Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education James Merlino today announced a plan to keep education settings open while taking every measure to protect children and Educators – with surveillance testing, ventilation, vaccinations and comprehensive workforce planning to ensure a successful 2022 school year.
Key Factors include:
Free rapid antigen tests (RATs)
- Will be delivered to all children’s services, including OSHC
- For the first month, services will receive enough tests so staff can test twice per week (note: this is a voluntary scheme – services don’t have to test if they don’t wish to)
- The Department of Education and Training (DET) will estimate the number of staff in each service according to the number of enrolled children – if your service doesn’t have enough RATs, you can speak to your provider to find out if they have received any extra or get in touch with DET to enquire about the possibility of getting more
- Services don't have to record or report negative tests, but staff who test positive do need to report this to the service for them to action
- At this point, the scheme will not cover children attending early childhood education and care
- Staff are exempt from wearing a mask when working with children (although they can choose to wear one if that is their preference)
- It is recommended that asymptomatic close contacts who choose to return to work under the new close contact isolation exemption rules wear a close-fitting mask (this doesn’t have to be an N95 mask)
- DET are asking services to encourage staff to get their booster as soon as possible
Boosters will be mandatory for children’s services staff by Feb 25
Services’ Management Of The Situation
- Decisions about closures and isolating staff who are asymptomatic need to be made on a case-by-case basis – DET are trying to avoid rooms or entire services shutting because so many staff are isolating.
The Government will deliver more than 14 million rapid antigen tests to schools and early childhood education and care services, including 6.6 million tests to be delivered in the first week of term.
This surveillance testing will be strongly recommended for all primary and secondary school students and staff, and early childhood education and care staff, twice-weekly at home before school or childcare.
School and early childhood staff will be added to the list of workers in key sectors who must receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 25 February if they are already eligible, or within 3 months and 2 weeks of receiving a second dose to continue working in education settings.
The Government has invested $7.5 million in early childhood services to improve ventilation, alongside a further $7.4 million to support kindergarten services to implement the best COVID Safe measures for their individual settings, keeping children and staff safe.
Keeping Education Open And Safe In 2022, Dan Andrews Media Release, 23 January 2022