Teachers frustrated by lack of government consultation

Friday, 01 October, 2021

Teachers frustrated by lack of government consultation

The NSW Government has announced that schools will return to the classroom earlier than scheduled, due to high vaccination rates.

Students will now return to face-to-face learning with NSW Health approved COVID-safe settings on the following dates:

  • From 18 October – Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 12
  • From 25 October – Year 2, 6 and 11
  • From 1 November – Year 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10

However, the Independent Education Union, which represents 32,000 teachers and support staff in the non-government sector, is deeply concerned about the possibility of an earlier return to face-to-face learning.

“We are again frustrated by the lack of consultation with principals, teachers and school support staff through their union,” IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Acting Secretary Carol Matthews said.

“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 in terms of school closures and further disruption.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian* said the return-to-school plan was always linked to the vaccination rates of the community, and thanks to faster vaccination rates than expected, students would be able to return to the classroom sooner.

“We have been clear that a return to school should begin once the state passed 70% fully vaccinated, and thanks to the incredible efforts from the people of NSW, we will reach that milestone sooner than expected,” Berejiklian said.

“Managing a return in a school system the size of NSW’s is not a small task. Keeping the staged approach, but moving it all one week earlier, allows schools to shift their plans forward and still provides time for staff and eligible students to get vaccinated.”

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said an additional week of quality face-to-face learning for students was worth having and could be achieved in a safe and sensible way.

“It’s fantastic that we will meet vaccination targets in NSW earlier than originally anticipated. This has allowed us to shift the plan forward for all schools across impacted areas,” Mitchell said.

“Bringing the return forward allows schools to keep their plans for a staggered return, and provides time for staff to get their second dose. From 18 October, all staff that need to be on site must be fully vaccinated.

“I know there remain some concerns in the community around a return to school, but students, staff and parents should feel confident that this approach allows enough time to make schools as COVID-safe as possible.”

“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.”

The final date for school staff to receive two doses of the COVID vaccine remains 8 November, unless staff have a medical exemption.

Families who cannot keep their children at home for any reason have always been able to send their children to school, and that continues to be the case.

Schools will begin communicating their COVID-safe plans to families from next week.

*At time of writing

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Jenifoto

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