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
bikhet bikhet 1:24 pm 28 Apr 20

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

make of it what you will.

rsm1105 rsm1105 8:51 am 28 Apr 20

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%.

Jay Kay Jay Kay 8:30 am 28 Apr 20

You can't maintain a dichtomy of closing down businesses and forcing remote working AND opening schools up, either its safe to do both, or its unsafe. Not one or the other

    chewy14 chewy14 11:30 am 28 Apr 20

    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.

rsm1105 rsm1105 8:11 am 28 Apr 20

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

Mac John Mac John 7:05 am 28 Apr 20

Hey you liberals: why are teachers so expendable?

Acton Acton 6:52 am 28 Apr 20

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.

Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 6:41 am 28 Apr 20

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

Bob Jones Bob Jones 5:17 am 28 Apr 20

Show how you feel! Sign the petition

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 2:18 am 28 Apr 20

NSW is the most awful confusing ridiculous plan. How they think teachers can teach with students going in one day a week alphabetically I just can't imagine.

Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 12:56 am 28 Apr 20

ACT Liberals criticising ACT Labor/Greens? Tell me it isn’t so!

Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 12:01 am 28 Apr 20

the Canberra Liberals will accuse anyone of anything, just as long as it gets them some attention.

dukethunder dukethunder 10:49 pm 27 Apr 20


Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 10:28 pm 27 Apr 20

Parents can send their kids to school. So sick of the liberal diatribe..... schools are open for those that choose to send their kids because they are essential workers. But it’s 2020. Online learning is possible, and it ensures the safely of our teachers.

    Janelle Ahern Janelle Ahern 2:42 pm 28 Apr 20

    Neenie Baines no, the hub system prevents many families from sending their kids to school, including mine. Online learning is possible, but inefficient, has inequality of outcomes for working families and vulnerable kids.

AbbDon Helen AbbDon Helen 9:32 pm 27 Apr 20

Elizabeth Lee .. you are a populist on this issue .. disgraceful behaviour from my own party .. thank you Yvette Berry for standing up for teachers and students and our safety ... Ms Lee are you willing to come and spend the next 10 weeks in our classrooms without the safety net of social distancing?

Paul Kitson Paul Kitson 8:30 pm 27 Apr 20

It’s just IPA posturing.

Teresa Baxter Teresa Baxter 8:29 pm 27 Apr 20

Maybe everyone needs to read this before sending their kids to school.

rsm1105 rsm1105 7:28 pm 27 Apr 20

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

We’re all in this together?

Narrelle Kelly Narrelle Kelly 7:25 pm 27 Apr 20

I’m glad my granddaughter is doing on line classes for a while. Let nsw do the experiment with their kids. If it turns out that kids don’t get Covid and don’t pass it along, we can think about opening our schools. If that turns out to not be the case, our kids are safe. No one really knows and this is all a best guess. Shame on the act libs for grandstanding on this issue - let’s all wait and watch for our kids and be thankful our government isn’t using our kids as the guinea pigs.

rsm1105 rsm1105 7:19 pm 27 Apr 20

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.

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