Teacher concerns need 'urgent' consideration before schools return, union says
Apr 18, 2020
By Lauren Pilat
Temperature checks for students and all school staff to be tested for COVID-19 should be considered before West Australian schools return for term 2, according to the state's peak public school teachers' union.
The State School Teachers' Union of WA is calling for those measures to be considered and their members’ issues addressed “urgently” by the government ahead of its “soft” opening of schools from April 29.
The union’s calls come after it was announced parents could choose to either send their children to school or keep them home for remote learning next term, with schools and teachers left with the responsibility of detailing how the various modes of education would be delivered.
SSTUWA president Pat Byrne said it was still unclear how schools could implement social distancing measures under the government’s model and whether additional resourcing would be made available to support both face-to-face and online learning.
“It remains vital that social distancing measures are applied within classrooms as they are throughout the rest of the community,” she said.
“This means class sizes should be reduced if required, and specific limits on numbers based on the size of the classroom, as will be introduced across Victorian public schools.
“Over the past few weeks, WA teachers have risen to the challenge of creating resources for alternative, flexible, methods of teaching so that parents can keep their children home and still see them educated.”
The SSTUWA wants detail on how the following issues will be addressed:
Strict adherence to social distancing requirements, in line with community standards, in classrooms including measured 1.5m separation between pupils.
Proper hygiene resources in place (soap, hot water, hand sanitiser).
Personal protective equipment for staff, where required.
Special measures for special needs education.
Additional casual relief teachers to enable proper delivery of curriculum content using multiple modes of delivery (so no teacher is expected to teach in class and remotely at the same time).
Ms Byrne said the choice given to parents put teachers under additional pressure to educate students using multiple modes of delivery.
“We will be seeking clarity on what support will be given to educators to manage these teaching pressures,” she said.
“Schools will have no idea how many students will attend, how many will need online materials or how many will need hard copy packages. Planning will be extremely difficult.”
Education Minister Sue Ellery said it was anticipated there would be far less than 100 per cent attendance at schools, but ultimately the choice was up to parents if their child attended class in person or not.
“Schools will have the capacity to design their learning areas to match the number of kids that are there, with the appropriate social distancing arrangements,” she said.
“It is clear, parents will tell you, teachers will tell you, there is no debate that classrooms are the best place to learn, it's how we do it in an environment where we're dealing with a pandemic and recognising that parents are the ones to make the judgment about what's right for their children.
“We will review this in week three with a view to looking at what we might do differently in week four but ultimately what we need is children learning in a classroom environment.”
Ms Ellery said the Education Department recognised the challenges school staff faced and had implemented several assistance programs for them.
“School leaders play a particularly vital role in supporting students and staff during these difficult times when they are adopting new ways of operating, teaching and learning,” she said.
“The department has implemented several staff wellbeing initiatives, the employee assistance program is providing telehealth psychological services for staff, and their immediate family.”