The head of the prime minister’s department is working with the states and territories to harmonise the return of school for 2022.
Some states and territories are weighing up delays to school reopening for the new year, to allow more children to be vaccinated for COVID-19, while some insist the term should start as scheduled.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his department boss Phil Gaetjens was working with state and territory authorities to “harmonise their back-to-school plans”.
“Our objective is to go back, stay back, day one term one,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
He said the Omicron variant case rate would peak at different times across the country.
“We will be working through those issues this week to get further certainty and harmonisation between the states and territories,” Morrison said.
Chief Medical Officer Prof. Paul Kelly said health advisers had met to discuss the issue on Sunday and would meet again on Monday.
“It’s related to balancing the wider aspects and the importance of face-to-face learning in schools with the risk of COVID.”
Asked about parents concern about the health risks of sending their children back to school, Kelly said the illness had been less severe in children since the start of the pandemic.
“For the vast majority of children who have Omicron it is a very, very mild disease,” he said.
Kelly said there were important issues around mental and physical health to consider when looking at the safe reopening of schools.
Morrison said in relation to Queensland delaying its school reopening he welcomed the fact that the children of essential workers could go back to study on time.
“We need kids back at school because it also has very significant impacts on the workforce availability – particularly in the health sector,” he said.
The national coordination strategy would involve setting some “very clear principles” around school reopening, he said.