Weekly Wrap: March 19, 2020

Published
19 March 2020

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the education sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.


 

AUSTRALIA

Should I keep my children home from school due to coronavirus?

The ABC News reports that governments have had pressure from parents to follow the lead of 30 countries with school closures, including France, where classrooms will shut as of this school week. Well-placed sources within the sector say mass school closures are unlikely to happen in Australia soon, and that schools could be one of the last institutions to face mass closures. The exceptions are boarding school Geelong Grammar — which is ending term one this week — and Launceston's Scotch Oakburn College, which has moved to online learning. Data from countries that have closed schools to slow the spread of COVID-19 shows it's not the panacea some think. According to modelling from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there's no evidence that Hong Kong — which closed schools — was more successful in containing the virus than Singapore, which didn't. The other advice experts are urging us to consider is that it could actually be more dangerous to close schools than to keep them open. Education ministers are actively considering extending the two-week Easter holidays to three weeks.

 

COVID-19: Experts call for all schools to be closed

According to The Educator, the Federal Government should close all schools to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia, two prominent infectious disease experts say. Speaking to the ABC, Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell, from the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity and Professor Nigel McMillan, director of the infectious diseases program at Griffith University said the government must act quickly to prevent the further spread of the virus in Australia. Professor McMillan said the PM should implement "extreme social-isolation measures" when the number of COVID-19 cases hits 250 nationally but added the crisis has not yet reached a point where all schools and universities should close, due to the disparity in the number of cases across different states. "If sustained community infections start to occur in particular locations then schools and universities will need to close. You can see that NSW is starting to have this and so likely they will be first as this gets worse," Professor McMillan told The Educator. "Queensland, on the other hand, has no community spread yet so closing all schools and universities nationwide isn’t something we need to consider at this time".

 

Loreto, Carey, Yeshivah–Beth Rivkah closures extended as coronavirus cases grow

The Age reports that Toorak's Loreto Mandeville Hall announced on Sunday it would close temporarily after a secondary school parent tested positive for COVID-19. Several other schools extended their closures due to positive virus tests within their communities. Loreto was among extended closures made by several schools affected by coronavirus, as Victoria's number of confirmed cases reached 57 on Sunday and 279 nationally. Carey Baptist Grammar School will remain closed until at least Friday, after a year 10 student tested positive for coronavirus. The diagnosis brings the number of cases at the school to three, after two teachers were previous diagnosed with COVID-19. It comes after Jewish school Yeshivah–Beth Rivkah College confirmed on Sunday it would extend its closure until March 23, after those in contact with a teacher with coronavirus started showing symptoms of the infection. In a letter to families and friends of the school, Geelong Grammar principal Rebecca Cody said the school council and executive and leadership teams had decided to bring term one to an early close as a pre-emptive measure.

 

School student tests positive to coronavirus as SA Health bans work-related staff travel

The Advertiser reports that a high school student is among four new coronavirus cases in South Australia. The student, from Sacred Heart College’s senior campus at Somerton Park, is thought to be the state’s first person-to-person transmission. Health authorities say other cases confirmed on Friday include a woman in her 50s from the US, a man in his 60s from the US and a man in his 50s from Europe. They take the total in SA to 16, prompting Chief Medical Officer Nicola Spurrier to declare that the state has moved beyond the containment phase. Education Minister John Gardner says there is “no suggestion” schools would close under the PM’s recommendation, but school assemblies would “not be appropriate”. He said earlier today that schools would close for at least 24 hours if a case was confirmed there. Two classes at Sacred Heart are likely affected – those students have been asked to quarantine for two weeks.

 

Queensland teachers say COVID-19 social distancing “impossible” in crowded classrooms

According to the ABC News, parents and the teachers' union in Queensland say social distancing at schools is proving virtually impossible, with no space in classrooms to keep students apart. The Federal Government has banned non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people but schools remain exempt. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said shutting down schools would be "catastrophic". However, parents and teachers say keeping teenagers and children away from each other, whether in class or during breaks, is proving very difficult. One Brisbane primary school teacher told the ABC: "Last week at my school we were dealing with the regular “germiness” of primary-aged children … This week, we are now responsible for teaching five to 11-year-olds, while also ensuring they regularly wash their hands and we socially distance them and ourselves. This is impossible”. School staff are also saying there is no continuity from classroom to classroom. Despite many schools looking at cancelling organised sport, Australia's chief health officer Brendan Murphy remains adamant children are safer in the classroom for now.

 

Private schools ask for more time to transition to new funding model

According to the Brisbane Times, private schools have asked for more time to adjust to a new funding model under which a third will have their government support cut despite an overall funding boost of $4.6 billion for non-government schools. Criticising newly introduced legislation that will distribute funding based on parents' taxable income, the Independent Schools Council of Australia said 350 schools would receive $1.8 billion less between now and 2029 than under the existing method. Sixty-five per cent of the sector, or 652 schools, will have increased or unchanged funding levels, with a $1.6 billion lift over the decade. In a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the bill, the private school peak body questioned the new "direct measure of income" funding methodology, saying it was devised in haste, had blind spots, introduced volatility and risked harming some disadvantaged and regional schools. A separate coalition of regional independent schools has banded together to resist the new funding model, warning the viability of some schools will be threatened.

 

As volunteers become harder to attract, school fundraising fatigue is biting parents and teachers

The ABC News reports that last month, they wrote about whether volunteer fundraising should help prop up public school education. But when volunteers often feel compelled to continue because they are fundraising for basics, not luxuries, it presents a new problem: school fundraising fatigue. Committees are under pressure — and they're putting their own mental health on the line as a result, according to Tim Spencer, president of the Federation of Parents' & Citizens' Associations NSW. NSW has the largest group of school-based parent associations with 2,081 P&Cs representing about two-thirds of students. Schools compete with 57,000 registered charities across the nation for donor dollars. All up, charities notched $9.9 billion in donations or bequests in 2017, the most recent year for which the Australian Charities & Not-For-Profits Commission has figures. But raising funds is as challenging as ever, says Katherine Raskob, CEO of the Fundraising Institute Australia.

 

CCTV in classrooms: the pros and cons

According to The Educator, an educator’s first responsibility when receiving an allegation of abuse is investigating and reporting the incident through the appropriate channels. But what if the child who has been abused cannot speak? This complex question has led some experts to recommend the presence of surveillance cameras inside special needs classrooms to ensure the protection of children and the accountability of the educators teaching them. Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras are already in place in many schools in playgrounds and reception areas, both in Australia and around the world. According to Dr David Roy from the University of Newcastle, who works closely with governments and disability advocacy groups, CCTV cameras is a potential tool that needs to be looked at through the prism of health and safety, as well as potential pedagogical benefits. Dr William McKeith is a former school principal and managing director of international education consultancy Schools Active Worldwide. He argues that Dr Roy’s points about the security and safety of students “do not outweigh the privacy and teacher freedom interests”.

 

Principals seek mandatory sentencing for school assaults

According to the Brisbane Times, a father who walked away with a $650 fine and no conviction for bashing a teacher has prompted the Australian Principals Federation to push for mandatory sentencing of adults who assault school staff. APF president Julie Podbury said schools should be free of violence. The Federation first raised the idea of mandatory sentencing four years ago, and Ms Podbury said this recent case had strengthened its resolve. Victoria has mandatory sentencing laws for anyone who assaults and injures on-duty emergency service workers, such as police officers, paramedics and firefighters. Mandatory sentencing for assaults on school staff goes beyond the recommendations of a taskforce on violence in schools. However, the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia said it should be considered if "parental behaviour continues to worsen". The Australian Education Union, Independent Schools Victoria, and Catholic Education Melbourne declined to comment.

 

Child sex abuse victim says Anglican Church fobbed her off, then offered payout in exchange for silence

According to the ABC News, Anglican Church officials wrongly told a woman who was sexually abused more than 60 years ago that they had to hold off resolving her complaint, then offered a payout and an apology if she agreed to a gag clause. The church's Brisbane diocese has admitted to again failing Beth Heinrich over her 1995 complaint, which culminated in then-governor-general Peter Hollingworth publicly blaming her for a priest sexually exploiting her as a 15-year-old. Its apology for causing her "additional trauma and distress" through "unacceptable delays" came a day after the ABC questioned its latest missteps in the case, which led to Dr Hollingworth's public downfall but still fuels calls for him to be stripped of millions of dollars of public benefits. The diocese in January belatedly offered Ms Heinrich up to $30,000 for its mishandling of her complaint, which Dr Hollingworth dismissed repeatedly when he was archbishop of Brisbane.

 

Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders stands down over serious allegations

The Age reports that one of Australia's highest-ranking Catholics has voluntarily stood aside amid serious allegations. On Wednesday afternoon the Catholic Church issued a statement saying Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders, 70, had stepped aside from the administration of the diocese and Monsignor Paul Boyers had been appointed to take care of the day to day running of the parish. Police sources would not confirm the nature of the allegation, but agreed that they were serious and local police were briefed about an incoming media presence in the town on Wednesday morning. Bishop Saunders is one of Australia's longest-serving bishops well-known for his interest in Indigenous affairs and involvement in Aboriginal study groups. Bishop Saunders' decision to step down as Broome Bishop follows an 18-month investigation by WA Police. WA Police said they would not comment on allegations made against specific individuals.

 

INTERNATIONAL

Primary school students fight COVID-19 with self-built Lego disinfectant dispenser (Taiwan)

SBS News reports that students at an elementary school in the remote Linyuan District of Taiwan's most southern city Kaohsiung have found their own way to fight the coronavirus and stay ahead of the curve in epidemic prevention. The article includes a short video, “Lego keeping kids clean”.

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