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“Back to school in Term 2!” The IEUA WA Branch’s response.

Today the Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Education Sue Ellery announced that there would be a ‘soft return’ of  government school students to their school physically from 29 April for Term Two (see the Media Release of 17 April below). 

Parents will have the choice of sending their children to school or keeping them at home and engaged in online learning or distance education.

While this announcement was specific to government schools in the media conference, representatives from CEWA and AISWA confirmed that both the Independent and Catholic school sectors have indicated they will support this model, although non-government schools do have the option to implement their own strategies.

The government has a firm belief that being at school is both safe for students and provides the best learning environment for them.

Many IEU members would broadly agree with that position. 

However, at the same time, members are almost universally concerned about very significant issues including: the health and safety of staff, the risk to vulnerable workers and the additional workload of teaching classes both face-to-face and via online teaching and learning.

The IEU calls for non-government schools in discussion and consultation with their staff:

  • to put in place measures to mitigate extreme workloads, 
  • ensure that schools are cleaned to a high standard, 
  • reorganise the school day and environment to enable social distancing and 
  • ensure that vulnerable staff are able to work from home.

As indicated in the IEU Federal Executive’s release today what is paramount is the safety of school staff and students. The IEUA’s preferred national position is for teachers and support staff to work in the context of online teaching and learning at least for the first half of Term 2. Members know first hand that an enormous amount of work has been put into transitioning to online teaching and learning in recent weeks.

Support staff will make a crucial contribution moving forward in this transition back to school physically and with some students learning based at home.

The IEU calls for the independent schools that have placed staff on ‘stand-down’ or cut their hours of work and/or cut staff salaries to immediately rescind all such decisions.

Support staff including music teachers, education assistants, administration staff and groundspeople are required in their significant numbers more than ever. 

The 300+ support staff affected by stand-downs are real people, not faceless collateral damage – your union recently heard from two members, employed for the past 15 and 18 years respectively as education assistants, who had their work hours cut from full-time to one day a week!

A full staff working together with the school management to minimise risk and facilitate the best teaching and learning environment for staff and students is the best case scenario in these challenging times.

Your union also recognises that some schools are doing “the right thing” by staff and should be commended. Please send your union examples of where you think your school has enacted best practice and acted in the best interests of staff and students to communications@ieuwa.org.au 

 

 

MEDIA STATEMENT

Friday, 17 April 2020

 

Soft Term 2 opening for public schools as part of COVID-19 response

 

  • Cautious and safe approach for Term 2, based on the best national health advice
  • Public schools will open for students from Wednesday, April 29
  • Year 11 and 12 students strongly encouraged to attend
  • Parents and carers of all school ages can choose to send their children to school
  • Distance education packages or online resources for students who learn at home
  • Arrangements to be reviewed and updated ahead of Week 4 commencing on May 18
  • $43 million invested to further enhance school safety and cleaning regimes

Western Australian public schools will be open for all parents and carers who choose to send their children to school, when Term 2 commences for students on Wednesday, April 29.

 

Premier Mark McGowan and Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery today announced the arrangements for the start of Term 2, which would be reviewed before the start of Week 4.

 

Under the plan, the original first day of class – Tuesday, April 28 – will now be a pupil free day, allowing teachers and school staff to finalise learning arrangements.

 

In addition to school being open for all students, Year 11 and 12 students are strongly encouraged to attend to continue their course requirements for graduation.

 

For those students who learn at home, distance education packages and resources, including online resources where possible, will be provided so all students can continue to learn.

 

These arrangements will be in place until the end of Week 3, before any adjustments are made for the beginning of Week 4. This will provide sufficient time for an assessment and review, taking into account the latest health advice and infection trends across the community.

 

The $43 million commitment in total will see regular and frequent cleaning occurring throughout the school day, including cleaning and disinfecting all high contact items every 1-2 hours, as well as the regular cleaning of school play equipment.

 

This will include an estimated $13 million on a ramped up, rigorous cleaning regime in schools, so that cleaners can work continuously throughout the day.

 

This is in addition to the investment already made to enhance cleaning and purchase additional cleaning products since the pandemic started.

 

Term 2 will also see an increased focus on personal hygiene and social distancing measures.

 

Parents will be required to drop children at the school gate and not enter the school grounds, canteens will provide takeaway services only, school swimming pools will be closed and assemblies, camps, excursions and interschool activities will not be permitted.

 

Schools can also implement staggered start, break and meal times to reduce contact in common areas and staff rooms, including the closure of staff rooms if necessary.

 

The capacity of the Department’s website Learning at Home has been tripled to meet the demand while students are learning from home, and this will continue to be monitored. 

 

Every Year 12 and ATAR student will be able to get a WA Certificate of Education (WACE) and an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) in 2020 so they can go on to further study, training or employment next year. 

Students working toward a Vocational Education and Training qualification will not be disadvantaged due to any work placement cancellations.

 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Government has worked collaboratively with Catholic and Independent schools. It is expected they will also implement these arrangements for Term 2.

 

A fact sheet is available at http://www.wa.gov.au/education


Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:

 

“We have carefully considered options for the start of Term 2, based on the best health advice.

 

“This soft opening is about transitioning students back into our classrooms in a responsible manner, to receive the best education, without risking the health of students, staff or parents.

 

“The return of Year 11 and 12 students is prioritised to give them the best chance to complete their course requirements, while practicing good social distancing.

 

“This is about striking the right balance for Western Australian schools, and it gives us the opportunity to review the situation and adjust accordingly when it’s suitable to do so.

 

“Once again, I thank our teachers and school staff, who continue to play a crucial role educating our children during this difficult and evolving time.”

 

Comments attributed to Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery:


“The classroom is still the best place for all students to learn.

 

“Learning in the classroom for Year 11 and 12 students must be the priority so we strongly encourage they attend school when it starts.

 

“It’s critical that all other students continue to have access to their teachers which is why our teachers will be in the classroom.

 

“Whether students are learning at school or at home, either online or with printed materials, all students will get an education.

 

“We will be significantly ramping up the cleaning in schools as well as continuing to observe social distancing measures so that every teacher, staff member and student can be protected and kept safe.

 

“I want to assure parents that the vital services provided by education assistants, Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers, school psychologists and chaplains will continue to help students through these unusual times.”

 

Media contacts:   

Premier’s office – Jamie Macdonald 0457 535 224 or 6552 5200

Education and Training Minister’s office – Kaye Hopkins 0428 925 699 or 6552 5700