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6 October, 2021
P&Cs need to know...
Returning to school

The details of the staged return by school Year are available here.

Principals will currently be developing the operation details of how their school will best follow the Health Guidelines for ACT schools and Early Childhood Centres

For P&Cs running in-school services such as canteens, uniform shops and outside of school hours care, we suggest you contact your school/principal to begin discussions about how the plans will impact your service and how your service can be adjusted to ensure student safety (such as not offering counter service at your canteen, changing to order-and-collect for uniform shops). Council will continue to update advice and guidelines on our COVID Information page and see items below.
Staying safe at school

At a briefing session last week for Council Executive, senior staff at the Education Directorate outlined the measures being put into place at schools to make the return to school as safe as possible. These measures are extensive, covering many aspects of school life and aspects of health and safety. They are also detailed - down to the individual school room in some cases - and further details are being worked through by individual schools in the next week or so. Measures include: 
  • Understanding vaccination levels of school staff via surveys. Extremely high levels (well over 90%) are evidenced.
  • Optimising ventilation - there are detailed indoor air quality plans for each school space including reopening of windows previously fixed shut, adjusting the air flow of ventilation systems, monitoring of CO2 and maximising outdoor learning, as well as longer term modifications and monitoring.
  • Continuation of comprehensive cleaning in schools.
  • An identified place in each school to isolate students who become unwell at school, and strong policies and processes for unwell students to be at home. 
  • Schools will be making plans for changes to timetables and room-usage to minimise mixing of students who do not usually learn together, such as staggered break times and separate exits/entrances. Principals will share these details with families before school returns.
  • Mandatory mask wearing for students in Year 7 and above, and all adults; with optional mask wearing for students in Years 3-6.
  • Physical distancing and use of Check-in CBR App for all adults.
You can read about the plans in these FAQ (choose Health and Safety Measures), and see the Health Guidelines for ACT schools and Early Childhood Centres which all schools will be following.

We understand that there are parent concerns about the return to school and are communicating this to the Education Directorate.  Please tell us more about your concerns and what would make you feel safer - simply email us.
Free member training - financial review

This online workshop will help treasurers prepare their accounts for a Financial Review, which is a legal requirement for all P&Cs. We'll show you what it's all about and what you'll need to gather together for your review as well as who can do it and managing the timing.

After completing the training, treasurers of small P&Cs (gross receipts less than $400,000 pa) should be able to participate in a 'Book Swap' whereby two treasurers review each other's books to avoid paying for expensive auditors.

When? Thursday 21 October (Week 3), from 7-9pm - via Zoom.
Register here!
COVID workplace & volunteer safety

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 tailored to your P&Cs operations. We are updating our COVID-safe plan template in line with current public health directions and will upload this to our COVID Information page by early next week.

P&Cs wanting more information about volunteering obligations should read the Not-for-profit Law information on volunteers and COVID-19.

There are many aspects to vaccinations P&C employers/volunteer managers may be thinking about, such as developing workplace policies supporting vaccinations, requesting staff are vaccinated or even asking staff or volunteers about their vaccination status. 

The high vaccination rates in the ACT means that most employers and volunteer managers may not need to address vaccinations in the workplace. However, if your P&C wants to take action, they MUST consider the detailed employer, volunteer manager and privacy obligations. 

The Fair Work Ombudsman's website provides a great list of FAQs outlining responsibilities relating to vaccinations in the workplace, such as when employers can require an employee to be vaccinated, things to consider before introducing workplace vaccination policies, and whether employers can ask for evidence of vaccination (to name a few).

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner provides information on the privacy requirements of when employers can collect information on employee vaccination status, and how this needs to be done. 

If you need more information, Not-for-profit Law provide a detailed explanation on managing vaccinations in the workplace for employers and volunteer managers. 
World Teachers' Day

In Australia, World Teachers' Day is celebrated on the last Friday of October - the 29th. 

In the past we have seen some fabulous ideas, instigated by P&Cs on behalf of parents to recognise teachers on this day (examples in the comments on this post).  And there are more fun ideas here.

This year, the Teacher Quality Institute is helping promote the day and encouraging schools and principals across the ACT to acknowledge world teachers' day in their own way. They will be sending every ACT teacher a Blue Ribbon lapel pin to help celebrate. They have compiled Six Easy Ways to thank a teacher and later this week they will launch a website (it will be at with ideas, images and social media tiles to kick off your celebrations.
Community building and fundraising 

Following member need and questions, we have put together:
WWVP renewals

We are hearing from members that there are currently extensive delays in processing renewals of Working With Vulnerable People registration, so volunteers should respond as soon as possible after they receive renewal notifications. Note that due to the lockdown, the ACT Government will also not be issuing new WWVP Cards but will instead issue a confirmation letter. 
Preparing for Big School in 2022

Council’s annual Transition to School forum was held on September 16. The forum, for parents and families with children who are about to start preschool or kindergarten, shared practical tips to prepare for starting school. 

Dr. Katherine Hopps, adjunct Research Fellow with Charles Sturt University and a BeYou consultant with Early childhood Australia, said ‘starting school is a really important time in the lives of young children and their families, and a positive transition to school contributes to children's confidence, their identity as a student and as a learner and their social relationships, as well as their short term and long term academic achievements’.  

The session recording and resources are available here
Late Annual Return?

If your Association's Annual Return to Access Canberra (the AR Form) is late, you have another few days to get it in without attracting the usual late fee. Annual returns submitted between 1 July 2020 and 8 October 2021, but after the 6-month period beginning at the end of your association's financial year, will not attract a late fee.

Hang on... what's an Annual Return? It's a legal requirement for any ACT P&C which is not a registered charity, and the 2020 Annual Return was due by June 30, 2021 - find out more here

As schools return, canteens are permitted to open, in consultation with the school principal. 

However, the Chief Health Officer’s requirements for schools include limiting gathering in (and staggering the use of) common spaces such as corridors, entry and exit points, canteens and libraries. This means that many schools will implement different lunch and recess times for different year groups. This will obviously have consequences for the canteen service. School principals are this week devising the details of staggered breaks and so on. We suggest you contact your school/principal to begin discussions about these plans and what might work for your canteen service.

The Health Guidelines for ACT schools also apply to school canteens, so those running a canteen should have a look at these (they include mask wearing, social distancing and cleaning requirements). It will be a requirement that canteens only offer pre-ordering (no counter service) followed by contactless delivery to classrooms in primary schools or a ‘click and collect’ service for high school and college students. Some consideration will need to be given to safe queuing for this 'click and collect'.

All canteens will be 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. Given that the current situation is different to previously, Council will be updating our Template Canteen COVID-safe plan as a guide and starting point for your considerations and discussions. It will be available by next week on our COVID Information page - please check for updated advice and guidelines.
If your P&C has a social media page

A High Court decision has determined that administrators of Facebook pages may be considered the ‘publishers’ of all posts and comments on their page. This could make them legally liable for defamatory or offensive comments made by others on their page. The current decision involves the facebook page of a large media group, but it could extend to small groups, such as P&Cs, which run a Facebook presence. 

The ruling means administrators of social media pages will need to be vigilant to ensure that potentially defamatory comments are deleted in a timely manner. See this article for an excellent discussion of the risks and benefits.

People sometimes consider Facebook as a way to vent their frustrations, and abuse others. Unfortunately, we have seen examples of this directed at school staff. It’s important to remember that public posts can trigger legal action and the P&C may be liable for the comments. This makes it crucial to have clear, published standards of behaviour for the page, and a social media management plan and policy for your P&C.
In case you missed it...
Reducing plastic waste

As the ACT’s single-use-plastics ban comes into effect for a small number of plastic items, some P&Cs are going above and beyond the ban — reducing the plastics they use and pressuring manufacturers to follow suit.  Read all about it here.
Council happenings
Upcoming meetings

Early Learning Committee Meeting
Join us for a virtual catch up to discuss Early Learning issues and funding to welcome new parents and carers to your school. 

It's on Thursday 14 October (Week 2), via zoom from 7.30pm. Register here. (After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.) For further details please contact Marina Spurgin, Early Learning Officer.

Canteen Sub-Committee Meeting
Postponed from last term, join us at 7pm on Wednesday next week (13 October) via zoom to discuss all things canteens:
  •  Lockdown lowdown. A chance to tell us your concerns and plans for your canteen and for us to share what Council has been doing to advocate for P&C-run canteens and the road ahead.
  • Reducing canteen waste with re-usables. Hear from other P&C-run canteens who share their waste-reduction and re-usables journey.
  • Reporting back on Council’s follow-up to questions and concerns noted at the last meeting, including schools maintaining your canteen, the straw ban, waste contractors, and a possible funding source for your reusables.

General Meetings
Our next General Meeting is combined with our Policy Conference (which will be very brief) on Tuesday 26 October  (Week 4), from 7pm via Zoom. You can pre-register here.  (After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.)

Our November meeting (Tuesday 23, Week 8) is our AGM - and chance for your to join our Executive Team. The Team has had a pretty interesting year - with regular COVID briefings from the Education Directorate and a chance to influence Government election promises. If you are interested, read more here or drop Terry a line.
We're having your say

Council is continuing to voice parent perspectives to government, including on the return to school, building on the representative work we reported here.

We also issued two media releases over the holidays, one on the return to school plan, and the other on some welcome ACT budget measures.
You might be interested
Learning about food waste & healthy eating

OzHarvest’s curriculum-aligned education program FEAST (Food Education and Sustainability Training) - which helps teachers bringing a positive learning experience about food waste and healthy eating in a fun and engaging way - is now being rolled out to Year 5&6 students across the ACT. There is even funding available to support schools, including the online curriculum package, TQI accredited online teacher training and class kitchen kit at no cost.
The program has now been adapted for online learning.

See the FEAST website for more, including a video and story about FEAST in action in the ACT.
Dyslexia awareness

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and the Australian Dyslexia Association (ADA) has shared information to support those in the early childhood education and care sector to increase awareness of dyslexia, and common signs of dyslexia which may be observed in preschool aged children. A series of three films has been prepared to inspire conversations. To learn more about dyslexia please visit the ADA website
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Comment authorised by Terry L Sanders for the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations

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