, coughing/sneezing into a flexed elbow and avoid sharing food and drinks.

Why schools are returning to full time face-to-face learning for all students

Since commencing the managed return to the classroom, there has been a strong degree of confidence from school communities in managing COVID-19 and a clear desire for all students to be back at school.

Schools and students are expected to adhere to the health advice and guidelines which combined with increased cleaning in schools, access to hygiene supplies and compliance with hygiene practices across each campus health advice confirms face to face teaching is safe.

How physical distancing is being managed at school

Physical distancing is still a requirement for adults.

Teachers and other staff must maintain the 1.5m distance from each other and minimise close contact with students. Teachers and parents and carers must also maintain the 1.5m distance from each other.

The following physical distancing measures will also remain in place until further notice:

  • no interschool competitions
  • no excursions
  • follow your school’s advice regarding changes to dropoff and pickup
  • limits on community use of school sites
  • physical education may continue with some restrictions.

Health and hygiene practices that schools are implementing

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
  • 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.

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.

Report: COVID-19 in schools – the experience in NSW

A report by the National Centre for Immunization Research and Surveillance into the transmission of COVID-19 within NSW schools has found the spread of COVID-19 within NSW Schools has been very limited.

Read the report

Stay informed

More information on COVID-19 arrangements for schools is available from the Department of Education, Catholic Schools NSW and NSW Health.

Teachers will continue to follow the same school curriculum with the exception of some activities that can’t go ahead for now.

Activities allowed from Monday 15 June 2020

  • Use the school library
  • Engage in non-contact sporting activities
  • Year 11 and 12 students may attend classes/activities relating to subjects available on other campuses
  • VET work placement for Year 12 students is able to proceed from 1 June 2020. Year 10 and 11 work placement is able to proceed from Term 3 2020.
  • School based apprenticeships and traineeships can recommence once the relevant workplaces are back in operation
  • Trade Training Centres can operate on school sites.
  • School assemblies (limited to 15 minutes and no external visitors)
  • Choirs and performing arts (within school setting only at this point, no inter-school activities)
  • Incursions/external adult providers to support delivery of curriculum (e.g. music tutors, sport skills development programs, science demonstrations, drama tutors, Healthy Harold).
  • Activities using hydrotherapy pools (including external pools in line with the providers’ guidelines)
  • Day field trips to outdoor locations
  • Face to face TAFE attendance in line with TAFE schedule
  • Community use activities used by students such as dance classes, and student sport skills development related activities outside of school hours with limited adult attendance (curriculum and extra-curriculum purposes)
  • Community use activities on weekends involving adult attendance (complying with relevant guidelines) not essential to continuity of education
  • School photos (although no group staff photos)
  • Fill water bottles from bubblers rather than using the bubbler directly.

Activities allowed from beginning of Term 3

  • All school sport and activities including competitions aligned with current health advice (including those activities run by external organisations)
  • Inter-school student events and competitions (choirs, sport, debating, public speaking, performing arts, Selective Sports High School trials etc)
  • Incursions not already permitted involving external adult providers maintaining distancing and hygiene aligned with the health advice of the day
  • SRE/SEE volunteers
  • P&C meetings – strong preference for on-line where possible
  • Parent/teacher meetings – where these need to take place
  • Official visitors and dignitaries (consistent with current protocols)
  • Staff meetings can be held taking into account physical distancing and maximum numbers in a space according to current health guidelines, or use on-line technology
  • Work experience for students
  • Practicum teaching for tertiary education students
  • VET work placements can proceed subject to the availability of placement and appropriate risk assessments.
  • School-based apprenticeships and traineeships can recommence once the relevant workplaces are back in operation
  • Community use activities involving general adult attendance (such as community markets)

Activities under consideration from Term 3

The following events will be reconsidered in Term 3. For now these events must remain on hold.

  • School camps
  • Excursions (other than field trips explained above)
  • Parent attendance at assemblies and other school events (e.g. graduation ceremonies or student speech events)
  • Parent volunteers – e.g. parent reading helpers (note: canteen and uniform shop volunteers are permitted)
  • Interstate excursions
  • School-based activities that involve large gathering of adults are not permitted at this time. These include parent/community gatherings such as parent functions, working bees, fundraisers, school BBQs, large parent information evenings, and large on-site cultural events. These large gatherings and the following activities will continue to be reviewed and assessed based on AHPPC and NSW Health advice and may be permitted at a later date.

Activities that are cancelled, delayed or not permitted

  • Certain large arts and sports events are cancelled or delayed because they require feeder activities and have long-lead time organisational arrangements. Please speak to your schools if you would like to know more.
  • International excursions are cancelled until further notice.

Read the full guide to NSW school students returning to face-to-face learning.

As students return to full time face-to-face learning, sport and physical activity programs will initially focus on non-contact sports. Students can participate in small group sport and physical activities however staff are to continue to maintain physical distance when supervising students during these programs.

A guide is provided for NSW schools with suggested activities including:

Contact/semi-contact sports:

  • Small-sided modified games, for example, kick tennis, passing games, shooting games.
  • Modified ‘run the bases’ type activities such as soccer, baseball.
  • Skills-based activities, where students are allocated individual zones, for example, kick tennis.

Non-contact sports activities:

  • Activities could be individual or team-based and recreational or competitive in nature, for example, running challenges, mini tennis.
  • Activities that can be conducted by an individual student or in pairs, for example, handball.
  • Small-sided/modified games of cricket, t-ball/baseball, volleyball.

Active recreation:

  • Bushwalking, walking clubs, running, cycling.
  • Bootcamps, fitness circuits, dance, yoga, HIIT training.

Water-based activities:

  • Swimming in individual lanes, snorkelling, surfing, sailing, kayaking and rowing.

Schools can recommence the use of external sporting grounds where they are available. Inter-school sport is not permitted at this stage.

Infection control and hygiene measures should be followed. These include encouraging regular washing of hands and cleaning of sporting equipment between uses.

Your school will receive additional cleaning in line with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidelines and advice from NSW Health. Targeted areas include high-touch areas and other hard surfaces, door handles, lockers, light switches and handrails in stairways and movement areas. There will also be additional cleaning of toilets and bubblers and topping up of supplies like soap.

Your school has received supplies of soap, hand sanitiser, toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant wipes and personal protective equipment. The school is able to order more as needed.

There should be no visitors to school sites unless they are essential. Your school can provide guidance as to who is considered essential.

Your school will provide advice on drop off and pick up procedures. Wherever possible, P&C and parent/carer/teacher meetings should be conducted virtually.

Canteens and uniform shops can open at the discretion of the principal.

Out of school hours care can continue to operate.

Community use of school facilities will recommence only for uses that are necessary for continuation of education and with principal’s approval.


The Australian Government is supporting families, carers and child care operators.

Free childcare will be available for around one million families and carers during the coronavirus pandemic. Along with the JobKeeper payment, this will help early learning and child care operators to continue to provide services.

Under the plan, the Australian Government will pay 50% of the sector’s fee revenue up to the existing hourly rate cap based on a point in time before parents started withdrawing their children in large numbers. However only so long as services remain open and do not charge families for care. The funding will apply from 6 April based on the number of children who were in care during the fortnight leading into 2 March, whether or not they are attending services.

Read the Australian Government's Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package.

Find further information about COVID-19 and early childhood education and care.

Services are required to prioritise care to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and children with existing enrolments as part of the conditions of the Relief Package. Where services choose to accept new enrolments and increase attendance where parents request it, they are able to apply for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments to meet the demand for child care up to their service’s full capacity taking into account staff, resources and health and safety issues.

Families and services can report concerns about services not adhering with the conditions of the Relief Package to the department by phoning 1800 664 231. For example, if a family believes a service has capacity to provide more care but is electing not to do so, or that a service is not prioritising essential workers in offering that care, they can and are contacting this line.

Find more information about COVID-19 and Early Childhood Education.

The Government is relying on services to provide care to as many children as they can, giving priority to essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children.

However, each service is dealing with new circumstances and having to reconsider available staff, health and other business challenges. This means each service has to make decisions on its own capacity to offer care, based on these new considerations.

While repeated, serious breaches of conditions of the Relief Package may result in a service losing access to payments under the Relief Package, the significant impact of COVID-19 on operating arrangements will mean some services will not be able to continue to offer the same care to all families.

Where services have increased demand and feel they cannot afford to meet it based on current levels of support, an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment is available. This means if a service has more children attending now than it had during the reference period it can apply to receive a higher payment.

If you are an essential worker with need for increased care hours, and have been refused by your service, you can contact the department’s tip off line on 1800 664 231.

Find more information about COVID-19 and Early Childhood Education.

Resources for parents

Digital lunchbreak

Find fun online activities and resources for children and young people.
A mother looking at her smart phone sitting next to her child

Translated resources

Find guides in other languages for parents and carers about the return of NSW school students to full time face-to-face learning
Students with teacher reading story book

ARTEXPRESS goes virtual

The best artworks by NSW HSC students can still be experienced at ARTEXPRESS this year despite COVID-19 disruptions thanks to a new virtual reality exhibition.
Teenage girl doing an online class at home

Last updated: 3 July 2020

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