Principal Update 20 March 2020 | download as pdf
Firstly, the QTU wants to acknowledge the hard work and difficulties that school leaders are facing in these unprecedented times. We are aware of the considerable anxiety among our membership and in your school community. School leaders are in the very difficult position of trying to ensure the orderly running of your schools while also supporting and addressing the needs of your students, parents and community in this time of crisis.
The QTU is aware of many of the challenges you are facing and is working hard to raise concerns and seek appropriate action from the department. The safety and wellbeing of our members is our priority. We appreciate how many of you have contacted us to ensure that we are aware of the issues you are dealing with. Our Senior Officers are communicating daily with senior officers of the department, as well as government officials, to address the emerging issues in a timely and pre-emptive manner.
School leader members will have received the QTU Members’ Newsflash on Tuesday, which contained advice from the Chief Medical Officer, FAQs and a link to the new pandemic directive. We are also updating our FAQs daily to try to ensure members are receiving the most current advice. Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for QTU members can be found HERE. This information includes a video of QTU President Kevin Bates addressing members about the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Please note that a Newsflash will be sent to members this afternoon with further information in relation to the QTU response.
We sincerely appreciate those of you who have taken the time to alert us to what is happening in your schools. We are taking your concerns very seriously and raising them at the highest level. Please continue to keep us informed so we can assist you at this time.
The QTU and other public education unions around the nation have been working hard to deal with the growing concerns of members, especially about their health and safety, in light of the government decision to keep schools open during this phase of the COVID-19 crisis.
On behalf of the almost 200,000 members of the Australian Education Union (AEU), the leadership of the AEU across Australia has today written to the Prime Minister and the Premiers and Chief Ministers of each jurisdiction. As the National Cabinet, we urge them to take a wide range of actions to address the concerns of workers in public education arising from any decisions they make at the scheduled meeting on 20 March 2020 about keeping schools open. A copy of the AEU letter is available here.
The matters raised for the urgent consideration of the National Cabinet meeting are that:
- at all levels of government, work health and safety obligations to employees must be met
- identified risks and hazards must have the appropriate level of control to mitigate them
- the National Cabinet and health officials at both a national and state/territory level have provided insufficient information and assurance to teachers, support staff, educators, principals and the AEU about the implementation of COVID-19 decisions and indeed, the safety of workplaces for employees and students
- social distancing requires staff and students to keep a distance of 1.5 metres, a requirement which is practically impossible in the vast majority of public education settings
- the restrictions which have been placed on non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people have broad implications for public education settings across the country
- schools are reporting shortages of soap, alcohol-based sanitisers, toilet paper, tissues and infrastructure such as enough sinks and hygiene areas for staff and students to access frequently and systematically
- additional cleaning services must be implemented to ensure that all frequently touched services and frequently used objects are cleaned and sanitised
- there is widespread concern about the possibility of school closures, but limited information available publicly on how such a decision would be made nationally
- the widespread community concern has already led to high levels of student absence in many states and territories
- working from home provisions must be immediately available to public education staff who are considered to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their own or family members’ underlying health conditions – in particular, those who have chronic illnesses, are immunocompromised, fall into high-risk categories and are pregnant
- there are specific workplace health and safety expectations arising from the additional needs of a wide range of students with individual circumstances requiring adjustment
- specific detail must be provided about working in more complex environments, such as supporting students and people who have disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and rural, regional and remote locations
- maintenance of income, including leave entitlements and leave arrangements, must be guaranteed for all permanent, temporary and casual public education employees
- we reject unrealistic expectations that alternative (virtual) learning episodes will be provided for students in the event that schools close – such expectations are inequitable in their impact, particularly for students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds and regional and remote centres, and unsustainable in an education system denied basic resources.
Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union
21 Graham Street,Milton, QLD, Australia, 4060