Coronavirus advice and information for AEU members

The coronavirus (COVID) pandemic is presenting unique and rapidly evolving challenges to all those working in public education. Your health and safety is the AEU’s highest priority at this time.

Updated 18 October 2021

Find the latest School Operations Guide here. 

Find the latest DET information for schools here.

Find the Department of Education and Training's list of FAQs here.

Victoria's roadmap out of lockdown

Once 70% of over-16s are fully vaccinated, Victoria's lockdown will effectively end and all school students will return to onsite learning at least part time.

Once 80% of over-16s are fully vaccinated, early childhood education and care services can open; all students can return to school with additional safety measures in place; and onsite adult education will return for fully vaccinated Australians.

Schools

Vaccination

The Victorian Chief Health Officer has determined that vaccination will be mandatory for staff who work in schools. This includes principals, teachers, administration and education support staff, including casual relief teachers (CRTs) and pre-service teachers.

All staff who work in schools will be required to have a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 18 October 2021 or be able to produce evidence of a vaccination booking within that week.

All staff are required to be fully vaccinated by 29 November 2021 unless a medical exemption applies and will be required to show evidence of their vaccination status.

Staff can access up to half a day’s paid release from duty to attend COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Schools are asked to exercise maximum flexibility in enabling you to make and attend vaccination appointments.

Management of COVID-19 cases

To better support schools to manage COVID-19 cases, the Department of Education and Training (DET) and the Department of Health (DH) have revised how COVID-19 cases will be managed in schools. The revised plan has been sent to schools.

Leave arrangements

Between 18 October and 17 December 2021 (end of Term 4), employees who do not meet the vaccination requirements will not be able to attend work on site and will not be assigned alternative duties. During this period, any such employees will be able to access existing leave entitlements in accordance with the relevant leave policies. From 18 December 2021 until 27 January 2022, normal school holiday provisions will apply.

From 28 January 2022 (beginning Term 1), paid and unpaid leave entitlements will not be available to any employees who do not meet the vaccination requirements, and any further absence will be considered in line with Department’s Absent Without Leave policy, which may result in cessation of employment from 28 April 2022.

You can read DET's email with more information here.
You can read the AEU's statement here.

Staged return to on-site learning

Find the full details in the latest School Operations Guide

See the reopening roadmap for schools.

The Victorian Government has announced a staged return to onsite learning in Term 4, with all students planned to return onsite by Friday 5 November (subject to final public health advice).

From the start of term until the return of all students onsite, schools will operate both onsite and remote and flexible learning.

Metropolitan Melbourne and restricted areas: 

Schools in metro Melbourne and restricted areas to continue remote and flexible learning in Term 4, with some exceptions outlined below.

All schools to continue providing on-site supervision for vulnerable students and children of authorised workers.

From October 6, onsite learning resumes for VCE Units 3/4 and final-year VCAL and IB students.

From October 18, prep students return three days a week, while Grades 1 & 2 students return two days a week.

Restrictions that were to be lifted on Tuesday 26 October will now be lifted from Friday 22 October.

For schools in metropolitan Melbourne, the arrangements that would have applied from Tuesday 26 October will now apply from Friday 22 October.

For primary schools, the only change is that Grades 5 & 6 will attend onsite on Friday 22 October, in addition to the planned attendance of Grades 1 and 2.

For secondary schools, Years 7 and 11 will now attend onsite on Friday 22 and Monday 25 October, in addition to their planned attendance onsite from Tuesday 26 October.

Year 10 will also attend onsite on Friday 22 October in addition to their planned attendance on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 October.

Ungraded students with disability in specialist and mainstream schools should return to onsite learning with their year level equivalent cohort.

Regional Victoria:

For schools in regional Victoria (except in local government areas that are in lockdown), this means all year levels will return to full-time onsite learning two school days earlier, that is, on Friday 22 October rather than Tuesday 26 October.

All regional students – with the exception of restricted areas – to return to school at least part time within the first two weeks of Term 4, alongside extra measures to protect school communities and detect outbreaks as early as possible. See the Victorian government's press release here.

Final years VCAL students to continue on-site learning.

From Monday 4 October, all Prep 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 Years 8 & 9 will attend school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Years 5-6 and 10 will attend on Thursdays and Fridays – while Year 7 will also return five days a week.

From Friday 22 October, all students will be back in the classroom full time.

If any regional LGA is returned to lockdown, all schools in that LGA will return to the metropolitan Melbourne school roadmap settings.

Students living in metropolitan Melbourne but enrolled in a regional school – or vice-versa – will be able to attend onsite learning with their year level. Staff and final-year students required to cross the metropolitan border to attend school must be double vaccinated, or must get tested twice weekly.

Staff and final-year students in this situation must be double vaccinated or undertake twice weekly COVID-19 PCR testing to help keep our schools safe (see section 12 of the School Operations Guide).

If you live in a regional Victoria and need to travel into metropolitan Melbourne or restricted areas for your work or if you live in a metropolitan Melbourne and restricted areas and work in a school in a regional Victoria, an authorised worker permit is required.

All Victorian schools:

Strong COVID-Safe measures – including ventilation, vaccination and other measures – will be in place to protect school communities and ensure schools can stay open throughout Term 4. More on safety measures here.

Masks are strongly encouraged for students as a way to ensure safety and limit the risk of transmission in school settings. Masks will remain mandatory for all adults and for students aged 12 and older. 

Schools have already implemented measures like staggered pick-up and drop-off times, QR code check-ins for any essential visitors, and as much physical distancing as is possible in classrooms – and, when students return, will limit mixing among year levels and use large spaces like halls and gyms where possible.

The use of Service Victoria QR codes for electronic record keeping remains mandatory in all schools to enable the effective contact tracing of any COVID-19 cases.

OSHC (before and after school care) is open to children attending school on the relevant day for the year level AND other children eligible for onsite supervision and learning.

Any variation on the approach outlined above proposed by schools following staff consultation processes consistent with local consultative arrangements must be put in writing and approved by the respective Area Executive Director prior to any communication with their school community. Variations are only required where there is a demonstrated need.

Is DET providing the working from home allowance for this lockdown?

Not at this stage. This may change in the coming days/weeks, but for now the official DET response is as follows:

In accordance with Government direction, the working from home allowance (WFH) has been ceased for teaching service employees. 

Ministerial Order 1038 provides that teaching service employees are to be reimbursed their reasonable out-of-pocket expenses actually and necessarily incurred in the course of their duties.

On this basis, teaching service employees who work remotely are eligible to claim reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a direct result of working from home.  Alternatively, a school may elect to pay the WFH allowance to reduce the administrative burden of processing individual reimbursement claims.

Where a principal has an employee, who continues to be required to work from home due to medical vulnerability and seeks to continue to pay the WFH allowance, irrespective of any previous request, send the name and employee ID to your Schools People Services team for manual update to their record.

Who is considered an essential worker for the purposes of sending children to childcare?

Members will need to access carers leave if they cannot work from home and supervise their own children. DET states the following:

Where an employee’s caring responsibilities prevent them from performing duties at school, consideration should be given to permitting that employee to continue working remotely.

Where working remotely is not an option, or if an employee forms the view that they are not in a position to perform their duties because they are required to care for an affected family or household member, they may access carer’s leave or some other form of leave as appropriate.

Definition of essential workers for DET employees:

Teachers as authorised workers for the purpose of access to early childhood education and care services.

Teachers are authorised workers (working on site or from home), and are able to continue to send their children to early childhood services, where no other supervision arrangements can be made.

For single parents/carers, the person must be an authorised worker (working on site or from home), work for an authorised provider and where no other supervision arrangements can be made.

For dual parents/carers, only one person is required to be an authorised worker to access early childhood services.

Schools should provide eligible teachers with permits as needed, as permits will be required at early childhood services from Tuesday 24 August.

Early childhood

Current restrictions

All early childhood services (sessional kindergarten and LDC) open only for children where one parent/carer is an authorised worker or for vulnerable children. 

Services with funded kindergarten programs, including those receiving Free Kinder funding for unfunded three-year-olds, are required to remain open for on-site program delivery for eligible children. For children who do not attend on-site, teachers should be making reasonable efforts to support home learning.

ECEC staff are not required to wear face masks while educating or caring, but those who wish to do so, can. Staff must wear face masks when not educating or caring.

Visitors to ECEC services must wear face masks at all times – this includes parents and carers.

Find the latest DET information for early childhood here.

Victoria's roadmap to reopening for ECEC

The announcement brings forward some milestones from the Roadmap. For ECEC, this means that the requirements for parent/guardian vaccinations will now start on Friday 22 October (including that day).

Regional Victoria: 

Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services remain open to all children.

Twice-weekly COVID testing to be conducted for all employees crossing in-out of metro and regional areas. Fully vaccinated staff are not required to get the twice weekly testing.

Metro Melbourne and restricted areas:

ECEC is open to vulnerable and children of single parents and authorised workers.

Only one parent or guardian (if two-parent/guardian family) is required to be on the authorised workers list, either working away from home or working at home but no alternative supervision.

Twice-weekly COVID testing to be conducted for all employees crossing in-out of metro and regional areas. Fully vaccinated staff are not required to get the twice weekly testing.

From Friday October 22, ECEC open for children with fully vaccinated parents/carers, as well to children already attending prior to this date, i.e. vulnerable and children of single parents and authorised workers.

From November 5, ECEC opened to all children. Parents/Carers are not required to be vaccinated. However, as part of your Covid Safe Plan and risk mitigation measures, your provider/service may have different requirements for parents/carers who are not vaccinated.

Covid-safe plan for cleaning in early childhood settings [PDF]

Mandatory vaccination:

The Victorian Chief Health Officer has determined that vaccination will be mandatory for staff who work in Early Childhood Education and Care.

From 18 October 2021, in order to work at a school, childcare (including outside school hours care services) or early education service, you must be able to provide evidence to your employer that you:

  • are fully vaccinated with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, or
  • have received your first dose and have a booking to receive your second dose by 29 November 2021, or
  • haven't received any doses but have a booking to receive your first dose by 25 October 2021, or
  • have a medical exemption evidenced by an authorised medical practitioner.

TAFE & Adult Provision

TAFE, universities and training institutions in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria remain closed and teachers must continue to deliver remote learning.

All non-essential staff members are required to work from home during this period. The only exception is specified activity listed on the authorised provider and authorised worker list.

There are some categories of trainees and apprentices on the authorised provider and worker list. There should be an assessment made regarding whether the TAFE training component for any apprentice on the authorised worker or provider list needs to be conducted on-site at TAFE (even for those continuing an on-site work placement). If a student's learning can be delivered remotely, then they should not be on site at TAFE. The only exemption may be any essential assessments that can only be conducted on site.

Providers should, to the extent possible, ensure that students have access to digital and remote learning classrooms, and materials to enable learning from home.

Anyone 12 years and over must wear a fitted face mask whenever they leave their home, indoors or outdoors, unless lawful exception applies. Masks must be carried at all times.

Find the latest DET information for TAP here.


More information

AEU member emails

Schools

Read more

Early childhood

Read more

TAFE and Adult Provision

Read more

All members

Read more

Victorian State Government advice

Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Education and Training advice
Victorian TAFE Association

Other advice

If members have specific inquiries, they should email [email protected] or contact the AEU directly on 1800 AEU VIC (1800 238 842). Due to high demand, there could be a delay in replying to emails - however, we are working to respond as quickly as possible.

The union will update advice to members as the situation changes.

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