What are the face mask and testing rules for children at school? – ABC News

Schools are returning around Australia and many students are going back to new rules and requirements, after the nationwide spread of the Omicron variant.

To ease uncertainty about what’s required in your child’s classroom, we’ve broken down the rules around face masks and rapid testing for each state and territory.

Read on to see the rules around the country, or click your local area below for more information.

New South Wales

Face masks

High school students are required to wear medical-grade masks indoors in New South Wales.

Surgical masks will be available at high school for children who don’t have their own.

A child sits on the floor, reading a book, wearing a face mask.A child sits on the floor, reading a book, wearing a face mask.
In NSW, primary school-age children will be encouraged to wear masks.(Unsplash:Kelly Sikkema)

Face masks do not need to be worn when students are:

  • Eating
  • Exercising
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Outdoors if they are able to physically distance

Students in Kindergarten to Year 6 are strongly encouraged to wear medical-grade masks.

All school staff must wear medical-grade masks.

Testing

For the first four weeks of school, the NSW education department recommends students take a rapid antigen test twice a week in the morning before school.

Schools will provide RATs to students and staff.

Children with COVID-19 symptoms should be tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Students and staff who are recovering from COVID-19 are not recommended to take part in RAT surveillance for the 28 days after their self-isolation ends.

If a child is a household close contact, they must isolate at home for seven days.

Victoria

Face masks

Face masks will be mandatory for students in Year 3 and above, along with staff and anyone visiting a school. 

Children won’t have to wear a mask while eating or drinking, but the Victorian government mandates masks in all indoor settings.

Cloth masks will be allowed, but the state government recommends surgical masks.

A rapid antigen test.A rapid antigen test.
Rapid tests will be distributed to students in Victoria.(AAP: Lukas Coch)
Testing

Free rapid tests will be made available to all students and staff in Victoria to monitor infections.

Primary and secondary students and staff will be recommended to test themselves twice weekly, while students and staff at specialist schools will be recommended to test five times a week

The testing will be voluntary, with the responsibility of reporting results to the Department of Health and to schools falling on parents and guardians. 

Queensland

Face masks

High school students, including those under 12 years of age, are required to wear a face mask in Queensland both indoors and outdoors.

Face masks do not need to be worn when students are:

  • Seated
  • Able to maintain a 1.5m distance from each other

Students in Year 3 to Year 6 are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask.

Masks will be available at school for children who don’t have their own.

All adults, including staff, family members and visitors, must wear a face mask at school unless an exemption applies.

Teachers can remove their masks to teach.

coloured pencils in a red felt container with out-of-focus primary school students in the backgroundcoloured pencils in a red felt container with out-of-focus primary school students in the background
In Queensland, children won’t be regularly tested for COVID-19.(The Smith Family (supplied))
Testing

Parents are not required to regularly test their children.

If a student develops COVID-19 symptoms while at school, they will be collected by their parent or carer.

Their parent or carer will be given a rapid antigen test to take at home.

If the RAT is positive, they must follow quarantine and isolation guidelines.

If the RAT is negative, and the student is well, they can return to school.

Students and staff should not attend school if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms. 

Western Australia

Face masks

High school students are required to wear a face mask in indoors in Perth, Peel and the South West in Western Australia.

This may be extended to high school students in other regions if a mask mandate is issued for their area.

Primary school students are currently not required to wear a face mask.

However, students in Year 3 to Year 6 will need to wear face masks when a “high caseload” (yet to be defined) is reached.

School staff must wear a face mask.

Two little girls in face mask, one tie-dye and the other featuring Elsa from FrozenTwo little girls in face mask, one tie-dye and the other featuring Elsa from Frozen
Schools in WA could be closed down while close and casual contacts are identified. (ABC News: Bradley McLennan )
Testing

If a child tests positive for COVID-19, the student, their family and their classmates must isolate for 14 days.

The WA government has warned a school could be closed down while close and casual contacts are identified. 

South Australia

Face masks

High school students are required to wear a face mask in South Australia.

Face masks are strongly recommended for students in Year 3 to Year 6.

School staff and visitors must wear a face mask, except when teaching or interacting with children.

Students and staff with a medical condition are exempt from wearing a mask.

Four boys in blazers and face masks leaning against a brick wallFour boys in blazers and face masks leaning against a brick wall
In South Australia, high school students are required to wear a face mask.(Reuters: Kevin Coombs)
Testing

Parents are not required to regularly test their children.

Students and staff should not attend school if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms. 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, teachers will be given seven rapid antigen tests and will be required to return a negative test every morning.

As long as they have a negative test and no symptoms, they can continue coming to work.

Classmates of a positive case, or students of a positive teacher, will be asked to monitor for symptoms, but will be able to continue attending school.

Tasmania

Face masks

High school students are required to wear a face mask indoors in Tasmania.

It is recommended students wear surgical face masks, but cloth masks are accepted.

Face masks are not required for primary school students, including 12-year-old students.

School staff must wear a face mask, however, teachers can remove their mask if needed to communicate clearly when teaching.

a student gets hand sanitiser sprayed on his hand by a woman wearing a maska student gets hand sanitiser sprayed on his hand by a woman wearing a mask
It is recommended students wear surgical face masks in Tasmania but cloth masks are accepted. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)
Testing

Parents are not required to regularly test their children.

Students and staff should not attend school if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms. 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the school will stay open but extra cleaning will take place.

ACT

Face masks

High school students are required to wear a face mask at all times when indoors at ACT schools.

The face mask may be reusable or disposable.

Face masks do not need to be worn when students are:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Exercising vigorously
  • Communicating with a person with a hearing impairment
  • In an emergency

Students in Year 3 to Year 6 are encouraged to wear a face mask.

Children in preschool to Year 2 are not advised to wear a mask.

Students with disabilities do not need to wear a face mask.

School staff and visitors must wear a face mask.

Primary school studentsPrimary school students
RAT kits will be provided to students and school staff for the first four weeks of Term 1.(AAP: Dan Peled)
Testing

For the first four weeks of school, the ACT education department recommends students take a rapid antigen test twice a week in the morning before school.

The RATs will be provided by the ACT government to students and school staff for the first four weeks of Term 1.

It is not compulsory for students to show proof of a negative result before returning to the classroom.

Students and staff should not attend school if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms. 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the entire class will not be required to quarantine.

Northern Territory

A boy in a blue shirt and a backpack wears a bright, multi-coloured face mask.A boy in a blue shirt and a backpack wears a bright, multi-coloured face mask.
In the NT, parents and carers are responsible for providing students with a face mask.(AP: Brynn Anderson)
Face masks

Middle and senior school students are required to wear a face mask indoors in NT schools when they can’t physically distance.

Parents and carers are responsible for providing students with a face mask.

Students from Year 3 to Year 6 are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask.

All educators must wear a masks, unless conducting face-to-face teaching.

Testing

Students and staff should not attend school if they are unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms.

Remote school staff will be provided with three rapid antigen tests (RATs) the week before they return to remote communities. 

They must take the first test on the day they are due to travel to the community, and they can only leave if they return a negative result. 

They must then take another test on day three and again on day six

From the beginning of Term 1, all government school staff will be offered three rapid antigen tests a week to use as necessary. 

Unlike remote school staff, it will not be compulsory for government school teachers to test themselves on particular days. 

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