QTU Members' newsflash no.05-20, 17 March 2020
QTU MEMBERS AND CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing considerable anxiety among QTU members. The QTU has been meeting with the department and government officials regularly to be briefed on developments and to work on solutions to emerging issues. These emerging issues include a range of concerns raised by members in circumstances such as remote communities, special education facilities and members with specific personal and family situations. All of these issues are the subject of ongoing discussions with the department as we work through emerging issues on a day-by-day basis. We will advise members of the outcomes of these discussions as the situation progresses.
The QTU continues to work with the department on the decisions of the National Cabinet and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), and as information has been made available, the Union has been publishing it on the QTU website.
We are aware that our members, and in particular school leader members, continue to be placed under pressure from their school communities in relation to the government’s decision to keep schools open. Consequently, the QTU requested that the Director-General secure advice from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) explaining the reasoning behind the decision. This was provided to principals yesterday.
In summary, the CMO’s correspondence provides the following advice.
- The information on the contribution of children to the transmission of the disease is limited, but reports have indicated that children tended to be infected by adults.
- Pre-emptive closures may result in the more vulnerable members of society being exposed to potential transmission of the virus.
- Pre-emptive closures will have to be prolonged to be effective. If schools reopened while the pool of susceptible students remained large, the virus would be likely to reemerge in the community.
- Shorter school closures may occur late in the outbreak in anticipation of a peak in infection rates.
- Decisions are being made in accordance with advice from health practitioners and in alignment with what has been learnt from other countries in which the outbreak is further advanced.
The QTU appreciates that members may be feeling anxious about their health and safety and that of their loved ones. If you are concerned for your health and/or wellbeing (or that of someone in your family) you should seek advice from the relevant medical practitioner or call 13HEALTH. If you are advised that you should be absent from work, you should access the relevant leave (e.g. sick leave or sick leave for family purposes).
Schools have already taken measures to cease non-essential activities, stagger meal breaks, and secure supplies such as soap, hand sanitiser, paper towels etc.
The QTU has developed some suggested approaches to activities such as parent-teacher interviews, school camps and the provision of work to students who are being kept away from school by parents. These suggestions can be found in the QTU’s FAQs under the School Operations heading.
The new pandemic directive, which was released last night following consultation with unions, provides for additional leave should sick leave be exhausted or the government determines to close schools. This leave can also be accessed by temporary/supply teachers.
In the event of school closures, if you are required to provide work/present online learning from home, you will be designated as working from home, rather than being on leave.
The QTU has been working with the department to respond to member inquiries and has been developing a series of frequently asked questions for members’ advice. These FAQs cover issues such as:
- general coronavirus (COVID-19) advice
- school closures
- school operations
- member wellbeing
- other issues.
You can access these FAQs here.
Why can’t the QTU issue a directive that schools should be closed?
QTU Executive resolved to continue to support a position that schools should close when advised to do so by the CMO and in accordance with the advice of health practitioners.
The QTU will continue to work with the department to provide members with consistent advice, information and support.
QTU operations and COVID-19
The QTU is following the recommendations of the National Cabinet and Chief Medical Officer, and our offices remain open until we are advised otherwise.
During this period of uncertainty, the QTU has determined to cancel or postpone all non-essential activities.
This means that commencing Monday 23 March 2020, all QTU training, QuEST professional development (excluding online courses), committee meetings, legal seminars etc will either postponed or cancelled until the commencement of term two. Advice regarding term two activities will be provided closer to the commencement of term.
Should activities be deemed essential, members will be invited to participate by teleconference or web-conferencing.
QTU Organisers and Officers have been advised that they should also restrict school/TAFE visits to essential meetings or activities.
Should a QTU office be required to close, members within that region will be notified and a notice will be placed on our website. If the QTU Milton office is required to close, all members will be advised of this decision.
Preservice teachers and COVID-19
The Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) has advised that, while programs may have some individual differences that might need to be accommodated, it will show flexibility to minimise any impact on preservice teachers and their capacity to meet requirements for course completion, in that same way as it has for other types of disasters or incidents (eg. Townsville floods). Those institutions who have expectations above the minimum requirements and/or internships will be better placed but the QCT is working with other regulatory authorities to provide a nationally consistent approach.
The QCT has confirmed that any virtual/online teaching arrangements that preservice teachers participate in is considered teaching for professional experience requirements.
The QCT will continue to work with Queensland universities so that there are no unnecessary barriers for preservice teachers to graduate due to this situation.
NAPLAN boycott ballot continues
At the QTU Executive meeting on 16 March, it was determined that the ballot to boycott NAPLAN should continue as planned. Union Representatives are encouraged to conduct the ballot over the coming weeks and provide their returns, either online or directly, to the QTU by the 27 March closing date.
Authorised by Kate Ruttiman, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union
21 Graham Street, Milton, QLD, Australia, 4064