27 April 2020

Safe for schools to stay open in Term 2, say Liberals

| Ian Bushnell
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Elizabeth Lee

Opposition education spokesperson Elizabeth Lee: no reason to close schools. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The Canberra Liberals have accused the ACT Government of sowing confusion over its plans for remote learning, saying parents should be able to send their children to school as usual from this week.

Its stance on schools came after Education Minister Yvette Berry sparked a social media storm with a Facebook post many thought meant that teachers would go back to face-to-face learning after four weeks of Term 2.

Opposition education spokesperson Elizabeth Lee said on Friday (24 April) that the post was typical of the mixed messaging from the government and that parents deserved more certainty.

She also affirmed that the Liberals opposed mandatory remote learning and the closure of all but nine school hubs, saying that all the health advice on COVID-19 and children meant it was safe for schools to operate as normal.

She said the advice from the Chief Medical Officer down was that schools could and should stay open.

ANU infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon has been particularly vocal about schools, saying the evidence suggests it is uncommon for children under 15 years to get or spread COVID-19.

Ms Lee said there was no good reason why the vast majority of ACT schools should be completely closed for Term 2, and she was concerned about the welfare of children who need to be at school.

”Parents are concerned that they are going to be forcing their children to other schools that are unfamiliar to them, supervised by adults that are unfamiliar to them, and surrounded by peers that are unfamiliar to them,” she said.

Ms Lee said Ms Berry’s post had upset and confused parents.

“This is already an unprecedented and challenging time,” she said. ”We know that the levels of anxiety among parents, teachers and students are already sky high, and we want to ensure that this isn’t exacerbated by decisions made by the ACT Government that have not been transparent, consistent or clear.

”We need to ensure that parents have peace of mind to send their children to their regular school.”

She said parents of children with autism had still not been advised whether their children and their special needs would be catered for at the hubs.

Ms Lee believed that there were enough teachers who wanted to be back in the classroom, and vulnerable staff should be supported so they could work from home.

But the peak public schools parents body, the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, has backed the government’s plans for remote learning in Term 2.

“Every family’s circumstances and challenges are different. Some of our members absolutely believe that schools should be open now; however, the majority of our members fully support social distancing – and that means the majority of students not attending school,” Council President Kirsty McGovern-Hooley said.

“Simply, while social distancing measures are in place elsewhere, parents don’t feel schools should be any different.”

She said many parents did not want to take the risk, and absences had increased towards the end of Term 1.

”Our schools are well set up to commence next week. But there are no perfect solutions in this crisis. Very few parents like or welcome remote learning from home, but still consider it a better option than potential exposure of themselves and families to COVID-19,” she said.

”As social distancing measures are lifted, we will step back to schools in a structured way that supports our students and families.”

Ms Berry said that the Directorate would be reviewing the situation over the next four weeks, and then deciding about when face-to-face learning could resume, giving parents plenty of notice.

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The rest of us still have to work to be paid. I still have to go to work. If the teachers are only doing 50% of the work (ie no supervision provided for kids) then they should only get 50% of their pay.

My suggestion is give the extra cash to the teenagers working in the supermarkets on MINIMUM wages and in contact with different people all day. They did not sign up for this risk and deserve the cash more!!!

Scarlett Slater2:09 pm 01 May 20

Hi, I’m literally a teenager working at Kmart and I literally think that is one of the most ridiculous comments. Although I see where you are coming from, all workers in places like Kmart, coles, etc have ALL been told if you aren’t comfortable working, you don’t have to. No one is being made to work so first of all your comment lacks so much logic considering that it seems like you are saying we are being forced to work. That is not the case at all
Number 2, this coming from a daughter of a teacher and a student myself in year 11, one of the most important years of school, the fact you think teachers are only doing 50% work and should be paid 50% is ridiculous. Think about everything teachers are doing behind the scenes: re-arranging assessment tasks to fit with the new learning situation, re-arranging the way they teach so it suits online platforms, setting up so many creative ways to teach and give direction so kids can continue to learn and understand, if I’m being honest the list is continuous. Teachers are keeping your kids busy, they are continuing to help them and give support in some of the most challenging times we have ever seen. It’s ridiculous to think that teachers are ‘only doing 50% of the work’ when so many of them are genuinely working harder.

So Kmart is paying people who are not coming to work?? Not in my neighbourhood. And yes I could refuse to turn up but I would have to take leave or not get paid.

Scarlett Slater6:50 pm 02 May 20

i did not say, my words were ‘ all workers in places like Kmart, coles, etc have ALL been told if you aren’t comfortable working, you don’t have to’ when in that does it say they are still getting paid lol.

The remote learning is a con. I watched my granddaughter on a video call with her teacher. She was excited to tell him about all the things she had learned. He sounded like all he wanted to do was hang up.

Don’t expect teachers to give this up u until 2021.

One conclusion is that teachers and education bureaucrats in the ACT are not so amazing, incredible, wonderful and dedicated as they keep on telling us. Judge them on what they do, or don’t do, not what they say.

I’m happy with my two children’s teacher. Yeah it’s not ideal but in the circumstances. . .

I remember you Mina. Epic wasn’t it? It’s not rocket science, Your children Mina go to a private schools. if public school parents need to send their children to school THE CHILD WILL NOT BE TURNED AWAY. The govt is constantly reviewing this policy, in consultation with the teachers union and its teachers, as it should be. The Liberals and Elizabeth Lee should be working with the govt, not against it.

Very easy to snipe from the sidelines when you’re not making the tough decisions.

An article from The Economist that describes the effect on children of closing schools:


make of it what you will.

You absolutely can, and must, take an approach that differs according to relative risk.

Otherwise, is the prescription we all stay ‘safe’ in our homes for next two years?

I saw a research paper that asserted 37% of workforce can effectively work from home. I know in my workforce of hundreds it’s more like 5%.

Not really sobering, you are talking about a handful of cases in children that mostly were already vulnerable due to other conditions. The numbers of children affected are still absolutely minuscule compared to older age groups.

The UK alert basically just tells doctors to be aware of this extremely rare occurrence.

Risk exists everywhere, you can’t just focus on one aspect as if it’s all that matters.

Actual epidemiologists and chief medical officers are saying it is safe.

Home schooling is disadvantaging our kids. Medical experts confirm it is safe to go back to school. Other schools around Australia are reopening. Children have a right to equitable education. Paranoia is not reality. Reopen schools now.

New research shows that literacy and numeracy results set to slide by up to 16.7 per cent if students are kept at home for six months… like the last four studies showed as well

Finally, has a single public servant or politician offered to take a pay cut?

We’re all in this together?

And now is exactly the time for alternate views to be expressed.

I was on board with “flatten the curve”.

But I’m not on board with endless shutdown.

Can anyone who is advocating for school closure articulate under what circumstances (distinct from current circumstances) they would be happy for schools to open?

Whose advice is being followed here?

Facts – The NZ Chief Medical Officer says it is safe, The Australian Chief Medical Officer says its safe, the NSW, QLD, NT WA and SA Chief Health Officers say its safe. The two peer reviewed papers (NSW and UK) both conclude it is safe… But politicians know better than all of these. There are as of today (27 April) just 3 active cases in the ACT and ACT Health has been random testing now for 21 days and found nothing. But don’t let facts and science get in the way of people’s opinions…


NSW remote learning, moving to return to class rooms.

Victoria schools are open but those who can MUST learn from home.

QLD remote learning until at least may 22.

SA schools open and kids encourage to attend but remote learning if you wish.

WA as above.

TAS open for children of essential workers.

NT fully open.

NZ schools still closed.

So whilst the advice from above is it is safe, and in fact if I recall that’s always been the advice everyone is doing their own thing anyway including those who recognise the advice it is safe.

Lizzy you can call it what you will but the one thing you can not accuse the ACT government of doing in relation to school is creating confusion.

The government has been 100% clear what is happening at ACT public schools.

The only confusion is coming from the Feds sending messages that are contrary to what each state is doing, and people such as yourself trying to make a political point.

Let’s see how many parents are against the schools saying shut. http://chng.it/WN2rjWSNq2
Change.org petition asking for schools to reopen.

To that point, Minister Yvette Berry could you please answer the following questions in relation to your statement earlier in the week that the department needs another 4 weeks to “look at what a transition may look like” to face to face learning?

– You and your department have already had 5 weeks, was there no initial contingency planning?
– Why was a set and forget policy for online learning for the whole of term 2 set in March with no clearly stated review date in a setting of continually changing circumstances?
– Why is the ACT the only state to close regular schools and offer hub sites, causing further administrative effort, turmoil and stress to children and families?
– Why does the ACT need a whole month to decide on transitions, when larger states with more complex settings and circumstances, higher cases and larger/denser populations have already advised their parents with review dates (QLD) and transition plans (NSW)?

A petition has been started calling for a review of the Term 2 online remote learning model in the ACT that is based on evidence and parent, carer and student consultation.

Petition Link

The petition calls for:
1. Regular review – online remote learning to be reviewed regularly (fortnightly) supported by evidence that is communicated clearly and promptly to families (I.e., with set dates allowing for everybody to plan and prepare).

2. Appropriate process of consultation with families

3. Consideration of diversity of family needs when developing remote learning models whilst they are in place (I.e., one example, hub sites are not an appropriate option for many working families with young children)

To the president of the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens association, some questions:

– Could you please evidence your statement of ‘the majority of our members fully support social distancing – and that means the majority of students not attending school,”
– How did you canvas parents needs, concerns and issues (not just fellow committee members)?

The statement of not attending schools is not realistic,
– shouldn’t a transition plan be put in place, like many other states?
– Has the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens association called on the Minister to have such a plan, one that acknowledges those most impacted and not just teachers needs and concerns, but also children’s and parents needs?
– And what actions in the ACT P and C council taking to support those families most impacted?

Also has the council and it’s members made it clear to all parents that a statement was put out on Friday (April 24th) on it’s website seeking feedback and input from parents through their schools P and C Committees?

And why is it only now, 5 weeks after schools going pupil free, that this press release was made?


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