Weekly Wrap: March 26, 2020

Published
26 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

Gladys Berejiklian urges parents to keep children home from school as NSW virus cases soar

SBS News reports that NSW is shutting down all non-essential services to slow the rapidly spreading coronavirus but schools will stay open for now. Premier Gladys Berejiklian is encouraging parents to keep their kids at home for the rest of the term if they are able. "Already last week we had up to 30 per cent of parents who chose to keep students or their children at home and we appreciate and anticipate that number will increase. Schools will remain open and for those children who have no option, whose parents have no option, no child will be turned away from school." Schools in Victoria and the ACT were to close on Tuesday due to the coronavirus but other states and territories still intend to keep campuses open until the Easter break. Victoria has brought school holidays forward to allow the early shutdown, with the ACT to go pupil-free and facilitate classes online. With several states making unilateral decisions around school closures, the prime minister has said parents who want to keep their children out of class can do so until the end of term one. Mr Morrison warned parents were responsible for keeping their children at home if they are not at school.

 

States and territories go their own ways on schools

The ABC News reports that these are some of the other announcements we've had on schools:

  • In Canberra, the ACT Government said most students should stay home from Tuesday onwards, but exceptions would be made for children of "essential" workers.
  • In Tasmania, Premier Peter Gutwein said public schools would remain open "for the time being" and term dates would not change, but parents who wished to keep children home may do so from this Wednesday.
  • In Queensland, schools will remain open until the last day of term (3 April), but parents can choose to keep their children at home.
  • The NT Government says from tomorrow, for the rest of this term, the decision to send kids to school will be a choice for parents.
  • In Western Australia, state schools will remain open until the end of term, but parents can choose not to send their kids.

 

NAPLAN to be cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19 disruption

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Education Ministers have cancelled this year's NAPLAN tests due to the coronavirus, saying it would put an unnecessary burden on already stressed schools. The national tests — sat annually by years 3, 5, 7 and 9 — will resume next year. Ministers met via video link on Friday morning to decide the fate of NAPLAN, which some modelling suggests would coincide with the peak of the virus and increased likelihood of school closures. The President of the Secondary Principals Council, Craig Petersen, said school leaders and teachers would welcome the "commonsense" announcement. Schools, which are busily preparing remote learning materials in case they shut down, had been hoping the national assessment program — scheduled to be held between May 12 and 22 —- would be scrapped, saying it would be unsafe for students to sit together for prolonged periods.

 

Coronavirus hand-washing plea: Schools must provide soap to help stop spread of COVID-19

According to The New Daily, community angst, concern and stockpiling amid the COVID-19 crisis hasn’t been pleasant. One positive, however, is a renewed emphasis on good hygiene and how washing your hands can help prevent germs from spreading. Before COVID-19 many of us didn’t realise that washing with soap for 20 seconds or “the length of two Happy Birthdays” was needed. This is because soap is critical for the emulsion it creates that helps to wash away the germs. Yet soap isn’t a given in all Australian government schools as it should be. Soap should be provided in schools as a matter of course. Most early years programs provide soap, and it is standard in independent and Catholic schools. But some people may be shocked to hear that this isn’t the case in all government schools in all Australian jurisdictions. The situation seems to vary between city schools and remote schools. For example, some primary schools in Perth may provide soap but others in remote Western Australia may not, as it is up to each principal.

 

St Columba Anglican School shuts down with Port Macquarie's first confirmed COVID-19 case

According to the Port Macquarie News, the first COVID-19 case in Port Macquarie has been confirmed forcing a local high school into shut down. St Columba Anglican School (SCAS) principal Terry Muldoon issued a statement to staff and families on March 19 confirming that a member of the school community had tested positive to the virus. "We have been informed by NSW Health that one SCAS community member has tested positive to COVID-19 (coronavirus)," Mr Muldoon said. "In the interests of student and staff safety, the school will be closed tomorrow (Friday, March 20)." Mr Muldoon instructed that all students were to remain at home and families will be kept up to date with developments, , the length of the school's closure and when it is likely to re-open. Mr Muldoon confirmed to the Port News he would meet directly with NSW Health on Friday to determine a strategy moving forward and what that will mean for students and staff at the school.

 

Coronavirus crisis: Geelong Grammar School parents and student test positive

According to 9news, Geelong Grammar School confirmed that a senior school boarding student had returned a positive test at its Corio campus, with the school alerted to the diagnosis at 7.45 am on Friday. In a letter to families, principal Rebecca Cody said the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would contact families directly if they were deemed to be at high risk. "In order to assist with the required contact tracing for this diagnosis, the school is providing information to the DHHS of the configuration of the boarding arrangements in the House, the classes attended by the student, as well as their co-curricular and sport activities." Geelong Grammar School closed its campuses last week to protect against the coronavirus epidemic. Ms Cody said five parents who attended a party on March 6 were also positive.

 

Unley High School student tests positive for COVID-19 after close contact with infected teacher

The ABC News reports that a year eight student at Adelaide's Unley High School was one of eight new people to test positive for COVID-19 in South Australia on Friday. In a letter to parents, the school said the student had been identified as a close contact of a staff member who tested positive for the virus last week. But the letter states the school will not be closing again in light of the student's positive test, because the child was not at school during the infectious period. Unley High is among several Adelaide schools to close because of coronavirus cases. A student from Sacred Heart College and a Scotch College student have also tested positive. Both schools were temporarily closed to allow for cleaning to occur. Earlier last week, acting chief medical officer Michael Cusack said SA Health supported schools staying open and "advocating for parents to send their children to school". The ABC News subsequently reported that Unley High School has announced it is moving learning online for the remainder of the term. In a letter to parents, Principal Greg Rolton said the school would remain open to cater for the children of essential service workers. He said the school would provide a supervised study environment where students could access the new online learning program. In the letter, Mr Rolton said a high number of concerns had been raised by parents, with many choosing to keep children home.

 

Coronavirus crisis: Guildford Grammar shuts down boarding house in response to COVID-19

According to The West Australian Guildford Grammar School is shutting down its boarding house in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while it is the first Perth boarding school to close its facilities, it is unlikely to be the last, with many rural parents opting to bring their children home or find alternative accommodation. Guildford told parents on Wednesday last week that the boarding house would be shut down from Friday. Principal Anne Dunstan said students were given the option to return home from 3.30pm. Other boarding schools said they were monitoring developments. Lake Joondalup Baptist College revealed three students had been sent home from school after a parent tested positive for COVID-19. Three students from John XXIII College who were in self-isolation after their father contracted the disease have all tested negative.

 

Perth school closes as parent tests positive to COVID-19

According to WAToday, St Andrew’s Grammar School in Dianella has closed after a parent of two students tested positive to the coronavirus on Friday. Parents were informed of the decision at 6pm on Sunday. Despite the Department of Heath telling principal Craig Monaghan it was not required to close, the decision was made following consultation with the school board and the Hellenic Community. The parent who tested positive has children in year 1 and 4. The school reported neither child had displayed any symptoms and the family was self-isolating. Mr Monaghan said the safety of children at the school was paramount. “The safety of our children is our number one priority and so we decided to act,” Mr Monaghan said. “While there is no directive from the government for us to close, we decided that we couldn’t put our children at risk and decided to take the extra precaution. The school had been planning for closure for weeks and the principal said there would be minimal disruption to learning. The school will remain closed until at least the beginning of Term 2 and will be "completely disinfected".

 

Attendance at Tasmania's state schools at 75 per cent

According to The Advocate, the attendance rate at state schools was 75 per cent on Friday, the Education Department has said. Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations president Nigel Jones said more parents were removing their children from school each day in light of the coronavirus outbreak. He said students at home were being sent educational material to ensure their learning was not majorly disrupted. An Education Department spokeswoman said the department recognised parents and carers were best placed to take appropriate action on school attendance during unprecedented times. "They may have a range of reasons for not sending their children to school in light of COVID-19," she said. "The vast majority of students continue to attend school and it is possible that Individual schools may be talking to their students and families about computers at home to get a gauge on it provisions for the possibility of online learning."

 

End of My School league tables will head off critics

According to the Financial Review, critics of NAPLAN would lose one of their strongest weapons on Wednesday last week when the latest results went live on the My School website, without the ability to create league tables of schools in the same neighbourhood or state. A campaign against NAPLAN by the Australian Education Union and state governments in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT was headed off by the federal government's Education Council last year. The council made changes to the way the results of the Australia-wide testing system are presented, following a review by an education expert. Instead of being able a compare a child's school against similar schools, from last Wednesday the comparison group includes all school students in Australia who have the same socio-economic background. “It's a much bigger pool of kids and we're getting a much more accurate reading of relative performance," said David de Carvalho, the chief executive of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. “It reduces the opportunity for unfair comparisons between schools, based simply on achievement levels."

 

INTERNATIONAL

Inside Taiwan during COVID-19: How the country kept schools and businesses open throughout pandemic (Taiwan, Canada)

According to the CBC, it's almost life as usual for the Lin family of Taiwan during the coronavirus pandemic — with a few noticeable exceptions. The school situations in Taiwan and Canada have been very different. After an additional two weeks off during winter break, schools reopened in Taiwan. But every morning, Chang says she and her husband take their daughter's temperature and report it to her school before she goes. Their daughter, like all the kids, wears a mask all day — except at lunch. At lunch, when she takes off her mask, she is protected from infection by a plastic barrier that sits atop her desk and helps separate her from other students. "We have protective barriers for everyone," said Chang, "During mealtime, they take it out to eat their lunch." Chang says her daughter's school was one of the first in Taipei to introduce the dividers. "The school also teaches them how to wash their hands, every day." said Chang. Those measures have been in place since February, well before Canadian provinces closed schools.

 

Coronavirus: could education systems have been better prepared? (Global)

According to the World Education Blog, the world was caught by surprise with the global pandemic emergency. But was it entirely unexpected? Pandemics have always been a likelihood. A pandemic has occurred every 10-50 years for the past centuries. In any given year, a 1 per cent probability exists of an influenza pandemic that causes nearly 6 million pneumonia and influenza deaths or more globally. This translates into a 25 per cent likelihood of such a pandemic over 30 years, and that’s just influenza. It’s not “if” a pandemic occurs, therefore, but “when”. “In order to mitigate human and financial losses as a result of future global pandemics, we must plan now” was the call of experts in 2016 in the immediate aftermath of the Ebola virus epidemic in western Africa and the international organisations’ admission of the response having been slow. In this latest major and unfolding crisis, the emphasis has been on different health systems’ responses. But could education systems have been better prepared? Pandemics needs to be factored into education planning, as much as in other sectors.

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