Staged return to on-site schooling

Following advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer, Victorian schools have returned to on-site schooling.

The return to on-site schooling took place in two stages. This gave the Victorian Chief Health Officer and Government time to monitor and evaluate the effects that the staged return to school has had on the increased movement of people and transmission within the community.

Stage 1: 25 May – 5 June

To support all school staff to prepare for the transition, Monday 25 May was a pupil-free day. This enabled the planning necessary to ensure a successful transition back to school.

Prep – Grade 2,  Senior Secondary (Year 11 and 12) and all students in specialist schools

Students in Prep – Grade 2, Year 11 and 12, and all students in specialist schools returned to on-site schooling on Tuesday 26 May.

The existing remote learning program will not continue for these year levels.

Grade 3 – Year 10 students

Students in Grade 3 – Year 10 who can learn from home must continue to learn from home.

These students will continue to be supported by their school to learn remotely.

Students who are unable to learn from home can continue to attend the supervised program at their school.

School staff

During Stage 1 all school staff are expected to attend on-site.

Staff will not be required to attend school if they have a medical certificate indicating they are unfit for or unable to work.

Staff will be supported to manage their wellbeing through their schools and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Stage 2: from 9 June

All students return to on-site schooling

All students return to on-site schooling. Students in all year levels returned to school.

Further advice on camps, excursions and incursions will be provided before the start of Term 3.

Schools will no longer offer a remote learning program. All students are expected to return to on-site schooling. Contact your school if your child will be absent for health or medical reasons.

School staff

All staff will continue to attend on-site. Staff will continue to be supported to manage their wellbeing through their schools and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Beyond Stage 2

Outdoor education schools and camps, leadership schools, the Victorian School of Languages (VSL) and community language schools (CLSs) will remain closed for face-to-face provision. 

The only exception will be for VCE students attending the VSL and CLSs. Further advice about their operation will be provided prior to the commencement of Term 3.

Return to school operations guide 

The Department has developed a Return to School Operations Guide (login required) to support schools manage the return to on-site schooling.

The guide includes key operational information and advice to help guide school leaders in implementing a successful return to face-to-face teaching in the classroom.

Essential actions during the staged return

Cleaning

Schools will be supported to implement enhanced cleaning, including cleaning throughout the day of high-touch surfaces such as bathrooms and door handles.

Physical distancing

The school workforce will be supported to practise physical distancing, but physical distancing is not considered necessary between students in the school setting.

Hygiene

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

Health and safety

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

Health and safety advice for the return to on-site schooling

This health and safety advice supports schools to continue to provide safe teaching and learning environments for staff and students as schools transition back to on-site schooling.

Employee health, safety and wellbeing support

Find information on the supports and structures available to schools to help implement health and safety guidelines and advice.

COVID-19 employee health, safety and wellbeing supports for schools

School staff returning to work on-site and exemptions

From and including Monday 25 May, all teachers and school staff were expected to attend work on-site. The only exceptions was staff who met the criteria set by the Victorian Chief Health Officer and outlined below:

  • aged 70 years and over
  • aged 65 years and over and have chronic medical conditions
  • of any age and have a compromised immune system
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and are aged over 50 with chronic medical conditions.

Teaching face-to-face

All staff returned to on-site schooling for a pupil-free day on Monday 25 May.

Students in Prep, Grade 1, Grade 2, Year 11 and 12, and specialist schools, returned to face-to-face teaching on Tuesday 26 May.

Continuing to provide remote learning from school

Staff teaching all other year levels will continue to provide remote and flexible learning, but from school rather than from home.

Teachers with school-aged children

Between Tuesday 26 May and Tuesday 9 June, where teachers returning to school have school-aged children in Grade 3 to Year 10 for whom at-home arrangements cannot be made, those children could attend the school at which they are enrolled.

Pre-service teachers

Pre-service teachers undertaking placements will be able to attend on-site schooling from Monday 25 May.

How this approach applies to other educational institutions

English Language Schools and English language centres will follow the same staged return as mainstream schools.

The following will reopen for on-site schooling when operationally possible:

  • Tech Schools
  • science and maths specialist centres
  • the Victorian School of Languages (VSL)
  • Saturday language classes
  • community language school (CLS) classes
  • outdoor centres
  • camps
  • leadership schools.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for school staff

The Victorian Government has introduced a voluntary School Staff Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing Scheme for all school staff from 13 May to 26 May 2020.

This is in addition to widespread testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) available to the community.

Staff can volunteer for testing if they do or do not have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Find out more about the Victorian School Staff Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing Scheme.

Assessment guidance for returning to the classroom

As students return to the classroom, teachers are encouraged to undertake assessment to inform their teaching and learning program. Teachers may need to revisit or amend existing assessment schedules and activities.

Find out about assessment guidance for returning to the classroom.

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. However, 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. 

Collaborative approach

To support the return to on-site schooling for students with disability or additional needs and their families, work together to address any concerns:

  • establish or reconvene a Student Support Group (SSG) to step out the phases of returning to on-site schooling. Identify and plan responses for areas of concern and need, particularly for building confidence.
  • develop or update an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to reflect any changes in the student's learning or support needs at this time. 
  • establish a "check-in process" that supports the parent or carer know how their child is progressing throughout the day.
  • talk about the health and safety actions for schools.

Parents or carers of students with complex medical needs (including those with compromised immune systems), should seek advice from the student's medical practitioner to support decision-making about whether on-site education is suitable, noting that this advice may change depending on the status of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Victoria. This is in line with the DET Health Care Needs policy.

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:

  • identify a member of staff that the student can talk to during the school day.
  • lunchtime clubs (chess, Lego, drama, music).
  • a buddy system or other existing peer-led social supports.
  • a quite space such as the library for book discussion or story telling.

Additional support

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 parents and students, returning to school may take time. Different reasons may contribute to reluctance or concern. Schools will play a key role in supporting parents or carers to access further support if needed.