5 April 2022

UPDATED: More schools move to remote learning; ACT records 43rd COVID-related death, 918 new cases confirmed

| Lottie Twyford
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Yvette Berry

Minister for Education Yvette Berry today announced that multiple schools have moved to remote learning. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

UPDATED 4 pm: ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry has confirmed that more public schools have moved to remote learning amid ongoing “critical” COVID-induced staffing shortages across the education system.

In the Legislative Assembly this afternoon (5 April), Ms Berry said years 4, 5 and 6 at Gordon Primary School and years 3, 4, 5 and 6 at Namadgi Primary School have now moved to remote learning.

Ms Berry said schools were being encouraged to work with the ACT Education Directorate if they were experiencing teacher shortages so they could be provided with the necessary assistance.

She was forced to respond to a barrage of questions from the Opposition during question time about what the ACT Government is doing to address issues such as teachers contending with swollen class sizes.

The union called this an “unsustainable” solution to managing teacher absences.

“There must be a clear statement that the routine collapsing and combining of classes, including creating oversized classes, presents an unacceptably high risk to the safety of staff and students,” Australian Education Union branch secretary Patrick Judge said.

Macgregor Primary School

Macgregor Primary last week became the first ACT school to move to partial remote learning. Photo: Macgregor Primary School.

11:30 am: A woman in her 90s has become the 43rd person to die with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

ACT Health has extended its condolences to her family and friends.

It comes as the Territory records 918 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8 pm last night and new data shows the number of cases reported in the Territory’s schools on a weekly basis is continuing to fall.

There were 739 new infections reported yesterday.

Today, there are 41 patients in the Territory’s hospitals. Five of them are in the ICU with two being ventilated.

The 918 (389 PCR and 529 RAT) new cases of COVID-19 reported this morning brings the Territory’s local active caseload to 5471 (2843 PCR and 2628 RAT).

The double-dose vaccination rate for the ACT’s five-plus population is now 98.7 per cent, and 73.6 per cent of residents aged 16 and older have received a booster.

Of ACT residents aged five to 11, 56.8 per cent have received two doses.

Since the pandemic began, 81,821 (52,295 PCR and 29,526 RAT) cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the ACT.

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In the week ending Sunday, 3 April, 1040 cases of COVID-19 were reported in 114 public schools in the ACT.

This is down from the previous week when 1501 cases of COVID-19 were reported in 126 public and non-government schools in the ACT.

However, despite the decline in cases, at least two Canberra public schools have now moved to partial remote learning because of COVID-related staffing issues.

Today, it’s been revealed that some students at Calwell High School will move to remote learning due to a lack of teachers making the school an unsafe environment.

Last week, the Australian Education Union (AEU) ACT branch referred the school to WorkSafe ACT after teachers said they were concerned for their safety.

A large cohort of students at Macgregor Primary School also moved to remote learning arrangements last week (31 March) after teacher shortages made it impossible for the school to run its usual programs.

Year 4, 5, and 6 students will learn from home until this Friday (8 April) when it’s anticipated they can return to campus for the last day of term.

It was the first school to turn to remote learning under level three of the Education Directorate’s staffing shortage management plan for this year.

In the weeks prior, teachers at two schools over the border in NSW went on strike in response to COVID-induced staff shortages.

These decisions were subsequently overturned by the state’s Department of Education, angering teachers from both Queanbeyan and Karabar high schools who went on strike and have threatened further industrial action if the state government does not address the issues.

ACT Minister for Education Yvette Berry said last week staff shortages had been planned for and anticipated since the beginning of the year, and there is no “magic supply of teachers” to fill shortages.

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Interstate, NSW has reported 12 deaths overnight and 19,183 new cases.

There are now 1467 people in hospital with the virus and 56 people in ICUs around the state.

Victoria has reported eight new deaths overnight and an additional 12,007 cases of COVID-19.

There are now 339 people hospitalised with the virus, while 18 patients are in the state’s intensive care units.

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