OPL COVID-19 Information and Updates

OPL Information and Updates Regarding Placements in 2020

Still current at: 28 September 2020

Updated: 11 June 2020

Earlier in the year, the School of Education and the Office for Professional Learning (OPL) made the decision to suspend all school and some early childhood placements for Trimester 1. Recently, schools and early childhood centres in most states and territories have re-opened due to the COVID-19 situation stablising. As such, most Trimester 1 placements will be shifted to school term 3, after 20 July 2020 with Graduate placements being requested as a priority.

Please be aware that the situation could change if a second wave of COVID-19 infections occurs. If this is the case, we will be required to postpone placements further. Professional experience placements are still a requirement of accreditation and will not be waived so the Office for Professional Learning (OPL) is working on ways to support students to complete placements.

Different Models for placement

At this time, it seems most placements will be completed as regular, face-to-face placements, with the majority being undertaken in a full-time capacity. Mixed-mode and part-time placements will still be allowed on a case-by-case basis, with the OPL (for school placements) or early childhood unit co-ordinators (for early childhood placements) having the final decision for how placement will occur.

It is the responsibility of the OPL to ensure we are monitoring your accreditation requirements. While we can apply flexibility with some of our policies for 2020, we cannot breach policies set by NESA or ACECQA, or make variations that will compromise your accreditation. As things progress into the future, the different models for flexibility and policy changes will be reviewed.

Placements and Special Extension of Time Information (for Early Childhood Placements)

Early childhood students need to discuss their placement and SET dates with their early childhood unit co-ordinator.

Placements and Special Extension of Time Information (for School-Based Placements)

Each state and territory will have their own timeline for letting in placements proceed. In NSW, the Department of Education is allowing placements to proceed from 20 July 2020, with graduate school placements beginning earlier. Other sectors are allowing placements to begin earlier than this date.

Any Special Extension of Time will carry a suggested expiry date that can be extended providing there is a reason to do so. If you already have a confirmed placement, you will be granted a SET.

General Information

For students who are worried about contracting COVID-19 or have family who are at risk if they catch the virus, we suggest not going on placement this year. In this case, we could either grant a SET or you could consider withdrawing from the unit with professional experience. For the latter you will need to speak with the Education Enrolments team but withdrawal will need to be carefully considered.

We acknowledge these solutions may not assist everyone and may mean a delay in people’s progression through their degrees. If schools are not available for placement, then a delay is inevitable, regardless of the OPL’s procedures. During this time, the OPL will be as flexible as possible while ensuring procedures are followed to ensure your accreditation to teach and the integrity of our degrees remain unaffected.

Students are required to read acknowledge the following declaration before their placements can proceed:

OPL Teacher Education Student Declaration Regarding Placements During COVID-19

We thank you for your understanding. Should you require further information, please contact the OPL. It would be best if any requests are sent through AskUNE as this will provide a written record of communication.

FAQ

Am I allowed to go on a placement right now?

This is a bit hard to answer concisely as different states and territories have different requirements for placement. In NSW, for example, Department of Education placements can occur during term 3 and 4 (after 20 July 2020) with some sectors following suit. Other states and territories are letting students in earlier and others later. Your best bet will be to contact the OPL through AskUNE to ask if your state or territory is taking placements.

My school has gone to online learning, can I complete placement in this manner?

No.The OPL is not allowing an online placement as a substitute for face-to-face teaching. We may allow a mixed-mode placement, where teaching occurs from school to students at home with full supervision by a supervising teacher in the classroom, however, this is approved at the discretion of the OPL and placement school.

Why were placements suspended?

The COVID-19 virus has affected countries much more acutely than Australia. Some countries around the world have had trouble containing the spread and many people have died. At the time, there was fear Australia would fall into the same high-level risk category as other countries but people listening to the suggested measure in place by government has meant we have got through this relatively unscathed. There is still a way to go but now, with the infection rates in Australia being low, placements are being allowed to resume.

My placement was postponed/suspended and I have not heard from the OPL. What should I do?

Contact the OPL as soon as you are able so we can get started on renegotiating the placement.

I am due to commence my placement in Term 2, will this still be going ahead?

If you are to complete a graduate placement, it is more likely you will be able to commence in school term 2. If not, it is more likely you will not. Please read the information above or contact the OPL to find out more.

I haven't been allocated a placement this year, will I be able to complete a placement this year?

Yes. The bulk of these placements will begin after 20 July 2020. The sooner the OPL has the information about your placement, the sooner we can begin requesting. Please be aware, though, the demand for placements will be high while the supply might be low so this could mean a delay to your placement.

I'm due to graduate this year, will I still be able to finish?

All schooling sectors have requested Graduate placements be prioritised this year, meaning, if you are to complete your final placement in 2020, the OPL will be putting your requests in first (as long as they have the information from you about your placement requirements).

 Can schools override the NSW Department's decision?

No. Schools have been informed the start date for Department of Education will be after Term 3 begins (20 July 2020).

My school has offered to take me later this year, can I do this?

If a school is willing to take you later in the year, the OPL will accommodate this providing it does not cause issues with any of your studies. However, be aware that schools may not be able to accommodate placements this year as we are unsure whether the COVID-19 virus will continue to grow or will become contained.

My Special Extension of Time (SET) is due to expire before I can complete my placement, what can I do?

We are able to grant extensions to existing SETs in this circumstance, which will allow you to complete placements when circumstances allow. Please contact the OPL via AskUNE if this situation applies to you so we can update your SET.

I'm pregnant and won't be able to complete a placement at a later date, what can I do?

In this case, we are more than happy to grant a SET for you to complete your placement at a later date. If a 12 month SET does not allow sufficient time for your circumstances, we may be able to extend the SET dates on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the OPL via AskUNE if this situation applies to you.

It may however be more suitable to withdraw from the unit and re-enrol at a more suitable time. For best advice, contact the Education Enrolments Team.

If you are concerned about your health in this time, please refer to the WHO guidelines regarding COVID-19 and pregnancy - https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-pregnancy-childbirth-and-breastfeeding

If I am given a Special Extension of Time (SET) how long will it last?

Generally for 12 months (only for the practical component of the unit) but usually shorter if you have assessment work attached to the unit. If there are additional extenuating circumstances, we may be able to extend these dates on a case-by-case basis. Further information about associated assessment tasks will be added soon.

Are In-Service Placements still going ahead?

In-Service placements are still able to continue through this time if the school or centre remains open and has not gone fully online. Final and graduating school placements cannot be completed as In-Service at this stage. The two early childhood out of centre units are still required to be completed out of centre.

Will UNE's Insurance Cover me if I Catch COVID-19?

UNE’s insurance does not cover illness suffered while on placement. This is particularly pertinent to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When will my placement be re-arranged?

The current timeline for commencing this process is week three of Term two but will be different for different school, sectors, states or territories. The delay is due to school holidays and a need to balance placement needs with schools’ abilities to accept you.