Coronavirus (COVID-19)

For parents seeking advice see Coronavirus information for parents.

Schools seeking Employee Relations advice see Employee Relations - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This Safety Risk Review document applies to all schools, and outlines some key health, safety and wellbeing hazards for which schools should plan. It links to the controls prescribed by the latest health and safety guidance, and the supports available. It is designed to support the ongoing revision of the COVID Safe Plan template, in conjunction with the School Operations Guide.

The information below is taken from the School Operations Guide.

Quick reference of permitted school activities

COVIDSafe behaviours 

Create COVIDSafe spaces 

Promote COVIDSafe activities 

 respond to covid risk

Frequently Asked Questions

Question Answer

When do we need a COVIDSafe Plan?

The requirement to have a COVIDSafe Plan applies to all schools. The document outlines the key OHS risks and links to the latest guidance. It sets out the approach for managing safety risks in schools with the minimum requirements for COVIDSafe Plans set out by the Victorian Government. Each campus will require a separate COVIDSafe Plan.

A template COVIDSafe Plan is available on the CEVN website. Schools will need to review and adjust the information to ensure it is appropriate to the particulars of each school’s setting. The plan must be regularly updated as required, while restrictions remain in place.
Your local diocesan education office can assist in tailoring the plan to individual school needs.

Question Answer

Where do I go for information about cleaning?

Refer to the Enhanced School Cleaning Guidelines.

COVIDSafe routine cleaning arrangements should continue for all Catholic schools in Term 3. This involves daily end-of-school-day cleaning, with a particular focus on cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, and the inclusion of some elements that were not cleaned every day prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Where schools require additional support, the CECV can assist with recommendations on alternative contractors and/or third-party accredited auditors to review current cleaning processes.

Where do I find information for cleaning if we have a positive case? Refer to the Infectious Cleaning Guidelines.
Question Answer

A student is unwell and has symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The student’s parents/carers are refusing to come and pick them up. What do I do?

If a parent/carer refuses to collect an unwell student, the regional leadership consultant (or diocesan education office equivalent) should be contacted for further guidance.

Refer to ‘Management of an unwell student or staff member’ in the School Operations Guide for detailed information on management of an unwell child, young person or staff member.

Am I able to require a student to be in a room without other students if their behaviour is unsafe (e.g. spitting, touching others)?

In circumstances where students cannot practise proper hygiene and cough etiquette, they must not be secluded in a room or area from which their exit is prevented by a barrier or another person in order to enforce physical distancing. However, students may be moved to different learning environments as they would be at any other time in a school. If a student’s behaviour is presenting an immediate danger for staff and/or other students, staff could elect to evacuate from the room so long as the student is supervised at a safe distance and their exit is not prevented. Where applicable, follow the behaviour support and safety plans in place.

What if a student refuses to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser, or follow other directions in relation to COVID-19 risk control measures?

Schools should follow the same actions they normally would to manage student behaviour, as they do in other contexts. If students don’t follow a verbal or visual instruction, other prompting strategies should be used.

We have students who physically hit, grab and touch staff when their behaviour is heightened. We use all possible means to assist the students to regulate their behaviour but, given the learning environment and staff are different, these behaviours are continuing. Can I require the student to be picked up by a parent or carer and not returned to school?

Schools implementing school-wide positive behaviour support (SWPBS) should already have an expected behaviour and explicit teaching about this. Staff should use a pre-correction prompt along with explicit teaching of this behaviour and, as a reactive intervention, use physical prompting.

Staff must ensure that their actions are consistent with the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 (Vic.) that govern the use of restraint in schools, which state that physical restraint can only be used to stop acts or behaviour dangerous to themselves or another person. The physical restraint must also be proportionate to the danger.

If required, request additional support by contacting the relevant diocesan education office.

Further information on managing challenging behaviours can be found in the Safe and Sound Practice Guidelines and Positive Behaviour Guidelines.

How can I determine if a child or young person with complex needs is unwell if they are not able to communicate this effectively?

A child or young person’s individual care plan should contain advice to support staff in the assessment and recognition of illness in that child or young person.

It is advisable in the first instance to contact the parent or carer to discuss any concerns about the health status of a child or young person. A trained staff member could take the temperature of the child or young person, where appropriate, to support decision-making.

Question Answer

How can we reduce staff interactions in common areas such as the staffroom?

Density limits of one person per four square metres apply in areas only accessed by staff, such as staff lunchrooms and staffrooms. Staff must practise physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres between themselves and other staff members or adults to the extent that is reasonably practicable.
If possible, carefully manage the movement of staff to reduce the number of staff that need to access the staffroom at one time. Consider provision of additional areas for staff to have their breaks.

Consider purchasing additional kitchen material (such as microwaves etc.) to reduce the need for staff to access the kitchen. Still be mindful of the need to prevent student access to equipment such as kettles or urns in a primary school setting.

What if parents still need to access the front office?

Density limits of one person per four square metres apply in areas generally accessed by the public, such as school reception. Ensure clear guidance is given to parents about access to the school site and display signage to indicate the maximum number of persons that may be present in the space at a single time.

If parents do need to access the front office, consider specifying the time for this to occur (i.e. outside school drop-off and pick-up times). Limiting school access to outside and non-essential visitors should occur, where possible.

Refer to the School Operations Guide for additional information on school visitors.

How can we discourage parents from congregating at the drop-off and pick-up gates?

  • Ensure clear communication is given to parents regarding drop-off and pick-up arrangements.
  • Provide multiple entry and exit points or staggered drop-off and pick-up times
  • Ensure clear signage is displayed at school entrances requesting parents to drop and go.
  • Consider increased teacher presence at entrance points to assist in quick changeovers and communication with loitering persons.
  • Consider encouraging car drop-offs in ‘kiss and drop zones’ so parents will not need to leave the car.
  • Ensure parent–school relationship codes of conduct are up to date and available (i.e. on the school website).
  • Communicate the strategies in place to parents and school communities regarding the need for behaviours that support physical distancing.

What additional measures should we have in place to assist adequate physical distancing of staff?

Close attention and proactive management must be provided so staff can physically distance. Specific attention should be paid to:

  • using larger spaces within the school that can support physical distancing for staff, such as libraries and vacant classrooms
  • implementing signage and rostering so that access to physical spaces and food preparation areas can be managed
  • reconfiguring class spaces where possible, using all available space within the school
  • appropriately spacing occupied offices
  • carefully managing the movement of adults through school reception and staffrooms, complemented by clear signage, access to hand sanitiser, and the timing of staff arrival and departure
  • where multiple staff are required in a classroom, reminding staff to maintain physical distancing from each other as much as practical.

Schools should consider ways to group staff working on site into workforce bubbles. For example, having the same members of staff working together.

Staff working across multiple schools should be minimised wherever possible.

Question Answer

Are all students required to wear a face mask from 11.59 pm on Tuesday 27 July 2021?

See ‘Face masks in schools’ in the School Operations Guide.

  • Secondary school students aged 12 or older must always wear a face mask at school, including when attending an Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) program, unless a lawful exception applies.
  • Children under 12 years of age and students at primary school are not required to wear face masks when at school, or when attending an OSHC program.
  • Face masks are mandatory for all school students aged 12 or older on public transport and when in taxis or ride share vehicles. This includes travelling to and from school on public transport and when in taxis or rideshare vehicles.
School sport
  • Students can remove face masks when engaged in strenuous exercise.
  • Schools are strongly encouraged to maximise the use of outdoor environments for school sport and physical activity, particularly during periods of community transmission.
External premises

Students attending camps and excursions will be required to meet any face mask requirements of an external provider/venue, including transport providers, unless a lawful exception applies.

Are all school staff required to wear a face mask from 11.59 pm on Tuesday 27 July 2021?

  • School staff (primary and secondary) must always wear a face mask at school, including when attending an OSHC program, unless a lawful exception applies.
  • For communication purposes, teachers and education support staff are not required to wear face masks while teaching, but those who wish to do so can. It is recommended that face masks be worn while teaching wherever practicable
  • Face masks are also mandatory for school staff when travelling to and from school on public transport and when in taxis or rideshare vehicles, or in a vehicle with others not from their household.
External premises

Staff attending camps and excursions will be required to meet any face mask requirements of an external provider/venue, including transport providers, unless a lawful exception applies.

Are there any exemptions for people not wearing a face mask from 11.59 pm on Tuesday 27 July 2021?

There are a number of lawful reasons for not wearing a face mask, including those who are unable due to the nature of their disability. Students or staff who have a medical condition – including problems with their breathing, a serious skin condition on the face, a disability or a mental health condition – are not required to wear a face mask. This includes students who attend special schools.

Children under 12 years of age and students at primary school are not required to wear face masks when at school, or when attending an OSHC program.

Health, wellbeing and inclusion staff are required to wear face masks, unless an exemption applies, including the need for ‘clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth’ (for example, when undertaking a speech therapy intervention or working with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing) as part of teaching.

A combination of strategies is required to limit transmission of COVID-19 for staff and students who are unable to wear face masks. Other transmission strategies, such as physical distancing, can be enhanced, noting that any additional or enhanced strategies should be aimed at the whole school or class population.

Staff members unable to wear face masks should avoid providing supervision or care of students with COVID-19 symptoms.

Who will supply the face masks?

It is anticipated that most staff and students will supply their own face masks. Schools should have a supply of single-use face masks to provide to students and staff if they are unable to access one themselves.

What is an acceptable face covering?

The Department of Health has advice about face masks, including:

  • which different types can be used
  • how to make your own
  • how to safely wear one.

A face mask must cover the nose and mouth. Face shields, scarves or bandanas do not meet these requirements.

When should staff be wearing other PPE?

See Guidance for the use of personal protective equipment in education.

Question Answer

Do we need to conduct temperature screening of students upon arrival at school?

Based on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, given the current levels of community transmission in Victoria, mandatory temperature testing of all students on arrival at school will not be required.

Question Answer

Where should hand sanitiser be available within the school?

Hand sanitiser should be available at entry points to classrooms and other areas such as front offices, libraries and staffrooms. Staff should be aware of education on hand hygiene.

How should hygiene be promoted within the school?

All staff and students should undertake regular hand hygiene, particularly on arrival at school, before and after eating, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the toilet. This should be directed or supervised by staff where required.

Where soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitiser should be provided in every occupied room.

Posters encouraging hand hygiene should also be displayed.

Drinking fountains remain open; however, sharing of food is not permitted.

Question Answer

What assistance should be provided to staff working from home?

Working alone or in isolation from others presents hazards of which employees should be made aware, including impacts on mental wellbeing. Principals and school staff are encouraged to develop a program of regular contact with staff who are working from home. Schools are also encouraged to promote their employee assistance program (EAP).

Counselling is available from the EAP, which is a confidential, free-of-charge service for employees offered by AccessEAP. AccessEAP can be contacted 24/7 by calling 1800 818 728, making an online booking or using the EAP in Focus app.

Please see ‘Mental health and wellbeing resources for principals and staff’ in the School Operations Guide, and the Agile Working Guidelines template.

Additional wellbeing resources to support staff are available on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Wellbeing Resources page of the CEVN website.

Question Answer

(information obtained from www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/school-camps-during-coronavirus#checklist-for-camp-operators-and-schools)

What are the restrictions on bookings?

  • Camps and overnight stayscan take place across Victoria with no travel restrictions. Bookings must be limited to single schools. Multiple schools can attend camps providing school groups remain separate and do not share common facilities at this time. Mixing of staff and students between different schools is not permitted. Testing requirements are now in place for Victorian ski fields. See ‘Intrastate and interstate travel’ in the School Operations Guide.
  • Outdoor education including excursions and overnight stays for the purpose of outdoor education is permitted. Programs should only operate for staff and students from single schools. Testing requirements are now in place for Victorian ski fields. See ‘Intrastate and interstate travel’ in the School Operations Guide.
  • Incursions are not permitted at this time.
  • Excursions are permitted with students from a single school only. There are no restrictions on travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. There is no group size limit (but students should be in their class group) and excursions must be conducted in line with any specific capacity limits on venues that are being used.
    • In most cases, density limits can be removed when a venue is being accessed by staff and students from a single school only. However, schools should check with venues to confirm any additional obligations under the Restricted Activity Directions.
    • School staff (primary and secondary) and secondary school students aged 12 or older are required to wear face masks indoors when attending an excursion.
    • See ‘Collection of student contact details on excursions for contact-tracing’ in the School Operations Guide for further details of student record keeping requirements on excursions.

Further advice is available under ‘Camps, playgrounds, pools and other school facilities and activities’ in the School Operations Guide and on the School camps during COVID-19 webpage.

What are the health and safety precautions for camps and excursions?

Staff and students attending camps will be required to meet any face mask requirements of an external provider/venue, including transport providers, unless a lawful exception applies.

Health and safety precautions to take into consideration are:

  • When camps or excursions can resume, consistent with the health and safety advice for all Victorian schools, schools should pursue a variety of strategies to support physical distancing among all students and staff, where possible.
  • Staff must practise physical distancing between themselves and other staff members or adults and students wherever appropriate.
  • Creating student and staff camp ‘bubbles’, whereby student and staff groupings/cohorts are kept as static as possible with limited mixing of groups of students and staff, can minimise the risk of transmission between groups and aid containment in the event of a confirmed case.
  • To support this, large group activities should be avoided and use of communal facilities should be staggered, with thorough cleaning after each group use.

Do face masks need to be used while on camp?

All staff and students will be required to follow advice about the use of face masks as outlined in the School Operations Guide.

Staff and students attending external premises will be required to meet any face mask requirements of an external provider/venue, including transport providers, unless a lawful exemption applies.

What are the documentation requirements for planning a camp or excursion?

Schools must ensure they conduct a camp and/or excursion risk assessment for the activity.

Schools that are planning or participating in school camps should include this element of the program in their COVIDSafe Plan.

All staff and students will need current emergency contact details registered before departing for a school camp. Permission forms will need to include updated information about COVID-19 and any procedures that will apply in the event of a child displaying COVID-19-like symptoms.

What documentation do camp operators need?

Camp operators should develop and regularly review their COVIDSafe Plan to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In the event of a confirmed case, they should be informed by the Tourism and accommodation services sector guidance and Industry Restart Guidelines – Accommodation. These plans should be made available for schools to review before arrival on site.

What activities can we do on camps and excursions?

Schools and camp operators should consider the range of activities and facilities available, and recognise that some facilities and activities may need to be altered, deferred or delivered remotely to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk. Decisions regarding the types of activities that take place should take account of the potential risk associated with the activity, the level of community transmission and available modifications to minimise risk.

Who should not attend camp?

Any staff member or student who has been advised to isolate as a confirmed case of COVID-19, or quarantine as a close contact of a positive case of COVID-19, should not under any circumstances attend school camp. Staff and students should not attend camp if unwell.

What if someone displays COVID-19-like symptoms on camp?

Where a staff member or student is displaying COVID-19-like symptoms, those who have been sharing sleeping quarters with the symptomatic individual should be isolated from the rest of the group and undertake separate activities until the outcome of a COVID-19 test is known.

Anyone who develops symptoms during camp should be isolated and sent home for testing as soon as possible, with designated space(s) made available on the premises to support isolation where required.

What if someone is confirmed as a close contact while on camp?

If a staff member or student is identified as a close contact of a positive case of COVID-19, they will be sent home as soon as possible, with designated space(s) made available on the premises to support safe isolation.

Where staff or students become unwell or are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case, the wearing of appropriate PPE will be required. School camps should also have appropriate PPE available in case it is required by their staff, contractors or guests.

What if suspected or confirmed cases are linked to a school camp?

Schools should be prepared to notify the local diocesan education office when a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 is linked to a school camp. Schools will need to provide requested information and take required actions. Good record keeping, including accurate documentation of sleeping arrangements and any visitors, enables the prompt identification of individuals who may have been in contact with a confirmed case.

What are the requirements regarding hygiene, cleaning and shared areas on camp?

Reinforce hand hygiene practices and make sure there is access to handwashing facilities in all communal areas. Where soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitiser should be provided.

Cleaning and disinfection of communal facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens should occur at least twice a day, or more frequently when in high use by the group – including enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces.
Minimise numbers in shared rooms/dormitories where possible.

Parent volunteers are permitted, subject to normal arrangements, where volunteers are an integral part of the conduct of school camps, for example, when necessary to ensure adequate supervision or to provide medical care.

Ensure the highest hygiene practices among food handlers where these services are operating.

Question Answer

Can students use shared equipment?

Playgrounds

Playgrounds remain open for school use.

Shared equipment

Schools should consider the necessity of using shared equipment at this time. Such items may include shared computers, class sets of teaching and learning materials, and musical instruments. If used, strict hand hygiene should be followed before and after use. Risk can be further minimised by users of high-touch shared equipment wiping items down where appropriate, for example, using a disinfectant/detergent wipe or cloth.

Musical instruments

Singing and playing wind and brass instruments can occur if Department of Health recommendations to reduce transmission risk are followed. Recommendations include moving outdoors, increasing ventilation, physical distancing of 2 metres between performers and 5 metres between performers and the audience, reducing the number of people or reducing the length of time an activity is conducted. See ‘Singing, brass, woodwind classes and groups’ in the School Operations Guide and COVID-19 transmission from air-circulating, wind-moving devices and activities.

Swimming pools
  • Outdoor and indoor pools can be used.
  • There is no limit on participant numbers where there is exclusive use of a pool facility by a single school at any one time for educational purposes.
  • Where there is not exclusive use of a pool by a single school, the requirements of the Restricted Activity Directions apply. Schools should speak to swimming pool venues to determine how restrictions apply to the activity being undertaken.

Can people other than students use school facilities?

The following applies to all Victorian Catholic schools:

Playgrounds

Playgrounds remain open for community use outside school hours.

Community facilities (including school facilities made available for community use)

Community groups are not permitted to use school facilities (indoor or outdoor) during school hours. When used outside school hours, a density limit of one person per four square metres must be applied to the spaces used. Some school facilities may be subject to additional requirements under the Restricted Activity Directions when open for community use, e.g. swimming pools and gyms.

What additional measures can be put in place to minimise risk of transmission?

Promote fresh airflow indoors and maximise use of outdoor learning areas or environments with enhanced ventilation where possible and as practical depending on weather conditions.

Are there additional precautions for the provision of first aid during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Physical distancing is not practical when providing direct care. In this situation, standard precautions, including hand hygiene, are important for infection control.

Standard precautions are advised when coming into contact with someone for the purpose of providing routine care and/or assistance (for example, the use of gloves for nappy-changing, toileting or feeding).

Standard precautions as per the Department of Education and Training’s Infectious Diseases policy and related policies should be adopted when providing first aid. For example, use gloves and an apron when dealing with blood or body fluids/substances. Use a mask when treating anyone displaying COVID-19-related symptoms.

Always wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser before and after performing routine care or first aid.

How do I treat a staff member or student displaying COVID-19-related symptoms?

See ‘Management of an unwell student or staff member’ in the School Operations Guide.

Can structured workplace learning (SWL) and work experience continue?

SWL and work experience placements can recommence. See ‘Structured workplace learning (SWL) and work experience’ in the School Operations Guide for advice.

What are the requirements for signing in at schools?

See ‘QR codes and record keeping’ in the School Operations Guide.

The use of Service Victoria QR codes for electronic record keeping is now mandatory in all schools to enable the effective contact tracing of any COVID-19 cases. This requirement will continue in Term 3 until further notice.

QR code check-ins are required to be used by:

  • all visitors on school sites (including contractors, external staff, and building and maintenance staff)
  • all parents who enter school buildings when on school sites.

QR code check-ins are not required to be used by:

  • staff
  • students
  • parents who come onto school grounds for drop-off or pick-up, but do not enter buildings.

Schools can permit parents to enter buildings on site for student pick-up and drop-off, providing sufficient QR code locations can be identified and utilised to ensure parents are able to check in.

Where this is not possible, parents should not be permitted to enter buildings for pick-up and drop-off.

Schools are reminded that existing sign-in and sign-out processes should continue to be used to record visitor attendance, in particular the purpose of visits, for legal and regulatory obligations.

Further information about QR code set-up can be found at Register to use the Service Victoria QR code app.

What are the requirements for QR code use on school transport?

Students should, where practical, check in via a QR code service when travelling to and from school on public transport.

What is the current advice on intrastate and interstate travel?

Intrastate travel

There are no restrictions on travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Interstate travel

Travel restrictions between states and territories and in some remote areas of Australia are in place. See ‘Interstate travel’ in the School Operations Guide.

These restrictions are implemented by individual state and territory governments, and are subject to change at very short notice. Schools must refer to the Department of Health travel advice and the relevant state/territory specific restrictions before confirming travel plans or bookings.

The Victorian travel permit system is based on a traffic light system, which allows for areas across Australia to be designated as green, orange or red according to their COVID-19 risk, in line with public health advice.

Schools should reconsider travelling to locations currently listed as a red zone or orange zone:

  • If at the time of travel, a location is listed as a red zone, staff and students should not travel to the location.
Schools must not travel to an extreme risk zone. Victorian alpine region

School trips must adhere to additional requirements if attending the Victorian ski fields. Travel to Victorian alpine resorts is permitted provided visitors have had a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 72 hours. Children under 12 years are not included. Visitors must be able to show evidence of a negative test as a condition of entry into the ski fields.

A coronavirus infection can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Affected people may experience:

  • Fever
  • Acute respiratory infection (shortness of breath or cough)

The World Health Organization has confirmed that the main driver of transmission is from symptomatic patients, through coughing or sneezing. Transmission by people without symptoms is possible, but rare.

Employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees. This includes identifying risks to health or safety associated with potential exposure to the coronavirus.

 

Coronavirus Information

CECV recommends obtaining information relating to Coronavirus from the following reputable sources:

 

Department of Education and Training (DET)

The Department of Education has created a Coronavirus advice page with up-to-date information for schools, principals and teachers: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/department/Pages/coronavirus.aspx#link2.

 

Department of Health and Human Services

For general Coronavirus disease information including travel advice: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus

Information for the public about novel coronavirus: Information for the public - novel coronavirus

Factsheets and posters in English, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese to support schools and their communities: Information for the education sector - novel coronavirus

 

WorkSafe Victoria

Exposure to coronavirus in workplaces – Safety Alert

 

Department of Health – Australian Government

Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert - Australian Government

 

Smartraveller

Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice

 

World Health Organisation

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) video

How to protect yourself against Coronavirus video

Coronavirus Myth busters page

Helping children cope with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak poster

Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19

 

Alternative Suppliers – cleaning supplies

Employee Assistance Program

If staff or family members need support or need professional assistance, the Employee Assistance Program through AccessEAP is available on 1800 81 87 28 or (02) 8247 9191. There is also the Principal EAP through Converge International available on 1300 687 327.