COVID-19 coronavirus: Advice for schools and education sector

Advice for the schools and education sector for COVID-19 coronavirus.

Last updated: 29 March 2020 at 7.56am

Teachers and school staff play a significant role as part of WA’s education system – with over 450,000 students across more than 1100 WA schools.

Education staff are continuing to ensure the best learning outcomes for all students in a professional and calm manner in the face of what remains an evolving situation.

The WA Government is  making informed and considered decisions based on expert health advice with the best interests of students and staff in mind, with all health advice and directives given by WA's Chief Medical Officer.

Advice for schools

The following new guidelines are based on the best national medical advice.

  • From Monday, 30 March 2020, the WA Government encourages families to keep their children at home, if they can access the Department of Education’s Learning at home website.
  • Until the the end of Friday, April 3 2020, all children will continue to be taught and teachers and staff will be available at all Western Australian public schools.
  • Formal classes will now finish at the end of Friday, April 3, one week earlier than planned.
  • Teachers and education assistants will use this time to plan and prepare for a new way of teaching from the start of Term 2, with work continuing through the school holidays.
  • From Monday, 6 April 2020 until the end of Thursday, 9 April 2020, arrangements will be in place in schools to supervise children who need to attend school.
  • Parents who need their children to attend school to enable them to maintain employment, and those children in vulnerable families, such as children living with grandparents, are encouraged to continue attend school and can do until the end of Thursday, 9 April 2020.
  • Work will commence during the school holidays, led by Education Ministers from across Australia, to develop a longer term education model for Term 2 and beyond in response to COVID-19. 
    The WA Government will work with key stakeholders on the implementation of this new form of delivery.
  • The State Government continues to base its decisions on the very best national health advice in the nation.
  • It’s important that those who are learning from home abide by all other laws and that includes all recently-introduced social distancing rules.
  • Information for public sector employees surrounding the changes to WA Government school learning is available.

For further information please see the media statement from the Premier and the Minister for Education and Training.

Changes to operations at WA TAFE colleges

Western Australian TAFE Colleges will develop a new delivery approach from Monday 30 March 2020 to 9 April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this period, there will be a temporary pause in face-to-face delivery of most courses as lecturers and non-teaching staff will prepare to move to a new style of training in Term 2.

From Term 2 the blended style of delivery will include learning via online and interactive technologies and face to face delivery where necessary and where adequate social distancing measures can be implemented. This style of delivery is the most appropriate for Vocational Education and Training (VET). Courses that have been delivered exclusively online will continue to do so.

Face-to-face training in essential service courses such as enrolled nursing and aged care will continue. There will also be practical assessments for hospitality/cookery students and final stage apprentices who need to be assessed in a practical workshop. Arrangements for these courses will be modified to ensure safety.

Colleges will stay open and essential student services including student resource areas will remain available with social distance measures applying. The new measures will allow lecturers and non-teaching staff to continue to prepare to move to the new style of training in Term 2 which starts on 28 April 2020.

Students are being emailed and/or sent a text message to inform them how they will be affected by the changes.

For further information please see the media statement from the Minister for Education and Training.

Planning for ongoing student access to learning

The Department of Education is heavily planning how the department can enable students to continue to access their learning.

The Learning at Home website has been developed by education experts to provide parents and students with lessons that are in line with the curriculum.

The website includes more than 150 learning resources, as well as links to sites that provide a multitude of curriculum linked learning activities.

Wellbeing and support

The Learning at Home website  provides advice and resources for parents and carers, educators and students. 

This includes a wide range of resources and information related to the impact of COVID-19 on students’ health and wellbeing and the impact on families.  

It also includes vital information for schools to understand how they can best support students and families to access services and information.  

The website will continue to be updated.

Educators should continue to access the support of school psychologists, school chaplains and Schools of Special Educational Needs.

The School Psychology Service, made up of hundreds of school psychologists with outstanding expertise, are able to help.

Plans are being made to be able to provide this support remotely.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

Staff and students are taking all of the necessary precautions and are:

  • ­washing hands with soap and running water regularly, especially when hands are visibly dirty, before and after eating or prior to food preparation, after going to the toilet, when caring for the sick and after handling animals or animal waste.
  • avoiding using handkerchiefs;
  • coughing and sneezing with a tissue or bent elbow and disposing of used tissues immediately;
  • avoiding touching eyes, mouth and nose; and
  • if unwell, avoiding contact with others.

As per advice received by Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC), schools have also been advised that it is preferable that students bring their own individual water bottles that can be filled from water fountains as necessary. 

This will reduce the need for students to drink directly from fountains. All students should be instructed on safe usage of water fountains e.g. not putting their mouth onto equipment. 

The water fountains will be regularly cleaned and checked that they are working correctly with good pressure.

Changes to residential and agricultural colleges

The WA Government announced that restrictions to WA’s regional areas were set to be enforced to slow the spread of COVID-19 across WA.

  • Based on that and Chief Health Officer’s advice, students at all public boarding and residential facilities are home, or on their way home.
  • Residential facilities had already been progressively reducing the number of boarding students from 23 March 2020.
  • There was a total of 1055 public school students who were boarding at residential colleges, facilities at Agricultural Colleges or a private residential facility.
  • The Department of Education is finalising learning arrangements for the students affected but distance learning will be available from their Learning at home website.
  • The Police Commissioner has currently ordered the closure of all remote communities.
  • The National Cabinet noted on 18 March 2020 that boarding schools are “at high risk of transmission” and encouraged boarding schools and parents to “consider the risks versus the benefits of a student remaining in boarding school”.

Support for older teachers/staff and vulnerable staff members

Schools will continue to manage vulnerable staff members to reduce health risks, especially for those over 60 years of age and those with pre-existing health conditions sensitive to COVID-19.

If employees are unwell then they should stay home or seek medical advice.

If people are concerned about being at work – due to their age or underlying health issues – they should speak to their principal and seek medical advice.

Provision of hygiene to schools and school cleaning

  • Schools are providing soap for students.
  • Flexible arrangements for purchasing cleaning and sanitising products such as hand soap or toilet paper are in place.
  • School principals have been regularly advised that if the school has any issue sourcing products, they should contact the Department of Education for support. The Department of Education has a central bulk order of these products and will arrange for schools to receive it if required.

The WA Department of Health has provided advice to the Department of Education on cleaning protocols.

This advice included a recommended increase in the frequency of cleaning high-contact areas and the types of cleaning chemicals and equipment to be used.

Schools have been advised of the enhanced cleaning requirements, and these new requirements are being put in place.

Provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to school staff

WA Department of Health does not recommend the use of face masks for the general public to prevent the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Schools are required to follow the national precautionary measures, including self-isolation for those who have returned from overseas or been in contact with a confirmed case, and implementing sensible social distancing measures.

Employees should follow health advice about protecting themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.

Education arrangements for WA Year 11 and 12 students

Year 12 students will not be disadvantaged as a result of the events that are unfolding.

It is too early to call if there will be any changes to the ATAR or ATAR examinations.

The authority has processes in place to ensure that students are not disadvantaged as a result of events which are beyond its control.

Infrastructure works at schools

Capital and maintenance works projects at our schools is proceeding as planned.

This includes planned upgrades and improvements, maintenance blitz projects, and ongoing maintenance and repairs.

Schools will advise external contractors who come on site of social distancing, hygiene measures and other advice issued by the Department of Health in relation to COVID-19.

Page reviewed 29 March 2020
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