SPC Advice – Return to School

Semester 3 2021

The NSW Secondary Principals’ Council (SPC) is the professional body representing Principals of government schools and colleges in NSW that have secondary school enrolments. The Council works closely with senior officials from the NSW Department of Education and the NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood and provides advice on matters relating to public secondary education in NSW.

The SPC supports the return of staff and students to school only when this is supported by the clear advice from Health that it is safe to do so.

Craig Petersen, SPC President, welcomes the opportunity to provide advice on a safe return to school. ”Given the highly volatile situation and changing Health advice regarding COVID, SPC recommends regular evaluation of any return of students and staff in order to enable adjustments to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all and to ensure that a return to school does not contribute to a further spread of COVID-19 across school communities,” he said.

“The return to school must not be rushed to meet a political agenda.  The first consideration must always be the safety and wellbeing of all staff and students.”

The SPC considers that any planned return to school should take the following factors into consideration:


  • To enable teachers and parents to plan appropriately, the Premier should immediately announce that there will be no return to school for face to face learning before the commencement of Term 4.
  • The return to school should be differentiated across the state and should be based on a combination of factors, including vaccinations rates and case numbers.


  • SPC support the return after a minimum vaccinations rate of 80% double dose for adults; and an average rate of 70% across the whole population.
  • There should be a minimum two-week period following their second vaccination before teachers are required to return to school.
  • There should be provision for the immediate opportunity for all staff to be vaccinated with an appropriate vaccine. 
  • There is significant concern that students under 16 who are not vaccinated are likely to contract COVID-19 and contribute to the further spread of the Delta variant.
  • All HSC students across the state should be prioritised for vaccination, with other year groups to progressively follow.  Any return to school should be aligned with the vaccination program.  This vaccination program must prioritise students with disabilities and staff supporting them.
  • The availability and accessibility of vaccines in many school communities remains a significant issue, especially for those in rural NSW.  To better facilitate any vaccination program, Health/Education must consider using schools as vaccination hubs.


  • Schools should only resume face to face learning following Health advice stating it is safe to operate at Level 3 or below.
  • SPC recommends that common operational guidelines for a return be developed, but that schools be allowed to determine implementation at the local level as much as possible.
  • SPC believes that an LGA-differentiated approach to timing of return is necessary.
  • When schools return, teachers can only deliver one mode of learning. They can not be providing online learning for students at home whilst simultaneously delivering traditional lessons for students present in class. 

Other matters for consideration….

To ease the anxiety of those students who have been most affected by the extended lockdowns. the SPC calls upon universities to ensure that all Year 12 from identified LGAs who wish to enrol in tertiary study be granted significant credit, bonus points, or direct early entry to courses, based on Principal recommendation.

“Principals and teachers are keen to resume ‘normal’ lessons as soon as possible.  However, whilst ever there are extensive outbreaks of the virus across NSW, the return to school should be carefully evaluated and, if necessary, placed on hold. It is not worth returning students to school and placing the lives of students, staff and others at risk.”

23rd August, 2021

C Petersen (President)

On behalf of NSW Secondary Principals’ Council

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