COVID-19 Update

27 August 2021

Message from the Principal

Over the last seven days, I have received 15 different sets of government protocols, guidelines and public health orders relating to COVID-19, and this has been the pattern for quite some time. I am not complaining about this – it is good that guidelines should change as circumstances change – but it does give some indication of how fast things are moving and how many moving parts are involved.

In these circumstances, it is timely to consider the main points which are relevant to our girls and families. Below, I lay out some headline information, noting wherever possible how it may be subject to change.

Return to School and Exams

The Premier outlined today a plan for return to face-to-face schooling, along with some changes to the timing of the HSC examinations. It is likely that Queenwood will take the same approach as that outlined this morning and, if so, it would look like this:

  • Tuesday 5 October: Term 4 commences with remote learning for all students.
  • Monday 25 October: Kindergarten and Year 1 return to campus. Year 12 may also return to campus – although what that looks like is yet to be determined as they would not normally be in scheduled lessons at this time of year. All other students continue in remote learning.
  • Tuesday 26 October: IB examinations begin on campus.
  • Monday 1 November: Years 2, 6 and 11 return to campus. All other students continue in remote learning.
  • Monday 8 November: Years 3 – 5 and 7 – 10 return to campus. By this date, all school staff must also be fully vaccinated.
  • Tuesday 9 November: HSC examinations begin on campus.
  • Wednesday 10 November: IB examinations conclude.

The Uncertainties
The government’s plan is contingent on full vaccination of 70% of the population by 25 October and it is clear that if infections rise to high levels in specific areas, local schools may be closed in response. This is an area where we can all make our contribution! Please continue to abide by all health requirements, despite the understandable fatigue, to minimise the risk that our girls continue in remote learning any longer than they have to.

We received these plans only a few hours ago and we think broadly they are feasible but it is only fair to flag to our community that we haven’t had the opportunity to work through the details in the way that would be required to give you absolute certainty this afternoon. For instance, on 8 November we would have both HSC and IB examinations underway and all students back on campus. This will place particular pressure on classrooms if we are also required to reduce the number of examination candidates in each classroom as we did for the HSC Trials. There is, as yet, no guidance on this point. Meeting any requirements like these will be easier if all students are vaccinated so we again urge all students to make their bookings as soon as possible (more information below).

Overall, I am optimistic that our return will follow the pattern above but I would prefer to be open with you about potential issues and wait to offer definitive confirmation once we have done the work. If we did have to adjust, the changes would probably be slight – perhaps by a day or two.

IB examinations are scheduled to proceed as timetabled, starting on 26 October and concluding on 10 November.

HSC examinations are now due to start on 9 November and we are expecting further announcements about examinations, including a new timetable. Results will be released to students in mid-January – as in the days of their parents! At today’s briefing, the Minister for Education confirmed that the department have been working with universities to put admission procedures in place for the Class of 2021 which take into account the new dates.

The rumour mill is in overdrive at the suggestion that some examinations may not proceed and that is a possible outcome. Students should, however, assume that all examinations will go ahead and continue their study as planned in the meantime. The Year 12 cohort had a timely presentation from Dr Prue Salter yesterday which gave them good advice on how best to plan their study time effectively, and she even addressed the moving of these examinations to a later date.

Naturally, we will pass on any further announcements immediately. We will also consider carefully what the coming months look like for Year 12 and how to keep the girls well and motivated over this extended period.

There have been several helpful developments in the last few days.

Earlier this week, a large number of appointments for Pfizer vaccinations became available for students (and adults) 16 and over. We shared this as a matter of urgency with parents and it is clear that many senior girls have successfully booked their slots for the next few days and weeks. High levels of vaccination for these students are vital to ensure that the return to campus and examinations can proceed smoothly, so we encourage all to proceed with vaccination as soon as possible.

Today, it was also announced that children 12 and over will be eligible for vaccination from 13 September. There has been talk behind the scenes for some time of the possibility of delivering these vaccines through schools (as we already do for HPV, for instance) but we have no confirmation yet. We will naturally pass any information on as soon as we can.

It was also announced today that school staff will be given priority for vaccinations at Qudos Arena from 6 September. We are fortunate that staff have been proactive and many are already fully vaccinated but this will greatly assist those who have had trouble getting timely appointments and will facilitate the return to campus.

Safety on campus
We are all familiar with the strict COVID-safe measures that will apply when the girls return. Further measures are likely (eg. masks for students) and we will work through these and inform you in good time.

Parents are understandably worried about the risks to their children while they are unvaccinated, and you may find this article helpful. While the Delta variant is more transmissible to children, they are very unlikely to become seriously ill or have lasting symptoms. The vast majority of transmission occurs, however, within households and once one person is infected with the Delta variant, the transmission rate to others in the household is almost 100%. Therefore, the single most effective measure to protect children is the vaccination of the adults around them, especially parents.

Finally, we are keen to get the feedback of parents and girls in this period of remote learning and links are provided below. While we still have some time to go, it is good to have gained today a better sense of the path out of lockdown and I thank you for your support in the meantime.

We share the Government’s concern for the mental health of our young people and welcome the discussion around a safe return to face-to-face learning. Learning works best within a community of peers and experienced teachers; we miss the girls and look forward to planning for the light at the end of the tunnel in the coming days and weeks.

Please stay safe, and I hope everyone will get some quality time away from screens over the weekend!