Updated: 26 June 2020

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Phase Four in Catholic schools

When will Phase Four begin?

Phase Four begins in Catholic schools on Monday 29 June. All students in Western Australia are required to attend school unless they are unwell or have a medical referral to engage in their learning from home.

As the health and safety of all students and staff remains our highest priority, additional cleaning and hygiene regimes are in place and some school practices have been altered to ensure adherence to the physical distancing requirements of 2m2.

Knowing this is a uniquely challenging time for all of us, Catholic schools will continue to focus on the care and wellbeing of students, staff and families as we journey together to manage the risks of COVID-19 in our community.

Who is required to attend school?

All students are required to attend school unless they are unwell, have a medical referral to learn from home or live with a family member who is medically vulnerable.

Students with a medical condition Students may continue to learn from home if they are immune-compromised or are otherwise considered at-risk medically.

  • Parents who plan to keep their child home to continue learning remotely are asked to seek medical advice and will be required to provide medical evidence to the school. Students approved to learn from home will continue to be supported in their learning.
  • Where a student’s pre-existing medical condition is already known to the school, no medical evidence is required.
What if my child is unwell?

Students who are unwell should stay home. Parents are asked to seek medical advice if their child exhibits symptoms of COVID-19. Normal processes for advising the school of a child’s absence will apply for any parent who keeps their child home.

What if we have a medically vulnerable family member?

Students may continue to learn from home if a member of their immediate family is immune-compromised or medically vulnerable.

  • Parents who plan to keep their child home to continue learning remotely are asked to contact the school Principal and provide medical evidence to support their request.

Sending children to school

Why is it important for children to attend school?
  • WA’s Chief Health Officer wrote to all schools in April to confirm that schools are safe for staff and students and from Week 4, Monday 18 May 2020, all students are required to attend school.
  • It is important for students to be physically connected with their school, staff and classmates.
  • Every day away from engaged learning has a negative impact on student outcomes.
  • The School Education Act 1999 states the requirement that: A student must attend on the days on which the school is open for instruction.
  • When a student is enrolled in a school, it is compulsory for them to attend every day of the instructional program.
  • Students whose parents and carers choose to keep them at home, without medical reason, will be marked as absent.
  • All the evidence supports regular attendance as being critical to educational outcomes. There is no educationally safe level of absence.
Should parents and caregivers enter schools when they drop off and collect their child?

Parents and caregivers are able to enter school grounds to drop off and collect their children and to attend scheduled meetings with staff. Parents should enter classrooms with the approval of their principal and at the invitation of their child's teacher. 

What if parents and caregivers need to enter school sites outside of dropping off or collecting their child?

All visitors with a lawful purpose are allowed onto the school grounds. Physical distancing with a 2m2 rule per adult and good hygiene practices apply. All official visitors are required to sign in.

Will schools provide learning programs for students at home without a medical referral?

No. For students who are absent without a medical referral, there is no expectation for the school to continue to provide learning programs or work packages. Students approved to learn from home will continue to be supported in their learning.

Will I have to pay school fees if I am facing significant financial stress due to COVID-19?

The ongoing enrolment of every child in our school is guaranteed, regardless of a parent’s financial circumstances. 

If parents or caregivers have concerns in this regard, please contact your school Principal directly to confidentially discuss financial support arrangements. 

For more information on the options, which are immediately available to all families with children in Catholic schools, please click here

Health and hygiene practices in schools

How will you keep my child safe?

The health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff will remain our highest priority.  

Catholic schools will continue to review and respond to cleaning and hygiene protocols in line with advice from the Department of Health.

Additional cleaning regimes are in place in all schools and will continue in Phase 4. Cleaning guidelines are based on, and continuously reviewed in line with, advice from the Department of Health.  

Playgrounds are open and play equipment is being cleaned in accordance with the AHPPC guidelines. When accessing playgrounds students will be reminded to focus on hygiene and wash hands before and after using this equipment. 

Schools will adhere to all previously published requirements to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff is maintained, including physical distancing practices for supervisors and staff. 

Child protection measures will also continue to be at the forefront of all undertakings and staff will be adhering to their Code of Conduct obligations, as always. 

Unwell students or staff are to remain at home until they are well.  

What if there is a confirmed case in a school or our school community?

In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19, any temporary school closure will be advised by the Department of Health and the school will enact its Six Step Response Plan before the school is reopened. All Catholic schools in Western Australia have dedicated School Response Plans which contain detailed information about how they are to respond to a confirmed case in their school or school community. Each school has formed an Incident Response Team and have been provided with a detailed Resource Pack to help them deal with a confirmed case. 

Rest assured that the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff is our highest priority. All schools have additional cleaning measures in place and unwell students or staff are to remain home until they receive a medical clearance to attend school. Schools are ensuring arrangements are in place for regular and thorough handwashing. Posters and information are being displayed on the school grounds.

All Catholic schools continue to review and respond to cleaning and hygiene protocols in line with advice from the Department of Health.

Which school activities will take place?

Incursions

All incursions may proceed with supervisors/staff maintaining physical distancing of one person per 2m2.

Interschool activities

All inter-school activities can occur, with good hygiene practices encouraged and adult visitors maintaining physical distancing of one person per 2m2.

School sport

Contact sport and training is permitted and equipment may be shared.  Regular cleaning of equipment will be undertaken and good hygiene practices including hand-washing encouraged before and after sport.

Excursions

Excursions can occur, with supervisors/staff maintaining physical distancing of one person per 2m2.

Camps

Schools will be following CEWA excursion policies, developing mitigations that lower the risk of transmission and promote good health, hygiene and physical distancing within the camp facility. Schools will also be ensuring camp providers comply with WA COVID-19 Health Guidelines.

Work Placements

Work placements will recommence with schools conducting work placement risk assessments and ensuring employers comply with WA COVID-19 Health guidelines.

Assemblies and school community events

All adult visitors and staff attending assemblies and other school community events should maintain physical distancing of one person per 2m2.

Choir

Schools will be encouraging good hygiene practices including handwashing before and after lessons and physical distancing of one person per 2m2 will apply.

What about school facilities such as the canteen, library and swimming pool?

School canteen

School canteens will continue to provide takeaway service and can now provide a full dine-in service. Canteens need to ensure they are maintaining physical distancing requirements of one person per 2m2.

School library

Library access should be managed to ensure supervisors/staff maintain physical distancing of one person per 2m2 and good hygiene practices are in place.

Swimming pool

Good hygiene practices and physical distancing of one person per 2m2 apply.

Is the uniform shop open?

Uniform shops may now open to parents and caregivers where the school can assure adherence to physical distancing requirements of 2m2, enhanced cleaning of used areas and minimise contact with the broader school population.

Where a school operates a uniform shop, increased cleaning and hygiene practices must be put in place to ensure that the uniform shop meets the required AHPPC guidelines.

Frequently asked questions

Should schools be using hand sanitiser?
  • Good hygiene practices include washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser.
  • The AHPPC Guidelines advises that everyone must practise good hygiene to protect against infection and prevent the spread.  Staff and students should wash hands or use hand sanitiser when entering school and at regular intervals throughout the day.
What is the level of risk (of transmission) in having students closer than 1.5m in classrooms?
  • The WA Chief Health Officer letter that was sent to schools states that school staff and students are not at an increased risk of COVID-19 by physically attending school. 
  • There have been no cases of student-to-student transmission in WA and no cases of student-to-teacher transmission. 
  • National Health guidelines provide a range of practical strategies for school staff to reduce even further the relatively low risk of COVID-19 in schools.
Is having students sit in rows facing forward, safer than having students sitting in groups?
  • Practising physical distancing and minimising risk can include activities such as rearranging desks to maximise and increase space where possible.
  • The explicit teaching of good personal hygiene is a strategy that minimises transmission. This includes; explaining to students why they should not share equipment, washing hands frequently, coughing into elbows and appropriate disposal of tissues.
Lots of schools have double desks. Are students safe to sit at these?
  • Yes. Students can sit at double desks.
  • Students should be encouraged to reduce contact by avoiding direct physical contact and practising regular and thorough hand hygiene.
There is lots of talk about students being “asymptomatic carriers and transmitters.” Is there truth in this?
  • The WA Chief Health Officer letter that was sent to schools states there have been no cases of student to student transmission in WA and no cases of student to teacher transmission. 
  • The greatest risk of transmission in the school environment is between adults. Current Australian research show there is very limited transmission child to child or child to adult. 
  • Staff and parents alike should maintain physical distancing between themselves and each other at school. Reducing contact between staff in common areas and the staff room can also be implemented.  
Are 17yo and 18yo students (Years 11 and 12) at greater risk of transmission as they are almost adults?
  • The WA Chief Health Officer recognises that there are 17 and 18 year old students enrolled at schools in Western Australia. The advice sent to schools includes this age group. The risk of transmission in this age group is low.  
  • Health guidelines and the number of cases identified indicate persons 25 years and over are at greater risk. 
  • Some people are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from the infection. These groups include people 70 years and over, people 65 and over with certain chronic medical conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50 with chronic medical condition and all people with compromised immune systems. The Department of Health has more information on this.
Should smaller rooms, such as music practice rooms, be closed off?
  • No.
  • Children are at low risk of transmission of the virus to other children and adults.
  • Adults should maintain physical distancing of two square metres per person and good hygiene practices and regular cleaning regimes should be followed.
Is it ok for students to participate in non-contact physical education?

Yes, and students may now also participate in contact sports and play to support the mental health and wellbeing of students.  

Students are normally in a classroom sitting next to each other for two hours at a time. Is there a maximum time limit students should be inside together?
  • There is no prescribed time limit to students being inside together.
  • The number of other students that each student has contact with each day should be limited where possible.   Students should remain with their class group as much as practicable. 
  • Limiting physical contact and practising good hand hygiene remains the key areas of focus for students. 
Early childhood students are not able to physically distance and frequently touch each other’s equipment, what level of risk is there in this?

The WA Chief Health Officer letter which was sent to all school staff states: 

  • Schools are safe for staff and students and should stay open.
  • School staff and children are not at increased risk of COVID-19 by physically attending school.
  • There have been no cases of student-to-student transmission in Western Australia and no cases of student to teacher transmission. 
  • There is a relatively low risk of COVID19 transmission in schools.
  • Age appropriate hygiene practices may be taught to support students to increase their own personal hygiene routines. 
  • Extra precautions can be taken including increasing cleaning of high touch surfaces and equipment, reducing the sharing of equipment and teaching personal hygiene routines. 
How will physical distancing be enforced for those students at schools?
  • The WA Chief Health Officers letter sent to all schools’ states that adult staff appear to play a role in both the introduction and, to a greater extent than children, the transmission of the virus in education settings. 
  • Schools should focus on implementing physical distancing requirements for staff. 
  • Children are at low risk of transmission of the virus to other children and adults. 
  • The AHPPC guidelines have been prepared to guide decisions made by schools to implement as far as possible practical and reasonable measures given the limitation of the school environment. 
  • The AHPPC guidelines state that the more distance between people the harder it is for the virus to spread.
  • Schools will implement practical strategies to reduce physical contact among students. 
  • This might include floor markings to identify the appropriate space between people, recess and lunch breaks in different locations around the school, use alternative locations within the school to deliver classes, and potentially spreading classes over a number of classrooms where student numbers allow.
  • Communal sharing of resources will need to be reconsidered and avoided if practicable. Students should be encouraged to bring their own equipment and/or schools may allocate equipment to individual students wherever possible. 
How will physical distancing be implemented for staff?
  • Staff will avoid sharing common items such as cutlery or crockery. 
  • Meetings will take place only when physical distancing is possible or using alternative methods such as Teams. 
Why are physical distancing restrictions in place elsewhere, yet hundreds of students and teachers can go back to school?
  • There have been no cases of student-to-student transmission in Western Australia and no cases of student to teacher transmission. 
  • The health advice consistently provided by the AHPPC is that attendance at a school campus for education represents a very low risk to students.
  • The AHPPC position is that schools can safely operate if practical measures are put in place to minimise transmission of COVID-19. These measures include:
  • reducing physical contact
  • enhancing personal hygiene practices
  • strengthening cleaning standards in schools.

WACE and NAPLAN

What happens if the WACE gets interrupted? 

Students in Years 11 and 12 are a priority and the School Curriculum and Standards Authority (SCSA) has made it clear that any disruption to learning caused by COVID-19 will not impact on the end of school outcomes for any student. 

What about NAPLAN?

All NAPLAN testing has been cancelled for 2020

 

Parents and Carers

What can parents and carers do to help?

Parents and caregivers can help by: 

  • Letting your school know if your child is unwell
  • Letting your school know if your child will be engaging in teaching and learning at school or from home if they have a medical referral to learn from or live with a family member who is medically vulnerable
  • making sure your school have the correct contact details for your family
  • making sure you’ve installed your school’s communication apps on your device
  • encouraging your child to practice good hygiene, at home and at school 
How can I talk to my child about COVID-19?

When talking about coronavirus to your child, make sure it’s in a way that suits their age and development. When you do talk, listen to what’s worrying them and address their concerns.

Take a look at our wellbeing section

More information

  • Visit the Healthy WA COVID-19 website for more information and details about the Novel coronavirus
  • Call the Novel coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
  • For general or travel related queries about Novel coronavirus please go to the healthdirect website
  • You can also visit the World Health Organisation website for more information about the Novel coronavirus and for updates
  • Talk to your local GP or Community Health Centre

Additional support services include: 

  • Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800 
  • Headspace – 1800 650 890
  • Parent Helpline – 1300 1300 52 
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14