There is growing confusion following the announcement that years 7 to 10 at Queanbeyan High School would move to part-time on-campus learning in response to a staffing shortage.
In a letter sent to parents and carers, Queanbeyan High School Principal Jennifer Green revealed that the school was “moving to alternative school operations” due to several absences caused by COVID-19, in addition to the school’s inability to fill permanent positions.
“Recent impacts from COVID-19 have meant that a number of the teaching staff and/or students at Queanbeyan High School cannot come to school as they have tested positive for COVID-19,” the letter read.
“The school has sourced local casual teachers, combined classes, reduced the number of classes for core curriculum for each year group and had students with minimal supervision in the Quadrangle. However, due to the number of teachers on leave, in addition to the permanent positions we have been unable to fill, we are moving to mixed mode delivery operations.”
In line with the changes, year 7 and 8 students will attend face-to-face classes Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, while year 9 and 10 students will attend Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On the days they are not attending school, those students will learn from home. Years 11 and 12 will continue to attend school five days a week.
“This mixed delivery of operations allows every teacher to again focus on learning rather than minimal supervision where learning has not been achievable,” read the letter.
“The best place for our students to learn is in the classroom, but the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is our school’s and the department’s number one priority. We will continue to monitor the situation and advise you when it is safe for all of our students and staff to return to our classrooms.”
However, Member for Monaro Nichole Overall said that following her discussions with the Department of Education, she believes the letter is inaccurate.
“I can tell you that the Department of Education has said that they’re aware of the vacancies that we have currently at Queanbeyan High and they’ve been working at the highest levels to get them resolved as quickly as they can,” Ms Overall said.
“In relation to kids learning remotely, I’m informed that the school is operational, no one has been sent home and no one will be sent home. We’re not quite sure where that has arisen.
“Face-to-face learning is continuing to happen and that is the current state of the situation as I have been advised.”
Ms Overall said that keeping the school open is especially important due to “everything we’ve been through over the last couple of years”.
“The disruption our young people have faced, particularly in those school environments, we need everything back on track,” she said.
“That’s precisely what the Department of Education and I are committed to seeing happen.”
Commenting on the move to part-time face-to-face learning, Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car said that teacher shortages “have been growing for years” under the current government.
“For schools like Queanbeyan High School, COVID is the straw that broke the camel’s back. There are vacant positions across Queanbeyan and the Monaro region, and without enough casuals to replace unwell teachers, students are missing out,” Ms Car said.
“Teachers are doing everything they can to minimise disruption, but the NSW Government simply hasn’t recruited enough teachers.
“The government’s response to these shortages is vastly inadequate and won’t recruit anywhere near the number of teachers that are needed. It’s like trying to fill Lake Eyre with a teacup.”