Physical distancing, health and hygiene

Students with medical needs

Students with complex medical needs should seek advice before returning to face-to-face learning

While the risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Victorian community is very low, parents or carers of students with complex medical needs (including those with compromised immune systems) are encouraged to consult their medical practitioner to determine the suitability for on-site schooling.

If students cannot attend school for medical reasons, (including a chronic health condition or a compromised immune system) they will be supported

Schools will continue to support students who cannot attend for medical reasons with learning materials and guidance. Remote learning will remain available for students with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.

Schools may need to work one-on-one with the caregivers/parents of vulnerable students to manage their risk, and if/when they return to school. Additional measures, such as the provision of additional hand sanitiser or providing hand hygiene prompting or assistance, may need to be put in place to support vulnerable students if appropriate.

Supporting students with disabilities with personal care needs

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

Staff will be required to always wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after performing routine care and other close interactions with students in the classroom environment and ensure environmental cleaning where relevant.

Schools will make hand sanitiser available at school entrances and in classrooms where personal care needs are provided.

Additional personal protective equipment (PPE), for example face masks, is not required to provide routine care for students who are well, unless such precautions are usually adopted in the routine care of an individual student. 

Physical distancing in schools

Safety of students mixing with other students

Evidence shows that transmission in the school environment is mainly from adult to adult and children are less likely to contribute significantly to disease spread. On this basis, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) does not believe venue density restrictions or maintaining 1.5 metres between students is appropriate or practical in classrooms and corridors but does recommend physical distancing for adults.

Therefore, schools will implement strategies to reduce the need for close contact between adult members of the school community.

Reducing mixing between different cohorts of students is recommended as a precautionary measure to minimise risk of spread of transmission and aid containment in the rare event of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) on-site.

Schools can implement some practical measures around physical distancing for students, such as spacing out queues of children coming into classrooms or staggering play times to avoid mixing between different year levels and classes.

Safety of staff and parents mixing with each other

The main risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the school environment is between adults. Staff and parents will be required to practise physical distancing and avoid long periods of time in close contact with other adults.

In metropolitan and regional schools, and rural schools where there is any risk of congregation at school entry and exit points, schools should introduce staggered drop off and pick up times.

Parents should enter the school grounds only when essential and minimise their time and practise physical distancing when onsite.

Risk minimisation and personal protection

Health protection measures for on-site schooling

The advice of the Victorian Chief Health Officer is clear that it is safe for students and staff to return to school.

Nevertheless, it remains important that physical distancing for adults and strict hygiene measures for everyone continue to be observed.

The following provides a summary of the key advice:

  • Adjustments to teaching and learning environments, including maintaining distance of 1.5 metres between adults where possible, maximising air flow, using outdoor spaces and staggering break times.
  • Attendance on school sites by non-essential visitors and parents will be limited.
  • Hygiene requirements including handwashing will continue to be practiced.
  • Any member of staff or student who is unwell must not attend school on-site.

Wearing face masks

Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others. If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask as there is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public.

It is not recommended that non-medical face coverings (for example, a scarf over the mouth and nose) be used as a mitigation strategy against transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) or other similar communicable diseases, as the use of these has the potential to create more harm than good.

Health and hygiene

Medical certificates when returning to school

Parents and carers will not need to provide a medical certificate for their child to attend an education setting.

No child should attend school if they are unwell

Anyone who is unwell should not attend school, including staff, parents and students.

If a student attends while unwell, they will be sent home in accordance with the Department's regular Infectious Diseases Policy.

Students' temperatures do not need to be checked on their arrival at school

There is no evidence to support temperature screening (e.g. on arrival at school) as an effective strategy in schools at this time.

Hygiene practices introduced at Victorian schools

Frequent handwashing will be encouraged among both staff and students. Where soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitiser will be used.

Age-appropriate hygiene practices will be encouraged for all Victorian government school students. For younger children this will include intentionally teaching handwashing techniques and personal hygiene strategies, supervision of handwashing where possible to support children to do this effectively, and ensuring students wash hands when entering the school, at regular intervals throughout the day and prior to and after eating.

All students and staff will be reminded to wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser on arrival and regularly throughout the day.

Students will be asked to cough into their elbows or a tissue, place used tissues straight into the bin, avoid touching eyes, noses or mouths, not share food or drink, not use water fountains or bubblers directly, and ensure strict hygiene in the preparation of food.  

Cleaning supplies and hand sanitiser

Yes. The Department has been directly delivering hand sanitiser to all government schools and, where required, can assist schools with procurement of soap and other products.

School cleaning and use of facilities

Environmental cleaning in schools

To make sure schools are as safe as possible, the Victorian Government will invest up to $45 million for enhanced cleaning that will occur every day at every government school across the state for all of Term 2 and Term 3.

This will help to reduce the spread of viruses and germs in schools and will include the cleaning of frequently used high-touch surfaces.

This will provide progressive cleaning of high-touch points and other surfaces throughout the day, requiring an additional six hours of cleaning per day (for an average-sized school).

Use of playground equipment and cleaning

School playground equipment can be now be used. However, students should practice hand hygiene before and after use. Like other commonly touched surfaces, playgrounds should be wiped down as part of enhanced cleaning where practical.

Water fountains

Students should not drink directly from drinking fountains at this time. Taps may be used to refill water bottles.

Students should bring their own water bottle for use (and refilling) at school.

Changes to routine care or emergency first-aid

Standard precautions including hand hygiene will be taken, as per normal procedures, for staff  providing routine care or first-aid assistance to students where they need to come into physical contact with a student (for example: nappy changing, assisting with toileting or feeding, attending to a cut or disposing of student's tissues).

Additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), for example face masks, is not required to provide routine care or first aid for students who are well, unless such precautions are usually adopted in the routine care of an individual student.