Opposition spokesperson for education Jeremy Hanson has accused the ACT Government of being ill-prepared to manage the teacher shortage – an issue now exacerbated by COVID-19.
Three public schools are now operating a program of partial remote learning due to teacher shortages caused by COVID-19-related absences.
“We went into this crisis with a critical shortage of teachers, in particular relief teachers, and so we now have a situation where kids cannot go to school,” Mr Hanson said.
“This has happened on this government’s watch because they simply haven’t put enough teachers into our schools.”
Mr Hanson described remote learning as disappointing for parents, teachers and kids, but acknowledged there was no viable policy alternative at the moment.
“[The government’s] hand has been forced,” he said. “This is the safer option. It’s just disappointing.”
But Education Minister Yvette Berry said the comments were “ridiculous” as periods of remote learning because of COVID-19 had been planned for since the beginning of the year.
“This pandemic has led to some incredibly difficult circumstances,” she said.
“When the Canberra Liberals come out and suggest there’s some way we could have predicted or known the impact of COVID-19, it’s ridiculous. We’ve responded where we need to,” she said.
Ms Berry suggested this winter could bring periods of remote learning for some schools, depending on the severity of the influenza season and any increases in COVID-19 cases.
As health authorities have done previously, she noted some “uncertainty” about what to expect from a public health perspective as the colder months roll in.
Ms Berry will announce the COVID-19 arrangements for ACT public schools tomorrow morning.
Daily cases have remained above 1000 for the third consecutive day as more school cohorts are sent home to learn remotely because of COVID-19 concerns.
The Year 5 and 6 cohorts at Cranleigh School and Charles Weston School are currently undertaking remote learning, as are Years 3, 4, 5, and 6 at Margaret Hendry School.
All students at Cranleigh will resume face-to-face learning next Monday (9 May), and those at Margaret Hendry School and Charles Weston School will be back on campus next Wednesday (11 May).
In a letter sent to parents, Charles Weston school principal Nicole Nicholson said the school had experienced “limited teacher availability primarily due to staff isolating with COVID-19 or as household contacts”.
The letter sent to parents by Margaret Hendry School acting principal Shannon Birch included the same comment and reasoning.
Children of essential workers and vulnerable children can still attend both Margaret Hendry School and Charles Weston School.
The Year 7 and 8 student cohort at Calwell High School is still undertaking a program of remote learning while work is underway with the workplace safety regulator to ensure that the school is safe.
An announcement from the ACT Government regarding COVID-19 arrangements, including the wearing of masks and vaccination requirements in public schools, is expected tomorrow.
The 1085 (608 PCR and 477 RAT) cases reported in the ACT in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night take the total active cases to 5819 (2984 PCR and 2835 RAT).
There have been a total of 108,830 (67,719 PCR and 41,111 RAT) infections recorded in the ACT.
The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population remains 97 per cent and 75.4 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have now received a booster.
Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 65.9 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.
There are 70 people in hospital with the virus. Four people require intensive care but no one is being ventilated.
Yesterday, the ACT recorded 1080 COVID-19 cases and 67 people were in hospital.
Interstate, NSW has reported 21 deaths overnight and 18,529 new cases of COVID-19.
NSW Health said 10,844 of these new infections were previously unreported RAT results from 26 April to 4 May.
There are now 1529 people in hospital with the virus and 62 people in ICUs around the state.
Victoria has reported 14 deaths overnight and an additional 11,596 cases of COVID-19.
There are now 492 people hospitalised with the virus, while 29 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.