Speaking Schools’ COVID-19 Action Plan

4 March 2020

Last updated 9 March 2020

 

Current Situation

As of mid-March 2020, the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has spread to Australia.

At this stage, we know the following:

  • there have been forty confirmed cases in NSW, all of whom are in quarantine or have recovered;
  • there have been around 10 known local transmissions within Australia, most of which were either in medical contexts or between family members;
  • the virus appears to travel using respiratory droplets, and is generally not airborne – it is transmitted when people are in close contact (less than a metre), or touch contaminated surfaces, and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes;
  • the virus appears to be most contagious after symptoms first appear, and it is understood that people showing symptoms are the main way the virus spreads;
  • children appear to be safe from the most severe symptoms – to date, no child has died (or even reported severe symptoms) after contracting COVID-19; and
  • almost all people who suffer severe COVID-19 symptoms suffer from other illnesses as well.

Currently, there are travel bans in place for China, Iran and South Korea (and travel restrictions from Italy), with the Australian Government considering further steps to help contain the spread of COVID-19.  To date, only one school (Epping Boys High School) has been closed for one day, after a single student caught the virus from their mother.

Whilst children appear to not be at a particularly high risk, SSA places their safety (and the safety of our coaches) as our highest priority.  This is the first tier of our teaching policy.

Below are our action plans for the current and upcoming programs.  Please note that these will be subject to change depending on advice from the Australian Government and/or the health authorities.

 

Term #1 Weekly Programs Action Plan

At this stage, we have taken the following steps:

  1. suspending the start of almost all weekly programs until 10 February 2020 (and refunding all lost enrolment fees), to ensure that we had effective contagion procedures in place; and
  2. individually contacting every family enrolled in one of our programs to ensure that they had either not travelled to China within 14 days of their child attending the program, or alternatively had quarantined themselves and received a medical certificate to say they were not suffering from any symptoms of COVID-19.

We are constantly monitoring the situation, but it appears that transmission of COVID-19 is very unlikely in any of our classes before the end of the term.  Despite this, we are also taking further steps at all of our centres to reduce the chances of contagion, including:

  1. decontaminating all rooms before classes start, to help ensure that surfaces are not contaminated;
  2. testing student temperatures at the beginning of each class to ensure no students are presenting with a fever (the most common and often first presenting symptom of COVID-19);
  3. providing extra sanitary products – such as handwash – at all venues, and ensuring that students use those products as necessary to help reduce the chance of transmission;
  4. introducing ‘no touching’ rules, which place an obligation on students to not touch one another over the course of the programs, minimising the opportunities for the contagion to spread;
  5. requiring anyone who is showing any symptoms that resemble COVID-19 to stay away from the programs (including sending students and/or coaches home if they begin displaying any symptoms whilst a program is running); and
  6. requiring all parents to exclude their children from programs if they travel to an overseas hotspot, have close contact with a confirmed case, or another family member has close contact with a confirmed case.

We are revising these as Term #1 progresses, and will amend them as necessary.

At this stage, it is unlikely that the Term #1 programs will need to be cancelled.  However, should this occur, we will update the action plan accordingly.

We have developed the ability to roll out online classrooms as a substitute, and have already had 1,200+ students go through similar programs in China, so we are confident that we will still be able to provide high quality programs even if we are no longer able to run them in a physical, in-person format.

 

April Holiday Programs Action Plan

As of mid-March 2020, our April holiday programs will still be going ahead at all venues.

Should the holiday programs go ahead as planned, at this stage we will be taking the following added steps to prevent contagion (in accordance with Government recommendations):

  1. providing extra sanitary products – such as handwash – in all classrooms, and ensuring that students use those products as necessary to help keep our classrooms clean;
  2. introducing ‘no touching’ rules, which place an obligation on students to not touch one another over the course of the programs, minimising the opportunities for the contagion to spread;
  3. having thermometers present at all venues, to allow easy testing for fever (the first symptom that presents in most COVID-19 patients); and
  4. requiring anyone who is showing any symptoms that resemble COVID-19 to stay away from the programs (including sending students and/or coaches home if they begin displaying any symptoms whilst a program is running).

We will revise these guidelines in advance of the holiday programs starting, and amend them as necessary.  Importantly, current advice is that masks are unnecessary, and in some circumstances may increase the likelihood of transmission if used incorrectly (which children are more likely to do).

In the event that we receive advice that it is unsafe for such programs to run, and are required by the Australian Government to cancel the workshops, three options will be made available:

  1. parents will be able to receive a refund of their fees, as required under the Australian Consumer Law;
  2. parents will be entitled to a credit for a future holiday (or weekly term) program; or
  3. parents will be able to enrol their child in an online program at a reduced fee, which can be engaged in from the safety of their home (we have run online programs for English public speaking and debating for 1,200+ students in China, and are continuing to do so despite the COVID-19 outbreak. We are confident that we will be able to do the same in Australia).

Given that parents will be relying on us running the programs, as many of them will still be required to work, we will only cancel the programs if the Australian Government either requires us to do so, or strongly recommends that we do so.

That said, if we continue with the programs as scheduled, to the extent that parents are concerned about their child’s safety, but have already enrolled in our programs, they will still be able to obtain a credit for a future holiday (or weekly term) program later in 2020 if they choose not to attend.

 

Term #2 Weekly Programs Action Plan

At this stage, it is too early to determine what steps will be necessary for our weekly programs in Term #2.

We will update our action plan for Term #2 before bookings open in early April 2020.

 

Ongoing Online Programs

Students and staff participate in these programs from home, and they do not expose students or coaches to others.  These programs will continue to operate normally.

 

COVID-19 Policy

SSA has put in place a policy that specifies the obligations and responsibilities of its management team, coaching staff and partner organisation.

Please get in touch if you would like a copy of the policy.