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Home > News > 2020 > June > New health and safety guidelines for boarding schools

New health and safety guidelines for boarding schools

Coronavirus.jpgThe Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) have released an updated statement on how boarding schools and school-based residential colleges should manage the risks of COVID-19.

Boarding schools faced a particular set of issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

IEUA-QNT Assistant Secretary Brad Hayes said while it was positive that students can now return to use boarding facilities, the health and safety of employees remains paramount.

“The job security of our boarding members is critical, but the full return of boarders in Term 3 must be managed with appropriate employer resources and support so that safety is maintained,” Brad said.

In the new guidelines, the previous advice from the AHPPC recommending a 25 per cent maximum occupancy of boarding facilities has been removed.

The new guidelines suggest that boarding schools and school-based residential colleges should individually consult with their state or territory’s education department and revisit advice provided by the AHPPC released in April reducing the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. 

The AHPPC said that since each boarding facility is different, each establishment would face different issues. 

Every facility is required to undertake a thorough facility-specific, systematic risk assessment, analysis and mitigation process to inform the development of risk management plans.

The risk assessment to inform a facility’s risk management plan should address the following considerations:

  • accommodation and sleeping arrangements
  • hygiene facilities
  • catering processes
  • meal times and processes
  • classroom procedure interface with dormitory procedures
  • study requirements
  • control of entry and exit to the site
  • process for and records relating to visitors
  • off campus visits
  • policy and possible gaps
  • vulnerable students
  • vulnerable teachers or other staff
  • cleaning regimens
  • education and training for COVID-19
  • indoor/outdoor recreation areas
  • laundry areas and other ancillary areas
  • the mental health of students

Risk management plans should also include a detailed response for potential scenarios such as single or multiple cases of COVID-19 arising amongst the boarders and their close contacts.

The risk analysis should inform the development of a Risk Management Plan that includes mitigations that lower the risk of transmission and promote good health, hygiene and physical distancing within the facility and thus seek to protect the children, the staff and the community. 

Mitigations should ensure that the risk is managed as far as reasonably practicable using the hierarchy of controls. The risk assessment should be used to inform the approach to operating facilities.

See here for the full AHPPC statement on risk management and the strategies recommended for risk management.

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.