Latest HSC Advice
All Year 12 and students who are sitting for HSC exams in 2021 will be able to attend school from 16 August as outlined in these guidelines. Whenever on-site, staff, students and visitors must adhere to the strictest of COVID-safe practices.
These general principles apply to all schools and are subject to NSW Health advice.
Updated 30 July 2021
The return of HSC students to on-site activities will continue to be based on the latest NSW Health advice. Differentiated advice may also be provided for schools in some areas of the state. The three school sectors will continue to work with NSW Health on these guidelines.
HSC students and staff are not required to be on-site full time. Schools may provide a timetable that supports all students undertaking their HSC to attend school for face-to-face instruction, working on major works and/or undertaking exams when necessary.
Mingling will be limited as much as possible between HSC (appropriately grouped and spaced across classrooms or buildings) and other student cohorts at all times.
Specific advice on rapid antigen testing and vaccinations for HSC students in targeted LGAS will be provided when it becomes available.
NESA has announced a number of changes to the 2021 HSC timetables, including delaying written exams until 19 October.
For more information, refer to the following:
- NESA’s media releases for the latest announcements
- NESA’s HSC timetable changes
- NESA’s latest COVID-19 advice.
Students, parents and carers and teachers can also contact the NESA COVID-19 support team on 1300 138 323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From 16 August, HSC students throughout NSW (including in Greater Sydney) will be permitted to attend school to:
- participate in scheduled face-to-face learning to enable course completion and revision
- participate in COVID-safe trial written and oral exams
- participate in performance rehearsals (where only students who are required for the performance should attend, and only in their own performance groups)
- complete work on a practical task where specialist equipment is required (such as a major design project).
Students who attend school sites must adhere to strict COVID-safe practices, including physical distancing and wearing a mask as required within these guidelines.
HSC students in Greater Sydney are not permitted to attend school for study groups, and other activities at school that can be conducted online.
The health and wellbeing of students remains Catholic Schools and NESA’s priority. For additional resources, tips and study advice for students, parents and carers, access Stay Healthy HSC.
HSC trial and exam guidelines
Schools in Greater Sydney can start preparing for HSC trial exams from 16 August.
These guidelines are in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission between HSC students, staff and examiners by:
- minimising contact between individuals and exam cohorts
- following strict personal and environmental hygiene and infection control procedures
- ensuring accurate record keeping of attendees to support contact tracing.
These guidelines apply to all school settings and all HSC-related contexts including rehearsals, preparation, trial exams, exams and assessments.
Schools must consider these guidelines in line with current NSW Health advice applicable to their location, and existing COVID-safe requirements including:
- having a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place
- all staff and visitors entering the school to use the Service NSW QR code.
Schools should also refer to the NESA website for HSC-specific advice.
COVID-safe exam procedures
Schools should consider the following measures to keep students safe on each day of the exam.
COVID-19 safe expectations of students
- Students are reminded that they must stay away from school when unwell and get tested if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Students are not permitted to return to school until they have a negative test result.
- If students are not able to get tested for COVID-19, they must isolate for 10 days unless they provide written assurance from their doctor or GP that the symptoms they are displaying are of a known medical condition and are normal for the student.
- Students attending school for their scheduled trial HSC exam should arrive in the timeframe directed by their school prior to the exam and report directly to the designated exam room for screening and sign-in.
- Students should not interact in groups prior to or after an exam.
- Exam group sizes should be as small as possible. As a minimum, schools should ensure that the 1.5 metre rule can be applied between each person.
- Each small group should avoid contact with other exam groups.
Masks and face coverings
HSC students must follow the current health advice on mask wearing.
Students attending schools operating under Level 4 guidelines must wear a mask or face covering during all rehearsals, preparation, assessments or exams (when indoors).
It is recommended that students attending schools operating under Level 2 guidelines wear a mask or face covering during all rehearsals, preparation, assessments or exams.
A student may remove their mask or face covering during a final assessment where they are marked on facial expressions or vocals, or when they are playing a wind instrument.
Some students may already be exempt from mask wearing.
- Students will be screened before the exam by being asked if they have any flu-like symptoms or if they have visited a venue of concern and are required to self-isolate. Wide-scale temperature checking will not be used to screen students.
- Students will sign an attendance sheet confirming attendance at the exam, providing contact details and certifying that they do not have flu-like symptoms and have not visited a venue of concern and are not required to self-isolate.
- Students displaying any symptom will be asked to leave the examination centre immediately. They will also be asked to arrange for a COVID-19 test.
- Students with a clinical history or known illness that may appear like COVID-19 symptoms should provide written assurance from their doctor or GP that the symptoms they are displaying are of a known medical condition and are normal for the student.
- Students who present with negative COVID-19 test results may participate in the exam unless they have been asked by NSW Health to self-isolate.
- Students may be asked to wipe down high-touch areas in shared spaces before and after any exams or assessments.
- Hygiene supplies will be available at all exam venues including, sanitiser, wipes and masks.
All students and staff are reminded not to attend school or work and to get a COVID-19 test if they have symptoms or have been instructed to do so by public health and should contact the school to organise alternative arrangements while they await a test result.
If students are not able to get tested for COVID-19, they must isolate for 10 days unless they provide written assurance from their doctor or GP that the symptoms they are displaying are of a known medical condition and are normal for the student.
Additional testing requirements for students or staff will be reviewed dependent on the situation at the time and may change over the course of the HSC preparation and exam period.
External visitors will be permitted on school sites if their attendance is essential to enable HSC preparation and/or the external marking of HSC practical and performance exams.
External visitors include:
- music accompanists for HSC performance
- examiners for practical and performance marking
- presiding officers and exam supervisors for written exams.
External markers are required to adhere to:
- all COVID-safe practices in place at the location they attend
- all specific instruction provided by NESA on examinations.
Travel and moving between schools
Students visiting other schools should be minimised wherever possible for those under Level 2 restrictions.
Students in Greater Sydney are not permitted to visit other schools during HSC preparation.
If a student outside of Greater Sydney is required to attend a school other than their usual school, a plan must be in place to limit mingling of student cohorts while moving around the school.
Travel movements that would normally occur as a result of examination scheduling must be modified according to the NSW Health advice, particularly in line with any requirements under the current Public Health Order.
Students who need to use public transport should follow NSW Health advice and be aware of reduced frequency of services in planning their trip.
As per current advice, carpooling with people outside of your household is not permitted for anyone residing in Greater Sydney.
Mingling of student cohorts
All reasonable steps should be taken to minimise the mingling of student cohorts from different schools.
Students should only attend school for the time required to attend classes or work on their project or performance. This should be equivalent to the time they would typically spend in a school week.
Staff from Greater Sydney
Staff and examiners who reside in Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) should not travel outside of Greater Sydney unless absolutely critical. Anyone who must travel more than 50km outside of the Greater Sydney area must get a COVID test every 7 days.
All staff travelling outside of the Greater Sydney area must adhere to the specific restrictions in place in Greater Sydney (including stay-at-home orders, mask wearing and testing requirements) when in regional NSW.
Staff from outside of Greater Sydney
Staff and examiners from outside of Greater Sydney should be supported to attend regional locations to reduce movement between Greater Sydney and Regional NSW. Follow the Public Health Orders in place for any affected regions you visit.
Schools will restrict activities to groups of students in relevant HSC cohorts. Physical distancing and limiting interactions between groups at entry and exit points, transitioning between spaces within the school to reduce contact between student cohorts will need to be followed. As a minimum, students will be required to follow the 1.5 metre rule between people.
- Exam group sizes must be as small as practicable.
- As a minimum, schools must ensure that the 1.5 metre rule can be applied.
- Classes or groups for exam purposes that would not normally be together for curricular activities should not be combined.
Student numbers will be limited per room to ensure that in the event of a confirmed case, there are fewer students identified as close contacts – making contact tracing easier.
School-based apprenticeships and traineeships (SBATs)
Students undertaking a vocational education and training course as part of their school-based apprenticeship or traineeship remain eligible for Preliminary or HSC credit units if unable to complete their minimum on-the-job training days in 2021. As such, it is important for HSC students to continue training in order to complete their qualification by the end of October 2021.
If the registered training organisation (RTO) cannot provide flexible training options, students must notify their school as soon as possible. There may be circumstances in which an RTO cannot continue operating or delivering the program. If this occurs, the school will be supported to find another RTO that can continue delivery. Note, extended breaks in training for SBAT students may impact achievement of the HSC.
- For schools operating under Level 4 guidelines, student performers must wear masks during rehearsal unless speaking, and all other people in front of the performer (including staff and students) must wear masks.
- Where possible, performances should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably an outdoor setting.
- For schools operating under Level 2 guidelines, it is strongly recommended that student performers wear masks during rehearsals unless playing a wind instrument, and all other people in front of the performer (including staff and students) wear masks.
- A student may remove their mask or face covering during a final assessment where they are marked on facial expressions or vocals, or when they are playing a wind instrument.
- A solo singer (staff or student) is permitted to sing where a distance of 5 metres is maintained from other performers or people in front of the solo singer (including staff and students).
- Solo singing/instrumentalist should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably an outdoor setting.
- Shared equipment must be sanitised between each use.
- A small ensemble, not exceeding 5 people may perform together if all performers face forwards and not towards each other, are situated 1.5 metres apart, and are 5 metres from all other people in front of them (such as the conductor).
- Small group singing should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably an outdoor setting.
- Student performers and accompanists (not including singers or woodwind/brass instruments) must wear a mask or face covering, and all other people in front of the performer (including staff, students) must wear masks.
- The use of accompanists should be limited and the use of a backing track is preferred.
- Where required a distance of 5 metres between accompanist and performer must be maintained.
- External accompanists are permitted.
- External accompanists must limit attendance across multiple sites and must follow any health advice relating to additional testing requirements in the area where they live or work.
Dance and drama
- A solo performer (student) is permitted to perform where a distance of 1.5 metres is maintained from other performers and 5 metres from people in front of the performer (including staff, students).
- Group performers (students) are permitted to perform where a distance of 1.5 metres is maintained from other performers and 5 metres from people in front of the performer (including staff, students). If students are unable to modify their performance to accommodate that rule, they will be eligible to apply for illness and misadventure.
- Where possible, performances should only take place in a large well-ventilated setting, preferably an outdoor setting.
Alternative venue planning
Schools will make plans for an alternative venue to be used in the case where they are not able to follow the information set in these guidelines. The school will provide a list of alternative venues once these are confirmed.
HSC students in schools for specific purposes
Year 12 students in SSPs who are graduating in 2021 can be supported to attend school.
Illness and misadventure
Students who do not attend an exam due to having symptoms, or who are turned away as a result of screening, will be eligible to apply for NESA HSC illness and misadventure.
COVID19 HSC Response Committee
In 2020, NESA’s Board established the NESA COVID Response Committee, to address developing and urgent issues relating to COVID-19.
In 2021, the Committee is continuing to monitor and communicate any issues with schools.
The Committee comprises representation from each of the three school sectors.
Committee members include:
- Professor Peter Shergold, Chair of NESA Board
- Georgina Harrisson, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education
- Dallas McInerney, CEO Catholic Schools NSW
- Dr Geoff Newcombe, CEO Association of Independent Schools
- Jenny Allum, NESA Board member
- Denis Fitzgerald, NESA Board member
- Paul Martin, CEO of NESA.