Physical distancing, health and hygiene

Wearing face coverings in schools

Based on advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government announced that from 11.59pm Sunday 2 August, all Victorians over the age of 12 must wear a face covering when they leave their home.

Face coverings and going to school

If your child is aged 12 and over they will need to wear a face covering. This includes going to and from school.

If you have difficulty getting a face covering, your child’s school may be able to provide you with one.

Some children do not have to wear a facing covering in school. This includes children who:

  • attend primary school for on-site supervision
  • are aged 12 by Year 6
  • have a medical condition such as problems with their breathing, a serious skin condition on the face, a disability or a mental health condition. This includes children who attend specialist schools.

School drop off and pick up

You must wear a face covering when you drop off or pick up your child.

More information about face coverings

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website has advice about face coverings, including:

  • different types that can be used
  • how to make your own
  • how to safely wear and safely remove.

Students with medical needs

Children with complex medical needs should seek advice before returning to face-to-face learning

If your child has complex medical needs (including those with compromised immune systems) you are encouraged to talk to your medical practitioner to find out if your child is suitable for on-site schooling.

If your child cannot attend school for medical reasons

Schools will continue to support children who cannot attend for medical reasons with learning materials and guidance.

Remote learning will remain available for children with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.

Schools may need to work one-on-one with you to help manage your child's risk, and if or when your child returns to school. Extra measures, such as of additional hand sanitiser or providing hand hygiene reminders or assistance, may need to be put in place to support vulnerable children.

Supporting children with disabilities with personal care needs

Physical distancing is not practical when providing direct care. In this situation, standard precautions, including hand hygiene, are important for infection control.

Staff will be required to wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after performing routine care and other close interactions with children in the classroom environment and make sure environmental cleaning where relevant.

Schools will make hand sanitiser available at school entrances and in classrooms where personal care needs are provided.

Additional personal protective equipment (PPE), for example face masks, is not required to provide routine care for children who are well, unless such precautions are usually adopted in the routine care of an individual student. 

Physical distancing in schools

Safety of students mixing with other students

Evidence shows that transmission in the school environment is mainly from adult to adult and children are less likely to contribute significantly to disease spread. On this basis, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) does not believe venue density restrictions or maintaining 1.5 metres between students is appropriate or practical in classrooms and corridors but does recommend physical distancing for adults.

Schools will implement strategies to reduce the need for close contact between adult members of the school community.

Reducing mixing between different cohorts of students is recommended as a precautionary measure to minimise risk of spread of transmission and aid containment in the rare event of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) on-site.

Schools can implement some practical measures around physical distancing for children, such as spacing out queues of children coming into classrooms or staggering play times to avoid mixing between different year levels and classes.

Safety of staff and parents mixing with each other

The main risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the school environment is between adults. Staff and parents will be required to practise physical distancing and avoid long periods of time in close contact with other adults.

In schools where there is any risk of congregation at school entry and exit points, schools should introduce staggered drop off and pick up times.

You should enter the school grounds only when essential and minimise your time and practise physical distancing when onsite.

Risk minimisation and personal protection

Health protection measures for on-site schooling

It remains important that physical distancing for adults and strict hygiene measures for everyone continue to be observed.

The following is a summary of the key advice:

  • adjustments to teaching and learning environments, including maintaining distance of 1.5 metres between adults where possible, maximising air flow, using outdoor spaces and staggering break times
  • attendance on school sites by non-essential visitors and parents will be limited
  • hygiene requirements including handwashing will continue to be practiced
  • any staff member or any child who is unwell must not attend school on-site.

Health and hygiene

Medical certificates when returning to school

You will not need to provide a medical certificate for your child to attend an education setting.

No child should attend school if they are unwell

Anyone who is unwell should not attend school, including staff, you or your child.

If your child attends while unwell, they will be sent home.

Checking temperatures

Based on guidance from the Victorian Chief Health Officer, in order to support community awareness of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and to help identify children displaying symptoms, all schools will start temperature screening of children while the stay at home restrictions are in place.

Hygiene practices introduced at schools

Staff and children will be encouraged to wash their hands often. If soap and water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitiser will be used.

Age-appropriate hygiene practices will be encouraged for all government school children. For younger children this includes:

  • teaching them how to wash hands properly and other hygiene habits
  • supervision of handwashing where possible to make sure children are doing it properly
  • making sure children wash their hands when they enter the school, regularly throughout the day and before and after eating.

All children and school staff will be reminded to wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser on arrival and regularly throughout the day.

Children will be asked to:

  • cough into their elbows or a tissue
  • place used tissues straight into the bin
  • avoid touching eyes, noses or mouths
  • not share food or drink
  • not use water fountains or bubblers directly
  • make sure they practice strict hygiene when preparing their food.

Cleaning supplies and hand sanitiser

We have been delivering hand sanitiser to all government schools and, where required, can help schools with access soap and other products.

School cleaning and use of facilities

Environmental cleaning in schools

To make sure schools are as safe as possible, the Victorian Government will invest up to $45 million for enhanced cleaning that will occur every day at every government school across the state for all of Term 2 and Term 3.

This will help to reduce the spread of viruses and germs in schools and will include the cleaning of frequently used high-touch surfaces.

This will provide progressive cleaning of high-touch points and other surfaces throughout the day, requiring an additional six hours of cleaning per day (for an average-sized school).

Use of playground equipment and cleaning

Until further notice, all schools:

  • can make playground equipment available for children during school hours. However, children should practice hand hygiene before and after use.  Playgrounds should be wiped down as part of enhanced cleaning where practical.
  • should not make playgrounds available for community use. Community groups cannot use school facilities (indoor or outdoor).

Water fountains

Children should not drink directly from drinking fountains at this time. Taps may be used to refill water bottles.

Your child should bring their own water bottle for use (and refilling) at school.

Changes to routine care or emergency first-aid

Staff will follow the schools standard precautions including hand hygiene when providing routine care or first-aid assistance to children. This includes when they need to come into physical contact with a child (for example: the use of gloves for nappy changing, assisting with toileting or feeding, attending to a cut or disposing of a child's tissue).