Speaking after national cabinet met on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted schools should not delay the start of the year.
While there were no specific agreements on how the return to school would look, a number of key principles were endorsed, including that schools were essential.
"Childcare services and schools are essential and should be first to open and last to close where possible, face-to-face learning should be prioritised," Mr Morrison said.
"If schools don't open, that can add an additional 5 per cent of absenteeism in the workforce.
"It is absolutely essential for schools to go back safely and remain safely open if we are not going to see any further exacerbation of the workforce challenges we are currently facing."
Under the new rules, workers in sectors such as education who are deemed a close contact can return to work if they do not have symptoms and return a negative rapid antigen test result.
More detail on the plan for schools, including surveillance testing using rapid antigen tests and mask-wearing policies, will be finalised by the leaders next week.
A PLAN on how students can safely return to schools amid rising cases will be up for discussion during today's national cabinet meeting.
Acting Health Minister and Education Minister James Merlino told reporters on Wednesday schools would "absolutely" return as planned for term one in late January.
"We want our kids in front of their teachers, with their classmates, day one, term one this year, it's just so vitally important...and we'll be making sure that's the case," he said.
He urged parents to try to get their children vaccinated before then to make the classroom environment safer.
"We made a commitment to the people of Victoria, to get vaccinated and then we can move beyond remote learning and beyond lockdowns," Mr Merlino said.
"We don't know what's around the corner or what may happen in six months' time. But we support the national framework for getting students back to school for the start of term 1 - day one term 1."
Bendigo Senior Secondary College Principal Dale Pearce said a return to face-to-face learning was appropriate.
All schools already have a range of health measures in place for all staff, students and teachers, he said.
"We will wait on advice about testing and isolation arrangements from health and education authorities," he said.
"Schools will have to monitor both student and staff COVID-related absences and adjust accordingly.
"In BSSC's case, we will look at the feasibility of teachers delivering online if that is the best way to provide continuity of learning for students."
Mr Pearce expected there would be some level of interruption to schooling until vaccination of younger children is advanced and boosters are available for older students.
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