Coronavirus: FAQs for schools


Updated 23 November 2020

The advice below applies to teacher, paraprofessional, education support staff, assistant principals and principal members who are employees of the teaching service.

We will update these FAQs as the situation regarding coronavirus changes and advise members through bulletins.

What's the recruitment process for the Tutor Learning Program?

The Tutor Learning Program has been designed to support students whose learning has been disrupted through remote and flexible learning in 2020.

The Department will maintain a register of prospective tutors. Prospective tutors can register their interest in the Tutor Learning Program through a dedicated DET website or through Recruitment Online. 

Employment of tutors must be in accordance with the Victorian Government Schools Agreement and DET's recruitment policy. Tutors must be employed as either a VIT-registered teacher (or with Tutor Permission to Teach) or education support employee where they are a pre-service teacher.

There is no need for tutor positions to be advertised through Recruitment Online.

Schools will be able to extend time fractions for current staff, use excess staff, employ CRTs, or employ those who have registered via the expression of interest process. If needed, schools may also be able to employ staff currently on leave who wish to return early. 

Where necessary, pre-service teachers may be employed under the progam as ES staff. However, the requirements for direct supervision by a fully registered teacher apply, as do the usual limitations (under the Education and Training Act) regarding planning, teaching, and assessment and reporting.

Find recruitment details here.
General information and contacts here.

How will the Tutor program operate in schools next year?

The funding allocation for each school is based on a model of students receiving two or three 45-minute sessions each week in groups of no more than five students for 26 weeks.

Teachers should use their judgement to identify students in need of tutoring support using existing classroom-based observations and assessments. 

The Department will also provide schools with guidance on identifying students in need, and on a range of implementation models based on best practice and evidence-informed strategies to support student learning. This will be available in the coming weeks.

Tutor Coordinators will be appointed to support schools in the delivery of the Tutor Learning Program.

Schools now have their tutoring budget allocation from the department. Arrangements should be discussed in consultative committee meetings, so schools are ready to commence this program at the beginning of the 2021 school year. This is vital as the money must be expended by the end of 2021.

More DET information here.

How should social distancing operate in schools?

Start/end of school day

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Schools should strictly enforce of physical distancing at the start and finish of the school day. Compliance with restrictions will continue to be monitored by authorised officers.

It is imperative that schools take every step available to ensure parents and carers do not congregate in breach of continuing restrictions. This must include:

  • clear signage at school entrance and exit points to ensure physical distancing is maintained
  • clear communication to all parents, carers and families about the importance of following the heath directives in relation to the start and end of the school day.

Where necessary, schools should also implement:

  • a later start to the school day and an early finish for staggered year levels or groups of students differentiated by surname
  • the use of different gates and other entry and exit points.

Social distancing within school grounds

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The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised that a ‘venue density rule’ of no more than one person per four square metres is not appropriate or practical in classrooms or corridors, nor maintaining 1.5 metres between students during classroom activities. The Victorian Chief Health Officer has not recommended additional physical distancing measures be put in place for senior students at schools where it is not practicable to do so.

Employees on site should keep a distance of 1.5 metres from other adults and practice good hand hygiene throughout the day by taking the following actions:

  • wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, or after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the toilet. If soap and water are not readily available, they should use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. 
  • they should avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands and cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. 
  • if they don’t have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their upper sleeve or elbow.

Close attention and proactive management must be provided so staff can physically distance. Specific attention should be paid to:

  • using spaces within the school that can support physical distancing for staff, such as libraries and vacant classrooms
  • signage and rostering so that access to physical spaces and food preparation areas can be managed
  • offices being appropriately spaced
  • the careful management of movement of adults through school reception, complemented with clear signage and access to sanitiser.

Are students and teachers now required to wear masks?

From Monday 23 November, face masks must be worn indoors including school settings. Face masks must also be worn outdoors where physical distancing is not possible. 

Students in specialist schools and primary schools are exempt from wearing masks. All other students are required to do so.

It is not mandatory for teachers to wear a mask while teaching or caring for children but one should be worn at all other times, e.g. in the staffroom.

Any staff member that chooses to wear a mask at any time, including whilst teaching, can do so.

What are current staffing arrangements for schools? 

Where teachers and support staff are required to attend school at times when they are performing duties that require them to be on-site. This includes delivery of on-site learning or supervision, and the allocation of additional classes and any other on-site duties as required, consistent with the Victorian Government Schools Agreement 2017

The principal and employees have a shared responsibility, through local consultative arrangements, to fulfil these requirements and to ensure as far as practicable that a fair and equitable share of the workload involved in supporting on-site learning is maintained. 

Where possible, school leadership should be represented on-site. Principals will need to ensure that there are sufficient staff on-site to run the school’s teaching and learning programs.

I am pregnant, am I expected to work on site?

Where an employee is pregnant and, in the opinion of a registered medical practitioner, illness or risks arising out of the pregnancy or hazards connected with the work assigned to the employee make it inadvisable for the employee to perform their duties on-site, the employee is to be provided with suitable duties that can be performed remotely for such period as is certified necessary by a registered medical practitioner. Read more

If the provision of suitable duties that can be performed remotely is not practicable the employee may elect, or the employer may require the employee, to be absent on leave (without deduction from any other leave credits) for such period as is certified necessary by a registered medical practitioner. Where this occurs schools should advise the Policy and Employee Relations Branch at [email protected] who will arrange for the leave to be processed centrally.

There are particular circumstances that need to be considered, so we advise pregnant members to ring our Member Support Centre for support on 03 9417 2822. 

Will the working from home allowance continue in Term 4?

Employees who work remotely will receive the working from home allowance. It is open to a school to cease the allowance where an employee returns to onsite duties.

The allowance is comprised of a one-off $100 payment for home office expenses (which was paid in April. Where a person was employed after this payment was made, they are also eligible to receive the one-off payment) as well as $20 per week for home office consumables and utilities. This $20 per week will be paid on a pro-rata basis based on an employee’s time fraction.

Employees on any type of leave (paid or unpaid) will not qualify for the payment, until their leave ends and they commence or resume working remotely

Should I be tested for novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

We encourage any members who have symptoms to seek a test. COVID testing locations can be found here.

How will the PDP process be different?

DET have made changes to the PDP process which means every individual member has a choice about whether to complete their existing PDP or change to a more straightforward and simplified plan best suited to the current circumstances. No member can be compelled to continue their current plan. Read more

The new plan is in the form of a statement of expectation (DET login required) common to all staff and covering the key areas of teaching and learning, use of resources, and collaboration. There is a default assumption that those who adopt the statement of expectation will meet the requirements it outlines, and on this basis, members will not be required to collect evidence.

If a reviewer has concerns about a staff member not meeting the expectations, the staff member must be notified and may be required to provide evidence.  

The AEU advises principal class, teacher and ES members to take up the option of agreeing to the ‘statement of expectation’, as the simplified process will reduce your workload, while still recognising the enormous effort you have already put in when transitioning to flexible and remote learning. Further information can be found here. (DET login required)

What if I have a confirmed case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

You are to be excluded from school if you have a confirmed case of novel coronavirus. Read more

Actions:

  • Immediately contact the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on 1300 651 160 for advice.
  • Your school should make an IRIS incident alert and contact their Regional Director.
  • Call the AEU on 1800 AEU VIC (1800 238 842) for any further advice you may need.

What if I have been in close contact with a person who is a confirmed case?

You are to be excluded from school for a period of 14 days if you have been in close contact with a person who has a confirmed case of novel coronavirus. Read more

Close contact is defined as having at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact or the sharing of a closed space for more than two hours with a person who has a confirmed case.

Actions:

  • Immediately contact the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on 1300 651 160 for advice.
  • Your school should make an IRIS incident alert and contact their Regional Director.
  • Call the AEU on 1800 AEU VIC (1800 238 842) for any further advice you may need.

If I have been told I must be excluded from school, what leave arrangements apply?

There are several possible scenarios. Read more

Confirmed case:

  • If the virus was contracted in the community and not when undertaking duties as an employee, then personal (sick) leave applies.
  • If the virus was contracted while undertaking duties as an employee, then you may be eligible to be provided with up to three months leave with full pay without deduction from your personal leave credits for the period that you are unfit for duty.
  • Any members in this situation should seek advice from our Member Support Centre on 03 9417 2822.

Close contact:

  • If you have been in close contact with a person who has a confirmed case, and you are well, you should continue to work from home.
  • If you are unwell, you may be eligible for up to 10 days special leave where they have received a direction to self-quarantine from the Chief Health Officer or relevant authority. This leave is in addition to any other leave credits that you may have accrued such as personal (sick/carers) leave. Staff who are granted the special leave will not be required to undertake duties from home.

Actions:

  • The department is approving and processing this leave centrally. Contact DET Human Resources for further advice and information.
  • Contact our Member Support Centre if needing assistance on 03 9417 2822.

Can I attend work if I have been in contact with someone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?

Yes, there is no need to self-isolate unless you have been identified by health authorities as having been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

What arrangements apply if I am awaiting the results of a coronavirus (COVID-19) test?

Employees who are unwell and waiting for the results of a coronavirus (COVID-19) test should not return to school. They can access personal leave, or some other form of leave, as appropriate.

Employees who are feeling well and waiting for the results of a coronavirus (COVID-19) test should not return to school and may work remotely when it is reasonable, practicable and appropriate to do so. 

If working remotely is not an option for employees who are waiting for coronavirus (COVID-19) test results, the employee may access personal leave, or some other form of leave, as appropriate.

Contact our Member Support Centre if needing assistance on 03 9417 2822.

What arrangements apply to ES staff, teachers, paraprofessionals, assistant principals and principals where a school is closed?

If a school is closed, staff employed ongoing or fixed term will remain on full pay for the period of the closure.

Staff will be considered to be on duty but not in attendance at the workplace. 

Staff will be required to undertake duties to the extent possible, within normal attendance hours, consistent with their classification and job description, and in line with the requirements and limitations outlined in the Victorian Government Schools Agreement 2017.

Those who have contracted the virus or been in close contact with a person who has contracted the virus and must be excluded from school will have other leave arrangements as outlined above.

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Does the principal need to advise the school community if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus at the school?

Decisions on this will be made on a case by case basis as advised by DHHS and DET. It may however be appropriate to inform employees that a person in the workplace is being tested for coronavirus (COVID-19). However, this must be done in a way that does not breach an individual’s privacy.

I am a casual relief teacher/casual ES. What arrangements are in place for me?

We have advocated for CRT work to be promoted in schools, resulting in the Ops Guide including: ‘If insufficient volunteers for onsite supervision program CRTs should be engaged’.

Casual relief teachers (CRTs) and other employees engaged by school councils will continue to be employed in the usual way, as required. The expectation is that schools will continue to engage CRTs and other school council employees, including education support casual employees, within existing budgets including when a school is operating remotely. Schools are encouraged to work closely with their regular CRTs to ensure they are available as per usual arrangements. Read more

It is understood however, due to the current circumstances, there may be circumstances where schools will not be in a position to engage a casual employee. Where this occurs, a scheme for compensation has been developed, to ensure those employees who are not employed elsewhere, will continue to receive either employment or compensation.

Where eligible employees can demonstrate that in any four-week period there was a variation of 15% or more between what they were paid last year and what they were paid this year, the employee will be compensated for the difference from within existing budgets. Claims will be managed at the school level. In this context, eligible employees are:

  • CRTs and other employees employed by school councils who in any year within the last three years worked 40 days or more;
  • or a graduate teacher in their first year of registration who has worked at least 10 days in Term 1 of 2020;
  • available to work on the days required by the school; and
  • not otherwise employed by another employer (with the exception of other school councils).

A CRT or other employee of a school council who does not meet the definition of eligible employee” may seek to be deemed an eligible employee where that employee can demonstrate compelling and/or compassionate circumstances. A CRT employed by a CRT agency should contact that agency for advice regarding the arrangements applying in that agency. These arrangements continue to apply until otherwise advised.

A casual relief teacher employed by a CRT agency should contact that agency for advice regarding the arrangements applying in that agency.

Please refer to the DET FAQs for further detail, including eligibility criteria.

Other advice

The AEU is regularly updating members via email. If members have specific inquiries, they should contact the AEU directly on 1800 AEU VIC (1800 238 842). 

Members are encouraged to read the detailed advice provided by the Department on their dedicated coronavirus webpage.

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