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

Ian Bushnell 27 April 2020 148
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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148 Responses to Safe for schools to stay open in Term 2, say Liberals
Darron Marks Darron Marks 4:17 pm 27 Apr 20

Name a state or territory that has a clear comprehensive school strategy at the moment ?

Fair point that it is confusing but when you put it in perspective our policy I think is probably more clear than NSW.

    Sherbie Leo Sherbie Leo 5:02 pm 27 Apr 20

    Darron Marks it’s easy, if your school is open you can send your children if you want to. Teacher who can and want to teach will do so.

    Jasper Roo Jasper Roo 5:12 pm 27 Apr 20

    Darron Victoria.

Sandi Tichanow Reay Sandi Tichanow Reay 4:10 pm 27 Apr 20

But early learning centres and private schools can make their own decisions? that's the confusing item no one wants to answer from either side!

Steve Gannis Steve Gannis 4:09 pm 27 Apr 20

Absolutely should be back to normal!

Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 4:08 pm 27 Apr 20

Yer... maybe Elizabeth Lee would like to explainable n why her leader’s kids are still being home schooled????

Maybe lead by example?

Prue McKay Prue McKay 4:02 pm 27 Apr 20

Nah, I'm cool with the ACT govt. and our school's decision and explanation of what is happening and how it's going to work. It's the LNP and the feds in particular I have a problem with.

buzz819 buzz819 3:58 pm 27 Apr 20

Let’s see how many parents are against the schools saying shut. petition asking for schools to reopen.

Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 3:57 pm 27 Apr 20

If there is any confusion, it is all due to Scott Morrison's statements on schools reopening. Perhaps the local Libs should tune into ACT Government briefings rather than ScoMo's.

Michael Taylor Michael Taylor 3:57 pm 27 Apr 20

Now is not the time to play matter which party you support

Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 3:55 pm 27 Apr 20

There's no confusion. Unless you're an essential worker or with no other choice, Term 2 is homeschooling. What's "confusing" is these articles every other day, saying the same thing but making out like there is new information or changes. Let parents be - decisions and arrangements have been made for most. The polticial infighting over this is ridiculous and ill-timed.

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 3:58 pm 27 Apr 20

    What's confusing is the official advice from the medical advisory board that says it is safe. I am so confused by what it means when they say it is safe for schools to open. I wish they could be more clearer.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 4:01 pm 27 Apr 20

    Daniel Same. It defies common sense. Nowhere is "safe" - we have no vaccine. Until then social distancing is the only way.

    Sarelle Woodward Sarelle Woodward 4:02 pm 27 Apr 20

    unless you have the power to change the decision, there is no confusion. If doesn’t matter what the medical experts are saying - the ACT govt is offering online learning.

    Crystal clear.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 4:03 pm 27 Apr 20

    Sarelle Woodward Is that to me - if so - that's what I'm saying 🤷‍♀️

    Sarelle Woodward Sarelle Woodward 4:04 pm 27 Apr 20

    No Melissa, I agree with you.

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 4:16 pm 27 Apr 20

    Sarelle Woodward Why does the ACT Government think differently? And all they say is "We will be in lockstep with NSW" .... ummmm, until it comes to schools? I've got no problem with a decision, either way, if there is an explanation as to why they think differently. All I can see is "We already gave everyone Chromebooks so we are good to go!" As of yesterday, we literally had 4 active cases in Canberra. How much lower do we need to go? And besides, are we doing this forever because thinking is we are only a 30% chance of getting a vaccine. As such, 60%+ of people will need to get it if, and it is a big if, we are to achieve herd immunity. So, when do people want to get it? Not this month? OK, next? Or the one after? It will be tough to avoid getting it unless you, as an individual, want to isolate until it is eradicated (which it may never). There has to be a balance and the ACT is being too cautious now.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 4:22 pm 27 Apr 20

    Daniel Oyston Like Singapore has shown, you need to be careful - they are now experiencing a huge spike after relaxing their restrictions. Our numbers are low because most people have been doing the right thing - it's not luck. It's not about eradicating it but flattening the curve, and the subsequent 2nd, 3rd and 4th waves - which will happen. I for one, am glad we have a full term to see how it plays out. I'll be watching NSW closely.

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 4:31 pm 27 Apr 20

    Melissa Flis I have no issue with that but they need to explain it. 4 active cases in the ACT doesn't get much 'flatter'. And why T2? What is so magical about school terms? Why don't we have a goal i.e. 10 weeks of no new cases, or 2 cases or whatever. And again, why break lockstep with NSW on this and not explain why except for "We gave them all Chromebooks so we are OK?". Waves will come, as you say, they are unavoidable, but we have 1 person in the hospital so at what point are we 'ready'? That's what it has always been about - not people avoiding getting it but all about the curve and the health system being ready. The language is so ambiguous it isn't funny. In fact, it makes it dangerous because people get sick of it and just start bending the rules because the curve is flattened, the infection rate in Canberra has been under 1 for a long time, and we have had zero community transmission.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 4:36 pm 27 Apr 20

    Daniel Oyston Because it's easier for parents to just organise to be at home for a full term rather than staggering it like NSW are doing? I have no clear answer there, but I am happy to have a firm plan for Term 2 and schools for both my kids who seem to have setup properly for support and schooling - both public schools. It's not going to be a picnic for anyone (we both are working from home as well as homeschooling) I'm still interested to see what will come of the Easter period - if people weren't doing the right thing they say we'll see the outcome of that - and more people ill from today April 27 to May 5.

    Jasper Roo Jasper Roo 5:11 pm 27 Apr 20

    Daniel why are schools considered so magical that the virus wouldn’t dare tread? So magical that social distancing doesn’t apply? Yet, the minute the kids step foot outside of school grounds it does? 🤔

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 5:23 pm 27 Apr 20

    Jasper Roo That's not it. It isn't the school boundaries. It is the age. The risk between child to child and child to adult is very low. Even when kids get it, they are not nearly as severely affected as adults. That's what the advice says. Again, that's what the CMO has said. Teacher to teacher and parent to teacher is a different story. As such, in terms of big and early wins on the way out of this, schools play a very important role as it allows the economy to get going again because parents can return to work. We have not been given a proper explanation as to why the ACT thinks the CMOs advice is not right. Why are we OK to follow the CMOs advice on something and not others? That is all I am asking for. Explain it so I can understand it instead of random people on Facebook trying to fill me in (no offence, just a generalisation).

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 2:14 am 28 Apr 20

    Melissa Flis the articles are deliberately misleading. The ACT govt has not changed their stance.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 6:16 am 28 Apr 20

    Robyn Holder I understand that. That is what I said.

Corey Karl Corey Karl 3:49 pm 27 Apr 20

There’s no confusion !! Everywhere else in Australia people are starting to return to schools and work, except the ACT who is ignoring all the advice and doing their own thing !! Oh and Qld are letting people mingle again but keeping schools closed !! Crystal clear

    Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 3:58 pm 27 Apr 20

    Corey Karl Bear in mind there are bug differences in population density and weather conditions.

    Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 4:01 pm 27 Apr 20

    Each state has their own health and education departments. ACT Education is following the advice of ACT Health. What other states are doing is their business.

    Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 6:33 pm 27 Apr 20

    That is not correct. The ACT Chief Health Officer has not expressed a view on school closures (only one not to publicly give a position). The Australian, NZ, NSW, QLD, NT, WA and SA Chief Health Officers say it is safe for schools to return (as do the only two peer reviewed scientific studies on schools - from UK and NSW), the Vic Chief Health officer says wait till 1 June and the Tasmanian Health Officer wants to wait to see what happens in Northern Tasmania. There are three active cases in the ACT (one in hospital and two at home) and in 21 days of random testing ACT Health have found no cases.

    Joanne Egan Joanne Egan 9:51 am 28 Apr 20

    Corey Karl the NSW study is not peer reviewed

    Carol Gainey Carol Gainey 1:10 pm 28 Apr 20

    Corey Karl QLD are presently doing the same as VIC and the ACT. School is remote unless you have to send your child to school. And we are now able to go on a picnic with those who live in our house or have 2 adults visit our house but still social distance. I don't think that's mingling really.

    Corey Karl Corey Karl 1:26 pm 28 Apr 20

    Veronika Sain with only 3 people with covid 19 in ACT, it’s ridiculous !!

Christine Warren Christine Warren 3:43 pm 27 Apr 20

The advice from the ACT government has been straight forward - it seems that it is the Liberal Party who cannot understand it and who call it into question.

Olivia Ladd Olivia Ladd 3:40 pm 27 Apr 20

Why are we taking advice from politicians instead of Medical


    Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 3:51 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd medical professionals have advised the government.

    Olivia Ladd Olivia Ladd 3:53 pm 27 Apr 20

    LJ Tas correct, but we are ignoring their advice! We should be getting the kids back to school.

    Prue McKay Prue McKay 4:04 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd So they can catch the virus from each other and bring it home to potentially vulnerable households? No thanks.

    Olivia Ladd Olivia Ladd 4:06 pm 27 Apr 20

    Prue McKay Have you actually read any of the advice from the CMO? And parents who feel strongly about that should have the option to keep kids home.

    Prue McKay Prue McKay 4:07 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd I have read it, but I fail to see how kids are any less vulnerable than the rest of us. Also it puts teachers at higher risk which is not fair.

    The decision has been made and I'm quite happy with it.

    Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 4:13 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd

    Have you ever thought that the reason school kids have not been transmitting or getting the virus is because they have been homeschooling? I doubt the statistics would reflect the same data had kids been in school rather than at home...

    There is nothing stopping you from sending your kids to school if you choose!!!

    Stop whining about kids being kept out of school when you can send them - at your risk...

    Olivia Ladd Olivia Ladd 4:17 pm 27 Apr 20

    Lynne Meredith This guy is an Infectious Diseases Physician and Microbiologist, I think I believe him more that the ACT Government Ministers?

    Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 4:25 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd

    I’m sure I could find 10 scientists with 10 different opinions, none or all of them could be right!

    The reason the infection rate is so low is due to everyone adhering to the social restrictions, lift those too soon and earth those rates rise rapidly! Look to NY if you’re not sure...

    What is it you’re trying to say? There is nothing stopping you from sending your kids to school - go for it!

    Olivia Ladd Olivia Ladd 4:30 pm 27 Apr 20

    Lynne Meredith He’s not just ‘some scientist’ but is actually the director of ACT pathology. What are your qualifications? I can read the news too. What I’m trying to say is that school should be going back to education, not the babysitting it is currently offering. And for the record, I am an essential worker but won’t be sending my kids back until they start educating again.

    Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 5:03 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd so you’re asserting that school is “safe” yet not sending you’re kids - that speaks volumes!

    Olivia Ladd Olivia Ladd 5:23 pm 27 Apr 20

    Lynne Meredith If teachers were conducting normal lessons and educating instead of babysitting I would send them in a heartbeat.

    Lynne Meredith Lynne Meredith 5:27 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd , they’re not baby sitting a full academic program is being provided... online by teachers.

    Marina Simoncini Marina Simoncini 7:14 pm 27 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd Jackie Rees this Olivia raises some very valid points. Amy Bongiovi do you object?

    Joanne Egan Joanne Egan 9:48 am 28 Apr 20

    Olivia Ladd except that the virus is so new that no one understands it in detail yet, including the experts. New information is emerging all the time, including new concerns from Britain about the effects on children.

Annette Hemsley Annette Hemsley 3:39 pm 27 Apr 20

It’s very clear online unless essential worker can’t be more clear than that our school has work ready up on the school site for tomorrow not hard really unless you can’t read

Heidi Livermore Heidi Livermore 3:36 pm 27 Apr 20

I have no idea what the ACT Libs are confused about. The ACT Govt has actually been quite clear. It's you who is sowing confusion, Elizabeth Lee.

Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 3:36 pm 27 Apr 20

I don't understand either why we are still in lockdown measures considering everywhere else except Victoria is returning to some sort of normal life. Kids should be able to play sports being it's outside and safe for kids to interact ...

    Hugh Mungus McLauchlan Hugh Mungus McLauchlan 4:11 pm 27 Apr 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves but it's not. Children can be asymptomatic carriers. That's the whole point of the school lock downs..

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:58 pm 27 Apr 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves you mention other states relaxing restrictions, stating the obvious here but places like Victoria had restrictions well beyond what we had here and their relaxation brings them closer to what we have.

    About the only state that is going beyond is WA but mainly with the max of 10 in a group.

    Janelle Ahern Janelle Ahern 6:00 pm 27 Apr 20

    Hugh Mungus McLauchlan if children were asymptomatic carriers wouldn't there be more than 3 active cases in the ACT?

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:14 pm 27 Apr 20

    Janelle Ahern my thoughts exactly, we would have more cases than we have now

Jen Bright Jen Bright 3:35 pm 27 Apr 20

Get over it - decision made - schools start term 3 in the interest of their and our safety!

Tara Murray Tara Murray 3:35 pm 27 Apr 20

Oh ffs I wish they would just make a decision and stick to it

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 3:37 pm 27 Apr 20

    Tara Murray same either way things have changed forever now

    Tara Murray Tara Murray 3:38 pm 27 Apr 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves I just wish they would stop confusing everyone one with this they already said schools will be online for term 2 so lets leave it at that

    Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 3:56 pm 27 Apr 20

    Tara Murray THEY HAVE.

    Prue McKay Prue McKay 4:03 pm 27 Apr 20

    ACT government HAS made a decision. Remote learning for Term 2 unless your child must attend school because you're an essential worker (etc.) in which case a few campuses are open to take them.

    Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 4:46 pm 27 Apr 20

    The only confusion has come from the Federal government. Andrew Barr and Yvette Berry have been quite clear about school arrangements in term 2. They have stuck to these through the vacillations of the federal government, and have assured parents and teachers they will give fair warning for any changes.

    Janelle Ahern Janelle Ahern 6:15 pm 27 Apr 20

    I just wish they would change the decision. Get the kids back to school!

Victor Lee Victor Lee 3:22 pm 27 Apr 20

I'm confused why there is confusion on the matter. The Minister has said Term 2 will be remote learning. If you are an essential worker, you can send your kids to specific schools to be supervised.

    Victor Lee Victor Lee 3:29 pm 27 Apr 20

    Having said that, I've been told that private schools are doing their own thing. But that's a matter between the family and the school. For all government-run schools, the direction is clear.

    Kieren Hall Kieren Hall 4:44 pm 27 Apr 20

    Catholic schools are doing the same as public school in the ACT

    Giulia Quadraccia Giulia Quadraccia 8:00 pm 27 Apr 20

    Kieren Hall don’t think so. Our catholic school didn’t close at all.

    Kieren Hall Kieren Hall 8:06 pm 27 Apr 20

    What I meant was going into term 2 we are all the same

    Remote learning for kids at home and kids that need to be at school. Catholic and private won’t have learning hubs they will all remain open that would be the only difference there at this stage.

helena helena 2:42 pm 27 Apr 20

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)

helena helena 2:37 pm 27 Apr 20

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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