Unvaccinated schoolchildren cleared for graduations and excursions

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Unvaccinated schoolchildren aged between 12 and 15 have been given a reprieve from Victorian vaccine mandates and will be free to attend excursions, camps and graduation ceremonies.

Unvaccinated children aged 12 to 15 have been granted an exemption so that they can attend graduations, camps and excursions. Credit:Getty

The exemption, which will begin on Tuesday, has been granted after some principals and parents raised concerns that students who had not had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine faced being excluded from end-of-year milestone events.

Children aged 12 to 15 will also be permitted to join their classmates at public places, such as swimming pools and adventure parks, as long as a teacher is present.

Schools were informed of the change to health directions on Sunday night.

Victorian Principals’ Association president Andrew Dalgleish said it was a relief for schools that did not want to bar some students from end-of-year celebrations. Some principals had also been dealing with distressed parents.

“It’s been an issue which has been creating some angst for schools and communities, and we’re pleased that it’s been resolved,” Mr Dalgleish said.

“The greatest concern was being able to include all children. We just didn’t want to be in a situation where we are saying [to a student], ‘sorry, you can’t come but everyone else can’.”

Current directions limit the venues that children can attend if they are aged between 12 and 15 and have not been fully vaccinated.

“The Department of Health has advised the Department of Education and Training that students aged between 12 and 15 who are not fully vaccinated will be able to attend camps, excursions, graduations and other school activities held at open premises that are also used by other schools or patrons from Tuesday 23 November,” the advice to schools said.

“This exception to the current directions will apply only to school-organised activities when at least one teacher is present.”

One veteran primary school principal said he was relieved as he was potentially looking at excluding most year six students from their own graduation ceremony under current directions

“Two-thirds of our children potentially would have been unable to attend our graduation ceremony with their parents off-campus,” Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek said.

“Now we can have – for the first time in two years – a graduation ceremony that’s approaching normality.”

From today, the Health Department has also made rapid antigen tests available at state-run testing sites to anyone exposed to COVID-19 in a school or childcare setting.

Children who are exposed to a case of coronavirus at school or in childcare can now return after showing a negative PCR test.

Students and staff who test positive for coronavirus are required to isolate for 10 days, instead of 14 days.

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