Updates & Info for School in 2021

#COVID-19 #advocacy 

Here at VicSRC we’re working hard to bring you the latest information on how the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns are going to affect the rest of the 2021 school year. We’re also doing everything we can to get your voices heard at the highest levels of education decision making. We’ll update this page regularly with all the latest information we have on what’s happening with education and what we’re doing and saying about it on your behalf.

  • Roadmap for return to school

  • Our advocacy to DET

  • New mental health support

Information current as of 3pm Monday 15 November 2021.

Rapid antigen testing

Rapid antigen testing is now available for students who are a close contact for a confirmed COVID-19 case outside the home.

  • The use of rapid antigen testing is voluntary and only necessary for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students.

  • Testing kits will be available through your school, you will not have to buy kits.

  • Using the kits will minimise the amount of time students need to isolate at home after community exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case:

    • Once a student is identified as a close contact they will have to isolate at home for seven days.

    • On day six the student will need to get a standard COVID test at your local testing site.

    • If the test is negative your school will provide you with a supply of rapid antigen testing kits, which come with instructions on how to use them.

    • You will then have to use a kit to test every day before you go to school for days eight to 14 (though not on weekends) and report the results online. If the kit is negative you can go to school, if it’s positive or the kit malfunctions you must return to your local testing site to get another standard COVID test to confirm.

  • If you’ve got any questions about how this will work for you get in touch with your school to inquire about how they’re implementing the policy and continue to follow current health advice – if you’ve got symptoms get tested!

Return to school

All students are currently learning face-to-face unless they have been asked to isolate due to exposure.

Safety precautions

All reasonable safety precautions are being put in place to ensure the safety of students and staff during the return to on-site learning.

Current requirements include:

  • Ensuring everyone onsite meets the vaccine requirements.

  • Taking all steps possible to maximise airflow and ventilation.

  • Ensuring everyone wears their face masks.

  • Implementing staggered start and finish times to prevent large crowds.

  • Maintaining physical distancing and good hygiene practices.

Additional investments and plans being rolled out this term and into 2022 include:

  • $190 million package of initiatives for schools to make them safer.

  • $125 million for air purifiers for Government and low fee Catholic and Independent schools, focussed on higher risk settings.

  • $60 million distributed as grants of up to $25 thousand for Government and low fee Catholic and Independent schools to install shade sails to encourage outdoor learning.

  • Ventilation in schools with more C02 monitoring coming over Term 4.

  • Required vaccination for all staff at all schools across sectors, first dose by 18 October – this is a directive from the Chief Health Officer.

  • Still waiting for approval from TGA for at home antigen testing.

Meeting with the Minister for Education

On Tuesday 7 September VicSRC released a statement calling for greater inclusion of student voice in planning for the remainder of the 2021 school year along with three recommendations from students and a petition supporting those recommendations.

As a result of the support for this petition we met with the Department of Education and Training and VCAA on Thursday 17 September to talk about student recommendations and the rest of the 2021 school year. A huge thank you to all the students who provided feedback and insight for this meeting, because of you we were able to bring lots of different student voices and opinions to the table. Read about what we talked about and the outcomes here.

New mental health support

On Wednesday 15 September the Minister for Education (and Mental Health) announced new support through the ongoing mental and public health crises. You can read the original press release here but we’ve included the key points below.

  • The Government is putting more money into immediate mental health support to combat the current mental health crisis.

  • The plan is to establish local, accessible services in communities and reduce the burden on emergency departments. This will be done in partnership with existing community health providers.

  • There are going to be 20 pop-up services around the state.

  • The roll out began at the end of September across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

  • There is also more money going into support for specific groups who are at higher risk including money for existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Controlled Health Organisations, support for parents whose children are experiencing anxiety and peak LGBTIQ+ community organisations.

This is in addition to the current funding and reform happening in response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

VicSRC is pleased by the new support and eager to see the rollout, particularly in underserved regional areas where it will be extremely helpful to students who are struggling with their mental health.

We will update as further information becomes available. As always if you have any questions feel free to get in touch at [email protected]