Teachers affected by the Covid lockdown in the Sydney region are already doing all they can to reassure and ready their students for the HSC exams. But today’s announcement by the NSW Government that HSC students will return to school on August 16 raises more questions than it answers.
The IEU calls for greater clarity as teachers once again adapt to fast-changing, complex circumstances to ensure their students can take on the HSC with confidence.
“How will rapid-antigen testing be administered and how quickly will results be available? Will vaccinations be administered at individual schools? Will the local government areas under the tightest restrictions (including the three announced today) be prioritised?” asked Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam.
The IEU, which represents 32,000 teachers and support staff in the non-government sector throughout NSW and the ACT, anticipates close consultation from NSW Health so the union can support members’ safety and provide them with accurate detail to allay their concerns. “We expect the buffer of time between now and 16 August to be used to iron out every last detail and contingency,” Northam said.
Since January, the IEU has been calling for school staff to be included in priority groups for vaccination. What we foresaw months ago is now absolutely upon us. “We now call for urgent priority access to vaccinations for all teachers, but in particular teachers in the Parramatta, Campbelltown, Georges River, Blacktown and Cumberland local government areas,” Northam said.
“We also call for paid vaccination leave for all school staff as case numbers are still rising and the HSC is rapidly approaching.”
The IEU supports priority vaccination for essential workers, and for school staff to be included in this category. “The health and safety of teachers and support staff is our greatest concern,” Northam said. “Between now and August 16 we will consult with our members and ask that the NSW Government address their concerns.”