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Covid contingency proposal for NSW schools revealed

August 18, 2021

Original Article:

SCHOOLS will be given the power to change the date of the HSC trial exams this term in a bid to help principals manage the fallout of homeschooling this term.

That decision was made when the NSW Education Standards Authority Covid Response Committee met this week ahead of the government’s decision to make students learn from home.

It comes after parents were told they would have to homeschool their children next week as the state extends its lockdown by another week.

“Schools have the flexibility to change their Year 11 and HSC assessment programs to accommodate the impact of COVID. Trial HSC exams are part of the school assessment program,” a NESA spokeswoman said.

“The NESA COVID-19 Committee is closely monitoring the situation and will communicate updated advice as needed to principals and the school community.”

The 2021 language orals, performance, practical and written HSC exams are on track to go ahead as scheduled.

One plan discussed among sector leaders was to code students by their geographical location and case numbers so all schools would not have to close like they did last year.


Schools will be given a rating between one and four ranking them in terms of risk of students contracting Covid as part of a plan expected to be announced on Wednesday to manage the risk of coronavirus in schools.

Under the proposal, schools will either be given a ranking of one and operate as business-as-usual or given a rating of four with all students learning from home, according to an email sent from Catholic Schools NSW CEO Dallas McInerney on Friday to school and system leaders and obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

“This risk based model contemplates a sliding scale where schools are categorised on a scale from one to four; Level 1 being normal operations and Level 4 being remote learning,” the email said.

“Unlike the last lockdown, schools will be subject to differentiated and/or tiered requirements with respect to COVID related restrictions. Mainly determined by their school location.”

The email said official advice was likely to be issued on Wednesday. It is understood the rankings would not be issued for individual schools but rather every school in a geographical zone would be issued with one rating.

It also noted that Catholic Schools head office was “stressing to government officials that this information and clarity is required sooner rather than later to allow schools and systems to make appropriate arrangements.”

The plan is understood to have been devised by the heads of the public, independent and Catholic school system chiefs and still requires sign-off from NSW Health.

Catholic Schools chief Dallas McInerney declined to comment when contacted about his email but Association of Independent Schools NSW chief Dr Geoff Newcombe said the rating a school received would be based on whether or not a school was in or outside of metropolitan Sydney.

“If schools go back next week, there may be different levels of restriction in place based on a school’s location. That may be defined by local government area or whether a school is inside or outside the Sydney metropolitan area,” he said.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was planning for students to return next Monday but would not reveal details of how that would work.

“NSW Health and the Department of Education are currently working on a number of contingency plans to achieve this,” she said.

South Coogee mum Davina Zanet endorsed the plan to rank schools and close them completely where necessary because she had seen how fast the virus spread among eastern suburbs children at the end of last term.

“It is different this time around, because the delta variant is getting into the schools, there are more cases in schools around us,” she said.

She faces homeschooling her daughters Ruby, 8, and Lilly 10, who attend St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Maroubra —while also looking after her son Leo, 5.

“It is hard because I have different aged girls in different years and I have a toddler as well and I work from home,” she said.

While parents were encouraged to stay away from schools from most of last year, Sydney Catholic Schools executive director Tony Farley used his LinkedIn account on Sunday to spruik schools as the “obvious” place to house vaccination hubs for students and their families.

“The benefit of having temporary vaccination hubs in schools for that school community, is that our staff must be there at all times and do not have the flexibility that may exist in other workplaces to quickly leave and return for the purposes of a vaccination,” he wrote.

When contacted by The Daily Telegraph on Monday, Mr Farley said the sites would help vaccinate students and their families only and “would be conducted under the strict guidance and direction of NSW Health to ensure the safety of all.”

But the Independent Education Union secretary Mark Northam had “considerable reservations” about the idea.

“Inviting parents and carers into schools for vaccinations seems fraught with risk – it would only take one person with the virus to disrupt the entire school,” he said.


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