Chaotic year 12 return leaves far too many critical Covid-safety questions unanswered

Australian Greens

The NSW Government’s ‘plan’ to return Year 12 students to classrooms today was announced without consultation with teachers or parents and leaves far too many critical Covid safety questions unanswered. The HSC is important and homeschooling is stressful and hard but nothing is more important than keeping students and teachers safe.

Cases in NSW continue to increase, with 580 young people 19 and under infected in the current outbreak, and the Government’s Year 12 return plan does not seriously address this risk.

Numbers from the NSW Teachers Federation show there are around 76,000 Year 12 students across NSW with 19,000 in the 8 most affected LGAs in Greater Sydney. In order to return them to classrooms full time between 60 and 100% of teachers will need to be onsite depending on the school.

The priority vaccination promised to these students and teachers to have them return to school just over two weeks away fails to recognise that it takes weeks, and up to one month, for the first vaccination to reach full effectiveness.

The promised rapid antigen testing is presented as a silver bullet but it’s far from clear how it will be delivered and where and how students who do not want to be, or cannot be, tested will be managed. There is also the case that relying on tests that are 60-90 percent accurate to have a large number of unvaccinated students and teachers in enclosed spaces is a clear Covid-safety risk.

Greens MP and Education Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“Year 12 students around NSW are again having a disrupted and difficult year, and this half-baked plan to get them back in classrooms will just increase the anxiety and uncertainty.

“Across Greater Sydney teachers are working so hard to support students through remote learning but the NSW Government didn’t even bring them to the table to be part of working out a safe return to school.

“Young people want to get back to school but a plan to return them to school in Covid hotspots in just over 2 weeks, when any vaccination they receive cannot be fully effective in that time, cannot be safe.

“It appears the Education Minister wasn’t present when this decision was made in the crisis cabinet, and teachers weren’t even consulted. It shows this is more about politics than education.

“There has been no plan to vaccinate all teachers across Greater Sydney but on 16 August they’re being asked to go back into classrooms and face the risk of large numbers of students and colleagues in enclosed spaces while also managing their online delivery for all other classes.

“Many of these teachers are parents themselves and there are currently no plans in place to look after their children while they are at work. This means thousands more younger students may also be forced back to school without any protections.

“With so many critical Covid-safety questions unanswered this is not a fair ask of teachers, students or parents,” Mr Shoebridge said.

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