Parents and students in NSW will soon be adjusting to a slightly more normal school routine, as public schools, as well as Catholic and Independent schools, open their doors for all students starting in Week 3 of Term 2.
But students will initially be asked to turn up at the school campus only one day per week — in groups rostered to attend on different days of the week.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced the changes on Tuesday, calling it a ‘managed return’ to school. Ms Mitchell explained that the gradual reopening of schools is in line with health advice, and that the idea of a rotation roster is designed so that only a quarter of the school population will be on-site each day.
However, schools will remain open for any student who needs to attend daily, and “no child will be turned away from school” according to a NSW Education statement.
Four Days at Home, One Day at School
Although students will begin with only one day at school a week, they’ll participate from home and online for the other four days — as they’ve already been doing. The number of days spent on the school campus will then begin to increase as the term progresses, with school attendance most likely back to normal by Term 3.
Each school has the freedom to decide how quickly they’ll increase the number of days spent at school, and how they’ll group their students for the rotating attendance roster. Alphabetical order, or grouping by school houses, may be possible methods used.
“There will be flexibility and discretion [given to] the schools as to how they implement this,” Ms Mitchell said. “How they break [the school] group up will be a matter for them.
“We are asking them to consider family groupings, keeping families together, so that that will make it a lot easier for parents.”
Extra Hygiene and Social Distancing Measures
Classes will be split into different rooms across the schools, allowing for better social distancing among students and teachers.
Schools will be equipped with extra soap and hand sanitisers for keeping childrens’ hands clean, and extra thermometers for checking students’ temperatures if necessary. Play equipment and other items will be cleaned regularly each day.
Teachers are being given one extra day at the start of next week to plan for these new measures, with both Monday and Tuesday allocated as pupil free days. Casual teachers will be employed to help handle the burden of the extra work required.
The Premier said sending children home initially had been necessary to allow schools to develop their online teaching capacity, and to equip schools with items like hand sanitisers, soap, “and all those things which make a school community feel safe”.
Parents should double-check with their own school for full details, and are being asked to monitor their children for any respiratory symptoms.
Parents should double-check with their own school for full details, and are being asked to monitor their children for any symptoms of cold, flu or coronavirus. Students should stay home if they have symptoms — even if it’s only “a sniffle”.
Christian Schools Australia is taking a slightly different approach to the State and Catholic school systems, by allowing each individual school to determine how and when their students will go back to the school campus. Parents with children at a Christian school, should check with their individual school for details.
“Our schools are tending to take a more cautious approach to returning to face to face teaching, to ensure that it is sustainable,” said CSA policy director Mark Spencer. “It would not be good for students and families to return to that model and then have to potentially change again this term.”
- State schools, and most Catholic & Independent schools, will have TWO pupil-free days to start Term 2: Monday and Tuesday, April 27-28.
- For Week 1 and 2, students will still learn from home (Wednesday, April 29, to Friday, May 8).
- From Week 3 (Monday, May 11), all students will physically go back to school one day a week – in groups rostered to different days of the week.
- The number of days of attendance at school will increase throughout Term 2.
- Recess and lunch breaks will be staggered so not all students are in the playground at once.
- Drop-off and pick-up times may also be staggered; check with your school for details.
- Schools have been equipped with extra hand sanitizer and soaps.
- Sick bays now have more thermometers to check childrens’ temperatures if necessary.
- Attendance at school will likely be ‘back to normal’ in Term 3.
- Many Christian schools are taking a more cautious approach, with at-home learning continuing for longer; check with your school for details. For updates on Catholic schools in Sydney head to sydcatholicschools.nsw.edu.au.
- If your child has any respiratory symptoms, even a ‘sniffle’, keep them at home.
Premier Grateful to Teachers and Parents – But Union is Unhappy
The Premier said she was grateful to families who have kept their children home, and to teachers and school staff for their hard work delivering education online.
“I’d like to thank parents for what has been a tough month, often juggling working from home and caring for children,” she said. “We hope the partial resumption of on campus learning will provide some much-needed relief to those families.”
The Premier also thanked the Catholic and Independent schools for working with the government on the plans.
However the Independent Education Union of Australia’s NSW/ACT branch is disappointed teachers weren’t consulted more, saying the return is ‘rushed’ and will add stress for teachers who will now have to deliver education in two modes: face-to-face, and online.
Branch secretary Mark Northam said around five more weeks of at-home learning would have given teachers more time to prepare for the staggered return of students. He added that teachers also have their own health needs that required more consideration: “Many education workers are themselves in the at risk category or are caring for household members who are at risk.”