What an extraordinary term it has been. Teachers, principals and support staff should be immensely proud of all you have achieved. Despite the ongoing political debate about the merits of reopening schools to increased numbers of students and staff, I think there is a renewed and growing appreciation of the work you do for your students.
The AEU has been very focused in our discussions at both the federal and state level on ensuring that the voice of our profession is heard and that your health and safety is considered alongside that of students and the broader community. Unfortunately, it seems that after some initial constructive discussions with the federal Morrison government, they are now accusing the union of arguing against the medical advice and, in some instances, preventing school students from getting a proper education.
The inconvenient truth for the prime minister is that he has altered the government’s advice to suit his political position. The medical advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), as of 24 April, states that the 1.5-metre social distancing and the “four square metres” density rule are no longer appropriate or practical in schools. These distancing and density rules are deemed to be necessary for children in other circumstances and in almost all other workplaces.
It’s mystifying that Scott Morrison should claim it is safe for around one million students and a hundred thousand teachers in Victoria to attend school and, in the process, circulate in the community.
School staff are clearly still at risk and should not be excluded from the social distancing and density requirements that the broader community is required to follow. You could be forgiven for being confused. Certainly, as the medical advice shifts in response to the spread of the virus, community restrictions will also shift.
The fact is that those restrictions have not yet changed and are expected to be in place, even if in a reduced form, possibly for months yet. Given that, it’s mystifying that Scott Morrison should claim it is safe for around one million students and a hundred thousand teachers in Victoria to attend school and, in the process, circulate in the community.
We will continue to be guided by the best medical advice. At the time of writing, the Victorian Chief Health Officer recently reiterated that schools should continue to operate flexibly and remotely. We will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of our members, to make sure that your health is given due consideration as decisions are made. We have commenced initial discussions with DET about what a return to school might entail.
We have seen in other states the confusion and frustration that can occur when governments refuse to engage properly with those who represent teachers, principals and support staff, and come up with ‘solutions’ that will further entrench inequity, create increased workloads for school leaders, and put the
health of staff and the broader community at risk. It’s essential that careful consideration is given to everyone involved in the education of our children and that our profession is listened to at this critical time.