Stay calm and informed of advice

Federation is monitoring the virus situation as it unfolds, and providing regular information updates on its website at

Federation is aware, through evidence from members, of racism and unacceptable actions by some students and community members towards certain ethnic groups as the COVID-19 epidemic moves into its third month.

The union encouraged the Department to issue further explicit advice to schools about their critical role and responsibilities regarding anti-racism in schools.

The Department’s Deputy Secretary, School Operations Murat Dizdar issued an email to principals advising: “In the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, some students, teachers, parents and members of school communities who are of Chinese and other Asian backgrounds could be particularly vulnerable to incidents of prejudice given the link between the initial virus emergence and China.”

Federation asks that teachers be aware of the racism issue as new virus epicentres have been identified in other countries — including Iran, Italy and South Korea — and after the death of an Australian man in Perth and news of the first person-to-person transmission in this country.

Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said: “Federation supports the values of the Department’s Anti- Racism Policy and strongly advocates for the elimination of racism through the education of teachers, students and parents.”

On the issue of racism, principals are required to nominate an Anti-Racism Contact Officer as per the Department’s Anti-Racism Education Policy.

Also, refer to the union’s anti-racism resources, where professional readings, policies and strategies can be found.

In late February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the activation of the Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19, stating “the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us”.

Federation is aware of heightened community concerns about COVID- 19 but has confidence in the guidelines and procedures for managing the situation set out by Australian governments and the health authorities.

Mr Gavrielatos said members should be aware of misinformation on social media and the internet being circulated about COVID-19 and only heed official advice.

“The role a teacher can play in situations such as these is to stay informed, remain calm and be in a position to pass the correct information on to their students, parents, colleagues and the community,” he said.

As a simple practical guide, the World Health Organisation’s website provides a useful tool for separating fact from fiction about the virus.

The federal Health Department also advises that the use of surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others.

If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask as there is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public.


The federal Health Department has published a downloadable collection of resources, which includes sections in simple Chinese and Farsi. This resource may prove useful for parents in those comunities.

Last updated on 29 February, the information outlines what to do if a student or staff member becomes sick where symptoms include (but are not limited to) fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath.

The Department advises that where a student or a staff member develops mild symptoms, they must:

  • isolate themselves from others at home and use a separate bathroom if available;
  • put on a surgical mask and if they don’t have one, practise good sneeze/ cough hygiene;
  • practise good hand hygiene; and
  • call a doctor or hospital and tell them the recent travel or close contact history.

Schools should continue to follow the NSW Education Department’s Infection Control guidelines.

For any questions you may have or reports of staff or students affected to call the Department’s Incident Report and Support Hotline on 1800 811 523.

NSW Health has information available on its website.


Following representations to Federation by various school communities affected in relation to absent students, the union undertook discussions with the Department to extend the census date (for determining staffing numbers) to minimise instability in affected schools, which was agreed.