School camps get the green light to resume for rural and regional Victoria

Victoria’s Minister for Education, James Merlino, recently announced all schools in regional Victoria can return to school camps from 5 October 2020 (beginning of Term 4). Camps will be limited to single schools and can only take place in regional and rural Victoria, in line with current government health advice.

Camp operators and outdoor activity providers, are being urged to familiarise themselves with Australian Camps Association’s (ACA) COVIDSafe Plan Template for Victorian Camps, Retreats & Activity Providers, released on 17 September. Operators are advised to use this as a guide to update or develop their own in-house COVID-19 management plan as part of standard operating procedures. The Safe Work Australia's COVID-19 resource kit for businesses is also recommended at this time.

As per the Department of Education’s (DET) updated webpage, schools are required to follow the DET's Excursions Policy (including camps and adventure activities) which includes the requirement for risk management planning. Camp operators should undertake individual risk assessment and planning to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission and respond in the event of a confirmed case. 

This should be informed by the principles below and advice for accommodation providers from Business Victoria:

  • Staff and students must not attend camp if unwell. Staff or students who develop symptoms during camp must be isolated and sent home for testing as soon as possible.
  • Reinforce hand hygiene practices and ensure access to hand-washing facilities in all communal areas (where soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitiser should be provided).
  • Cleaning and disinfection of communal facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens should occur at least twice daily. This includes enhanced cleaning of high touch-surfaces.
  • Physical distancing is most important between adults and should be implemented as practical.
  • The advice to all Victorians on the use of face masks also applies on school camps. Staff, volunteers and students 12 years old and over must wear a face mask, unless they have a lawful exception.
  • For sleeping arrangements, minimise numbers in shared rooms/dormitories where possible. Maintain records of sleeping arrangements to assist with contact tracing in the event of a confirmed case.
  • Parent volunteers are permitted, subject to normal arrangements, where volunteers are an integral part of the conduct of school camps. For example, where necessary to ensure adequate supervision.
  • You can find advice on the management of a suspected case of COVID-19 involving a student or staff member in the Term 4 school operations guide (login required). This should be applied on school camps.

Our colleagues at Outdoors Victoria (OV) urge all educators in schools to contact their regular camp operators and outdoor activity providers as soon as possible, to explore possibilities for their students for Term 4 and beyond. The OV team has said, “What a gift to be able to provide these outdoor experiences at a time where students so need to reconnect with their peers and teachers.” ...and we agree!

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team or need further support at this time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.