Why is your government persisting with its hard line on students returning to school for the commencement of term 2? Principals and their staff have worked exceptionally hard in the latter parts of term 1 preparing online and hard copy learning strategies so that all students, regardless of their circumstances, would receive a learning program, and this should be endorsed by government. Feedback from the members of the PFWA describes a level of disappointment in their Minister that I have not previously seen. Your decision smacks of political expediency, as:
- The health advice relating to COVID-19 varies across jurisdictions and it appears you are listening to the advice that suits you,
- To support the above statement, the Victorian and NSW governments have adopted positions on their “best health advice” that places a high priority on the health and safety of staff and students in schools,
- You have created a gulf between what you are expecting of government schools, and what the independent schools have been given the licence to decide within the context and circumstances of their own communities,
- The World Health Organisation has predicted that the “worst is yet to come”,
- Your “Plan for Term 2” was drawn up without any consultation involving the PFWA, and consequently shows a glaring lack of understanding of the logistics involved in what you are demanding of school leaders and their staff,
- Quality learning has no place in your plan, particularly given your responses to the media to the question of physical distancing, where you state that kids could be learning in corridors, on verandahs, in covered assembly areas, wet areas and so on,
- A “state of emergency” demands that the community complies with a strict set of rules designed to keep it safe, yet in the case of schools, parents are being given choice as to whether they send their kids to school or not,
- Staff in schools are so obviously being treated very differently to the rest of the community.
Minister, there is no “soft opening” with your plan. Many Principals have already surveyed their communities to get a sense of the numbers of students that might be expected to return, and indications are schools will be under extreme pressure. Please, reconsider your advice to parents, and follow the lead of the Victorian and NSW governments. Principals and their staff have, and are prepared to continue, to work hard to support the learning of their students, as per the planning they developed at the conclusion of Term One. A statement from you to parents endorsing the plans schools have in place, would inspire confidence in the community that the government is serious about the health, safety and education of its children during a time of crisis.