Supporting the independent education community

COVID-safe guidelines issued to schools ahead of HSC exams

Schools across NSW have received guidelines to support planning for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) written exams that start on 20 October.


Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell has sought to reassure students that everything is being done to make sure they can sit their HSC without disruption.


“We are continuing to prioritise health advice as we support school in planning for an operating the HSC exams. The safety of students and staff involved remains our priority,” said Ms Mitchell.


The guidelines, developed in consultation with NSW Health, have been issued to principals by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA), who are responsible for the HSC.


NESA Chief Executive Officer Paul Martin said that he recognised preparing for the HSC exams during this pandemic is challenging.


“The aim of these guidelines is to provide as much clarity to schools and reassurance to students as possible, in line with health advice as we approach exams,” Mr Martin said.


In their planning, schools have been asked to consider:

  • Prioritising a section of the school for rapid cleaning as well as having an alternative venue on standby.
  • Developing exam day protocols including health screening, in line with sector or school policies and protocols.
  • Recruiting additional exam supervisors.

The Department has issued guidelines to Principals asking them to limit student numbers to 75 students per exam room, limit HSC student interaction with the rest of the school and prioritise cleaning for exam venues.


“Each school’s contingency plans will be unique, school principals will be supported by their local directors and the department to develop and implement their individual plans,” said Ms Mitchell.


IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Secretary, Mark Northam, said the union welcomes these additional guidelines to schools as they undertake the unenviable and meticulous planning process required to conduct mass examinations during a pandemic.


“This monumental undertaking that school staff and students are preparing to go through is yet another example of the way that teachers and support staff are stepping up and shouldering additional burdens to manage the process of regular education and assessment in an irregular time,” said Mr Northam.


“There is an obvious understanding that, particularly in schools with large Year 12 cohorts, there will be additional complexities in the organisation of HSC assessments in a COVID-safe manner. This will of course include, but is not limited to, the organisational constraints of arranging for adequate space, and appropriate health screening prior to staff and students entering into those spaces.


“School staff have shown themselves time and again willing to go the extra mile to ensure that their students, in this case Year 12 students undergoing final examinations, are best served during this uncertain time.”