TEACHER’S UNION: Rural schools ready for ‘no normal’
"THERE is no business as usual in schools for the foreseeable future."
That's the message Queensland Teacher's Union is spreading far and wide, as teachers and school support staff prepare for a school term like no other.
On Monday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Education Minister Grace Grace announced that all state, Catholic and independent Schools would move to an at-home learning model for at least the first five weeks of term two.
Schools will remain open for the children of essential workers and for vulnerable children.
QTU president Kevin Bates said the arrangements provide a consistency for all students and parents under the COVID-19 crisis.
"The partnership between parents and teachers in educating young people has never been more important but that partnership must reflect the circumstances we all face," he said.
"Teachers and principals will do their utmost to continue to support the education of all young people in Queensland and they will rely on the support of parents at home to ensure that education in some form continues throughout this crisis."
From next week, schools will be open to students only where no other suitable supervision arrangements are available for them.
"The premier made it clear that limiting the number of students at school and requiring those students who can stay at home to learn from home is another part of the strategy to minimise the spread of COVID-19," Mr Bates said.
"Learning at home means that students will undertake activities planned by teachers at their usual schools, and students who must attend school will undertake the same activities under supervision."
Mr Bates said the decision struck a reasonable balance.
"We would have liked to see more emphasis on teachers working from home to provide learning at home but vulnerable workers and those who care for vulnerable family members are protected and that is a good start," he said.
"Social distancing is critical to keeping the rates of infection low and requiring thousands of teachers to travel to and from work and work in schools presents real risks to their safety and wellbeing."
QTU said the new provisions for a maximum of 12 students with a teachers in a 52m2 will help to limit contact and the risk of infection in schools must be strictly enforced for all concerned.
Mr Bates said lack of reliable internet service had the potential to be a major blocker for communities right across the state, particularly in rural and regional areas.
"The state government announced a deal with a major telecommunications provider to provide SIM cards to thousands of students, but that will only go so far to overcoming these issues," he said.
"The most fundamental solution, wherever necessary, is the provision of printed versions of learning materials so that students can continue learning without disadvantage caused by technology issues."
The QTU said they had taken into consideration the impact the new learning model would have on all teachers, including those who serve in rural, regional and remote Queensland and understand the battles can differ to those in metropolitan areas.
"Most of the QTU Senior Officers and Executive who have been negotiating the arrangements for schools are currently serving or have served in rural, regional and remote Queensland schools," Mr Bates said.
"The issues of workers in schools outside the southeast corner of Queensland have been taken into account in these decisions."