COVID-19 PACER Eligibility Exemption Policy (time limited)
Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the school sector and the number of schools required to reschedule their PACER excursions in 2020, many schools are rebooking during the peak travel period of August/September until November/December. The Department is aware that some of the mandatory institutions are fully booked (or close to) at times during this peak period.
The Department has prepared this time limited COVID-19 PACER eligibility exemption policy to guide the service provider, schools and tour operators in booking tours during the peak travel season.
The PACER Advisory Committee was consulted on this policy.
Date of Effect
This policy is effective from 28 July 2020.
Timeframe of Policy
This policy will remain effective until all schools committed for travel up to and including June 2021 have acquitted their travel. Interstate travel by schools and the operations of national Institutions are dependent on the implementation of the Roadmap to a COVID-19 Safe Australia and each state and territories health and/or border restriction policies and guidelines. Adjustments to this policy may be made in light of easing or tightening of restrictions across Australia.
State and Territory requirements for interstate travel
State and territory governments have imposed a range of interstate travel restrictions that may affect the ability for school groups to cross a domestic border. These travel restrictions may include the closure of certain borders, advising against non-essential travel and/or the requirement for travellers to quarantine for 14 days on return to their home state or territory.
As the health situation continues to change, schools and tour operators are advised to consider the restrictions in place for their home state or territory and the public health directions of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) before booking and again before undertaking travel. Specific advice for each state and territory can be found at www.health.gov.au/news/state-quarantine-requirements-for-interstate-travel
Schools are also advised to consider the advice regarding interstate excursions provided by their relevant education authorities.
Standard PACER requirements
The current PACER eligibility requirements state that schools must visit at least three of the four mandatory institutions and the principle purpose of the tour must be to enhance student learning in civics and citizenship education.
If in the event that a mandatory institution is fully booked, then a PACER program at an alternative institution may be booked. Written evidence that the mandatory institution is fully booked is required for this to be deemed eligible.
The mandatory and alternative institutions and their PACER approved programs are listed at Attachment A.
COVID-19 PACER Eligibility exemption Policy (time limited)
The PACER rebate will only be provided for the number of students that attend the excursion to Canberra. The rebate will be paid for each student that:
- travelled to Canberra and;
- visited face to face at least one of the mandatory institutions and;
- participated in education programs in at least another two of the mandatory institutions either:
- face-to-face or
- where a mandatory institution is fully booked, through a facilitated virtual tour.
If a mandatory institution is fully booked, or a timeslot cannot be secured for a virtual excursion within the time frame of two weeks prior to or after the start date of the excursion, a face-to-face or virtual excursion can then be booked at one of the alternative institutions. Written evidence that the mandatory institution is fully booked out or that a timeslot for a virtual excursion is not available is required for this to be deemed eligible.
Evidence of confirmed bookings during this time, including the facilitated virtual excursions must be provided. The following documents will be accepted as written evidence:
- Email confirmation of reservation in each institution or email confirmation that requested bookings are not available
- Screen shot of the confirmed reservation or screenshot demonstrating that virtual excursion reservations are not available
- Written receipts from either the national Institutions or the Book Canberra Excursions
Schools must also meet all of the following eligibility requirements:
- Applications must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the excursion.
- Each PACER approved institution (either mandatory or alternative) visited during the excursion in Canberra must stamp a visitation form supplied by The Busy Group, and provided by the school during the excursion. The form will provide evidence of the total number of students that participated in the excursion to initiate payment.
- Where schools participate in virtual excursions, evidence of participation from the institution must be supplied. A copy of the email sent to the school thanking them for their participation in the program is acceptable.
If you believe you are eligible for an exemption to the eligibility requirements, contact Busy at Work in the first instance and provide written evidence (as above) as to why you should receive an exemption to the eligibility requirements. Exemptions will be referred to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and are managed case by case.
This policy remains unchanged from the standard exemptions process, which is provided on the PACER website FAQs.
The department will not reimburse the cost of cancellation fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schools need to make bookings directly with institutions or through tour operators. The service provider, The Busy Group, does not assist with bookings.
Prior to COVID-19 outbreak
Schools that travelled in the lead up to the announcement of the pandemic may not have completed their tours or adhered to the eligibility requirements through no fault of their own. In these instances, the Department will pay the rebate for schools approved to receive the PACER rebate, that travelled to Canberra and had to cancel their trip mid-excursion.
These schools will have travelled in order to receive the rebate and it is preferable that they demonstrate the number of students that travelled to Canberra via the visitation form. However, it is not necessary to have visitation stamps from all of the mandatory institutions in this exception.
Q and A’s for the COVID-19 Policy
How many mandatory institutions do schools need to book under the COVID-19 Policy? Schools are required to book at least three of the four mandatory institutions, either to participate in face-to-face education programs or facilitated virtual tours.
What are the options if schools cannot make bookings for face-to-face programs in at least three of the four mandatory institutions? Schools can opt to participate in one or more virtual tours with the mandatory institutions. However, schools will need to come to Canberra to visit at least one mandatory institution and the virtual tours will need to be undertaken within a two-week window either side of the visit to Canberra.
What if we cannot book the virtual tours within the required two-week window either side of the visit to Canberra? Schools then have the option to visit one or more alternative institutions either for a face-to-face education program or participate in a virtual tour at one of the alternative institutions.
When visiting Canberra, how many mandatory institutions do I have to visit? Schools need to visit at least one mandatory institution in order to be eligible for the PACER rebate.