The NSW Government’s decision to bring forward the staggered return to face-to-face teaching in the parts of the state under lockdown and subject to stay-at-home orders is not without risks and not without challenges.
NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said only fully vaccinated teachers and staff will be allowed back where stay-at-home orders remain in place.
“This is clearly a necessary measure. How many teachers will be double vaccinated by that date remains unknown,” Mr Gavrielatos said.
“The failure to get all teachers double vaccinated in time for the face-to-face return of schools lies squarely at the feet of the NSW Government which refused to prioritise teachers in the vaccination rollout.”
“While there is an encouraging take up rate of vaccination for 12-to 15-year-olds, many will not be vaccinated at the time of return. As for children under 12, there are still no vaccinations available. “
“Significant risks remain for unvaccinated students who might be infected and transmit the virus to their families, to each other and beyond.”
Ventilation and associated risk mitigating action.
“Despite repeated calls, months ago, to conduct an audit of all schools, the Government has again been found wanting, only commencing a ventilation audit in the last weeks of Term 3,” Mr Gavrielatos said.
Based on international experience we know risk mitigation strategies regarding ventilation are critical in school settings. This was clearly recognised in Victoria which announced the procurement of air quality testing and filtering equipment (51,000 units for classrooms). Meanwhile, in NSW, we still await the findings of the audit.
“The orderly, staggered return of students, as advised by Health, is necessary, but not without its challenges.”
“It assumes that students’ current teachers, will be onsite and have met the vaccination requirements. That may not be the case. Teachers who have their own children will face additional challenges.”
“Operations for schools under strict Covid guidelines will see significant differences to the ways in which schools, teachers and students will go about their teaching and learning, some students back at school while other year groups are still learning remotely.”
“This will place incredible additional pressure and workload stress on teachers and principals who will need to be constantly pivoting between face to face and remote learning modes.”