From November 12, parents and carers are permitted on school sites for scheduled appointments only.
All adults on schools sites must wear a face mask, along with students in Year 7 and above.
End of year events
The ACT Chief Health Officer is permitting end of year school events to go ahead, under a specific set of health guidelines. This should allow formals (including arrivals, group photos, dancing and partners) and graduation ceremonies with parents attending to ahead, but schools will have a lot of work to do in planning COVID-safe events which manage the risk and comply with the guidelines. Please be patient in waiting for details from your school.
- Mandatory vaccination for staff in Primary Schools and very high rates (around 97%) among otherschool staff.
- Masks required to be worn by students in Years 7 to 12, all school staff, and any adult visitor (unless there is a health/wellbeing reason not to). The wearing of masks for students in Years 3 to 6 is encouraged, but is at the discretion of the student and their parent/carer.
- Parents or carers must not enter school sites or come onto school grounds without an appointment.
- Attention to and additional resources for hygiene and cleaning and increased ventilation/air quality (indoor air quality plans are available on each school's website).
- Co-horting of students to reduce contact numbers by changes to timetables, staggering break times, and changes to usage of common areas such as libraries, gyms and canteens.
Keeping kids at home
Where a specific medical reason exists which prevents your child from returning to school, or if you have chosen to keep them at home, you should discuss the situation with your school to see what allowances could be made that could make a return possible.
If a return is not possible, schools and the Education Directorate are offering some support for learning from home, now detailed on their FAQ (under 'can my child remain at home')
Parents can notify the school that their child is on 'approved leave' (the school will mark the roll accordingly). Council understands that this could take the form of a medical certificate where there is a medical reason for non-return, or simply parental approval for the child's absence.
Details on the Education Directorate's FAQ for families.
As schools return, all operations, including P&C activities, will need to follow these health guidelines for schools. Please do look at the entire document, but note that it includes:
- Parents or carers can only enter schools with an appointment, or if they are an essential P&C volunteers or staff members (eg for running services such as uniform shops and canteens).
- Adults must physically distance, with 1 person per 2 square metres
- Adults must wear masks when on school grounds (usual exceptions apply)
- All visitors, P&C staff and volunteers must check into the site each time they arrive using the CBR check-in app
- Volunteers, staff and visitors must not attend the school site if unwell, and go home immediately if they become unwell, after informing the school
- Good hand and respiratory hygiene practices are vital, and must be encouraged with posters etc and made possible with santiser etc.
- Note the vaccine mandate in some schools.
P&Cs operating in-school services such as canteens, uniform shops and limited contactless fundraising will need to have a written COVID-safe plan (see templates below).
Below is information on the following aspects of P&C operations
Employers and volunteer managers such as P&Cs have obligations to make workplaces and volunteering as safe as reasonably possible. This includes following public health directions and developing COVID-safe plans. There is also now an obligation to meet the vaccination mandate in many schools - read more below.
P&Cs wanting more information about volunteering obligations should read the Not-for-profit Law information on volunteers and COVID-19.
From 29 November, adults can only work or volunteer in ACT primary schools, Early Childhood Schools, P-10 schools or specialist schools if they have been fully vaccinated, or have a medical exemption. Their first vaccine dose must have been received by November 1. Details are here. This includes P&C staff or volunteers who carry out their duties on a school site when students are present. What does this mean for your P&C? Please read on.
High school and college P&Cs
Because the mandate does not apply in high schools and colleges, the vaccination status of employees/volunteers cannot be collected without the consent of the staff/volunteer - they are not obliged to reveal their vaccination status. The Fair Work Ombudsman's website has FAQs to help, and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner provides information on privacy requirements. Conversations about vaccination should be conducted sensitively. Given the ACT's high vaccination rates, P&C may consider this an unnecessary conversation and we urge everyone to be respectful, regardless of your personal views on the vaccine, as this is an issue which communities have found divisive.
Primary, Early Childhood, P-10 and specialist school P&Cs
Meeting the mandate
As an organisation providing volunteers and/or staff in ACT schools, P&Cs in the affected schools (as above) have an obligation to ensure that those staff and volunteers meet the vaccine mandate. P&Cs may use a table to record sighting of staff and volunteers' evidence of completed vaccination status. An example is shown here. There is more information on meeting the mandate here (see under 'Information for employers' and note that it covers volunteers as well as staff).
P&Cs also have an obligation to protect and respect the privacy of their staff and volunteers. As outlined by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the vaccination status of volunteers and staff should be:
- recorded accurately
- available to as few committee members as possible to comply with the vaccine mandate, for example, only your P&C president or volunteer manager might have access to the record table
- not shared with other staff or volunteers
- deleted or removed from storage when the mandate ends.
We urge everyone to be respectful, regardless of your personal views on the vaccine or the mandate, as this is an issue which communities have found divisive.
What to do if people are not vaccinated
Under the mandate, unvaccinated staff and volunteers are unable to be on site in primary, P-10 and specialist schools. If P&C staff or volunteers refuse to be vaccinated, P&Cs may ask staff and volunteers to explain their reasons and inform them they are unable to continue in their on-site role, unless they can show evidence of an exemption from the ACT Chief Health Officer - see details on exemptions (under 'can I apply for an exemption'). Where employees are unable to perform their regular roles, P&Cs may be able to offer alternative work arrangements - see the FairWork website. If alternative arrangements cannot be made, P&C employers may take disciplinary action, however, they need to consider the terms and obligations under an applicable award, employment contract, workplace policy and the ACT vaccination mandate. In such cases, Council strongly encourages P&Cs to seek advice such as from a employment lawyer.
This requirement may be temporary
ACT's Chief Health Officer has already flagged that the vaccine mandate for school staff/volunteers may be lifted some time in 2022, if a vaccine for children aged 5-12 years is approved.
- there is an operation we have not considered above; or
- your P&C provides an operation in different manner to others (and this difference may mean staff or volunteers do not need to be subject to the direction).
P&Cs are required to have a written COVID-safe plan for all their activities. A COVID-safe plan is a great way to think through the risks of COVID transmission and how to minimise risk to keep everyone safe. We have templates below for uniform shops, canteens, and contactless fundraising, which we trust are a good starting point for your own plans.
Uniform shops can open from Monday October18 with a COVID-safe plan in place. We have created a template COVID-safe plan for in-school uniform shops - now updated to reflect easing restrictions and the vaccine mandate.
Please note that:
- from Oct 29, counter services can be offered so that parents can come onto site, by appointment, to help children try on clothes. Click and collect is still preferred.
- essential P&C volunteers (and staff) can enter school sites to run uniform shops
- our template plan has been checked by the Education Directorate and fits with all school requirements
To adapt the Template plan for your situation:
- carefully read, consider and fill out how you will address identified issues in the template
- follow the recommendations of Council, as indicated on the template plan, as these comply with school health guidelines
- work collaboratively with your principal in planning for your uniform shop, including hours of operation, appointment times and pickup/delivery options.
Canteen services are permitted, in consultation with the school principal, and with a COVID-safe plan in place. From October 29, counter service is allowed
Talk with the Principal
In considering opening up counter service at your canteen, discuss arrangements with your school principal, particularly in respect to queues and cohorts of students.
All canteens are required to have, and follow, a COVID-safe plan (as was the case previously) which outlines ways in which you will reduce the risk of COVID infection when operating the canteen. It must also be available for viewing upon inspection by ACT Health. We have created a template COVID-safe plan for P&C-run canteens as a starting point for writing yours (now updated to include eased restrictions and meeting the vaccine mandate). It complies with current school and business restrictions. It is a modified version of the plan from last year, but now incorporates new requirements, such as mask wearing and the requirement for only 1 person per 2 square metres.
We have pulled together COVID-friendly and online fundraising ideas.
Eased restrictions mean that contactless fundraisers with minimal volunteers on school sites can go ahead - for example a mango drive with drive-through pick up.
As was the case last year, all P&C activities, including fundraisers require a COVID-safe plan. We have a template contactless fundraiser COVID-safe plan which will be useful in making your plans.
Following member need and questions, we have put together options and examples of community building activities and events for lockdown so that P&Cs can support people to stay connected at this time.
Council is currently discussing with the Education Directorate what community events might be able to happen once school returns, and a possible timeline for the safe re-commencement of these activities. As these activities are permitted to begin, we will provide updated templates for COVID safe plans for P&Cs.
P&C meetings will not be able to be held on school grounds for Term 4, 2021. The safest option remains online meetings. Check out this article from last year on running Better Online Meetings, or this one sharing the experience of a couple of our P&Cs.
The following is provided as general information for members, but Council cannot provide financial, accounting or legal advice.
Insolvency is when a company or person can't pay debts when they are due. It is difficult to determine whether an organisation is insolvent just by looking at financial records or accounts. The ability to raise funds, collect monies owed and sell assets are all considered. All office holders have a responsibility to prevent insolvent trading by the Association, including not incurring a debt that will cause insolvency. Find out more here.
P&Cs employing permanent or part time staff in businesses that are not currently operating, or operating at significantly below capacity, should review your financial position and know the time frame over which you can continue to operate.
If you are worried, we recommend you seek professional advice immediately from your accountant or auditor.
There are a number of possible actions:
- government grants and assistance (see below)
- calling in debts or fees
- reduce expenses and liabilities (likely to be closing the service)
- seeking financial assistance from the community, including fundraising
- negotiating a payment plan with creditors
The ACT Government Business Liaison Line (6205 0900) is also a great source of information on assistance and business activities. P&Cs might also be interested in looking at the range of (free) services the Canberra Business Enterprise Centre can provide.
Please regularly check the latest advice from ACT Health, available from www.health.act.gov.au
The ACT Government's business liaison help line is a great place for advice and details of regulations on activities: 6205 0900
Last updated 10 November 2021.