QTU President Kevin Bates 300pxFrom the President :

COVID-19 and schools – every consideration helps: A message from the QTU for parents and employers

 by Kevin Bates, 27 March 2020

Business as usual ceases in Queensland schools from the close of school today. For many other businesses and organisations, it has not been business as usual for the past week. As with so many other aspects of our lives in this COVID-19 crisis, we must do things differently to come out of this in the best possible circumstances.

The Queensland Teachers’ Union urges parents not to send their children to school next week unless they absolutely must, and employers should do all that they can to allow flexible work patterns for employees who can work from home.

Working parents need all the help they can get from their employers to work differently from the past. We all want to save as many jobs as possible while keeping people safe and well, and maximising working from home or other ways to maintain essential social distancing will help. The Queensland public service has led the way here by supporting flexible work arrangements and providing specific advice that public servants working from home should not send their children to school.

While Queensland schools will go pupil free from Monday, the state government has announced supervision will still be provided for the children of frontline workers, that is workers who are required in their normal workplace.

Let’s remember that teachers, principals and school support staff are frontline workers too. Having as many educators as possible fit and healthy to perform our work safely will allow some children to be at school, enabling those workers who keep us safe and are helping us get through this crisis in other ways, to continue to do their essential work.

We are all familiar with pupil free days – we have had them in Queensland for many years. The only difference here is that we are having five in a row so we can deal with the future consequences of the COVID-19 national emergency.

The option of supervision of some students is clearly intended only for those parents who are workers and cannot care for their children at home. The assistance of parents in minimising the pressure on schools, particularly principals and deputy principals who will have to administer these arrangements, will benefit everyone.

Schools need to be able to enforce social distancing to keep students and staff safe. Thousands of teachers are now required to work from home because of the orders of the Chief Health Officer of Queensland regarding vulnerable people and those who care for vulnerable people. Those teachers and school leaders will still be working, but they will not be at school.

Critically, there will be no classes taught next week and teachers’ focus will be on preparing remote and flexible learning programs. Students will be supervised to ensure their safety.

This is an unprecedented situation and there is a huge amount of work to be done. Teachers need time to prepare for a future in which schools may be closed completely for an extended period.

The time taken to plan and prepare now, before this emergency state is imposed, will ensure that teachers are ready to remotely deliver ongoing learning for students for as long as is necessary. Your assistance in supporting this work is appreciated.

The partnership between parents and schools has never been more important. As we all struggle to deal with an illness on a scale we have never experienced, maintaining a sense of normality for children is critical. Teachers and principals, indeed everyone who works in schools, stand ready to play their part. Working together, we can make a real difference to the state of things when we exit this crisis in the weeks and months ahead.

Finally, a huge thanks to all QTU members and the school communities they serve for all you have done so far in this rapidly changing situation. Be kind to each other and stay well.

Kevin Bates

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