Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has announced that school holidays will be brought forward for government schools across the state, with schools closing from Tuesday 24 March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schools in other states will remain open, though parents in NSW are encouraged to keep their children home where possible, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia soars to over 1600, as of this morning.
In a statement issued on Sunday 22 March, Premier Andrews announced that he would inform the National Cabinet, at a meeting taking place that evening, of the decision to bring school holidays forward, adding that the decision to re-open Victorian schools after the Term 1 holidays would be determined following advice from the Chief Health Officer.
During a briefing this morning, he explained a number of restrictions and shutdowns that would be put in place across the state until 13 April 2020 – and possibly longer. This includes closing all bars pubs, clubs, night clubs, Crown casino, licensed venues, gyms, indoor sporting venues, places of worship, cinemas, entertainment venues, weddings and funerals. He added that these measures were “essential to keep Victorians and Australians safe”.
These same measures will be put in place Australia-wide with shutdowns to be enforced from midday on Monday 23 March.
School holidays in Victoria were due to begin on Friday 27 March, with a pupil free day also due to take place this week. “We have taken the decision – and the Chief Health Officer of Victoria is completely comfortable and supportive of this – to bring forward the school holidays, so to spend these precious days without kids at school to plan for remote, flexible, distance learning in the event that we need to move to that way of teaching and learning,” Premier Andrews said.
Term 2 for Victorian schools is scheduled to begin on 14 April, however if there is medical advice in the interim, this could change.
Premier Andrews also spoke about the school holidays, which will begin for Victorian schools at the conclusion of the school day on Monday 23 March. “These are not ordinary school holidays,” he said. “Every Australian has been advised not to undertake non-essential travel – and I’m advising every family that school holidays where kids might be going and staying at friend’s places, kids might be out going to shopping malls and doing all the usual things – that is not appropriate,” he said. “That is the clear advice. It will be a very different school holiday than usual, and it needs to be.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also gave a briefing this morning. Though schools will remain open in all states except Victoria, she has encouraged parents in NSW to keep their children home.
“We are the most populous state and need to do everything we can to keep our citizens safe,” she said. “In relation to schools, I want to stress that schools in NSW, from tomorrow will remain open, the health advice has not changed, however for practical reasons in NSW, we’ll be encouraging parents to keep their children at home to ensure there is one single unit of teaching.”
Premier Berejiklian added that last week up to 30 per cent of parents made the decision to keep their children home from school, and that number is expected to increase.
Though she reiterated that for parents who don’t have any other option and are working, schools will remain open in NSW.