Booklet cover

Managing COVID health & safety concerns at your site

On 3 February 2022 the AEU launched a guide for members in sub-branches on managing COVID health and safety concerns at your site. 

Download the guide here.

Please contact your site's Organiser or the Information Unit if your sub-branch requires further support.

Executive resolves to re-ballot to postpone stopwork

Thursday 27 January 2022

The AEU Branch Executive met late afternoon on Thursday 27 January to consider progress in negotiations regarding the start of the 2022 preschool and school year, and resolved to conduct a state-wide ballot of members to “postpone industrial action until further notice, pending continued constructive negotiations with DfE and the Government, with the ballot closing 5 pm on Friday 28 January.

In reaching this decision, Executive condemned the Premier for his failure to genuinely consult education professionals, but acknowledged an overall improvement in the DfE’s response to improve health and safety for students and staff in an Omicron environment, noting that some matters are yet to be resolved, and DfE has committed to ongoing meetings with the AEU to resolve arrangements for vulnerable workers and leave provisions and other operational details. 


What’s been gained since the threat of strike action?

  • 100 air purifiers strategically deployed (e.g. Port Pirie due to lead dust) plus additional 3000 air purifiers ordered, for a total of 4050.
  • Site works ongoing to enable increased ventilation, no hold up regarding funding or site works usual procurement processes.  
  • Commitment to develop clear definition of ‘vulnerable’.
  • Commitment to review leave and flexible work arrangements.
  • Stronger wording regarding sites ‘must’ with regard to organisational requirements.
  • Letter to parents and further communications being developed for parents with clear expectations regarding children not attending when unwell, mask use etc.
  • No employee required to work if unwell.
  • Sites to review their COVID safety plan in line with DfE advice – including staff input/feedback.
  • Clear guidelines regarding Close Contact (classroom contact) and isolation requirements.
  • Helpline in place to provide advice to employees.
  • Two additional planning days (Monday and Tuesday, Week 1) with no requirement to provide educational programs.
  • Additional support for Early Childhood/Junior Primary, and Years 7,8 and 12.
  • RATs for preschools and a surveillance testing trial for Special Schools and Units.
  • RATs to be supplied to all sites.
  • RATs trialled for ‘test to stay’ in special settings and discussions continue re extending this trial to other vulnerable cohorts.
  • Staff not to administer RATs for children/students.
  • Development of a list of teachers’ and leaders’ tasks to be forgiven to assist with workload demands - being developed with AEU input.
  • TRTs engaged on contract in regions/hubs to assist with staff shortages. 
  • SSOs to be provided with additional hours to undertake additional work and classifications reflect expectations/roles. 
  • Protective screens in public-facing areas for support staff protection.
  • Provision of N95 masks to sites.

Additional commitments were made as Executive prepared to meet:

  • Where an employee is required to isolate or quarantine and working from home is not possible, employees can access COVID special leave with pay.
  • Regarding the need to utilise sick leave when contracting COVID, on a case-by-case basis, the Department is open to discussing individual circumstances where employees don’t have remaining sick leave. 
  • Where required, schools will be supported to bring in additional staff to supervise students accessing online programs from school. 
  • Where students are required to wear masks, the Department will continue to reinforce these expectations with parents/carers. In circumstances where sites are facing difficulties, Education Directors are the point of escalation and available to assist, including accessing central teams as necessary.
  • There was also commitment to continue working on arrangements for vulnerable workers, as will options for TRTs.

What’s missing? 

  • Written agreement to follow Australian Health definition of "vulnerable".
  • Clarity regarding hybrid teaching - supervision while teaching online, composite classes, etc.
  • Clarity regarding additional leave arrangements.
  • Operational plan and answers to specific operational questions.
  • Site ability to enforce COVID safe measures e.g. sick kids at school/preschool, mask use.


It is a fact that there is nothing that can be done to totally protect education workers and students against COVID. This is the nature of the work we do. 

Thanks to the leverage gained by a strong member support, AEU has gained further improvements in student and staff health and safety in an Omicron environment.

Ultimately, the Premier’s intransigence to push back the start of the school year by two weeks has created a situation where many of the issues raised by members have not been resolved because of the short timelines. 

The reality will be that many of the unresolved issues will have to be addressed at the local level.

Regardless of strike action, the AEU will be there to support members’ ongoing health, safety and industrial issues as they arise. Advice for members will be published to support members, sub-branch secretaries and workplace reps regarding work health safety and industrial strategies. 



Strong support to postpone strike action

Friday 28 January 2022

 In a state-wide ballot that closed today, over 76% of members voted to support the proposal that, “Industrial action be postponed until further notice, pending continued constructive negotiations with the Department for Education and the Government."

DfE has committed to continuing discussions on matters such as safe working provisions for vulnerable workers and workers with vulnerable family members, as well as COVID leave, because the outcomes have implications beyond the education workforce.

Thanks to AEU members whose strong commitment to industrial action prevented this government from continuing to ignore educators' professional advice.

Members will soon receive WHS and industrial advice about maintaining a healthy and COVID-safe workplace and collective strategies for dealing with unsafe situations that may increase the transmission of COVID.

AEU COVID-Safe Learning Plan

AEU Executive met on Thursday 13 January and agreed to a 19-point plan regarding the start of the school year. 

The AEU remains concerned about the preparedness of preschools and schools to address overwhelming health and safety concerns, including ventilation, availability of Rapid Antigen Tests in sufficient numbers, and other measures such as mask use, air purifiers etc.

Clearly leaders are looking for very explicit direction from the Department that will determine a consistent response to site infection and strong advice to parents about appropriate responses to their child’s infection.

The AEU is dismayed by the lack of preparation time provided by this government for the purpose of developing quality online teaching material. This is contemptuous treatment of an already exhausted workforce.

Media releases

COVID exhaustion hits schools


       A survey conducted by the AEU last week reveals that educators in SA schools and preschools are stretched to the limit covering absences.

AEU members postpone strike


       Over 76% percent of members voted to support the proposal that, “Industrial action be postponed until further notice..."

AEU members vote to strike on 2 February


       AEU members from around SA have participated in a stop work ballot to ensure that their health and safety concerns are heard

Premier dismisses educators' Omicron concerns


       AEU leadership met this morning with Premier Marshall to discuss the lack of detail regarding term one plans to return students to preschools and schools.

Marshall doesn't give a RATs


       Premier Marshall’s announcement today demonstrates he has cloth ears when it comes to listening to the concerns of education professionals.