ALL Victorian Certificate of Education students will be able to safely sit their upcoming exams unless they return a positive COVID-19 test.
Education minister James Merlino on Thursday announced changes to isolation protocols for close contacts in schools.
VCE students who become primary close contacts will now have permission to attend their exams, while otherwise complying with isolation orders.
Bendigo Senior Secondary College principal Dale Pearse said this news would be welcomed by students.
"Students have been quite nervous around the exams and were uncertain about what would happen if there were cases in a particular community," he said.
"I think it will be welcome news. It's unlikely to affect large numbers of students I would have thought, but you never know.
"We have a rising number of cases in Bendigo and who knows what would happen if students became confirmed cases or close contacts.
"But it will be reassuring for them to know that they're able to sit their exams if they are a close contact."
For students who are unvaccinated, they will need to isolate for 14 days, while fully vaccinated students will only need to isolate for seven days.
Students who are primary close contacts will still be able to sit their exams in a dedicated room with a separate entrance.
Depending on the school's capacity, the students will either be by themselves or safely distanced from other students who are also primary close contacts.
The students will be supervised by staff wearing face shields and healthcare worker-level PPE, and the rooms will be ventilated and cleaned between each use.
Mr Pearce said after the success of the General Achievement Test earlier this month, it seemed there weren't as many concerns about transmission in those environments.
"I'm not aware of any reports of COVID-19 cases spreading out of the conduct of the GAT so I think the VCAA and Department of Health have been reassured that the way they have been set up provides a safe environment for students," he said.
The process for students who test positive for coronavirus will not change.
Those students will not be allowed to attend school or their VCE exams, and will instead receive a derived examination score for any assessments they are forced to miss.
Alongside the changes to the VCE protocols, Mr Merlino also announced changes to how close contacts would be treated in schools.
When there is a confirmed case, the school will generally be closed for an initial 24 hours while cleaning of any affected areas takes place.
Department of Education staff will work with school leaders to identify primary close contacts, who will then be contacted by the Department of Health for the standard contact tracing process.
Meanwhile, all other students will be able to return to onsite learning, unless there are further cases immediately associated with a school, in which case further contact tracing may be required.
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