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
Rodney TatStan Rodney TatStan 12:33 am 29 Apr 20

The Term 2 position is home schooling until other states and territories, where our handlers own and operate. Then when THEY say they are ready to go there is a choice to send our kids to sit with 'random supervisors' outside of our regular catchment so our handlers are happy once again or we set down our tools until we have local employment that is in line with the term 2 schooling arrangements. Seems like a 50/50 debacle either way. Are we having fun yet?

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 11:51 pm 28 Apr 20

Elizabeth Lee all the experts you refer to are paid by an LNP government and we know how reliable they are. Pull your head in and put the health of the children and teachers first! You won’t win any votes with this ridiculous idea!

Michael Hynes Michael Hynes 9:58 pm 28 Apr 20

Liberals following scientific advice? 😂 Accusing Labor of confusion? Which jobs are essential Scotty? Every job is essential! Remember that little tid bit of clear leadership? The real question for the liberals is, do Rupert and the mining industry want schools open? That's where they get most of their opinions from.

Mina Zaki Mina Zaki 3:51 pm 28 Apr 20

If you want to keep your kids at home, that is absolutely fine, if teachers want to work from home, that is absolutely fine, but parents who need to send their children to school should not be disadvantaged by having to send them to the hubs. It may work for high school students or senior primary school students but it doesn’t work for younger students.

Open our schools for those who have to attend because their parents are essential workers + community service supervision (which is what’s happening at hubs) + a definite time limit eg all of term 2.

That’s not too much to ask for. We currently have:

9 hubs for maybe 4 weeks or longer.

Last week we were under the impression that we would be doing online learning until end of term 2 with supervision provided at children’s own schools.

If you’re not confused, you either don’t have young school ages children or you’re not an essential worker.

    Karen Feng Karen Feng 6:06 pm 28 Apr 20

    Mina Zaki That is a good point. the doctors and nurses and policeman or the people at supermarkets. 😳. They cant work from home and supervise their own kids.

Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 2:26 pm 28 Apr 20

Elizabeth Lee: ‘”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.’

If kids can’t cope with this I worry about their ability to cope with life.

According to her words anyone with school age children shouldn’t be moving.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:43 am 29 Apr 20

    Absolutely. I attended different schools in five towns when I was a child. Children adapt, or as you say, their problems will get even bigger when they have to cope with life after school.

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

Mac John Mac John 7:05 am 28 Apr 20

Hey you liberals: why are teachers so expendable?

Lynn Stape Lynn Stape 6:53 am 28 Apr 20

So what I get from this article is that the Liberals are not willing to try to work harmoniously with the Labor party during this time of crisis, for the good of the citizens, rather they simply wish to finger point and cause problems...well thats extremely helpful for all parents and makes things quite clear for them doesnt it....,,,,, well done on the WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF ALL guys...

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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