From next week, NSW schools will enjoy the easing of many COVID-19 restrictions, including assemblies, choirs and work experience activities.
The NSW Education Department guidelines, sent to principals today, says that from Monday, choirs and performing arts can be held on site, as well as incursions/external providers relating to curriculum. Some activities which involve students visiting other schools will also be permitted.
From Term 3, schools will be able to resume all sport and activities including competition aligned with current health advice, as well as inter-school student events and competitions. Students will also be able to resume work experience activities.
Despite recent reports of COVID-19 case in the state’s schools, the memo said physical distancing of children in schools is not required under the Australian HPPC guidelines.
“Research has shown limited transmission risk associated with school children in the school environment,” it stated.
However, all adults must maintain physical distance from each other (1.5m) including teachers and support staff, and parents.
When it comes to parents, the guidelines state that schools should ensure school pick up and drop off arrangements enable parents to physically distance from one another and from staff.
The Department also provided guidance on staff returning to work, advising that all school-based staff, including temporary and casual staff, are expected to have returned to working on-campus unless they are aged 70 or over, have compromised immune systems, are aged over 65 years and have chronic medical conditions or are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 with chronic medical conditions.
“To be supported to work remotely staff will need to provide written confirmation of their circumstances to their principal or workplace manager and agree what work can be performed that will support teaching and learning,” the guidelines state.
“If staff are not able to perform work remotely that will support teaching and learning, they may be required to take special leave at a maximum of 20 days in 2020”.
Craig Petersen, president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, said that for the vast majority of principals, the return to face to face teaching has been "very successful and very welcome".
"Whilst having regard for the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff, Principals are keen to get schools back to normal as soon as possible, and we welcome a considered relaxation of restrictions," Petersen told The Educator.
However, he said it remains critical that schools and families continue to follow the advice of health authorities.
"Families should check with their principal what the arrangements are at their local school and make sure that they are aware of and respect any restrictions and any specific local arrangements," he said.
"We all need to work together to make sure that the return to normality continues in a safe manner".