Advice for schools ‘conflicting, contradictory and impossible’

As teachers and principals are being required to shoulder considerable responsibility with respect to the health of students and the broader community during the COVID-19 outbreak, Federation has demanded clear advice from state and federal governments.

Teachers are seeking guidance after many of the health protocols outlined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison overnight would not be able to be implemented in the majority of schools settings.

Teachers and principals, like all members of the public, are affected by developments associated with COVID-19.

Mr Morrison announced a ban on public gatherings of 500 or more people while deeming that schools should remain open.

Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said approximately 30 per cent of schools had more than 500 students while the largest public school had a population in excess of 2000 students.

“Schools have been told to implement a range of social distancing measures which include keeping a distance of 1.5m between persons and minimising physical contact where possible,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“However, the design of many of our schools and the size of our classrooms make this impossible.

“The overcrowding of some schools also makes this impossible beyond the classroom. This is further amplified on wet days when children and their teachers have to remain in-doors.”

Mr Gavrielatos said beyond social distancing measures, teachers have raised serious concerns about a lack of resources necessary to ensure satisfactory levels of cleaning and sanitation to maintain good hygiene.

“The lack of clarity, consistency and, at times, conflicting advice and opinions expressed by the medical community and elected leaders is creating considerable stress for teachers and principals,” he said.

“The government must ensure that its work health and safety obligations to all staff and students are met.”

Federation will continue to work constructively with the Department of Education to ensure the health and safety of all public school communities.