If there is any chance of risk for students or teachers, schools should remain closed. Picture: Toby Zerna / News Corp Australia
If there is any chance of risk for students or teachers, schools should remain closed. Picture: Toby Zerna / News Corp Australia

Return to school one day a week? Sorry, that doesn’t add up

Finally, some clarity around whether our kids can go back to school.

We now know that in a little over three weeks, our parental nightmares of trying to juggle work (if we're lucky enough to still have it), parenting and the role of substitute teacher are coming to an end.

Oh, but wait, there's a catch. It's only for one day a week - at least here in New South Wales.

But still, it's better than nothing, and it's an ambitious plan that comes following advice from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the one ­person per four square metres rule does not apply in school classrooms.

While the PM has urged people to follow the medical advice suggesting that it is safe for schools to remain open, he has also made it clear that "the Commonwealth does not run state schools".

There is a desire to end home learning in lockdown due to Covid-19 and re-open schools for students. Artwork: Terry Pontikos
There is a desire to end home learning in lockdown due to Covid-19 and re-open schools for students. Artwork: Terry Pontikos

But as far as the phased return to face-to-face teaching is concerned, there is one thing we can all agree on.

Getting back on campus or school grounds is more elaborate and tricky than the pivot we did to go remote.

But for a parent, this scalable solution raises crucial questions, so far not answered to any mum, dad or ­teacher's satisfaction: is it really safe to go back?

And if it is safe, why aren't they going back five days a week?

Yes, the federal Government acted promptly and correctly when it closed our national borders and encouraged parents to keep their sons and daughters isolated at home where they could be taught in a virtual environment by their usual teachers.

 

But now we're told that kids are not the COVID-19 spreaders we thought them to be with the greatest risk of transmission in the school ­environment between adults.

The advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is this: "It is of utmost importance that teachers and parents alike maintain physical distancing ­between themselves and each other at school."

Of course parents are eager to get their children back in schools, but the mixed messages has stoked fear and confusion. Picture: istock.
Of course parents are eager to get their children back in schools, but the mixed messages has stoked fear and confusion. Picture: istock.

And as our much-discussed curve continues to flatten, more parents will wonder why they are having to confuse things by trying to marry home school with classroom tuition.

Yes, everyone from Premier ­Gladys Berejiklian to the parents and kids next door at war with each other are keen to get pupils back in ­classrooms.

The problem is that state governments, nervous about being blamed if anything goes wrong, as well as ­teachers' unions, have only further stoked our fear and confusion.

You cannot have a foot in both camps.

Or, as a teacher said to me yesterday: it will be a minefield.

Kids will only be there because it is somewhere for them to be.

As this exasperated teacher told me this week: "Kids with siblings at different schools and large families will bear the brunt of this debacle.

"The difference between a student coming one day a week and staying home to help everyone stay safe will not improve their educational ­outcomes.

"Nor does it greatly help their ­families manage it better while they try to work."

Why subject children to even more disruption? Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Why subject children to even more disruption? Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Our children's worlds have changed so profoundly in a matter of weeks, so if we want to show them that something familiar is being ­returned, why make it more complicated?

And what about those children who are unfortunate enough to be in a transition year?

Like the kindy kids who have had trouble separating from mum and dad and will have to do it all over again and relearn the routine.

The Year 6 kids who are preparing for one of the biggest transitions of their school lives, the move to high school. How unprepared will they be? I have a daughter in this position and it keeps both of us awake at night.

The Year 10 transitioning into Year 11 - the HSC years. This is a pivotal period where it is fundamentally vital to keep young people engaged with their education, as they enter the final two years of their schooling lives.

How many students will return disengaged and therefore not reach their full potential?

As for Year 11/12, how can they possibly have any handle on how this crisis is going to affect their results, their ATAR.

Not all students have access to ­tutoring and even use of a computer for much of the school day at home. So much of the ATAR is based on rankings of students and cohorts.

We have just created an uneven playing field strewn with hurdles and for many students, it will be impossible to overcome.

Special needs students, like Kindy kids, will have to start all over again, transitioning back to their classes and relearning their routine.

And this is just a small portion of the kids at school.

If it is deemed safe for one day, why not five? Trust has broken down here.

As a society, we are honour-bound to properly resource teachers and schools with the staffing, personal protective equipment like gloves, hand sanitiser and whatever other ­resources are needed.

And that must be well before May 11. If this can't be guaranteed, the gates should remain shut for everyone's sake.

@whatlouthinks

Originally published as Return to school one day a week? Sorry, that doesn't add up



Teenager charged after alleged high-speed pursuit

Premium Content Teenager charged after alleged high-speed pursuit

Unaccompanied learner driver allegedly hit 130km/h in a 50km/h zone before...

Venusian looking for repeat romp at Coffs

Premium Content Venusian looking for repeat romp at Coffs

Bellamy’s charge looks a solid bet back where it all began

TRICK OR TREAT: How to stay safe, keep local and have fun

Premium Content TRICK OR TREAT: How to stay safe, keep local and have fun

She has more fun than kids do at Halloween, and along with guidelines from NSW...