COVID-19 coronavirus: Education and family advice

Latest information and advice for parents, educators, tertiary institutions and families with children.

Last updated: 28 May 2020 at 7.35am

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Education staff are continuing to ensure the best learning outcomes for all students in a professional manner.

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

On this page you will find advice on:

Advice on schools

All students to return to school

From 18 May 2020, school attendance is mandatory for all students, except those who are medically vulnerable or who have medically-vulnerable family members.

Students and staff who are unwell should stay at home.

A review of expert health and education advice and extensive stakeholder feedback has confirmed schools remain safe for staff and students and should stay open. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advises of a relatively low risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools, and additional measures have been put in place to reduce the risk further.

There are serious adverse impacts on students from not attending school, particularly those from lower socio-economic status groups. Aboriginal students are also over-represented in the non-attending, non-engaging group.

In addition, the opening of schools contributes significantly to the WA economy and the broader Australian economy ($2.2 billion to the national economy).

Students and staff who are unwell should stay at home.

The Department of Education will implement a targeted plan to support students who cannot attend school because of medical advice, or those disengaged from school. 

Family members and non-essential visitors will should not enter school sites.

Support services and resources will resume in schools (such as essential health or psychosocial care related services, and Schools of Special Educational Needs support therapists). 

Whole school assemblies, camps and interschool activities will still not be permitted. 

For Year 12 students undertaking ATAR courses, the 2020 ATAR course written examination period will go ahead as scheduled from 2 November 2020. 

Written examinations will take the same form as previous years, with a 3-hour duration. 

Teachers will provide parents with reports on their students’ progress in Semester 1, but they will not be required to assign an A-E grade. 

For Year 9 students who were unable to sit the NAPLAN tests this year due to COVID-19, more flexibility will be introduced into the Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment. 

This will give Year 9 students the opportunity to demonstrate the literacy and numeracy standards required to achieve the WA Certificate of Education. 

School boarding reopens

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advised in March that boarding poses higher risks than the school environment, which means protective measures need to be greater than those for schools.

Residential boarding facilities across Western Australia have reopened, where numbers can be safely managed, and health requirements met.

There is a facility-by-facility approach, considering factors including size, capacity, current enrolments and the ability for hygiene requirements to be implemented.

This includes residential boarding colleges and residential boarding available at Colleges of Agriculture.

Year 12 students can return to every public school boarding facility, each of which has Department support to implement all the AHPPC guidelines before opening to students.

This includes additional cleaners, cleaning supplies and staff, with $343,000 being spent on cleaning and supplies.

National Cabinet guidelines must be implemented before students can return to any residential facility.

In line with AHPPC advice on reopening residential college facilities, the WA Government’s COVID-19 roadmap, and stakeholder feedback, boarding students will be able to return home on weekends at the principal's discretion.

The Department of Education has plans to accommodate students who have not yet been able to return to public residential colleges, where possible, in line with current AHPPC advice.

The WA Chief Health Officer will request the AHPPC review the requirements for boarding facilities by Week 7, Term 2 (the week commencing 8 June 2020), so we get all students back as soon as we can.

Students who cannot return to residential colleges will be assisted through one-on-one learning support. This is in addition to the distance learning packages already provided by each individual college.

Research study to track impact of COVID-19 in schools

The WA Government is partnering with the Telethon Kids Institute in a study to test for COVID-19 among school students and staff without symptoms.

This forms part of the DETECT program, a WA Government initiative which brought together some of WA’s leading researchers to design a population study examining the prevalence of COVID-19 in key community sectors.

The study will also provide greater certainty around possible transmission of the disease in schools.

While there is currently no evidence of community spread, and schools are considered low risk environments, it’s hoped the DETECT study will assist in developing an even stronger evidence base for policy decisions.

80 public schools, education support centres, and residential colleges from the metropolitan area and regional WA will initially participate. They reflect a range of socio-economic, educational, and cultural backgrounds.

Participation is voluntary and requires the consent of staff, and by parents on behalf of their child or children. Parents will be advised of the outcome of tests.

For further information view the research study to track impact of COVID-19 in schools media release.


Provision of hygiene to schools and school cleaning

Cleaning

In total, $43 million will be spent on additional cleaning in schools (cleaners, additional cleaning products and personal protective equipment).

All schools have cleaning staff during the school day to regularly clean and disinfect high-contact surfaces and areas frequently used by students or staff.

Playgrounds are open and equipment is cleaned before school and after each break.

Hygiene

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised:

  • The ‘venue density rule’ (no more than 1 person per 4 square metres) is not appropriate or practical in classrooms or corridors, nor is maintaining 1.5m between students during classroom activities.
  • They don’t recommend non-medical face coverings to protect against transmission of COVID-19 or similar communicable diseases. Good hygiene and cleaning practices are more important.
  • Schools shouldn’t do wide-scale temperature checking of students, due to limited evidence demonstrating the value of such checks.

Schools are implement the following:

  • increased environmental cleaning throughout the day, including high touch surfaces and playground equipment
  • parents and visitors may not enter grounds
  • additional hygiene measures, including encouraging handwashing
  • school swimming pools remain closed
  • no excursions, assemblies, camps or interschool activities
  • canteens are takeaway only.

Schools can stagger start, break and meal times to reduce contact and practise physical distancing in common areas. Schools can also combine year groups and deliver classes in alternative locations within school boundaries.


Support for older teachers/staff and vulnerable staff members

The Department will follow National Cabinet's advice, which endorsed the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee's (AHPPC) advice on vulnerable people in the workplace. This specifies that the following people are, or are likely to be, at higher risk of serious illness if infected with COVID-19:

  • people 70 years and older
  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • Aboriginal people 50 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • those with compromised immune systems.

Staff in any of these categories or with underlying health issues should seek medical advice and advise their principals so they can by make alternative arrangements for these staff to minimise risks.


Wellbeing and support

The Learning at home website has advice and resources for parents, carers, educators and students.

This includes resources and information regarding:

  • the impact of COVID-19 on students’ health and wellbeing
  • the impact on families
  • how schools 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.


Advice for university students and staff

Western Australian universities are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and responding accordingly to ensure the safety of the community.

Please visit your university’s website for more information.


Supporting your children

It’s important children get truthful, reliable information when asking about COVID-19. A resource has been created for you to help explain COVID-19 to your children (PDF 5.4MB) with tips on how to protect you and your family.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People WA has many resources available to support Western Australian children and young people through the pandemic. They can share with the Commissioner how they are staying positive at this time through their DigiMe online app, via email or photos. There is also information on managing changes to daily life during this challenging time, and helpful links for parents, carers and families.

For more information visit Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Child and day care facilities

Child and day care facilities within Western Australia remain open.

Additionally, the Australian Government announced eligible families will receive free child care during the COVID-19 pandemic from 6 April 2020. This supports families and keeps services open for workers and vulnerable families who need them.

For more information visit the Australian Government website.

Family Court of Western Australia

The Family Court of Western Australia has provided an update to its operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These new directions affect court attendance, hearings and administrative services.

Visit the Family Court of Western Australia for more information on these changes.

Page reviewed 28 May 2020
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