COVID-19 FAQs

For the latest advice from the Department of Education re: COVID-19, visit:

Download Primary Ethics COVID-Safety plan.

Check the Department of Education’s list of non-operational schools (or download the app) to keep updated with any changed conditions in your school.

Our FAQs are updated to reflect the latest advice from NSW Department of Education and NSW Health. They are organised under these headings:

Our most recent updates are listed below. Please scroll down for the full FAQs.

Update 19 October 2021:

All schools across the state are  now beginning to bring children back to school under Level 3 restrictions.

All school staff and visitors (including Primary Ethics volunteers when they return) have to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and to wear masks on school grounds.

Update 16/7/2021:

With the extension of the Greater Sydney lockdown to midnight Friday 30 July, schools in this area will continue online learning and there will be no ethics classes until further notice.

Schools outside of Greater Sydney continue  in person teaching and ethics classes can go ahead. However, in line with health advice, some additional safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools for Term 3.

Teachers must comply with sign-in arrangements. This includes acknowledging that they will comply with the COVID-19 requirements for visitors, contractors and service providers each time they visit. Visitors must also check in using the Service NSW QR code.

Visitors to schools should maintain 1.5m distance from other people where practicable.

The wearing of masks at all times on school premises is recommended (though not during teaching time).

Anyone with any symptoms, or who is feeling unwell, should not attend school and should take a COVID test immediately. Anyone who has been off sick from school will be required to return a negative COVID test before being permitted to return to school.

Update 8/7/2021:

With the extension of the Greater Sydney lockdown to midnight Friday 16 July, schools in this area will do online learning next week and there will be no ethics classes until further notice.

Schools outside of Greater Sydney will return in person next week and ethics classes can go ahead. However, in line with health advice, some additional safety measures are being put in place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools for Term 3.

Teachers must comply with sign-in arrangements. This includes acknowledging that they will comply with the COVID-19 requirements for visitors, contractors and service providers each time they visit. Visitors must also check in using the Service NSW QR code.

Visitors to schools should maintain 1.5m distance from other people where practicable.

The wearing of masks at all times on school premises is recommended (though not during teaching time).

Anyone with any symptoms, or who is feeling unwell, should not attend school and should take a COVID test immediately. Anyone who has been off sick from school will be required to return a negative COVID test before being permitted to return to school.

Update 24/6/2021:

Volunteers are still permitted to teach in all schools
Many schools will cancel classes today and tomorrow as they try to manage distancing rules. We support their decision to do this locally if they feel this necessary.
Schools will advise of any new local requirements.
The only specific advice to date about at risk LGAs prohibits the movement of people from those areas beyond metropolitan Sydney. It does not prohibit the movement of people around any areas inside metropolitan Sydney.
Should you feel your own circumstances warrant caution, we will support a decision to not teach your class on these final two days of term. If you choose not to teach, please give as much notice as possible to your co-ordinator and the school.
23/6/2021: Dept of Education update:

To minimise further spread of COVID-19 in these areas, parents are advised of the following changes for school activities during this time:

  • Non-essential school visitors will not be allowed on school premises (i.e.: visitors not involved in delivering or supporting curricular activities)
  • School-initiated non-curricular social activities (such as school discos and staff social events that involve members of the community in addition to staff and students) will be postponed where possible. Non-curricular activities and events held in school premises that involve members of the community in addition to students and staff must comply with the requirements of the current public health orders.
  • Essential school visitors must continue to check in via the Service NSW QR code app or sign in for each visit and comply with the department’s COVID safe requirements, including personal hygiene, infection control and physical distancing requirements, while on the school site.

Students and staff in school settings are exempt from the requirement to wear masks, however individuals should be supported to wear masks if it is their preference to do so.

Masks remain mandatory on public transport. This applies to students aged 12 years and over, and staff when travelling to and from school and during school excursions by public transport or by chartered or private transport services. See face mask rules.

Additional cleaning measures will continue to be taken on school sites.

Update 22/6/2021: There have been no significant changes to school protocols in response to the eastern suburbs cases.

Update 6/05/2021:  New restrictions are in place for the Greater Sydney Region, which includes Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains. Of relevance to ethics volunteers:

  • Wearing a face mask is not mandatory for parents and carers visiting schools. Anyone who wishes to wear their own masks in schools will not be prevented from doing so.
  • All attendees, including visitors,must be well and free of any flu-like symptoms.
  • Singing by audiences is to be avoided. If students are performing in a choir that schools ensure there is a minimum of 5 metres between the choir and audience members.
  • Visitors to schools should maintain 1.5m distance from other adults where practicable. Avoid congestion of groups of visitors in specific areas where possible.
  • All visitors to a school site must comply with sign-in arrangements. This includes the requirement to sign the school sign-in sheet where they acknowledge that they will comply with the COVID-19 requirements for visitors, contractors and service providers each time they visit. Visitors must also check in using the Service NSW QR code.

Under what conditions are parents allowed on school sites? (Updated 8/03/2021)

Parents and carers may enter the school to drop off and pick up students in accordance with local school arrangements. Schools can welcome parents and carers to attend school sporting events and activities, indoors and outdoors, in line with other requirements in place for NSW.

Is singing in class permitted? (updated 8/03/2021)

Singing or chanting in unison is now permitted in class and there are no recommended limits or restrictions.

What happens if someone from my school community has a positive result for COVID 19? (new 18/08/2020)

The Department’s list of non-operational schools is the quickest way to learn if a school is affected.

The school is then closed for 24 hours for a deep clean and contact tracing. You may be contacted by the health authority (using the contact details on the External Visitors Form) if you may have been in close contact with the infected person.

Occasionally, schools are required to close for longer periods where the contact tracing procedure is complex, but otherwise schools return to usual operations the following day, which will usually include running of SRE/SEE classes.

Does Primary Ethics need a COVID-19 Safety Plan to enter schools? (new 8/03/2021)

Approved providers of SRE/SEE are not required to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan to enter schools.

What happens if someone from a school nearby has a positive result for COVID – will this affect what happens at my school? (new 18/08/2020)

The Department of Education wants all schools to run their regular programs and are very unlikely to recommend that schools in that area should also partly or fully close or otherwise change their operations. An exception has been in the case of border schools, and you can view the affected schools here.

What if I have very mild symptoms and I’m unsure whether I should teach my class or not? (new 18/08/2020)

DoE recommends that if in doubt, do not attend your ethics class. They will be able to make alternative arrangements for the students. Just let the school know as soon as you can.

Someone in my household is currently isolating as they await their test results. Should I teach my class or not? (new 18/08/2020)

If a household contact is awaiting test results, please do not attend a school until a negative result is returned.

Should I wear a face mask? (updated 18/08/2020)

We have been advised by the Department of Education that it is preferable not to wear masks in the classroom as it disadvantages those children who rely on lip reading and facial expression for understanding. Wearing of masks may be beneficial when travelling to and from school or moving around campus (such as from the office to your allotted classroom). If you would like to wear a mask in the classroom please let your SRE/SEE coordinator know.

Understanding health guidelines and orders

What are the requirements for older volunteers?  Do we need to provide a medical certificate?

There is no requirement for a medical certificate for any volunteer although volunteers are encouraged to consult their doctor when making an individual choice as to whether or not they would like to return to teaching ethics in schools.

What is the External Visitors Form? (updated 8/03/2021)

Each volunteer is required to complete and sign an external visitors form [or scan a QR code] on each visit to the school, declaring that you are well and comply with requirements. Please read the form each time as minor updates may be made frequently. We will ensure the latest form is uploaded here.

Should I print off a visitor form at home?

Your school will have copies of the latest version of the form ready for you to sign. You may wish to take your own pen to use when signing the form.

The External Visitors Form asks that I comply with the AHPPC guidelines. What do these involve?

The key advice from AHPPC on reducing the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools includes:

  • physical distancing for adults
  • staying away when sick.

The form also refers to the NSW Health Public Health Orders for COVID-19.  How can I ensure I am across these?

These are the rules that help keep you and the community safe. These rules have been communicated by the NSW government frequently and you’re probably aware of them already. The main points are:

  • practise physical distancing
  • get tested if you have symptoms
  • maintain good hygiene
  • consider downloading the COVID safe app.

It is a requirement that if a volunteer ethics teacher develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, even if mild, they must not attend school. Inform the school as you normally would (directly or via your ethics coordinator) but we also ask you email the Helpdesk to let us know.

What are the Department of Education’s infection control and physical distancing requirements?

The DoE’s advice for good hygiene practices includes:

  • regularly washing your hands
  • coughing or sneezing into your elbow, or a tissue which should be discarded immediately
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • all adults must maintain physical distance from each other (1.5m) including teachers and support staff and parents.

Physical distancing will impact on the sign-in arrangements at some schools. Please be aware of the 1.5m rule at this time.

School cleaning, hygiene and distancing

Will I need to wipe down surfaces?

You can feel comfortable that schools will continue to receive additional cleaning in line with the AHPPC guidelines and advice from NSW Health. Target areas include high-touch areas and other hard surfaces, door handles, lockers, light switches and handrails in stairways and movement areas. There will also be additional cleaning of toilets and bubblers and topping up of supplies like soap, hand sanitiser, paper towels and disinfectant wipes.

Is it easier to distance students if they are sitting at desks?

There are no physical distancing requirements for children in schools under the AHPPC guidelines. However, the guidelines suggest that you encourage increased space between children where possible and avoid close proximity queueing. Try to continue to arrange the children in a circle with no desks in front of them if possible as it is a key basis of the community of inquiry.

What are the rules regarding more than one teacher in the room? (updated 9/03/2021)

There are no limits on the number of volunteer teachers per class and observers are permitted to return. All adults must maintain physical distance from each other (1.5m).

Ethics class practice

Can we still hand out worksheets and pass around images in class?

Avoid passing images around the class – either on a printed page or on an iPad. Instead, keep hold of the image and angle it to ensure every child can see. We suggest printing a worksheet/script for each child so they don’t need to be shared. They should then be recycled as these cannot be reused. If you usually use a Smartboard, check with your school in the induction session whether you can continue to use this facility in case new restrictions on shared equipment are in place.