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Frequently Asked Questions for School Communities


22 May

Thanks to the great work of the community to restrict the transmission of COVID19, ACT public school students and teachers have begun attending school from Monday 18 May.

The return is being carefully managed and staged over three weeks to ensure our students, teachers and staff are safe and our schools are fully prepared to have the appropriate measures in place, based on advice from the ACT Chief Health Officer.

The three stage return of face-to-face learning is:

Students and teachers with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems are allowed to remain studying/working from home.

The Frequently Asked Questions below provide more detail about the arrangements for learning in ACT public schools during Term 2.

If you would like to submit a Frequently Asked Question click the submit button to be directed to the COVID 19 – Frequently Asked Questions form

The Frequently Asked Questions below provide more detail about the arrangements for learning in ACT public schools from the start of Term 2.

Back to the Classroom

When can my child return to face-to-face learning?

  • The three stage return of face-to-face learning is as follows:
  • From Monday 18 May (week 4 of term 2) pre-school, kindergarten, year 1, 2, 7 and years 11 and 12. College students will attend a combination of on-campus and remote learning, with colleges making arrangements to support learning on-campus for students and subject matter that requires it.
  • From Monday 25 May (week 5 of term 2) year 3, 4 and 10 students.
  • From Tuesday 2 June (week 6 of term 2, following the Reconciliation Day long weekend), the remaining year levels of year 5, 6, 8 and 9.

This return is being carefully managed and staged over three weeks to ensure our students, teachers and staff are safe and our schools are fully prepared to have the appropriate measures in place, based on advice from the ACT Chief Health Officer.

Will students be returning full time or part time?

Students will be returning to face-to-face learning full time from the date that has been assigned to them during the three-week staged return.

College students will attend a combination of on-campus and remote learning, with colleges making arrangements to support learning on-campus for students and subject matter that requires it.

My child is in an LSU, LSUA and/or another disability support program. How does this announcement affect them?

For students currently accessing one of our disability programs, the same return to school dates apply. For example if your child is in Year 4 and enrolled in an LSUA they will return with their peers in week 5.

We understand some students will require an individualised transition approach.  If you have any concerns regarding your child’s transition we recommend you make contact with your school to discuss. Alternatively, you can contact the Education Directorate on 6205 5429.

I have a medically vulnerable child, should I keep them home?

Students with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems will be allowed to remain studying/working from home.

If you would like to discuss your child’s circumstances and school attendance in more detail, please contact your school in the first instance.

For how long will support be available to children studying at home?

Some students will need to continue learning from home due to medical vulnerabilities. Provisions will be made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to support children to learn from home. Please contact your school to discuss your child’s circumstances and arrangements for remote learning.

What do I do if my child is anxious about COVID-19?

We are mindful that children may experience increased anxiety during this time. The wellbeing of our students and their families is important. The Education Directorate has compiled a range of useful wellbeing resources for students and families.

How will schools respond if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a school?

The Education Directorate has established procedures in place to respond to a confirmed or suspected case in an ACT public school. This includes working with the Chief Health Officer to determine risks and may include full or partial closure of an individual school in the case of localised infection, through to system wide return to remote learning if community restrictions are reinstated. The ACT’s significant investment and planning for remote learning will enable flexibility to respond to any return to community restrictions if required.

The Education Directorate will also work closely with schools to review these arrangements in the months ahead to ensure effective implementation and management of COVID-19 related risks.

Why has the return been staggered? Why not send all years at once? And why are the years going back in this order?

The return to classroom education has been staggered over three weeks to ensure our students, teachers and staff are safe and our schools are fully prepared to have the appropriate measures in place, based on advice from the ACT Chief Health Officer.

A number of factors have been considered in the development of this return, including capacity of students of various ages to engage in remote learning and time to allow schools and staff to prepare. This plan and timeline was developed in consultation with teachers and their union, school leaders and parent representatives, and the ACT Government is confident this plan will ensure an orderly and managed transition back to face-to-face learning.

Who was consulted in making this decision?

Our plan to return to classroom education has been developed based on advice from the ACT Chief Health Officer, and in consultation with teachers and their union, school leaders and parent representatives.

What impact does this announcement have on early childhood education and care services?

The Education Directorate is aware that education and care services may experience an increase of families requiring a service. The Education Directorate has written to the Commonwealth Government to advocate for ACT education and care services who require funding to secure their ability to support staff and continue to meet the needs of Canberra families.

Families, providers and services can contact the Directorate at CECA@ACT.gov.au to seek support to resolve access and operational issues.

How will social distancing work in schools?

The ACT Chief Health Officer has advised that schools should limit the gathering of adults on school sites. Each school is different and will need to consider how it can continue to operate while minimising unnecessary contact between adults.

This could mean for example, changes to assemblies, or events that would otherwise bring adults together in the same space, or changes to how and when visitors and staff access schools and staff rooms.

Schools may also introduce staggering of lunch times and other activities to minimise the movement of large groups around the school at the same time.

If you need to contact your school, please call or email first, and avoid visiting in person unless absolutely necessary.

How will drop off and pick up work at my school?

Drop off and pick up times obviously bring a lot of parents and carers to schools at the same time.

Each school will come up with a plan to manage this, which could include staggered drop off times, or parents staying in cars to prevent unnecessary adult contact.

These transitions can be particularly challenging for smaller children. That’s why it’s important each school has some flexibility to work out how to best apply social distancing rules within their school.

Do I need to keep my kids at home if they’re sick?

When kids return to the classroom, it is important that we are vigilant about health and hygiene.

This means if your child has any kind of illness, even if it is just a runny nose, they must not come to school. If a child in an ACT public school is unwell, their parents will be asked to collect them.

Schools will be stricter in implementing these rules than you perhaps are used to, but it is for the health and safety of everyone in our school communities.

Any person experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) should be tested immediately.

If students are home sick - do they require a medical clearance to return to ensure that they do not have COVD-19?

No. Students who are no longer sick can return to school without requiring a medical certificate. If they have ongoing symptoms and don’t believe they are contagious (for example hay fever), students can return to school with a medical certificate confirming that it is safe for them to be at school.

Will school canteens be operating?

As canteens are considered a takeaway food business, they can be operated on school grounds. Schools and providers need to agree on a procedure that maintains appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures for staff. This agreement will include procedures that ensure high standards of food preparation, separate handling of monies and food both during preparation and distribution to students.  Online ordering will be used wherever possible to minimise handling of money.

More information on the safe and hygienic operation of school canteens can be found in the ‘Health and hygiene measures’ drop down below.

If I’m not comfortable sending my kids will they be marked absent?

The ACT Chief Health Officer has advised that schools are safe for children, and we are implementing new cleaning health and hygiene measures to make them even safer. We expect students will return to the classroom on the dates that have been specified for each year level.

We understand however, some people may be anxious about sending their children to school. In these circumstances we will not penalise students for non-attendance. ACT public schools will work with families to make sure their child’s learning continues and to support them in re-joining classroom learning as soon as practical.

Students with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems will be supported to remain studying from home.

How will you address racism related to COVID-19?

Racism is always inappropriate in ACT public schools. Racist comments or behaviours would be addressed by schools in the same manner as any other time.

Who can I talk to if I have further questions or specific requirements for my child?

We understand that this is a challenging time for families. If you have further questions or would like to discuss their individual circumstances, please call 6205 5429, select option 4 and the team will be happy to assist.

Health and hygiene measures

What health and hygiene measures are in place  at schools as they return to face to face learning?

The ACT Chief Health Officer has worked with the Education Directorate on ensuring our schools are safe places for students to learn and for staff to work.

The advice from the ACT Chief Health Officer includes advice on physical distancing measures for adults, managing risks to vulnerable populations in schools, hygiene measures, environmental cleaning, management of suspected and confirmed cases and the provision of routine and emergency first-aid care.

Basic hygiene, including good hand and respiratory hygiene measures, remains an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Schools are also focused on maintaining the best possible hygiene standards to staff and students. Cleaning in ACT Government Schools will have a greater focus on cleaning areas of higher risk.

Will schools be cleaned more often?

The ACT Government employs a dedicated school cleaning workforce to clean every school. Cleaning services will be extended to deliver dedicated hygiene cleaning activities throughout each school day and an updated cleaning plan will be in place prior to resumption of face to face learning.

The Government is investing in additional school cleaners who will be employed under the Jobs for Canberrans program to deliver this important service for our schools and community. New school cleaners will be thoroughly inducted into their relevant school and will commence in line with the planned full return of students to face to face learning.

How are schools boosting their cleaning and hygiene practices?

During the school holidays, cleaners completed a program of deep cleaning across all ACT public schools. This cleaning, and ongoing cleaning throughout Term 2, will be in completed in accordance with advice from the ACT Health Directorate and World Health Organisation Guidelines.

These guidelines include an emphasis on the cleaning of high frequency touch points such as taps, handrails and door handles and surfaces such as staff desk top computers and desks.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak a High Frequency Touchpoint Protocol was developed to guide cleaning efforts.

This protocol identifies what needs to be cleaned, the frequency of cleaning and what equipment and cleaning products will be required. A copy of the High Frequency Touchpoint Protocol used by cleaners will be provided to schools so they are aware of the cleaning being done.

Do schools have enough sanitiser and soap?

Yes. The Education Directorate has worked to make sure we have ongoing supplies of soap and hand sanitiser in our schools. Hand sanitiser will be available in key locations throughout all schools, so every student and staff member has access to them.

Parents should also encourage their children to wash their hands before they arrive at school.

How will canteens operate safely and hygienically during this period?

The operation of canteens will be up to each individual school. However, should a school canteen be in operation, it is expected to operate in line with the following guidelines:

- ­Good hygiene: canteen staff washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before drying with paper towel.

- Canteen staff to cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with a tissue, or cough into your elbow, disposing of the tissue into a bin and then washing your hands immediately afterwards.

- Canteen staff should avoid touching face and hair.

- Canteens to ensure hand washing facilities are not obstructed and have sufficient paper towel and soap.

- Handwashing facilities must only be used for hand washing.

- Canteen staff to ensure gloves are changed regularly and hands are washed between glove changes.

- ­If a canteen staff member is unwell, they are expected to stay at home and avoid social activities. Canteen staff will be made aware of the criteria for getting tested for COVID-19, available on the ACT COVID19 website external link icon.

- Frequent cleaning and sanitising of all benches and surfaces are to be maintained (benches, handles, fridge and cool room handles etc), condiments such as sauce bottles, salt and pepper shakers.

- Additional signage to be placed in key areas, including above the hand wash facility, with correct procedures.

- Canteens to be stocked with hand sanitiser, clearly labelled for public use only at points of entry.

Will schools be conducting temperature checks?

The advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the ACT Chief Health Officer is that regular temperature checking of students won’t be conducted in schools as there is limited evidence to suggest this is of value.

Will teachers wear face masks?

Teachers will not be required to wear face masks. Good hygiene practices and environmental cleaning are more important measures for reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission.

If I am a teacher and I have a child at home sick, can I still go to work?

As long as you are not sick, or showing any signs or symptoms of sickness, you can go to work.

Any person experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) should be tested immediately.

Remote learning

Is remote learning continuing?

From Monday 18 May, ACT public school students and teachers have begun returning to classrooms.

The return is being carefully managed and staged over three weeks to ensure our students, teachers and staff are safe and our schools are fully prepared to have the appropriate measures in place, based on advice from the ACT Chief Health Officer.

The three stage return of face to face learning is:

  • From Monday 18 May, or week 4 of term 2, pre-school, kindergarten, year 1, 2, 7 and years 11 and 12. College students will attend a combination of on-campus and remote learning, with colleges making arrangements to support learning on-campus for students and subject matter that requires it.
  • From Monday 25 May, or week 5 of term 2, year 3, 4 and 10 students.
  • From Tuesday 2 June (following the Reconciliation Day long weekend) in week 6, the remaining year levels of Year 5, 6, 8 and 9.

Remote learning will continue for each year level until the date listed above for the return to classroom learning.

Students and teachers with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems will be allowed to remain studying/working from home.

Please contact your school or classroom teacher to discuss how this will work in your school in more detail.

What are the expectations on parents whose children are accessing remote learning from home?

Families should continue to focus on the wellbeing of their children. Parents are not expected to be teachers in the home. Educators are responsible for the quality of learning delivered to students.  Teachers will continue to play the teaching role, but it will look different.

Parents can assist by establishing a flexible routine of access to learning at home. To check in on children from time to time, ensure they are balancing exercise, good health and learning. Try creating a space for learning to occur in the home and avoid distractions where possible. Don’t feel guilty. We are all doing the best we can in these difficult circumstances.

How will remote learning impact year 11 and 12?

ACT public college students will be supported through a program of online and remote learning designed and delivered by their usual classroom teachers. We are fortunate in the ACT to have a flexible approach to year 11 and 12 assessment. All ACT year 12 students will have the opportunity to receive the ACT Senior Secondary Certificate. Year 12 students working towards their ATAR will also have the opportunity to receive it for 2020.

How are we supporting vulnerable students through this change?

The Education Directorate will support vulnerable public school students to transition to the most appropriate arrangement for them. This could include, for example, learning support units delivering differentiated supports to vulnerable students learning from home.

Are specialist schools still open?

All of the ACT public specialist schools remain available as safe, supervised school sites. These sites will work closely with families to ensure they meet the highly individual needs of each student. The Muliyan Off Campus Flexible Learning Program will also continue to be available to students who need it.

What if we don’t have internet access or a computer?

For those that may not have internet access or a device at home, the Education Directorate is working to provide equal access to enable students to continue to access online learning, assessment and support.

Many schools have already been contacting families to understand what support they may need with this. Families are encouraged to reach out to their schools if they have specific needs.

Not all learning will be online. Younger students in particular will use offline resources provided through their schools to continue their learning.

Public school students in Year 7 through to Year 12 already receive access to a Chromebook device as part of the ACT Government’s nation-leading investment in digital education.

ACT public primary schools are also identifying students in years 4, 5 and 6 who require a device to ensure learning can continue at home.  If your child is in year 4, 5 or 6, please talk to your school about loaning a device for use during the home learning period.

Devices are also available for the public school students in the early primary years. Parents should talk to their school if they need a device.

Student Support

How can students access support services?

School psychologists have continued to provide psychological services throughout the remote learning period. Psychologists, who form a key part of health and wellbeing teams in schools, and have returned to their worksites as schools return to classroom learning from Monday 18 May.

Given the current environmental stressors facing ACT community due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19 it was expected that there will be an upsurge in referrals to mental health services.  To meet this expected increase in need, there also has been investment in the increase of resources in the provision of mental health services through headspace and other community organisations.

The Student Wellbeing Telehealth Support Service (SWTSS) was established during the remote learning period and is being delivered by a team of psychologists and senior psychologists from the ACT Education Directorate. This central telehealth service continues to operate as schools are returning, in addition to psychologists in schools.

This team assists students and families via Google Meet video-calls or over the phone with appointments made via an online booking form or a phone booking system.

This service offers students and their families psychological support for issues related to both wellbeing and learning. It is not intended to provide crisis support or replace any usual therapeutic services accessed by students.

School psychologists allocated to schools will continue to provide assistance to their school community in addition to SWTSS team.

Appointments can be made through an online booking form external link iconor by calling 6205 1559 and speaking to our booking officer. Appointments will be available between 9:00am and 4:30pm.

This is not a crisis service and the team will refer students to appropriate emergency services where appropriate.  Usual referral sources such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), headspace or their GP will continue to apply as required.

Sports and Excursions

Are school sports and physical education being undertaken at schools?

Health and PE will continue to be delivered at the discretion of each school in a safe way to meet curriculum needs.

Will interschool sport competitions or sports carnivals be allowed?

As school returns there will be no formal school sport competitions and no interschool events until further notice.

Are overseas school excursions cancelled?

  • As a result of the ongoing development of the COVID-19 situation overseas ALL overseas school excursions have been cancelled until further notice.
Chromebooks and internet access

Can students keep the Chromebook they’ve received on loan during the remote learning period now that schools are returning to face-to-face learning?

No. These devices were loaned to students during the remote learning period, as the learning approach was primarily online. With schools returning to face-to-face learning, loaned Chromebook devices will need to be returned to your school.

ACT public schools loaned out Chromebook devices from their existing supply provided by the ACT Government. To ensure there were enough for every student from years 4, 5 and 6, the ACT Government provided an additional 2000 devices.

Why can’t students in primary school keep the Chromebooks, when students in years 7 are provided with their own to keep and use?

Students in ACT public secondary school return their devices when they exit the system. The Chromebook rollout to ACT public secondary school students is a separate program delivered by the Government to provide equal digital technology access to all senior secondary students.

The Chromebooks provided to students in years 4, 5 and 6 were temporarily distributed for use during the remote learning period and will need to be returned to your school when it resumes face-to-face learning.

Enrolment for 2021

Will 2021 enrolments open as usual, given school information sessions have been cancelled?

Enrolments are now open for all students from Preschool to Year 12 for next year. Enrolment applications made between 28 April 2020 and 5 June 2020 will receive an offer from 27 July 2020. This provides families with time to submit applications before 5 June and be included in the initial round of offers.

Your local public school has a place for your child to learn, develop and reach their potential. Every student from Kindergarten to Year 12 is guaranteed a place in their local public school (determined by Priority Enrolment Area). To find your local school, look at the map on the Priority Enrolment Area page.

All of our preschools offer high-quality early childhood education. Each four-year-old child in the ACT is guaranteed a place in a public preschool. However, due to capacity constraints at some sites, children are not guaranteed a place at the preschool of your preference. If you do not receive an offer for your preferred preschool, the Directorate will find you a place at the nearest preschool with capacity to your home. This will not affect your right to a place at your local public school for kindergarten.

Many of our schools, particularly high schools and colleges, hold open nights or information sessions for families to have a look around the school and chat to teachers and current students. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, that can’t happen at the moment. Families can check out their local school’s website or social media channels to get more information. Many schools have created videos to give families a taste of what they are all about. Alternatively, give your local school a call – see Public Schools in the ACT for contact information.

For more, check out the Enrolling in a public school section of this website

School playgrounds and facilities

Can children use the playground at their school?

Students attending school face-to-face will be allowed on the playgrounds on school sites.

Schools will ensure that playgrounds are regularly cleaned and checked as part of their normal school operations.

Are school facilities available to hire?

Schools hire their facilities for a range of purposes with varying levels of physical contact and associated risks related to COVID-19. The hiring of school facilities therefore needs to take into consideration the nature of the activities being undertaken.

At this stage, indoor sporting and fitness activities are not able to resume hiring of school facilities. Outdoor sporting activities can resume for groups of no more than 10.

Other activities such as language programs, music classes and church activities may resume - however the following requirements must be adhered to:

  • hirers must be inducted into the physical distancing and hygiene requirements for adults within school facilities
  • hirers must provide evidence of cleaning arrangements to ensure all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned after the use of school facilities
  • hirers must adhere to the 10 person gathering requirements to minimise the number of people accessing school sites
School-based apprenticeships

What happens if my child is doing a school-based apprenticeship?

Many school-based apprentices are employed in occupations that will continue to provide essential services to our local community and, where an employer is able to maintain their employment arrangements, Australian School Based Apprenticeships can continue, including during school holidays and/or pupil free days.

  • To assist students, parents, carers and the broader school community, the following answers have been compiled into frequently asked questions around school-based apprenticeships.
  • Stop handshaking as a greeting
  • Physical distancing measures (1.5 metres) and frequent hand washing is strongly encouraged
  • Hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call
  • Defer large meetings
  • Hold essential meetings outside in the open air if possible
  • Promote good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and provide hand sanitisers for all staff and workers. Take lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunchroom
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly
  • Consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more ventilation
  • Limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
  • Reconsider any non-essential business travel
  • Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts
  • Consider if large gatherings can be rescheduled, staggered or cancelled.
  • Businesses across all sectors may be facing challenging circumstances as a result of COVID-19. Many school-based apprentices are employed in occupations that will continue to provide essential services to our local community and, where an employer is able to maintain their employment arrangements, ASbAs can continue, including during school holidays and/or pupil free days.
  • Australian Apprenticeship obligations remain unchanged and school-based apprentices should be supervised at all times by a qualified or appropriately experienced supervisor.
  • When in their ASbA workplaces, it is critical secondary school students and their work colleagues continue to practice good personal hygiene and social distancing.  The following guidance has been issued by the Australian Government Department of Health for the consideration of employers and employees in all Australian workplaces:
  • Stay at home if you are sick

What happens where workplaces are impacted by COVID-19?

Where an ASbA workplace is shut-down as a result of COVID-19, or an individual within the workplace tests positive for COVID-19 and the student must self-isolate as a result, the student or their parent/guardian must inform the school Principal and Skills Canberra.

Employers and students are also encouraged to contact the ACT Wage Entitlement Information Service or the FairWork Ombudsman to ensure all employment obligations are met. Contact the Skills Canberra Wage Entitlement Information Service Ph: 6205 8555 Ph: 1300 278 681 Email: skills@act.gov.au  Email: apprenticeship@canberrabusiness.com

Skills Canberra will work with individual students and their employers to initiate any variation to the student’s national training contract arrangements, if necessary.

The Education Directorate will work closely with the student’s school and the ACT BSSS to support the school study program of any student impacted as a result of any required variation. For further information, please contact the ACT Education Directorate on 6205 5268 or at VETforSS@act.edu.au