NSW mandates vaccination for all school staff and identifies opening date

The NSW Government has mandated vaccination for all primary and secondary school staff from 8 November and has identified a staggered return of students to face-to-face learning to begin on Monday 25 October.

These announcements were made by the NSW Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell (pictured below, at the press conference), at the NSW Premier’s daily press conference on Friday 27 August.

NSW Health will be providing priority vaccinations at for school and early childcare staff the week beginning 6 September. The NSW Government also encourages all school and early childcare staff to make use of the GP network to be vaccinated with whatever vaccine is available as soon as possible.

A recent survey of the public school workforce indicated the majority of staff already had at least one dose of a vaccine. All students eligible for a vaccine will be strongly encouraged by the government to book an appointment. Students aged 12-15 will also be a priority if they become eligible for a vaccine.

It will also be compulsory for all high-school students to wear face masks. HSC exams have been delayed until November.

These actions are part of the “return-to-school plan” released by the NSW Government today, “to bring students back in a COVID-safe way while stay-at-home orders are still in place – ensuring continuity of education, and protecting student, teacher and community safety.”

The NSW Government’s vaccine mandate follows the announcement earlier this week that all New York City public school teachers and other staffers will have to get vaccinated.

“More children are becoming infected with Delta, experts say. This is because it is a more infectious variant: everyone is more likely to be infected by it. The evidence remains the same: for children, COVID-19 is a mild illness,” confirms today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

CCA Comment

“It is good to see careful planning going into school re-opening, and the strong stance taken by the NSW Government to mandate vaccines for the whole of the state school system staff, as well as masks in secondary schools. This clearly foreshadows the future of how Australian educational institutions will respond to COVID-19. The next challenge is what happens with the state’s TAFE system, and the vocational education system: what about not-for-profit adult and community education (ACE) providers and private VET providers? The VET sector’s student population is far more vulnerable than school children, and includes a large percentage of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. This is our next challenge,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA).

Dr Perlgut recently published an article entitled, “Is compulsory vaccination coming to Australian post-secondary education?”

NSW Public Health Orders were changed on 20 August to ensure that all workers in the early childhood education, childcare and disability sectors are vaccinated for COVID-19. Workers must receive their first vaccination by 30 August 2021. This follows the National Cabinet decision to mandate that at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-September 2021 for all residential aged care workers and students, irrespective of age. This effectively means that all VET students of childcare and early childhood education will need to be vaccinated. This will involve up to 50% of all adult and community education students in states like New South Wales and Victoria,” Dr Perlgut said.

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