Principals and school system authorities will be given the power to decide the number and weighting of HSC assessment tasks for their schools, effective immediately.

“This action provides schools with the flexibility they need to support their students in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak,” NESA Board chair Professor Peter Shergold said.

The Board has also established a COVID-19 Response Committee to address developing issues and provide clear and regular advice to the community as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The committee will meet at least weekly and includes representatives from each of the three school sectors.

Along with Shergold and other NESA representatives, the committee consists of NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott, NSW Catholic Schools CEO Dallas McInerney and Association of Independent Schools CEO Dr Geoff Newcombe.

Shergold said that provisions are in place to ensure that any student who gets sick is not disadvantaged as a result.

“We know you are worried,” he said.

“While we recognise we are facing an unprecedented situation, we want to assure you that you will be able to get a HSC certificate this year, and that the certificate will facilitate access to university, further education and employment, as it has for students over the past 50 years.

“Keep learning, do your assessments as advised by your school, make progress on your major projects where you can and, most importantly, look after yourself, whether you are at school or at home. Reach out to family, friends and your teachers if you need to.”

Shergold said that health, safety and welfare of students and teachers is of paramount importance.

“The Board discussed at length issues of disadvantage, dislocation and social isolation,” he said.

“Decisions and advice will be based on the principles of fairness and equity that have always underpinned the internationally recognised HSC credential.”

Earlier this week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that schools will stay open, but encouraged parents to keep their children at home regardless.

Victoria and Tasmania have both brough school holidays forward to allow for an early shut down of schools, while the ACT has moved classes online.

As of 6:00am this morning, there have been 2252 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia and eight people have died.

New South Wales has experienced more than twice as many cases as any other state, with 1029 in total.