Understanding the staged return to on-site schooling

Method and timing of return to on-site schooling

A staged return for all students

On Tuesday 26 May, Prep to Grade 2, Year 11 and 12, and children in specialist schools returned to on-site schooling at government schools.

Vulnerable students in years 3 to 10, and children in those years whose parents or carers cannot work from home, can continue to attend school on-site as needed.

Students in years 3 to 10 will continue to learn remotely until Friday 5 June. This gives the Government and the Chief Health Officer time to monitor and evaluate the effects that the staged return to school by other year levels has on the increased movement of people and transmission within the community.

Two-stage return

Stage 1

26 May to 9 June – all Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2, Year 11 and 12 students, and specialist school students return to on-site schooling at government schools.

Stage 2

9 June onwards – students in years 3 to 10 return to on-site schooling.

Why the two-week timeline

Two weeks before the start of Stage 1 was provided to give schools, teachers and families time to plan and prepare for students to return for on-site schooling.

Preparation in case of a second wave

Conditions in Victoria are being monitored very closely. Any further changes to on-site schooling for Victorian students will be made on the advice of the Chief Health Officer.

Physical distancing between parents and staff

The main risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the school environment is between adults. You and school staff should practise physical distancing and avoid long periods of time in close contact with other adults.

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

To avoid any risk of congregation at school entry or exit points many schools have introduced staggered drop-off and pick up times.

Find out more about physical distancing in schools.

A staged return over a scheduled school day each week

Consultation with the sector has been undertaken, and the clear feedback was that one day a week can create challenges for schools and for families with multiple children.

This approach will help to make sure that we don't overburden schools as they transition back to on-site schooling.

While this might be frustrating for those year levels that have to wait a little longer, schools will continue to support student learning through remote and online delivery.

Supporting students with the greatest need first

Prep to Grade 2

While remote and flexible learning has worked well for autonomous learners, it is challenging for young children who require a high degree of direction, guidance and support. For early years students, establishing foundations of literacy and numeracy has significant long-term benefits for learning outcomes.

Year 11 and 12 students

The transition from secondary school to higher education or work is important for long-term outcomes. Allowing VCE and VCAL students to return to on-site schooling reduces disruption to this transition. This approach also supports VCE students to undertake School Assessed Coursework (CAS) and practical tasks at school.

Specialist school students

Specialist schools provide tailored educational and wellbeing support for students with additional needs.  Returning to on-site schooling will support these students and their learning outcomes.

Remaining students

All remaining students will return to on-site schooling from 9 June onwards.

Decision making

Why schools are safe to return

The advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer is that it is now safe for students, teachers and support staff to return to face-to-face teaching and learning. Very low levels of community transmission of the virus in Victoria, coupled with little evidence of transmission between children in the school environment within Australia and globally, means the risk to staff and students returning to on-site schooling at this time is very low.

The Victorian Chief Health Officer and Victorian Government have approached the return of face-to-face learning and work in Victorian schools with precaution and careful planning. 

Staggering return to school to evaluate the effect

It's important that the Victorian Chief Health Officer has time to monitor and evaluate the effects that the return to school by other year levels has on the increased movement of people and transmission within the community.

The staged return to on-site schooling is consistent with the recommendations of the Victorian Chief Health Officer, for schools to put in place arrangements that enable physical distancing between adults in school and immediately outside the school, including in teaching and learning environments and staff facilities, as well as at times such as school drop-offs and pick-ups.

On-site supervision for children who need it

Vulnerable students in years 3 to 10, and children in those years whose parents or carers cannot work from home, can continue to attend school on-site as needed during this period.

Parents choosing to keep their child at home

Once each year level returns to on-site schooling, schools will no longer offer a remote learning program for those students. If parents choose to keep their child at home, they will be responsible for maintaining student learning.

This does not apply to children who need to be absent for health or medical reasons, such as children with a compromised immune system. For those families, schools will establish a plan to meet their circumstances.

Outside of school hours care (OSHC) operation

Most OSHC programs will continue to operate as normal. Parents are advised to contact their school for more information.

Specialist schools

All students enrolled in specialist schools returned to school on Tuesday 26 May.

Separate arrangements for additional needs students in mainstream schools

Students with additional needs who are in mainstream schools will return to on-site schooling depending on their grade or year level.

In the first stage, students with additional needs who are in Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2, Year 11 and 12 students returned to school on Tuesday 26 May. All other students will return on 9 June.

Students with disability or additional needs

Returning to on-site schooling is exciting for many students, including those with disability or additional needs and their families. Some students may be worried about going back to school, seeing their peers again, or re-joining the busy classroom and playground. Parents or carers may also have concerns about the return to school. 

For students with disability or additional needs, schools and parents or carers will work together with their school to address any concerns.

Talk with your child

You know your child best. Depending on the age and stage of your child's development they will have their own unique ways of showing you that they are anxious or unsettled. They may be as simple as telling you that they have worries about returning to school. Others may have different, non-verbal ways of communicating their feelings with you.

Listen and support them to:

  • understand and break down their feelings.
  • problem solve their responses to the situations if they do arise.
  • let your child know that you will speak with the school to develop a plan to help them.

Make a plan with your child's school

Speak with your child's school about any concerns. 

  • Use the Student Support Group process to develop a plan to make the return to school easier.
  • Together you can update the Individual Education Plan if your child's learning or support needs are different at this time. 
  • With the school, work out a "check-in process" for how your child is progressing throughout the day.

Schools will follow advice for physical distancing, health and hygiene for all students, including those with personal care or medical needs. If your child has complex medical needs, you're encouraged to consult with your medical practitioner so you and the school have current advice.

Things that schools can do

Schools adjust teaching and learning programs to meet students' needs. Schools also help students feel safe and support children to develop friendships. There are a number of different things that schools can do:

  • make sure that your child knows that there is a member of staff that they can talk to if they need help during the school day.
  • lunchtime clubs (chess, Lego, drama, music).
  • a buddy system or other peer-led social supports.

When further help may be required

Just as the transition to learning from home took some time to adjust, the return to school may also require a period of adjustment. For a small group of students, returning to school may take time. Different reasons may contribute to reluctance or concern. Talk to your school if further support is needed.