Schools and childcare

Last Updated: 15 Oct 2020 4:23pm

Term 4 school arrangements

Term 4 dates remain as normal for all schools.

All students who are well will continue to learn at school.

Students with health concerns that may place them at higher risk of moderate to severe illness from COVID-19 will be supported to continue learning at home where possible. To make arrangements, talk to your school about what support they can provide.

The Department of Education Learning at Home webpage provides some ideas and activities which may assist in supporting a child’s learning at home. This is accessible to any family with internet access.

Safety

All schools are working hard to apply Public Health and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidance to their site’s practices. Schools are also applying guidance from WorkSafe Tasmania’s COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Framework.

The AHPPC has recommended schools remain open. Their advice is that pre-emptive closures are not likely to be effective to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 at this time. The most important strategies for schools and the Education and Care sector to implement to assist families to stay healthy include:

  • Promoting personal hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette
  • Additional cleaning (especially of frequently touched surfaces)
  • Encouraging physical distancing by cancelling or postponing a range of activities
  • Supporting staff and families to stay home if they are unwell
  • Supporting those who are more at risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19
  • Looking after the psychological wellbeing of students, staff and families.

Temporary site closures will likely occur when a confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified at a site. This is to support the Department of Health to conduct contact tracing, and provide time for cleaning and re-assurance to the affected school or service community. All temporary closures will be arranged in consultation with Department of Health.

Physical distancing in schools

Physical distancing of children in schools, early childhood centres and playgroups is not required under current restrictions. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advises that there is very limited evidence of transmission of COVID-19 between children.

All adults (including parents/carers) must still maintain physical distance from each other (1.5 metres) but this does not apply to children.

Student transport

For schools that do not operate their own bus services see Transport – School Buses.

For schools with their own bus services, please refer to the relevant school for details.

Student accommodation

All student accommodation facilities (whether Government or Independent) operating in the COVID-19 environment have changed their procedures to include increased cleaning and physical distancing measures as far as practicable. Good personal hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette is being encouraged as well as strong support for students (and their families) should they become unwell.

Should I send my child to school?

All children who are well should be sent to school. Alternative care arrangements should be considered for those children who may be at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Parents should seek medical advice for these children.

Children should not be sent to school if they feel unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms including:

  • fever
  • runny nose
  • cough, sore/itchy throat or
  • shortness of breath

Children should stay home and you should phone your GP or the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 for a referral to be tested for COVID-19.

Children should only be returning to school once their cold/flu like symptoms have passed.

If your child has serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000).

Hay fever and COVID-19 symptoms

Hay fever can be caused by allergies to pollen from some flowering plants and is more common in Tasmania during spring and summer.

Hay fever symptoms can include:

  • runny, itchy or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • itchy, sore and watery eyes
  • a cough.

These are also symptoms of a cold, flu and COVID-19 so it is hard to tell them apart without testing.

Students experiencing hay fever symptoms, even mild symptoms, should get tested for COVID-19.

They should stay home and not attend school while they wait for their test results.

Students can return to school if they have:

  1. had a test for COVID-19 while they had symptoms and the result was negative
  2. consulted a doctor to discuss their symptoms and received advice/treatment to manage them
  3. received a certificate or letter from their doctor stating they currently have hay fever and can attend school.

If a student’s symptoms worsen throughout the hay fever season or new symptoms develop, they should see their GP who may ask them to get tested for COVID-19 again.

School events

Schools have begun to reintroduce certain activities, such as assemblies, excursions, sports carnivals, interschool competitions and parent/teacher meetings.

All activities will be subject to proper hygiene practices, current gathering restrictions and physical distancing requirements for adults. A record will also be kept of all adults visiting school sites.

For more information about events for Tasmanian Government Schools, see the Parent and Carer Guide.

Families with children at Catholic and Independent Schools should contact their school for advice on arrangements regarding activities and events.

Exams for Year 11 and 12 students

At this stage, external assessments for Year 11 and 12 students are scheduled to go ahead with COVID-safe practices in place, in line with the published timetables.

Current measures to restrict potential spread of COVID-19 won’t substantially change how students experience their exams and assessments. Students will need to follow the instructions given by Exam Supervisors, the signage at Exam Centres and bring the personal supplies needed to complete the exam.

Students are not to attend an exam if they have cold or flu like symptoms, or if they are in isolation awaiting a COVID-19 test result.

Students with hay fever symptoms are to follow advice on ‘Hay fever and COVID-19 symptoms’, including getting tested for COVID-19, consulting a GP about managing hay fever symptoms, and obtaining a certificate or letter to go back to school or attend exams.

More information about what students should do if they are sick with possible COVID-19 symptoms during the exam period is available at Illness and emergency during exams, or by contacting TASC.

School celebrations and social events

Public Health has developed some clear guidance to allow celebrations and social events (including school formals) to occur on school sites.

These events will be able to go ahead but will need to be held in accordance with current Public Health directions. This means that it will be required that these events are undertaken within the venue density requirements (one person per 2 square metres, up to a maximum of 250 people) of the site on which they are planned to be held.

Dancing will be able to occur as part of such events, however for this to happen the dancing must be in a different area to that which food and beverages are served. These areas will need to be clearly identified in the venue.

COVID safe behaviours including hygiene measures and visitor screening will need to be applied to such events.

Celebrations taking place off site will need to comply with the venue’s COVID Safety plan.

Child and Family Centres

Child and Family Centres are open, with hygiene, physical distancing and safety protocols in place.

Families will continue to be referred to appropriate services as required.

For more information visit the Child & Family Centres website.

For more information

Education and Care Services

Education and Care and Child Care Services include long day care, family day care, outside schools hours care and vacation care programs.

These services are performing a vital role providing education and care for children.

Find an Education and Care or Child Care Service

To find a service, families can call the Child Care Family Helpline on 1800 291 041 from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Families can also search for early childhood education and child care services online using Starting Blocks and Child Care Finder

The Education & Care Unit within the Department of Education regulates these services in Tasmania and has links to information and organisations offering support for families.

Early Childhood Education and Care Support Measures

Throughout 2020, the Australian Government has implemented measures to help the early childhood education and care sector manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These measures included an Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package (6 April to 12 July) and a Transition Payment (13 July to 27 September).  The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) also recommenced from 13 July.  All CCS approved early childhood education and care service providers have been able to receive this Transition Payment to help them transition back to CCS.

With the Transition Payment ending on Sunday 27 of September 2020, a new Recovery Package has been announced.

What does this mean?

  • Additional support payments are in place for Victoria.
  • Nationally the eased activity test will be extended to 4 April 2021 to support families whose employment has been affected by COVID-19.
  • Should similar outbreaks occur elsewhere in the country, support for families and services will be provided as needed.
  • Services at risk of imminent closure, temporary or permanent, can apply for support through the Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances program.

Here is more information about what the package means for services across Australia.

Here is a presentation that provides more information.

For more information on Australian Government Early Childhood Education and Care Support please see the Early Childhood Education and Care COVID-19 Information on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.

Support for providers

Information about Government Support for the Education and Care Sector has been developed by the Department of Education.

Safety

The Department of Education has information on being COVID-safe in early childhood education and care.

Based on Public Health, Workplace Health and Safety and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidance for education and care and child care we recommend:

  • unwell staff, children and visitors are advised to stay home
  • consider reduced mixing of children by separating them into groups (including the staggering of meal and play times)
  • enhanced personal hygiene for children, staff and parents, including having liquid soap and running water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser available
  • full adherence to the NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines, with additional daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces and washing of toys and play items
  • excursions only to be undertaken when risk mitigation strategies, including consideration of risks associated with COVID-19, are in place
  • influenza vaccinations for children, staff and parents will be encouraged.

Should I send my child to child care?

Children should not be sent to Education and Care services if they feel unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms including:

  • fever
  • runny nose
  • cough, sore/itchy throat or
  • shortness of breath

Children should stay home and you should phone your GP or the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 for a referral to be tested for COVID-19. Children should only be returning to Education and Care once their cold/flu like symptoms have passed.

If your child has serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000).

For more information

Education and Care Unit (Department of Education)
Phone: 6165 5425
Email: ecu.comment@education.tas.gov.au