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27 October, 2021
P&Cs need to know...
Updated school COVID plans

The Education Directorate's Return to on campus learning page has now been updated with additional information and eased restrictions announced today. This includes an Updated Term 4 Plan and Updated Health Guidelines for Schools.

Students will no longer need to wear masks outdoors, wind instruments can be played indoors and contact sports can resume. Transition visits for students moving eg from primary to high schools can occur, along with essential excursions (core to learning) and visits to schools by specialist tutors. Some out-of-school-hours performances can also happen.
Eased restrictions for canteens & uniform shops

The updated guidelines above include eased restrictions for canteens and uniform shops on school sites. From 29 October, canteens and uniform shop can resume counter services. Contactless is still preferred, however.

In considering opening up counter service at your canteen, discuss arrangements with your school principal, particularly in respect to queues and cohorts of students.

By Friday, Council will update our template COVID-safe plans for uniform shops and for canteens to reflect these changes (and mandatory vaccination requirements in many schools - see below). They will be available on our COVID Information for P&Cs page.
Eased restrictions for fundraising

Today's announced eased restrictions also allow, from 29 October, contactless fundraisers with minimal volunteers on school sites, for example a mango drive with drive-through pick up. 

As was the case last year, all P&C activities, including fundraisers, will require a COVID-safe plan. By Friday, Council will have updated last year's P&C COVID-safe plan template to take into account the current situation (eg to include mask wearing and mandatory vaccination requirements in many schools - see below). It will be available on our COVID Information for P&Cs page.
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 to go ahead, but schools will have a lot of work to do in planning COVID-safe events which comply with the guidelines. Please be patient in waiting for details from your school.
Vaccines mandatory for adults in many schools

From 29 November, adults can only work or volunteer in ACT primary schools, P-10 schools or specialist schools if they have been fully vaccinated, or have a medical exemptionTheir 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.

Teachers and school staff
Ensuring that teachers and other staff employed by the school meet the vaccine mandate is the responsibility of the school and Education Directorate. Medical privacy is important and parents should not ask individual staff about their vaccination status. 

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, 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 - Primary schools, P-10 schools and specialist schools - have an obligation to ensure that staff and volunteers who work on school sites meet the vaccine mandate. P&Cs may use a table to record that they have sighted 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).
Protecting privacy
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 and check it, when needed, on behalf of other committee members
  • 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. 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.
Information overload?

We know that our recent issues of Communicator have been rather heavy on information, and that things are changing quickly and it is hard to keep up!  Please remember that we endeavour to keep our COVID Information for P&Cs page up to date at all times with the latest advice and restrictions, so you can check it at any time.
Preschool/Kindy welcome-event funding!

Council has won a Children's Week grant to assist schools, P&Cs and PPAs to run informal welcome events for new parents and families in the transition to Preschool or Kindergarten.   

Council’s ‘Play & Network’ project provides funding and support for parent association representatives to collaborate with the school on a transition event. Council can provide up to $200 to assist with costs for events like a morning tea, playdate, or virtual event.

Check out the details. Send us a description of your proposed event by 7 November!
Canteen Day - 5 November

Canteens can be the heart of the school – where students, staff and families come together for a nourishing meal or snack, and to see a friendly face. It has been another tough year for school canteens so now is the perfect time to acknowledge the terrific work of canteen staff and volunteers. Canteen Day is a great opportunity for the whole school community to show their appreciation and support!

This Canteen Day, spread the word on how much your canteen means via social media or the school newsletter. With support from the ACT Government, the ACT Nutrition Support Service have created a range of free social media tiles, classroom worksheets, posters and a newsletter snippet to help. There are even canteen appreciation activities to get the kids involved!
And keep your eye out for something special in the mail!
CDS at school

Exchange for Change, who run ACT's Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) are asking you to please spare a few minutes of your time to complete a short survey about your P&C/school participation in the CDS.  It doesn't matter whether you're already involved in any ACT CDS activities or not - they’d love to hear from everyone!
Please share your feedback before Friday 29 October.
Council happenings
Relationships and Sexuality Education Alliance

Council is proud to be part of the Relationships and Sexuality Education Alliance - which was launched yesterday. This is an issue that parents have raised repeatedly over the years. Consent, relationships and sex education are difficult but important topics. That's why we've been an active part in forming this alliance. We need expert input from the alliance partners to move towards a comprehensive relationships and sex education program for our schools - to help keep all our kids safe and sensibly informed.

Read more in this Canberra Times piece or this one, or read this ParentACTion article we wrote a little while ago about this work.

Representatives and stakeholders from across the Canberra community joined the launch event with Welcome to Country by Aunty Violet, opening remarks by Deputy Chief Minister Berry, to hear why comprehensive relationships and sexuality education is needed. 
You can stay in touch with the work of the Alliance through their website or by becoming a member. 
Return to school

We know that there are still concerns about the safety of returning to school for some parents and, as reported in the last Council Communicator, we have been expressing these views to senior staff at the Education Directorate and the Minister for Education and asking for a number of information supports for parents.

While we have been unsuccessful in securing an online information session for parents with experts from Education and Health, there is now available for parents:
You might be interested
College 'C' cource review 

The BSSS is reviewing some college course types, including 'C' courses. Lake Ginniderra College P&C entered this submission.
Youth mental health resources

There's a new portal to support ACT youth mental wellbeing called Mindmap that was launched this week to better help children, young people and parents navigate their way to find the most suitable mental health support and services available to them across the ACT. It also includes wait list times for services. 
Canteen positions - part time

Health Kids Association - who run several Canberra school canteens - are looking for part time canteen staff.

Do you have food handling or catering experience? Or perhaps you are looking to gain new skills whilst working in a collaborative and bubbly atmosphere? Healthy Kids Association want you onboard! Permanent part-time positions are available for 2 or 3 days a week, starting from the beginning of November. If you are interested or would like further details, don't hesitate to email the friendly team.
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Comment authorised by Terry L Sanders for the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations

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