Executive Director’s Update to Principals #88: COVID Update - 30 Sep 2021
God of the crowds crying, ‘crucify!’ God on the cross crying, ‘forgive them’:
by doing and not doing,
we have repeated that Friday scene
in countless ways,
in countless places,
to countless sons and daughters.
We know not what we do
even when we know too well.
We are now facing death in a new way. And human frailty. And human need.
And human solidarity.
Perhaps as we begin to see as you see
the reality of who we are,
we can finally begin to love as you love, answer compassionately the cries we hear, and be able to forgive, ourselves.
~ The Corrymeela Community
Plan for return to on-site learning
Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, James Merlino, has this afternoon announced the plan for the return of on-site learning for schools in regional Victoria. The key points are as follows:
- A staggered return will see all regional students back at school at least part-time within the first two weeks of Term 4.
- From Monday 4 October, all Foundation to Grade 2 and final year students will return to the classroom full-time, as they were at the end of Term 3.
From Wednesday 6 October, once final year students have completed the GAT, regional Year 11 students will also return to prepare for their final assessments and exams.
From Monday 11 October, a staggered approach will apply so all students are back in the classroom at least part-time:
Years 3-4 and 8-9 will attend school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Years 5-6 and 10 will attend on Thursdays and Fridays
Year 7 will return five days a week
From Tuesday 26 October, all students will be back in the classroom full-time.
See full details in the Premier’s media release.
General Achievement Test (GAT)
On Tuesday 5 October, students studying unit 3 and 4 subjects will return for the General Achievement Test (GAT). The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority has written to secondary principals with advice regarding student COVID-19 testing for the GAT.
Updated School Operations Guide
We anticipate that an updated School Operations Guide will be released tomorrow and we will circulate this once it becomes available.
Mandatory vaccination updates
Mandatory Vaccination Directions from CHO
The Victorian Government has now formalised the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine Directions (No. 4). The Directions introduce mandatory vaccination for specific workplace industries to limit the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (COVID-19) within the population in these settings. The Directions by the Chief Health Officer include “education facilities” and therefore mandates that people who work in these settings be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by specified dates.
What is the definition of an education facility?
The Directions define this as:
- a childcare or early childhood service, and includes outside school hours care services;
- a school means a registered school as defined in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006; and
- school boarding premises
Who must be vaccinated under the Directions?
The mandate for vaccination includes:
- any person who is employed by an education operator to work in an “education facility” or school (including teachers, early childhood educators and educational support staff);
- people contracted to work at an “education facility” and who will or may be in close proximity to children, students or staff, whether or not engaged by the education operator, including casual relief teachers, Breakfast Club suppliers, IT personnel, NDIS providers and auditors, but does not include delivery personnel or contractors;
- staff of any other entity who attend an “education facility” eg. CEB staff, priests, DOBCEL board directors;
- volunteers that attend an “education facility” and that work in close proximity to children, students or staff (including parent helpers); and
- students on placements at an “education facility”.
What is the mandated deadline for vaccination?
The Directions mandate a first dose by 25 October 2021 and a second dose by 15 December 2021. All groups identified in the Directions in all Victorian education facilities, including Catholic schools, must comply with the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine Directions and be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by the 15 December deadline unless a medical exemption applies. Individuals will be required to show evidence of their vaccination status or valid medical exemption. This will work similarly to the Working with Children Check/Police Check requirements – staff must be vaccinated to work in any Victorian educational facility, including DOBCEL schools.
What information must the employer collect?
Employers must collect, record and hold the following vaccination information about their vaccination status for all workers scheduled to work at the education facility on or after 18 October 2021. This information must be recorded as one of the following
- fully vaccinated – the person has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine; or
- partially vaccinated – the person has received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and is not an excepted person – and whether the worker has a booking to receive a second dose by 15 December 2021; or
- unvaccinated – the person has not received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and is not an excepted person – and whether the worker has a booking to receive a first dose by 25 October 2021; or
- an excepted person – the person has obtained certification from a medical practitioner that the person is unable to receive a dose or a further dose of a COVID-19 vaccine due to a medical contraindication.
Part 3 of the Directions, Definitions (6) says: “Vaccination information may be recorded in a variety of documents, such as a letter from a medical practitioner, a certificate of immunisation or an immunisation history statement obtained from the Australian Immunisation Register.”
Permitted to attend a school for work purposes
In the event an employee is unvaccinated by the first date (25 October 2021), clause 5 (1) of the Directions states, “An operator of a specified facility must take all reasonable steps to ensure that, on or after the relevant date, a worker who is unvaccinated does not enter, or remain on, the premises of a specified facility for the purposes of working at the facility.”
An unvaccinated worker may be permitted to attend for work between 18 October and 25 October 2021 if they have a booking to receive a first dose by 25 October. If an employee declines to provide the required information set out in the Directions by the specified dates, the employer is obliged not to permit them to be on the premises for work purposes. This may also have consequences for their ongoing employment.
We strongly encourage all staff who are not yet fully vaccinated to make an appointment to ensure they meet the mandated deadlines. For more information about COVID-19 vaccinations and how to book, see the Department of Health website.
Where can I access more information?
The Directions made by the Chief Health Officer are available via the Department of Health website. CEB is working with DET and CECV to develop a consistent approach to undertaking this Direction as an urgent priority. A set of frequently asked questions providing advice on specific circumstances is being developed. We will provide this to schools as soon as possible, and before the deadline of 25 October.
For support relating to the application of the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine Directions, contact Michael Trainor (Manager: HR) on 0436 460 275 or Ange Jones (Assistant Director: People and Development) on 0400 831 040. While we do not currently have a great deal more information, we would be happy to work through concerns with you where possible.
Vaccination concerns – communications support pack
Further to yesterday’s update, a communications pack has been developed to support you with having conversations with staff and your school communities about the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination mandate. The pack includes frequently asked questions that will help with responding to common queries.
If schools receive enquiries from parents or carers about vaccinations, they are advised to explain that the school is obligated to follow the public health directives issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer. These directives include that the school must operate under the requirements detailed in the School Operations Guide issued by CECV.
We have been notified that some schools have had parents and carers requesting information about staff vaccinations. Due to privacy, schools cannot divulge information relating to an individual’s health (including their vaccination status).
How to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment
We are aware that there are reports that appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations can be challenging to access at the state vaccination centres.
Appointments at the state vaccination centres are constantly coming available and individuals can also make appointments at a pharmacy, GP or community health service near them. These appointments can be booked through the Australian Government’s Vaccine Clinic Finder website.
Please continue to provide staff with the flexibility to access vaccination appointments.
There have been some queries regarding reporting, particularly for F-2 students. The reporting requirements for this semester will be determined by CECV. We will circulate the details when they are received.
Reminder: COVID-19 information session for principals
A reminder that there will be a meeting (via Zoom) on Monday 4 October from 11.00am for an hour to assist principals in providing further information and an opportunity to address any questions or concerns. For those who cannot attend, the meeting will be recorded.
Next COVID Update
We will continue to monitor the situation and advise principals of any updates. Please liaise with the COVID Support team (see left hand column) or your Education Consultant with any questions or concerns.
Stay safe and continue to look after each other…
Deputy Director of Catholic Education (Interim)