Return to schools in NSW begins on October 25, HSC delayed until November

NSW students will begin returning to school from October 25, when kindergarten and year 1 students will go back to class and year 12 will get full access to their school ahead of a delayed HSC, which will begin on November 9, school principals were told on Friday.

Years 2, 6 and 11 will return on November 1, and the rest of the students will head back on November 8, which is the sixth week of term four.

“Double doses of COVID vaccinations will be mandatory for any staff on school sites from 25 October and for all school staff from 8 November,” the NSW Department of Education told principals in an email.

The delayed HSC exams will begin on November 9.Credit:Marina Neil

This plan will allow students at least six weeks at school before the Christmas holidays begin.

However, sources – speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak – said NSW Health can send schools within a local government area back to remote learning if the rate of cases involving people who are moving around the community while infectious within that district is more than 50 per 100,000.

A senior government source, who was not authorised to speak publicly, said this threshold should allow most Sydney schools to open on October 25. Education Minister Sarah Mitchell refused to be drawn on which LGAs were least likely to return on present case numbers.

“I can’t pre-empt what advice that will be this far out,” she said.

If stay-at-home orders are lifted, schools can resume straight away, meaning students in some regional areas could go back to class this term.

A condition of schools resuming is community vaccination rates reaching 70 per cent. The government expects that to happen in mid-October and has chosen October 25 to give schools time to plan. Teachers will be asked to run check-in assessments to work out how students’ learning has progressed.

The new HSC timetable will not be announced until September, principals were told. The NSW Education Standards Authority is still deciding whether all exams will run, or just some of them. Results are likely to be delayed until January, and universities have agreed to adjust the timing of their offers.

There will be a teacher vaccination drive from September 6 at Qudos Arena. NSW Health is working on prioritising teachers at other hubs across the state.

Schools will use a restriction system developed in July, which will involve masks for all teachers and high school students, separating groups, and staggering play times. Masks for primary school students will be strongly recommended.

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