Year 11 and 12 students have been given the go-ahead to return to the classroom during Melbourne’s stage four lockdown, but only under strict conditions.
Assessments and course work for VCE and VCAL subjects can be done on-site when they cannot reasonably be done from home, schools have been told.
McKinnon Secondary College is among those holding on-site assessments.
The new head of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Stephen Gniel, has written to principals confirming that schools are free to open their doors to students from this week.
Teachers and staff are also permitted to leave their homes “to undertake support for the delivery of mandatory VCE and VCAL assessments on-site”, Mr Gniel wrote.
The advice applies to a long list of subjects including music, art, design, technology, media, computing and the sciences.
The return is not mandatory.
“For those schools and non-school secondary providers that have made arrangements for assessments to be conducted remotely with assurance of validity, this can continue,” Mr Gniel wrote.
The approval comes with controls including face coverings and temperature checks, physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres, a maximum of 25 people per room and a daily environmental clean.
Schools across the state returned to remote learning for all year levels early this month as Melbourne moved into tough stage four restrictions against movement.
The list of schools that had to shut because of a COVID-19 case in their community since March had grown to more than 150 by then.
Some schools have leapt at the opportunity to return to their campuses this week, while others have demurred.
VCE students at McKinnon Secondary College, in Melbourne’s south-east, were sitting physics and psychology assessments on-site today.
Principal Pitsa Binnion said the new advice was “a wonderful modification to the rules” that will make assessment fairer, given students will be together in the same environment instead of at home, where study conditions are mixed.
Ms Binnion said the return to class had given VCE students “a huge emotional boost”.
“That lack of connection is really having a terrible impact,” she said. “They’re being provided with incredible teaching and learning resources, but I think that this opportunity will really help them be motivated to keep going.”
Across town in Braybrook, Caroline Chisholm Catholic College principal Marco di Cesare said his school would continue to keep on-site attendance to a bare minimum.
“Wherever possible we really want them to be completing SACs [school-assessed course work] and SATs [school-assessed tasks] at home,” Mr di Cesare said.
The school is considering making one exception, for theatre studies, but staff at the school in Melbourne’s west remain nervous about infection, he said.
Caroline Chisholm Catholic College is on the border of the City of Brimbank, which had 750 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
“It’s still spreading through our families,” Mr di Cesare said, adding that “there is a lack of acknowledgement in some parts of Melbourne that there are some schools that are doing it tough.
“Most of the schools around us shut down because of cases, whereas on the other side of town they may not even know somebody who has caught corona. Well that is certainly not the case here; we all know someone who has it or has had it,” he said.
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All VCE and VCAL students will be given special consideration of the personal impact of the pandemic on their studies when assessed this year.
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