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

Ian Bushnell 27 April 2020 156
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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156 Responses to Safe for schools to stay open in Term 2, say Liberals
Cathy Beckhouse Cathy Beckhouse 6:44 pm 27 Apr 20

Absolutely. Children should be at school.

Juliane Samara Juliane Samara 6:26 pm 27 Apr 20

Ah, and there it is. I have really enjoyed the silence of the ACT Liberals over the last weeks during COVID19 restrictions, but clearly they are now coming out to play again.

Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 6:22 pm 27 Apr 20

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…

    dukethunder dukethunder 10:45 pm 27 Apr 20

    100%

    JC JC 8:21 am 28 Apr 20

    Facts:

    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.

Janet Hurley Janet Hurley 6:19 pm 27 Apr 20

Also I seem to remember Scomo saying early on that any action taken would be for 6 months, so I’m surprised he’s now advocating otherwise!

Janet Hurley Janet Hurley 6:18 pm 27 Apr 20

We haven’t even started term 2 yet. How about we see how that goes first? Plus schools going back needs to be planned, they can’t just open them as they did before. Social distancing hasn’t stopped. Obviously a pandemic is inconvenient but really... I agree with a calm measured approach to returning and taking time to plan to do so.

Sarah Warren Sarah Warren 6:14 pm 27 Apr 20

Thank you ACT Government and Minister Berry for making a safe and considered decision for term two remote online learning and provisions for those who need to access a supervised site.

Janelle Ahern Janelle Ahern 6:11 pm 27 Apr 20

I'm not an essential worker (although I do work, have taken unpaid and paid leave and some days the kids are unsupervised) but I want my kids in school, and they want to go to school. I base this on my own circumstances against what I consider extremely low risk and do not begrudge anyone who makes a different choice. But given infection rates in the ACT, a full term of remote schooling for most kids is unjustifiable and I think it should change.

    Janelle Ahern Janelle Ahern 11:57 am 28 Apr 20

    Veronika Sain likely caught in a tiny staff room with no social distancing, 3 day turnaround for tests and the school remained open, including holding an evening event of staff and students after a suspected case. NZ schools are soon opening (today I believe) for working families. Here is one link, but there are many. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12326496

    Janelle Ahern Janelle Ahern 11:58 am 28 Apr 20

    Veronika Sain be critical, objective and inquiring, this is what we ask children to be. Using 'stuff' to support a position is none of those.

Zac Norman Zac Norman 6:10 pm 27 Apr 20

It's confusing because we have an idiot liberal prime minister ignoring health professionals and meddling with our local government.

Teresa Baxter Teresa Baxter 6:07 pm 27 Apr 20

How about those who say this, go sit in a full classroom for a week just to reassure those of us who do it for a job are safe.

I bet not one of them would accept that challenge.

Monty Ki Monty Ki 6:03 pm 27 Apr 20

Second wave pandemic. Last time, killed more people than the first wave. Don't get complacent too quickly people. We are not out of the woods with this virus yet. Stay safe. Stay home. Keep your kids home if you can. Kudos to the ACT government. I feel safer here than when I lived in NSW.

Rita Scholl Rita Scholl 5:58 pm 27 Apr 20

Actually doesn’t need to be politicized eh

Suzanne Tunks Suzanne Tunks 5:12 pm 27 Apr 20

‘All the advice’ that’s pretty incorrect. There is much debate about the safety of children and teachers in close quarters together and easily sourced.

I, personally, am very happy with the way our ACT Government is putting our communities health and safety first whilst also supporting schools to offer options for those children who need to be in school. Children of truly essential workers, vulnerable children and those of parents who simply can’t manage to work at home and support their children’s learning at the same time.

For those of us that can have our children at home, the schools and their teachers have worked incredibly hard to make online lessons, supplies and support available and easily accessible so that our children can continue their education in the home. Hats off to those amazing teachers and to everyone out there who is just trying really hard to work together to keep our Canberra community safe during this time.

I am so proud of Andrew Barr and his team for doing what they know is best for our safety even though it goes against many who would rather put money first every time.

I’ll be happily keeping my daughter at home for as long as it’s needed and even though it’s not easy, the extra efforts are small in the grand scheme of things when compared to the horror going on in so many other countries in the world.

Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 5:04 pm 27 Apr 20

Some parents can't wait to send their kids back to school so are politicising this whole thing. It has been shown that outbreaks can happen in schools (eg in New Zealand) so those parents need to cool their heels or they will be rushing us all into something that will kill someone we love. We are now all set up for online learning. Let's try it for 3 months!

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 5:53 pm 27 Apr 20

    Unfortunately there's a petition going around pressuring the government into officially opening all the schools. I don't get why people want this. If people have particular issues with their children staying home, they are catered to and the children can do their online learning under professional supervision in designated schools.

    Bob Jones Bob Jones 5:54 pm 27 Apr 20

    Jill Lyall because some people can't work as well as have kids at home.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 5:55 pm 27 Apr 20

    Bob Jones That is why there are designated schools to provide for these children or any children who for whatever reason cannot stay at home - didn't you read my comment??

    Bob Jones Bob Jones 6:01 pm 27 Apr 20

    Jill the problem is, chemists, nurses, shop workers, taxi drivers, hair dressers, day care centres, dock workers, police, fireman, mechanics, vets, truck drivers and cleaners ALL have to go to work, why do teachers get to chose not to when there are studies showing little risk to them. The risk comes from other teachers, who will all be at school with them. Yes there is a petition on change.org, so people who don't agree with decision can voice they're opinion. You have yours, we have ours.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 6:04 pm 27 Apr 20

    I don't think childcare centres should be open actually. Nor hair dressers. The others I think being adults working together and not requiring close physical contact could be managed.

    Bob Jones Bob Jones 6:07 pm 27 Apr 20

    Jill Lyall BUT THEY ARE. Teachers are being precious when there is little to no risk. Full stop.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 6:28 pm 27 Apr 20

    Bob Jones Teachers are not being precious. They are just informed. Other workers being forced to work should be talking to their unions and shouting out about it. Apart from the fact that it is extremely remiss of governments at all levels to ignore these people. It doesn't mean teachers should willingly sacrifice themselves.

    Bob Jones Bob Jones 6:54 pm 27 Apr 20

    Jill Lyall so they are more informed than the Prime Minister and the Australian Chief Medical Officer

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:24 pm 27 Apr 20

    The CMO is doing as he is told. Medical science has no consensus on the issue of children as transmitters. A recent article in the Lancet journal said as much in relation to a study of the virus in children in China.

    Russell McArthur Russell McArthur 10:32 pm 27 Apr 20

    Jill Lyall check this article for Australian medical evidence

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/safe-as-houses-covid-19-study-clears-nsw-schools-for-student-return-20200425-p54n6i.html

    Geeta Datta Geeta Datta 10:20 am 28 Apr 20

    Isn't it awful to think that SOME parents are willing to risk their childrens lives to go back to work and get money. The governments incentive is probably monetary. All this is costing a fortune for them.

    Katie Cole Katie Cole 7:37 pm 30 Apr 20

    Geeta Datta the reason my children need to go to school is so so myself and my husband can go to work in healthcare. We're not choosing to risk our children's lives at school, were simply going to work to help save other people's lives.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:50 pm 30 Apr 20

    Katie Cole and that’s exactly why they have some school taking care of those children

    Katie Cole Katie Cole 8:24 pm 30 Apr 20

    Jill Lyall so instead of being able to drop my 6yr and 9yr old off at their own school on tuesday I got an email less than a week ago telling me that I had to send my young children to a school which is 30min return trip from our current school and they'll be supervised by after school care staff who they don't know (at a ratio of 10 pupils to 1 after school care work). And there's no after school care. This is not an adequate option for essential workers. Does anyone in our community think this is the way to support the health care workers who are staffing their hospitals right now? Honestly, this hub model is harming our families.

    Geeta Datta Geeta Datta 8:37 am 01 May 20

    Katie Cole Which is lovely but I hope to God the schools use every means to keep them safe

Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 4:47 pm 27 Apr 20

I think it's only 'confusing' if you can't hear the government's clear messages because you don't want to...

Lea Powell Lea Powell 4:46 pm 27 Apr 20

I wish the Libs would just grow up. A decision has been made. In this country funding for schools is a federal issue, and how they run is set by states. End of story.

The ACT has said this is the plan, it is NOT up to others including the feds to say otherwise.

The only people sowing discord are the libs and those who want to do other than has been decided. Clear cut.

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 6:19 pm 27 Apr 20

    Lea Powell why doesn’t the Canberra Liberals allow comments on their recent posts about schools. I went there a couple of days ago to say I disagreed and after they have three or four pro comments the ability to comment is turned off.

    Did they get their staff to comment?

Maria Greene Maria Greene 4:38 pm 27 Apr 20

All the advice? What advice? Please can we have some sensible Liberals back in the ACT so we can get rid of Andrew Barr?

Stephen Harden Stephen Harden 4:33 pm 27 Apr 20

The Liberals can say what they like... Last time i checked they weren't in power in the ACT... SO go tell someone who cares....

Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 4:27 pm 27 Apr 20

PPE for teachers and students?

    Julie Gnjec Julie Gnjec 5:34 pm 27 Apr 20

    Vanessa Jones There's barely enough for hospital staff. The amount of PPE needed for students and teachers in every school, changing multiple times a day to be effective as they carry germs/virus (Drs and nurses change after every patient, even if only seeing that patient for 2 mins) ...It's just not feasible.

JC JC 4:20 pm 27 Apr 20

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.

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.

    Sher Young Sher Young 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.

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