It would be ridiculous to fine NSW parents who keep their children home from school because they are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on other health conditions, the premier says.
While reassuring parents and students schools were safe environments, Dominic Perrottet promised the health department wouldn't punish those who stayed away during the Omicron wave due to existing health concerns.
"When we talk about parents being concerned and ... anxious, particularly in circumstances where their children may have underlying health conditions, we're certainly not going to be fining parents," the premier said on Tuesday.
Online learning would continue but "that will be the exception, not the rule", the premier said.
He wants parents to feel confident in the safety of schools, with twice-weekly rapid antigen testing and a mask mandate for older students.
"As has been very clearly set out, kids do better at school in the classroom. We know that," Mr Perrottet said.
"We cannot have a situation ... that we take away the opportunity for our children to succeed in life."
Support was available for those with underlying health conditions, NSW Education Secretary Georgina Harrisson said.
"We were doing that before the pandemic ... there were times when a child going through treatment may miss a period of school and we would, of course, support them to continue their learning," she told reporters.
Following the Delta wave lockdown, term four attendances exceeded the average for 2019, she said.
"Our data shows parents do want their children in school," she said.
"Obviously, we will take a sensitive and appropriate approach in working in partnership with our families at the start of this year."
Term one begins for most NSW students on February 1, with students in the state's west heading back on February 8.
RAT testing is expected to run until the end of February. Seven million test kits have been delivered to the state's 3000 schools.
Australian Associated Press