Back to school
Wednesday 20 May
During the COVID-19 pandemic the public debate about school closures has been highly contentious, with teachers and parents expressing deep concerns about a range of issues, including health and safety, and the challenges of digital learning.
Although schools in NSW remained open for the children of essential workers, getting all students back into their classrooms is now a high priority for governments across Australia as the number of coronavirus cases continues to fall.
After initially applying a staggered approach for the return of students to school, the NSW Government announced on 19 May 2020 that schools will re-open to all students next week with special measures in place. Watch a video of the announcement.
From Monday 25 May, all students, from kindergarten to year twelve, will be required to attend school five days a week. Rolls will be marked as normal and unexplained absences will be followed up. The Government advises that parents or carers of children with pre-existing health conditions should discuss any concerns with their school principal.
In NSW, it is against the law not to provide your kids with access to approved schooling, and parents can find themselves in court facing heavy fines for non-compliance. For Aboriginal families, educational neglect is often used to justify removal of children by the Department of Communities and Justice. Read more about the laws.
Special measures for schools
It seems attendance will be strictly enforced as before, but other areas of education will change. Until a vaccine is developed, the NSW Government has imposed the following restrictions and advises parents to listen to specific advice from their school principal:
- Social distancing must be observed.
- No school excursions or assemblies.
- PE classes and sports days are allowed, but contact sports are not permitted.
- Non-essential visitors will be barred from entering school grounds.
- Some schools may impose staggered drop-off and pick-up times.
- A school will be required to shut down temporarily if a cluster of cases develops in their community.
Many parents and carers may be relieved that education is returning to normal after juggling eight weeks of home schooling across digital mediums with other responsibilities. Yet the debate continues. Is it safe for children to return to school given NSW still has 416 active cases of the virus with clusters emerging in workplaces and nursing homes?
Data from many countries show that children are a small minority of those who test positive for COVID-19. However, reports are emerging of a small number of children developing a severe auto-immune condition after contracting the virus. The condition is like Kawasaki disease, resulting in severe swelling, fever and heart problems that require intensive hospital care.
Take our poll
We are interested in hearing from Aboriginal parents and carers out there.
Are you happy about schools re-opening or do you think it is too soon? Should parents have a choice while the virus continues to exist in our state?
For more information about the return to school, visit the NSW Department of Education’s guide to NSW school students returning to face-to-face learning.