Media Release: Parents and teachers need a plan for school closures and supervision

The NSW Government must immediately develop options for retaining minimal supervision at NSW schools if a decision is made to close schools to deal with covid-19. The current all-or-nothing policy of keeping schools 100% open or 100% closed is inappropriate.  It’s time for a flexible and transparent response that protects the health of students and teachers and doesn’t leave families and key workers stranded if schools close. 

Parents need certainty and unambiguous advice about their children’s school attendance and pending school closures. Right now many parents are pulling their children out of school and have significant concerns about infection controls in schools as rumours abound about when schools will close in NSW. 

Retaining minimal supervision levels at schools after any closure will allow parents who must work in critical occupations like health care and emergency services to continue to work if they cannot arrange alternate supervision for their children during school hours. It will also allow students to attend school if the only alternate supervision is at-risk grandparents or other at-risk carers.

Greens MP and Education Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: 

“The global experience has involved complete school closures in many countries and many parents are expecting the worst. 

“It’s time to stop drip feeding information and make firm plans so that families know what is going on and can plan ahead. 

“We acknowledge the public health advice that does not support the immediate closure of schools but we still need a clear timetable and advice for parents. This should include guarantees that schools will retain a minimum supervision mode to supervise children from families who need this after any closures.

“There is precedent overseas for ensuring that when schools are closed there is still supervision at those schools for families with no other supervision options. 

“A minimal supervision regime can also reduce health risk to many grandparents and other at-risk carers who may otherwise be forced to take over childminding. 

“These arrangements would also require other safety measures at schools including realistic social distancing and other health monitoring measures. 

“The current 1.5 meter social distancing guidelines for NSW schools are impossible to adhere to in most classrooms and trying to enforce this is putting teachers in an impossible situation. 

“The ability to achieve realistic social distancing would greatly increase with far fewer students under the minimal supervision regime. 

“Some parents are already keeping their kids home from school because of their own or family risk factors, they should be supported in doing this and not face sanctions. 

“In many schools it’s simply not possible for children to even wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds with soap because of chronic soap shortages, limited bathroom space and spring loaded taps. 

“While kids are still at schools we need to ensure these essential supplies are available, and that additional cleaning of all surfaces occurs regularly. 

“An urgent plan is required that provides a timeline for parents, clear advice about what to expect, and a promise to support families through this pandemic,” Mr Shoebridge said.