Teachers across New South Wales discovered that school learning will resume full-time next Monday through media reports about the plan, it has emerged.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced this morning that children at all public schools in the state will return to the classroom as normal from May 25, sparking fury among blindsided educators.
The news came as a surprise to the Teachers Federation, which told the ABC it’s now seeking an urgent meeting with the Education Department after being cut out of final consultations.
But Ms Berejiklian insisted school communities are ready for full-time, face-to-face learning to resume.
“Since starting a managed return to the classroom, we have seen a strong degree of confidence from our school communities in managing COVID-19 and a clear desire for all students to be back at school,” she said.
“We expect schools to stick with the health advice – increased cleaning, access to hygiene supplies and compliance with hygiene practices – and look forward to seeing all students back on campus five days a week.
“The health advice is very clear; a return to full-time face-to-face teaching is safe.”
The Teachers Federation said a number of issues still need to be ironed out, including concerns around social distancing, public transport availability and hygiene.
A joint project from the University of Sydney and CQUniversity, examining attitudes among teachers in the midst of the coronavirus, found fewer than one-in-four feel safe being at school.
The survey of more than 10,000 public school educators in NSW also found that 60 per cent of respondents are anxious about the risks posed by COVID-19 to their health.
There were also concerns about the availability of soap and hand sanitiser to maintain good hygiene in children.
One teacher said: “We had no sanitiser, no soap and minimal toilet paper. We were not provided masks, gloves or any protective gear. Teachers had to buy their own hand soap for staffrooms.”
Other respondents said they felt like “guinea pigs” in light of commentary from governments that the risk of children contracting COVID-19 is low.
“Students have contact with adults, and students can be carriers,” one teacher said.
“It is ludicrous to expect teachers to return to work and put themselves and their families at risk. It is also ludicrous to ask teachers to be teaching effectively on site, when their stress levels will be going through the roof with fear of exposure to the virus.”
The survey found that few teachers feel safe working on site, while 95 per cent prefer teaching virtually from home.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said her priority “is the education of our children” and said parents are keen for their kids to get back to school.
“Schools will need to maintain the measures and precautions they have put in place for the foreseeable future, including no assemblies and excursions,” Ms Mitchell said.