QTU members' Newsflash no. 19-20, 15 May 2020 | download as pdf
Contents: Vulnerable employees | Social distancing measures | Curriculum, assessment and reporting | Boarding schools | COVID-19 in schools | Travel over the school holidays | Public sector wage freeze | National reconciliation week
In light of the continued low level of COVID-19 transmission rates in Queensland, the state government has announced plans to proceed with all students returning to learning at school from Monday 25 May.
This will provide members with certainty about the ongoing teaching and learning arrangements for the remainder of Term 2. Members should be acknowledged for the hard work they have performed in providing various forms of learning for students over the past 10 weeks. Additionally, the work of school leaders in responding to the increased demands, whether adjusting school programs and timetables or responding to parent, community and department expectations, has not gone unnoticed. The positive response of all members to the need to accommodate the needs of students, parents and their school communities, even while being concerned for their own families and health and wellbeing, has been exceptional.
The revised guidelines (and Special Schools/Special Education Programs operating guidelines) continue to require the implementation of the strict hygiene measures, such as:
- regular handwashing and hand sanitising
- increased cleaning of school classrooms and high frequency touch points such as water fountains/bubblers
- regular cleaning of play equipment and materials.
The Chief Health Officer’s advice continues to be that the greatest risk of transmission of the virus is between adults. Consequently, provisions requiring continued social distancing in staff rooms, advice regarding parents not congregating at the school grounds and pick-up and drop-off zones, and the restriction of visitor and parent access to the school grounds remain in place.
Additionally, the department has reiterated that unwell students and staff members should remain home or return home.
As schools return to operating with all year levels in attendance, the QTU has been clear that, in the event that member health and safety is compromised as a consequence of the pandemic, we will once again act to ensure measures are put in place to address these issues....back to top
The return of students to learning at school does not change the vulnerable persons description. Consequently, employees who fall into the vulnerable persons category or who live with a vulnerable person should continue to access flexible working arrangements (FWAs).
The QTU has confirmed with the department that the following advice continues to apply:
“Where an employee presents with a medical certificate stating they have a chronic health condition and must work from home, managers/principals are required to accept the medical certificate and no further evidence is required.”
Any requirements for more prescriptive medical certificates do not comply with this advice and may be viewed as an infringement on the employee’s right to privacy.
The QTU has worked with the department to clarify this, and a new form (attached) has been developed that aligns with the Public Sector Commission requirements.
There is no requirement for an employee who has presented with a medical certificate as outlined above to have this form completed – it is satisfactory for the existing medical certificate to be attached to the form. The form should be used where a medical certificate has a review date.
Those members who either fall into the vulnerable person category or live with a vulnerable person who wish to return to working at school may also complete the form, and a risk assessment should be conducted to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to enable their return. This assessment may include ensuring social distancing, regular cleaning of the classroom, limiting the changes of classroom spaces etc. The department has developed a form to assist in the conduct of this process.
It is the department’s view that, where staff have previously been able to undertake FWAs, this should be able to continue. However, should the principal determine that the FWA is no longer viable, the member should be supported to access extended paid special leave (referred to as special quarantine leave in the department’s guidelines) without the need to utilise their personal leave.
The department continues to advise that schools will need to make alternative arrangements and/or engage additional staff using school funds to support teaching and learning across the school, including the classes of vulnerable workers who are not able to attend the school to work....back to top
To support schools in establishing social distancing measures, the department has developed a calculator that can be used to advise the number of adults who can work within one space.
Of greatest issue in schools will be the use of staff rooms by teachers and other adults. The department will advise that, while the limits per room will be easily calculated, those adults still need to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from each other within these rooms. In reality, this may mean the removal or redistribution of some desks in staff rooms. As students return to school the complexity is compounded, given the need to frequently clean classrooms and the use of some classrooms by multiple teachers.
The department suggests that, as a temporary measure, any unused spaces in schools, such as halls etc, may assist in supporting these social distancing measures.
As the current restrictions continue to limit the size of social gatherings, schools must not conduct assemblies, interschool activities, camps, excursions, sports, swimming or arts events, including concerts and performances.
However, gymnasiums and performance arts centres may be used for classes if appropriate physical distancing and hygiene measures are in place. These include:
- reducing the use of common areas and the mixing of classes/year levels
- ceasing the use of “high-touch” equipment
- where possible, conducting lessons in outdoor environments with enhanced ventilation
- conducting physical education outdoors, or in large covered areas.
School swimming pools may also be used by one class at a time.
Staff meetings are required to be conducted online or via teleconference.
Schools are also required to continue to limit access to the school site by non-essential visitors and other adults, including parents and caregivers....back to top
Further advice in relation to curriculum, assessment and reporting will be provided by the department next week. However, assessment and reporting for Terms 1 and 2 will reflect the nature of learning over this time. There should be no expectation that curriculum plans that existed prior to remote learning should be met in the initial time frames.
In relation to assessment and reporting, schools can use whatever data they have gathered through learning at home, if they think it is valid and it is aligned to the appropriate achievement standards. If schools have administered summative assessment as part of their learning at home program, this can be used. If they have not provided assessment opportunities then they can use the evidence that they have available, i.e. Term 1 and information from after students return to school-based learning or work they may have sent in to the teacher. There are likely to be many different models and specifics across the state, and this is all ok.
Additionally, when students return to school on 25 May, there will not be an expectation that teachers deliver dual modes (face to face and home-based) learning. Schools will continue to provide support to students learning at home for medical reasons, but where a parent chooses to keep a child home, the classroom teacher is not responsible for providing a home-based learning program for that student....back to top
Subject to health requirements, state school operated boarding facilities will be open for year 11 and 12 students from 25 May, with a view to all students in years 7-10 returning from 8 June. Boarding students from all sectors who live in designated Indigenous communities and who have not yet returned to their boarding facility will continue to be provided with a learning program by the school at which they are enrolled. Subject to agreement, local state schools will continue to support these students....back to top
While it is hoped it will not be necessary, if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school, it will be escalated, and any measures such as self-quarantine/contact tracing will be reported through existing reporting channels. If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, the department will act in accordance with health authority advice and schools may be closed for a short time to allow for contact tracing and specialist cleaning as required....back to top
Current advice from the state government indicates that by the school holidays, recreational travel – including camping and tourist accommodation – will be permitted to a maximum of 250km. The QTU has requested further advice in relation to the ability of members to travel larger distances over the school holidays, aligned to the arrangements established over the autumn holidays. This includes the consideration of the health measures required of essential workers when returning to the community in which they teach. It would be prudent for members to hold off on making arrangements for holidays beyond the expected restrictions until this advice is achieved....back to top
The QTU has written to the Premier arguing against any wage freeze or deferral. No proposal has yet been put to the QTU. QTU Executive will consider future action at its meeting on Monday. New South Wales teachers are now facing and opposing similar and equally unclear proposal from their government....back to top
National Reconciliation Week
National Reconciliation week will be held from Wednesday 27 May until 3 June this year. When the Reconciliation Australia decided on the theme of #InThisTogether, this pandemic was not on the horizon.
That theme is now resonating in ways that were not foreseen, but it reminds us that, whether in a crisis or in reconciliation, we are all #InThisTogether
In 2020, Reconciliation Australia marks 20 years of shaping Australia’s journey towards a more just, equitable and reconciled nation. 2020 also marks the 20th anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation to show their support for reconciliation.
In preparation for the week (27 May – 3 June), we can be creative in thinking about what we can do to mark National Reconciliation Week (NRW). As individuals and school communities, we can plan online celebrations. We can join in social and digital media conversations. We can go to our own school archives and highlight our community’s reconciliation journeys. Get ready for #NRW, because we are #InThisTogether.
Authorised by Kate Ruttiman, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union
21 Graham Street,Milton, QLD, Australia, 4064