NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has indicated that students could return to schools earlier than the dates already planned which begin on October 25.
Missing from the calculation of that new date is input from the teachers and principals who will be expected to make the return happen.
The Premier said that because NSW had reached its 70 per cent double-vaccinated target sooner than expected, she was “foreshadowing” an earlier reopen date for schools.
“We are carefully considering options to get kids to school earlier if we can,” she said. “We have been looking at this issue but at this stage, parents should plan for the 25th [of October] but we are looking at options to bring things forward.”
There was no mention of the teachers and support staff who would be required to facilitate the return. The current plan is for stages: Year 12, kindergarten and Year 1 to return on 25 October; Years 2, 6 and 11 on 1 November and the rest on 8 November.
“The IEU considers this current staged plan of returning students and their teachers to school to be the safest option. It enables schools to make adjustments to premises and processes as the necessity becomes apparent,” IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Acting Secretary Carol Matthews said.
“We are again frustrated by the lack of consultation with principals, teachers and school support staff through their union. There are no government guidelines in place about ventilation and air filtration in schools and the NSW Government, unlike the Victorian Government, is not funding non-government schools to achieve improvements. NSW non-government schools are only just starting to take steps in this area.”
The union is also concerned about the potential for outbreaks in schools and what this will mean. Will impacted schools need to close again, leading to more disruption?
While the NSW Government has mandated that all school staff must be vaccinated by 8 November, many students will not be vaccinated. At this stage, only a small percentage of 12–15-year-olds are vaccinated, and primary school students have no vaccine on offer to them – yet the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly among children. The union is aware that everyone’s health and wellbeing is at stake.
“The IEU calls on the NSW Government to engage with teachers and support staff through their representative unions about any changes to the current plan to return to schools,” Matthews said. “We understand the pressures parents are under, but we urge the government to remember that schools are also workplaces, and the safety of all staff and students is our paramount concern.”
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