Butt out, PM told, as ACT teachers tool up for online lessons

Ian Bushnell 16 April 2020 155
Home learning

Home schooling is coming in the ACT, no matter what the Prime Minister might say. Photo: File.

ACT teachers have told Prime Minister Scott Morrison to butt out after he urged them to return to the classroom and abandon plans for remote learning.

Mr Morrison used a social media video to call on the nation’s schools to reopen fully, saying “the education of our children hangs in the balance”.

“We cannot allow a situation where parents are forced to choose between putting food on the table through their employment, to support their kids and their kids’ education,” Mr Morrison said.

The Prime Minister said he did not want to see COVID-19 take a year of learning away from children.

Mr Morrison repeated health advice that the risk of COVID-19 spreading among school-aged children was very low.

But Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler said the Prime Minister’s remarks were unhelpful and strange for someone who was often at pains to say that it was not the Commonwealth that runs schools but the states and territories.

“So they need to decide when they want to stick their beaks in and when they want to stick their beak out. I think it’s a good time for them to stick their beak out,” he said.

Mr Fowler said Mr Morrison’s comments about ”food on the table” were despicable and amounted to emotional blackmail.

He said the safety of teachers was paramount and the situation in the ACT had been crystal clear for weeks.

It was the ACT Government’s decision to go pupil-free, and the result achieved in the ACT was the best in the country and had been extremely well supported by the community.

”We’re being told by the medical experts and various leaders that there is the need for safe distancing and social isolation,” Mr Fowler said.

”That can be achieved by having the vast bulk of students working from home and a minority of students on-site with volunteers working with them and having the best possible safety conditions and personal protective equipment, and that’s what will be delivered in the ACT.”

If the situation changes, teachers would reassess the situation.

ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry remains adamant that remote learning will begin in Term 2, saying the government’s approach balances a range of factors including the health advice, but also the practicalities of administering school education.

”The most equitable approach for all students is to deliver a consistent online and remote method of learning,” she said. ”This will enable teachers to focus on facilitating high-quality learning for all students regardless of where they are located. It also means that teachers are not required to deliver multiple versions of learning.”

She said investment in technology such as universal free access to Chromebooks for public school students in grades 4 to 12 meant the ACT was in a strong position to deliver online lessons.

The Education Directorate was gauging the demand for in-school care for families who are not able to have their children at home so it could decide which sites would stay open.

”Remote learning is being delivered by a child’s usual school and teachers, who knows their students best,” Ms Berry said.

”Teachers will also stay connected to families to make sure students are receiving the right supports and will adjust the approach as needed.”

ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations President Kirsty McGovern-Hooley said a more united approach and a single, clear message from all levels of government would be appreciated.

She said the Term 2 arrangements for ACT schools were a reasonable response to a range of competing needs.

”Schools are juggling multiple needs: kids staying home to flatten the curve, being there for vulnerable students, accommodating students of essential workers, as well as the health of staff and students. It’s a complex puzzle,” she said.

Some parents agreed with the Prime Minister but many more parents wanted their children to stay home and had taken the ‘stay home’ message very seriously, she said.

“Parents, like Scott Morrison, are concerned about the effects on learning, especially for vulnerable students. It is really worrying because the current situation will exacerbate existing disadvantage and difficulties,” Ms McGovern-Hooley said. ”But we are seeing ACT public schools doing a great job reaching out, connecting, teaching and motivating learning.”

She urged parents who need to send their children to school to complete the government form detailing their needs so they could get the support they need.

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155 Responses to Butt out, PM told, as ACT teachers tool up for online lessons
justpassingthrough justpassingthrough 3:58 pm 19 Apr 20

Some ACT schools have students who commute daily from NSW. Are there zero new cases in these regional NSW towns as well?

rsm1105 rsm1105 1:28 pm 19 Apr 20

Flattening the curve was meant to be about medical system readiness.

We now have zero patients in the local system.

J.R.R. Tolkien, “It is not our part to master all the tides of this world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set.”

Time for kids to go back to school and a managed reduction in restrictions.

Anne AnytimeCheerful Anne AnytimeCheerful 5:49 pm 18 Apr 20

Each family has its unique situation to face. For kids with underlying chronic conditions, it probably be unsafe for them to attend school. Or if the kid is living with someone from vulnerable group, maybe risky to send the kid to school. You hope all parents keep sick kids at home, in reality most do but some don't. We all need to do what's best for our own situation without hurting others.

Christopher Cuba Rabanal Christopher Cuba Rabanal 4:48 pm 18 Apr 20

Stop 🛑

It’s so simple

The Government needs schools and childcare to remained open....to keep essential workers, working.

The Government knows that they are sacrificing your lives. But it’s a necessary evil.

and it’s for the greater good.

This are the decisions that presidents and politicians make during war time.

Men and women must be put in harms way in order to win wars.

This is the REALITY

And the sooner you realise that the better.

And you will whine no more.

Grow up and join the Adult World.

Now it’s Your choice

To be a hero


Not to be

Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 9:14 am 18 Apr 20

As of 17 April there are only 19 COVID-19 infectious people left in ACT (https://www.covid19.act.gov.au) – 103 less 81 recovered and 3 unfortunately passed away. ACT Health has been doing random testing since 6 April with no one identified through this testing (https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/…/what-is-community-transmis…). 5 day straight with no new cases. But most importantly, the 19 remaining infectious people are expected to recover by 27 April (14 days from the last case identified on 13 April), which just happens to be the first day of on-line school in the ACT. It is very possible we will have no infectious people in CBR in the first week of term 2, but kids will be required do their learning on-line at home.

Marilyn Roberts Marilyn Roberts 8:47 am 18 Apr 20

There is no community transmission of Coronavirus. Parents are tearing their hair out. If teachers are not at school teaching they should not be paid like business. It’s unfair. Get back to work and stop being abusive to our Prime Minister it’s a bad look.

    Rosemary Howe Mackay Rosemary Howe Mackay 12:01 pm 18 Apr 20

    Marilyn Roberts go do your research of the scientific facts. You're wrong.

    Have you any idea, here in NSW, how hard teachers work under normal circumstances and how much harder they are working under current conditions? No Easter break for them.

    It's no easy task teaching face to face the children of essential workers with the added load of adapting classroom lessons to online teaching often with an individual load of 120 students.

    Sally Stenning Sally Stenning 1:07 pm 18 Apr 20

    Teaching is a verb not a location, teachers are still teaching

    Ben Medway Ben Medway 1:16 am 19 Apr 20

    Marilyn Roberts very brave statement 👍 I agree also

    Ben Medway Ben Medway 1:17 am 19 Apr 20

    Rosemary Howe Mackay missing one easter how will they ever cope? Hopefully the 10 weeks holiday since forever and forever into the future will compensate 👍

    Marilyn Roberts Marilyn Roberts 7:59 am 19 Apr 20

    Rosemary Howe Mackay I’m not talking about NSW Rosemary. My daughter is a teacher in the catholic system in ACT. She has to go to work. Public schools are different. Protect vulnerable teachers but get back to face to face in ACT. If our nurses behaved like some of these teachers we would really be in trouble.

    Alison Manders Alison Manders 12:08 am 20 Apr 20

    Marilyn Roberts you are not up to date. Our second death in the ACT was due to community transmission. I’m guessing you are at home, possibly working, and it’s hard for you. That’s okay. You’re allowed to be stressed and even angry. What is not okay is directing your anger at folks who are doing their jobs in difficult circumstances. The ACT Education Directorate is in a unique position in this country to be able to deliver quality, online education, due to serious investment by the ACT Government in devices for all students in years 4-12. The programs that have been developed and delivered on extremely short time frames are great. I admit that I am lucky, my boys are just old enough to manage their online learning themselves. Which is lucky, as hubby and I are both essential workers, so they have to. Please, be kind. Everyone is doing the best they can. 😕

Acton Acton 7:18 am 18 Apr 20

Another reason for the strange ACT Govt reluctance to fully reopen schools to all kids is that some education bureaucrats prefer to have schools without children.

Spiral Spiral 6:44 am 18 Apr 20

Time will hopefully tell whether closing schools was necessary.

But with the Chief Medical Officer still providing advice that schools should be open the government is following the current expert scientific advice.

Those people who believe the government should ignore that advice and close schools should remember that expectation when next time they criticize the government for not listening to the science on topics such as Climate Change.

It does seem that many people want the government to follow the advice of the experts, only as long as the experts say what those people want them to.

The irony of people criticising the government for actually for doing what they frequently demand it to do, while they themselves are guilty of the behaviour they complain about the government doing.

cew21 cew21 12:51 pm 17 Apr 20

If the the case numbers remain low in the ACT for the next week, schools should begin to gradually physically reopen. Teachers who are elderly or have health issues can remain at home. To continue with remote learning is not necessary when children are not transmitting COVID-19. If they were, we would see outbreaks linked to childcare centers, which have remained open. I believe the infectious diseases experts who have studied this issue, not the teachers’ union. If this were an influenza pandemic, in which children are known to be transmitters and known to have serious outcomes, keeping schools physically closed at this point would be sensible. To say that schools should remain closed when the risk is so low, sets an interesting precedent – should schools be closed every winter when there is an actual greater risk to children and healthy adults from seasonal influenza? I have 2 children and am happy for them to return to school and for me to continue doing my job. Remote learning is sub-optimal. Save it for when it’s really needed.

Sue McIntosh Sue McIntosh 7:24 am 17 Apr 20

Just a thought that each campus has a health care worker on site to take each child's and adult's temperature before the day starts.

Kat May Kat May 2:03 am 17 Apr 20

Home education has been successful for decades and significantly on the rise over the last few years. There must be a good reason for that. Could it be, because it works?

babeeshka babeeshka 12:40 am 17 Apr 20

They keep congratulating themselves, but so far they’ve done stuff all. The standard of ACT public schools is bad enough in class. The teachers don’t care about the kids and this just further demonstrates their utter lack of commitment

Acton Acton 10:20 pm 16 Apr 20

Does the teacher’s union expect the community to condone teachers on full pay without any students in the classroom? A bit like paying bus drivers to drive empty buses.
This cannot go on. Our kids education is suffering, home schooling is no substitute for classroom interaction and professional teaching given by qualified and motivated teachers. To keep children at home also means that parents will have to reduce their working hours, impacting on family budgets. Any health risks from returning to school are minimal and manageable.

Kristy Hancock Kristy Hancock 9:44 pm 16 Apr 20

I trust the Barr government to care about our welfare more so then the federal government who seems to prioritise the economy so I will follow the recommendations of Barr and A.C.T dept of education

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:04 pm 16 Apr 20

“So they need to decide when they want to stick their beaks in and when they want to stick their beak out. I think it’s a good time for them to stick their beak out,” he said.

Yes – that’s a fact of life in a federal system of government.

The Commonwealth Government could solve this problem in the longer term by doing away with the elements of the Commonwealth education bureaucracy which deal with schools and just give the currents funds to the states and territories as block grants with few, if any, conditions attached.

Radical options approaching that might, just, be contemplated when the time comes to work out how to pay for all the stimulus and bail-out spending in a world of reduced economic activity and reduced government revenues – which might be a good example of “be careful what you wish for” for some who are currently enjoying shaking an angry fist at “the Feds”.

Rosemary Howe Mackay Rosemary Howe Mackay 6:15 pm 16 Apr 20


    Jane Smith Jane Smith 7:16 pm 16 Apr 20

    so well said..."COVID-19 is not responsible for the digital divide, the lack of books at home, childhood poverty, the domestic and family abuse that yesterday became the driver to get kids back to school. The pandemic has exacerbated these things and shone a light on the deep problems that exist in Australian society."

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 12:18 am 17 Apr 20

    Jane Smith Spot on!

    Jane Smith Jane Smith 8:49 am 17 Apr 20

    Margaret Freemantle yes she said it so well, and hopefully someone in this useless government takes note! 😬

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 12:59 pm 17 Apr 20

    Jane Smith can you fathom why SM has increased in popularity in the polls? Surely just Murdoch press lying as usual??

    Jane Smith Jane Smith 1:35 pm 17 Apr 20

    Margaret Freemantle It is beyond me, not once in his term has he shown he is capable of leading us, not once has he shown the integrity or competence needed to lead a department let alone a country. In fact in some instances he has quite clearly shown his contempt for the very people he is supposed to represent. As for the rubbish Murdoch and co spew out...🤬

    Ben Medway Ben Medway 1:14 am 19 Apr 20

    Margaret Freemantle I think because the majority of people who dont have a preconceived judgement of him can see he has been acting I an honourable way and is trying to do what's right for this country. I think he dropped the ball during bushfires but has made an incredible recovery with the Corona virus.

Rosemary Howe Mackay Rosemary Howe Mackay 6:12 pm 16 Apr 20

Morrison is gaslighting parents and teachers into submission.

    Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 6:29 pm 16 Apr 20

    Rosemary Howe Mackay he sure is. Morrison is the king of gaslighting.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 7:34 am 17 Apr 20

    Danielle Rushdie Nobody is saying it is not detrimental. But so is seeing their mum or dad in hospital from a virus they brought home with them.

Bekah Glaz Bekah Glaz 6:09 pm 16 Apr 20

My child has an issue where even the common cold has put him in hospital on a ventilator. I can't risk him getting a virus that is significantly worse, explicitly for breathing.

Additionally, there is no real way of doing any type of distancing in a school. With 30 kids in a class (unless super lucky with only 25) and a classroom that the kids cannot spread out - why is that deemed safe, and not having a meeting with 25 adults who should be responsible enough to ensure hygiene? Sorry, but if it isnt safe for workplaces to be at least almost normal, and we still can't shop, or hang out in open air spaces - then you cannot tell me it is safe for kids to be at school.

Jose Vega Jose Vega 6:00 pm 16 Apr 20

Teachers 1 PM 0. At 65 I remember who my teachers were.. Don't remember the politicians.

Hoppingmad Hoppingmad 4:42 pm 16 Apr 20

I think we all understand that a teacher’s health is important, as is the health of students. Having said that, it does look very much like young children are not really transmitters and that our cases in the ACT are so low, that with continuing restrictions on travel etc for a month or more, could still get students, primary school at least, back in to classrooms around the second or third week. If we remain free of cases and therefore community transmission, we should look to ease restrictions more. With increased testing and even temperature readings morning and afternoon, this will be manageable. And by all means make sure older teachers or those with compromised health stay away (but get paid). It’s basically how things will have to be for the foreseeable if we are to get going again anyway. If the data supports it now or in the next few weeks, why not start?

The issue I have with online schooling is that while we are not being asked to be parent teachers, we do have to make concessions to be able to manage it at home, and it’s fair to say that the school system is not quite ready for it.

I love my sons teacher and have lots of respect for what they do as a job, but I don’t think it’s anymore risky than working in Woolies or Bunnings – probably quite a bit less given the behaviour of some.

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