COVID-safe return to on campus learning

Today the ACT Government released the details of how all school students will return to on campus learning in term 4. The newly announced arrangements include early childhood education and care and out of school hours care services. This is an important step to support the safety, education and wellbeing of our youngest Canberrans and their families.

The timing of this staged return to school is in line with the ACT’s COVID-19 Pathway Forward. It is designed to align with critical community vaccination rates and the pace of the easing of restrictions in other parts of the ACT community and builds on the previous announcement in relation to years 11 and 12.

From Monday 25 October (week 4, term 4), preschool, kindergarten, and years 1, 2, 6, 9 and 10 can return to on campus learning. These year groups will also be able to attend their usual out of school hours care programs.

Children can also return to early childhood education and care services from 25 October.

From Monday 1 November (week 5, term 4), years 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 can return to on campus learning. All students will be able to attend their usual out of school hours care programs.

Through consultations with over 6,000 students, parents, carers and staff, the government has heard that a phased return should prioritise students in transition years, as well as younger children.

As previously announced, from Tuesday 5 October (week 1, term 4) year 12 students can start returning to on campus learning. Year 11 students can also return to on campus learning from Monday 18 October (week 3, term 4). Some year 11 students can also attend school for essential assessment from 5 October, if that assessment cannot wait until 18 October. Schools are communicating these arrangements directly with students and families.

Health and safety measures will be in place in schools to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including:

  • encouraging vaccination of eligible students, staff and families,
  • mandatory use of the Check In Canberra app for all adults,
  • ensuring fresh air ventilation is optimised in all settings,
  • physical distancing measures for adults, and
  • mandatory mask wearing for staff across all schools, and for students in years 7-12.

Other measures in place will include limiting the mingling of classes and year groups, staggering breaks, increased use of outdoor spaces, limitation of on-site visitors to essential visitors only, environmental cleaning, and high vigilance around not allowing anyone with symptoms of illness to attend.

The approach being taken is informed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advice for minimising COVID-19 transmission in schools and the Chief Health Officer’s Health Guidelines for Schools and Early Childhood Education Services (including out of school hours care).

Each school will have its own site-specific COVID-19 Safety Assurance Plan to meet the local context and curriculum needs.

Thank you to all teachers and school staff for their ongoing hard work during these difficult times. You have gone above and beyond to give Canberra students the best possible learning experience while ensuring their health and safety.

Thank you also to the more than 80,000 students enrolled in schools across the ACT, as well as their parents, families and carers. I know this has been challenging for all of you. Thank you for your patience and resilience.

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