KBates-330x220-2019.jpgFrom the President :

What about term two?

  by Kevin Bates, 9 April 2020

As the QTU continues to work with the Department of Education to develop clear and unambiguous parameters around what term two will look like, our highest priority is the ongoing physical and psychological wellbeing of staff and students in state schools.

While a decision on term two has not yet been made, it is clear from the statements of the Prime Minister and Premier that schools will remain open in at least some capacity for the children of essential frontline services workers. What is less certain, however, is what steps will be taken to guarantee the health and safety of teachers, principals and students alike.

The conflicting advice from authorities around the critical importance of social distancing in every aspect of our lives except for schools has created a lot of concern in our community.  When the government announces its decision on term two next week, it needs to make it clear exactly how social distancing will work in schools and announce new standards for school operation that will support the new way of delivering education. Furthermore, it needs to make sure everyone working and learning in schools has access to basic supplies such as soap and hand sanitiser, and that the additional cleaning for schools can be delivered on a day to day basis.

While the medical advice still appears to be that schools are safe for children, the government needs to make sure teachers, principals and other staff are protected. Vulnerable school workers, and those who live with or care for vulnerable people, must continue to work from home. The government also needs to be clear that parents who can keep their children at home should do so.

If all schools are to be open to the children of essential frontline workers, including educators, clarity around who those workers are is crucial. Schools will continue to provide a safe and caring environment for all, but this is especially important for those children in vulnerable circumstances.

We do not underestimate the potential workload implications of a range of scenarios for schools opening in term two, and the subsequent impact on teacher and principal health and wellbeing. Management of teaching for students in classrooms in schools (even a small number) while also supporting the learning of students at home is an unreasonable expectation and will have a significant negative impact on the physical and psychological wellbeing of educators as important frontline workers.

Of course, there is a multitude of issues to be worked out at the moment – including what will happen to year 12 students – and the situation is constantly evolving. The QTU’s position is clear, now we need the department and the government to deliver similar clarity for the Queensland community on schools and education so that we all know what is expected and that this can be delivered safely for all concerned.

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