Here's what you need to know about Victoria and NSW's return-to-school plans

Free rapid antigen tests for high school students are part of NSW's new plan for students and staff to return to school, while booster vaccines will be mandatory for teachers in Victoria.

The NSW government has released a new back-to-school plan as students and staff return to the classrooms.

The NSW government has released a new back-to-school plan as students and staff return to the classrooms. Source: AAP

Children and staff will receive two rapid antigen tests per week in New South Wales under the state government's return-to-school plan.

Face masks will be mandatory for all secondary school students and are highly recommended for students in Year 3 and above.  

Schools will no longer close down if there is a confirmed COVID-19 case in a bid to reduce disruption for students, staff and parents. 

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Visits to schools will be highly limited and excursions and other activities, such as sport, music and camps, will have COVID-19 measures. 

Rapid antigen tests will also be provided to the early childhood education sector, and the mask mandate will apply to childcare staff as well. 

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet revealed the plan on Sunday, saying these measures are similar to those imposed in 2021 but will ensure that children are in a "safe environment". 

"I know many parents are anxious, but ultimately we know that kids do better in the classroom. Some students in our state have already missed a quarter of their schooling," he told reporters.

"It is what is best for mental health and social outcomes."



NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant pleaded to parents to avoid sending their children if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

"Get [your children] tested, and even if they have a negative test on the first day, please keep them home and do a repeat test, and only send them back if there is an alternate diagnosis," she said. 

She conceded that transmission is likely to take place in schools, but there is a "range of protections" that will be put in place to reduce the spread of the virus. 

"We are expecting that with the return of schools and a bit more mobility we might see an uptick in case numbers, but offsetting that, we are getting booster doses into individuals."

Four million rapid antigen tests (RATS) have already been distributed to 3,000 schools across the state, and more than six million RATs will be provided by Tuesday, according to Education Minister Sarah Mitchell. 

Parents are advised to contact their children's schools to find out how to pick up their eligible RATs. 

"We are asking all of our students and staff to test before they come back to school for that first day, and then of course to do those twice-weekly surveillance tests for the first four weeks of term," Ms Mitchell said. 

One thousand teachers - who are final year university students or have come out of retirement - will be available to fill staff shortages in anticipating increased absentees due to COVID-19 isolation requirements. 

If a person does test positive to COVID-19, they must notify their principal and report their infection to NSW Health. 



Booster mandates for Victoria's school staff

Victoria has announced it will be mandatory for all school and early childhood staff to receive a booster COVID-19 vaccine, in line with the health advice provided to the government. 

Staff must receive the booster by 25 February if they are eligible, or by three months and five weeks since they received their second dose. 

RATs will be in place for at least the first four weeks of term one.

Primary and secondary school students and staff, early childhood education, and care staff will be strongly encouraged to take twice-weekly tests before work.

Staff and students at specialist schools will be asked to conduct RATs five days a week and will be provided with increased supply to ensure this is possible.

In addition, a pool of inactive or retired teachers, principals and other education staff are being recruited to plug expected COVID-related gaps in the workforce after term one begins.
Victoria has announced it will be mandatory for all school and early childhood staff to receive a booster COVID-19 vaccine. Source: AAP


Fourteen million RATs are being distributed to schools and early childhood centres, and 6.6 million will be available by the first day of school.  

Victorian public and low-fee independent schools have also been promised 51,000 air purifiers prior to classes resuming.

Music rooms, staff rooms, indoor canteens, sick bays, and other rooms where there is poor ventilation will receive the air purifiers.

"It will not be every single room, in every single school but it will be 51,000. No other jurisdiction is rolling out our purifiers as we are here in Victoria," Deputy Premier James Merlino said. 



The state is on track to have 80 per cent of children aged five to 11 inoculated with a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-February, according to Mr Merlino.

To ramp up these figures, 30 pop-up vaccination clinics will open at public schools across the state throughout the next month. 

Victoria's plan is almost identical to NSW in a collaborated plan between the two states. 

"We think there are some strengths, not just for respective states, but with the strength of the nation and having the two biggest dates on essentially the same plan," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said. 

He said surveillance testing is critical in detecting COVID-19 cases as soon as possible, but accepted it is not perfect. 

"It is about finding as many cases as we can and shutting down those chains of transmission," he said. 

"Nothing is perfect, but through hard work and goodwill I am confident we will get our kids back and we will keep them there and we will keep them as safe as we possibly can." 

In addition, a pool of inactive or retired teachers, principals and other education staff are being recruited to plug expected COVID-related gaps in the workforce after term one begins.

With AAP.


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5 min read
Published 23 January 2022 at 7:41am
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS