BENDIGO principals have welcomed the state government's decision to finish term one early due to mounting COVID-19 concerns.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced schools in the state would finish term one on Monday, with school holidays to start four days earlier than planned.
Care and supervision programs would this week be available for vulnerable children and primary and specialist school students under the care of essential services workers.
The state's advice came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison encouraged schools to remain open for the time being.
Bendigo Senior Secondary College principal Dale Pearce said staff and students appreciated the clarity from the Victorian government.
"I think the federal government has always been very clear that the state government runs schools," Mr Pearce said. "So it's understandable that the state would want to make its own stance.
"We trust that the Premier has made the decision after being given the best advice imaginable.
"Everybody in school is appreciative of the very clear advice. We now know what is happening through to the end of the week.
"So I think there is that sense of relief that there's clarity."
Marist College Bendigo principal Darren McGregor agreed there was now some certainty for schools across the state.
"I feel far more comfortable going into this week with a clear direction," he said.
"That clarity will be passed onto staff and gives them reassurance."
Mr Andrews said, at this stage, schools would return for term two as planned on April 14.
Mr McGregor said teachers would spend the remainder of this week planning for virtual education in case plans changed.
"We have put a lot of work into it already," he said. "To have four days at the end of a stressful and demanding term is invaluable to us.
"We need to remember in all of this that our educators carry enormous pressures and demands. The expectation on staff is enormous."
Despite the earlier start to the school holidays, Mr Andrews told parents it would not be appropriate for students to go out or have large gatherings at homes during the break.
Mr Pearce echoed the call for common sense.
"We've issued advice to all parents and students about the need to do everything they can to ensure their own health and the health of those around them," Mr Pearce said.
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"We remind students of social distancing and we have advised students and parent that those behaviours need to apply outside of school as well as within."
There is still some uncertainty about how the changes to schools could affect students who are completing their Victorian Certificate of Education this year.
Mr Pearce said BSSC - the largest VCE provider in the state - would support students in the coming months.
"We want to remind our students that no one will be disadvantaged as a result of the changes," he said. "There is flexibility in the school system in terms of the timing of assessments.
"But while we can put in place arrangements, it's important that students don't disadvantage themselves.
"They need to be organised and motivated."
Mr McGregor said Marist College Bendigo would also provide additional support to its year 12 students.
"We're certainly looking forward to direction from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority," he said.
"The message for our year 12's is to stay calm and continue a normal level of homework over the holidays.
"But they need to have a break as well and they shouldn't be worrying about the uncertainty of the VCE.
"Let those who are control of the VCE control that. Their job is just to be refreshed and relaxed come Easter Tuesday."
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